Friday, April 30, 2010

"Telephone" by Lady Gaga... performed by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan

A group of United States soldiers from the 82nd Airborne based in Fort Bragg, currently stationed in Afghanistan, have produced a music video of themselves dancing to Lady Gaga's hit song "Telephone". Y'all have to check this out!

Well done guys! All the more praiseworthy given your present location. I just hope that this won't become an issue when it gets to be time for your next evaluation :-P

Chris LIKED the remake of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET!

As much as I have come to loathe remakes in general - for reasons which I will get to shortly - and even knowing that my opinion is probably going to be in a solid minority, I must confess that I was pleasantly surprised by and rather quite enjoyed the 2010 remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street.

What's my beef with remakes? It's like this: I can always tell when a movie project rehashing of an earlier successful film is being overly-driven by the pursuit of excess lucre. Look at Clash of the Titans: no I haven't seen its remake yet but I've heard nothing but unbelievably bad things about it (and even worse about it, ahem, "3-D" version, but that's a rant for another time). And then there are films like Peter Jackson's adaptation of King Kong: the movies that don't put the potential for dollars in front of the product's quality on the list of priorities.

What's the difference between the two? What qualifies a remake as being "great" as opposed to being "irredeemably baaaad? It's whether the director, the writers, the entire production choose to remain faithful to the spirit of the original.

And that, I believe Samuel Bayer and his crew have done with Platinum Dunes' retelling of A Nightmare on Elm Street.

This movie hails back to the tone and vibe that Wes Craven evoked in the original movie all the way back in 1983, before Freddy Krueger developed from a demonically-empowered dream-stalkin' homicidal child molester into a character plagued with self-parody. Freddy Krueger 1983 was scary. By the time Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare came out eight years later, Freddy was even being aped on the animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And as much as I loved the concept of the Elm Street universe and its central character, it was enough to make me cringe...

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2010 isn't like that. Its Freddy Krueger (played by Jackie Earle Haley, inheriting the hat and sweater from the original series' Robert Englund) is not the Freddy who cracks too many corny jokes before killing you with cockroaches or comic books or a Nintendo Power Glove. Haley's Freddy Krueger is about revenge and murder... and then he'll go for the laugh. In the same way that Heath Ledger's Joker had that "it's funny but it's also not funny" aspect of his character in The Dark Knight.

I guess that's what I appreciated most about A Nightmare on Elm Street 2.0. This movie marked the return of Freddy Krueger as a primal avatar of the natural forces of fear. Which in my mind is the best way to handle Freddy as a character.

Overall, this movie is a smart update of the original's concept. All of the classic elements are still here: Freddy's claw rising out of the bathwater, the rhyming girls playing jump-rope, the parents hiding a terrible secret... But it's also a movie that isn't afraid to change things up some. Freddy's backstory is changed significantly: in the 2010 version he's not a child murderer in his mortal life. But I still have to nod in approval to what scribes Wesley Strick and Eric Heisserer have come up with. And I have to say something about the score (composed by Steve Jablonsky, which y'all who've been following this blog already for a few years know how much I love his work :-) as well. If 2010's A Nightmare on Elm Street had the familiar "Elm Street theme", I can't recall it. Jablonsky has delivered a fresh and terrific score that is totally in keeping with the atmosphere of Springwood, USA while at the same time not retreading the music of the original series. I'll probably be buying the soundtrack if it's available (and if it's not, no I won't be doing an online petition again, sorry. It's just have too much else going on at the moment :-)

I saw this movie in a packed theater last night at midnight along with friend and fellow blogger Steven Glaspie. And it's been awhile since I've seen an audience react with that much genuine terror and serious screaming at what's happening up on the screen. And we happened to overhear a number of other people saying that they enjoyed it. I doubt it'll ever hold the same place as the original series and its mythology, but I for one wouldn't mind seeing two or three more of the "new universe" of Elm Street movies. But not more than that: this movie was infinitely better than the remakes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween... but I don't want it to become another Saw series either.

So if you want a fun springtime popcorn flick and wanna feel good 'n scared, leave your preconceptions in the parking lot and give A Nightmare on Elm Street a shot. I think you just might be quite surprised by it as well.

Regarding that story about Noah's Ark being found...

E-mails have flooded (pun shamefully intended) into my box since early Tuesday morning asking "Have you heard about Noah's ark being discovered on Mount Ararat?!"

I've been following this story from the time it first broke. And I've been pondering it a lot, wondering what exactly to make of it, before adding my own two cents into the discussion at large...

In case you've missed it, a group of Chinese and Turkish researchers are claiming to have found a massive artificial wooden structure on the slopes of Mount Ararat in Turkey: the place which depending on how you translate the original texts, was the place where the ark of Noah landed after the worldwide deluge recorded in the Book of Genesis (some argue that it should translate into the "mountains of Ararat", making the possible location of the Ark anywhere between Turkey and Iran).

Now, people have been looking for Noah's Ark for literally hundreds of years. Reports of sightings have been documented throughout antiquity. Even during the twentieth century there have been stories about it being spotted from afar (and not a few who said they walked on its top decks), including some admittedly very curious aerial photographs. But so far, nobody has come up with solid physical evidence of the ark being there.

I've heard 'em all over the years. So when I first read about Noah's Ark Ministries International out of Hong Kong, you could have immediately colored me skeptical.

Except that these guys arrived with something that to the best of my knowledge, nobody has ever produced before. Namely, photographs, wood samples, and full-color video.

Mash here for the English section of Noah's Ark Ministries International, which has many photographs of what the group is saying it's "99.9%" certain is Noah's Ark. And behold the video that they've released...

Interesting. VERY interesting.

Here's the problem I have with it however: as well-meaning as Noah's Ark Ministries International likely is, they should not have full-bore declared with little uncertainty that they have found the biblical boat. It would have been much more professional and scholarly if they had announced to the international community that they had discovered strong evidence of a man-made wooden structure on Mount Ararat, and then proceeded to allow their findings to withstand rigorous academic scrutiny.

Which leads to my next point: we don't know where exactly these photographs and video footage were made. However, I definitely could understand if the group wants to keep it under wraps for the time being, lest the site become contaminated (or worse, vandalized). But at some point they must be prepared to come forward with the location, and open it up to further study: both organized and independent. That isn't being mistrustful of the explorers' claim at all. I like to think that it's trying to validate it.

So that said, I'll make this commentary for the time being: assuming that Noah's Ark Ministries International has (a) located something that is indeed on Mount Ararat, (b) it can be determined that the site and its evidence has not been planted, (c) operating without the pre-conceived notion that this must be Noah's Ark...

...what then is it that they have found?

Because if the group is being absolutely honest with us, they have discovered something on Mount Ararat. Whether or not it is Noah's Ark or not, it will still be an amazing archaeological find!

And even if it isn't the ark of Noah, it won't alter the matter of my own beliefs one way or another. The historical witness and far more than that has already in my estimation more than confirmed the greatest and most central tenet of my faith: that God so loved the world, that He sent His only Son to free us from the burdens of sin and legalism. Our faith is founded on things yet unseen, not those things which we can behold with our eyes.

But that said: I'm still gonna be keeping my eye on this story :-)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cub Scouts to offer award for video gaming

I hope these kids understand that emergency first aid in the real world is kinda hard to do while running around the landscape looking for medpacks.

The Boy Scouts of America is now offering a Video Games merit award for its younger members: those who are part of the Tiger Cubs, Cub Scouts and Webelos Scouts. There are actually two awards: the Video Games belt loop (one of those metal belt ornaments, which I always thought were pretty innovative) and an academics pin, which is earned after getting the belt loop. Among the requirements for the decoration: "Teach an adult or a friend how to play a video game", "Play a video game that will help you practice your math, spelling, or another skill that helps you in your schoolwork", and "With an adult’s supervision, install a gaming system" (click here for the full list of requirements).

Now, I love a good video game as much as the next person. But being an Eagle Scout and having been a Cub Scout before that, I have to say that this is about the silliest thing that the Boy Scouts of America has done in a great many moon. And lest y'all think that I'm being old-fashioned or a "stick in the mud", consider this: there are already awards in Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts for things like computer skills. So one for video gaming is plenty redundant. What's next: a merit badge for Facebook and Twitter skillz?

In addition to Video Games, the Boy Scouts are also rolling out awards for Disability Awareness, Family Travel, Good Manners, Hiking, Hockey, Horseback Riding, Kickball, Nutrition, Pet Care, Photography, Reading and Writing, and Skateboarding. I can see at least two on that list that are not only fun to do, but very strong skills that can follow a young lad (or young lass, no male chauvinists we!) into a life of productive success. Seems like the Cub Scouts could be doing more to encourage early forays into things like that.

(But then, who knows? One of those Cub Scouts might grow up to be the next Ken Levine or Cliff Bleszinski...)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"When we understand that slide, we'll have won the war."

This is part of the PowerPoint presentation that was shown to General Stanley McChrystal and other United States military officers leading operations in Afghanistan. It's supposed to clearly and concisely diagram why the situation there is so dire.

No wonder...

McChrystal, commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, quipped that "When we understand that slide, we'll have won the war."

Daily Mail brings us the both tragic and comic story of how PowerPoint has become despised by senior members of the military.

Muppet BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY: Now with commentary by Kermit!

Remember that AMAZING music video of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" that the Muppets did a few months ago? Well, there's now this follow-up with audio commentary by Kermit the Frog.

Suffice it to say, this doesn't go well...

By the way, "Muppet Bohemian Rhapsody" has been nominated in the categories of Best Viral and Best Music Video for this year's Webby Awards!

A word we should come to hate with good reason

Few words when spoken by a politician or associated sycophant should raise the red flag of alarm more than the word "comprehensive".

(I heard it used a few minutes ago on the Fox News Channel. Per my longtime observation of such matters, whenever anyone in elected office or the "mainstream" press uses the word "comprehensive", 99.999% of the time what it really means is "there's more bullsh-t going on behind the scenes than you seriously want to know about...")

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Assurance

God is working to perfect us according to His timing, and not our own.

And that is a good thing :-)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Here's an update on our latest film project from KWerky Productions

We have our snake wrangler hired and aboard for the production!

That is all for now.

New Coke: 25 years since big biz's biggest bomb

I'm still not entirely persuaded that this wasn't a planned stunt. Like last week's to-do about the 4G-equipped iPhone that some Apple engineer, ahem, "drunkenly" left in a bar. Sure got the Intertubes abuzz about it, aye? So yeah, mark me down as being in the "planned marketing conspiracy" column on that one.

Nearly a full quarter-century earlier, something similar happened to another American mega corporation. That time it was The Coca-Cola Company. On April 23rd 1985, executives announced that the original, world-famous Coca-Cola formula was being retired. Seems that the "old Coke" wasn't cutting it anymore in the "cola wars" between Coca-Cola and Pepsi. So the time-honored Coca Cola was to be put to pasture. In its place we would be getting something called "New Coke".

Witness anew what is arguably the lowest point of the illustrious career of Bill Cosby...

"Better than ever"?? I still remember the one time that I tried to drink New Coke. It tasted like crap! What were you thinking, Bill?! We trusted you! And Coca-Cola betrayed us! No Jell-O Pudding for you.

With a wrathful vehemence not seen since the Cabbage Patch Kid riots of '83, Coca-Cola found itself besieged with angry phone calls, letters and organized protests. Three months later then-CEO Roberto Goizueta announced - via a televised spot with all the gravitas of an Oval Office address - that the crisis was ending: the old Coca-Cola was coming back as "Coca-Cola Classic".

And within days of hitting shelves again for the first time, sales of original Coca-Cola soared. Coca-Cola Classic fast eclipsed sales of Pepsi. To this day, Coca-Cola remains the best-selling soft drink in the world.

How could it not have? By that point in the summer of 1985 Coca-Cola dominated much of the pop cultural discussion, both here and abroad. People were talking about Coke like they had never talked about it before.

New Coke by itself was a business failure... but New Coke did make people want the original Coke like never before. New Coke pulled off what had never been done on this large a scale before: it created genuine demand for something that was already so successful it didn't need demand.

I don't care what the "official" documents say: I'm fairly convinced that the New Coke fiasco in my book was brilliant and quite intentional psychological marketing. Not completely convinced though. Wanna know why? Because it does bother me, that the mass of people can be manipulated by something so simple. And so part of my mind doesn't want to acknowledge a great fear that history and human nature have perhaps confirmed too many times already. But anyhoo...

If you want to know more about New Coke, which we got ambushed with twenty-five years ago this week, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a good write-up about it, including how Coca-Cola is now chronicling the New Coke episode at the World of Coca-Cola.

(If nothing else, it has to be said that New Coke was a product so bad that it made Billy Beer taste good.)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

How about a double dose of beautiful?

Because you asked for it (well, a lot of the masculine gender among you anyway) here is once again my too-lovely-for-words and incredibly sweet second cousin Lauryn... and her equally gorgeous mother Robin!

No wonder they've often been mistaken for sisters :-)

I would like to also show you a photo of Bob, Lauryn's dad and Robin's husband, but that would prolly ruin the effect...

(Just kidding Bob. Mostly :-P)

Teaser poster for Marco van Bergen's SHADOWLANDS

When friend and fellow filmmaker Marco van Bergen sent me the teaser poster for his upcoming film Shadowlands, I immediately e-mailed him back something to the effect of "Marco, get some therapy dude!"

But seriously: it is a rather neat image, although rather bloody. But I like how it compels the eye to dart around it, picking out grisly detail and the film's tagline...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Pssst... hey, wanna know a secret?

Guess what? You're immortal! You aren't going to die. Your life is a quantum wave function that from your point of view is infinite. You may see others die and it's altogether possible that they may see you die but that is merely relational to the observer. The fact of the matter is, as an observer of your own wave function you can see neither its beginning or its end.

Don't let anyone else tell you otherwise, either. They're only seeing their respective wave functions. What the heck do they know?

Mind ya, immortality can be a bit boring after awhile. I can't help you there. But no doubt you'll find something to keep you occupied.

Me? I'm going off to become a shrimp boat captain.

Friday, April 23, 2010

"Death Trap": Boba Fett blasts his way back into Star Wars!

Just finished watching this week's episode of Star Wars: Clone Wars on Cartoon Network. This is one show that has gradually and without ceasing, surpassed my expectations. But I had especially high hopes for tonight's installment, "Death Trap". Wouldn't surprise me if this episode had a series' record number of people watching it.

And why? Because it's been known for awhile that "Death Trap" hails the return of Boba Fett: the most infamous - and most popular - bounty hunter of the entire Star Wars pantheon.

It will be thirty years next month since Boba Fett was first seen in The Empire Strikes Back, and fully eight since a young Boba fought alongside his father Jango in Attack of the Clones...

So he's not yet the Mandalorian-armored mercenary that will eventually stalk the galaxy. But "Death Trap" definitely gave us plenty of the up-and-coming Boba Fett in high-gear action! Heck, by my rough count this one half-hour of Clone Wars showed us Boba wrecking more havoc than everything he did in the live-action movies combined! And yet at this stage in his career (voiced by Daniel Logan, who played the ten-year old Boba in Attack of the Clones) he's still a bit uncertain of himself, still blessed with a child's conscience... albeit a child obsessed with killing Mace Windu. He's not what we know he'll be, but he's well on that path.

And then there were the last few moments of the episode: practically porno for everyone who's ever loved the Star Wars bounty hunters too much than is probably healthy. Yeah I'm speaking of Bossk and Aurra Sing but if you watched this episode then you know what I'm thinking of most of all: the return of Boba Fett's hyper-deadly space vessel, Slave I.

(I wonder if we'll ever get to see Bossk's ship, the Hound's Tooth. 'Specially that wicked automated skinning table tailor-made for Wookiee prey. Prolly not: as daring as Star Wars: Clone Wars has been this season, it's not that daring... yet anyway.)

All in all, I thought "Death Trap" was a superb episode: well-scripted, beautifully animated, and finely orchestrated as a story of both action and character. I'll likely watch it a few more times from the DVR over the next several days.

"Death Trap" will air a few more times this week, and then Boba returns for the Clone Wars season finale next Friday night. No doubt Fett-heads across the planet will be waiting out the week with baited breath :-)

"You Picked a Fine Time to Lead Us, Barack"

Here is Jonathan McWhite (accompanied by David McWhite on guitar) perfectly aping a classic Kenny Rogers tune with this hilarious song parody about Barack Obama...

Very great thanks to good friend Bethany Myers for finding this! :-)

Study finds link between autism and vaccines using cells of aborted children

Good. God.

How something like this has escaped my knowledge until now, I've no idea.

Did you know that two widely-used childhood vaccines were manufactured with cells taken from aborted fetuses?

I didn't either, until I read this article from LifeNews.com. It's about a just-published research study that has found a connection between the MMRII and chickenpox vaccines, and the dramatic rise in the rate of diagnosed autism.

From the article...

A new study conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency shows a correlation between the use of cells from babies in abortions in vaccines to an increase in autism rates. The study provides another problem from pro-life advocates who are already concerned about the abortion-vaccine tie.

The study, published in February in the publication Environmental Science & Technology, confirms 1988 as a “change point” in the rise of Autism Disorder rate.

"Although the debate about the nature of increasing autism continues, the potential for this increase to be real and involve exogenous environmental stressors exists," the study says.

The 1988 date is significant because, as pro-life blogger Jill Stanek notes, the Sound Choice Pharmaceutical Institute indicates that's when the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices added a second dose of the MMR vaccine, containing fetal cells from aborted babies, to its recommendations.

The study found two other change point dates: 1981, two years after MMRII was approved in the United States with fetal cells, and 1995, when SCPI says the chickenpox vaccine using aborted cells was approved.

Jim Sedlak, vice president of American Life League, said today that his group is joining SCPI in calling for a Fair Labeling and Informed Consent Act to let people know of this link and the use of cells from babies victimized by abortion.

“For years the evidence has pointed toward the link between vaccines using DNA from aborted babies and the rise of Autism Disorder rates,” he said. “Parents need and deserve to know the risks associated with vaccinations made from lines derived from the bodies of aborted children.”

After all these years and several court cases focusing on the mercury in vaccines as being the accused source of cases of autism, now it turns out that it was possibly something far, far worse that might have been behind the climb.

How does it feel, knowing that we have had our children "inoculated" with the dead remains of innocent babies?

I doubt that even Edgar Allan Poe, in his most feverish nightmare, could have come up with so horrific a thing.

Dear Ridley Scott: This is a HORRIBLE idea for an ALIEN prequel...

Ridley Scott's 1979 film Alien is on my very short list of all-time greatest and most favorite movies. I first got to watch it in 1984 and even today, after countless numbers of times of watching it, it has never failed to thrill and enthrall. Alien is the perfect science-fiction and horror film. Its 1986 sequel Aliens is one of the darn few movies widely regarded as being just as good, if not better even, than the original. But that was mostly an action movie: Scott's Alien was nearly pure unbridled terror of the classic form.

Unfortunately what happened to the Alien franchise after that hasn't been anywhere as up to par with what Ridley Scott and James Cameron did. Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection well, let's put it this way: they both had their moments, but I don't regard them as being true "Alien"-ish canon. Maybe they're just bad dreams that Ripley is having and she's still aboard the Sulaco along with Hicks, Newt and Bishop on the way back from LV-426. Even Alien vs. Predator was better than those entries (and I haven't seen that movie's sequel so I can't comment on how good or bad it might be).

Anyway, when word came that Ridley Scott was planning on returning to the series that he helped to create, I was ecstatic. I had been hoping that he could get things back on track. Maybe even do something drastic to make us forget that Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection never happened to begin with.

Unfortunately, it looks as if that is not to be. We've known for some time already that Scott was going to do a "prequel" to the original Alien... which I already thought was a way wrong approach. Now it's worse. Confirming some rumors that have been making the rounds for awhile, Scott spoke to MTV Movies and revealed some details about the Alien prequel. Including what it's going to mostly be about.

And much of it will be about this thing...

Yup, the Space Jockey. That fossilized ancient extraterrestrial pilot that Dallas, Kaine and Lambert found in the derelict spaceship on LV-426. Scott told MTV that "It's fundamentally about going out to find out 'Who the hell was that Space Jockey?' The guy who was sitting in the chair in the alien vehicle — there was a giant fellow sitting in a seat on what looked to be either a piece of technology or an astronomer's chair. Remember that?"

How could we forget a thing like that? But I for one am compelled to ask: Do we want to know everything about what the Space Jockey is? That was one of the things that most made Alien succeed as a horror story: the Lovecraftian atmosphere of the film. Here are seven blue-collar working stiffs aboard a glorified tugboat. You know: people that on some level we can all relate to. And they're earning their paycheck in the depths of interstellar space: the most unknown and inhospitable setting known to man. And they come across something that they not only don't understand, but the crazy geometry of it practically screams out "you can't understand this".

Honestly, I don't want to understand that. And I've no doubt many others feel the same way. The Space Jockey - whatever the heck he/she/it is - is part of a mystique that would forever be gone if we knew any more about its back story. It is simply... what it is. Nothing more and nothing less. But this is definitely a case of "less is more".

There is plenty of potential in the Alien franchise that hasn't been touched upon at all. 'Twould be something that fans would much more appreciate if Ridley Scott took the road less traveled than that of a prequel. Seriously, I want him to return to the series... but not like this.

Most irresponsible video game ever

It's I'm NOT Drunk: The Game!

Another observation about local television

It says much about a television station and its management when it apparently has nothing to fill up six and a half hours of airtime per week other than a man demonstrating that he has symptoms of syphilis.

Honestly wondering if certain people will "get" this one...

We can not define God. And we can define how God defines others even less.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

THE KING AND I: Back from the first cast meeting

I have been explicitly commanded by the director and head costumer that I shall not get that haircut that I had planned for next week. And that I am not to get it until perhaps after the show is finished in mid June.

Other than that (which I can live with, I suppose) it was a great first meeting for the full cast and crew of Theatre Guild of Rockingham County's production of The King and I. There's something like nearly sixty people in this cast, a huge technical crew, over 400 costumes (or costume pieces, one or the other, either way it's pretty darned big for a community theatre production), few more stats about this show that blew some minds. It's gonna be positivalutely gigantic! Maybe one of the biggest productions ever in these parts.

And oh yeah, this is one neat cast and crew. Lots of familiar faces from past productions, along with some new ones that it's gonna be fun to work with for the first time. I forged some very good friendships during Children of Eden two years ago, and have during every show that I've been involved with since. Looking forward to making even more during The King and I.

As always, watch this space every now and then for reports as we prepare to bring y'all the timeless tale of Anna Leonowens and the King of Siam :-)

Cookbook recalled after recipe requires "freshly ground black people"

It's literally (almost) a case of "To Serve Man" as Penguin Group Australia is rushing to pulp and re-print a cookbook that mistakenly called for "freshly ground black people" in a recipe that was supposed to call for "freshly ground black pepper".

From the story at the BBC...

Penguin Group Australia had to reprint 7,000 copies of Pasta Bible last week, the Sydney Morning Herald has reported.

The reprint cost A$20,000 ($18,000; £12,000), but stock in bookshops will not be recalled as it is "extremely hard" to do so, Penguin said.

The recipe was for tagliatelle with sardines and prosciutto.

"We're mortified that this has become an issue of any kind, and why anyone would be offended, we don't know," head of publishing Bob Sessions is quoted as saying by the Sydney newspaper.

Penguin said almost every one of the more than 150 recipes in the book listed salt and freshly ground black pepper, but a misprint occurred on just one page.

"When it comes to the proof-reader, of course they should have picked it up, but proof-reading a cookbook is an extremely difficult task. I find that quite forgivable," Mr Sessions said.

I wonder if Penguin is printing any cookbooks for Mexican or Chinese cuisine...

Lovers' spats are bad

Bisexual ones are worse.

When they're broadcast over local television, they're downright sick.

I'm just sayin', is all...

Southern Poverty Law Center, or: How NOT to respect a news outlet!

I've a number of criteria for judging whether a news agency is reputable or not. Usually it's a long-term process of determination but lately it's become much, much easier for me.

Wanna know why?

It's real simple: any news outlet that cites the Southern Poverty Law Center as a reputable source of information, gets a honkin' HUGE demerit and damn near an unforgivable one.

I first heard of ethnic warfare whore Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center fifteen years ago, in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing. Dees was pimpin' himself on most of the news channels, claiming his Southern Poverty Law Center was warning the feds way in advance about "the militias movement". 'Twas enough to make me wonder who this twit was. Since then I've discovered that he's not much more than the worst sort of perpetual pest: the kind that demands everyone see a "crisis" to justify his own pathetic self-imposed purpose. In the case of Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center this entails claiming that everyone who is against their wacko socialist agenda is automatically a racist on par with Hitler himself.

So it is that I have also come to sincerely believe that any so-called "journalist" who even remotely considers Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center to be creditable, should be fired automatically if not outright dragged out into the town square and locked up in the pillory for a well-earned mocking.

But don't take my word for it, dear readers! The Southern Poverty Law Center has just published a "hit list" of forty "patriots" that the organization has deemed to be a threat to American society. On the list are columnist Chuck Baldwin (he ranked #1, and that's his response at the link), Representative Ron Paul of Texas, Joseph Farah of WorldNetDaily, and Glenn Beck (somebody that I have never listened to and have no plans to, but to the very best of my knowledge has done nothing inordinately wrong). There are also a number of outspoken critics of the federal government, and especially of the income tax and the IRS.

Curiously, there is not one person on the list who could be considered an avowed "liberal". Every person denounced by the Southern Poverty Law Center is regarded by conventional wisdom as being a "conservative" or a "libertarian".

Darn. I wish that I could be on that list! Guess I'm not a big-league enough blogger yet.

Maybe if I pointed out that Morris Dees is a sexual pervert and child molester who was once caught exploiting his step-daughter, and that his Southern "Poverty" Law Center has by many accounts raked in more than a hundred million dollars by scaring the gullible with rumors of the Third Reich rising again, that maybe he would put me on his enemies list?

Or maybe putting it in larger font would mark me as a worthy adversary...

MORRIS DEES
OF THE SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER
IS A SEXUAL PERVERT, CHILD MOLESTER,
ETHNIC WARFARE WHORE,
PIMP OF THE PERPETUAL CRISIS,
AND MONEY-GRABBING HUCKSTER
OF THE UTMOST DEGREE!!!

Dear Lord, I hope that will do the trick.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Oh yeah, a few more photos from ActionFest!

Filmmaking partner "Weird" Ed Woody and I outside the Carolina Cinemas in Asheville, North Carolina at ActionFest this past weekend. Look at those nifty ActionFest t-shirts! On the back of the shirts has Chuck Norris' classic line from Code of Silence: "When I want your opinion, I'll beat it out of you."

And here is... oh Lord, why didn't I shower and shave that morning?! I look positively hideous here. But I would prolly look hideous anyway :-P Especially compared to such a beautiful lass: none other than Sheree J. Wilson, who among other roles was Alex on Walker, Texas Ranger:

For more about ActionFest and what went down there, punch here!

(By the way, Chuck Norris landed in Asheville on Sunday... and leveled all the mountains surrounding the city!)

Chris finally files his ACTIONFEST after-carnage report!

I've more than a gut feeling that this past weekend was but the first of many, many years for ActionFest: the first ever film festival devoted to action movies.

It all went down at Carolina Cinemas in Asheville, North Carolina. And your friend and humble blogger was there for most of the spectacle!

Several weeks ago my filmmaking partner (and old college roomie) "Weird" Ed Woody told me about ActionFest, being that it was happening in his neck of the woods. My calendar was empty for the weekend save for a friend's wedding on Sunday, so we ordered our badges and I lodged at Ed's inner sanctum somewhere between Asheville and the dark territory known to the locals as "Little Canada" (note to revenuers: do not go in there). On Thursday morning I headed out to Asheville, spent a few hours seeing my old adopted hometown again and even hooking up with some people that were a big part of my life then, and that afternoon hooked up with Ed at his pad. We took off for town and following a dinner at Asheville Pizza & Brewing Company - which still has some of the best pizza I've ever ate - we headed to Carolina Cinemas and ActionFest

ActionFest is founded by Bill Banowsky, Dennis Berman, and Aaron Norris. Aaron is the brother of action film legend Chuck Norris, who on the last night of the festival became the recipient of ActionFest's inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award. As such there were a number of Chuck Norris films programmed for the festival. The official ActionFest poster depicts Chuck Norris from Invasion U.S.A. standing in front of a mushroom cloud hanging over downtown Asheville.

And even the local sponsors got into the spirit of the event. Check out this theatrical one-sheet ad for the Grove Park Inn!

At 7:30 on Thursday night came the first film of ActionFest: the world premiere of Neil Marshall's Centurion!

Starring Michael Fassbender and featuring a number of fairly familiar faces including Noel Clarke (who played Mickey for the past few years on Doctor Who), Centurion is a grim 'n bloody telling of the tale of the legendary Ninth Legion of Rome, which went missing while trying to civilize ancient Britain. Set in 117 A.D., Centurion focuses on Quintus Dias (Fassbender) who gets captured by the Picts north of Hadrian's Wall, escapes and is then re-assigned to destroy a particularly troublesome bunch of primeval Scottish in retribution. But the Picts don't play nice and the Romans are soon whittled down to seven soldiers from across the breadth of the Empire, now struggling to survive. Hot on their trail is Etain (Olga Kurylenko): a treacherous Terminator-ish tracker who won't stop until her tribe is avenged (and she's also feeling more than a bit pokey after the Romans cut out her tongue).

If you loved HBO's Rome but wanted it to ratchet up the brutality, then Centurion is for you. I imagine this is going to do some handsome business when it opens wide. I enjoyed it tremendously!

The next afternoon Ed and I took in Kick-Ass, which wasn't part of the festival but we were both curious enough about it to check it out (and I'll be posting a review of it soon). After we caught that, it was time for ActionFest proper.

Up next it was 1985's Code of Silence:

Starring Chuck Norris and directed by Andrew Davis (who also directed The Fugitive, including much of it in the nearby town of Sylva and the legendary train wreck in Dillsboro), Code of Silence is regarded as the most critically acclaimed of Norris' many films. Eddie Cusack is an incorruptible cop on the mean streets of Chicago, set against both a brewing drug war and bad cops within his own department. We got to enjoy Code of Silence via a beautiful, practically virgin 35mm print and it was gorgeous! Nothing like seeing Chuck Norris going to town against the bad guys with his fists, his guns and one kick-butt battle robot.

Up next was a film that I'd been eager to see for a month or so now ever since first hearing about it: Harry Brown.

Harry Brown is the movie where those old guys from A Clockwork Orange get mad as hell and break bad on the asses of Alex and all his droogs. It is also the closest I imagine we will ever get to a film adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns. Directed by Daniel Barber, Harry Brown stars Michael Caine as the titular character: a recently widowed pensioner who despairs at the violent crime getting worse daily outside his window. When his only friend and drinking buddy is killed one night by a bunch of hoodlums, Harry - a former British marine - begins a one-man war as much against apathy as it is against the much-younger miscreants who are plaguing his neighborhood.

I think it's next week when Harry Brown gets a wide release here in the states, and I can easily imagine it striking up some dialogue on this side of the pond: about self-defense, about how our society has grown inured to cruelty, about how far one might be willing to go in order to have a peaceful life. Michael Caine is bloody brilliant as Harry Brown: we see the legendary man of action that he was in the original Get Carter and the Harry Palmer films, but also as the more gentle and tender presence that he has become in more recent years. In short: Harry Brown shows Caine at his most full-bore caliber. Can't wait to see it again.

At 10 p.m. on Friday night Ed and I decided to check out the world premiere of Operation: Endgame.

Originally titled Rogue's Gallery (a title which I like more as I think about it), Operation: Endgame is a film that I think has potential. What we saw wasn't the final film: there were still some unfinished effects and a bit of color work in a number of places that needs to be completed, so I'm looking forward to seeing it in the more polished and slicked-up form. As I said, there's some promise here. Operation: Endgame is like one of those Eighties "cloak and dagger spy" movies as envisioned by Dilbert creator Scott Adams: about two competing groups of secret agents who do battle with each other in a facility deep underground after their boss is found murdered in his office. Joe Anderson plays "Fool", the newest recruit among a body of agents all named after Tarot cards (like Lost's Emilie de Ravin as Hierophant, Ving Rhames as Judgement and Odette Yustman as Temperance). Also look for Zach Galifianakis as Hermit and Ellen Barkin as Empress. I think that with finished effects, a bit more editing and by changing the title back to the original if at all possible, this movie could prove to be a box-office winner. We were entertained by it anyway.

And next up, at midnight, came the film that we had become bigtime stoked about ever since reading about it in the festival's program. And it did not disappoint.

It was time to watch Tucker & Dale vs. Evil.

GOOD LORD I LOVE THIS MOVIE!!! Please SOMEBODY get this film distributed and into as honkin' wide a release as is all humanly possible! Sometime this summer would be terrific. Yes, I can definitely see Tucker & Dale vs. Evil as being the sleeper hit of Summer 2010.

Ed and I agreed: this was our most favorite film of ActionFest. Starring Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine and directed by Eli Craig (from a script co-written with Morgan Jurgenson), the best I can describe Tucker & Dale vs. Evil in brief is if I told you that it's "Clerks meets Deliverance". It takes the whole "lusty kids going into the woods and getting slaughtered by hillbillies" motif of slasher films and turns it on its head in hilarious fashion. 'Cuz you see in this case the hillbillies in question - Tucker (Tudyk) and Dale (Labine) - are really a couple of nice fellas! They're just two good ol' boys, never meaning no harm. All they want is to fix up a shack in the deep West Virginia woods to have as their dream vacation place while they hunt 'n fish and drink beer. Unfortunately they cross paths with a group of college students who have obviously seen way, way too many horror movies for their own good.

I don't know how much more plainer to put it than this: I not only want to see Tucker & Dale vs. Evil in the theaters immediately, I want to see at least six more Tucker & Dale movies! Not to mention how neat it would be to have some Tucker & Dale action figures. Maybe the most fun start to a potential franchise that I've ever seen. Everyone in the theater was laughing 'til it hurt! Ed saw it again on Saturday night and reported an even bigger crowd that was just as entertained and wanting more. I can't wait to watch this with more friends when it hits wide release.

The next day, with Tucker & Dale vs. Evil still on our brains, Ed and I headed back to ActionFest to catch what unfortunately had to be the last film of the festival that I was able to see: Je-Woon Kim's 2008 action spectacle from South Korea, it's The Good, The Bad, The Weird:

Clearly inspired by the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone, The Good, The Bad, The Weird is the mad story of bandits, bounty hunters and assassins (along with a good helping of the Japanese army) crossing paths in Manchuria circa 1930 in pursuit of a treasure map. Rife with gunplay, motorcycles, heavy artillery, opium dens, one of the kewlest train heists I've ever seen in a film for an opening gambit, and an even crazier chase across the Chinese desert toward the end (along with one helluva plot twist), The Good, The Bad, The Weird was the perfect movie for a Saturday afternoon. I wouldn't mind owning this one on Blu-ray.

ActionFest was such a well-programmed festival, that there really was no way to be able to catch all of the movies scheduled. I'd wanted to see Power Kids (at least I know such a movie does exist out there somewhere :-), Merantau (ditto) and Valhalla Rising, but wasn't able too. 'Course that my own schedule required me to head back on Saturday night didn't help things. I'd also love to catch Golden Blade III: Return of the Monkey's Uncle at some point, which was filmed entirely in the Asheville area and as you can tell its poster promises all sorts of outrageous good humor...

Following The Good, The Bad, The Weird at 3 p.m. there was The Amazing ActionFest Stunt Show, featuring something I've never heard of being done at a film festival before: real stunts by Hollywood stunt legends! Jeff Habberstad arrived in true fashion: by bailing out of a passing airplane and parachuting down...

(Okay, that high-flying jet is not the plane that Habberstad jumped out of, it just happened to have been in the field of vision from where we were standing. Had to clarify that :-)

And then Kinnie "the Rocket Man" Gibson arrived on his jetpack, coming in over the Carolina Cinema building and landing in the parking lot...

At 5 p.m. that afternoon Drew McWeeny of HitFix.com moderated a panel discussion about "The Art of the Second Unit"...

Ed and I found this discussion to be educational, enlightening... and very entertaining. And it gave me an entirely new appreciation for the second unit's role in film production. As several of the panelists noted, it's the second unit which has the real fun on a movie or television project, because they're the ones that aren't necessarily stuck inside listening to "talking heads" as one person put it. But it is also in some ways one of the most demanding of a project's many aspects: not only making sure that the second unit's footage "jibes" with that of the first unit, but also the sheer planning and logistics. Paul Weston (who did stunts for many of the James Bond movies as well as Raiders of the Lost Ark and Superman) shared one story about how he was supposed to be filmed crawling along the outside of a building and how it almost didn't work out. And we also heard about how stunt people really do have to be able to say "no" to a director if something is going to be more dangerous than it's worth. After all, as was noted: there wasn't a single person up on that stage who hadn't lost a friend to doing a stunt that had gone wrong.

And if there is one thing that I would wish to convey that I learned from ActionFest, it is this: that the men and women who put themselves to such extremes for sake of a few seconds of footage, in order to create an illusion of danger... folks, I have a completely new respect for these people now. Having the chance to meet several of them and talk with them and hear them speak of their craft, and hearing the very sincere humbleness that they bring to their trade... well if you ask me, professional stunt people are in the same class of admiration as that afforded to firefighters. There's a mutual sense of brotherhood and respect for each other among those in this profession, and having seen that firsthand I can certainly say that it's high time that these people and the genre that lets them shine the most have a film festival celebrating their talent and their passion.

And that is what ActionFest was most to me: a festival not just of good films, but of the very best of the human spirit. I am already looking forward to next year's event, and here's praying that it will only get bigger and better from here on out.

Thanks to everyone behind ActionFest for such an amazing event! Y'all succeeded wildly :-)

Radical Muslim declares SOUTH PARK un-bear-able, implies violence against show's creators

Many readers know that I have a very strongly held personal belief that each person has an absolute right to seek after and worship God as best he or she understands Him, or even to not believe in God at all. The one caveat is that a person's right to that ends where another's right to do likewise begins. I don't believe that what the South Park guys have done (or have ever done) violates that notion.

The same can not be said of many adherents of the "religion of peace pieces"...

So now it's Trey Parker and Matt Stone who have drawn the ire of a wacko Islamic website. What's the sacrilege this time? A depiction of the prophet Muhammad, shown above with South Park characters Stan and Kyle.

In case you can't see him, Muhammad is hiding inside the bear suit.

From the Fox News story...

A radical Islamic website is warning the creators of "South Park" that they could face violent retribution for depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a bear suit during an episode broadcast on Comedy Central last week.

RevolutionMuslim.com posted the warning following the 200th episode of Trey Parker and Matt Stone's "South Park," which included a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad disguised in a bear suit. The Web posting also included a graphic photo of Theo van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker who was murdered in 2004 after making a documentary on violence against Muslim women.

"We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show," the posting reads. "This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them."

Reaching by phone early Tuesday, Abu Talhah al Amrikee, the author of the post, said he wrote the entry to "raise awareness." He said the grisly photograph of van Gogh was meant to "explain the severity" of what Parker and Stone did by mocking Muhammad.

"It's not a threat, but it really is a likely outcome," al Amrikee said, referring to the possibility that Parker and Stone could be murdered for mocking Muhammad. "They're going to be basically on a list in the back of the minds of a large number of Muslims. It's just the reality."

Wait a sec: so Muhammad was not actually shown. We only saw a guy in a bear costume. But that the South Park kids pointed at him and called him "Muhammad" was enough to get Parker and Stone targeted for death?!

I have to wonder if the same thing would happen to me if I were to, say, post a photo of Cap'n Crunch and write "this is Muhammad". Would some Islamic yahoo send me a threatening e-mail if I were to say that Yoda was really Muhammad? How about if I use an image of a pile of steaming dog excrement: "there is one god and this steaming pile of dog excrement is Muhammad his prophet!"

Mind ya, I'm not poking fun at Islam itself. But I darn well am saying that this is an example of some of Islam's followers acting like a pack of bloodthirsty thugs.

What I said earlier about everyone has the right to worship God up until that right impinges on others' right to do the same? I sincerely believe that. And if it takes vigorous self-defense (read into that what you will) to deter followers of Islam or even of Christianity or any other religious adherent who refuses to respect the rights of others, then so be it.

And as for Abu Talhah al Amrikee, I think Mr. Frank Miller came up with the perfect retort against that sort of nuttiness in the pages of The Dark Knight Strikes Again...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"The Last Recruit": Post-episode reaction to this week's LOST

Depending on who you are, tonight's Lost either confirmed or imploded a whole lotta theories that have been building up over the past six years. While at the same time going off the tracks with all kinds of crazy goodness!

"The Last Recruit" felt like an episode and a half, if not more even. The answers keep coming hard, even if they aren't explicitly "spelled out". That dialogue between Jack and the Man in Black toward the beginning of the episode? And a bit of what Claire said? When you think about it all that's maybe two or three longstanding mysteries that were laid bare. I love how this show makes the viewers work things out on their own. And in that respect Lost stands tall as some of the most intelligent storytelling for the television medium in history.

I am soooo not spilling the beans on what was the best moment of an episode abundantly blessed with excellent moments, for sake of those on the west coast who won't be seeing it for another two and a half hours.

The flashsideways timeline: whatever the heck this is headed to, I am totally digging it now. And I think that there might have been a clue here as to the identities of "Adam and Eve". Hint: apple. 'Course I might just have been seeing too much there.

Must. Watch. Again. And I hope y'all DVR'ed it anyway 'cuz there's no new Lost next week: instead we get a repeat airing of "Ab Aeterno", which was the episode that gave us Richard's backstory, so it's all good. The next week though will bring us "The Candidate". And after that "Across the Sea", which I know nothing about other than word is rampant that this is going to be a massively major episode (one rumor is that it will give us the story of Jacob and the Man in Black).

Five more hours of Lost left. And I'll give "The Last Recruit" a full 10 out of 10!

Mother Teresa's 7 Steps to a Holier Life

Matthew Warner is the thinkin' dude behind Fallible Blogma: his journal of faith, politics and fatherhood from a Catholic perspective. I have been rather enjoying Matthew's insights, and one item in particular is well worth passing along to all two of my own blog's regular readers. It's a list of seven steps to take for a holier life, as observed and articulated by Mother Teresa (in the photo). You'll have to visit the link to see Matthew's compilation in earnest, but they're seven measures that I'm gonna commit to trying to keep in mind on a daily basis...
1. Slow down
2. Make some room
3. Open your eyes
4. Put great love into the small things
5. Do not tire
6. Remember: It's faithfulness, not success
6. Leave the rest to Jesus
Good things to remember, whether or not you are Catholic. And I very much appreciate Matthew for putting this together :-)

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS gets its first teaser poster

Hmmm... not too jazzed by this one. Maybe it has to do with it being that I've yet to see the movie version of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince? More likely the fact that as much as I love the Harry Potter books, I've grown weary of the film adaptations. They've diverted so much from the original novels that I for one would welcome a new attempt to make a movie franchise of this series ten or so years from now (ideally one movie a year for seven years, with the same cast). 'Twould definitely benefit from being produced in hindsight.

Anyways, there's yer first teaser poster for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the first part of which is due out later this year.

Disaffection made simple

I love the Constitution of the United States. I hate the government of the United States. The government of the United States is so unlike the Constitution of the United States.

(Shamelessly paraphrasing M.K. Gandhi.)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Wiiiiiii!!!

A lady named Amanda Flowers in Great Britain is, errr... blaming Nintendo's Wii Fit for causing her to have persistent orgasms.

From the article at the Daily Star...

A WOMAN has gone from Nintendo to nympho after a fall from her Wii Fit board turned her into a sex addict.

Randy Amanda Flowers needs 10 sex sessions a day after the slip-up.

And now the slightest of vibrations, from mobile phones to food processors, turns her on.

The catering worker said: "It began as a twinge down below before surging through my body. Sometimes it built up into a trembling orgasm."

A doctor diagnosed her with persistent sexual arousal syndrome due to a damaged nerve.

Probably a million-to-one thing that happened to Amanda Flowers and likely not easily replicated (no matter how many people will attempt it, no doubt). I found this interesting enough to post 'cuz I've some fascination with video gaming and human biology.

This just happens to be the first time that I've heard of a video game affecting one's sex life (apart from some examples that will readily come to mind :-P)

Photos of Eyjafjallajökull eruption

In case you're wondering, I've heard from an authority on the subject that the name of that volcano in Iceland that is currently plaguing air travel in Europe (and elsewhere?) should be pronounced "AY-uh-fyat-luh-YOE-kuutl-uh".

The Reykjavík Grapevine has published - and will probably publish many more now that Eyjafjallajökull's activity is apparently intensifying and may even trigger the eruption of a bigger volcano nearby - several photos of Eyjafjallajökull wrecking havoc.

Anyone else think it's kinda funny that this is all happening on the same week as Earth Day?

I'm thinking of breaking one of my most cardinal rules

That being the one about how I never, ever adopt new technology right out of the gate.

Take the Xbox 360, f'rinstance. I love mine like all get out. Not just as a gamin' machine but as a media extender: movies and such that are kept on my computer can be viewed on my high-def television set. Right handy, that. But it was two years after the Xbox 360 debuted before I even considered getting one. Just made good sense to me, and it's not about it being a Microsoft product either: any piece of high-tech gadgetry is bound to have some issues that only get found and worked out after it's been released into the wild.

So as a result I've never been an early adopter. And I figure that I'm being a wise consumer for having that policy.

But then, late last week on my trip to Asheville, I went into the Best Buy there. And for the first time beheld and then played with an iPad.

Whoa...

One of the things that I don't have is a laptop computer and people often ask me why don't I own one. The most outstanding reason in my mind is how gosh-darned fragile they have been in my estimation. Having worked in more computer repair joints than I care to remember, laptops still have that "whole 'nother beast than a laptop" thing going on with me.

But the iPad?

It really might be my mobile device dream come true. I gave typing on it a shot and had no problems with my usual 150+ words a minute or so.

Darn you Steve Jobs! You and Apple might have finally made me break down from one of my most sincerely-held personal beliefs!!

So will I actually spring for one?

Stay tuned.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

I just blew back into town...

...did I miss anything?! :-P

Have a friend's wedding on the morrow, but between now and Monday after I get good and refreshed from the past few days I'll share all the awesome good stuff that went down at ActionFest - the first ever film festival devoted to action movies - during the past few days in Asheville.

(BTW, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil ROCKS!!! Can't wait to talk more about it :-)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Gone for the next 72 hours

However it might be a neat idea to follow me on Twitter for the next few days if you aren't already doing so.

Most disturbing Star Wars image I've seen... ever!

"Dawn of Maul", an oil on canvas piece by artist Wil Wilson. Set to appear in the upcoming Star Wars: Visions collection due in stores this fall...

I do try to keep the Star Wars-ish posts on this blog kept to a minimum, but this thing was screaming to be shared with y'all.

(Click here for original link.)

When law enforcement legally steals from people

It's bothered me for years that in the name of the "war on drugs" that some (emphasis on that) law enforcement agencies have engaged in what can only be described as theft of property from many innocent people. Chances are good that's going to continue to get worse as agencies are faced with budget crunches (along with the trend of hiring more and more individuals who have no business wearing a badge to begin with).

The Kingsport Times-News has an article on its website about "How police profit by seizing private property"...

Police and prosecutors’ offices seize private property—often without ever charging the owners with a crime — then keep or sell what they’ve taken and use the profits to fund their budgets. And considering law enforcement officials in most states don’t report the value of what they collect or how that bounty is spent, the issue raises serious questions about both government transparency and accountability.

Under state and federal civil asset forfeiture laws, law enforcement agencies can seize and keep property suspected of involvement in criminal activity. Unlike criminal asset forfeiture, however, with civil forfeiture, a property owner need not be found guilty of a crime—or even charged—to permanently lose her cash, car, home or other property.

According to the Institute for Justice civil asset forfeiture is one of the worst abuses of property rights today. The Institute has released a national study on civil forfeiture abuse. The report—Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture - is the most comprehensive national study to examine the use and abuse of civil asset forfeiture and the first study to grade the civil forfeiture laws of all 50 states and the federal government. The report finds that by giving law enforcement a direct financial incentive in pursuing forfeitures and stacking the legal deck against property owners, most state and federal laws encourage policing for profit rather than seeking the neutral administration of justice.

This is one of the biggest reasons why I've come to be against the "war on drugs", and now the "war on terror". When government can declare a cause against something and demand all possible power and authority to wield against it, it is inevitable that the rights and liberties of individuals will suffer. And there's very rarely any going back.

Apple may enter 3-D market with funky glasses to hold your iPod

Daily Mail has found a patent application made by Apple for some weird eyewear - nicknamed the "iSpecs" by some - that would turn an iPod or iPhone into a portable 3-D movie experience. From the filed application...

Alright, so... who wants to be the first person to walk around the neighborhood with an iPod covering up their eyes?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Everybody Loves Hugo": Post-episode reaction to this week's LOST

I am officially saving up all hyperbole for whatever Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof have schemed up for the final six hours of Lost. Good thing too 'cuz I would have shot the whole wad on "Everybody Loves Hugo" tonight.

WOW!!! Okay, along with "Numbers" from Season 1 this has to rank as the all-time greatest episode focusing on Hurley. This felt like an episode and a half and all those 'splosions didn't hurt at all (bye-bye Ilana, but I saw that caked-on nitro on the dynamite sticks and knew then this was gonna end badly). Hurley's destroying the Black Rock: is it just me or did y'all also think that signified this series' finality? The Black Rock had been one of the most long-standing mysteries of the show, and now that we know everything about it and to see it go "boom" like that...

It was one of the best visual effects I've seen in television history. A foreshadowing, no doubt, of things still to come before "The End".

I thoroughly approve of how Michael was brought back to the story... and bringing the long-sought answer about the whispers with him. But it was Libby's return that I most appreciated of "Everybody Loves Hugo". I'm almost sorry for saying this but Libby never really "clicked" for me during her appearances during Season 2. But now after seeing this episode, and thinking back to how she was in Santa Rosa with Hurley in the "main" timeline well, can't help but wonder if there was "method to the madness" all this time and we're just now realizing the extent of it.

Speaking of timelines, I am now totally digging what is going on in the alternate universe and how the two realities are interacting. That revelation has come pretty late, and I was worried for awhile that it was going to be delved into at all. But now the answers are coming as hard and fast as alt-Desmond's leadfoot on the pedal (you'll understand when you see the episode, y'all on the west coast :-)

"Everybody Loves Hugo" gets a 15 out of 10 from this fan.

Six more hours of Lost remaining. "The Last Recruit" is found next week.

Johnny Robertson jeopardizes son's criminal trial (Plus: REGISTER & BEE's shoddy "journalism")

I'm going to begin calling Johnny Robertson and his "Church of Christ" cult out for what they really are: domestic terrorists.

They just haven't killed anybody (yet). However in the name of "God" Robertson and his followers have and continue to conspire to deprive others of their right to religion, to peaceable assembly and to free speech.

So are Johnny Robertson, James Oldfield, Mark McMinnis, Micah Robertson and the rest of their ilk enemies of the Constitution of the United States? Yup. And I suppose that means others might also be considered willing collaborators, regardless of whether they are "true believers". Make of that what you may.

What precipitates this latest report about the goings-on of the Martinsville Taliban? A few things. The previous post seems to have had some effect, because several people noted that Mark McMinnis was struggling to subdue his silly grin during his broadcast this past Thursday night. But what is more intriguing is that Micah Robertson - son of "Church of Christ" tin-god Johnny Robertson - was conspicuously absent from the live broadcast! The official word: "He has the night off."

Yah right.

Because earlier that day out of the Martinsville feed the two-hour block that Johnny Robertson uses for his inane babbling was filled up with the "debate" between he and Shirley Phelps-Roper from 2005. Yup, that Shirley Phelps-Roper that I also referenced in my previous post! What was the reason for the replay? The two Robertsons had to meet with their attorney about the criminal trespassing charges pending against Micah Robertson, stemming from Micah's repeated attempts to interfere with the services at Westover Baptist Church in Danville, Virginia.

(Several people also noted that the replay of the 2005 "debate" also featured an appearance by Jason Hairston, who was once with Robertson's cult and even had his own hour-long live weekly broadcast until he became a dissident from the movement and was subsequently damned by Johnny Robertson. To this day Robertson the Mad refuses to address the issue but apparently has no problem with continuing to use Hairston to prop-up his cult.)

So Johnny and Micah went to a lawyer, because Micah is looking at a year in jail if he's convicted. And no doubt the attorney has strongly recommended if not outright forbid Micah Robertson from doing any more television appearances or live confrontations until his trial date. However that has not stopped Johnny Robertson from running his mouth without ceasing about it! Robertson devoted the entirety of his two-hour Friday morning show and then 90 minutes on Sunday night's broadcast trying to make his son out to be the victim of persecution.

I can hear the Robertsons' attorney now, the veins in his neck bulging out as he screams "DAMMIT JOHNNY SHUT UP YOU'RE BLOWING OUR CASE!!!"

Does Johnny Robertson want his son to go to jail? Does Johnny hope that Micah will become a "martyr for the cause"? Is this how far Johnny is willing to go in order to somehow "validate" his insane belief system? Is Micah ready to fall on the proverbial sword? Since this cult believes in salvation by human works, is Micah seriously considering this the price he'll pay to get into Heaven?

Robertson the Lesser's court date is May 7th.

Incidentally, The Danville Register & Bee has a report about Micah Robertson's arrest warrant on its GoDanRiver.com website... and in all honesty it's one of the most piss-poor news articles I've seen in the history of anything. "Journalist" Matt Tomsic turned in a story that apart from what's gleaned from the official warrant itself, is nothing but regurgitation from Johnny Robertson! From the article...

Micah Robertson works with his father, Johnny Robertson, for Religious Review Media, a group that tries to bring accountability to religion and to increase dialogue between different religious organizations, according to Johnny Robertson.

He said two Religious Review reporters went to the church event to speak with Elmer Towns, co-founder of Liberty University. One reporter pulled a video camera to record Micah Robertson speaking to Towns, Johnny Robertson said. As he did, church officials asked him to leave. Micah Robertson then pulled his video camera to film the confrontation, and officials told him to leave also.

Religious Review reporters travel with video cameras to document their interactions with others in case they’re accused of anything.

“We are very controversial in the sense that our message is that we should all be together,” Johnny Robertson said.

But Micah Robertson didn’t capture any video Feb. 28 because church officials grabbed his camera as he turned it on, Johnny Robertson said.

Hey, Matt Tomsic: There is no such thing as "Religious Review"! Religious Review is a sham operation that Johnny Robertson pulled out of his butt to give his harassment an air of legitimacy. Religious Review has no website, no printed publication, nothing but a YouTube channel that consists entirely of footage of Robertson and his minions stalking innocent people in the privacy of their homes, in churches and shopping malls, etc.

If I have no other purpose for writing this post, then it is because I am compelled to point out Matt Tomsic's atrocious reporting of this matter and to call out GoDanRiver.com, the Danville Register and Bee, and Media General for allowing this story to run at all.

(And as some have jokingly noted lately, this blog does seem to get more traffic than, ahem, some online outlets that have been referenced lately. Parse that as you will...)

What do I think is gonna happen? Honestly?

If Micah Robertson is found guilty, he will either go to jail for the minimum amount allowed by law (I don't believe the judge will give him a year, but who knows) or given suspended sentence. It'll still be a mark on his record. I like to think that he might even be ordered to remain 500 feet away from religious institutions that he is not personally affiliated with, much like how convicted sex offenders cannot be near schools or daycare centers.

If Micah Robertson is found not guilty, then Johnny Robertson will assume that this means he and his cult now have legal carte blanche to do all the harassment that they want, wherever and whenever they so desire. They will go crazy with their newfound sense of power. And then they will go too far and one or more of them will be hurt or worse.

I hate to say that, but I'm not usually wrong about this sort of thing. Call it nothing more than being a longtime student of human nature.

GEARS OF WAR 3 gets official announcement and tragic trailer!

Epic Games' Cliff Blezinski on Last Night with Jimmy Fallon in the wee hours of this morning let the world in on what we already knew: that Gears of War 3 was coming in April 2011. An official press release from Epic and Microsoft gives a firmer date: April 5th, 2011 for the concluding chapter of the Gears of War trilogy.

Personally I've no doubt we'll be seeing more games from this series though. It might - or might not - be the end of humanity's war with the Locust Horde but there are plenty more tales to tell in the Gears saga. Such as the earlier Pendulum Wars, and the events surrounding E-Day.

But 'nuff with speculation. Take a looksee at "Ashes to Ashes", the first trailer for Gears of War 3!

The song is "Heron Blue" by folk rock group Sun Kil Moon. Now you know. And knowing is half the battle.

Monday, April 12, 2010

THE KING AND I and... me!

After a weekend of what one cast member has called "the most fun audition experience I've ever had" the Theatre Guild of Rockingham County has got the cast for its production of The King and I a little more than two months from now.

And... I'm playing Phra Alack! He's the secretary to the King, and gets to throw his authority around a lot. Unless the King is in the room, and then Phra Alack throws himself down on the floor a lot. Gonna be a fun lil' role! That's also a terrific cast playing the characters... and given that I personally know many of the cast are complete characters, is gonna make it that much more of a hoot of a show :-)

The King and I runs from June 18th through June 20th at Rockingham County Senior High School. Click on the Theatre Guild's website for more information. Hope to see you there!

And as always happens whenever I get involved in something like this, I'll be posting about the experience from here on out :-)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

And on a more serious note...

Two great tragedies have I observed in life: unrequited love and unrequited repentance.

I harbor no doubt as to which is the more miserable, if also the less celebrated.

First photo from the set of THE THING prequel

The guys at /Film have come through with the first pic of the set for the as-yet-untitled prequel to The Thing: John Carpenter's classic 1982 science-fiction horror movie...

That's the Antarctic research camp that the SwedesNorwegians have, before they make their icy discovery and all hell breaks loose. The prequel (scripted by Ronald D. Moore, the mastermind behind the revamped Battlestar Galactica) is gonna show us what happened at the SwedishNorwegian base that made it as bad as MacReady and Copper found it (i.e. mass suicide, burnt corpses, etc.)

As John Carpenter's The Thing is on my personal short list of all-time greatest movies I am going to remain cautiously optimistic about this prequel project, but optimistic all the same. I trust Ronald D. Moore and his respect for the material, I like how the CGI is going to be kept to a minimum and I very much appreciate how they're getting authentic SwedesNorwegians for most of the roles. And now looking at this photo, my hopes have gone up even more.

Report: U.S. Navy sub crashed 'cuz navigator was listening to iPod

Awright, let's be clear about something: the navigator was not listening to his iPod while at his station. But he was in his cabin listening to his iPod when he was supposed to have been at his station. Which in some ways is indicative of plenty more that was wrong on this sub.

"iPranged a submarine" screams the The Sun in the United Kingdom (gotta love those wacky British headlines). It's now come to light that the collision between the United States Navy's nuclear submarine USS Hartford and the transport ship USS New Orleans in the Persian Gulf a year ago was caused by the Hartford's navigational officer off on his own "revising for an exam" while listening to tunes from his iPod when he should have been uhhh... navigating.

But wait, that's not all! Crewmen had also set up loudspeakers so that they could listen to music (presumably from their iPods) while on duty! Which as anyone who has even seen The Hunt for Red October (or better yet read the original novel) could tell you, is an act of insanity aboard a submarine dependent on multi-million dollar sonar arrays that can pick out opera singing from clear across the Pacific Ocean. The report also said that "sonar operators and radio men were missing from their posts. Others drove the attack sub while 'with one hand on the controls and their shoes off'". The Hartford's captain, Commander Ryan Brookhart, has now been relieved of duty after investigators cited more than 30 infractions which led to "an informal atmosphere" and "a weak command".

Anyone else hearing the Village People singing "In The Navy" after reading this story?

New hope for cancer patients: Drug chokes off energy to tumors

On the medical side of things, researchers at Ohio State University have hit upon a promising new lead in the fight against cancer: an experimental drug that kills cancerous cells by cutting off their supply of sugar.

From the article at the university's website...

Researchers at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center-Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute have designed an experimental drug that chokes off that sugar supply, causing the cells to self destruct.

The agent, called OSU-CG12, is an example of a new class of anticancer drugs called energy-restriction mimetic agents. It is described in a paper published recently in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

"Energy restriction may offer a powerful new strategy for treating cancer because it targets a survival mechanism used by many types of cancer," says principal investigator Ching-Shih Chen, professor of medicinal chemistry, of internal medicine and of urology.

"Our study proves that this new agent kills cancer cells through energy restriction. This is important because it shows that it is possible to design drugs that target energy restriction, and it is exciting because energy-restricting mimetic agents may also be useful for other diseases, including metabolic syndromes, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity," Chen adds.

Energy-restricting mimetic agents cause changes in cancer cells that are similar to those that occur in cancer cells deprived of their main energy source, the sugar glucose.

Plenty more info at the link above for those of you technically-minded, or otherwise have a strong interest in this sort of thing.

I tend to no longer be the sort that jumps headfirst with enthusiasm at news of this nature. But the fact is there's been lots of new research getting published lately from the realm of biochemistry holding the potential for great strides against cancer, with much of it having to do with selectively targeting cancerous cells while leaving the healthy tissue untouched.

The day that Lord willing we get to say that we have got cancer licked, I for one am going to go positivalutely bonkers with celebration. Mayhap that day not be too far off after all...