The Fictional Spectrum: Scorpion

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This TV season, there were three shows I was excited about: The Flash, Constantine, and Scorpion. I’ll be talking about The Flash later in June, but for now, let’s talk about Scorpion.

Scorpion follows the adventures of a crack team of geniuses recruited by agent Cabe Gallo (played by Robert Patrick of Terminator 2: Judgment Day fame). The team is headed by Walter O’Brien (played by Elyes Gabriel. It should be noted that Walter is a real person the show was inspired by), who has an IQ of 197, higher than Albert Einstein’s IQ of 160, as relayed in the show’s opening monologue.  When he was a little boy, Walter hacked into NASA’s computers for blueprints for a rocket, which he wanted as a poster. He was caught and imprisoned, which is when he met Gallo. Gallo became a surrogate father to him and he later formed Scorpion to assist Gallo.  The rest of the team is a follows:

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Sylvester Dodd (Ari Stidham): A “human calculator” who is proficient in statistical equations and is also a grandmaster at chess.
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“Happy” Quinn (Jadyn Wong): A whiz at machines. She had a bad childhood and it makes her somewhat hostile towards others.
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Toby Curtis (Eddy Kaye Thomas) An expert psychologist who specializes in the criminal mind. He also seems to enjoy pushing everyone’s buttons, especially Walter’s and Cabe’s.
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The cast is rounded out by two “unofficial members of the team. One is Paige Dineen, a friend of Walter’s. She has a son named Ralph. Unlike the others, Paige does not have an advanced mind. As Walter says in the opening monologue, “Paige isn’t like us. She’s normal.” She is there to help the heroes cope with the world around them which is designed for people of normal intelligence.
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It is Ralph and Walter that I want to talk about. In the pilot, we see that Ralph shows signs that he may be autistic. He is withdrawn from others, usually speaking only to his mother. But in the same scene which introduces him, Ralph is playing chess with Sylvester, using saltshakers for the pieces. Despite the fact that Ralph is much younger than Sylvester, we see that Ralph has checkmated him in eight moves. This is an indication that Ralph is a highly intelligent boy, especially since Sylvester himself is a grandmaster. It is not stated anywhere in the scene that Sylvester is accommodating for Ralph’s age, so it is safe to assume that Ralph has genuinely bested him. Walter calls this to Paige’s attention, and throughout the first season, Walter attempts to help Paige teach Ralph how to interact with the world. They become good friends, and the rest of the team accepts him as one of their own. There’s even a scene in the second episode where Walter tells Ralph that a group of scorpions is formally called a cyclone, and that he considers Ralph part of his cyclone. Later in the season, we meet Ralph’s father, who also wishes to connect with the boy. However, Ralph doesn’t seem to be interested in baseball, which his father enjoys. At first, Walter is understandably jealous of Ralph’s father. But at Paige’s insistence, Walter comes up with an idea. Walter suggests that he show Ralph the statistical side of baseball, such as figuring out a batter’s runs batted in or a pitcher’s earned run average. This connects to Ralph’s interest in mathematics and he shows Ralph how they can determine the outcome of a game.
I also think that Walter may be autistic as well. When it comes to his job, Walter is completely focused on his mission. He is constantly forming strategies for stopping terrorists and other criminals. However, when he is not after criminals and terrorists, Walter is out of his element. He also not good at getting along with his coworkers, especially Toby. Autistics, like myself and Walter, are often at odds in social situations because we are socially withdrawn, even if we attempt to socialize (I myself am actually an extrovert)
I am pleased to announce that Scorpion has been renewed for a second season as of January 2015. I think a show like this can help people to see how beneficial we autistics can be to society. I am eager to see what new adventures lie ahead for the team.

Jason’s Jukebox: My Favorite Covers, V. 2

I thought I’d go ahead and make my Favorite Covers from last year an annual event. I have a vacation coming up next week, so I wanted to do something quick. So here’s Volume 2. Before I begin, let me list the rules I’m following again:

  1. No songs featuring the original artist. I believe a cover should stand on its own, and if the original artist is featured on the cover, I feel the artists aren’t making the song their own.
  2. One song per artist per post. I feel that I should have a variety of artists and songs. So I don’t want to have a bunch of songs by the same artist, nor do I want more than one version of the same song. I might revisit the song or artist in a future list, though.
  3. Any genre will work. Last time, I stuck mainly to rock and pop. I’ve got a couple country covers in this list because I feel I should branch out.
  4. No public domain songs. Public domain songs do not require someone to ask permission, so I don’t feel I should include them. And some, like “Amazing Grace”, have been recorded way too many times.

And here we go.

1. “Hurt”–Johnny Cash (original: Nine Inch Nails)

Cover: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ahHWROn8M0)
Original: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prDoGmY5kj8)
As much as I like the original, Cash’s cover strikes a different cord. At this point in Johnny Cash’s life, he knew the Reaper was coming for him. He changed the song, almost making it seem like it was about atonement, rather than self-inflicted pain.

2. “The Man Who Sold the World”–Nirvana (original: David Bowie)
Cover: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fregObNcHC8)
Original: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSH–SJKVQQ)
When Nirvana performed their MTV Unplugged concert, I didn’t expect them to cover songs. In fact, Bowie didn’t seem like the kind of artist Kurt Cobain would be inspired by. But this proves just how much of a visionary Bowie is, even those who make music that doesn’t sound like Bowie respect him. In fact, Nirvana’s version is so famous, at a concert when Bowie performed his original, a fan thought he was covering a Nirvana song.

3. “Stop Dragging My Heart Around”–Sharon Van Etten & Sweetwater (original: Stevie Nicks featuring Tom Petty)
Cover: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQrN8k7BVVY)
Original: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UD0c58nNCQ)
Every year, The AV Club’s YouTube channel has a show called “Undercover”, which recruits indie artists to cover songs suggested by the main site’s members. For the 2012, edition, Sharon Van Etten and Sweetwater got together to record this great song. When Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty collaborated on the original, it was something magical. So is this version.

4. “Come Together”–Aerosmith (original: The Beatles)
Cover: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wo4GJ6YdDeY)
Original: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cAmn4eMusZk)
This comes from the 1970’s movie Sgt. Peppers’ Lonely Hearts Club Band, a musical based on several songs from The Beatles. It’s not a good movie at all, especially since the Bee Gees replace the Beatles (don’t get me wrong, I like the Bee Gees, but they can’t even come close to the Beatles). In fact, to me the only good part of the movie is seeing Aerosmith’s take on this tune. It has tight production that rivals the original so much, there is still argument over which version is better. I’ll let you decide for yourself.

5. “Honky Tonk Blues”–Huey Lewis and The News (original: Hank Williams)
Cover: ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqznTJspA9Y)
Original: ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pHlSX_zbwY
This song comes from Huey Lewis and The News’s third album, Sports. By this time, they’d shown themselves not to be in the same vogue as the New Wave acts that were popular of the day. They took this song and gave it a more modern feel, while still keeping close to the original.

Continue reading “Jason’s Jukebox: My Favorite Covers, V. 2”

Bookworm: Autism’s False Prophets

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“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”–attributed to Winston Churchill and Mark Twain.
There is one issue related to autism that I have avoided: the anti-vaccine movement’s erroneous claim that vaccines cause autism. I avoided the issue because I feel it’s a dead horse issue. I felt no need to address it because I saw no way to add to the discussion. Yet the lie persists. How did the lie even start? That was something I always wondered about.
Paul Offit starts his book like any true scientist should–by establishing his credibility. He explains what made him want to study infectious diseases in the first place. He presents a visit to the hospital for clubbed feet that resulted in him being placed a ward with polio patients. Vaccines ended the suffering of many with polio. In countries such as mine, polio is a dreaded memory at best, as vaccines have all but eliminated its threat.
Andrew Wakefield is the main target of the book. Offit begins by explaining just how Wakefield came to his conclusions. It also shows the political clout he gained from his “research–allies like Henry Waxman, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (who’s still spreading the lie even today.), and former presidential candidate John Kerry. It also exposes the flaws in Wakefield’s research, including having no control group of autistic children who didn’t have vaccines. Autism existed long before the MMR vaccine that inspired his research was first administered.
So why is the lie such a stumbling block in the quest for autism acceptance? The lie diverts attention by making vaccines the culprit rather than genetics. Autism is present at birth. Instead of accepting children for who they are, parents want to “fix” their children, making them vulnerable to snake oil-level claims. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating–autism is a disability, not a disease! A disease brings harm and discomfort to the person affected. Yes, autistics do experience harm and discomfort, but most of the harm is caused by those who misunderstand autism, not autism itself. Those who would rather fix what can’t be fixed than accept the person as he or she is. Those who see acceptance as weakness. Acceptance is a strong action, an act of love. Love is not weakness.
Treating autism as a disease is not the solution. Preventing is not the answer. There is no cure for autism, nor should there be. And even if we were to make efforts to determine a genetic marker for autism, that should not be our goal. We should instead help those who have autism already. Help them coexist with society. We don’t need bleach enemas, or fad diets to cure us, because we are not sick. Nor do we need any other junk science. We need actual science. We need acceptance for who we are. Autism is not the tragedy. Ignorance and hatred are the tragedy.
This book was a great read. I recommend it to anyone open-minded enough to accept the possibility that he or she may be wrong. I do not expect the lie to die. After all, there are still people who believe the moon landing didn’t happen. But I do expect its power to diminish the more people accept the truth. Vaccines do not cause autism. Let’s stop looking for erroneous causes and help those who already have autism to coexist.

Jason’s Jukebox: U2

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“Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief
All kill their inspiration and sing about their grief”

–“The Fly”

In 1980, four men from Dublin, Ireland started a revolution called U2. For 35 years, this band has been one of my all-time favorite bands. The main reason I like them is that all four members are Christian: Bono is Catholic, and the rest are Protestant, and their faith often comes through their music. Another amazing thing about this band is that they’ve never changed their roster:
Bono (real name: Paul Hewson)–vocals, lead guitar
The Edge (real name: David Evans)–backing vocals, lead guitar
Adam Clayton–bass
Larry Mullen–drums
For this post, I will be rating each album using Bono’s iconic sunglasses that he’s been wearing since the 90’s.
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Boy (1980)
Singles:“I Will Follow”, “A Day Without Me”
This is probably one of the best debuts I’ve ever listened to. Rarely have I heard a band that sound as polished as this debut. The political and spiritual songs we know them for would come later, but this is a great start.
Best songs: “Twilight” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifhgIWU2Ols), “Shadows and Tall Trees” ((https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gbmRSDTU0c)
Fun Facts: The boy on the cover is Peter Rowen, brother of Virgin Prunes, a friend of Bono’s who is now a photographer. He has also appeared on the cover for War and their greatest hits CD.
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October (1981)
Rating: 3 sunglasses
Singles: “Gloria”, “Fire”
This album’s not as strong as Boy, but it’s not bad. It’s the beginning of their more spiritual focus, which has continued sporadically through the rest of their albums. At this time, all four members joined the Shalom Fellowship. It’s a more peaceful album than the predecessor.
Best Songs: “Rejoice” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecSYfor6AQo), “With a Shout (Jerusalem)” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vdz-vixirN0)
Fun Fact: This album contains U2’s only instrumental song, which is also the title track.
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War (1983)
Rating: 3 1/2 sunglasses
Singles: “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, “New Year’s Day”, “Two Hearts Beat As One”
This album marks U2’s first foray into socio-political themes and their debut on the American charts. A reviewer called it “Where [U2] turned pacifism itself into a crusade”. Both “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “New Year’s Day” were written in protest of The Troubles (“Sunday Bloody Sunday” itself is named after the infamous Bloody Sunday massacre). These were my introduction to the band, and I still find them as powerful today as they were back then.
Best Songs:“Sunday Bloody Sunday” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EM4vblG6BVQ), “Two Hearts Beat As One” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIuAFBRyjj4)
Fun Fact: “40” was covered by DC Talk on their Solo CD.
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The Unforgettable Fire(1984)
Rating: 4 sunglasses
Singles: “Pride (In the Name of Love)”, “The Unforgettable Fire”
This was their first album produced by Brian Eno, who would later produce many of their other albums, primarily in the 90’s. It’s the band at their best. There are two tributes to Martin Luther King, “Pride (In the Name of Love), and “MLK”. The band’s popularity earned them a spot on MTV’s “Live Aid” concert for famine relief in Ethopia.
Best Songs: “Pride (In the Name of Love) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHcP4MWABGY)”Bad” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgBtoiNxPyE)
Fun Fact: The name comes from a memorial to Hiroshima which appears on the cover.
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The Joshua Tree (1987)
Rating: 5 sunglasses (magnum opus)
Singles: “Where the Streets Have No Name”, “Bullet the Blue Sky”, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, “With or Without You”
This is probably U2’s most spiritual album. Both “Where the Streets Have No Name” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” are about our search for God. “Bullet the Blue Sky” is about the apartheid in South Africa, and is a great showcase of the Edge’s talent.
Best Songs:“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EabB55IYyOg), “Running to Stand Still” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KjcYohJlVzI)
Rattle and Hum (1988)
Rating: 4 sunglasses
Singles:“Desire”, “Angel of Harlem”, “When Love Comes to Town”
This is the soundtrack to the movie of the same name. It’s a good mix of live and studio tracks. And the movie isn’t bad either.
Best songs: “When Love Comes to Town” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJ0WyPAELsk), “Silver and Gold” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jmuhR3gqxZM)
Fun Fact:“Angel of Harlem” is a tribute to Billie Holiday. This is the only major U2 release with covers, “All Along the Watchtower” and “Helter Skelter”.

Continue reading “Jason’s Jukebox: U2”