📺 Charlie Rose May 19, 2017

Charlie Rose: Trump's first foreign trip; John Carlin, Remembering Roger Ailes, Adam Lindemann by Charlie Rose (PBS)
Ian Bremmer, the president of the Eurasia Group, and Michael Hanna, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, on Donald Trump's first foreign trip of his presidency. A discussion of Robert Mueller's special counsel appointment with John Carlin, the former assistant Attorney General for national security and Chief of Staff to Robert Mueller. Gabe Sherman and Jim Rutenberg reflect on the legacy of the late media titan Roger Ailes, known for launching Fox News in 1996. Adam Lindemann, an art collector and gallery owner who held the previous auction record for a Jean Michel Basquiat painting with his sale of Untitled (Devil) for $57.3 million last year.

I haven’t been following the deeper analysis of Trump’s Middle East trip, but Ian Bremmer’s pre-analysis here which I’ll synopsize as Trump is taking a cheese-puff trip to areas where he’s likely to be loved, adored, and appreciated (surprise!!) and which the US won’t really benefit from in the coming decades seems sadly correct. I suppose it’s better for him to focus on his vanity rather than destroying value.

I could have appreciated another 20 minutes on Ailes and analysis on his ongoing influence, but then again, it’s just as well to relegate him to the dustbin of history.

📺 PBS NewsHour full episode May 22, 2017

NewsHour May 22, 2017 (PBS)
Monday on the NewsHour, President Trump visits Israel, insisting that peace in the Middle East requires resolving the long-standing conflict with the Palestinians. Also: What's on Trump's budget chopping block, how Medicaid cuts would affect special ed, a political storm at home while the president is overseas, Tunisians revive a treasured city center and finding a sweet way to make a difference.

📺 Dialysis: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Dialysis by John Oliver (HBO/YouTube)
For-profit dialysis companies often maximize their profits at the expense of their patients. John Oliver explores why a medical clinic is nothing like a Taco Bell.

The lack of humanity showed by these corporations is simply horrific. Certainly a market failure which is causing some painful externalities. We need something more significant to fix the inequities that are happening here.

Also, what a terrifically hilarious episode!

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📺 Watched Madame Secretary, S3 E22: Revelation

Revelation, S3 E22 (Madam Secretary (CBS))
During the G20 conference, Elizabeth worries about Henry who was sent to Israel to intercept the VFF's bio-weapon. Blake reveals a secret to former colleagues. Elizabeth goes behind Stevie's back to get her off the Harvard Law waiting list.

Madam Secretary S3 E22Blake’s reveal that he’s bisexual was a nice bit of cultural touchstone to put into the episode.

The wrap up of the ongoing secondary story arc with the religious nuts and the biological weapon was done too quickly and too neatly given how much of the season had been dedicated to it thus far.

Hard to believe the next episode is the season ender already.

📺 Watched Madame Secretary, S3 E21: The Seventh Floor

The Seventh Floor, S3 E21 (Madame Secretary (CBS))
The Secretary and her team must help save an American journalist held hostage in Sudan.

Madam SecretaryThe opening seemed like it was going to be an out of the ordinary episode that followed a day in the life of one of the secondary characters (Blake), but left off after the first few minutes. I almost wished it had followed on the way it started to provide some variety in this type of show. I remember there were West Wing episodes that did this, but I suppose that was a much more balanced ensemble while this series is a bit more lopsided in its character involvement.

The reveal of Daisy’s pregnancy and peoples’ reactions was relatively interesting.

There was a short, but nice turn in this by Skipp Sudduth who I haven’t been seeing as much as I feel I ought to lately.

📺 Watched Broadchurch (2015) Season 2 Episodes 5-8

Broadchurch (Season 2, episodes 5-8) (ITV/BBC America)
Joe Miller's trial continues as Miller and Hardy try to close the Sandbrook case.

Things continue to amp up in a can’t-stop-watching-this fashion. I’d have continued on last night and finished it off, but it would have taken half the night and ruined my day, so I stopped after episode 4 and showed a bit of restraint.

Broadchurch

I will say that the unravelling of the Sandbrook case was a bit too quick and convenient for what could have played out through the episodes and an investigation. Instead we’ve seen small snippets of the past throughout the eight episodes before the murder plays out in about 10 minutes of recap at the end. I won’t say it wasn’t entertaining and very satisfying, just that it could have been done with less of a narrative “cheat.”

Otherwise, I’d say that Season 2 was even better than Season 1. Friends in the UK who’ve already seen Season 3 is well worth the wait–I’m just not sure that I can.

Now to spoof my IP address to see if I can get season 3 on ITV in Britain since I know it aired beginning at the end of February… If it follows prior release schedules, it may not be on BBC America until late 2017 and definitely wouldn’t be on Netflix until December this year, if we’re lucky.

I watched this on the 40″ Samsung in high def with Netflix routed through my Google Chromecast.

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📺 Watched Broadchurch (2015) Season 2 Episodes 1-4

Broadchurch (Season 2, episodes 1-4) (ITV/BBC America)
When Joe Miller pleads not guilty, the town of Broadchurch have to prepare for a full trial. Meanwhile, a woman called Claire, from the Sandbrook case, relies on Alec for protection. Creator: Chris Chibnall; Starring: David Tennant, Olivia Colman, Andrew Buchan

Holy crap! This managed to get even better than the first season! I say this because I had terrifically low expectations when I’d accidentally seen that the entire cast was coming back for the second and third seasons. I had wondered to myself how all these diverse players with only one or two mildly significant “leads” were going to manage to figure into a new storyline. Well they pulled it off in incredible style.

The cinematography and directing has gotten much more solid in the beginning of season 2. Subtle things like Miller rushing to get to court on time in combination with the music really helps to pull the viewer in while also mounting a significant amount of tension where one might not otherwise dramatically exist without it’s creation the way they’ve produced one of the opening scenes.

Broadchurch

I won’t go into much more detail for fear of ruining things for others, but kudos on the cast and crew for a heck of an opening half of season two. I have to say I’m a bit depressed that I still don’t known when season 3 will be available in the states. I may have to spoof my IP address to see if I can get it on ITV in Britain.

I watched this on the 40″ Samsung in high def with Netflix routed through my Google Chromecast.

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📺 Net Neutrality II: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)

Net Neutrality II by John Oliver (Last Week Tonight (HBO))
Equal access to online information is once again under serious threat. John Oliver encourages internet commenters to voice their displeasure to the FCC by visiting www.gofccyourself.com and clicking "express" to file your comment.

tl;dr: Net neutrality is important and we need to support and protect it.

and the update:

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📺 Watched Broadchurch (2013) Season 1 Episodes 1-8

Broadchurch (Season 1) (ITV/BBC America)
A seemingly calm and friendly seaside town becomes a town wrapped in secrets when the death of an eleven year old boy sparks an unwanted media frenzy. As the town's locals start to open up about what they do and don't know, it falls upon the police to catch the supposed killer. Creator: Chris Chibnall Starring: David Tennant, Olivia Colman, Andrew Buchan

I’m not sure exactly how I came across this, but I’ve just binged watched the first season (2013) of this great series. The second season from 2015 is also on Netflix already, and I’m thrilled to see that there’s already a season three from 2017 which hopefully will be available soon too.

In the same vein as the series Shetland, which I loved, this is a brooding small town, sea-side police drama. I suspect that many who appreciated Shetland as much as I did will love this. Those who haven’t seen either are recommended to do so if they’re drama/crime/mystery fans.

Broadchurch

While generally good, the cinematography here wasn’t as solid as it was in Shetland, but it certainly goes a long way toward creating the real character of the series. This particular season was much more like the last season of Shetland in that it’s an extended episode focusing on one case while many of the early episodes of Shetland were one or two-parters rather than an eight episode arc. The other big differentiator was that Shetland has a stronger focus on character amidst the case while this one is a tad weaker.

The casting was very solid and varied. Fans of the Harry Potter films will recognize several members of the cast passing through including lead David Tennant, who is probably best known by sci-fi fans from his decade long turn in Dr. Who. The acting was generally good, though there were a few missteps that could have been better. One small flaw revealed the ending to me in one of the middle episodes. It seemed a bit off to me that Tennant’s hair was an affected brassy color rather than a more darker natural color–it was definitely a choice.

The plot was pretty solid overall despite one or two pieces which were a bit too convenient (and far too coincidental), particularly in retrospective. The Jack Marshall story line outcome was painfully under-motivated and didn’t play as realistic to me, but the rest was well done including the gut punch ending in the final episode of season one. Given the complexity and nuance of as many characters interacting in such a small town, the overall arc is incredibly well done.

I can’t wait to power through the next season, and hope the third is available soon. Knowing the casting stays much the same, I’m really curious how the next two seasons are plotted.

I watched this on the 40″ Samsung in high def with Netflix routed through my Google Chromecast.

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🎞 Captain America: Civil War (Paramount, 2016)

Captain America: Civil War (Paramount Pictures)
Political interference in the Avengers' activities causes a rift between former allies Captain America and Iron Man. Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo; Writers: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely; Stars: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson

Action, action, and more action. Fun entertainment for two and a half hours.

Watched in two chunks on Netflix.

Captain America: Civil War

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📺 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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