Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Significant Objects entry - "Secret Sauce"

Recently I entered a competition on Slate.com to write a 500-word short story based on an every-day object, in conjunction with this project:

Significant Objects

The creators of this project went out to various flea markets, etc and bought up dozens of odd knickknacks and curios, then asked various writers to make up short stories about what the possible history of each item might be. Then the items were to be sold, with the story, on eBay.

The object connected to the Slate.com contest was:



My entry didn't win, but I wanted to post it here for your enjoyment.

Note: Be warned - my taste in short stories tends to run to the macabre and Stephen King-esque...




Secret Sauce
By Barry Wallace


Humming to herself, Sarah prepared the restaurant for the day’s customers. When her father was alive he had boasted many times that his heart and soul were in every meal that was served here, and all the customers loved him. Every table, every window, every well-used pot in the kitchen was a part of him. He had been the king of barbecue for fifty-five years, and never was there a restaurant more infused with the soul of its creator.

People who had eaten here for years did know her, but they were more in love with her father. It was his charisma and culinary skills that attracted customers from miles around, not her light brown hair, sweet smile and attractive figure. But that was how it always had been.

She picked up a tray of washed BBQ Sauce jars, each with its own personal brush. Her father had trusted his patrons to lather on the sauce at their preferred amount - not too little and not too much. The ironic fact that he had always told her how much she should put on her own was not lost to her.

Walking the tray of jars to the kitchen, she proceeded to fill each with the secret mixture her father had always cherished. Each morning she had been expected to fill thirty jars, holding exactly the same amount of sauce. She would do the same this morning – with one small exception.

Once in a fit of creative experimentation while her father was on vacation, she had added a few ingredients. In her mind it needed a little “kick”. Some oregano, a little paprika, even some cilantro gave a well-needed update to the classic sauce. The customers, however, had not agreed and complained to her father when he got back. He docked her pay for a month.

It was time now for another new addition to the sauce.

She capped all the jars except one. Examining it, she was sure it was the one she wanted – still glossy from the original glazing, brush clean. Slightly bigger than the rest, this is the one she’d made herself that her father had copied – without credit – by commissioning a local potter to make the other twenty-nine. It was into this one her new special ingredient would be added.

Reaching under the sink, she pulled out a sealed ceramic urn. She opened it carefully, lest any of the dust fly out into her eyes. Dipping a small spoon into the urn she pulled out a small spoonful of a grey, spongy material. Dumping the contents into the last sauce jar, she stirred it up carefully to disguise any lumps and capped it.

“There, daddy,” she thought. “You’re going to be part of your customers’ meals even after you’re gone.” Sealing the urn and replacing it under the sink, she picked up the tray and moved into the dining area to disperse the jars.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Flash Forward - Episode 1 ("No More Good Days")

My review of the premiere episode of Flash Forward, entitled "No More Good Days", is online at The Disney Blog.

I'm going to be their in-house blog reviewer/commenter on ABC's new sci-fi show, so come by every week to read about it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Last Night's Tweetup

I attended last night's meeting of the Knoxville Social Media Association. It was a presentation by Rusty Coats, VP of EW Scripps on journalism and online culture.

It was a fascinating evening, and I always love dipping my toes back into that world of animated avatars we're more used to conversing with via keyboard online. Some people I've known offline from other walks of life but most I've known online across the computer screen.

It's wonderful to meet folks with similar interests to myself, especially those in wildly different professions. The wide reach of the online world is a common denominator that draws many diverse people together.

I still feel on the outside looking in, for the most part. As I said I was fortunate to know a few people there from other walks of life and previous Tweetups, but there were probably many I'd conversed with via Twitter, Facebook or here at the Inn that I just didn't recognize. As I just posted on Twitter, it would be nice to have a GPS locator app on my phone that identified everyone and their relative locations in the room :)

I did have a couple of observations about the evening itself. One was that the back of the crowd was a bit rowdy, which made it difficult to hear the speaker. Chalk that one up to lack of perfect acoustics, my own hearing and a little over-exuberance with the alcohol of the evening :)

The other point was more endemic to the very Twitter-culture we were there to recognize and celebrate. Many, many times during the course of Randy's presentation I glanced around the patio area and noticed more than one head bent down over their iPhone/Blackberry/Verizon, Twittering or texting away. Or reading the http://search.twitter.com/search?q=%23knoxsocialmedia feed. Following the undercurrent of conversation that was going on at the same time as the speaker. There was some potent commentary, some snark, some retweets, some invites, and other conversation. It never evolved into a MST3K-like backtalk, but it was there nonetheless.

But I couldn't help but wonder at what Rusty might have been thinking, to look out in the crowd at any given moment and see half of them bent over their phones - ostensibly not listening. What, in any other cultural gathering, would be a pretty blatant display of rudeness. It's one thing to lean over and whisper a comment to your neighbor (My one comment of the evening to Mike Cohen - when Rusty mentioned something to the effect that we held the future of journalism in our hands, meaning our cell phones, I leaned over to Mike sitting next to me and said "Our glasses?") but its another to spend half the time splitting attention between our phones and the speaker.

I'm certain nobody meant anything disrespectful, and again this is the one sub-culture where such a thing is usually forgiven if not expected. But we should probably remember that some speakers may not be used to it, and respond better when they see eyeballs watching them and not the tops of heads.

Especially mine, with my pesky balding spot.

It's interesting when a new societal norm clashes with an old one.

Wow

It's been a long time since I posted an entry....

Kinda dusty in here. Where's a good maid service when you need it?

*cough cough*

Monday, June 22, 2009

Cone of Silence Lifted Briefly

Apparently the firewall blocking access to all blogs - all blogs from Blogspot, Wordress and others - has been lifted briefly at work. So I take this ideal opportune time to relate to you the following message:

I'm sleepy.

Thank you.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Put in a good word for the Atomic Horns

Talented singer/songwriter Julia Nunes is playing at The Square Room on Market Square on June 9 - and she's selecting her own opening act!



Click on the video above to go to YouTube, and leave a shout-out for the Atomic Horns - I've entered two of our video performances for her consideration. We need some positive comments!

Meanwhile, don't forget we're playing the Secret City Festival in Oak Ridge on June 19th - we'd love to see you there!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Star Trek: The Good, The Not-So-Good, and the Unforgivable

OBVIOUS MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT

I saw the new Star Trek movie tonight in glorious Regal IMAX. Obviously not every movie is designed for IMAX, and I'm not sure this one was - though it may have had to do with the fact that I was forced to sit rather close. I'll give it a push on that one.

When the movie ended, I sat in my seat a long while watching the ending credits. I wasn't sure where my mind was and needed some time to wind down and think about what I'd just seen.

Star Trek, for me, has been a defining - perhaps the defining fictional and cultural entertainment icon of my life. I don't want to imply it's more important than it is - I fully understand, more than a number of fans, where fiction ends and real life begins. It's simply been my favorite story and fictional milieu since I sat in my dad's lap and watched syndicated reruns of "Shore Leave". Since I bought my first VCR specifically to tape the premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Since reading countless books, watching countless hours of episodes spanning six different series versions, ten movies...

Like a lot of fans, I feel a sense of ownership in the story. Not the "franchise" - that's a business term, something for money-crunchers to exploit. It's a story, first and foremost. In the beginning the story of one man and how he deals with the world. Over time it became more than that as more people became involved. It spread to a story of three men and their friendship, and how it was a microcosm for all of us. Then about more people, and more people - human and alien, machine and hologram - and how they each represented a piece of humanity. As I said, fans have put a lot of time and effort into enjoying this story and have certain personal expectations from a new chapter in that story.

Let me make one thing clear, however - we are not "owed" anything. The producers of the show, from Gene Roddenberry to Harve Bennett to Rick Berman and now to J.J. Abrams are in charge. Paramount Pictures owns the story, and has the right to not just pick who they want to decide how that next chapter goes, but to make it go any dang place or direction they want it to. We are not "owed" a story that pleases each fan's idea of what's next. I, for one am grateful the powers-that-be decided to make a new film. Like it or not, that's the next chapter and we as fans have to decide whether we like it or not...whether it fits our own personal idea of what the next chapter should be. So don't think that, as a result of my loyalty and appreciation over the years that I feel I'm "owed" a good chapter. I can form opinions and emotional reactions to it, but they're mine and mine alone, and shouldn't be misconstrued as saying it's "bad" or "good".

So, take my opinions as they are - my observations of how I felt after watching this latest installment of "Star Trek"....


The Good
  • The Cast - The cast, from top to bottom, was fantastic. I told a co-worker of mine this afternoon before I saw the show, that I anticipated the success of the movie, to me, would hinge on the performance of Chris Pine. Would he be able to portray the true spirit of a (young) Captain Kirk? Almost as important, would he be able to capture some of that young Shatner-esque "rogue-ness" that endeared Kirk to so many fans? I am one who believes in a number of ways the two aspects, the personality and the actor, are inseparable in defining who James Kirk is. And, in my opinion, Pine nailed it. Excellent work. I would've liked to have seen a little more of that half smile Shatner used when Kirk was, say, "laughing at the superior intellect" of Khan since the character would likely have had that mannerism since he was a young man but that was an acting choice and I respect it.

    Similarly, the personalities and acting of Zachary Quinto/Spock and Karl Urban/McCoy brought forth exactly who those characters were, and channeled their respective original portrayers' interpretations well (Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley).

    The secondary crew - Uhura, Sulu, Chekov and Scotty - had less screen time, and at times bordered on caricaturing their own characteristics, but nothing too distracting. When all seven began working together, as a crew, in their familiar positions, it was magical.

    Fantastic casting choices, excellent work. Best part of the movie, and its saving grace - despite what I may have to say later... (cue ominous music)

  • Special Effects, Design - The Big E was gorgeous, and close enough to the original design for the differences to be unimportant. The money shot of her rising from the mist of Titan in front of Saturn screamed "WINDOWS BACKGROUND" and I intend to find a high-res shot somewhere ;)

  • Story Parts - I use "parts" here to highlight some of the incidental scenes and moments that stood out. The Kobayashi Maru test, and all that went with it. The bar fight. The Orion girl roommate. The fight on the firing platform. Kirk with big hands, nausea and numb tongue (!). Spock's refusal to join the Vulcan Science Academy. His final conversation with Sarek. The kiss in the elevator. Scotty in the tubes. Kirk and Spock's fistfight. The movie was positively littered with moments that just shone. Character bits both new and well-loved combine to make up for...ok, later..later... These scenes, scattered throughout the movie showcased the acting talents and character moments for all the players.

  • "Admiral" Archer and his Beagle - how many people caught that "Enterprise" series reference? Awesome ;)


The Not-So-Good

I really didn't see anything in the movie that was "bad", per se, with the exceptions later on, but there were a few things that don't go in the "good" category that stuck in my craw a bit. These, again, are things that pinged my Trek-loving sensors and may not have made any difference to anyone else...
  • Uniforms - While most Starfleet crew members wore variations of the familiar red/blue/green, the arrowhead emblems looked strangely..I don't know, empty. We're all used to seeing the star, circle and gear symbols inside the regular series emblems and here - nothing. Not even a solid color, just a black outline of a chevron. Weird. And at the end of the movie, in the commendation scene, I saw a Federation flag outside the window that had the familiar starburst command insignia. Did the uni's have anything in the final scene? Maybe they awarded them after that point. Just odd. Also the tunics didn't seem to fit all that well at times. I know, pick, pick, pick... But it was great to see them on the big screen in those combinations again.

    The Starfleet Academy uniforms and the Admiralty - surprisingly drab. Maybe a holdover from the drab blue of the Archer Enterprise era?

  • Reimagined Technology and Design - The interior decks of the Enterprise, especially Engineering. Hand Phasers. I know you can't go back and use identical 60's sets and props, just because that's what was there. It worked on the small screen for DS9's "Trials and Tribbelations" and Enterprise's "In a Mirror, Darkly" but for a big screen treatment, updates were necessary. But did they have to be redone that differently? Phasers fire long beams, not short bursts like stormtrooper blasters. Engineering doesn't have giant radioactive-labeled tanks. The hangers aren't full of 500 shuttlecraft. Oh, screw it. Enough with the quibbling.

  • Scotty's little...friend - Played by everybody's favorite Oompa-Loompa, Deep Roy. What the hell was that all about, anyway? I'm still puzzled and a little bit scared who or what that thing was. It looked like he became the Enterprise's mascot at the end - something you might see Penny Robinson taking as a pet.

  • Hanging By a Thread - Three, count'em, three times Jim Kirk was hanging for dear life from a deadly precipice. That's two too many in one movie for one character, really. I've heard of cliff-hangers, but really. Just an odd plot choice.


The Unforgivable

Ok, if you loved the pants off this movie, you may not like the things I'm about to talk about. But bear with me, because, like I said above, I did like it. I liked it a lot. But these things...well, be patient and you'll see.
  • The Villain - Hands down, Nero was the absolute worst villain in Trek history. Certainly the worst of the movie versions, and that's saying something with the likes of the dry Ru'afo from Insurrection and the campy Shinzon from Nemesis. Nero had no character, no motivation, no personality, nothing at all to define him as an antagonist. Certainly not as the prime villain for the movie. Heck, V'ger had more character than he did, and the humpback whales from The Voyage Home had more personality.

    Nero did nothing the whole movie except spit, yell, threaten, whine and moan about the "wrongs" done to him by Spock, the Federation, his mother, his third grade teacher on Romulus, and the girl that dumped him at the junior prom.

    Part of this I blame the actor, Eric Bana. But in great fairness, I didn't see anything given to him - any dialogue, movement, action - from the script that gave him room for any character depth besides a blind, vague need for revenge. In fact, he and Shinzon, aside from the pointed ears, could have switched places fairly easily. And Shinzon had twice the depth Nero did. In fact, all the Romulans on the ship looked like Nero, and at times I had trouble telling which was him and which was a random crew member.

    But the need for revenge - blind and vague it was. Whatever true motivation the character had for the deeds he did, was completely lost on me. Let me see if I got this straight... Old Spock, as Ambassador on Romulus, offered to help the government "defuse" the nova that threatened his homeworld. Spock took off in the super-cool swirly Vulcan ship with the "red matter" to try and create a singularity, that would counteract the blast effect of a supernova. But he was apparently too late, and the sun exploded before the red matter could be used, and destroyed Romulus.

    That's it? That's the big motivation for the blinding hatred for Spock and all of Vulcan? Because the Federation "wasn't fast enough"? Seems to me Spock and The Federation were the only ones actually trying to do anything - I didn't see that many Romulans lifting a finger to help themselves.

    It's not just that it isn't a logical conclusion to draw, to equate the UFP's inadequacy to contain the threat with a need for revenge on another planet full of sentient beings, but it isn't even an illogical conclusion. There's no rational or even irrational reason for Nero to blame Spock or the UFP for Romulus' destruction! Oh sure, he could be a bit pissed. And people who just saw their planets destroyed can't really be expected to act totally rationally, and to blame someone else - but Nero, by all accounts, is an intelligent person. He's the captain of the mining vessel, and not an unhinged genetic madman like Khan. Nor a man lured by the seductive call of the Nexus like Soran from "Generations". The lust for revenge that would cause any person to, a) destroy a Federation starship out of hand (the USS Kelvin), b) capture Spock and maroon him on an ice planet so he could watch Vulcan die, and c) actually destroy Vulcan and try to destroy Earth, simply doesn't match what was done to him, personally - fairly or unfairly perceived.

    And when your villain has no believable motivation for the evil he does... he's just evil. And just evil is very, very, very boring.

    Nero was a very, very, very boring villain.

    I got the idea that if Spock sat down with Nero for a few minutes and explained, logically, the error of his ways and where to productively turn his feelings of loss and grief, all this unhappy business of bad villainry could have been avoided. But he's just a Vulcan, and not a miracle worker.

    To have this much time to come up with a good villain, with true motivation and a real diabolical scheme and not deliver - unforgivable.

  • Changing the Past - And here's the second big thing. Star Trek, as we know it, is now radically different.

    Irrevocably altered.

    All that history? From "The Cage" and "Where No Man Has Gone Before" to Nemesis is now gone. Wiped out. Finished. Kaput. Nada. Wiped clean.

    Old Spock said it himself, and the crew figured it out - alternate reality.

    Things were humming along nicely until Nero emerged from the singularity. Ok, fine - time travel is a given in Star Trek and always handled carefully. Well, mostly carefully ("I grew a new kidney!! That man gave me a pill and I grew a new kidney!!!").

    I can accept the emergence of Nero's ship dramatically altering the life and death of George Kirk, and altering the circumstances of his birth. Unintended consequences happen when people travel through time (do you hear that Damon and Carlton??? Do you?? Do you??? Whatever happens, did not ALWAYS happen!!).

    But Vulcan was destroyed. And Amanda Grayson, Spock's mother, was killed.

    Let's just think about that. Vulcan, the second most important planet in the entire Star Trek milieu, is gone.

    No more "Amok Time". No more Masters of Gol and the big Kolinahr statues. No more steps of Mount Seleya. No more ShiKahr, sehlats, le-matyas, lirpas, An-woon. Likely no more T'Pau (or was that her among the Vulcan survivors?), T'lar or T'Sai. No more Stonn or T'Pring. No more Sonak. Possibly no more Sybok (I know, big loss). No more Saavik! Or Tuvok! All the Vulcan characters and ancestors of said characters, if from 24th century - likely gone. 10,000 saved out of a planet of 6,000,000,000. Poof. An entire chunk of Trek history, lore and culture... erased from the story like a typo.

    Heck, we almost saw as much of Alderaan, overall, as we now have of Vulcan.

    Let me step back here a bit. In stories, bad things happen. Bad things happen to motivate the good characters to improve their goodness. Or overcome their badness. Without Darth Vader, there is no Luke Skywalker. As a character. Without the Joker, there is no Batman. Again, as a character. The villains and bad things in our lives, and especially in the lives of fictional characters, are there to show how they overcome them and grow. To risk mixing two franchises, losing Alderaan was a big motivator in Princess Leia's drive to defeat the Empire. If Vader and Tarkin hadn't destroyed it, she might not have been motivated and driven enough to fully fight back. So our adversities make us who we are.

    But...but.. it's Vulcan....!!!

    When you write a story, you have control of what happens to each and every character. In any real person's life, seemingly random events can happen to change the course of our lives. A car goes one way instead of another and rear-ends you. Five minutes earlier and the person who was about to offer you a great new job wouldn't have left. Grocery store is out of cookies, so you choose crackers. Two airliners shatter the peacefulness of a crisp autumn day in New York City to change the world. Things happen, random events occur all the time to affect our lives.

    But when writing fiction, you have the power to control that.

    If I write a story to send a Terminator back to the late 1700's, realistically (if such a thing exists) he would shoot the entire Continental Congress delegation, and likely the population of all Thirteen Colonies looking for John Conner. But I can write in that, luckily, John arrived just before the Terminator did and blows his metallic head off before the nasty robot dude can blow away John Adams. I did it, I made it up. It probably couldn't happen that way, but since I own the world in my head, and on the paper, I make the rules. If the plan only has a 0.00001% chance of success, then By Golly we're going for it! And it, against all odds, will likely work.

    What chance, really, Force or not, did Luke and the X-Wing pilots have to fire that proton torpedo that destroyed the Death Star? None. Zero. There's no way they should've gotten close to the surface, much less down the trench. But George wanted him to be a hero, so he was.

    But, the thing is here, you have to think of the repercussions to the story. In this case, the greater story.

    Nero obviously had superior technology. What he did makes sense from the point of view that's given to us. In fact, he shouldn't have failed to destroy Earth, either. Spock's abduction of the future Vulcan ship, and subsequent escape, were ridiculously easy - that's ok, if the story rides on it. But it didn't have to. Kirk and Sulu were able to disable the drilling platform - but too late! The hole was down to the core, and all Nero had to do was drop the bomb. Poof! Bye Bye Ol' Sandy.

    Vulcan, and Amanda Grayson didn't have to die to further the story. The Spock we all know and love, the one before this story happened, progressed just fine. Just like he should have.

    The Spock we've now ended up with, is very different.

    To lose your home planet, and six billion of your closest relatives - that's a big deal. It doesn't sit well with a person.

    Ask Nero.

    Ask Princess Leia.

    And to lose your mother prematurely, when before she lived to a ripe old (human) age - that's just cold.

    And on Mother's Day weekend, to boot.

    It changes them. The person they were, or were going to be - the Old Spock we saw is that person - is now gone, and can never come back. The new Spock, the Zachary Quinto Spock, is what we have now.

    If, by some strange chance, the crew one days reaches Sarpeidon again, will Spock fall for Zarabeth again, or will he let her be? Who knows - his entire worldview is now different. Not to mention his relationship with Sarek is now completely different. Old Spock's motivations for joining, and staying in Starfleet was based a great deal on the estrangement with his father. An estrangement that continued through the old series ("Journey to Babel") and wasn't really reconciled until the end of "The Voyage Home". And Sarek never fully addressed the feelings he had toward Spock and Amanda until the mindmeld incident with Picard 100 years later!

    So many things are now different, and while they were exciting and suspenseful and sad and heartbreaking for what they were, in the context of the movie, did anyone think about what this will do for Spock's character as we know it?

    You've effectively killed the Spock we really know. And unless you're Khan, that's unforgivable, too - because there's no Genesis Planet nearby to bail you out of this one.



Thanks for reading. Overall, I really liked the movie. The acting and characterization of the crew was wonderful. But the big problems I had with the villain and the story logic kept from making it a GREAT movie, and certainly not the best Trek movie. The record of "The Wrath of Khan" as best Trek movie ever, is safe for another year. Pop the corks, guys. You and the '72 Dolphins are in good company together.

Comments and questions are welcome.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Tribute to Sid and Marty Krofft

These two men defined my childhood entertainment, as they did so many other people my age, like no other.



Friday, April 24, 2009

Mayberry's Got Talent

You think Susan Boyle impressed the judges on Britain's Got Talent? Wait'll you see what they found when they went to Mayberry...

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Rules

"Whatever happened to the rules? Let the other guy go first, keep your elbows off the table, share your toys....and life will reward you. Well life is a crock.

B.J. Honeycutt, M*A*S*H

Monday, April 06, 2009

The Sound of Music in an Antwerp Train Station

This is an awesome video of the kind of stuff these folks do on a regular basis. We totally have to do something like this here in Knoxville. I know several Twitterers have expressed interest, anyone else?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Space Shuttle Discovery Launch

The first day of our Orlando Spring Break trip last week was exciting - we got to see our first space shuttle launch. We tried to drive to the Cape but traffic was so bad we only got as far as just east of Orlando before pulling off and setting up shop.

This is from about 40 miles west of Cape Canaveral, but still very impressive.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Sort-of-Spoilery Non-Serious Review of Battlestar Galactica, "Islanded In A Stream Of Stars"

My synopsis of this week's episode of "Battlestar Galactica":


Kara: "I totally heard this song in my head!"

The Final Five: *yawn* "Whatever"


Kara: "I'm going to kill you, Sam, to put you out of your misery!!"

Sam: *yawn* "Whatever. There's a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza."


Helo: "Can you say to my face that you hate me, Athena??"

Athena: *yawn* "Whatever"


Baltar: "You're still my favorite-est Cylon, Caprica!"

Caprica 6: *yawn* "Whatever"


Helo: "I have to go find my daughter!!"

Adama: *yawn* "Whatever"


Hera: "I want my mommy!!"

Boomer: *yawn* "Whatever"


Boomer: "You're not going to hurt the little brat, are you?"

Cavil: *yawn* "Whatever"


Baltar: "Kara Thrace is really dead!!!"

Everyone: *yawn* "Whatever"


Roslin: "You have to abandon the Galactica"

Adama: *yawn* "Whatever" *puff*


Adama: "Ok, we really do have to abandon the Galactica"

Tigh: *yawn* "Whatever"


Me: "Where's Chief Tyrol???"

The Show: *yawn* "Whatever"

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Finding a Cure for Cancer... Fact or Fiction?

In an episode of The West Wing entitled, "100,000 Airplanes", the fictional president Jed Bartlet debates adding a line in his State of the Union Address that would announce to the world that America was going to dedicate itself to finding a cure for cancer in 10 years. The following are some short scenes from that episode

Cast of Characters:
BARTLET (Jed Bartlet, President of the US)
SAM (Sam Seaborn, Deputy White House Communications Dir.)
TOBY (Toby Ziegler, Senior White House Communications Dir.)
JOSH (Josh Lyman, Deputy Chief of Staff)
C.J. (C.J. Cregg, White House Press Secretary)
JOEY (Joey Lucas, professional pollster who is deaf)
KENNY (Kenny, Joey's interpreter)
LISA (Lisa Sherborne, friend of Sam's)
CHARLIE (Charlie Young, Bartlet's Personal Aide)


JOEY [KENNY]
Did he [Bartlet] find a cure for cancer? 'Cause if he found a cure for cancer, I think that would be interesting. I think that was something we should share.

CHARLIE
Yeah.

JOEY [KENNY]
But he didn't. He wants to find a cure for cancer, and he wants to say that in the State of the Union. You know what my response would be? Me, too, but is this the first time you had that thought?


...

Note: At this point in the series, Bartlet has revealed he has MS and was awaiting a Congressional censure for his actions

BARTLET
A President stood up. He said we will land a man on the moon before the end of the decade. You know what we knew when he said that? Nothing. We didn't know anything. We didn't know about the lunar surface. We didn't know how to land one of these things. All we'd ever done is crash it into the ocean. And God knows we could figure out how to land soft. We didn't know how to blast off again, but a President said we're gonna do it, and we did it. So I ask you, why shouldn't I stand up and say we are going to cure cancer in ten years?

Silence in the room. No one responds.

BARTLET [CONT.]
I'm really asking.

JOSH
Well, how close are we to really being able to do this?

BARTLET
Nobody knows.

JOSH
Then...

BARTLET
Toby.

TOBY
It'll be seen as a political ploy.

BARTLET
Why?

C.J.
It can be seen... [to Toby] Excuse me. [to Bartlet] It can be seen as self-serving.

BARTLET
How?

C.J.
Using cancer to deflect attention from MS.

BARTLET
You think people with cancer care what my motives are? You think their families do?

C.J.
I'm saying...

BARTLET
Joey?

JOEY [KENNY]
I agree with everything that's been said, except, I don't think they'll see it as deflecting the MS. I think they'll see it as deflecting the censure.

BARTLET
Once again, why would somebody...?

JOEY
Everybody cares about motive, Mr. President.

BARTLET
I didn't...

KENNY
She said, "Everybody cares about motive," sir.

BARTLET
Sam.

SAM
Yes sir?

BARTLET
Why shouldn't I do it?

SAM
I think you should. I think ambition is good. I think overreaching is good. I think giving people a vision of government that's more than Social Security checks and debt reduction is good. I think government should be optimistic.


...

JOEY [KENNY]
Do I think people are in favor of curing cancer? Yes, I do.

SAM
So?

JOEY [KENNY]
But federal government shouldn't be directing scientific research.

SAM
Why?

JOEY [KENNY]
Because you stink at it. If it was up to the NIH to cure polio through a centrally directed program instead of an independent investigator driven discovery, you'd have the best iron lung in the world, but not a polio vaccine.

SAM
When did you get an M.D.?

JOEY [KENNY]
I was just quoting Samuel Broder.

SAM
Who's he?

JOEY [KENNY]
The former director of the National Cancer Institute. The speech is gonna work fine. Don't overreact to the censure.


...

SAM
Good evening, Mr. President.

BARTLET
You got it?

SAM
Yeah.

He gives Bartlet a piece of paper, which he reads, all the while pacing the room. Bartlet finds himself seated on a chair.

BARTLET
This is good.

SAM
You know we can't do it.

BARTLET
Yeah.

SAM
We need to line up experts who can face the press, and in just two weeks.

BARTLET
Yeah.

SAM
Sloane-Kettering, Dana-Farber, The Cleveland Clinic, UCLA.

BARTLET
We'd want to include the Society of Clinical Oncology.

SAM
And the NCI.

BARTLET
The OMB would have to score it. We haven't identified the offsets to pay for it. We can barely tell them what the "it" is.

SAM
Clinical trials under Medicare and Medicaid, Science and Technology Democrats, the pharmaceutical companies.

BARTLET
[sighs] It was a good idea though.

SAM
We have other good ideas.

BARTLET
So we don't get water from a rock. We just do our thing and take our chances.

SAM
I think so.

BARTLET
[stands] We're gonna have to do it awfully well this time.

SAM
We've done that before.

Bartlet gives Sam the draft back.

BARTLET
Anything else?

SAM
[shakes his head] Thank you, Mr. President.

Sam exits. Bartlet walks back to his desk.


...

SAM
[pause] Here's something interesting. In 1940, our armed forces weren't among the 12 most formidable in the world, but obviously we were gonna fight a big war. And Roosevelt said the U.S. would produce 50,000 planes in the next four years. Everyone thought it was a joke, and it was. 'Cause it turned out we produced 100,000 planes. Gave the air force an armada that would block the sun.

LISA
Do you still have what you wrote that night?

SAM
About curing cancer?

LISA
Yeah.

Sam walks to his desk and fiddles with his laptop. He shows Lisa his draft on curing cancer.

LISA
Read it to me. [sits]

SAM
[reads] "Over the past half-century, we've split the atom, we've spliced the gene, and we've roamed Tranquility Base. We've reached for the stars, and never have we been closer to having them in our grasp. New science, new technology is making the difference between life and death, and so we need a national commitment equal to this unparalleled moment of possibility. And so, I announce to you tonight, that I will bring the full resources of the federal government and the full reach of my office to this fundamental goal: we will cure cancer by the end of this decade."

LISA
[pause] That was nice. [beat] I'll pass the notes along.

Sam nods and watches Lisa leave his office. As he leans back on his chair, we see his computer screen and the words to his draft. With a touch, he highlights all the words, before he deletes them. For a moment, Sam just sits still, staring at the blank page.



I don't know if there are any great truths in there, but I found it an interesting parallel to Obama's comments about curing cancerin last night's speech to Congress.

Obama also pledged a "historic commitment" to health care and said the recovery plan could lead to a cure for cancer. He also promised the "largest investment ever" in preventive care. (CNN.com)


In this case, "The Economy" could be substituted for fears of politicizing Bartlet's MS and censure.

I wonder if the speechwriters for Obama went through similar discussions?


Thanks to this site for posting the script for the episode. No copyright infringement is intended)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Ties to the Left, Ties to the Right

Possibly the least significant item in the history of LOST hidden visual clues...

Jack, waking up in the jungle after the crash of Oceanic 815 (1st Episode):



And here's Jack waking up in the jungle after the "crash" of Ajira 316:



Notice his tie is pointing to the left after the first crash, and to the right after the second.

Wow. What does it mean? WHAT DOES IT MEAN!?!?!?!?!?!

Top 10 Rejected Contents of Locke's Note to Jack

Top 10 Rejected Contents of Locke's Suicide Note


10. "Having a Good Time, Wish You Were Here"

9. "It's a Cookbook!"

8. "Dear Jack,

Do you Like Me?
Check YES or NO

xxxooo "

7. "Jack - for my Tombstone:

Here Lies Locke
A Man of Faith
How I Wish
I'd Died When My Father Pushed Me Out A Window Instead of Just Breaking My Back Cause Then I Wouldn't Have Had to Ever Meet Any of YOU!!"


6. "I'm thinking of putting up a chandelier, can you pick me up some extra light bulbs? I need to test the strength of this beam first..."

5. "If you run into Ben after I'm gone, do me a favor: buy an old ship's steering wheel, wrap it around his neck and push him out a window? Thanks."

4. "Please tell Sun that Jin is dead. Wait, no, that he's alive! No, just tell her he's dead. No, on second thought tell her he's alive. No...oh... never mind."

3. "The Times, They Are A-Changin..."

2. "The Dharma Initiative is...PEOPLE!!!"


And the #1 Rejected Contents of Locke's Note to Jack

1. "Jack...I am your father."

Top 10 Things Hurley Might Have in his Guitar Case

Top 10 Things Hurley Might Have in his Guitar Case


10. A Guitar

9. RISK (2007 edition)

8. Ranch Dressing

7. Meteorite Repellent

6. Complete Justice League of America collection, Issues #253-365 (in Spanish)

5. Bulletproof vest, for the next girl he falls in love with on this island

4. 75 pounds of Mr. Cluck fried chicken

3. Ping pong paddles, golf clubs and balls for each

2. Owners Manual to VW Type 2a Van


And the #1 Thing Hurley Might Have in the Guitar Case...

1. Aaron

Monday, February 16, 2009

In Brightest Day

Here's a great story about a kid who made up his mind to take an adventure

“Can I help you?” the receptionist said.

“Yes.” I replied. “I need to speak with the person who writes Green Lantern.”

A smile made its way across the receptionists face. “I’m guessing you don’t have an appointment?”

“No.” I said, matter-of-factly. “But it’s important. I just want to say a few things to him. It’ll take five minutes, tops. Can you just tell him I’m here?”

“Do your parents know you’re here in our office?” the lovely lady said.

“Of course!” I lied, indignant.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

When He Tells Them They MUST Go Back, He Ain't Just Kidding Around

My latest column on this week's episode of LOST, "This Place is Death
So why is Ben concerned only on getting the original Oceanic 6 back to the island, and not the others? Why some and not all? Physically, all nine escaped the island but Ben and Hawking are only concerned with getting the O6 back.

The answer lies in the common thread between the O6 - they were all on Oceanic 815 when it went down. Jack, Hurley, Sayid, Sun, Kate and (almost born) Aaron. Desmond was already on the island in the hatch, Frank came later in the freighter and Ji Yeon was conceived there. The common thread on why only they must go back is because ONLY THEY were once on the plane.


UPDATE: Screw it. Here's the whole thing:

Thoughts that occur to me during the viewing of "This Place is Death"

1) When Montand is pulled into the hole by the Smoke Monster, and calls up to his comrades - does he sound strange? I mean, yes, he just had his arm ripped off but he seems strangely matter of fact about calling for help. Almost like he's trying to lure his friends into the hole after him. I can't help but wonder if the Smoke Monster is able to take on the characteristics of people (or animals) it touches and mimic them. Something like the old Salt Vampire from the first episode of Star Trek back in the day.... This could explain the appearance of Christian Shepherd to Locke later in the show, that's it's a manifestation of the Smoke Monster. For this to be true, Dr. Shepherd, Sr., would have had to either a) not been truly dead in his coffin, b) revived and then imitated after the crash, or c) visited the island before his death. Anyway, all that to say Montand's behaviour wasn't what was really expected when down in the hole.


2) Speculations is that the ruins covered with hieroglyphs are possibly "The Temple" that Ben sent The Others, Rousseau and Alex to a couple seasons back. According to Ben it was the safest place on the island (and by the map he had was situated in the northwest corner, a good ways distant from both the Tower where the French party was headed and where their camp probably was). The heiroglyphs were strangely reminiscent of the dangerous red symbols in the Countdown Timer in the Swan Station hatch, after they count down to 00:00:00. If it is indeed the infamous "Temple" where Montand was dragged and the French party went in after him (and is the cause of their sickness/madness), and it's also where the Smoke Monster lives, it could be a very important key to the island's mysteries.


3) Charlotte. Poor, poor, cute, redheaded, British accented Charlotte. The time-travelling really started making swiss cheese of her brain, to where she remembered and relived past thoughts and experiences. She revealed she knew Korean, was born on the island, and that her mother "should never have married a foreigner". Sometime in her childhood she was carried away from the island by her mother and told the island was all a dream. She remembers the Dharma Initiative, that a crazy man (Daniel) once told her to never return or she would die, though she became an anthropologist in defiance of this warning to try to find the island. So, why? And who is she? Who are her parents?

Dr. Pierre Chang, the Oriental Dharma film guy was seen in the season premiere waking up to a very Oriental woman and tending their baby, so it's doubtful Chang is her father (although it's very probable the baby is Miles). I'm thinking Charlotte was a Dharma baby, born of Dharma parents and raised for several years on the island in the Barracks. Quite possibly near an adolescent Ben Linus. She could have learned Korean as part of her schooling from Dr. Chang, although why Korean I have no idea. At some point a time-traveling Daniel sees her as a child and warns her to never come back if she leaves. Whoever her mother was eventually escaped the island with her in tow, leaving the father behind.

Another possibility re: knowing Korean. Could Sun's father, Mr. Paik, be involved in the early days of Dharma as well, just as a young Charles Widmore and probably a young Eloise (Ellie) Hawking were once Others? I don't think he could be her father, since Sun is older and had already been born. Probably a stretch but who knows?

4) Now that Locke has turned the Unfrozen Donkey Wheel, have the time-shifts stopped for Sawyer, Juliet and co.? When are they? My money's on them being in the time period as the aforementioned opening scene of the season premiere - in the heyday of the Dharma Initiative and construction of the Orchid. Daniel will pose as a worker and infiltrate, while the rest of the Losties interact with Dharma as well. We'll likely spend most of the rest of the season on the Island with Sawyer, Juliet, Miles and Daniel (and maybe Rose and Bernard if they all meet up) in Dharma times.


5) Ben and Desmond have never had an encounter together before this episode, except for a brief moment together when the two factions met near the wrecked plane cockpit last season. Obviously Ben knows Desmond and knows who he is (since Ben seems to know everything) but didn't seem to know he'd made it off the island since in his dealings so far this season he's been concentrating solely on getting the Oceanic 6 back to the island. Not the O6 + Desmond + Frank Lapidus, the chopper pilot + Ji Yeon, Sun's baby that was still a fetus during their escape. Ben doesn't express a lot of surprise at seeing Desmond, but is shocked and somewhat angry when the Scotsman asks if they're looking for Faraday's mother too. Obviously Ben didn't know that little tidbit of information.

So why is Ben concerned only on getting the original Oceanic 6 back to the island, and not the others? Why some and not all? Physically, all nine escaped the island but Ben and Hawking are only concerned with getting the O6 back.

The answer lies in the common thread between the O6 - they were all on Oceanic 815 when it went down. Jack, Hurley, Sayid, Sun, Kate and (almost born) Aaron. Desmond was already on the island in the hatch, Frank came later in the freighter and Ji Yeon was conceived there. The common thread on why only they must go back is because ONLY THEY were once on the plane.

So the even bigger question, why MUST they go back? Locke is asked several times why he HAS to bring them back, and he can only say, "I just know". Mrs. Hawking insists a couple episodes ago there are only 70 hours left to do so (several of which have now passed, undoubtedly). Why is it so imperative that the O6 return to the island? It's not just to save their friends, which is the lure and a happy by-product, but I think it's to save the flow of time itself.

Or something monumental like that. I believe the Oceanic 6, in some timeline somewhere, were always stranded on the island. Maybe they got off later in the future, but in 2008-ish, they were still on the island. And that timeline has been horribly disrupted by their escape and return to civilization.

Some trigger has disrupted the flow of time on the island, and subsequently in the world. Whether it was Desmond turning the Failsafe Key, Widmore sending the Freighter to capture Ben, or Ben himself turning the Donkey Wheel and moving the island something has "changed the rules". Ben accuses Widmore of "changing those rules" by having Keamy kill Alex in cold blood. There was a smooth path before, and now the path has been disrupted. Mrs. Hawking realizes this and working with Ben has instructed him to get the O6 back to the island where they're supposed to be.

Something about the whole sequence of events we've seen so far, from the orginal builders of the 4-Toed Statue and the Temple Ruins to the Black Rock marooning, the US army use of the island for bomb testing in the 50's, through the Dharma Initiative and the Purge, Roussea's expedition, Desmond's shipwreck and all the events after the plane crash, something has now happened that wasn't supposed to have happened before. And bring the O6 back to the island will supposedly set it straight.

Maybe.

Possibly.

We'll see.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Changing the Past ("The Little Prince")

My latest LOST column is up at I Love Television
The Losties continue to traipse around through time - this week to mid-season 1 just after Boone's fatal injury and Aaron's birth, to an unknown time in the future with a trashed camp to 1988 when Rousseau's French expedition wrecked on the island.

Taking Daniel's assertion in mind that the past cannot be changed, that it's a street that one can go backwards and forwards on but not create new streets, let's explore the evidence one way or the other...

Monday, January 26, 2009

Fathers, Mothers, Sons and Daughters

My latest wacky time travel theory on LOST is up at ILoveTelevision.com
So further speculation - Charlotte and Daniel have been shown to be close, having an almost tender romantic relationship. But is it possible their closeness is not based on romance but siblings?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Unstuck in Time

My thoughts on time travel in Lost here
It's interesting that the characters on the island - the Losties, at least - move back and forth through time but the Others don't. Richard Alpert and Ethan appeared in various times but were their current selves for that time period. Ethan, of course, being dead in the present and who knows what or when Alpert is. It almost seems like the island is staying put but the Losties are the ones moving around (what with the topography and clutter constantly rearranging themselves). What makes the Others different from the Losties? And does this apply to the crash survivors who now live with the Others (Cindy, the kids)?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

New Lost Blog

Tonight is the Fifth Season premiere of Lost. I've been invited to write about the show at I Love Television.com blog - take a look before and after the airing for my thoughts about the premiere, the past, the future, and wherever else in the world we may become unstuck in time.

The Lost Boy blog:
I'll throw out one speculation that I've held for a long time, and that is I think we will find out that some of the major players on the show (adversaries, mainly) were crew of the ill-fated Black Rock slave ship that somehow ended up beached in the middle of the island. I think it's obvious that somewhere in the past, the island "moved" (via Frozen Donkey Wheel) and appeared right underneath the Black Rock. Members of the crew and possibly cargo/passengers were either rejuvenated or ressurected by the island's healing properties and live on to this day.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Empty Promises

Note written on napkin, sitting on empty table, in our break room:

FREE PILLOW STUFFING

I looked around, nothing there. So of course I wrote, on the same napkin:

? MUST BE FOR AIR MATTRESS

Sometimes work is fun...

Lost Beneath Lake Michigan

Wouldn't it be funny if this were a fake?
The iconic Stonehenge in the UK is one of the most famous prehistoric monuments in the world, but it is not the only stone formation of its kind. Similar stone alignments have been found throughout England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales… and now, it seems, in Lake Michigan.

According to BLDGBLOG, in 2007, Mark Holley, professor of underwater archeology at Northwestern Michigan College, discovered a series of stones arranged in a circle 40 feet below the surface of Lake Michigan. One stone outside the circle seems to have carvings that resemble a mastodon—an elephant-like animal that went extinct about 10,000 years ago.
While an American version of Stonehenge would be very cool, if quite inaccessible for tourists to visit, finding out a bunch of archeology students at the University of Illinois or Northwestern planted their version as a prank or a research project would be great.

Equally possible is that somewhere on the monoliths are carved the numbers, "4 8 15 16 23 42" and "815".

My Sixth Bloggiversary

Six years ago, on January 11, 2003, I wrote my first post for Inn of the Last Home.
This is it. Welcome.

In case you're wondering about the title, learn about it here.

Who am I? I live in Knoxville, TN. I have kids, and a good job. I figure the blogiverse needs someone to reach that middle-ground, family-in-the-suburbs, church-going, theatre-loving, liberal, sci-fi-watching, politically-naive demographic. That's me.
A lot has happened in six years. We've had two presidential elections (in which the online community had significant influence), I've joined a semi-successful band.

I lost a good friend in a senseless, tragic way. I also remembered another friend who was killed in another senseless, tragic way - the irony is I never actually met her.

I've performed in or Music Directed eight shows around town (Company, Jacques Brel..., Annie, Honk, The King and I, Suessical, Grease, Peter Pan) and one in Florida. I joined the Board of Directors for the Tennessee Theatre Association, and recently became Community Theatre Chair. My goal of actually getting to direct plays continues to frustratingly elude me.... I directed a children's show in 2002, and that's my only credit thus far despite a number of requests and offers to direct. That is, and always has been my main goal in theatre and I am unsure as to why I have not found an opportunity thus far.

My kids have grown up around me in spite of my attempts to keep them at three and six. Tink is now nine and a fourth grader, and BrainyBoy is twelve going on thirteen in the seventh grade. My "conversations" with Tink (then known as GiggleGirl) began here and are quite humerous (follow the tag).

My job situation on the face is unchanged. I continue to work at the same place, for the same folks and with pretty much the same folks. I don't and shouldn't blog about my workplace in any detail for obvious reasons but I will say that my frustration and feelings of being marginalized have about doubled every year since I started the blog. I need to find something new and quick - but I've been needing to do that for several years now, with no results. Similar to theatre directing, the opportunities for change, growth, advancement and satisfaction continue to elude me. Enough about that.

I've made 2,276 posts since I started this blog (counting this one). That averages about 379 a year or almost a post a day. Lately that count has dropped precipitously (like my big words?). A significant reason for that has been my increased use of Twitter. A lot of my style fits twitter better than blogging, with quick thoughts and random replies. Other than a few political posts I made in the last few months my posting has slacked off a good bit. I think if you look back in the previous paragraphs it will give you an indication why: sameness. Job - same. Theatre career - same. Not that the details haven't changed, but the sense of growth and moving forward have remained the same. When there's growth, there's creativity and spark. When I'm constantly going in circles, I don't feel as if there's really anything to particularly unload or talk about on this site.

I've also noticed in the last couple years the continued rise of a style of blogging I dislike - the hyper-political blog. These are blogs where politics is king and the actions of political figures are elevated to celebrity status. In the past, tabloid magazines and TV shows exploit the every movement and thought of various movie stars, models and other performers. Political blogs do the same with political figures, but in a different way. They elevate to extreme the people they like (i.e. from their own party and way of thinking) and denigrate everybody else (all those not in their party). It was bad enough during the Bush/Kerry campaign in 2004, but much worse in the McCain/Obama campaign of this past year. As I said before, the online community had a huge impact on the recent presidential election - but I don't feel it was a particularly positive one. Little attention was paid to highlighting issues and beliefs each candidate stood for, but more for their personalities, faults, intelligence, background, etc. When Sarah Palin's ability to see Russia from Alaska gets more blog coverage than McCain's economic policies we know we're in trouble. And when know more about political activists Obama was linked to 30 years ago than Biden's foreign policy experience, something's wrong.

But that's what was popular and any other noise was drowned out. So I didn't feel I had much of use to contribute. That was a big factor as well.

So what do I have to contribute to the blogging community? I lean way local, with a lot of Knoxville/Knox County/Tennessee related posts. I also lean personal with discussion of my family, my... (what would you call my theater and musical pursuits? They're less than a career but more than a hobby. An avocation?) Anyway, the stuff I do on the side. I don't rant, I don't pontificate, I don't throw things against the wall to see if they stick, I don't run things up flagpoles and see if anyone salutes, I'm not a curmudgeon, I'm not a rabble-rouser or an activist. I'm not a mommy-blogger or self-actualist. I don't claim to know the truth, the skinny, the dirt, the lowdown or the real story.

I am what I am. I live in a medium sized town in a southern state. I love music and I love theatre and Lost and Star Trek and Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica and Jurassic Park and Back to the Future and dragons and spaceships and transporters and Civilization III and World of Warcraft and Agatha Christie and Christopher White and Stephen King and The Beatles and Huey Lewis and the News and Jimmy Buffett and Carmina Burana and Beethoven's 9th and To God Be the Glory and Amy Grant and hot, sunny days in the Caribbean and cool days in the Smokeys and Walt Disney World and EPCOT and Neyland Stadium and LP Field and spring church softball and bottom of the ninth. I'm blessed to be reconnected and continue to connect with old friends from high school, college and elsewhere. I can't wait to be around the people I have met doing theatre. I adore my wife. I'm continually proud of my kids and want to see them grow up well. I'm thankful for my parents and my in-laws. I love God and want to do his will. I have opinions like everybody else. I want to succeed, do things that people will be proud of and above all do the right thing.

Is any of that blogworthy? I guess I'll find out. I have a few bloggiversaries to go :)

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Anybody Home?

(opens the door, peers in).

Hello? Wow, kinda sparse in here. Who updates this thing, anyway?

(closes door)