Silent Shoes

entry_216Walking does not come naturally to me.

Many years ago I was that kid with the weird clothes. My attire was completely out of tune with that of my peers, owing to the fact that my mother refused to buy clothes from clothing stores. “A fancy logo got nothin’ to do with keeping your butt covered,” she’d tell me. But it has a lot to do with me getting my butt kicked, I thought. I wasn’t asking for much. I would have settled for jeans that didn’t feature a yarn and studs depiction of that weeping Indian from the “Keep America Beautiful” TV campaign. But try telling my mother that retirement home craft fairs were not bastions of haute couture.

I had no say in matters of wardrobe. I could only wait for my clothing to deteriorate and hope the replacement would be less of a fist magnet. Needless to say that I helped this process along where I could, scraping along the school’s cinderblock halls, or packing my pockets full of rocks until the seams were strained to the breaking point. But despite the cardiovascular benefits of hauling around ten extra pounds every day, my behavior was viewed as eccentric, and it won me no friends.

Neither was I safe in my own home. Money was tight, and we were living with my step-grandparents at the time, a cynical couple with whom I’d developed an adversarial relationship. My grandfather in particular was a balloon-bellied orangutan-like man with arms like the proverbial ten foot pole. One of his most cherished pastimes was cuffing me across the back of the head whenever I passed by his recliner on the way to my room. Regardless of my pace or bearing, his hand always seemed to land its mark. He could be in a gin stupor and fully reclined, and still catch me upside the head as I tried to sneak by.

Where apparel was concerned, shoes became a particularly touchy subject. With my mother perusing church flea markets every weekend there was simply no predicting what would end up on my feet–half the time I was lucky if I got a matching pair. For my birthday I got obligatory new shoes, logo-free as expected, which turned out to be moccasin / saddle-shoe hybrids with a “stars and stripes” bicentennial theme. They were straight out of a playground bully’s wet dream.
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Watching (an excerpt)

entry_206“You’re shy, aren’t ya?” Michelle asked, her chair squeaking as she leaned it forward on two spindly legs. I thought I heard her tongue falter on “aren’t,” like she was translating from the twang of her native “ain’t.” She asked the question in earnest though, and it wrinkled her brow.

I could only grin, but it felt more like a wince. The break room was nothing more than a converted closet, appointed with a perpetually-hissing coffee maker and a couple of derelict chairs. There didn’t seem room for an answer in such a confined space.

My job’s primary attraction had been that there simply weren’t many people around on midnight security. Yet now Michelle’s pale eyes were steady on me, like she was trying to see straight through me to the back wall. It was all I could do to avoid turning away. My arms felt exposed and leaden, and I couldn’t find a natural resting position for them, so I folded them across my chest. What an unfortunate confrontation.

She took my silence as confirmation. “Shy!” she said, this time with conviction. Michelle was a woman not given to subtlety, so I could find some comfort in her obliviousness to my discomfort. I’d often found myself studying her schoolyard caliber flirtations from across the employee office, where fewer than a dozen of my crew mates spent the last half hour of shift before turnover. The conduct there tended toward the aggressive, and bawdy jokes or sports bickering set the tenor of the mornings. I’d ascribed it to the forced intimacy, but I’d always felt a distance from it, like a transient at a family gathering. I could relate to my shift mates as far as the job went, and my work was something for which I was well-regarded. But the friendship of colleagues had never been a part of that. They were here, after all, more as a factor of necessity than choice. And now, face to face with the company’s most volatile personality, I felt positively awkward. Calcified. It was an indelicate reminder that I had succeeded only too well in distancing myself–the stolid observer had become more a fossil than anthropologist.
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Handy Man

entry_205Damned if my hands didn’t look good around Claire’s throat. But then, my inability to perceive an act so visceral with any subjectivity was the very reason I was finally giving my agent the throttling she deserved. It sent me into a rage that there was a part of my mind, even then, that wasn’t focused entirely on squeezing with every ounce of strength I could muster. I could just hear the photographer’s direction: “Now lace your fingers behind back there, and turn the hero head just a little so we can see your thumbs. Nice!”


It’s impossible for me to lose myself within any activity, particularly anything involving my exceptional hands. You’ve probably seen my hands–the tools of my trade–fondling various products over the past decade or so, though you’d never know me on the street. I am a plain man, it’s true, but my hands are widely-held as the finest the advertising world has ever known. My introduction to hand modeling came early, sparked by an off-hand comment during a visit with Mother’s best friend Claire.

“Will you look at that?” said Claire, swirling her martini glass so that the ice cubes tinked against each other.

Mother looked up from her nails, “Mm?”

“The boy’s hands,” she said. Just like that: the boy. “They’re like little porcelain spiders.”

I looked down at my hands as if I were wearing them. At the time I was holding the chocolate bar Claire had brought me, still wrapped. It had melted in the summer’s heat, and I’d been squeezing it between my fingers, enjoying the fluid resistance within the candy’s foil sheath.

“Jeffrey, don’t play with your food,” said Mother. “It’s rude.”

“It’s not food, it’s candy,” I said. I put the bar in my pocket where, incidentally, it would melt even more.

“The boy could be a hand model,” Claire said. She turned to my mother. “I’m serious. Have you ever thought about bringing him in?”

I didn’t like the sound of that. In my limited experience, “in” was not a place to be brought. The thought of small severed hands on black conveyor belts had me massaging my wrists.

Mother shook her head. “All children have perfect hands,” she said. “You forget. That’s what hands look like before you’ve worked a job, or done your drugs, or been divorced-”

Claire chuffed. “Maggie, stop.”
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The turbulent tides of high school were a shock to the system after a languorous summer spell. I had meant to prepare myself by visualizing just how different life would be there, in contrast to the easily-mastered halls of the lesser junior high across the way. But it didn’t strike me just how lost I would feel until I found myself, textbooks in hand, wandering through a maze of twisty little passages. The few friends I’d cultivated at the previous school seemed scattered to the winds, so when I spotted Robbie Osberg sitting alone at one of the lunch tables I hurried over.

Robbie wasn’t one of the main characters from the small group I considered friends, but then neither was I. We were the background characters–the ones who took part in other peoples’ stories–serving only to round out the group, to give it that stable cohesion. So naturally I asked Robbie if he’d managed to spot one of the primaries. “Hey,” I said. “Man, this place is big. I haven’t even seen Jeff or Ari or Mike. Have you?”

“Oh no you don’t,” Robbie said. “That’s it.” And he proceeded to gather his books and tray and slide them around to the next table, his back to me.

I was dumbfounded. He had reacted as if I were covered in the blood of his parents, certainly not the kind of greeting one might expect after a three month absence. He was joking, that was it. I picked up my books and sat down across from him. “So… did you have a good vacation?” Cautiously.

“I’m not talking to you,” he said, and ate his tater tots with joyless eyes.

A girl at the next table flicked a glance toward us, then instantly looked away. Now I was frustrated, and a little scared. Had I done something to him and forgotten about it? Had I disparaged him in some way without realizing it? Or had I allowed for a lapse of some kind? But no, that wasn’t possible. Robbie and I had barely had a relationship of our own. We’d simply been part of the same group, and had always been friendly toward one another. So why such a violent reaction? “What’s going on, Robbie?”

He only shook his head dismissively, rolling his eyes.

“Are you mad at me?” I asked. “Because I haven’t seen you since last year, so…” Nothing out of him. He’d put up a wall a foot thick, and I was on the outside. I tried one final time: “Are you okay?” Still no response. I might just as well have been talking to myself.
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Bedtime Story

entry_193Of my parents I remember precious little, and the memories I do hold are frustratingly elusive. The very act of reminiscing would seem to change my memories over time, and I find myself doubtful of details that I was once sure about. The trick, I’ve found, is to keep these memories far enough away to avoid tampering, but close enough to consciousness to keep from forgetting them completely. I take satisfaction in trusting that they’re there. That’s what I’ve told myself.

The cell I grew up in is but a memory now, but one that’s not likely to fade. For, while the details of my formative world are no longer what they once were, I can remember with great clarity how my cell’s stone walls would sweat on Spring nights. And on windy days, how the chill air would low as it wound its way down the wood plank steps of the cellar.

Were I asked why it was that I came to be locked away in a cell I would have to confess ignorance. Emotionally my adolescence was a tricky period for me, but not for the reasons one might suspect. I didn’t know any better, you see, and so had no context with which to understand my situation. No, the feelings I remember were limited to the most immediate aspect of my confinement: I missed my toys. Of course, now I reminisce and can make out only a small collection of colored objects, so how important could they have been at last? Still, the vision is iconic and tugs at me as I summon it.

My family’s new home–for we’d moved in only recently–was a spacious farm house in a secluded country dale. I was young, and not a particularly curious child, most often occupied by solitary play. A favorite pastime was to watch the dust motes dance in the sun coming through the porch window. I would lose myself in it.

I was quite young when my parents escorted me to the place I would come to know as my room. In truth I’d never been to this room before, but that wasn’t unusual in itself. I had no fear of the unknown, nor an interest in it, and my father took advantage of that on this day. The memory of my father sitting me on his lap has grown diaphanous, but though I’ve lost his words, I do recall a calmness to his voice. When he departed, and I was left alone, I simply waited to see what would happen next.
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entry_188“What are these patches?” I held the robe out to my sister.

She sat amidst a pile of old photos, and for a moment I saw her as a child again, playing in the leaves Dad had raked into a pile. “I don’t know,” she said. “Let me see.”

She stepped over the mementoes spread out over the attic floor, careful not to disturb them with her shins. “Here, around the collar,” I said.

There were two thin patches at the neckline, curiously threadbare, like a Rorschach pattern eaten into the cloth. “Oh, from shaving,” she said. I tried to work it out in my head. She smiled and took the robe. “Like this,” she said, donning the robe. She cinched the collar around her neck, and then made small sweeping gestures with her right hand at her neck. “He used an electric razor,” she said. I hadn’t remembered. “And over the years he shaved down the top of his collar.”

“And it never grew back,” I thought aloud, without intending to. She rolled her eyes, and retreated back to the photo pile still wearing the robe.

I returned to the wooden case I’d been plundering, with the hope of finding an artifact that might provide insight into a life I’d been less than familiar with. In a hinged box I found a collection of tie pins and cufflinks, mingling with some novelty coins from a long forgotten county fair.

“Do you remember his beard?” my sister asked.

“I can picture him with a beard, but I don’t know if it’s a memory,” I said.
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entry_179The world as I knew it didn’t seem any less implausible the evening that mom died. No, I never really questioned what “real” was until about a month later, the day the stranger showed up on our doorstep. That may sound like the beginning of a second-rate cliche, but I prefer to think of it as an homage. The story actually begins a lot earlier though.

It had never occurred to me before to ask what truth was because, frankly, the concept held no weight in my family. And anyway, the truth is simply that which is, right? The truth is malleable, not some obelisk standing sacrosanct in the garden. I say this because the question of reality, never popular among my elders, was held in high regard by guests to the household–or “audiences,” as my family referred to them behind closed doors. I come from a long line of actors, see, only our performances had no beginning or end. The play was ongoing, and rehearsal an interwoven part of my everyday life. I knew that our family was different–I wasn’t a fool–but our way of conducting ourselves was familiar to me. There was a method to it, a pattern that I could rely upon. Our ways were reasonable.

To say that I was an actor aloud would have been gauche, on the level of vulgarity. Our lives were those of implicit performance. And there was no greater performance than the annual dinner party. All the lies that were my life–my relatives–gathered with their friends in our home once every September. It was our cherished annual gala, always a reliable setting for drama. But I looked forward to them as opportunities to witness the craft of master thespians, each of whom had honed their roles to sharp perfection.

The dinner party was my family’s metier, settings of choice because they allowed for exposition on several levels, in a controlled environment. Yet, while these matters of logistics reached an easy consensus, other more basic things kept my family at odds: namely, the application of acting itself.

Mom was a strong proponent of the physical Chekov system of acting, her slight frame contorting like punctuation marks around a flood of words. On this she lost points by my father, who saw her physicality as a liability. Mannerisms were, to him, frivolous wastes of energy. But that’s because he was a Strasberg man.

I remember the last good party our family had, now twenty odd years past. We’d all spent a month prior in focused rehearsal, and we wore tension like wet sweaters. Hours before the arrival of the first guests Mom was already pacing. This was characteristic, and I could forecast that night’s proceedings as accurately as a meteorologist watching a cloud bank pulling in from the sea. “Always late,” she grumbled, and that’s all she would say. The rest was a frenzied blur of arms and elbows, slammed cupboard doors, and a single dropped martini glass, inconspicuously anointed an hour before curtain call.

“Don’t do this to yourself, Margaret,” Dad said, but he knew she wasn’t listening. “You need to relax,” he said toward the kitchen. “You need to think.” He was frustrated with her, but it was something he would use. It wouldn’t be evident until after the guests had left, by which time his blood would have turned to acid, and his words would press drapes to glass.

My grandmother was a purist who didn’t cotton to the “canned techniques,” as she called them. She was a self-taught improvisor, and wielded a particularly keen intuitive sense. Her terse rejoinders were lethal. Where Dad was prone to fishing around in his past to summon the emotions for a given scene, grandma liked to roll into a situation cold. “What’s it going to be today, Waldo?” she would ask, though my father’s name was Walter.

“Resentment,” my father said, and then he looked up at her from the dog-eared pages of his bible. “And I think you’re to blame.”

She flicked her cigarette at him from across the room and belted, “Don’t I know it!” Only it was funny when she did it.
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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI got to know Jane over the course of several weeks, in a recurring dream. In this dream I would be working at my desk when, invariably, she would show up and wait for me to notice her standing behind me, making faces. Then, around an ill-concealed grin, she would ask: “You ready?” And with those words it was as if she had unlocked something.

I was filled with a sense of freedom as we set out, leaving behind us the geometric clusters of oblivious toilers, and we wound our way through a maze of crooked, narrow passages. A row of belching furnaces ran the length of the final chamber, at the end of which was a bank of monitors. Each screen, set within a panel of knobs, displayed a different view of the hive upstairs in flickering chiaroscuro. There was something familiar about the equipment, though I’d always wait for Jane to explain it. “This is how they adjust the company,” she would say, and as she turned one of the knobs at random the cubicles on one of the monitors would flick in and out of existence.

Then we would chat, and that’s when the dream became lucid. “We been here before,” I would say. “I remember it now. So let’s talk about something else this time.” And we would, sometimes for long stretches. These conversations weren’t always linear–in fact they tended to meander–but in spite of that, or because of it, I felt like I had a confidante, a partner in crime, and I looked forward to our discussions.
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Right Brain

entry_174My mother removed her spectacles and studied them for a moment before dropping them into the breast pocket of her white overcoat. She never took that overcoat off, even in the evenings when she came home from the lab. “Okay,” she said, “I’ll tell you one thing about what I do, how does that sound?” Maybe I was too young to appreciate a more forthcoming explanation, but I had been persistent as only an eight year old can be. Inevitably the day came when she stopped to consider my question, rather than presenting me with the usual riddle, “a neuroscientist studies why you keep asking me what a neuroscientist studies.”

Pleased to have made it past that initial hurdle, I slid my chair up to the kitchen table and leaned forward. Though my mother was a leader in the field of neuroscience, to her only son she was an enigma. I didn’t have the faintest clue what her daily activities entailed, but I imagined that there was no shortage of smocks or shaved monkeys involved. She wasn’t a talker was the thing. She was a thinker. Maybe that was a prerequisite.

“I’ll tell you one thing,” she said, “and you can go and mull it over for a while.” She raised her eyebrows at me and I nodded. “I mean, don’t ask me another question about my work until you’ve considered what I say carefully.”

I nodded again.

Mom nodded back, then squinted as she fell into thought.

“Everything we do in life,” she began, “is controlled by our brains. Each part of our brain serves a particular function or process, so whenever you choose to do something it’s like…” She was searching. “It’s like little lightning bolts firing along a fine network of neurons, like a spider’s web.” She paused to make sure I was paying attention. I’d seen as much on television, even at my tender age, so I already had a good idea about what she was talking about. She retrieved the spectacles from her pocket and waved them like a conductor’s baton as she spoke. “Now, anything you do over a prolonged period of time, anything repetitive, whether it be tying your shoes, or juggling a ball, or even writing your name, when you repeat something like that over and over again, your brain looks for shortcuts.”

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entry_151Dan Trout shakes the fish from the end of his crude spear into an ersatz sack made from an old teeshirt. “Originally they gave me the spear because of my name,” he says, his face a mask of concentration. As he peers down through the shallow water to the smooth rocks of the shore he spots another fish and freezes, his arm poised, spear steady. When he strikes he moves with a quickness belied by his considerable girth, and the fish doesn’t stand a chance. The Information Technologist from an Internet-based bank in Atlanta adds the fish to the day’s catch, and peers into his sack, counting them up. “That makes nine,” he says. “This was a joke at first, for them. But my dad used to take us spear fishing when I was a kid. I’ve gotten good at it.”

Three episodes into the Prime Time reality show “Overboard: Nowhere” the disparate cast has already used up the small store of food they scavenged from the ship that brought them here, now capsized. Today’s episode finds them forced to hunt and forage for sustenance, and viewers watch as the cast tests its mettle in one of the harshest environments yet encountered on such a show. The past four years have seen Reality Television explode in popularity in both national and international markets, in part because it provides viewers with a voyeuristic escape from their own problems, but also because the shows are enticingly cheap for networks to produce.

Unfortunately, but not unpredictably, the market has reached a saturation point that makes product differentiation a challenging prospect. “Overboard: Nowhere” Executive Producer at Twentyfour Media Jasraj Tasneem responds, “Failure to differentiate is death in this industry. There’s a symbiotic relationship between the content producers–that’s us–and the advertisers. Consumers need to be able to identify our product as something desirable so they know where to go when they want more. That’s how we keep advertisers, and so it becomes our primary challenge to build that association.”

As far as the programs go, this challenge translates directly into dramatic escalation. In an effort to keep viewers tuned in, the producers of “Overboard: Nowhere” devised a show that raises the stakes for their cast in several ways. Associate Producer Julien Krause: “First of all, unlike the other reality-style shows you may have seen, we haven’t told our guys where they are, and in fact, most of the production process is highly compartmentalized, so that no single individual staff member sees the entire picture.” Culture shock and dissociation foster alliances and rivalries, a mainstay of the format. But “Overboard: Nowhere” only begins there. Krause leans forward in his Aeron chair and rests his chin on his steepled fingers, “Some things are apparent about the island immediately, like that is has no trees. You could hear some of our guys commenting on that even as they were swimming to shore after we sunk their ship. But other things are less apparent, such as the fact that the small fish they’re eating are only there during mating season, which has just ended. And then there’s the cast itself.”

The nine people who make up the cast of “Overboard: Nowhere” include a white supremacist, the eccentric recluse and chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer, a Taiwanese snuff pornographer, and former presidential candidate Michael Dukakis. Hardly the ideal candidates for life on a desolate tropical island, we watch as these individuals face very real trials and tribulations. The show foregoes the artificial competitions seen so often on other reality-based programs, favoring instead the very real goal of mental and physical survival.

“I can see my ribs,” says Sarah Bonner in episode 5, examining her bare, sun-reddened torso with concern. A hotel desk clerk from Baton Rouge, Bonner joined the cast based on the original premise, which concerned the relationships among the crew of a ship bound for the Caribbean. “I don’t even like fish, usually,” she says facing the mounted camera during her video diary segment. “But I’d sure kill for one now.” Indeed, the last fish was eaten during episode 4, but they’ve all but vanished since the weather changed. “We sent Dan out again though, so hopefully we’ll have something by supper. He’s a good guy, I think. Even though he’s, you know. Gee aye why? But I guess we’re all children of the Lord, even still.”

While Dan Trout hunts for fish on the other end of the island, Bobby Fischer seems to have retreated deep into a cave, pornographer Guy Chen is amassing a collection of succulent plant leaves, and Michael Dukakis, now a professor at Northeastern University, is arguing with Jessie Bearden about campfire maintenance. “If you stoke it like that, if you keep agitating it, you’re just going to burn through all of our fuel. I suggest you allow it to smoulder.” Dukakis is standing over her, his palms open in suggestion. But Bearden doesn’t hide her spite as she looks up and barks, “Why in hell should I listen to you for? You talk white but you ain’t even white.” Dukakis just rolls his eyes.

Episode 6 finds the company seriously emaciated, but worrying over a giant manta ray that Trout speared just off the coast, and then dragged for nearly a mile. Trout speaks in voiceover as we watch them saw through gristly flaps of flesh with sharpened rocks. “Yeah, they’re kind of reverential to me because I’ve been the only one who can use the spear to catch anything bigger than inchworms. I kinda dig that, but I’m getting tired of Sarah’s fawning. And I also know who the bad guy’s gonna be when I can’t find any more fish. There’s just nothing out there these days.”

Pam Morse is a yoga instructor, and she’s sniffing at a piece of the manta ray’s fin. “God, it’s so briny,” she says. “And aren’t rays intelligent? I heard they like to play with humans. That means they’re smart, right?”

Pornographer Guy Chen and Bobby Fischer have struck up an unlikely friendship, and merely laugh in response as they rib each other. “Whatever, guys!” Pam snorts. “I’m supposed to be vegan, okay?”

Executive Producer Jasraj Tasneem: “Look, it is more than just a vehicle for diet cola. We see this show as a lesson in social anthropology,” he says over video of Morse performing deep tissue massage on Dukakis’ hirsute back. “And the question is, how far will a person go? We have a controlled environment in which to explore that very question, and the fact is the FCC is far more lenient for documentaries, which, technically, this is. Meaning that–bonus–we can show full frontal.”

Stirring controversy, episode 8 finds Chen incapacitated by foot infection, and battle lines are drawn over how best to deal with the additional burden. As tempers flare, Trout appears from the south end of the beach hauling a blood-soaked sheet of canvas. Gasps are heard as the payload comes into view for the first time: a massive porpoise. “I think he musta been sick,” says Dan Trout in voiceover, “because he was a pretty easy catch. I just had to keep sticking him.” Dukakis looks horrified, and Pam Morse falls to her knees weeping, “Oh, how could you,” she sobs. “Dolphins are intelligent!” Dan says, “It’s a porpoise,” and Morse shoots him a black look. An hour later the sun is setting, and through gaunt cheeks we see jaw muscles working through porpoise steaks. Guy Chen addresses the camera, “Yeah, I see it as victory. Of course I never have eaten a porpoise out in the real world, but I need to keep up my strength now, because of my foot problem.”

Amid public outcry, episode 9 opened with the cast–save for Pam Morse and Guy Chen–feasting on chimpanzees. “I don’t know where Trout got these little guys,” says Dukakis, “but right now I don’t really care.” He wipes the blood from his chin and then sucks the tender marrow from the end of a femur. Morse has yelled herself hoarse, but continues to try to appeal to the morality of her comrades. “Monkeys are intelligent!” she screeches. “You know that! You don’t eat monkeys!” Sarah Bonner interrupts her pleas, “Hey! You need to shut the [beep] up, honey. You afraid we got one of your relatives or something?” Trout moves between them, “Ladies, come on. We don’t know how long we’re going to be here, so we just have to get along and make do with what we have.” Later, Trout confides to his video diary: “I don’t know how much longer we’re going to last. I think Guy killed Bobby Fischer, and that’s how he screwed up his feet. One thing’s for sure though: I haven’t seen any more dolphins, and I don’t think I could catch another chimp.” As the evening bonfire dims to a ring of glowing embers, Guy Chen pulls off one of his toes, and begins to weep.

Episode 10 was only seen on the east coast, before it was pulled off the air entirely. “I’m not touching him,” says Jessie Bearden, casting a wary eye on the corpse of the snuff pornographer. “Looks a little bloated,” Professor Dukakis says prodding Chen’s chest. “Most likely it’s deathgas.” As Trout looks on with visible relief, Morse’s eyes are fixed on the body. “He died from natural causes, right?” she asks quietly. “Hey, it was natural causes, am I right?” She rubs her stomach.

Jasraj Tasneem doesn’t seem disappointed at his series sudden cancellation. “‘Overboard’ was a success at the end of the day. Just getting the show on the air was a success, a milestone. And we only shot the ten episodes, so it basically aired to the end, which we couldn’t have choreographed better. As far as whether the experience benefited the cast, the jury’s out. How can you quantify that? It’s hard to say, this isn’t a gameshow.” And what of monetary prizes? “Like I’ve said, it was a documentary, so there are no prizes per se. We paid their air fare home though. And funeral arrangements, that was all on us. The real question is about mindshare. Our advertisers made a tidy profit, and I think our customers–or viewers, if you prefer–I think they got some food for thought too. The narrative tells us about the human condition, and opens it up to question. Conversation is good. Controversy is good. Win win win situation here, as far as we’re concerned.”

What’s next for Twentyfour Media? Associate Producer Julian Krause has a thought that he runs by his partner. “Two words,” he says. “Mars. Hillbillies.” Tasneem’s eyebrows raise as he considers the notion. Krause continues, “Rednecks on the Red Planet. If we work our connections we might be able to snag some sponsorship and tag along with Bush’s Mars deal.” Tasneem is nodding, “Perfect timing, maybe for the Fall 2015 run. I know some conservatives in the space thing, ex-military. Damn fine angle too,” he says. “Let’s send out some feelers. After lunch.”