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Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech, Commentary 4

May 10, 2010 1 comment

The next part of this movie goes into deeper and more patriotic descriptions of the right for people to have freedom of speech, using the Bill of Rights and the words of the Founding Fathers.  This contrasts abruptly with yet another real-life free speech crisis.  It’s a quintessential lose-lose situation.  In the late 70’s, American Neo Nazis announced they would come to the largely Jewish Illinois suburb of Skokie to march, with their hateful speech and symbols.  The village courts found this legal despite the psychological and emotional discomfort and rage it would cause in the town.  The ACLU helped get the parading legally accepted.  But with so much publicity gained in these processes, the Nazis just demonstrated three times in Chicago instead.

Someone in the documentary defends this despicable form of expression and I have to agree for the most part.  There are so many other kinds of parades you could have through a street in a town that would also face much condemnation and cause much rage in those living nearby.  Advocating abortion or illegal drugs is not the kind of thing most Americans think someone should be locked up for for expressing, even though it’s considered by many extremely morally wrong.  Saying, in public “we Christian whites are superior and the Jews aren’t good people” isn’t too much different in quality from a sincere expression in the pride for, or belief in superiority of one’s culture, or expressing of rage against “the white man.”  Most Americans think we have superior ethics and a culture of progress.  We think that those who put down the ideal of equality and self-expression as basically ignorant or even evil.

These neo-Nazis weren’t going to make any physical threats, but would convey what they wanted to “peacefully.”  I also doubt Nazis have any organized power to launch an attack on anywhere ever again.  But I disagree with the movie’s analyst partly, because it would cause a lot of fear and frustration for Jews (and others) living in that town.  Although one can argue that white-fearing blacks are just as at fault, I think it’s more reasonable to be stressed and distraught by a misfit culture based on supreme intolerance and minority extermination for the short time it thrived.  It might feel like guns are firing outside your house if you lived in Skokie and this carried out.  Anyone with enough guts would fight back.  A Jewish resident would not have any sense of privacy if he goes outside with neo-Nazis lurking.  Furthermore, with TV cameras, this gang could show all about their beliefs and customs, with significant attention.  Their goal may have been to torment those they believe torments them.  But then we return to the fact that free speech includes the right to disapprove of others, as long as specific untruthful claims aren’t put into media.  This is still kind of an un-winnable issue.

A modern debate similar to this is the abortion issue.  I feel instinctively that there is something wrong about taking the life of a child away (unless its presence will surely be fatal to the mother’s life).  Also, there are unborn victim laws that make murdering a fetus a crime (whether or not the mother dies as well).  I also feel great pity and frustration for anyone who becomes pregnant and does not want their body and future life to be affected so severely.  It seems like a right the government should not intrude upon.  I personally can attempt to do anything I want to my body, except for trying to take my own life, which is illegal.  I probably can’t even understand how frustrating it is for a woman who goes through such a thing, especially here in America where we have the freedom to choose paths in life that our intelligence and our resources allow.  Like this neo-nazi-parade issue, it’s something that might be doomed to never be solved.  But I do think all people should the sincerity of those on the opposite side of the issue, if we are ever to come up with partial solutions.  I believe some things are pretty one-sided, but these are not.

Categories: Uncategorized

Profit: Final Post

April 5, 2010 2 comments

Profit left me feeling the way I did in my last post.  It is a fantastic piece of television that was ahead of its time, so goes the saying.  However, these were my thoughts before I read online about the hypothetical second season.  I avoided the bottom of the Wikipedia page to successfully avoid spoilers.  I had never considered that this show had unresolved plot.  This changes a lot.  So, in this universe where a second season exists, Joanne dies, as Profit sets up, by being blown up in the phone booth.  The real Jim Profit is shown, and Jim Stakowski eventually murders him.  Nora and Pete divorce.  There is a storyline involving getting a senator in a drunk driving accident.  What do I say now?

The quality of enjoyment of this show doesn’t go down.  I still love the acting, the meaning, the plot writing, the character development, and the production (blurring and zooming especially in the later episodes).  But rather, I see things differently.  Things didn’t end up fine and dandy (except for the strawberry sicko) after all.  But I ask: do proposed plots mean anything “canon?”  I want to say know, but Joanne breaks this argument.  Joanne is either in a phone booth that it about to explode, or just plain in a phone booth.  It’s like her character is trapped in a moment just before death.  This challenges my typical perception of fiction.

There are shows where reality breaks down, or it was all a dream, but what about when cancellation cancels a piece of story that can’t actually be ignored?  Yet this is the way Profit would have been: challenging the viewer about who to root for, and throwing us off balance with twists that make a lot of sense.  I wouldn’t have ended season one of Profit any other way: with its (apparently) minor cliffhangers, and its optimistic ending.  Maybe the show can be read both ways.  Either way, it is a lot of fun, and I don’t regret finding out what would have happened.  I felt silly not figuring out that the creators thought there could be a second season.  Since the show was cancelled very fast, I assumed they devised no second season.  I guess David Greenwalt and John McNamara liked the universe they made too much to not come up with more stories.

But returning to this episode, Forgiveness; it is a great final episode.  Its title is great.  People are forgiven, not forgiven, and partly forgiven.  When is it right to forgive, and what is forgiving? is one many moral questions the show asks.  Other questions are, of course, can advice be good if it is meant to manuplate?  Are grudges worth keeping?  Does saving oneself call for any brutal action?  Where do selfishness end and loyalty begin?  Can troubled relationships be saved?  If so, is there any real guideline?  What is the best lifestyle?  How should we treat another people?  Does technology help or hurt us?  Can one be contradictory yet still attain happiness and even virtue?  What does it mean to contradict oneself?  When should one rest from one’s goals?  Are our moral codes or our instincts superior?  How should we feel about pleasure and suffering by ourselves and other?  Profit makes you think deeply without hurting your head, and that is one reason why it is a great show.  The pilot is the exception.  I think the pilot was a mess because the people involved hadn’t refined their work inside this Profit universe, and used their abilities comfortably as in the other seven episodes.

If you’ve avoided my spoilers, or if you’ve not, I will give final reasons to watch Profit. It is an interesting peek at mid-1990s technology- how computers could be used and misused in controversial ways.  The fascination and the anticipation of computer advancements makes me a little nostalgic, but also interested in the past I have lived in.  I wonder- how would Profit manipulate people with instant messaging, blogs, viral videos, or the fact that so many more people have mobile devices?

The show, though filmed in Canada, takes place in an unnamed city.  Most of the scenes take place outside of the way of bustling streets.  The show is about a corporation, but economic theory is not involved.  Anyone in advanced society can relate to this show.  Or perhaps anyone who has to argue with their peers can.   I think its issues are timeless.  If you have enough intelligence to get what’s going on, and you’ve ever seriously been befuddled by morality, you may want to watch Profit, if not listen to the man himself.

There are no important characters that one cannot relate to.  The only one-dimensional characters are the ones that hardly talk.  Whether It’s Gail Koner’s amazement at the powers of her colleagues, Sykes’s justice, Bobbi’s playing roles of people she is not, Pete’s will to clean up his act, Charles’s need for strict but sane authority, Profit’s insight into humanity, Joanne’s pursuit of truth, or Nora’s discontent with loved ones, you can’t fully dislike any of the main characters.  Many one-or-two-episode characters are charming as well, no matter how lawless or flawed.  They seem like stars in a 47-minute movie.  You don’t need to see Batewell or Carol again; they got their own fine episodes.

Although the pilot is wonky, and the second episode is awkward, by episode three I knew I liked the show.  By four, I loved the show.  The show reaches a point where it can’t get too much better, so the style changes in subtle ways.  Apparently this is because there were actually four different writers for separate episodes.  I can’t make any generalizations, but some episodes have advantages in terms of suspense, dialogue, character development, humor, and intelligence.  Perhaps this was another reason I didn’t suspect a second season.  They had presented a whole lot of themes.  In spite of the sometimes uncomfortable pace, the show’s density and speed are some things to revere.  Don’t take my word for any of this; because nobody quite enjoys the same thing the same way.  Also, I’m no TV connoisseur.  Don’t try to live up to my lecturing.  Your average Brooklyn College professor is far better at being smart and educated about real-life matters and creative works.

I have enjoyed blogging immensely.  I like adding pictures, typing a lot of commentary, and having freedom to alter my style as I feel I want to.  I recommend doing something like this to anyone who likes TV.  Whether it’s your personality, a part of your personality, or just mental ability, you can make it evident and exercise it by blogging.  Even if no future students read this, and I don’t get around to fixing what sloppy writing is left on this page, I am proud of myself.  When you’ve accomplished something with real brain work, you can enjoy so-called leisure more as well.  One of the best ways is to take something you find fun and write or talk about it.  I have spent years typing on message boards.  This is like that, but more ennobling.  I think I will advance whatever my jobs are in media thanks to this blog.  Though there are some more posts about other things to come, as this assignment calls for.  Thanks for reading this quickly done last post about my television program!

Taking it easy or analyzing humanity? For this, I admire Jim Profit most.

Categories: Uncategorized

Profit, Episode 8: Forgiveness

April 5, 2010 1 comment

Arthur MacLaine is actually more masculine than this picture makes him look, making him even creepier.

Here is what happens in Episode 8, Forgiveness.  I want to tell all that happens.  You can’t get more concise than this.  Some might say that that with one scene every under-two-minutes the show is too fast paced.  It might be better off being slowed down.  But the biggest advantage is that it makes the show re-watchable.  With subtitles at your side, (if you have the right TV), you can pick up on things you didn’t see or hear before on repeats (or on your DVD).  Being a fan of cartoons, I’d use The Venture Brothers or Fooly Cooly (FLCL) as examples.  But I can do more than get by without a hilarious, bizarre, animated universe.  Regardless, this will give you a sense of how well story is crammed in.

Scene 1: Jim is awake and lively and tells us that that Pete and Chaz Gracen are rich, powerful, and miserable.  Jim’s learned to appreciate what he has.

Looking back, I should have figured out he didn’t want to overthrow the company himself.

Scene 2: Chaz is frustrated with his brother and tells him to set his money on fire, though not literally.  Profit tells us about Arthur MacLaine, who is shown on his way to the town.  Chaz has found out about the takeover, but profit tells his boss to treat Pete like the little brother he is.

Here Profit is again with the warm lessons about life contrasted with cruel actions.

Scene 3: Nora prepares to encounter her uncle Arthur, who is staying at her place, because it has been revealed in episode 7 that he is planning to take over G&G.  Arthur is the CEO of an organic food company.  Arthur molested her when she was twelve years old.  He is a very realistically perverted, half-effeminate, post-middle-aged creep.  Profit’s voice says, “Putting a perpetrator back with his victim is like dropping a baby in a snake pit.  Ouch.”

I thought the “ouch” was kind of silly.  But it’s good Profit fully explains the context that wasn’t outlined too clearly in previous episodes.

The opening theme plays, and presumably a commercial break happens.

Scene 4: The pedophile rapist approaches the door, with his sweater and overbearing smile, and knocks.  The door opens.  He says, “You asked me to escort you- did you?

He is a very well-acted creep.

Scene 5: After sex, Bobbi acts grateful to Charles.  “It’s so good with you it just makes me cry.”  As the bed covers less and less of them, Chaz offers her a big silvery bracelet.  She accepts with modesty.

Money can’t buy love, but it can make you think you have it.

Scene 6: In the street, Nora asks Profit how to deal with her rage against Arthur.  Profit says she may have to suffer for a time before for the business deal.

This contrasts with the real fate on Arthur.  But this lie was needed to motivate what happened.

Scene 7: Chaz discusses shares on the phone in the office.  Pete walks by, but it is not clear this is covering for bigger concerns.

Scene 8: Bobbi’s car is towed, so she asks her stepson for a new one.  She threatens; she could speak negatively about that Jim Profit.

Scene 9: Bobbi, who has been using the fake name “Eleanor”, breaks up with Constance Gracen, in spite of Constance’s feeling “free and honest” now.

Constance must be the least intelligent character.  She is very sweet, though, and has the ability to express herself in a fulfilling way.

Scene 10:  Joanne confronts Sykes about his true motivations.  She has received information from her anonymous female avatar friend.  The Gracens were virtually responsible for his parents’ death when he was only six.  Sykes says he is not out for violent revenge, but rather to make the company better so they don’t do something like that again.

I didn’t figure this one out.  Maybe I would have if there were less scenes.

Scene 11:  Leo, Joanne’s bowtie-clad subordinate, gets asked by her to investigate the messages on her computer.  Leo clearly looks up to her and is in love with her, so he is glad to do the task.

I knew Leo would be relevant when I saw him many episodes ago.

Scene 12: Sykes and Pete scheme some more in an office.  Sykes says they are “playing in front of God and everyone.”

Scene 13: Profit tells his boss that he has put takeover rumors in the newspapers.  Chaz is shocked, but Jim says this is good for business and has figures to prove it.  He can “make the rumors work.”  Arthur waltzes in to a lower floor.  Looking up, he says, smilingly, “I came here to pay respects- wait a minute, I don’t have any respect for you.’’  Equally snide, Chaz plans dinner with him.  “I really need to start carrying a gun” he says to Profit.

Scene 14: Gail, with rapid speech and great enthusiasm, shows a car catalog to Profit (for his stepmom).  Nora calls on the phone.  He gives advice to keep loving Pete.  He is manipulating and giving good advice.

Does Gail have a future in sales?

Scene 15: Leo cracks the stranger woman’s signal and reveals that it is Profit using a face-blurrer and a voice-warper.  Both are elated at the discovery.

I finally predicted something.  Though I wasn’t so sure that would happen.

Scene 16: Around the workplace, Sykes and Joanne reveal to us that Jim Profit is actually an impostor.  His name is really Jimmy/Jim Stakowski.  Joanne wants to stop the menace, and plans to go to Ireland where the real Jim Profit was or is.

The tension is building and there will be a bigger reveal, is what I thought.

Scene 17: Bobbi is with a trashy dude in her new red car, and calls her son on her cell phone.  Profit is worried and tried to demand she stop because he can hear the intoxication in her voice.

I’m surprised that Profit’s biggest enemy in this episode could be an auto accident, not a scheming person.

Scene 18: Nora Gracen cries to herself.

Scene 19: In Chaz’s house, he and Arthur have a quiet dinner at a huge table.  When asked about his odd organic foods, including his favorite strawberries, given by his servant, MacLaine explains he has a strong throat allergy to preservatives.  Profit is nearby and gives a voice over about how being a businessman is like being a choreographer.  Pete comes in and punches his wife’s uncle in the face with little warning.  Chaz keeps his cool before and after Pete admits his planned coup, and resigns.

Pete’s punch was predictable and awesome.  I was glad to see the return of his punch.  Though now it is for good use.  The resolution of this takeover was kind of anticlimactic, but in a good way.  Things were resolved “peacefully.”   The characters developed.  Chaz essentially forgives his brother, in this show based on actions begetting revenge.

Scene 20: Sykes storms in an office in a rage the borders on uncivil.  Pete explains the molestation and his ex-partner-in-crime half-accepts.

Has Pete made a better life for himself?

Scene 21: Bobbi, in a hotel, gets called by Chaz while in a hotel.  She says the noise is “just the television” and Chaz believes her.  She gives a sigh of relief and a phony but effective “I love you.”  The guy on the bed doesn’t really care.

Bobbi’s sexy antics remain amusing because she has so much going on in life.

Scene 22: Charles offers Profit Pete’s job.  But Jim refuses respectfully.

This was the point where I realized the show wasn’t going to end the way I thought it did.  The message may be that victory isn’t gained by aiming for the top, especially if you want to control people.  This is almost like people who purposely “throw” competitions in Big Brother.  Unlike Lelouch in Code Geass, there is not sacrifice.  Unlike Light Yagami in Death Note, the main character sincerely wants to balance power with work and family.

Scene 23: Gail serves Profit with more secretary work.  She is more content now, though.

Feeling good for a woman who breaks laws that protect the economy is strange.

Scene 24: Profit tells us that life is like a team sport, with players.  A hostile takeover is like a floodgate.  The abstract takeover concept takes over the environment even if someone fails to exact one.

I thought a takeover was going to happen, possibly, still.

Scene 25:

Profit arranges a plot involving a girl scout and Arthur’s vacation.

Scene 26:

Jim is anxious at her mother, now speeding and under the influence.  She speaks about enjoying life, oblivious to the crash that comes about after what seems like a whole minute.

This fantastic scene was slightly ruined by the crappy editing.  The car crash is obviously real life sped up.  This was inconsistent with the show.  It reminded me of the low-frame-rate stop-motion used in the first Terminator.

Scene 27: Bobbi survives the crash and is in the hospital.  Son pours water on mom’s face to get her up.  Son threatens mom, who is “a drug-guzzling slut” but can do good things, to marry Chaz or face death by needle poison.

I don’t think she marries him.  That isn’t brought up in the end.  Does Jim recant that plan?

Scene 29:

Profit has arranged with Nora to meet her uncle.  Waiting at his girl scout organization, Profit talks to a 12-year-old who has been set up to possibly meet with Arthur on his yacht cruise, for selling the most cookies.  This clearly affects the abused Nora.  Profit asks her secret, she says “I never take no for an answer.”  He says, “You’ll go far.”  Gail enters disguised as an assertive New Yorker whose intentions get the woman who runs the room to leave.

This scene is oddly inspiring.  Profit says you can fight your enemies and win.

Profit hides when MacLaine enters this room, and the girl scout is also gone.

Scene 30:

Nora confronts her uncle.  He says they had something special, and that she’s still beautiful despite growing older.  She says it was rape; he denies because she didn’t resist him; he gets mad; she lets him hug her.   But in the middle of the hug he chokes on a Profit-rigged strawberry.  Profit convinces her to let him die by not calling the hospital in time.  She forgives him only verbally

Here is another case was cruelty may or may not be justified.  But would Arthur even have survived long enough if she called as soon as possible?  Also, the way the camera is set up, it looked like a stabbing may have happened.  But there is an “oh” moment when you see the strawberries.

Scene 31: Calling from a phone booth in Ireland, Joanne Meltzer gleefully informs Jeffrey Sykes that she has more information about the original, presumably Irish Jim Profit, so they can catch “our Lucifer.”  Sykes is glad.

I guess the show ends with Joanna still searching for answers.  She seems happy.

Scene 32:  The camera slowly enters on a “Gracen family” formal party.  Pete wants to give Profit female company, but one fit woman says they could if they tried.  Bobbi, now walking with a cane, talks sweetly (and means it) to her stepson.  He has everything he could want, she says, including her.  She seems to discourage his risks in life.  She comes on to him.  Jim backs off just a little, but gives in, silently.  Now in a further corner of the big room, they make out as the camera tracks backwards outdoors, and pans back left toward the actual party.

Profit’s voice says, “When the smoke clears, and you get right down to it, only three things matter: Your faith, your fortitude, and your family.  Goodnight.” The credits roll.

Is this how the show ends?  Things are left unresolved?  Damn it!  I want to know what happens, especially to Joanne and Sykes.  But I guess that is a fair way to end a show.  I’ve dealt with the anime series The Big O! and Neon Genesis Evangelion.  In the former, we get vague clues that reveal a huge conspiracy, but the ending is not well explained.  In the latter, we get a dream-like two episodes that make a vaguely concluded existential adventure, and a movie that does not even officially correspond with that ending.    Not all our questions have to be answered.  And the show’s final message is about family and moderation in living, however strange.  The Gracens seem a lot better now.  I’m stunned by how good the character interaction is.  I was shocked by not being shocked.  Any other show would make this disappointing, but the world of Profit is sincere enough that one likes a tame conclusion.

Watched: April 3rd, 2010

Overall Rating: 5/5

Categories: Uncategorized

Profit, Episode 7: Security

I can’t summarize the way I did last time.  Episode 7 has dozens of scenes, just like Episode 6, so I will just give the basics.  The episode revolves around Carol McKenna, a feisty and crafty internet reporter (an underground sort of thing at the time involving e-mail groups) with an alias and a globe-hopping dangerous history, who tries to undermine Gracen & Gracen with her findings.  Charles receives word of a reporter in their midst and asks our villain protagonist to get them out.  She fails, but only after Profit enacts lots of well-planned manipulation and takes on dangerous tasks.  Jim’s toughest opponent yet is not what I expected- she is not run by vengeance, is not a genius, and not afraid, even after knowing exactly what the fiends at G&G are capable of.   In fact, their first encounter results in elevator sex.  The raunchiest episode so far, these two have relations a couple more times throughout the episode, presented through much body-kissing foreplay and afterplay.  They are seducing each other, and know that the other one knows, but Jim has the better plan and wins.

Similar scenes happen with Charles and Bobbi, who have gone even further.  She is seducing a husband and wife at the same time (context now gives us confirmation that Bobbi and Constance have kissed and then some despite it not appearing on-screen.)  Gail Koner, with increase competence but still afraid of being caught, assumes the disguise of an IRS agent.  Under Profit’s order, she makes a deal involving debt which gains the favor of Carol’s boss, Simon.  Thus, after a contrived evacuation of G&G, when Carol sneaks in to steal critical information, it turns out that Jim both rigged extra cameras to make it look like a robbery, and paid off her boss, who understands the ploy, to fire her, and himself resign, rather than defend her innocence.  The newspaper says nothing but good things about the dysfunctional and dishonest Gracen & Gracen.  Pete has been away, but returns to Nora and they seem to get physically intimate again.  Though Nora still looks uncomfortable, perhaps because she suspects his takeover plan, or aybe she loves someone else, or simply dislikes his personality after her affair with Profit many episodes ago.

By the end of the episode, the plan involving Constance is revealed and achieved.  Bobbi got Constance to write romantic poetry in her diary.  Profit seizes this covertly, and plants it so Chaz can find it, so he can use this to exact the winning end of the prenuptial agreement.  Bobbi breaks up with Constance in a pretty merciful way involving contrived confessions and made-up responsibilities.  Even though Constance submitted in the divorce because of her newfound love- one who leaves her right after- she still seems to have a new outlook on life, and will to live on without the financial support of the Gracens.  Finally, a female voice and avatar keeps communicating with Joanne, telling her to beware of Sykes, who keeps asking her out to dinner.

Security is yet another fantastic episode.  I’ll tell you some good moments.

1.  Profit gives a mini-speech about the illusion of absolute security not existing in nature, only in humans.  This makes everyone more vulnerable, even this man who understands the phenomenon.

2.  In the beginning, Joanne gives advice to Carol to watch out for Profit.  She pretends to accept, fooling me.  Carol knows more about Profit than anyone so far.

3. Chaz’s just-smug-enough gripes about the dangers of what an exposé would do to him- from lawsuits and debt, to serving french fries wearing a hairnet, to cannibals and prison.

4. Softcore sexual activity and voice-over at the same time make for some great analysis of intimacy, as does the closing speech:

5. “A soul mate.  A shadow self with whom we can merge seamlessly. But in that coming together, we risk losing ourselves.  Everything becomes a blur, and we grow afraid.  Unsure.  Even distrustful.  The danger, though, is that we never know who that other really is.  What they want.  Or the lengths they’ll go through to get it.  In the end, it’s probably best to go your own way.  Even though there will be times you long for something else.”

6. Bobbi feigning modesty and telling Chaz “there’s just something about you…you make me feel like such a slut.”  Chaz laughs, but is ignorant, so we the audience grin harder than he laughs.

7. Constance telling Bobbi that she can “see people for who they really are.”  The irony is that she sees such things far better than the wife can imagine.

8. Chaz’s victorious fist-pumping and quiet yelling of “yes” at the incriminating evidence.

9. The evacuation sequence is like a thriller movie, but without the shaky camera and the mumbling, jargon-ridden dialogue.

10. Jim has his first explained-how-I-defeated-you speech- to Constance.  This is something that appears a lot in manga-based anime.  I like how he only explains himself when the person needs to know- for both their sakes.  He is just subtly taunting and demeaning- much better than ranting about the weakness of an opponent.

There are relationships and pieces of plot not yet resolved.  I like how I am eager to watch the next episode, but not because of some annoying cliffhanger.  The is enough resolution on Constance’s story to satisfy my need for a conclusion of some sort.  If the sexual tension was good in the last episode, the overt sexuality is even better.  When people are releasing themselves like that, and are not tense, there is still animosity, awkwardness, and deception not seen in the clean scenes.

I disliked Jim again for a while, because Carol was strong-willed, clever, straightforward,  and eccentric in a girly way.  But she got less than she asked for.  Getting only fired was rather merciful.  Though that was probably just his best choice.  I kind of subconsciously predicted her exposé would fail.  That would bring the show deep into the subject of television media stories and widely famous political figures, before even resolving the private matters of this upcoming attempt at a takeover.

The bitter and dark humor is better than ever, as is the natural but meaningful dialogue.  The plot is still kind of dense, but that makes it so I can’t predict how who is going to defeat whom.  I am worried for Gail, who seems too comfortable with Profit’s aid.

The next episode will probably be the most exciting yet.  There will be some big reveals in the story, someone will probably die (because Profit hasn’t committed murder since episode 1), another will go insane, another will lose his job.  I think Jim will probably become Chief Executive if not CEO.  He needs to go up the power ladder some more.  Pete seems like he is doing exactly what Profit wants him to do.  Both brothers seem like they will be overthrown by Profit.  Next up is the series finale: Forgiveness.

Watched: April 1, 2010, in my room  (the family keeps using the livingroom TV)

Overall rating: 5/5

Categories: Uncategorized

Profit, Episode 6: Chinese Box

Jim Profit lets Gail Koner see what it's like in the Chief Executive's (Charles Gracen's) powerful seat.

In April of 1996, Fox aired the first four episodes of Profit, with high praise from critics.  But the series only went this far because the audiences shied away from this fantastic television series.  According to the DVD package, cliche questions were asked about the show- about the evilness of the main character, about who to root for.  Fox’s stations in the Bible Belt got the most protest.

It’s a shame that this happened.  Whoever had an interest in Profit had no chance to watch the rest.  The show’s initial stages of production were very tiresome.  David Greenwalt and John McNamara worked together on what what be their greatest  script-writing jobs yet.  After finding the help of Canadian director Robert Iscove, actor Adrian Pasdar (as well as the rest of the great cast), scrambling to officially acquire their shooting space in Vancouver, and getting a score from composer from Mike Post, this show was finally made.

But Profit was ahead of its time.  Only after Premium cable channels like HBO brought very dark, twisted, and sophisticated-ly offensive shows to television, could something like Profit be acceptable on something like broadcast TV.   It got cable play on Canadian channel Trio in 2002.  The series was shown in France, and gained much popularity there.  My thorough research has not told me exactly when this happened, but I assume it is before or around 2002.  The show is somewhat mild in terms of onscreen language, sexuality, and violence.  What must have turned viewers off- and what the writers underestimated the power of- was the incorporation of immorality and amorality in every character, as well as mental illness related to family issues.  Profit is shocking, but also sincerely unsettling, provocative, and disturbing.

I think I can get even more out of it than an audience back then would.  I don’t have to deal with the utter surprise of seeing something like this on TV- I can appreciate the messages about psychology and morality, and form attachments to all the depraved characters without much guilt or bewilderment.  It is good that Profit was made available on DVD, and that is has very good reviews from buyers.  It is emblematic of change in television, has a unique story, and is a high-effort production.  With this, I take you deeper into the unaired episodes.

Episode 6 of Profit returns to Jim Profit’s self-challenging gambits at Gracen & Gracen.  A whole lot happens, but it’s still easier to follow than the earlier episodes.  However, the overall plot still confused me somewhat.  I had to re-watch many scenes throughout, although re-watching Profit is fun and interesting.  The episode opens up with Jim’s voice reintroducing Gail Koner- her discontent, her untapped strong will, and what seems to be real nonsexual affection for her on Profit’s part.  Profit gets called into the office of a manic Chaz Gracen, who tells his impressive subordinate to get G&G to break away from their owned-company Wong Industries.  Their warehouse and their head, Mr. Wong, have been featured in Episode 3.  It turns out Wong Industries is selling illegal weapons to China.  When the FBI does their customary check on G&G, much controversy would be revealed.  Profit meets Mr. Wong on his own.  In the secrecy of his car, Wong gives Profit information that convinces him to seize the newest version of the Ultrachip- a state-of-the-art hacking device, from Dr. Jeremy Batewell, a man who was once fired by G&G for sexual harassment.  This is basically a deal by Mr. Wong to break free from the benefits of being tied with G&G. Profit goes to the Batewell’s large house.  He is around thirty, like Profit, has curly orange hair, and a smug but aggressive personality.  Speaking through intercom, it is revealed that that Gail Koner, the “temptress from Hell” was the one that was harassed.  Profit gets accused of scheming by G&G, but explains that Koner wants to make amends.  Batewell accepts.  Then the opening sequence plays.

Gail sees her mother, who appears to be in a coma in a hospital bed.  But it’s said that she can hear what people say around her.  Profit meets with Pete Gracen, who is clearly up to destroying his brother Chaz’s position at the corporation.  Pete’s ambitions are clearly leading to some big events.  It is ironic that he has no suspicion of Jim Profit.  We see Batewell from the darkness in his house.  He wobbles on a rocking horse, which makes him seem like an even match for Profit; they both have odd infantile behaviors.  However, the end reveals that Jeremy is less mature and careful than his enemy.   Pete puts on a charade for his brother.  He says he’s leaving the company for now so he can go to rehab for his alcoholism, which as the protagonist knows, has actually been cured.  Chaz talks to Profit about the cheapness of his wife, which brings back some of the black humor Profit is good at.  Then Profit, with computer, tells us viewers some more about the marriage.  They are bound together by money.  If one divorces the other, the said spouse must give all G&G money to the other.  Mrs. Gracen spends most of her days at lofty resorts, attending literary seminars.  They had a falling out due to a lesbian relationship with a literature professor on her part, but remain married.

Head of Security Joanne Meltzer and Sykes meet in the middle of a street.  Sykes is a little embarrassed that this brief meeting was about their problems with Profit, and not a date caused by his charms.  He is scared to talk because of what spying there might be about, but they do talk.  She has found a newspaper article that reveals something very big about Profit’s past- which she tells Sykes to read and then shred.  But the audience does not get to know what this information is.  This makes the suspense about the next episode greater.

In her office, Jim lectures Gail about how good she can be- “you are definitely executive material.”  Jeremy plays darts and thinks aloud about Gail.  Then he throws a dart at the camera.  With all the serious business going on, this is actually a clever fourth-wall-softening bit that makes his character more silly and more intimidating.

Profit talks a little to his mother about the current situation, but we are unsure of what she will do.  But in a scene not long after, she goes to the resort where Chaz’s wife, Constance Gracen, is, and pretending to not know her, befriends her.  His voice over refers to her, for being so conniving and crude, as “stepmonster.”  Gail visits her mother in the hospital as usual, but Profit is there to her surprise.  We know that Profit has paid her medical expenses, so the two have a deal to fulfull.  He explains a lot about trust in a very sincere way, and gets Gail to agree about their trust’s strength.  Jim, conversing with Gail again, reveals to her in vague terms about his mistreatment in childhood.  He explains the mission- she will go into Jeremy’s compound, get him knocked out by rigging a drink, and engage in Ultrachip thievery.  He tells her she looks beautiful.  She half-enjoys the compliments.  The acting gets very good here.  I am unsure about what these two people feel for each other.  They quickly form a tense sort of trust, but one strong enough to get Gail to agree with the mission to infiltrate Batewell’s home.  I thought Gail might be a sacrifice.  But it looks like Sykes is spying from behind window shades!  They are a very useful tool for anyone in the workplace, at least throughout this series.  Jim offers mom a drink, but she retorts with her charming attitude- “I’m sorry, was I speaking Turkish?  I said I don’t drink.”  After some flirting, with her taking the dominant side, they kiss violently into a commercial break.

Gail comes to the house of her mildly deranged ex-lover Dr. Batewell.  She is awkward as ever, and he is suspicious but soft.  Yet Gail does have support with her new and innovative cellular phone, which allows contact with Profit, who is watching nearby.  The offering of a drink fails.  Batewell makes personal criticisms of her but clearly longs for her.  It is a mix of hatred, fear, and sexual tension that is rarely created in a scene so brief in movies or television.  She lets him steal a strong kiss, and uses passionate language just before knocking him out by hitting him over the head with an object.  Gail now has to maneuver his computer-laden room to accomplish a few things.  A loud shake scares her, that is actually a cat, amusing the viewer and Profit on the other wireless end of the phone.  And alarm sounds but Profit tells her the proper action to turn it off.  This scene is like a thriller; we are scared for Ms. Koner’s getting caught.  Her efforts eventually allow Profit to figure out that the new Ultrachip model has not actually been made.  Batewell was going to give the U.S. government an inadequate model, for some sort of personal gain.  I did not expect this embarrassing secret from someone who was previously established as a super-genius with an I.Q. near 200.

Sykes, looking at the house, makes a call to some unseen authority using his giant but effective cellphone.  Pete and his wife Nora discuss “rehab.”  She will miss him but hopes for his success.  Walking through the street, Jim’s voice says, keeping most of its cool, that he has to improvise for his crisis.  He goes to see Mr. Wong again.

Bobbi and Constance have been relating to each other about about the hardships of marriage in the upper class.  Constance reveals something about her legal husband with some dark sense of humor- “His father beat him.  Apparently not enough.”  In the evening in a later scene, they get exceedingly intimate, and open about their life experience- though Bobbi’s is mostly half-truths- and appear attracted to each other.  We the audience know that Bobbi knows about Mrs. Constance Gracen’s apparent bisexuality.  But I couldn’t tell if it was a setup, actual romance, or a mix of the two on Stakowski’s part.  Either way, I thought, as their faces got closer, they were going to kiss right here.  But this was not so.  “No.  I can’t.  You’re a married woman” explains Bobbi with pity and sympathy.  Profit succeeded in making me and anyone else who finds themselves attracted to women guilty about looking forward to the act.  The scene cuts off there; real resolution is left to the next episode.

Beware and make use of the window shades when you work at a huge corporation.

Profit tells the audience that we should never be afraid to improvise in a tough situation like his.  He meets Mr. Wong in his car.  He explains that the Ultrachip will get outdated quickly, and implies that he can get Wong Dr. Batewell.  Briefly there is a cut to Sykes spying.  In the morning after the infiltration, with a fake flirty attitude, Gail tells the doctor that he’s lying down in pain because of a mishap during sex the night before.  He is clever, but too confused and exhausted to put it together, so she leaves easily.  Sykes talks in his office with some tough-guy detective about how they will catch Profit doing an illegal delivery.  Profit and Gail are in Profit’s office.  The leader tells his subordinate to lock the Ultrachip in a compartment shelf.  Batewell storms in with his lawyer, and asks for this key to where the Ultrachip is.  Gail freezes up, but Profit tells her it’s no big deal.

After a cliffhanger commercial break, she obeys.  But then Profit says that it doesn’t even work- and whispers- you’re a fraud and don’t even have a new Ultrachip made.  Batewell calls off his lawyer.  Profit tells the exposed genius “you’re working for me now.”  They meet in Profit’s office and start to talk about new forms of servitude.  He is humiliated.  Jim says, “makes you proud to be a taxpaying American citizen, doesn’t it, Gail?”  She agrees- “mm-hmm” with a nod.”  He is still funny, though.  “And people wonder why I never got married.”  Sykes, with police on his side, assaults Profit, who is delivering the Ultrachip.  Before any conflict ensues, however, the detective who “knows this guy” talks to Profit with good regard.  Profit, with a government-man named Larry Sun on his side, has made it look like he is intercepting an illegal item.  Sykes’ pursuit fails, and he is left disappointed, told off by his detective friend,  and ashamed more than enraged.

Batewell’s cynical optimism is made tragic when it turns out this Profit gig was a setup.  Thinking he must merely do some work for Wong, as Gail and Jim have took him to the Wong warehouse for, the Wong workers immediately grab him.  He gets strapped up and sealed in a giant wooden box, to be shipped out overseas.  He screams for Gail’s help, even after being injected with a sedative.  Gail stares in horror but does not act.  Koner is proud of herself and her partner in crime, but still uneasy about her brutality.  Profit reassures her that what they did was in her best interest, and made her a better person.  Jeremy was going to cheat the government anyway; now he is likely just being forced to do computer work in China.  Profit’s last line ends with, “to make the world”- then talking verbally- “a better place.”

That awkward gloomy track from the pilot is nowhere to be heard.  It is more suspenseful, mystical, and fear-and-awe-enhancing than before.  Every episode is like a damned movie, with maximum effort by the writers, actors, and filmers.  The offices we already know of are becoming more comfortable settings, yet unfamiliar ones like Batewell’s lair also get a sense of intimate space.  Despite being very fast-paced and having a story that could easily stretch to three hour-long episodes, scenes no longer feel like they under-stay their welcome.   Funny content and disturbing subjects play well together.  I am confused about whether to even analyze this episode or not.  Batewell was a cool fellow, and accepted mercy from Jim Profit.  But our villain protagonist put such enormous effort into helping Gail and Charles.  It is as though Jeremy’s loathsome fate was caused by his own destiny and personal problems.  It’s hard to imagine Jim pulling off so intense a gambit again, but I think I might succeed in being shocked.  Either way, I am more curious than ever about the fates of Sykes, Pete, and Joanne, and the true character of Jim Profit.    The sheer density of Profit’s episodes have given me the experience of sorts to feel more comfortable with any other dramatic television show.  I recently caught two episodes of House and My Name Is Earl. Since they feature only two or three scenes between commercials, they are very easy to watch.  I could probably watch many episodes in a row without getting exhausted.  I doubt I will get confused when watching Law and Order: Special Victims Unit again.  I am no longer intimidated by the vast world of quality scripted TV.  This will help me learn more about my TV/Radio major.   Next up is Episode 7- Security.

Good quotes-

“Revenge is pointless.  It’s a tool for the weak.  You’re not weak.  Not anymore.”- Profit to Koner

“Now I’m a kidnapper.”- Gail, stunned at her serious actions

“It’s nice to watch people struggle, and grow.   And discover who they really are.” – Profit voice-over

watched- March 17, 2010, in my room

Overall rating- 5/5

Categories: Uncategorized

Shouting Fire: Stories From The Edge of Free Speech, Commentary 3

March 17, 2010 Leave a comment

This segment of Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech tells about the experience of a San Diego High School student Chase Harper in 2004.  He worse a shirt to school that said “Homosexuality is Shameful” with a biblical citation.  Later on, during the LGBT-made event Day of Silence, he wore a stronger shirt that claims what the school is supporting is something God says is wrong.  Eventually he was suspended for several days for what was deemed disruptively hateful speech.

1. Should a student be allowed to wear offensive t-shirts in High School?

High School is a place where students seriously lack discipline.  Teachers often struggle to make their kids not want to deliberately misbehave.  In American public schools, where there is no dress code aside from established subconscious standards about revealing-ness, I believe being too outspoken about anything controversial shows a lack of respect, and encourages misbehavior and distractions from the class.

College?

I think the guidelines should be less strict in college about offensive messages in clothing, because from my experience, the students already act respectful.  They no longer feel forced into the prison of education, and the professors are actually more generally more qualified to teach about their fields.  If the class actually does get distracted and a provocative discussion ensues, it may be best to make the student change dress.  

2. Is High School a marketplace for ideas?  Can anyone wear anything?

High School is not a marketplace for ideas.  It is a place for learning the material in class, and making friends.  People that young probably won’t even have the same views they did in a few years.  We don’t let fourteen-year-olds vote.  If there is anything else that can’t be worn, it’s what the particular society deems overly sexually revealing, or images of severe violence, or strong hate of peer groups (excluding generic cliques and hobbies, who will forever be comically at war with each other without repercussions, even in children’s television programs of the youngest possible demographic).

3. Should Chase have been suspended, expelled, or disciplined?

I think he should have been disciplined before being suspended.  Although I personally hate anti-LGBT sentiment, having and expressing it is not so outrageous.  It is pretty sensible to interpret the Bible as anti-homosexual.  There are sodomy laws in several states.  Many Americans consider homosexuality a disgusting and sinful thing like theft, murder, and kidnapping, if not a socially destructive bad habit like gambling and alcoholism.  There is not enough empathy for anti-gay people and Bible Belt communities on the part of us progressivist urbanites.  We just think they are backward and ignorant.  Yet still, I believe Chase wanted to promote a deep loathing of students who defied no rules, and that is not justified.

4. Does a t-shirt incite or do words?  (is this question spelled correctly, professor?)  I’ll assume it means, “Does a t-shirt incite or do no justice to words?”

I don’t think t-shirts incite the immediate discomfort and/or rage the way spoken words can do.  However, they are often far more practical- you won’t get called to stop talking, or punched, or accused of “hate speech”, and you can capture support gradually.

It is important to realize that the type of group condemned in any hateful speech or sign affects (and helps the choice of whether or not to express at all) the displayer of it.  Anti-terrorism shirts will get you patriotic nods.  Anti-(insert race) might get blasts of even-more-hateful-speech or a beating.  Anti-atheism clothing could be beyond acceptable in one American community, or incite the need for discipline in a multicultural one.  Anti-marijuana may provoke opinions, but likely no dialogue.  What is considered good-to-hate and bad-to-hate evolves, but mostly for the better.

5. What would you do if you were a teacher, a student or a jury member?

If I were a teacher, I would have told Chase to leave his homosexual peers alone, even if it means they are to be punished by God, because religious judgments don’t apply to the good of the school setting.

As a student at that age, I probably wouldn’t do anything, because I have no power to change the ethics of anyone in this kind of issue. 

If were being tried by a jury, I would not have him convicted of any crimes.

Categories: Uncategorized

Profit, Episode 5: Cupid

March 15, 2010 2 comments

Ray Kestrel refuses to sign the acquisitions deal until his wife gets back together with him, setting up the episode's conflict.

The fifth episode boasts a new type of strength- the fleshing out of characters and their chaotic relationships.  The plot centers around a married couple- Anna and Ray Kestrel.  An increasingly stressed and frustrated Chaz tries to get the husband to sign a Gracen & Gracen acquisitions deal together with his wife for Dynamite Industries.  But Anna is being stalked by a man named Michael, and Jim Profit has plans of his own.  They include posing as the stalker to bring them together, and manipulating Sykes’s curiosity and conscience to bring them apart.  It all may require some review to make sense of.  It ends with the abusive and murderous, but loving Ray committing suicide, Anna fleeing, Michael arrested with cash and lawyer-ly compensation, and Sykes’s employment status ambiguous.  It’s also unclear whether the company has benefited or not from what transpired.  But I think this will be neatly explained in the next episode.  Also, watching the interrelated struggles of so many realistic characters is enjoyable.

Charles Gracen becomes more intimidating and adamant, but at the same time more insecure.  Bobbi- who seduces him so far as to gently help him cry- continues to blur the line between affection and treachery.  Joanne, apparently ignorant of the then-new thing called cellular phones, tries to do her own investigation onto payphones with the help of a man named Ernie, and succeeds to stay out of Profit’s knowledge.  Pete, who later leaves to see his uncle, is even more secretive by hiding his sobriety, and Nora reveals her sick past involving being molested by said uncle.  Sykes compromises his enlightened suspicion of Profit with his sense of right and wrong.  Profit himself becomes more friendly with Gail, who shows apprehensions about her deeds.  Our three episode exclusive characters- the Ray, Anna, and Michael-help show of Jim’s ever-strong powers to humiliate, befriend, and strike deals.

The suspense, the bitter humor, dire dialogue, and messages are packed tighter into the show.  Characters sneak up on each other from out of the camera’s view.  Profit explains the susceptibility of ex-lovers to murder and manipulation, and trash-talks Sykes in voice-overs.  Son and mother pretend to meet up for the first time in order to deceive.  Son deals with mother’s increased unpredictable plots, including the rescue of Chaz.  Chaz tightly hugs brother Pete after seeming to get ready to assault him.  Gail tests her fibbing ability with a call to Ray.  Everyone is doing their best- whether for moral reasons, selfish reasons, or responsibility.  Jim Profit seems very pleased at how intense his life has gotten.  I imagine Episode 6 will offer a unique 5/5 experience as well.

Notable quotes:

“Guard your morals, Mr. Sykes.  They tend to disappear around here pretty fast.” – Joanne

“Anyone who thinks controlling people is a science is dead wrong- It’s an art.” – Jim Profit voice over

Watched: March 14, 2010, before the morning, in my bedroom

Overall Rating: 5/5

Categories: Uncategorized