Monday, October 31, 2005

Don't fear Halloween... laugh at it

There were at least two or three church signs that I saw while driving around earlier this evening, that had something negative to say about Halloween. Now, to be sure, Halloween used to be a time when the Druids sacrificed virgins to their heathen gods. How we went from that to giving out a bar of Snickers to kiddies is a whole nother discussion. But let's face it: Halloween as it's practiced today is not evil. It has nothing to do with evil. In fact, I think that celebrating Halloween is actually a very much Christian thing to do: we aren't supposed to be in fear of darkness. We're supposed to be triumphant over it. When we cringe in fear over a thing, we're letting that thing have power over us when it has no right to. So put on a costume (I've been wearing my Jedi getup all day) and get in the spirit. Have some fun with Halloween, instead of cowering in fear of it.

We watched Coach Carter and Fat Albert over the weekend

Coach Carter came via Netflix. Samuel L. Jackson plays Ken Carter, who took a basketball coaching job at Richmond High School in California, then benched the entire team - that boasted an undefeated winning streak - because of poor grades. One of Jackson's best roles, I thought. Really good movie for you to check out if you haven't already.

Then last night Lisa and I watched Fat Albert on HBO. And it's a surprisingly good movie. It's a "cute" lil' flick: maybe not Coach Carter calibre but still worth catching at least once. The premise is that Fat Albert and his gang escape from their cartoon world and come into the real one to help a girl solve some problems. There's a nice twist regarding the girl and the grandfather she often mentions, and the final scene is really touching. Kenan Thompson pulls off a great Fat Albert, as do the rest of the cast. If there's anything to complain about, it's that the animated segments aren't done in the style of the classic 70's tv show, but instead that "fake 3D" style that's been around since the mid-90's or so. The Russell of the movie sounds nothing like the Russell of the original series. But these are really minor quibbles. Watch it sometime if you want something light and entertaining.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Biking the Virginia Creeper

Yesterday Lisa and I joined some friends for a bike trip on the Virginia Creeper Trail in southwestern Virginia. It was a seventeen-mile ride from the top of Whitetop Mountain on the North Carolina border, then west along the Tennessee state line to the half-way point of the trail in Damascus, Virginia. It was a good trip through some beautiful countryside, made all the more epic because my MP3 player was going through the entire soundtrack of The Lord of the Rings. I was sure the trip was going to end somewhere deep inside Return of the King's music but we ended up rolling into the bike rental place with "Isengard Unleashed" from The Two Towers, much shorter trip than I expected. We may go back and do the lower half of the trail sometime this coming spring.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Friday, October 28, 2005

Hollywood gets exorcism all wrong

Well, AMC just had a show about the impact that The Exorcist has had in the three decades since it first came out. I first saw this movie back in 1999 and... well, how should I put this...?

Okay, The Exorcist is a good movie but it gets some things wrong. Like, I mean ALL wrong.

Real confrontation with demons isn't some ritual you follow from a book. Ceremonial prayer doesn't really do anything. Neither can you just throw "holy water" at it and think it's gonna burn the thing like battery acid. In fact you will probably make it laugh at you for trying that.

You never tell it your name. You don't even ask IT for its name. Yes, it has one but you are not interested in what its name is, period. You don't answer anything it asks of you. You close your ears to it no matter what it tells you. You DO NOT dwell upon any kind of knowledge or prophecy it screams at you. I can't emphasize that point nearly enough. It can tell you how you're going to die but you have to deafen your ears and mind to that. Else you obsess with that and then you’re no good to anyone who’s involved in this with you.

Now, some things the movies do get right, like when it's talking in some other language, but don't expect to be able to translate it. I'm just saying it can do that is all. But do not expect for it to make someone's head turn a full 360 degrees like Linda Blair's did. The inhabited person will sometimes display feats of strength not in proportion to sex or physical size, though.

A drop in ambient temperature has been reported in some cases, but in general this doesn't seem to happen very often.

Oh yeah and it does sometimes produce vomiting, so be ready for that.

There aren't too many people really strong enough to handle this sort of thing. If you aren't that strong, be somewhere else, okay?

I wonder if anyone in the film industry will ever make a movie about what fighting a demon is really like.

Where da heck is the KWerky website??

It occured to me this afternoon that we still don't have our website back up. There's a reason for that: both Ed and I have been pretty busy with other real-life things. Heck, Ed is getting married in a few months: I've been there, done that, know all about the stuff that goes into wedding planning. The website was previously on his own server, but since recently moving he hasn't had time to set it back up.

This doesn't mean that we haven't been working on KWerky Productions-related stuff though. So far my lil' "experimental filmmaking" project is going pretty well: we should have something to show for it by February. On the lighter side of things I'm thinking about filming EVERYTHING that goes into the fine art of deep-frying a turkey, and make a "how-to" video on that around Thanksgiving. It's the second most dangerous form of cooking known to man (after fugu preparation). We'll see if I can both run a camera and play with 350-degree boiling peanut oil simultaneously.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

20 years of Nintendo Entertainment System

This month marks the 20th anniversary of the launch of the Nintendo Entertainment System. I remember seeing one for the first time in a Service Merchandise store not long after that, just before Christmas 1985. So many classic games that were played on that lil' unit. This deserves a fitting salute in the best way I know how...
To the NES

UP-UP-DOWN-DOWN-LEFT-RIGHT-LEFT-RIGHT-B-A-START

My old hometown got a Wal-Mart Supercenter of its very own today

Reidsville - the benighted armpit of North Carolina - got a Wal-Mart Supercenter at 7 a.m. this morning. If you know anything about Reidsville, you're probably scratching your head about what it is exactly that makes this 'burg deserve a Wal-Mart, much less a Supercenter. This is considered such a big deal that there were high school bands brought in to play at the opening, in addition to most of the local politicians and whatever else showing up. Celebrating a Wal-Mart opening? That should tell you something.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

William Hootkins passes away

William Hootkins - forever known as Rebel pilot Porkins in the very first Star Wars movie - has died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 58. In addition to his legendary role as Porkins, Hootkins did a lot of other good stuff: he was one of the U.S. intelligence agents that met Dr. Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. You might also remember him as playing that corrupt police lieutenant in Tim Burton's first Batman movie. Interesting trivia: the Rebel pilot costumes were one-size-fits-all, but Hootkins was WAY too big to fit into the outfit. His costume had to be cut in the back to accommodate for his enormous girth. He also happened to be wearing an R. Crumb "Keep On Trucking" t-shirt under the Rebel gear. And when he first heard that his character was named "Porkins" he thought that George Lucas was going to put a pig nose prosthetic on his face. A super nice guy who was taken much too soon. Thoughts and prayers going out to his family.

Monday, October 24, 2005

I met Nicholas Sparks yesterday

Can't believe I forgot about this already. Sparks was at the local Barnes & Noble yesterday afternoon. Lisa has a copy of The Wedding that I took for him to sign. The store was packed with fans (mostly female). I've never read anything by Nicholas Sparks but I have seen the movies of A Walk to Remember and The Notebook. Anyway, he did a fifteen minute Q&A session then started signing copies of his newest book (the name of it escape me at the moment). I stood in line for two hours before getting to where he was sitting. We shook hands and he signed the book. He strikes me as being a super nice guy. He said this was a really "sweet" thing to do to get this for my wife :-) Anyway, just thought I'd make a mention of that, that I met Nicholas Sparks yesterday afternoon.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

"Anointed by God": The REAL reason why neo-conservatives want to attack Syria

I'm going to go ahead and speak the obvious...

The real reason why the neo-conservatives running the White House want to do something militarily with Syria has nothing to do with the United Nations investigative report implicating Syrian officials in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. That just happens to be a very convenient excuse.

You will never hear it mentioned in a presidential speech, but here it is...

There are too many people in this administration who want to attack Syria because they see themselves as fulfillers of biblical prophecy.

According to most adherents of the "pre-tribulation rapture" scenario, the next prophetic event that must happen before "Daniel's seventieth week" - AKA the Great Tribulation - begins is the coming to pass of Isaiah 17. The chapter that begins "An oracle concerning Damascus: 'See, Damascus will no longer be a city but will become a heap of ruins...'". So long as Damascus is still standing, the tribulation cannot come. It has to be knocked-over first.

I find it quite serious to believe that there are some in our government who believe they are "anointed" by God to be the agents that cause this to happen. Or perhaps that prophecy isn't unfolding as fast as it should so it needs a good "kick-start" to get it rolling.

Don't think for an instant that people like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and James Dobson have not contemplated that this might happen. They are probably even feverishly praying for it. Maybe even slyly encouraging their friends in the White House to consider doing this.

Believe me, I know what kind of mindset this is that we're talking about. I've dealt with them for most of my life. They have a really unhealthy obsession with the rapture. They focus on THAT more than they focus on God, if that makes any sense. Trust me: somewhere out there are people licking their chops at the possibility of the U.S. acting against Damascus. They want nothing less than the end of the world... and maybe a little credit for "helping" it come about.

There you have it: the true rationale for why Bush and his administration are wanting to go after Syria next. If no one else will say it, then I will.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Saw a pretty good movie today

We caught Just Like Heaven, with Reese Witherspoon, Mark Ruffalo and Jon Heder (the guy who played Napoleon Dynamite). From a guy's perspective, for a chick-flick it's a darned good movie. It has a nice twist to it that makes it NOT be the story you think it's about after watching it for awhile. I won't post any spoilers here though, go check it out for yourself, now or later when it hits DVD.

Speaking of DVD, we got Army of Darkness via Netflix today and finished watching it a little while ago. I think that Lisa much more preferred Just Like Heaven though: that movie made a little more sense to her than Ash's shenanigans :-)

Monday, October 17, 2005

New pen computer will FLY off the shelves

I saw a commercial for this a little while ago, went to the website and was absolutely astounded at what this lil' gimmick can do. It's the FLY Pentop Computer and it's gonna be one of the hottest selling items this Christmas, bank on it. Costs $99 bucks but you tell me: isn't it a pretty neat thing to be able to draw a picture of a calculator and then be able to use it? Or to draw a keyboard and play it? Wish we had stuff this neat to play with when I was a kid...

John Quincy Adams versus George W. Bush

Found this quote today and found it quite appropos regarding the state of America today:
"(America) does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once listing under other banners than her own, were they even banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force... She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit..."

-- John Quincy Adams, 1821

This was from a day when American presidents wrote their own words, instead of being written for them.

How did we get to this level, where we don't have leaders of this kind of caliber anymore?

Sunday, October 16, 2005

De Niro was thrown from this stage: A night at The Barn Dinner Theater

Last night Lisa and I joined my parents and sister (it's her birthday tomorrow, Happy Birthday Anita!) for dinner at a place that I've long been curious about but 'til now have never been to: The Barn Dinner Theater in Greensboro. The Barn, founded in 1962, is the oldest and longest-running dinner theater in America, and the last remaining from a chain that used to be 27 Barns from New York to Texas. Back in its early days the performance's cast not only acted on stage, they were the waiters and waitresses. I've known for many years already that Robert De Niro acted at The Barn for awhile (imagine that: Robert De Niro being your waiter for the evening!). Well some of the management told me last night that De Niro was also fired from The Barn one night, right in the middle of a show. Mickey Rooney and a few other well-known performers have also done gigs at The Barn, so this place has seen a little bit of history.

How it works is that they open the doors to the dining room at 6 p.m., and a host escorts your party to your table. From there you help yourself to three buffet tables of really good gourmet cooking: I'm serious, the food at this place is delicious. Tastes like real home-made cooking like Granny used to make. I had the chicken (which wasn't fried and wasn't barbecued but it was really spicy, I've no idea how they cooked it) and barbecue (also spicy), green beans and corn, some kind of baked apples and a couple of biscuits, and for desert a slice of chocolate cake. Every bit of dinner was well worth the trip alone. But then came the show...

About 7:15 they started clearing the buffet tables away, and The Barn's emcee came out and did a round of birthdays (including Anita's), anniversaries, and one young lady who was proposed to by her boyfriend in front of everyone. After he finished the stage descended from the ceiling with a couple of props (two chairs) and the show was on. It was a two-act musical called Band of Angels, about the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and all the ghosts that haunt it. So there were characters like Hank Williams, Minnie Pearl, Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash and wife June, Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette, Ernie Tubb and Waylon Jennings, among others, talking and singing to this country rube named Buster who managed to get inside Ryman from the rain. I thought it was a pretty good tribute to not only these country performers who have gone on already, but to country and bluegrass music as an artform. All told, it was a wonderful evening spent with family in a really unique establishment. Band of Angels is playing at The Barn until November 22nd (it got held over for an extended engagement because it's proven to be so popular) so call The Barn Dinner Theater and make reservations now: it's well worth the trip. Or come later when they do shows (some even from Broadway) like Annie and Lend Me a Tenor. Heartily recommended. I give this place five stars.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Who to blame for everything that happened in The Godfather saga

It's the women.

AMC ran The Godfather Part II earlier today. It made me think of something that dawned on me the last time I saw Part III. You know who's somewhat to blame for this despicable, self-destructive situation that the Corleone family falls into? The womenfolk of the Corleone family, that's who.

Mama Corleone is the worst of the lot. She could have put a stop to this nonsense a long time ago. She could have talked Vito out of this spiralling madness. She did nothing. Did she even say anything over the course of the two movies she was in? Not a word that I can remember. She failed miserably in her role as wife and mother of the family: two sons murdered (one by brother Michael) because of "this Sicilian thing", a daughter who in the end was a murderer and a son who ends life a disgraced, bankrupted shell of a man. What kind of track record for rearing kids is that supposed to be? Don't tell me a wife has no pull even in a traditional family where the paterfamilias rules all: she could have at least protested to Vito before this all spun out of control. Instead she chose to not do anything at all. She didn't say a word to Sonny and Fredo about "Oh please don't get mixed up in this business that's killed so many people I can't stand to lose you too!" Did she even care?! What a wretched example of a wife and mom she was.

Then there's Connie. It's not so much her failure to act as it is her weakness to stand up and walk away that's the problem. She could have gotten married and lived happily ever after from the beginning of the first movie. When Carlo became abusive - and I wonder if Carlo got that way 'cuz he got corrupted by the family - she could have, should have, walked away then. She can't pull away. I don't think she really wants to pull away. That wasn't really that big of a fit she pitched at Michael at the end of Part I either: she's like the battered wife who just got beat up but she keeps coming back "because where else are you going to go?" In the end she turns out to be a killer just as much as Michael. She had her chances to leave this never-ending circle of vengeance but she chose not to take them. That, I think, only served to perpetuate what went wrong with this family.

Kay is trying. Lord knows, she is trying. It's not the family that she's so infatuated with, it's Michael. She believes he can be a good person, even years later when she re-enters his life at the beginning of Part III. She keeps wanting him to change, and when she fails she tries to take her children as far away from this insanity as she can. She should have tried it for herself. Look, there has to come a point when you realize that the person you love just isn't going to change. Who knows, if she had left Michael a long time before (like when she realized he was lying to her at the end of The Godfather) maybe that would have knocked some sense into Michael. A man can do most anything, change anything, when the woman he loves puts it all on the line. She didn't do that. She gave Michael no reason to change. She's guilty... but I still feel sorry for her.

Whatever anyone else says about it, Sofia Coppola was wonderful as Mary in The Godfather Part III. She made Mary come across as this sweet, beautiful girl... someone who should be as far removed from life in a Mafia family as possible. And when she's killed at the end of the movie it genuinely hurts: Michael's silent scream is probably the most perfectly captured moment of anguish on film ever. Nevertheless, I have to fault her, for kinda the same reasons I fault Connie and Kay. She seemed too tolerant of what her father is doing, too eager to see him as nothing but a good man. That, and she got WAY too cozy with her cousin, Vincent... who was hellbent on being the very kind of man that Michael was been trying (and failing) not to become. Didn't she see that? In her own way, Mary perpetuated the Corleones' circle of destruction. But like Kay, I feel sorry for her too.

The only major female in The Godfather trilogy who is really innocent is Apollonia. Did Michael ever share with her what drove him to come to Sicily? Probably not: whether he intended to go back to America or not, I've always felt like he really was trying to make a clean break from all of that at this point in his life. Apollonia was going to be part of that break. Instead she got blown to pieces, as one of the very few people in this entire tragedy who is entirely without blame. Her death is what sends Michael back to the world he had wanted no part of: with Apollonia gone, Michael has nothing left but the life he left behind.

But none of these women should ultimately be held responsible for all the carnage and travesty that comes to this family. Blame the brunt of it on the menfolk. They are the ones who could have chosen to walk away from this, but didn't. Still, had the women stepped in and done their best to put the brakes on things, a whole lot of people would still be alive in this story. But then, it wouldn't really be The Godfather at all, would it? :-)

Friday, October 14, 2005

Microsoft Windows at 20

PC Magazine has lengthy coverage of this coming month being the twentieth anniversary of the introduction of Microsoft Windows. Lots of good technical background and history here, going from the initial release up to Windows XP and the upcoming Vista.

The Top Ten Best GHOST PHOTOGRAPHS Ever Taken

The other night I happened to catch Ghost Hunters on the Sci-Fi Channel. It’s an hour-long show that follows the members of TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society) as they investigate reputedly haunted locations, in an attempt to document and de-bunk supposed ghostly infestations. I'd never seen the show before but I came away very impressed by these guys: they're regular working joes – the founders are Roto-Rooter plumbers by day – who do their investigations on nights and weekends in a completely professional and ethical manner. They scrutinize everything and make thorough reports to the proprietors of the sites they look into. If there's nothing that can't be explained, they say so. If there is bizarre stuff going on that doesn't fit on the charts, they report that too, without embellishing it for what it might or might not be.

It made me recollect a night a little over five years ago, when I was part of a ghost hunt. There were about seven or eight of us – two reporters (myself included), a professional photographer, and a selection of other responsible individuals – that a newspaper sent in to spend the night at what is said to be one of the most famously haunted hotels in America. It was meant to be "part Scooby-Doo and part Blair Witch", my editor said. We were supposed to treat it seriously, but also have some fun while we were there: not to take it TOO seriously. 'Cuz then we might fall into the trap of believing things that our subconscious minds wanted us to believe. Our editor worked it out with hotel management for us to have what was supposed to be the most haunted room in the entire place to use as our homebase: we'd meet back every hour and swap notes. In the meantime we were free to go wherever, just so long as we didn't bother the guests. We didn't have anything like electro-magnetic field detectors or night-view videocameras, but we did have several photographic cameras (including one loaded with infrared film) and my audio tape recorder that I used to speak notes into and record whatever else.

Long story short: we came away from that night with more than we expected. A lot more. There's a photograph taken that night that I wish I could post here, but the copyright belongs to someone else, so it wouldn't be right for me to do that. I made myself look at it again after watching Ghost Hunters, even though five years later it still gives me the freezing willies. We took several pics with the infrared film: in four of the photos (including two from the "haunted" room) there are unexplained signatures that show up. It's the one in the hallway that's really disturbing: it was the day after we got the photos back that we realized there was a woman's face hanging neck-high in mid-air down the hallway. There was nothing there when we took the photo, and don't ask me why we chose to take a picture at that exact moment: the whole story is coming someday from another venue, and I don't want to steal their thunder by talking about it here. There was also the matter of my tape recorder: it picked up some very spooky sounds – a voice whispering – while we were in another building on-site. There were two people in that room at the time, and this wasn't a voice from either of us.

Do I believe in ghosts? Well, given the evidence we collected firsthand that night, I now admit to believing that there's something we can’t explain in terms of the normal world that’s at work here. My own personal theory? If there are such things as ghosts, I don't believe they're "spiritual" in nature at all. My thinking is that they are some kind of "recording" left in a place that sometimes replays itself: a recording in time and space. It might have something to do with quantum physics. Or this might all be a little too wacky anyway. But you tell me: would you say you don't believe in spooks if your tape recorder picked up a weird voice saying "Let me out..."?

Anyway, at the time I wound up doing a lot of research into real-life hauntings, including the many apparent photographs of ghosts taken over the years. Some I'd seen before and others were brand-new to me. It's been something I've made an occasional study on in the years since. A number of them "stuck with me". Since we're now getting into the Halloween season, I thought it might be fun (and maybe even horizon-broadening) if I shared here what I thought were the top ten ghostly photographs taken to date.

So far as I can tell, these are the real deal. Meaning that they've been sifted through with a fine-tooth comb by people who know photography and have withstood all scrutiny. These are the pictures that simply can't be explained, or at least haven't yet according to anything we can explain currently. That doesn't leave very many photos for serious consideration: there are tons of professed ghost photos. Most of them are explained away with extreme ease: Too many "ghosts" are simply camera straps that got in the way of the lens. Ghostly "orbs" are probably nothing more than light scintillating off of dust particles. Some ghostly images are mere double exposures (an example of which is glimpsed in the movie The Godfather). Occam's Razor applies bigtime here: the simplest explanation tends to be the correct one. Tends to be, that is...

So with all that in mind, for your viewing pleasure (and excluding the one photo that I've already said I can't show here, even though it's really unsettling to look at) and just in time for Halloween, here are what I consider to be:


10. "The Brown Lady" of Raynham Hall

This photo was taken in 1936 at Raynham Hall in Norfolk, England, by two photographers of Country Life magazine. Raynham Hall was long reputed to be haunted by the ghost of Lady Dorothy Townshend, who died in 1726. The ghost had been seen on many occasions throughout the years when it was spotted descending these stairs by the Country Life photographers, who quickly took a snapshot. This is considered by many to be the most highly regarded and reputable photograph by a ghost yet made.

9. The Hampton Court Ghost

This one became fairly well known after it was released in December of 2003. Hampton Court, near London, was one of Henry VIII's favorite hangouts (it's because of him that Anne Boleyn is now a headless ghost roaming the Tower of London). A fire door inside the castle kept being opened when no one was supposed to be around. Guards checked the security cameras' videotape... and spotted this figure in period costume walking through the door. Castle personnel swear they don't know who did this, noting that they don't even have a costume that looks like this. 'Course this could be some prankster at work, but I felt this was yet worthy of including in my top ten list... until we ever find out otherwise. It might turn out to have just been some tourist in an overcoat. Anyway if you want to watch the actual footage of the specter opening the door L.E.M.U.R. Investigations has it on their website.

8. The Newby Church Monk

Reverend K.F. Lord took a picture of the altar at his church in North Yorkshire, England (why are the GOOD ghosts always found in England?) and this is what came out. The picture and the negative are said to have been thoroughly examined by photographic experts and they can't find any evidence that this was either a double exposure, or artificially altered. The "thing" is calculated to be standing nine feet tall, and no one's found any record of a monk that humongous ever being at Newby Church. Who is it? What is it? Trick of light or something else? Either way it's way too creepy to not mention on this list.

7. The Bed-Ridden Boy

I found this one at the L.E.M.U.R. website also. The photo was taken in 1999 at the Historic Worley B&B Inn in Dahlonega, Georgia (YES finally ghosts in our neck of the woods!). It wasn't until four years later that this photo – which seems to show a figure resting on a bed – was really given notice. It's thought that this might be the ghost of a young man who died in the house in the 1800s after being struck by a train, and if you go to L.E.M.U.R.'s page you can find a picture of the lad (when he was still alive) to compare this photo with.
6. Freddy Jackson's Comeback

Freddy Jackson was a mechanic in the Royal Air Force in World War I. Freddy Jackson's squadron served onboard the H.M.S. Daedalus. Freddy Jackson was killed in 1919 when an airplane propeller hit him. Two days later when the squadron assembled for a group photo, Freddy Jackson faithfully showed up, grinning behind the ear of a fellow comrade. Guess nobody bothered to tell Freddy Jackson that he was dead. His face was widely recognized in this photo by members of the squadron.

5. His Favorite Chair

Remember how Archie Bunker liked his recliner so much that he never let anyone else sit in it? Well, ol' Archie doesn't have anything on Lord Combermere. After being ran over by a horse-drawn carriage he died in 1891. A photographer set up a camera with its shutter open for one hour in the manor's library while the entire staff was off at Lord Combermere's funeral, some four miles away. When the plate was developed, the startling image of what looks to be a man's head and arm sitting in the chair was immediately noticed. Many of the staff said that the image looked very much like the late lord, and it happened to be sitting in Combermere's favorite chair in the library.
4. Darn Backseat Drivers!

In 1959 Mable Chinnery went to the cemetery to visit the grave of her mother, as any devoted daughter is apt to do. She took some photos of the gravesite and then turned and took this picture of her husband sitting alone in the car's passenger seat. The film was developed and this came out: somebody sitting in the backseat wearing glasses, clear as day. Mrs. Chinnery swore that the "backseat driver" was none other than her own mother... whose gravesite she was standing next to when she took the picture! Hmmmm... a live husband and a deceased mother-in-law looking over his shoulder: there's a joke here, I just know it.

3. What Do You Want On Your Tombstone?

Ike Clanton is from the same family that produced the Clanton gang of O.K. Corral fame. He’s obviously proud of his heritage, and he shows it on his website TombstoneArizona.com. Back in 1996 Ike Clanton took this photo of a friend wearing western duds, in the middle of Tombstone's Boothill Graveyard. They swear that nobody else was in sight when they made this picture. Furthermore, some time later they tried to restage this picture with someone standing at the spot where the "mystery man" appears in the background. Ike Clanton says that it was impossible to take such a picture and not show the rear person's legs. Clanton said he wasn't so sure about Tombstone being haunted, but this photo made a believer out of him. There's so much ghostly activity going on in the famous town that Clanton's set up a special section of his website dedicated to Tombstone's population of yesteryear. Well worth checking out, if nothing else than for the sense of history that this excellent website conveys.

2. "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it..."

I first saw this photo over twenty years ago. It was the first "ghost photo" I ever came across and it still wigs me out to look at it. In 1924 James Courtney and Michael Meehan, two crewmen of the tanker S.S. Watertown, were accidentally killed by gas fumes while cleaning a cargo tank. The crew of the Watertown - on its way to the Panama Canal from New York City – buried the two sailors at sea off the Mexican coast. That was on December 4th. On December 5th the first mate reported that the faces of Courtney and Meehan were appearing in the water off the port side of the ship. Over the next several days every member of the crew witnessed the faces appear and disappear, including the ship's captain. When he reported this to his supervisors after docking in New Orleans it was suggested that he try to photograph the faces. Captain Keith Tracy bought a camera and the ship was soon underway again. Sure enough, the faces appeared, and Tracy took six pictures, then secured the camera in the ship's vault. The camera was not removed until it was taken to a commercial developer after docking in New York City. Five of the photos showed nothing unusual, but the sixth clearly showed what was said to be the faces of the two dead crewmen. No evidence of forgery or tampering of the film was ever discovered. The faces stopped appearing after a new crew was brought aboard the Watertown.
1. Come On Baby, Light My Fire

Of all the ghost photos I've seen (well, except for that one that I can't show at the present time), this one is hands-down the most eerie. Probably the most disturbing too. I didn't know about this one until a few months ago. Almost ten years ago, on November 19th, 1995, Wem Town Hall in Shropshire, England was engulfed in flames and burned to the ground. As firefighters tried to stave off the inferno a town resident, Tony O'Rahilly, took pictures from across the street using a telephoto lens on his camera. There, rather clearly in one of the photos, is what looks very much to be a small girl standing in a doorway, with the brightness of the flames behind her. No one ever remembered there being a small girl present on scene, much less in that close a proximity to the fire. The photo and the original negative were turned over to a photo expert who decided that the picture was 100% authentic: "The negative is a straightforward piece of black-and-white work and shows no sign of having been tampered with." Okay, so what's a girl ghost doing in such a big fire? Well in 1677 a fire destroyed many of Wem’s wooden houses. The fire was said to have been caused by a 14-year old girl named Jane Churm, who had been careless with a candle. Churm died in the fire along with several others, and her ghost is said to still haunt the area. Whether there's such a thing as ghosts or not, it must be said: if this is just a trick, an illusion of smoke and fire that happened to be captured on film, it's a zillion-to-one coincidence that it just so happened to appear in the form of a girl who also died in a terrible fire at the same location. But hey, stranger things than that have happened in this world, right?
And there you have it, my personal list of the best ghost photographs (or not) taken so far. But before I close out this article, I want to make mention of just one more photograph: one that I found while doing some research ("The Best Ghost Photographs Ever Taken" at About.com’s Paranormal Phenomenon site was a HUGE help, as was the website for L.E.M.U.R. Paranormal Investigations). This photo is, ahhh geez what else can I say about this: if this is the real deal, then there's something cosmically sweet about this picture. Some people say that love is forever... well, this might be the first time ever that we've got documented proof of that. I’ll let Denise Russell take it from here, courtesy of About.com’s Paranormal Phenomena:
"The lady in the color photo is my granny," she says. "She lived on her own until age 94, when her mind started to weaken and had to be moved to an assisted living home for her own safety. At the end of the first week, there was a picnic for the residents and their families. My mother and sister attended. My sister took two pictures that day, and this is one of them. It was taken on Sunday, 8/17/97, and we think the man behind her is my grandpa who passed away on Sunday, 8/14/84. We did not notice the man in the picture until Christmas Day, 2000 (granny had since passed away), while browsing through some loose family photos at my parents' house. My sister thought it was such a nice picture of granny that she even made a copy for mom, but still, nobody noticed the man behind her for over three years! When I arrived at my parents' house that Christmas day, my sister handed me the picture and said, "Who do you think this man behind granny looks like?" It took a few seconds for it to sink in. I was absolutely speechless. The black and white photos show that it really looks like him."
I don't need what might be a ghost's photograph to attest to this truth: when you're in love with that one special someone, nothing will stop you from being with that person. But it's still pretty nice to get a tangible confirmation of that every once in awhile...

"Free speech for me but not for thee": Anti-war activist arrested for expressing views

This is either a country where we allow freedom of speech and the press whether or not we agree with what's being said, or we aren't. If we aren't, then this isn't a country worth fighting and dying for anymore. The way America really, really is, what it's become... screw it. Let it die. Don't ask me to love what this country has become. That's like asking a son to totally accept his father even though dear old Dad is an alcoholic and heroin addict. You can love what your father used to be before the addiction the same way you can love what the American republic used to be... and that's patriotism at its finest. But you can't love someone or something and agree to watch their self-destruction like that.

A student at George Mason University is harassed by campus police, then arrested for "anti-recruiting". The behavior of the people who didn't agree with his stance is nothing short of fascist, including the supposed "Marine".

I'm wondering if anyone will write me an e-mail or comment on this, and defend what happened to this guy.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Microsoft vs. Google: Count Zero coming true

In 1987 William Gibson released Count Zero, the sequel to his award-winning novel Neuromancer (hard to believe it's now over 20 years since that book first came out). One of the three stories in Count Zero - which eventually tightened together into the story's central plot - focused on Turner: a mercenary-type who specializes in helping scientists and executives defect from one company to another. See, in the near-future depicted in Gibson's "Sprawl trilogy" (which concluded in Mona Lisa Overdrive), cutting-edge technology is such a cutthroat business that corporate talent needs a small army to get extracted from the highly-fortified compound of a multinational conglomerate in order to make a career change. Needless to say, the company that the defector is fleeing from is not happy about losing a chunk of its braintrust to a competitor.

Count Zero comes to mind now that Microsoft has lost at least two executives - including one of their top computer scientists - to Google. An enraged Microsoft CEO Steven Ballmer reportedly threw a chair after one of the execs told him about an imminent departure for Google. The big fear at Microsoft now is that Google is going to be hiring even more staff from the "House that Gates Built". Part of that is the worry that Google will be offering word processor and spreadsheet applications over the web, instead of having to pay Microsoft several hundreds of dollars for MS Word and Excel.

It's almost enough to chalk up one more mark for things that William Gibson foretold in his books. First it was the Internet (Gibson is the man who first came up with the term "cyberspace"), now it's (nearly) all-out war between rival corporations. Maybe someday soon we'll have "simstim" also.

Thirty years ago, people really did BUY these

Darth Larry made a frightening (and funny) find a few days ago. It's hard not to laugh but remember: twenty years from now our children will be snickering at OUR CDs of Eminem and Brittany Spears.

Smurfpocalypse Now

I saw this picture and was hysterical with laughter for about fifteen minutes...
UNICEF created this 20-second promo that's airing in Belgium right now, showing the Smurfs' village getting hit with an incendiary airstrike. The idea behind it is to bring awareness to the plight of children caught in war zones, hence Baby Smurf crying with Smurfette's crumpled corpse on the ground nearby. Here's the only actual video of this that I've found online, in Windows Media format.

This has got to be one of the most surreal things I've seen in quite a long time.

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Time to return.