History is written by the victors.
–Winston S. Churchill
I have this personal pet theory. It goes a little something like this:
What do I mean by this? It’s time for a tale of hungry dogs, drowning by garden hose, buxom secretaries, altered birth certificates and who’s car is parked next door.
It is your routine, on a daily basis, to stop in for lunch and order the “Number Three” special.
You do this every day for a year.
Then, the day after your loyal customer anniversary, you see someone with what appears to be the Number Three. Except it’s different. It has a pickle.
Where the hell did that come from, you think to yourself. You ain’t never seen no pickle on the Number Three. You’re a loyal customer so you decide to ask. That pickle looks damn good and would go well with your customary bit of kibble.
“How do you get the pickle?” you ask like the naive idiot that you are.
That’s when your “friend” on the other side of the counter cheerfully replies, “Oh, the numbered combo specials always come with a pickle.”
That moment of discovery when you realize you’ve been getting screwed and didn’t even know it? That’s the story of my life.
Half-way through the shift and I was behind schedule. Panting, blisters popping, I paused for a 15-second break.
The urgent alerts from the GPS strapped to my head couldn’t shake the bliss.
Six seconds later the floor manager showed up. “That’s it,” he said. “This is a verbal.”
The GPS parroted the threat. “Verbal! Verbal!”
“Two more and you’re fired!”
Humans weren’t meant to micromanaged to the nanosecond by computers. I snapped. My lightning fast quick draw would have been enough to take out Wyatt Earp himself.
I scanned him right in the face. He screamed. I ran.
A drabble is a short storm form consisting of exactly 100 words.
What does this mean to you? Not much. Hey, just like the local evening news! I think I’m onto something here.
Our top story tonight. Ominous fluffy clouds, pregnant with expectation (and moisture), have birthed innumerable litters of chubby drops that the WeatherTrac9000 computer calls “rain.” These drops are currently on a collision course with the place most of us live. The WeathTrac9000 calls that place the “ground.” We are currently projecting that these drops of mostly water will make the ground “wet.”
We start our exclusive News42 team coverage with Alex on remote location standing by a street. Alex?
…three seconds of awkward silence from Alex as he stares into the camera with a fake grin plastered on his face not realizing yet that he’s already on…
That’s right, Cassandra. Weather is coming to a street near you and it is pissed off. I’ll step aside to see if we can get a shot of this. You can clearly see drops of water hitting this street. And that is creating a dangerous situation that leaves some drivers out in the cold.
Earlier today this was the scene, with street surfaces wet. In one case, we found a car pulled over on the side of the road with its blinkers on. That driver was forced to sit and wait and hope that conditions would improve.
Even worse conditions may already be on the way. For that we go to Marko in the WeatherTrac9000 Weather Center. Marko?
That’s right, Alex. We are currently projecting alternating periods of light and dark at approx. 12 hour intervals until further notice. This means some rain may be less visible at certain times. Viewers are advised to remain on this channel for the latest updates as they become available.
For the intelligence-impaired here’s tonight’s Weather-Pick-Toe-Graph. This patented WeatherTrac9000 system helps those suffering from small brain syndrome to help prepare for the weather. Tonight’s picture: The Gorton’s Fishman in bright yellow slickers including full-frontal hoodie. We’re showing him holding a ship’s steering wheel but you don’t actually have to have one of your own.
For the rest of you I will now show lots of slides and animations and maps and use a lot meteorological words for eight full minutes of our 16-minute broadcast (not counting commercials).
If you have ever watched commercial programming on television you may already be aware of this, but sometimes the shows repeat plot points. Surprising but true. It generally works something like the instructions on a shampoo bottle:
- Hire a core troupe of actors and put them in a setting, like a meat packing plant or a sewer treatment facility
- Go through the episodic table of plot elements
- After a certain period of time, usually 3-7 years, replace the actors and the setting, like the actuarial tables dept. at an insurance company
- Rinse and repeat
When watching a show with my wife, within the first 30 seconds I’ll shout out the plot variation as soon as it is recognized. Trust me, she really loves this. “Oh, god, no!! It’s plot #42. Wacky birthing episode ending with a touching isn’t-that-thing-cute moment. I’ll be on the computer. Let me know when it’s over.”
Here’s a few excerpts from the episodic table:
- A previously unknown family member of a main character comes to visit for a short time (father, mother, brother, sister, child, etc.)
- A main character is extremely distressed because an extended family member gets engaged, married, divorced, is involved in adultery or illicit love affair and/or dies
- Two main characters are involved in a marriage proposal, wedding, break-up, divorce, adoption, pregnancy and/or birthing
Even with those three limited examples from the table the possibilities are almost endless. I bet they could be used to generate over 500 specific plots. Mother and cousin come to visit. Father and sister die. Brother and niece get engaged. Mother pregnant, father having an affair. Father pregnant, mother having an affair. Yep, the permutations are practically unlimited.
When watching Northern Exposure the other day I noticed one of the rarer elements. “Looks like #138 coming our way,” I shouted. A mute traveling performer had been courting one of the main characters for several episodes. Sagely, I predicted, “I’ll bet the mute guy is moved to speak in a moment that will be especially poignant.” It was so touching, that I nailed it, I mean. My wife couldn’t have been more pleased.
The episodic table easily applies to movies, too. George Lucas, for example, often calls crap like this “notes” that are repeated across films, again and again and again and again and again. Did I mention again? To make this point I’ll now transport you from one galaxy far away to a make-believe land of medieval sex, violence and political intrigue. It won’t require that much suspension of disbelief.
Or, as I like to call it, “A Note Ripped From Star Wars By Game Of Thrones.” Introducing element #78: The Fake Greeting.
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“Grandpa, tell me the story again,” the little snot-nose whined.
The old man sighed. On the other hand, there was no one else around and he was bored. And he did love having an audience.
“It was a long, long time ago,” he said easily. By now the story was an old friend. It was like slipping his toes into a well worn pair of penny loafers with old leather comfortably broken in. Not at all like plastic, like Crocs, that all the snot-nosed sons of bitches called “shoes” these days.
“I think the year was 2013. Yeah, that was the last time it happened. The likes of which the world has never seen again.”
“Back then,” the old man continued, “I was still able to drive a car. The snot noses hadn’t taken away my license yet in the name of public safety. I think I must have been about 104.”
“So there I was, minding my business, driving through town. Yup, yup. Don’t interrupt, snot nose. This town. The very same town you and I still call home.”
“You know,” the old man paused, reminiscing, “back then it was still possible to hit a green light.” He shook his head. It was best not to think about such things.
“What’s a green light,” the kid interjected.
“I told ya, snot nose. Don’t interrupt yer elders. You want the story or not?”
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