The Producer


Walking Dead was a sub for one of the interminable Mad Men hiatuses. Mad Men came onboard when the Kennedy era threatened to be forgotten. And every decade or so, middle aged men on TV need to meditate on their shrinkage and mortality, which is what Breaking Bad did. In all three AMC hits, Walkers, WASPs, and Walter served to explore modernity though funhouse mirrors, and the formula could still work.  I propose the following:

Pitch 1: The Maker: post apocalyptic robot servants and sentient automata gain their own life and society when mass produced and animated by the sole surviving maker, called One, -is he a human or a kind of Pinocchio become Gepeto? A sex worker robot, called Anastasia 7, now functions as an enforcer of One’s will, a shape shifting archangel. A vacuum cleaning robot, 6, now become the predominant life form, serves as an everyrobot. Their peace is shattered by the discovery of a valley of human survivors that have flourished, overpopulated, and seeking new lands. 

Pitch 2: The Indentured Servitude of Patrick O’Hanlon: The brutality and beauty of America as seen through the eyes of Patrick O’Hanlon, a 12 year old illegal immigrant, refugee of the famines, who stows away on a ship to antebellum Savannah. Taken in by the slaves of The Walker family, Patrick navigates the racial and socioeconomic folds of 19th century America, becoming the assistant of the head Butler, a freedman name Josiah, who chose to be employed by his former master, John Percy Walker III, who had married an abolitionist Boston Yankee, Annabelle Weld Wigglesworth. All of this while the country moves towards war.

Pitch 3: 1979 investigative journalist Eugene Greenfield finds evidence of Aliens living among us -Greys, Reptilians, Atlanteans, and struggles with the reality that his neighborhood is populated by people far weirder. The conspiracy theories pile on, as he tries to make coherent the strange events unfolding like a B-movie actor running for president, Star Wars being a true galactic history, and all set in an upper West Side that is burnt out, cheap and affordable. Basically a mushroom trip walk through the end of the Carter era. 

Pitch 4: Jamestown, 1607, and Wycliffe Southard is paterfamilias of a farming family promised land and fortune in the Jamestown colony. They must survive hunger, isolation, disease, and hostile natives in a land very much different from today, a land depopulated over a century previously by the intrusion of the great plague, smallpox. A seemingly virgin land with oak trees the width of baobabs, fish in the rivers the size of cars, and nothing but your wits and a musket. The truth of Pocahontas, the lost colony, and Viking settlers is revealed.

Pitch 5: Tree of Life -a drama of a scientist discredited by accusations of fraud seeking to redeem himself while supernatural forces battle over the implications of his discovery, immortality. Features hot angels and demons, and centers on a young post doctoral student, Evelyn Broussard, a single mother, who discovers the truth behind the false discreditation and the implications for life.

These are shows I would enjoy binge watching on one of those insomniac nights that occur frequently in my middle age.

12 Used Things to Get For Your Favorite Surgeon

One of the most popular posts on this blog is a gift suggestion list I put together last year. Surprisingly, every item remains fresh –even the iPad and Macbook Air. Because of the terrible economy, I thought that “gently used” and “pre-owned” items deserved their time in the sun. Add to the list last year’s model which technically isn’t used, but still a great bargain. Here it goes.

1. Gently used Porsche –these were in fact easier to get in 2009 after the crash, but the lots are full especially in tony but transient locales like the Hamptons, Aspen, and Lake Taho. My particular favorites are the 911 turbos from the 80’s and 90’s. They have go cart like handling and are plenty fast without costing more than a new Hyundai.

2. Sony NEX-5, last year’s model. The lenses for the new one fit. The cameras have been updated, but there is no need to buy the latest and greatest here. Why even bother getting a SLR quality camera when your smartphone takes nice snaps? I agree, there is no reason to buy a point and shoot camera when the iPhone and others take excellent snapshots, but to take great macro shots in the OR or beautiful portraits and landscapes, a great camera and lens still wins. Ansel Adams could not have produced his masterworks with an iPhone.

3. iPad2 in a few months –they are plenty fast and because I have never used Siri, I don’t miss it yet. The iPad2 does everything that the original iPad does about 20-30% faster. The device is definitely thinner. Facetime is GREAT and brings the promise of videophone to life. The Android manufacturers don’t realize that not only are they competing with the to-be-announced Retina display, Siri equipped iPad 3 in April, they will be competing with the millions of iPad2’s that will be sold on eBay when current owners upgrade. The wonderful thing about Apple is that Apple updates the operating system unlike 95% of Android manufacturers, and that devices going back more than a year are supported in these upgrades, which means many years of usefulness for iPad2 and last year’s iPad.

4. Tiny Laptops –When released, tiny, pocketable laptops like the Sony Vaio P series were very pricy toys but now they are available used for a significant price reduction. I recommend getting a late generation model with the SSD hard drive. These fin in the coat pocket and will allow most physicians get onto their hospital information systems –something cumbersome to do on a tablet. The Windows 7 devices will also let you run iTunes letting it be a very nice media player. The only downside is the short battery life which can be augmented with an extra battery or one of those combo USB/laptop batteries –I use the Eveready branded ones as they allow you to simultaneously charge a smartphone, a laptop, and itself.

5. Old school iPods –the iPod 5th generation, also known as the video iPod, is readily available used on eBay cheap and come in 30 and 60gB sizes –usually more than enough for most music libraries. The only trouble with them is that the batteries are often run down –that’s usually not a problem as it costs about 20 dollars and fifteen minutes to swap one out. The older iPods work well with most automobile maker’s iPod docks which for some unfathomable reason are several years behind at the time of release. The original Bose Sound Docks and the Apple branded iPod speakers (very hard to find) are wonderful loudspeakers and work great with these older iPods. The older iPods are durable and won’t break the bank if you leave it behind in the OR, unlike an iPad or an iPod Touch. I recently acquired an iPod Mini from my dad who never really used it, and I not only changed the battery on it, but I swapped out the 4gB compact flash hard drive for a 32gB solid state hard drive –instructions are widely available on line.

6. High end automatic espresso machines. My recently acquired Saeco Incanto Sirius espresso machine will grind and brew perfect espresso and lattes. When purchased new, they are well over a thousand dollars, but you can find them used for a couple of hundred. The great thing about these is that there are resellers of these machines on line, and finding spare parts and repairing them yourself is pretty straight forward. Once you try coffee from these machines, you will never go back to Starbucks, or even remotely enjoy the swill from a Keurig.

7. Used Kindle 2 –Kindle 2’s, the black and white ones with the keyboard are trickling on to the market as the newest array of Kindles come onto market. If you can find one for under $50, you should snap it up because the secret about the Kindle 2 is this: the always on 3G connection and the “experimental” web browser. You never have to pay a subscription fee, and for reading text and email from the web, expecially if you set up a web news reader account well, you will be surfing away anywhere in over a hundred countries without paying wireless fees. Plus, you can read your books. In the sun. I was initially against ereaders, but being able to download and read hardcover books for 10 bucks or less, and carry several hundred around at a time trumps any antediluvian “I love how an old book smells” sentiment. That old book smell, by the way, is likely a potentially deadly mold.

8. Used Aquariums –The one thing about people moving around a lot is that aquariums don’t move well. People once excited by Nemo suddenly find the cost and time involved in taking care of fish to be a burden. The key is avoiding salt water set ups and focusing on self sustaining easily breeding fish like guppies that don’t need to be harvested from the tropics. The maintenance is minimal in fact if you go for a natural museum presentation with algae and freswater plants as well. The water from these tanks should never be thrown out –they are incredibly fertile natural plant food for the garden and potted plants. Best found on Craigslist and local barter sites, the sweet spot is 10 gallons and up.

9. Used Big Televisions –while flat screen televisions are cheap, the 60 inchers are considered the high end and still command a premium price. The increasingly obsolete DLP (digital light projection) televisions can be found used for sale and have excellent pictures particularly in the darkened home theater setting where being flat isn’t critical. The important thing is making sure the connectors are up to date –HDMI is a must. The other bonus is that these televisions are incredibly light –they’re mostly air.

10. High end stereo equipment from the 80’s and 90’s. Those ten thousand dollar stereos from twenty years ago are now considered junk because of iPods and iPod speakers have largely obsoleted CD players and standalone stereos. That said, the sound coming out of high end used speakers and a quality amplifier like the NAD amps which will accept the audio out from an iPod via RCA jacks is both loud, amazing, and cheap. Most kids don’t have the experience of listening to Pink Floyd at full volume through six foot tall speakers.

11. Used Golf Clubs –There is really no need to pay top dollar for the latest clubs, but most amateurs start and play with clubs that hurt their scores from overwhelming age or cheapness. There are certain clubs that will improve play which were amazing when they came out and still play better than the entry level kits from Walmart or Costco. Vintage Ping Irons –the Ping Eye2’s, are forgiving, durable, and very easy to find in your size. Perimeter weighted Maruma’s and Honma’s –basically hand carved Japanese irons that were several thousand dollars when new, can be found for a few hundred or less on eBay. Best person to ask –any long term golfer –ask them what were their dream clubs in the 1990’s. Most of these irons can be regrooved with tools from the internet –while illegal for tournament play, for the average golfer, these rejuvenate older clubs for use. All they need are new grips.

12. Projectors –8mm Projector and slide projectors –if you have old cans of 8mm movies or boxes of slides, you can have them digitized for a fee, but its much more fun to watch them through original equipment. The missing link is usually the projection equipment which was often fragile with now hard to replace parts. Fact is, these can be found functioning and make for incredible family activities around Thanksgiving or the holidays. Imagine screening wedding footage from the 60’s or 70’s or vacation slides from your parents childhood. The 8mm film and 35mm slide are the least accessible of the popular consumer medial technologies of their times, and being able to show these films and slides with the clickety clack of the projectors, the shuffle of the carousels, with live narration of the subjects (while they are still around) is worthy of filming with your smartphone.

Merry Christmas to all.



Grandparents Explain Their Journey

My grandparents in 1981 describe their origins. I was 14 when I filmed this. The whole thing is in Korean, sorry no subtitles in English. It is a two hour retelling of my grandfather’s life story meant to be told to his future generations -which now thirty years later is us. He was born to a family whose fortunes fell in the twilight of the Yi dynasty, becoming more desperate after Japanese occupation, but through unimaginable effort, was able to parlay people skills and intelligence into prosperity for a time, but losing everything again, including his mother, when the Korean war forced our family out of our native Gaesong. It’s not an uncommon story from the 20th century, but one that is resonant and inspiring to me. My grandmother who passed away in 1992 speaks up about 40 minutes into the story which is mostly my grandfather’s. The videotape that it was on was Betamax which I had converted in Korea in the late 90’s -my cousin had it done for me. It was not cheap, because by then, it was a dead Sony format. The VHS copy stayed with me through all my moves and I finally digitized it in 2008 and parked it on mobileme, but most of my cousins couldn’t get it to run for some reason even with quicktime. The recent move to iCloud forced me to move it back and now it lives on wordpress.

My grandfather is still alive at 101 (based on his birthdate given in the video), but according to our family’s reckoning, he is 107, although this may be the relic of a fiction given to the Japanese Imperial Army to avoid being drafted. His memories are a link to a forgotten and lost Korea that was poor economically but rich culturally.

Zombie Gunship -a review, and an explanation of why Zombie things relax me

Zombies are definitely putting their stamp on the zeitgeist. Until recently, vampires were all the rage, but they were never my cup of tea. While vampires are about forbidden seduction -think Don Draper and your mom (didn’t know he was a vampire, did you?). The thing that people don’t get about Zombie movies and fiction is that the Zombies aren’t really the center of the action. This was illustrated in one of the finest Zombie movies to date, The Road (didn’t know it was a Zombie movie, did you?). Zombies are the Gom Jabbar of a Humanity Test (didn’t think I’d reference Dune, did you?). Like a round of golf, a person’s response to a Zombie apocalypse is all about character.

Zombie Gunship is an iOS game that puts you in an orbiting AC130 airplane equipped with mini guns, and two different kinds of cannons. In it, you are the gunnery captain whose task is to obliterate zombies marching on the entrance to a bunker complex. It’s night time, and the battle field is lit up in infrared. Uninfected humans light up the screen bright white, while the walking dead Zombies are a cold black heat sink on IR HUD. Your job is to kill the zombies, keep them from breaching the bunker entrance, but allow the humans through.
The Zombies, when not attacking the bunker, munch on the humans. The problem is that you are allowed to kill only 3 humans inadvertently before it game over -the commander orders you out of the airspace. It’s a simple game with no other characters or maps (a common complaint in the reviews) to mess things up. You gain credits for zombie kills and for each human who make it into the bunker, and you use these to upgrade the weaponry. You can also buy credits through the game (slick) so you can max out the specs on your three gun types (don’t ask me how much I’ve spent).
On an iPhone, the game is a portable addiction like a bag of jelly bellies. On the iPad, it’s engrossing and all consuming, like a really big bag of jelly bellies, and it is the way to play this game. The hook is this. You score better when you ignore the humans and just kill zombies, but then you see the poor blokes getting attacked by the zombies, albeit in tiny ant-sized distance on the infrared. You then are compelled to rescue them with a well gauged barrage from the mini gun, or a carefully distanced blast from the 40mm auto cannon. If you successfully kill the zombie and free the human, you get some points, and praise from the commander. You feel good about yourself in fact. In fact, you end up caring for the poor people running in the night for the shelter of the bunker and may get sidetracked into playing hero. Unfortunately, in this game, and as in all good Zombie movies, playing empathetic hero is not the best way to win at this game. The most efficient at clearing the approaches of zombies without killing yet not rescuing humans do best. There is no punishment for letting Zombie nature take its course.
A recent NYT article ( pontificated about the Zombie phenomena, tying its popularity to the uncertainties of our times. I would add that Zombies have been with us before Romero created them as the basic fear of being consumed by anything that is not us -whether it is a great white shark, a Tyrannosaur, or an illegal immigrant.
Despite the fearsome images and terrifying drama of good Zombie films and literature, I find them a compelling and a great way to unwind and relax. A Zombie apocalypse, it turns out, does not necessarily favor the strongest or best armed. Rather, aside from a bit of luck, you need your wits. A Zombie armageddon is fair and meritocratic. A level playing field. And who doesn’t like that?

Father’s Day Golf

Father’s Day passed with several fun things happening. First, I got to play guilt free golf in the morning, and I shot  an 84. Given the goal of playing par or better by Halloween 2012, I feel good about my progress. The secret sauce can be seen in the statistics from my Golfplan app.

In May, I was suffering from inconsistent play, and despite daily practice, was unable to make progress. Then I realized that trying to fix your own golf swing is a bit like removing your own gallbladder -something theoretically possible, but highly unlikely in practice. I sought professional help, and at Wakonda Club, we are fortunate to have Aaron Krueger who is a gifted instructor. Over two sessions, he was able to provide one critical principal that has changed my game. It is no surprise that it boils down to grip and stance, alignment and tempo.

It has been a revelation. This round occurred without my usual blow up holes, and I was surprised by the score at the end. And this has been no fluke -I have repeated it this past week and today, on a casual nine, I shot 46 despite a pair of double bogeys and a triple bogey. There is no question that professional instruction is the fastest way to improve.

That wonderful round on Father’s day was followed by swimming with the family and then a barbecue at home of L.A. Galbi, a Korean-American dish that I’ve always had in restaurants but never at home until I came across a recipe on Maangchi’s web site (link). It was clearly one of the best father’s day’s I’ve ever had.

Extreme Golf

I took tax day off and played a round during an ice storm. Good for building character, playing in inclement weather is useful in testing your game against many more variables than just the usual yardage, light wind, lie, elevation, incline, etc. Add to it slickness of grip, 35mph prevailing winds, stinging rain and sleet, and hypothermia and you have a sport -Extreme Golf.

The new iPhone Netflix app end of TV

The iPad had the Netflix app first, and it was amazing, but expected on the iPad with its large gorgeous screen. The appearance of the Netlix app (and Hulu+ app) on my two year old iPhone 3G is worthy of comment. First, aside from iPhone, no other piece of portable technology has weathered aging as well. It is currently updated to iOS 4.0 which makes it slow, but the incredible thing about it now is I have access to thousands of movies and TV shows. It works best with a good Wifi connection, and makes cable or satellite TV irrelevant. The only time I watch broadcast TV is to watch live sports -and this usually on network TV over rabbit ears. I tried to cancel DirectTV a while back and they halved my bill after begging me to stay. Despite this, the writing is on the wall. TV is over. It’s dead. So are movies in theaters.

Sony, the graveyard of media formats

Sony’s ability to turn gold into lead has a long track record. It started with Betamax but continued with MiniDisk, Memory Stick, UMD, and now Blu-Ray. You’d think they won with Blu-Ray, beating back HD-DVD, but it was a pyrrhic victory of one army of muskets over another army of muskets -on the horizon is a bunch of guys with cruise missiles, machine guns, and Predator drones. If you go to the video rental store (they still have these, but not for long) you will see about two racks for Blu-Ray. Who wants to spend for that when you can get just about as good for a lot less. That’s what its all about -remember Pioneer’s LaserDisk? Videophiles cherish the quality and durability of this format that predated DVD’s, but it was a millionaire’s plaything. Not so much with Blu-Ray which is hampered by the fact that to get the movie, you have to go and buy the movie or order it and wait for it to be delivered. With Netflix, Hulu, and iTunes along with a host of others, satisfaction is immediate. I downloaded Star Trek in HD and watched it with great satisfaction in 720p on my HiDef computer monitor. 23inch monitor for two feet away is the front row.

Sony has too many competing interests and kills itself by handicapping its products. Or it fetishizes design over function and delivers actual 4,000 dollar laptops that can’t make a movie with their own digicamcorders (my personal experience). People sneer that MacBook’s don’t have BluRay, but do you want to spend the extra money for that blue plastic cover? Especially when you already own Star Wars in VHS and DVD?

People are getting the notion that content has value -not the plastic case or the shiny disk. This is where Sony fails in clinging to a dying business model rather than adapting. It is the giant three toed sloth struggling in a tar pit.

New Star Trek Movie bootlegged preview -revised -no longer bootlegged -official HD trailer -updated

There is no golf in science fiction that I know of. This doesn’t keep me from enjoying science fiction immensely. The new Star Trek movie is coming out and looks to be a huge bangup. Among Star Trek fans, there are two factions. Those who prefer Big Action are offered up episodes and movies involving wars with Klingons, Borgs, and Khan, and even thrown a planet eating monster that looks like a giant doobie. Those who prefer Big Ideas are given time travel stories (including one involving a sarcastic, cloacal time portal), moral dilemma recapitulating the issues of the 20th century, and anything involving empaths (people who can sense the emotional state of others -WTF!???!?!?). Then you have tribbles and fembots.

JJ Adams takes a turn at the old wheel, coming off his Cloverfield and Lost successes, and the preview shows a definite red state Big Action tilt. You see a mavericky kid and young adult Kirk speeding along in various fossil-fueled vehicles. The bi-specied Spock is seen trying to bludgeon a crewmate in this preview. (J’ever notice that Obama may actually have some Vulcan in him as well?). And that’s the thing, when the quintessential blue stater Spock is kii-yaa-ing and hacking at people, you know where the movie is going.

The Star Trek vehicle needs reinvigoration after spending many years in the Big Idea doldrums. I triedimg_26771 watching the first season of Enterprise but just couldn’t get over the show being stupefyingly boring. Reimaginations of “classic” shows inevitably have to incorporate the mood and tempo of the contemporary audiences.The remade Battlestar Galactica is the greatest television show ever, and you should have heard the shrieking about Starbuck being a girl in certain geek quarters. The best science fiction balances the Big Ideas with Big Action. Ridley Scott is a master of this with Blade Runner and Alien.

There are elements of homage in the preview. There is a Dreadnought class starship getting blown up -this is a reference from the Star Fleet technical manual. This kind of detail shows that JJ Adams and the writers are shockingly incredible Trek geeks. This would seem to me that they took their custodial duties with regard to the Star Trek canon seriously. Or it may just be a random teaser designed to draw in the middle aged Trekkies along with all the teens and twenty somethings who know nothing about Trek. I’m holding judgement and praying it’s not Star Trek Kids.

The missing Dreadnought, inspiration for many pages of spiral notebook art

The missing Dreadnought, inspiration for many pages of spiral notebook art

Addendum: The ship in the HD preview (much clearer) is clearly not a Dreadnought, but rather a some kind of modification of either the Scout or Destroyer Class starship called the USS Kelvin with a topside crew/engineering pod in the picture shown from the back below:

Warp Nacelle on Bottom?

Warp Nacelle on Bottom? or Blinding LED Rear Light

This addresses a serious problem I had with Technical Manual where there was no differentiation between the Scouts and the Destroyers (identical) and all you had was the saucer section. The topside main section appears to have the sensor array in the appropriate place.
The USS Kelvin does not show up in the Star Trek Technical Manual, which means that this production deviates from the canon by a large degree. I do know this will greatly bother many serious Trekkies who have nothing better to do than dissect blurry Youtube videos.
Interesting for local readers, Kirk (young adult) zips alongside cornfields to end up in some kind of future alien cityscape. Kirk’s backstory is that he was born and raised in Iowa  (Riverside, Iowa -see below). Problem is, I don’t see a Kum & Go anywhere, which shows again how little attention to detail was given by Team JJ Adams.
Riverside, Iowa

Riverside, Iowa

Addendum: Prequel is available on iTunes as an iPhone App. Engaging comic book about the Romulan Apocalypse and time travel. Time travel is the sci fi equivalent of the dream sequence -it’s usually a sign of unimaginative thinking. It does allow for drastic changes to canon -after all -we are on another time line. The linearity of the timeline is something established by HG Wells, who avoided the going back in time to blow up your parents conundrum. The Planet of the Apes movies dealt with a non-linear timeline, and most recently, The Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles basically acknowledges that there is a fifth dimension -a history of time -meaning that linear views of history and causality can change so that the totality and end results are different over time. Kind of like seeing a full circle on the kaleidoscope rather than just a ray on the kaleidoscope. In this kind of world, there is no canon and JJ Adams can do what he wants. This is far more pleasing than the stupid negative universe where everything is opposite.

Addendum 5/14/2009: I saw it last weekend, took my seven year old and wife on Mother’s Day. The movie knocked my socks off. Everything makes intrinsic sense now. They needed to fluff up the old shaggy franchise, and they hit it out of the park. It was very entertaining. Iowa is elevated to the status of planet with cut scenes between Vulcan and Iowa. Also, it is clear to me that the canyon seen in the trailer is in fact a quarry used to deliver matter to be transformed Trek-style into starship plating. The Enterprise is made of Iowa dirt! Watching the movie in a theater in Des Moines was very special. My son who had been watching classic trek on the iPod Touch now thinks Star Trek is almost as good as his Clone Wars.