Review: FlashForward 1.1 - "No More Good Days"

These reviews are done for Television Zombies, please visit for discussion, news, commentary on science fiction, fantasy and cult television.

I think it's the announcer. Yeah, I'm pretty sure ABC needs to replace their promotional voice talent because everything I see on ABC that isn't Extreme Dancing with the Makeover Wives, sounds like Lost. It always sounds like everything depends on if I watch this show. Even the sitcoms seem as though something catastrophic is going to happen.

Why is that important? Because it colors the programming. If your introductory hype makes your show sound like something it's not, it unfairly skews your perception of that show. When that guy's voice pimps any ABC show, it always sounds to me like Lost. Plus, Penny Widmore is in it.

Okay, okay. Unfairly, I'm comparing this to another show so let's boil it down to what it really is.

Flashforward is a novel by Robert J. Sawyer. ABC's show is loosely based on this science fiction story in which scientists at CERN run an experiment having the side effect of everyone on Earth going unconscious for two minutes and seeing a future 21 years from now.

FlashFoward starts our fairly regularly and instead of scientists, it's regular people in Los Angeles. We're inserted very deftly into the lives of the Benford family. Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes) is an FBI Agent (again? really? ya really) whose wife Olivia (Sonya Walger) is a surgeon (yes really.) They have a little girl named Charlie who is watched during the day by the nanny. Mark's partner is Demetri Noh (John Cho) and Mark's AA sponsor is Aaron Stark. Aaron is an electrician whose daughter was killed in Afghanistan. One of Olivia's residents is a guy named Bryce, Mark's boss is Stan Wedeck (Courtney B. Vance, from Law & Order: Criminal Intent) and the nanny has a boyfriend.

Mark and Demetri are trailing some suspects when their whole world goes awry. Olivia is in the middle of surgery, Bryce is committing suicide on a pier, the nanny and her boyfriend are about to have sex and Aaron is climbing a pole to reach a power line. The entire world blacks out for 2 minutes and 17 seconds. But the time doesn't go by uneventfully. Mark has a vision of himself drinking in his office in front of a big case planning board with numerous photos, strings, notes and other pieces of paper. He loads his gun and off in the distance, men with laser sites on rifles approach. He comes to and he's upside-down in his wrecked car. LA is a mess and we find out it happened everywhere at the exact same time for the exact amount of time. We also find out, everyone had a vision. These visions are also corroborated with others to give a precise date, six months into the future. Everyone had them except for Demetri, he had no vision, which he thinks means he'll be dead by then. Olivia has one that she's with another man. Aaron has one in which his daughter is alive. Little Charlie Benford says she had a dream in which there were no more good days.

Mark, Demetri and another agent, Janis Hawk, are given the task to coordinate the effort to find out what happened, what people's visions are and if it could happen again. They call the project MOSAIC and start with the same board Mark had in his vision. Already we see the small threads of the envisioned future start to tie together. Mark talks of drinking again, which is the only reason Olivia would leave him. The other man Olivia envisioned is the father of a boy she saved the day of the blackout. Demetri is planning a wedding with his girlfriend but is always thinking of why he had no vision. Aaron is now hopeful about his daughter, but angry that he's hopeful.

And the world went into chaos. Just stop and think for a minute of what would happen if nearly 7 billion people just passed out for two minutes, what would happen. Would would happen in traffic, airports, people on stairs, people in surgery, athletes, people in baths or hot tubs or pools or lakes. I'm not sure the death toll will ever be mentioned, but it wouldn't be surprising to think of something in the hundreds of millions. Granted, most of Asia would have been asleep at the time and would they even notice? So far the show is very good at throwing questions at you.

But where do we go from here? FlashForward was well put together and at least decently written and acted. It follows the same formula as another show I'll try not to mention in that we start with a huge event and then spend the rest of the time digging for answers. Will it be sustainable? Will the answers sate the viewers? Is it a big enough mystery to overcome any story telling problems?

I enjoyed watching the pilot, but I felt more than a couple times that it was trying to be overly dramatic, overly serious. A meeting the FBI agents had with their boss took place in a lobby and they were standing in a circle, I kid you not, 15 feet apart. The only reason you do that is to get nice camera angels. I want to know what happens to the world I live in when we all fall asleep for 137 seconds, not what happens in Michael Bay's world. Give us some realism and some believable human interaction and the show will do well. Give us short scenes in which people lie or withhold information to push the story along and you'll end up looking pedantic.

At the end, Agent Hawk finds something that will keep the show going for at least two more episodes. During a curious (morbid?) viewing of security footage from around the US in which people are dropping like well coordinated flies, she sees a man in a baseball stadium who is not out. While the entire crowd and both teams are unconscious, this man in black trenchcoat and knit cap walks around very secretly like. He's not panicked, he looks like he's trying to avoid something.

Maybe he's trying to run from low ratings.

It's not a bad outing actually. It's one of the more entertaining pilots I've seen. I may be thinking too far ahead to give it much of a sustainable chance. John Cho and Sonya Walger are very pleasing to watch, as well as much of the supporting cast. That voice over guy, though...have him do just Lost please?

Three and a half broken clocks.

Review: Fringe 2.2 - "Night of Desirable Objects"

These reviews are done for Television Zombies, please visit for discussion, news, commentary on science fiction, fantasy and cult television.

First off, we have a new intro. It's Nina Sharp recapping who works in the Fringe Division and what their emerging purpose is.

Pennsylvania. There's a construction/road work team wrapping up for the day. On one man's truck radio, the local news continues the story of the six local missing persons. One man forgets something and goes back to get it. He senses something odd in a cornfield near a scarecrow and goes to investigate. He sees something on the ground, it looks like a blue hand. As he digs it out, the hand grabs him and pulls him into the ground.

Opening Credits.

New York. Agent Olivia Dunham is being released and Peter is there to help her. She had a fractured hip and so is walking with a cane. As they reach Peter's car, we see Agent Charlie Francis in a car watching them. Peter senses something and looks around, sees Charlie's car, but Charlie is hidden. Back in PA, the man underground ignites a lighter and looks at his wounded leg, then around the cavern he's in. There are body parts everywhere; some human, some animal. He sees a tunnel and crawls toward it when he sees a creature emerge from the tunnel. It's just a silhouette but we sense that it's almost human, the same shape and sound as Gollum from Lord of the Rings. The creature attacks.

(sea horse, light lower left)

Peter meets with Broyles, asks about the requests Walter has. Broyles says it should be no problem, but the C-130 might be hard to get. They talk about the mispers in PA and that it'd be a good thing to look into proactively. At the lab, Walter and Astrid are recreating Olivia's accident using a toy car and a frog (1.21 Gigawatts?!) to see if he can make the frog disappear. Olivia was missing for over an hour. Walter tries to explain his multiverse theory with branching time lines, but then stops realizing he's done it before, then gets very sorry for what Olivia went through. Then he talks about the consequences of visiting an alternate reality, then drops it. (We'll see later, I'll let you know.)

Peter, Olivia and Walter go to PA and talk to Sheriff Golightly (Charles Martin Smith) about the mispers and the Sheriff quibbles with the crew about rules of evidence, but they're finally allowed to investigate. Back at the Sheriff's office they again butt heads about this being a local investigation. Olivia starts getting angry but then stops when she hears a fly quite clear and loud, cleaning its legs. Peter jumps in and deflects the tension by talking to the Sheriff about this great lure he has in his office.

Olivia calls Charlie and asks for some help getting some information run through. He agrees to help after he's done running an errand. Charlie goes into the typewriter shop, gets the key from the becrutched proprietor and goes into the backroom. He types, Target Trusts Me Completely. Believes I'm Her Partner. Awaiting Instructions.

(flower, light upper left)

Olivia and Peter pore over the extensive but almost useless information the Sheriff's office has collection on the missing persons. Walter discovers the blue liquid found at the scene is a paralytic, interacting with human DNA or containing it; a possible mutation.

There's a light in the darkness coming towards us. As it gets closer, we see the dead body of the road worker. Then we see a shovel and someone says, "Oh no." We pass up through the ground and come to light in view of a mailbox marked 'Hughes.' Olivia and Peter are on the porch knocking when a grizzled man with a shovel appears behind them. He his Mr. Hughes and as he lets them in, he indicates he's been digging wells. Olivia's super hearing kicks in and she asks if someone else lives there. Mr. Hughes says no, but Olivia goes to investigate. A fairly tense few minutes of her limping along hearing a heartbeat and breathing, she finds a lab of sorts upstairs. When she opens a closet and finds nothing in it, Peter appears in the door behind her and she whirls around and shoots at him, just missing his head.

(frog, light lower right)

Mr. Hughes is in an FBI room behind questions by Agent Dunham. He says he visited the families of the mispers to try and comfort them. He had lost his wife and child, his son died after five minutes. Olivia asks for a blood sample and Mr. Hughes refuses. Broyles asks Peter about Dunham's gun and he says it was a misfire. Olivia is getting a check up on her injuries. She's getting dressed and we see a lot of bruising. Nina Sharp comes in and talks to her about a man who helped her after her cancer. She gives Olivia a note with the name Sam Weiss.

The FBI is going through the Hughes house. Agent Jessup finds an area with a few crosses and a Bible. In the bible is a news clipping of the death of Mr. Hughes wife and child as well as an inscription from a Pastor Lisburn saying it wasn't his fault and they are with God now. Peter tells Walter that Jessup thinks they may have been killed and an exhumation order is requested. The crew digs up the caskets and opens the wife's first, nothing obvious. Back to Hughes in the holding room, he has taken the wire casing off the lights and is bending it and chewing at it, shaping into something. The crew digs up the baby's coffin but there's nothing in it, but a hole has been chewed, clawed, blasted out of it and they see under the coffin is a tunnel leading into the ground. They go back to question Hughes but he has hung himself with the wire.

(frog, light lower right)

Agent Dunham finds Mr. Hughes hanging from the light. Back at the lab, Walter, Peter and Astrid discuss the findings on Mrs. Hughes. She had lupus, there was no way she could have kids, but still she had a baby. We flash back and forth to the Sheriff putting stakes in the ground wrapped in crime scene tape and the ground swelling behind him. Olivia talking with Broyles and her super hearing kicks on again for a second. Walter tells Peter the Hughes boy wasn't all human and likely had scorpion and mole rat DNA to combat his mother's lupus. Olivia arrives and they determine the boy must be under the house.

The Sheriff sees burrowing come toward him when the ground explodes and he his pulled under.

(butterfly, light lower left)

Agent Dunham and Peter revisit the Hughes house and search it. Peter finds a door that's been wallpapered over and behind the door is a nursery. They also find a store room/shed/lab with a large canine tooth on the floor and a cinder block wall. They move away some bricks and a rotting dog head before Peter goes to get a shovel. Olivia sees bones and corpses and looks back for Peter when a thing springs from the darkness and drags her into the tunnel. She and Peter fight it off. It's a nasty looking teenage boy sized creature with an elongated head ending in a gruesome muzzle of teeth. Its skin is pale and covered in blood and dirt. Peter is able to stick the thing with a broken shaft of wood and the creature begins digging away. Unfortunately it digs under the Sheriff's car which comes crashing down on top of it.

Olivia rides back with Charlie and recaps, talking about all the holes Hughes dug in the ground. She says she may not want to remember. He says it may be important and whatever it is, they'll deal with it together. Peter tells Walter he's going fishing, tells the story of a boy who bought his dad a special lure but the dad didn't go. Walter doesn't gather that he's the dad or the one Peter wants to go fishing with, but asks if he can go with him. Peter and Astrid exchange knowing glances. The lure he gives him is called Night of Desirable Objects.

Olivia is in the bath tub when she starts hearing bubbles, a fly, voices, sirens, seemingly the whole city. She goes to a bowling alley and asks for Sam Weiss. He originally says Sam moved away but then chides Olivia for giving up easily. He says Nina told him she'd be coming and asks if the headaches have started yet.

Charlie Francis is in the typewriter room, he types: Target Visted Other Side, But Remembers No Details, Please Advise. Response: Unacceptable. If She Can't Remember On Her Own, Then Do Something To Help Her.

(frog, light lower right)

The glyphs spell MIRRLR, which is a disappointing oversight. We want it to say mirror, and the glyph for L is close to the one for O. Is it really an oversight or a way for the producers to see who's paying attention?

Monster of the week with an inordinately long denouement. The monster was captured with 7 minutes left to go, meaning Fringe is really trying to get the bigger story more air time. I think they realize that they can't do Peter's new Proactive Fringe Division AND keep fighting mutated humans, but the transition will happen slowly. After a full week debating on whether or not I like the Charlie Francis mole, I think it's a good move. It builds tension that only the viewer and that character can see. The rest of the Fringe Division crew and the FBI have no idea, and that makes it juicy.

The problem the show will run into is trying to mix too many monsters with the larger Olivia, Massive Dynamic story. They are at times completely separate, as is the case this week, and may only cause each episode to feel short. Olivia Dunham and crew were able to help the families of the missing persons by solving their disappearances, but they learned almost nothing about the Hughes family, which seems more important to the overall story. Nothing tied Andre Hughes to Massive Dynamic or William Bell or Walter Bishop and if they get more stories like this we'll have to have two teams. One to follow the Bishops, one to follow Olivia.

This was a little repetitive and reminded me too much of "Unleashed" or "The Transformation." Yes this is part of the show to have mutated people, but at least give us a link to the bigger story.

Three out of five randomly chosen glyphs.


Review: Fringe 2.1 - "A New Day in the Old Town"

The fall TV season is yet again upon us. No doubt most of you have already picked the shows you are going to watch and have decided to give some new shows a chance. I was not as prepared this year as I was last year and I know I'm missing Glee and Vampire Diaries but I am going to try and pick up Modern Family, V, and Flash Forward.

I'll also still be reviewing Fringe, Dollhouse, and Clone Wars for TVZ, as well as a couple others possibly. The fall season took most of us by surprise as we'd all be watching summer shows with much enthusiasm and I think the new shows didn't see that spectacular. I know we've all been surprised a little and I hope V and Flash Forward continue that.

Fringe premiered last week and I have a review pending at TVZ, so make sure you stop by and check it out when it posts. Also, ABC posted the first 15 minutes of Flash Forward and I know it's probably too early to say anything, but I think I'll like this one. Give it a watch, let me know what you think.

Meanwhile, here's the review of the latest episode of Fringe.

...and we're back. A quick recap of the season finale is in order. Thought not a cliffhanger, there are some parts that are integral to the story line in the premiere.

The season one bad guy, David Robert Jones, is dead. He was trying to use equipment powered by a power cell from Nina Sharp's robot arm to open a gateway into another universe. (If I had a nickel...) Peter stopped him by using a "patch" that Walter found in an old beach house. We also find that this universe's Peter may have been pulled from the another when his other version died. Walter mourned him at a grave that indicated he died when he was seven. The Observer intervened, helping Walter find this patch device. Olivia, still bubbling with uncertainty about her cortexifan induced powers, visited William Bell at the top of the World Trade Center.

That's all you need to know for now.

A man wakes up with a cut forehead in a car that's been in an accident. We're in Manhattan. He flees the scene, gains entrance to an apartment building, jumps a guy in the laundry room and drags his body back to his apartment. Once there the man crushes his own face like Playdough. He then takes a tool that looks like a large RF switch with two wires coming out of it, each ending in a three-pronged attachment. He jams one of these into the soft palette of the dead man, the other into his own mouth, hits a switch and begins grunting and shaking. The TV is playing the X-Files movie and we see now that the car wreck man now has the face of the dead man. The FBI and police are investigating the crash and when the agent asks who was driving the vehicle, another agent hands her a print out of Olivia Dunham.

Boston. Walter and Peter are in a grocery store shopping for custard ingredients. They banter, Peter's birthday is coming up, Walter makes a few unintended dirty comments about custard, when Peter's phone rings. They arrive at the scene of the accident and meet agent Amy Jessup (Meghan Markle) who begins grilling Peter as to what Fringe Division does for the FBI. Peter tells her it's all classified and asks where Charlie Francis is. Walter is checking out the car. Peter asks where Olivia is, and Agent Jessup says there was another vehicle out of which a man exited and left. No one was in the SUV licensed to Olivia Dunham. Walter, inside the car, hears static as the electronics all kick on. He gets out, the car revs its engine, the alarm goes off and suddenly Olivia Dunham crashes through the windshield onto the pavement.

Opening credits.

**A quick note here. Shortly after the season finale last spring, Kirk Acevado posted on his Facebook page a note that he'd been fired from the show. In shifting the production company to Vancouver, it seemed like a cost saving move to not pick up the options of secondary characters. Some saw it as a publicity stunt, some marked it up to reportedly common outbursts by Acevado as experienced on other shows, but no one knew if it was true. The production company and Fox said he wasn't fired, but the summer news was somewhat quiet about the matter.**

Dunham is wheeled into the ER at New York General with quite a few injuries. Broyles intercepts Agent Jessup with the "report" of the accident that says nothing was out of the ordinary, and makes her sign it. A doctor comes out and tells Peter and Walter that Olivia sustained too severe an injury to the brain and will likely not regain consciousness. Walter goes to see her, and apologizes, calling her Olive.

At a nearby bar, Broyles joins Peter for a few drinks. He tells Peter he's going to Washington; Fringe Division is being shut down. Peter questions what they were doing anyway, saying they were always too late. Too late to save Olivia. Back at the Federal building, Agent Jessup gains access to Fringe Division's files via a scrap of paper with a number on it. Where she got the paper we don't know yet. Peter runs into Rachel at the hospital who tells him Olivia had a living will saying not to put her on life support and in the morning they were going to unplug her. He goes in to see her, wrestles with emotions, leans in to kiss her and say goodbye when her eyes snap open and she speaks a phrase in a foreign language and then screams and sits up.

Olivia says she went somewhere, but someone is trying to stop her, but she doesn't remember anything. She begins freaking out and asks Peter to go get her gun. He goes to the Federal building in Boston where he finds out his credentials have been revoked. When an agent tries to escort him out, he throws a nifty release move, surprising the agent. Amy Jessup says she'll escort him. She already has the file he was requesting about the accident. The tire marks indicate the other car was speeding up, not stopping. And surveillance cameras got a picture of man they're en route to question. When she asks what Fringe does, he says, "Nothing." They find the body of a man matching the photo, but he's been dead a while. Jessup allows Walter to take to body to his lab. She asks if Walter's crazy, Peter says he is.

The man from the apartment enters a typewriter shop asking for a specific model that's never been made. The shop keep says as much but when the man persists, he says "Oh, you're one of them." It's been six years and he's not waiting around forever. The man takes a key and goes to a back room with a desk, a type writer, paper and mirror. He puts in paper and types, Mission Accomplished, Target Eliminated, In Fatal Car Crash, Meeting Prevented, Request Extraction. Then from the mirror, the reflection begins typing in an odd reverse sound. The message is, Negative, Mission Failure, Meeting Occurred, Target Still Alive. The man types, Request New Orders and the response is, Interrogate Target, Then Kill Her.

Peter takes Amy Jessup to the lab and gives her a little back story. They introduce everyone, Walter asks for custard ingredients and autopsy tools. Amy sees Jean the cow.

Charlie Francis visits Olivia in the hospital, she says she's fine. Charlie recaps a story about a domestic disturbance that went really wrong, in which his partner died and he was shot. He kept telling people he was fine but he wasn't. He was shaken and like him, she probably has a gun under her pillow. She cracks a little, says she's so scared she can't even load it. At the lab, Peter gets Walter to focus on the dead body instead of the custard (which Astrid is making) and they see in the mouth the three holes and it makes Walter remember something. A video tape of an experiment Walter and Bell did with a subject and a lot of drugs. The 30 year old taped subject talks about three nails in the mouth and a soldier from somewhere else that can look like any of us. Peter and Astrid put in a law enforcement alert for bodies matching that description. Olivia frantically tries to load her gun.

(right hand, light on the right)

Washington. A committee says Fringe Division is basically taking too much money and not providing any results. Broyles reminds them he's a colonel and they should thank God they don't see what's being stopped by Fringe Division. Another senator says that without some kind of proof, they have no choice. Nina meets Broyles on the steps and says it's important that the division stay operational. She and Broyles then kiss and she tells him to save the day like he always did.

Peter and Agent Jessup find another body with three holes in its mouth. Jessup reminds Peter that if this shape shifting person is a soldier, they do one thing; stay on mission, that being to kill Olivia. The soldier arrives at the hospital, surprising a nurse on a break. The same nurse shows up in Olivia's room and asks about her memory. She can remember going to meet someone but that's it. She feels like she went somewhere, talked to someone, then came back to the accident. (If you remember episode 1.20, right before she met with Bell, she was almost in an accident that I commented on seemed to have no purpose.) But she doesn't remember who she was meeting. The nurse prods her but she can't remember what she was supposed to do or what this person said. Something's hidden, but she doesn't know where. The nurse jumps on her and starts strangling her. Charlie, Peter and Agent Jessup arrive and put a couple bullets in the nurse who jumps out a window about 60 feet down and flees into the lower levels. The three pursue. The nurse jumps Charlie and he fires a few shots. The other two catch up to see Charlie standing over the nurse. The electronic changing box is on the ground nearby.

Peter brings Olivia flowers and they recap a bit about the soldier and what she asked Olivia. Peter repeats the phrase she uttered when she woke up. She doesn't remember, but asks if it's Latin. Peter says it's Greek and his mother used to say it to him every night before he went to bed. It means, "Be a better man than your father" and was a code between them meaning keep your people close. They smile at each other. As he leaves she asks if they're shutting Fringe down, he says no.

In front of the capital, Peter stops Agent Broyles and gives him the shape-shifting box. Walter had said the technology is not from here and it's proof. The Feds can have it, use it to make an army to look like anyone, but they are not shutting Fringe down. Peter says they're done reacting, they're not going to be too late any more, they're calling the shots. Agent Jessup is cataloging Fringe cases and ties them to Bible books, chapters and verse, ie 7546B-FD - The Beast, R19:19. Peter returns to the lab where Astrid, Walter and the cow surprise him with birthday custard. Olivia loads her gun with a smile.

In the hospital basement, Charlie Francis wheels a laundry basket to the incinerator. He removes a bag of laundry and we see the body of...Agent Charlie Francis. The shape shifter dumps Charlie's body into the incinerator.

(Commercial glyphs spell TOWER)

Was Kirk Acevado partially right? Was he "fired?" His character certainly was. I think, however, his option on Fringe was not picked up but they felt the need to wrap up his character. And wrap it up they must. The Soldier now is without its shape shifting technology, which means it has to be Charlie for a while. It interrogated Olivia but didn't kill her. It also didn't discover anything as her memory was scrabbled via windshield and asphalt. He now has to be close enough to her to find the information he needs without causing her suspicion enough to withhold it. However, how long can this soldier remain Charlie? Does this transfer via the little box change just the physical appearance or does some of Charlie Francis go with it, enabling this soldier to act as Charlie? The length of this character's run is uncertain.

The tone of the show changed at the very end. Peter says they're going to stop just reacting but what that means exactly for their group will have to be seen in weekly installments. We will have to see if Olivia regains her memory of what she and William Bell discussed. We will have to see if the shape shifting Charlie continues to be the killing soldier or if he becomes something more intricate and sustainable.

And what of Agent Amy Jessup? She was brought in rather quickly as though Charlie's departure was a foregone conclusion. Given the Acevado news and her early debate with Peter, you could see the cast list shifting from space. But what will she bring if not another eye-rolling skeptical attitude, playing by the Federal book and only willing to get involved if it moves the plot along. Her itemizing the Fringe cases by scripture was unique to this show. The area of spirituality has yet to be explored by Fringe and my guess is Agent Jessup will become the Christian foil to the group's emerging war on other plains of existence. I'm also wondering where she got that paper with the access code needed to get into Fringe Division's files. Is she a mole? Is someone using her?

I'm disappointed we got roughly 20 seconds with William Bell and now he's a nearly forgotten memory. I'm also a bit disappointed that Nina Sharp and Agent Broyles had to kiss. It immediately reminded me of season two of Heroes and the Petrelli matriarch, and frankly the less I'm reminded of Heroes the better.

I'm looking forward to season two and this episode picked up right where we left off. I liked the nod to X-Files and I'm excited to see more.

Three and a half randomly chosen glyphs.


Word Usage - Corporate Speak

Corporate meeting speak is a bane on most wordies' existences. When middle to upper management convenes to go over plans for the year or catch up on everyone's progress, we understand that time is a factor. You may have only a short time in which to get important information across and dwelling on minutia eats up precious seconds and it bores the crap out of those not intimately involved. So you dumb it down and shorten it up, but the words are still smart sounding so as not to reveal the true nature of the actions. You don't want people to think you're ineffectual either, and being to curt can impact your ability to manage your people.

However, there are some words and phrases that are meaninglessly long or overblown and what they are replacing may not need replacing.

The following are examples of words or phrases that should be retired from our vocabulary and not because they are wrong, but because they border on double speak or redundancy.

Spend (or other verbs) as a noun, ie "...our third quarter spend." That "ing" was really tripping people up.

Take it off line. To a tech, that means shut something down. To a manufacturer, it means to remove a worker. To cube dwellers, it means to talk outside of the meeting. You can't say, "We'll talk later?"

Skill set. You're adding an 'e' and 't' to say the same thing. More words doesn't mean better meaning. "This doesn't fit my skills." That works for me.

Going forward - (quoting my friend Dstew) "Indicates I am an executive; I'm keeping this intentionally vague." This can be said for most things said during quarterly meetings.

Higher level - Another friend (Mer) suggested this one as a way of indicating that nothing will be accomplished at the meeting. "Those decisions will have to be made at a higher level."

30,000 ft. view - I don't know why this one bothers me. It's to indicate a broad, macro view of a project or business goal. Rather than get mired in minutia and micromanaging, a group will step back and assess things as a whole.

Big pole in the tent - Again, don't know why this gets to me; probably because it's over used. To indicate the biggest problem/project a group or company is currently addressing. It makes me feel like if it's not accomplished, the whole thing falls apart, which I guess is the point. I just hate the idea of getting paid by a circus.

If you have more, please add them to the comments.


Word Usage - Misuses

SeedListening to NPR this morning, an interviewee used the word decimate. It was used incorrectly. It wasn't the man's fault, we all use words incorrectly. Either through lack of knowledge, high levels of laziness or a zealous adherence to tradition, we all use words and phrases as they were not meant to be used.

We use words and phrases to describe things, as humans are want to do. Our language separates us from other animals. We represent objects and ideas as symbols written into a medium to be read later by other humans. Over time these symbols change, grow, evolve and in a few hundred, or even a few dozen years can mean something completely different or lose their meaning altogether.

Phrases are zeitgeist and will drop out of use once the need for them has passed, but some linger and become indelible points in the lexicon. We move passed the use of certain transportation, we no longer adhere to archaic laws, we've modernized many agricultural or pre-industrial methods. The phrases and words used to tell other humans about these things passes in time as well.

The problem is that some don't. Some linger but without the original context they tend to be used incorrectly. Take decimate. The word, as agreed to by a selection of usage experts, can mean to destroy but not completely. Its original meaning is to take one tenth; it's in the word itself. Decimatus or decimare in Latin; to kill (or have killed) one tenth. My Latin/Roman research is weak at best but I've heard tell it was a punishment from the ruler of the time to upstart villages that a Roman legion would go in and kill every tenth male. Hence the term.

Now we use the term to mean 'near total destruction.' It could be 'destroy 9/10ths of something' leaving only a small portion. It's generally accepted that a large number of people killed is okay for this usage, but livestock and crops it's not. The hilarity was the phrase "literally decimated."

But that's not the only word that's being misused in our 21st century vocabulary. Without going the obvious route of trying to wrap a single blog post around the use of 'irony,' I've asked some folks what their pet peeves are with English words and uses. Feel free to add yours to the comments.

Literally - Literally has become a punctuation. When you want to express how large an impact an event had or how truly awe inspiring someone's actions were, you include literally to indicate to the listener that was happened really happened. "He literally jumped out of his skin." No, he didn't. Literally has become what super and mega and ultra have been in past decades. It's not enough something has to be good, it has to be best, then super, then mega, etc. etc. Someone can't almost jump out of their skin, or virtually, or nearly, or seem like, they have to literally do it. Let's use literally with actually more often, please.

Fall Down - Redundant. The definition of "fall" is to descend or drop or be lowered or lose status. The converse being the phrase rise up as though you could rise any other direction.

Similarly, Flush Out. I've never seen anyone flush in anything. Also, it does not mean the same thing as flesh out. (I'm looking at you, corporate consultants.)

For all INTENTS and PURPOSES - It's not for all intensive purposes. Though you could technically use the later phrase for a product that you use in emergencies, for all your intensive purposes.

In lieu of - means "instead of." It doesn't mean "in view of" or "in light of." Incorrectly used: In lieu of recent events, the offices will be closed. Correctly used: Please contribute to the fund in lieu of flowers.

A whole nother - I'm extraordinarily guilty of this one. Derived from another whole or a whole other, this surprisingly dates back to the early 1900's, something I thought was rather odd. It always felt like a newish phrase.

There are other words that are just plain misspoken. You could spend days with people, listening to their idiosyncratic turns of phrase; an 'x' here, a dropped 'g' there. After a time, I begin to wonder if the language is evolving again to suit the needs of lazy tongues.

Supposively or supposibly or supposenly - For all concerned, say it with me suh-pose-ED-lee. This sort of relates to 'supposed to' not 'suppose to.' Yes that d-t combo is hard to get your mouth around, but let's give it a shot.

Sufficide to say - Sufficide, from Pfizer. Treats swollen tongue and hurty brain. It's suffice it to say.

Strenth - When sports broadcasters use this, it makes me throw up a little in my mouth. Then I realize they are broadcasters because they were likely athletes, not English majors. Gimme a G!

Then there are those that just plain don't make sense.

Head over heels. Understandably. We are normally walking around with our heads over our heels. Originally said as heels over head to indicate someone doing a cartwheel or somersault.

Next - Corporate lingo.



What stars Elijah Wood and contains a hero's journey fighting against all odds against a red-eyed monster and where his party numbers up to nine?

But wait, some of his party die. There's a couple of old stage and screen actors lending their talents. There's a fight on a bridge, there's winged beasts and a talisman that rules all nine souls.

If you guessed 9 then you're right. If you guess something else...well, you're right as well but let's stay current, shall we? The similarities between Lord of the Rings and 9 are mainly Elijah Wood's fault. His voice - at times pleading, at others resolved - is so ingrained into our film going subconscious that it's hard to picture him doing anything but his Frodo role. At times during 9 I was actually waiting for him to mutter something from The Fellowship. Wood is sadly one of those actors whose careers will be ever tied to the one ring. It will take an Herculean effort and so many films over such a length of time to remind us that he's able to do other things.

But first, he has to do other things. If he continues to be the wide-eyed manchild who sets upon a nigh impossible mission to save Middle Earth or Post Machine Earth or even Penguin Earth, he's going to always be remembered as Frodo, just with different outfits.

9, then, ends up being a very short, action packed reminder of what Wood did in Fellowship and the rest. 9 in and off itself is charming and fun and entertaining. It is not thought provoking or ground breaking. Its thickly veiled messages are a spoof meant to eliminate themselves from the story entirely. This leaves you with the feeling that you've possibly watched a 79 minute commercial for a unique line of toys.

The movie's attention to detail was stunning. All the doll characters sprang to life and each was gifted with their own stunning personalities that had only a little to do with the voice acting. The screenplay and direction was really incredible. The pace and tension the movie builds and releases was enough to keep me riveted and a little sad when it was over so soon. But in the end, its length and Wood's ubiquitous voice reminded me only too well that there wasn't much of a story to be told.

It's a definite theater viewing movie, just make sure you go some place that has good food or go to a matinee. Otherwise you might feel cheated. Also, the role of the scientist in charge of building the big thing the military wants to use as a weapon? The actor's name is Oppenheimer.


Avatars and Aliases

D&D Dwarf Figure
Originally uploaded by xadrian.
Lil Miss Austin asked me the other day why people on the computer call me "xadrian." I didn't have a good answer for her right away.

I spun in circles. At first I was taken aback that she would utter that name. She has an email address and I've sent her some links to Flickr sites with neat Lego builds, so she may have seen my name somehow that way. But that name to me is not something my family or my friends in Austin and surrounding areas use. If you asked my old friends from high school or college who I was, they wouldn't say xadrian.

It's a name I picked up, or made up, a long time ago. I was writing a fantasy story in which the villain's name was Xadrian. When I started becoming more and more involved in the Internet community back in 1996-97, I started out with names like Chimaera and Muad'dib but ended up using xadrian when I registered for an AIM handle. Since then I used it for all my forum names until most people online knew me only as xadrian (or Ex Adrian.)

One guy's kid even thought it was pronounced X Ray Dan, which became a back up handle used at DeviantArt (which doesn't matter because I don't use that site any more.) But it is pronounced with a Z, zay dree un. It's funny, people don't say Ex Avier.

So LMA posed this question to me and I didn't want to give her the whole back story, but I wanted to make sure she understood. I told her that she and her brother call me daddy. The people I live with and go to parties with and play basketball with call me Ben. The people with which my interaction is just on the computer call me xadrian. I said it's just a name, but that doesn't mean I'm a different person.

And as soon as I said that I knew it was wrong.

Daddy, Ben, xadrian are all different people. Daddy doesn't complain about work or ask if they talked about the UK taking over Turks & Caicos at kindergarten. Ben doesn't talk about the latest episode of Phineas and Ferb while out for happy hour. xadrian doesn't talk about his rent or car troubles. They are different people. They are based on different interactions. They are forged in different environments and respond differently to stimuli.

They're all based on the same person, but that person has interchangeable masks to meet different situations. Normally you just go through life like this; everyone has a drawer full of masks. I've just named mine.

I don't think she wants her own mask for the Internet yet. She wants a bank account instead.

Carry on.