“Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek”, question and answer session at DC Environmental Film Festival

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I made six video clips from the Question and Answer session for the film “Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek” at the Carnegie Institute for Science on 16th Street in Washington DC (happens to be right across the street from the First Baptist Church if the City of Washington DC, in which I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s).

The subject of the film is African American activist Derrick Evans, who had worked as a history teacher in Boston before starting to visit his homeland in Mississippi more often. The Turkey Creek bayou is a natural wetland and was settled by freed slaves during the Reconstruction, who were able to own land here in a segregated society.  The land is threatened by over-development, which makes it even more susceptible to natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and then Rita in 2005. The film is directed by Leah Mahan and has been carried on Mississippi PBS.

Evans gave up his career (even as a teacher) to become an activist.  During the QA I asked him if he was economically OK now, and the answer seemed to be, not really.  Was this an OK question?

Another speaker said that more people needed to be willing to live in the Gulf area.  Saying that people shouldn’t “choose” to live in higher risk areas just doesn’t cut it morally.

Here are the clips

Clip 1

Clip 2

Clip 3

Clip 4

Clip 5

Clip 6

“The Proles”: How to design a cable television series

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So, how could “The Proles” (two posts ago) be made into a television series?

The rather obvious example is set by “Revolution” (previous post).

And the hooker is that the character “John Maurcek” is “stored” and “reconstructed” three times, based on the idea that I mulled in that 1970 summer in Indianapolis (post here ).

The way “The Proles” was set up, John apparently goes to “The Tower of Ned” (I’m drawing analogy to similar images in both “Revolution” and “FlashForward”), which may be somewhere in the northern Plains, like North Dakota, in early 1970 after getting out of the Army.  The book might have to be changed to show that he does have a job offer.

So incarnation #1 happens immedidately.  John Maurcek is reconstructed after about two hours, and leaves the facility (as if wakened from general anesthesia for surgery, the first time in his life), apparently not much worse for wear.  Maybe he is a little more bald.  He goes to New Jersey, and spends his first year employed just as in history (including time in Indianapolis).  He gets laid off (the only layoff in “my” career until 2001).  Then, partly out of a personal animosity, John does something impulsive, or compulsive, and really bad.  He is almost immediately neutralized and taken out by one of his “friends” (maybe Rado Suhl) with the doomsday laser gun. It’s important to note that factually this catastrophe did not happen.

Incarnation #2 then starts, in early 1971. He has a resume intact.  He is reconstructed again, only slightly worse for wear (but with some small disadvantages).  But he has to own some memories of the year of work, although not of how it ended.  The effect is again like coming out of surgery,  The next 40 years or so of his life proceed, with the familiar story, with all its ironies, nooks and crannies, as outlined in my “Do Ask, Do Tell” books.   Maybe this sounds like a Biblical “wandering in the wilderness”, but if so there were a lot of berries to eat.  (OK, Darren Aronofsky can direct this series.)

At the end of this period, he has an accident, perhaps in traffic, resulting in someone else’s severe injury, of which he is not aware.  It’s not quite hit-run.  He comes home, and then has a sudden accident himself, and lies unable to move, likely to die of dehydration if not found.

For Incarnation #3, he is reconstructed again at 26, but with the best possible body justified.  He quickly learns the history of the gay rights movement (from a “Therapist”), and by now knows someone like him went through it.  It was always a problem that he was never attractive enough to be desired physically, but just once he gets to experience this at a disco in Indianapolis.  Then he learns that “Indiana wants him”, and he travels (to escape) to his Drogheda home in Virginia.  He goes inside and finds his older doppleganger dying.  As he is about to dial 911, nuclear Armageddon happens.  (It’s possible to imagine all this “Revolution” style, with an EMP attack first.  But the second half of this 1970 book presumes nuclear war.)

Incarnation #4 is as in the book now.  “Oscar” joins him, just as in the book, and they find out that nuclear war has broken out. (Putin got carried away with things, or maybe it was Al Qaeda, or Iran, or North Korea.)  Some parts of the country are more intact than others.  This time, however, his physical reconstruction is less perfect (you can only do it so many times).  For one thing, his legs are balding, quickly, as if from diabetes.   He will never again be attractive.

The series would be constructed like “Revolution”, with the post-nuclear world as the “present time” with flashbacks.  The backstories would be told when John encounters various characters from his “first past” (the world up to 1970), and then his other three incarnations.  Since John is still relatively “young” although now with defect, some of the revelations could come from his sexual partner in Incarnation 3, but others could come from Zugfel, Rado Suhl (who killed him once).  Oscar is back in his first reincarnation, and Suhl is on his second, and Zugfel, like an angel, is ageless.  The idea of proving he can have a child with Tovina could still stay in the story.

“Part I” of the book (“The Covenant”) could be set up as a prequel, perhaps 90 minutes, aired between the first two seasons.

This material could populate two or three years of episodes.  It would probably have to be on a cable rather than regular broadcast channel because of the somewhat “adult” material.

(Published: Sunday, March 30, 2014m at 11:30 AM EDT)

“Revolution” on NBC shows life after an apocalypse, maybe comparable to “The Proles”

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Before providing some more discussion of my own early novel “The Proles”, that is, the post-apocalyptic second half, I wanted to provide an entry for the series “Revolution” on NBC (link), now in its second season, created by J.J. Abrams and his company Bad Robot, having premiered in September 2012.

The series takes place fifteen years after all the power in the world went out suddenly.  The United States government has fallen, and the continent has broken into various republics and wild areas governed by militias and warlords.  The president was hiding out at Guantanamo.  At the end of Season 1, the power was almost going to come back on, but the purpose was more to enable a nuclear strike on part of the Monroe Republic.

At this point, there’s not much point in going through the deals of the history of post-apocalyptic life as they are summarized on Wikipeida, here.

More important is the cause of the blackout.  In 2012, the series was billed in popular media as caused by an EMP attack by terrorists (as in the novel “One Second After”, Feb. 15 here). By comparison with my book “The Proles”, such an attack could be motivated by communism, fascism, or religious extremism.  But it turns out that the loss was caused by a conspiracy, apparently involving the government, to create “nanites” that can devour electricity but that have other abilities, such as to create objects under telepathic command (of the master programmer Aaron, played by Zak Orth), or by a USB-like pendant when inserted into certain computers. There’s a summary page about the nanites here.  The nanites can be especially effective in treating cancer, which could help explain their origin. 

The nanites are controlled by a “Tower” – there may be several of these towers.  The concept of a control tower appears in my novel “The Proles”, as well as in the ABC series “Flash Forward”.  (In my own subconscious I have called it the “Tower of Ned”, but I’ll get to that later.)

Zak, as a character, may be viewed as roughly comparable to me.  He had worked for Google – I worked mostly in mainframe, but that’s because my career occurred earlier.  His heterosexual forays are weak.  He has worked as a teacher in the “afterworld”, just as I worked as a substitute teacher, leading to a major incident.

It does not make sense that the “nanites”, as envisioned by the show, could really “absorb” electricity.  I say this, recognizing that the crippling effects of an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) or extreme solar storm (Carrington event) would come in a few separate steps taking several minutes (or even days, in the case of a solar event).  Maybe there is something to the concept I don’t get, and will be explained in future episodes.

I have to express a degree of irritation about the progress of the show.  The opening Pilot shows the blackout briefly, taking about five minutes, and then various episodes show flashbacks to various times after the blackout but relatively few before the “event”.  The series does not yet show any narrative continuity to how the Blackout occurred, or how long it took society to collapse afterward.  The previews keep promising an explanation, but the clues have been slow to come, mostly through the Orth character.  I think a two-hour prequel (more or less parallel to Part I of “The Proles”), showing how it occurred, aired sometime soon, would be very much in order for NBC and Bad Robot.   A documentary discussing the EMP and solar storm issues (maybe from Dateline) would also seem to be called for.

This scene between Rachel (Elizabeth Mitchell) and Jane Warren (Kate Burton) is instructive.

(Published Thursday, March 27, 2014, 11:50 PM EDT)

Update: April 23, 2014

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The film “Transcendence” by Wally Pfister for Warner Brothers and Alcon, almost seems like a “prequel” to “Revolution”.  Indeed, once his consciousness is captured on a super computer, Will connects himself to all the computers in the world and makes them create nanobots.

 

“The Proles”: My fantasy of Armageddon, Cold-War (1970) style

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The Proles” is my 400-page typewritten “unpublished novel” manuscript, my first.

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Creation of manuscript:

I wrote most of the novel by hand in spiral notebooks while living in the barracks at Fort Eustis, VA while in the Army, throughout much of 1969.  It appears that I finished the handwritten draft in early 1970 after starting to work for RCA in Princeton NJ, and had typewritten most of the manuscript by early September 1970.  It appears that I did some work and revision while on a job assignment in Indianapolis in the early summer of 1970.

In the early fall of 1970, as I went back home to Arlington for a weekend on the train, I accidentally left my only copy at the Trenton NJ Amtrak station.  I got off in Philadelphia and took a commuter train back to Trenton to recover it.  The ticket agent still had it.

I wrote an epilogue and a summary and typed it in 1972.  After starting a new job with Univac and while living in Caldwell, NJ, I contacted someone through old contacts at RCA and sent it to Knopf in the late fall of 1972.  This didn’t get very far.

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Plot and concept:

The novel is in two parts, “The Covenant” and “The Great Summons”.

The first five chapters of the novel are strictly autobiographical.  They closely track my own life as follows:

Chapter 1:  the end of the spring semester at the University of Kansas, 1967

Chapter 2:  a summer job with the Navy Department in the summer of 1967

Chapter 3:  a fall semester at the University of Kansas and completion of my degree, 1967-1968.

Chapter 4: My fourteen weeks of Basic Combat Training in the Army, early 1968.

Chapter 5: My tours at the Pentagon (summer of 1968) and mysterious transfer to Fort Eustis in September 1968, and my remaining time there in 1969.

For these chapters I made some changes.  I call myself “John Maurcek”.  The University of Kansas becomes Kansas Weslyan (even though nothing is sectarian) and Lawrence KS becomes Atkins.  Fort Jackson SC becomes Fort Wilson (half way to Fort Gordon).

The general idea is that John meets a number of students and various people in the Army and pieces together a “conspiracy theory”.  One of the most charismatic, Hans Zugfel, appears at his summer job in Chapter 2, and seems to have a mysterious history of trips to the Soviet Union.  It seems that the Reds have developed a doomsday weapon that can vaporize matter but encode the information that created it digitally.

In Chapter 6, one of John’s other cohorts, named “Rado Suhl”, fights in Vietnam and witnesses the effect of the weapon.

In Chapter 7, John has not actually found his first job yet (in actual fact I had), and Zugfel summons him on a treasure hunt.  He winds up meeting “Oscar” (another friend from Fort Eustis) near a military base in North Dakota.  He enters the facility and loses sense of time.  He and Oscar are let go after a little while, and given a ride.  At the first gas station, they learn that nuclear war has broken out and destroyed most of the country.

Part II has six chapters named after sections of the Requiem Mass.  (Maybe the structure is a bit like Havergal Brian’s “Gothic Symphony”).  John meets a woman, Tovina, and with her travels a wasteland, eventually making it back to the East Coast.  Eventually, after some misadventures (including a place called an “Amusement Tent” in Nebraska and the delivery of some more characters)  he and Tovina (now possibly pregnant) arrive on the East Coast near the remains of Princeton .  Zugfel judges Bill regarding Bill’s hero-worship of him, and then Bill has to decide if he and Tovina are game for a long space voyage to a new planet.  The Earth, however, is finally destroyed.

Relation to my other Books:

Chapter 4, called “Interlude”, giving the details of my Basic Training in 1968, is reproduced in the “Fiction” section of the new book “Do Ask, Do Tell III: Speech Is a Fundamental Right, Being Listened to Is a Privilege”.  A more compact account had been provided as Chapter 2 of “Do Ask, Do Tell I: A Gay Conservative Lashes Back” in 1997 (totally as a non-fiction narrative using Fort Jackson as the place).

The more detailed account in the new book is disturbing.  It tends to portray me as a mooch or coward, concerned about his own comfort when thrown into a situation where others make gender-related demands for the supposed common good.  But of course these demands are only valid if the “domino theory” of communism as understood in the 1960s holds and if the government indeed has the legal warrant to conscript for this common good.

The previous chapter 3 (“Development”, following the earlier “Exposition”))  gives some of the details of “John’s” experience as an assistant instructor at graduate school in Kansas, teaching a section of algebra designed for slower students.  John exudes “power” of the students in a manner similar to how he thought teachers and authorities in general had wielded power over him in his own teen and early college years.  Many students flunk, including one given an automatic F for cheating.  John knows that some of these students could lose their draft deferments if he fails them, and wind up more likely to serve as cannon fodder (especially in infrantry) in Vietnam.  The chapter also describes some travels with a roommate (one dedicated to Ayn Rand’s individualism, and with whom he has good rapport, compared to what had happened at William and Mary), as well as the last two weeks of transition from graduate student (with some powers in teaching himself), going through Master’s orals, to Army life as a “prole”.  There is a posting on my companion site with some passages from early pages of the book that develop this point, here.

Another story in the DADT III book, “The Ocelot the Way He Is”, brings up the issue of sending other college students to the draft by flunking them, as if John had played both sides of the issue.

The Chapter that follows Basic, 5 (“The Investigations”) chronicles his life in permanent party.  He spends three months in the Pentagon and living on post at Fort Myer.  He makes some jokes in the office about having been a “bad detail man”.  Mysteriously, he is transferred to Ft. Eustis.  This seems to have to do with his previous psychiatric history, and this may be the only portion of the novel where his expulsion for “latent homosexuality” is discussed.  Once at Fort Eustis, he makes friends in the barracks in his own way, as most of the other men are similarly relatively well educated.  One campadre, “Oscar”, had enlisted for three years to ensure staying out of combat.  Oscar, while studying genealogy in conjunction with joining the LDS church, is quite taken in by John’s hangups about latent homosexuality, joins in the jokes, with repeated caricatures of Tiny Tim. (and “The Gesture”, where moonfaced Oscar bends his wrist and says “O Go Way Butterfly” — we called that “OGAB”).   But other characters, for whom John assigns “animal names” like Lizard, Ostrich, and particularly The Ocelot,  impress John, who starts to imagine how they could fit into (or have wind of)  a particular “conspiracy”, to rid the world of the parasites and underserving.  (John is called “Chickenman” — because he’s everywhere.)   By the time I was at Ft. Eustis, we all knew about the proletariat “cultural revolution” in China, where everyone took turns being a peasant, and thought that the Soviets would ensure that the same thing could be imposed on us, one by one, even if took nukes to do it. Even, I thought that the USSR’s National Anthem (performed in the 1981 movie “Reds”) was much more stirring than our own.

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Relation to historical truth:

I’ve noted the fictional locations already,  The main deviation from reality starts in Chapter 5.  I propose that the Army canceled the program of specialized MOS’s (like my “01E20” Mathematician) for enlisted men with advanced degrees.  I don’t recall for sure whether the Army really did this, but I believe that it did eventually.   At Fort Eustis, the Berkeley doctoral graduate “Rado Suhl” asks to be transferred and goes to Vietnam, in time to witness the doomsday weapon.  I think he did get transferred shortly after I left (on Feb. 7, 1970).

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In the book, I don’t get a civilian professional job before getting out of the Army, and go right on the treasure hunt.  In reality, I had two major offers (RCA and Bell Labs) by mid December 1969.  I started work at RCA on February 16, 1970, reporting at the Cherry Hill NJ location.

In the book, John is accused of homosexuality in the last few months and placed  on general duty, where he has to live in the bay with Special Troops and share KP.  This did not happen.  But we constantly “feared” being sent “back to the bay”, which we called “BTTB”.

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Psychological Aspects

This whole time, John sees his own life as from outside like an observer.  Everything in his life is about meaning and symbolism rather than direct experience.  He has emotion generated by music and by his ideals, and fantasies about ideal men (as explained in the DADT III book, around p. 44-45. He has no concept of a relationship with someone based on genuine complementarity, even less with the idea that he could biologically father life and that if he did so, that could “mean” anything.  In fact, he might relish communicating the idea that less competitive men should not father children and have a lineage — but that would feed the idea of eugenics.   He seems to lack some basic instincts.  Yet, within his own frame of reference, his own universe with its own rules, everything is fascinating.  Autism (at least in this form mild enough to invite moral disapproval) really works, even rocks.  So it’s possible to view a conspiracy theory through this lens and make it work, even make it funny.  Perhaps it sounds like satire.  You can pick up this 1969-1970 typed manuscript at random passages, and it seems quite seductive and captivating to share John’s beliefs, worldviews, and fears, even about his own vulnerable body image.

There is something very dark about how John sees other people.  You could say, as objects, as pawns or chess pieces, to be scored (that is, a Bishop is “worth” three and a half pawns).  Physical attributes become part-objects, and affect whether John can feel any emotional stake in the person.  It’s possible for someone to “lose it”, either because of his own bad living habits, or because of the actions of others (as in combat).  Then he is forever worthless, whatever the cause.  On a private level that is meaningless, but as people get taken in by it (as they do in the military barracks, especially in Chapter 5), it has its effect.  Politically, it can become dangerous, feeding racism or an attitude that people can become expendable.  Organized crime and fascism both feed on that process;  communism at least pretends that it addresses it.  People need to be able to enter relationships (marriages) and keep them when something unfortunate happens to one partner, all the more if in war.  

Of course, this style of thinking, even if we had just fought WWII to defeat it, had been reinforced by the draft and deferment system, which led that some people’s lives were more expendable than others.

There is a lot of talk of male beauty, and of resentment of the old cultural norm that only women should be valued for passive beauty.  There is some focus on various secondary attributes of men in spots (with phrases like “mannish flesh”).  Nevertheless, all the sex scenes are heterosexual.  Near the end of Part I, Hans Zugfel finally has intercourse with his mystery girl friend “Holdine” (whom John has met clandestinely); the scene builds up very slowly, as John imagines it during masturbatory fantasy.  But John never imagines being with Zugfel or any other male directly in the book.  John’s “second coming” would not occur until 1973.   In the second half, near the end, as written, he attempts intimacy with Tovina, and is disturbed at what he sees when she undresses.  Would it make sense to have children in such a world anyway?

Various men looked at my handwritten manuscript in the barracks, and chuckled at how they were presented.  The standing joke was “The Proles,, rated X”.  Now, that’s NC-17.  But it probably would be rated R if made today.

Will “The Proles” ever sweep across the screen?  That I’ll take up in a subsequent posting.

(Published Tuesday March 25, 2014 about 5 PM EDT.)

A checklist of all my manuscripts, to be discussed in more detail soon

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Over the next period of time, I’ll discuss some of my earlier unpublished novel and screenplay drafts.

Let me summarize all of these with a quick overview.

Period 1: 1969-1970 (in the Army, first year of working).

“The Proles”, about 400 pages, typed, written largely while in the Army in 1969, heavily autobiographical, and outlines and “end of the world” plot associated with communism and perhaps fascism.  (March 25, March 30)

Period 2:  1981-1988 (living in Dallas)

The story “Expedition” included in my “DADT III: book.

Another story, “Friendship over the Phone”.

A novel manuscript, call it “Rapture”, 1981, restructured in 1983.  (April 4)

A novel “Tribunal and Rapture”, sent to an agent in 1988, written in 1986, and crudely attempted before in 1985.   (April 6)

These manuscripts tend to envision the idea of an “academy” to train “civilian reservists” necessary after a collapse caused by a communist enemy, and possibly alien invasion.  They are told from the viewpoint of “me” and introduce a heroic male character.

Period 3: 1989-1994: (living in Virginia)

A novel “Handymen”, set in Texas.  A coworker of “me” disappears, and when “I” investigate, I discover a new kind of epidemic.  The “academy” concept returns, with emphasis on “re-education” of “handymen”.  There was an earlier version (1989) set in the DC area that I lost control of.   (April 9)

Period 4: 1997-2003, Minnesota

Three published non-fiction books:

“Do Ask, Do Tell: A Gay Conservative Lashes Back” (self, print run under “High Productivity Publishing” imprint in 1997; moved to iUniverse in 2000).

“Our Fundamental Rights and How to Reclaim them: A Psychological Approach” (1998), print run.

“Do Ask Do Tell II: When Liberty Is Stressed” (2002, iUniverse).

A novel manuscript again called just “Tribunal and Rapture 2”, with an apocalypse seen through the eyes of a retired intelligence officer and his wife: I am a subordinate character.  (April 29)

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A novel manuscript: “Rain on the Snow” focusing on the academy concept again, set in Texas, leading to an unusual trial and escape.

Screenplay “Baltimore Is Missing” (2002), 2004), Jan. 29

Screenplay “Make the A-List” (2002)   March 4

Screenplay “American Epic” (2003))  March 4

Period 5: 2003-present. Virginia

Many short subjects (2005), March 5

Screenplay “69 Minutes to Titan” (2005), March 4

Screenplay “The Sub” (2005), embedded in a future screenplay TBA

“Do Ask, Do Tell III: Speech Is a Fundamental Right, Being Listened to Is a Privilege”.  Incorporates the “Army Basic Training” chapter from “The Proles” and the story “Expedition”, as well as a new “apocalyptic” short story, “The Ocelot the Way He Is” (The term “Ocelot” was introduced in “The Proles”).

An enhanced “Rain on the Snow” with a prologue set in ancient times, and a back story going back about thirty years involving several characters from Bill’s earlier period in Dallas, and the birth of a person who might be a new “savior”. This setup has enough characters and spans enough time that it could generate a cable TV series.  (Same post as May 13).

“Angel’s Brother”, a similar story told form the viewpoint of a CIA agent, married with a family in Dallas and about age 40, and a precocious gay college student.  This has two versions.  This is the main manuscript now.

There are also a number of screenplay drafts, but, besides those discussed on March 4, the most important are:

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“Titanium”:  A Dallas journalist’s fiancée “goes up”, and his search for her brings everyone to the brink of a major alien invasion  (June 12)

“2 Road Trips”, screenplay putting together last two stories of DAFT III (June 25)

“Prescience””  A sequel to Titanium, where some people are abducted to a “synecdoche-like” tidally locked world around an M Star.  (July 5)

“Angel’s Brother”:   A virus propagates the consolidating of identities;  a college student prodigy and CIA agent track it (July 9).

“Do Ask, Do Tell: Conscripted”:  Bill wakes up in the afterlife, or is it another planet, where he judges a contest among angels.  (July 17). This manuscript could also be called, “Do Ask, Do Tell: The Penultimate Job Interview”  (sounds like “The Apprentice”, maybe), where the protagonist has been abducted and doesn’t know if he is in the afterlife, on a job interview, or on another planet, and gets to turn the tables on his angelic captors.

“Do Ask, Do Tell”, consolidated video presenting all three books, on the DADTNotes blog, June 3, 2014, link.

I guess that being an abductee is a status symbol.

(Published Friday March 21, 2014, 11:55 PM)

 

“The 4400” was one of the best sci-fi series: abductees return from the future, without having aged

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Another television series that explored the idea of “powers” was “The 4400” which aired on the USA Network, and was produced largely by CBS and Paramount, running from 2004-2007, for four seasons.  The pilot episode seemed also to be produced with the help of Universal.  It premiered on July 11, 2004, and was created by Scott Peters and Rene Eschevarria.

As the series opens, a UFO, looking like a large comet, lands near a lake between Seattle and Mt. Rainier.  The people who get off the spaceship are those who have disappeared at various times since 1946.  Reports had been rumored that some of them “went up” in a white beam.  None of the people have aged.  It becomes apparent that perhaps they have been shown the world’s future and have returned to change it, although that would seem to violate the “time arrow of physics”.

One of the government officials, Tom Baldwin, played by Joel Gretsch, has a son Kyle (Chad Faust) who has been comatose since his cousin Shawn Farrell (Minnesota-bred Patrick Flueger) was abducted.  Shawn’s abduction was unintentional, as he tried to intervene to protect Kyle.  But when Shawn returns, he takes on some powers, particularly being able to heal people.  Kyle comes back to life, but thinks he is someone else.

Shawn goes on to become one of the most charismatic young adult characters in the show, rather comparable to other similar sci-fi characters like Clark Kent, Jake 2.0, and Kyle XY.  He helps form the 4400 Center.

One of the female characters comes back pregnant, which obviously introduces interesting possibilities.

In time, the civil rights of The 4400 becomes a major legal and moral issue.

In the second season, the government learns that the nervous systems of The 4400 contain promicin (or promycin), a neurotransmitter that helps explain their powers.  (Actually, it’s hard to see how a neurotransmitter could manipulate space-time enough to cause self-teleportation, like Clark Kent can do – only aliens could do that – meaning that we ever encounter someone who can do that who is still human, we have proof that human life was seeded from another planet.)   The government tries to develop a drug to remove their abilities, a promicin inhibitor, which roughly sounds analogous to reparative therapy for homosexuals.  The drug induces AIDS-like disease, which even affects Shawn for a few episodes.  This leads to a great public scandal, until a particular character Jordan Collier (Billy Campbell) organizes The 4400 and promotes the idea of promicin for the general public as a healing drug (it sounds analogous to the medical marijuana issue).  Kyle eventually takes promicin and develops powers.

“The 4400” was one of the best of the sci-fi series, and is to be commended for lasting four seasons and holding a strong story line together, with likable characters and issues that map to contemporary moral and political conflicts.  It seems rather apt to consider now given the NSA scandal.

Published Wednesday March 19, 2014 at 11:50 PM EDT.

 

“Kyle XY” on ABC Family (2006-2009) presented a likable teen who may have been artificially created

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Kyle XY” was another series, this one on ABC Family, which played out the “gifted teen” concept.

The hero is played by Matt Dallas.  As the series begins, he wakes up in a part naked (but not imagined), covered with goo and with no bellybutton in a park outside Seattle.

He is taken to a juvenile detention center but then taken in to foster care by a psychologist, Nicole Trager (Marguerite MacIntyre) and her husband Stephen and gregarious teen son Josh (Jean Luc Bolideau).  He might be viewed as autistic, but he quickly learns language and social function, and toward the end of season 1 (which started in 2006) he is viewed as academically gifted and also an artist, and can help Josh and other teens with homework. He also has superior senses and athletic abilities.

Soon, it is apparent that he has to be protected from the people or company that seems to have created him.  Is he an example of “artificial life”?  Was he made outside the womb?  What are the implications of his existence?  Nevertheless, he is strong,  likeable and sometimes protective of others, in a way that reminds one of Clark Kent in Smallville.

The series was canceled after the third season in March 2009.  I will try to get the DVD that explains what the future plans for the series were and not them here.   The video that follows is a beginning of this effort.

 

“FlashForward” on ABC should have run more than one season

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Flash Forward” was, in my opinion, one of the most intriguing science fiction series ever aired on network television. It aired from September 24, 2009 until May 27, 2010.  It was adapted by Brannon Barga and David S. Goya from a 1999 science fiction novel by Robert J. Sawyer.

The premise of the series starts with the idea that for 137 seconds on Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2009, almost everyone in the world goes unconscious and has a vision of what their lives will be on April 29, 2010.  Because many people are in automobiles at the time, particularly in Los Angeles, there are many deaths.  Some people remember no dreams at all.  Others have to deal with the idea that spouses could have left them.

There are some curious twists.  One is that apparently a baseball game was going on at Comerica Park at the time in Detroit (must have been the American League playoffs) and a “Suspect Zero” there does not lose consciousness.  (I wonder how umpires would rule on a play.)  That person is said to possess a “quantum entanglement device” which may use quantum mechanics to create the impression of faster than light travel or of time travel.  Perhaps this could be viewed as relating to ideas like precognition, telepathy, maybe even teleportation (or Clark Kent’s “speed” in Smallville).  Accepted theoretical physics doesn’t let us make too much of this, however.

Another twist is that a similar effect is said to have happened in Somalia in 1991, at the time Somalia broke apart as a country, and the piracy problem (as in the movie “Captain Phillips”) got much worse.  There is an artifact of cell towers in Somalia related to the event.

Some of the main characters include FBI Special Agent Mark Benford (Ralph Fiennes), Dr. Bruce Varley (Zachary Knighton) who was about to commit suicide because of the apparent failure of his own treatment for cancer, when he learns that on the future date he will be in remission, and agnet Dmitir Fordi Noh (John Cho), who has no vision and has to try to prevent his own murder.  This would indeed violate the time arrow of physics.


Throughout the series we keep hearing “There’s going to be another blackout.”  The season finale had been shot before it was known that the show would be cancelled, but it does end with another blackout about two decades into the future.

Writing Screenplays, Part III: Dangerous Shorts

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To continue the discussion of my rogue screenplays (link in previous posting), I want to go over a few of the “short films” on the directory that were published before the fall of 2005.

Do Ask, Do Tell: Pilot”   presents a situation where I am a substitute teacher and one of the students has read about me on the Internet.  So I tell the story of my William and Mary 1961 expulsion in graphic detail.  An earlier version of the screenplay also included one charismatic student giving “Bill” a back hug.

Conflict of Interest” presents Bill as being sent to a client by a placement company.  The client discovers Bill’s controversial activity on the web through search engines.

Conflict of Interest 2” presents Bill as being hired onto a team to develop a system to screen job applicants for objectionable Internet activity.

Baptism” presents a situation where he is in a “reeducation” academy and has a fix on one of the instructors.  He finds that the initiation ceremony has erotic overtones.  This screenplay was submitted by my attorney to the COPA trial in 2006, but I hardly see that it really has any HTM materials.

Prodigal Brother” presents a situation where a gay man is cut out of a will, where everything goes to the brother.  But then the brother gets kidney failure and the gay man is a match.  Even so, he has to toe the line afterward.

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Beware of EMP” presents how a neighborhood comes to the realization that the power is out for good. They hope the attack is local and not nuclear.

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In “Nightcall” an older computer programmer is set up to solve a dump without help.  But then aliens come out of the computer terminal.  In one version of this screen play the programmer goes into work in his pajamas at night unawares.

In “Exposition for Dogs” some of the problematic situations in Bill’s life, including eldercare, are strung together for all to see.

Golf Course Hole 13” was an exercise for the screenwriting class.  A homeless man wanders onto the golf course during a storm.

Surprise Planet” presents Bill and his boyfriend at a hotel and a gay disco on Titan, the lively moon of Saturn.  It’s cold outside, unless you’re hot.  They exchange bodies, literally, at least according to mirrors.

Handymen” was an earlier version of “Baptism”.

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The Sub” was the most controversial item in the set.  I wrote it in October 2004 but didn’t post it until February 4, 2005 according to my records, after the first major substitute teaching setback (post here http://www.doaskdotellnotes.com/?p=214 ).  When Bill goes to a substitute teaching assignment, he is told to be prepared for special education assignments.   He get a music theory class and meets a charismatic high schooler Clyde,  The next day he gets a physical education class at the last minute.  heart attack and Clyde saves his life with a defibrillator.  In the hospital, Bill refuses coronary bypass surgery but recovers anyway.  Clyde comes to visit and invites Bill to his house one evening to record some music.  With parents gone, Clyde dupes Bill into helping him make a fake id card.  Soon Clyde shows up at a local disco and gets involved with Bill in a bizarre ritual on the dance floor involving a barber chair.  A security guard gets suspicious and asks them to leave.  Later, Bill has PE again, a swimming class, when the police show up and arrest Bill.  The district attorney will let Bill off with probation but would make him register as a sex offender.  Bill goes to jail, has another heart attack, and has surgery and dies on the operating table.  Clyde, however, plays Bill’s compositions in public concert and Bill becomes famous as a composer posthumously.

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The screenplay stayed up until late April 2006, but I’ll explain more why in subsequent postings.  I use it now as a sub-layer of a feature screenplay that I will also discuss in the future.  There are no sexually explicit scenes in the usual meaning of the concept in the script.

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The following school year, in 2006, Fairfax County Public Schools started to install defibrillators and a training film demonstrating application on a real male student.

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First published: Wednesday March 5, 2014, 11 PM EST

Writing screenplays, Part II: Big films

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By 2005, I had placed four full-length screenplay scripts online, as well as several shorts.  I’ve discuss some of them here, to set up discussion of a major incident when I was substitute teaching toward the end of 2005. There is a link showing almost all of the screenplays that were available to the public in 2005, here.


My Arlington screenwriting class had emphasized that Hollywood follows a “third party rule”. That is, studios don’t accept screenplay manuscripts directly from writers, and will respond rudely (with automated legal disclaimers) to unsolicited material, even loglines.  The reason for this is to avoid risk of copyright infringement, but that sounds silly in the Internet age.  That means everything goes through an agent.  But any third party can become an agent, a moviebiz “Jerry Magure”, perhaps as a retirement “second career”.  I rather chukle at Ellen De Generes’s remark at the 2014 Oscars that showbiz is for people who don’t have families.

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The “third party rule” could logically raise a question about the “purpose” of posting a screenplay online for free viewing by the public if one intends to present it to agents later.  But this angle has been little discussed.

Before diving in, let me mention a couple of references on screenwriting,   Here is the “three-act structure” by Syd Field, link.   Here’ an account my Nathan Marshall, “3 Acts and 5 Points”, link Michael Hauge has a piece on the 5 turning points here.

He analyzes “Gladiator” and “Erin Brokovich” according to this plan.

One of the four big feature scripts “Baltimore Is Missing”, was discussed here Jan. 29, 2014.

The feature sceenplays share some common elements:

(1)    Bill has written his “Do Ask, Do Tell” book and would like to get it filmed

(2)    Bill had the help of several friends in publicizing the book after publication, and these friends have their own ambitions, which might include Hollywood careers.

(3)    Bill’s self-broadcast on the Internet presents certain legal and practical risks to himself an others.

(4)    One of these risks is the possible attraction of hackers who might leverage his sites with steganographic messages for future attacks.

(5)    The workplace is changing in contradictory ways.

The first screenplay that I actually developed is called “Make the A-List”, and it is the longest.  I wrote it in the first part of 2002, on the iMac, in Screenwriter.  I did table-read parts of it with the screenwriting club in Minneapolis.  It runs 187 pages, too long – rudely so.  But it seemed like the most comprehensive way to lay out all my ideas at the time.

The screenplay starts by recreating a dinner meeting in Minneapolis between “me” (at 55) and a graduating college student, called Toby, who set up my televised speech. Soon we realize that the meeting is itself a recreation by the college student for a movie audition, where the perspective director was the roommate present at William and Mary when Bill got thrown out of school.  In the course of all this, it’s possible to reconstruct the sequence of the 1961 expulsion.

The film is divided into several parts, and one major section traces the career of Toby, who goes to law school anyway, while doing his auditions and male model gigs.  His girl friend gets into ambulance chasing Bill a couple years later when Bill outs someone in the military in his book and gets sued for invasion of privacy or some such tort.  Things get even more convoluted as Bill finds Toby’s film on P2P, but at about the same time his site is hacked and taken down by his ISP as a nuisance.  At the same tme, Bill is experiencing “conflict of interest” and difficulties over his double life in the workplace when a company walks in the door at work to conduct “career audtis.”   All of this sets up some courtroom legal battles.  A significant subplot concerns a gay male couple where the civilian works for the CIA and has to be out (post 1996), but where the military partner has to stay in the closet.  (This would have been possible from 1996 until the DADT repeal in 2011.)   Another battle concerns “trademark trolling”.

Eventually the former roommate (called Syd) enters the fray.  All of this leads to a “Bill of Rights 2” symposium in Williamsburg, and Toby eventually gets a big movie part and no longer needs to bottom-feed as a lawyer.

I can’t think of a Hollywood movie about making it as a star right now, at least with the subterfuge that Toby shows in this script.  I do recall “A Star Is Born” (1954), which I saw in Dallas at a special benefit in Fair Park in 1984.  The ABC show “Nashville” is rather about this.  I think of “20 Feet from Stardom” and even “Inside Llewyn Davis”.  Actually, the gay sci-fi about a filmmaker undergoing time travel, “Judas Kiss” is maybe a possible comparison.

American Epic” (also 2002) is a little shorter, 140 pages, and deals with some of the same issues, but focuses more on the terrorism, hacking and Patriot Act issues.  It starts with a lawyer Allison and lesbian partner Suzannah trying to adopt a foreign child.  Allison is also active with the issue of how to rebuild the WTC area in New York.   Bill and Toby are introduced, along with a teen computer hacker Erich (who had also played a similar but smaller role in “A-List” above).  Bill is experiencing some social issues in bars with his tendency to notice younger but adult men.  Erich invites Bill to his rural (parents’) home in Wisconsin and teaches Bill a little bit about hacking.  But eventually (as above) Bill’s own sites get hacked.  When there is a major but localized EMP attack near Las Vegas, the FBI traces steganographic instructions back to Bill’s site.

Bill is defended by Allison.  There is a sequence in the middle of the film where Allison visits Bill’s “Drogheda” in the DC area and a flashback recreates what the entire 9/11 day was like specifically in Arlington.   Eventually Bill is tried, and the government claims that Bill actually led Erich into hacking.  In the meantime, Erich winds up on the no-fly list, and gets off by hacking.  At Bill’s trial, a juror overhears what happened and hacks himself to find out the hidden story.  Bill winds up doing community service and being kicked off the web but staying out of jail.

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The third screenplay is “69 Minutes to Titan” (early 2005).  This script is under two hours, and has gotten some attention in the way of emails and phone calls.  The title refers to a possible length of time it would take light to reach the largest moon of Saturn from Earth, in a more optimistic orbital situation.

The script opens with “Bill”, named Clem here,  about to get out of jail. He meets with his young adult friends, Toby and Erich.  Then the action shifts back six years.  I’m not sure that this is the best way to start now;  Hollywood often embeds many films as mostly back story (start with Dr. Zhivago) but it may be better to start a story at the beginning and let the audience wonder where you will go.

Clem has befriended Toby, who is a teacher in this story, and has converted to Mormonism, and will marry Shelia.  Erich is one of this students, and Erich can speak in tongues.  As in the other scripts, Clem’s domain has been hacked.  Clem meets Erich at volunteer event and is invited to visit Erich at home.  There is some mild intimacy.  Clem’s job comes under fire, and winds up in a “re-education” Academy in West Texas.  Back home for a weekend, Erich shows Bill how to hack into a computer system controlled by extraterrestrials, known only to the NSA.  Erich comes to an “initiation” ceremony for the academy and “goes up” (into space).  When Bill returns home again, he finds he has been evicted and is arrested.

The government has the option of prosecuting him for contributing to the delinquency of a minor, in order to hide the UFO secrets he had hacked.  He winds up with several years to be followed by probation.   In prison, he is forced to undergo very intimate monitoring and then found to have heart disease, and gets coronary bypass surgery.

In the meantime, Erich journeys to Titan and finds that the largest moon of Saturn is being set up as a receiving post by angels for people from Earth from some great cataclysm expected to happen in the not too distant future.  There is a parent angel. Roger, who had given Erich his psychic gifts and enabled him to recover from an otherwise devastating medical problem himself earlier in life.

Erich “falls to Earth” (like “The Man Who Fell to Earth”, David Bowie) and returns, and Bill is prepared for early release with compassionate parole (returning to the beginning of the movie).  He will see Toby’s wedding and return to the straight and narrow.  On Titan, Roger shrivels up as Erich prepares to replace him as a master angel.  As the film ends, there are troubling warnings of a possible apocalypse.

The screenplay has a shorter version, that emphasizes the hacking aspect (compromising of classified UFO data, Snowden, Assange or Chelsea Manning inspired) and gets Bill put in prison for that, removing the charges of possible underage activity.  (It’s important that the film describes or shows no explicit sex, but suggests that some sort of preparatory intimacy could happen.)  The shorter version is online right now, and replaced the longer one after my 2005 debacle, to be explained soon.