FALLING SKIES: Yeah, I’ve Been Watching The “SKIES”

A quick note about all my FALLING SKIES:

I have become hooked on FALLING SKIES on TNT (This Sunday is the Season Finale at 9 PM). However, my love of the way the show works comes directly out of my past experiences.

I have always been a huge TV and Movie fan. That may be the reason why I spent 27 great years in the home video industry. It was great while it lasted and it was great to have an impact on an area of creativity that you personally love.

Much of what I did for 27 years was creative, as well. While the stores were retail based, the business always required showmanship. The business always required knowledge. The business always required love of product. And the business always required a personal need to share something you love with so many others.

I got to do that from early 1983 until late 2009. In that time, I met many stars and creatives (Jeff Bridges, Robert Duvall, Ted Turner, Roy Disney, Robin Williams, Jennifer Connelly, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Selma Hayek, Barry Manilow, Barney, Henry Winkler, Steven Weber, Charleston Heston, Ice-T, and many others).

I also wrote for a video trade publication called VIDEO INSIDER, my stock in trade being Children’s Entertainment. I conducted interviews with MisterRogers, Shari Lewis, Raffi, Frank Zappa, Ithzak Perlman and many others who had family videos out.

I loved writing, but retail was my main profession. It also allowed me to attend annual VSDA conventions for retailers that put the Sand Diego Comic Cons to shame. The studio events were spectacular and the people I met were and are amazing.

Now that I can no longer work due to lung disability, I find the need to discover a way to continue these conversations about things that I love. Hello, Twitter (and Facebook).

One thing I’ve always loved is intelligent sci-fi. While I am a big fan of the 50’s sci-fi genre, much of the more recent sci-fi strikes me as too intent on overwhelming us. A great sci-fi story doesn’t hit us over the head with action because the story gets room to breathe and to involve.

That is why my favorite TV Show has been the original TWILIGHT ZONE. I was able to have a brief Twitter conversations with Colin Cunningham (John Pope on FALLING SKIES) about this, since he too shares a love of all things Rod Serling. In our “chat”, the importance of story and writing comes to the forefront. I don’t care how spectacular the visuals are, if you do not have the bedrock of great writing in place, you have nothing more than bright flickering lights.

That is what has struck me about FALLING SKIES. As you view it, there are so many nuances in the show and all of these nuances are well-thought out in the script and executed by the cast. Many of these are overt, many of them are under the surface, and many may be conclusions I’ve drawn based on past movies and shows. The intelligence of the writing allows for entire episodes like SANCTUARY PART 2 to unfold without ever showing a gooey alien. That is my favorite episode.

To go along with this, TNT TV has partnered with KLOUT to work out a social media campaign to drive conversation and promotion of FALLING SKIES through Twitter. This involves that hashtag that you’ve seen: #fsincentivized. This allows for tracking of tweets and is attached to an ARMY OF INFLUENCE LEADERBOARD. The Top Person at the end of Season One wins a walk on role for Season Two.

In addition, each week, items have been delivered to advance the story. These SURVIVAL KITS were sent to a limited number of people for this effort. I’ve had a blast doing it because I get to talk a lot, but also because I get to learn more about these social media campaigns and hopefully find a way to use my now limited abilities to get involved in these as a profession.

The top prize would be cool, but I’m having a blast talking with new friends like Hokuboku, NZRobFL. Sookietex, kimmyxoxo, DieselBT, jgraziani, Gizmotastic, and many more, plus cast members MphoAK, RVRocket, ConnorJessup, CunninghamColin, PeterShinkoda, TheStevenWeber, and others. In case you haven’t guessed, these are their Twitter names but these are also how I know them and love talking with them.

So, there is a brief reason why Skitters, Mechs, and harnessed kids are in my time line, along with the Phillies, Flyers, politics, sports, music, etc. And judging from the fun I am having with my new friends, I cannot wait to bring the rest of you into the 2nd Mass Resistance

Some previous FALLING SKIES POSTS….

FALLING SKIES: Ep. 8 What Lies Beneath

FALLING SKIES: Ep. 7 Sanctuary PT. 2

FALLING SKIES: SKITTERMANIACS!

FALLING SKIES: EP. 6 Sanctuary Pt. 1

FALLING SKIES: Ep. 5 Silent Kill

FALLING SKIES: Silly Questions

FALLING SKIES: Separated at Birth

FALLING SKIES: Ep. 4 Grace

FALLING SKIES: Ep. 3 Prisoners Of War

FALLING SKIES: Ep. 1-2 Premiere

Hope you enjoy them all.

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There But For The GRACE Go I : FALLING SKIES Ep 1.4-GRACE

A quick note before I start to bloviate. I have been watching FALLING SKIES as part of a social effort online called ARMY OF INFLUENCE. In that effort, Twitter is the major vehicle to talk about the show, and use a hashtag #fsincentivized in the tweets to allow them to be scored against other Army members. There is a prize at the end of the effort, a walk-on role on FALLING SKIES. However, that is not of real importance to me.

 

While it would be nice, I am more interested in learning how this might work and maybe be able to utilize it in the future. Until 2 years ago, I was the GM of a major Philly video store chain, but was laid off as the stores were lined up to close. Since then, I have found out that I have contracted NSIP, a relatively rare lung disease, the cause of which is not known. It is not a smoker’s disease. I have picked it up somewhere in the last 2 ½ to 3 years, but it only manifested itself in the last year or so, causing a scarring on my left lung to cut its capacity to under 50%. It is irreversible and has caused to to be declared disabled.

 

Read back a few posts for more info on that. I only mention it now because it is the reason I am doing this effort, to see what I can learn that I can utilize later.

 

So, as I tweet and write these blog posts, I will try to tell you what I am thinking as well as seeing. I am not doing a full recap nor a true review, as I hope that you will watch and judge for yourselves. These are MY thoughts and feelings, not right nor wrong, but what I am getting out of the show.

We are now four episodes into FALLING SKIES and, at least for me, I am thrilled to see that the show stays rooted more in humanity rather than in alien showmanship. That is what attracted me to the show in the beginning, the chance that it would follow a more cerebral brand of science fiction, one where human traits were not just cartoonish reactions to ugly monsters.

 

Last nights’ episode was simply title GRACE. Five simple letters, one simple word and one which has a spiritual connotation. Yet that one simple word needs to be used simply or it becomes preachy and overbearing. Last night, you could say it wasn’t used until the final scene, but actually, a more loose definition of it could be seen throughout the episode.

 

One of the plot threads this week was the connection between Ricky, the young boy who had his harness removed last week, and the captured Skitter. Ricky, though freed of all but the studs of the harness, still is out cold, only snaps to attention when the Skitter seems to command it. All is done through some sort of psychic connection. Despite the removal of the harness, Ricky seems to have no memory of his father nor a desire to be free of the harness.

 

It is learned that Ricky had Cystic Fibrosis, which is now cured during his time in the harness. Reasons are unknown, but expect that to factor in later.

 

 

Anne and Dr. Harris observe the captured Skitter in its cage, trying to learn the intelligence and communication levels. It is safe to assume that any alien invasion that knew to take out our armies first and then attack the cities has to understand who we are and how we communicate. Now, we have to do the same. Harris is the more matter of fact of the two, trying picture recognition and some verbal activity to get responses.

 

However, Anne is pulled into a more compassionate move. Is it governed by how the Skitter reacts to her, or is the Skitter able to recognize this compassion and try to use it to its advantage? Again, these scenes all depend on our own human thoughts, emotions, reactions, and suspicions. This is both how we utilize them and how we try to project and discover them in the aliens. Do the Skitters know so much about our inner workings that they can manipulate us? As we saw last week, they are not above psychological warfare to keep us in check.

 

As I describe all of this, trying not to give away any major spoilers, it quickly becomes obvious to me that we are watching a war film as much as science-fiction film. The only real difference is that these are from another world, not another country. Too much of the maneuvers and movements of the Skitters and Mechs, and who knows what else, are reminiscent of war maneuvers.

 

In fact, you can even feel a Cold War undercurrent in some of the story. The aliens use EMPs, which is a nuclear fear. These knock out 90% of the world’s population including all of our armies, and disable most modern technology. For Americans, the war is fought on our own soil, an invasion, which was the fear in the early sixties. The school where the 2nd Mass is headquartered was originally JOHN F KENNEDY HIGH SCHOOL, a Massachusetts native son, but also the president during some of the greatest nuclear war fears.

 

The EMP bombs drop our mechanical capabilities back to a pre 1980 level, back to before the Cold War ended and right back into the paranoia of those times.

 

Pope is sent to go with Tom and some others to look for motorcycles as transportation. An aside: John Pope is full of snide side comments, such as when he bemoans the fact that they won’t give him a gun with the remark “What am I, Canadian?”. Pope is fascinating because, unlike the cartoonish figure we saw in the second episode, you can see that there are a ton of layers. Is he crazy, cunning, calculating, compassionate, or a lone wolf? Or all of these?

 

Pope of course, is Pope. When the nesting habits of the Skitters is discovered, he takes on a gung-ho” lets take them out” attitude, only to be held in check by Tom, who cautions that firing the guns draw attention to themselves. As a point, it seems that the Skitters and Mechs are not as concerned about small groups, only large gatherings. The fact that they sleep during the day, and in packs hanging upside down leads you to believe they are nocturnal.

 

When they reach the motorcycles, Pope decides that it is time to go Lone Wolf. He manages to escape on a chopper, seemingly to run away. However, it is discovered that he went back and attacked the Skitters nest. This in turn has brought a group of harnessed kids to the cycle shop with machine guns. They are deadly, that is for sure, but they react to motivation and to movement. They fire when they detect action. They are not accompanied by a Mech this time, but Dai and Tom do have to fight off the controlling Skitter. That allows the 2ndMass brigade to roar off safely, since without the Skitter to control, the kids seem to be almost unable to act.

 

Back at the base, Tom’s youngest son Matt has been given the job of communications officer. Not much of a job when there is not ability to broadcast. However, you never know what may still be out there, so you listen. It is during this listening that static appears on the radio, seemingly caused by the heightened level of anger or fear caused when the captive Skitter is shown a dead Skitter. His palpable anguish seems to create a radio field. This manifests itself a few times as the Skitter is provoked or attempting communication with Steve.

 

This Skitter connection causes Steve to get up and reattach the harness to himself, which immediately grows back into his spine. The growth and look of the harness almost seems to be biological not mechanical. This movement seems to be at the command of the captive alien. However, the subsequent scene also begs the question about who may really be who.

 

Steve communicates for the alien and tells them to either let him go or kill him. There is no emotional connection is Steve’s message. This coldness and bluntness causes Steve’s father to rip the harness off of Steve and Steve collapses. However, is Steve really dead or done in this story?

 

In addition, this is the third time, by my count, that a variation on the question first asked last week is mentioned. Is it worth a death to save lives?

 

The episode ends on a very quiet, peaceful note. A Grace note, if you will. It seems that Pope baked a lot of fresh bread for the brigade before they left for the cycles, probably knowing he wasn’t planning to come back, but also because he simply is not a bad guy, just a lone wolf. He cares, but in his own way.

 

About this time, Tom also mentions that the area that they are in is starting to become bare of food and supplies to raid, implying that it may soon be time to move on. That allows the meal scene at the end to take on the feel of a final meal before moving on. A time to reflect, to relax, to ask for grace. And to be with one another.

 

That ends this episode not on a cliffhanger, but on an open ended note. The quietness of this scene lulls you. However, it also feels like a great chapter change is coming next week.

 

Some religious symbolism can be seen in the episode. John’s last name is Pope, Lourdes(the grotto in France where a vision of the Virgin Mary was believed to have occurred) is a great believer in faith and prayer, the meal at the end could be seen as a last supper, and the ability of the aliens to be able to understand us means that we are not the only God-created beings in the universe. The episode title GRACE becomes a religious action.

 

I may be posting a few questions later in the week, after rewatching, but for now, enjoy the grace of of Day of Independence, the 4th Of July. Enjoy the food, family, fun, and fireworks. Celebrate our past because it informs our future.

 

Expecting Expectations, Getting Ramblings

The item pictured to the left is a portable oxygen tank.

It is my friend. It is my constant companion now when I am out. It is the bane of my existence and the reason for same.

It is no different than millions of others that are needed by millions of people. It may not always look like this. It may be a brace, a wheelchair, a replacement limb, or hundreds of other assist devices.

But this is mine, and it is personal, and it carries my expectations.

Expectations are a funny thing. They can be realistic, yet what defines realistic? Is being “realistic” simply staying within safe parameters? Does having unrealistic expectations mean that they cannot be achieved, or that you simply are afraid to try.

When I joined Twitter(and Facebook), I had varying expectations. I wanted Twitter to allow me to connect with others who might find me interesting enough to think to hire me. I wanted to keep in some sort of contact with my past acquaintances and industry , to try to find a way back into my home for 27 years. I wanted to experience others and to possibly learn.

However, my expectations at the beginning kept me guarded as to who I really was and overly worried about how who I was would be perceived. Those who knew me recognized me, but those who didn’t were approached cautiously.

Essentially I tried to become visible, yet remain anonymous. I expected the same from others.  My expectations were sorely misjudged. I have found that those who I meet on Twitter and Facebook have been some of the most supportive, fun, and caring people yet.

Yet, while I have my expectations, they have theirs, and sometimes, they collide. I follow a lot of sports bloggers, and my expectations of them were of a fun brotherhood with a shared passion. Instead, I found great writers who sometimes seem to expect to be seen as the “go-to” source.  I’ve also seen this degenerate into mean spiritedness and denigration of blogger by blogger, blogger by sportswriter, sportswriter by blogger, et al.

My expectations for one big happy family of sports lovers had to be modified into individual expectations of each writer.

The same goes for my expectations of the rest of my friends on there, and wonderfully, I can say that I’ve developed a very entertaining and comfortable set of friends on there. Some have become very close to me over the last year.

Back to my oxygen tank. I expect we will be inseparable for a long time, at least while outside. I have no idea what to expect about my condition going forward. I choose to set my expectations so that I will always strive to maximize my limits and that I will remain useful and vibrant, even without being able to do work like I used to.

However, I expect to always secretly hate the oxygen tank, if only because it always talks first. Just like a silly hat, people notice it before almost anything else. That means my past method of introducing myself, with a handshake or a “Hello, how are you?” has been compromised by this thing in my nose and on my shoulder.

Even walking in public, it will draw glances, which I do not want. No, a child will not think I am an astronaut. They will ask mommy or daddy in a whisper what this is. It is unavoidable, and I don’t expect to ever shake that feeling.

However, my expectations in public, past that initial stare, is that you see me as you see anyone. Except for a true physical barrier, don’t treat me any different. Treat me as a friend, a customer, a neighbor, a seat mate, a person.

Yes, my life is vastly different now. Money is extremely tight, living costs means that I move into my sisters house, and some dreams and expectations of what I could have accomplished and where I could have traveled in the next  ten years and beyond have to be greatly altered.

However, my expectation is that I will live that life to the fullest, surrounded my great friends , like many of you. And my family.

My final expectation is that on Wednesday, when I finally turn in the key to the apartment, and say good bye to over 7 years of memories with my Dad there, I will break down and bawl. I expect to finally feel the emptiness of the situation, the unavoidable nature that it has to end.

I will be a wreck.

However, my expectations are that life will go on, that I will eventually be comfortable in my new home, and that friends now will remain friends forever. And that what I shared with my Dad with be present in every one of you that I know.

That quarter pictured after this post is the last thing my Dad really worried about. He dropped it as he stumbled backwards and hit his head on Nov. 30, 2010. Even as the bump on his head grew, he attempted to reach down to pick it up. At that moment, that quarter meant the future to him.

It has remained right there since then. It will be the last item I take from the apartment.

I expect that it will always be with me, and that Dad will always make it more valuable than gold to me.

365. Your indulgence, Please.

Your indulgence, please.

365.

A full year. A long time, and yet, one of the shortest times when too much happens.

For the uninitiated, it has been 365 days since I was informed that my services were no longer needed at my previous job, my home for 9 years . It was not performance related, but they decided that they didn’t need what I brought to the table. Fair enough. I beg to differ, but it’s not my company anymore, and it doesn’t look like the company I knew anyway. More power to them.

I’ve spent the year missing the friends much more than the job, even though I loved my job (and frankly, was the fucking best at it). Yep, I miss my industry choice of 27 years, which is not even looking the same anymore.

In that time, I’ve engaged in the new pastime of millions, looking for a job when there aren’t any.

I’ve lived on half of my past income, and made necessary cuts, changes, and actions to try to get to a manageable level.

I’ve improved my mobility by getting my knees replaced, something that was needed for a long time.

I’ve then had my mobility slightly hampered by a lung issue that we are still exploring as to origination (Not a smoker).

And here I am.

365.

Tomorrow marks 366, and as my sister (and I) hope, I finally move past this. Probably not.

Because, again, friends are missed most. Because of my bad habit of throwing myself into my work, most of my friendships were centered around the workplace. I’ve met some great (and not so great) people there. However, once the common workplace bond was cut, those friendships fell to a very few, but a very appreciated group of people, who I won’t name here, but they know who they are.

In retrospect, no surprise there. They have their jobs to do and less in common with me now, and that is fine. Some have very little in common with me, but we were acquaintances, not friends anyway, so no problem.

However, I have found tremendous comfort, support, and yes friendship in other places, many that surprised me. These people are not coming to visit in person every day. However, I talk with them through the magic of Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, and even that old fashioned phone. However, they are amazing to talk with, accomplished in their own fields, fascinating in their own experiences, and understanding in their wisdom. They have common experiences to myself, and when I am most down, they gently remind me that others are in similar straits, too, but I am not alone.

My wish is to meet and hug everyone of them in person, and yes, there are too many to name and maybe hug, but I may go on a hugging tour one day. A few deserve special thanks.

Of course, my family, especially my sister Julie, leads the list. I need to do a separate blog post to introduce you to her.

My friends from DunderMifflinInfinity , a silly virtual workplace for fans of the NBC show THE OFFICE. I’ve been on it for three years, heading a “branch” in Allentown, and doing things that are fun and frustrating. This was my first experience with the role playing phenomenon.

However, I can truly say that I’ve made some spectacular friends there, friends that read my feelings and moods, and help me work them out. I’ve met many of them over the last three years, and delightful doesn’t begin to describe them.

At the end of this post, I’ve included something that I’ve never shared, a video that they did for me earlier this year when I was really struggling with feelings. I’ll shout out to Casavon, Puckaroo, DJKW418, TheSouthernDandy, Butterfly, Jasania, RabbiJack, MikeKrisza, BigMacDaddy, JanetLizz, LindaLooLoo, TheOfficeScribe, Jossie, Alica, BoredBrenda and the others from Allentown.

Dabaum, Feef, JimAndCyndi, MaryBurham, Konamouse and others from other DMI Branches have been so important to me as well. And yes, I know them so well by their screen names, but trust my their support and my love back is genuine.

A big secret: none of them live in Allentown.

I’ve made some good supportive friends on Facebook and Twitter, and tomorrow, 9/17, they will be the focus of a very special FOLLOW FRIDAY from me.

However, I do want to thank PhilaDAVia on Twitter for being so gracious and supportive of me. He spurred me to start the blog back up, he has common sense words of advice and support, and he knows hockey like no other. He also writes his own articles and blogs on Hockey from numerous angles, and you should follow him. He also has great music taste, and is a secret OFFICE fanatic.

So, while I started this with the intention of being cranky about my current state (and who knows, that may still come up), maybe this is the first step to moving on. Maybe not.

However, at least I have my friends to guide me.

Thank you, friends.

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