Adventures in Writing: Part 14 of 20?

Take 20 words chosen at random. Put them in a bowl. Draw one, and write something about it.
Simple? Maybe not.

Wendy was into all things new.

Whenever she saw a commercial for something new on television, she felt that the pitch was aimed directly at her. It was almost as if they knew her.

They did. In fact, they were getting to know her better every day.

newOnly yesterday, Wendy had been roaming the aisles of her local Great Wall of China Super Mart, just checking for anything new, when she saw it. It was the latest VerySmart TV set.

Wendy’s old set, which was literally new 6 months ago, had been working just fine. This one was really new. For Wendy, it was a “must buy.”

The set was on sale — 30 percent off. On top of that, with the purchase of her 40-inch screen, she could get a second set of equal or smaller size for half-price. She left the store as proud new owner of two 40-inchers. Wendy could not believe her luck.

When she got them home, she knew just where to hang them. One went on the wall of her “open concept” living room/dining room/kitchen. The other went on her bedroom wall.

It was a smallish apartment. Now, she could watch TV from any room, even from the bathroom if she left the door open.

The great new features of the set included a camera and microphone. They would enable, the owner’s manual said, Wendy to wirelessly connect any VerySmart SpeakEasy19bs or higher cell phone to her sets for a big-screen HD MugTime experience.

That would have to wait. Wendy had the SpeakEasy18hs. The 19bs was new, so she had every intention of getting it as soon as it was released.

The operator’s manual didn’t mention all of the bells and whistles possessed by her new TV sets. After all, it wasn’t so much a manual as a “quick set-up guide.” The full manual was available for download if she desired. She did not. Wendy was not into details.

Unknown to Wendy, her new TV sets had a special feature. They were watching her. All the time.

With their super wide-angle lenses, the television sets were perfectly positioned to keep Wendy in view. Her apartment afforded no nook or cranny for her to hide.

Powered by an uninteruptible rechargeable battery, the camera was always on, even when the set was switched off. Along with a permanent internet connection, Netflix and a rudimentary web browser, the set came equipped with the very latest, regularly updated, facial expression interpreting software.

Wendy’s every smile, frown and forehead wrinkle were recorded and relayed to the set manufacturer. All of her likes and dislikes were automatically analyzed, sorted and sold to the highest bidder, along with the exact location of the television set generating the data.

Wendy had given the VerySmart Corporation a head start on getting to know her by completing a survey packed with her sets. By completing the questionnaire, which VerySmart stated would “help us better serve your needs,” Wendy got the warranties on her new sets, at no additional cost, doubled from the standard six months to a full year. Wendy could not believe her luck.

In exchange, VerySmart got Wendy’s age, income range, employer and many of her personal preferences. The corporation was very happy to learn about Wendy. A woman like her, obsessed with all things new, was a potential merchandising gold mine.

Advertisers soon knew that Wendy has a cat named Mittens. They learned that Wendy is a single, 42-year-old woman, who often works late and has a tendency to eat convenience meals. They discovered she loves Cheetos. They knew where she shops — everywhere she shops.

They knew when she was sleeping. There’s a pill for that. They knew when she was awake. There’s a pill for that. They knew if she had been bad or good — although Wendy was always good, for goodness sake. No pill for that, yet.

The good people at VerySmart soon knew more about Wendy than Wendy knew about herself. They even knew what Mittens did when Wendy was at work. Naughty, naughty cat.

The infiltration began with little things. Wendy learned, from a commercial strategically placed between the opening and first scene of her favorite program, that her supermarket’s weekly sales items included “new and improved” Cheetos and a new brand of cat food very similar to what she served Mittens, but at a much lower introductory price. What luck! She loaded up on both.

Within a month, Wendy’s entire weekly shopping list consisted of new items she had seen advertised on her VerySmart TV sets. She was amazed at how frequently an ad exactly matched her needs, often when she was about to run out of something. How could she be so lucky?

The time had come for advertisers to lock their grip on Wendy. As she was checking “suggested” programs on her television guide one night, she happened upon a eye-opener: All about Winnie.

She read the summary of this “new hit” and found that it was a situation comedy drama, which meant it would feature a canned laugh track and one or two characters who either cried or swore during each episode.

The show centered on a 40-something single woman and her adorable, but mischievous kitty, Snowshoes. Wow! It would be like watching herself starring in a television show, and it was new! How could she resist?

The opening episode was a total immersion experience for Wendy. She absolutely loved Winnie’s apartment kitchen. That hot pink single-cup coffee maker! To die for!

Wendy eyed her own basic black single-cupper with distaste. Well, that would have to change.

Winnie’s appliances! They were all that new, fingerprint-proof stainless steel. Wendy’s would have to go.

The premiere episode gave Wendy a new mission. Although she was a woman of modest means, she now knew where all of her disposable income would be going. It might take a while, but eventually her and Winnie’s worlds would be identical.

Somewhere, deep inside the VerySmart Corp., a technician typed a few keystrokes to reprogram Wendy’s TV sets. Recording Wendy’s life would no longer be necessary.

Minority Report Report

Meagan Good and Stark Sands

The Sept. 21 premiere of Minority Report on Fox proves, once again, that putting the Steven Spielberg label on a product is no guarantee of top quality contents.

Joining such lackluster Spielberg small screen science fiction offerings as Under the Dome, Extant and Falling Skies, this series focuses on the lives of three precognitive siblings a decade after the controversial Precrime Program featured in the 2002 film of the same name has ended.

The 2065 society depicted in the television series has decided that arresting people for crimes they were only contemplating might somehow be a violation of their rights. This realization did not free those imprisoned for crimes they did not commit, which one might guess should be the next logical legal step. That decision works from a plot standpoint for the opener, giving the writers a seething pool of injustice from which to draw villains.

One of the precogs, Dash (Stark Sands) has left the remote island home the government had provided to insulate the siblings from society and has come to Washington, D.C. Back among murderous humankind, he is again getting visions of future killings. Given only a few minutes to act, he is not getting enough information to get to the scene in time to prevent the crime.

Details of the murders reside in the mind of his twin brother, Arthur (Nick Zano). The missing piece of Dash’s mind, Arthur had left the island refuge years earlier, but the pair are not currently on speaking terms over what appears to be lifestyle issues.

Dash’s visions are apparently painful, as Sands convincingly conveys. His impression of a man having a seizure beats even that of the late, great John Belushi.

Enter homicide detective Lara Vega (Meagan Good). As she investigates the murder of a nurse thrown from an apartment window, Vega quickly marks Dash as a person of interest. Once she realizes that he is one of the never publicly identified precogs, she just as quickly — perhaps too quickly — accepts him as a partner.

Good’s lines come across as a bit wooden. Maybe she’s just watched a few too many episodes of Law and Order. Her character does seem to soften a little toward the end of the premiere.

The saving grace of this show may be the setting. Fox did not skimp on the special effects eye candy.

Unlike so many science fiction television offerings, including 12 Monkeys and The 100, the world depicted here is not dystopian. Much of what is seen only extrapolates from what we’re seeing today.

We see an aerial view of maglev trains speeding down tracks, making precision track changes, detaching and reattaching cars on the fly, missing collisions by millimeters and microseconds. I don’t see Amtrak evolving into anything that in my lifetime.

A wristband camera transforms into a quadcopter for taking selfies. No cell phone on a stick for these kids.

The unpolitically correct Washington Reskins have become the Washington Redclouds. The new name undoubtedly still strikes fear into the hearts of the opponents they meet in the gridiron field of battle. Certainly beats the Washington Milktoasts.

A fast food robocook, complete with a hat, looks like the love child of Will Robinson’s best friend and a runaway jukebox. No need to cry “danger,” however, because, as Lara observes, french fries are no longer unhealthy, thanks to the “genetic revolution.”

In Lara’s apartment, a video screen advertises “The Simpsons Season 75 Spectacular.” It’s good to know that Fox has made a 50-year commitment to keep airing its greatest achievement.

Lara totes what seems to be a gun that substitutes sonic waves for bullets. This shootin’ iron can knock a suspect clear across a room and, in one case, render one quite deceased. Did she forgot to set the gun on “stun?”

Advertising is all-invasive. Dash looks out a maglev window and is assailed by a video telling him he looks stressed and should try some baked goods. A booze bottle features an animated video label. OK, maybe this aspect of 2065 qualifies as dystopian.

Minority Report falls somewhere between Battle Star Galactica (the remake) great and last season of Falling Skies terrible. It’s exact location within that quality spectrum remains to be seen. I am willing to devote at least another 40 minutes and a bag of Cheetos to finding out.