Friday, September 17, 2010

Daft Punk~Voyager

Daft Punk-An electronica techno group that makes some pretty pumping themes. I liked this one because it's called, 'Voyager.' And it has that subtle retro funk sound that you'd find in the late seventies and early eighties. Somehow I'm envisioning a montage of Voyagers Headquarters and the Academy with all the students running around, going to class, and whatever other types of training they do to be in the field. Kind of like those advertisements you'd see for college, only much, much cooler and spaced out. haha.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Time Trax~A cool concept and underrated series

This evening I was browsing through my old VHS collection and found a tape I recorded in 1998. I was so ecstatic because earlier in the week I was yet again 'fanning the flames' of another old crush I had. This time on a dreamy-faced and very good and under-used actor, Dale Midkiff. Tall and lanky, but muscular and broad shouldered, with a smoldering, yet sensitive gaze that can melt butter, Dale was always high on my HOT list.
He is just a natural–charming, with a booming, yet mild tenor-like voice, speckled with a slight country boy accent. (He's from Maryland) Dale got his start first playing a young 'Jock' Ewing in 'Dallas: The Early years.' Then really got cooking in 1988, playing Elvis in the TV drama, 'Elvis and Me' based on Priscilla Presley's memoirs. Right after, he starred as a heartbroken and helpless father in one of the scariest and surprisingly saddest movies I refuse to ever see again, Stephen King's Pet Sematary. 

It didn't take much to see that Dale had it. (Well, in my opinion anyway.) It being that deep-rooted charisma and talent that Jon-Erik Hexum naturally radiated, and was honing before he died.

Dale could also sing great, and even got to display that talent on Time Trax and a few other shows/movies. Check out the quick clip from Time Trax here, he's playing guitar too, though he's a bit overpowered by the female singer.

So naturally my sister and I had to watch my old tape.Which held up very well for 12 years. I know I must have taped it and completely forgot about it. It's almost like new. My sis also crushed on Dale. Yes that's a link. She made the first and probably one of the only Dale 'tribute' slideshows way back when Youtube first started. It's still popular!

(You all know the voice that goes with it!)
So, we got some Chinese food and watched the pilot. My tape has six episodes, apparently there was a marathon on the SCI-FI channel then. This was back when it was still a good cable station and before it was spelled all dopey like- 'SyFy' and showed corny abominable snowmen and mutated CGI insect movies. Whenever I see that I think of this face on the side...
I'm hoping if I check my basement again I have another tape of episodes. I can't remember if do or not.

Dapper Dale in younger days, during the show.

I don't remember the entire series and every episode quite like I do Quantum Leap or Superboy (Two series I watched faithfully in that era) but whenever it was on I always tried to watch it. I honestly think it was Dale who made it so memorable for me, otherwise I might have been a little bored. I was probably hoping for more time travel action at the time. But hey, I was only thirteen. The show actually has lots of action, and it plays out like watching a U.S Marshal chase criminals cross country. You'll understand what I mean when you read more about it below.

*My memory however, is faulty, because after viewing three more episodes, I realize, Darien runs into a number of futuristic criminals with little gadgets and gizmos they have stolen or invented from the future. Like this weapon called a 'Myriad' that the villain uses to completely vaporize the victim's brain. OUCH. But it's no muss, no fuss! If you go to the wiki page under 'Terminology and Technology' there is actually a whole list of weaponry and 'futuristic' techniques employed by the series.

To this day Time Trax remains unreleased, not surprising since it's owned by Warner Brothers. They put blocks on everything. *cough, cough* Superboy seasons 2-4 *hacking cough!*

Would you all be sweethearts if you can, and vote for Time Trax's release on TV Shows on DVD? You have to be member to vote but it's free and worth it. How many TV shows do you know and love that are just molting and rotting away in some big, greedy studio vault? What's cool about this site is that when your show is made available or there's any release news on it, you get an email. That's how I found out Voyagers was being released in 2007. While you're at it, please, please, please, vote for Cover Up and Superboy!

Realizing that Time Trax is a time travel series, and lo! this is a time traveling blog, I wanted to write about the show. So, enough of my blathering, let's get on with the specifics.

"It began in the future. A scientist turning to evil, a time machine called TRAX, criminals who vanish and a lawman with a mission. He has one weapon and a computer named SELMA."

SELMA: Good Morning, Captain Lambert.

"With them he will travel to a time more innocent than his own. Now he is among us. A special breed of man, a hunter, traveling through our world searching for fugitives from his own time, knowing he can not go home until he has found them all. His name is Darien Lambert and this is his story."

It is the year 2193, and over a hundred criminals became fugitives of law enforcement by traveling back in time two hundred years, using a time machine called Trax. Darien Lambert (Dale Midkiff) is a police detective who is sent back to 1993 in order to apprehend as many of the fugitives as possible.

He is assisted by the Specified Encapsulated Limitless Memory Archive, or SELMA (Elizabeth Alexander), an extremely small but very powerful computer (described as equivalent to a mainframe) disguised as an AT&T MasterCard. SELMA communicates through a hologram that takes the visual form of a prim British nanny. Her visual has to something to do with Darien's past and his long lost mother and was chosen for his familiarity and comfort.

Lambert is also equipped with an MPPT (Micro-Pellet Projection Tube) disguised as a keyless car alarm remote, which could stun the target or engulf the target in an energy field which renders him transportable to the future. Selma then executes the transmission sequence to send the criminal on his way. Lambert's biggest enemy is Dr. Mordecai Sahmbi (Peter Donat), who was responsible for sending the fugitives to 1993. Captain Lambert, fearing the possible consequences of altering the timeline, does not actively attempt to interfere with the natural flow of history, although he frequently leaves messages for his colleagues in 2193 (via the 'personals' sections of assorted newspapers). 
The show does sway back and forth on the possibilities of parallel time lines, so that it can explain away that the future of 2193 is still 'safe' despite the fact that people are going into the past and making changes. Hey, I've used that in my stories. However, in the third episode, we see the evil Dr. Sahmbi becoming mega rich by transporting gallons of nuclear waste from 1993 to 2193 and Darien learns from his officers in the future that it is starting to affect the land and animals. So, there's no parallel time line there. However, NO Time Travel theory or show or movie is safe from faulty physics and anomalies. We just accept, forget and enjoy.

So, how's all that for a really solid premise? The only thing that might hamper this series today is that Darien is in 1993 and that dates it aesthetically. But that can't be helped. We all loved the 90's right?...right?...I'm hearing crickets...anyway!'s not so bad. I wouldn't quite look at Darien Lambert even today and go, oh you're so 90's!!

There is a catch to this type of time travel. I actually think it adds a bit of scientific authenticity, as opposed to just pressing an omni or leaping from life to life. In Darien's futuristic world, Time Travel is taught as a very possible theory, but not many believe it. Darien did. However, the time travel program had been disbanded until Dr. Sahmbi continued experimenting underground and illegally helped these desperate criminals escape to the past, albeit for very large fees! Dr. Sahmbi's goals were quite similar to Voyager Drake's. He wanted power, in 1993 he was going to replicate his time machine and then he boasted to Darien that he would be able to conquer any century he chose.

The time traveler must prepare for travel by taking the drug known as 'Trax.' Then his/her body is ready to withstand the electromagnetic forces used to make the trip. However, a person cannot take the Trax more than twice or else they die. So they can basically only make one round trip. Exposure without ingesting the Trax is deadly, as in the case of a woman named Alyssa Knox, whom Darien was falling in love with. (Mia Sara) She was a scientist who uncovered her mentor Sahmbi's schemes and attempted to help Darien and the police capture him. When Darien goes back to 1993, he meets Annie Knox, Alyssa's great-great grandmother, who is an F.B.I agent and helps him on blind faith. While he's attracted to her, and she to him, Darien must realize he cannot change the time-line or else Alyssa in the future will never be born. That's just my theory, it's never stated.

Aside from the futuristic special effects of the weapons and gadgets, this series relied more heavily on human drama and interactions. Quite like Voyagers. One thing that interests me was its cheery, hopeful vision of the future. For once you see a future that's not all dark and depressing, though certain elements that we enjoy today are missing. While you don't see much of it, the future portrayed a very integrated world/country where the president (Whom Darien fails to save during an assassination attempt in the pilot) looked to be from India. There literally is no more United States of America, the names of states and great cities had been changed. Darien was born in a place once called 'Chicagoland.' If you examine the clothing, it all seems to have an Asian flair as well. No ties, just Mandarin collared suits, uniforms and dresses, intermingled with cloaks and clothes reminiscent of the eighteen hundreds. The prisoners in Darien's unit wore baggy pants and black 'Chinese slippers.' Darien even seemed a little unsure of himself when he had to change into a good old pair of blue jeans before his journey.

This theme of futuristic Asian influence is seen in the TV series Firefly and its movie spin-off Serenity, where Chinese even became a mandatory language. The entire future setting in Time Trax sort of reminds me of my vision of Voyagers Headquarters, an explosive and dynamic mix of old and new. You can sort of see what I mean here.

Darien, in his hot leather jacket, rode his motorcycle across the countryside and traveled world wide looking for all these escaped individuals trying to assimilate in 1993. He ran into all kinds of dilemmas with that. To arrest or not to arrest? What about the children of these future people? What made them stand out from the crowd of the past was that in 2193, humans have achieved a level of genetic superiority. They are altogether faster and smarter.

Here's a bit more on Darien Lambert's character:
He grew up a normal child of his times: IQ 204, Speed Memorization rate 1.2 pages per second (slightly above average). He was a competent athlete. His best speed for the 100 meters was 8.6 seconds, and for the Mile Run - 3 minutes 38 seconds. His heartbeat was a normal 35 beats per minute. His life expectancy - 120 years. His lungs were average, capable of air storage up to six minutes. Beta wave training had given his generation mind control capabilities unavailable fifty years before his birth. One of these was the ability to slow down the speed of visual images reaching the brain, popularly called "time stalling". It demanded rigorous training.
He was a solitary child; he lived among his memories. He was also a patriot. He admitted this to no one, because it was out of fashion. But he had feelings for his native land, once called the United States, and knew every detail of her history. He admired her early Fugitive Retrieval Specialists, the U.S. Marshals, and wondered why in later times so many of her criminals went unpunished. This belief system took him on a career path: The International Police Academy at West Point on Hudson.

The very basic premise is similar to Quantum Leap, only Sam can jump around time, he takes other people's forms, and his hologram is not a computer, it's a real man that was prone to error and misjudgment. The movie 'Time Cop' borrowed heavily from concepts of Time Trax too and came out while Time Trax was still on the air. Ironically enough, Mia Sara starred in this too, as the wife of Van Damme's character, whom he must save in the past.

I am the biggest sucker for shows about wandering good guys with issues and missions. After Quantum Leap and the Incredible Hulk, hey, Voyagers too...Time Trax was the ultimate. I mean, it had Time Travel and a handsome nomad! So count me in to be right there on the journey. And hey, how many TV shows can claim a video game? Nice huh? DANG! I still have Super Nintendo! Calling Ebay!!

 A two-season run is weak, but it's still better than one. (Sorry Voyagers!) I wish it would have lasted a bit longer, but now I just wish it were out on official DVD. You can buy the professional 'Fan Dubs' for about $50.00, but seriously, raise your hand if you're just plain tired of those? I sure am. However, as long as the fans don't get appeased, that's what they are stuck with.

Click here to read an in-depth Starlog article on Time Trax.

So, what happened to Dale Midkiff? Well, he continued acting in TV movies and guest spots on shows. He's fifty-one years old now, still looking very good, and like all talented, under-rated male actors who hit middle age, they move on to... the Hallmark Channel! I love the Hallmark Channel. Oh, and in between Dale also starred as the wild and wooly Buck Wilmington on ABC's short-lived, (2-seasons) 'The Magnificent Seven.' I'm not a fan of westerns, but because he and Ron Perlman were on it, I caved.
'The Magnificent Seven' Love the 'stache!

So where does Hallmark fit in? For the last six or seven years, Dale has played the strong, gentle and spiritual pioneer father, Clark Davis, in the popular Love Comes Softly series, based on the novels by Jannette Oke. He was the only one of the original cast to remain in all eight films. I liked it when Katherine Heigel played Marty, the young woman he marries. I own the first two and they are my favorites. The rest are good, but as it drifts further down the ancestral line, the heart is somehow lost. Is it just me or does it seem that future generations become more and more mediocre? At least in TV Land. Still, they are all nice, clean movies, a true breath of fresh air in these days. Most are directed by Michael Landon Jr. (The best ones) and you can definitely tell he has his father's sentimental, prairie touch. Nothing wrong with that.

So, now you know yet another of favorite Time Travel shows and small screen crushes. If you ever get an opportunity, give Time Trax a chance, and add it to your Time Traveling list of really cool shows.

Until next time! Many soft landings to you, Voyagers!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Writing 101

With my burning desire to be a published author going up and down like a roller coaster, I am always alert to anything and any books that are interesting and will help me to better hone my craft. In past blogs I have mentioned these books. One of these days I will shell out the money and attend a writing workshop in the City and hopefully develop even better skills. 
I currently have the very meager beginnings and character bios and outlines to a historical mystery that's swirling around in mind, but it's not even been drafted yet. I'm still gathering ideas for the could very well turn into one of those paperback 'gaslight' mystery series. I'm hoping on a series. 
The writing task for a mystery is much more complicated because of the big five 'W's. You have red-herrings, the plotting-How do you begin? At the scene of the crime? During the crime being committed? Flashback? Do you know exactly what the culprit did and how...only to go on the journey with the detective and observe how he/she figures it all out? All that and other plot twists and turns. It's definitely my favorite genre, along with the Historical fiction genre. Research, research, research, is your biggest challenge to getting the historical settings as accurate as possible. 
Sometimes it's okay to be a just a little skimpy, because it's still a world of your imagination...

You can take a few liberties, that's a writer's prerogative. Sword and sorcery and the majority of those bodice ripping romance novels always do. Just don't give your characters togas when they should be in a high-waist pants and button down vests. 
And here's a tip of my own, that I've learned through trial and error. I've kind of had it up to HERE with the plucky heroine/hero who totally differs from the norm, like they're so unique and out of their element. We have names for them in the world of fan-fiction. They are Mary Sue's and Gary Stu's...but that usually involves making the character totally like you and just changing the name and a few features. I think any one who's ever written a story had to overcome using this dreaded character. Here is a nice web definition.
A Mary Sue is a character in a work of fiction who exists primarily for the purpose of wish-fulfillment on the part of the author. She plays a prominent role in the work, but she is notably devoid of flaws or a complex personality, and she usually represents the pinnacle of idealized perfection. All of the other characters love Mary Sue, because she is extraordinarily helpful, talented, beautiful, or unusual, and she often drives readers absolutely crazy because she is one-dimensional and too idealized to be realistic. The male equivalent of a Mary Sue is a Gary Stu.
AYYYY...Fonzie could be a Gary Stu..but...he's just too cool for that. He's not one-dimensional. I can dig it.

 But seriously, oftentimes in a Historical novel, it's a lazy way of making your character modern, because you don't want to take time and research the social mores, culture and etiquette of the society in which he/she lived. Racial, ethnic, and social prejudices were rampant in the past, and your characters will have them if they lived in a certain era. They may not voice them, but their actions might show it. A person 'of color' may still be the slave beneath the heroine/hero, even if they are good and loyal friends. In most cases, that's just the way things were. It was what it was. Even if it was wrong by our standards.
I have a free email subscription to the writer's digest and every few days I get a new email with some good advice for writing. All you budding writers out there should check it out too-

I wanted to share their tips on a facet of writing that is of major importance. Character development.

How to Develop Your Characters
August 27, 2010
Here are 4 quick exercises to make sure your characters speak to readers (and agents).
1. Make a character study for each of your characters, defining the five traits discussed here: name, age, appearance, relationships and personality.

2. With a clean copy of your manuscript, get out a different colored highlighter for each character. Go through the manuscript one character at a time. Highlight whenever that character speaks and/or acts. If you try to do too many characters at the same time, shifting from one color to the other, I guarantee you will make a mistake at least once.

3.  Now read only the dialogue and actions of one of those colors. Does everything your character says sound true to her? What about her actions? If not, rewrite the passages that seem forced.

4. Did you notice one character, or maybe several, who appear in the beginning but not in the end, or vice versa? If so, they probably aren’t necessary to your story. Try deleting them or perhaps combining them with another character.

So, if you're writer, or a reader for that matter, what aspects of a well-developed story appeal to you? Characterization? Setting, authenticity? Description. Description is a biggie for me. I want my imagination and even my senses to be stimulated and I expect to be transported. I cringe when I read books or stories where, 'The man did this' and 'The woman did that' for a pages upon pages and you have no idea who's who, what they're wearing, how they speak, look, etc. 

That is not a matter of personal style, I find it a matter of not letting your brain really get to work and conjure up an image. I like to scour the internet for images (mostly actors and actresses) so that I can at least give my characters a face. It's hard to give personalities to non-descript people. There is something in everyone, no matter how deep you have to look, that makes a person's features and mannerisms, unique. It could be a slightly crooked eye, a snaggle tooth, or just a jutting lower lip. If it's in your brain...

PUT IT IN YOUR STORY! You crazy writer you!