Thursday, December 31, 2015

Couple's Victorian lifestyle shown on ABC Nightline


A couple near Seattle, Gabriel and Sarah Chrisman, follow the late Victorian lifestyle, as shown on an ABC Nightline broadcast late Thursday night.

The couple has a website, “This Victorian Life”, that fully explains its curatorial experience.  There is also a book published by Skyhorse (Amazon).  Sarah says she wrote the book out by cursive handwriting and then had to type it.

The Victorian era ran from 1837-1901, and the couple relates to the last decade, when a few automobiles and sporadic use of electricity were coming into use in cities.

Sarah wears corsets and makes her own clothes. Both are handy with large Victorian stoves and ovens, and lamps.  They ride oversized Victorian bicycles and unicycles.

The presentation reminded me of the PBS series “The 1900 House” (May 14, 2009).

The couple was quizzed about the political implication of the lifestyle.  In Victorian times, women couldn’t vote or weren’t “equal”.  Sarah says, incredibly, that the right to vote is overrated.


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The presentation is of particular interest to me because the space-ship “ashram” in my recent screenplay (see main blog, Dec. 30) is divided into 5 sections by historical time period, one of them being the Year 1900, where the protagonist (“Me”) is assigned to “learn to live”. The look of things in the couple’s  website may help with the details in the screenplay.
 
Wikipedia attribution link for Victorian kitchen at Dalgarven Mill in Ayrshire, Scotland, public domain picture by Roger Griffith.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Bernie Sanders attacks the moral basis of the GOP on "The View" today


On “The View” today, Bernie Sanders appeared.  He spoke for marriage equality (for gays) and for mandatory allowance of three months paid maternity leave for mothers (he probably would go along with paternity leave too, and not just for Mark Zuckerberg). He also characterized the GOP as having catered to the far right (possibly because of gerrymandering), and said that the GOP does not believe a woman has the right to control her own body at all times, and does not believe that men and women who do not reproduce or procreate in marital relationships are fully equal with those who do.



Earlier, the program played a clip of Ben Carson talking about abortion, implying repealing of “Roe v. Wade”. Carson was quoted as saying he is “reasonable” but he does not believe an unborn baby’s life should be taken even if the woman was impregnated by force
 .
Whoopi Goldberg’s reaction was, how dare he!  The GOP seems perfectly OK with allowing rich women to have abortions out of sight.

By the way, the "View" website seems behind, having episodes archived only through Dec. 2, 2015.

There was a report on CNN anchor’s Poppy Harlow passing out during a broadcast.  This is said not to be uncommon during pregnancy.
 
It’s clear, when you talk about issues like abortion, or compelling employers to pay for leave, or “family values” for that matter, or inequality in many areas, there are times in a “free society” when perfect equality and perfect personal autonomy are logically impossible to achieve.  Today we tend to perceive moral compass as highly individualized whereas earlier generations considered the extended family and surrounding community (often faith-based) as a party affected by a person’s “choices”.  This tended to affect those who are “different” or “special” more than “average persons”.  So logic forces one to consider how one deals with unwelcome coercion from others as a moral issue unto itself.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Dickens "A Christmas Carol" and then the Battle of Britain parachute drop presented in Christmas program by Mormon Tabernacle Choir (with Tom Brokaw)


NBC has broadcast “A Dickens Christmas” with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, with John Rhys-Davies, conducted by Mack Willberg (who also composes and transcribes carols), directed by Lee Wessman, with the Choir’s video link here.
    
The half hour presentation is a rough, abbreviated setting of the novel “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, with 19th Century London set up on the Tabernacle stage at Temple Square in Salt Lake City. 
  
The play was supplemented by an epilogue ("Christmas in the Air") led by Tom Brokaw, who reads a rendition of the food drop in 1940 by parachute during the Battle of Britain.  Toy parachutes (from the “Candy Bomber”) actually deploy over the audience. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

ABC airs 3rd Democratic presidential debate on a Saturday night; Sanders makes sense on pressuring wealthy Muslim countries to do more for refugees


It was ABC’s turn to do a presidential debate Saturday night, the Third of the Democratic Party debates, from Manchester, NH (Anselm College), this one with Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley. ABC summarizes the debate with an article “9 Moments that Mattered” by Ryan Struyk and others.

Hillary Clinton suggested that ISIS is already using Donald Trump's speeches for propaganda purposes, but  (Fox) there is no evidence that this is true.  (She said Trump was becoming "ISIS's best recruiter".)   Hillary also moderated her calls on clamping down on the Internet, saying we need our best minds in Silicon Valley to look at the "back door encryption problem" as well as countering ISIS propaganda, especially on Twitter.

What caught my ear was Sanders saying that it is easy to get rid of a dictator and do a regime change, but hard to ensure that the government that replaces it will be stable.  Paul Rosenfels used to say that about revolution back in the 1970s.  Sanders also suggested that wealthy Arab states should do much more to help refugees and provide military power against ISIS.  He’s referring to UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.   The differences between Sunni and Shiite do not matter to most Americans.  Hillary challenged him and claimed that he used to support US interventions. (Trump claims he was against Bush’s war in Iraq in 2003.)



All the Democratic candidates blasted GOP policies that weaken the ability of “average people” to earn an adequate living in an increasingly competitive economy.

Hillary Clinton wants to reform the student loan programs but doesn’t promise free tuition, but more help for the poor.

Friday, December 18, 2015

ABC 20-20: "Escaping ISIS": American couple arranges evacuation of Christians from Iraq under siege


ABC 20-20 Friday night presented “Escaping ISIS”, how Joseph and Michele Assad, two Americans from California with Joseph a former CIA person, helped arrange for at least 149 Christian refugees to leave Irbil, Iraq for a town, Kosice. in Croatia in a daring refugee evacuation.  Elizabeth Vargas results, with the main detailed story here including video. The operation has been called an "exodus".

The evacuation was complicated by Russian airstrikes against ISIS in northern Iraq.



The broadcast also showed the destruction of Christian churches by ISIS in Iraq.  The refugees had been staying in a Catholic church after being driven out of Qaraqosh by ISIS invaders, which had given then 24 hours to “convert” to Islam or be slain.

Their evacuation was also complicated by the aftermath of the attacks in Paris, and the revelations that terrorists had hid among refugees.  Every refugee was carefully screened by Croatia.
 
The families will stay in barracks in Kosice for at least six weeks and are not allowed to cook.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of a canyon in northern Iraq’s Kurdistan by Jim Gordon, under Create Commons 2.0 Share-Alike license.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

"Childhood's End" Arthur C. Clarke's classic version of the apocalypse comes to the SyFy channel, and it's compelling


The big media event this week (before Star Wars and competing with the GOP) is the six-hour miniseries on SyFy of Arthur C. Clarke’s 1951 novel “Childhood’s End”, which I read while I was in the Army.  The series was developed by Matthew Graham and directed by Nick Hurran.



The time scale of the series seems more compressed than the book.  The three 2-hour episodes are called “The Overlords”, “The Deceivers”, and “The Children”.  In the book, the three parts are “The Earth and the Overlords”, “The Golden Age”, and “The Last Generation”.

The Overlords came in peace, but they definitely wanted something in return.  Human civilization's years were numbered. Enjoy Utopia only as long as it can last.

The appearance of the aliens in the openings scenes is quite well done and conveys what it might be like to live through a public alien landing.  Huge spaceships hand in the skies over many cities, and little pods come down and abduct people that the Overlords want to recruit.

In the first episode, the ambassador is a young married white male farmer, Ricky Stormgren (Mike Vogel).  When he’s abducted, he gets put up in what looks like a large hotel room inside the space ship, and talks to Karellen (Charles Dance) who is kept out of site until near the end of Episode 1.  Stormgren is articulate, and somehow manages to pull off organizing world government, ending inequality, ending wars.  Still, there is tension among the faithful, especially Christians, who never quite get around to forming a “Guilty Remnant”.  Karellen appears at the end of the first episode as a big red bird-like creature, almost like the devil.
Stormgren doesn’t seem to age during the next 19 years (the “Golden Age” where conformity is encouraged but creativity is not – a kind of dictatorship of the proletariat) , but is antsy as he learns he is sterile after an “accident”.  In the meantime, other characters have super-gifted kids, and many are invited to a big party in South Africa where a huge Ouija board for communicating with the Overlords has been set up.  Finally, there is a confrontation between Ricky and Karellen over his not being allowed to have children.  Karellen gets shot, but after almost dying seems to heal himself.  Ricky’s fears that the last generation may be coming are about to be confirmed.

The dialogue rather belittles modern ideas that having children in a private choice that should be viewed as a cultural afterthought, only for those prepared for the expense and risk. It could be seen as a commentary on ideas like “demographic winter”.

The series is engaging.  The photography is interesting, with the pod and spaceship concepts, and the scenery around the farm, making the farmhouse look small.  There is the feel of a Christopher Nolan film.  This might have been difficult to do in a film of two-hours length.


Update: Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2017

Part 3 follows the book as I remember it.  The "children" ascend (rather like the Rapture).  Karellen (a rather lovable satanic alien by the end) says "Your children are no longer yours."  Good! The birth rate increased during the Golden Age, and parents became suckers (the last adults are left to do what they want until the end.) Milo (Osy Ikhile) who overcame handicap as a boy with miracle healing and became an astro-physicist, makes a space journey to see the home planet of the Overlords, which is made to look like Venus.  In the book, as I recall, there were crowded cities but no living space on the ground.  I wanted to see more of this world.  It could have been construed as a little like the First Dominion in Clive Barker's "Imajica". This sort of material needs theatrical presentation and Imax-3D.

Ricky is given a chance to change into an alien and live with the Overlords and leave his wife, but refuses (in an overlong scene) and sickens and dies.

There is an island resort "New Athens", rather like a mixture of Atlantis Paradise Island and Orlando theme parks, where "culture" is kept -- until the residents blow it up when learning the final bad new (when Karellen interrupts a movie).

Jake (Ashkey Zukerman) is himself charismatic as the father of one of the first "gifted" kids Tom ( Laclan Roland-Kenn) and then the super goddess Jennifer.

At the end, all the children have assembled at Ayers Rock in Australia and ascend again. Milo returns in time to see the Earth blow up, as if torn open by a black hole.

The whole series had an annoying tendency to say "When ... returns" which is amateurish. Also the last episode seemed to have an unusually large amount of commercials and previews.

Toby Johnson has an op-ed "Karellen was a homosexual".  Indeed, Karellen seems indifferent to the emotions of family life and the investment "normal" humans have in procreation and lineage. Ricky and his wife are denied fertility, and Ricky gets a cancer that looks a lot like fulminant Kaposi's Sarcoma from the 1980s.  Of course, a lot is written about Arthur C. Clarke's own homosexuality, despite the fact that he lived in Sri Lanka where it was quite illegal to practice it.
 
However, Karellen does say he has sired 24 (bird-like) children, but they aren't his anymore.
 
The official site is here.  SyFy is the owner, but the production company seems to be Universal Pictures, with filming in Australia (and some in California).

Monday, December 14, 2015

"The Expanse", based on Corey's novels, presents the nasty politics of a colonized (and militarized) Solar System (SyFy)


The SyFy Channel is suddenly pretty active with two biggies this week, to go against Christmas movies, only a few days before the big Star Wars event opens.  It’s going to provide some competition for media viewer’s time, with some significant sci-fi literature explored.

I’ll talk about “The Expanse” first. Developed by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, and based on a series of novels by James S. A. Corey, what’s interesting is not the somewhat hokey plot of the story 200 years from now, but the presentation of what’s happened to our civilization.


Earth has been badly damaged by global warming, but lots of people and descendants have colonized much of the rest of the Solar System.  Mars has been terraformed, but has an authoritarian culture, with politics like China.  The asteroid belt is mined for water and minerals and is also colonized, with cities in the very low-gravity environments of a few of them.  Ceres has a casino, and a curious network of subways drilled into the whole dwarf planet, as well as an artificial living space that slightly resembles Rama from Arthur C. Clarke’s novel ("Rendezvous with Rama", which Morgan Freeman has been trying to produce as a film).  The series is less specific about the possibilities of exploring places like Europa and Titan.

SyFy had streamed the Pilot, but aired the it tonight at 10 PM EST.  It is called “Dulcinea”, and supposes that Julie Mao (Florence Favrie), daughter of a wealthy Earth family in New York City, has disappeared from a cargo spaceship.  On Ceres, Detective Miller (Thomas Jane) will be tasked to find her.

Some other stuff happens, like an arm amputation, but limbs can be regrown.  There is some near zero-gravity sex.  One problem is that on Ceres, gravity would be very low but not zero, so it’s hard to explain how people would adopt to living there.  You can build centrifuges to live in, which provide “gravity” as long as you are in contact with the surface, but not a “field” that mass does (so anything that lifts you all the ground is a problem).  On Mars, with 40% of Earth’s gravity, it’s not so bad.  Maybe Star Trek’s idea of a gravity plate (made of neutron-star stuff) could somehow be done.  Ask Taylor Wilson (my BooK review today – it’s getting all too imagine rock-star young scientists like Taylor, and Jack Andraka (“Nano-Man” as a comic book character on Twitter as well as Stanford student) appearing in sci-fi movies acting in roles, or maybe as themselves).

Toward the end of the episode, Miller and party find Mao’s ship to be abandoned.  Somehow that reminds me of other sci-fi movies, even the Alien series.  You’re seeing complex political plotting, but within the confines of one solar system rather than across the galaxy (like in Star Wars and Star Trek).  Mao’s abduction is supposed to hold the clue to the fate of mankind (rather like Ridley Scott’s idea for “Prometheus”, maybe).

The series will have 10 one-hour episodes through early February.

SyFy offers a video summarizing the worlds of 2315.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Zakaria, on his CNN GPS show, interviews rejected Syrian refugee and a New York writer who interviewed her


Today. Fareed Zakaria started his Global Public Square by responding to Donald Trump’s proposals by saying that he (Zakaria) was born a Muslim, but has led a secular life.

Zakaria presented writer Brandon Stanton, author of “Humans of New York” (St. Martins), which he supports with a detailed photography blog here.

Stanton interviews “random” people he meets and publishes their stories.  The blog is very popular and it makes me wonder about why I can’t get out of my own special narrative and deal more with “others”. The concept reminds me of Anthony Lacey’s “Dining with Strangers”.

Stanton and Zakaria presented a Syrian refugee, Aya, who, with her family, had fled Iraq to Syria and then to Turkey.  At age 20, she supports her family working as an interpreter. She had applied to come to the US and thought she would be accepted, when the family got a letter in the mail denying asylum for “other” reasons related to security. Stanton, almost in tears himself, explained that the government does not have to give much of a reason for denying issue.  He said many refugee families have one disabled members and many have one PhD. However, the question remains why Turkey would not be a satisfactory country for her family, as it is moderate, modern, and relatively stable.

Zakaria also showed a proposed Gondola system for Mexico.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Bourdain's "Back to Beirut": Anthony dines with woman who raises existential point about freedom v. security


I finally saw Anthony Bourdain’s “Back to Beirut” as part of his “Parts Unknown” series.  CNN has a basic link here.  I didn’t realize that imdb has these episodes indexed now, here.  The Travel Chanel also carries some of his episodes under “No Reservations”.


Bourdain did cover the most recent history of violence (around 2006, although there was an attack on Nov. 12, just before the Paris attacks). But socially, according to Bourdain, the city (also spelled "Beyrouth") is quite tolerant and open, especially for the Middle East.

Bourdain talked to a young woman from Damascus, who described horrors of the social climate in Syria even in areas that don’t have as much violence.  The young woman made an existential remark about whether more freedom should be allowed it if can cost more human lives.
 
There were scenes of modern skyscrapers rising out of uncleared rubble.
 
The episode could be compared to the short film “Beirut Is a House of Many Rooms” discussed on my movies blog Nov. 9, which I saw in a special concert showing in NYC.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Roman Baths in Beirut by Radi83, under Creative Commons Share Alike 2.5 license.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Michael Buble does Christmas special from Hollywood on NBC


Tonight, NBC aired “Michael Buble’s Christmas in Hollywood”, main link here.
 
I used to hear the Canadian “gospel” singer Buble on Sirius “The Blend” and noticed his gentle style.  I actually thought his last name was “Bubble” (like Michael Jackson’s chimp).

Buble made a wisecrack about the perfect climate in winter in Los Angeles, and said that the dreams for most people who come to become movie stars tend to melt into “slush”.



Performers included Celine Dion, Sharon Jones with the Dap Kings, and Tori Kelly. Buble performed a new song, “The More You Give, the More You Have” (available for sale, presumably on iTunes, Dec. 4).
 
Buble in past years has done similar shows in New York City and Vancouver.

Picture: I'm not sure exactly what lot Buble performed on (NBC Burbank?); the picture is my own from Disneyland in Anaheim CA in 2012.  

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Donald Trump gets deposed by Don Lemon on "CNN Tonight"


Wednesday, December 9, 2015, Don Lemon on CNN interviewed Donald Trump for about 50 minutes (long enough for an hour examination!) at 10 PM, on "CNN Tonight" with the primary link here

Trump claims he is saying what the grass roots really thinks but doesn’t want to admit.  He did “waffle” at the edges a bit on the “ban (almost) all Muslims” from entering the country. But he said we had to admit, we have a problem.  We don’t know why this particular religion generates a minority with such an existential religious or cult-like hatred of the rest of the world.

Trump was incorrect this evening in saying that Farook was radicalized by his wife.  Later information suggests he had already considered an attack in 2012 and may have let the marriage be arranged to abet his terrorist plans  (Fox story), as a sham.  So Farook had been heavily radicalized long before the Islamic State was getting a lot of attention and had started its Internet recruiting (which Trump wants to stop, as below).

Trump seems willing to sacrifice individual people for the common good if those people are on the periphery of what he sees as a national security problem. Tuesday, he was reported on NBC as wanting to turn off a lot of the Internet, at least “amateur” use of it that allows recruiting. I can imagine how he could back up this idea with existential arguments (my main blog, Tuesday).
 
This sacrifice might be appropriate when we are truly at “war”, and major terrorist acts might be interpreted as war against a civilian population, as with London in 1940 when bombed by the Nazis.  Asymmetric warfare makes smaller actors much more dangerous to large civilian populations than in the past.  Terrorism intends to promote political strife by forcing governments to attack their homelands (so they can claim victimhood) and also to reduce personal freedoms in the western countries that get attacked. So Trump is playing into the plans of terrorists.

Trump defended the usual right wing position on gun control, which is that gun control simply disarms citizens but doesn’t keep weapons out of the hands of determined criminals or enemies.  Some on the right, including sheriffs in rural areas, make the “Swiss” argument that citizens have a moral obligation to be able to defend themselves and their families.

Some political commentators still maintain tonight that Trump has a good chance of getting the GOP nomination and even getting elected, because of grass roots support.

Trump keeps on characterizing himself as a “smart guy” who can fix all the world’s problems himself.  That sounds like Lyndon LaRouche in the 1970s.

I would ask, why doesn’t Trump talk about protecting infrastructure, most of all the power grids (all three of them), which of course are fundamental to the Internet (and to our way of life).  He hasn’t mentioned EMP or solar storms or cyber-terror (as with books like “Lights Out” or “One Second After”)  the way Newt Gingrich has.



Above, Omarosa says “Trump is too real for the GOP”.


Tuesday, December 08, 2015

"The Leftovers" Season 2 Finale: a trial run of the Afterlife for Kevin? He lives here now.


I didn’t make the time commitment to follow HBO’s “The Leftovers” (I used to follow some series, like “The Event” and “Flash Forward”) – but “Under the Dome” didn’t hold me) so I can’t comment in the intricacies of the plot, which in Season 2 seems quite expanded from Tom Perrotta’s novel, tracing a number of characters.  Damon Lindelof joined the screenwriting

The Season 2 Finale, (75 minutes, directed by Mimi Leder) much of it happening in the magical west Texas town of Jarden (a place like Fort Stockton or Marathon comes to mind), and a bomb threat to a major river bridge and a surrounding tent city is a major part of the story.  The episode is titled “I Live Here Now” (as if inspired by Ram Dass's book "Be Here Now" from Lama Foundation), and the most noteworthy part, for my time, is the narrative of Kevin (Justin Theroux). In a flashback, he emerges from the “undead” from a lakebed after he had jumped in the river previously while two young women were clandestinely joining the Guilty Remnant. Later, he gets shot in the chest by John (Evan Carroll).  He “comes to” in a motel bathroom, as the camera focuses not only on the blood but the tattoos, even on his legs. He gains strength and goes to the bedroom, where he finds the plasma TV doesn’t work.  He goes down a staircase – and the camera doesn’t show the outside “world” to a karaoke session in a bar, where he has to sing “Homeward Bound” by Simon and Garfunkel.  Only then can he return to Jarden.

The hotel may be in “Purgatory” or on another planet (whether an angelic colony on Titan [where gravity would be low], or maybe on an earth-sized planet around one of the Gliese stars).  We don’t get to see what it looks like outside; he’s sheltered by some kind of synecdoche. Anyway, his progression back to life (from the “Undead”) is rather like coming out of general anesthesia from surgery, with your memory blocked.

Are the “Undead” connected to those who disappeared in the Great Departure?  Sounds plausible, Jarden, remember, did not lose a single person.  And all the reviews on the Internet suggest that where “The Departed” (pun) went is supposed to be an unsolvable enigma, even if there is a Season 3.  In any case, Kevin can return to some sort of normal family life, and “just live” first.



The show gets a little tiresome with the Guilty Remnant members writing out messages, not speaking, and chain smoking. The Guilty Remnant also stalks people and practically forces people to join their cult.  What does this sound like?

Sophie Gilbert and Spencer Kornhaber have a detailed review of the finale in the Atlantic, here.

I rather wish this had been a movie, so you could get the story without so much time commitment. The premise finally comes across as related to “Resurrection”.


Monday, December 07, 2015

"CNN Heroes" airs underneath a whale in a New York City museum; Anderson hugs a sloth


Sunday night, December 6, 2015, Anderson Cooper played host to the annual “CNN Heroes”, this time at the Museum of Natural History in New York City, with a huge whale hanging from the ceiling over the dinner tables.  The link is here.

The winner is Maggi Doyle, who was inspired by a visit to Nepal in 2006, torn by civil war, after college at young adultlhood.  She met one little girl and decided to stay and build a school, having asked her parents to wire her past babysitting money. The charity also provides homes for children in Nepal.

I’ll mention a few others that caught my attention.

Monique Pool runs Green Heritage Fund Suriname, which protects animals.  She was introduced by a sloth (“Snooki”) who hugged Anderson on stage.



Dr. Jim Withers (introduced by Zachary Quinto) in Pittsburgh goes out two or three nights a week dressed as a “bum” and provides medical care and personal attention to the homeless.  At one point, Withers says this can happen to anyone, and a lot of life is a matter of fortune and luck.  But most of “us” avoid interacting with people who seemed not to be in our world.  The link is here. His operation is called Operation Safety Net.

Sean Gobin runs Warrior Hikes, largely along the Appalachian Trail, for combat veterans.  The segment concluded with spectacular scenery on top of (the Knife Edge of) Mt. Katahdin, Maine, in Baxter State Park.  I visited the park in 1976 but climbed only as high as the lake, but did encounter a bear.

There was another person, a teen who organized kids to fix computers for low-income people, who I don’t see listed among the top ten.

Wikipedia attribution link for public domain image of Mt. Katahdin from the lake I reached; photo by TJ aka Teej.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Sanjay Gupta looks at creativity as a personality trait, and then at the education of profoundly gifted kids at Davidson


CNN offers a series of brief reports on Saturday afternoons called “Vital Signs” with Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

On December 4, Gupta interviewed Mason Currey  author of “Daily Rituals”, about the question about what inspires creativity or what sets apart “creative people”, which we normally take to mean creators of content (or problem-solvers).  This would include musicians, authors, composers, inventors, and theoretical physicists.   Currey indicated that “creative” people tend to like set routines, where set aside time to work alone, often in the mornings. Beethoven started composing early every morning after a ritual, making his own coffee from exactly 60 beans.  It can be hard to create “on the road”, so the idea of artists' retreats in the woods (especially for music composers) isn't as common as often portrayed.  We see “creative people” as disinclined to become dedicated to selling the wares of other people, or to manipulating others.



Back in the 1970s, Paul Rosenfels, and the Ninth Street Center, presented creativity as a personal discipline for those who live outside the social support system for approved family relationships (and this is obviously changing now with cultural norms and even same-sex marriage).  “Creativity” can involve openness to a certain intimacy with others who might have been viewed as less “attractive” by conventional social standards, while at the same time eschewing fame for the sake of more immediate living in a community.  This is a difficult topic.
 
Gupta also visited the Davidson Academy of Nevada, a free public day school for profoundly gifted learners, I believe in Reno, link here. This seems to be the same as the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, here.  Taylor Wilson (Issues blog Nov. 7, 2015) is reported to have attended here.


I also wanted to note a favorite float on the Thanksgiving Day Macy's Parade on NBC:  The toy baseball stadium.  The outfield wasn't very big.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

VICE Special Report "Countdown to Zero" on HBO plays on World AIDS Day, ending with a report on Timothy Ray Brown, cured "incidentally" of HIV with a special stem cell transplant for leukemia


HBO aired a VICE Special Report on “Countdown to Zero” on the 20th World AIDS Day on Tuesday, December 1, 2015, link here.

Shannon Smith presided over a documentary on current and recent efforts to eventually rid the world of HIV.

Now there are 37 million total cases since 1981, with a million deaths a year.  Back around 1982, I recall a conversation (at a meeting in a Dallas hotel where CDC’s James Curran attended and the word “AIDS” was invented) predicting “9 million deaths”.

The documentary presented the work on “long term non-progressors”: a handful of elderly men who may have been infected in the 1980s but never developed symptoms or profound T4-cell loss.  Are their T4-cells different in some way that the virus has trouble entering?  Does natural resistance exist in nature?

The program explained the progress with protease inhibitors, which work well with patients who can afford them, and which have fewer side effects now than in the past (the “protease paunch” is pretty much a thing of the past).

The show moved to Africa, to South Africa and Rwanda, and interviewed former president George W. Bush in Texas about the international programs of his own administration.  He looks older now.



The history of Timothy Ray Brown, who had HIV eradicated, as presented. Brown was HIV positive and developed leukemia.  He got a stem cell transplant to cure the leukemia, but it was decided to use donors with a “CCR5” gene which configures the surface of a T4 cell so that it is very difficult for the HIV virus to enter.  The gene occurs in northern Europe among populations that survived the plague six centuries ago. The transplant was done in Dresden, Germany (which I actually visited in May 1999).  He may be the only person completely cured of HIV so far. But the technique could be used with successive plasmapheresis to replace most of the T4 cells eventually with cells with the desirable mutation.  Wikipedia has the story here. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Ray_Brown   Besides his pancreatic cancer test, maybe making a process like this work will get the attention of Jack Andraka once in or after medical school in a few years.

This film is being shown in 52-minute episodes as a TV series but seems to also be formatted for release by Magnolia Pictures, with production from Participant Media.