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Polymerase chain reaction is a cornerstone of molecular biology research. Using short pieces of single-stranded DNA called primers the previously invisible becomes tangible.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Television: The West Wing, 100,000 Airplanes, Season 3, episode 11

This episode examined the process of creating an inaugural address. The following is an exchange between Toby, the Communications Director, and Donna, the Executive Assistant of the Deputy Chief of Staff:

Donna: How many words in the Gettysburg Address?
Toby: 266.
Donna: And the Ten Commandments?
Toby: 173.
Donna: So you really wouldn't think you'd need 6,000 to discover how a plane ticket gets reimbursed.

Was the episode’s writer ascribing to Toby a “Rainman” type ability to count the words of a given text, or was this an example of insider trade secrets?

In Ted Sorensen’s Kennedy, Sorensen recounts his first planning session for JFK’s inaugural address. Pres. Kennedy, as was his custom, wanted to make a short speech. In addition to mapping broad themes and instructing Sorensen to get opinion pieces from JFK’s “brain trust” of friends, academics and politicians, Pres. Kennedy instructed Sorensen to read all previous inaugural addresses and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Sorensen’s notes from that day include:

  • Count words in draft
  • count words in Ike ’57, FDR ’41, Wilson ’17, Wilson ’13
  • ...
  • Make it the shortest since TR (except for FDR’s abbreviated wartime ceremony in 1945)
Sorensen’s process for the “Ask not …” address and Toby’s process in this episode appear eerily similar. It makes more sense that Toby’s mystical ability is actually the product of practicing his craft.

1 comment:

vijay said...

The way of presentation of the communication between donna and tobby is awesome and i like it the most in your blog.I found your blog while searching for the west wing episodes information.I found your blog really interesting.