BBC One “Big Cats” series starts tomorrow

January 10, 2018 • 1:00 pm

For those lucky of you to live in the UK, you’ll be able to see BBC One’s “Big Cats” series (so far two parts are scheduled) starting tomorrow at 8 p.m. The Torygraph summary makes it sound pretty cool:

Filmed over two years in 14 countries, the crew from the BBC’s Natural History Unit managed to capture an unprecedented 33 out of the 40 species of the cat family: from man-eating swamp tigers in the mangroves of the Sundarbans in the Bay of Bengal to the ghostly Canadian Lynx.

Through using the expertise of scientists in the field, the crew secured numerous world exclusives including filming the Pallas’s cat (also called the Manul) for the first time in the wild – picture the flat-eared children’s character Bagpuss, and you are not far off.

A similarly rare image of the swamp tiger was captured after spending some 600 hours in a boat, cruising between the mangroves to look for paw prints in the mud.

. . .For Mike Gunton though, it is the smaller, lesser known cats that prove the objects of greatest fascination in the series. In particular, he cites the Pallas’s cat – which lives in the grasslands of Mongolia and hunts by freezing stock still and pretending to be a rock as it sneaks up on prey.

The crew also filmed another little known member of the feline family and the smallest – the rusty-spotted cat. Eventually, they managed to film a young male in a remote rainforest reserve in Sri Lanka.

“I had no idea that cat even existed and it is just so gorgeous,” Gunton says. “Even being the size of a guinea pig he still has that cat personality which marks every cat out.”

Here’s the rusty-spotted cat in a preview:

A cat the size of a guinea pig! Now you know you want to see that, and the whole show. Please report back here after you watch it.

h/t: Michael

Sarah Silverman jumps the rails

November 23, 2017 • 9:00 am

Sarah Silverman, every Jewish boy’s dream girl, has a new series premiering on Hulu, “I love you, America.” It started on October 12, and, according to the Guardian, is a kind of Clintonian “listening tour,” in which she meets and interacts with Americans of all stripes—including Trump supporters. (Silverman’s a diehard Democrat who initially supported Bernie Sanders before Clinton became the candidate). As the Guardian notes:

[Silverman] out to prove that patriotism transcends partisanship. The show, which premieres on 12 October, is being billed as a “social-politics sandwich”, stacked with the meaty perspectives of Americans across the ideological spectrum. As Silverman explained recently, it’s not quite sketch comedy, not quite standup, and not quite a talkshow.

The brief description, as well as the video below, doesn’t really get me excited:

Instead, it’s a kind of comic cross-country pilgrimage, reveling in awkward and often obstinate encounters between people who see eye-to-eye on practically nothing. In one episode, Silverman, who is Jewish, will dine with a family who have never met a Jew. In another, she’ll host Megan Phelps-Roper, a former member of the Westboro Baptist church. The comic’s inclination to engage with those who disagree with and even offend her materialized in the wake of Donald Trump’s election. As her sister, Susan, told the New York Times: “She was sobbing, beside herself, like her guts were coming out, but in that conversation, she said we have to start listening to each other and can’t go on like this in our own echo chambers.” Silverman, generally sarcastic and idiosyncratic, seems ennobled by the country’s intense polarization, too. “You’ve never changed someone’s mind by arguing,” she added.

The intent of the show sounds fine, but knowing Silverman she’ll turn it into a non-enlightening and not-so-funny comedy routine.  The show’s “anthem”, described and shown below, puts her a bit over the line in her approbation of identity politics (even though she says she decries them):

I Love You, America comes with an official hymn, too, released on Monday ahead of the show’s premiere. In it, Silverman’s sings the country’s praises and its pitfalls, offering something of a mission statement for her new project. “I love you America, from sea to shining sea, from the east coast to the west coast, and whatever’s in between,” she sings in top-to-bottom denim, parroting the “coastal elite” persona by which many entertainment figures are characterized.

After listing all the ethnicities and religions she loves, Silverman pauses for some introspection: “Wait a minute, what am I doing? I’m listing kinds of people. I’m categorizing human beings and putting them into little individual boxes. Whether I mean it or not, I’m part of the problem.”

Yes, Ms. Silverman checks her privilege, and does so below in a particularly cringworthy way:

Well, I didn’t find that very funny or intriguing, and I don’t watch Hulu anyway. I’m hoping the show is better than this prelude. If anybody’s watched the beginning of the series, weigh in below.

h/t: Heather

An article about Megyn Kelly to read

October 9, 2017 • 12:00 pm

As it’s such a nice day, I’m going to take a walk for an hour—retired people can do that—but I’ll return soon with an article on a giant ten-pound fossil frog that might have eaten theropod dinosaurs.

In the meantime, read the article below (click on screenshot), which is not written by a conservative but does make sense. A few excerpts:

It’s one of the bitterest ironies in television that it was at Fox News, network of blond bombshells and chronic sexual harassment, that Ms. Kelly was given the breathing room to become that most unusual of unicorns: an unlikable woman on television.

. . . With time, in fact, she assumed a style that had hitherto been the exclusive province of men: a charisma that comes from dispensing with the need to be liked. And in featuring her, Fox News was doing more to break female stereotypes than any of the more mainstream networks.

It’s true that Ms. Kelly developed her signature style while perfectly coifed, with obligatory blond streaks. And it’s true that she developed her brand of magnetic unlikability while outfitted in Fox’s ubiquitous jewel-toned dresses, her legs exposed beneath the obligatory glass table. But Megyn Kelly’s power came not from her beauty but from her sharp-wittedness, her familiarity with the issues, and her willingness to ask tough questions and demand answers — the same traits that were on full display in the infamous Republican debate when she took on Candidate Trump.

. . . Instead of unleashing her, NBC has attempted to transform Megyn Kelly into one of the nice girls of mainstream media, another Kelly Ripa, Savannah Guthrie or Katie Couric. The results have been predictably awkward. The glee at her stumble has been swift and vicious.

Why was Megyn Kelly’s transition into the mainstream accompanied by this kind of neutering? Why did Fox News have more room for this charismatic, difficult woman than NBC? It’s hard to say. Mainstream talk shows — morning shows in particular — have never had much of an appetite for difficult. And at a time when our country is so divided, it was always likely that a network like NBC would try to cast as broad a net as possible, meaning that politics would be off the table for someone like Ms. Kelly.

Whatever the reason, however, her descent into banal harmlessness operates as a cautionary tale to all women: You will have to be likable if you want to go mainstream.

Alas, ’tis true, ’tis true. I’ve watched snippets of Kelly on her new NBC show, and they’re cringe-worthy. I was never a big fan of Kelly, except at that Presidential debate when she went after Trump, but now, well, it’s embarrassing.

CNN cancels Reza Aslan’s t.v. documentary, “Believer”, but for bad reasons

June 10, 2017 • 10:30 am

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of Reza Aslan. I dislike his apologetics for and whitewashing of Islam, his osculation of all faiths and false claim that, at bottom, they’re all the same, and his flaunting of his  bogus credentials that he’s a “religious scholar.” His CNN show about religion, “Believer,” which I’ve written about before (here, here, and here), hasn’t been favorably reviewed (see the recent mixed review in the New Yorker as well as the last link), and the bits I’ve seen have been dire (I haven’t watched the whole series).

“Believer” was going to go into a second season after the first six episodes, but CNN announced a few days ago that the show would be canceled. My Schadenfreude, however, has been considerably tempered by the reasons for the cancellation: not because the show was bad—though I gather it was, and the parts I saw were abysmal—but because Aslan issued a series of nasty tw**ts about Trump. As CNN itself reported:

The network said Friday that it has “decided to not move forward with production” on Aslan’s “Believer” series.

Season one of “Believer” premiered in March. Season two was announced at an event for advertisers in mid-May. Aslan’s production company had already started working on the new episodes.

But the network decided to break off the production relationship after Aslan called President Trump a piece of excrement, using an expletive, last Saturday.

. . . Aslan has been a virulent critic of Trump for some time, but this particular tweet crossed a line in the minds of some media critics. Prominent conservatives weighed in and said they wanted Aslan to be fired.

Aslan posted the tweet in reaction to Trump’s promotion of a “travel ban” in the immediate aftermath of a terror attack in London.

“I lost my cool and responded to him in a derogatory fashion. That’s not like me,” Aslan said in a statement the next day. “I should have used better language to express my shock and frustration at the president’s lack of decorum and sympathy for the victims of London. I apologize for my choice of words.”

CNN responded in a statement: “We are pleased that he has apologized for his tweets. That kind of discourse is never appropriate.”

The network’s statement also pointed out that Aslan is not a CNN employee. Unwinding the contractual relationship with Aslan’s production company apparently took several days.

CNN’s Friday statement about the cancellation of “Believer” said, “We wish Reza and his production team all the best.”

Here are the tweets at issue. I believe at least some of them have been deleted, but I can’t check because Aslan has blocked me from seeing his Twitter feed. These I got from Google image:

 

Now I wouldn’t have issued those tweets were I doing a show for CNN, even though I agree with Aslan’s sentiments, but he has to maintain a certain level of decorum. Even if he wanted to criticize Trump publicly, I wouldn’t have used “piece of shit,” nor will I use it on my own tweets now. Here’s his apology:

And here’s his statement that appeared his Facebook page:

That’s reasonable, but the part about “I need to honor my voice” rankles a bit since “honoring his voice” means using scatological language. I can’t imagine a public figure such as Neil deGrasse Tyson issuing tweets like that.

However, I’m not sure why someone who’s doing a CNN show has to mute their political opinions. I suppose the threats from conservatives were distressing to the network, and I guess there are journalistic considerations at issue that I don’t fully understand. Still, this amounts to a kind of censorship. Why couldn’t CNN have asked Aslan to apologize, and then let him continue the show? It may be the case that because the show didn’t get good reviews, their reason for canceling it could have been twofold.

But CNN’s statement prevents me from celebrating the cancellation of a dreadful show—not if it was done for political reasons. I thus share the sentiments of Ali Rizvi expressed below:

And I’m sure that Aslan, as greedy for fame as he is, will find plenty of other venues where he can express his misguided views.

h/t: Barry

Ice cream sex from “Bill Nye Saves the World”

April 25, 2017 • 3:00 pm

No comment needed, except this may be from the same show that featured “My vagina has its own voice“. You can judge whether it’s appropriate for the show.

p.s. I don’t really understand what this is about; maybe I’m dim. But i’m pretty sure it doesn’t have much to do with science.

Planet Earth II comes to the USA

February 18, 2017 • 10:00 am

by Matthew Cobb

Readers may remember that in the autumn, we sang the praises of the BBC’s Planet Earth II series, narrated by David Attenborough. It is quite extraordinary. Tonight it comes to BBC America, so US readers will be able to watch it:

You can find the details here. Here’s what Variety magazine had to say:

And, as a taster, here’s one of the most famous scenes, from Episode 1 (I think – they seem to have changed the order) [JAC: I think I posted this snake vs. lizard video before, but it’s memerizing]

https://twitter.com/phil500/status/795704147706146816

HuffPo: Showing Muslim terrorists on t.v. dramas is “Islamophobic”

February 7, 2017 • 12:00 pm

PuffHo has a new editor to replace Arianna, but the beat goes on, and that clickbait cesspool is still doing what it does best: risible left-wing outrage. Here’s a headline from today’s entertainment section (click on screenshot if you must);

screen-shot-2017-02-07-at-11-27-53-am

24: Legacy” is a spinoff of the “24” television drama, in which each episode depicted 24 hours in the life of an antiterrorist agent (played by Kiefer Sutherland), with each season having 24 unified episodes. That first show ran for 8 seasons and was, I’m told, immensely popular. It’s now given rise to “24 Legacy,” which has aired only two episodes. Sadly, according to PuffHo, the first episode, which aired on Sunday after the S*perbowl, was “unacceptably Islamophobic” because it depicted an episode of Islamic terrorism. Never mind that its predecessor show depicted terrorism of all stripes, including Russians, Mexicans, Chinese, and Americans. Nope, the producers are now “Islamophobic” because they showed a Muslim terrorist right after the Superbowl (so lots of people watched it) and in the first episode!

PuffHo:

Millions of Americans watched the New England Patriots beat the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. Afterward, the next bit of programming they saw depicted an unidentified Middle Eastern man murdering a white American family in the name of someone called Sheik Bin-Khalid. The terrorist shoots the father in the head, and the camera pans to reveal the bloodied bodies of a mother and child as he exits the home to coordinate a devastating attack on American soil. This reductive depiction of Muslims wasn’t the only one in the episode, but it was certainly the most explicit. And it was first.

. . . That’s why it matters that the show’s producers chose to peddle the same fuzzy representations of Muslims we’ve come to associate with the franchise in the premiere of “24: Legacy,” which continues Monday night. Executive producer and showrunner Manny Coto addressed concerns by stating Sunday’s episode brought an intentionally “inflammatory” start to the series, hinting that future episodes will reveal new truths that complicate our perception of events.

“If we didn’t know the way the entire season went and how it came out the other side, we might be concerned,” Coto told The Hollywood Reporter. “But here’s the thing: The story of this season deliberately starts on an image that you might call jingoistic, expected and possibly inflammatory. We weren’t trying to be inflammatory, but it’s what the story itself called for.”

Yet for many Americans ― likely millions ― that violent first image will be part of the only episode they’ll see. However the show develops over the season is inconsequential. [JAC: PuffHo to Americans: “you’re morons with short attention spans”]

Social media users immediately took issue with the decision to center the terrorist plot around extremist Muslims, as both “24” Season 2 and 4 hinged on similar threats. Some rejected what they saw as an “old and tired” stereotype seen on FOX too often, while others said the show made for “Islamophobic” and even dangerous TV.

. . . Every presumably Muslim character in “24: Legacy” is either directly involved in terrorist acts or accused of being complicit in some way. Accepting a show where Muslims are American-killing terrorists as casual entertainment runs the risk of legitimizing the all-too-real discrimination Muslim people face in and outside U.S. borders. Now more than ever, vigilance is necessary when it comes to consuming media, regardless of intention. “24: Legacy” might have only just begun its season, but for many watching at home its clock has already run out.

And I guess PuffHo has appointed itself the Curator of Television Vigilance.

So here we see the self-censorship of the Regressive Left, which implicitly maintains that while it’s okay to show diverse kinds of terrorists, it’s a no-no to show a Muslim terrorist, because that’s Islamophobia. I guess it’s okay to show Mexican or Russian terrorists, though Mexicans are seen as “people of color”, but PuffHo is on its usual campaign to worship all things Muslim. (They particularly love fetishizing the hijab.)  That’s simply an overreaction to real Islamophobia: bigotry against Muslims, and also the kind of virtue signaling in which PuffHo specializes. The fact is that there is Islamic terrorism, and it’s happening worldwide. To leave out one particular group because it’s  seen as “Islamophobia” is ridiculous.

What’s next: the demonization of “Orange is the New Black” because it shows women as criminals, when we all know that they’re supposed to be victims?

Why do I dislike PuffHo so much? I suppose it’s because they’re supposed to be progressive, but they’re actually regressive. Stupidity from someone who’s supposed to be on our side sometimes rankles more than stupidity from the right wing—and Lord knows I call that out often enough. I suppose it’s a matter of intellectual honesty: it’s the reason why I sometimes prefer honest Biblical literalists like Ken Ham over mealymouthed metaphorizers and accommodationists who want to have their Jesus and their Darwin, too. Give me Fox News (which I don’t watch) over the Pecksniffian moralizing of PuffHo and its branding of certain television shows as “unacceptable.”

National Geographic’s “The Story of God”: back for another season

January 15, 2017 • 12:30 pm

As I’ve documented repeatedly, since Rupert Murdoch took over National Geographic, the magazine and its spinoffs have become increasingly oriented toward religion—and in a friendly way. Last summer Morgan Freeman hosted a National Geographic series called “The Story of God”; here are its six episodes. screen-shot-2017-01-14-at-4-51-40-pm

Now, according to PuffHo, there’s a second season in the offing, with the first episode airing tomorrow (there will be three). The website for the new season is here, and you can watch two clips here). PuffHo‘s blurb notes that—for crying out loud—it’s going to be about theology (my emphasis):

The first season aired in the spring of 2016 and became National Geographic’s most-watched series of all time. On Monday, Season 2 will premiere with Freeman exploring a fresh set of theological questions.

“We’re dealing with esoterica here, things that are more internal than external. So there are always going to be more questions,” Freeman told The Huffington Post on Wednesday. “It’s one of those situations where the more you delve into it the deeper it gets.” [JAC: sort of like a cesspool.]

The second season features just three episodes exploring three fundamental religious themes. The first episode explores the concept of the “chosen one” ― people who have been singled out throughout history for purportedly having direct access to the divine. Next, the show explores “heaven and hell,” with a look at how people’s beliefs about the afterlife influence their actions in this life. The final episode dives into the age-old question of whether there’s “proof of God,” and the subtle ways people of faith find look for it.

Do you think the last episode will also deal with the “age-old” issue of the evidence against gods, or the lack of evidence for anything divine? I’m betting against it.

Now I’m not going to watch this show, for I don’t have cable; and even if I did, I wouldn’t watch it anyway. But my prediction is that it will involve heavy osculation of the rump of faith.

Now why is Freeman doing this? What are his own beliefs? PuffHo, in an earlier article connected with the first season, first implied that he’s an atheist, but then backpedaled (my emphasis):

Morgan Freeman has played God on the big screen, but in real life he sees the Almighty as an invention of the human mind.

It might seem curious, then, for the 78-year-old actor to star in a National Geographic Channel show all about God and religion. But “The Story of God with Morgan Freeman,” which airs its season finale on Sunday, isn’t so much a celebration of God as it is an exploration of human beings’ unending search for the divine, Freeman says.

. . . “Life is more about what you believe than almost anything else. That’s why God still exists,” he said.

What he should have said is “that’s why the IDEA of God still exists,” but of course he’s walking a fine line here, trying to pretend that the human construction of God is itself evidence for God—something likely to be lost on the viewers.

People spend their lives searching for God, he continued, when true divinity may be in front of us all along. In Hebrew, Freeman recounted, the word for God is derived from the verb “to be,” making it translate roughly as “I am.” He used this example to explain his own beliefs on the subject.

“God is in all things — a sunset, a bloom, a rose,” he said. “The ultimate answer to the question of God’s existence is ‘God is.’”

Well, if you’re a pantheist, as Freeman seems to be in the last sentence, then you can say “God is” if you see God as a rose, a sunset, or even a pancake. But that’s cheating, for Freeman—and National Geographic—know full well that this series will be seen as a vindication of religious belief and of God’s existence. That, of course, explains why it’s been so popular. It also explains the popularity of books like Proof of Heaven and Heaven is for Real. 

What a great shame that National Geographic, which used to educate people about the real world we live in, is now trying to deceive people about a numinous world that doesn’t exist.

Reza Aslan produces a t.v. series osculating Islam

January 7, 2017 • 12:00 pm

The unctuous Reza Aslan, who is making a fine living whitewashing Islam while lying about his credentials and the nature of his faith (see at 2:10 in the video below), has made a video promoting a new television series of which he’s co-producer, “The Secret Life of Muslims”. The show was announced on the Vox Facebook Page like this:

screen-shot-2017-01-07-at-10-47-54-am

Of course the problem with a Muslim “Will and Grace” is obvious: Will was gay, and that’s not gonna fly with many Muslims.

The show also has a website and a Facebook page (the advisors include Dave Eggers). The series, which apparently will also feature Aslan as a character, is described like this:

Fifteen years after 9/11, American Muslims still face an uphill battle in the national imagination. The current political climate spurred on by constant fear mongering during this election cycle, as well as the saturation of negative stereotypes that flood the news and media continue to make Muslims the target of suspicion and hostility.

Building on its work in The Secret Life of Scientists, Seftel Productions’ new series, The Secret Life of Muslims, uses humor and empathy to subvert stereotypes and reveal the truth about American Muslims: fascinating careers, unexpected talents, and inspiring accomplishments, providing a counter-narrative to the rampant Islamophobia prevalent in the media.

It features Ahmed Ahmed, Khalid Latif, Rais Bhuiyan, Linda Sarsour, Layla Shaikley, Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, Dena Takruri, Reza Aslan, Ibtihaj Muhammad, Mona Haydar and Sebastian Robins, Wajahat Ali, Aman Ali, Zahra Noorbakhsh, Maz Jobrani, Omar Regan, Iqbal Theba, and Negin Farsad.

Apparently the “truth” is that Muslims—and by extension Islam—are TOTALLY GOOD. As for the “rampant Islamophobia prevalent in the media,” that depends both on the media you’re reading (most respectable venues do not preach hatred of Muslims) and your definition of “Islamophobia.”

Well, fine: we’re all against anti-Muslim bigotry. But I’m not against anti-Islamic criticism, and I’ll be very curious to see whether there is any mention of women’s inferiority, compelled veiling, or the odious tenets that many Muslims hold, even in America. And by the way, since the rate of anti-Semitic hate crimes is higher per capita than anti-Muslim hate crimes, can we also have a show called “The Secret Life of Jews”?

The BBC’s comedy clip: “Real Housewives of ISIS”

January 5, 2017 • 10:04 am

The media has been criticized for going easy on Muslims, and even ISIS, but at least the BBC has a sense of humor about them. As The Independent and Metro report, on Tuesday the BBC 2 screened the clip below as part of the comedy show “Revolting”.

But the clip has caused outrage among many people who say it is insensitive, with more than 33,000 comments left under the trailer debating whether or not it goes too far.

‘Making fun of vulnerable girls who’ve been groomed and are being raped by terrorists,’ one woman wrote. ‘To everyone finding this funny, you’re sick in the head.’

Judge for yourself, and remember it’s just a self-contained clip, not a real show. Also, since many Muslims criticize or “disown” ISIS, you’d think they wouldn’t be so hard on this kind of satire.

While I’m surprised this appeared on the BBC, I have no problem with it; in fact, I think it’s funny, and good in that it makes a mockery of ISIS. Yes, there’s implied violence, but there was real violence, including a mass suicide and a crucifixion, in Monty Python’s “Life of Brian”.  Comedy is supposed to push the envelope, and mocking ISIS fills that bill nicely. In fact, here’s an ISIS-themed commercial, with Dakota Johnson that did the same thing, parodying a Toyota commercial. That, too, sparked outrage when it appeared on NBC’s show “Saturday Night Live.”

Here are a few of the comments reproduced by Metro:

screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-7-02-36-am

Do you find this offensive? Even if you do, do you still think it’s funny?

 

h/t: Coel