Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Alien Hand Syndrome

One of my favorite films is Dr. Strangelove. In the film, the character Dr. Strangelove is a comically dark character who has lost control of his arm. Occasionally, while in the War Room, he puts his arm up in the air as if to say, "Hile Hitler," and knocks it down with the other arm. This is a subtle reminder to the fact that the US enlisted the help of Nazi scientists to assist with the building of the Hydrogen bomb.

What he suffers from is called Alien Hand Syndrome aka Dr. Strangelove syndrome. It is an extremely rare neurological disorder where the victim has lost control of one of their arms. Sometimes it is so bad that they don't even notice until it is pointed out to them. It happens when the connection between the brain's two hemisphere is severed. Sometimes it is caused by surgery for extreme cases of epilepsy.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

MLB.TV is a joke

I live in one of those remotes areas of the country that does not yet have cable access. I am in that 5% of the US that has to get their television via their analog (soon to be digital) signal or via a satellite dish. I have chosen a third option. I get most of my television via the net. Most of the shows I watch are available via Hulu. Those few shows like Lost or South Park that are not available there so I go right to source. I get them through the networks web sites. So basically, I really don't need cable. I can even get baseball ... up until today. I don't think I am going to do business with MLB-TV anymore.

I have a Korean high school student living with me and he loves baseball, particularly the Korean team. This interest that we have in common has been key in our bonding with him. I subscribed to the MLB-TV early this year so that we could watch the World Baseball Classic. This is the second WBC. The next year should be 2012 (every 3 years). Korea has a very exciting team. They won the Olympics in 2008. Tonight they are playing Venezuela in the semi-finals. Tomorrow the US plays Japan. The winner of these two games go to the finals. We haven't been able to see much of the Korean games because their games have been in Tokyo or San Dieago so they have been on late here on the East Coast. We stayed home tonight with intention of watching the game. I had my popcorn ready ... I had my laptop hooked to my big screen TV ... but thanks to MLB.TV and Major League Baseball, it is not going to happen. The game is blacked out. The last 3 games of the WBC are blacked out on the net even if you have paid for it like I did.

The WBC has a total of 39 games. With the last three games being blacked out, that is almost 10% of the series that is blocked ... the three most important games. I didn't expect MLB to have a blackout on any of these games especially since most sports fans are watching March Madness right about now. I guess I also expect that any company that is going to take your money for a product might make it obvious that 10% of that product wouldn't be available. I would expect that they wouldn't hide this fact in their terms of service. This is just another example of the state of baseball in the US ... more about the money than the baseball.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Annie Hall's other titles

I was a kid when I first watched Woody Allen's Annie Hall. I had previously watched his more slapstick films Take The Money and Run and Sleeper, so I was surprised when it was still very funny yet a deeper and more complex of a film. I don't think I understood a lot of the humor and the complexity at the time. It was probably the first art house (for lack of a better term) film that I saw and it really changed how I saw film from there on end. I know I am not unique in this experience. I have to say I am forever grateful, to not just Woody Allen and the creators of this masterpiece, but also to the program directors of whatever Boston/Providence television station that brought it into my home some time in the late 1970's. From that time forward I was hungry for the finer films the world had to offer.

The original title of the film was Anhedonia which according to Wikipedia is an emotional disorder of someone who cannot find any pleasure in life no matter what they do. This could be the title of a good many Woody Allen films. In looking at this word, anhedonia, one has to wonder if the name Annie Hall came from it. The film was changed to Annie Hall due to marketing which was probably a good move. Marshall Brickman, Allen's co-writer, had some other suggestions which I find to be very amusing: It Had to Be Jew, Roller Coaster Named Desire and Me and My Goy. One has to wonder if it would have won the Oscar if it had any of these titles. Can you imagine someone in a tuxedo announcing that Me and My Goy won the Oscar for best picture? Oy!

While writing the script, Brickman approached Allen to tell him that the script was very confusing and difficult to read. He was one of the writers and even he couldn't tell what was going on at points. It was after that point that they decided to concentrate on the two characters Alvy and Annie. I'd love to see the earlier script.

One of my favorite scenes in the film is when Annie and Alvy are hanging out in Central Park. Alvy, Allen's character, is pointing out people to Annie and making funny comments about them. He points to one guy and says, "Oh, there goes the winner of the Truman Capote Look-Alike Contest." The actor playing this man was actually Truman Capote. This is just an example of one of the things I missed when I watch it as a kid.

Friday, March 13, 2009


My wife and I had an interesting conversation today with the Korean teenager living with us. After dinner we somehow got on the topic of intimacy. It was a great conversation, nothing explicit, but open and mature. He used the term skinship that we had never heard before. He referred to his friends as his skinship friends. We thought he might be saying kinship, so I googled it after we got home. Apparently, it means a physical non-sexual relationship. It could mean the physical relationship between a parent and a child, like when you bathe an infant, but it could also be used like he did ... between friends. So if you have a friend over to watch a movie and use his/her leg to lay your head down on, in a non-sexual way, that is skinship. He said it like he does with our dog, it is comforting and physical, but not sexual.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers are a group of articles, 85 of them, that appeared in the New York City newspapers from October 1787 and August 1788. 51 of the articles were written by Alexander Hamilton, 29 by James Madison and five by John Jay all under the pseudonym Publius. The purpose of these articles were to convince people to ratify the US Constitution. It was written in response to the Anti-Federalist papers that appeared in the same papers earlier in 1787.

The most important issues addressed by The Federalist Papers was the role of the president. At the time, the idea that the US should have three presidents was common to avoid the presidency from evolving into a monarchy. The Federalist Papers argued for one president with limited power. One of the most controversial power of the presidency was his ability to declare war. Among other things, the papers addressed judicial review and the fact that the Constitution was a flawed document. Because it was flawed, it was suggested that it be revisited every 20 years with another Constitutional Convention. The next time you hear someone mention the original intent of the Constitution, you might want to mention this.

The Federalists obviously won this battle but much of the Anti-Federalist's concerns were addressed in the Bill of Rights published a few years later.