Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dexter v. Miguel: Psychotic Law v. Sociopath Science in 3.9-10

The showdown on Showtime is coming to a boil, as Dexter and Miguel up the ante in the past two episodes of Dexter, 3.9 and 3.10.

Miguel killed Ellen - I was wrong when I caught a glimpse of some other kind of passion when Miguel showed up at her door at the end of 3.8. And this has set in motion an escalating series of events and confrontations, including Laguerta falls into Miguel's arms (they have a history together), but comes to wonder if he is Ellen's killer, with a witness noting an SUV with halogen lights (which Miguel has), and his wife showing up and inadvertently letting Laguerta know that Miguel was not home the night Ellen was murdered...

This happened because bigmouth Rita told Miguel's wife. Not that I have anything really against Rita, or I'm rooting for Miguel - certainly not, I'm in Dexter's corner - but, truthfully, I never thought Rita was right for Dexter (I was liking Lila a lot more last year), and I guess, yeah, I wouldn't mind if Rita were out of the picture.

The confrontation between Miguel and Dexter is shaping as a classic between a powerful, raging hothead and a cool, deliberate careful killer, who actually draws strength when he's pressured or attacked. For Dexter, Miguel's tightening of the vice - threatening both Rita and Debra - is giving him an energy, unleashing the demon, to do what needs to be done. You can see it in the smile on Dexter's face.

But this will be one intense fight to the finish, with Dexter for the first time facing not just the law, as he did last year, but the law with all its powers gone psychotic in Miguel.

I'm looking forward.

See also Double Surprise ... The Bright, Elusive Butterfly of Dexter ... The True Nature of Miguel ... Si Se Puede on Dexter ... and Dexter 3: Sneak Preview Review

And here's a little peek at what's in store for Dexter ...









The Plot to Save Socrates


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"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


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It's Not HBO - It's A Quantum of Solace

Just back from Quantum of Solace - it was far better than some of the critics have been saying, but not as good Daniel Craig's first James Bond, Casino Royale, in 2006.

There's not much in the way of gadgets, though MI6 has some cool thing which looks a lot like CNN's Magic Wall. And no real puns - about the closest we get of that is James telling a man on shore, "she's seasick," as he hands over an unconscious Camille he carries off the boat.

But A Quantum of Solace has more than a quantum of humanity - of James Bond as not just a killing machine, but a human killing machine. Craig's killer, unlike Moore's and Brosnan's, tempers his performance with an underlying everyman soul, not flippant humor. As was the case in Casino Royale, Craig's Bond seems most like Sean Connery's, but Craig's is more vulnerable.

The story this time is barely a story on it own - more a continuation of Casino than a story of its own - and that's mostly, I think, because the villain, Dominic, is second rate. No Blofeld, of course, but not even Le Chiffre from Casino Royale, who had great quirks and was a fine match for James in both cards and killing. But Dominic and the storyline worked ok, anyway, because what this movie was mostly about was Bond and his developing relationship with M, who has the best line of the movie ("I don't give a shit about the CIA," delivered only as Judy Dench can).

Why was this low-key story ok for the 2nd Craig Bond? Because this rendition of James Bond, here at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, feels more like a series on HBO or Showtime, than what the Bond movies were throughout all of their earlier renditions.

And as I've said many times, television can be a great medium.



See also The New James Bond - Without the Golden Pun






The Plot to Save Socrates


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"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


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Excellent That Chris Matthews May Run for Senate

I just heard, again, on Wolf Blitzer's Late Edition on CNN, that MSNBC's Chris Matthews may run as a Democrat against Republican Arlen Specter for his Senate seat in Pennsylvania in 2010. Reports about this are flying all over the place.

I hope it's true. I live in New York, but I'd vote for Chris Matthews not only over Specter but just about anyone. I agree with most of Matthews' positions - his consistent opposition, from the beginning, to the war in Iraq, and his enthusiastic support of Obama are what most come to mind - but I also like the fact that, although he was once a Tip O'Neill staffer, and ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1974, Chris Matthews is currently very much an outsider in politics.

We have long recognized that a life in politics is by no means a prerequisite for high office. Whatever we may think of Reagan and Schwarzenegger's governance - I certainly opposed a lot of Reagan's - there is no denying their effectiveness in office. Indeed, Renaissance men were among our leading Founding Fathers - in an age before xerox, Thomas Jefferson invented a way of automatically making a copy of a letter, as it was being written.

Matthews on television has been articulate and passionate. The main problem with his brand of Hardball is that he frequently interrupts and talks over his guests. That could be a big asset in the Senate.

Friday, November 28, 2008

MSNBC Runs Canned "Doc Bloc" As Mumbai Burns

I was just looking for a few minutes at MSNBC. You know what they were reporting? Nothing, really. From 6-8PM, and who knows how much longer today, MSNBC had on its canned "Caught on Camera," with footage of events that happened years ago.

Over on CNN, Wolf Blizter in the Situation Room was doing a superb job of reporting on the Mumbai Massacre, with interviews of survivors, discussion of what this means for world security with former Secretary of Defense William Cohen and other terrorism experts, and detailed information on the heart-rending story of Brooklyn Rabbi Gabriel Holzberg and his wife, murdered along with three other Jewish people at the Chabad Lubavitch. His two-year old had escaped with their brave housekeeper. Canadian Jonathan Ehrlich, who managed to escape from another one of the terrorist targets, one of the attacked hotels, also gave a poignant interview on CNN.

Fox News did an ok job of reporting, as well, on the still ongoing September 11th for India - though I did spot a rerun of O'Reilly on Fox tonight.

But what can MSNBC have been thinking? They have wasted our time, and driven away viewers interested in real news, for years with their "doc-blocs". They had the good sense in the recently concluded coverage of the 2008 Presidential campaign to greatly expand their political coverage. But who at programming was asleep at the switch at MSNBC today?

MSNBC will never maintain a leading position as a cable news source, or even be taken seriously, if they put "Caught on Camera" or any doc-bloc programming ahead of covering ongoing world catastrophes.

Added December 1, 2008: Check out and join, if you like, the Facebook group I just created: Stop the Doc Bloc on MSNBC. Wield the power of new new media to change television!

See also similar sentiments by Lionel on Air America and David Zurawik at the Baltimore Sun.

Added December 29, 2009: See also Media Coverage and Government Response to Terrorism in the Christmas Skies and MSNBC criticized on coverage

Twitter Provides a Valuable Window onto Mumbai Massacre

Amidst all the shock and horror on this Thanksgiving, about the massacre and ongoing crisis in Mumbai, there was this, from John Ribeiro, and something similar on many news services -

Micro-blogging site Twitter is also being used to pass on information, or to just express feelings about the terrorist attack, and sometimes about the inadequate coverage of the crises by some Indian TV channels...


Just as students sent email from the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989, letting the world and the mass media know what was happening, so Twitter and Facebook are providing some windows into what has been happening in Mumbai the past two days.

The new social media can't stop these atrocities, but they can stand as unique witness to the individual, human dimensions of what we see on television. These are some of the Tweets I noticed, just seconds apart, when I went back to Twitter a few hours after I first wrote this blog: "Indian officials are big on bulllshit, weak on results" ... "What guns are our commandos using???" ... "100 trapped at Trident" ... "this whole thing stinks, our govt have left us as sitting ducks, throw UPA out" ... "Japan had terrorist strike in past, China is blessed to have neighbors like us, we are not that fortunate". Twitter advised that 216 new Tweets on this subject had come in the 30 seconds it took me to capture the above Tweets. Of course, there is no guarantee that those microblogs all came from Mumbai – though, Twitter would have a record of the IP addresses.

But, no system is perfect. As Stephanie Busari pointed out on CNN.com/asia, "Someone tweets a news headline, their friends see it and retweet, prompting an endless circle of recycled information" on Twitter. And social media such as Twitter could have been used by the terrorists in planning and coordination of their attacks (a US Army Report in October expressed concern about this possible use of Twitter).

But in a world in which we struggle to make sense of escalating atrocities, even an imperfect additional window is helpful.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cyberbullying Mom Got Just What She Deserved

The Lori Drew case was not a straightforward instance of cyberstalking, in which someone, usually with a false name and picture, befriends someone else on MySpace or Facebook, or some other social medium – usually, a vulnerable young teenage girl - with the goal of arranging a meeting with the new friend, in person, for whatever nefarious purpose. The remedy for this sort of cyberstalking is never meet a person face to face that you know only online, unless it is in a very public, safe place.

The Lori Drew cyberbullying instance was something different, although it occurred because of the same inability for anyone to know who their online friends really are, unless they already know them off-line.

The background of the case is pretty well known: According to Lori Drew, a 49-year old mother, her 13-year old neighbor, Megan Meier, was spreading nasty rumors about Drew’s daughter. Lori Drew exacted revenge. She created the false MySpace identity of "Josh Evans" on MySpace, and there befriended Megan Meier. "Josh" pretended to fall in love with Megan. And when the 13-year old was convinced of "his" love, Josh/Lori emailed Megan that "the world would be a better place without you." Megan, who suffered from depression, hung herself (see Channel Web for more details).

Local prosecutors were unable to get an indictment against Drew in Missouri, where she and Megan Meiers lived. But Federal prosecutors were able to indict her in Los Angeles (headquarters of Fox, which owns MySpace) on three counts of illegally accessing computers (misdemeanors) and one felony count of conspiracy under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The jury found her guilty of the first three, lesser charges.

As Kim Zenter pointed out in Wired.com, the prosecution was based on a "novel" equation of the use of MySpace to harass (in violation of its "terms-of-service" agreement) and "hacking" as prohibited under the Federal law. Although MySpace supported the prosecution, numerous legal experts and civil libertarians objected, and although I almost always agree with them (see my Flouting of the First Amendment), in this case I do not, and think the verdict, even for just the misdemeanors, creates an important precedent. Using false identifies for fun, role playing, and non-deceptive business is fine. But using a false identity to abuse someone – especially an adult abusing a child – is unacceptable, and harassment is not protected by the First Amendment in any case. New new media empower us in all ways, not only good but bad, including a parent’s understandable anger at anyone, including someone else’s child, who is causing any grief to her child. But we as society need to create whatever obstacles we can to prevent, stop, and punish any acting on this anger through the easy avenues of whatever media.

In some ways the most disturbing part of what happened to Megan Meiers is that she did not fall prey to "traditional" cyberstalking – she did not die because she foolishly met an online friend in person at some private place. Indeed, she did nothing wrong or foolish at all – other than falling in love with a "boy" on MySpace.

What can we do to protect our children from this kind of potentially deadly abuse?
Other than keeping them offline completely, or forbidding them to be "friends" with anyone that they do not already know – neither of which is likely to succeed in practice – the only remedy is to hold adults accountable, as the jury did with Lori Drew.

But children can also be abusive to other children on MySpace and elsewhere online, and, in the end, there is no law or enforcement than can protect us from our worst instincts, in new media, old media, or anyplace else.







music and interview with Truth on Earth, fighting cyberbullying with their music

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fringe 9: Razor-Tipped Butterflies of the Mind

Another stranger than strange, increasingly compelling episode (1.9) of Fringe, with the pieces slowly, ever so slowly, beginning to come together.

We learn more about Peter. Not much, but enough to see he has some kind of odd, dangerous storyline. The question is how much of it intersects with Walter's and Olivia's - and we're still not sure how much Olivia's and Walter's coincide.

Meanwhile, Walter showed himself, again, to be a decent, more than decent, human being. He tells Olivia no one loves playing with drugs, on himself and other people, more than he - but he needs more time, to work out a safer method for her unsort the fused memories she now has of John and her. Unusually and bracingly sane for a mad scientist.

Memories made real were the cutting edge of tonight's story, which started out with razor-winged butterflies and ended with a knife to the throat, all served up in the brain in some way by Massive Dynamics.

I have a soft spot for butterflies - my family likes, them, too - and when the kids were young we'd plant milkweed to attract the monarchs. We even raised a few, and eventually they flew off to Mexico or who knows where. It was nice. My novel, The Silk Code, also had a butterfly connection.

I'm not sure, exactly, what this has to do with tonight's Fringe.... Wait, I know, it has to do with memories.

More next week.



See also Fringe Begins ... Fringe 2 and 3: The Anthology Tightrope ... 4: The Eternal Bald Observer ... 7: A Bullet Can Scramble a Dead Brain's Transmission ... 8. Heroic Walter and Apple Through Steel ... 10. Shattered Pieces Come Together Through Space and Time






The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


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Heroes 3: Thoughts on the Eclipse, Part I, and Its Consequences

Another good Heroes last night, with the first part of the eclipse which is robbing heroes and villains of their powers.

The most powerful part: the discovery that Daphne is badly disabled, and can't walk without crutches. She's the first hero I can think of whose superpowers not only make her a hero, but super in an area in which she had normally been far worse off than normal. I thought that was a touching, humane moment.

It was fun seeing Nathan fall out of the sky - he and Peter are now the same, since Arthur had already taken away Peter's powers. It would be interesting if the eclipse not only sapped the powers, but reversed what the powers had earlier accomplished. But that, of course, could unravel the whole series.

Claire's story was also handled well. Arthur sees her in his drawing in pretty bad shape, if not dead, as HRG carries her in the future. But at first HRG says Claire's wound is superficial. Since Claire can't heal herself now, that's good news. But it turns out the wound is a lot worse than that. Did Claire's superpower disguise also some sort of healing disability that she would have otherwise "normally" had?

But, speaking of healing, how did Elle recover so quickly, after being knocked out cold by HRG wielding a sideboard? An example of the resilience of all comic book characters, or something else, and special, about Elle...

Looking forward to more answers next Monday...

See also Heroes 3 Begins: Best Yet, Riddled with Time Travel and Paradox ... Sylar's Redemption and other Heroes and Villains Mergers ... Costa Nuclear ... Hearts of Gold and the Debased ... Seeing the Future Trumps Time Travel ... Superpowered Chess with Shifting Pieces ... Villains and Backstories ... The Redemption of Sylar ... The Lore of the Comic Book Store






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"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


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Riley Lashes Out at Facebook in The Sarah Connor Chronicles

My favorite single line of tonight's Episode 2.10 of The Sarah Connor Chronicles was when Riley lashes at her adoptive family and their obliviousness to the "bleached skulls" that await them, and tells them all they care about is looking at their "Facebook pages". I like that sort of new new media hipness in a science fiction show on television....

Not to mention - how does Riley know about the horrible future that awaits everyone? Well, turns out that she's from the future, too - and in some kind of cahoots with Jesse. I had a feeling, when she so stood up so bravely to Cromartie in John's house a few weeks - a really great scene - that there was more to her than meets the eye...

And, speaking of Cromartie, he's back tonight, too - as John Henry, the android incarnation of the AI at Weaver's nefarious company, and this is, once again, Ellison's fault. Because, not only did Ellison dig Cromartie up and give it to Weaver, but he also tells Weaver that AIs need to follow some sort of rules, some sort of moral code. But, like Dexter's code, these rules will turn to be better rules by which to kill. Ellison seems caught in an exquisite vice of the more he tries to do good, the more he unwittingly is helping Skynet.

Meanwhile, Cameron's unintentional sense of humor is increasing, and Jesse tells Derek she needs to stop Sarah, so John can stay safe. I'm thinking that, by the end of the season, either Jesse or Derek will be gone.

But, for now, I'm going to post a link to this little review on my Facebook page...

See also 2.1 Cameron's Back ... 2.2 Firing on All Cylinders ... 2.3 Who, Truly, Is Agent Ellison? ... 2.4: Meet Allison ... 2.5: Unpacking the Future ... 2.6: Terminator Mom, Human Daughter ... 2.7: The Saving Robbery and Cromartie ... 2.8 Perspectives and Death ... 2.9: An Idiot's Guide to Time Travel in The Sarah Connor Chronicles






The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


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Monday, November 24, 2008

Faux Rahm Emanuel Bleeped on Saturday Night Live for Saying Real Words

In case you didn't see this message from "Rahm Emanuel" (played by Andy Samberg of "Dick in a Box" fame) recorded for Saturday Night Live, but, strangely, unplayed on Saturday's show...



I love when the line between reality and satire gets so thin.... After all, Rahm Emanuel really does talk that way - see the hilariously true RahmFacts for details. And didn't Joe Scarborough just say something like that, at least once, just a few weeks ago?

Yes, he did. And, you know, the only thing that bothers me about the SNL skit is that the language was bleeped out - which was sad - but also funny.

As I said in a blog post about Thom Yorke's song lyrics a few years ago, the bleeping out of "f*ck" in this day and age - actually, in any day and age - is fucking ridiculous.

Goes to show - truth can still be funnier than fiction...

True Blood: Last Bite of the Season

I really liked the climactic scene in the season finale of True Blood. Bill's love for Sookie gets him to brave the deadly sun to save her, but the sun's too strong and he falls a little short. Sam turns into a dog and gets Rene briefly off of Sookie - but Sam's almost kicked to death as a dog and then Sam. And Sookie, choked out by Rene, comes to, and kills Rene with a shovel. It was a powerful, satisfying scene, with a vampire and a shape-shifting dog to Sookie's rescue - but she's the one who ultimately saves herself.

I also liked Bill surviving - after Sam puts his sun-burned-with-a-vengence body in the ground - and Bill's first feeding on Lafayette made sense. (I predict he's still alive.)

I'm still not happy, though, with Rene being the killer. Sookie later explains that he was able to shut off part of his mind to her. That's a little too convenient.

But Bill being saddled with the rebellious vampire he made is a good touch, and I'm liking if not understanding whatever's going on with Tara and her protector - who also has some connection to Sam.

I'm looking forward to next summer, and will likely read the books by then. If I don't, it's only because I'm watching too much television (and writing a couple of books myself).

See also: True Blood Calling ... Penultimate True Blood







8-min podcast review of True Blood






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"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

A 24 Even Keith Olbermann Might Like: Redeemed and Ticking!

A superb, different kind of 24 and Jack Bauer tonight, in the two-hour special Redemption. No torture, except to Jack, and done to other good guys by bad guys. No CTU. And a more thoughtful, deeper Jack.

This could almost be the kind of 24 that Keith Olbermann would like-

Probably not. But Hillary Clinton probably would, and I certainly did.

Jack's in Africa in a fictional country, Sangala, being taken over by blood thirty rebels, whose specialty seems to be training kids - little boys - as soldiers. Back in Washington, President Daniels, played to despicable but somehow still vulnerable perfection by Powers Booth, is about to turn power over to his successor, the first woman President, Allison Taylor. (24, to its credit, was way ahead of the television curve with David Palmer as the 1st African-American President.) Daniels doesn't want the US to help or get involved in Sangala - that's what I mean by despicable - but Taylor does. Unfortunately, Daniels is still in charge for another hour.

The entire two-hour movie takes places in real time, from 3-5pm - the ticking tableau is as effective as always - and, given our upcoming Inauguration, the timing is just right, too. And, also as always on 24, there's even more danger in the nation's capital, with Jon Voight playing some high-level official who will do just about anything to keep what he's been doing secret. That includes keeping a potentially deadly eye on none other than the President's son - who looks to be maybe in his early 30s, and has a pretty hot and somewhat sharp-tongued girl friend ...

Redemption is a both a good shot of Jack and 24 in itself, as well as prelude to the next season, which begins in January, and brings Jack back to Washington, with Chloe, Tony Almeida (!), and who knows who else...

The clock's ticking.

See also 24 Season 6 Hrs 23-24: Finale












24 Season 6, 1-24 + Redemption



The Plot to Save Socrates


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"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Penultimate True Blood: Looking for Another Killer

Well, the next to last episode of True Blood was powerful and provocative. Amy died happy. Jason's reaction made perfect sense. The kiss between Sookie and Sam was satisfying - at least to the viewer - and Bill's travails with that white trash vampire had just the right dollop of humor. I liked Tara, her mother, and whatever it is that Michelle Forbes is playing.

But I gotta say that I don't see Rene as the killer. Yeah, he had that conversation with Jason earlier on that fateful day, and he's certainly been around close enough to do the killings - but he just seemed too decent throughout the whole previous part of the series.

I know, that could be his front. And we know nothing, really, of what happened to his sister. But I would have liked to see some spark of brutal insanity in Rene prior to his picture coming in on the fax.

A lot of viewers, of course, have the read books, and know from them who the killer is. All the rest of us recalcitrant television viewers will know tomorrow...

But I'm guessing ... well, we'll see...

And what about the other big question - will Sookie choose Bill or Sam? She still loves Bill, but Sam is better for her ... I'll guess Sam. Unless - he's the killer ... Can shape shifters take on the faces of other humans?

I should have read the books ... But we'll know the answers tomorrow.

See also: True Blood Calling








The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


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Gearing Back Up for Lost: Podcast Reviews of Season 4, Episodes 1-13, Right Here

The current television season, already in fine form with The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Fringe (J. J. Abrams' latest), Life on Mars, Dexter, True Blood, Heroes, etc - is gearing up for some returns of classics, with 24 to have a special two-hour episode this Sunday (which I'll of course be reviewing here), ahead of its new season in January, and Lost to unveil its 5th Season in January, too.

As an appetizer for those who are looking forward to Lost, and who may not have heard these the first time around, my podcast reviews of all 13 episodes follow below - you can click on the players and listen right here. In my opinion, Season 4 was in some ways the best season of Lost, especially in the superb Desmond time travel story. These reviews originally were heard on my Levinson News Clips podcast, and were usually recorded just a few minutes to a few hours after each episode.

You can also hear some of them on your cell phone - at 415-223-4122.

And my complete run of 54 Light On Light Through podcasts can be found, appropriately, at Light On Light Through....

Enjoy ... podcast players that you can use to hear the podcasts right on this page follow below ...






reviews of Lost, Season 4, Episodes 1-8







reviews of Lost, Season 4, Episodes 9-13

See also 1. Lost's Back Full Paradoxical Blast 4.1 ... 4.2: Five Flashbacks and Three Rational Explanations ... 4.3: Thirty Minutes and Big Ben ... 4.4: Kate and ... ... 4.5 Desmond 1 and Desmond 2 ... 4.6 The True Nature of Ben ... 4.7 Flash Both Ways ... 4.8 Michael and Alex ... 4.9 Daughters, Rules, and Some Truth about Ben ... 4.10 Almost a Dream Come True ... 4.11 Unlocking Locke ... 4.12 Hurley's Numbers on the Dashboard ... Season 4 Finale: Six More Thoughts, Plus One ...

and

2. More Thoughts On Lost 4.1: Those Who Went with Hurley and Those Who Stayed with Jack and Two More Points about Lost 4.1

and: Lost: Keys to What's Really Going On







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"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Life on Mars #7: Is Annie Real? Or, Is Life on Mars a False Memory?

Where else can someone be shot twice at point blank range in the chest, by his father, and recover so quickly that he dashes out of the hospital a day later? And the father and son are pretty much the same age? Why, on Life on Mars, in New York, of course...

And last night's episode #7 did all of that, and packed the most wallop we've seen so far in this surreal series. Sam from 2008, back in 1973, really gets to know his father, well played by Dean Winters of The Sarah Connor Chronicles. And there's a significant change in 1973 "history" - or maybe just the history that Sam is dreaming in his coma - as Sam's intervention prevents his father from killing ... Annie!

Which, again, raises the tantalizing question of what's really going on. Sam's quick recovery from his father's gunshots says coma - Sam isn't really back in 1973, he's dreaming it. But what about Sam's saving Annie?

Was there really an Annie Norris back in that 1973 precinct? Is Sam's memory, which he finally can see, that his father killed Annie back then, a real memory - or is it what we call today a false memory, not necessarily implanted, but brought on by the trauma of Sam's accident in 2008?

We'll need to see Sam back in 2008, awaking from his coma, to get answers to those questions - and to find out if Sam's "presence" back in 1973 has truly changed anything back then, or in 2008.... For example, what, if Annie is real, is she up to in 2008 (if she's still alive)?

Fortunately, we'll be able to learn more when Life on Mars resumes in 2009...

See also Life on Mars Debuts in America ... Life on Mars 2nd Episode in America: Coma, Time Travel, Mars Rover ... Life on Mars Goes On in America: What Happens When a Time Traveler Runs Into His Earlier Self? ... Life on Mars #4: All in the Family ... Life on Mars #5 Meets the Wire ... Life on Mars #6 Meets Itself on Television






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"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Voter Switches from Al Franken to 'The Lizard People' in Minnesota

I was unable to speak when I saw this real ballot in the Coleman-Franken Minnesota Sentate race on Chris Matthews' Hardball tonight...



Clearly, this Minnesota voter changed his or her vote from Al Franken to The Lizard People. Minnesota Public Radio today offered the following helpful details...

This Beltrami County voter cast their ballot for Al Franken, but also put "Lizard People" as a write-in candidate, not only in the U.S. Senate race, but for several others. The county auditor/treasurer ruled that the vote should not be counted because it's considered an overvote. Representatives for Franken challenged that decision. (MPR Photo/Tom Robertson)


Two important points -

1. Even though a radio is involved in this report, it is not a "War of the Worlds" Orson Welles hoax - this ballot was really cast.

2. Although I do want Al Franken to win, it could be even more important to determine who, exactly, are "The Lizard People," and why this "Beltrami" voter wrote in their name...

Theories abound -

a - Reports of The Lizard People go back at least as far as 1933, Los Angeles...

b - On the science fiction side, there may be a Dr. Who connection ...

c - But, my favorite, and what I see as most likely, explanation hearkens back to Ken Johnson's brilliant 1982 V mini-series. In an age just before cable, this hard-hitting series of invading reptile aliens who took the shape of humans - but still swallowed mice whole and live as snacks - was just the thing for an audience starved and hard-bitten for good science fiction on television. V's sequel mini-series and then regular series were not quite as good, but all-in-all the V saga provided a much needed bridge between Star Trek: The Original Series, and Star Trek: The Next Generation, the new Battlestar Galactica and all the great science fiction that we now know so well...

So what was that "Beltrami" voter trying to tell us? I believe it was a plea for V - possibly a play on words on the "V" in True Blood, short for vampire blood, which in that series is a powerful drug - but more likely a shout-out for Kenneth Johnson's 2008 novel, V: The Second Generation, which came out this past February ...







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Give the Auto Companies the Loans - But with Strings that Help All Americans

I don't like rewarding the dumb and greedy policies of the big auto companies - for example, churning out huge numbers of gas-guzzling SUVs, when it was clear Americans were wisely getting tired of them - but, as many people have noted, letting the big three auto companies go under would put millions of Americans out of work, with destructive ripple effects all through the economy.

I thus think our government has no choice but to lend the auto companies the billions they need to stay in business, but with the following strings, to make sure the bailout helps those who deserve the help (the American people) and not those who don't (present management).

1. Fire the top management, with no golden parachutes.

2. Their replacements should make at most 1/10 of the current top exec salaries (which are in the multi-millions of dollars).

3. Lower the price of new autos to consumers, by at least 20-percent.

4. Provide tax credits for purchase of all new autos, which would offset state sales taxes. (Or, if all the states are willing to play ball, do away with the state sales taxes on autos, period.)

4. Insist on manufacture of more hybrids, and get them out to consumers more quickly.

I'm sure there could be other strings, and the ones above could be more effectively formulated. But you get the picture: Give the loans to the auto companies, but make sure the American people, not the execs who got us into this mess, truly benefit.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Where Have Olbermann and Maddow Disappeared To? Facebook to the Rescue

David Shuster's been doing Countdown for the past two nights, and first Arianna Huffington and then Allison Stewart have filled in for Rachel Maddow on MSNBC... I actually really like all of these people/anchors/commentators - but what happened to Keith and Rachel?

There was no announcement on MSNBC, and I couldn't find much on the Web, other than someone else who also was wondering what had happened to the two. I'd assumed there were on some sort of vacations, but ...

I posted a question in my Status on Facebook, and sure enough, Mike Plugh, one of my most brilliant and knowledgeable former students, came back with an answer:

Vacation. They ran straight through the election without a break and I think Rachel is on the Air America Cruise with some lucky listeners. Olbermann may be in his basement at his mom's house hitting rewind and play on the Ben Affleck impression at SNL.


Ok, vacation, like I thought. And Mike "thinks" that Rachel is on an Air America Cruise.

Assuming he's right - which I do - why couldn't MSNBC, and indeed Keith and Rachel, have told us?

He's a little advice for everyone with a regular news commentary show on television: Viewers get accustomed to seeing you. We miss you when you're not on.

You're in the news business. Keep us a little better posted...

Fringe 8: Heroic Walter and Apple Through Steel

Walter is the most original character on Fringe - as I've noted before, there's never quite been a mad scientist like him - and last night's Episode 8 was mostly about Walter. That's why it was so good, and, for my money, the best episode of the season so far.

The story went well beyond Walter's crackpot quirks, and even beyond his usual relationship with Peter, which last night's episode helped develop.

The science fiction came, in part, from hypnotic lights, which Walter quickly figures out. But the other part is an unfinished equation, which is a lot tougher to crack. The bad guys kidnap a boy whose musical-mathematical notations may complete the equation. An inmate of Walter's in his former prison may also have the answer - or, at least, knowledge of where the boy is being held. Walter, understandably, does not want to set foot in the prison ever again - but, to help save the boy, Walter does.

We thus see Walter more genuine and heroic than ever before. He also is a pretty good interrogator, and eventually gets some information out the inmate.

But not before Walter and Peter run afoul of the warden, chillingly played by William Sadler. I've admired his performance as a top-tier villain since Die Hard 2, and Sadler didn't disappoint last night. Neither did John Noble, who continues to bring just the right mix of genius, insanity, and compassion to his complex role.

I wasn't 100% clear who exactly was behind the kidnapping, and needing to complete the formula, and why - or even what exactly the formula did (it looked as if it allowed the bad guy to put his hand through the back of a closed safe, and take out out an apple he had earlier put in the normal way). But that's part of Fringe's charm, and I'm assuming we'll find out more...

See also Fringe Begins ... Fringe 2 and 3: The Anthology Tightrope ... 4: The Eternal Bald Observer ... 7: A Bullet Can Scramble a Dead Brain's Transmission






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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Heroes 3: The Continuing Redemption of Sylar

Sylar continues to become less a villain and more a hero in last night's Episode 3.9 - going against the villainous focus in this season of Heroes, and making for one the longest and most original rehabilitations of a bad guy on television.

The rehabilitation has been long not only because it has been happening all this season, but even more importantly in the distance that Sylar has had to travel to become anything close to a decent human being. He was evil incarnate in the first season, and the only reason he wasn't quite that bad the second season was because he was without his powers for most of it.

Last night we learned, as many viewers suspected, that Sylar deliberately softened Peter's fall from the window - which Sylar hurled him out of - so Peter was not hurt. And Sylar learns empathy last night, as he takes not just the power but the pain from Elle, and without hurting her in the slightest. This part of the story is not for the cynical.

Arthur's villainy is intense that Sylar would not seem so bad, even if he were as bad as the first season. But it will be interesting to see where Arthur and Sylar go. Although Nathan and Peter seem the more likely heroes to stand up to Arthur, the ultimate contest this season may be between Arthur and Sylar.

It was also good to see more of Parkman and Daphne last night. The ancient god Mercury combined something of both of their powers - communication and speed...

But next week will be not about powers, but losing them. It will be interesting to see how our heroes and villains function without them - and who will recover first.

See also Heroes 3 Begins: Best Yet, Riddled with Time Travel and Paradox ... Sylar's Redemption and other Heroes and Villains Mergers ... Costa Nuclear ... Hearts of Gold and the Debased ... Seeing the Future Trumps Time Travel ... Superpowered Chess with Shifting Pieces ... Villains and Backstories






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An Idiot's Guide to Time Travel in The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Derek2 and Jesse1

Don't be insulted, we're all idiots when it comes to time travel and its paradoxes - that's what makes it so much fun.

But there was a great Sarah Connor Chronicles - Episode 2.9 - tonight, which had one of the best time travel dances of the series, and, for that matter, of time travel on television.

Jesse captures a Charles Fischer, back in 2008, from the future. He's a "gray" - a human who cooperated with Skynet in the future - and Jesse wants Derek to get Fischer (good to see Richard Schiff of The West Wing in this role) to tell them what he's doing in 2008. Fischer denies that he's Fischer. Jesse expects Derek to know exactly who Fischer is; Derek does not. Jesse captures then the young Fischer in 2008, and brings him into the room with the older Fischer. She tells Derek that Fischer in the future tortured Derek ... he has no recollection of this. Derek does eventually break the older Fischer in 2008, who admits that he's Fischer. Jesse kills him. She wonders how Derek could have had no recollection of what Fischer did to him in the future. Maybe it never happened, Derek realizes, and maybe we come from two different futures....

But how could that be? Why would Jesse remember Derek telling her that Fischer tortured him, if it never happened to Derek, because the younger 2008 Fischer was traumatized by what happened in that room?

Here's my explanation:

a. Derek1 is tortured by Fischer in the future. Derek1 tells Jesse1 about this.

b. Jesse1 travels back to 2008. She soon runs into the older Fischer in 2008 ... and all the events described in the paragraph above happen. The younger Fischer, because of what he saw in the room, does not go on to torture Derek1.

c. Therefore, in the future, at the instant the younger Fischer goes on that better path, Derek1 flips into Derek2. The two are identical in all ways, except that Derek2 has never been tortured. In this future2, Derek still loves Jesse.

d. Derek2 at some point after that travels back to late 2007 - before Jesse1 arrived. Jesse1 contacts Derek2 a few weeks ago, and what happened in the first paragraph - the action tonight - happened.

The key to this is that since Jesse1 traveled to the past, she retains memories of future1, and does not change when future1 becomes future2. But because Derek is still in the future at this point, he changes from Derek1 to Derek2 when the future changes from future1 to future2.

Ain't time travel grand? I think so, and I think The Sarah Connor Chronicles is doing a fine job of it.

See also 2.1 Cameron's Back ... 2.2 Firing on All Cylinders ... 2.3 Who, Truly, Is Agent Ellison? ... 2.4: Meet Allison ... 2.5: Unpacking the Future ... 2.6: Terminator Mom, Human Daughter ... 2.7: The Saving Robbery and Cromartie ... 2.8 Perspectives and Death






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Monday, November 17, 2008

Dexter 3.8: The Bright, Elusive, Deadly Butterfly of Miguel

It's easy to forget, amidst the fascinating ethical quandaries in Dexter's complex character - a serial killer we can love? - that Dexter the television show is also a first-class, tip-top mystery show. We have moved from the identity of Dexter's nemesis in the first year, to what Lila was really capable of in the second year, to ...

Miguel - brilliantly portrayed by Jimmy Smits - is one of the most complex, mysterious, incendiary ADA's ever to hit the television or movie screen. First, we were worried that he might figure out that Dexter killed Miguel's brother. Then, it turned out that Miguel shares something of Dexter's taste in cleansing the world of recalcitrant killers, and that Miguel might be pushing Dexter into doing something that put Dexter in danger - such as a killing the defense attorney, Ellen, who is too good in getting criminals off. (Dexter himself has been worried that Miguel may push him into violating the "code" that he has lived by, and indeed has saved his life while he kills.)

But now - at the very end of Sunday's episode - we find the most incredible, and dangerous, thing yet about Miguel: he is apparently sleeping with this defense attorney.

Which means, what? That Miguel did not really want Dexter to kill her? Well, then why did he go through that charade? Because he is really out to nab Dexter after all, and Ellen is cooperating in this pursuit? Pretty dangerous game - let's say Dexter had gone off on his own and killed her?

Or perhaps Miguel is even more crazy than he seems, and he both loves and hates Ellen?

Or perhaps Miguel started out hating her, but when Dexter showed him she wasn't that bad, Miguel seduced her? I don't think so, but....

And, actually, I'm not even sure that Miguel is going to her home to sleep with her, though she certainly seemed inviting at the door. But Miguel may well be going there to kill her ... but then why we would she be inviting him?

Dexter was talking a lot about the "butterfly effect" last night - how little changes can lead to great effects - in Dexter's cases, great undoings...

The great mystery now is whether Dexter has indeed unleashed Miguel, or is Miguel sticking to some intense plan that he had from the very beginning...

See also The True Nature of Miguel ... Si Se Puede on Dexter ... and Dexter 3: Sneak Preview Review









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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Keeping President Obama with His Email

You see the story in New York Times yesterday?

Prospects do not look for Barack Obama to continue sending and receiving email once he gets into the White House.

... he will probably be forced to sign off. In addition to concerns about e-mail security, he faces the Presidential Records Act, which puts his correspondence in the official record and ultimately up for public review, and the threat of subpoenas. A decision has not been made on whether he could become the first e-mailing president, but aides said that seemed doubtful.


It's not quite clear who, exactly, would be forcing the new President to do this. I think the President giving up his email is a terrible idea.

So what if the law requires all Presidential communications to be eventually available for public review? Surely a system could be devised which would automatically record all email that the President sends and receives. Come to think of it, isn't that what happens on every gmail or yahoo mail account right now?

More important, a President must be able to communicate in whatever way is most comfortable and effective for him. A person in his position needs to devote maximum attention to thinking and communication, without having to be handicapped by using old-fashioned paper, telephone, and other systems. Email has grown astronomically in the past decade for good reason: it has all the advantages of writing - permanence - and yet it is as immediate as speech. Plus, it is global and easily searchable.

And this is what some media Neanderthals want to deny to the new President?

My prediction: Obama will indeed become the first emailing President. Email me if I'm wrong.

For more on the advantages of email, see
The Soft Edge: A Natural History and Future of the Information Revolution.

Life on Mars #6 Meets Itself on Television in New York

Ok, I've gotten it out of my system - Life on Mars, at least in America, is not time travel. It has nothing to do with Journeyman or Quantum Leap or The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

It is, however, one very interesting series of post-modern, meta-fiction - hey, I don't get academic on you all too often - and Episode 6 brought that out in high mirrors-on-mirrors style. This one really is infinite regress...

Sam in 1973 hears enough through his coma in 2008 to know that he's in danger of being taken off life support unless he gives the future some kind of little sign of life. He's gets sucked into another 1973 caper, in which he's knocked out, reminded about the value of life, and smiles through time, to the future, so the people around him there know there's still something ticking within - at least, that's what Sam and we see on television in the soap opera in 1973 featuring a man in a coma in a hospital room...

But Sam in 1973 also soon sees Maya saying goodbye to him and the guy in the coma on the soap opera. This frees him to get together with Annie - I hope/think - and in the last scene he sees Annie in a bar, she looks at him, and the final credits roll...

Actually, not quite final - for Episode 6 of Life on Mars (in America) circa 2008 - for the credits we first see are on an old fashioned screen. Those credits are for the soap opera Sam has been seeing - "Life on Mars".

If this makes your head spin, that's all to the good.

One question that sill occurs to me about the coma and no time travel - is Sam definitely in the coma in 2008, dreaming of 1973 - or could it be he's in a coma in 1973, dreaming about 2008?

The thing about comas is that they can cut both ways.

On the other hand, how would Sam in 1973 have any knowledge of 2008, unless he first was in 2008?

Ok, I think I got it now...

See also Life on Mars Debuts in America ... Life on Mars 2nd Episode in America: Coma, Time Travel, Mars Rover ... Life on Mars Goes On in America: What Happens When a Time Traveler Runs Into His Earlier Self? ... Life on Mars #4: All in the Family ... Life on Mars #5 Meets the Wire ... Life on Mars #7: Is Annie Real?






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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Obama and FDR : Not Just New New Deal, New New Media

As many of you know, I'm finishing my New New Media book, due at my publisher, Allyn & Bacon, in January. I thought you might enjoy a little preview - something I just wrote this morning...

The November 24, 2008 cover of Time Magazine depicting Barack Obama as the new FDR – the President-elect in specs, gray suit and hat, sitting in car, cigarette jutting optimistically upward – has the caption, "The New New Deal".

The comparison, of course, is to FDR and Obama both first taking office in the throes of financial crises and catastrophe, and to Obama’s plans for public work projects, to help Americans get back to work, just as FDR did in the Great Depression of the 1930s.

But the announcement - a day after the Time Magazine cover became public on November 13, 2008 – that Obama’s radio address on November 15, 2008 would also be made available on YouTube, showed that Obama would be the new FDR not only in New Deal economic, but in the employment of new new media to communicate to the American people.

Roosevelt’s "fireside chats" - 30 of them from 1933-1944 - had used the new medium of his day, radio, to communicate directly to the American people, as no President had ever done before. Roosevelt and his advisers understood how to employ the advantages of new radio, which allowed anyone talking through it, including the President, to sound and seem as if he was talking directly to Americans, in their living rooms, bedrooms, of whatever room their radio happened to be situated in their homes. The effect was powerful, unprecedented, profound. My parents, who grew up in the Great Depression, often told me how they felt Roosevelt was almost a kind of father or parent – which makes sense, for whose voice would otherwise be talking to you in the inner sanctums of your home. When World War II came, my parents felt comforted by Roosevelt’s voice. They felt that as long as FDR was talking to them and all Americans, the country would be ok. (See my 1997 The Soft Edge: A Natural History and Future of the Information Revolution for more on radio and FDR.)

Americans stopped listening to radio that way in the 1950s, when television became the predominant political broadcast medium, and radio became a vehicle of rock ‘n’ roll. By 1960, people who saw the Kennedy-Nixon debates on television thought Kennedy won, in contrast to those who heard the debates on radio and gave the victory to Nixon – unfortunately for Nixon, some 90% of Americans had televisions in their homes by 1960. And in the election of 2008 and its aftermath, YouTube began to replace television as the predominant political audio-visual medium.

Obama’s YouTube addresses take advantage of all the characteristics of this new new medium, just as FDR’s fireside chats did with radio in the 1930s and 40s. In place of the voice in the home, the fatherly reassurance, that radio conveyed for FDR, Obama on YouTube suits the world of 2008, in which people want to be in touch with their President, or at least hear and see him, at times of their rather than his choosing. Like a President on radio, a President on YouTube is still conveying reassurance – but it’s a reassurance for people on the move, accustomed to being in the driver’s seat about when and how they receive their information, including Presidential addresses. In the fast-changing 21st century, the biggest reassurance about information is knowing that it's there.

For example, if you'd like to listen to Obama's first YouTube address as President-elect on November 15, 2008, you can do that right here ...



See also Obama's Speeches and FDR's Fireside Chats

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hillary Clinton Should Be Obama's Secretary of State

I hope Barack Obama asks Hillary Clinton to join his cabinet as Secretary of State, and she accepts.

There are lots of people with excellent foreign policy credentials, who have been loyal and vigorous supporters of Obama, who would make fine Secretaries of State. John Kerry and Bill Richardson are certainly at the top of this list.

Hillary Clinton, of course, vigorously opposed Obama in the Democratic primaries.

But because of the race she ran, and the 18 million votes she attracted, Hillary Clinton has something which no other possible Secretary of State has - she was a major part of the revolution in American democracy that elected Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Indeed, the only two people who are more a part of this revolution than Hillary, who are more its leaders, would be Obama and Biden. And, in terms of the results of the primaries, the millions of people Hillary Clinton inspired, she is arguable more important to this revolution than even Biden.

Hillary Clinton therefore deserves to be part of the leading edge of Obama's administration, if she wants that. Secretary of State is the most important position in the Cabinet. Her participation in Obama's administration at such an prominent and distinguished level would further cement the Democratic revolution that Obama, Biden, and Hillary Clinton, more than any other three people, made possible.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Katie Couric, Hero of the Revolution

I'm looking forward to not blogging any more about Sarah Palin, but her explanation given the other day to Matt Lauer about why she couldn't tell Katie Couric what newspapers Palin reads -

you know, questions about, well, you know, 'What do you read up there in Alaska?' To me that was a little bit annoying. Because I'm like, what do you mean, what do I read in Alaska? I read the same things that you guys read in New York. And there in LA and in Washington state.


- reminded me about the pivotal, crucial role Katie Couric played in this year's momentous election.

What was the single most decisive moment in the election, the instant in which the McCain-Palin ticket was irrevocably finished?

Obviously, the financial crisis was the major factor, and McCain seriously hurt his chances by suspending his campaign, urging a postponement of the first debate, and rushing over to Washington, DC to accomplish nothing. That might well have been the second worst moment of the McCain-Palin campaign.

But I don't think it was the worst, because, as the weeks proceeded, McCain's bizarre initial reactions to the financial crisis got diluted by other events.

Not so Katie Couric's CBS interview of Sarah Palin, broadcast on September 30. To this day, I can't understand why Sarah Palin was unable to tell Couric what newspapers she read, or to name a Supreme Court decision she disagreed with other than Roe v. Wade. Was Palin advised not to answer questions like this? Hard to believe - as it is hard to believe that she didn't answer because she could not cite a paper or a US Supreme Court decision.

I think that moment, that lack of answer, became indelibly recorded in the opinions many Americans from then on had of Sarah Palin.

Katie Couric and CBS have received a lot of criticism in the past few years. But there was something about Couric's interview style, her soft spoken way of putting her questions, that put Palin at ease and led to this result.

When the histories of this election are written, they will say that the Tiffany Network shone bright again, and the CBS Evening News anchor came through again for America, in that interview. By doing what media interviews are supposed to do - help Americans get to better know their candidates. And, fifteen days later, Bob Schieffer of CBS came through with the best moderation of any of the debates this year.

William Paley would have been proud.

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