I told myself I wasn’t going to spend too much time on TV reviews. Apparently, in addition to having almost no life, I am an addict of entertainment involving the supernatural.
NBC’s Constantine is treading some very familiar territory – there are demons, angels, supernatural spells and curses and a protagonist haunted by his past. It is closer to Angel than Buffy, but it has obvious similarities to both (as well as Supernatural). In terms of special effects, it’s a step up from Supernatural. Stylistically, the pilot at least is visually darker than any of the above. It takes place in a morally ambiguous world that could prove interesting.
The pilot started with a bang – our main character has checked himself into an asylum, received ECT and then is seen in group. He follows cockroaches into a large chapel where a fellow patient is writing on the wall in what looks like blood. He casts the demon out of her, reads the message and checks himself out of the asylum and sets off to save Liv (more on her in a moment). Along the way, we met Chas and Manny (a mysterious cabby and angel respectively) who help John Constantine. Constantine sets out to locate and save Liv. What follows is a fairly standard for the genre episode that wastes little time on exposition, but provides some well done visuals, including a shot of the entire Atlanta metro area plunging into darkness as the power is cut.
Actor Matt Ryan does a good job as John Constantine, both witty banter-wise and obviously haunted by the past. The supporting cast don’t really have enough screen time to flesh out their characters, save Liv. And herein lies the pilot episode’s biggest problem. Throughout the episode, she’s being set up as the obvious and key character – the outsider who will guide us through Constantine’s world. She asks the key questions (“What’s this image carved into my door?”, “Who are you and how do you know these things?”), she is given a gift that will help our main character in his quest to save his soul. And at the last minute, she’s written off.
We’re told Liv departs Atlanta for California, our hero will place a spell to protect her and that’s that. But it made the entire pilot feel pointless – everything in the episode told us to care about Liv – and then she was sent packing, unceremoniously. It’s frustrating.
The episode ends with a shot of a mysterious woman drawing a picture of Constantine; the camera pans back and we see she is surrounded by similar drawings, including a striking portrait of Constantine on a window. It’s enough of a teaser to bring me back next week.
I haven’t read the source material (the comic book Hellblazer which ran for 300 issues) and I’ve only seen parts of the film starring Keanu Reeves. That said, it’s obvious the basic ingredients for a successful series are in place. The question is whether or not the creative team can get the story telling right before getting bogged down into ongoing story arcs and mythology. As an aside, the complex, mythology episodes of X-Files were often my least favorite. Other series that develop an ongoing mythology tend to grow sufficiently complex that after a few seasons they become difficult for new viewers to jump into (without binge watching multiple seasons before doing so). Conversely, ongoing mythology is rarely rewarding or interesting enough to justify our time (Alias is a perfect example of a series that could not sustain its ongoing mystery and that, in the end, could not deliver an interesting enough resolution). The trick is to keep the larger story line smart enough to keep viewers interested without being forced to define it so that is disappoints.
Constantine, like other series in the genre will need to spend some time fleshing out its main characters and refining its story telling – getting a better balance between the witty, the somber, and the exposition. It will require some work to keep the visual style. That said, I’m intrigued to see what comes next.
Iraqi Army M-1 Abrams tank captured by ISIS
Here’s a military and foreign policy lesson that is being driven home by recent events in Iraq. In fourth-generation warfare (4GW), it’s not over when the USA says it’s over. Remember that whole populations are involved, and unlike foreign expeditionary forces from halfway around the world the local populace isn’t going anywhere. There is no nation state to be defeated, and no peace treaty will ever be signed.
The American military is nevertheless engaged in 4GW in Iraq and Afghanistan, and this means we are faced with the decision to (1) stay committed to an open-ended conflict without any hope of a decisive result, or (2) let the war we started (or got into while in progress) go on without us, possibly with results counter to our foreign policy goals.
There was a third option, (3) spend tens of billions of dollars to train and equip friendly(?) local government(?) forces to take over for U.S. soldiers. That was tried in Iraq and Afghanistan, and failed (most spectacularly in Iraq). Somebody please tell the Obama administration, because they are planning to try this again.
DSWright on FDL comments on the Pentagon’s latest plans:
A multiyear campaign that requires more assistance – in other words, the US is back in the nation building business in Iraq. Of course we just saw the results of a multiyear campaign to provide military assistance – total capitulation. So why not do it again? It’s only the age of austerity for domestic spending.
…The American people gave Barack Obama the presidency largely based on his promise to get out of Iraq – the more we learn how worthless our actions are in Iraq the clearer it is that that’s a promise worth keeping.
Apparently the Washington politicians of both major parties are up for another round of war in the Middle East, only this time we’re fighting in Syria too. Does anybody think this is a good idea?
Too much money spent in Iraq for too few results
Veterans not surprised Iraq’s Army collapsed
Economic Costs Summary: $4.4 Trillion and Counting
Everyone in America Could Go to College for Free for the Amount of Money Spent on Mideast Wars
U.S.: Ground Offensive Against Islamic State Still Months Away
“Until the Abadi government can get on its feet and kind of deliver some small successes, I don’t think, I don’t think we’re in a position to make any promises on behalf of that government,” the official said.
While making another lame attempt to politicize Ebola, Utah’s own Rep. Jason Chaffetz accidentally brought up a serious issue. Acceding to Tea-GOP demands for an “Ebola czar” to address a nonexistent national crisis, President Obama appointed Ron Klain, a former chief-of-staff to Vice President Joe Biden. Did that make the right-wing happy? Not a chance.
Via Think Progress (emphasis added):
On Wednesday, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) appeared on Fox News to complain that Klain had not yet agreed to testify before Congress, firing another criticism at the White House. “Why not have the surgeon general head this up?” Chaffetz said, adding, “at least you have someone who has a medical background who has been confirmed by the United States Senate, that’s where we should be actually I think going.”
But Obama can’t appoint the Surgeon General to lead the Ebola response because his nominee, Dr. Vivek Murthy, is being opposed by the National Rifle Association and Republican senators (as well as a few Democrats) for supporting the expansion of background checks during gun purchases. In February, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) officially placed a hold on the nomination.
Chaffetz seemed unaware of this wrinkle during his Fox interview, and his office would not return repeated requests for comment…
We don’t have a Surgeon General because Dr. Murthy’s nomination has been blocked for the past year by Rep. Chaffetz’s party.
Via Media Matters. They watch Faux News so we don’t have to.
This is incredible, a perfect example of the right-wing’s alternate universe. Bill O’Reilly claims Americans who vote for Democratic Party candidates are emotional, selfish and just interested in “what you can get from the government.” He doesn’t believe they have the best interest of the nation in mind. Plus, he wants to scare everybody with Ebola [Note: Americans are much more likely to be the victim of a police shooting than to contract Ebola].
Meanwhile in reality, the Tea-GOP is doing everything they can think of to put our economy into a tailspin. They have staged a government shutdown and a near-default on the National Debt. They have enforced austerity budgeting (“sequestration” in Washington-speak) that has cost us 1.6 million jobs and 1.2 percent of GDP. And they think they can blame everything on President Obama – why not, it has worked before.
How The Press Is Doing The GOP’s Ebola Bidding
Fear is the Tea-GOP’s midterm election theme. Message: Panic looms. We stand exposed. Nobody’s in charge. It’s worse than you think.
Media Matters offers a four and a half minute compilation of how right-wing media have been trying to spread unfounded hysteria and conspiracy theories about Ebola. Apparently it’s just part of the GOTV operation to make sure all the wingers show up at the polls on November 4. It’s hyper-partisan politics as usual, and the good of our nation and the world is not even a consideration.
Sure, FOX news gets away with blatant racism and nobody bats an eye because it’s just part of their act, but they are not alone in their uncompassionate reporting on the thousands of people currently suffering from Ebola.
…We speculate endlessly over the fictionalized and sensationalized prospects of an epidemic that will never become a legitimate threat within the US, but no one finds the time to even mention the horror that must face the individuals, the families, the health care workers and the citizens of an impoverished country who are slowly watching this unspeakably devastating disease spread within their midst. For the moment, we are too busy asking ourselves, “What does this Ebola outbreak mean for me and my life?” instead of the questions we should be asking, such as “How can we as a global community best act to stop this terrible disease everywhere?”
So whether anchors are talking about travel bans for everyone and anyone coming from West Africa, or discussing the domestic “Ebola epidemic” in regards to the few cases we’ve had in the U.S., it is important to realize that it is all just well-disguised racism and Western exceptionalism being paraded around under the banner of “national security.”…
The Ebola Truthers Have Arrived and Their Conspiracy Theories Are Completely Insane
POLITICO poll: Democrats in danger over Ebola
Poll: Majority Of Americans Worried About U.S. Ebola Outbreak
Gallup: One-Fifth of Americans Worry About Getting Ebola (Those would be the regular Faux News Channel viewers)
Politicians Who Say ‘I’m Not A Scientist’ On Climate Offer Their Advice On Ebola There is a method to the madness: Tea-GOPers always reject science when it runs counter to their political interests of the moment.
“Fury” is the best tank movie Hollywood has done to date (“Fury” is the crew’s name for their later-model M4A3E8 Sherman, also known as an “Easy Eight”). Of course, it’s still a Hollywood production; when Brad Pitt takes off his CVC (combat vehicle crewman) helmet, every hair on his head is neatly combed! And while the plot has elements of realism (how many lieutenants have made the mistake of putting their own tank at the head of the column?) it’s way too melodramatic. This film is very violent, as you might expect. Warfare can be horrifying, that’s why soldiers get PTSD.
Like a lot of movies today, the special effects are the best part. The actors do a credible job, especially Brad Pitt as SSGT Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier, and Logan Lerman as Norman Ellison, a clerk-typist newly assigned to the crew of “Fury” (and the guy the audience can identify with, because like most people he’s never seen the inside of a tank before). One thing that’s definitely NOT a special effect is the real German Tiger tank that makes its Hollywood debut (up to now, the “Tigers” you have seen in contemporary feature films have been modified Russian T-34 tanks). This one is an actual Panzerkampfwagen VI.
I had the somewhat bizarre experience of leading a tank platoon across Bavaria as a member of the 2d Armored Division’s 66th regiment (the same unit the fictional Wardaddy was assigned to). Except I did it in 1978, not 1945. We didn’t ask any Germans what they thought of us, because the answer to that question would have to be complicated and hard to understand. As Wardaddy says in the film, “Ideals are peaceful. History is violent.”
Fury (2014) – IMDb
A guy shows up in the ER, has symptoms of Ebola, and says he just came from Liberia. But from the hospital’s point of view, the most important fact about this patient is he has no health insurance!
On Friday, Sept. 25, 2014, my uncle Thomas Eric Duncan went to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. He had a high fever and stomach pains. He told the nurse he had recently been in Liberia. But he was a man of color with no health insurance and no means to pay for treatment, so within hours he was released with some antibiotics and Tylenol.
…Thomas Eric Duncan was a victim of a broken system.
Of course, we know how this story ends. Mr. Duncan became the first person to die from Ebola in America. The whole letter is worth reading.
Isn’t it astounding to learn that 13 years after the 9/11 attacks and Anthrax, out of all the hospitals in the entire USA there are just four level 4 biohazard facilities with a combined capacity to handle nine (9) Ebola patients at a time? Right now four of those beds are occupied, and there are five available. Didn’t anybody see “Contagion” (2011)?
Why don’t the cable news channels report that the Tea-GOP cut NIH funding, delaying the development of an Ebola vaccine? This is not something Big Pharma cares about, because they make their biggest profits from drugs that treat long-term chronic diseases, not epidemics that kill people (especially poor people in Africa).
Finally, where is our nation’s Surgeon General during all this? Oh that’s right, we don’t have one because the Tea-GOP has been blocking the nomination of Vivek Murthy for the past year.
I’m a Hazmat-Trained Hospital Worker: Here’s What No One Is Telling You About Ebola
11 People Who Should Really Shut Up About Ebola
The Smoking Ebola Gun: Rand Paul’s Senate Hold Is Why The Nation Has No Surgeon General
FiveThirtyEight’s Senate Forecast gives the Tea-GOP a 60.8 percent chance of winning a majority of Senate seats. HuffPo’s poll-tracking model says there is a 68 percent chance. Sam Wang’s Princeton Election Consortium is the outlier, predicting the Dems have a 65 percent chance to save their Senate majority.
The Economist explained the situation last month:
More vulnerable Democrats are up for re-election this year than vulnerable Republicans. The GOP needs to take away six seats from the Democrats, and is already nearly assured of winning three; of the six or seven competitive races (depending on who’s counting), Republicans must win just three to gain a majority. Add in Barack Obama’s low approval ratings and the fact that the out-of-power party generally does better in midterm elections, and you have a nice bloodless political-science description of the Republican advantage.
Yet the technical factors don’t quite explain why Democrats feel so listless this autumn…
…In the face of the far right’s effective veto over the congressional GOP, Democrats have given up on passing any significant legislation either until they regain control of the House, an impossibly remote prospect, or until the Tea Party somehow withers away, which shows no signs of happening. The Democrats’ acceptance of their inability to accomplish anything significant has left them unable to campaign on big themes. The party feels exhausted, still convinced of the need for immigration reform, climate change legislation and expanded benefits for the middle class, but unable to imagine a political pathway to get there. If the Democrats lose the Senate this fall, it may be technically due to an unlucky roster of elections and the traditional midterm setback for the party in power. But it will also be a verdict on the party’s inability to conjure a sense of élan or vision in the face of the political paralysis tea-party Republicans have induced.
When the party that’s nominally in power looks so powerless, that’s a problem. The Dems ought to have thought about that in 2009, when they had a brief window of opportunity to reverse the Bush administration’s malfeasance. Now they can’t promise anything much, and seemingly can’t even deliver on small commitments (e.g. President Obama’s vow to make unspecified immigration reforms via executive order by “the end of summer.”)
Meanwhile, the Tea-GOP never misses an opportunity to blame Obama for all bad news – whether it’s ISIS, Ebola, or leaving the front door of the White House unlocked. Right-wingers can’t offer viable policy proposals anymore, so they resort to fear mongering and unrealistic demands to seal the U.S. borders. You can be sure the Tea-GOP voters will take their fears to the polls on November 4.
Sadly, the lesson I want the Washington Dems to learn probably won’t get learned. They are always promising to do something for average Americans after the next election. Bill Clinton says now is not the time for a protest vote, but I would say a protest vote is needed now and in every election until they get the message.
The reality, as National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins recently stated, is that an Ebola vaccine would likely have already been developed if not for the past decade’s worth of largely GOP-imposed budget cuts.
Today, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson debunked the false Faux News Channel claim that ISIS terrorists have been apprehended along the Mexican border (emphasis added):
[F]our foreigners who were apprehended after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border did not have ties to terrorism and were in fact members of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), an organization that is fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)…
When can we expect Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) to return to Faux News and admit he was wrong?
h/t Think Progress.
From the travel website Skift:
We asked Americans, using Google Consumer Surveys, “Heading into Fall, how many vacation days have you taken so far this year?” The majority, almost 51 percent, say they haven’t taken a single vacation day in 2014 so far.
About 15 percent of Americans say they have taken more than 10 vacation days this year, while the rest is split between those who took fewer than 5, and those who took between 5-10 vacation days this year.
The other topline result from the breakdown, as you will see in the charts below: Women, young, old,and the lower-income Americans are the ones taking the least amount of vacations.
Of course, nearly 1 in 4 US workers don’t get any paid vacation days.
Nearly a quarter of the American private-sector workforce, some 26 million workers, doesn’t get paid time off, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — compared with less than one-fifth in the 1990s.The United States is the only advanced economy that doesn’t guarantee paid vacation and one of only 13 countries in the world not to do so, according to the World Policy Analysis Center at the University of California Los Angeles.
The American middle class was great, while it lasted.
M-60A3 tanks of Turkish Armed Forces standing by at the Turkey-Syria border, as ISIS and Kurdish armed groups fight for control of nearby Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) on October 6, 2014. (Photo by Ozge Elif Kizil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
The current situation in the war against ISIS, via CNN:
The United States and its allies have made at least 271 airstrikes in Iraq and 116 in Syria.
The cost? More than $62 million for just the munitions alone.
The effect? Negligible, some say, particularly in Iraq.
One by one, the cities have fallen to ISIS like dominoes: Hit, Albu Aytha, Kubaisya, Saqlawia and Sejal.
And standing on the western outskirts of Baghdad, ISIS is now within sight.
The Long War Journal reports that ISIS captured a battalion of tanks (that’s up to 54 tanks) at Hit after they were abandoned by fleeing Iraqi soldiers.
The U.S. is now flying risky missions around Fallujah using AH-64 Apache attack helicopters. This means the “air war” now openly includes ground combat, because American military doctrine (PDF) classifies an attack helicopter force as a maneuver element, the same as infantry or armor.
Meanwhile in Syria, ISIS is about to occupy the town of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) on the Turkish border. Turkey has refused to aid the Kurdish defenders, despite U.S. requests. Air strikes in the vicinity of Kobani have failed to stop the three-week assault on the town.
Why Everyone Is Sitting Back And Letting ISIS Conquer A Key Syrian Town
Turkey’s Refusal To Help Besieged Kurds Fight ISIS Is Backfiring
As They Battle ISIS For Kurdish Town, U.S.-Backed Syrian Rebels Question Support
This Is How Close The Fight Against ISIS Is To Turkey’s Border
Islamic State Advances Deeper Into Kobani
ISIS Battles Iraqi Forces Near Baghdad