Saturday, May 22, 2010

Paradise "Lost" No More

After more than 121 hours of viewing time, I'm about to finally watch the end of the TV series "Lost", which wraps up Sunday night. To be honest, I'm kind of exhausted - it's been a multi-year effort and while I have deeply enjoyed this program, it's also a relief to finally reach an end point which should (hopefully) wrap up the whole thing.

As much as I enjoy many of the guilty pleasures television offers, I don't think I've ever watched more than a few programs from start to finish. "Twin Peaks", "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", and perhaps one or two very short-lived sit-coms. My tastes are absolutely eclectic and personal. I think the only other shows I have seen all episodes for are the original run of "Twilight Zone", and that's only due to syndication and marathons on the Sci-Fi Network (whoops, Sy-Fy, since they have changed their name) and "Futurama" (which returns with a brand new season next month on Comedy Central!!)

So yeah, I lean towards the odd and the science-fiction/fantasy shows. ("Lost" is one of television's few shows to earn awards from such science fiction groups like the Hugos and the Saturn awards, as well as Emmys, and the Actors, Writers and Directors and Producer Guilds and many others.)

And "Lost" does have something in common with the previously mentioned "Twin Peaks" and "Buffy" -- the shows don't make much sense unless you start with the first episode and watch until the final episode. Some will surely tune into the ending not knowing all that has gone before, and don't expect me to explain it or justify my faithful viewership.

Bottom line: Sunday night will mean several hours of watching ABC, as the show ends with a 2 and a half hour finale. And I'll probably watch some of the Jimmy Kimmel Live show afterwards as he talks live with the cast for the show. And no, I offer no sweeping predictions for "what it all means" or "will all the questions and mysteries" be resolved. I've learned to just enjoy the work from the show's creators, and am fairly confident that they will wrap it up quite nicely, thank you very much.

Also - for me, this has been excellent television myth-making and few shows do that right. And as I said, I'm sort of glad to have the end at hand, so I can spend my Tuesday evenings without worrying about catching an episode. And I send my thanks to the cast and creators for their work, it's been very enjoyable and a hell of a ride.

Via Creative Screenwriting, one article by Peter Clines notes:

" 'Lost' was a game changer. It was the series that saved scripted television by showing there was still a market -- a big market -- for well-written, episodic shows that didn't aim for the lowest common denominator. LOST made its viewers think about its characters, their interconnectedness, and the many strange things they discovered. It did this by a masterful use of two storytelling elements: the mystery and the twist."

Articles and stories are offered below via IMDB:

Will I have more later on "Lost'? That's a mystery I have no answer for ... yet.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

America: The Freedom to be Awkward

I often wonder about the things I'm wondering about in the world around me. Much of these concerns could likely just be labeled "worrying", which is a sort of old-fashioned phrase for "anxiety attacks."

Here in the modern now-a-go-go times, many achieving Americans would advise me to drop the worries, make sure I carve out a long-lasting and hefty slice of the American Dream pie and "worry" about keeping that safe.

And there are surely times I wish I could do just that - buffered by a large enough slice, I could let everyone else figure it out for themselves, bask in my domain and revel in whatever it is large slice owners revel in.

All of which directly affects this blog and what appears in it. Who wants to read droning dreads and worries of corruption, greed, disaster, politics, etc etc? I might spend some time reading of such things, but repeating it for you, dear reader, could be most tiresome. Negativity begets itself.

Since day one of this blog, I have included this sub-title under the main - "Being an American requires constant vigilance". It's a warping of another far more famous comment often attributed to Thomas Jefferson - "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance" - but Jefferson never said such a thing.

It was instead an Irish lawyer and politician named John Philpot Curan who said "
It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

As a writer and wordsmith of some leisure, one must dig into words and their origins and meanings, so it is worth noting a few things ... "Vigilant" is taken from the Latin "
vigilāre" which means "to be watchful". But one the addition of one letter, the seemingly keen "vigilant" becomes the criminal act of one who is a "vigilante".

Curan, as the above link details, had a rather troubled and complicated life for his tireless devotion to principle and a refusal to compromise and was prone to dueling. Perhaps it is the condition of those who hold fast to principle to venture into troubled waters.

That all said as a forward and preamble for what follows as the actual topic of today's blog post - which is that much of what we do as individuals arises from our families, those we are born with and those we create for ourselves. And really, even that is not the actual point here today - it's that blogging and the internet offers far more than dreads and dire warnings, or at the least, they offer us some humor and less serious (far less serious) considerations too.

Today's Google Trends note that searches for "awkward family photos" are pretty huge. That's because the long-running blog of the same name has now been collected into book form for consumers and has already landed on best-seller lists.

Some examples of what you can see via

Ah, America!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rep. Roe Suddenly Sees Flooding Disaster in TN

More shameful election huckstering continues to spill out from 1st District Congressman Phil Roe and land in my email inbox -- today he offered his first response to the massive flooding disaster that struck Tennessee on May 3rd. Maybe he finally read what was posted here on this page on May 4th (his office has been faithfully reading). Or perhaps he noticed the widespread relief efforts from the rest of the state and nation, or the telethons or the army of volunteers who have been toiling for weeks in Tennessee.

Don't get me wrong - I'm happy he's supporting legislation already submitted for additional funds to help the half of this state which has been devastate for weeks.

Still, he's just been sending me far more information since he's begun his re-election campaign than he ever did before. And still, things are wrong in his email -- for instance he writes:

Nonetheless, the real story lies in the heart of the state’s motto: America at its best."

Technically, the State Motto is "Agriculture and Commerce", adopted in 1987 and the State Slogan is "Tennessee - America At It's Best", adopted in 1965.

It's just the kind of mistake that gives me grave doubts that his attention is ever on our area, much less on the half of the state which has been suffering greatly and continue to do so. He concludes by saying:

Providing more relief funds for Tennessee is a vital request that needs to be addressed as quickly as possible.

It’s encouraging to see Tennesseans and people across this great nation raise money for disaster relief. Many are also sending supplies and volunteering in communities that have been affected by the flood. There will always be times of challenge; however, the way we respond to those struggles is what makes us great."

Indeed. How one responds to a crisis and when are surely vital issues to consider when casting a vote.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Deepwater Disaster Was Preventable

An amazing story of survival on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig was presented via 60 Minutes last night and is a must see and read.

Mike Williams' story also details how the massive and unprecedented disaster which continues today to endanger the entire Gulf and likely beyond it could have been prevented, if only those in charge had paid attention to the critical mistakes which BP and Transocean made in the days and weeks before the explosion.

Down near the seabed is the blowout preventer, or BOP. It's used to seal the well shut in order to test the pressure and integrity of the well, and, in case of a blowout, it's the crew's only hope. A key component is a rubber gasket at the top called an "annular," which can close tightly around the drill pipe.

Williams says, during a test, they closed the gasket. But while it was shut tight, a crewman on deck accidentally nudged a joystick, applying hundreds of thousands of pounds of force, and moving 15 feet of drill pipe through the closed blowout preventer. Later, a man monitoring drilling fluid rising to the top made a troubling find.

"He discovered chunks of rubber in the drilling fluid. He thought it was important enough to gather this double handful of chunks of rubber and bring them into the driller shack. I recall asking the supervisor if this was out of the ordinary. And he says, 'Oh, it's no big deal.' And I thought, 'How can it be not a big deal? There's chunks of our seal now missing?"

The utter damage and destruction is flowing even as I write, and even if the enormous flood of crude oil were to be stopped at this very moment, the devastation and effects will be felt for at least a decade -- or even longer.

Driven by greed and ego, both the businesses and the MMS government officials who sanctioned the work have dealt a crippling blow to our nation and our world, from microbes upwards to nearly every form of life in the region. The Center For Public Integrity reveals that BP has willfully ignored and violated safety plans, that the problem is systemic, and despite efforts of some in government and over $90 million in fines, dozens of lives lost in fiery infernos, the company continues on a path which endangers us all.

Refinery inspection data obtained by the Center under the Freedom of Information Act for OSHA’s nationwide program and for the parallel Texas City inspection show that BP received a total of 862 citations between June 2007 and February 2010 for alleged violations at its refineries in Texas City and Toledo, Ohio.

"Of those, 760 were classified as 'egregious willful' and 69 were classified as 'willful.' Thirty of the BP citations were deemed “serious” and three were unclassified. Virtually all of the citations were for alleged violations of OSHA’s process safety management standard, a sweeping rule governing everything from storage of flammable liquids to emergency shutdown systems. BP accounted for 829 of the 851 willful violations among all refiners cited by OSHA during the period analyzed by the Center."

Speak To Power compares the disaster in the Gulf to another episode of worldwide destruction and the people who simply have no choice but to wait and see what happens. That's a real definition of horror.