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A Rotwang* Moment—Fringe the TV Pilot

Our FBI heroine is sitting in one of the most improbable corporate offices ever! We see white walls with canted geometric bracing forming the corners. The room is the size of an airplane hanger, and completely bare except for a single desk and two chairs. The desk is formed of several huge white cubes balanced on their points with a sheet of glass on top. A women of about 50, dressed in black, is coolly explaining her long and loyal relationship with her employer to the FBI agent. Her employer we know is one of a two-man team that long ago was tasked with developing “fringe” science into applications. This scientist she says saved her life when she contracted cancer. As she explains, she removes the covering for her right arm and proceeds casually around the front of her desk. Her arm is a very sophisticated mechanical device that moves too fluidly to be anything available to present day science. This is creepy. It is to paraphrase Chandler like finding a tarantula on a wedding cake, meeting this character (this villainess) sitting at the center of a pure white office in full sunlight.

This scene occurs mid-way through the pilot for the new Fringe tv show, and is truly a Rotwang moment. The show was created by J.J. Abrams, who is very busy and popular I hear. I am unfamiliar with his other projects except through reputation and reviews.

I have read only one review for the Fringe pilot, and I strongly disagreed with it. The review repeatedly said that the show was written poorly. Examples of writing deficiencies sited were; the ideas are not new; the effects were not that special, and that some of the plotting to move characters around to meet one another was unlikely and didn’t ring true. These judgments are ridiculous.

Nothing is new, of course, when looked at piece by piece. The removing of the arm I mentioned, happened in two different Schwarzenegger Sci-Fi movies. And the premise of Fringe sounds very much like the Xfiles. But the writing is good. The dialog is very believable. The plotting of the pilot is going to serve to introduce new characters and can be forgiven a few economies. The special effects shouldn’t be too outrageous. This technology isn’t suppose to look like magic, merely a little better than what we know.

I really like the setup. Two scientists once worked together. One ends up in a mental hospital drooling on himself (the good one) the other creates a company that may have already taken over the world (the evil one). Samson and Goliath.

A prediction

The 50 year-old women in black, our tarantula, reappeared at the end of the pilot obviously in-charge. I predict she is not working for the evil scientist, but is the evil scientist. Either that or she is the lab assistant who became injured back in the day. The guilt over that accident drove the good scientist into the mental hospital. In fact both parts of my prediction could be true. I may watch this show again.

* For the uninformed — Rotwang was the evil scientist in the Fritz Lang silent film Metropolis (1927). He brings to life an evil robot/replica of Maria. He learned to do this trick by experiments that cost him his own right arm.

Spanish Red

This is a wine my beautiful sister Elizabeth gave me from her wine shop. I really enjoyed it. I would definitely drink it again. The first taste was very raspberry. Stronger than I had ever tasted. Much of the flavor was in the aroma. Subsequent sips didn’t hold the same raspberry sensation. It might have gone into a blackcurrant, I don’t really know how that tastes. I drank the wine within a week, replacing the cork from the bottle between meals. It remained a great tasting wine to the last glass. It is a Spanish wine and it wasn’t expensive ($8.50). I will definitely be writing more about this wine.

From the winemaker’s website.

COLOMA Garnacha Roja (2005).
Varieties: 100% Garnacha roja.
Young red wine
Vineyard estate: Viña Amelia

Tasting Notes: a bright and intense purple-red, with wild berry fruits notes, offering a fine very fruity aroma with blackcurrant and raspberry notes. Smooth, elegant and rounded with a well structured palate and long aftertaste.

Recommended for: carpaccios, pasta, game, meat, vegetables and cheese.


Hi-Fructose magazine’s masthead description is “Under the Counter Culture.” This cute fusion of the phrases “counter culture” and “under the [store] counter or [drug] counter” is very apt. The artwork inside does have a counter culture-ish vibe, like the real counter culture artists of the 1960s some of who appropriated an older 1930s-40s cartooning style to speak of serious subjects like war and holocaust.

Within its pages, Hi-Fructose artists exaggerate with graffiti and the repurposing of found mast-market images and nick-knacks in a way that is sweet and ironic. The chemically enhanced reference of the magazine’s title is only implied as far as I can tell. I have read no overt messages inside the magazine concerning the talking of drugs, but it probably can be taken for granted that drugs were involved with the creation of the artworks. Much of the art looks like elaborate doodles that would require a level of concentration that, I imagine, might be attainable with a little help.

I was looking at Volume 8, which I picked off the rack at Borders books. You might call this art kitsch, but it is a type of kitsch I found very attractive. The magazine is divided into interviews of the artists along with examples of their work.

I will pass the issue on to my nephew, it may inspire his inner artist.

Mad Men “Ad-pointment” TV

The first Mad Men aired this week. It looked like it was going to be good. The pilot was terrific. It’s full of attitudes we have left behind in our cultural history. The characters were very simplified, maybe as an introduction they need to be. I guest I most enjoyed the advertising agency (staff?) research psychologist. She has a German /Austrian accent (of course) and is as cold as ice. We know that cliché. In reality she would’ve been a temporarily hired team of geeks in white coats probably all male. That still might be giving Madison Avenue too much science cred. Probably her role would’ve been filled by a survey conducted with a cross-section of types who would have been rewarded for the their time. I’m not complaining. The women researcher has greater story potential. Maybe we will learn in future episodes the accent isn’t real.

Then there is a seemingly closeted gay Italian graphic artist who works closely with the lead ad-man. The artist’s life-choice is so telegraphed, how he talks about his enjoyment at using his relaxed male neighbor for his artist model in a drawing for a future Lucky’s billboard. The joke seems to be everyone around him is “gay” blind. His gay remarks go un-noticed except by a stray women in a strip club and by us the TV audience. Maybe in future episodes we will find that lots of people know about his secret. Maybe only the junior executives will be caught unawares. They are the college boys running amok like a pack of wolfs.

All in all I am hooked already. I really think this period was way cool. Maybe in one episode they will show someone watching an old Dick Van Dyke Show. They did mentioned, in a condescending fashion, the Danny Thomas Show as a good advertising position for their new Jewish client.

It’s a battle of the sexes, but Madmen would collapse very fast if the writers did not create a balance. The balance seemed only to be implied in this introduction. The women have knowledge of and power over one another, and indirectly their bosses careers. The only women who maybe somewhat powerless to begin with is the lead ad-man’s wife. She is a surprise reveal at the end, as the lead ad-man’s actions do not indicate a married man with children. He seems to have been away from home for days not merely during office hours in the city. If the clichés hold true, his wife will start a drug habit of barbiturates and maybe lose one of their 2.5 children. I don’t know if I will still be watching if that happens. We shall see.