Tuesday, February 19, 2013

HBO Enlightened “All I Ever Wanted” #16 Be Careful What You Wish For

by Catherine Giordano

HBO’s “Enlightened” just gets better and better--the show is so insightful, so emotional, so revealing about the foibles of its characters. Episode #16 (aired February 17, 2013) is titled “All I Ever Wanted.” A great title—it led me to title this review “Be Careful What You Wish For.”  You know how sometimes you want something and you finally realize it is never going to happen so you start wanting something else, something better, and then you get it, but then you also get the thing you wanted in the first place, but you pass on it because now you have this better thing, only maybe this better thing will slip through your grasp and you will have nothing.  If so, you can understand Amy Jellicoe’s position. Actually, this scenario might describe quite a few of the characters on “Enlightened.”

Amy arrives as Jeff’s apartment, vibrating with happiness and breathless excitement. Jeff tells her that they have struck “freaking gold.”  (He uses language a little stronger than “freaking.”) He’s so pleased with the incriminating Abaddonn emails that she has brought him, emails that are like gold to a exposé-writing journalist that he says, “I could freaking kiss you.”  Then he does kiss her. Then he kisses her again.  Then they both pull away, and they both start talking very animatedly at the same time.

Amy is so thrilled because she feels like she is on the precipice of an exciting new life.  She is going to become part of Jeff’s exciting world of travel and fame and knowing all the movers and shakers of their community.   

Jeff is excited because maybe he will move up a notch or two in the journalism world.  He doesn’t feel that the newspaper he currently works for is paying him a “living wage.”

Amy and Jeff go to a restaurant for dinner and Jeff tells Amy about his divorce back in 2007. His marriage ended because “she wanted kids and dogs and I wanted adventure.  These things make your world smaller. I’d rather be single.”  

Adventure!  I can almost see Amy’s pulse start to race. Amy wants adventure; she does not want a hum-drum life. “What if you found someone who wanted the same things as you,” she asks. Jeff takes this as a rhetorical question.

Later, when they are back at Jeff’s apartment, Jeff asks her, “Do you want to stay over.”  It was exactly how Tyler asked Eileen to begin their sexual relationship. I’m glad I’m out of the dating world if this is how things are done today. Where is the romance?  Where is the passion? These men might have been asking their ladies if they wanted a Coke.

Amy goes all coy, and asks “What do you mean?” (Maybe she has noted the lack of romance also?) He kisses her, and says again “Do you want to stay over?” Ambiguity is removed. Amy wants to stay over. They make sweet love.

Amy feels that she is finally going to get the things she wants from life.  She thinks, “It is like I have manifested it.” (Do you hear the echo of her New Age-y rehab stay?).
The next day Amy calls Jeff and suggests dinner.  Jeff starts to beg off, but then agrees.  Amy asks him to pick her up at her home. I think I can see that Amy has a very different idea of their relationship than Jeff does. Does he want what Amy wants?

Jeff, initially excited by the prospect of a big story—something he has always wanted—is starting to get cold feet. This story is so big; there will be political repercussions. Jeff is under a lot of pressure. He’s feeling a little unsure now that he has gotten the story he has always wanted.

Amy is at home getting ready for her date when the doorbell rings. Amy thinks that it is Jeff arriving early. She is startled when she opens the door and it is Levi, her ex-husband, returned from rehab. He’s come straight from the airport to see Amy. Amy wants to get him out of the house—he can’t be there when Jeff arrives, so she suggests a walk.

Levi declares himself cured of his addictions. “I want to live. I want a life. With you. I can be the person you have always wanted me to be.” He tells her that he wants to have children with her.

Amy is very conflicted and upset by the unexpected arrival of Levi. She tells him that she has a dinner to go to. She needs time to think. She runs away from Levi. When she gets home, she finds Jeff sitting with her mother. Her mother has explained Amy’s absence saying that Amy just went out for a little walk. Amy’s mom wants something for Amy. What she definitely does not want is Levi. She has never liked Levi. Like Amy she is impressed with Jeff--this nice, handsome, successful man—a good catch for Amy.

Amy rushes into her bed room and her mother follows.  She breaks down sobbing. “I think I am having a panic attack.” They are sitting on Amy’s bed—Amy’s mother is sitting slightly behind her. Her mother wants to hug Amy, but hesitates with her hands in hovering over Amy’s shoulders.  Finally, she goes for it.  She hugs Amy.  Despite the estranged, often antagonistic relationship between them, Amy does not rebuff her.

She finally pulls herself together and leaves with Jeff.  As they drive away, Levi, who is standing on the corner near Amy’s house, sees them together. He knows that he may have achieved sobriety, but he may have lost Amy.

This is the “I-don’t-know-what-to-tell-you” moment of the episode for me. I imagine that I am Amy’s confidant.  (I even imagine that I am Amy.) What advice will I give Amy?

Jeff is exciting, but Jeff is an unknown and has made no commitment. Levi is a known and has made a total commitment. But Levi has been a disappointment in the past. Has he really changed? And even if he has changed, there will not be excitement and adventure with Levi. Both men have something that Amy wants. Both men have the potential to disappoint her.

How does that old song from my youth go. “Did you ever have to make up your mind? Pick up on one and leave the other behind.”

Did you ever get what you want and then you are not sure you want it anymore? Amy must decide between two men. Jeff must decide between two career paths. Take a chance on the new?  Take a chance on the old? Either way, you are taking a chance.  If you make a choice that doesn’t work out the way you want it to, there is no going back.

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Amy reads a letter that Levi gives to her when he unexpectedly shows up at her house back from rehab.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

HBO Real Time with Bill Maher #272 "Bat-Poop Crazies and Popes"

by Catherine Giordano

The last several episodes of “Real Time with Bill Maher" have been weak on comedy. I was thinking, “Well, I can’t really blame Bill. What’s he supposed to do now that Mitt Romney has gone into hiding? Mitt Romney has still “gone dark,” but Bill Maher was really funny on the February 16th, 2013 episode of “Real Time with Bill Maher” (Episode 272).

The humor began with the opening monologue. Bill said that Obama proposed universal pre-school in the State of the Union speech. He said that Obama got that from Congress. It seems more than a few Congressmen need to learn “how to play well with others.” (Pow!)

Bill said that there is talk about getting rid of the penny. Bill suggested that we get rid of something else that is bronze and useless. John Boehner!  (Pow!) Bill said that during the state of the union speech Boehner looked liked “a man listening to a long story from a men’s room attendant.” (Pow! Pow!)

Personally, I find that I can’t keep my eyes off Boehner during Obama’s State of the Union speeches. He so clearly does not want to be there. He squirms and grimaces. He looks like a man trying to hold in gas. (Maybe he’s just dying for a drink and a cigarette.  I hear he’s a heavy drinker and smoker.)

Now that Pope Benedict is going to retire, Bill asked, “What’s next for Benedict? Dancing with the Stars?”

The interview was with Robert Zimmerman, Jr., the brother of George Zimmerman. (George Zimmerman shot and killed an unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin, in Florida last year. He claimed that the 17-year-old boy, who was just walking home from a trip to a 7-11, “looked suspicious.”) George’s trial is coming up soon and Robert is on the “rehabilitation tour” to try to get some good press for his brother.

There is no question about whether or not George Zimmerman killed Trayvon. The only question is whether or not George killed him in self-defense. From what is known about the case, George called 911 and reported Trayvon as “up to no-good.”  He also said that “these ass-holes always get away with it.” Trayvon happened to be on the phone with his girlfriend at the time, and she reported that Trayvon told her that a man was following him and he was scared. The girl says she told Trayvon to run, and then the phone connection was lost.

Trayvon is not around to tell his side of the story, but George claims that the teenager attacked him, knocked him down, and was pummeling him, slamming his head into the ground as he sat on his chest. This has been called a “stand-your-ground case” and that initially was the Zimmerman defense. Now Robert says, it is not “stand-your-ground” because ‘stand-your- ground” states that a person does not have a duty to retreat (if possible) when threatened. Zimmerman claims that he had no possibility of retreat and that he acted in self-defense. I believe Zimmerman initiated an attack on Trayvon. (The 911 operator heard George breathing heavily as if he was running and told him not to follow Trayvon.) I believe that the kid was the one acting in self defense when Zimmerman shot him. I hope we can learn the truth during the trial.

The panel included Donna Brazille, a Democratic strategist, John Meacham, an author (most recently, Jefferson: The Art of Power) and Jamie Weinstein, the Senior Editor of “The Daily Caller”, a online magazine covering politics.  (“The Daily Caller” was founded by Tucker Carlson, a conservative wise-ass pundit, and that is all you need to know about that.)

Brazille and Meacham were fine guests—Brazille knows a lot about politics and Meadham knows a lot about history. Jamie Weinstein doesn’t know anything about anything.

I had never heard of Weinstein before or “The Daily Caller” for that matter—I had to look them both up on the internet—so I had no preconceived notions.  Weinstein reminded me of an over-eager puppy that jumps into your lap wagging his tail in your face while you are trying to talk with the grownups. He struck me as an over-eager kid. The kind of kid that was always waving his hand in the teacher’s face back in fifth grade while she was still explaining the lesson, before she even asked a question. The kind of kid had all the answers as long as it was an answer that could be memorized and regurgitated. He displayed no ability for critical thinking, you know, the ability to take in facts and arrive at conclusions.

Weinstein interrupted the grown-ups in the room to regurgitate Republican talking points. One of his mainstays, typical of conservatives, was this response that I am labeling the “I-am-rubber-you-are-glue” moment of the week. The grown-ups were discussing how Republicans were attacking Chuck Hagel, Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, a man with medals for heroism in the Vietnam War—the senators with no military service at all were criticizing Hagel as unfit to be Secretary of Defense. Jamie butted in, “What about the criticism of General Pratreus by Democrats?” This happened ten years ago and the criticism did not come from senators, but from an independent group who took out a newspaper ad. Hardly even relevant to the discussion.

Bill talked about Karl Rove trying to rein in the “ bat-poop crazy” Republicans (Bill did not say "poop"; you know what he said, a word I can not use if I want a "G" rating for this review.) so the party can go back to just “regular bat-poop crazy” Republicans. It seems like some Republican said, ”baseball bats and hammers kill more people than guns.”  Besides not even being true, it is “bat-poop crazy” talk. The craziness has become so prevalent because there are so many gerrymandered “safe districts” for Republicans that the politicians don’t worry about losing the general election; they worry about losing a primary election to someone who is more “bat-poop crazy” than they are.

Bill did a great comedy segment this week. He did a parody of the David and Harry catalog (the company known for the Fruit-of-the-Month Club).  He called it “The Dirty Harry and David” catalog. Some examples of the offerings in this catalog:

·         The St. Valentines Day Massacre Basket:  She’s sure to make you her Bushmaster.

·         Pistol Farms Sample: Guns and cheese. Everything a cracker could possibly want.

·         The New York Gift Basket: Ready! Aim! Nosh!

The humor of this episode was amped up when the special guest ,Joel McHale, host of E!’s “The Soup,” came on. Joel is an easy going guy with a quick wit and an even quicker smile. Bill mentioned that “The Soup” used to cover talk shows, but now they cover reality shows. Bill said that there was “something sick” about reality shows. It is looking down on people.  Joel said that there were a few good reality shows. He mentioned “Deadliest Catch,” “Dirty Jobs,” and “Intervention.”  (I’m not familiar with any of these shows since I don’t watch reality shows. If you want my attention, you can take the trouble to script a TV show.)

“New Rules” was very funny this week. Bill lampooned those who complain about Obama getting secret service protection “like he was the manager of the local Pep Boys. These are the same people who complain about fire trucks going through red lights.” He then mimicked a whining child and said, “I don’t get to go through red lights. Why does he get to go through red lights?”

Rubio got a drubbing for his “quick-drink-of-water” moment.  Bill joked, “Someone needs to tell Mark Rubio something I learned years ago. Don’t get high before a show. You’ll wind up making no sense, and you will develop a bad case of cotton mouth.”

[My thoughts on Rubio: The Republicans are so desperate to put someone forward who doesn’t alienate half the country that they pushed Rubio out before he was ready. I do public speaking. You keep the water next to you, and if you need a drink, you wait for a place in the speech where a pause seems natural, then as if you were pausing for emphasis, you take a quick drink. You never touch your face, and you certainly don’t try to slink away from the podium as if no one can see you.)  

However, that moment did not ruin his speech. His speech was already ruined.  He attacked Obama for not talking about the very things that he did talk about in his State of the Union speech. Again, an experienced speaker knows that you have to be able to think on your feet—you need to make on-the-spot changes to your speech when the need arises.]

Bill can never resist taking a poke at religion.  Bill said, talking to the Catholics of the country, “If the Pope can leave, so can you.”  He said the church is dying off “like Moose lodges, Masons, Blockbusters, and moderate Republicans.” He said the pope is just a figure head “like Queen Elizabeth in a better dress.”  He asked, “If you are Catholic, but don’t follow anything the church says, what are you staying for?  The stained glass windows?" 

He had a barb for those who say “It doesn’t say in the rules that a Pope can’t resign.”
Bill said, in an incredulous tone, “It doesn’t say in the rules that there even is a Pope.  There is no Pope in the Bible.”

Next, Bill suggested that we should have a woman Pope. He proposed that Hillary Clinton should be the next Pope because “she knows how to handle men who can’t keep their hands to themselves.” Or what about “Pope-prah?” Bill asked. “Jesus turned water into wine and Oprah whines about retaining water.”

Still doing comedy, but striking a serious note, Bill said that any culture that excludes women always descends into sexual deviancy. And I would add that without the civilizing influence of women, men are prone to excessive violence and deviancy of all kinds.  [Read Men in Groups by Lionel Tiger first published in 1969.] I will also add that God didn’t give Eve to Adam for a companion; he knew Adam needed a woman around to keep him in line, to keep them from going bat-poop crazy.

Finally, Bill suggested that he should be Pope.  He was born and raised Catholic.  He wants nothing to do with children. And he can provide his own white puff of smoke.

I titled this review “Bat-Poop Crazies and Popes.”  Who were the the bat-poop crazies this week? Everyone who was the butt of one of Bill’s jokes -- John Boehner, the “bat-poop crazy” Republicans, Marco Rubio, reality TV “stars”—and Jaime Weinstein. 

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

HBO Enlightened “The Ghost is Seen” #15 "I See You"

by Catherine Giordano

What an absolutely wonderful episode of HBO’s “Enlightened”—episode 15, “The Ghost is Seen,” airing on Sunday, February 10, 2013. I’m entitling this review “I See You” because it is all about people who live on the fringe.  They feel like they are ghosts, no one sees them, no one knows them, no one cares about them. 

This episode explores Tyler’s life. Tyler is resigned to being a “ghost.”  He has come to prefer it, actually. His voice-over monologue opens the episode and shows us that Tyler no longer even hopes to love and be loved. He says, “It’s OK to be a ghost. No love to lose. No burden to be. So little to hold you down. You are free.”

“Ghost” has a double meaning when used to describe Tyler. t a running joke in the show—Tyler has a very fair complexion; he’s white as a ghost. Maybe there is even a triple meaning. Tyler has “given up the ghost” with respect to life. Sometimes when you have given up on happiness, it is enough just not to be miserable.

Tyler switches metaphors as the voice-over continues. ”Some pearls are never found. They hide under the sand, under the ocean floor. No one knows they are there. The pearl knows.  Maybe there was a time he wanted to be found, to be seen, to be held.  I am my own secret. A secret kept by me.” Tyler is resigned to be a lonely “secret pearl.”

Dougie and Amy have hacked into the email account of Abaddonn’s CEO, Charles Szidon, but they have not been able to find anything incriminating.  They realize that there must be a secret account, and the only way to find that account is through an assistant to Szidon.

Eileen (played by Molly Shannon) is their key to unlock this account. Eileen is Szidon’s assistant and another lonely pearl who has no expectations. Tyler is sent to gain her confidence, but when he approaches Eileen, he is too shy to ask her out. 

Dougie says that he’s an expert at picking up chicks and he will woo Eileen. “Picking up woman is like shooting fish in a barrel,” he says. “Old fish.”  (Eileen is 40.) 

Then Dougie realizes that Amy is 40 too and he has just called her an old fish “Sorry,” he says offhandedly. Then he insults Andy. “Get a spray tan. You’re so white.”

Dougie  approaches Eileen in the company gym.  Eileen is not very interested in Dougie, but Dougie gets her to agree to go out for drinks with him and his friends. (His friends are Amy and Tyler.)

Eileen likes Tyler. Eileen kisses him. Tyler is stunned, but pleased. Eileen likes him because he is “sad, but nice.”  She’s thinking that he’s not the kind of guy that will hurt her.

They end up in bed together, but first Eileen has to give him a long speech about how she doesn’t expect much, but could he please not hurt her.

She and Tyler are kindred spirits. A ghost. A pearl. This is the “can-two-sad-lonely-people-make- one- happy- couple?” moment of the week.

Tyler and Shannon are both so tentative, yet so pleased to have found each other and started a relationship that they make your teeth ache. Tyler’s voiceover: “Something has changed. The ghost can float. He is flesh and blood. All those years invisible haunt him now. Why didn’t he try or care or be. The ghost is happy. He is found, he is held and seen.”

I’m quoting Tyler so extensively because the words are so poetic and so touching.  They speak to the loneliness that so many of us hold in our secret place.

Tyler is so happy with his new relationship, that he has forgotten the reason he initially approached Eileen  She was to be gateway to Szidon’s secrets. Tyler has innocently offered to download music onto Eileen’s computer--the one on her desk at work.  It’s an illegal download, and this is the portal that allows Dougie to access her hard drive. He finds the incriminating emails that he and Amy need.

Dougie and Amy don’t say this, but they could very well have said, “Szidman, I see you and soon the world shall see you for what you are, a criminal.”

Dougie is happy.  He will have his revenge on Abaddonn for their insults to him. 

Amy is happy. She immediately calls Jeff, the journalist who will write the expose. She drops the news on him like a cat offering a dead mouse to its master. Amy wants Jeff to become romantically involved with her, and this gift may cause him to finally “see” her.

Jeff is happy. He will have a great story.

Tyler is not happy. He suspects that Eileen will not be happy if she learns that he is responsible for the breach of her computer files. Amy and Dougie assure Tyler that she will never know.  But this is TV; of course, she is going to find out.

“Enlightened” is a great series that gets better and deeper and richer with every episode. You need to see it. 

Molly Shannon, as Eileen, on HBO's Enlightened.

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Saturday, February 9, 2013

HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher #271 Drones, Bones, and Orange Tones

by Catherine Giordano

HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” episode #271 aired a very interesting show on February 8, 2013 discussing a wide range of topics. When you have a theoretical physicist on the panel as Bill did this week—Lawrence Krauss, the author of A Universe from Nothing-- you can expect, at the very least, intelligent conversation.  

Bill might be tacking a new tack with his show. This is the second week in a row that he did not have bombastic political types on the panel—just intelligent people who know what they are talking about and who can express different opinions on the topics under discussion in a rational manner. Maybe this change harks back to what Bill said a few episodes ago about how it is impossible to have a conversation with someone who won’t accept facts.

The downside to this new tack, (if, indeed, it is a new tack) is that the show is calmer and that makes it harder for me to write about it. Outrageousness allows me to write with righteous indignation. Slamming someone for something stupid he or she said is more fun than just reporting on what was said. Nonetheless, I’ll do my best to write an interesting review.

This week’s  interview was with Julian Assange, the founder and editor of WikiLeaks.  The interview was done remotely because Assange can’t leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London where is being given sanctuary from arrest. England wants to extradite him to Switzerland to face trial for sexual incidents (a “he said/she said situation” and most likely trumped up). The Swiss, if they get their hands on him, will most likely extradite him to the United States. It seems he published some classified documents and the United States doesn’t like that type of thing one little bit. (I’m not sure how I feel about what Assange does, but I do feel a little bit sorry for him about the mess he has gotten himself into.)

Assange seemed dour throughout most of the interview. Bill remarked on it attributing his mood to being cooped up in the embassy for months. I did learn two interesting things from the interview.  One, Assange does not know who his sources are. Documents are transmitted to WikiLeaks in such a way that no one knows the identity of the sender. (One small question, how does WikiLeaks prevent fraud if they don’t know who sent the documents?)  And two, WikiLeaks does not publish everything that they receive. They only publish information of significant historical importance or to aid whistle-blowers who want to reveal wrong-doing. They will not publish, or they will delay publishing, if they feel that there is a good reason to let something remain secret.    

In addition to Lawrence Krauss, the other two panelists were Martin Bashir, from MSNBC News, and Josh Barro, a reporter for Bloomberg News. Both of these men are serious about news and worthy of our respect.

Drone attacks is an important issue in the news right now and the panel began with that.  Bill said, “In a world where there are nuts and nukes, there are no good choices.” Fighting Al Qaeda is like a game of Wac-A-Mole. Bashir was concerned about a permanent war. “When does it end?” he asked. Barro thought drone attacks were a better alternative than invading countries. Klauss was concerned about giving the government the power to kill. All good points--some pro, some con.

I personally favor drone attacks as necessary to disrupt Al Qaeda and prevent an attack on U.S. soil. But, I also feel that there must be some checks and balances. There has to be some kind of trial in absentia to determine if the attack is necessary. I think that the people who are going around saying one man can decide who lives and who dies are just trying to score political points; I think it is a group decision made by the military, the CIA, and the president.

All this stuff about killing American citizens is just more political rant. If someone leaves this country and joins up with a group that wants to attack the United States, he has effectively renounced his American citizenship. We don’t have the ability to go into middle Eastern and African countries to arrest these people. We can’t be doing an Osama bin Laden type of foray every week. However, Al Queda members (citizen or non-citizen) in this country should be arrested and should receive due process. I don’t think there have been assassinations in the U.S., and that is how it should be.  

In summation, I do feel a little uneasy about the drone attacks, but as Bill said, “Sometimes all you have are bad choices, and you have to choose the least bad.”

Another event in the news this week is the discovery of the bones of Richard III, a former king of England who reigned for two years, and was the last Plantagenet king before the current Tudor dynasty began. His bones were found beneath a parking lot. Richard III’s reign was so short that Bill called him a “speed bump in history.” However, Bill also admired him for “hunchback courage.”  He rode his horse into battle which must have been very painful given the deformity of his spine.

Bill is an avowed atheist so he veered off into a comment about Jesus. If the bones of Jesus were found would this change anyone’s mind about the divinity of Jesus.  Bill also said that 27% of people in the United States thought that God played a role in the outcome of the Super Bowl.  (Was he the One who cast the stadium into darkness, and if so, why? Beyonce?) Krauss added that more people believe in angels than evolution and that nonsense can substitute for fact with impunity.

There was some discussion of the picture of Obama skeet shooting. Bill thought that the release of the picture was just pandering, and served only to give the right-wing crazies a new conspiracy theory. Rollo thought that the president wants to encourage conspiracy theories. It makes the Republicans look crazy and it keeps the attention off other things, things the administration would rather not talk about. (Like drone attacks?)

Tina Brown, editor of Newsweek and The Daily Beast was the special mid-show guest. She talked about her admiration for Malaya, the Pakistani girl who was shot for speaking up about education for women.  Bill said, “The Taliban is more afraid of educating women than of drones.”

Bill took Brown to task for a cover story in Newsweek, “Heaven is Real,” about a neurosurgeon who had a near-death experience. (However, The neurosurgeon thought he had actually died, been to heaven, and  then returned to life.) Brown looked a little put upon as she tried to defend the story, but the rest of the panel scoffed. (I, for one, thought that Brown was smarter than that.) Krauss said that the man had a spiritual experience, but he thinks science is more spiritual because it is real. The man’s experience may have been-life changing for him, but it was just a hallucination.  Bill remarked, “We like to say that there are two sides to every story, what we forget is that one side is wrong.

There was talk about taxes, and Chris Christie’s health (and weight), and government failings and other things, but I’m now going to go straight to the “New Rules” segment about Donald Trump. It was Bill at his best.

Here’s the set up. Last year, Trump offered to donate five million dollars to charity if Obama would release his college transcripts. Bill did a bit on his show where he offered to donate five million dollars to charity if Trump could prove that he wasn’t the love child of a human woman and an orangutan.  He was making fun of Trump’s “birther” nonsense. Recently, he got a letter from Trump’s lawyers suing him for $5 million. Bill thought the letter was a joke; turns out, Trump is serious.

Bill’s response last night was to pile on the insults. He said that Trump didn’t know the difference between a joke and a contract—he thinks a joke is a legally binding agreement.  He said that Trump should have sucked it up like other celebrities who become the butt of a joke. Instead, Trump got so angry that he couldn’t stop throwing his feces. He said Trump really did look like he had orangutan heritage because the orange color of his hair is matched no where on earth except in the color of the hair on an orangutan.

Trump had sent Bill a copy of his birth certificate to prove that his father was not an orangutan. This launched a bunch more jokes. It was a short form birth certificate just like Obama’s. Bill demanded to see the long form. Bill said that Trump’s birth certificate was obviously false because it had a bar code on it—bar codes were not available in 1946, the year shown as the year of Trump’s birth. Bill demanded more proof that Trump does not go to family reunions at the zoo. Ouch!  This was the “I-almost-feel-sorry-for-the-man” moment of the week. But I don’t feel sorry for Trump because he so richly deserves the ridicule that he has brought upon himself.

And I’ll conclude with a riddle—what do drones, bones, and orange tones have in common?  Bill Maher makes jokes about all of them.  

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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Showtime Enlightened “Follow Me” #14 A New World

by Catherine Giordano

Amy discovers social media, seeing it as if for the first time, and embraces it as an angel from heaven sent to help her with her mission to bring Abadonn down. In episode 14 (the fourth episode of season two) for HBO’s “Enlightened” (airing on February 3, 2013, new worlds are opening up to Amy so I entitled this review "A New World." I think this is the best episode of the season so far. 

Amy looks around a coffee shop.  Everyone is bent over their electronics. She observes, “You can hear the angels buzzing.”

In the next scene, Amy is all dressed up. Jeff is coming to her home to pick her up for a meeting. She has told Jeff that she needs more information from him so she will have a better idea of what information to look for the expose that Jeff is going to write for his newspaper.

Amy’s mother says that Amy has a date. Amy insists it is not a date, but when she sees Jeff she acts like it is a date. And it really looks like a date as Amy and Jeff sit in a restaurant chatting. The only reason it is not a date is that Jeff doesn’t think it is a date.  Amy is just a source.

A couple stops at their table because they have recognized Jeff. They briefly compliment him on his work for the newspaper before moving on. Amy is thrilled—a vicarious thrill—she is so close to someone that others admire. And admiration that comes from being “somebody” is what she so desperately desires.

This ambition is made plain to us when Amy visits Krista in the hospital again.  Krista will give birth in two weeks. Amy says she will give birth soon also. Not to a baby, but to something that like a child will have a life of its own. She’s dreaming of the day when Krista will see that she is important.

Social media can help make Amy important. At her meeting with Jeff at the restaurant Jeff tells her about Roberta, a woman who started a blog that started a movement. He says, “even a nobody like you can speak to power.” This sets Amy to dreaming again.  The voice-over of her thoughts: “This is the angel sent to me from the other world where things are rich and full” unlike Amy’s real world which is rather empty. She intends to follow this angel. Amy opens a twitter account, listing herself as an “aspiring agent of change.”

During their meeting, Jeff mentioned that Roberta is going to be speaking at an event being held at the home of a celebrity (Laurie David) and invites Amy to attend. Roberta’s talk inspires Amy’s fantasies. Roberta says that “millions of people are sitting at their computers, soldiers in a global army. We can defeat tyranny in a cyber-revolution. I have made a difference for good. Follow me.”  No need to ask Amy twice.

Amy speaks to Roberta afterwards, gushing her enthusiasm. When the hosts steer Roberta away to introduce her to some important people (from PETA, from Amnesty International), Amy hovers at the edge of the group. Later she wanders about the party, imagining herself on the brink of greatness. She thinks “I’m a stranger here, but I will learn it’s language, read it’s signs and I’ll be welcomed. This will be my home.”  When a waiter recognizes Amy from the neighborhood, Amy brushes him off.  It appears that she doesn’t want to be seen talking to the help. 

At the end of the event, Amy meets Jeff by chance at the valet parking.  Amy is gushing again and Jeff just nods; his mind is clearly elsewhere.  When Amy’s car arrives, he gives her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. My reading of the scene is that he is cultivating a source and being nice to a person who so clearly needs approval. Amy, however, is in seventh heaven.

Back at Abaddonn, Dougie, their boss, Dougie (played by Timm Sharp) in the basement dungeon where they work, is on to Amy and Tyler. He calls them into his office and tells him that he has proof that they are the hackers. As he heads off to inform HR, Amy desperately follows after him with a file folder of e-mails that Tyler has collected. 

The emails show the Abaddonn executives deriding Dougie, making fun of his hair, calling him a dirtbag (among other even less flattering things). The emails also reveal the plans to shut down the whole basement project, Dougie’s ‘domain” as he proudly calls it, Dougie cries out, “I thought I was someone. I thought I had some power.” Dougie will be fired along with everyone else. Dougie is enraged and agrees to join forces with Amy. His sentiments are not so different from Amy’s—he wants to be “someone.”

 [Don’t we all want to be someone? Don’t we all want to have power?  Why do I write these reviews? It makes me feel that I am someone, someone whose opinions matter to other people. And maybe someday this will lead to something.  A post will go viral. I’ll be discovered. Like Amy, I imagine myself on the brink of greatness.]  

Dougie tells Amy that he is the best hacker there is. He’s vice president of IT at Abaddonn because he knows all things computer.  Amy gushes on about how they are going to do something good by bringing Abadonn down, but Dougie is only interested in revenge for the insults.

Amy immediately calls Jeff with the good news that her boss is on board. Jeff is pleased, but he is too busy to talk to her. The piece he wrote about Roberta has been picked up by the Huffington Post, and things are “crazy.”

[Hello, Huffington Post! Here I am.]

Amy muses, “I have joined a new world. I have learned a new language. The powerful will be laid low.” She’s become an avenging angel, poised to strike a blow for “the meek like me” or as she expresses it, “unite the world in a single current of compassion and action.”

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Dougie (Timm Sharrp) in his basement domain.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Real Time with Bill Maher #270 “Reason and Unreason”

by Catherine Girodano

HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” episode 270 that aired on Friday February 1, 2013, was a rarity—everyone on the show was a believer in reason,--i.e. no right-wingers. But even reasonable people can disagree.  But when reasonable people disagree it is a debate, not a brawl. The only problem with the show tonight is that it was not ten hours long. Bill likes to cover a lot of topics during each show and that doesn’t allow for a full discussion and resolution of the issues.

The interview was with Alex Gibney, a documentary film-maker with a new film, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in theHouse of God which will air on HBO beginning Monday February 4. We may have thought that we knew about the pedophilia scandal within the Catholic Church, but it looks like this documentary will show us how little we really know.  Alex talked about how pervasive sexual crimes against children (usually boys) are, and how massive the cover up is, and how even popes, including the current pope, are complicit.

Bill asked if pedophile men become priests because they are pedophiles who hope the “power of Jesus” will cure them or because the all male environment turns them into pedophiles. The answer is neither. Gibney said that pedophiles become priests because predators want to be where they are protected. Priests have the power to abuse with immunity.  And I might add, they have so much access to potential victims.

Alex pointed out one good outcome of the exposure of the abuse and cover-up, which goes back to the 4th century (to the very beginnings of The Church) is that previously the government of Ireland and the Catholic Church were practically one entity, and now the government of Ireland has separated from the Catholic Church.

Bill mentioned that priests are seen as “demi-gods.” Alex informed us that the belief that a priest is halfway between a mortal and an angel is a heresy.  Priests are clearly not demi-gods using their power for evil, they are just men using their power for evil.

One of the panelists was Sam Harris, co-founder of “Project Reason” and well known for the best-selling books he has written on the topic of atheism. Given that Bill is an atheist and Gibney was speaking about the crimes of the Catholic Church, I expected to hear something on these topics by Harris. Not a word, although at one point he was identified as “Sam Harris, philosopher” on the screen. Harris did not speak about atheism or philosophy—he spoke about politics and current events.

The other two panelists were Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, and Eva Longoria, an actress and activist. (Fashion-police-moment-of-the-week—who did Eva’s hair? It was obviously carefully coiffed, but looked weird. Her hair was pulled back from her face into a loose pony tail, but at the very top part of her head, a small section of hair was poofed up like she was hiding a mouse under it.)  

Cory Booker always has so much to say and says it very well. He’s also a very down- to-earth guy, self-effacing and the epitome of cool. During Overtime, he talked about his twitter account and about how it is a great way to stay in touch with constituents. He knows about a water main break before the Department of Water knows about it; it helped him locate and send help to people during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. 

Cory is so hands-on that Bill joked that “your blackberry is like the bat-signal.” Whenever there is trouble, he’s on the spot. Everything from using is body (ala Superman) to cover a gap in the tracks of the PATH train (a funny exaggeration although Cory once rescued a woman from a burning building) to preventing a fight from breaking out between two patrons in a local laundromat (something that one could easily imagine Cory doing in real life.)

Eva is an activist on immigration issues, so with immigration in the news right now, It was the first topic of conversation. Eva talked about some of the rhetoric that says the border must be secured before there can be a path to citizenship for the undocumented residents of the United States. Eva pointed out that the border is already secure—net immigration is at zero. Cory said that we need to do what is best for America. He advocates for the Dream Act, saying that it is foolish to educate them, and then kick them out. He segued into the issue of crime. The undocumented are afraid of the police so they will not report crime making them disproportionately likely to be victims of criminals. The implication is that Immigration reform will make it easier to catch criminals, and thus reduce the crime rate.

Bill in his opening monologue said that the alternative to immigration reform is “Pick your own strawberries.”

The conversation moved to safety and guns. Bill pointed out that nothing is safer than a police state. The discussion about guns showed that reasonable people can disagree.  Sam and Bill both commented that guns can play a role in providing for personal safety. One would think so, but Cory once again came to the rescue of misguided thinking.  He said he was for much stricter laws and pointed out that if you own a gun, you are much more likely to be killed by that gun than you are to use it to successfully defend yourself. Cory, as a mayor of a city, Newark that has been known for violence, is on the front lines when it comes to guns and crime. I’d listen to him.

Eva said, if you are going to own a gun, it should be like getting a car license. You need to have training. At the very least, I want to add. Yes, every now and then people successfully defends themselves with a gun, but here’s the problem. The gun needs to be secured, kept away from children and thieves, and the crazy person that might just happen to live in your house. In an emergency, that gun is not going to be at hand, or your training and temperament is not going to be sufficient, or you might be emboldened to try to face down a possible intruder instead of retreating to safety.

In any event, if a gun makes you feel more safe and you are not mentally ill and do not have a criminal record, the current proposed gun laws will not stop you from owning a gun if that is what you wish to do. Just because gun laws can’t stop all gun crimes, does that mean we shouldn’t try to stop some of them. Cory had the statistics to prove that the ban on assault rifles did reduce crimes. 

Returning now to the voices of unreason, we have the Republicans in the House and Senate. The Republicans behaved disgracefully, browbeating Hillary during the hearings on Benghazi, and then being absolutely vicious to Chuck Hegal during his hearings for confirmation as Secretary of Defense. And Chuck Hegal is a Republican!
Bill said  that Republicans had turned against Hegal because since he was nominated by Obama “he has Obama’s cooties on him.” (It’s true, Republicans act like children.)

McCain was the leader of the pack of jackals. Jackie pointed out that there is bad blood between McCain and Hegal because Hegal was against the surge in Iraq that McCain favored. Bill responded that McCain was saying “The surge worked! Say it! Say it!” (It reminded me of a bully in a school yard, twisting someone’s arm until he says what the bully wants him to say.)

There’s a gun lobby.  There’s a defense industry lobby.  Cory said we need a lobby to do rational things. The Reason and Rationality lobby--I like the sound of that.

Back to the voices of Unreason.  In New Rules, Bill said that Sarah Palin was dumped by Fox News right after Jindal (Republican governor of Louisiana) said that Republicans have to stop being the “stupid party.” (Bill called it a wondrous coincidence. Also, Fox is slipping in the ratings. I hope that is more than a coincidence.)

Glen Beck is one of the major voices of unreason. He lost his show on Fox News last year when he went so far around the bend that he lost too many advertisers. But Beck doesn’t need Fox News. He has a show on the internet now. It costs $9.95 a month to subscribe. And he has 300,000 subscribers.  He and his ilk, according to Bill, are in the business of “separating rubes from their money”—all they have to do is to keep them feeling like they are under attack. The fear mongers—Beck, Hannity, Coulter, O’Reilly, et al.—can then keep on selling the same book over and over—the one that attacks liberals as the scourge that will lead to the downfall of America and death of us all.

Bill concluded that there is no comparable organization on the left dedicated to separating liberals from their money…here’s the “wait-for-it-moment-of-the-week” … unless you count Whole Foods. 

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