Thursday, May 31, 2007

Coud YOU have won the Battle of Gettysburg?


Military.com poses the question: Could YOU Have Won the Battle of Gettysburg?

In this simulation game, you take on the role of General Robert E. Lee as you command the forces of the Confederate Army beginning with their initial clashes with Union soldiers on the outskirts of town, on through the final push two days later. Can you pull off a victory where one of the greatest generals in American history failed to win? I was able to do it: my command of the Army of Northern Virginia handily split the Union lines and captured several thousand prisoners from the Army of the Potomac in the process.

Hit the link above and start playing. It's pretty fun! And if you've ever seen the wonderful movie Gettysburg, that will probably help you a lot.

Behold... the Mach 5

"Go Speed Racer goooooo!"

History Channel gets highest ratings ever with STAR WARS: THE LEGACY REVEALED

Check here for the stats from Mediaweek. Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed broadcasts again on the History Channel on June 3rd at 8 p.m. I got to see this when it first ran on Monday night and I thought it was easily one of the best Star Wars documentaries that I've seen (and I've seen plenty, believe you me...). Well worth checking out!

Only Bill Gates could sell a $10,000 coffee table

I will probably be buying one of these... ten years from now, at least! Microsoft's new Surface product does seem like a lot of fun though. Here's a video of Gates demonstrating it:

Maybe as a complement for the Surface unit, Microsoft can create a Windows-based chair for Steve Ballmer to throw...

Fred Reed laments the "New Improved America"

Fred Reed - master of the blunt truth and art of curmudgeonry - is spot-on as usual with his latest analysis of what is amiss in this country...
Something is wrong with the United States. I think most of us have noticed it. There is a mortal rot in the country, made manifest by many little rots that are hard to integrate mentally yet are, I think, somehow related. The change is grave, accelerating, probably irreversible, and fascinating. Things are not as they were...

...The Constitution really is going away, or has gone. It never did work as well as it should have, but few things human ever do. Habeas corpus is dead, right to an attorney, congressional right to declare war—it's not even worth listing the list. Joe iPod in the burbs doesn't care because it doesn’t affect him, yet. Git them Hay-rabs, ain't no draft, plenty sushi. Urg.

Hit the link above for more.

Let there be... white?

This isn't the final look of the blog revamp. Or maybe it could be. What do you think? Feel free to comment.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Creation Museum, and why Creationism has become a corrupted belief

You might have heard about the Creation Museum that opened this week in Kentucky. It is a natural history museum that has made the Bible's account of a literal six-day creation the foundation of everything that is on exhibit.

It seems to be a huge hit, because ever since it opened the Creation Museum has enjoyed capacity crowds. It's also attracted the usual gang of professional secularists: people who get too much of their jollies from deriding those who believe God made everything as "backward-thinking yokels".

I'm making mention of this, because I think that the Creation Museum and the "controversy" about it (which seems too manufactured by the mainstream press) epitomizes everything that's wrong with the "Evolution versus Creationism" debate... and especially how too many Christians get embroiled in this for the very worst of reasons.

Yes, I do believe God created the universe. No, I won't be going to the Creation Museum. And had I been elected to the school board I would not have actively pursued the agenda of pushing "Creationism" onto the children in our system, either... or have tried to smuggle it in under the guise of "intelligent design". And I believe it would be wrong for any current school board member to attempt to do that (I'm looking right at you, ya thievin' hypocrite who's now trashing the Constitution).

It's way past time to state the obvious: that "Creationism" is a political weapon and not a statement of faith. Creationism has never been about giving honor and glory to God... but it has been everything about seizing and wielding power over other people.

And that's the furthest thing from being a sincere Christian on this Earth that you can get.

To be fair, Evolution is exactly the same thing. What started with a scientific inquiry by Charles Darwin has become not just a political agenda, but a religion unto itself. Its disciples are no less driven by lust for power - or less despicable for it - than their Creationist nemeses. But Evolution as a belief system is something of this world: something which is completely alien to the nature of Christ. I can understand how those still living for the world would succumb to the temptation of power by using the concept of natural evolution to acquire it.

What I can neither understand or even tolerate is how those who do profess to be serving Christ, how those who are not supposed to be of this world, yield to that very same temptation and use the name of God to justify it and make an excuse for it.

How can this possibly be serving Christ? How is this in any way, at all, presenting ourselves as a humble witness to others for the sake of our Lord?

We - and I'm talking about myself and my fellow Christians - are meant to be above this sort of nonsense. There are matters far more important than how this world may have come into being. Trying our best to prepare those around us for the next world is supposed to be one of them. We can't do that if we are fixated on a sense of affluence that will yield nothing when it is thrown into the refiner's fire.

And that's all that Creationism - with a big "C" - will ever be: one more thing that the Deceiver will use to make us believe that we are wiser than we really are.

But do you know why I most hate "Creationism" as its rabid adherents preach? It's because they would force me to have a faith in something. It's not enough that a person reaches that faith on his or her own: Ultra-Creationist wackos demand faith on their own terms, in a way that they can understand and manipulate for their own ends.

I know that because I've spent most of my life dealing with people with this mindset. It was years before I realized that they were far more obsessed about whether or not a person believed that they were descended from monkeys than they were with whether that person was going to Heaven.

This is the kind of thing that a person needs to wrestle with on their own, between themselves and God. It was only in the past few years that my own mind arrived at a place where I could, at last, believe completely that it was entirely possible for God to have established everything according to His will, and to accept that as fully as I could that the sun will rise in the morning. What that belief precisely is wouldn't be something that Creationists would approve of: they would probably condemn me as a teacher of heresy and try to throw this blog into a bonfire... but it's definitely not anything even remotely like Evolution, either. And it might not even be entirely accurate at all to however it was that God did it. But it's how the universe was created and structured as best as I have come to understand it. Not how "someone else" believes I should understand it.

What's more, I find that it's entirely consistent with the teachings of the Bible. Maybe someday I'll publish it.

That was only after years of struggling to comprehend how God could have really created everything. Years filled with doubt and despair and even long nights crying about it, because I couldn't understand it (I don't know if this person would ever read this but if she does someday: Nikki, you told me something one night that radically altered the course of my philosophy... in a very good way :-)...

...I wouldn't take anything for those years of inner turmoil. Of trying to "figure it all out". Because that was time that my struggle to comprehend those things ended up drastically building my faith in God. I came out of that time much stronger in my faith in Christ, and I came out of it... well, Lisa would say that she thinks I've come out a better person overall. For the most part, anyway. Maybe a few rough edges still :-)

Why would, or why should, any of us as believers in Christ seek to deny others that same potential for such wonderful spiritual growth?

You know, the Bible really is the most wonderful, amazing book ever assembled. I believe everything about it is best summed up by the word that is the title of its final chapter: "revelation". And that is precisely what the Bible should be for us as Christians: revelation unfolding, never-ending...

How could we, as a singular generation, possibly declare ourselves the final arbiters of its comprehension?

Yes, I believe that God created the universe. I believe that my fellow Christians should believe that, also. But it's the why we choose to believe it, that will determine the validity of our being a presence for the Kingdom in this earthen realm. Anything less than it being for Christ and for His own sake will corrupt our work unto ruin.

In other words, to those who obsess on Creationism: ever hear the old saying about "wrestling with a pig"? Get your booty in gear: we got better things to occupy ourselves with than the exact mechanics of physical existence. Let "them" play with the monkeys...

What's your theological worldview?

You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan, You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavly by John Wesley and the Methodists.

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan

89%

Neo orthodox

75%

Reformed Evangelical

68%

Charismatic/Pentecostal

61%

Emergent/Postmodern

54%

Fundamentalist

46%

Classical Liberal

36%

Modern Liberal

25%

Roman Catholic

21%

What's your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.com

I was fully expecting to rank as an Emergent/Postmodern more than anything else. But my personal theology is a strange melange of independent Methodism, much teaching from Stanley Hauerwas, C.S. Lewis and lots of personal experience. What's my denomination anyway? Does it even matter anymore? I'm like, here dude, wherever God put me...

Thanks to Shane Thacker for finding this one.

PIXELODEON 2007: See my commercial at the American Film Institute!

Next weekend, on June 9th and 10th, the American Film Institute in Los Angeles will be hosting the Pixelodeon 2007 Annual Independent Video Festival. Over 300 independently-produced videos and short films will be shown. Well, guess what: the "Star Wars"-themed first commercial from my school board campaign has been given the honor of being one of them! It really amazes me that all these months later, it's still seems to be rather popular. I just made it because (a) the idea was too good not to do and (b) with 16 candidates running, I really did have to try to stand out a little. But lo and behold, it's something that became bona-fide viral... which I never expected to happen. And now it's being shown at the AFI!

Pixelodeon 2007 sounds like it's going to be a lot of fun! I won't be there unfortunately (there's a teaching exam that I have to take that Saturday in Raleigh) but if you want to check out something really cool and happen to be in L.A. next weekend, head over to Pixelodeon. Visit the show's website for tickets and other information.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Another SESAME STREET classic: "Subway!"

"You could lose your purse
or you might lose something WORSE
on the subway!"

Before Curtis Sliwa arrived on the scene, no 'hood in New York City was safe... including Sesame Street, apparently.

Another great skit with the Muppets from Sesame Street. One that will leave you wondering "how did ALL those muppeteers fit on that tiny stage?"

You can't work unless Homeland Security approves you

My good friend Marc alerted me to this. Pay real close attention, boyz and goylz...

Soon you will need approval from the Department of Homeland Security in order to hold a job.

Do you understand what that means?

First of all, these are the people who maintain - and constantly bungle - the "No Fly List". Now they are going to do the same thing with your work eligibility.

But worse than that: this is something straight out of the Soviet Union. Hell, let's call a spade a spade and say that this is something out of Nazi Germany. Sure was hard to find work there unless you proved that you weren't Jewish, wasn't it? Lord only knows what our government will come up with that would disqualify someone from employment.

And what's to keep "them" from stopping there? If we can have No Fly Lists and No Work Lists - and they've already got No Gun Lists well in the works - then why not No Marry Lists and No Hospital Care Lists and No Food Lists...?

When does it stop?

More to the point: when do we stop them?

A little over three years ago I wrote "People Who Should Be Shot When the Revolution Comes". Maybe it's time to update that directory...

EDIT 7:16 p.m. EST: Yes, I know that this was hidden away in the "immigration reform" bill. But there is nothing about stemming the flow of illegals into this country that possibly necessitates putting the damned Department of Homeland Security in charge of whether or not anyone can work.

If that doesn't pop a huge red flag, then I don't know what will.

An idea for a new Fox reality show

How does this sound for a new show (I'm thinking Fox would be the best venue for it) in the style of American Idol and On The Lot: I call it Pardon Me!

Pardon Me! will feature twelve contestants, all of them convicted felons on Death Row. Each week the inmates have to "file an appeal" which is critiqued by a panel of three judges, including one "celebrity judge" (I'm thinking O.J. Simpson and Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme via satellite from prison in Texas). At the end of each show the phone lines open and the audience gets to vote on who they like most. Each week the "contestant" with the fewest votes is sent "home" and escorted off the stage on what the producers call "The Long Walk". The very last person left after weeks of competition gets a full pardon.

We're headed straight toward that, folks. That's what I can't help but think when I read stories like this one from the BBC: a new Dutch TV show has contestants vying for a dying donor's kidney...

Outcry over TV kidney competition

A Dutch TV station says it will go ahead with a programme in which a terminally ill woman selects one of three patients to receive her kidneys.

Political parties have called for The Big Donor Show to be scrapped, but broadcaster BNN says it will highlight the country's shortage of organ donors.

"It's a crazy idea," said Joop Atsma, of the ruling Christian Democrat Party.

"It can't be possible that, in the Netherlands, people vote about who's getting a kidney," he told the BBC.

The programme, from Big Brother creators Endemol, is due to be screened on Friday night.

The 37-year-old donor, identified only as Lisa, will make her choice based on the contestants' history, profile and conversation with their family and friends.

Viewers will also be able to send in their advice by text message during the 80-minute show.

I seriously have to wonder how long will it be before a show like this makes its way to America.

May 29, 2007: A tragic day for Star Wars fans

A few days ago we had the 30th anniversary of the release of Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope, even though it was a few years later when the subtitle was added). Last night the History Channel ran Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed, which is one of the best documentaries about Star Wars that I've ever seen. There's been a lot of jubilation this past week about our favorite modern saga...

...but today is a time to mourn.

Today Sacrifice, the new Star Wars novel in the "Legacy of the Force" series, was published. As is being widely reported already, this is the book that sees the death of Mara Jade Skywalker: wife of Luke Skywalker and perhaps the most beloved Star Wars character to have never appeared in any of the movies.

Mara Jade first appeared in Heir to the Empire, the first of the modern "expanded universe" books, in May of 1991. When we first saw her she was trying to kill Luke. She ended up falling in love with him. The two had a wedding as beautiful as any to be found in a fairy tale.

Mara Jade Skywalker was many things: former Imperial, Palpatine's personal assassin, smuggler, dancer, spy, Jedi, diplomat, wife, mother to son Ben... and so very beautiful.

And now, she is dead. Murdered at the hands of nephew Jacen Solo... who is now a Sith Lord calling himself Darth Caedus.

It's the end of an era, my friends...

Mara Jade, we hardly knew ye!

By the way, I sort of have a bit of "history" with Mara Jade. Some years ago I sat next to Shannon McRandle - the actress who did Mara's "real life" portrayals - during dinner. And in 2000 I interviewed Mara Jade's creator Timothy Zahn in an interview for TheForce.net. Then I wound up making a replica Luke Skywalker lightsaber for a friend's Mara Jade costume...

And yes, I do have a "favorite" Mara Jade outfit. But I'm not going to say which one it is here. But I will say this: of all the Star Wars female characters, I always thought that she was the hottest (WAY more so than that ridiculous "slave Leia metal bikini"). And for her attitude as much as for her loveliness.

Rest in peace, Mara...

Amnesty opponents don't know "what's right for America", Bush says

From the story...
"Those determined to find fault with this bill will always be able to look at a narrow slice of it and find something they don't like," the president said. "If you want to kill the bill, if you don't want to do what's right for America, you can pick one little aspect out of it.

"You can use it to frighten people," Bush said. "Or you can show leadership and solve this problem once and for all."

Once again, The Decider decrees that to disagree with him is unpatriotic. Hell, he practically accuses those against illegal amnesty of having the same mindset as "the terrists".

But it is George W. Bush and those like him who are destroying America. In ways that "terrorists" can only dream they could accomplish.

Quick note on some o' my websites

kwerkyproductions.com, knightforboard.org and knightvisionmedia.com will be temporarily offline for the next week or so. We're moving them to new hosting. It'll also give me some time to "tweak" a few things behind the scenes :-)

Monday, May 28, 2007

Rest in peace Charles Nelson Reilly

I heard this morning that Charles Nelson Reilly - Tony Award-winning performer and Match Game perpetual panelist - passed away this past Friday at the age of 76.

I didn't know him from any of that. No, like a lot of us who "came of age" during the last decade, I know Charles Nelson Reilly mostly from his role as Jose Chung in the classic The X-Files episode "Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space'": easily among the most unique hours of Nineties television.

A few years later Reilly returned as Chung in the Millennium episode "Jose Chung's Doomsday Defense". In his honor, here is the intro to that extremely hilarious episode (which made fun of Scientology):

Something to ponder this Memorial Day ...

I took this sign to a few places around Greensboro today...


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Government to sanction medical experiments without patient consent

Read the story at the Houston Chronicle site here.

The first things that flashed in my mind when I read this story were Nazi "doctors" like Josef Mengele, and the Tuskegee Experiment (which was conducted by the American government, by the way).

Someday "they" will go too far - if they haven't already - and the Man in Room Five is going to break free and come looking for them.

(Props to anyone who will recognize that literary reference.)

STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS trailer soars online (and an update on TALES OF THE NEW REPUBLIC)

I must admit, when I first heard about this project I was more than a little skeptical. I mean, haven't the Clone Wars been depicted enough over the past five years? Guess I was hoping for this kind of effort to be made toward covering ground we haven't seen yet (like the interval between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hop, or the Old Republic era). That said, this looks "impressive... most impressive!"


Mash down here for the new Star Wars: The Clone Wars trailer.

Speaking of computer-animated Star Wars, a few days ago I posted a report about something called Tales of the New Republic. Ever since word about this came out last week a lot of fans have been stymied as to whether or not this is an official Lucasfilm production. Sometime in the last day or so it was posted on the project's website that this is not an officially sanctioned production. It's something being done by a group of fans. Still astounded by the amount of work that seems to be going into this though. Here's the trailer for Tales of the New Republic that they've put online...

Review of PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End is the first movie of the 2007 summer season that I can honestly say I left the theater completely satisfied after seeing it. This, despite the dizzying Byzantine labyrinth of sub-stories and political schemes and double-crossing backstabs you have to navigate through in watching this movie.

The first advice I can give about going to see At World's End is to go to the restroom before the movie starts... and buy a small or medium drink at the concession stand, not large. Clocking in at very nearly three hours, this movie is a bladder-buster. But if you go away for even a few minutes during any part of the movie, you are assured to miss some critical bit of story or plot device. This isn’t like any of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings where you could go "answer the call of nature" during some lengthy oration by Gandalf and still "get" the rest of the movie. No, if you leave for whatever reason... nay, even turn your head to look at your huneybunch for too long... you'll miss stuff in At World's End.

The second advice I can give about watching Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End is to go into the movie with at least a cursory knowledge of how World War I started. In case you don’t know, it all went screwy in 1914 because of a myriad of treaties and alliances between all the big nations and empires on the European continent so that when Gavrilo Princip fired his one tiny gun, it obliged all the countries to start shooting at each other. That's what happens in At World's End: a maddening number of intrigue and unlikely partnerships and competing motivations that slowly become obvious to everyone involved. By then it's far too late: everything is headed toward one hella cacophonous collision on the high seas. And when it does... man I haven't seen a climax that cool in a new movie in a way long time!

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End picks up the story some time after the last installment Dead Man's Chest. In an opening scene at Port Royal that could be seen by many to be a metaphor for what's going on in modern America, the right to free speech and Habeas Corpus have been suspended by Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander), who begins to execute anyone suspected of being sympathetic to pirates (that all of this takes place near the present-day location of Guantanamo makes it even more ironic). Beckett, now in possession of the heart of Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), is already using Jones and the Flying Dutchman to enforce his will across the oceans. The sway that Beckett has over Jones is reinforced when it's learned that Beckett made Jones kill the Kraken.

Meanwhile Elizabeth Swann (Kiera Knightley), Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and the rest of the Black Pearl crew are in Singapore, hoping to convince Sao Feng (Chow Yun Fat), the Pirate Lord of the South China Sea, to lend them the map to World's End. Sao Feng isn't feeling too charitable, considering that Elizabeth's betrothed beau Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) was caught trying to steal the thing. During an ambush by the British Royal Navy, Sao Feng agrees to loan Elizabeth the map, along with his best ship, for the journey to World's End. Elizabeth, Barbossa, Gibbs (Kevin McNally) and the rest of the crew – including the mysterious voodoo priestess Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris) and the undead monkey – set off to rescue Captain Jack Sparrow.

Taking the story to far-off Singapore should have been the first clue as to the breadth of this third chapter in the Pirates of the Caribbean saga. At World's End is epic on an obscene scale. We see Port Royal and Singapore, and the twilight realm of the frozen Arctic (which was one of my favorite scenes of the movie) and quite a number of other places including the pirate bastion called Shipwreck Cove, where the Brethren Court – the nine pirate lords throughout the world – meet. Where The Curse of the Black Pearl and Dead Man's Chest took place in the Caribbean and Atlantic, At World's End spans the entire globe and beyond.

But then Elizabeth and her crew go over the literal World's End (guess the world is flat after all) and we get to see Davy Jones' Locker: the place where those who owe a debt to Jones go to pay it off. It's at this point that I totally forgot this movie was directed by Gore Verbinski and it became, instead, a film by Terry Gilliam. I thought that even before reading reviews from other people who thought the same thing, too. Here we finally get to see Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp, in maybe his best portrayal of the character yet). Davy Jones' Locker is a vast desert wasteland that wrecks havoc with one's sanity (just like a Gilliam movie is apt to do to the viewer). Quite a bit of revelation about Sparrow in this part: maybe more than we ever cared to know, even. Sparrow is rescued and just as important, the Black Pearl is recovered (I'm trying hard not to "spoil" too much of the details here) and after Sparrow figures out the World's End map, our heroes are back in the realm of the living.

And from that point on... I need to re-watch At World's End again, because this story was incredibly dense for a summer popcorn flick. There are still some things I'm not quite sure of (such as the importance of the people singing Hoist the Colors on their way to the gallows at the beginning of the movie). This is definitely a movie to watch and re-watch many times when it comes out on DVD in order to "get" everything that's going on. But slight confusion aside, I cannot but admit that I had a blast with Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. It makes watching the first two again something you're going to want to do, because very small details in those suddenly take on huge significance (the locket that Tia Dalma has f'rinstance, which I speculated about when I watched the DVD of Dead Man's Chest back in January). All the big dangling storylines get resolved in At World's End... usually after we come to find out that there was much more to the tale than what we’d previously known. We learn a staggering amount of stuff about this fictional world, especially when the Brethren Court meets (which I enjoyed a lot). Speaking of which, Keith Richards is a lot of fun to watch as Captain Teague Sparrow: the keeper of the Pirate Law and the father of Captain Jack.

I think Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End is the third installment in a movie series that Return of the Jedi could have and should have been. Because if this is going to be the last film in a series for awhile or ever at all, then everything should be poured into the story so far as the setting and geography and lore of the movie's "universe" goes. The only new things we really saw in Return of the Jedi were Jabba's Palace and a forest filled with pint-sized Wookiees. At World's End is painted with a much broader brush that doesn't leave us feeling wanting at the conclusion of the movie.

About the ending: yeah, I wasn't expecting that for an ending, either. I had always envisioned Will and Elizabeth to be married by Captain Sparrow on the deck of the Black Pearl after Davy Jones and Beckett had been taken care of, "and they lived happily ever after". If you've seen the movie, you know that this does not happen. That what does happen was something we never anticipated. But, it's starting to grow on me. The producers of the movie were bold enough to break with tradition and I think it's going to make At World's End that much more endearing with time.

The visual effects in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End are amazing. I was mighty impressed at how good Industrial Light and Magic had become with the CGI in Dead Man's Chest. In At World's End, they surpassed that even. So many shots in this movie that I have to wonder how they were done. You might be hearing some talk about that last scene with Cutler Beckett: that was definitely a fun one to watch.

I feel like I'm only able to give a half-hearted review of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End because I really need to see this again, if not two more times, to feel like I can fully appreciate all the nuances and angles of this movie. Maybe I'll write some more thoughts about it when that happens.

But in the meantime, I've spent each Saturday of the past four weeks watching a new summer movie (Spider-Man 3 twice and Shrek the Third last week). I had a good time with Spider-Man 3 in spite of its many problems and didn't think very much at all about "Dreck the Third". With Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, I can finally see that there may be some promise yet at the movies this summer.

Friday, May 25, 2007

"We have to go back!": LOST after "The Looking Glass"

This post is going to be heavy on spoilers regarding this past Wednesday night's season finale of Lost, titled "Through the Looking Glass". So if you're someone who's still trying to find time to "get into" the show (someone who is probably going to be borrowing my Lost DVD sets, and you know who you are ;-) then you'll want to steer clear of what I'm about to say, until you're able to watch "Through the Looking Glass" as virginally as possible, with the three seasons of stories behind it.

Everyone gone who doesn't want to know more at the present time?

Good, 'cuz here goes...

The Lost Season 3 finale was the most diabolically devious trick that was ever pulled with a TV show, that I've been able to think of. What makes it work is that there were three seasons of an established format building up to it, and during this episode we think we know what's going on. And then that final scene happens... which was the absolutely most confusing thing that I ever watched firsthand until my wife figured it out and told me about it... and kicks the table not only over, but clear across the room. The producers said that this episode would be the long-announced "game-changer" that would totally alter how we watched the story.

I don't think that they were kidding. Just as Alice went through the Looking Glass and everything was reversed, that's what this episode represents. For three years we have been watching these characters be revealed through flashbacks of their lives before coming to the Island...

...and now we are getting ready to see how exactly the Island affected them, through flash-forwards of what happens to them after they were eventually rescued.

Which I think is one of the most original things... if not the most original thing, to ever be done with a television show mid-stream.

In fact, I have to wonder if Lost has raised the bar so high with this move, could television as a story-telling medium ever be able to top that? So far, no ideas are entering my mind... and I've tried to think of plenty.

That final shot of Jack crying "We have to go back!"... maybe that wasn't the traditional season-ending "cliffhanger", but that was easily the most haunting way to end one chapter of a television show that I've seen. This whole episode was filled with shots that stick to your mind, but that one tops them all.

So now we know that Jack and Kate, at least of the Flight 815 survivors, do get off the Island... but at what cost? A man does not obsess with maps of the Pacific and keeps flying over it praying that the plane will crash unless there is something massive on his conscience about whatever happened. Why can't he find the Island again? If they were rescued, then certainly somewhere there is a log showing the coordinates of the Island, right? However it happened, it made Jack a very recognizable "hero figure" and Oceanic was embarrassed enough to give all the survivors lifetime free flights to anywhere. But there's something else that they can't talk about: Jack says that he's "tired of the lying" about it.

So... what was it?

What does happen to Sawyer and Sayid and Hurley and Claire and Sun and Jin and all of the rest once they finally return to their normal lives. Can they even return to those? For some reason I keep envisioning a future episode of Lost where Hurley and his dad take their car to the Grand Canyon, just like Papa Reyes promised Hurley. I also see, if the show is going to be flash-forwards from here on out, how Michael and Walt can be brought back and how Malcolm David Kelley's growth can be realistically addressed (without having to resort to anything wacky like "the Others experimented on him" etc.). We might see years down the line, where Sun and Jin are a happy couple with their beautiful baby (if there are no "complications" that is). The thing about Desmond and Penny, we might get to see a happy ending to that story too... maybe.

And then there is Locke: where will he be, long after the ships or helicopters or whatever have come? Because you just know that he won't go unless he's unconscious or dead or bound and gagged and even then I wouldn't trust him to not blow something up.

I do believe that the show will end with us seeing the 815 survivors being rescued. But the story shouldn't end "there". These characters are going to be changed for the rest of their lives by what has happened on the Island. And now we are going to get to see how it affected them, too.

The Lost producers, it seems, have crossed a terrible line and painted themselves into a corner with "Through the Looking Glass". So now they're going to tear a hole straight through the wall.

This is what makes excellent storytelling, folks. It's when you challenge yourself and decide that you won't be bound by "the norms". That you are going to tell this story your way and let come what may. They have taken a huge gamble with this: maybe the biggest ever tried with a television show. But, I think it's going to work.

Besides, just about all the major characters (and a lot of the minor ones) have had their pasts explored about as much as the viewers are really interested to see. We need to explore some fresh ground now. By altering the format of the story, they get to do that and in the process do something quite rare for a television show: make it completely fresh and compelling viewing again well into the show's run.

So it will be a long eight months until Lost returns. But somehow after this week's episode I don't feel upset at having to wait at all. There is a sense of completion here. Now we just have to sit back and watch how the thing unfolds along the way to get us there.

Lost with no more flashbacks... who'da thunk we'd see that happen? :-)

Thirty years ago today ...

... Star Wars was born.

You've come a long way, baby.

Happy birthday to the greatest movie saga ever.

(Don't forget that today is the day that the Star Wars postage stamps go on sale at U.S. Post Offices across America. I'll be going to get mine in the next little while :-)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

About that "new Star Wars movie" rumor ...

I doubt it.

The Internets have been buzzing all day - spurred on by a story from the Daily Telegraph - about a supposed "major announcement" tomorrow at Star Wars Celebration IV: that George Lucas is going to make another Star Wars movie.

I'm not going to be at this year's Celebration, but I was at the second in 2002 and the third in 2005 (both in Indianapolis) and trust me: this thing seems to breed wild rumors like you can't imagine. Over the course of two Celebrations I've heard that: Hugh Jackman was confirmed to be in Episode III, that we would find out the name of Yoda's race, that George Lucas was "definitely" coming to Celebration II (he didn't, but we did see him at Celebration III), that the adjacent stadium would be used to host the first public showing of Revenge of the Sith for convention attendees, and probably a dozen more... including the rumor - at both - that the event would see the announcement of a sequel Star Wars trilogy.

None of those things happened. I'm not saying Lucas won't make a new Star Wars movie, just that in my mind it's pretty doubtful for lots of reasons. If this does get announced though, I can only imagine that Lucas is going to take more of an "executive producer" role: that he'll write the script for the movie(s), then hand off direction and a lot of the other major tasks to others. Which, I think would be a pretty good arrangement... again, for lots of reasons.

Personally, I would love to see that happen. If for no other reason than because all these years I had been anticipating nine Star Wars movies, and because three trilogies on the DVD shelf would look a lot neater than two :-)

EDIT 5/25/2007 6:40 a.m. EST: Steve Sansweet has confirmed at Celebration IV that there will be no further Star Wars movies.

There is only one reason why politicians want to tax the Internet

Some are saying that taxes on Internet use could arrive by this fall.

The Internet may have started with government funding, but it's long been something that's of and managed by the public domain.

There is only one reason why politicians would want to tax how you use the Internet: because they want to control how you use it and how much information you get from it.

People across the country are finally waking up to the charade that the "two party" fraud has been perpetrating on us for so long. People are starting to openly question the motives of their leaders. There is beginning to be considerable resistance to the idea that we must have things like the income tax. There are some politicians in the past few weeks who have witnessed the meteoric rise of Ron Paul to the forefront of the presidential race, and they realize that it couldn't have happened without people exchanging ideas over the Internet and coordinating with each other.

Ever read V for Vendetta, the original graphic novel? In the final part of the book, V makes total chaos break out after shutting down the government's ability to eavesdrop on everyone. The country starts tearing itself apart and Evey asks V if this is what he really wanted. V tells her no: that the current phase of violence and upheaval is Verwirrung: "The Land of Take-What-You-Want". But after this "comes an age of Ordnung, of true order, which is to say voluntary order." V doesn't want total disorder. He simply wants people to assume authority and responsibility on their own without trusting very evil men to assume it for them.

That's the potential of the Internet, that we might finally start to see blossoming. Regular people are no longer trusting The Powers That Be. The ordinary man is coming to be revealed as just as wise and capable as... if not far more so than... the "elites" who continue to get elected to Washington year after year.

And the elites can't have that.

So they want to impose this tax. As a measure of control over the masses that they have exploited for so long. They are trying to take away the public stump and the town hall from us.

A tax on the Internet is a grievous blow for the cause of tyranny.

And the only people who would possibly want to impose this tax are true tyrants at heart.

By all means, an Internet tax should be opposed. And those who want it driven from office by the cruelest of whips.

LOST last night: Ben = George W. Bush

Think about it...

George W. Bush claims to hear God, his followers believe him and are ready to go to war and kill on Bush's orders.

Ben claims to hear Jacob, his followers believe him and are ready to go to war and kill on Ben's orders.

Though lately, the followers of both are starting to question their leaders.

That one just kinda jumped out at me last night. I thought "Through the Looking Glass", the final Lost of the season, was in part a great parable about blindly following someone "with authority" without questioning that authority.

Ben also reminded me of Randall Flagg in the last good bit of The Stand, when he starts to lose control over his followers and everything starts to go wrong around him.

I guess it could also be said that Ben is much like Shift, the ape in C.S. Lewis' The Last Battle, the final book in the Chronicles of Narnia. Shift claims to speak for Aslan and he tells the other Narnians that they can't see Aslan for themselves, that they have to trust Shift's word completely. Too many of them don't question it and it ultimately leads to disaster.

Man, I love Lost! This is why it's one of the very few shows I've ever kept up with: 'cuz it makes ya think about stuff.

The newspaper clipping from last night's LOST

At the beginning of last night's Lost, Jack (was it just me or did he start looking more and more like Charles Manson as the episode progressed, especially later on with the denim jacket and heavy drugs) sees a newspaper article while flying on the plane. He tears it out and takes it with him and it's seen in most of the "flashbacks" that follow. As we know, it was a news story about someone's death: presumably this is the person in the casket. But who is it?

Well, someone (apparently this came from The Tail Section) got a real good high-def screenshot of one of the very few times that there was a decent enough close-up of the clipping. Here it is:


It looks like the name being referred to could be "Jeremy Bentham". Which as it turns out, with Lost's penchant for naming characters after real-world philosophers, is probably it. Who was Jeremy Bentham? From Wikipedia...

Jeremy Bentham (IPA: ['benθəm] or ['bentəm]) (February 15, 1748 O.S. (February 26, 1748 N.S.) – June 6, 1832) was an English jurist, philosopher, and legal and social reformer. He was a political radical and a leading theorist in Anglo-American philosophy of law. He is best known as an early advocate of utilitarianism and animal rights who influenced the development of liberalism.

Bentham was one of the most influential utilitarians, partially through his writings but particularly through his students all around the world. These included his secretary and collaborator on the utilitarian school of philosophy James Mill, James Mill's son John Stuart Mill, and several political leaders (and Robert Owen, who later became a founder of socialism).

But check this out...
Among his many proposals for legal and social reform was a design for a prison building he called the Panopticon. Although it was never built, the idea had an important influence upon later generations of thinkers. Twentieth-century French philosopher Michel Foucault argued that the Panopticon was paradigmatic of a whole raft of nineteenth-century 'disciplinary' institutions.
And what was the Panopticon prison supposed to be, exactly? Again from Wikipedia:
The Panopticon is a type of prison building designed by English philosopher Jeremy Bentham in the late eighteenth century. The concept of the design is to allow an observer to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) prisoners without the prisoners being able to tell if they are being observed or not, thus conveying a "sentiment of an invisible omniscience." In his own words, Bentham described the Panopticon as "a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example."
Sounds suspiciously like some of the stuff that's been going on with the Island.

Ever since last night I thought that the person in the casket was someone we already knew. But it looks like it's going to be someone we haven't seen yet. And my guess is they have a major connection to the purpose of the Island.

Methinks Lindelof and Cuse (the producers of Lost) have given us plenty to pursue and contemplate and fill up the Internets with crazy theories about between now and next winter!

LOST: The morning after "Through the Looking Glass"

Lisa and I woke up and the first words out of her mouth were that "it's hard to sleep with something like THAT on your mind."

For the first time in a long time, it could honestly be said that television history was made last night.

I am not that much of a television person. Never have been. The number of shows that I've actively kept up with during my life could be numbered with my hands. And it took me awhile to "get into" Lost. I'm sorta like the Amish when it comes to TV: I have to fully trust it before I invest my time in it. But Lisa's mom kept saying how this was a really good show, so I gave it a shot.

And I've never been so glad that I did than I am after last night.

"Through the Looking Glass", the Lost Season 3 finale, is the most beautifully orchestrated and mind-blowing single episode of a television show that I've ever seen. My brain still hasn't stopped reeling from what we saw last night. Remember the twist ending that we saw in The Sixth Sense? Well, "Through the Looking Glass" was ten times that "HOLY (your choice of exclamation here)!!!" that we felt at the end of that movie. Ever since the return from the break in February Lost has consistently been some of the best fiction that I've seen in any medium. This final episode for Season 3 raised the bar across the board for everything, especially for TV (either network or "premium" channels like HBO). On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give "Through the Looking Glass" a 27.

There was only one thing that bugged me about "Through the Looking Glass". That was when Locke saw Walt (or whatever the heck that really was, since I'm sure the real Walt is still on the boat with Michael after last season's finale). Walt looked and sounded old enough to buy cigarettes. Guess that couldn't be helped: Malcolm David Kelley was, what, 10 years old when the pilot episode was shot? Looks like puberty kicked in bigtime since last season's finale. But since that obviously wasn't the real Walt, I guess this can be allowed to slide. If they ever do show the real Walt though, there'd better be a darned good explanation for his ultra-fast growth spurt (but this being Lost, anything could probably be made to sound like it makes sense :-).

The most powerful moment of the whole show (after that "JEEZ LOUISE!" shocker of a final scene) was the last time we saw Charlie. We literally had to hold back the tears. I don't think that could have been handled any more poignantly. And I'm trying as hard as I can to not be too "spoiler-ish" for anyone who hasn't had the good fortune of seeing this show yet.

Sayid showed us once again last night that he is the baddest mothe-"shut yo mouth" on TV right now (or ever). Did you see what he did to that guy... with his legs?!?

Of all the moments that Hurley has had, this was his biggest moment to shine. It's funny: last week I found myself wondering about whatever happened to the DHARMA van. The scene where Hurley charges the beach in it, pedal-to-the-metal with that look of "I'm coming to get YOU!" on his face... just awesome! I've said this before and I'll say it again: Hurley is the real leader of the Flight 815 survivors. He's gone way out of his way to provide for his friends, to give them a good time... and to stand by them when they need it most. What he did last night just affirmed it that much more.

Did anyone else get the craziest feeling that for all of Ben's lies and manipulations and orders to kill people... that maybe there really is something we don't know about yet that he's very much in fear of? After last night I still think Ben is one of the most hated TV characters ever... but now there's a weird sense of sincerity about him. Still didn't keep me from cheering when Jack beat the living snot out of him.

By the way, I loved how Ben is fast losing control over the Others. It's like the last bit of Stephen King's The Stand when things began going bad for Randall Flagg and no matter how hard he tries to control things, they keep spinning out of control.

If that's not Penny's boat... then who is it? The only thing I can think of is that it's DHARMA... but if DHARMA is still active, then they must already still know where the Island is, since they're still dropping groceries onto it. That's probably the biggest question that I can think of to take us into next season.

Now as for "that thing". You know what I'm talking about if you watched it last night. Lost is notorious for setting things up so that you have to watch an episode more than once, sometimes two or three times even. I think that last night's episode is going to be the most dissected and analyzed and hypothesized two hours of television. I keep thinking about how all that time people were calling Jack a "hero", and it seemed like they were referring to what happened with the car crash. Except it turns out that they called him a hero for something else entirely. And then that final scene where the car pulls up and Jack talks with a certain someone: as I said right after the show, that scene made the synapses in my brain misfire while trying to figure out just what the heck was going on. And then Lisa tells me. If she hadn't figured it out I would have probably been wrestling with that all night (or at least until I read about it online). That one was hands-down one of the biggest shockers in either a TV show or a movie... or a book for that matter (I really hope that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will have a shocker just half as sad and pure loco as what Lost was last night).

So... who's in the casket? Four or five people come to mind. One in particular. But like I said, I'm trying hard not to be too spoiler-ish.

Man, if I were a drinking man, I would have needed some serious hard liquor after last night's Lost. That was definitely better television that we deserve.

Amazing. Just bloody amazing. Now we have to wait until next January (at the earliest) to see how and where... and when... this story progresses from here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Moments after LOST Season 3 finale ...

Stunned.

I need to say, so that everyone will know, that Lisa was the first here to figure out what was really happening in that last scene. When... that person... got out of the car, that completely threw me for a loop, 'cuz that made NO sense at all. It wasn't until the very final seconds that Lisa told me what was going on and everything just "clicked" into place.

It's been a long day and I need to hit the sack. I'm going to post more about this tomorrow. But I couldn't end tonight without giving Lisa credit for being the first here to understand what we were actually seeing.

That might have been the finest two hours of televised fiction that I've ever seen. And most of this past season of Lost was already, in my opinion, some of the finest storytelling I'd seen in this medium.

Just... amazing.

By the way, Hurley totally ruled in this episode!

More tomorrow. After it's sunk in.

This is gonna be one long torturous wait until next winter.

STAR WARS: TALES OF THE NEW REPUBLIC

Check this cryptic page out for some amazing Star Wars artwork. We already knew that Lucasfilm was producing a Clone Wars animated series and that there was supposed to be a second animated project: is this it? The page says "Stop by this Friday to find out more". Since Star Wars Celebration IV is just getting started in Los Angeles and that Friday is the 30th anniversary of the first film, there's no doubt that all kinds of saga wackiness could be erupting over the next few days.

Anyhoo, judging by this and the other pics on that site, me like!

We're ready to party with DHARMA food!

UPDATE 05/27/2008: You want these DHARMA Initiative food labels for yourself? Well thanks to file-hosting site MediaFire you can now download the ones that we used for this Lost party last year, along with several others that I've found since then. Just click the link and start your download. Enjoy your DHARMA food! :-)

Lost - Dharma food labels.zip (3.6 MB)


Yes, you too can have a pantry filled with DHARMA Initiative products, just like the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 on Lost!

There is a box of DHARMA Crisps...

DHARMA Peanut Butter...

And the always-popular DHARMA Cola...

(WARNING: These are HUGE image files. All the better to note the detail :-)

If we ever need them, we can also have DHARMA Baked Beans, DHARMA Mayonnaise, DHARMA Tuna, DHARMA Salt, DHARMA Chocolate... and DHARMA Beer! Who knows, maybe we can even scrounge up some DHARMA Ranch Dressing (with a shelf life of 7 years at room temperature).

So I guess we're finally ready for tonight's Lost season finale... what you think? :-)

Legalized dictatorship: Bush clears way for unprecedented seizure of power

George W. Bush is the worst President in American history. As I've said many times before: it will be decades before we have completely cleaned up the mess that this evil man and his cronies have done to this country.

Some will claim that for me to say that is not becoming a true Christian. If only Germany had been inundated with such insincere Christians in the years leading up to 1938.

The fact that I am probably in a government database somewhere as a "dissident" and a "troublemaker" for what I've posted here should be enough to make anyone pause.

Here's the story from Jerome Corsi at WorldNetDaily. This is certainly the first I'm hearing about this...

Bush makes power grab

Posted: May 23, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern

President Bush, without so much as issuing a press statement, on May 9 signed a directive that granted near dictatorial powers to the office of the president in the event of a national emergency declared by the president.

The "National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive," with the dual designation of NSPD-51, as a National Security Presidential Directive, and HSPD-20, as a Homeland Security Presidential Directive, establishes under the office of president a new National Continuity Coordinator.

That job, as the document describes, is to make plans for "National Essential Functions" of all federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal governments, as well as private sector organizations to continue functioning under the president's directives in the event of a national emergency.

The directive loosely defines "catastrophic emergency" as "any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions."



WND Exclusive Commentary Bush makes power grab
Posted: May 23, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern

President Bush, without so much as issuing a press statement, on May 9 signed a directive that granted near dictatorial powers to the office of the president in the event of a national emergency declared by the president.

The "National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive," with the dual designation of NSPD-51, as a National Security Presidential Directive, and HSPD-20, as a Homeland Security Presidential Directive, establishes under the office of president a new National Continuity Coordinator.

That job, as the document describes, is to make plans for "National Essential Functions" of all federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal governments, as well as private sector organizations to continue functioning under the president's directives in the event of a national emergency.

The directive loosely defines "catastrophic emergency" as "any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions."

When the president determines a catastrophic emergency has occurred, the president can take over all government functions and direct all private sector activities to ensure we will emerge from the emergency with an "enduring constitutional government."

Translated into layman's terms, when the president determines a national emergency has occurred, the president can declare to the office of the presidency powers usually assumed by dictators to direct any and all government and business activities until the emergency is declared over.

Ironically, the directive sees no contradiction in the assumption of dictatorial powers by the president with the goal of maintaining constitutional continuity through an emergency...

All it takes is for President Bush to declare a "national emergency", and he goes from being The Decider to being The Dictator.

Think it can't happen here?

Is anyone willing to bet good money with me that it won't?

"Through the Looking Glass": Tonight's LOST last until 2008!

The story thus far...
-Naomi, the woman who parachuted onto the Island, works for a company that Penny hired to look for Desmond. She's told the Flight 815 survivors that the ship her helicopter launched from is about 80 kilometers away.

- Ben and the Others are planning an attack on the 815ers' camp in an attempt to kidnap Sun... along with any other women who could possibly become pregnant.

- Cooper is dead.

- Ben took Locke to see Jacob, and Jacob spoke two words to Locke.

- Juliet has turned traitor against Ben and told Jack about the pending attack.

- Jack has enlisted Danielle's help in order to, as Jack puts it, "blow 'em (the Others) all to Hell."

- Alex sent Karl rushing to the camp to warn them that the Others are coming right now!

- Sayid is working on contacting Naomi's ship via radio... if the Others' jamming can be deactivated.

- Jack is about to lead most of the camp away from the beach and toward the radio tower (which hasn't been seen yet) ...

- ... while Sayid, Jin, Bernard and possibly a few others will wait for the Others to arrive so they can set off the explosives.

- The last time anyone saw Locke, he had taken a bullet to the gut from Ben's gun and he was lying in a pit filled with the skeletons of the DHARMA Initiative people.

- Charlie has decided that he won't run away from his fate any longer, and knowing that he will probably not live to tell the tale, has entered the Looking Glass station ...

- ... where without warning, two well-armed women have stopped him from pushing the button that will end the jamming.

- Desmond is unconscious.

- Claire is worried.

- Aaron is crying.

- Sawyer is angry.

- Kate is horny.

- Hurley is hungry.

- Nikki and Paulo are still dead.

- Mikhail still needs some Q-Tips and is probably going to get his butt kicked again.

Tonight's Lost, titled "Through the Looking Glass", is the long-awaited Season 3 finale: the one that's said to be the "game-changer" episode that alters everything we've come to know about this story.

I know that reportedly humongous spoilers have been leaked onto the 'net during the past two weeks or so. Whatever those are, I know absolutely nothing about them. When I first heard about the leaks, I gave up every Lost website that I know of cold-turkey. My wife and I have invested way too much time in this show leading up to this episode to have the surprises ruined for us. So whatever is going to happen, I won't know anything until tonight. We are going to discover this together, the way it's supposed to be discovered.

How much do I love this show? I'm thinking of printing up some DHARMA food labels to put on snack boxes and soft drink bottles for tonight's episode... and I've never done anything that crazy for a TV show before.

Enjoy "Through the Looking Glass", friends, 'cuz this will be the last Lost until at least January 2008!

As always, look for my reaction following the show.

EDIT 8:20 a.m. EST: I've heard that tonight's Lost is supposed to be one of the most outrageous season finales ever.

"Even more outrageous than 'The Moldavian Massacre'?!?"

Here it is, the classic final moments of the 1985 season finale of Dynasty...

Let's see how tonight's Lost stacks up against that!

Okay so... my thoughts about ON THE LOT?

So Lisa and I watched On The Lot, now about four months after we saw that promo back in January and her telling me that I should have a go at it. So with only a month before deadline I went and made Schrodinger's Bedroom. Obviously the entry round was as far as I got (nope, not so much as a callback for an interview), but it was a fun lil' film to make and I'm glad for the opportunity.

Now, as for what we finally saw on television last night...

Where this show is weak is that it, like most other "reality television" series, already seems to be built around combativeness among the contestants. In that regard I have to wonder how much of a "talent" competition this really is. I do believe that where my own entry failed was the 45-second intro: I definitely wanted to show where I'm coming from and talk about what inspired me to make a movie about Schrodinger's Cat and a little about the hurdles to overcome in making a film on such a tight deadline. Unfortunately, I now see that I should have spent all that time talking about "me me me"... and I'm not that kind of person very much. If I got to be on the show, I absolutely wanted to take Reidsville with me... but to realistically have a shot at the show, it had to just be "me" going. So if I enter again next time, my intro video has to completely reflect my personality (maybe I should have used some clips from my school board commercials...?).

Anyway, I think that the intro videos were what sold most - if not all - of the contestants we saw last night. This being "reality" television, a suitable environment for lots of cutthroat action needs to be created. So a lot of different personality types have been assembled for this show. The talent factor seems to be a distant second, just judging by some of the presentations that were made during "The Pitch" round. In case you missed it, the 50 semi-finalists were randomly given one of five "log lines" and from that, each contestant had to create a pitch for a movie. They had 24 hours to come up with one. I was coming up with ideas like crazy in just a few minutes - the mouse and the priest were two that I really had some fun notions for - and those seemed to be a lot better than what we saw on this show last night. I mean, it shouldn't be that hard, within 24 hours, to come up with a killer idea from just a scrap of suggestion. And I don't want to "name names" here but some of them were just ridiculous. There was one presentation in particular that was particularly painful to watch... and that's all I'm going to say.

Some people have noted since the show ran last night that all of the "older" contestants were eliminated after the first round. Frankly, this bothers me. I hope that happened on the merit of their pitch alone. All the same: a film-maker isn't really coming into his or her own until, I believe anyway, their mid to late thirties. The 36 that are left seem to be well below that. Thirty to forty years is long enough for a film-maker to not only learn the basics of the craft and run with it, but also to accumulate knowledge and ideas from which to draw creativity. And there shouldn't be an "upper limit" to a film-maker's age, either. Heck, if it's going to sell tickets, I don't care if the film-maker is 8, 28, or 80 years old.

It was only after the pitches and the first eliminations were made that I thought On The Lot really got interesting. The 36 that were left were allowed to split up into groups of 3 - teaming up with whoever they chose to be with - and given the theme of "out of time"... from which they have 24 hours to make a 2 and a half minute film. Again, it seems like the contestants were chosen for how much combativeness could be generated because no matter which combo of contestants that we saw, it's pretty clear that there's going to be some ill feelings one way or another. How often is it that three directors are forced together to make one movie, anyway? Yeah I know, there's the issue of time availability, but in real life this just does not happen on a routine basis. Last night's premiere ended with two teams of film-makers finding that they've chosen the same section of railroad yard to shoot a scene, with each group demanding the other get out of camera shot. What happens next? Tune in Thursday night...

I hope that the highlight of this show is going to be film-making, and the talents of the individuals involved, instead of whatever theatrics can be engineered on the part of the producers. I'm not really that big a fan of reality shows like Survivor (Rudy and Rupert are the only contestants from that show that I can think of... so that should tell ya how up-to-speed I am on that lil' Mark Burnett series) but I want to be interested in On The Lot because it is about film-making. If the show makes that its centerpiece, then I think that I can be a faithful viewer for the rest of the summer. If not, then this is going to get real old, real fast... and the sense that I'm getting from a lot of other people this morning is that they're feeling the same thing, too. We've seen "reality" television already. We know what to expect. It's like Hollywood in general: we've seen the same bloody stuff so many times that we know it by heart and we're positively bored bonkers with it. On The Lot is an opportunity to give not just prime-time TV but the film industry something it's sorely lacking: fresh new blood and ideas...

...if that's what the producers at Fox want.

It's their choice, but not really.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

ON THE LOT premieres on Fox tonight

On The Lot, the new reality show from Mark Burnett (Survivor and a few other programs) and Steven Spielberg (some movie guy) premieres on Fox tonight at 9 p.m. EST, right after American Idol. This is that "American Idol for filmmakers" show, where aspiring filmmakers have to make one movie a week and in Idol fashion, they get judged by a celebrity panel of judges before going to the American public to be voted on. The last one standing at the end of the summer gets a $1 million contract to work at DreamWorks.

Here are the 50 semi-finalists that came out of a field of over 12,000 entrants. I will not be one of those on the show tonight, although my entry Schrodinger's Bedroom seems to have been enjoyed by quite a lot of people (it had over ten thousand views before a website snafu required it to be re-uploaded, you can also watch it here on YouTube). Even so, I'm going to be watching this with a lot of interest over this coming summer. And who knows: I might already have an idea or two for an entry for next year's show :-)

Monday, May 21, 2007

THE GOLDEN COMPASS trailer arrives

I have no idea what this is supposed to be. It looks like The Chronicles of Narnia meets The Dark Tower meets the Bolshevik Revolution. Maybe someone can explain it and tell me if it's something worth keeping an eye on. In the meantime mash down here to watch The Golden Compass trailer in Quicktime.

Keanu Reeves as Dr. Manhattan?!?

In an exclusive report that is sure to drop jaws all over the place, Ain't It Cool News is claiming to be the first outlet with news about casting for the upcoming Watchmen movie adaptation (I keep tellin' yas, it's not gonna work as a 2-3 hour movie). According to the story, Jude Law is probably gonna be playing Adrian Veidt aka Ozymandias... which isn't something I was expecting to hear, but I could see that working.

Oh yeah, and Keanu Reeves as Dr. Manhattan.

Ummmmm... saywhu...??

If you've never read Watchmen, the image on the right is what Dr. Manhattan looks like. So if you can imagine Keanu Reeves as a bald, blue, naked, God-like being...

...which I can't...

On the other hand, I think Reeves did an outstanding job handling the material of the Matrix movies, and Watchmen is on that same level of "thinking man's" entertainment that those films were. Reeves as Dr. Manhattan might make a lot more people stand up and take notice at this project... if it can manage to stay faithful to the book (which is gonna be hard, but after seeing 300 I think that if anyone can pull the impossible off with Watchmen, it'll be Zack Snyder).

And now that I think of it, Reeves seems like an excellent choice to play Jon Osterman, before he becomes Manhattan (read the book if you want to know what happens that turns him nigh-omnipotent). But this is still gonna have to be handled delicately: we should not have people pointing at the screen and laughing at bald blue naked Keanu Reeves, right?

Now, anyone wanna take a stab at who is gonna play Rorschach?

Carter was the most ineffective, but Bush IS the worst ever

You've probably heard already about former U.S. President Jimmy Carter calling George W. Bush "the worst in history".

Y'know, Carter really was the most inept and ineffective president America has had in the past 50 years. His entire presidency could well be summed-up by the word "malaise".

But even more than Carter, the worst was easily Lyndon B. Johnson: a man who's damage to this country has still yet to be fully calculated. Where Johnson trumped Carter was having the most corrupt presidency up 'til his time. Say what you will of Carter: I've never thought that he did have anything but the best of intentions at heart, however much he bungled those intentions. Barry Goldwater was right: Carter should have kept his head down once he was out of office, and he would have gone down in the history books as one of the better ones. Too bad Carter didn't listen. But there was never anything redeemable about Lyndon Johnson's term: the man bloated government and firmly put the military-industrial complex in a position to exploit the taxpayers to its hearts content... to say nothing of the quagmire that was Vietnam.

That's how I've long seen it: Lyndon Johnson as the worst in American history, followed by Carter... who I was reluctant to peg as a bad one but I really had no choice.

Then along comes George W. Bush.

I don't know if America will ever recover from the damage that this very evil man has inflicted upon her. Carter and Johnson (and Clinton for that matter) combined could not have been as detrimental to this country as Bush II has been.

Let's look at the accomplishments of The Great Decider...

- Biggest growth of government in American history

- Most spending in American history

- Almost thirty-five hundred American soldiers and other service personnel and countless thousands of civilians dead in the most meaningless, ill-conceived conflict the United States has ever engaged in (this figure only counts those mortally wounded in Iraq, not those who were injured and died elsewhere)

- The PATRIOT Act

- Destruction of Habeas Corpus

- Nominating Harriet Miers for Supreme Court

- No Child Left Behind

- Cutting pay and supplies to American military personnel

- Rampant cronyism that puts the Ulysses Grant administration to shame

- Most secretive administration in American history (EVERYTHING can be made a "classified top secret" on Bush's watch)

- Active suppression of dissidents and others who disagree with him

- "Free-speech zones"

- "No-bid" contracts given to companies like Halliburton... which clearly constitute a "conflict of interest" considering their connections to Vice President Cheney and others

- Presided over loss of most American jobs since the Great Depression

- The New Freedoms Initiative, which mandates mental health screening and possible medication - against parents wishes - for every schoolchild in America (I say again: I will shoot the bastard that tries to medicate my child against my will)

- Lying about the "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq... and still trying to cover up that lie

- Domestic spying on Americans without warrants

- F***ING-UP THE BORDERS BY ALLOWING MILLIONS OF ILLEGALS TO STAMPEDE INTO AMERICA

- "Signing statements" intended to circumvent Congress and the Constitution

- The Department of Homeland Security (that one sounded Nazi from the start)

- Giving communist China a greater foothold on the American economy than ever before (and now we're paying for it: see the recent mess with poisoned pet food)

I decided to end there, if for no other reason than because I would be up all night adding to this list and still wouldn't have anything nearly a comprehensive a list as it could be.

George W. Bush is the worst President in American history... and no thin veneer of feigned Christianity is going to make it any better.

Yes, by all means let's condemn Carter for meandering mess he spun America into during his four years in office. But if we are going to be fair about it, we'd darn well better be able to face up to the fact that the current president has been far, far worse.

I never thought I'd live to see the day that somebody would outdo Carter and Johnson... and even Clinton. But, there ya go. Heck, I've heard from too many people that compared to George W. Bush, Bill Clinton was a saint. Go figure...

What kind of Star Wars fan are you?

There's a great article at NorthJersey.com about Star Wars fans and the many varieties that they come in. I think it's safe to say that I'm strongly Charismatic:
These are the folks for whom it's not enough to watch "Star Wars" -- they need to live it. So they make costumes, dress up as Lucas characters and join worldwide groups like the 501st Legion (they impersonate most "Star Wars" bad guys) and the Rebel Legion (the good guys).
Let's see: I've made a Star Wars fan film, based my first political ad on Star Wars, have a movie-quality Jedi costume and I'm a member of the Rebel Legion... yup, when it comes to the religion of Star Wars I'm definitely of the speaking-in-tongues variety :-)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Review of SHREK THE THIRD

Shrek the Third made me so drowsy with boredom that I had to take a long nap when I got home. And it still dulls my mind to think about it.

This movie is so lousy that I'm not even going to waste the time to give it a full review, like I usually do whenever writing about a movie here. I don't want to spend another moment of my life meditating upon it. But, I feel like there's a moral obligation to warn you, Constant Reader, about it... so for sake of that alone I'm going to give you my bare minimum thoughts about it.

The first third of the movie isn't pretty bad. There were some rather funny bits to it, even. But it's not long into Shrek's search for Arthur that this movie becomes tedious and lame and completely inert of the wit that made Shrek and Shrek 2 so good. Whatever magic made the first two movies work, is not here.

Something that I couldn't help noticing: the theater was packed with young children. Shrek the Third was too boring for them too. Whereas the first two Shrek movies I saw kids glued to their seats, this time most of them were fidgeting and antsy and obviously not interested. Rarely did they laugh. The grown-ups certainly didn't laugh much.

I am discerning a pattern here: a movie becomes a huge blockbuster, which demands a sequel. And the producers of the original still have some creative juice to tap into. At that point the motive is all about building on what was established in the first. Then the sequel makes even more money. And then it's no longer about the spirit of the film. The producers make the transition from artists to artisans... and mass-media artisans at that. That's why with rare exception, the third movie in a film series usually sucks to no end: because there's no more interest in making it about the movie.

I remember about two years ago hearing that DreamWorks had plans to make a third and fourth installment to the Shrek series. They should stop now. I know that Shrek the Third will undoubtedly make at least $200 million at the box office, but even so: it should be unconscionable to press forward with another entry.

I really don't like having to say this about Shrek the Third. The first two movies were so wonderful, especially the first (there's a really funny story about when we saw that one in the theater that I might share here if anyone asks for it). I was hoping for so much more with this third movie. But I hate to say this: I was more disappointed with Shrek the Third than I was with X-Men: The Last Stand last year. And that's saying something.

That's all I'm going to say about Shrek the Third. I didn't like it one bit. It definitely won't get any space on my DVD shelf. I never want to see it again. At least not until we have children of our own and they beg to watch it and then I'll have to sit through it with them.

They'll probably hate it too.

Is this Ledger's Joker from THE DARK KNIGHT?

About 36 hours ago on Friday night I posted about some of the developments that came out this past week about The Dark Knight: next year's sequel to 2005's Batman Begins. One of the things I posted was that great "Harvey Dent for District Attorney" graphic. And I closed out the post by saying "Now if only a really good picture of Heath Ledger as the Joker could turn up somewhere..."

I had no idea this was coming. Honest, folks. It was a crazy coincidence...

...'cuz this past day or so the publicity gang for The Dark Knight has been doing something very, very crafty. Yesterday another website turned up at ibelieveinharveydenttoo.com. When that page loaded, this is what you got:

And after a few seconds, that graphic started "peeling away" pixel by pixel, like so:

The page has fill-in forms where you enter your e-mail address and have to also manually enter-in a code that's on the screen. I did that, and received this e-mail from ""tragicpast@ibelieveinharveydenttoo.com" a few moments later:

I always say, you never know what a man is truly made of until you peel the skin off his face one piece at a time. Here is your chance to help:
http://www.ibelieveinharveydenttoo.com/submitpixel_flash.aspx?
uid=f5b45fc9470a45bd8152dcf37822fdb5

X=1
Y=445


If you follow the link you get to the "peeled-away" graphic, but this one shows you which pixel it was that I'm responsible for uncovering (it so happens that it's right on the left-hand edge). That's how it's been going since yesterday: everyone has been using their e-mail addresses to remove one pixel from the picture, slowly revealing whatever lies beneath one individual dot at a time.

It hasn't been completely uncovered yet, but Moriarty at Ain't It Cool News has apparently come into possession of the complete image, or a good simulacrum of it anyway. What's it look like? Here it is:

So... is this really Heath Ledger as how he'll look like as the Joker in The Dark Knight?

If it is... man, I'm really split on this. It's totally not like anything I was expecting. I didn't think it would be like Jack Nicholson's Joker from Tim Burton's 1989 Batman. "Less prosthetics" was my belief, but still the traditional Joker "smile" for the most part. What I was most expecting was for Ledger's Joker to look like Conrad Veidt's appearance in 1928's The Man Who Laughs (right), which was the biggest thing that influenced Bob Kane's original design for the Joker. Look at that pic on the right, and tell me that wouldn't work for a modern audience in a serious film treatment of Batman. That certainly looks realistic enough. Heck, it looks no more out-of-place in a real-life setting than Phil Spector's hair usually has during his murder trial lately.

So that's what I was subconsciously thinking we would see. And not a lesioned clone of the Crow.

But then I remember that when the first pics of Willem DaFoe's Green Goblin came out during Spider-Man's production, and I thought that there was no way that would fly either. And then the actual movie comes out and I totally bought into that Green Goblin, and it made me realize that if they had gone with the traditional comic book look for Goblin then it wouldn't have been as convincing. And that comic books and movies really are two quite different mediums to tell the same story: a wise artist is going to have to take that into account. And then I remember the very, very first appearance of the Joker in Batman #1 in 1940:

Looks pretty darned close. It's enough to make me hold off judgment from completely dissing it at this point. I do kinda like it... it's just not "Joker" like I've always been used to. Which I think is going to be the problem for most people.

But if they give him shocking dark green hair and yellow teeth and a purple-enough suit... along with a homicidal sense of humor... then I'll accept this Joker wholeheartedly. The 'tude is everything!