Thursday, October 31, 2013

Showtime’s “Masters of Sex” #105 “Catherine”

Painful Losses
by Catherine Giordano
Rose McIver as Vivian Scully

There are painful losses for so many of the characters on episode #105 of Showtime’s “Masters of Sex.”

The most painful loss in this episode is the loss of Bill and Libby’s baby due to Libby’s miscarriage at 24 weeks. The miscarriage is discovered while Bill and Libby at the 25th wedding anniversary party for the Scullys. Libby gets up from the table to go to the “girls,” and Bill sees that her beautiful peach-colored gown is massively stained with blood.

Bill and Libby are both shattered by this loss, even Bill who was very ambivalent about becoming a father. Bill names the dead baby Catherine. Bill tells Libby they will not try to have a baby again. This is more pain for Libby.

Vivian Scully loses her virginity in this episode. She comes on to Ethan as a worldly woman who can have what we today call casual sex. After the deed is done, Ethan discovers blood on the sheets, and Vivian has to confess to being a virgin. Ethan feels very guilty, but he doesn’t want a relationship with Vivian. But she’s the daughter of the provost of the hospital so Ethan has no choice unless he wants to jeopardize his position at the hospital. So Vivian becomes Ethan’s “girlfriend." This is the "there-is-no-such-thing-as-free-love" moment of the  week.

Vivian may have lost her virginity, but a young married couple, both very religious, have not lost theirs. They come to see Dr. Masters because they have not conceived. Turns out they did not understand that sleeping together involved more than sleeping. Presumably, the doctor had to explain the birds and the bees to them. They were so cute—you might say this scene represented a loss of innocence.

Dr. Langham seems to have lost his ability to perform. The sex study is studying couples again, and Lanham was all set to do his bit for science with the lovely Jane. But Masters feels the study would go better if the partners were strangers to each other so a different girl is sent to be his partner. Langham is so disappointed that he loses his ability to perform. Virginia had warned Masters against this experiment, but he didn’t understand the importance of “attachment” in sex. The next time, Langham is paired with Jane again, but the memory of his prior failure sets him up to fail again. Langham, previously known as the hospital’s Lothario, is in mental anguish, crying out, “Why won’t my dick work?” The study is about physiology, but I think Masters and Johnson are beginning to realize how difficult it is to separate the physical from the emotional.

Virginia is suffering her own loss--the loss of her children’s love. Specifically, the loss of her eight year old son’s love. He’s angry that his mother has to work all the time. To make it up to him and her daughter, she has the baby sitter drop them off at the hospital so they can go out to dinner when she gets off work, but then Libby has her miscarriage and Virginia is needed at the hospital.  Her daughter is “the good one” in the family—she just falls asleep in a chair. The boy leaves the hospital and literally gets lost. Virginia is distraught, but Ethan saves the day. He spies the kid on the street and brings him back. He offers to fill-in as a father figure for the boy, assuring Libby that it is alright because he likes kids. He’s not doing this just to get in Virginia’s pants because, as he tells her, he has a girlfriend now.”

Mrs.Scully has had a lifetime of loss—the loss of a happy sex life with her husband who is secretly gay.  She comes to see Bill—she wants to be a study subject.

If you are not watching this show, you are losing out. The 1950’s was a time of pivotal change in social mores and this show is not missing a beat.

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Showtime’s Homeland #305 “The Yoga Play”

Moments of Truth
by Catherine Giordano
Sarita Choudhury as
Mira Berenson on Homeland

A lot of people have their moment of truth on Showtime’s Homeland, episode 305, “The Yoga Play” which aired on October 26, 2012.

First Dana, our run-away brat, learns the truth about her new boyfriend, Leo, and how his brother died. She hears  on the news that Leo was involved in his brother’s death.  Dana is outraged that Leo had not told her the truth about this. After she has learned that everything that she thought was true about her father was lies, can you blame her for being a little sensitive about being lied to?

Dana fights with Leo causing a minor car accident. The police arrive, and Dana is happy to be taken into custody and returned home. (I think Leo will be a little less happy to be returned to the psych ward.) Happy might not be the right word to use about Dana. She’s mad at the world, and she resumes her sullen sulk a soon as she crosses the threshold of her home, glaring at her mother.  And I bet her adventures (misadventures) with Leo are not over.

Saul has to face a hard truth also. He’s been invited to go duck hunting with Senator Lockhart and a group of other important people in D.C. The first truth he learns is that duck hunting season is over; they are going to be hunting geese. Next he learns, his goose is cooked, so to speak.  Saul was expecting to be named head of the CIA, instead he is thanked for his six months of service as acting director by Senator Lockhart, the man who will actually be appointed to that post.

Saul gets his chance to deliver a few truths of his own. When the announcement of the impending appointment is made to the assembled group, Saul proposes a toast. In the “speaking-with-forked-tongue” moment of the week, Saul offers his congratulations while praising the men and women who, unlike the Senator, have actually put their lives on the line and who actually know something about the spy game.

When Saul returns home, he has another hard truth. He finds his wife, Mira, (played by Sarita Choudhury,) with another man. Mira explains that he returned home earlier than expected, and she was only having dinner with a friend. Saul doesn’t even want to know. He’s had enough bad news for one day. He doesn’t want to even think about the possibility that his hope for reconciliation with his wife might now be a lost hope..

But Saul’s bad news is not over yet. Wait until he finds out that Carrie has been kidnapped by Iranian agents.. These kidnappers are pros. They get into her apartment undetected even though Quinn is watching her house, They subdue her and make her strip naked; and then they carefully scan her, evidently looking for any electronic devices that may have been implanted in her body so her location could be tracked. Only then is she “disappeared”  to her meeting with Javadi. Her moment of truth is when she realizes this meeting will not occur on her terms. She is on her own now. And they are not going to play nice.

The truth is always pretty, especially on Homeland.
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Sunday, October 27, 2013

HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher #298 "Spies, Lies, and Nice Guys"

Valerie Plame
By Catherine Giordano

It was a great hour of conversation on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, episode 298, which aired
on 10/25/13 because it was the rare show with no conservatives spewing nonsense and lies, interrupting the people who have something worthwhile to say.

In the opening monologue,  Bill said that the scariest Halloween costume was the government health care website. The thing we have waited 70 years for, but if it takes more than an hour, forget it. The thing the Republicans are outraged about because it doesn’t work that they didn’t want to work. The thing that makes us spend more time at our computers than Anthony Weiner spends on his computer. If only I could laugh.  I’m too sad to laugh. This thing needs to work. And it has become the butt of endless jokes.

The interview was with Maajid Nawaz, co-founder of Quillim, a organization to turn Islam away from terrorism and the author of Radical: My Journey out of Islamist Extremism.” He is working to inoculate Muslims against extremism and the half-truths charismatic leaders. In Overtime, Bill said, “We need about 1000 of you out there.”

The panel included Michael Moore, the documentary film-maker and author. His most recent book is autobiographical. Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life.  He also was dismayed about the problems with the healthcare website.  Another panel member Valerie Plame, co-author of Blowback, an intense spy thriller with a smart sexy heroine, was optimistic.  She said, ‘In five years time, people will cry if you try to take it away." Bill argued that we need to give it time. He said, “RomneyCare took a year. Most people visited the site 18 times before enrolling and most signed up at the last minute.”  He said that judging the ACA by its website is like going to a restaurant, and when the door sticks, deciding that the food must be lousy.  The third guest was the Reverend Al Sharpton, host of MSNBC’s Politics Nation and author of The Rejected Stone: Al Sharpton and the Path to American Leadership. He pointed out "The objective was not a great website, but to provide health care. We are not going to fix the car to keep it on the parking lot.”

After a bit of talk about the Republican brand losing popularity-- 53% of Americans blame the Republicans for the shut down and fewer than half viewed them as better at managing the economy or even better at defense.  

The talk then turned to the NSA and Snowden and the proper balance between security and populatity. Plame pointed out that we wouldn’t even be having this conversation if it were not for Snowden.  Bill argued for more targeted surveillance, saying that  “The bigger you build the haystack,the harder to find the needle. Plame warned that the potential for abuse is enormous.

The comedy segment was about the Japanese and sex.  It seems to have become unpopular in Japan—not even young people are not doing it. This is the “you- gotta-be-kidding-me” moment of the week. But no., it is true. Among Japanese men, 25% reported no interest.  It’s gotten so bad that there are subway posters about it.

            Pokemon—it’s also a verb.

            Don’t think of it as sex, think of it as getting to level 6 of her vagina.

            Real girls don’t have gigantic eyes. Deal with it.

            Honest. It tastes like sushi.

            You eat raw eel for breakfast and you are disgusted by a penis?

The special guest was Richard Dawkins, the scientist of genetics and author of books about atheism. His latest book is An Appetite for Wonder: TheMaking of a Scientist. He gave Bill a T-shirt that said “Religion: Together we can find a cure.” Bill said that Dawkins was religious as a youth. Dawkins responded, “When I became a man, I put away childish things."

Dawkins talked about the five skulls--a;; very different from each other-- that were found together in a cave suggesting that all five were from the same place and time. It claimed it as a victory for the “lumpers” over the “splitters.” The splitters always want to create a new species; the lumpers interpret the differences as variation within a species. Dawkins spoke about the misunderstandings around evolution. Natural selection is not random. The mutations are random; the selection is quite organized.

Dawkins  referred to both Obama and Kennedy as atheists. But he refuted Bill’s contention that Pope Francis is an atheist.  Dawkins said, “He’s just nice.”  Bill said, “Islam needs a Pope Frank.”

Bill’s final New Rules segment focused on the minimum wage.  Michelle Bachman and Ted Cruz are among those who want to eliminate it. Bachman said we would have full employment if we eliminated the minimum wage. My view: We had a system like that once—it was called slavery. 

Bill said eliminating the minimum wage would put us in an economic death spiral. Most fast food workers, average age 29, earning minimum wage are on public assistance--food stamps, for instance.  If the minimum wage was raised taxpayers wouldn’t have to pick up the slack.  So do we want no minimum wage or do we want no welfare—we can’t have both. Bill said “We are tired of helping highly profitable companies to pay their employees.” 

Bill didn’t mention it but there are a few new fast food chains paying their employees very well-- $15 an hour and up. The one I have heard about is Moo Cluck Moo in Michigan. They have low employee turnover, good food, and good customer service. They are making a pofit and opening new stores.
Bill concluded saying that he had not been to a McDonalds drive-thru in years. “If I want to talk in the face of some red-nosed clown, I’ll debate John Boehner.” 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Showtime’s “Masters of Sex” #104 “Thank You for Coming”

Nicholas D'Agosto as Ethan Haas on "Masters of Sex"
“Unwelcome Visitors”
by Catherine Giordano

There are plenty of nasty surprises on Showtime’s Masters of Sex, episode #104, titled “Thank You for Coming”, which aired on October 20, 1913. The fist might be the title, a crude pun, and somewhat of a cliché. But perhaps quite apt because there are quite a few unwelcome people who come to visit.

William Maters mother comes for a visit. Libby seems quite pleased, but William is seething despite his placid demeanor. It gets worse. She lives in another state, but has decided to buy a house in the neighborhood and move so she can be close enough to help with the baby. William feels a lot of anger towards his mother because his father beat him as a child and his mother did nothing to stop it.

Perhaps that is why he helps a pregnant patient ho ants a tubal ligation so she will have no more children.  Her husband is abusive, this is her second child and she hopes one day to escape from her marriage. She knows with a third or fourth child, that will be impossible. William refuses at first, but during the delivery, he claims she is bleeding and performs the procedure. The other doctors can see that there is no problem, but masters angrily refutes their observations shutting them down with a “Are you questioning my authority?”

Virginia has some unexpected and unwanted company also. He ex-husband has shown up and is dead broke with no place to live.  She tells him he cannot stay with her. She wants him to leave, but she lets him into her bed for sex. Then she is surprised when he refuses to leave.

The ex learns that volunteers are being paid to participate in the sex study at the hospital and gets the job. He uses an assumed name. Virginia is shocked to see him in the hospital, but she plays along and does not reveal him. Later she thinks better of it and tells William that her ex-husband was one of the men in the study, but she refuses to say which one. 

William’s curiosity is aroused (perhaps more than his curiosity—on darn, now I’ve gone and made a bad pun.) He goes through the confidential files and figures out which subject is the ex and calls him in for a one on one interview without Virginia present. He wants to learn more about what Virginia is like in bed. This is the “do-I sense-a-dangerous-obsession-in-the-making?” moment of the week.

Libby has decided to give a little dinner party. She invites Ethan and Virginia.  She is setting them up. She knows nothing about their past history together. Needless to say, this goes very badly. Both are upset to find that the other one has been invited. Ethan is still carrying the torch for her, and Libby is cruelly cold to him. When Ethan offers to drive her home, she insists on taking the bus until William steps in and says he will drive her home.

Ethan is very drunk, but drives himself home to find he has a visitor also. A candy striper, 19 years old and the daughter of Provost Scully, is waiting outside his home. Ethan invites her in. She clearly wants to be seduced and Ethan obliges but not in a loving or even lustful way. He coldly orders her to take off her blouse and bra. Then he pours Scotch on her chest and licks it off. Things would   have proceeded from there if not for a phone call.  There is an emergency at the hospital and he must come in to operate.

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Ethan arrives at the hospital and scrubs up but before he can enter the operating room, he barfs violently into a trash can. He then goes in and does the operation. Miraculously, or maybe due to some very smart nurses, the operation is successful.

These unwelcome visitors aren’t likely to leave soon and they will most likely cause further trouble. Tune in next week! 

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Showtime's Homeland "Game On" #304

It Worked
by Catherine Giordano

Saul, Carrie, and Brody are working again--game on
If you hung in until episode four of season three of Showtime’s Homeland you got your reward—the latest episode “Game On” is making the series work again.

Carrie is all set to be released from the looney bin when at the last minute the judge hearing her case is informed that as a matter of national security she cannot be released. Carrie's outraged lawyer vows to appeal as Carrie is led back to her room.

Later Carrie is released. Was her lawyer’s appeal successful? No it was her mysterious friend. Carrie returns home and finds her car gone and her bank accounts and credit cards frozen. She has nowhere to turn so when her mystery-man turns up she is persuaded to take a meeting. 

The mystery man works for an agency who represents the terrorist--just a respectable businessman with a terrorist for a client. They want to know How the CIA discovered the six men who were assassinated.  Carrie adamantly refuses to help them, but they convince her that the CIA has turned against her. They want her dead. Carrie can see the truth in this so she takes a fat envelope of money. But she has conditions. She will not reveal her assets in the field and she will speak only with the top guy himself.  The deal is made.

In the final scene, Carrie shows up at Saul’s home, after using “every trick in the book” to make sure she was not followed.  She falls into Saul’s arms and says “It worked, Saul. They picked me up this morning.”  This is the “dancing-John le Carré-style” moment of the week.  Remember Carré’s novel, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. The protagonist is a former spy who has become a worthless drunk.  He’s ripe to be turned, and he is, but it turns out it was all a set up to get him inside enemy lines, so to speak.

Saul and Carrie are after the CIA bombing mastermind, Maji Javadi. Carrie is poised to get inside enemy lines, but at a painful personal cost. She has spent weeks in the psych ward and now she must endure the risks and stress of being undercover.  She’s like a frayed rope and all Saul has to offer is a cup of tea. But at least we learn that Saul, everybody’s favorite huggy-bear spy has not thrown Carrie to the wolves to save himself and that Carrie has not become a traitor. It’s been the long con ever since Carrie tried to tell all to the newspaper reporter, if not even earlier.

Back in everyday life, Brody’s wife Jessica is back with Mike again—so far he appears to be only the good friend, but I know things will heat up between them again.  Mike isn’t causing any trouble yet—that appears to be daughter, Dana’s, balliwick.

Dana has run off in her mother’s car and sprung her boyfriend, Leo, from the rehab facility. Just two crazy kids on the run. on a getting-to-know you tour. First they visit the base where Dana last saw her father as he was leaving for Afghanistan. She reports that he was happy to go. Next they go to visit the grave of Leo’s younger (by less than a year) brother, who killed himself. 

Funny thing. It may not have been a suicide. It turns out that Leo may have been in rehab because he murdered his brother. I thought Dana was going to bring trouble down on Leo like she did with her last boyfriend. But, it may be just the opposite.

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One more funny thing. As Saul and Fara follow the terrorist money trail, it appears to lead to Caracas.  And who just happens to be in Caracas? Brody. So the thugs who are holding Brody may be doing it for Carrie, but not because they are her friends. He is being saved in order to be used against Carrie. 

The series is working once again. The gears are turning. A plot is in motion again.

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Showtime’s Masters of Sex #103 “Standard Deviation”

Affaire De Couer
By Catherine Giordano

Caitland Fitzgerald as Libby Masters
Some of the people on Masters of Sex are finding a way to get their heart’s desire; others are not. Episode 103, titled “Standard Deviation” which aired on 10/13/13, resolves some issues for some characters, particularly issues close to their hearts.

Dr. William Masters finds a way to get his research moved back into the hospital.  The brothel isn’t working out.  His subjects are non-orgasmic female prostitutes with various STD’s and homosexual male prostitutes. He wants to study “normal” people—he proclaims that his subjects are several standard deviations away from “normal.”

A homosexual man wants to be a subject, but Masters is so ignorant about homosexual sex that the subject calls in a friend to demonstrate. Later Masters refuses to continue to work with him as a subject because he is not normal (as in” representative,” but also perhaps as in “he’s a deviate.”)  The young man says that this is the second time he has been screwed by a doctor at the hospital. He explains that many of his clients are “family men.”  Turns out provost Scully is one of those family men. Masters has a little tete-a-tete with Scully, applies some gentle blackmail and violà, his research is back in the hospital.

This isn’t an easy thing for Masters to do. He and Scully go way back. We see flashbacks that show us that Scully was Master’s mentor when he was a young doctor. But Master’s friendship with Scully is not as close to his heart as his desire to conduct his research.

Libby Masters is getting the baby she wants. Virginia spills the beans to Libby and tells her that it is not her fault she can’t get pregnant; her husband is the one with the problem. Virginia tells Libby the truth because she can’t bear to watch Libby blame herself anymore. The next day Libby goes to see Dr. Ethan Hass who is giving her fertility treatments and is about to tell him that she knows the truth when he announces she is pregnant. He says a very odd thing.  “Your husband thinks he can do everything himself, but I am the one who got you pregnant.”

Ethan has a lot of “sibling rivalry” with Masters. I call it sibling rivalry because Ethan is like the younger brother who can’t live up to his older brother’s accomplishments.  A woman comes into the hospital pregnant with quadruplets and is very close to delivery.  Haas sees her first and claims her as his patient. Delivering quads will make him a “hero”. But it turns out Ethan is not up to the task and Masters must take over. Ethan’s heart’s desire is to prove that he is as good as Masters. A lot of resentment is filling his heart right now.

The prostitute Betty gets what she wants –an operation to reverse her tubal litigation.  Unfortunately, the operation is not successful, although Masters really does try everything he can. Like most of the other prostitutes she has a lot of pelvic inflammation. Virginia consoles her saying that her fiancé, the one who knows nothing about her life as a prostitute, will understand. However Betty has no intention of telling him. She wants to get married and she knows her fiancé wants a half dozen children at least. Her fiancé is a bit of a shlub, but he is wealthy and he adores her. Betty is following her heart when she deceives him. (He thinks she was having an operation for her appendix.) Her heart’s desire is to escape the brothel.
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“The heart wants what the heart wants.” Sometimes the heart gets what the heart wants and sometimes, it’s a sad state of affairs, when the heart does not get what the heart wants.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Showtime’s Homeland #303 “Tower of David”

Private Cells; Private Hells
By Catherine Giordano

Damien Lewis as Brody on "Homeland"
The pace picks up now that Brody is back for Showtime’s Homeland, episode 303, titled Tower of David which aired on 10/13/13.

Brody is not exactly back. He’s in Columbia somewhere, arriving out of nowhere, with a bullet in his torso. He is rescued and brought to Caracas by a band of brigand squatters one of whom is a doctor. We don’t know why Brody is there, how he got there from Canada (where we last saw him) and why the brigands have rescued him. They are doing because he is a friend of Carrie. That is all we know.

The doctor removes Brody’s bullet. Brody is mending, but he comes to learn that he is a prisoner. He tries to escape, seeking sanctuary in a nearby mosque.  We don’t know what he says to the imam because they speak in Arabic. (There are no sub-titles just as there are no subtitles when Brody’s rescuers speak Spanish to each other.  Give us a break, guys—I’d like to know what is being said.)

It appears that the imam is giving him sanctuary, but instead he has called the local police.  “You are not a Muslim,” he tells Brody as the policemen haul him away. “You are a terrorist”. The brigands come to Brody’s rescue once again, killing the policemen, the imam and the imam’s wife. No one can be left alive who knows Brody’s identity. The doctor tells him he is a cockroach. Everyone around him dies, but he survives, but he will stay in his cell until he dies. The doctor brings him some heroin and leaves it with him.  Brody slumps against the wall and shoots up. There is nothing else he can do.  His plight is intolerable.

Meanwhile, Carrie is still in the pysch hospital. She is trying to charm the doctor into declaring her cured so she can leave. It doesn’t appear to be working.  She sneaks off her floor to meet with a mysterious man who claims he can help her. Carrie suspects a plot to get her to turn against the CIA and her country.  She tells him she is on to him because she used to recruit assets for the CIA. She will not be recruited.  She will not be a traitor.
 Brody is drugged with heroin; Carrie is drugged with lithium.  They are both being held against their will in their own private hells.

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HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher #297 "Time for Thorazine"

By Catherine Giordano
Jesus and Satan duke it out on New Rules

It was time for Thorazine on October 11, 2013 on episode #297 of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher. Nobody is ever going to stifle Chris Matthews and the two conservatives, Jim Glassman and Carol Roth were quite the extroverts as well. Bill had to threaten them with Thorazine to get them to calm down.The panel was a bit raucous. 

Maybe a dose of Thorazine would do us all some good. Congress is a hot mess and I’m really scared about what this means for our country and for me, in particular.  Rising interest rates, dropping-like-a-stone stock markets--forget the Thorazine. I may need something a little stronger, like arsenic.

Bill called out Republicans in Congress in his monologue. He said that at Thanksgiving they go around the table and everybody says what they are hateful for. He said that  they don’t believe in evolution , they don’t believe in global warming, and now they think defaulting on the nation’s debt is a good thing—the moron trifecta. Then Bill added that the Republicans have said (and yes, this is true) “We are standing up for an important principle and as soon as we figure out what it is, we will let you know.”

The interview was with Maya Wiley, a civil rights attorney and president of the Center for Social Inclusion. She said that saying the government shutdown is a good thing is like saying to the homeless, “You are saving so much money on rent. Aren’t you lucky.”

She said that the Republicans in Congress just don’t care about the people who are working two 40-hour-a-week jobs and they still can’t make it. The minimum wage needs to rise. By a lot. And soon. Bill said that the war on poverty has become the war on the poor. People have already done all the belt-tightening they can do. I agree. I know I have.

Bill began his discussion with the panel by mentioning data from the latest polls; 53% blame Republicans for the shut down and only 24% have a favorable opinion of Republicans. Jim Glassman is the founding executive director of the George W. Bush Institute and the author of several books (which got very poor reviews). He’s also a fan of Ron Paul. But his 20-20 hindsight is good--he said the Republicans chose the wrong cause. Their focus should have been on cutting spending and not on gutting the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Carol Roth, an MSNBC correspondent, agreed and said that if they had they just held off, they could have used the glitchy opening of the program as an excuse to delay it. Neither one of these two did themselves much good on the show.

Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s evening news show, Hardball with Chris Matthews and the author of Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked  broke in: “This is ridiculous. When Apple can’t handle the demand for a new product, it’s called a success.” Exactly, the only problem with the ACA right now is that too many people are trying to buy the insurance.  Republicans never know when to quit so Matthews had to chime in again: “If the airplane is an hour late, you don’t get rid of the airplane.”  Bill added that the ACA is working very well in blue states; the troubles are mostly in red states where it is being sabotaged.

Carol Roth is the typical Republican air-head. She says ridiculous things just to be provocative. She’s a brunette Ann Coulter, only younger and prettier. Bill referred to Roth as a Republican. She promptly denied it saying indignantly, “I’m an Independent.” Bill allowed her to get away with it, saying that she leaned Republican. But Republicans never know when to quit, so she said “It depends on the day.”  “What about today?” Bill asked.” “I’ll decide at the end of the show,” she shot back. This is the “who–do-you-think-you’re-fooling” moment of the show.

It also makes me wonder why MSNBC hires these conservative airheads. You won’t see any liberals on Fox. But then MSNBC is not a liberal network the way Fox is a conservative network. I think it is the smart-people-telling-the-truth network.  Maybe they need a few airheads just for contrast.

Glassman did the typical Republican trick of changing the subject when he was cornered. Bill said that the Republicans did not have a coherent strategy. So Glassman changed the subject. I don’t understand Obama’s foreign policy strategy. The best- defense-is-a-good-offense I guess, but it was so transparent. And then he goes way over the top. “I don’t think winning WW II was a joke,” he said. No one said it was.  Please Glassman, if you don’t have a response, just shut up.

Talking about the debt ceiling, Matthews brought his wit to bear once again. Glassman was saying the country doesn’t need to raise the debt ceiling—no one knows for sure that economic disaster will ensue.  Matthews retorted, “Let’s find out what it is like to be dead. No one actually knows what that feels like either.” And, Roth made another stupid comment saying the United States credit rating was downgraded after the last debt ceiling brinkmanship games because the U.S. had too much debt. Absolutely false! It was clearly stated by S & P that it was because of concern about whether the U.S. might default in the future considering how close they came, averting default by mere hours. And now the U.S. has had its credit rating downgraded again. This means that the U.S. has to pay higher interest to borrow—billions more.  Way to go Republicans! Tell me again how you want to reduce the deficit.

Oliver Stone, the movie producer who has a new documentary coming out, The Untold History of the United States, was the special guest. He had some very interesting things to say about the U.S. using the atom bomb against Japan in WW II. He said that Japan probably would not have lasted more than two weeks, the bomb was unnecessary, but a lot of money had been spent developing it so it had to be used.

The mid-show comedy segment was about campaign posters for the next Congressional race when new Republican crazies have to prove themselves crazier than the current Republican crazies. “Read my gums. No more food stamps.” The segment was not all that funny, except maybe for the last one. “I can do this job providing that it is not within 500 feet of a school or daycare.”

The final New Rules segment was titled “Raptures Delight.” Bill began, “If you think we are living in the end times, we get to take the car keys. Next year’s budget doesn’t concern you.”  His target was Michelle Bachman. Bill said, “If Jesus is coming back, it will be the first man that Michelle ever saw coming.”  (Ouch!”) 

But it is not just Bachman. It is Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court justice. He believes that the devil is a real person who is running around trying to get people to not believe in God. “Bachman and Scalia are the exact same moron, but Scalia gets to interpret our laws.”  Bill reported that Scalia said they you don’t see the devil around very much, not like during Biblical times when he was everywhere. Why, because the devil has gotten wilier!.  Are you laughing yet? This would be funny, if it was a joke, but it isn’t. 

People who believe that the world is divided between good and evil--and the evil is winning--can’t ever compromise. How can you compromise with evil?  And these are the people who are running our country.  It’s enough to make me say ‘God help us.”  Now where did I put that Thorazine?

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Showtime’s “Masters of Sex” #102, “Race to Space”

How to Get What You Want
by Catherine Giordano

Lizzy Caplan as the alluring Virinia Johnson
On Showtime’s “Masters of Sex” Masters and Johnson are getting what they want in episode #102, titled “Race to Space.”

First, Virginia Johnson is demonstrating the first rule of getting ahead on the job. Make yourself indispensable. William Masters fired her, telling her to stay on until she had hired her replacement. He thought that her sexual affair and messy breakup with Dr. Ethan Haas was the reason he was ordered to shut down his study at the hospital.  (He thought Ethan tattled for revenge, although he appears he is mistaken about that.) 

Virginia made herself indispensable by being the go-between for Dr. Masters with the prostitutes. The doctor is a very determined man and he will not shut down his study. He has moved it into the brothel. But the prostitutes think he is weird, and he is about to lose their cooperation.  Virginia steps in and smoothes things out.  The doctor gets his subjects and Virginia gets to keep her job.  (However, she has to ask for it; the doctor is too proud to just admit that firing her was a mistake.)

Betty, the lead prostitute, is pretty brazen about getting what she wants. She wants a job at the hospital or the deal is off. She gets it, but she is a very bad receptionist.  Next she demands that the doctor undo her tubal litigation. Masters refuses. He is morally offended by the idea of a prostitute having children. Betty is ready to call off the study, but Virginia talks to her. She learns that Betty has met a rich man at church who thinks she is just a pretty girl who works at a hospital. (Now we see why she wanted that job so badly.) He wants to marry her. Betty wants to leave “The Life,” marry this man, and have children. Virginia tells William to do the operation. So Betty is getting everything she wants.

Virginia has a young son and all he wants is more time with Mommy. He wants them to read the comic, “Race to Space” together. But Virginia has to work late. She promises her son that they will read it soon.  Her son gets what he wants, sort of—the babysitter reads it with him. Virginia looks rueful—this is the “you-can’t-have-it-all” moment of the week. She realizes that she can’t get everything she wants—her work and home life will often be in conflict.

Ethan is not getting what he wants. He wants Virginia.  He’s having a lot of encounters with a lot of women, but the sex is unsatisfying. He wants Virginia.

The horn-dog married doctor wants to continue having sex with the pretty young female volunteer. She refuses indignantly. She will have sex with a stranger for science, but not for fun. The doctor is not getting what he wants.

Libby, William's wife, wants to have a child and a loving relationship with her husband that includes sex. She’s not getting it. In the hopes of getting him to want her sexually, she begins to masturbate in front of him. (She assumes from his work with the prostitutes that he likes to watch.)  This foray makes both of them so uncomfortable that William tells her to stop. He “loves her too much” for that. Then they both go to their separate twin beds. Yes, twin beds!  The next morning Libby announces that she wants Ethan to be her fertility doctor. I think she does this, in part, for revenge: If you don’t want me in the bedroom, you can’t have me in the examining room.

And what do Masters and Johnson really want from each other. The idea of having sex together is clearly in their thoughts. Throughout the episode they each have brief fantasies about speaking to each other about it. Sometimes they agree to do it—for science, of course—and sometimes they say no. They can’t seem to stop thinking about it.

Here is what they are not thinking about--Sex will lead to emotional complications. You can’t separate the physical from the emotional. We are seeing the beginnings of the emotional entanglements and it is only episode two. Masters and Johnson want sex to be detached, they want to reduce it to its physiology; they will not get what they want.   

Read the book  written by Masters and Johnson,
"Human Sexual Response
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Click Here to read
the book
upon which the series is based

Showtime’s Homeland, #302, “Um…Oh…Ah”

Going Mental
By Catherine Giordano

Morgan Saylor as Dana on "Homeland"
“Um..Oh.. Ah…” --I don’t know what to say about Showtime’s Homeland, #302, aired on 10/6/13, so I’ll just say  “zzzzz”, bah, boring.”  A lot of histrionics, but not much action.

Carrie is in a mental hospital, drugged into submission, looking alternately fierce and beaten.  Her family was supposed to get her sprung, but Saul convinced them that he was protecting Carrie and it was best for her that she stay in the hospital. Carrie asked her family not to be taken in by phony sympathy.

Saul is busy tracking down the bankers who may have fund the 12/12 bombing that ended season 2. The CIA has lost so many talented staffers that a young Muslim woman, Fara, is brought in as an analyst.  Saul brings her to ears when he attacks her for wearing a hajib, calling her an insult to the CIA dead. Maybe Saul should be in a mental hospital right alongside Carrie—he seems to be cracking under the stress.

Despite the insult, Fara works hard and discovers who the bankers are. (Her mental capacity must be at a genius level since no one else could find anything.) Learning their identities and bring them down are two different things.  They know how to protect themselves. Quinn is frustrated and goes all ninja on one of the bankers. He approaches him on the street and issues threats, then vanishes into the night. He is going a bit bonkers himself over his guilt about the death of the child, collateral damage when he took out a banker is episode 301. He told Saul that after this mission is over, he plans to leave the CIA.

And then we have daft Dana, Brody’s daughter. Her adolescent angst is so uninteresting to me.  She sneaks out of her house one night (despite all the agents watching the house 24/7 and somehow gets back to the rehab facility. She needs to see her boyfriend. He has a secret cell phone, so when she calls to say she is outside, he goes down to the laundry room and lets her in. They spend the night together making love amidst atop the dirty sheets. I think this is the “Dana-is-no-longer-a virgin” moment of the week.

Dana is the most boring character on the show, but her storyline was the most interesting o the show during this episode. Even when Dana is saying “I want to live” as she tries to convince her mother that there will be no more suicide attempts, she sounds lackluster.
Order the dvd of seasons 1-2

At the end of the episode, Dana finds her father’s prayer mat in the garage and lays it out on the floor. Dana believes that her father is a terrorist, and she has angrily proclaimed that she wants nothing to do with him. In this scene we see she is conflicted. She keels on the prayer mat and slowly bends to touch her head to the mat. This is a sentimental scene, but we had to wait the whole episode for it.

The show is moving at a very slow pace. Let’s hope that episode three of the season makes our loyalty to the show worth it.

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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Showtime’s “Masters of Sex”, #101, “Pilot”

By Catherine Giordano

Take a close look at he word
 "sex" in this poster.
The premier of the new Showtime series Masters of Sex which aired on Sunday September 30, 2013 was given the very unoriginal title of “Pilot.” I’ll call the episode “Foreplay” because the show begins when Masters and Johnson first meet and begin to collaborate on their project—understanding the physiology of human sexuality.

The first thing you have to notice about this show is the word “sex” on some of the posers for the show.  It has an inverted “E” between the “S” and the “X”.  At first I thought it looked like a four poster bed.  Little innocent me.  I looked again and I could see a champagne glass.  A third looks reveals a …. OMG, did they really go there?  Right to the center of a woman’s sexuality. Wink. Wink. Nudge. Nudge.

The story begins with Dr. William Masters (played by Michael Sheen), a renowned ObGyn and infertility specialist working at a St. Louis hospital.  He’s a miracle doctor saving lines and helping couples conceive a child. The irony is—his own marriage is childless. Rumor has it that the good doctor is shooting blanks. Also he appears to enjoy studying sex more than he enjoys having sex. At least sex with his wife.

Virginia Johnson (played by Lizzie Caplan) is a newly divorced, former nightclub singer, a mother of two young children who is hired for the insurance department. We soon discover that she is a free spirit with regards to sex. Long before women’s liberation she was very sexually liberated for the time—1956. I should also mention that she is beautiful, she is ambitious, and she knows how to get what she wants. What she wants is a friends-with-benefits relationship with a handsome young doctor, Ethan Hass, at the hospital. They begin a torrid affair, but it ends badly. The young doctor is in love with her and doesn’t understand why she is so free, and passionate, with her sexual favors if she doesn’t feel the same way about him. The concept of friends with benefits had not been invented yet—she is just  a slut.

Dr. Masters chooses Mrs. Johnson to be his assistant. She is capable of being just as dispassionate about sex as he is. The doctor had previously recruited prostitutes to help him with his research by allowing him to spy on them with their clients. It looks like voyeurism except the doctor seems to be too busy taking notes to experience any arousal. Johnson helps him recruit “regular folks’ for his research—if you can call folks who are willing to have sex in a laboratory all wired up with sensors while the doctor and his assistant watch, “regular.”

Masters wants The hospital to fund his research. The provost of the hospital, Barton Scully,  is aghast. Not only will he not fund it, he orders Masters to cease and desist at once. Masters ignores those orders and continues to work to bring the doctor to see things his way.  Literally see things his way. He has rigged up a glass dildo vibrator with a camera at the tip and the female volunteer masturbates with it. Masters invites the president to have a look peering into the top of the dildo while the tool is being used by the young lady volunteer. I think he is going to come around to Masters’ point-of-view about the project.

The episode ends with Masters putting a proposition to Johnson.  They need to become the subjects of the study if the study is going to succeed.  They need to have sex with each other—all in the name of science, of course. Johnson is taken aback by this proposal and asks for time to think it over.

We, of course know how it ends. It ends with the publication in 1966 of the Masters and Johnson’s magnum opus, HumanSexual Response, the first scientific study of the physiology of sex. The world has never been the same.

The fun of this series will be seeing the personal and professional turmoil between these two points in time as we watch the drama between two people who wanted to know everything about sex, but who may have known nothing about love.   

If you can’t wait for the story to unfold on TV, you can read the biography of Masters and Johnson by Thomas Meir, Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, The Couple Who Taught America How to Love

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Saturday, October 5, 2013

HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher, #296, Shutdowns, Meltdowns, and Put-Downs

by Catherine Giordano

The government shutdown, political meltdowns, and American put-downs were some of the subjects th
John Boehner's drinking problem is lampooned
 on Real Time with Bill Maher.
discussed on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher”, episode 296, which aired on October 4, 2013

The Republicans have made themselves easy targets for put-downs because as Bill Said, “ObamaCare” is a pill they cannot swallow.” Carl Reiner, author of a new memoir, I Remember Me, who was the special guest, said he is glad Republicans named it ObamaCare because 20 years from now people will be saying Obama gave us health care. And in the segment I am calling “Americans Being Stupid”—man-in-the- street interviews by documentarian Alexandra Pelosi—a woman said she thought Obama had a lot of gall to name it after himself.  In a comment to last week's review, Twerking It," I made the point that we should call the new healthcare law by its real name “The Affordable Care Act (ACA) and not “ObamaCare.” This idiotic comment convinced me that I was right about calling it the ACA.

Alexandra Pelosi, whose most recent documentary is Citizen USA: A 50 State Road Trip had a few other stupid comments from Americans about the ACA, for instance, it’s to insure illegal aliens and there are death panels, but the best of the lot was the woman who said, “It is a chip implanted inside your skin.”  When Pelosi asked her if she really believed that, the woman implied that Pelosi was stupid, “I don’t know how you don’t know about it.” This was the “I-don’t- know-whether-to-laugh-or-cry” moment of the week.

By the way, the ACA is looking like it is going to be very successful.  Millions of people rushed to the websites during the first week to try to sign up. Unfortunately, the demand was so great, they crashed some of the websites. People who do not have health insurance from their employers can get it or as low as $40 a month if they qualify for subsidies based on their income. And, they can’t be refused because of a pre-existing condition.

The interview was with bioethicist Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, who has authored several books dealing with bio-ethics and whose most recent book is Brothers Emanuel : A Memoir of an American Family (His brothers are Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago, and Ari Emanuel, a Hollywood superagent who was the model for Ari in the TV series Entourage), predicted that people will like the ACA. He explained that if 7 million enroll and at least 2.7 million are young people, the program will be a success. He pointed out that we now pay a hidden tax of about $1000 a year because we have to pay for the uninsured who get free care in emergency rooms and the cost of that gets built into the cost of healthcare. Bill asked him if the ACA was the first step towards single-payer. Emanuel flat-out said, “No, it is a subsidy to buy insurance.” Emanuel comes across as super smart and super nice, and unlike his brothers, very laid back.

The panel included Matt Kibbe, author of Hostile Takeover: Resisting Centralized Government's Stranglehold on America. He didn’t have much worthwhile to say. He called the ACA “a train wreck” and said that “someone else will be making your health care decisions.” Two cliché comments straight from the Republican talking points. Boring!
Another panel member was Suzy Khimm, an MSNBC reporter. She wasn’t very exciting, but a least she gave us facts and didn’t speak in clichés. She pointed out that whatever their feelings about the ACA, 72% of Americans did not want the government shut down over it. Khimm said that people want to have the debate about the ACA, they just don’t want the government shut down while we have that debate. Reiner said we should shut down every Republican who shut down the government in the next election.

The live wire of the panel was Alan Grayson, the congressman from Florida. He had a few zingers, but he spoke them calmly (in line with the apparent new politeness policy at Real Time.) He called Republican rhetoric about using freedom as a reason to take down the AFC act a fraud. “They want employers to have veto power over contraceptives for female employees.  How is that freedom?” Then he told Kibbe flat out “You’re wrong.”  (Someone had to say it.) Bill said, “It’s like” You go to the exchanges and you find the one who is right for you.”

Republicans hatred of the ACA is why we have a government shutdown.  By now all of you know that their opposition is not because of any of their stated reasons—it’s because people are going to like it and it will be another government program like Social Security and Medicare that they will never be able to get rid of. Bill reported that Fox News is calling the shut-down a slim-down. (Yeah, starving kids will slim down now that programs that help them get food are shut down.)

Grayson said that there are three parties in the Republican Party—the corporate shills, the religious fanatics, and the freedom thieves who say you have the freedom to sleep under a bridge. Bill said there are four factions—Jesus-freaks, Gun-nuts, fat- suburbanites, and the super-rich. That was the "pulling-no-punches" moment of the week.

Bill asked about the rumors that there is a lot of drinking going on in DC right now. Grayson confirmed it, saying there needed to be a chapter of AA for Republicans in DC. (I’m burned up about that—remember Nero fiddling while Rome burned—Republicans are out partying while the country suffers the effects of shut down. Government employees are being forced to work without pay.  Some Republicans refused to forego their paychecks during the shutdown saying “I need the money.” I hope they are not spending it all on drink.)

Bill said that one of the biggest drinkers is John Boehner.  (He has long had a reputation for being a lush.) The mid-show comedy segment was all about Boehner drunk tweeting.

·         Hanging with the only three people I trust—Jack Daniels, Captain Morgan, and Jim Beam
·         The government is shut down and so is my liver
·         I went to ObamaCare and signed up as Mike Hunt

In New Rules, Bill put-down a whole swath of Americans. The segment was called “Slob Rule.”  He sarcastically said, “When you leave the house we can see you.”  He’s spoken about this before. It is the broken window theory: Fix the little things and the big things will follow. “It about pride” and “Even the elephant man wore a suit.”  I guess he means that if people took a little more pride in their appearance and dressed nicer, they wouldn’t be as stupid as the people Pelosi showed in her interviews that aired at the beginning of the show. It’s a stretch, but maybe.

I thought it was a weak ending and a poor choice for a week when the government is shut down, the world economy could melt-down if the debt ceiling is not raised, and Republicans in Washington are oozing hypocrisy and delivering lies and put-downs instead of solutions, and all Bill wants to talk about is how people shouldn’t dress like slobs.

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