Friday, August 19, 2011

What? It could work!


Okay, here's the pitch: Think... reworking "The Dead Zone":

Josh Brolin plays The Presidential Candidate and Daniel Radcliffe plays the troubled amnesiac who's come out an eleven year coma to find he has magic powers and becomes obsessed with heading off a future Armageddon.
ACT I

SNAP FROM BLACK: It's eleven years ago. Open on a car speeding along rain swamped rural highway, after dark. It's a harrowing ride. Way too fast for conditions  CUT TO: interior of the car showing a young boy, about ten years old, lying unconscious in the back seat with his head being cradled in the lap of an unidentified woman; presumed to be his mother. There is a deep gash in the boy's forehead. CUT TO: her perspective past the back of the driver's head out the windshield showing headlights reflecting off sheets of rain and glimpses of rapidly passing foliage at the side of the road, but little else. Are those the oncoming lights of a truck too close to avoid?  CUT TO: Extreme closeup of the terror in the drivers eyes.

There is a scream. Then silence. Then BLACK

FADE FROM BLACK: A closeup of the sleeping boy's face slowly morphs showing the passage of years.
During the change, we hear snippets of conversation as though coming in and out of a sonic cloud: "...how sad it is that his parents died in the crash..." "...a miracle the boy lived..." "...the fact he was already unconscious when the accident happened probably saved his life...." ...an old man's voice accepting responsibility of the boy's care... ...the same elderly voice singing Happy Birthday... " ...why won't he wake up?..." "...we can't find anything wrong..." "...it's all up to him now..." " ...sounds of a TV progressing through a decade of news and events... ... etc.

Then silence.  Then WHITE

FADE FROM WHITE: View from an upstairs window out to a shady well manicured residential back yard. It's a beautiful late summer's day. Pulling back reveals an adult version of the sleeping boy: Jimmy Smith (Daniel Radcliffe). Long steady-cam panning shot takes in the surroundings: A typical farmhouse interior shows pictures hung on the wall showing his life as a boy with his parents. In some of the pictures we can see an older bearded man with his arm around Jimmy's mother. There's a well broken in easy chair beside his bed with a pile of books next to it. The topmost one: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has a bookmark not quite half way through it. We hear the television in another room and The Candidate (Josh Brolin) is making a speech at a large rally. Through the sonic cloud we can hear the crowd roar its approval on almost each line he utters. He is a phenomenon. As this happens the tracking shot has now found Jimmy's face again and begins a slow zoom in towards it.

CUT TO TV: SLOW ZOOM to  The Candidate saying:
"My friends, I have been watching and I have been praying for God to tell me what to do about the threat we are facing as a Nation when it comes to how our OWN GOVERNMENT has begun to take over our lives. And do you know what he said?"
The crowd shouts "YES!" in unison.
"He said, 'Man'," the crowd cheers, "He said 'Man, you gotta take this one on yourself.'"
The crowd shouts "YES!"
"He said, 'You gotta take this one on yourself because there just in't gonna be anyone gonna do it for you.'"
Scattered "That's right's" and "Amens" can be heard from the crowd.
"He said, 'Rick,'"
The crowd shouts "YES!"
"You gotta run for President of the United States and you gotta WIN! Because I'm FED UP!"
The crowd shouts "FED UP!"  "He said 'I'm FED UP with this government, and you gotta do something about it!'"
We are now zoomed in on  The Candidate 's eyes showing the naked ambition in them. As the crowd goes wild...

CUT TO CLOSE UP: Jimmy Smith,
the sonic "clouds" part and the sound becomes crystal clear. Jimmy's eyes snap open. He is awake.

CUT TO OPENING CREDITS:



....WHAT? It could work!....






Tuesday, August 16, 2011

BLENDING MOCHA

By Barley Corne
~ With apologies to Robert Frost

SOMETHING there is that doesn't love a scone,
That dreads the gritty dry-mouth taste of it,
And sends the gasping sampler on the run;
A nonfat mocha latte for relief.

The toasted bagel smacks of issue too:
The cream cheese is a needed condiment
And my physician wants me to reduce,
And he would have me using fat free spread,

The flavoring is flat no pleasure there.
So what would be the pastry I prefer?
Confections, I would order, were I free.
And with my neighbor I can gladly share;

A lovely cupcake, frosted.  Even glazed,
And sip a sweetened latte for the prize
Of friendship, as we speak of daily news.
The sugar in our veins begins to drive

Our heartbeats to a quicker stronger pace,
The other customers who can observe
Remark of frosting smeared about our mouths.
The room with sucrose aided sight does glow

It seems the world itself has been refueled
And smiling, shaking hands as we depart,
Perhaps a friendly hug to seal the day;
We only have to keep a secret pact:
To not divulge the content of our snack 
We both agree, "Good cupcakes make good neighbors."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Feeding the Flame

"The Student"   
From Candle Light
The Old Man awoke to a new day and a new sound.
For him, sleeping had become more of a habit in recent years. When he was younger, he recalled, days would pass while he was in alignment in which he did not require the sleeping state. This was not to say that meditation was not needed. When one is in alignment, much can be accomplished with well chosen posts in the arcs of day and night; posts to achieve the meditative condition. Differing from sleep - when one loses consciousness - the meditative provides a markedly sharper awareness of ones surroundings.
However, as he aged, he allowed more time for the frivolity of a more traditional sleep cycle. The Old Man discovered sublime entertainment in the whimsy of dreams.
As with the evening, morning time in the Valley had its own backdrop and soundtrack. The pink and lavender clouds drifted above as an advance guard clearing paths through star laden darkness as sky began to take on the light of the approaching Day.  The sunrise chorus of birdsong struck up a lively tune to greet it. The damp, cool, jasmine tinted breeze picked up the beat and swirled about as the temperature began to rise. The patch of wild rosemary nearby donated what it could to the sensual feast. The Sun would not show itself to the floor of the Valley for an hour or so, but the western ridge soon began to announce its approach by catching and broadcasting its golden issue to all who had eyes and would see. The season was summer and there would be plenty of sunshine for everyone today.
All these things were as they always are. Today, however, something new approached. “Not new,” thought the Old Man as he went about his morning routine, “Different.” He turned his attention toward the eastern slope. He could hear voices coming from one of the encampments along the Gateway Path; that which lead through to what most people would call “Civilization”. 
One voice was that of The Sentry. His calling was as a sculptor. He had come to the Valley for seclusion, to quietly create, as he was able, objects in the art of form and substance. He often had need to travel to the outside world for his livelihood. Hence, though he called the Valley his home, his was also the closest dwelling to the outside world. And so, by default, he became The Sentry.
Another voice, that of a young man, both familiar and strange, echoed with a hints of nostalgia, tinted with defiance and a bit of remorse. He was introducing himself and a travelling companion to The Sentry, but he was obscuring a full disclosure of his true identity. The Sentry’s voice rang with a dissonant harmonic. He believed he recognized the young man, but his conscience was not aware of it as yet. It was not long before The Old Man heard The Sentry accede passage to the travelers.
At this time the third voice was heard.  A boy’s voice said, “Thank you.” It was a small voice full of wonder and trust, unblemished with the world; yet the words echoed throughout the Valley, travelling on the dissipating morning mists as though they had been amplified by artificial means. This was followed soon after by the footfall of the pair as they descended on the path. Again, The Old Man noticed that the adult’s steady pace and measured stride had a knowing confidence, while the youthful one followed along behind him pausing just a little bit every few meters to drink in the vistas, to inhale the beauty, to be amazed; then rushing to catch up.
The Old Man went about the tasks of preparing for their arrival.
The full light of the day reached the floor of the Valley simultaneously with the travelers. They emerged from the foliage at the base of the path and approached the Old Man’s lodge. A few meters from the entrance, they stopped and waited silently.  Apparently the adult knew of the Old Man’s custom of answering first to the Seeker who does not knock. Patience is rewarded more richly than ambition. He was not disappointed. The lodge door swung open almost immediately revealing its inhabitant: tanned and lean but not gaunt, shockingly white hair in a barely tamed mane above a peaceful visage, truck-sack slung over his shoulder; it was the Teacher whom they had traveled so far to see. The younger one gulped down some anticipation.
The Old Man approached them.
“Hello, Joshua,” he said, extending both hands in a gesture of welcome and acceptance.
“It’s good to see you too, Dad,” said the young adult. “I’ve brought you a new student. I’d like you to meet your grandson, Caleb.”
“Caleb,” said the Old Man, “I am very pleased to meet you.” He offered his right hand for the boy to take it; which he did, vigorously pumping the Old Man’s arm up and down for a moment. Then, thinking better of it, he downshifted to a lower gear.
The Teacher laughed. “Come inside, both of you. I’ve made some breakfast. You must be hungry from your journey,” he said, ushering them in to the coolness of the lodge, as now the Sun was approaching its highest point in the sky.
The boy immediately saw the bowl of fresh apples and apricots that his grandfather had placed on a large rough hewn table in the center of the lodge. A silent glance toward his father secured for him the permission to indulge in their sweet juices.
 The two fathers stayed behind to converse without the young one hearing. Nearly a decade had passed since words were spoken between them, yet they had not parted with animosity. In fact, their minds had often touched during the ensuing years. Audible words are not the real communication of the soul, both men knew this. It was to be one of the lessons the young boy would soon be learning. Therefore their conversation began in the middle of a thought, preliminaries were not necessary.    
“He is ready?” asked the Old Man.
“He believes he is,” replied Joshua.
“Then we shall see,” said the Teacher, “He is taller than you were at his age.”
“He has been fed better than I was.”
“You mean he has been fed more than you were,” corrected the Old Man, “I’m sure I will have to teach him appetite control in his first lessons.” He watched as the youth consumed one of the apples. In truth, the boy showed some measure of regulation already in his habits. He had already exhibited politeness and respect while accompanying his father into the Valley. The stamina needed in pursuit of the long journey to the Valley proved the physical qualification.
Perhaps the boy was ready after all.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Feeding the Flame

"Preparations"   
- From Candle Light
The cycle continued.
Still air cooled in the gathering dusk.  The valley floor was already steeped in evening-tide, receiving a fresh misting of dew.  While on the gentle slopes above, ridge-row trees stood flocked with liquid gold as the sun dipped below an unseen horizon.  Inexorably, yet more swiftly than one would imagine, that shimmering aura slipped upward until the topmost leaves of the highest trees could no longer hold the day. 
There was, for a moment, a sparkling silence: A complete absence of sound. 
In that moment, when the entire earth was still, an Old Man - a Teacher – produced a small lacquered box from the truck sack that was perpetually slung over his shoulder.  Sliding open its top, he withdrew one single match, then carefully closed the lid and replaced the box in his pouch.  Crossing to a special river stone prepared especially for this one task, he ignited the phosphor and touched it to the wick of a large candle.  He considered his action for a time, as he did for every action he took, holding the flame to the wick to make sure it was well lit.  This duty done, he removed the match and extinguished it in a small bowl of white sand.  Then he turned to face up the valley and watched as one by one, other camps scattered about the surrounding hills winked into illumination as their inhabitants, too, lighted their lamps in like manner to add their glow to the approaching night. 
A cricket sang.  A nightingale joined in chorus.  The residents of the nearby river struck a frog-like chord and a twilight overture began.  It was a prelude; one that promised to swell to symphonic proportions as the evening progressed.
He set about his preparations. First was his evening meal. 
          His diet, half by necessity and half by choice, had evolved from a meat dense youthful voraciousness towards one laced only sparsely with once motive proteins.  The volume of his repast was now those vegetative offerings from the well-tended community fields in the terraces by the river.  The river, its waterfall, and the mountain spring that spawned them never quite dried, even in the worst of summer heat.  Tonight’s bill of fare was to be one of green legumes and sweet yellow tubers.  Neither were attention critical to prepare, and it would not diminish their nutritional value significantly if he did not consume them immediately.
          There were other preparations to make this evening.
          The Old Man knew there were visitors coming to the valley.  One was a student.  One was a seeker.  And there were more to follow behind them who would decide the outcome of a storm.  It was not the weather that concerned him - it was the why.  

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Feeding the Flame


"The Coin"   
From Candle Light
The Old Man held a coin in the air, letting its gleam fall across the boy's eager eyes.  "What does this mean to you?" he asked?"
"Why, Teacher," began the lad, "it's a coin.  One uses it to buy things."
"Exactly," said the Old Man.  "What manner of thing can it buy?"
The boy answered, "With enough of them, it can buy anything, everything!"
"Can it be used to do good?"
"Oh, yes!  It certainly can."
"Evil?"
"Yes Teacher, it can be used for that in the wrong hands."
"Then, we have discovered that one coin can be used for either good or evil...the same coin...the only difference is by whom it is used."  The old one tossed the coin in the air, flinging it with his thumb so that it turned rapidly over and over.  A ringing like a small bell reverberated through the valley.
"Imagine that this coin is named TRUTH: one side of it represents good, the other side represents evil.  Which side would you pick?"
"The good side, of course," offered the boy, puffing up his chest as if to say, “I know the right answer to THAT question!”
The coin landed on the soft ground.  Its ringing fell silent. 
"Look at the coin," instructed the Teacher, "which side is showing?"
The boy didn't answer.  He had no way to tell which was which.
The Old Man laughed at the confused expression on the young boy’s face, "Don't worry, Caleb!  It's the good side - because you are the one who chose it."


Friday, July 29, 2011

Why do cars have ski racks in Los Angeles?

Originally posted to Facebook: June 2, 2011

The snow pack in the High Sierra is impressive this year.  Memorial Day saw 8” of snowfall on Mammoth Mountain, so they are extending Winter until mid June.  They can do that.  It is good for Business.

This is fantastic news for drought stricken Southern Californians.  It is even better news for that hardy species of animal that defies the odds against its survival and continues to dwell here: The Snow-crested Spandex-breasted Alpine Skier.  In the city, I will occasionally spot one of them in a workout room or on an apartment balcony using a ski emulation device, engaged in their fascinating, indigenous behavior patterns.  It is not their natural habitat though, and I can see they would rather be somewhere else.

There are two sub-species of which I am familiar:  the Cross-Country Skier and its more colorful cousin, the Downhill Skier.  I have experienced both, and my preference is well defined.  Myself, I prefer the cross-country flavor.

Cross-country skiing is much less crowded with people, more civilized and it is a healthy, breathtaking, head-clearing pastime.   While skiing cross-country, I have seen more than my share of picture postcard views.
  • There's the one with the new snowfall barely covering a set of Lehigh Valley RR tracks which stretch out into the distance, converging in a single invisible point in space beyond a whited-out horizon.
  • ...The one with the old covered bridge at the edge of town that spans a someday-it’s-going-to-be-a gorge.  The trickle of a stream beneath it is frozen into stillness until a January Thaw arrives.  
  • ...The one with the powdery canopy of morning mist blending into marshmallow puffed hills before you and below.  The only demarcation between the two is a stand of perfect pine trees along a ridge at the intersection of land and sky.
These are all indelibly archived in my memory and signed, "Glad you were here."

Also in that archive, and signed in a different, sinister hand are memories of a harsher kind:
  • …The time I was pitching in a softball game and was smashed in the face by a line drive.  I went down like a sack of potatoes, they say.  (In actuality this is not so much a memory of the event than of the painful aftermath.)
  • …That other time I fell out of the rafters of a rural Michigan Barn Theatre after stepping on a broken crosspiece.  I remember it in slow motion, just like in the movies.  I do not, however, remember anything immediately after landing face down on the stage.  Once again, I was “read in” by others recanting the tale.
…And then there was the time I went Downhill Skiing.

It was many years ago.  I was living in Boston, and it was early in the season at Killington, in Vermont. A friend thought it would be a good idea to get me on skis for the first time in my (so far) 23 years.  I deferred to him and went along. What the heck.  What did I have to lose?  I was young.  I was adventuresome.  I had not yet been hit in the face with a line drive hit back to the pitcher.

It started with the money.  First we had to pay for parking, then our lift tickets.  Then we rented boots, skis, and poles.  Before we even approached the lift I was into this thing for $30 bucks or so.  And that’s in 1976 dollars.

The only run that was open was an intermediate one. I would have liked to have seen what an expert slope looked like, because this one was already looking straight up and down to me.  Riding up on the lift was peaceful enough, much like I imagined the walk into the blinding light of what-waits-beyond would be, as we pass from this life to the next.  I dared only to peek down past my feet, which were dangling five stories above what was sure to be solid granite covered by a thin coat of crusty snow.  I spent most of the trip admiring everything I could see at eye level and above. 

Stepping off the lift that first time was stepping off into outer space. I was looking for a tether, a pressure suit, and a breathing apparatus.  At least I wanted assurances that I could abort the mission if something went wrong.  None were offered.

Oh, did I mention that nobody even suggested that it was a good idea to take, oh I don’t know, a lesson or two before even attempting this insane thing I was about to do?

I pushed away from the lift.  Maybe “launched” is a better word.

There is, as it appears, a ritual embedded in learning to ski.  There is pain involved, and one is required to maintain the appearance of having “fun” throughout the ordeal.  It is not unlike how a fraternity pledge brother is supposed to fain solemnity as he is being painted with warm peanut butter.  It is a rite of passage.

I discovered immediately that my first trip down the slope was to be spent primarily in the prone position, arriving in the prone position as forcefully as possible.  I achieved this result by throwing my feet up in the air every twenty seconds or so and landing flat on my back. It was involuntary, and it hurt a lot; until I remembered to distribute my weight over more area by executing what I called the “Dead Eagle” maneuver.  It was the same as a “Spread Eagle” only - you know - dead.  I got pretty good at that. 

That first descent took about a half hour to reach the K-1 Lodge at the bottom.  Maybe it was a record.  I didn’t care.  I was ready to pack it in and spend the rest of the day healing in the lounge.  Looking cool and sipping toddies in the lounge with a Ski-Babe was what I had heard this whole skiing thing was about anyway.  Right?

Not according to my friend, who had been waiting for me to finish my first run and was raring to go again.  It wasn’t too hard to talk me into it.  Remember, I had already spent an entire day's wages to pay for the fun I was supposed to be having.  So, now I was intent on getting my money’s worth.  

I was surprised at how much better things seemed on the second run.  Not enough to get cocky about it, but I was experiencing a little giddiness at times.  About three-quarters of the way down I had only fallen three times and had discovered the “snow plow” to keep things more in control, when I heard a voice behind me yell something that sounded like, “SKI!”

“Well,” I thought, “that’s pretty rude,” and I turned, about to shout something childish toward where I thought the voice had come.  

It turns out that “Ski!” in this case was not an insult but a warning – much like the word “Fore!” when it is shouted on a golf course means someone has hit a ball in your direction, or the word “Heads!” when barked on stage means something has been dropped from above.  Of course in all cases, it seems to me that a more standard word like “Duck!” would work just as well, seeing as how those, like myself, who were new at the game would take less time to translate the word to an action.  Nonetheless its meaning was immediately self-evident. 

Someone ski had disengaged from its owner and become a low flying projectile on the slope above me.  It hit a mogul and launched itself directly at my head, homing in on the bridge of my nose.  As comical as your mind’s eye can make this appear now, it was not so funny to me at the time.  

I understood.

I remembered the “Dead Eagle” maneuver I perfected on my first trip down the slope and performed it flawlessly: flat on back, arms outstretched, legs in the air - just in time to watch the ski sail over me, between my feet, a missile in search of another target.

After that, there wasn’t any reason not to hit the lounge and look cool for the Ski-Babes. 

What if there was a phone menu to choose the “On Hold Music” we had to listen to?

Thanks to Anna Stadlman for the musing that set me to thinkin:


“Thank you for calling the offices of Like We Really Care Anyway… We’d like you to think your call is very important to us.  Please hold, and a representative will be with you as soon as we can find one that isn’t too busy pretending to work on someone else’s problem. 

“Your On Hold Music menu follows.  Please listen carefully because our selections sometimes change before we get to the end of the menu.  “

·         Press 1, for Innocuous Elevator Music that has been scientifically chosen to offend nobody but anyone who actually likes music.
·         Press 2, for Distorted Unrecognizable Sounds that can be mistaken for music if you tilt your head and cup one ear like this.
·         For Hard Rock, Press 11.
·         For Metal Rock, Press the same number repeatedly very hard.
·         For Lawrence Welk’s Greatest Hits, Press a 1 and a 2 and a…
·         For Bluegrass Music, Press any number and accompany it with a banjo.
·         For Broadway Showtunes, Press 5-6-7-8!
·         ‎For Jazz, choose 4 numbers and press them sequentially in any order for 1 minute. Then press #.
·         For New Age, Press 0 and let go.
·         For The Zen Meditation Channel, Press 1 with all the other numbers.
·         For Country, Press 1 then 2 then 3 then  1 again – then hit the bottle.
·         For the Blues, Same as Country Music only throw a 9 in it. 
·         For Reggae, don’t worry – just stoke one up and let the music come.
·         For Classical, Press 8883-2221

"Again, your call really couldn’t mean less to us, but we’ll pick up eventually.  Please stay on the line and let the music settle over you.  The time should pass quickly.  And who knows?  Maybe you’ll think of the answer to your question which should have been obvious in the first place and you won’t need to hold any more. "

Good Bye.


Some say the world will end in Fire...Inconveniently

When it's this hot like this, I remember a "Twilight Zone" episode called "The Midnight Sun" - The Earth had somehow gotten out of orbit and was moving inexorably closer to the Sun and we were all doomed. At least that's what we are lead to believe until the "gotcha" a the end that showed the whole thing was all an hallucination and the exact opposite was true and we were spinning AWAY from the Sun... and we were all doomed.

- Some say the world will end in Fire. Some say in Ice. ~Robert Frost -

I remember the Female Artist (Main Character) had painted a picture of a waterfall she remembered from childhood to help her to feel cooler. (For the Ithacans in the crowd, it was most likely Taughannock Falls since Rod Serling lived near Trumansburg, NY.)

Anyway. I'm thinking about waterfalls.

And Global Warming