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Nov. 11, 2005| 9:15 a.m. PT

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It's Veterans Day. Never, never, never forget. Today I wanted to share some of my favorite war-related sites. I can't cover all the thought-provoking links (and all the wars), but here's a sampling.

• This famed Ernie Pyle column,"Normandy Tides," was written the day after D-Day, and I don't think there's ever been a better lead in all of journalism: "I took a walk along the historic coast of Normandy in the country of France. It was a lovely day for strolling along the seashore. Men were sleeping on the sand, some of them sleeping forever. Men were floating in the water, but they didn't know they were in the water, for they were dead."

• Damon Rarey's dad was killed in World War II, a few weeks after D-Day, in combat over France. He left behind a cartoon journal of his life as a fighter pilot, and his son shares it online with the world. In one letter, he asks his wife "How goes it with the young 'un? Showing any of the latent Rarey traits? Betty Lou, if you have a strange, overwhelming thirst for scotch whiskey, it's probably just old Damon following in his father's footsteps."

• This museum site features wartime love letters from a number of different wars, from the American Revolution to the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Warning: If you're in a public place, you may want to be wearing headphones when you surf over, as the site immediately starts reading the letters to you. It wouldn't really hurt for your co-workers to hear them too, though.

• On Memorial Day, 1969, Life Magazine published a famous issue featuring pictures of all the faces of those Americans killed in one week of the Vietnam War. The intro to the photographs includes a chilling quote from a soldier on what was called Hamburger Hill. In a letter, he said "You may not be able to read this.  I am writing it in a hurry.  I see death coming up the hill."  If you cannot visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, there are several online sites that honor it. You can do virtual name rubbings at this site, and read memorials left at this one.

This site collects letters written by one Iowa soldier during the Civil War. It's a fascinating look into a past shrouded now by the mist of so many years. Says one line: "... we Respected Rebel Property But little & where Ever they Fired on our Boats We landed & Burnt Every thing that would Burn..." The site also links to the Library of Congress's collection of Civil War photographs.

Nov. 9, 2005 | 9:45 a.m. PT

Upping the ante on ‘Lost’

Warning: If you're the type who wants to avoid all and any possible spoilers for the ABC show "Lost," stop reading now. Seriously.

After two weeks away,


is returning to ABC with a new episode tonight, and some folks are more interested in what will play out on Mystery Island than they are the election results trickling in across the nation.

For one thing, "Lost" had a bigger promotion budget than most candidates, and for weeks now, ABC has been beating the drum about what a huge episode this will be and how one of the characters may be "Lost" forever.

Thanks to Web gossip columnists like TV Guide's Michael Ausiello (who spilled the "American Dreams" beans I shared yesterday ) and E! Online's Kristin, not to mention endless Weblogs, the plot of this episode has been picked over since April. In short: If you wanted to know about the suspected big plot development coming tonight, you probably know enough by now that you could probably write the script yourself.

Today's New York Times does a nice job of weaving together how the various gossip sources leaked tiny plot points along the way. (Although only the New York Times assumes its readers are culturally illiterate enough that it must define what a spoiler is.) As for the big development, some sites hinted broadly at the character affected, others just came right out and named the person.

I've written about spoilers before, and how we at MSNBC have occasionally fought a time zone battle, where we wrote about what happened on a certain show after it aired on the East Coast, but West Coasters saw our headline and were incensed by the spoilage. I understand that, and we've tried to adjust our headlines accordingly (though those write in saying you don't want to know any plotlines until months or years later, when the DVDs come out, get no sympathy here).

But it still seems funny to me that such a major plot development is coming as such a non-surprise to so many people. I wonder if it depends on the show. When a certain major plot development happened on "The Sopranos" a year ago, I was floored. I didn't see it coming that week at all, and that made watching it much more powerful.

In the case of "Lost," I haven't been bothered so much by the spoilers leaking out. The show has so many complicated plotlines that I'm really anticipating how the supposed plot will be delivered, and will of course be tuning in anyway. To me, "Lost" is a show less about the destination than the journey.

Nov. 8, 2005 | 6 a.m. PT

Dreams’ that never were

Spoiler warning: Don't want to know what was in store for the characters on the now-canceled "American Dreams"? If so, stop reading now.

I don't want to be accused of beating a dead show, but I know there's a healthy contingent of Test Pattern readers who were also fans of the now-canceled NBC period drama, "American Dreams." There were rumors for quite a while after the show was canned that a final episode would be released.

It's looking now like that episode, showing what happened to the characters after the regular shows ended, will be included on either the season two or season three DVD, due out in 2006 sometime.

That news is from TV Guide's interpid Michael Ausiello, who has seen the only-10-minutes-long episode. He reports on TV Guide's site that it's "flashback-heavy," and the only characters who filmed new scenes for it are Meg, Helen, and Jack.

According to Ausiello, Meg's at Berkeley, where she hasn't, for whatever reason, seen her parents in three years. While taking a bus to go visit Sam at Columbia, she stops back in Philly for a reunion. While on the bus, she shares that Patty went to Radcliffe (gee, who didn't see THAT coming?) and that Roxanne married Luke and they had a son named Woody Allen (groan...)

In another update, Ausiello gets producer Jonathan Prince to confess some of what he had in mind had there been another new season. Helen and Jack would have clashed over her helping draft dodgers, and the couple would have separated, but gotten back together. JJ would have gone to Berkeley to try and bring Meg home, and been exposed to the antiwar protests there. He eventually would return to work on the space program and Beth would return to school.

As for the hoped-for-by-many Meg-Sam romance? Prince tells Ausiello that because viewers were clamoring for it, he would have put the two together with other romantic partners. Can't make things too easy, after all.

I've also been enjoying Will Estes (JJ on "Dreams") in his new role on the soapy "Reunion," which airs Thursday nights on FOX. Gail O'Grady (Helen on "Dreams") has a new role, too, on ABC's "Hot Properties," but what little I saw of that show was pretty bad.

Oh, I can face facts, the show's kaput, it's not coming back, but it definitely touched a chord in me. Like so many of you, I saw bits and pieces of my family in the 1960s in the Priors. Good people, with good hearts, occasionally buffeted by the winds of a tumultous decade. If I were a history teacher, I'd try to use "Dreams" in some way. It showed more clearly than textbooks how enormous public events, like the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement, touched the lives of ordinary Americans. That's why I have a special spot in my heart for it, and why I so greedily devoured Ausiello's tidbits on what “Dreams” MIGHT have been.

Last week's Test Pattern


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