Saturday, July 30, 2011

The 2nd Annual Popcorn Sutton Acoustic Jam is getting BIGGER!

There have been some developments (to put it mildly) since I first posted two weeks ago about the 2nd Annual Popcorn Sutton Acoustic Jam happening August 6th. I've been in regular contact with the event organizers and folks, this lil' celebration of the life and legend of Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton is literally seeing good stuff happen with each passing day!

First thing that everyone should know about is that the event has moved! There's been so MUCH interest and plenty enough people saying that they're gonna be attending, that the 2nd Annual Popcorn Sutton Acoustic Jam is now being held at the Maggie Valley Festival Grounds in astonishingly beautiful Maggie Valley, North Carolina (which is right next door to Waynesville, where it was going to be originally held). Set your GPS units accordingly! There should be plenty of parking for everyone.

You should also plan to be there for awhile, 'cuz the tribute is now scheduled to last from noon until 10 p.m.

And as of this writing, the list of musical acts scheduled to appear is growing. Michelle Leigh, Tennessee Jed, the Josh Fields Band, Ali Randolph & Outta Luck Band, and Maggie Valley's very own "Man in Black", Charlie Duke have all confirmed to be there! Probably be lots more performers announced during this next week as the event draws closer.

And then there's this lil' item...

ATTENTION!!!! For all who will be attending the Popcorn Sutton Acoustic Jam in Maggie Valley,NC on August 6th, there will be a Popcorn Sutton look-alike contest at the event. Come in your best Popcorn get-up! There will be a wonderful prize for the 1st place winner and the judge will be the one and only Mrs. Popcorn!!!
D'oh!! I had the idea months ago to make a Popcorn Sutton costume for this Halloween, only to choose another one that I'll be doing along with a friend. Now I'm kicking myself in the tail 'cuz a Popcorn Sutton getup would have positivalutely rocked! Oh well, maybe next time :-)

There is a Facebook event listing and a Craigslist page for the 2nd Annual Popcorn Sutton Acoustic Jam. Keep checking both of them as next Saturday gets nearer. I'm planning to drive from Reidsville on the day before so I can commit all of next weekend to honoring the memory of Popcorn Sutton: a man who I never got to meet, but had already long respected and appreciated. And I'm extremely looking forward to meeting many more of his fans and admirers this coming Saturday!

Friday, July 29, 2011

"...and a cat was thrown in the minister's face."

Yet another classic illustration from the archives of the National Police Gazette...

That's from the February 8th, 1889 issue of the magazine. That's still not as wild as some revival meetings that I've witnessed...

Props again to William A. Mays, the proprietor of The National Police Gazette, for keeping alive the spirit of this historic American publication!

"Weird Al" Yankovic's book WHEN I GROW UP now an awesome app for your iOS gadget!

This past winter master musical parody artist "Weird" Al Yankovic published his first-ever book, When I Grow Up. Yankovic's children's book resonated with audiences of all ages and fast found itself on the bestseller lists. If you've read it (and even if you haven't yet, you hooligan!) and you happen to have an iOS gizmo like an iPad or an iPhone, you'll be sure to want to check out the When I Grow Up interactive book on Apple's App Store. The entire book with all its artwork is here, along with at least 27 (quite possibly many more) hidden surprises, all accompanied by Yankovic's voice! There are also a few mini-games that will have you honking with laughter. Not kidding: "Gorilla Masseuse" for a few days recently was the most-played game on my iPad! I think it took me the better part of the week to keep that poor ape from going on a GORILLA RAMPAGE!

The app is $2.99 and is well worth the price, whether you want it for your children or for that kid in each of us :-)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Americans Elect: Worth some cautious consideration

A few days ago I heard about Americans Elect. And the notion of it intrigued me enough that I spent some time this afternoon visiting its website, signing up and doing the "political colors" app.

So here's what Americans Elect is: an Internet-based political party, committed to nominating a candidate for President of the United States in the 2012 election. To that end Americans Elect is working to get on the ballot in every state of the union. So far they've met the qualifications to have ballot access in Arizona, Nevada, Kansas and Alaska... and they've just turned in enough to be listed in California, too. If Americans Elect has its way, a candidate meeting all the requirements to be President (and Vice-President) according to the United States Constitution will be up for election alongside the Republican and Democrat candidates. Supposedly, all of this is an effort to bust up the stranglehold that the two major parties have on American politics.

I gotta say: I love this idea a lot. But having visited the Americans Elect site and gone through all 64 questions determining where I am politically, I can't help but think that Americans Elect is being determined too much by the two-party duopoly. The questions given seem too centrist between the Left and Right... and I long ago abandoned that paradigm when I saw at last just how false it really is. Also, there are some questions as to how open Americans Elect is so far as its operations and policies are concerned.

Very few people will doubt that there is too much that is very, very wrong with our political process. The unaffiliated and those who try to challenge the system on their own have long been shut out by laws and procedures that both the Democrat and Republican parties have put in place to ensure that they are the only game in town. And that's wrong... damned wrong!

I don't know if Americans Elect is going to have much of an impact. The concept is right. And the time is fast becoming ripe for an overthrow of what is in effect a one-party rule of America.

I'm gonna say: check out Americans Elect if you feel so led, and investigate and feel free to arrive at your own conclusions. Personally I wish the organization well, and I sincerely mean that. But it shouldn't be afraid to not play by the rules of the Republicans and Democrats. Those two parties have wrecked the United States and the sooner their kleptocratic reign is toppled, the better!

Tomb of Philip, one of the Twelve Disciples, found in Turkey

A team of Italian archaeologists reported yesterday that the tomb of Philip the Apostle, one of the original Twelve Disciples that followed Jesus Christ, has been located in Turkey's southwestern province of Denizli.

Philip is mentioned in all four Gospels as being among the disciples closest to Christ. He is often associated with that Philip who preached to the Ethiopian eunuch (recorded in Acts, chapter 8), however there is plenty of reason to suspect that there were two Philips who each played a prominent role in the history of the early church. Philip the Apostle is said by tradition to have been martyred at Hierapolis (located in the present-day Turkish province of Denizli). Philip is reported, like his friend and fellow apostle Peter, to have been crucified upside-down.

From the article at World Bulletin...

The tomb of St. Philip the Apostle, one of the original 12 disciples of Christianity's central figure Jesus Christ, has been discovered during the ongoing excavations in Turkey's south-western province of Denizli.

Italian professor Francesco D'Andria, the head of the excavation team at the Hierapolis ancient city in Denizli, told reporters on Tuesday that experts had reached the tomb of St. Philip whose name is mentioned in the Bible as one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus.

Professor D'Andria said archeologists had been working for years to find the tomb of the Biblical figure, and finally, they had managed to reach the monument while working on the ruins of a newly-unearthed church in Hierapolis.

D'Andria said the structure of the tomb and the writings on it proved that it belonged to St. Philip the Apostle, who is recognized as a martyr in the history of Christianity.

This is turning into a very exciting time for Biblical archaeology. In the past few years we have found the tombs and other remnants of many people associated with Christ: from the ossuaries of James and Caiphas, and now the resting place of Philip. We also now have ancient documentation of Pilate, and significant evidence of Joseph's time in Egypt (not to mention what can only be described as an "advertisement" for the services of one Balaam the Prophet).

Hey, who knows: maybe someday we'll get really lucky and finally locate pieces of Noah's Ark :-)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

DONKEY.BAS: Bill Gates tries to create Xbox twenty years too early...

Good friend and fellow blogger Scott Bradford pointed out that today is the 30th anniversary of Microsoft giving MS-DOS its name. That was the main operating system for the vast majority of personal computers for many years, until it came to be supplanted in the mid-Nineties by Microsoft's own DOS-less Windows software (even though every version of Windows since Win95 has had the original style DOS window available to open, just like the old days).

Well, 1981 was another landmark year for Microsoft, though it's the kind of history that Bill Gates would no doubt just as well wish nobody would remember! It was in 1981 that Gates and fellow programmer Neil Konzen wrote DONKEY.BAS. This was the very first video game that Microsoft would ever produce for commercial retail. It was packed in the early versions of MS-DOS, as a way to sorta "show off" the IBM PC architecture's power along with that of the BASIC programming language. Legend has it that Gates and Konzen were working in a hot, sweaty room one Sunday afternoon at Microsoft HQ when they came up with this thing.

So here is the game they produced: Donkey. It's a rudimentary driving game, so named because the "cow" that the driver had to avoid hitting ended up looking more like a donkey. So it became Donkey...

I've read numerous accounts over the years about how Apple's staff broke out into hysterical laughter when they saw DONKEY.BAS in action. And it's not hard to understand why. But in retrospect, DONKEY.BAS is pretty neat in the sense that twenty years later, Microsoft would be rolling out the Xbox and come to dominate home video gaming (a trend that continues with the Xbox 360).

Aim here to read more about DONKEY.BAS at Wikipedia.

Atlas is shrugging: Alabama mine owner goes Galt

Back in late February through early March I wound up reading Atlas Shrugged for the first time in my life. That revelation shocked many of those closest to me, who had assumed that bibliojunkie that I've always been, that I would have long ago devoured Ayn Rand's classic novel.

Can't help but wonder what my life would have developed into had I read the book when I was in high school or college. Atlas Shrugged didn't add much substantially "new" to my belief system, but it did clarify and crystallize it as nothing else had before. I'm thinking of re-reading it again sometime soon (but I've re-read the part about Kip Chalmers' train at least forty times since winter and laughed every time it goes into the tunnel: yes, I'm perverse that way :-P)

So now in a page right out of Atlas Shrugged, a coal mine owner in Alabama has metaphorically taken the Ellis Wyatt route: abandoning his business and leaving the sign saying "I'm leaving it as I found it. Take over. It's yours."

Here is Ronnie Bryant's statement that he made at a public hearing in Birmingham, as being reported on David McElroy's website...

"My name’s Ronnie Bryant, and I’m a mine operator…. I’ve been issued a [state] permit in the recent past for [waste water] discharge, and after standing in this room today listening to the comments being made by the people…. [pause] Nearly every day without fail — I have a different perspective — men stream to these [mining] operations looking for work in Walker County. They can’t pay their mortgage. They can’t pay their car note. They can’t feed their families. They don’t have health insurance. And as I stand here today, I just … you know … what’s the use? I got a permit to open up an underground coal mine that would employ probably 125 people. They’d be paid wages from $50,000 to $150,000 a year. We would consume probably $50 million to $60 million in consumables a year, putting more men to work. And my only idea today is to go home. What’s the use? I don’t know. I mean, I see these guys — I see them with tears in their eyes — looking for work. And if there’s so much opposition to these guys making a living, I feel like there’s no need in me putting out the effort to provide work for them. So as I stood against the wall here today, basically what I’ve decided is not to open the mine. I’m just quitting. Thank you."
Well, I can't say that I blame him. Earlier today I learned that a dear friend in California was having to apply for a business license just to tutor kids after school. When I read that, I was like "What the...?!?"

Business owners, and especially small business owners, are the source of all industry and productivity in this country. Hell, in any country. They do not need or deserve to be overly burdened with ridiculous amounts of government oversight, legislation and regulation. When I read the story of Ronnie Bryant, and how he has given up out of frustration... it pisses me off!! This was a man who created and maintained jobs that people need and want.

Much more of this, and there won't be a United States as we have come to know it.

Sometimes, I wonder if that's the conscientious purpose of too many in our government.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Twentieth anniversary of Pee-wee's big adventure

Awright, I'm gonna try to keep this as decent and family-friendly as I can. Meaning that I'm refraining from re-telling any of the corny jokes that we were all sharing with each other back when this happened.

It was twenty years ago today that one of the most darkly comical incidents in pop culture history occurred...

Ahhh yes, Pee-wee Herman. By the end of the Eighties Pee-wee had conquered the world. From an HBO special that is still considered one of the best ever, to star of one of the funniest movies of all time, to the long-running CBS Saturday morning children's show Pee-wee's Playhouse. There were Pee-wee Herman dolls and toys in all the major retail outlets. Yes, Pee-wee had it all.

To have climbed so high. And then, to only fall so hard.

It was on July 26th, 1991 that Pee-wee's real-life alter-ego Paul Reubens was arrested for publicly masturbating at an adult movie theater in Sarasota, Florida. Detectives who had stationed themselves in the theater had witnessed Reubens exhibiting "Pee-wee's wee-wee" (okay, I tried, honest!!). Reubens attempted to get out of trouble by offering to do a "children's benefit" event with the sheriff's office "to take care of this", an offer that he also made to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune so that they would sit on the story. But it was to no avail. A few days later the mugshot photo of Reubens - with long hair, unshaven and looking totally disheveled - was all over the news.

Pee-wee Herman was done. Reubens made two more appearances as Pee-wee Herman, at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards (he received a standing ovation after taking to the stage and asking "Heard any good jokes lately?!") and then when he appeared at a Grand Ole Opry tribute to Minnie Pearl. And then, he went into apparent self-exile.

Pee-wee Herman, it seemed, was dead and buried.

And then in 2007, Paul Reubens brought Pee-wee Herman back. Following that year's Spike TV's Guys' Choice Awards, Pee-wee has since become the star of a successful Broadway show, and apparently a new movie is in the works.

But today, we remember that very strange situation two decades ago that had children all over America asking "Mommy, what does 'masturbate' mean?"

Seriously though, glad to see that Paul Reubens has enjoyed a career rebound. Pee-wee Herman seems to be bigger today than ever. Here's hoping that he'll be around for a long time to come :-)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Trailer for the next batch of DOCTOR WHO episodes!

Last month this year's series of Doctor Who arrived at one hum-dinger of a mid-season cliffhanger.

So you wanna see some of where the rest of the season is going? Check this out, courtesy of the BBC...

Doctor Who returns on August 27th. And I can't wait!! Well, I guess I'll have to but, you know... :-P

Speaking of the Whoniverse, I haven't watched the rest of them yet but I did catch the first episode of Torchwood: Miracle Day. Am waiting for my girlfriend to come over some weekend so we can watch the rest together (no, not gonna take a peek at them without her to share it with :-). But I have watched that first episode a number of times now and, it's some of the best Who-ish material that Russell T. Davies has done since he was the revived series' first showrunner in 2005. Looking forward to seeing the rest and discovering how this story goes :-)

A "Super Congress"?! What the...?! Here come the Politburo, and Congress AIN'T suppose to establish a religion!

When the hell do the people of this country once again get representatives who know what "un-constitutional" means enough to not come up with bullsh-t like this?

The Huffington Post was the first place where I found the "Super Congress" referenced. So in case (like me until late last night) you didn't know what the politicians in Washington are now up to: there is a proposal to create a 12-member body comprised of six members from both the House and the Senate... and composed of six members from both major political parties. This "Super Congress" would be capable of over-riding the normal legislative process, all in the name of fixing the United States' monstrous debt problem.

Click here and here to read what others have been arguing about how anti-Constitution and insane this scheme is.

But here is what disturbs me most about this proposal...

THE "SUPER CONGRESS" WOULD OFFICIALLY ESTABLISH THAT TWO POLITICAL PARTIES AND ONLY TWO PARTIES ARE LEGITIMATE, TO THE DETRIMENT OF ALL OTHERS.

Think about it. The "Super Congress" plan gives seats to the Democrats, seats to the Republicans... and ummm... nothing to the unaffiliated or those who have chosen not to align themselves with either of the two major parties.

What is a political party, really? Is it any different from a body of religion? I mean, a political party and a religious denomination share many similarities. They each have their adherents. They each have their beliefs and ideas. But according to the Constitution, Congress cannot endorse any body of belief and faith.

And now there are some who are conspiring to make Congress controlled by a body of belief. Namely, a body of ideologies. Oh yeah, you get to, ahem, "choose" which one of the two that you wanna affiliate yourself with... but how the hell is that really a choice at all?

How the hell is it that the United States government - something which is supposed to derive from a mandate of the people, by the people and for the people - is now poised to be legally controlled NOT by the people, but by two political parties to the exclusion of ALL others?!?

This, is wrong.

And President Barack Obama and the "leaders" in Congress are taking us all on a road that is too damn much like what Russia found itself on about a hundred years ago.

I've said it before and I'll say it again now: the United States now owes the old Soviet Union an apology. At least the Soviets had one-party rule and were honest about it.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

"Hold still, dumb-ass!" It's the first new BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD since November 28th 1997!

I choose to take this as a sign that there is hope yet for our culture.

At Comic-Con 2011 going on this weekend in San Diego, Mike Judge announced that Beavis and Butt-head - one of the most classic and beloved shows of the Nineties - is coming back with new episodes this fall!

'Course, things have changed for MTV since the boys last graced (?) that network with their presence in the autumn of 1997. For one thing, MTV doesn't do the music videos thing like they did back in the day. Based on the following clip, looks like Beavis and Butt-head are gonna now be ragging on things like reality television and such.

So look! New Beavis and Butt-head footage!

Looks fresh as ever! Now I'll just have to clear some space on my DVR for when the show begins running :-)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Photo of a ghost at Annie Penn Hospital?

Annie Penn Hospital is the main medical facility in my hometown of Reidsville, North Carolina. It was founded in 1930. There's the original building and then a few additions that have been constructed over the years. Today it is part of the Moses Cone Health System based in nearby Greensboro.

And it was at Annie Penn Hospital where this photo was recently taken...

The photo comes courtesy of James Hodges, a good friend, writer and pastor of Burton Memorial Missionary Baptist Church in Reidsville. The photo did not originate with James but it was made by someone that he knows.

Feel free to leave whatever comment you are led to make about this image. Could it be that this is photo documentation of a ghost at Annie Penn Hospital: a place that has a long history of reputedly being haunted?

EDIT 3:35 p.m. EST: Okay, the mystery has been solved! And turns out... it is a Photoshop job. But quite a neat one! Dwayne Corum who also hails from this burg submits this...

"It was a Photoshop...sorry to let you guys down. I know the guy who took the pic and put the "ghost" in the pic...sorry to let your supernatural heart down..lol"
Nah, it's all good Dwayne. This probably gave a lot of people a good thing to catch on a Friday when nothing else is going on but the heat around here! Just shows that even us small-town folk can have some high-tech fun just as well as everyone else ;-)

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER is darn nearly the Captain America movie that Chris always dreamed of seeing!

So being old enough to (very barely) remember those dopey Captain America TV movies from the late Seventies (starring Reb Brown, forever known best as Yor: Hunter From The Future) and then years later the 1990 film with J.D. Salinger's son Matt as the star-spangled Avenger, I have waited long enough for Cap to get the respect he rightfully deserves as a live-action adaptation of the legendary comic book superhero.

What sayest then this blogger about Captain America: The First Avenger?

This is almost the Captain America movie that I have always wanted to see happen. I mean, it's dang nearly perfect... as a film about a Marvel Comics hero. Chris Evans nails it as both the frail Steve Rogers and the super-soldier that he eventually becomes courtesy of cutting edge (for the early 1940s anyway) science. I sincerely thrilled to the production design and the distinctly World War II tone that director Joe Johnston (who has some experience with this sort of thing, having directed 1991's The Rocketeer) and his crew have evoked. I love all the little Marvel nuances that made their way into this movie, like how Cap's shield is made of Vibranium (quite a lot of applause during our screening when that got mentioned) and the sly nods to the mythology of Thor (both the comic and the movie that came out a few months ago) and the Cosmic Cube and all that jazz. That Howard Stark (the father of Tony Stark, the future Iron Man, played by Dominic Cooper) has such a substantial role in the story is something that I especially dug. This might be Alan Silvestri's finest score for a film since Back To The Future. I even liked Stan Lee's cameo (does that guy know how to crash every Marvel party, or what?). For those reasons and more, I liked the movie immensely.

What I can't help but keep thinking about though is how Captain America, for a hero created during and for the World War II era, doesn't really do in this film what he's meant to do best: beat the snot out of Nazis! In fact, the Nazi stuff is downplayed so far as to be practically non-existent. And there is nothing that is more short-changed as a result of it than Hugo Weaving's otherwise chilling portrayal of the Red Skull.

That is the one glaring major failing of Captain America: The First Avenger, at least in my opinion. Ya see, I wanted the Red Skull to be what he is in the comics: a thoroughly dedicated living embodiment of everything that his mentor Adolf Hitler made him to be. And that's sorta the point of the classic Red Skull character: as the counterpart to Captain America he is at once everything against but also identical to Steve Rogers. Johann Schmidt was a frail weakling German who was picked out of nowhere by Hitler to be his top henchman and as the Red Skull, he became the symbol of all the evil that the Nazis were perpetrating. So the Allies go and create their own symbol: Captain America. Who thrashes the snot out of the Nazis! Instead in this film we get Red Skull (with an origin way too much like the 1990 Captain America movie) as the leader of HYDRA: a splinter sect from Nazism.

You tell me which you want to hear chanted most by the enemies of liberty before they get their asses whupped: "Heil Hitler" or "Heil HYDRA"? I know which one works for me... and that ain't what we get in this movie.

Okay well... other than that, Captain America: The First Avenger is a barn-burnin' toad-stranglin' hella fun ride! And it tracks well with the story from the long-running comics: how Steve Rogers wants to enlist in the Army following America's entry into World War II. Unfortunately this kid has a list of maladies as long as a grocery list, any one of which would (and does) get him categorized as "4F". But Rogers is persistent (to the point that he tries enlisting in five different cities). It's at the World of Tomorrow exhibit in New York City that Rogers elicits the attention of Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci), a German scientist who fled to the United States so that Hitler could not exploit his research. Though derided as a joke of an enlistee by Colonel Phillips (a terrific performance by Tommy Lee Jones) and to some extent by British officer Peggy Carter (Haylee Atwell), Rogers is soon brought to the secret lab where his fragile body will be doused with the serum that will transform him into the massive, agile powerhouse. And the experiment works! Unfortunately Rogers winds up the only super-soldier when Erskine is assassinated. What follows is a frustrating tenure for Rogers as a mascot for war bonds sales, and then a fateful USO tour of Europe that ends up catapulting him into the action that he has desired for so long.

Awright, as I said Captain America: The First Avenger is a great Marvel Comics movie, and maybe one of the best yet. It just lacks some substance in my book as a World War II-era film, when it coulda and shoulda gone balls-to-the-walls full-tilt wacko as a movie about that conflict. But that's not gonna stop me from wanting to see it again at least once more during its run in the theaters, and from buying the Blu-ray when it becomes available.

In wrapping up, I'll say that Captain America: The First Avenger is a movie that might disappoint somewhat for those who love the character and the historical period that he springs from. But if you can get past that, it's not a bad way to spend a mid-summer's evening at all. Just don't be so hasty to leave the theater: there is quite a bit more to see after the credits end. And based on what I saw following Captain America's own movie, all I know to say is: bring on 2012 and The Avengers!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Review of BIOSHOCK: RAPTURE

2007's BioShock is on my short list of all time greatest video games ever. Okay, scratch that: BioShock is not a "video game" at all. It is an entirely new style of storytelling narrative. BioShock is high-brow literature all its own. And like the very best of books, you come away from it more enlightened and driven to ponder than you were before you encountered it. In the mind of Chris Knight, BioShock stands on the same level as George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Seriously.

And like those and other classic novels, BioShock is something that many people finish with many different perspectives to wrestle over. My own personal take is that BioShock... and with a theme that continued into its sequel BioShock 2... is a morality tale about what man invariably becomes in the complete and conscious absence of God. Andrew Ryan's sub-Atlantic metropolis of Rapture was meant to be a Utopia where individual capability would be unfettered from the binds of government, religion and "petty morality". Instead it became a fallen ruin: an ultimate monument to man's corrupted nature.

We already knew about the city of Rapture from playing BioShock and BioShock 2. But we never got the full story of how Andrew Ryan built his underwater society... and how it collapsed.

But now we get to find out, because the tale of Rapture's rise and fall has just been published as a novel. And fitting for BioShock, it stands on a higher plane than most other video game-derivative books!

BioShock: Rapture is written by John Shirley, with plenty of input from BioShock creator Ken Levine. And having read it, I cannot recommend it enough for BioShock fans. BioShock: Rapture is a masterful working of the bits and pieces of Rapture's history that we learned throughout the two games, with a healthy dose of real-life history and politics thrown in. The result is a magnificent epic that in truest BioShock fashion leaves it to the reader to arrive at his or her own conclusions about morality.

The novel begins in 1945. Immediately after the dropping of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, billionaire industrialist Andrew Ryan has at last become disillusioned with a modern world hellbent on suicide. Ryan - who fled from the Communist revolution in Russia as a child - has also grown disgusted to the point of pathological hatred with the socialistic programs of Roosevelt's New Deal. With apparently no nation on Earth that he can feel at home, Andrew Ryan resolves to make a nation for himself and others who want to live at the discretion of no government or religion.

No doubt everyone who's played a BioShock game has wondered: "How the heck did Ryan build a city on the floor of the North Atlantic?" We find out how in BioShock: Rapture. Yeah there's some "deus ex mechanics" involved (particularly in regard to how Rapture isn't crushed to bits by the intense water pressure) but I found that such concerns were adequately addressed for what is admittedly a work of retro-historical science-fiction. And we also discover how Rapture was populated, per Ryan's peculiar standards. All the characters from the two games that we've come to know and love and all too often hate are there: from Andrew Ryan himself to master plumber Bill McDonagh (who gets quite a fulfilling backstory), on through to Sofia Lamb and the lunatic artist Sander Cohen, who will soon give entirely whole new meaning to the phrase "flaming homosexual".

But there are two factors in particular that come to play a part in the larger tale of Rapture. The first is the man who is known as Frank Fontaine (which is all I'm going to say if you haven't played the game yet). The second is the discovery of ADAM: the substance that makes the gene-changing plasmids possible. It is the plasmids which will eventually intoxicate with power most of the population of Rapture. A population that is growing increasingly restless and frustrated with utopian promises that fail to deliver. So it is that a series of circumstances come into being that lead up to the explosive events of December 31st, 1958: the day that Rapture erupted into civil war.

BioShock: Rapture not only answered questions stemming from my own curiosity about Rapture, it also cleared up quite a lot of material that I was a bit cloudy about. The part about how Fontaine Futuristics was taken over by Ryan was intriguing and illuminating, and that Andrew Ryan - a self-styled champion of capitalism - would become that which he hates most and nationalize an entire industry is an irony that is not lost upon the reader. We also get a better picture of how the Little Sisters came into being... along with their horrifying wardens, the Big Daddies.

BioShock: Rapture is by far one of the more satisfying novels to have sprung from a video game franchise that I have found. John Shirley has performed an elegant job at taking the enormously rich environment of the BioShock games and not only revealing more of the tapestry of Rapture but also reconciling details where such was needed. And just as much as I hope and pray that there will eventually be a true BioShock 3, I find myself very much desiring that this will be but the first of more novels that delve into that beckoning city deep beneath the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Highly recommended, even if you haven't played BioShock yet!

End of the Space Shuttle program

The orbiter Atlantis landed at Kennedy Space Center in Florida this morning, at 5:57 a.m.

And so, after 135 missions that began on April 12th 1981, the Space Shuttle program - a system that began to be engineered in the late Sixties - has come to an end. So too apparently has the United States' manned space endeavors: NASA has no crew-capable vehicles anywhere close to near-future use (the Orion system has been scrapped because of budgetary cutbacks). For now the International Space Station is going to have to be serviced by Soviet-era Soyuz craft: a design that has been flying into space since our own Apollo program.

Well, at least private enterprise is beginning to seriously engage in spaceflight. That is where there's going to be a future in manned space exploration. There is still a passion for space: it just needs to be matched with equal zeal and funding capability... and government can't do that anymore like it could in the days of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo.

But today, I don't wish to lament what many others have already done so and with greater eloquence. The Atlantis has come home. The Space Shuttle has accomplished its mission.

And that is worth honoring no matter how one looks at it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Have been busy lately

Not much time for blogging, 'cuz your friend and humble narrator has had his hands in all kinds of projects! And then again there's been so much nonsense happening in the news lately, it's been hard to pick and choose what to comment on.

(Hey all you politicians in D.C., there's a really easy way to stop worrying about the debt ceiling: quit making more debt!! Sheeeeesh must a guy with a blog have to come up with everything for you people?!)

Okay well, expect more good stuff in the next few days or so. And to kick it off, how about something beautiful? No not more Lauryn, even though my cousin is still the most awesomely sweet official pinup girl that this or any other website could possibly have. But rest assured, Lauryn will be back soon ;-)

Time for something a lil' different. Here is Kristen this past weekend, at the reception for a wedding that she was maid of honor in. Along with her ne'er-do-well rogue of a boyfriend...

Is that enough of a tease for all two of this blog's faithful readers? :-)

More soon, including hopefully a review of Captain America: The First Avenger!

Monday, July 18, 2011

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES teaser trailer is online!

And that ain't even the best look at Bane that we get in the first trailer for The Dark Knight Rises! That comes at the end of the one and a half minute-long glimpse of next year's surefire megahit.

Yes friends, Warner Bros. has officially released the trailer online (which you couldn't see until now unless you went to see the last Harry Potter movie over the weekend, which I didn't, so this is new to me too).

My only gripe is that this is going to be the last of the "Nolan-verse" Batman... which is easily my most favorite Batman continuity ever! I'd hoped that Warners might have let Nolan's work be the springboard of an ongoing series, sorta like its own James Bond franchise. But we've had two excellent Batman movies from Christopher Nolan already and I've no doubt that he will end this trilogy in fine form!

Anyhoo, there it is. And if that YouTube link disappears, you can still find the teaser pretty much anywhere.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Come to the 2nd Annual Popcorn Sutton Tribute Acoustic Jam!

He passed away more than two years ago, but Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton's legend is bigger than ever! The famous moonshiner's acclaimed likker is now being sold legally (yup, according to Popcorn's own secret recipe) and thanks to the Internet and documentaries on public television and the History Channel made while he was with us, Popcorn Sutton has become admired by more people than ever before.

And next month we'll get the chance to show our appreciation for the man and his life at the 2nd Annual Popcorn Sutton Acoustic Jam. This tribute event will be August 6th at Smackers Sports Grill in Waynesville, North Carolina (a sweet lil' town that I have had the pleasure of visiting many times over the years).

Look! Craigslist event posting!

Come and enjoy an evening filled with music and good food while celebrating the life of legendary moonshiner Popcorn Sutton. Bring your musical instruments and bring a dancing partner for a fun-filled time! Attending the jam will be Popcorn Sutton's wife Pam so come on out and meet her! Don't forget to bring a chair!
And there's a Facebook page for the event, which as of this writing has 84 people down as attending. Heck, with numbers like that already, I could see Popcorn Sutton becoming the focus of a weekend-long festival in the next few years! Bet it would draw people from all OVER the world too :-)

Lord willing, I plan to be at this thing. I'll always regret that I never got to meet Popcorn Sutton in person, but at least in this small way I can show my appreciation for the man.

Thanks to Michael Gemme for the heads-up!

The trailer for THE THING prequel (which is called THE THING)

Not crazy about the title 'cuz for a prequel to the 1982 original (which I watch every time that we're hit by a major winter storm and get stuck inside), the name of the movie oughtta differentiate itself from... well, The Thing.

However that said, this trailer does make the prequel look awfully promising!

The Thing opens in October. Can't wait to see it (hopefully at a midnight premiere :-)

Scientists punch hole in time to cloak stuff in

Wasn't this the kind of thing that the DHARMA Initiative was playing with on that mysterious Island? We all know how great that turned out, huh?

Some thinkin' dudes at Cornell University have torn a hole in time itself. The result is a "time cloak" that hides events from being observed by the rest of the universe.

From the article at Gizmodo...

The process relies on similar methods of distorting electromagnetic fields as invisibility cloaks, but it exploits a time-space duality in electromagnetic theory: diffraction and dispersion of light in space are mathematically equivalent. Scientists have used this theory to create a "time-lens [that] can, for example, magnify or compress in time".

The time cloak takes two of those lenses and arranges them so that one compresses a beam of light while the other decompresses it. That leaves the beam seemingly unchanged, but the diffraction and dispersion actually "cloak" small events in the beam's timeline. Right now, the cloak can only last for 120 nanoseconds, and the theoretical max for the current design measures just microseconds. But the prospect of being able to exist outside of time, even for just a few microseconds, should be enough to make even the most jaded tech nerd giggle at the possibilities.

120 nanoseconds isn't much but that such a thing can be done for any length of time is pretty interesting no matter how ya look at it. Maybe when it can be made to last much longer I can invest in one: 'twould be the perfect spot in which to hide from the IRS! :-P

Tucker & Dale versus... YALE?!?

September 30th is when Tucker & Dale vs. Evil - the action-comedy that debuted last year and fast won a mob of loyal fans (including myself) - despite yet having a big release, finally opens wide! And it looks like the desire that I wrote a year ago to see more Tucker & Dale movies is gonna actually happen!

Eli Craig, the director of Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is now talking about plans for the sequel, which would see those good ol' boys Tucker and Dale turned loose on the campus at Yale...

"The scenario we have right now is Tucker and Dale go to Yale," Craig told us. "They go to Yale and then all the college kids think they're killers. Mayhem ensues. We have a treatment for it and we're super excited to start writing it."
It could work. But it does sound like it might be getting a bit close to the premise of the original movie (that's all I'm gonna say for sake of those who haven't gotten to enjoy it yet). But after laughing so hard during Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, I'll trust Craig to deliver the goods. Here's hoping that this sequel happens!

Tip o' the hat to Brian Fesperman for passing the link along :-)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN Blu-ray review

Last week Hobo With A Shotgun arrived on DVD and Blu-ray. And if you've got a decent home entertainment rig then you owe it not only to yourself but anyone who may enjoy watching movies at your place to get the Blu-ray, 'cuz this is hands-down the most gloriously gorily beautiful film that I've yet see to show off the capabilities of high definition.

'Course, the movie itself is excellent! I got to see Hobo With A Shotgun at ActionFest a few months ago and ever since it's become entrenched in my mind as already being a classic in its own right. As you may know Hobo With A Shotgun began as Jason Eisener's winning entry in a contest for Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's movie Grindhouse in 2007. The competition called for filmmakers to submit their best fake grindhouse-style trailers. Lo and behold, a lot of people thought that the Nova Scotia native's Hobo With A Shotgun was probably the best part of Grindhouse! With a growing swell of demand for a full-length film, Eisener and his crew got studio financing and went full-tilt wacko with it... and the resulting film is nothing short of a triumph!

Well, I bought the Blu-ray when it came out last week and having watched it three times now, I love Hobo With A Shotgun more than ever before. This is increasingly in my opinion a morality tale about personal responsibility, about trying to make something better for yourself, about taking into hand what God has given you to force the world to make sense when it refuses to act rationally, dammit! Right out the gate and Jason Eisener has turned in a film as thought-provoking as Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange and even more ultra-violent at that. The story that Eisener and screenplay scribe John Davies have crafted would have accomplished that on its own... but putting veteran actor Rutger Hauer into the role of the Hobo was the perfect act of casting. Hauer plays the Hobo with stoic poise and grim determination. It's hard to see Hauer's Hobo as a character who wants to be a bloodthirsty vigilante: all he wants is to save up enough money to buy a lawnmower so he can start his own landscaping business. But the Hobo just can't turn a blind eye to the reality around him: a fact that comes into especially sharp focus during that scene in which the Hobo looks upon the preciously innocent newborn babies in a hospital's maternity ward.

I bought this Blu-ray for the movie. I couldn't have possibly imagined how overwhelmed I would be at the picture and sound quality. There are shades of red and blue and green on the Hobo With A Shotgun Blu-ray that you wouldn't even think were possible (especially the red). This is the sickest palette of color that I've seen in any home video release and if you wanna show off what your high-def set is able to do, then you can't do much better than Hobo With A Shotgun. The sound quality is also exceptionally gruesome... and I mean that in a good way!

In addition to the feature film, Hobo With A Shotgun Blu-ray is loaded with extra features. More Blood, More Heart: The Making of Hobo With A Shotgun is a documentary chronicling the strange long journey of the movie from original concept to competition entry to full-gauge motion picture. That original Grindhouse trailer is also included, as well as a lot of material involving David Brunt: the original Hobo (he cameos as one of the corrupt cops in the film). There's enough bonus stuff to merit it being on a separate disc, and yet it's all very thoughtfully incorporated into the same disc as the movie (particularly with the interactive "Shotgun Mode").

Hobo With A Shotgun on Blu-ray is a bloody awesome addition to one's personal library, and one that will certainly be getting lots of play. Highly recommended!

Monday, July 11, 2011

How did a thirty-year old scrap of Richmond newspaper get into my driveway?

For two days now this has been wigging me out. Think y'all will understand why as you read on...

Saturday afternoon my girlfriend arrived at my house. It's about a hundred miles or so between where we live (only an hour and a half of drive time, and less if the Virginia state troopers aren't looking :-P). She came at 2 and we were hanging out here when a short while later in the afternoon we noticed something on the front bumper of her car.

At first we thought it might be part of some animal that she had hit (though she couldn't remember ever hitting one, which is better than can be said about Yours Truly, but anyhoo...) But when we went out to look at it, it wasn't long before we had wished that it was a piece of roadkill, 'cuz we can not figure out how this ended up stuck in her car's bumper and then survived the trip down here.

That's a photo of it. "It" being a scrap of newspaper from the Richmond Times-Dispatch. And from the April 14th, 1981 edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch at that.

How does a piece of newspaper from thirty years ago make a few hundred miles' worth of journey across the state of Virginia and along the highway to arrive at my house in north-central North Carolina, and not only that but in remarkably intact and un-faded condition?

But that's not the craziest thing that we found about this newspaper fragment. It's from the op-ed section. The lead editorial is an essay about the space shuttle Columbia. The Columbia launched on the very first space shuttle mission, a test flight, on April 12th 1981. It landed a few hours after this edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch was published.

Just over thirty years later, this piece of newspaper with the complete essay about the first shuttle flight arrived in my driveway, a day after the orbiter Atlantis launched the very last space shuttle mission.

Quite the peculiar coincidence, aye?

There are numerous other aspects of this piece of newspaper that make it quite fascinating. A column by William Safire (who died in 2009) addresses the role of the marketplace in the freedom of speech. Below that is an editorial cartoon about the Columbia launch, poking fun at the Soviet space program (note the "CCCP" Cyrillic initials for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) evokeing especially strong reminiscing of those days when we were still embroiled in the Cold War. Nestled between that and another cartoon - an incomplete one about the Warsaw Pact - is an essay by one John Chamberlain warning why Russia would be making a mistake to intervene in Poland's Solidarity movement (Caspar Weinberger, Secretary of Defense under President Reagan, is noted). At the very bottom of the page is the start of a piece about gun control. Still another piece notes the passing at age 88 of General Omar Bradley: one of the United States' most honored commanders of the Allied Expeditionary Force during World War II.

The reverse side of the Times-Dispatch page is no less intriguing, despite it being filled with nothing but advertising. The most interesting interesting is an ad for Radio Shack's TRS-80 home computer: you can buy a TRS-80 with built-in 12" monitor, two 5 1/4" floppy drives and expandable to 48K of memory... all starting at just $999! The ad also makes sure to inform you that Radio Shack has other TRS-80 computers priced between $249 to $10,000.

In so many ways, the arrival of this piece of newspaper from three full decades ago has... totally mystified me: how far away it has come in both distance and time, the beautiful condition of the paper (apart from the tearing around the edges), the irony of it featuring an editorial about the first space shuttle mission even as the final one is currently underway...

...and how did it come to be stuck in the front bumper of my girlfriend's car?

We haven't a clue. But it is quite the neat mystery! Maybe someone reading this can suggest a hypothesis for how it came to be here, 'cuz I'm all out of ideas.

Longer trailer for THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN: THE SECRET OF THE UNICORN!

Look! New trailer for The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn!

I said it last time and I will say it again: this movie will make a billion dollars at the box office. Worldwide 'course but maybe even domestically. Tintin is a huge crazy popular phenomenon across the pond and it's dang high time that Tintin and his wonderful world burst onto the scene here in the states!

Medal of Honor Cat

Says what it means! Means what it says!

That video went live two days ago and has already had more than two million views.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Betty Ford has passed away

The sad news broke last night that former First Lady Betty Ford, widow of the late Gerald Ford, has passed away at the age of 93.

Mrs. Ford was one of the classiest ladies to ever grace the halls of the White House. And then there were her ordeals with alcoholism and breast cancer. In a time when such personal demons were rarely discussed, Betty Ford confronted them and turned her private battles into a positive not only for her own sake, but for millions of people.

And as of yesterday, she is reunited with her beloved husband.

Thoughts and prayers going out to her family.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Starting to live

From one of my favorite books...
"I can probably die now," said Ender. "All my life's work is done."

"Mine too," said Novinha. "But I think that means that it's time to start to live."

-- from Speaker for the Dead, by Orson Scott Card

I didn't fully appreciate what Ender had gone through, from the beginning of his story in Ender's Game until that passage from the very last pages of Speaker for the Dead that I first read as a high school sophomore in 1990. I didn't get it then.

And now... I can't think of a more fitting piece of dialogue from any work of literature that so perfectly speaks for how unbelievably good my life has become since late spring.

The better part of a year ago I was in the darkest place that I had ever known. And I honestly never thought that there could ever be any light, any life. For most of these past long months, I could not possibly find God working in my life or even be able to know He was there at all.

But, He was. He is, and always has been. I had to come to a place where I could forgive myself for things that had never even been in my control, to a place where I had to finally let go of things that had come between God and me, before I could see that at last.

And today, I can't remember being this happy ever before. Being content with the grace of God. Letting Him be sufficient for all of my joy. And now, it turns out that He had only just begun...

I have fought a long and hard journey to be here. To have the peace of mind that it was never possible before now to enjoy. The life that most people have and too often take for granted... is finally mine to experience.

In a sense, my own life's work is done.

So it's time to start to live.

Cover for STAR WARS: DARTH PLAGUEIS is dark, evil and BEAUTIFUL!

It was all the way back in 2005, when Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith was hitting theaters, that James Luceno first mentioned he was interested in writing a novel about Darth Plagueis. Plagueis, as we know, was the Sith Master of Darth Sidious: AKA Palpatine. And that's darn nearly all that we've ever come to know about the mentor of one of fiction's most infamous villains.

Well the novel has been on-again and off-again, but Star Wars: Darth Plagueis is hitting shelves this coming December 27th. And today we finally get to see what the cover looks like!

Behold the Dark Side in its glory...

That cover is... stunning. Just as much as I have been dying to read this book I have wondered how the cover art would be handled and it wildly exceeded anything that I was expecting. Just look at that: young Palpatine, and he is kneeling before his master Darth Plagueis just as decades later Darth Vader would kneel before Palpatine.

I am soooo lusting to have a print of that art to hang on my wall. Or at least to have a much more high-res version to use as my desktop wallpaper. Hey LucasFilm: I bet a bunch of fans would plunk down some reasonable coin to have this as a poster for their collection. Get to it! :-)

Thursday, July 07, 2011

All this blogger is gonna say about the Casey Anthony murder trial

Just three things:

First, I admit that I didn't follow this trial at all up until Tuesday when the verdict was reached and announced. When that happened it was darn near impossible to read anything but about it. So I took it upon myself to study the case and now that some of the jurors have broken their anonymity and begun talking about it...

I have to say that the jurors reached the best verdict that they possibly could. And when some of them say that it anguished them that this was their verdict, I have to take them at their word.

Do I believe that Casey Anthony murdered her 2-year old daughter Caylee Anthony? My answer would be "Is there anybody who seriously believes that O.J. didn't do it?"

But in our legal system, the burden is on the prosecution to prove guilt beyond any reasonable doubt. Not the defendant to prove his or her innocence. And in the end, based on the evidence produced by the prosecutors, the jury could not find that Casey Anthony was indeed guilty beyond any reasonable doubt.

Nobody should be angry at the jury. And their verdict must be honored and respected. Don't blame the jurors. They were only doing their job.

Second: this entire case demonstrated something that I have believed for years. That being: television cameras DO NOT BELONG in a court of law.

I've sat as a spectator in a courtroom before on numerous occasions. I've watched court proceedings on television. And the two couldn't be more different than night and day. It was the Blanche Taylor Moore trial back in 1990 that first popped the red flag, even though I was just a high school junior. Moore, on trial for murdering a whole buncha men in her life with arsenic, was just about the biggest trial this state had seen in a heap o' years. The publicity was so great that the venue was moved from Alamance County (where Moore resided) to Forsyth County. TV cameras were rolling in the courtroom. Moore was convicted and sentenced to death (she's still on death row today) and nobody thought she'd get off. But even so: the spectacle of the lead prosecutor crying in open court - along with numerous other incidents - was ridiculous. It was posturing before the cameras and everyone knew it.

Then came the O.J. Simpson trial. 'Nuff said.

It's like this: the presence of a camera in any situation... it alters the situation. The thing about how observing a thing changes that thing? It's no more true than in human events... and perhaps in no greater severity than in a courtroom during a high-profile murder trial.

Look, I'm not saying that trials shouldn't be public. They absolutely must be. Public trial is a safeguard of both due process and the defendant's rights.

A public trial is not a sideshow for our gawking pleasure. And that is what live television cameras turned the O.J. Simpson trial into and now the Casey Anthony trial.

The purpose of a trial in criminal court of law is to determine the guilt or innocence of the defendant. Throw a TV camera into the room and psychologically everyone involved in the trial realizes that they're part of a show in addition to a legal proceeding. Leave it to human nature to choose which one is inclined to get the bigger priority.

See what I'm getting at?

The prosecutors knew that this would be a highly publicized murder trial (for all the wrong reasons, but I digress...). The responsible thing would have been to insist upon no television cameras at all, and to petition that request to the judge in the interest of a fair and complete hearing. Then the prosecutors would have been free to focus on the trial and not the presence of the cameras.

Think I'm wrong? That's at least two murder trials watched on live television by millions of people. Each of them resulted in verdicts of "not guilty", in defiance of what was apparently an incredible amount of evidence indicating otherwise.

It can be hard to say no to a television camera when it's aimed at you. But sometimes, it's for the best.

And third...

If Casey Anthony murdered her child, there will be justice. Of that, I have no doubt.

I thought the same thing when Simpson was found not guilty. I remember telling a friend at the time, "He won't get away. Don't worry. Maybe in ways that we'll never see or ever know, O.J. will be punished for what he did."

Today O.J. Simpson is sitting in a prison in Nevada, stemming from a crime completely unrelated to the murders of his ex-wife and her friend. But still, whenever I think of Simpson going free that fall day in 1995 and where he is now...

God is not mocked. And what justice escapes our meager human wisdom and understanding, He will not and can not be loathe to let evade from His sight.

If Casey Anthony killed her daughter, she will be brought to a reckoning. Maybe not to our immediate satisfaction...

...but that will be a matter left between her and the highest Judge of all.

We are experiencing technical difficulties...

Please stand by :-)

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Got to see TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON in 3D IMAX today!

It was this afternoon and my retinas are still exhausted!! Between Michael Bay's signature 'splosions and blowing stuff up real good and all those pretty pixels from Industrial Light and Magic, magnified to ginormous proportions (not to mention the gigawatts of sound coming at ya) it was quite the Transformers experience! I'll recommend seeing it at least once in IMAX 3D as it was certainly worth driving to Durham to catch it there (along with lifelong best friend Chad, who after seeing it agreed with what I wrote in my original review a few days ago that this was a better Transformers movie than the first one!

Now, if we can only get a fourth Transformers flick. I'm still hoping to see Unicron depicted in the live-action series (and the more I think about it the more I'm liking the idea of Morgan Freeman voicing the Dark God and Devourer of Worlds :-)

Okay, I've probably made enough posts about giant mechanized aliens lately. I'll try to make my next post about something else...

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Captain and Tenille find the place where credibility goes to die

Or... something. Still not quite sure what this is. But listen to it too much and you just might be reaching for a glass of whiskey, a gun and two bullets.

So here is "Taste The Biscuit" by Toasters 'N' Moose...

I would thank Scott Bradford and Kristen Bradford for finding this, except I'm not all that clear about what it is that I would be thanking them for...

Friday, July 01, 2011

Ten best Tom Hanks movies

With his new film (co-starring Julia Roberts) Larry Crowne opening today, it's a great time to reflect upon the career of Tom Hanks: easily among the very most varied and versatile actors in cinema history. Over at Tailgate365, good friend T.J. Lee has compiled an EXCELLENT list of what many will agree are Hanks' top ten movies. Hanks has had a very interesting journey from the days of Family Ties and Bachelor Party and Splash and T.J. did a great job with this retrospective of it all. I'm glad that three of my favorite movies ever (Apollo 13, The Green Mile and Forrest Gump) made the list. Click on over and you'll no doubt find some of your favorites listed also!

"Gerrymandering is okay when WE do it!"

The Republicans in the North Carolina legislature should just say it and get it over with.

Matt Mittan was the first to bring my attention to the just-released maps for North Carolina's newly-redrawn congressional districts.

And how has the GOP now "controlling" (I have never liked how a party "controls" a legislature and I don't see how anyone else should like it either) Raleigh done, following decades of Democrat-led gerrymandering?

By doing their own gerrymandering!

From the original article at Carolina Journal...

(Carolina Journal) Three Democratic incumbents will face a tough re-election fights next year under new congressional maps released today by the Republican-controlled state legislature.

The redrawn maps significantly weaken U.S. Reps. Brad Miller, D-13th; Heath Shuler, D-11th; and Larry Kissell, D-8th. Republicans currently have six of 13 congressional seats. If previous voting patterns hold, the GOP could gain a 9-4 or even 10-3 advantage in 2013.

For Shuler’s diminished chances, Reps. Patrick McHenry, R-10th, and Virginia Foxx, R-5th, are the culprits. McHenry’s new district would cut into Buncombe County, a hotbed of Democratic votes, diluting Shuler’s base of support. In addition, Shuler picks up some conservative regions of Foxx’s district.

“The anchor for Democrats in this district has always been Buncombe County,” Davis said. “Not only has half of Buncombe County been put into Congressman McHenry’s safe Republican district, but several of the most Republican counties in the state have been moved from districts held by Congresswoman Foxx and Congressman McHenry to Heath Shuler’s district.”

I almost used the word "chutzpah" to describe what the Republicans in the legislature are doing. But let's call this for what it really is, folks: hypocrisy!

This country is facing trial and tribulation as it has never known in any recent memory. Perhaps any living memory. And the elected politicians continue to play their stupid little games of power: never mind that it was such shenanigans that in large part brought us to this place to begin with!

(Funny thing: I seem to remember many if not most Republican officials in this state complaining about gerrymandering and how they were against it. So what happened? Huh? Hello? Hello? Bueller?)