Saturday, November 23, 2013

“Real Time with Bill Maher” #302 “Drama Queens and Cocaine Dreams”

By Catherine Giordano

Maher does a great tribute to JFK.
Drama queens and cocaine dreams ruled on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” #302, the season finale
which aired on 11/22/13. In the monologue, Bill Maher talked about the change in the Senate rules so that a filibuster could not be used to block a vote on President Obama’s nominees for the courts. Majority rules—at last!. Maher said Republicans are acting like a bunch of “drama queens,” red faced with fury. 

The so-called “nuclear option” was so easily accomplished—it was done in an afternoon. Why did they wait five years? It should have been done four years ago as soon as the Republican plan to do nothing but obstruct became evident. Bill Maher joked, “Just wait until President Ted Cruz fills the D. C. Circuit Court with Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, and a fetus.”

The “cocaine dreams” part of the title refers to Trey Radel, Republican congressman from Florida. He pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine and was sentenced to one year of probation and a very small fine. He’s going to “Club Rehab,” but not resigning. He said that his arrest was a wakeup call. Maher quipped, “His wakeup call used to be a ginormous line of cocaine.”  Maher added that “he is taking a page from Rob Ford [mayor of Toronto also busted for cocaine and also refusing to resign], blaming it on alcohol.”  As if abuse of alcohol makes the use of illegal drugs OK. 

It should also be pointed out that Radel voted to drug-test recipients of food stamps and also voted to cut food stamp spending. Maybe he did those votes while high on cocaine.

Later in the show there was a discussion of cocaine use. Maher says he knows several very successful people in Hollywood who use cocaine.  It doesn’t interfere with their ability to function.  Maher didn’t take it one step further and bring in the proposition that it is not the drug, but it’s illegality that causes problems. For rich people, it really is just like drinking too much sometimes.

The interview was with Dan Savage, who is gay and dramactic, but anything but a drama queen. He is the epitome of cool with a biting wit. He is the author of a sex-advice column named “Savage Love” and the author of several books.  His most recent book is AmericanSavage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Sex, Love, and Politics. Maher called him our “unofficial ambassador to Gaytopia.”

Maher mentioned a priest who recently testified in Hawaii that the children of gay couples are more likely to commit suicide.  Dan coolly delivered the priest’s comeuppance. “He’s confusing children with gay parents with the children molested by gay priests.” Pow!

Savage also had quite a few things to say about the two daughters of Former VP Dick Cheney. Liz Cheney (who is straight) is in a primary election in Utah. She is down 50 points in the polls. She thought she could improve her standing with conservatives by condemning her sister, Mary, who is a lesbian married to another lesbian. The ploy only made things worse for Liz.  Bill said, “Liz misjudged people. The only thing ickier than gays is throwing your sister under the bus to win votes.” 

Savage used somewhat stronger language. He called Mary and her wife a couple of “rich dikes.” He reported that Liz had donated money to politicians who seek to repeal gay rights (including $2,500 to Romney) and she never spoke out about the anti-gay statements by her father when he was running for VP. Anyway, it seems that Dick Cheney has been trying to patch things up between his daughters. Savage commented on this thusly: “It’s funny that you need a dick to adjudicate a dispute between a lesbian and her straight sister.”

The panel was introduced and the discussion went straight to the filibuster. Paul Begala, who is a political consultant and co-author of several books with James Carville; the most recent is Take It Back: Our Party, Our Country, Our Future. He said, “The Constitution mentions nine things that require a super-majority; confirmation of judges is not one them. There is no filibuster in the Constitution.”

 Katty Kay, the lead anchor of BBC World news America and co-author  (with Claire Shipman) of Womenomics: Work Less, Achieve More, LiveBetter, said, “It had to be done to make the government work… Harry Reid has had 400 filibusters.”  

Former Republican governor of Maryland, Bob Erlich, said, “Be careful what you wish for. An election is coming up.” This is the “whistling-in-the-dark” moment of the week. Until Republicans change their policies concerning women, minorities, the middle class and the poor—and that doesn’t seem likely to happen anytime soon-- they are not going to retake the Senate. Moreover, I feel positive that if Reid had not abolished the filibuster, the Republicans would have done it the moment they regained control of the Senate. The last time they were in control, they threatened to do it, and they would have if the Democrats hadn’t caved and allowed totally unqualified nominees to be confirmed.  So this move costs the Democrats nothing, and may allow them to get enough done to win favor with the voters and thereby keep their control of the Senate.
  
The comedy segment began with Maher wishing liberals “a very merry war on Christmas.”  Then he showed us some mock books from politicos about Christmas.

Bill O’Reilly:       Killing St. Nick
Paula Dean:        Extremely White Christmas           
Chris Christie:    The 12 Days of Thanksgiving
Barack Obama:  If You Like Your Present, You Can Keep Your Present
John Boehner:    Little Drama Boy

There was also a discussion about JFK and assassination conspiracy theories and the crazy conspiracy theories about Benghazi, especially those on Glenn Beck’s website..  Maher said, “We need conspiracies  like we need God, we’can’t accept that things are just random.”  Kay said, “They have almost a pathological mistrust of government. They project their feelings onto it.” Erlich tied to protest that Benghazi was really different, but no one took him seriously.

There was also a discussion about the Republicans shedding crocodile tears about the Affordable Care Act. They focus on the 1.5% of people who may have to get insurance without qualifying for subsidies. (This group is probably well–off and can afford the insurance.) Maher asked “What about the 5 million people who are not getting the Medicare coverage that the new law provides for them because the governors of their states have refused to take the federal money that will pay for it 100% for the first three years and 90% thereafter.  Erlich gave the “where-does-it-end” argument.  He said, “It was supposed to be just for poor women with children, not for everyone." Begala showed him up by informing him that it is not just poor people who suffer. Hospitals suffer because they are stuck with the bill for uninsured people who can’t pay.

The mid-show guest was the very talented and charming actor, Wendell Pierce, who appears on the HBO drama Treme and on The Micheal J. Fox show. He spoke with heart about New Orleans. After Katrina, some people had said we should let the city go. Wendell says that if anyone dares to sa let this cit go,"we will kick their ass." 

Pierce spoke about his new venture, Sterling Foods, bringing fresh affordable food to the inner city. Each store employs about 50 to 60 people from the community it serves paying them good wages. They even have the Sterling Shuttle—customers who arrive by bus get a ride home if they spend $50 or more.  He compared his store’s policies to Costco. Costco pays good wages, provides healthcare.  “If everyone did the right thing like Costco, we wouldn’t need government regulations.”  This is the “Amen-Brother” moment of the week.

Pierce’s comments wee a perfect segue to New Rules which began with Maher saying that the Wal-Mart Smiley Face is laughing at us. Wal-Mart was conducting a food drive for its own employees asking other employees to donate. “When you sell food and your employees don’t have enough food …”  Another “Amen-Brother” moment. The family that owns Wal-Mart is the one of the richest families in America—they should be donating to their employees who are in need or better yet, paying them a living age so they can buy their own food. (See Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price.)  

The final New Rules segment compared Democrats to Republicans, and JFK to Reagan. Maher said, “We have gays in the military; they have gays in the airport restroom.”  The gist of his riff was that for Republicans, Reagan is their Kennedy. Then he made a bunch of comparisons to show how cool Kennedy was (and still is) and how Reagan was already way past is prime in the 1980’s, the era of “greed is good.” One example:  “Kennedy is James Bond; Reagan is Matlock.” He ended with, “You can call someone ‘your Kennedy’ but it will never make it true because ‘our Kennedy’ is Kennedy.  Another “Amen, Brother” moment.
  
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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Showtime’s “Homeland” #308 A Red Wheel Barrow

William Abadie as Alain on "Homeland"
Every Which Way
By Catherine Giordano

Things are going every which way in Showtime’s Homeland #308, titled “A Red Wheelbarrow.”  It’s really
hard to keep track of all the plot twists and reversals for this review and recap of the episode.

By the way, the red wheelbarrow is a title (and subject) of a short poem by William Carlos Williams.  It is Carrie’s code word when meeting with her contacts to pass information to the Iranians who still believe that she has been “turned” and is spying for them. (Who knew the Iranians were such fans of American poets?)

The poem begins “so much depends on a red wheel barrow.” Is Carrie the red wheelbarrow on which everything depends? The next line is “glazed with rain water.” Does this mean that Carrie’s various emotional and physical tribulations are affecting everything she does? The last line of the poem is “beside the white chickens.”  The chickens may be referring to everyone she has to deal with in her life. Chickens seem like such harmless animals, but they are capable of inflicting a lot of damage if they decide to attack.

Saul, Dar, and Carrie have hatched a plot to force Bennet, the American lawyer for the Iranians, to identify real Langley bomber. A plot of misinformation leads Bennet to believe that the CIA knows who the bomber is. Carrie realizes that the bomber is not going to be sent out of the country, but will be killed instead. Carrie needs the bomber alive so she can prove Brody’s innocence. As Bennet’s associate, Franklin, approaches the apartment of the bomber with a gun with a silencer on it, Carrie runs to intercede. She is ordered to back off by Saul and Dar—if she blows her cover she will also be blowing Javadi’s cover.  

Of course, Carrie disobeys direct orders as she always does. Saul warns her that if she does not return to her car, she will be shot. She continues to run towards the apartment. Saul orders Quinn to shoot her and he does. But not to worry. Carrie was only winged, and is taken by ambulance to the hospital. The bomber is not so lucky. He has been executed.

Saul has wooed Mira back to his bed. Mira breaks the news to her lover, Alain (played by William Abadie), that she cannot see him anymore. Alain is angry, he says he loves her, and begs her to change her mind.  Mira says she is sorry, but she must give her marriage one more chance. Later we see Alain sneaking into Saul and Mira’s home and bugging a computer. It seems that Alain was more than a lover, or perhaps, less than a lover. It looks like he became close to Mira in order to spy on Saul. This is the "a-guy–will-say anything-to get –what-he-wants” moment of the week.

And the biggest twist of the episode comes at the end when we see in Venezuela.  He’s paying the brigands who have been holding Brody $10 million dollars in cash.  Is it ransom or payment for services rendered? Is it a rescue or a capture? And where did Saul get $10 million dollars?

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When Saul enters Brody’s room, he has to place a handkerchief over his nose and mouth—the stench is so bad. Brody is wasted. Literally wasted. The heroin has left him an emaciated shell of his former self, barely conscious.

The season started six months after the bombing at Langley. I think there will be a few more twists when we find out what Saul, Brody, and Carrie were up to in those six months. And perhaps a few more twists as Saul tries to outwit Lockhart and become the official director of the CIA?

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Showtime’s Masters of Sex #108 “Love and Marriage”

Two to Tango
By Catherine Giordano

It takes two to tango as the characters dance around their relationships in episode #108 of Showtime's Masters of Sex, titled “Love and Marriage,” which aired on 11/17/13. This review and recap is all about love and marriage and the sexiest of all dances, the tango.

The tangled affair between Margaret Scully and Austin Landsman ended (as I predicted it would.)  Margaret goes to a hotel bar to have a drink or two to ease the pain and strikes up a conversation with a young man sitting at the bar—her husband’s young man.  

When Barton arrives at the scene, he tries to pass off the young man as a graduate student meeting to discuss his future, but Margaret isn’t fooled by this song and dance routine. Barton changes his story—he says the young man procures women (prostitutes) for him. And Barton accuses Margaret of being at the hotel to meet her lover. Margaret allows him to think so and then goes off on a long rant giving the young man advice on marriage--or rather, the reasons not to marry.

Poor Margaret doesn’t have a clue. She never suspects homosexuality, even as she asks for a divorce. Margaret brushes aside Barton’s entreaties and professions of love—she refuses to remain in a sexless marriage.

A few days later, Barton meets with his young man, and tells him he has obtained some nausea inducing pills. Barton wants to try aversion therapy so he can be a proper husband to his wife. Barton’s lover indignantly refuses to have any part of this scheme at any price. Barton insists there is nothing between them but a business relationship.  This denial of what the relationship has become hurts the young man’s feelings. Before he storms out, he delivers a lecture about self-loathing and proclaims that the only one who will be allowed to be nauseated by his behavior is he, himself.     

Vivian, dances around Ethan’s kitchen, making breakfast and singing the popular song of the time “Love and Marriage” --the one that says that the two go together like a horse and carriage. (One small question: How does Vivian manage to sleep-over so often at Ethan’s house? Pre-marital sex would surely not have been acceptable to her parents, not in the 1950’s.)

Evidently, overhearing Vivian singing this song gets Ethan thinking that he wants to marry her. He discusses it with Austin, enumerating the reasons for marriage. “I’m pushing 30, I’ve sowed my wild oats, married men live longer, there are great tax benefits, it is good to have a wife who will always be there for you.” No mention of love. It sounds like someone is working a little too hard to convince himself to get married.

Ethan plans a fancy proposal dinner, but when he invites her to the restaurant, she guesses his purpose and does a happy dance right there in the hospital cafeteria. She gets him to show her the ring right then and there and gushingly says, “Yes I will marry you” before Ethan even gets to propose.

Austin had tried to dissuade Ethan from proposing. Austin is clearly not happy with his marriage. His wife is pretty and seems to be the embodiment of a loving and devoted wife, but he would rather philander. He has a tryst with jewelry store salesgirl whom he met when accompanied Ethan who was buying an engagement ring. Landsman is now confident that he is back to his old self and wants back into the study.

Libby is lonesome at home alone all day. One day she calls a handyman to clean the gutters. She is startled at first to see that the handyman is a young good looking black man. When he is done with the gutters, they talk for a while, and Libby learns that the young man is a widower. He and his wife used to be champion dancers.  Libby begs him to give her dance lessons, saying it is just the same as any other odd job.  I don't think so. The tango can be danced chastely OR it can be danced well--never both, the tango is a dance that is all about sex.

One day while dancing with her handyman/dance instructor, Libby passes out during a dip. The handyman brings her to the emergency room. The doctor tells her that she is fine--she just has a momentary problem with blood pressure. “It is common among pregnant women,” he tells her. And that is how Libby finds out that she is three months pregnant. The doctor tells her that “her boy” can bring the car around to take her home. There is a moment of embarrassment, and then Libby explains that he is her handyman.  

Do they now both realize how inappropriate it was for her to be taking dance lessons in her home alone with a man, especially a black man. (This was the 1950's, after all.) This is the “Libby-if-you-want-to-learn-to-dance-go-to-the-Fred-Astaire-Dance-Studio”moment of the week.

Masters and Johnson dance around what they are dong in the lab at night as “work.” As in, “I’m available to do our work tonight.”  Except they have not been getting much of their pas-de-deux work done. Virginia is taking classes at night to try to get “credentials” so she will be respected as a researcher and not just as a glorified secretary. Also, the two have a new project keeping them busy.  They have rigged up a camera to their glass dildo so they can see what goes on in the vagina during orgasm.

It takes two to tango; each week Masters of Sex is showing us that it takes two things-- love and sex--to
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Saturday, November 16, 2013

HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher #301 “Same Old, Same Old”

By Catherine Giordano


Casey Affleck
It was a low key hour with the same old topics for conversation and jokes on Real Time with Bill Maher, episode 301, airing on Friday, November 15, 2013.

Maher began with the Obaminable Care Act. (Did I just make that up? Surely someone has come up with that bad pun before. Maybe not. It’s a bit of a tongue twister.)

In the monologue, Maher reported that so far 26,794 people have signed up on the Federal Government’s  ACA  website. He joked, “Wilt Chamberlain has had sex with more people than that.” He followed up with “The ACA is like sex—you do it online, it’s incredibly frustrating, and the idea of anyone getting it makes Republicans insane.”

Maher talked about the sub-standard plans that insurance companies are cancelling. He called them “The hospital gown plans: You’re ass is not covered.” Obama had to give people the option of keeping their sub-standard plans for another year to calm the hue and cry over his promise “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” Maher pointed out that it didn’t help that former president Bill Clinton was on TV saying that Obama needed to back down on this. Maher quipped that “if you are a Democrat, Clinton is a preexisting condition". In my opinion, Clinton is a buttinski who can't accept that he is no longer president. The proper response to questions on this on any topic related to the current president is “I have confidence in President Obama.”

During the discussion, Matty Duppler, government affairs manager for the right wing group, Americans for Tax Reform, couldn’t keep a gleeful smile off her face as she said that Obama wasn’t helped by the 39 House Democrats who voted for the new bill rushed to the floor of the House by Republicans allowing people to keep their current plans. The same old tactic of Republicans--lies, and half truths. Ezra Klein, MSNBC correspondent, had to point out that the bill had two parts—the second part allowed health insurers to sell new sub-standard plans. Obama has already ordered a change in the regulations so existing plans could be kept for another year, but to allow new sub-standard plans to be sold would be counter-productive. The ACA is about quality affordable insurance.    

Most of the people who have those sub-standard plans probably won’t want them anyway once they see what a good deal they can get from the ACA, when and if the website gets working properly. This whole embarrassing problem wouldn’t have happened if the website had worked properly. Obama explained the reasons for the problem during his press conference on Friday morning. It’s red tape in the sourcing process. As a candidate, his IT operation was flawless because he could just say, “Get me the best people.” But government has to put out 40 pages of specs and get bids. Not always the best way to find and hire the best people. But still! Getting this right was so important, I’m really pissed it was botched.
Reihan Salam, writer for the libertarian National Review, said it should have been kept simple.  Maher pointed out that single payer (Medicare for all) is simple, doing it with insurance companies is why it is a mess. Duppler chimed in, again gleeful, saying that Medicare is going bankrupt. Klein had to correct her again telling her that it is not going bankrupt, and that it is 20% cheaper than private insurance.

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The interview was with Radley Balko, author of Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of the Police Force, talked about how police are getting more and more like the military.  For example, the tanks on the street in Boston during the search for the Boston Marathon bombers. The trend for police to use greater force for lesser offenses is disturbing.

The conversation discussed the same old Republican nuttiness over Benghazi. The news show “60 Minutes” interviewed a supposed eyewitness to the attack who told the story the way Republicans like to present it. Fox News said that this validated their reporting.  “Yes”, said Maher, “the story was bullshit” just like the stuff we heard from Fox News." Republicans will not give up trying to turn a tragedy into a scandal.

The mid-show comedy bit revolved around Sarah Palin going after the Pope for being too liberal. Same old, same old Sarah Palin making a fool of herself. Maher said, “She thinks the Pope is kinda liberal, wait until she hears what Jesus is saying.” He then imagined a twitter war between the two. One exchange went like this: Sarah tweets, “Bring back Pope Benedict”. The Pope tweets, “Yeah, you would want the guy who quit while in office.”  

The guest was Casey Affleck, an actor who appears in a new film, Out of the Furnace.  It concerns the problems of soldiers who return home after numerous tours of duty with PTSD, anxiety, and depression.  Affleck told us that 22 veterans commit suicide ever day.  
 
The problems with veterans led to a discussion about food stamps.  Many veterans are on food stamps. And they are among the millions of Americans being hurt by cuts to the program. Duppler was in favor of the cuts, because her view is when you help people “Where does it end?”  Affleck, who clearly shares the political views of his older brother, Ben Affleck, jumped in and said “It is like kicking people when they are down.” 

The conversation turned to the Philippines’ typhoon. It is the most powerful storm ever to make landfall.  Warmer oceans mean bigger storms. Duppler tried to say that global warming is happening but that doesn’t mean the warming is man-made, but she got so lost in a typhoon of her own words that I couldn’t make out what she was saying. 

Maher changed the subject to George W. Bush being the keynote speaker at a Jews for Jesus convention.  Maher said, “Jews for Jesus—an oxymoron. George Bush--a moron.” This a the “I-couldn’t-have-said-it-better-myself” moment of the week.

Salam contradicted Maher saying that some Jews are cultural Jews and can have a different religion and still be Jewish. He used Buddhist Jews--Bu-Jews (think that is how it should be spelled)--as an example. Maher wasn't buying it, and neither am I. Buddhism is more a moral philosophy than a religion, and Buddhists don't proselytize. 

And on to New Rules. And a bit called “Docket Science” about the Supreme Court rulings on the Voting Rights Act and Citizens United. Striking down key provisions of the voting rights acts would have no effect, Roberts said, except that within 48 hours a bunch of states made it harder for blacks to vote. Allowing unlimited money into elections wouldn’t sway elections, Justice Roberts said, and then creeps like Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul, spent 100 million dollars on Republican campaigns for the 2012 election.  Maher concluded by imagining Roberts repeating the line from Animal House: “You f—ked up, you shouldn’t have trusted us.”

Maher got that right. Last week I wrote about Christie and said, "Never trust a fat guy.” This week I have to add, “Never trust a Republican.”  It is the same old same old with them—lies, and at best, half truths. Think about this: If Republican policies are so great, why do they always have to lie about them? 

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P.S. The picture on the book Rise of the Warrior Cop is not from Star Wars. It is an actual photograph taken at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. 

P.P.S. If you want to read a great book (it reads like a novel) recapping the 2012 election, read Double Down: Game Change.

 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Showtime’s Homeland #307 “Gerontion”

Who Done it
By Catherine Giordano
Lockhart, Saul, and Dar talk sbout who done what
on Showtime's Homeland

It’s who done it time at Showtime’s Homeland, episode 307, titled “Gerontion, which aired on 11/10/13. Who or what is “Gerontion”? It’s the title of a poem by T. S. Eliot and is Greek for “little old man.”  (Click Here to read the poem.) In this review and recap of the show, we’ll try to get straight on who done what to whom.

When Saul and Javadi are having a little chat about how Javadi is going to become Saul’s asset again, Saul tells Javadi we are two old men. Saul wants to have someone high in the Iranian government whispering in his ear (so to speak). He used blackmail to get Javadi to agree, but then just for insurance, he used an emotional appeal. “We are just two old men who want what is best for our country,” he told Javadi. Saul believes that what is best for Iran is for Javadi to deliver secrets to him so he can bring down Iran’s corrupt government. Or something like that. It is hard to tell.

Has Saul done it?  Has he convinced Javadi to be a traitor to his country?  It’s a risky proposition, so only time will tell. It the “let’s–go-out-a-limb-and-hope-that-it-all-doesn’t-come-crashing-down” moment of the week.

What Saul has done is make an enduring enemy of Senator Lockhart. When the Senator forces Saul to tell him what he has been up to, Lockhart is furious.  He can’t believe that the CIA had Javadi and then let him go. He rushes to phone the president to stop Javadi from leaving the country. Saul and Dar Adal, who was in the meeting, but not part of the operation to turn Javadi, lock the senator in a conference room with no connection to the outside world. When Javadi has left American airspace, Saul off-handedly tells someone that Lockhart has gotten himself locked into a conference room and someone should call facilities to get him out. That little stunt could mean Saul is done at the CIA, or it could mean that he has to stay on to manage his valuable asset.  Only time will tell.

The police want to know who killed Javadi’s ex-wife and daughter in law. Carrie has told them it is classified, but they are not satisfied. They want to know “who done it.”  So Quinn, who was caught on a neighbor’s security camera--the only one caught on camera-- confesses that he did it. There is no arrest because it was part of a CIA classified operation. After he confesses, Quinn tells Carrie that confession is good for the soul. He has done so many other killings that even though he did not do these killings, it feet good just to confess. He is burned out and wants out of the CIA. Will he leave? Only time will tell.

The big who-done-it is who bombed the CIA? Javadi tells Carrie that it was not Brody; it was one of Azir’s men. Is he telling the truth?  Only time will tell. But Carrie wants to believe it and so she does. She asks Quinn not to quit the CIA until she can prove Brody’s innocence.

We know one thing Carrie has done. She has gotten knocked up. But who done it to her?  No information on that yet. I continue to believe that it was Brody, and that she was in contact with him sometime in the last two to three months.

And what has Mira done? She’s had sex with her old friend. Saul calls her after the deed is done, but while Mira’s lover is still there. Saul is flush with his victory over Javadi and Lockhart and wants to make it a hat trick. Saul tells Mira that he has not given up on their marriage. He is going to work to win her back. He may be just a little late with that plea. Only time will tell.
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The book includes the poem, "Gerontion."

Monday, November 11, 2013

Showtime’s Masters of Sex #107 “All Together Now”

Sexless Love; Loveless Sex
Allison Janney as Margaret Scully
on Masters of Sex
By Catherine Giordano

Sexless-love; loveless sex is the topic of my review and recap of episode 107 of Showtime’s Masters of Sex titled “All Together Now” which aired on 11/10/13. Can you have one without the other? Perhaps, but not usually, and not for long.

Libby Masters loves her husband, but she thinks she might be losing him to his work. She believes a baby will bring them closer as they raise the child together. Since Bill has said that he did not want to keep trying for a pregnancy, Libby decides to go behind her husband’s back. She persuades Dr. Ethan Hass to continue the fertility treatments using Bill’s frozen sperm. This is highly unethical, so Ethan insists that she must have frequent sex with her husband so that there will be a plausible case for a “miracle baby” conceived the old fashioned way.

There is only one problem with this plan—Bill keeps rejecting Libby’s overtures. He comes home late every night and claims to be too tired. (Of course, he’s too tired. All those after-hour “experiments” with Virginia are wearing him out. Bill and Virginia are exploring different coital positions and their effect on orgasms quite thoroughly.) Libby knows nothing of this when she goes to see Virginia. She confides in Virginia that her husband is too tired for the marital act, and could Virginia please rearrange his schedule so he can come home early. 

Virginia tells Bill that their participation in the study must stop unless Bill can do is duty at home as well in the lab. Bill is evidently angry at Virginia, but he goes home and makes love to his wife. The sex rekindles their love, and Bill becomes eager to make love to his wife.

The experiments resume, but Bill is cold to Virginia now. He flaunts his new-found ardor for his wife in Virginia’s face. Bill and Libby continue their experiments in a dispassionate way. Virginia maintains that, unlike other women, she can have sex without love. They both strive mightily to prove that proposition.

Margaret Scully suggests to Langham that they see each other again by coyly mentioning that her husband will be away on a business trip. They meet for sex at Margaret’s home. Unfortunately for her, she gets a little mushy, and this cools Langham’s ardor. His preference is for sex without love. Margaret was just feeling affection--she wasn’t suggesting that they both divorce their spouses and run off together, but it was enough to scare Langham off. The funny thing is Langham was feeling affection for Margaret—he wanted to take her to dinner, but as soon as she spoke the words, he got all jittery. This is the “can-you-cut-a-girl-a break-and stop-over-reacting” moment of the week.

Things appear to be working out in just the opposite way for Ethan Hass. His relationship with Vivian Scully, which started off as just casual sex, is changing.  At first Ethan thought that he had to play the role of boyfriend with Vivian or else jeopardize his job. Now, he is genuinely pleased with their relationship. He’s no longer pretending. He is starting to love her, or at least starting to love the relationship.

Even Margaret’s husband, Barton, is falling in love with his male prostitute. Barton had arranged a meeting with him to occur in the hour before he had to catch his train for his trip to New York. Unfortunately, the rendezvous was to take place in his car in an area known for homosexual meet-ups. Two thugs attack Barton, but when his date arrives, the date chases them off. 

Barton was wounded in the attack, but he could not go to the emergency room for fear of exposure of his hidden life. He drives to the hospital and tries to patch himself up, but he is discovered by Bill. Bill tends to Barton's wound while giving him a stern lecture about how he is risking everything by indulging his perversion.

Barton does not take Bill’s advice. The only change he makes is deciding that future meetings take place in a hotel. But wait, there is also another change. Barton’s paid lover could have just run off when he came upon the attack, instead he risked his life to help Barton. This makes Barton feel that the relationship has evolved beyond just sex. They have real feelings for each other.

Due to the attack, Barton had to cancel his trip to New York. When he arrived home, it was obvious Margaret had been entertaining a man in her bedroom. Barton doesn’t care to find out who, and the next morning, he acts like nothing has happened. This drives Margaret crazy. She thinks Barton’s indifference is her fault. “What is wrong with me,” she cries out, “that you haven’t touched me in six years?” Barton doesn’t explain, but he tells Margaret that he loves her. It’s true, but it is a sexless love.

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So there is love that leads to sex and sex that leads to love, and loveless-sex and sexless-love. Love and sex, sex and love--It’s complicated. 

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P.S. Each week, there is a different young couple who come to Dr. Masters for help conceiving. This week's couple was into the Kama Sutra. In response to a question asked by a reader, I'll add that the sex position mentioned in the episode was the rocking horse. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher #300 “Winners and Losers”

I found this picture in the New York Times Book Review
of Double Down: Game Change 2012
By Catherine Giordano

Are we winning or losing is the theme for my recap and review of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher
#300 which aired on 11/08/13.  The answer is a little of both and sometimes it is hard to tell.

No one can dispute that Chris Christie won big in New Jersey. Bill Said, “What a week for Chris Christie. First they bring back the McRib. Then he wins reelection.”  Is it bad form to make fun of someone’s weight? I can’t help staring at Christie. He’s the elephant man in the room. He looks like he swallowed a flying saucer and it is lodged in his gut. However, the lap-band surgery looks like it is working a little. He’s not quite a fat as he was last year.

But I rail about the fat not just because it is ugly, but because it tells us who Christie is. It fits his personality and character. He’s an unrestrained bully. He wants what he wants and doesn’t care about anyone else. He’s all about domination. He’s a hollow man emotionally trying to fill the emptiness. You can sense his insecurity when he’s talking about how great he is. Never trust a fat man!  

The people of New Jersey voted for him, twice. He’s been a disaster for New Jersey. He vetoed the marriage equality act and a raise in the minimum wage, and the people undid his veto on both, but they still voted for him. He showed sympathy when Sandy hit as any governor would. He fought for the relief funds, but the money hasn’t gotten to the people who need it. No one knows (except maybe Christie and friends) where it went.

John Heilemann, the co-author (with Mark Halperin) of Double Down:Game Change 2012 explained that Romney took a close look at Christie when he vetted potential VP candidates and he passed on him. Heilemann said that Romney did so with good reason—there is a lot of stuff in Christie’s background that cannot withstand scrutiny. Here’s something I never thought I would say: I hope that the American people are at least as smart as Romney.

Sometimes I wonder. Did Obama win his elections because the American people were smart enough to pick the better candidate or did he win because he played the game better, particularly with the get-out–the-vote-efforts? If Republicans get better at technology, could we end up with someone like Christie?  I’ve only read the first few chapters of Double Down. I’ll get back to you when I’ve finished the book.

If you read my comment on my review of last week’s show, you will remember that I said Double Down was a page turner. I was so excited to hear Bill say the same thing last night. A book about politics where you know the plot and how it ends and still you can’t put it down. Now that is a good book!

Other than Christie, election night was a good night for Democrats. DiBlasio won in the mayor’s race in New York City by a huge margin (73% to 24%).  And McAuliffe won in the Virginia’s governor’s race by a smallish margin (48% to 45%), but still a solid win.

One of the contenders for the Democratic nomination for mayor of New York City was Anthony Weiner, former Democratic congressman from New York. Weiner was the mid-show guest.  Bill brought him on with a lot of talk defending Weiner, saying his sexual peccadilloes should not have disqualified him from public office. Poor Weiner, he was squirming with discomfort. Finally, Maher moved on to issues, and it made me so sad to see what a great crusader for liberal policies—someone with wit and passion and heart--we could have had, but lost because he still has an adolescent sexuality.

Weiner defended Obama and the ACA. He favored Medicare for all, as did I. Like me, he said, we should have started moving the eligibility age down a little every year until everyone was covered. Every dollar the insurance companies take is one less dollar for actual medical care. If the ACA has not tried to keep insurance companies in the system (a political necessity) we would not be having the problems with the ACA federal rollout that we are having now.

Weiner defended the president on the “If you like your plan, you can keep our plan statement” while so many others are willing to say that he “fudged” the truth. He said people are being “too literal.” What if you had an employer based plan and you lost our job or your employer went out of business? You don’t keep your plan. And hundreds of people were losing their health insurance every day before the ACA.”

Weiner also pointed out that the people who are in the news saying that their plan was cancelled and they have to pay twice as much almost always turn out to be mistaken about the cost. Almost all of them will end up with a better plan at less cost if they choose to use the ACA exchanges.  I say almost but not all because whenever there is a change, there are some winners and some losers. The good news is with the ACA almost everyone is a winner.

Medicare for all is essentially single payer. The third panelist, Victoria DeFrancisco Soto, a fellow at the Center for Politics and Governance at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas and a political analyst for Telemundo also favors single payer.

The only person at the desk on this show who was attacking the ACA was David Avella, president of GOPAC. GOPAC is an Republican political organization known for aggressive attack ads. Avella, of course, proclaimed that health insurance premiums were doubling and tripling. He also brought up the issue that so many detractors are bringing up—why do men have to pay the same as women when women use more health care. “Why should men pay for pregnancy?”, he asked. Weiner slapped him down. “Your car probably came with a hook for a child seat.” The point was you get the feature whether you personally use it or not—the product is made to provide for everyone. I would have told him that he and all other men are only on this earth because of a pregnancy. Have a little respect for your mother, you loser!

Weiner said that we have to judge the ACA by what we had before. While it doesn’t go as far as I would like and maybe it goes too far for some, it is without a doubt better than what we had before. There are minimum standards, coverage will be close to universal, and insurance companies have to compete on a level playing field. There are far more winners than losers with the ACA.  

The third panelist, Victoria DeFrancisco Soto, a fellow at the Center for Politics and Governance at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas and a political analyst for Telemundo also favors single payer. She seems a quiet person, and the guys did not give her much opportunity to speak.

The interview was with Bill Binney, former technical director of the NSA. We are all losers with respect to privacy. He said the government is spying on everyone, and it is growing. The data bases in the cloud are merged into the government cloud.  I don’t understand it all, but Binney thinks it is pretty bad. He said that if you think it doesn’t matter because you think you are not doing anything wrong, it doesn’t matter what you think, it is what the government thinks.

The mid-show comedy segment was about a husband and wife who were running against each other for some minor office somewhere. He did some spoof ads that they might have run against each other. The ads took standard campaign claims and gave them a twist that made it sound like a husband and wife bickering.

New Rules was really good, so good that I mostly wasn’t laughing. The segment was titled “Cheap of Faith” and it was how conservatives will always find a way to justify their stinginess as superior morality. For instance,

 “I would love to help the unemployed, but it discourages working.”

“I would love to give to charity, just not to those who need it.”

“We’d like to feed the starving, but what if they used their new strength to do drugs.”

“I want everyone to see a doctor, but if the government do it will destroy our way of life and besides the website is glitch and that leads to Stalinism.

The part that had me too angry to laugh was the part about the religious stiffing servers in restaurants. Bill asked, “What do the snake handlers have against the food handlers?”  What they like to do is write little notes on their receipts. “I give 10% to the church, why should I give you 18%.” I want to scream, “Because the wait staff gets paid $2.25 and runs their tails off giving you good service. The tip is how they get paid for their work. The tip is part of the cost of the meal. If you have moral objections to tipping, eat at home!!!!”

Then there was the one given to a gay waiter. “Queers will not share in the wealth of God and you will not share in ours.” I want to scream, “You didn’t have a moral objection to this queer running his tail off to serve you, but you have a moral objection to paying him for his work!!!” Bill’s response was. “Stiffing him on the tip is not going to make him want to put his penis in a woman; it is going to make him want to put his penis in your pasta primavera.” I laughed at that one. This was the “sweet-revenge- fantasy” moment of the week.)

And finally, Bill showed us these fake $10 bills. When the server sees it, he thinks he has received a generous tip. When the fake bill is turned over, he sees this message.  "Some things are better than money. Like your eternal salvation that was bought and paid for by Christ going to the cross.” Bill had a great response to that one. First, he said, “Yeah, but Jesus didn’t have to put gas in the donkey”. He capped it with, “If you are a waiter and you get one of these phony $10 bills, do me a favor, the next time you go to church, drop it in the collection plate.” 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Showtime’s Homeland #306, “Staying Positive”

Carry On
By Catherine Giordano
Have Carrie and Brody have been together since
they parted at the Canadian border?

“Carry”, is not only a homonym for Carrie, but an apt word for episode 306 of Showtime’s Homeland titled “Staying Positive” which aired on 11/03/13. So many meanings for the word “carry” and “carry on” are buzzing in my head after thinking about this episode and writing the review and recap.

At the beginning of the episode, Carrie taking a pregnancy test and it is positive. Is Carrie carrying Brody’s child? Not if she last saw him six months ago when she left him near the Canadian border. She’s not showing yet. It appears that she takes the test every single morning and she saves the sticks.  (This is the “does-Carrie-have-OCD- and-bipolar-disorder?” moment of the week.) Since she has a drawer full of sticks, it’s likely she has been pregnant for a month or more. Now, we have seen Carrie having some casual sex encounters so is she pregnant from a one-night stand or has she been seeing Brody?. I think that we will soon find out that Carrie and Brody have seen each other in the six months since the bombing of the CIA. If it was a stranger’s baby, she would have just had an abortion as soon as she knew she was pregnant.

In the military “carry on” means continue with what you were doing before being interrupted and that is what Carrie is doing. Javadi tries to give her a lie detector test to determine if she telling the truth about being willing to reveal secrets, but Carrie isn’t playing that game. She blackmails him into becoming her asset. Saul has information that would get Javadi killed if his government found out about it. Javadi arranges to meet Carrie later that day.

Saul and Peter Quinn are using drones to keep track of Javadi’s whereabouts. When Javadi passes the highway exit for his meet with Carrie, they are able to virtually follow him. He stops at a suburban house--the house of his ex-wife.

The back story is that Javardi was Saul’s asset 20 years ago. Things went bad and Saul had to flee the country. He arranged for four other assets to escape, but before that could happen, Javardi betrayed Saul and killed the assets to show his loyalty to the regime and to remove suspicion from himself. Saul gets Javadi’s wife and young son out of the country. Saul and Javardi are now bitter enemies.

Javardi gets to the house, shoots his daughter-in-law dead, kills his former wife with a broken bottle by repeatedly stabbing her in the neck. He has evidently carried a grudge all these years, hating his wife for leaving him. Now he has his revenge. Javardi has a grandson, about a year old. The child has witnessed everything. Javardi’s anger does not extend to his grandson. He cuddles and goo-goos him until Carrie and Quinn arrive and take him into custody.

Carrie is all hormonal and doesn’t want to leave the baby. Saul insists that she leave the child. There can be no trace that they were there. Carrie has to satisfy herself by picking the child up from the floor and placing him in the relative safety of his playpen.   

In the meantime, Dar Adal has a meeting with Senator Lockhart, the proposed new CIA director. Dar leads Lockhart to believe that he will be Lockhart’s trusted ally. But Dar is the master of black ops, and I think he and Saul are plotting the downfall of Lockhart.

Javardi is now in custody and the enmity carries on. The interrogation begins with Saul delivering a punch to Javardi’s face. I think things may get really unpleasant.

I can’t leave out Dana, much as I would like to. That girl is always is a prima donna of carrying on. Dana announces that she wants to change her last name—being a Brody nearly killed her. Her mother supports her in this, and is even flattered that Dana chooses her mother’s maiden name. No sooner is her name change official than a young woman arrives at the door. Dana is moving out and plans to live with this woman who she describes as a friend. 

It would be so nice if this meant we had seen the last of Dana, but I suspect that Dana is now going to bring more trouble on everyone. The Brody family has protection in their home--Dana on her own will be at risk.  Will Carrie have to go to her rescue? And this friend—is she a plant so that Dana can be used as leverage with Carrie or Brody.
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So Homeland fans: Carry On. Keep following the show.  

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Showtime’s Masters of Sex #106 “Brave New World”

Sexual Discoveries
By Catherine Giordano

Teddy Sears as Dr. Austin Langham
Everyone is making sexual discoveries on Showtime’s  Masters of Sex, episode 106, titled “Brave New World” which aired on Sunday, November 3, 2013. The theme of this episode as well as this review and recap, is "Sexual Discoveries."

I think Libby is discovering that her husband Bill is just not that into her. They take a trip to Miami—it’s Libby’s consolation prize since she is not getting a baby. It’s a vacation to rekindle the romance in their marriage. But Bill doesn’t really seem to enjoy spending time with her, and that goes double for time in the sack.

Bill is much more interested in the couple in the next room, who they can hear through the walls.  The couple, who they later learn are in their 70’s, enjoys lots of loud noisy sex. Bill is discovering the elderly people can still enjoy sex. It’s a big surprise.

Libby tells Bill he can leave since he is impatient to be back to work. However, she is staying on her own. Then she proceeds to befriend the couple who is staying in the next room.  She tells them that she is a widow with two children. I understand the fantasy of having children, but it appears she also has a fantasy of Bill being dead. Libby is discovering that she no longer wishes to be married to her husband.  Her next discovery, however, concerns life as a single woman. She is viewed as sexually available—she gets propositioned by her new friends.  The man wants to have sex with her while his wife listens in the next room. The couple is not only lusty, but also a little kinky.

Poor Margaret Scully (played by Alison Janney). She discovers that she cannot participate in the sex study after all. She undergoes an emotionally painful and embarrassing interview. She has to report that she has sex with her husband only once a year and that she has never had an orgasm. (Given the very personal nature of this study, I am surprised that Masters and Johnson recruited participants from among the staff and their families.) Bill and Virginia tell her that all study participants must have had an orgasm.

Poor Margaret Scully. Her husband not only won’t sleep with her (in either sense of the word—they have separate bedrooms), he won’t even take her to the movies.  She goes alone to see Peyton Place. And who does she happen to meet as she leaves the theater? It’s Dr. Austin Langham, (played by Teddy Sears) who appears to spend sleepless nights wandering the streets depressed by his boner problem. He offers to walk Margaret to her car. Then he kisses her. Then he seduces her, and Margaret discovers what an orgasm is, right there in the back seat of her car. Langham has evidently gotten his mojo back, perhaps discovering that illicit sex is more exciting than sex in a laboratory.  

Did Austin choose to have sex with an older woman just because she was there or was the fact that she was older part of her appeal. It may have given him more confidence in his ability to perform. I once heard a joke about having sex with “older women”: “They won’t tell, they won’t swell, and they’re grateful as hell.”  Perhaps Austin was thinking along those lines. 

Virginia is making sexual discoveries also. She attends a lecture by Dr. Anna Freud who speaks about clitoral and vaginal orgasm, claiming that they are different and that the clitoral orgasm is the “immature” orgasm.  Virginia takes to the laboratory to prove this wrong.  She discovers that the data show that Freud is wrong--the orgasms are the same. (If anything, the clitoral orgasm is the slightly stronger orgasm.) When Bill returns to work she informs him of her findings. Bill promotes her from secretary to research assistant. The promotion does not come with a raise in salary.  

Virginia is so encouraged by her success and promotion that she wants to debunk another sexual myth.  Jane has told her that she can orgasm from stimulation of the breast alone.  Bill scoffs. While Bill’s back is turned, she quietly removes her blouse and attaches the monitoring devises. When Bill finally turns around, she takes his hand and places it firmly on her breast. Together they will discover the truth. 

This is the “crossing-the-Rubicon” moment of the week.  Virginia may not realize it yet, but  she is no longer just Bill’s co-worker, she has become Bill’s sexual partner. I think she will soon discover that their relationship is changed forever.
 

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