QUADRIVIUM

Have you come here to play Jesus to the lepers in your head?

Archive for September 2007

What a wonderful thing to say on the news…

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The local news this morning reports that the county sheriff says the jail is full.  Therefore, anyone arrested his weekend may be turned away from jail.

In other news, the department of transportation today expresses shock in the dramatic increase in traffic accidents after the decision was made to remove all traffic lights and signage from roadway intersections.

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Written by taj

September 28, 2007 at 5:35 am

Posted in General, Satire

Some News…

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If I ever hope to meet my weekly quota for this month (running steady at two, count ‘em, two posts a week), then I better get something posted. 

Back at the beginning of August, Infuze Magazine, the same e-zine liked at the sidebar, put out a call for new writers.  I responded per their instructions, and then sat back to await a reply. 

About three weeks ago, an editor wrote me back and offered me the opportunity to write news and review items for their DVD/Movie section.  And I said yes. 

This is strictly a volunteer position.  The editor to whom I am assigned tells me he’s assembled a large enough team of writers so as to avoid any kind of burnout.  I have spent the last week aggregating a pair of stories for him to post when our section goes live, either the end of this week or next.  That accounts for some of my absence from blogging.  I’ll even get to write some movie reviews here and there as well.  I might even get a byline, but I’m not sure or really too concerned; I’m not doing this so much for the accolades more than I am the experience. 

My editor at Infuze knows I am still learning, and he has been a great encouragement.  As more opportunities to write have developed, I have received the enormous blessing to be placed with people willing to work alongside me and help develop my own voice.  As I have looked over some my attempts at writing reviews here on the blog, I realize that I still have a great deal to learn.  Blogging thrives on loose, casual prose.  Writing for someone else, however, has forced me to step up the effort for more consistent and improved material. 

As soon as some of my stuff is posted, I’ll link to it.  And I will try to get back here for more stuff soon.  Promise. 

Written by taj

September 25, 2007 at 2:24 pm

Posted in General, Writing

Review – “Journeyman”

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Heedless of the inherent difficulty involved with creating stories about time-travel, television tries to offer one up every few years, and with modest success.  Quantum Leap returned us to the past and made the adventure almost as fun as Marty’s trip to 1955 in Back to the Future.  Even Early Edition, which plodded over two seasons, had its charm.  Some efforts, however, fail to work their magic and you wind up stuck in the past, like Day Break.  Time travel done well, however, is storytelling gold.  The concept always resonates on some level because everyone has wished at one point or another for the opportunity to go back and “do it right this time.”  And Journeyman—created by Sports Night and The West Wing producer Kevin Falls—takes us back in fine form. 

Dan Vasser (Kevin McKidd) enjoys a happy marriage and good career writing for the San Francisco Chronicle.  On his way to pick up his wife’s wedding band—he’s having it touched up for his anniversary tonight—Dan takes a quick trip through time. 

At first he thinks it’s all a dream.  He walks into a restaurant where everyone’s celebrating a football game that he recalls happened eight years ago.  And then he sees her.  Her name is Livia (Moon Bloodgood), and we later learn that Dan would likely have married her had she not died in a plane crash nine years ago.  Hmm…do the math on that one.  It’s not a typo. 

Then he wakes up; back in the present, and in the back seat of another cab, just able to meet his wife to celebrate.  The next morning, however, he wakes up in Golden Gate Park.  In 1987.  There, he saves a man’s life.  That man is Neil Gaines, and Dan will track him through time to a pivotal moment where their actions will affect the fates of many others.

That last sentence maybe reads a little too “Capra-esque,” but that is one of the underpinning themes of any time-travel story—the far reaching consequences of every choice, every life, great or small. 

Dan’s wife Katie (Gretchen Egolf) starts to worry for her husband.  From her point of view, Dan disappears for days at a time.  His co-workers all think he’s on drugs.  His brother is certain that his marriage is starting to collapse.  Life in the present seems ready to fall apart as Dan stumbles through the past, trying to discern his purpose.

The show has a few obvious throwbacks.  The lone hero “leaping” back in time to put right what once went wrong is an old device. Dan does not have a holographic companion helping him out, however.  He’s not even sure how this has all started and we’re never really given an answer.  But he does get some hints that, somewhere, an answer awaits discovery.  As it turns out, Dan is not alone on this journey. 

The show’s creators give audiences a rare example of humility and fortitude in Dan’s portrayal.  Throughout the pilot, he finds himself in awkward moments that test his commitment to his wife, and each time, Dan trudges up to the high road.  The storyline might go in any number of directions from here, but for now, what we have is a man—a real man—that chooses honor over impulse.  Given the set ups in the pilot, Dan’s principles will find greater testing as he, and his new calling, continue to develop.

Time-travel stories are rarely ever about changing the past more than they are about choices.  The writers of Journeyman seem to have firm grip on this principle.  Their plot devices might piggyback on the success of past efforts, but great stories are really old stories told in different ways.  I have my eye on you, Journeyman; please do not let me down.

Written by taj

September 19, 2007 at 6:39 am

Review – “Bionic Woman”

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Whenever cynicism and doubt pervade public conscience, heroes emerge from our stories to brighten up the gloom.  Star Wars emerged from the petulance and suspicion aroused by Watergate, and similarly, Spider-Man reinvigorated the super-hero genre in the summer following 9/11.  Heroes brought the genre to television as approval ratings for nearly every government office began to plummet last fall.  Now, Bionic Woman, a remake of the late 70s series of the same name, seeks to cash in on the same success. 

Jaime Sommers (Michelle Ryan) sits on the cusp of her future.  She tends bar to pay the bills and struggles to provide guidance to her little sister who lives to bend the rules.   Jaime’s boyfriend Will (Chris Bowers) is a doctor, and upon learning Jaime is pregnant, he means to declare his devotion to her. 

One car wreck and all of this comes to grinding halt. 

Jaime hangs on to life as Will takes her to a secret government laboratory where, naturally, he can save her life.  Cutting edge robotics replaces an eye, an arm, and both legs.  Now she’s better.  Stronger.  Faster.  Unfortunately, we can’t say the same for the show. 

The pilot plays like a 40-minute music video, which might make it faster, though not altogether better.  Exposition is cheap, and far too fleeting.  As Jaime discovers her powers, unoriginal moments find her jumping rooftops ala Peter Parker, and zooming in on faraway objects through her bionic eye ala RoboCop/Terminator. 

The idea at the heart of this shows some promise.  Right away, Will (who somehow manages to hold down a job as a lecturer while he’s busy pioneering robotics) highlights the ethical dilemmas involved with this kind of technology.  It could make for some great topical storytelling.  The problem with the pilot is that it tries to do too much.  We hear about the ethical/moral problems, Jamie’s struggle to keep her family together, and her new baby all inside of six minutes.  The baby, lost in the car accident, winds up completely forgotten by everyone involved and the audience is never given a chance to care.

The organization behind Will’s work never receives enough time to even establish its reason for being.  They already had their hands full with their first bionic woman—Katee Sackoff, taking a brief break from Battlestar Galactica—whom they not only allowed to escape, but was responsible for causing the accident that sent Jaime under the knife. 

Establishing an arch-villain right away does help the show recover from its laborious and hurried conflict.  Sackoff can even mock melodrama with aplomb.  With her troubled blend of beauty and menace, I almost wonder if she would have been better cast as the hero.  No one else, however, gets a chance to really establish themselves.  There’s just not enough time—Jaime must learn how to hop buildings and somehow learn how to fight before the next commercial break! 

Had the creators been allowed a two hour slot—roughly 80 minutes of broadcast time—the story would have had ample time to meet its goals.  Despite the show’s desire to give us a new hero, I am less than inspired.  My cynicism remains, and I doubt the show will survive into next fall.  But, this is just the pilot.  You really never know. But I can promise this…I likely won’t be tuning in for this one.

Written by taj

September 18, 2007 at 2:43 pm

So much to say…

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I’m having one of those times when the amount of things in my head begging for attention have kept me from producing any material for the blog.  It’s been a busy last couple of weeks, and I will hopefully have some very cool news to share soon.  For the time being, however, there’s just too much to write about. 

Last week saw the deaths of two superb artists—Luciano Pavarotti, and Madeleine L’Engle. 

This week on the eleventh, my little boy turned four months old, we celebrated the one year anniversary of learning about the pregnancy, and acknowledged the sixth anniversary of the second day of infamy. 

There’s a lot on my mind. 

I watched the Bionic Woman pilot last night (free download at Amazon.com, by the way…and not as impressive as I hoped), and I’m going to be watching Journeyman tonight, so I hope to get some reviews up here soon too. 

Will return shortly (and the unavoidable adverb reared its ugly head). 

Written by taj

September 12, 2007 at 4:49 pm

Posted in General

Indy IV Has a Title

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Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Hmm.  Sounds mythic.  Like it belongs in the paperback section of the fantasy/science fiction rack at Borders, or among the relics of the old Saturday matinee adventure serials. 

Exactly as it should. 

The more I hear about this movie, the more excited I get.  I am ready to see a new Spielberg movie.  Something that’s not a brooding examination of humanity (A.I.) or the oppressive poison of vengeance (Munich).  Something that’s not a cheerless two-hour exposition on the futility of the Iraq war (War of the Worlds). 

I want to see a SPIELBERG MOVIE. 

Something to fill the longing for high adventure.  A hero worth cheering for. An epic story of imagination and intrigue I want to join. 

HT: Infuze

Written by taj

September 10, 2007 at 3:15 pm

The Sin of the Adverb

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Some time ago—I am not sure when, but just like death, taxes, and Starbucks raising its prices, it is now an established certainty—adverbs became taboo.  I go along with the trend just like any savvy writer.  Adverbs perch themselves right on the nose, and infringe upon a reader’s imagination like a misplaced colon.  For example…

“I love you,” she said sincerely.

I should not, under any circumstances, have to be told how she said it—I should be able to pick it up through her actions.  “I love you,” she said, and touched his hand.  Or, “I love you,” she spat, and slammed the door. 

I am told that the adverbial sin can squash a writer’s chance at publication.  Editors will not take you seriously, they say.  Among the stack of authors guilty of this shameless act, J.K. Rowling receives much of the flack for some reason.  And for no other reason than that I can, I wanted to highlight another egregious sinner…

Take Terry Brooks.  Brooks has earned scads of money on what he openly (see, sometimes you just can’t avoid it) admits was a riff on Tolkien.  Here’s an excerpt from page 3 of The Sword of Shannara:

A low-hanging branch brushing against his head caused Flick to start suddenly and leap to one side. In chagrin, he straightened himself and glared back at the leafy obstacle before continuing his journey at a slightly quicker pace.  He was deep in the lowland forest now and only slivers of moonlight were able to find their way through the thick boughs overhead to light the winding path dimly.  It was so dark that Flick was having trouble finding the trail, and as he studied the lay of the land ahead he again found himself conscious of the heavy silence.  It was as if all life had been suddenly extinguished, and he alone remained to find his way out of this forest tomb.  Again he recalled the strange rumors.  He felt a bit anxious in spite of himself and glanced worriedly around.  (Brooks, Terry.  The Sword of Shannara.  NewYork: DelRey, 1977.)

That is, count ‘em, four adverbs in a single paragraph.  From a book that not only stayed a while on the NY Times Bestseller list, but spawned 15 other novels. 

Please do not take this to mean I think Brooks a terrible writer—there are some places where his prose really shines.  He spins a great tale.  But adverbs, even in their excessive use, do not always spell doom for the aspiring writer.  They are still something to avoid, but not something on which to pin your talent.  Like ending a sentence in a preposition, like I almost did. 

Written by taj

September 5, 2007 at 8:57 pm