📺 Seed: The Untold Story | Independent Lens (PBS), S18 E13

Seed: The Untold Story by Taggart Siegel and Jon Betz (Independent Lens | PBS)
Worshiped and treasured since the dawn of humankind, few things on Earth are as miraculous and vital as seeds. SEED: The Untold Story follows passionate seed keepers intent on protecting our 12,000 year-old food legacy. In the last century, 94% of our seed varieties have disappeared. This once abundant seed diversity — painstakingly created by ancient farmers and gardeners over countless millennia — has been drastically winnowed down to a handful of mass-produced varieties. Under the spell of industrial "progress" and corporate profits, family farmsteads have given way to mechanized agribusinesses sowing genetically identical crops on a massive scale. But without seed diversity, crop diseases rise and empires fall. More than a cautionary tale of "man against nature," SEED reveals the work of farmers, scientists, lawyers, and indigenous seed keepers who are fighting a David versus Goliath battle to defend the future of our food. In a story both harrowing and heartening, we meet a wide variety of reluctant heroes working to rekindle a lost connection to our most treasured resource, from the pueblos of New Mexico to a seed bunker in Norway, from India to America’s heartland, from Peru to Hawaii. Among the dozens of people featured are Will Bonsall of the Scatterseed Project, Dr. Jane Goodall, environmental lawyer Claire Hope Cummings, ethnobotanist Gary Paul Nabhan, botanical explorer Joseph Simcox, Andrew Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety, and physicist/activist Dr. Vandana Shiva. SEED explores the hidden fabric of our food and the people that painstakingly and meticulously curate its diversity, in an era of climate uncertainty and immense corporate power.

This was an interesting documentary on seed which people obviously take heavily for granted.

I think I preferred the shorter podcasts I recently listened to: Why Save Seeds and Seed Law on the fantastic Eat This Podcast [1][2] mostly because they were a bit more scientific and policy-minded. This documentary was interesting, told some great personal stories, but could be viewed as not the most balanced of presentations. It obviously went for a more uplifting and poignant stance surrounding the people and the communities as well as their stories.

It could easily have spent 20-30 minutes delving into more of the science and the policy portions of the story to better underpin the overall arc of the story and simply had a longer 90 minute running time instead of just an hour spent primarily focused on trying to pull simply at our heartstrings.

I agree that the decrease in diversity of our seed stores is an appalling travesty, but the topic deserves better coverage and a more nuanced viewpoint of the relevant science and policy could have done far more to get people interested in the subject. I certainly would have appreciated it.

References

[1]
J. Cherfas, “Why save seeds?,” Eat This Podcast, 07-Oct-2013. [Online]. Available: http://www.eatthispodcast.com/why-save-seeds/. [Accessed: 25-Apr-2017]
[2]
J. Cherfas, “Seed Law,” Eat This Podcast, 27-May-2013. [Online]. Available: http://www.eatthispodcast.com/seed-law/. [Accessed: 25-Apr-2017]
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📺 Meet the Press, April 23, 2017

Meet the Press, April 23, 2017 by Chuck Todd (NBC)
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus; Sen. marco Rubio (R-FL); Rep Nancy Pelosi (D-CA); roundtable discussion with Cornell Belcher, Robert Costa, Savannah Guthrie and Peggy Noonan

Sadly it appears that narrowing in on 100 Days Trump has accomplished little of note, and doesn’t appear to have much in the hopper from a legislative perspective. Though his staff wants to tout the Supreme Court nominee appointment is a big accomplishment, the score for that really goes to the Republican Senate that stonewalled Obama’s administration. The worse statistic seems to be that the administration is painfully behind the 8-ball on their administrative nominations–they’ve apparently only made 44 to this point and have only had 22 pass the Senate, while prior administrations have had 2-3 times this many through at this point in the game.

Priebus seems to sound very capitulatory on the budget issue facing the administration down on Friday the 28th with the pending continuing resolution to fund the government. That day would be Trump’s 99th and I can’t image that he’d shut the government down and risk the huge flack and pushback in doing such a thing. But then with him, one never knows…

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📺 The Daily Show: Your Moment of Them: The Best of Ronny Cheng

The Daily Show: Your Moment of Them: The Best of Ronny Cheng by Ronny Cheng (Comedy Central)
The Daily Show salutes correspondent Ronny Chieng's reporting as he covers Fox News's racism, an interfaith initiative and Donald Trump's China policy.

This series of episodes about the correspondents is great. Not only is it a great way to program with old entertainment which these shows don’t often do, but it’s nice to see an extended set of work from some hilarious people.

The Daily Show: Ronny Cheng

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📺 Madam Secretary, S3 E18 “Good Bones”

Good Bones, S3 E18 (Madam Secretary (CBS))
Elizabeth enlists the help of a Hollywood starlet to free victims of human traffickers in Kyrgyzstan. Henry's finds the bomb he's been looking for when his undercover agent brings it to a local mall but uncovers an even deadlier plot.

This episode seems to be speaking directly to the fact that the Trump administration has recently called for gutting the budget for State in preference for military spending and how that could potentially play out. Possibly one of the most depressing episodes of this show in memory.

📺 Madam Secretary, S3 E17 “Convergence”

Convergence, S3 E17 (Madam Secretary (CBS))
When a computer sting uncovers the possible mole in the CIA arms smuggling ring, Elizabeth's questioning of the suspect makes her think that a larger, more dangerous force is behind the operation. Also, Henry worries that the doomsday cult is drugging his embedded operative, and Elizabeth and her State Department staff come up with an unorthodox approach to solving black rhino poaching in Namibia. Enrico Colantoni guest stars.

Interesting to see the solution presented for protecting the black rhino. This is an interesting example of the complexity of the world and both how and why science can be used as a tool to move policy.

📺 Madam Secretary, S3 E16 “Swept Away”

Swept Away, S3 E16 (Madam Secretary (CBS))
Elizabeth's landmark global climate treaty with more than 200 countries is jeopardized when China threatens to back out due to her meeting with an ailing Dalai Lama. Also, Henry worries about his undercover operative's safety, and Jay is surprised when Abby serves him with a custody agreement for their daughter.

📺 Madam Secretary, S3 E15 “Break in Diplomacy”

Break in Diplomacy, S3 E15 (Madam Secretary (CBS))
Elizabeth visits the newly elected President Andrada to advise against withdrawing from the Singapore Interchange agreement. Progress is made on the BoJ compound while Jay looks into Kevin Park's research.

The president of Philippines here is a very thinly veiled version of Donald Trump, and as a result makes it an interesting think piece for considering how other countries are viewing the United States right now.

🎞 Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (RKO Radio Pictures, 1948)

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (RKO Radio Pictures)
A man and his wife decide they can afford to have a house in the country built to their specifications. It's a lot more trouble than they think. Director: H.C. Potter; Writers: Eric Hodgins (novel); Norman Panama and Melvin Frank; Stars: Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Melvyn Douglas |

It’s always fun to watch classic pictures like this one. They’re such an interesting look back on the subtleties of how the world used to be. This is a great example of when married couples had separate beds, men used shaving brushes, there were shower caps, everyone wore hats, and electric razors were becoming popular. The opening in particular has some interesting social commentary about society, class, and progressiveness. It also has commentary on advertising and people apparently becoming more open to having analysts (therapists).

This even has a snippet about current fashion in home decoration with mentions of a cobbler’s bench, a breakfront, a hooked rug, a pie cooler (whatever that is), and a Martha Washington desk.

An interesting linguistic relic I caught in the opening was a phrase that “New York has 7 millions” [referring to number of people]. Today, most would use the singular million instead.

I could easily see a case one could build for the original book and this film as the likely inspiration and precursors for comedies like The Money Pit (Universal, 1986), Funny Farm (Warner Bros., 1988), and even a bit of Baby Boom (United Artists, 1987).

I’m curious to know in how many movies Cary Grant played an advertising executive. Leading characters with this profession during this time period must have been romantic seeming at the time, but they always give an additional layer of meaning when watching them decades after the fact.

Quotes

Mr. Blandings (in his best pitch-man voice talking about his razor): “I prefer the clean sweep of the tempered steel as it glides over…”
Mrs. Blandings (curtly): “No advertising copy please.”

Bill Cole: “I had no intention of sending you to Reno.”
(At the time Reno was one of the few (only) places to grant divorces.)

Interesting tidbits of history

This was a Dory Schary presentation when he was still at RKO prior to his reign at MGM. The generally great black and white cinematography was by a mid-career prolific journeyman cinematographer James Wong Howe. This also features an appearance of Jason Robards. Robards Sr. that is, father to the more well known Jason Robards, Jr.

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House

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🎞 Margin Call (Lionsgate, 2012)

Margin Call (Lionsgate)
Follows the key people at an investment bank, over a 24-hour period, during the early stages of the 2008 financial crisis. Director: J.C. Chandor; Writer: J.C. Chandor; Stars: Zachary Quinto, Stanley Tucci, Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Demi Moore

An interesting morality play of sorts. Not quite as compelling as The Big Short. Though there was some finger-pointing and drum beating on the morality issue, it wasn’t nearly as on-the-head as I expected it to be.

More interesting to me would have been some of the backstory of the people letting things slide along the way. I would have liked to know and see more about the last-minute dealmaking a trading firm does when it has an incredibly good idea that it’s not going to be a going concern anymore. Here this piece was sadly brushed under the rug a bit as was the broader effect on the every day consumer.

Watched via Amazon Prime on iPad.

Margin Call, Lionsgate, 2012

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🎞 The Edge of Tomorrow (Warner Bros., 2014)

The Edge of Tomorrow (Warner Bros.)
A soldier fighting aliens gets to relive the same day over and over again, the day restarting every time he dies. Director: Doug Liman; Writers: Christopher McQuarrie (screenplay), Jez Butterworth (screenplay); Stars: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson; Genres: Science Fiction, Adventure, Action

I’ve had this on the HD-DVR for ages and I’m not sure why I’d skipped over it so many times. I should have known that Doug Liman wouldn’t disappoint.

Certainly an entertaining ride for a time-shifting movie in the vein of Groundhog Day (1993) for the time function while more similar to Inception (2010) for the action and drama.

Live. Die. Repeat. The Edge of Tomorrow

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📺 Charlie Rose: GOP Health Care Bill; March Madness

GOP Health Care Bill; March Madness - Charlie Rose (Charlie Rose, 03/15/2017)
Journalists Bret Stephens of the WSJ and Reihan Salam of The National Review on the growing divide within the GOP over health care. A preview of the NCAA's March Madness with NY Times columnist William Rhoden, Washington Post sportswriter John Feinstein, and Joe Nocera of Bloomberg View.

Taking a quick lunch break to exercise the mind a bit.

The discussion on politics here is very smart and sober and lays out a better path for what the Republican party and the executive branch should be doing right now to have a chance to keep their seats in the quickly approaching midterm elections.

I was leery about the NCAA March Madness conversation, but it actually managed to be the shining star of the episode–a difficult task given the strength of the first half!

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📺 The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, S22, E80 – March 13, 2017 | Comedy Central

The Daily Show, Season 22, Ep. 80 - March 13, 2017 by Trevor Noah (Comedy Central)
President Trump fails to provide evidence that Barack Obama wiretapped him, Hasan Minhaj and Roy Wood Jr. announce Third Month Mania, and Lee Daniels discusses "Star."

The treatment of the ubiquitous correspondent on Korea being interrupted by his children was great. The interview with Lee Daniels brought up some interesting paradoxes about race in America which aren’t commonly discussed.

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📺 The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, S22, E79 – March 9, 2017 | Comedy Central

The Daily Show, Season 22, Ep. 79 - March 9, 2017 by Trevor Noah (Comedy Central)
Trevor and Jordan Klepper sing to "forgotten" Americans, Team Trump threatens to erase climate data, and Alynda Segarra discusses Hurray for the Riff Raff's "The Navigator."

Poignant, but not as strong an episode as usual. I was thinking that Jordan was a horrible washboardist and was shocked that it came back as a topic in the interview. I hope Segarra’s album is awesome, in some sense to make up for my total disinterest in her interview. I sampled some of her music and Spotify and it’s just not my cup of tea.

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📺 The Daily Show with Trevor Noah – Season 22, Ep. 78 – March 8, 2017 – Tressie McMillan Cottom | Comedy Central

The Daily Show, Season 22, Ep. 78 - March 8, 2017 by Trevor Noah (Comedy Central)
The GOP unveils a disastrous replacement for Obamacare, Michelle Wolf details Ivanka Trump's problematic brand of feminism, and Tressie McMillan Cottom discusses "Lower Ed."

The Ivanka takedown was just brutal.

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