From Heroes to Zeroes – New York Yankees Season Goes Quietly into the Night


The 2015 baseball season has come to a sudden end for the New York Yankees. The result was a dull, flat, and uninspired performance by the so-called Bronx Bombers as they lost, 3-0, to the youthful team from Texas, the Houston Astros.

As the New York Post back cover implies – the once proud, the once mighty, and the once feared Yanks have gone from Heroes to Zeroes. In a blink of an eye, about the same amount of time it takes Brett Gardner to swing and miss a third strike, the season concluded. What went wrong?

The last few days have been excruciating for the Yankee faithful. First the team disappeared in Baltimore by getting swept by the O’s in the regular season’s last weekend. Then came C.C.’s announcement that he would forgo the playoffs as he felt that he had to immediately check himself into an alcohol rehab center.

Yet, not only did the Yankees still make the playoffs, they also won one more game than did the Astros over the course of the long season, which gave the Yankees the home field ‘advantage’ for the one and done playoff between the two wild card teams.

So the stage was set. Yanks vs the Astros at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night. As Yankee starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka readied himself for the game’s first pitch, the stadium was alive with the high buzz of the energized fans in attendance who were there ready to cheer the locals home. It may be trite, and even a cliché, but there’s no better way to describe the atmosphere at Yankee Stadium as ‘electric’ as the game began.

Tanaka looked good in the first inning. His plan was to not show the Astros his often unhittable sinker until he had the batters in an unfavorable pitch count. He attacked high and hard. He fanned Jose Altuve by getting him to swing at two high hard offerings – both of which were out the strike zone, before getting the diminutive second baseman to chase a sinker that was low, outside, and certainly well off the plate. George Springer had a similar result as Tanaka employed the same policy. Correa skied out to centerfield.

Dallas keuchel - likely Cy Young winner of the 'Stros. A bearded maestro to be sure.

Dallas Keuchel – likely Cy Young winner of the ‘Stros. A bearded maestro to be sure.

In the bottom of the first Gardy struck out, and then Chris Young walked. Beltran forced the runner at second, and Alex Rodriguez fanned. The Yankees were facing Astro lefty Dallas Keuchel, the likely Cy Young winner for the American League. The Yankees may not have looked overmatched in the first inning, but this was hardly an auspicious beginning.

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Blindspot 1 x 03 – Eight Slim Grins: Observations

NBC-TV aired Episode 3 of its new hit series Blindspot last night. For me, they hit this one out of the park for a home run. Maybe it wasn’t a grand slam home run or even a prodigious, in terms of distance or in this case, ratings, home run – but it had enough to leave the park, thereby hooking this viewer.

***** A few mild spoilers ***** follow

This is third Episode and it was called Eight Slim Grins. The second episode was called A Stray Howl. For what it is worth, those episode titles are anagrams. A Stray Howl becomes Taylor Shaw. Eight Slim Grins becomes The Missing Girl. By the way, I’m not at all into anagrams, so take it as gospel that I didn’t figure those out myself.

However, I am old enough to know what the word ‘derivative’ means. At its simplest – derivative can mean ‘something that has developed from something else’. Of course, in that sense, most of television is derivative. But derivative is also a relative word.

By that I mean that a person who has been watching TV and movies for say 30 years, may have a far greater amount of knowledge about film and tv shows than someone who has,  say, a quarter of that amount of experience.

Now Blindspot is a mystery, a police procedural, and it has a certainly intriguing character who has no idea who she is, or where she’s from, or even how she ended up where she is – that is in the hands of the FBI. But having memory loss may not be new, also having inexplicable talents and skills is not a new television concept either.

Within this very show, in the first three episodes, FBI Agent Kurt Weller has told this Jane Doe to wait outside, wait in the hall, and wait in the car. I’m wondering if that can be called self-derivative.

Weller: I'm going in and you're waiting in the car....

Weller: I’m going in and you’re waiting in the car….

You know the Bourne films – first there was Treadstone, then came Blackbriar, and by the 4th Bourne film, called The Bourne Legacy, the black ops program was now being called Operation Outcome. Which I offer up as examples of derivative. Now in Blindspot, by the end of the 3rd episode, we hear of another secret operation. This time it was called Daylight.

Now didn’t we see and hear of a clandestine secret group within the CIA, as in a CIA within the CIA. in the film 3 Days of the Condor?

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Quantico – Episode 1-02 America: Review

You know, when you sit down to describe a television show, it is not often that the term exhausting comes to mind. The exception to that theory would be if you are discussing the ABC-TV series Quantico.

Using the flash forward / flash back model that worked so well for the fans of How to Get Away With Murder, Quantico seems like HTGAWM on speed. We are continually switching back and forth between FBI Trainee dorm life, class rooms, lecture halls, and case studies. I’m talking about the events of 9 months previous when the new recruits arrived and began their training at Quantico.

There’s all sorts of alliances and rivalries, flirtations and competitions, and all of that is not confined to the agent trainees.

We have come to discover that there is an analyst class their as well. Plus who knows what is really going on between the Training Supervisor Miranda Shaw and one of the lead instructors Agent Liam O’Connor.

There’s Nimah and her twin. They are not known by their fellow classmates, but Miranda knows about them. Then you have Ryan Booth who is also posing as a trainee but he is somewhere above that as he is spying on Alex Parrish. O’Connor knows something about that too – as he’s the one running Booth.

Then we have Shelby (the blonde Georgian), who has a crush on the analyst Elias. Simon is set up as the FBI Academy’s first ever gay trainee but he has his eyes on Nimah, while another male student pursues him.

Have I mentioned Nathalie? She wants nothing more than to get the best of Priyanka Chopra’s lead character Alex Parrish.

We bounce around from lectures, to training exercises, to jogging. What we don’t get is seeing anyone study, sleep, or even eat.

I tell you it is exhausting.

Meanwhile in the flash forward present Alex has been named the prime suspect in the Grand Central Station bombing.  But, as she says … If I am the bomber why would I leave a room full of evidence in my own apartment?

That makes a lot of sense to me – but she has only said this so far to Nathalie. Alex and Nathalie also have a scene where they are fighting. Nathalie is trying to capture Alex, and Alex is desperate to escape. This was the single worst ever fight scene editing that I have ever watched.  The apparent use of stunt doubles and stand-ins was never ever more apparent.

You never saw a face in the fight. And when the fight became a chase up a fire escape then across roof tops, every leap led to a rolling, tumbling landing with each and every angle carefully arranged to conceal the faces.

I mean why have a chase and a fight scene that are so obviously staged and using doubles – which I understand, and then ruin it all with some crummy editing.

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Homeland – Separation Anxiety: Season Five Episode One – Recap & Review

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in…

That’s the line originally spoken by Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in The Godfather III (1990). But as it is fall, and TV is introducing the returns of some of it’s best series, this remark just happens to fit the character of Carrie Mathison in Showtime’s Homeland which kicked off its 5th season last night.

The only way out is back in – Homeland Season Five


Carrie has left the CIA for greener pastures – The During Foundation located in Berlin. She may have traveled a great distance from Langley to get to Berlin, but her new post at the Foundation is Head of Security. She sets up in Berlin with her daughter now about three and a new boyfriend. So despite the fact that we can say that the girl is out of the CIA, but maybe we can say she’s still in the business.

Speaking of the business, Saul Berenson is now the CIA European Division Director, and he along with Dar Adal are sill moving the chess pieces, aka assets, around on their turf. Peter Quinn is recalled from Syria where he has been stationed for the last 28 months performing the duties that only the sharp end of the stick can do.

He’s questioned about his work and he fires back at a room of powerful CIA suits when he tells asks them sarcastically – What strategy?  He’s upset, of course, and angry. You know, doing wet work can’t be all that much fun. And to be honest as only Peter Quinn can – the strategy isn’t working.

So he’s assigned to Berlin, where a situation has developed. Some wiseguys in Berlin have decided to prank a Jihadist recruiting site by posting a doctored but inflammatory video.

Little did they know that this would come to the instantaneous attention of the watchers at the CIA Berlin station. The CIA and Germany had a non-public agreement. Due to restrictions of the German constitution, the German domestic intelligence service was prevented from ‘spying’ or surveilling their own citizens. So the deal was that the CIA would do it for them.

Once this prankish video hit the net – the bells and whistles went off in the Berlin station. So using probes and pings and whatnot the CIA began to trace  the source of the video – you know locate the uploaders. But due to a security flaw that had gone unnoticed, this poking around by the CIA had made them vulnerable to a return probe.

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Noah Vosen: We are the sharp end of the stick now, Pam…

That was said in the CIA Operational HQ in Manhattan, by Noah Vosen, in the 2007 film The Bourne Ultimatum. Vosen was talking to Pamela Landy. And he said more:

No more red tape. No more getting the bad guys caught on our sights, then watching them escape while we wait for somebody in Washington to issue the order.

And that was just the beginning. From there we film goers went on to Zero Dark Thirty, and the a 4th Bourne film. Now we have Sicario. The government follows no rules, and does what it wants to accomplish its goals.

Legal or not. Morally justifiable or not. They don’t really care.

Yes, there are things like Rules of Engagement but these are more operationally based than concerned with legality. And while we all know, or assume that the CIA may not work on US soil, there are ways around that too. As FBI Agent Kate Macer found out in the new film Sicario.

Macer is played by Emily Blunt – and she’s great in a difficult role. Yeah, she has to break down doors and fill people up with lead as a part of her job. She heads up a kidnap recapture unit and she was working in and around Phoenix, AZ. After they busted into a home in the prominent Phoenix suburb of Chandler, and found that this was a home whose walls were lined with more than a few dozen corpses, which was followed by a huge explosion – a drug lab, or a weapons cache, or money safe room had been wired to detonate if the wrong people tried to enter. Macer lost two men from her detail. Al that was left was a huge crater

This was a sobering revelation – the drug trade was more than just about users in the USA. Or US dollars flowing out of the country to drug lords who ran cartels in other countries. In addition to that, now drugs were made, sold, and defended right there in a tony Phoenix burb. Before she can even leave the scene, she meets another government agent Matt Graver, who asks her to accompany him to a meeting at the FBI HQ in Phoenix.

The aftermath is that she’s asked to volunteer for a cross-agency mission, It’s all very hush-hush, but Macer agrees and volunteers. Because she’s told she’ll get a chance at the ‘people really responsible for what went down today’. Before she knows it, she’s driven out to Luke AFB, (wait for the moment when you see the impressive row after row of Apache Attack Helicopters) and shortly thereafter, she’s on a plane with Graver and another shadowy dude called Alejandro. Alejandro doesn’t say much, and before he drops off to sleep, Graver tells Macer that they’re heading to El Paso.

She knows nothing else.

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Minority Report: Episode 2 – Mr. Nice Guy

I’m no pre-cog but after watching the 2nd Episode of the Fox-TV series Minority Report, I can clearly see the demise of the show.


Basically it is set up as a two character crime solving/crime prevention team. Dash is never happy with his lot, and Lara Vega is always pushing him off to the side. Of course there are other characters like the police techie, Akeela, who waves her hands and images appear, and the insufferable Lt. Blake, played by Wilmer Valderrama, who is constantly one-upping Vega and at the same time he’s obviously trying to spark, or is it re-spark some interest from Vega.

On Dash’s side of the street we have his brother Arthur and who can be described as simply oozing slickness. For him there’s a price that he wants in order to help. As he says – I no longer work for free.

Arthur & Agatha

Arthur & Agatha

Then toss in the sister Agatha – who we have no clue about. Some times she’s not even real – which we discover when Dash is talking to her and suddenly we see that she’s just a hologram.

This week’s crime was the future murder of girl who would be picked up in a new high-tech disco. Once upon a time, places like these were called meat markets. Here, you hand over a bit of DNA by licking a card, which is then run through a machine, and in seconds a bracelet pops out. Sort of a mood ring type of gizmo designed and built to target a hookup candidate.

So after the techies waved their hands and got some visual clues – I had trouble throughout trying to decifer what it was they were seeing, but the solid clue was a pair ruby-red slippers, sorry that’s not correct. Silver was the color – you now the kind of ladies platform shoes that elevate the woman wearing them a full three inches. Arthur was called upon by Lara to divulge the name.

So they had the name and they knew the place – but they just had no clue about the identity of the killer. Somehow a likely candidate was brought into play. A sleaze-bag, and arrogant writer of how to pickup women books. There’s your set up.

This show has shoe-horned itself into such a narrow corner. Vega is sexy and wears revealing clothes but she has little to no chemistry with Dash. Dash lacks style, wit, charm and charisma. He’s closer to being a tall nerd than anything else. And beyond that he seems to be borderline depressed most of the time. Arthur has his own agenda. As does the mysterious Agatha.

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Limitless – New CBS-TV Series: Episodes 1 & 2

As Flo, the Progressive insurance gal might say –

Why are PED’s bad in Baseball, but good in the FBI?

I don’t know what to make of this show. Based on the original 2011 Limitless film, which I reviewed here, I was expecting a serious exercise in making the most with what you have. And if you haven’t enough of what it takes, then take something additional. That’s what Eddie Morra, played by Bradley Cooper did in the film.

In this new CBS TV series, also called Limitless – the lead character is Brian Finch, and he’s played by Jake McDorman. In his slacker, stoner way, he’s adrift in his life; a non-starter in almost everything. That is until he meets an old school chum — who is now a super successful investment banker. This guy takes note of Brian’s scruffy situation.

Here bro – just take this pill and you’ll be able to expand your mind exponentially. Trust me. This will fix you up in ways you hadn’t even dreamed of.

Of course it would and did.

The pill was NZT, and it was the same drug that Eddie Morra, who is now a Senator took back then. So Finch is now amazed about what he can do – which included rendering a diagnosis of his father’s illness. So it is no surprise that he wants more of these pills.

He heads back to his buddy’s flat and finds him not only dead, but apparently murdered. But he is able to find the stash. Two things happen, the FBI arrives at the same time, and Brian flees. He’s captured in the subway, and by the end of the first week, he’s been hired by the FBI as a consultant. No gun and no badge, but they need his brain power. He’s also limited to in-house work.

But there’s a catch to this wonder drug. It being the mother of all PEDs, it has a downside. Repetitive use of this drug might make you the smartest guy on the planet , but the drug will also kill you.

That is unless you have been inoculated. It just so happens that Eddie Morra has found Brian Finch. He offers the inoculation and the immunity to the drug’s negative and killing aspects in exchange for a promise. Brian may not tell any one about the inoculation. If it becomes known, then Eddie Morra would withhold the injections, and Finch would die an unimaginably horrible death.

So in the first episode which was somewhat serious, the show looked like it might have some legs. At least I thought so. But in the second episode the whole tenor of the show changed. It got goofy and went for laughs far too often.

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Blood & Oil – New ABC-TV Drama Series

First there was the 1940 film Boom Town.

Two buddies, down on their luck, rise from being fly-by-night, seat-of-their-pants wildcatters to oil tycoons over a twenty year period. Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy played Big John McMasters and Square John Sand. For Gable this was his second biggest grossing film after Gone With the Wind.

Flash forward to 1978. Now we get a TV series called Dallas, with Larry Hagman starring as J.R. Ewing, a Texas oil-tycoon and cattle rancher. This series was Texas oil at its back-stabbing worst. A soap of opera of enduring fascination. It seemed to run forever.

Following in the wake of Dallas, a few years later, in 1981 , we got the ABC TV Series called Dynasty. John Forsythe starred as the Denver oil tycoon Blake Carrington. This was Dallas all over again – only in Denver, and with better and fancier clothes on the cast. Linda Evans and Joan Collins were the pretty ladies involved.

Each of those series ran for multiple seasons and following them – there was kind of a dearth of family dramas surrounding oil tycoons. But that all ended this past Sunday night when ABC rolled out its new series called Blood and Oil. At the top of the cast is Don Johnson as Hap Briggs.

This series is set in North Dakota – and you can think of it this way – Miami Vice‘s Sonny Crockett has grown older and now, instead of driving Lamborghini’s while posing as a flashy drug buyer/dealer in Miami in order to take down other criminals, Crockett has become Hap Briggs. Now Briggs sits at the top of the oil heap in the Dakotas.

He’s got a wayward son called Wick, and a trophy wife called Darla. Briggs seems like a decent sort, but he’s not all that popular with the town’s working folk.

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Quantico – New TV Series on ABC

Did you catch the new ABC-TV Series called Quantico which premiered on Sunday night?

I did. I especially wanted to see this one because the lead actress, Priyanka Chopra, is one of Bollywood’s leading stars. I also saw her in person last spring at the IIFA held in Tampa. On the surface, it seemed like a bit of unusual casting for American TV – an Indian actress portraying a FBI Agent; but in the name of fairness, I should tell you that Priyanka attended high schools in both Newton, Massachusetts, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

As the show opens, a woman is lying unconscious on a slab of concrete in what looks like the very recent aftermath of a huge explosion. I’ll return to that shortly. But before we can learn anything, we flash backwards 9 months and we cut quickly to Augusta, Georgia, where a blond girl is walking about a large mansion which still has all of its content but the major furniture pieces are all covered with sheets – signifying that it is likely that no one lives there.

And before we can learn anything about her we cut to Oakland, California where we see the original woman from the opening, now jogging. She returns home, and we learn that she is on her way somewhere as her mother conspicuously tells her (and us) You’re going to be late for the train – I printed your ticket. But something is amiss. This woman had concealed some papers under the corner of a rug in her bedroom, and, moments later, as the taxi begins to leave, the cabbie says to her, Train station, yes?, and she says, No – the airport.

In my opinion, this was a bit ham-fisted. We are now thinking – why is this woman going to a unknown destination that she’s been very careful to keep from her mother. Call me suspicious, but while this was not all wrong it came on too quickly and seemed forced. Did we really need to know that she has secrets this early – basically within the first two minutes of the series?

Cut to the airplane which is flying across the country to Washington DC. This time the girl from the slab, and then Oakland, will meet a guy on the plane. It could be she is telling more lies but we will have to wait and see. He buys her a drink.

Flash to Salt Lake City, then to Manhattan, then to Logan, Ohio. In these places we meet a guy in the Mormon Tabernacle, then a gay guy, then a woman who looks Middle Eastern. She will need to buy something in the convenience store in order to use the bathroom. There she locates a concealed phone wrapped in plastic and hidden in the toilet tank. She changes from wearing a dark scarf into wearing a black hijab head covering. Before driving away in a different car than she arrived in.

We know nothing about these people, but you get a feeling about them that conveys that they are all up to something that’s not readily apparent. Now don’t forget we are still in the flashback mode – which places us some 9 months in the past. We then cut to a car parked in the airport garage. Two people are having vigorous sex. It is the Oakland jogger and the guy she met on the plane.

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