Friday, April 29, 2005

Celebration III pics coming later this evening

I know, they've been promised the last several days but we didn't get Lisa's photos back until yesterday afternoon, and she took 'em with her this morning to show her students before I had a chance to scan some. I'll get to work on that when she returns this evening.

On a related note, call it the "Vader Virus" or "Imperial Influenza" but lots of people who attended the festivities have gotten sick since coming back from Indianapolis. I've been under the weather with some nasty crap myself ever since Monday (we got back very late Sunday night). It's probably weather-related: we went from first-day warm and sunny, to cold and rain Friday and then snow Saturday afternoon and night. Then again with THAT many people from all over the world in one area, with those kinds of conditions, there ain't no telling what hellish microbes might have been bred across four days. Hey who knows, maybe Star Wars Celebration III will forever emblazon a new illness like Legionnaire's disease did. How about "the Sidious Syndrome"?

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Well, tonight pretty much proved that the man is insane...

"Teachers tell me they love No Child Left Behind."

?!?!?!?!?!?????

Okay Mister President: if you can find any teachers that do think that No Child Left Behind is a boon to their efforts, I'll eat my hat.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

"It's not 'intrusive government' when WE do it."

I remember about ten years ago or so when President Clinton was pushing for the "V-chip" to be installed in all newly manufactured television sets. People like Rush Limbaugh, Donald Wildmon and American Spectator magazine called it for what it was: government sticking its nose into something it had no business being in at all.

My, how the times have changed.

I said this then and I'll say this now: there already IS something controlling what children watch on television and the movies... and they're called parents!! And Mom and Dad together should be an adequate enough gatekeeper against what they will deem as objectionable without any help from the federal government. Or either the Democrats or Republicans.

Yes, I'm aware that this bill doesn't mandate any new technology like what Clinton did in pushing the V-chip. But the mindset is the same: that the American people are inherently incapable of taking care of themselves, so they need "authority figures" in government to be asserted over them for their own good.

Screw 'em.

"Must Flee Tee Vee": Exorcism on NBC tonight!!

Okay, so NBC's Dateline is going to broadcast a real exorcism tonight. Along with a segment on snake-handlers.

For their own reasons, I'm finding both of these items to be hysterically funny.

Parse that as you will...

"...And not a rubber nipple in sight!" New trailer for Batman Begins online, sorta...

STILL working on photos from Celebration III to post online! Didn't know I took this many and we've still got Lisa's to look forward to once they're back from the photo lab. That should be this afternoon so I'll probably just wait 'til later tonight to get them ALL up.

In the meantime, orient yer peepers at the new Batman Begins trailer at MTV.com. It's a pretty wonky setup to get it to play though: I had to use Internet Explorer instead of Mozilla because of something it does with Microsoft Media Player, and hopefully there'll be a MUCH better Quicktime version out soon. But it's still plenty to get me stoked: Batman Begins is on the VERY short list of movies that I'm looking forward to seeing this summer (the others being Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The War of the Worlds and some little art-house film that George Lucas is supposed to be releasing sometime next month). Looking at this trailer and the others before it makes me darned thankful that I wasn't one of the poor saps walking around wearing a Batman t-shirt back in 1989 when Tim Burton's movie was out. Which I like Tim Burton but his take on Batman... never quite resonated with me. This Gotham City looks and feels real, like someone really could put on a bat costume and with enough military toys would be perfectly believable. Check out the Scarecrow: LOVE it how he's got a simple burlap sack for a mask! No kitschy cartoonyism here kids. No extreme close-ups of molded-rubber crotches or nipples either: looks like someone kept Joel Schumacher a good cattle-prod's distance from this movie. Anyway, go watch it and enjoy a minute or so of madness and mayhem.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Is repeating video evidence that Idol is rigged?

Over at Drudge Report right now there's a story about an investigative piece ABC is set to run next week alleging that the producers of American Idol on Fox are manipulating the outcome of the show. This hasn't been the first time this season it's been suggested that "the fix is in" on the number-one television show in America, but so far this is the only major media attention given the matter.

I'm not saying that American Idol is rigged. I'm praying it's not. Hoping that there are some ethical standards being adhered to and that EVERYONE is being given their fair shake at going all the way.

That said, there was something on tonight's broadcast of American Idol that I happened to catch, that has been bugging me all night.

The show's now down to six finalists, the theme this evening was songs that have come out since the year 2000. Before each contestant sang there was a brief set of video clips about that performer: where he or she comes from, comments from family and friends, their singing history, etc. The first contestant to perform tonight was Carrie Underwood, the 22-year old farmgirl from Oklahoma and one of the admitted favorites - if not the admitted favorite - to win the competition.

Now, here's what I've been wondering about...

Back in January, during Underwood's first appearance on the show, there was a brief video montage about her then also. One of the clips was of Underwood taking food to animals on her farm. Dunno why I remembered THAT particular clip, but as best as I can recollect, the show's producers had that same clip in Underwood's video segment tonight.

Why would American Idol's producers go to all the time and trouble to collect this kind of footage about Carrie Underwood, when at the time she was, at best, one of the 24 contestants that would be pared down to the final 12? Did all of the 24 contestants receive this kind of attention from the show that early on? And not just Underwood either: I noticed that Constantine Maroulis got much the same sort of "extra attention" from the show.

This isn't meant to "diss" either Underwood or Maroulis at all. Personally, I think they're both excellent singers and they should do well no matter how well American Idol ends up for them. But let's be honest here: how many times did we really see Anwar Robinson or Mikalah Gordon in the pages of People, or in the footage that Idol's producers released for public consumption? Could it be that maybe some contestants just aren't, ummm... "telegenic" enough to warrant equal consideration? Admittedly, Underwood is pretty and the ladies find Maroulis to be hot, but this is supposed to be a singing competition, not a beauty pageant.

Or maybe I'm seeing too much in this one little quirk. That might be fair to say too. But I guess I'm the kind of guy who doesn't like the deck stacked against anybody, no matter how "less appealing" they look in front of the television cameras. And hate to say it but this season of American Idol has tilted too much toward the fair-faced already.

Monday, April 25, 2005

The scary thing is, he's showing more public intimacy here than he does with his wife

"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?"

-- 2nd Corinthians 6:14

Real cowboys aren't supposed to be that limp-wristed, are they?

About 1200 miles or so later ...

Just got back from Star Wars Celebration III in Indianapolis, after a grueling 12-hour trip that's left us pooped. This is the first I've been at at computer at all since this past Wednesday (it being early Monday morning now) and will file a full report later including pictures. In the meantime take a peek at the reports that got filed from the field during the past few days, courtesy of Brian AKA the daft, the daffy and the ever-dapper Darth Larry, who from the looks of it did a FANTASTIC job of relaying the sense of the thing to the folks back home.

Okay, more later. Me sleep now. It'll be good to wake up in the morning and not see a dozen Boba Fetts standing outside my hotel room door...

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Worst nickname for a pope, ever

London's The Sun seems to have been the first to coin this moniker, and I've seen it quite a few other places already...

"Papa Ratzi".

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Forcery update: How to make a grown man (almost) cry

The good news is, everything is backed up. At least twice over.

The bad news is, there's not enough time to reconstruct it all in time.

For the past several days I've been finalizing the work on Forcery, hoping to have it ready in time to bring it to Star Wars Celebration III in Indianapolis this weekend. And it was looking mondo AWESOME!!

And then the hard-drive containing ALL the work that had accummulated over the past week or so crashed and burned.

I can easily reconstitute the film from the material we already have, and the project files from Premiere and After Effects. That is, if we had time enough to do it before we leave. Except there is no time to do it. There's a complete version ready but... I'm not happy with the thought of getting it out there while knowing that it could have been a LOT better finished product.

So Forcery won't be ready in time for Celebration III after all. But that ain't gonna stop me from finally releasing it before this month is out.

Trust me: it'll be a hoot. You ain't lived 'til you've seen how buff George Lucas looks with a lightsaber :-)

Well, Pope Smoke Cam was fun while it lasted...

Four ballots was all it took for the white smoke to flow. Bells ringing in St. Peter's Square now. No one's come out to say who got elected yet.

EDIT 12:53 PM EST - Well, I was WAY off. Joseph Ratzinger is now Pope Benedict the 16th.

The "bronze" did bad? San Antonio PD may have violated rights of "Mad Max" fans

Looks like the story about the "Mad Max" fans arrested in Texas posted here yesterday was really something that the media blew way out of proportion. Photos of the event are now getting posted and some of the participants have been sharing the experience online. The initial news reports would have you believe that freaks on motorcycles were weaving in and out of traffic around the tanker, waving machine guns at everyone. But Dholcrist at Ain't It Cool News was one of those jailed and gave his description of the scene...
The articles posted aren't too terribly accurate, we weren't recreating anything, we just dressed up some guys, made some cars and trucks look like they were from the movies, and followed a tanker Chris had hired out to the Drafthouse. Yes, on the back of one of the trucks we had a fake zip-gun made of bright white plastic, but it's a ZIP GUN. Y'know, the quad-barrelled arrow launcher? So we all just traveled in a single line on the highway, under the speed limit. We weren't "surrounding" the tanker truck, we didn't carry "fake machine guns" (the only fake "gun" was the Zip Gun, which was blatantly fake). Vernon Welles was even there (better known as Wez), driving a replica of Max's car.
You can see the fake zip gun in the photos link above. And apparently local law enforcement was notified that this was going down so they shouldn't have been this over-reactive.

All the same, a dozen people spent most of the weekend in jail... and I can't find a damned good reason why they should have been locked up at all. But what really bothers me is what's being widely reported as one of the charges levied against them. From the Chicago Sun-Times website...

'Mad Max' fans mistaken for militia get arrested in Texas

April 19, 2005

SAN ANTONIO -- Eleven "Mad Max" fans armed with fake machine guns were arrested after they surrounded a tanker truck while making their way to a movie marathon in a theatrical convoy.

As the group headed to San Antonio on Saturday, police received several calls from drivers who reported a "militia" surrounding a tanker truck.

Police charged nine people with obstruction of a highway and two others also with possession of prohibited knives.

One of the organizers, Chris Fenner, said the arrests were unfair. He said he didn't know why anyone would have confused the costumed crew re-creating a scene from Mel Gibson's cult classic "Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior" with a real threat.

AP

Now, would somebody please tell me what exactly a "prohibited knife" is? Because my Dad and I make knifes for fun and profit, and we know a lot of the people that are real masters of this craft. And this has got to be the first time I've ever heard of possession of a knife being illegal. Yeah I know, it's against the law to bring one onto school grounds in most places nowadays. Even those laws go too far (expelling valedictorians for accidentally leaving a butterknife in a car floorboard...?!) but we're talking about mature adults here, who chose to have some fun in their own way and in a manner that did not stop anyone else from doing the same... and the only thing that was found to be thrown at them was a dubious assumption that if something LOOKS dangerous then it MUST BE dangerous and therefore "prohibited".

Could someone please send me the statute that these guys violated for possessing "prohibited knives"? 'Cuz either this reporter got things WAY wrong, or there's some laws on San Antonio's books that are in apparent violation of individual rights. Or the SAPD overstepped their authority and committed gross negligence and illegally deprived several people of their rights.

Not that I'm THAT big a fan of the "Mad Max" movies, mind ya... but the police department's rationale for arresting these guys doesn't pass the smell test.

POPE SMOKE CAM: Day #2, first puff

April 19, 2005: first ballot of second day of papal conclave. Nobody's been elected yet...

Am not Catholic, but I'm sorta rooting for Cardinal Francis Arinze to be voted for the post. He seems to be a pretty interesting fella.

POPE SMOKE CAM: Day #1, first puff

I'm going to try and keep a running chronicle of the smoke from the Vatican as the faithful in St. Peter's Square wait for the puff of white smoke that will signal that a new pope has been elected. Here's what we know of the results of yesterday's ballot, the first during the papal conclave (and this is ALL we know so far)...

I'm seeing lots of "betting pools" and odds being laid down as to which cardinal will get elected. Those are meaningless: NO ONE but the cardinals and their assistants inside the building have any idea what's really going down, and they are effectively cut off from the world. Practically nobody saw Karol Wojtyla getting elected in 1978 before the puff of white smoke came out of that conclave, right? Anyway, it'll be hard to do this during the next few days but I'll try my best to make a record of it.

Thank the Lord blogging wasn't big during the Clinton years...

"President's Intern" is one of the more clever blogs I've found lately. Yes, I know it's gotta be fake, but no matter which public figure this might be a sly broadside on, it's VERY hard to pull off this kind of parody: it takes a committment that I certainly couldn't apply on this normal a basis (last year's "Andy Kaufman Returns" being another rare example). The funny thing is reading some of the comments left on "President's Intern", I don't know if most of these people are "going along" with the joke, or if they're dead serious! Sorta like Rush Limbaugh's thing about "Uglo-Americans" that he discussed in his first book: one of his more genius gags that proved a point.

Monday, April 18, 2005

"But the Lord Humongous promised us safe passage through the wasteland!"

Geez I know gas prices are pretty high but we don't literally have to wage war for a tank of juice do we?! From the Associated Press via ABC News:
'Mad Max' Fans Arrested for Re-creation
'Mad Max' Fans, Armed With Fake Guns, Arrested for Surrounding Tanker Truck in Scene Re-creation

The Associated Press

SAN ANTONIO Apr 18, 2005 — Eleven "Mad Max" fans armed with fake machine guns were arrested after they surrounded a tanker truck while making their way to a movie marathon in a theatrical convoy.

As the group headed to San Antonio on Saturday, police received several calls from drivers who reported a "militia" surrounding a tanker truck.

Police charged nine people with obstruction of a highway and two others with possession of prohibited knives in addition to the obstruction charge.
Top Stories

One of the organizers, Chris Fenner, said the arrests were unfair. He said he didn't know why anyone would have confused the costumed crew recreating a scene from "Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior" set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland with a real threat.

"I honestly don't know how that could be, because 'Road Warrior' was so over the top," he said.

The movie marathon was canceled after the arrests.

These guys make those of us that dress up like Jedi from the Star Wars movies seem almost normal :-P

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Kyle Williams. Read it. 'Nuff said.

This week's subject: the GOP's blind loyalty.

It's precisely the reason why WorldNetDaily.com - despite every attempt to appear the contrary - has become such a dreary bore to read: because nearly ALL the columnists they have use their time and talent to shill for the Republicans... at cost of real ideas and original thought.

All I gotta say is: WND had better pray that nothing happens to Vox Day or Kyle Williams. If either one of them were to pull up stakes at that site for any reason, WND would lose whatever interest and attention that a lot of people still give it. Not to worry about Vox or Kyle though: it takes more than a website's failures to bring down a theological revolutionary.

Though I gotta wonder if anyone is left at Free Republic that would understand what Kyle is saying here...

BREAKING TONIGHT - WORLD EXCLUSIVE: The best news posted to this blog EVER!!

At approximately 10:15 PM EST tonight the phone rang. Since waking up about 6 this morning I've been working non-stop all day on finalizing Forcery and only allowed myself an hour's break to eat and goof off some. Still got a LONG night ahead of me... but my juices are really stoked now after getting the good news.

The call was from "Weird" Ed, my longtime partner in crime (and co-director, co-producer and co-star of Forcery so you'll be seeing plenty of him soon). I love Ed like a brother but for him to call at THAT late an hour is way unusual: he's either playing Xbox Live or online computer gaming or watching either The Matrix or UHF for the hunnerd zillionth time... or whatever else when he's just chillin' especially during the weekends. So for him to call THIS late meant that somethin' BIG was up. Like he had something IMPORTANT to relay...

And, he did.

It is The Knight Shift blog's greatest pleasure and joy to announce that about 9:15 PM this evening, Ed Woody (right) popped the biggest question of all to his girlfriend Olivia. No it was NOT about what kind of pizza to order from Papa John's... we're talking the OTHER biggest question of all! And Olivia did what any girl would do when the guy who loves her more than anyone or anything else in the world - and who happens to be one of the nicest, sincerest and kewl-est guys around - asks if she would be the one that he pledges to love, honor and serve for all the days of his life that God might let them have together on this Earth...

And... SHE SAID YES!!!

It's shoes and rice time, folks: we is gunna have us a weddin' soon! Ed and Olivia are getting hitched and... DARN this just warms the cockles of my heart bigtime!

No date has been set yet. But I'm already plotting out some things for Ed's bachelor party... hee-hee-hee!

~~ Congratulations Ed and Olivia ~~

God bless you both as you begin planning your new life together.

The Knight Shift is, of course, looking forward to posting actual photos of ensuing developments in this matter as they occur :-)

Harry Knowles recreates biblical plague, film at 11...

I'm afraid to ask, but: How do you intentionally breed over 25,000 houseflies?

Leave it to Harry Knowles - the mad maestro of the Ain't It Cool News website - to come up with a stunt that combines inspired homage with insane horror. Knowles and his buddies at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas did a huge premiere for the remake of The Amityville Horror. Harry got star Ryan Reynolds and the film's producers to attend. The theater's staff made a terrific-looking facade imitating the infamous Amityville house that patrons walked through as they entered the place. Harry pulled out all the stops to make this an awesome premiere. And... everyone who attended got to see the movie for FREE!

There was just one catch...

To get into the theater, you first had to walk through a cloud of twenty-five thousand houseflies, that had been bred just for the occassion.

Harry posted the twisted details a few weeks ago: everyone coming had to enter "the fly chamber" to get their individual ticket. Yeah, get inside. With the flies. And someone said they had to STAY there until a recorded voice screamed "GET OOOOUUTTTT!!"

Reports are starting to trickle into Harry's site, including this photo of Reynolds with the flies. Sheesh... I grew up on a dairy farm and never remembered the filthy things being THAT thick. So does this mean that somewhere in America there's a facility that can handle 25,000 squirming maggots at one time? Just plain ewwwww man. If you think you can stomach it here's a Quicktime video of the fly chamber in action.

Friday, April 15, 2005

This blog had its 10,000th visitor yesterday!!!

And I didn't get anything in the way of a nice price for whoever was the lucky guest! :-(

Whoever you were, go out and buy a candy bar and pretend you got it from me.

Thanks to everyone who has seen this lil' blog get this far.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The idolatry of modern America

Found a VERY good article by Clyde Wilson, a professor of history at University of South Carolina. In "The Cerebral Emperor" Wilson raises a warning against the American people partaking in what could only be described as "worship of government". Here's the part that resonated particularly strongly with me on some things I've been pondering lately...
How did we get to this state of emperor worship—the need to identify with "our" president, as if he were the father of our one big happy family? It would seem that for millions of Americans now, to criticize "our president" is to commit treason against what they imagine to be a family. Well, the President is not "my president." He is a rather mediocre and troublesome man who has acheived temporary (let us hope) power through a corrupt and irrational process that required of him neither an admirable character nor proven services to the country. The President is most certainly not "my commander-in-chief." He is merely during his term of office head of the Armed Forces established by law—that is, he has the responsibility for directing their operations. He is not commander-in-chief of the United States. Constitutionally considered he is not even commander-in-chief of the federal government, which was supposed to be a government of divided powers.
Now, I defy anyone to point out the fallacy of the above paragraph. 'Cuz when you study the traditional, historical role of ANY elected officials in America, you CAN'T find it anywhere that they're supposed to be a sovereign lord or king over us. And yet, we act as if they are just that...

Not long ago I wrote that there are three kinds of people in this world: those that want to control others, those that WANT to be controlled, and those (like me) that are OUT of control. Now, why is that? I think it has to do with the things we cherish and value most during our life on this Earth. It further goes on to define how confident we are as individuals.

Some of us want freedom... I mean real freedom. We don't want there to be any guarantees of life: just an honest shot at making it on our own with whatever God has given us to work with. I like to think that we do put our confidence both in ourselves and in God.

Then there are those who want power, obviously. Ultimately these people have NO confidence in God whatsoever, so they put their confidence in the accumulation of material wealth and affluence. It's NOT enough for them to simply play with whatever cards life deals them: they want to stack the deck in their own favor... because they're afraid to let ANYTHING or ANYONE bring uncertainties to the table that they're not prepared to deal with in their own minds.

And then there are those who lack just as much confidence as the second group, but they're even more pathetic.... because they put their confidence in those who place their OWN confidence in power and control.

That's what most of the American people - and maybe most people in this world - are: they've been made too afraid to take the reins on their own. They think they cannot have the wisdom or power... so they're expected to yield their lives over to those we are supposed to believe have been blessed by God with all the wisdom, and power, and right to govern as THEY see fit.

I think it's fair to say that most Americans really are slaves: in thought if not in flesh. I mean, at least consider why it is that most of us are INCAPABLE of comprehending anything politically without it being defined by the Democrats and Republicans. Who gave them the keys to our minds?

Come to think of it, who the HELL are both major parties to believe that they have sovereignty over the American people at all?! I sure as hell didn't put them in charge of my life... did you?!

The modern American is more a slave than any ancestor of those brethren among us of African descent. I would even dare say that the slaves of antebellum America possessed more strength and freedom than most of us today have ever known: it was not their own doing that their bodies were in bondage. But their minds were their own, and their spirits strong. In every way that really matters in the eternal sense, they were free... because they chose to be free. It's like what Andy said in The Shawshank Redemption: that there's something within each of us that no one can touch or hurt, unless we let them...

Well, most of us not only let them touch us, we willingly accede our souls getting raped without lubricant. For practically every moment of our lives. And that's something that hardly any of our ancestors tolerated or encouraged.

No, it's not freedom or even a sense of control that most Americans want, but security. They don't want the nuisance of having to worry about their own lives. They don't want to have to THINK for themselves... but there's plenty enough folks more than willing to think for them. It doesn't take too much to convince the insecure gullible that the power-mad jackals are trustworthy either: so long as they claim strength in numbers and enough money to buy plenty of airtime, they can get away with any lie, no matter how big... and usually the bigger the lie the easier the masses will swallow it.

Well, like I said before: you can either be controlling, or be controlled. Or you can choose to be out of control, which isn't the easiest thing in the world, because we still have to figure out what we're going to do with everyone else and their insecurities.

Do I have some of my own? Sure do. But I ain't gonna let a government or political party tell me how to handle them.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Does this mean Commander Ashtar is returning to Earth?!

Dear Lord... I never thought that this day would come again.

Chad, if you're reading this, I heard something about this a few weeks ago but didn't think they were SERIOUS. Apparently they were.

It's Ken and Mark.

They're ba-aaaack.

The mother of all call-in shows (well WE thought so back in the day anyway) has returned bigger badder and bolder than ever. Check out the official website for "Monday Night Live" for the 411 on the return of a local legend.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Why the Bush-bots will loathe the new Star Wars movie

So... you a George W. Bush supporter?

'Cuz if you are, you aren't going to like Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith one bit. At all.

It comes on very good authority to this blog that the final chapter of the Star Wars saga is a MASSIVE slam against Bush.

It won't be PERSONAL, mind you. In the character and machinations of Emperor Palpatine, George Lucas is merely using a metaphor for EVERY would-be tyrant throughout human history. And knowing what I know about it now, I cannot but believe that this detail of the story was planned out long, LONG while back.

But that won't come as any comfort to Bush and his supporters.

In fact, based on what I've been given about Revenge of the Sith, this movie might incite some blatant thoughts about active rebellion against Bush and his cabal.

But if not, the parallels between Palpatine and Bush are damned downright unsettling. Anyone with two neurons and a synapsis between 'em isn't gonna fail to see the analogies that Lucas has evoked. F'rinstance (SPOILERS AHEAD)...

- something happens that Palpatine will exploit, turning it into an excuse to demand more power from the Senate and effectively making him an absolute dictator. For the most part the Senate cheers and goes along with him.

- Palpatine will gain the power to declare anyone an enemy to be destroyed, at his own pleasure.

- At one point Palpatine will claim to be above any kind of accountability.

- There's one thing in particular that I can't help but think is a dire reminder of the situation in Iraq right now. Don't know if it'll make it into the final cut of the movie or how many will see this, but I did and it's a pretty damning indictment against ANYONE who would get innocencts involved in this kind of meaningless conflict.

- The whole notion of political parties and having one party dominate just about everything takes it on the chin bigtime in Revenge of the Sith. Anyone who still adheres to that outdated belief after seeing this movie should forevermore be branded a blithering fool.

- A modified take on Bush's speech about "if you are not with us, you are with the terrorists" is used by Palpatine.

- There's some real allusion to the PATRIOT Act and it ain't pretty either.

There's more but I can't recall all of it just now. Better that way anyway: I don't wanna spoil it for anyone and I don't want to know anymore for my own part. But I can't help but think that maybe, just maybe, Revenge of the Sith could be a seed of some much-needed dissent in this country against The Way Things Are.

I wouldn't mind being a Bothan Spy in that action :-)

The Matrix Online has me

Been meaning to write about this game for a few weeks now. It retails for $50 but through a bizarre congruence of luck and multiple gift certificates I wound up picking it up for about ten dollars the day it came out! Figured it was worth at least a looksee. And if it wasn't up to snuff well I wouldn't be out of the full wad of cash, just like I scored Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords from a guy on eBay for twelve bucks (and it's not even worth THAT much, until LucasArts FINALLY releases a patch that will fix ALL the bugs that make this game darn unplayable... but that's a rant for another post). Right now I gotta rave about The Matrix Online:

This is now my "drug of choice" so far as videogames goes. Or at least computer games: I'm also HOOKED on MechAssault II for the Xbox (don't worry Ed I'm just waiting to get REALLY good then I'm coming after your butt on Xbox Live :-). I've been playing Star Wars Galaxies for a little over a year now and I still love that game, it's AWESOME and it's gotten even better as time has gone on (and promises to get better still in the near future with the combat system upgrade and revamp for Smuggler, my chosen profession) but I haven't been able to spend as much time in Galaxies lately as I have in The Matrix Online. Fer one thing, it's HARD to resist the chance to be involved in the ongoing saga of the Matrix... and for it to COUNT as official story canon!

You see, The Matrix Online picks up after the events of The Matrix Revolutions, when Neo sacrificed himself so that Agent Smith could be destroyed before Smith destroyed the Matrix and everyone in it. In doing so Neo negotiated and won a truce from the Machines that were trying to destroy the last free humans in Zion. From now on the Machines won't attack the people of Zion. Zion won't try to destroy the Machines. Anyone that wants out of the Matrix is now free to leave. No one "side" was destroyed in the war, because Neo realized that EVERYONE deserved a chance to live, be they flesh or metal. After a century and more of war, there was finally peace.

That's where The Matrix Online comes in: when people are trying to WRECK that peace.

And this time it's not the Wachowski Brothers calling the shots on where this story goes, but you and me.

And so far it's been a heckuva fun ride!

The day the retail version hit I installed the game and immediately set about creating my persona in the Matrix. As you can see from the pics above, he looks a LOT like me :-) I named him "Cyllinus" and for his backstory said that he was once a history student who realized that there was something wrong with the subject he studied, and came to discover the truth about the world that he had always thought was real. I then gave him something of a religious quest, saying that in pursuing aspects of the Matrix he is trying to discover the true nature of God. Hey this is the Matrix saga so anyone running around in it DEMANDS a deep philosophy driving him/her/it right?

Well, in the two weeks or so since Cyllinus took his first breath of digital life, the ongoing storyline of the Matrix has erupted into all-out war on the streets of the mega city. Neo is dead but Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne and other actors from the films are providing voices for their characters during in-game cinematics) is obsessed with the Machines returning Neo's corpse. Red-eyed fake Agents are starting to swarm out of nowhere and nobody knows WHERE they're coming from or WHO is sending them: the Machines claim innocence and the Merovingian's gang swears they ain't behind it either. Some are saying Morpheus is trying to destroy the truce by acting on his own. And now the mysterious fake Agents have been enigmatically "upgraded" into the considerably more dangerous "N30 Ag3nts" (the "Neo-Agents"?!)

What this is all lending itself to, is that in two weeks time The Matrix Online has become the first massively-multiplayer online role-playing game that has given rise to full-bore philosophical disagreements among players and even outright religious jihad inside the game. You can choose to side with either Zion, the Machines or the Merovingian and his fellow Exiles but even then NOBODY is trusting anybody else, not even within one's own side. I'm playing on the Method server and wound up founding and leading a new faction - the Priory of Zion - and just today WE were accused of not serving the best interests of Zion... that we were "traitors" even. I told our accuser that he is getting perilously close to sounding like many tyrants throughout history who have said that "if you aren't with us, you are with the enemy".

Does this sound like FUN, or what?!

And the neatest thing is, right now I and my character "Cyllinus" are forever official part of the Matrix story. If any future movies are made, they are going to have to acknowledge the events of the game and what the players have done, according to no less an authority than the Wachowski Brothers themselves. Meaning that if I make Cyllinus do something particularly outrageous in the game, he stands a shot at getting portrayed in any future movies (though that's kinda doubtful since there won't be any more movies we're told).

Even so, this is a bold and refreshingly new kind of storytelling: one that hasn't been attempted this way before. And even though I'm not a "power player" it's a way kewl thing to be part of it in some small way.

Hey, if anyone plays this or winds up playing it, look me up as "Cyllinus" on the Method server: the Priory of Zion is always welcome to the prospect of a new recruit :-)

Crunch time on "Forcery"

Right now I'm taking a break (after more than 24 hours straight of final touching-up to "Forcery", going on 3 hours sleep and not nearly enough food) while the bigger of the two 'puters here crunches some video/audio rendering. It's been mind-numbing work that requires total concentration. So much so that since yesterday Lisa is spending the next few days at my parents' home 'cuz otherwise I'm going to drive her totally bonkers. So right now it's just me and two computers and a lot of DVDs and videotape and some audio software that I'm still getting the hang of. I thought the thing was ready to go, but some complications came up and... well let's just say that come this time either tomorrow night, or early Wednesday, this monkey that's been on my back the past three-plus years (since first starting the script the night before 9-11 happened) will finally be DONE!

But right now I'm gonna take a breather, and eat and catch a small nap and use the bathroom, and maybe have some fun with the blog.

BTW, movie making is a TOUGH thing to do!!! I can't think of anything more fun that I'd love to spend the rest of my life doing though :-)

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Darth Larry beat me to it :-)

Head on over to my buddy Brian's blog and see what he's got to say about the Episode III soundtrack. Where did HE get it? He's got his sources... as do we all :-P

DARNNIT!!!

Had a great writeup for the Episode III soundtrack then Mozilla inexplicably crashed. Ahh well... I don't mind listening and doing this again :-) 'Specially that AWESOME "Battle of the Heroes" theme.

Awright, how the heck did the ENTIRE soundtrack for Episode III land in my e-mail box?

Not that I'm complaining, mind you!

Will have a review up shortly.

Friday, April 08, 2005

They're raping our childhood. Again.

It's being reported at CNN that Cookie Monster will no longer be a glutton for cookies. That the googly-eyed Muppet is now set to become a health-food advocate.

Sheesh what next: Bert and Ernie come back from Boston in a "civil union"?

Thursday, April 07, 2005

"... And Willie Nelson as Uncle Jesse."

That's it. This is either a sign that the End Times are upon us, or there is NO God!





Ain't It Cool News has plenty more if you're looking for a sane reason why you should poke your own eyeballs out.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

John Paul II, "the toil of the sun", and Friday's funeral

Gotta admit, this thing wigs me out a bit...

It's a pretty well-known bit of prophecy: the "papal forecast" by St. Malachy. In 1139 the Irish monk Malachy went to Rome and upon approaching the city he supposedly was struck with a vision about ALL the popes that would come from his time on to... well, the end of time. Each forthcoming pope was given a Latin description about some characteristic of the man. Whether or not its a real prophecy from the source or a later-made forgery attributed to Malachy is highly debatable. But if you click that link you'll find some things that might raise your eyebrows.

Like, f'rinstance, the description that Malachy gave for Pope #266 on the list, corresponding to one Karol Wojtyla, better known to the world as Pope John Paul II:

De labore Solis
Translated it could mean "from the toil of the sun". Or "from the eclipse of the sun".

Pope John Paul II was born on May 18th 1920, during a solar eclipse.

This coming Friday, April 7th 2005, Pope John Paul II will be buried during a solar eclipse.

From CNN.com:

Partial solar eclipse on Friday


Wednesday, April 6, 2005 Posted: 12:58 PM EDT (1658 GMT)

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- Sky-watchers from the South Pacific to the Americas will witness the first solar eclipse of 2005 on Friday when the moon blots out part of the sun.

It will be a partial eclipse rather than a total one, in which the Earth is cast into darkness. But it will be the last partial solar eclipse visible from the continental United States until May 20, 2012.

Solar eclipses occur when the Earth, sun and moon line up in such a way that the moon casts a shadow over Earth.

Friday's eclipse will last from a few minutes to over an hour, depending on one's location. In much of the continental United States, people will see what looks like the moon taking a bite out of the sun, with the bite bigger over the South.

In Central America and the northern portion of South America, the sun will be reduced to a narrow ring of fire.

Astronomers warned people not to stare directly at the sun without eye protection...

By the way, the description for the next pope that Malachy gave is "Gloria olivae": "the glory of the olive". And next comes "Petrus Romanus", AKA Peter of Rome, who will be the last pope and then the world ends.

Parse this as you will.

Don't let THIS happen to YOU: Star Wars fans line up at WRONG theater!

By the way, expect an onslaught of Star Wars stories for this next month and more as we get closer to the release of Episode III. This one HAD to be posted! From Variety.com:
Inside Move: Fanatics laying it on the line

'Star Wars' fans stew in queue


By GABRIEL SNYDER

If a movie isn't playing at a theater, will its fans still line up outside? For "Star Wars" fans, the answer is a befuddling yes.

Saturday, 46 days before "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith" opens on May 19, the trilogy's enthusiasts began their vigil outside Grauman's Chinese Theater.

Problem is 20th Century Fox doesn't plan to open the film at the Chinese, opting instead for the ArcLight a few blocks east.

"Star Wars" or no, the diehards are resolute about keeping their line on Hollywood Boulevard.

Underneath a make-shift awning yesterday afternoon, 11 people were in line doing what appeared to be homework, pecking at laptops and talking to members of the media.

"We've heard all this before," said Sarah Sprague, one of the designated spokesmen for the group. In 1999 and 2002, there were plenty of rumors (ultimately false) that the previous two pics weren't going to open at the Chinese.

This year the rumors seem to be true. Fox and the ArcLight haven't finalized their "Star Wars" deal, but execs on both sides say they expect "Revenge of the Sith" to play the ArcLight and not the Chinese.

A media-savvy bunch, those waiting at the Chinese hope press interest in covering (and most likely mocking) them would persuade George LucasGeorge Lucas and Fox to move the booking.

And Sprague was adamant the line isn't moving to the ArcLight. "This is still the epicenter for 'Star Wars' fans. For the big iconic pictures of the 1970s, people lining up were here. They weren't at the Cinerama Dome."

Their other reason is that it'd be more difficult to raise money for their charity Starlight Starbright if they weren't on Hollywood. However, cops won't let fans collect donations from passersby; instead, they pass out pamphlets with a Web site address.

"Even if it's not here, we'll just go see it somewhere else. We're not doing this just for the movie." Besides, she added, "What's the point of lining up at the ArcLight if someone is going to go online and get the best seat in the house?"

But wouldn't that still make more sense than spending a month outside a theater that isn't playing the movie?

"Lining up for anything, what part of that makes any sense?" she responded philosophically.

As theaters normally do, the ArcLight is likely to ask Fox that it be the only theater playing "Revenge of the Sith" in the immediate area. And even if it doesn't, Paramount confirmed it will open "The Longest Yard" at the Chinese the week after "Revenge," which means Fox won't want to book the theater for just one week. (Paramount partly owns Mann Theaters.)

The kerfuffle has inspired some soul-searching among the fans, and they have discovered that standing in a "Star Wars" line is actually more important than seeing a "Star Wars" film.

"The telling thing is -- for me, at least -- if the film is not playing at the Chinese ... I have zero desire to see it at all," a fan who calls himself Obi Geewhyen posted on the message board at Liningup.net. "I'm in it for the lineup only and don't give a darn about the conclusion of this lackluster, so-called 'Star Wars' series."

Hope springs eternal, Sprague said. After the last two "Star Wars" films, "We're all a little beaten down," she said. "But this one could be it!"

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

UNC brings home another one

Okay Chad, I'm gonna do what I said I was gonna do if your alma mater won it all tonight. And you KNOW this pains me, being the Duke/NC State loyalist and all, but...

I must admit though: the Tarheels earned this one for sure. That was one of the best basketball championships I've ever seen played. UNC and Illinois both poured their hearts into this one.

You did good tonight, Chapel Hill. Hope you savor every bit of this victory :-)

Monday, April 04, 2005

Episode III Midnight Madness After-Action Report

Stop me before I do this again.

Oh yeah, that's right: there's no way this can be done again, 'cuz this is the last movie.

Well then, might as well go out in a blaze of glory...

MIDNIGHT
MADNESS
Saturday April 2nd 2005

12:01 AM on April 2nd was the earliest that the REAL loot from Star Wars Episode III went on sale. There'd been the standard "teaser" stuff over the past few months like a coupl'a LEGO sets and some preview action figures, but this was the real deluge. Some of us had to be the first to behold a virgin, unsoiled, unblemished stack of new Star Wars merchandise and if not now then it would be never again, 'cuz this is the last Star Wars movie after all. So a few days before my good friend Brian and I started laying out our plans for Friday night. He came by the apartment about 9:30 and we headed out soon thereafter, he in his Revenge of the Sith t-shirt and me in my full Jedi garb (including lightsaber). We scoped out the scene at the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Greensboro then went to Toys R Us and decided this is where we needed to be for first strike of the evening. Y'see, Toys R Us had an exclusive Holographic Yoda action figure that was only going out to first 12 people in the door and we wanted to take a stab at that. Wal-Mart had some other exclusive but it wasn't an action figure one. Target had the "Flaming Lava Darth Vader" that we wanted to take a crack at later that morning, but we had to go for Yoda right now. We got in line about 10:30 at Toys R Us and by 11:30 here's what it looked like...

The guy in this next photo, his name's Fonzo and we remembered each other instantly 'cuz both of us were the VERY FIRST to be in line at this same Toys R Us when they had Midnight Madness for Episode I six years ago! I was first to arrive then and this time he got the sacred honor. So from now on you can know that a guy named Fonzo was the first to get his hands on new stuff from the last Star Wars movie...

And here is Fonzo and me, together again (and Fonzo is holding one of the tickets that went to the first twelve people who arrived, so that we were guaranteed to get a Yoda figure):

That's Brian on the left and the dude in the green jacket is Scott. They also hold the coveted tickets...

And just to let everyone know that I got one legitly...

Finally, Magic Hour hit and the clerks opened the doors at 12:01 on the dot. We swarmed in like Visigoths raping Rome, grabbed the nearest buggies and tore a path of destruction through the Tele-tubbies and Harry Potter stuff.

And there it was...


The action figures were the first to go. The store clerks kept a steady barrage of them coming, like so much heroin flowing into the veins of a crazed junky...

There's a reason why Brian and I went together this night. You see, his wife was out-of-state and just before leaving that morning her last words to Brian were "don't buy too many toys tonight!" That's what Lisa told me that evening too. So Brian and I were like "accountability partners" to each other: we were going to make sure that neither one of us went back home to his wife and have to explain ALL these Star Wars toys littering the living room.

But of course it being the LAST Midnight Madness, we had to go hogwild a little bit...


That's the toy Yoda doll that Brian found to be insanely cute. He's also holding the Holographic Yoda figure. Then I got to check out mine...

...but the REAL prize of the night HAD to be the "Darth Tater" Mr. Potato Head:

I think we kept the night's haul pretty modest. Some people though wanted to relish it just a little bit more...

We lasted about 30 minutes at Toys R Us then hit the road for the Wal-Mart Supercenter. Not as much hooplah there as Toys R Us had but even close to 1 AM there were some devoted parents who had brought their kids in to oggle the goods. Here's Brian again (who seems to have had a curious fixation on Yoda that evening):

We got back to my apartment about 1:30 AM and Brian went home. I don't think either one of us slept that night so we wouldn't miss Target's opening a few hours later at 8 AM. So it was that Brian and Scott and me were among the first twenty through the door that got tickets for the "Flaming Vader" figure. And I got even MORE loot from the place.

By the time Lisa woke up at quarter 'til 9, here's the sad, sordid state that she found her husband in after a night of incessant Starwargasms:


It was not a pretty picture.

The haul was more than glorious, however...

It wasn't TOO much, just enough to savor the moments. At Toys R Us I got the Holographic Yoda figure, two of the Emperor Palpatine with lightsaber figures (including one that I opened just to pose on my desk), the new Darth Vader figure and the LEGO "Darth Vader Transformation" set 'cuz the evening wouldn't be complete without at least one thing of LEGO, and the "Darth Tater" Mr. Potato Head. Didn't get anything from Wal-Mart but later that morning in addition to the Target exclusive Vader figure I bought the standard Yoda figure, the new General Grievous and Chewbacca figures, and the deluxe Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious figure that has the "Force lighting" effect and switching-faces feature. That also got posed on my desk so now I've a "Shrine to Sidious" going on with the original figure from The Phantom Menace

Here's a better picture of the Vader Mr. Potato Head (and new Emperor Palpatine figure):

Later that day after we saw The Ring Two we hit the other Wal-Mart and I wound up getting the Episode III novelization and the Episode III Visual Dictionary. Oh yeah and the action figure that I've come to call "Pregnant Padme".

And that was how I celebrated Midnight Madness for the last Star Wars film ever (or at least until 90-year old George Lucas decides that he wants to make six more movies after all :-)

My bet with Chad: if UNC wins tonight...

...I told my best friend that if they beat Illinois tonight I'll stick the biggest, baddest Tarheels graphic I can squeeze into this space on the blog.

Just wanted to let everyone know that well in advance, to prove that I'm a man of my word.

(BTW, I'm one of those "ABC fans": "Anybody But Carolina" :-)

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Some thoughts on John Paul II's passing

Have never been Catholic, but the departure from this world of Pope John Paul II has left a much bigger absence in my mind than I ever expected.

Maybe it's because I was only four years old when Karol Wojtyla became "the pope" in 1978, which I didn't know what exactly the "pope" was but I remember it came very soon after this other guy had been named pope before he died. Anyway, that's all of my real waking life that John Paul II has been in office, and it wasn't until years later that I started to understand that he was a MUCH more important figure in the scheme of things than I'd ever realized. From a non-Catholic perspective, it's safe to say that he was probably even the most important figure in the history of the papacy (I got personal doubts as to whether Peter should be considered as the first pope, but those don't figure into the present proceedings).

But even from the strictest secular thinking, this pope was one of the three people who most affected the world during the past quarter-century: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and Margaret Thatcher. Now only Thatcher is still with us and when she's gone... well, I fear that the age of statesmanship will have drawn to a close. Leaving us with only petty and vicious politians to fill their void.

The thing of it is, John Paul II never really was a "political" figure at all: he merely tried to interpret scripture as best as he understood it and apply that to the church that he headed. I don't think it was ever his intention that there would be the kind of worldly interest in the power that came to surround him... and yet, there it was.

Which is why I made this sad prediction more than ten years ago: that all hell would break loose when the next pope was chosen.

The next two weeks or so, until the papal enclave meets at the Vatican to elect a new pope, are going to be mad as all get out. There'll be some quiet now in respect and deference to the man and moreso than because of his office. But after that... well, if you thought the Reagan funeral was something, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

See, this is an entirely different world than it was when John Paul II was coronated in 1978. Less than a hundred people on the planet had full access (whatever that entailed) to something called the "Internet" and a good slice of them still lived under communism. Things like "gay rights" were a laughable joke. The average person really didn't have that much sway over the world around him, for good or ill.

No more. But it won't be the average person I'm worried about.

I'm willing to lay down good money that a few days from now, after John Paul II has been interred, they'll be descending on Saint Peters' Square like flies on a cow: homosexuals, Catholic feminists demanding that women become priests, the pro-abortion crowd, socialists and then capitalists to meet them, the "safe sex" gang that wants condoms for every man woman child and dumb animal on the planet, animal rights activists and radical environmentalists... in short, just about every possible "special interest group" on the planet is going to have some kind of representation at the Vatican during the next few weeks.

And each of them is going to claim having a "say-so" in who it is that will be the next pope.

That's the way it is in today's world of media-empowered "you can have it your way and right now". We've been made to think that we can do anything, so long as we have two or more gathered in our name with us. That if we have just a little more faith and strength in numbers, that even the mountain millennia-long traditions would cast itself into the sea at our command. And if not merely the twain but the multitude should meet to coalesce that belief... well, what is there left on Earth that is not within our reach?

To put it bluntly: there's gonna be a lot of bullies outside the Sistine Chapel trying to push their way to a seat at the table. It's going to be the most politically-charged papal election in history, and a lot of people are setting themselves up for a disappointment when they discover that none of their group efforts mattered at all. I just wonder what their reaction is going to be then.

That's the serious side of things. On the more whimsical, I'm betting that no less than a hundred video cameras tied into the Internet get pointed at that little chimney at the Vatican that the black or white smoke will come from as the scrutinies are burned during the voting process. Maybe someone will even figure out a way to make the cameras pick up on chroma of the smoke so that if it's white enough it'll automatically flash on the site "WE HAVE A POPE!"

Call it "Pope Smoke Cam" :-)

Anyway, a good man has gone on to his eternal reward, leaving the rest of us a little more poor for the absence of his spirit. So dear God, even though I'll never be a Catholic, thanks for letting John Paul II be among us for a short while here on Earth.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Eerie scheduling

Just finished a bit of The Matrix Online (HUGE article I wanna write up about this soon) and happened to turn on the TV.

It's now 1:47 AM EST on April 1st, 2005. The time and date should be taken into account for the next thing I'd like to make note of...

...that right now, HBO East is showing The Godfather Part III.

Knowing that these TV schedules are pretty much established several weeks ahead, if you've seen the movie you'll already know why that's an unsettling coincidence.