Friday Funny

Number 189 of a series

So I’m binging a re-run TV series on Hulu. It’s Shark, featuring James Woods as a nearly ethical Los Angeles County prosecutor. In one episode his team is investigating the possibility a lecherous doctor has murdered one of his patients. So the team’s investigator (Henry Simmons) enters with a stack of paperwork he has pulled on the good doctor. He announces:

This guy’s got more holding companies than Donald Trump.

More holding companies than Donald Trump? Now that is funny.

The 6th Of June

Continuing from the 5th of June

The invasion of Normandy in 1944 was originally scheduled for 5 June. However, bad weather forced a one-day postponement. The HBO series Band of Brothers is based on the book by Stephen Ambrose. The series begins on 4 June 1944, and we see American troops of the 506th PIR, 101st Airborne Division, preparing to board their planes for the jump into France. Here is one getting a Mohawk haircut. They are scared but definitely in a fighting spirit.

One plays with his combat knife, twirling it about. He figures when he needs to use it some valuable instincts will kick in.

But Easy Company Commander First Lieutenant Thomas Meehan calls the men together and tells them to stand down for 24 hours.

The plot flashes back to 1942, when Easy Company forms up in basic training. One of the men from Easy Company, interviewed for the series, explains that bunches of people were signing up for military duty following our entry into the war, and nobody wanted any part of the Airborne when it was explained they would have to jump out of airplanes. But then it was explained there was $50 per month extra, and people clamored to get in. It has been explained the intense training was also a draw. People knew they were going into deadly combat and everybody wanted to know the person fighting beside him was trained and highly motivated.

But first they had to get past Lieutenant Sobel. The word martinet was coined for Sobel. Airborne troops needed tougher training and stricter standards, but we see Sobel applying discipline and retribution unnecessarily. He is shown as petty and vengeful. The men come to despise him.

He tricks his men into thinking they will have a day off, and he orders up a sumptuous meal. Halfway through the meal he orders the company to run the Currahee course, three miles up Currahee Hill and three miles back. A smudge on a gun sight costs a soldier his weekend pass. In fact, passes are canceled for entire company.

The men come out of training hating Sobel, but hardened. They make the required five jumps in one day and pin on their Airborne badges.

During field exercises Sobel’s lack of leadership ability shines through. He ignores the advice of cooler heads, such as Lieutenant Richard Winters, and orders his men forward, out of a concealed position. They are immediately confronted by “enemy” troops in ambush.

Then it’s to New York, where the men board a troop ship at the Brooklyn Navy Yards. At sea the men continue to discuss Sobel, and one observes Sobel is a Jew. Private Liebgott objects, noting that he is himself a Jew. The men of Easy Company are going to need to learn to get along.

In England intense combat training commences. The men are learning to kill.

Sobel, now a captain, continues to fail as a leader. Here the squad he is leading encounters a fence that is not supposed to be there. He is one grid square off his position. One of his men plays a cruel joke and shouts from concealment, imitating the voice of a commanding major. He orders Sobel to cut the fence, which Sobel does.

Winters’ squad reaches the the problem objective first, a T intersection in a road. Sobel’s squad comes trotting up late.

Sobel is reprimanded for cutting the fence. He is also informed the supposed major was in London at the time. His response is to take it out on Lieutenant Winters. He issues a change in schedule for a meeting, which change Winters does not receive. Then he prepares to discipline Winters for disobeying the order. Winters can lose a 48-hour pass in lieu of a court martial. Winters calls his bluff and prepares to confront Sobel in a military courtroom.

Non-commissioned officers in Easy Company rebel at this treatment, and they resign their ranks. It is an action that can earn them a firing squad. The 506th commanding officer, Colonel Sink, disciplines the rebels and expels one from the regiment.

But justice comes down like a hammer. Sink calls Sobel in and tells him he is being assigned to a jump training school.

Lieutenant Meehan assumes command of Easy Company, and jump training in England resumes. Winters returns from an exercise and brings Meehan into his confidence. He took a compass along in the previous exercise, and together the two plot the course of the flight. They figure the target, just a few days off, will be Normandy.

Sergeant Guarnere’s brother has been killed in fighting in Italy, and he learns about it on the night of 4 June. He develops an intense hatred for the enemy soldiers, a hatred that will spell out on invasion night.

It is the 5th of June, and in the fading light Lieutenant Winters helps each of his men in turn to their feet as they board the transport plane.

The sun sets late in England in June, and it is still daylight as the planes climb toward France.

Episode two of the series tells the story of the night parachute drop and the 6th of June. It begins with an interview with Richard Winters.

In the fading light the planes cross the Channel and into clouds over the target area. The men will jump just past midnight. Men who have never seen a shot fired in anger begin to witness shellfire coming up into the clouds.

Planes are hit and men die. Lieutenant Meehan’s plane is seen crashing into a hedgerow. There were no survivors.

We see Winters’ plane also hit, and the pilot switches on the green jump light to get the men out.

THEY JUMPED MUCH TOO LOW from planes that were flying much too fast. They were carrying far too much equipment and using an untested technique that turned out to be a major mistake. As they left the plane, the leg bags tore loose and hurtled to the ground, in nearly every case never to be seen again. Simultaneously, the prop blast tossed them this way and that. With all the extra weight and all the extra speed, when the chutes opened, the shock was more than they had ever experienced. Jumping at 500 feet, and even less, they hit the ground within seconds of the opening of the chute, so they hit hard. The men were black and blue for a week or more afterward as a result.

In a diary entry written a few days later, Lieutenant Winters tried to re-create his thoughts in those few seconds he was in the air: “We’re doing 150 MPH. O.K., let’s go. G-D, there goes my leg pack and every bit of equipment I have. Watch it, boy! Watch it! J-C, they’re trying to pick me up with those machine-guns. Slip, slip, try and keep close to that leg pack. There it lands beside the hedge. G-D that machine-gun. There’s a road, trees— hope I don’t [hit] them. Thump, well that wasn’t too bad, now let’s get out of this chute.”

Ambrose, Stephen E.. Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest (pp. 95-96). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

The first person Winters encounters on the ground is someone from another company.

Winters had come down on the edge of Ste. Mère-Eglise. He could see the big fire near the church, hear the church bell calling out the citizens to fight the fire. He could not find his leg bag. The only weapon he had was his bayonet, stuck into his boot. His first thought was to get away from the machine-gun and small arms fire in the church square. Just as he started off, a trooper landed close by. Winters helped him out of his chute, got a grenade from him, and said, “Let’s go back and find my leg bag.” The trooper hesitated. “Follow me,” Winters ordered and started off. A machine-gun opened up on them. “To hell with the bag,” Winters said. He set out to the north to bypass Ste. Mère-Eglise before turning east to the coast. In a few minutes, he saw some figures and used his cricket. He got a reassuring double click-clack from Sergeant Lipton.

Ambrose, Stephen E.. Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest (p. 103). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Slowly the men of Easy Company come together. In the darkness they hear German soldiers approaching in a column with four horse-drawn wagons. Winters orders an ambush. But Guarnere, consumed by hatred, does not wait for the order to open fire. He rips into the unsuspecting Germans with his Thompson machine gun, and there is a melee of gunfire. No American troops are lost, but the attack takes a grim toll on the Germans.

“Good,” Winters answered. “I know where that is. I can take it from here.” He set out at the head of the group, objective Ste. Marie-du-Mont. They joined a bunch from the 502d. About 0300 hours they spotted a German patrol, four wagons coming down the road. They set up an ambush, and there Guarnere got his first revenge for his brother, as he blasted the lead wagons. The other two got away, but E Company took a few prisoners.

A German machine-gun opened fire on the group. When it did, the prisoners tried to jump the Americans. Guarnere shot them with his pistol. “No remorse,” he said when describing the incident forty-seven years later. “No pity. It was as easy as stepping on a bug.” After a pause, he added, “We are different people now than we were then.”

Ambrose, Stephen E.. Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest (pp. 104-105). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

The 6th of June was like any other day. Eventually the dawn breaks, and we see the men of Easy Company scouting about, dodging Germans, and looking to hook up.

The grim side of war comes to them, as they encounter the first dead American soldiers. There is no hesitating. They loot the bodies of weapons and ammunition, leaving the rest for graves registration.

We hear what sounds like freight trains passing overhead. These are shells from ships in the Channel. The beach invasion has started.

German soldiers are taken prisoner. One is from Eugene, Oregon. Don Malarkey is thunderstruck. He is from Astoria, about 100 miles away. How did a boy from Eugene wind up in the Wehrmacht? His family moved back to Germany, and he joined up in 1941.

Later we see Lieutenant Speirs walking back to where the prisoners were being held, and we hear machine gun fire. This is not something that is in the book.

With Meehan presumed dead, Winters takes over Easy company. We hear the sounds of heavy guns nearby. Just 200 yards away a German gun emplacement is pounding American troops on Utah Beach. Winters is to take a contingent and neutralize the guns.

It is an intense battle, and the first thing viewers are going to wonder is what was going on. Sixty Germans are manning a gun emplacement, gunners plus solders to mount guard. And nobody is sending out scouts to see if a company of American paratroopers is just beyond the trees? Anyhow, Winters positions his men, and they prepare to give the Germans a nasty surprise.

It is several intense minutes of close-quarter fighting. Americans are firing from behind bushes and from perches in trees, and machine gun fire from the Germans is stripping bark and twigs off the trees and kicking up dirt around the attackers. Winters draws first blood.

Winters placed his machine-guns (manned by Pvts. John Plesha and Walter Hendrix on one gun, Cleveland Petty and Joe Liebgott on the other) along the hedge leading up to the objective, with instructions to lay down covering fire. As Winters crawled forward to the jump-off position, he spotted a German helmet— the man was moving down the trench, crouched over, with only his head above ground. Winters took aim with his M-1 and squeezed off two shots, killing the Jerry.

Ambrose, Stephen E.. Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest (p. 109). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Here the training paid off. “We fought as a team without standout stars,” Lipton said. “We were like a machine. We didn’t have anyone who leaped up and charged a machine-gun. We knocked it out or made it withdraw by maneuver and teamwork or mortar fire. We were smart; there weren’t many flashy heroics. We had learned that heroics was the way to get killed without getting the job done, and getting the job done was more important.”

Ambrose, Stephen E.. Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest (p. 110). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

But we see Malarkey in search of a Luger pistol. With bullets flying all over the place he dashes into open where a German soldier lies dead. No Luger. He makes it back to safety with bullets kicking up dirt around him.

It was here Winters lost his first man:

Pvt. John D. Hall of A Company joined the group. Winters ordered a charge on the third gun. Hall led the way, and got killed, but the gun was taken. Winters had three of his men secure it. With eleven men, he now controlled three 105s.

Ambrose, Stephen E.. Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest (p. 115). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

We see one of the unfathomable events that happen in combat. In the middle of the raging gunfight a luckless Andrew Hill stopped to ask directions.

Warrant Officer Andrew Hill, from regimental HQ, came up behind Lipton. “Where’s regimental HQ?” he shouted. “Back that way,” Lipton said, pointing to the rear. Hill raised his head to look. A bullet hit him in the forehead and came out behind his ear, killing him instantly.

Ambrose, Stephen E.. Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest (pp. 113-114). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

The 6th of June was like any other day. The sun came up, and the sun went down. The planet continued to spin on its axis oblivious of human foibles. That evening Lieutenant Winters gathered with some of his men in the back of a truck.

Utah Beach, unlike Omaha Beach, had seen few American casualties, less than 200. Shortly tanks, Jeeps, and trucks were rolling through. The fighting had just begun.

The series has ten episodes. Here are links to previous reviews:

Stupidity on Stilts

Number 7 of a continuing series

Readers know I make a big effort at showing up the stupid in the world, but you need to understand there are people who do this far better than I ever could. It has been famously noted that “a belly laugh is worth a thousand syllogisms,” and who is better at calling up a good laugh that a comedian. Cue that video clip from John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight.”

It’s about “psychics,” and I put the word in quotes, because they would be psychics if they could do what the claim to do, except that none of them can, so they aren’t really psychics. Hence the quotes. Anyhow the show posted on YouTube today begins with would-be medical professional Dr. Oz on TV with a gaggle of psychics. But that quickly turns to a serious look at some of those people. Here is a woman interviewing a psychic, and she’s holding up a photograph.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhMGcp9xIhY

She says, talking to the psychic, “This is a girl who you said was beaten and killed.” Then she goes for the jugular. “This little girl is me.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhMGcp9xIhY

The response is, “Wait a minute. You didn’t die?”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhMGcp9xIhY

[Sounds of much laughter.]

Putting down the photograph: “I’m right here.”

Yes, the little girl the psychic claimed had been beaten and killed had experience nowhere that kind of end. This ought to be funny, but it’s really sad. Not sad that somebody is stupid enough to make such an outrageously wrong pronouncement, but sad that there is a crowd of people walking among the rest of us who take this stuff seriously. This is stupidity on stilts.

Watch the show on YouTube. The comedian goes through 21 minutes turning the world of phony psychics [redundancy alert] inside out.

The Omen

We should have picked up on the signals back when horns were blaring and red lights were flashing.

NYPD Blue, a series that ran on TV from 1992 to 2005, is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, and I am following episodes from start to finish. It’s now season 2, and we see Detectives Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) and Greg Medavoy (Gordon Clapp) dealing with a character they ran into, literally, in the street. They are in their car when they get clipped seriously by another in traffic. While everybody is out inspecting the damage, the two cops hear thumping, and they force the driver to open the trunk. There’s a woman inside wanting out. He says the guy grabbed her off the street and forced her into the trunk. Then he drove around for two hours, making some stops, before running into the cops. The guy is a real nut case. Further inspection of his car reveals homemade bombs. They take him in.

There’s more. The driver is a whacked out Romanian immigrant, who babbles about conspiracies and the need to take down the rich and evil. When the two cops go by to check out the man’s apartment they find a load of anti capitalist literature, and behind a panel in the wall they find a stash of more bombs. They figure to call the bomb squad and get back a few hundred yards. As the two exit the apartment post hast they go by a poster plastered on the wall by the door. See the image at the top.

This is from season 2, episode 15, which should have been running about 1995. We were warned that early. Did we pay attention? Not I. About that time I was working on a project to track enemy communications signals. At the time we thoughtthe enemy might be the Russians. Little did we suspect.

Bad Joke of the Week

One of a continuing series

The original Hollywood Squares debuted in 1966 and featured a panel of stars in a larger-than-life tic-tac-toe game. Rose Marie was one of the longest comedians on the show and appeared in the first and last network episodes.

Rose Marie, like most of the panelists, adopted her own unique schtick when answering questions. She played a love-lorn personality similar to her husband-hunting character Sally Rogers from The Dick Van Dyke Show.

While some of the panelists received behind-the-scenes help, Rose Marie wasn’t given the show’s questions in advance so her punchlines were made up on the spot. Here are some laugh-worthy zingers that Rose Marie delivered.

Question: According to Dear Abby, is there a law that can force a man to marry a woman?

Rose Marie: Yes, and I think it’s called a mother-in-law.

Question: Which is the most valuable gem now on the market?
Rose Marie: Men.

Question: Does your face look more wrinkled when you get up in the morning or go to bed at night?
Rose Marie: I imagine it’d be more wrinkled at night. It’s been out longer.

Question: According to beauty experts, put some egg white on your face, leave it on for two minutes, and then rinse with cool water. If you’ve been successful, what’s gone?
Rose Marie: The egg white.

Question: Can a mink coat be considered a necessity in real life?

Rose Marie: Yeah, I think it is to another mink.

Question: According to Billy Graham, there is only thing that can satisfy your deepest longings?
Rose Marie: Do you want names?

Question: Can intense pleasure bring on a heart attack?
Rose Marie: How would I know?

Question: What is “John Brown’s Body?”
Rose Marie: I found it to be very warm and wonderful.

Question: According to a nationwide poll, whom do more Americans say they trust more – garbage collectors or doctors?

Rose Marie: How can you put those two together? I guess because they both remove things.

Question: The great sphinx of Egypt has a human’s head and who’s body?
Rose Marie: Milton Berle’s.

Question: True or False. It is now possible to hire a wife for 500 dollars a month.
Rose Marie: I’ll take 450 and bus fare.

Question: What is the scientific term for the study of man?
Rose Marie: Cruising the boulevard.

Question: According to the National Safety Council, if your clothes catch on fire, will running help?

Rose Marie: No, but it’s great for the legs.

Question: Ann Landers advises that when someone phones you and says “I called you last night, and you weren’t home. Where were you,” you should reply by saying what?
Rose Marie: Peter [Marshall], if you called I was home.

Question: According to Vogue, what flower has traditionally represented innocence and purity?
Rose Marie: Well, it’s not the rose.
Peter Marshall: Not the Rose we know anyway.

Question: A famous television personality has written a novel titled Everything a Man Could Want. Who wrote it?
Rose Marie: I did. It’s my autobiography. And it’s not selling, Peter.

Question: How far does a horse run in a Kentucky Derby?
Rose Marie: As long as he can go.

Question: As you grow older, do you tend to gesture more or less with your hands while you are talking?
Rose Marie: You ask me one more growing older question, Peter, and I’ll give you a gesture you’ll never forget!

Question: In bowling, what’s a perfect score?
Rose Marie: Ralph, the pin boy.

Question: During a tornado, are you safer in the bedroom or in the closet?

Rose Marie: Unfortunately, Peter, I’m always safe in the bedroom.

Question: The Bible states that “your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see…” what?
Rose Marie: See me after the show.

Question: Dear Abby says that there is only one reason people lie. What reason is that?
Rose Marie: They want to get re-elected.

The Math Solution

I watched this the first couple of seasons when it came out in 2005, before I became averse to TV drama shows. I’m reviewing this episode because of something in the plot that piqued my interest. It’s NUMB3RS, by Nicolas Falacci and Cheryl Heuton, and it’s about math genius Charlie Eppes (David Krumholtz) and his brother Don (Rob Morrow), who is an FBI agent working in Los Angeles. Charlie, who is a math prof, helps his brother solve crimes by the application of arcane math principles. This is about the second episode of season one.

The plot revolves around tracking a bank robbery gang, and the opening shots show some statistics. Here, 16 banks were robbed, two robbers, average take is $2700, and no weapons employed. These two are called the Charm School Gang, because they are so polite. They even open the door for other customers when entering the bank, and they smile throughout the operation.

NUMB3RS-01

Charlie has applied some statistical analyses and has determined an underlying pattern to the sequence of crimes. He has predicted the robbers will strike on a particular day at one of two banks in L.A. The title sequence overlays security video shots from the robberies with math symbols.

NUMB3RS-02

The FBI is waiting on the appropriate day, and the robbers strike one of the two banks. Agents rush in to make the arrest, but there is a dramatic turn. Unknown before, the robbers have always had a backup of four well armed henchmen, who never made an appearance before, because they never needed to. In a hail of gunfire an agent is killed, along with one of the bandits. The others make their escape.

NUMB3RS-03

The failure of the FBI operation and the death of the agent sends Charlie into a deep funk, and he takes himself off the case, immersing himself at his home in the solution of one of the so-called NP-complete math problems. It’s a class of problems still defying resolution.

NUMB3RS-04

The crooks pull off another robbery, this time killing a bank manager. Charlie’s friend on campus, physics professor Larry Fleinhardt (Peter MacNicol) reminds Charlie of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. It applies to sub atomic particles (and even to atomic particles), and it makes us aware that measurement, observation, of an entity requires some interaction with it, thus affecting the thing being observed. This is critically true of sub atomic particles, but Charlie is reminded that macro objects, such as bank robbers, are also affected when they are observed, particularly when they are made aware they have been observed, such as the FBI presence at the previous robbery.

And Charlie has more. This is a world-class operation, armed to the hilt, military coordination, with six skilled operators involved. For an average of $2700 a whack? Something is wrong. Charlie figures out with it is. They are not robbing banks. They are using the robberies as a cover for another crime. The crooks are stealing bank transaction data. While everybody else is preoccupied with the heist, somebody is slipping over to one of their computer terminals.

The robbers are after bigger stakes. They are tracking the schedule for the delivery for destruction of millions of dollars in unfit currency by the Federal Reserve Bank. They are going to hold up the cash transfer.

Don and the FBI team prepare to intercept the heist. Charlie is there. He reminds Don of the Heisenberg Uncertainty. The gang is likely aware the feds are on to the scheme. Don tells Charlie to not worry. They are well prepared for the Heisenberg Principle.

NUMB3RS-05

Sure enough. The bandits intercept the shipment. Sure enough, they get the drop on the FBI agents.

NUMB3RS-06

But Don and the other agents are one step ahead. They know the bandits know, and they have anticipated the getaway plan, killing one of the bandits and capturing the others. Here Don says hello to the ring leader as he attempts, unsuccessfully, to start the getaway car.

NUMB3RS-07

And here is my Skeptical Analysis—it’s something I picked up on in my working life. Since I never had a real career, just a succession of jobs, I ended up working with a wide range of technologies. My first patent involved the Federal Reserve Bank. They wanted a machine that would automatically put a strap around a bundle of 100 bills. In the course of this project, I visited the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas and got a look at their operation. And I saw what they do with unfit currency. They do not, as the TV plot would have it, take bundles of currency to a secret location for destruction. They destroy it right on the spot.

In the basement of the Dallas branch were hand carts loaded with tremendous stacks of currency. Particularly, there were some carts loaded with unfit currency. You could tell. Each bundle of 100 had been drilled through, leaving two 1/2-inch diameter holes in each bill. These bills were worthless. Further destruction of the bills was rendered by a hammer mill, and the chaff was sold off for planters mulch and such.

The project I worked on went a step further. It eliminated the need to drill the two holes. My company sold the Federal Reserve a system that accepted stacks of bills into a feed hopper and peeled them off at high speed, feeding them into a document transport. As each bill passed down the length of the machine various readers detected counterfeit, which was routed to a special bin. Other stations recorded denomination, serial number, and such. Another station detected unfit currency. Unfit currency went all the way to the end of the machine, about ten feet, and entered a high-speed shredder.

And that’s what I found screwy about this plot. The writers could have patched this up a bit and made it true to life. But then, this is fiction, and it’s OK to give the imagination free rein.

Jack Webb Live

I’m sure I won’t make this review a series. Here’s an episode of Adam-12, to give Millennials a peek at what they missed.

Adam-12-01

It’s really all about producer, director, actor Jack Webb:

John Randolph “Jack” Webb (April 2, 1920 – December 23, 1982), also known by the pen name John Randolph, was an American actor, television producer,director, and screenwriter, who is most famous for his role as Sgt. Joe Friday in the Dragnet franchise (which he also created). He was also the founder of his own production company, Mark VII Limited.

I became familiar with Jack Webb before we had television. He had a radio program centered on police drama. The first thing to come out of the box was, “Ladies and gentlemen: the story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.” The show moved to television, and we got to see Webb as Sergeant Joe Friday.

Dragnet ran on TV from 1951 to 1959 and returned in 1967 for four seasons. Webb introduced Adam-12 in 1968, and it ran for seven seasons. Webb tended to load his productions with people he was accustomed to working with, and he brought in character actor turned TV star Martin Milner to portray Officer Pete Malloy. Co-star was Kent McCord as Pete’s partner, Jim Reed. Adam-12 is their police cruiser and also their radio call sign.

The show opens in what appears to be a police dispatch room. Millennials are going to get a kick out of this. Everything is done using paper. These were the days before 911, and if you wanted the police you called them on the telephone, and the officer who took the call would write the details on a piece of paper and drop it onto a conveyor. As the opening announcement, always the same (“… One Adam-12, fight group, with chains and knives.”) drones on, a dispatcher picks up the slip and puts the assignment out on the police frequency.

Adam-12-02

I picked this episode to review, because it has abundant police action (many do not), and it illustrates a point of critique. Screen shots are from Hulu.

Gary Crosby plays Rambo cop Ed Wells, notorious around the station for telling and retelling accounts of his heroic exploits. Pete looks at Wells and sees a cop out of control. Jim, inexperienced and overly impressionable, sees a cop who gets things done. We get to see how this plays out.

Adam-12 gets the call about a man with a gun. They roll on it, and Wells and his partner arrive smartly to back them up. The kid tells the cops his mother’s boyfriend is in the apartment with a gun. It’s a pistol the previous husband brought back from the war.

While Pete sets out to handle the matter in a professional way, Ed barges in, takes charge, breaks down the door, and cuffs the man. During the commotion a bullet has lodged in the door jam above Ed’s head. Pete does not approve. Jim is again impressed.

Adam-12-03

Also not impressed is watch commander Sergeant McDonald (William Boyett). He chews Pete out for not staying on top and handling the arrest. Pete does not unload about Ed’s cowboy tactics. A woman and a young boy were in the apartment, and a weapon was discharged, which did not need to happen. Ed could have been hit, also the boy or his mother.

Pete continues to have concerns regarding Jim’s infatuation with Ed’s tactics. Since Adam-12, as with all of Jack Webb’s productions, draws on moralization, there has to be a moral. There has to be comeuppance. Here it comes.

There’s another call. It involves a man with a gun. Sound familiar? Ed and his partner are assigned the call. Pete and Jim arrive as backup. Ed does not wait for hell or high water. He goes charging at the front door of the house, pistol drawn. A shotgun blast from the window puts him on the lawn.

Adam-12-04

Oops! The chickens have come home to roost. With Ed on the grass, Pete takes charge of the operation. Multiple police units arrive. Pete directs officers to block traffic on the street and to cover back exits. Pete and Jim use their police cruiser as a shield and rescue Ed from the lawn, seeing him into an ambulance. Then the man with the shotgun is coaxed into throwing out his weapon and surrendering peaceably. It’s a demonstration of how good police work gets done. It’s another Jack Webb moral conclusion.

The problem with this one is the problem with most of Jack Webb’s work. Nothing is already so apparent it can’t be overemphasized. Ed is a Rambo. We can see that, but it is way overdone. The only thing left to stretch this character additionally would be to have Ed come swinging in on a vine.

Then there’s Pete’s reaction. A cop with a whiff of maturity would have dropped the hammer on Ed forthwith. His actions in the first episode put lives in danger. He should not be strutting around with a gun on his hip. He should be sent back to the police academy or off the force. And it was Pete’s job to see that was done. Pete risked additional lives by not taking care of the matter when it counted. This plot has a significant absence of reality.

In the end we see Ed recovering in the hospital ward but unreformed. Yes, that is also something that should not be happening. At this point in the game it must be apparent to the police command structure that there was a problem that needs fixing. None of this comes out in Season 1, Episode 22.

It is jarring to watch this and compare police work from 50 years ago. A few years ago I took a ride on patrol with a San Antonio police officer. Adam-12 it is not. The cop car of today is likely an SUV, and it has a place to mount a laptop computer. Details don’t just come over the radio, 911 calls go to the computer screen, and everything is there. And the cop wears everything possible to automate police work. These days we may be just a few sessions in surgery away from Robocop.

And that’s the rundown on Adam-12. The action mostly takes place in Los Angeles, in the San Fernando Valley, North Hollywood and thereabouts. Shooting took place on location.  This is a more convenient place to film than in most other parts of Los Angeles. Additionally the facilities of Universal Studios were close by. I became familiar with the area a few years back when I was there on a contract job along with another engineer from Texas. We got to know the area, and I can recognize some of the locations, still around after 50 years.

I first saw Martin Milner in the movies before I knew who he was. He was one of the Day children standing on the stairs in Life with Father. That came out in 1947.  I do not recall his part in Sands of Iwo Jima (Pvt. Mike McHugh), but I recently posted on his role in Halls of Montezuma. I first remember him from his hit TV show Route 66, which ran from 1960 to 1964. He died last September at 83.

Adam-12 may have been the peak of Kent McCord’s on-screen career. He was later elected to the National Board of Directors of the Screen Actors Guild.

Gary Crosby was the son of the famous Bing and singer-actress Dixie Lee. Adam-12 may have been his peak, as well.

There’s no finishing without touching on the production company’s trademark sign-off. With variations through the years, it shows working-class hands holding a stamping die and a massive hammer and pounding the Mark VII Limited logo into a steel plate. It’s what I would expect from Jack Webb.

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I have the complete first season of Dragnet 1967 on DVD and will review one or more of those episodes for the edification of the Millennial crowd.

The Day After

 

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December 7 is the anniversary of the Japanese Empire’s attack on United States. On the anniversary The History Channel ran again its production depicting the first 24 hours after the attack.

It’s principally about President Franklin D. Roosevelt, at the time in his third term. Roosevelt had been first elected during the depths of the Great Depression with a promise to restore the American economy and to help citizens affected by the economic debacle. During the darkest hours of the 1930s he brought inspiration to American citizens with weekly radio broadcasts and strategic polemic, such as “We have nothing to fear but fear, itself.” His election for a third term was a first for this country.

The two-hour episode tells the story of how the President and the American public came to learn of the Japanese attack and how the United States responded during the first 24 hours. It’s the story of Roosevelt’s greatest challenge and his finest hour.

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People need to remember what the world was like in 1941. CNN did not cover the attack live. Unfortunately in those days there was no direct line from the White House and important military bases, such as Pearl Harbor. Following the initial flash, word filtered to the President in snatches of conversation. The History Channel dramatizes this factor using actors, such as below, showing word coming in over the phone. Commanders at Pearl Harbor had to communicate with the War Department, and the word had to be relayed to the President. Information was suppressed initially, because people were not sure whether the Japanese were tapping the phone lines.

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Cabinet members were called in from far flung locations, and members of Congress were ordered to return to Washington, D.C. An important session was scheduled for the day after, 8 December. And the President needed to make a speech. It was going to be the most important speech in his career.

A problem was the President was a cripple. Twenty years before he had been afflicted with polio and told he would never walk again. This almost turned out to be true. He campaigned and served with his disability concealed from the public. News photographers were requested not to photograph Roosevelt in his wheel chair.

This, the President had to overcome. A man barely able to stand needed to stand and to project an image of strength. He needed to impress the Japanese and ultimately the Germans.

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Pearl Harbor was not the only story of the day. Hours after the initial attack the Japanese launched an attack on American forces in the Philippine Islands, at the time an American colony. Trouble had been brewing with Japan for months as America reacted to Japanese aggression against its Asian neighbors by applying economic sanctions. Earlier in 1941 the United States imposed an embargo on oil to the Empire, an action that immediately set in motion a countdown to the Pearl Harbor attack. Lacking petroleum resources of its own, the Empire would run out of oil in a few months and would have to cease its military aggression. The attacks on Pearl Harbor and the Philippines were intended to knock the United States out of action, leaving Japan free to seize petroleum sources in Southeast Asia.

With this in mind, Roosevelt brought General Douglas MacArthur out of retirement and sent him to command American forces in the Philippines. MacArthur was a commander with sterling credentials, but Roosevelt personally disliked him. MacArthur was a prima donna, politically ambitious and overly sure of his own capabilities. The effect was that MacArthur was warned to expect a Japanese attack, and he failed to make adequate precautions. The result the following year was the worst defeat of arms in the history of the American military.

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A prominent feature of the time was a collection of organizations opposed to American involvement in the war in Europe. America First was one of the most prominent of these. On 7 December North Dakota Senator  Gerald P. Nye was giving a speech in Pittsburgh, unaware of the attack. A news reporter learned of the attack and rushed to the meeting, where he informed the senator. Senator Nye went on to give his speech, a fiery denunciation of Roosevelt the war monger. During the speech the reporter passed a note to the senator updating him on details of the attack. Nye looked at the note, stuck it in his pocket, and finished his speech. Then he passed the news of the attack to his audience and left the meeting. Members filed out of the hall, and America First dissolved three days later.

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British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had been urging Roosevelt to get into the European war since the start. He and Roosevelt were on extremely friendly terms and were on the same page about the matter. However, the United States Constitution required congressional approval, which approval was not forthcoming.

Churchill learned of the attack while having dinner with American Ambassador Averell Harriman.

It was Sunday evening, December 7, 1941. Winant and Averell Harriman were alone with me at the table at Chequers. I turned on my small wireless set shortly after the nine o’clock news had started. There were a number of items about the fighting on the Russian front and on the British front in Libya, at the end of which some few sentences were spoken regarding an attack by the Japanese on American shipping at Hawaii, and also Japanese attacks on British vessels in the Dutch East Indies. There followed a statement that after the news Mr. Somebody would make a commentary, and that the Brains Trust programme would then begin, or something like this. I did not personally sustain any direct impression, but Averell said there was something about the Japanese attacking the Americans, and, in spite of being tired and resting, we all sat up. By now the butler, Sawyers, who had heard what had passed, came into the room, saying, “It’s quite true. We heard it ourselves outside. The Japanese have attacked the Americans.” There was a silence. At the Mansion House luncheon on November 11 I had said that if Japan attacked the United States a British declaration of war would follow “within the hour”. I got up from the table and walked through the hall to the office, which was always at work. I asked for a call to the President. The Ambassador followed me out, and, imagining I was about to take some irrevocable step, said, “Don’t you think you’d better get confirmation first?”

In two or three minutes Mr. Roosevelt came through. “Mr. President, what’s this about Japan?” “It’s quite true,” he replied. “They have attacked us at Pearl Harbour. We are all in the same boat now.” I put Winant on to the line and some interchanges took place, the Ambassador at first saying, “Good,” “Good”— and then, apparently graver, “Ah!” I got on again and said, “This certainly simplifies things. God be with you,” or words to that effect. We then went back into the hall and tried to adjust our thoughts to the supreme world event which had occurred, which was of so startling a nature as to make even those who were near the centre gasp. My two American friends took the shock with admirable fortitude. We had no idea that any serious losses had been inflicted on the United States Navy. They did not wail or lament that their country was at war. They wasted no words in reproach or sorrow. In fact, one might almost have thought they had been delivered from a long pain.

Churchill, Winston (2010-06-30). The Grand Alliance: The Second World War, Volume 3 (Winston Churchill World War II Collection) (Kindle Locations 9374-9392). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

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Secretary of State Cordell Hull and Roosevelt were at odds regarding the speech the president was to give on the 8th. Hull urged a monument to oration. Roosevelt saw the best effect would be something forceful and to the point. Roosevelt pressed his son James, an officer in the United States Navy, into duty steadying him in his walk to the front of the congressional chamber. It was a critical move. Roosevelt slowly worked his way to the front of the assembly, all the way fearful of falling. An incident such as that would have sent a dismal message to our country’s enemies.

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His walk to the podium was slow and likely painful, but once there Roosevelt delivered a speech for the history books:

It was a most dramatic spectacle there in the chamber of the House of Representatives. On most of the President’s personal appearances before Congress, we found applause coming largely from one side—the Democratic side. But this day was different. The applause, the spirit of cooperation, came equally from both sides. … The new feeling of unity which suddenly welled up in the chamber on December 8, the common purpose behind the leadership of the President, the joint determination to see things through, were typical of what was taking place throughout the country.

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With one dissenting vote Congress approved a declaration of war against the Japanese Empire. Significantly, Nazi Germany had not been included in the declaration. No German forces had attacked the United States. That matter resolved itself a few days later when German Chancellor Adolf Hitler did us all a favor and declared war on the United States.

Within 100 days the United States bombed the Japanese mainland, and six months after the Pearl Harbor raid four of the Japanese aircraft carriers involved were sunk at the Battle of Midway. Territory held by the Japanese Empire continued to shrink following that battle, and nuclear weapons exploded on the Japanese mainland in August 1945 forced the Empire to capitulate. American and British forces landed in North Africa less than a year after Pearl Harbor and began the job of shrinking the western front. German forces met disaster at Stalingrad in late 1942, and the Soviet Army pushed the Germans back relentlessly until western and eastern powers converged in Germany in May 1945.

By then Roosevelt was dead. Elected to another unprecedented term, he died of a stroke about two weeks before Hitler shot himself in his Berlin bunker.

Republican Is Elected President

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That was so entertaining. Last night I watched the GOP candidates (11 of them) debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. All right, I didn’t watch all of it. I recorded it. Okay, not all of it, but almost all of it. And what a show it was. Eleven high-profile personalities haranguing the issues and going at each other. And burning through cash like Nero. What a way to win an election.

In case you are wondering, here is the way it used to be:

In the months that followed, Lincoln hit the lecture circuit. He gave speeches in half a dozen Midwestern states, and, for the first time, he spoke in New York, where he was a big success. His stinging message about slavery was now repeated by his political rivals as well as his allies. He pointed out again and again that if anything was wicked, slavery was wicked. The country had outlawed the exportation of slaves from America, and even Southerners did not dispute that. It had prohibited the importation of slaves from Africa, and neither did Southerners dispute that. He pointed out that in the South, it was not the slave who was treated as a social pariah— in fact, he was often regarded as a member of the family— but the slave dealer himself. So then, didn’t the South, in its heart, know that slave dealing and thus slaveholding were wrong? Why else did Southerners routinely manumit? “Why,” asked Lincoln, “have so many slaves been set free, except by the promptings of conscience?” And in reply, he was told, “You are like Byron, awoke to find himself famous.”

And soon, Lincoln was back home in Springfield when a telegram arrived informing him that he had been nominated for president at the Republican National Convention in Chicago (“ TO LINCOLN YOU ARE NOMINATED”). Then, on November 7, 1860, at 2 A.M., the telegraph rapped out this startling news: Lincoln was now elected president of the United States, having defeated his main opponent, none other than the little Democrat, Stephen Douglas.

Winik, Jay (2010-11-16). April 1865 (P.S.) (Kindle Locations 4046-4057). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Does anybody notice a difference?

NBC’s Mysterious Origins of Man

It can’t be possible I have not already done a post on this. Apparently I have not. It’s about time.

Charlton Heston introduces the documentary

Charlton Heston introduces the documentary

It’s been nearly 20 years since this came out. OK, nearly 19. But I’m not going to wait for the the anniversary. I will get this going by reposting my notes from 18 years ago. This appeared in the April 1996 issue of The North Texas Skeptic shortly after the show first aired on NBC. I will follow up this post with a series of posts touching on the main topics of the documentary.

NBC’s Mysterious Science

by John Blanton

“The Mysterious Origins of Man,” which aired on NBC in February, had a lot not to like about it. Besides giving a very good impression of an attack on science, it exhibited on the part of its producers and major players an appalling ignorance of some basic facts of the universe. In this cynical world, where, it would seem, half the population is trying to manipulate the other half, there is a temptation to find wonder in such innocence and naivet. Would that the enemies of this country were such babes in the wilderness.

If you did, you should not have missed it. Besides Charlton Heston (more famous as Moses and Ben Hur), there were our own local creationists Don Patton and Carl Baugh, come to explain how the scientific establishment continues to ignore their evidence and to promulgate the myth of evolution. Those even faintly acquainted with Patton and Baugh will be struck with one glaring irony in the program. The luster of national exposure for their young-Earth agenda was more than slightly dimmed by the show’s continual reference to fossils millions of years old. Maybe that’s why at the MIOS meeting the following week, Don showed considerable modesty when making reference to his appearance. I further noted that many of the creationists at the meeting had not seen the program. It aired when many of them were at church.

Naturally, the program has its detractors. I will not dwell on their remarks. I have a video of the program. Watch it, and you can supply your own comments. The producers have responded to their critics, however, and they have graciously allowed us to reprint the text. To me these thoughts, spilled out on paper, make my case completely (John Blanton):

PRODUCERS’ RESPONSE TO THE CRITICS

By Bill Cote, Carol Cote and John Cheshire

(Reprinted with permission)

As we expected, the response to our show has been heated. We’ve been accused of pseudo-science and setting back the course of education in America. But our goal was simply to present the public with evidence which suggests an alternative view to some of our most accepted theories. After all, the theory of evolution is still a theory, not a fact, and therefore alternative views should be welcomed, not banned.

Probably the most common criticism is that the show gave no opposing view from the academic community. The producers’ position is that the accepted view has been so frequently presented to the public that only a brief summary by the host was necessary. It was more valuable to focus on the documented anomalous evidence.

For example, if man evolved from the apes around 5 million years ago, then how does the scientific community explain tools of modern man found in rock strata dating to 55 million years old? (J.D Whitney, California State Geologist, Table Mt. Mine) Those artifacts currently reside in a museum in Berkeley, California. When we applied for permission to film them, we were denied by the museum.

Another criticism is that the information in our show is presented by experts who do not hold degrees in their fields of expertise and therefore their opinions are not endorsed by the scientific community. But Dr. Virginia Steen McIntyre holds a Ph.D. in Geology and was a fellow with the USGS when she did her field work in Mexico. Her conclusions about the age of the spear points she dated (250,000 years BP) were backed by two other USGS members, yet because of their implications, the findings were ignored and her career was ruined.

In the case of the Paluxy River man tracks, to our knowledge, no accredited archaeologist has ever proven the prints to be fake. Furthermore, many scientists have referred us to an article written by Kuban and Hastings who seem to be the experts on this site. They categorically deny that there is any validity to the prints and that the case has been solved.

It is interesting to note that the scientific community refers to this report as if it is definitive proof, when in fact neither gentleman is an accredited archaeologist, anthropologist or paleontologist. If this is to be a fair discussion let’s all play by the same rules.

Many of our critics are using very strong language, calling us morons, liars, and subversive creationists. These are emotional responses, not logical arguments. To set the record straight, we are not creationists or affiliated with any group whatsoever. We are being attacked on a personal level, because we are questioning issues that have been deemed too fundamental to be questioned.

We are fully aware that the information presented is highly controversial. This was re-iterated by Charlton Heston in the show, “We’ve seen a broad range of evidence, some of it highly speculative. But there are enough well documented cases to call for a closer look at the conventional explanation of man’s origins.”

We never take the stance that we know the answers or in any way suggest that we will provide them. We are merely offering an alternative hypothesis. In this way, we feel that the American public is fully capable of making up its own mind. Bill Cote, Carol Cote and John Cheshire Producers of The Mysterious Origins of Man. To follow the controversy on our World Wide Web site:

http://www.bcvideo.com/bcvideo

– Copyright 1996: Bill Cote, Carol Cote and John Cheshire. . . . May reprint with permission. – Distributed (not written) by Thomas Burgin . . . Direct any inquiries to bcvideo@interport.net.

Taking Liberties With Advertising

Liberty Mutual, wherefore art thou? I see thy commercials on yon cable channel, yet I comprehend not. Forsooth:

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This poor soul had his new car destroyed by a wayward window air conditioning unit. He is so glad he has Liberty Mutual. Maybe some skeptical analysis is in order.

Done.

This man does not need insurance. The person who just dropped the unit on poor soul’s new car needs insurance. Right now.

So, why does Liberty Mutual feature this poor soul in it’s ad? Ask not of me. Ask Liberty Mutual:

Liberty Mutual Group, more commonly known by the name of its primary line of businessLiberty Mutual Insurance, is an American diversified global insurer and the third-largest property and casualty insurer in the United States based on 2012 Property and Casualty direct written premium. It ranks 81st on the Fortune 100 list of largest corporations in the United States based on 2012 revenue. Based in Boston, Massachusetts, it employs over 50,000 people in more than 900 locations throughout the world. As of December 31, 2012, Liberty Mutual Insurance had $120.1 billion in consolidated assets, $101.5 billion in consolidated liabilities, and $36.9 billion in annual consolidated revenue. The company, founded in 1912, offers a wide range of insurance products and services, including personal automobilehomeownersworkers compensation, commercial multiple peril, commercial automobile, general liability, global specialty, group disability, fire and surety.

[Some links removed]

See, Liberty Mutual does all of this, and still they advertise people who do not need insurance. Like this man. His car has been destroyed by a tree limb. He needs car insurance. He needs Liberty Mutual.

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No he doesn’t. This man needs it:

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Right now.

Maybe you want to purchase automobile insurance from Liberty Mutual. Maybe you do not want to purchase stock in the company.