Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Lost - Season 5 Two Hour Finale Tonight!

Oh boy. Write up and take aways hopefully soon :-)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Star Trek - The Future Begins Movie Analysis

[No movie spoilers; major LOST spoilers so you've been warned]

Being a huge fan of LOST, I was very much waiting in anticipation to see what J.J. Abrams (director, who I thought did an admirable job of directing Mission Impossible III) and Damon Lindelof (producer, who is also the creative force behind LOST), were going to do with the script written by
Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman, who never wrote for LOST but wrote the screenplay to both Transformers movies. Were there going to be any flashbacks or flashforwards while the movie delved deeply into each character? Well, no ... but in a two hour time span, linear storytelling is just as effective as using flashbacks or flashforwards. Would there be good character development or something to do with time travel? Well, yes ... some really good character arcs and of course, time travel. It does all that and more. After seeing the movie, I can say that as a Star Trek fan, the movie rocks. As a LOST fan, you can feel a certain amount of influence the TV show had on the movie.

Back in a Flash
LOST is known of its use of flashbacks and flashforwards to give the viewer a back story to what is character is doing or thinking at any given moment in an episode. It really fleshes out the characters in seeing their journey from where they were to where they are to where they are going. In Star Trek, there are no flashbacks or flashforwards. But even in linear fashion, the Star Trek movie does a great job of elaborating Kirk's upbringing which leads him to the Enterprise. We also see Spock's upbringing as well and his inner conflict of being a child of two worlds. Setting up these earlier scenes allows the viewer to how these events in the past affect the character's decision in the present.

Time Travelling Tales
The most recent season of LOST focuses on time travel. We see our characters jumping forward and backwards in time, seeing things that are often referred to but never seen or circling back to events that we have seen before. Time travel is a plot device used in the new Star Trek movie and while I will not go into details about it, the mere thought of jumping through time and seeing things from a different perspective lends itself well in this movie.

Star Trek - The Humor Begins
One thing that you usually get in an episode is the sly sense of humor that is laced throughout an episode. We often see Hurley taking on the comic relief role with Sawyer there to come up with a unique name for someone (and usually a chuckle from the viewer). The amount of humor found in an often depressing episode of LOST balances out the ying-yang of comedy/tragedy in each episode. The same can be said of the new Star Trek movie: there are several well-timed moments of intended comedy that works well with the story line. The Scotty character comes in towards the latter half of the movie and his character injects a bit of off-the-wall humor that, like LOST, balances out the comedy with the dead serious storytelling.

But make no mistake: the new Star Trek movie is NOT an episode of LOST. The new movie takes everything that fans of LOST enjoy and infuse that sense of wonder, joy and pain we see in the LOST characters into the movie story line. The Star Trek characters that we knew from the Original Series, reborn into the truly Next Generation) drive the story forward, allowing us to see the brighter (and darker) sides of who they are and where they came from.
All of the supporting characters also hit their marks and even when they say their cliched lines (like By Grabthar's Hamme ... oh wait), it sounds almost as if you're hearing it for the first time. With this, along with splashy special effects, effective scoring from Michael Giacchino (who also does the music to LOST) and with lots of eye-popping action, you really can't go wrong with Star Trek.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Time To Spare

Context: Yes, it's true: before getting into computers and software, before working at some big multinational software company, before becoming wired, I used to teach English conversation in Japan. I lived in a small city called Yonago, in Tottori Prefecture, which is about 3 hours northwest of Osaka by bus, situated along the Sea of Japan. I worked at a small English Conversation school called "Nicenglish" ... that's not a spelling mistake. Nicenglish. The following is an email that I sent to a friend of mine who was depressed about teaching. The email was written a few years after working in Japan so I had hindsight to help flesh out the details of my time there. Take it for what it's worth (which isn't that much).

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When I was a teacher in Japan, there were days in which I was sick and tired of teaching to children who would not listen, high school student who did not seem to care and even adults who were not that interested. It’s draining to stand in front of people and sell yourself and your knowledge to people who seem to not find value in you. It drained the life out of me, the fun I had, the motivation to wake up and go to work. By this point, even small things that were often trivial were often perceived as major crises in my life. And because it was winter and because it rained a lot in Yonago didn’t help that much either.

But, believe it or not, I found solace in bowling. You may laugh and find it strange but I was able to relax by going to the neighborhood bowling center. My walk from my apartment to the bowling center took about 15 minutes. As I walked through downtown Yonago, I would pass by a small bakery and buy myself a “cheese and sausage roll”. Upon reaching the bowling center, I would rent a single lane and bowl about two games. Although I was by myself, it was a lot of fun. In my mind, I knew that my body was moving. I knew that I was thinking about how I should throw the ball. Best of all, I knew that no matter how badly I threw the ball, no one was watching so I could do whatever I wanted to do. After two games, I would go into the little game center and try the UFO Catcher. Most of the time, I would not get anything. But sometimes, on very rare occasions, I would get a Miffy or Doraemon doll.

Next to the bowling center was a small park. I would go outside and there at the park, I would find an empty bench, sit down and start eating my cheese and sausage roll and start drinking Afternoon Tea. I would see older grandfather and grandmother types, walking slowly with baby carriages that didn’t have babies in them. I would see mothers and children playing nearby a slide and swing set. Later in the afternoon, I would see students in uniforms, giggling and gossiping. By the time I was done with my roll and Afternoon Tea, it was time to go back to work. But instead of feeling down and feeling blue, I felt warm because of the just eaten roll. I felt, in many ways, satisfied.

Someone once said that “if you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live.” If you had the time, how would you spend the afternoon?

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So, how would you spend a spare afternoon?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Get Out Of My Life - Corn Syrup and Aspartame

If you ever have the chance to visit my workplace, you'll often find me huddled in one corner of my office, sucking down pure corn syrup and ripping open little packets of Equal that I conveniently borrowed from nearby restaurants so that I could get my faux sugar fix. Once in my system, it takes the edge off so that I can get through the day without imploding into a black hole of productivity-killing inaction. Yes, it's true: I'm a corn syrup and aspartame junkie. And my junk dujour was Coke (corn syrup) and diet Coke (aspartame).

But since last week, I decided to cut corn syrup and aspartame out of my diet. No more Coke and Diet Coke (or any sweetened carbonated drink). I figure if I cut the corn syrup, I can probably lose a pound or two, while saving my teeth from early decomposition. And as for the aspartame, a friend had mentioned that since drinking diet Coke, his ability to remember things and his motivation to do things had lessened to a point where he felt no longer productive. Of course, there is no proof that aspartame is the cause of his lose of memory or productivity (for all we know, my friend could just be a total slacker, which wouldn't be a surprise). But I figured I might as well through aspartame out the window and see what happens.

So ... it's been a little over a week. And my progress so far can probably be summed up with: ... well ... hmmm .... I don't feel any different.

So, I guess it's going to take a little bit more than a week to see actual results. With both corn syrupy stuff and Nutrasweetness off the table, I wonder if this change in my diet will significantly change me in any way. I'll update after a month or two and see what happens ... unless, of course, I forget or have no motivation to write about it, which would mean that I'm back on drinking several cans of Coca-Cola products a day.

Friday, March 6, 2009

2009 TV Season So Far

I rarely have time to watch live TV. Whenever I do have time, I usually end up going to or to catch up on my fave TV shows. Here's what I watch and how the season is going so far:

LOST - Very trippy but still rock solid writing. For all of the questions posed during the last four seasons, the answers to these questions (as well as the infusion of new questions) are coming out at a fast and furious clip. For someone who has watched the show from the very beginning, it's very rewarding to see how all of the threads tie in together into a this one big ball of solid storytelling.

24 - Starts off pretty solid and continues to really keep the story going. The only downside is when the writiers introduced the bad guy's girlfriend. I'm not sure what they were thinking (did we want to feel sympathy for the bad guy? somehow connect with the girlfriend?). I'm not sure. But I'm liking it so far. Much better than Season 6, which isn't saying much.

Battlestar Galactica - this is the last season for BSG and so far, the character-driven storytelling is really deep. I really didn't get into BSG until somewhere in the middle of the third season but since then, it's been quite a ride. I'll be sad when the series comes to a close. It's the anti-Star Trek - The Next Generation of our times.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Where In the World Is Scott, Part II?

Scott's Mind: So, dude. Where've you been? I've been like looking all over for you online. I see you pop up once in a while on your Flickr website, maybe write crap on other people's wall in Facebook and do nothing on this so-called blog of yours. You sick or something?
Scott: So ... Happy New Year.
Scott's Mind: Oh ... that's right. It's been 3 months since your last post. I see that blog activity is high on your list of priorities.
Scott: Thanksgiving was nice. It snowed a bunch during the Christmas break. And oh! I went to Japan in January.
Scott's Mind: And did you blog about any of that?
Scott: Umm ... no.
Scott's Mind: Because, it's not blog-worthy? Man, you're so lazy.
Scott: Yes, I am lazy. And been busy with work. You know ... work. Employment.
Scott's Mind: Oh right. You're working on that window dressing project.
Scott: Well, something like that.
Scott's Mind: So, you going to start blogging again?
Scott: I hope so.
Scott's Mind: Like when?
Scott: Hopefully soon. Maybe next month.
Scott's Mind: Oh, that's nice. Set up a lofty goal of next month. We'll see if you'll be able to reach that goal.
Scott: Yeah ... we'll see.