Person of Interest – A Recap of “Control-Alt-Delete”

by Alan Eggleston

Last time I wrote a review about Person of Interest on this blog, Harold and the rest of The Machine’s assets had just rescued Wall Street from a collapse caused by Samaritan and lost Shaw in their escape. That was part of two of a trilogy of episodes. This Tuesday, Person of Interest capped the trilogy with an episode titled, “Control-Alt-Delete.”

If you’re into computers that have used and older Windows Operating System, you know that control-alt-delete was the three-key rescue to get you out of apps or the operating system, so this is an interesting title for this episode. Find out what else I found interesting my in review/recap of the episode for ScreenFad.com.

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Mythbusters – My First Review for ScreenFad

by Alan Eggleston

I have begun reviewing television programs for a review site called ScreenFad. In fact, the reviews I posted on this blog were in preparation for starting to write for ScreenFad.

Here is my first article there, a review of the season premiere episode of Mythbusters, a “The Simpsons Special.” It required a lot of preparation research for the article, fortunately provided by the Mythbuster’s excellent pre-airing promotional efforts both on their website and Facebook fan page. Just taking notes for the show was a lot of work, because Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman are so meticulous and the pace of the show is so absorbing. I hope you enjoy it.

I’m not sure how many reviews I will write for ScreenFad. Right now it will be twice a week. I’m not paid yet but I’m told that could change. If you would like to see reviews continue here, let me know. I was surprised by the number of readers a couple of reviews attracted, but I would consider providing more here if there were interest.

Thank you for reading my blog. I try my best to meet your expectations.

Black-ish Is Another Laughable, Lovable All American Family

TV Show Review – Black-ish (“Law of Attraction” episode 1.11)

“In ‘Law of Attraction,’ Dre (Anthony Anderson) thinks Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross) is questioning his machismo after another man dismisses him in front of her. But when Pops (Laurence Fishburne) swoops in to help his son save face, Ruby (guest star Jenifer Lewis) is attracted to this show of manliness and the couple reignite their love affair. Meanwhile, things get awkward when Jr. (Marcus Scribner) is selected to play ‘Romeo’ to his sister Zoey’s (Yara Shahidi) ‘Juliet’ in their school play.
ABC.go.com

by Alan Eggleston

The All American family: On television, we often think of the Cleavers from Leave it to Beaver or the Andersons on Father Knows Best from the early days. Possibly the Keatons of Family Ties or Homer and family from The Simpsons in the ‘80s and beyond. Even today the Pritchetts and Dunphys of today’s Modern Family. But there’s a new All American family we should consider adding to the list: The Johnsons of this season’s Black-ish.

ABC-TV's hit sit-com Black-ish.

Photo by ABC-TV

A situation comedy, Black-ish is about an African American family trying to keep its sense of cultural identity despite the distractions of everyday American life.

Here’s a family of six living in upper middle class America, much as these earlier TV families did, struggling to overcome life’s daily hurdles, sometimes put in place by society, sometimes set there by work, and sometimes simply arranged by family. The difference is, like the Huxtable family of the ‘80s sit-com The Cosby Show, this family is Black.

The storyline offered by IMBd says, “A family man struggles to gain a sense of cultural identity while raising his kids in a predominantly white, upper-middle-class neighborhood.”

In this week’s episode, kicking off the winter season after the holiday hiatus, the greatest hurdle is from family.

Dre’s father and mother – known as Pops and Ruby – have rarely gotten along. (Dre is the dad and narrator in the series.) In fact, Dre purposely keeps them from being in the same room at the same time.

Hilarious flashbacks show Pops and Ruby in battle throughout Dre’s childhood, destroying each other’s things.

The set up

In the opening scenes, Dre’s oldest daughter Zoey is playing Juliet in a school rendition of Romeo and Juliet. Ruby is sitting with the family in the audience, when Pops walks in. Immediately the sparks begin to fly and Dre is upset that it can only mean disaster.

After the play, the whole family goes to a walk-up restaurant for refreshments. While Dre and his wife Bow (short for Rainbow) are in line, another man walks up to the window. Dre assumes he wants to cut in line (he really only wants a  napkin) and starts to challenge the man, but when the man stands his ground, Dre backs down. Pops steps up to defend his son and daughter-in-law. Suddenly, Ruby finds Pops appealing again.

On the other side of the coin, Bow finds Dre weak.

This sets up the episode for conflict between Dre and his parents and Dre and Bow.

The follow through

Interspersed between Pops and Ruby going places together, enjoying picnic lunches, sharing a bed once again, is Bow taking charge of things that Dre would normally do as the man of the house – mounting an HD TV on the wall and cooking steaks on the grill. While discussing his dilemma with colleagues at work, Dre even remembers that the kiss he gets from Bow as he leaves for work wasn’t really a kiss.  (Close up Dre’s awkward frown.)

Now Dre is determined to look more manish for his wife. And more determined to split up Pops and Ruby.

There are a couple of hilarious scenes of Dre shadow ninja-punching in the hallway self-talking his way to manliness and voicing his toughness while in bed with Bow at night.

In another scene, Dre takes Bow back to the walk-up restaurant in the hope of running into another altercation so he can show her how tough she is. Bow decides that’s silly. Dre agrees and they walk on, coming upon a dark, sinister alley. Once again eager to show Bow how tough he is, he runs into the alley, much to Bow’s dismay – then comes running out chased by a dog. The dog catches up to Dre and Dre falls to the ground in the fetal position. The dog’s owner runs up and says, “Oh, I’m sorry, my dog just loves giving kisses!” (Cue Bow’s hand-on-hip disgust at Dre.)

Back at home, Bow, a doctor, is cleaning up scratches on Dre’s leg. Dre winces and Bow says, “It’s just water!” This all leads up to a discussion of their change in relationship and what led up to it.

The make up

“I wanted you to take out the tough guy!” Bow admits, and Dre responds dourly, “You know there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to protect this family.”

Meanwhile, Pops and Ruby traipse through the Johnson home showing more love. Dre has finally had enough. He tells them sternly, “I don’t want my kids going through what I went through. End it now or leave my house.”

Bow says, “You were incredible standing up to Pops!”

Pops and Ruby decide they should cool it in the Dre Johnson home, and Bow decides she and Dre should reconnoiter upstairs (wink-wink). Says Dre, “I don’t need to be a caveman like I was 20 years ago, I’m a cave dad now!”

The final laugh

Now back to the beginning reference to Romeo and Juliet. While Zoey played Juliet, Dre’s oldest son Andre (or Junior) was understudy to the actor who played Romeo. Suddenly, the actor who played Romeo had to bow out. Andre was excited to get to play the part opposite of his sister, but Zoey wanted no part of even “playing” romance with her brother. She wouldn’t even rehearse with him. Little sister Diane (played by Marsai Martin), stepping up to rehearse a scene, had to admit it looked very wrong.

The episode ends with a giant laugh as the whole family – including Pops and Ruby, in separate rows – watches Andre playing Romeo in his death scene then turn in the opposite direction and appear as Juliet in her death scene.

Every family has its ups and downs, its misunderstandings and its moments of clarity. The Johnsons do it with anguish and laughter and that spirit of candor and tenderness that can only be called All American.

If you haven’t seen Black-ish yet, I suggest you give it a try: Wednesdays at 9:30 e/p – 8:30 c right after Modern Family. All these families are laughable yet lovable.

© Copyright 2015. Alan Eggleston. All Rights Reserved.

Clever Plot Device Makes Person of Interest a Show of Even Greater Interest

TV Show Review – Person of Interest (“If-Then-Else” episode 4.11)

“Samaritan launches a cyber-attack on the stock exchange, leaving the team with no choice but to embark on a possible suicide mission in a desperate attempt to stop a global economic catastrophe.”
CBS.com

by Alan Eggleston

First, a brief recap – part one

Michael Emerson as Harold Finch on Person of Interest. Photo by Alex Lozupone, via Wikipedia under Creative Commons license.

Michael Emerson as Harold Finch on Person of Interest. Photo by Alex Lozupone, via Wikipedia under Creative Commons license.

When we last left Harold Finch, John Reese, and company on Person of Interest, in the episode “The Cold War” that aired December 12, the corporate owned but government sponsored Samaritan program had declared war on The Machine and the human assets who work for it.

Samaritan had previously unsuccessfully hunted down Harold, Reese, Sameen Shaw, Root, and Police Officer Lionel Fusco. But then Samaritan sent an agent to signal The Machine that Samaritan wanted to “talk.” Root met with Samaritan’s alter ego and, when The Machine was unwilling to engage, Samaritan triggered a war.

Samaritan had brought a short era of peace to New York City to demonstrate for government officials its abilities, but with the declaration of war between the machines, Samaritan unleashed havoc on the city – to also show what it could do. Neither the New York City Police nor The Machine’s group could keep up. Despite Harold, Reese, Shaw, and Root’s best efforts, they were finally identified by the Samaritan group.

That’s where we are with the beginning of the winter’s new season of episodes. “If-Then-Else,” part 2 of a trilogy that began with autumn’s season finale.

Person of Interest airs Tuesday evenings at 10e/p – 9c on CBS-TV.

The genius of this program is the way in which it deals with its own building complexity.

What’s to love about Person of Interest

I’ve dealt with its increasing complexity over four grueling seasons.

Person of Interest began fairly simply as Harold Finch and John Reese received numbers by The Machine for people in danger, whom Harold and Reese were to shadow to see if they needed protection – or if they were a danger to others. Harold had designed and built The Machine. During those four seasons, we learned more and more about how Harold built, programmed, and trained The Machine.

Over time, the production team added more characters and dimensions to the story. First it involved police officers whom Harold and Reese enlisted as resources to help them track down their “persons of interest” or to help them protect those persons. Then it was interfacing with new bad people who became part of the fabric of the story over time.

New assets to assist Harold and Reese were added: Shaw and Root. Shaw was a psychopathic agent who felt no sorrow for killing her targets. Root was an intelligent agent on the run damaged by her childhood relationship with a twin sister, whom she had lost through violence.

Then one of the police officers died in the line of duty, leaving former bad cop turned good cop Fusco to assist the team.

The team toyed with a rogue police organization and terminated them. Federal agents came after them, and Root subdued them.

Then they ream dealt with organized crime – two powerful but competing factions. They’re still on the loose.

Finally, they encountered a corporation with a competing computer system interested in annihilating The Machine. That’s where we are today, in the second of three episodes.

Now part two (episode 4.11)

In the opening sequence, Harold and Root stand outside the New York Stock Exchange watching the stock market collapse, thanks to interference by Samaritan. Samaritan knows it could get caught, but what it really wants is to drive The Machine’s human assets into the open to terminate them.

Team Machine decides to take action. And this is where the complexity kicks in.

Harold, Reese, Root, and Fusco head to the New York Stock Exchange to hack the system’s servers to stop the financial carnage. Shaw is on assignment to save one of The Machine’s numbers.

I love how the show often inserts some humor into the drama. In this case, Shaw is trying to rescue her victim from attempted suicide – jumping from outside a window high above the city streets – and caught in a conversation with Root about their need for backup, Shaw grabs the guy through the window, grasps his tie, and shuts the window on the tie while the victim dangles on the ledge. He can’t jump, but he’s hardly brought back into safety.

While Harold, Reese, Root, and Fusco gain access to the Stock Exchange, Shaw jumps onto a subway car to get to the team. Sitting nearby are two people who could hardly be any more different – a well coiffed guy in a tailored suit and an unshaven brute in a worn winter jacket. The brute has lost everything in the stock market crash and is fearful for his future. The coiffed investment guy is helpless to help him but seems to care less. Then the brute shows everyone he’s strapped with a bomb. Shaw remarks to Root understatedly that she may have to wait on the help.

Harold, Reese, Root, and Fusco come under attack at the Stock Exchange by Samaritan forces and run into a break room, where they seek shelter from unremitting gunfire.

That clever plot device

In a brilliantly thought out plot device, The Machine considers possible options to help its humans both succeed in their mission and survive the attack.

Through flashbacks to 2003 we see Harold Finch in a city park alone at a chess table playing chess. He’s teaching The Machine how to play chess and in doing so, how to think through different scenarios, how to sort through multiple options. “A second is like an eternity to you,” says Herold in one of the early flashbacks. In another flashback, he tells The machine, “People are real people, not a thing you can sacrifice. Anyone who looks on life as a game of chess deserves to lose.”

In between the flashbacks, you see The Machine consider an option. You don’t realize it at first, but the option shows as a scenario that you watch play out. Root receives the orders from The Machine and the team leaves the break room. Reese and Fusco go one way to fend off Samaritan, Root and Harold go another way to reach the Stock Exchange server room. Shaw confronts the brute with the bomb and has to shoot him to stop him from setting off his bomb and then is arrested. The option ends in failure. Then we return to the break room in a reset.

The Machine considers another scenario. Root receives orders from The Machine and the team once again leaves the break room. This time Reese and Root go one way to fend off Samaritan, Fusco and Harold go another way. After subduing one batch of Samaritan thugs, Harold and Root head off to the server room. Meanwhile, Shaw is faced with the brute with the bomb. This time, she tries to play on the man’s family and the loss his blowing himself up with the bomb would mean to them. The brute still decides to set off the bomb and Shaw has to shoot him and is arrested. Harold and Root stop on the way to the server to reset a generator to an elevator to ensure their escape once they fix the server. Reese sacrifices himself to give Harold and Root more time, but once again, the option ends in failure. Then we return to the break room again in a reset.

Finally, The Machine decides on a scenario in which the team leaves together as a team. Everything executes well. Shaw engages the other passengers on the subway about their lousy day so that the brute knows he’s not the only one experiencing problems. He gives up and Shaw leaves to help the team. The team subdues the Samaritan thugs, restarts the generator, resets the servers, and gets to the elevator. Shaw reaches them and they’re about to escape but the elevator won’t budge. The main Samaritan team is in pursuit. Shaw sees a button on another wall that must be pushed for the elevator to work. She leaves the elevator and pushes the button just as Samaritan arrives and shoots her. As the elevator doors close, we see Shaw on the floor with the leader of the Samaritan team standing over her, guns drawn.

The brilliance here is watching Harold train The Machine how to think, how to sort through scenarios, and work them out in its mind like a chess game while considering their consequences on the lives of people – and watch the consequences played out in action.

Another recurring bit of humor during the episode was a Degás painting on a wall. In each scenario, a different Machine asset stops to notice it in some way and then during gun play the painting is shot up. In the final scenario, Root sees the painting, removes it from the wall and sets it along the floor, and during gun play bullets riddle where the painting would have been. One more instance in which The Machine’s final scenario played out right.

The next-episode promo (third of the trilogy) at the end has Reese saying, “Let’s go get Shaw back.”

Person of Interest ramps it up again

I’ve watched this show morph and mature over four seasons. The characters have grown and matured right along with the plots and plot devices. Just when you thought Person of Interest would run out of interesting ideas, it comes right back with a fresh approach, just like it did this week.

Great show!

© Copyright 2015. Alan Eggleston. All Rights Reserved.

Don’t Burn that Wrapping Paper in the Fireplace

by Alan Eggleston

A little public service announcement for the holidays:

Many of us are tempted to burn holiday wrapping paper in the fireplace or wood-burning stove after opening gifts. I know I did when we had the warmth of a good fire going and a pile of papers to dispose of. However, doing some research, I’ve found that’s not the wisest decision.

At first, I thought it was only certain papers – specially coated papers, for instance. Now I find that it involves all wrapping paper.

Read about it here.

The best advice is to simply reuse, recycle, or trash the paper.

Enjoy the holidays!

Happy Thanksgiving

To my readers in America

May your lives be richer and and more enjoyable this Thanksgiving and may you have many things to be thankful for. May your families and friends be abundant as you gather to celebrate and your disagreements at the table be few. May you have a thoroughly joyous Thanksgiving!

To my readers beyond America

May you enjoy the quiet of Americans more involved in feasting than in fighting online.

Alan Eggleston
Growing Up Boomer

Science and Creationism in One Universe

by Alan Eggleston

Big controversy: “Big Bang” or “Creationism” (or its directly related cousin, “Intelligent Design“)?

Actually, we can have both. Unfortunately, we can’t prove both. But you can believe in both.

Here’s the deal: Creationism isn’t a matter of provable science and should never be taught in school as such. You simply can’t prove creationism. It’s a matter of faith based on your personal beliefs based on what you read in the Bible and/or what another person of faith tells you. Incidentally, you can’t disprove it, either. But you can disbelieve in creationism just as easily.

What is provable, and the longer we study it the more proof is found, is the Big Bang theory is real. Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church recently affirmed pretty much the same thing.

So here is my proposal: If you believe in creationism, fine. If you don’t believe in creationism, fine. But there is increasing proof that the Big Bang happened. The laws of physics provide for it. And if God did indeed create the universe and everything and everyone in it, he used the Big Bang to do it.

Photo by Pixabay under Creative Commons Deed CCO license.

Photo by Pixabay under Creative Commons Deed CCO license.

We cannot take the Bible’s or other religious works’ word on how the heavens and earth were created literally. If they were inspired by God, they weren’t intended to be the literal description of creation. They were a generalized account for people with no sophisticated understanding of atoms and energy and gravity and space-time continuums and the speed of light and more. The people of thousands of years ago had no idea of quantum mechanics and cosmology or even space-time dynamics, let alone the simple concepts of forces, energies, or the expansion of space. But they could understand dividing light from dark, night from day, water from land, and so on. They could understand a day as a division of labor rather than an epoch as a transition between energy states.

If there were an Adam and Eve, they must have been a special couple from among many created rather than a first pair. The story doesn’t pan out logically for extending the family line – who would Cain have married, without Adam and Eve giving birth to a girl? I look on that story, rather, as an allegory to address the dangers of thinking too highly of your smarts and the opportunity it poses of thinking yourself as smart and powerful as a god.

But back to the main point. If God created the universe, he didn’t slam it together in six short days using magic. He used natural laws that he divined in a way to make them the same throughout the universe – lasting and consistent throughout the universe. He set them out and let them take their course, taking billions of years, letting life evolve naturally to arrive at the human form – on Earth at least. To suggest that things took only 6,000 years but we see 13.7 billions worth of light years because God created them that way so you could explain away the inconsistency is saying God made mistakes he has to rework to suit your excuses, and that’s baloney.

Science studies the universe not to tear down theology but to prove the facts. The facts show a huge universe 13.7 billions old, 13.7 billion light years (or more) across, on a space-time fabric expanding and growing, with billions of galaxies each containing billions of stars. Science proves that the universe exists in a world of gravity, conservation principles, quantum mechanics, and other principles through rigorous discovery and testing. That’s the how of the universe that only science can address.

Creationism can address the why of the universe. It cannot address the how.

Similarly, science can’t answer the why, only the how.

However, there’s room for both if you have an open enough mind.