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My third and final batch of hot sauce (habanero, shallots, garlic, salt, pepper, smoked Chilean merken pepper, organic apple puree, apple cider, honey, brown sugar, and apple cider vinegar) is a lip-smacking (in both senses of the word) masterpiece.  It’s a scorcher…but delicious as well.  A true culinary capsicum achievement.  I don’t know whether to eat it by the spoonful or smear into the eyes of my enemy.  It’s THAT good!

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Today, I had lunch with Dark Matter Episode 305 director (and Bitten Executive Producer) J.B. Sugar, a guy who’s as gracious and good-hearted as he is talented. It was a sit-down to review his experience on the show which, I’m happy to report, was nothing but great.  Like his episode, a manic adventure chock full of action, humor, bittersweet character moments, and the Android’s most bizarre undercover guise yet!

On our way, we happened across this familiar fellow adorning some sidewalk art in support of the local Canadian film scene…

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Why, yes, it’s none other than Cowboy Bruce McDonald, indie film auteur and occasional Dark Matter (Episode 107, 202, 206, 302, and 312 so far!) director.

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Speaking of the Android – she is also enjoying a well-deserved break from all the shipboard mayhem.  Pictured above in relaxed mode.

Hey, who feels like voting for another episode title?

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There are still some rewrites to do, a couple of polishes to finish, and a series finale to break but, for now, I’m taking it easy.  For now, it’s all about the dogs.

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We broke out the stroller for the dogs while Lulu managed to limp her way to the dog park long enough to say hit to all the dog owners before calling it a day.  Suji got to put on her wheels and motor around the park as well while Bubba, as usual, preferred to spend quality time with mom –

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So, we’re wrestling with indecision regarding Bubba.  The oncologist recommended a drug called Palladia which is a chemotheraphy medication.  It seemed simple enough: give him a single pill every other day with his meal, alternating with Prednisone, a corticosteroid and anti-inflammatory.  But, when we got home and read the special handling instructions, Akemi instantly had second thoughts.  Always use gloves when handling the pill.  Always wear gloves when cleaning up after your dog and be sure to quickly bag and dispose of your dog’s feces.  Keep pregnant women, children, and other dogs away from your dog’s waste…which, on the surface, seems simple enough unless you consider urine which isn’t really covered in the handout.  Also, we have to other dogs.  What are we to do if Bubba has an accident in the house?  Do we have to start crating him?

Sure, there are answers, but they all lead to one big question: Is it worth it?  We tried to do everything we could for our boy Maximus and he was pretty damn miserable in the end.  Maybe the Palladia will buy Bubba more time, but will it be good time?

So far, he seems in good spirits and his appetite remains typically voracious, but Akemi has noticed changes in him.  He still gets excited at the prospect of going for walks but, the boy who used to love his lengthy strolls now only manages half a block before we have to pick him up and carry him home.  He’s had accidents in the apartment, once even finding Akemi before doing so as if trying to send her a message.  He doesn’t so much nap as he does drift in and out, which makes us wonder what kind of discomfort he is experiencing.  Akemi says she feels like, every days she’s losing him a different way.

I’m looking into some homeopathic and alternate treatments as well.  Chinese herbs.  Mushrooms.  Someone even recommended cannabis oil.  As for the Palladia, we’ll make a decision on that after the weekend.

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I made another batch of hot sauce today using cayenne peppers, vidalia onions, garlic, salt, apple cider vinegar, apple cider, apple puree, brown sugar, hot smoked Chilean merken pepper, organic tomatoes.  Pretty damn tasty.  Akemi thought it mighty explosive (She describes it as “painful on the throat”) but I found it just so-so.  Tomorrow, I make another batch, but this time with the fresh habaneros I picked up from the farmer’s market.

I kicked off 9 day horror-fest with a viewing of The Invitation.  Although I guessed where it was going, I liked how it eventually got there.  A promising start.

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“It’s like when you make ganache and you put it in the fridge and when you take it out it’s an hour too early and it’s not yet set.  That’s what it was like.”

Akemi describing Bubba’s stool sample this morning.

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Today, we took Bubba a very relaxed Bubba (he’s already on vacation!) to see his oncologist.  This was the result of our meeting –

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In a nutshell, no to chemo but yes to targeted therapy which is comprised of a single pill (Palladia, which sounds like a great scifi world) given every second day. In a perfect world, it will target the tumors in Bubba’s lung and not the person charged with  administering said pill since the instructions explicitly caution anyone handling it to wear gloves while doing so!  We’ll alternate the Palladia with Prednisone, an anti-inflammatory.  I’m also going to look into a few promising-looking home therapy treatments.

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Suji and Bubba.  They’re like an old married couple.

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Despite her recent injury, even Lulu gets in on the action.

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Meanwhile, on Dark Matter, it was business as usual in the Raza underbelly.

Finally, presenting Dark Matter’s diabolical and deadly Misaki Han like you’ve never seen her before…

Ellen Wong Flips Out:

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“Is your dog relaxing or in distress?”asked the receptionist, prompting Akemi and I to swing a look over to the shiba inu sprawled out on the floor by a row of seats at the back.

“Relaxing,”replied her owner.  “She hasn’t eaten in five days.”

Five days?!!!  If any of my dogs skipped a single meal, it would be enough to set off the alarm bells that would send me off to the vet.

“Oncology triage to the front, please,”we heard the receptionist call over the P.A.

It was 9:45 a.m. and we were at the clinic, taking advantage of a late cancellation to get Bubba seen.  His cough, and the outlook, were looking progressively worse.  He’d had blood work done the previous night and this ultrasound would presumably confirm the worst.

And, this afternoon, when the results came in, they did.  The biopsy all but confirmed the cancer diagnosis and its advancement, between the results of the ultrasound and the x-rays taken the other day, suggested it was aggressive.  The doctor prescribed some cough suppressants to make Bubba more comfortable. Tomorrow, we go in to see an oncologist to discuss our options.

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I realize that fourteen and a half years is great for a pug and it’s almost two and a half years more than Maximus had, but about two years less than Jelly had.  Still, it’s hard and I had a great talk about this with Anthony Lemke this afternoon, all about family, relationships, and tough decisions.  Not sure how much time we’re going to have with the little guy, but we’re going to make the most of the time we have left.

Because of this morning’s appointment, my two awesome lieutenants were on set to cover for me as usual – Co-Executive Producer Ivon Bartok was on second unit, while Co-Executive Producer Lawren Bancroft-Wilson was on main.  I thank them for stepping up

Some Dark Matter-related goodies…

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Emperor Ryo Ishida (Alex Mallari Jr.) and his man Ash (Michael Reventar) – photo c/o Michael Reventar.

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Finish him! 

Security drone c/o VFX Supervisor Lawren Bancroft-Wilson (concept design by Henry Fong, modelling by Ethereal Assets, shots by CVD VFX)

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It feels like not all that long ago I had four dogs.  Now to most, four dogs would seems like at least a couple dogs too many but for me at the time, it was the ideal number.  First there was Jelly – alpha, bossy, troublemaking Jelly – who used to run the corridors of the Stargate production offices back in the day and once ate actor Michael Shanks’ tuna fish sandwich when he left it unattended in her presence.  Then came Maximus – heavyset, laid-back, affable Max – who we got as a companion for Jelly.  You’d be hard pressed to find a more big-hearted dog, as great with cats as he was with kids.  After him, came Bubba – jumpy, anxiety-ridden Bubba – who we originally got as a present for my ex’s brother but I ended up keeping (and getting her brother a toaster oven instead).  And then came Lulu – headstrong, relentless, clever Lulu – who rounded out the pack and, as the only frenchie among the pugs, demonstrated superior intellect in her ability to access hitherto inaccessible hiding spots for treats.

I remember lying in bed one night, with the four of them nestled in their preferred spots – Jelly on the pillow by my head, Maximus at my feet, Bubba near my legs, and Lulu close to my side – and thinking “Someday, I’m going to think back to this moment and remember how perfect it was.”  And I was right.  I do.  Often.

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Jelly, the love of my life, passed away two years ago at 16 years (and four months).  My longest relationship!

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Maximus passed years earlier at the far-too young age of 12.

Jelly and Max used to be oldsters while I’d refer to Bubba and Lulu as the youngsters but, all too suddenly, those roles have been reversed.  

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Lulu, who used to play for hours on end, has trouble walking now as the spinal surgery she underwent late last year has proven unsuccessful in stemming the advance of the neurological issues that are robbing her of her mobility.  It’s sad to watch her, clearly frustrated, as she struggles to walk a single block.

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And Bubba, once seemingly indestructible and impervious to the onslaught of time, appears to have aged dramatically over the course of a single year.  He spends most of his days napping and has recently developed a hacking “old man’s” cough that precipitated the recent veterinary visit, concerns, and need for an ultrasound.

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Suji, the latest addition to the family, is spry and spirited, surprisingly youthful at a relatively young 11.  She has her own mobility issues, the result of hip dysplasia, but has shown some impressive improvement over the few months she’s been with us, going from dragging her back legs around to walking with the help of a rear support sling to managing one, occasionally two whole blocks unassisted.

The hardest thing about getting a dog isn’t the housebreaking or the training; not the feeding or the walking or the daily care.

The hardest part about getting a dog is having to say goodbye.

Today’s entry is dedicated to long-time blog reader Narelle from Aus.  In remembrance of Ralph and Jack.

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Another weekend come and gone.  Between the demands of writing, plotting, chores, and bills, a little on-couch therapy with the new girl.

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Bubba, bundled up, ears tucked in, ready for the winter weather.

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Suji is one tough cookie.

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Any guest to our apartment automatically forfeits all rights to self-respect and become defacto dog beds.

Let’s hit the mailbag!

Alex writes: “How do you decide if an idea (be it for a show or an episode) is worth pursuing? Can you share one that you dropped and tell us why?”

Answer: In terms of show ideas, it’s really a personal preference.  If I find the premise fresh and exciting, or if I think it will be fun to write, then that motivates me to develop a concept.  In the case of specific episode ideas, I’m always looking for the heart at the core of the story, the character-centered revelation or moments that make it all worthwhile.  If it’s missing that, then I have a hard time mustering up much interest.

“What is it like to write in collaboration with others? How does that exactly work?”

Answer: Ah, it depends.  In the case of Dark Matter, the writers convene prior to the season and I pitch out where we’re going to go in terms of overall arc and stories, then we sit down and spin ideas and break the stories together.  When the outlines are done, they go through (series co-creator) Paul Mullie and I who will provide notes before sending the writer off to script.  After a first draft, we’ll also provide notes after which, once the writer delivers a second draft, I’ll do my pass, send it to Paul for any tweaks, and then deliver it for production.  When it comes to Paul and I, we simply provide notes on each other’s scripts.  Paul’s scripts are always tightly written, so it’s rare I’ll do a significant pass on them unless there’s a production concern (ie. the estimated run time is short and we need a couple of extra scenes).

“What did you want to become as a child?”

Answer: Detective first, then comedian, and finally writer.

“If you could thank someone who influenced/ helped you regarding your career, who would that be?”

Answer: Hmmmm.  I’d like to say all the writers I read growing up, from novelist to comic book authors.

“Do you have any advice on writing in general?”

Answer: Yes.  Write!  If you don’t feel like writing, force yourself to write!  Try to write every day.  And turn off the t.v. and read.

KathyC writes: “If we want to send you something, where should we mail it to?”

Answer: The production offices would probably be your best bet.

glowyzoey writes: “Did you always want to be a writer?”

Answer: Ever since I was writing those short SF and horror stories in grade 4, yes.

“How young were you when you first wrote fiction and in what form?”

Answer: See above.  I think I worried my mother.

“Do you remember what it was?”

Answer: I was heavily influenced by the works of Ray Bradbury, Roald Dahl, and O. Henry so my work tended toward the macabre with that unforeseen twist.  In 6th grade, I wrote my first attempt at a novel – “The Robot Revolution” – 200+ pages carefully printed in ballpoint on double-sided looseleaf.

“When did you first aspire to be a producer?”

Answer: When it became clear to me that the producers are the decision-makers and the ones with the creative control in television.

Line Noise writes: “Ice cream: Particulates or no particulates?”

Answer: Depends on the particulates.  I like subtle textural additions like shaved chocolates.

Alex writes: “I’m currently an undergrad student aspiring to be a screenwriter and director. What advice would you give to someone like me to be successful? And how can I set myself apart from others?”

Answer: You’ll often hear “Write what you know” but I think a fairer bit of advice would be “Write what you love”.  If you enjoy SF, then that may well be the place for you.  Just be sure to find a fresh take or a spin on a concept that makes it your own.  When I was pitching Dark Matter, some people criticized it as being “too much like Pandora“.  Sure, it has the same basic premise, but it’s the execution that sets it apart.  “Window of Opportunity” remains one of fandom’s favorite Stargate episodes.  Sure, it was very similar to Groundhog Day, but it was the exception, what made the story unique to OUR characters, that made it work.  In both of the aforementioned examples, it was the script that made believers out of the doubters.  And so, the best advice I can give you is to write a kick-ass script that can serve as your calling card.  Even if it doesn’t get produced, like our Pizza Man 2017 script, it will get you noticed.

Tinyiy writes: “Will we see any furry friends in dark matter?”

Answer: Ha.  Melissa O’Neil (TWO) just texted me yesterday, saying her character should get a dog.

Randomness writes: “Would a device similar to the Attero device from SGA be required if Blink drives were ever to be mass produced? And do you think a corporation would research one as a counter measure?”

Answer: That was something unique to Stargate so, no, I can’t see that entering the Dark Matter universe. Still, corporations would certainly see mass-produced Blink Drives as a threat if their rivals had sole possession so they probably would seek out counter-measures.

“Although the Code Geass reference likely flew over some peoples heads with the eye thing, you know when Truffaut transferred info to Three about the prison layout(early Season 2). Any plans to progress that technology she’s using some more?”

Answer: The corps will have more than a few tricks up their sleeves this upcoming season.

“Could you ever see Four using a Naginata?”

Answer: Absolutely.  FOUR trained her in both hand to hand combat and blade work.

Das writes: “You’re a writer, so explain to me why I fall for mistreated, misunderstood, and/or abused (male) characters? Mind you, they can’t be snivellers, no, no, no…rather they have to strong and determined to overcome whatever cards life deals them. (This goes back to my childhood, watching A Fistful of Dollars, and the moment Clint Eastwood had to heal and fight back after he was beaten to a pulp. This happened a lot to Eastwood in his various westerns…and I watched a lot of westerns back in the day. lol.) There must be some psychology behind it…one writers are well aware of.”

Answer: It’s the dichotomy of the vulnerable yet capable anti-hero.  In a way, they reflect the very best and worst in us, individuals who must come obstacles greater than we would ever have to face, yet manage to persevere and reach heights greater than we could ever hope to attain.

“I need that guy in Dark Matter. Will I see him? (Three showed promise in this regard last season (2.11) – can we beat him up some more…? lol.)”

Answer, Yes, THREE is definitely your guy.  We’re going to put his through the wringer this season.

“I would like more intrigue and mystery in S3 – will I get it?”

Answer: Oh, yes.  Keeping with Dark Matter’s tradition of twists, turns, shocks, surprises – and some pretty astounding revelations.

“I really miss your more personal, less work-related, entries…especially the funny ones about your misadventures and misfortunes. You make me smile (and laugh!) when I read them, usually right when I need it most. Will we get more of those in the future?”

Answer: Yes.  Weekdays, I’m going to feature the show and, weekends, I’m going to focus on my personal life.  And the dogs.

“Have you ever considered dropping drama to take up writing a comedy show?”

Answer: Nope.  Like StargateDark Matter offers me the best of both worlds: drama with heavy doses of humor.

“How about writing a humorous novel? Perhaps it could be about blogging, and readers coming out of the woodwork to pester you about their personal preferences?”

Answer: I don’t have the patience to write a novel.  “Downfall”, the short story I wrote for Masked, the anthology of superhero fiction edited by Lou Anders, took me 9 months to write – and paid approximately 1% of a script fee.  It was an incredibly satisfying experience but I’m not sure I’m up to a larger commitment.

“Miss me?”

Answer: As a matter of fact – yes!

Annie Wauters writes: “I would like to offer to put on a class for your female cast/crew. ”

Answer: That’s very kind of you to offer.  This is something I would have to take up with them once production wraps.

Keith writes: “Out of the main shows that you’ve worked on (SG-1, SGA, SGU, T———-, DM), which one would you say has given you the most creative freedom from higher up executives (whether or not that’s a bad thing)?”

Answer: Definitely Dark Matter.  Executive Producer and Prodigy Pictures President Jay Firestone has created a dream environment which allows me to tell the stories I want without having to compromise my vision.

“Is this the season where we finally find out more about the mystery guy in the hospital bed from the end of Season One?”

Answer: Check out Episode 310.

bambamfans writes: “Does Toronto have a great taco place?”

Answer.  Yes.  Toronto has the best taco place I’ve ever visited – Campechano.

“I’m not sure if you can say, but are the main characters separated throughout the first episode?”

Answer: It’s a good bet that whoever makes it off that space station will be separated from their fellow crew members -and have to find a way back to The Raza.

“Will me see any costume changes in the main cast for Season 3?”

Answer: Yes.

Len Weaver writes: “You’ve often remarked that Dark Matter has a planned 5 year arc… what if the powers that be ask for a 6th season?”

Answer: Heh.  That would be a question for them.

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A previous blog entry saw me use some baseball terminology to make a point about some of the challenges I was facing.  Specifically: “but then there are the unexpected curveballs that come at you from people who really should know fucking better”.

curveballa pitch thrown with a strong downward spin, causing the ball to drop suddenly and veer to the side as it approaches home plate.

North American informal: something which is unexpected, surprising, or disruptive.

In baseball, when a batter is on deck and is thrown a curveball, he must adjust to the pitch in order to hit the ball and put it in play.

In, let’s say film or television production, one could liken this to a drastic script or schedule change or, oh, say, an agent who, through sheer ineptitude, triggers the aforementioned.

Please note: The “curveball” is not to be mistaken for those pitches way outside the strike zone, balls, that end up being called strikes.

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Awwww.  It’s baby Jelly.

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And baby Maximus.

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Pictured above: Me consoling Suji who went into hiding after being freaked out by the vacuum cleaner.

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