Monday, October 31, 2005
Then last night Lisa and I watched Fat Albert on HBO. And it's a surprisingly good movie. It's a "cute" lil' flick: maybe not Coach Carter calibre but still worth catching at least once. The premise is that Fat Albert and his gang escape from their cartoon world and come into the real one to help a girl solve some problems. There's a nice twist regarding the girl and the grandfather she often mentions, and the final scene is really touching. Kenan Thompson pulls off a great Fat Albert, as do the rest of the cast. If there's anything to complain about, it's that the animated segments aren't done in the style of the classic 70's tv show, but instead that "fake 3D" style that's been around since the mid-90's or so. The Russell of the movie sounds nothing like the Russell of the original series. But these are really minor quibbles. Watch it sometime if you want something light and entertaining.
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Friday, October 28, 2005
Okay, The Exorcist is a good movie but it gets some things wrong. Like, I mean ALL wrong.
Real confrontation with demons isn't some ritual you follow from a book. Ceremonial prayer doesn't really do anything. Neither can you just throw "holy water" at it and think it's gonna burn the thing like battery acid. In fact you will probably make it laugh at you for trying that.
You never tell it your name. You don't even ask IT for its name. Yes, it has one but you are not interested in what its name is, period. You don't answer anything it asks of you. You close your ears to it no matter what it tells you. You DO NOT dwell upon any kind of knowledge or prophecy it screams at you. I can't emphasize that point nearly enough. It can tell you how you're going to die but you have to deafen your ears and mind to that. Else you obsess with that and then you’re no good to anyone who’s involved in this with you.
Now, some things the movies do get right, like when it's talking in some other language, but don't expect to be able to translate it. I'm just saying it can do that is all. But do not expect for it to make someone's head turn a full 360 degrees like Linda Blair's did. The inhabited person will sometimes display feats of strength not in proportion to sex or physical size, though.
A drop in ambient temperature has been reported in some cases, but in general this doesn't seem to happen very often.
Oh yeah and it does sometimes produce vomiting, so be ready for that.
There aren't too many people really strong enough to handle this sort of thing. If you aren't that strong, be somewhere else, okay?
I wonder if anyone in the film industry will ever make a movie about what fighting a demon is really like.
This doesn't mean that we haven't been working on KWerky Productions-related stuff though. So far my lil' "experimental filmmaking" project is going pretty well: we should have something to show for it by February. On the lighter side of things I'm thinking about filming EVERYTHING that goes into the fine art of deep-frying a turkey, and make a "how-to" video on that around Thanksgiving. It's the second most dangerous form of cooking known to man (after fugu preparation). We'll see if I can both run a camera and play with 350-degree boiling peanut oil simultaneously.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
To the NES
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Monday, October 24, 2005
Sunday, October 23, 2005
The real reason why the neo-conservatives running the White House want to do something militarily with Syria has nothing to do with the United Nations investigative report implicating Syrian officials in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. That just happens to be a very convenient excuse.
You will never hear it mentioned in a presidential speech, but here it is...
There are too many people in this administration who want to attack Syria because they see themselves as fulfillers of biblical prophecy.
According to most adherents of the "pre-tribulation rapture" scenario, the next prophetic event that must happen before "Daniel's seventieth week" - AKA the Great Tribulation - begins is the coming to pass of Isaiah 17. The chapter that begins "An oracle concerning Damascus: 'See, Damascus will no longer be a city but will become a heap of ruins...'". So long as Damascus is still standing, the tribulation cannot come. It has to be knocked-over first.
I find it quite serious to believe that there are some in our government who believe they are "anointed" by God to be the agents that cause this to happen. Or perhaps that prophecy isn't unfolding as fast as it should so it needs a good "kick-start" to get it rolling.
Don't think for an instant that people like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and James Dobson have not contemplated that this might happen. They are probably even feverishly praying for it. Maybe even slyly encouraging their friends in the White House to consider doing this.
Believe me, I know what kind of mindset this is that we're talking about. I've dealt with them for most of my life. They have a really unhealthy obsession with the rapture. They focus on THAT more than they focus on God, if that makes any sense. Trust me: somewhere out there are people licking their chops at the possibility of the U.S. acting against Damascus. They want nothing less than the end of the world... and maybe a little credit for "helping" it come about.
There you have it: the true rationale for why Bush and his administration are wanting to go after Syria next. If no one else will say it, then I will.
Saturday, October 22, 2005
Speaking of DVD, we got Army of Darkness via Netflix today and finished watching it a little while ago. I think that Lisa much more preferred Just Like Heaven though: that movie made a little more sense to her than Ash's shenanigans :-)
Monday, October 17, 2005
"(America) does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once listing under other banners than her own, were they even banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force... She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit..."This was from a day when American presidents wrote their own words, instead of being written for them.
-- John Quincy Adams, 1821
How did we get to this level, where we don't have leaders of this kind of caliber anymore?
Sunday, October 16, 2005
How it works is that they open the doors to the dining room at 6 p.m., and a host escorts your party to your table. From there you help yourself to three buffet tables of really good gourmet cooking: I'm serious, the food at this place is delicious. Tastes like real home-made cooking like Granny used to make. I had the chicken (which wasn't fried and wasn't barbecued but it was really spicy, I've no idea how they cooked it) and barbecue (also spicy), green beans and corn, some kind of baked apples and a couple of biscuits, and for desert a slice of chocolate cake. Every bit of dinner was well worth the trip alone. But then came the show...
About 7:15 they started clearing the buffet tables away, and The Barn's emcee came out and did a round of birthdays (including Anita's), anniversaries, and one young lady who was proposed to by her boyfriend in front of everyone. After he finished the stage descended from the ceiling with a couple of props (two chairs) and the show was on. It was a two-act musical called Band of Angels, about the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and all the ghosts that haunt it. So there were characters like Hank Williams, Minnie Pearl, Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash and wife June, Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette, Ernie Tubb and Waylon Jennings, among others, talking and singing to this country rube named Buster who managed to get inside Ryman from the rain. I thought it was a pretty good tribute to not only these country performers who have gone on already, but to country and bluegrass music as an artform. All told, it was a wonderful evening spent with family in a really unique establishment. Band of Angels is playing at The Barn until November 22nd (it got held over for an extended engagement because it's proven to be so popular) so call The Barn Dinner Theater and make reservations now: it's well worth the trip. Or come later when they do shows (some even from Broadway) like Annie and Lend Me a Tenor. Heartily recommended. I give this place five stars.
Saturday, October 15, 2005
AMC ran The Godfather Part II earlier today. It made me think of something that dawned on me the last time I saw Part III. You know who's somewhat to blame for this despicable, self-destructive situation that the Corleone family falls into? The womenfolk of the Corleone family, that's who.
Mama Corleone is the worst of the lot. She could have put a stop to this nonsense a long time ago. She could have talked Vito out of this spiralling madness. She did nothing. Did she even say anything over the course of the two movies she was in? Not a word that I can remember. She failed miserably in her role as wife and mother of the family: two sons murdered (one by brother Michael) because of "this Sicilian thing", a daughter who in the end was a murderer and a son who ends life a disgraced, bankrupted shell of a man. What kind of track record for rearing kids is that supposed to be? Don't tell me a wife has no pull even in a traditional family where the paterfamilias rules all: she could have at least protested to Vito before this all spun out of control. Instead she chose to not do anything at all. She didn't say a word to Sonny and Fredo about "Oh please don't get mixed up in this business that's killed so many people I can't stand to lose you too!" Did she even care?! What a wretched example of a wife and mom she was.
Then there's Connie. It's not so much her failure to act as it is her weakness to stand up and walk away that's the problem. She could have gotten married and lived happily ever after from the beginning of the first movie. When Carlo became abusive - and I wonder if Carlo got that way 'cuz he got corrupted by the family - she could have, should have, walked away then. She can't pull away. I don't think she really wants to pull away. That wasn't really that big of a fit she pitched at Michael at the end of Part I either: she's like the battered wife who just got beat up but she keeps coming back "because where else are you going to go?" In the end she turns out to be a killer just as much as Michael. She had her chances to leave this never-ending circle of vengeance but she chose not to take them. That, I think, only served to perpetuate what went wrong with this family.
Kay is trying. Lord knows, she is trying. It's not the family that she's so infatuated with, it's Michael. She believes he can be a good person, even years later when she re-enters his life at the beginning of Part III. She keeps wanting him to change, and when she fails she tries to take her children as far away from this insanity as she can. She should have tried it for herself. Look, there has to come a point when you realize that the person you love just isn't going to change. Who knows, if she had left Michael a long time before (like when she realized he was lying to her at the end of The Godfather) maybe that would have knocked some sense into Michael. A man can do most anything, change anything, when the woman he loves puts it all on the line. She didn't do that. She gave Michael no reason to change. She's guilty... but I still feel sorry for her.
Whatever anyone else says about it, Sofia Coppola was wonderful as Mary in The Godfather Part III. She made Mary come across as this sweet, beautiful girl... someone who should be as far removed from life in a Mafia family as possible. And when she's killed at the end of the movie it genuinely hurts: Michael's silent scream is probably the most perfectly captured moment of anguish on film ever. Nevertheless, I have to fault her, for kinda the same reasons I fault Connie and Kay. She seemed too tolerant of what her father is doing, too eager to see him as nothing but a good man. That, and she got WAY too cozy with her cousin, Vincent... who was hellbent on being the very kind of man that Michael was been trying (and failing) not to become. Didn't she see that? In her own way, Mary perpetuated the Corleones' circle of destruction. But like Kay, I feel sorry for her too.
The only major female in The Godfather trilogy who is really innocent is Apollonia. Did Michael ever share with her what drove him to come to Sicily? Probably not: whether he intended to go back to America or not, I've always felt like he really was trying to make a clean break from all of that at this point in his life. Apollonia was going to be part of that break. Instead she got blown to pieces, as one of the very few people in this entire tragedy who is entirely without blame. Her death is what sends Michael back to the world he had wanted no part of: with Apollonia gone, Michael has nothing left but the life he left behind.
But none of these women should ultimately be held responsible for all the carnage and travesty that comes to this family. Blame the brunt of it on the menfolk. They are the ones who could have chosen to walk away from this, but didn't. Still, had the women stepped in and done their best to put the brakes on things, a whole lot of people would still be alive in this story. But then, it wouldn't really be The Godfather at all, would it? :-)
Friday, October 14, 2005
It made me recollect a night a little over five years ago, when I was part of a ghost hunt. There were about seven or eight of us – two reporters (myself included), a professional photographer, and a selection of other responsible individuals – that a newspaper sent in to spend the night at what is said to be one of the most famously haunted hotels in America. It was meant to be "part Scooby-Doo and part Blair Witch", my editor said. We were supposed to treat it seriously, but also have some fun while we were there: not to take it TOO seriously. 'Cuz then we might fall into the trap of believing things that our subconscious minds wanted us to believe. Our editor worked it out with hotel management for us to have what was supposed to be the most haunted room in the entire place to use as our homebase: we'd meet back every hour and swap notes. In the meantime we were free to go wherever, just so long as we didn't bother the guests. We didn't have anything like electro-magnetic field detectors or night-view videocameras, but we did have several photographic cameras (including one loaded with infrared film) and my audio tape recorder that I used to speak notes into and record whatever else.
Long story short: we came away from that night with more than we expected. A lot more. There's a photograph taken that night that I wish I could post here, but the copyright belongs to someone else, so it wouldn't be right for me to do that. I made myself look at it again after watching Ghost Hunters, even though five years later it still gives me the freezing willies. We took several pics with the infrared film: in four of the photos (including two from the "haunted" room) there are unexplained signatures that show up. It's the one in the hallway that's really disturbing: it was the day after we got the photos back that we realized there was a woman's face hanging neck-high in mid-air down the hallway. There was nothing there when we took the photo, and don't ask me why we chose to take a picture at that exact moment: the whole story is coming someday from another venue, and I don't want to steal their thunder by talking about it here. There was also the matter of my tape recorder: it picked up some very spooky sounds – a voice whispering – while we were in another building on-site. There were two people in that room at the time, and this wasn't a voice from either of us.
Do I believe in ghosts? Well, given the evidence we collected firsthand that night, I now admit to believing that there's something we can’t explain in terms of the normal world that’s at work here. My own personal theory? If there are such things as ghosts, I don't believe they're "spiritual" in nature at all. My thinking is that they are some kind of "recording" left in a place that sometimes replays itself: a recording in time and space. It might have something to do with quantum physics. Or this might all be a little too wacky anyway. But you tell me: would you say you don't believe in spooks if your tape recorder picked up a weird voice saying "Let me out..."?
Anyway, at the time I wound up doing a lot of research into real-life hauntings, including the many apparent photographs of ghosts taken over the years. Some I'd seen before and others were brand-new to me. It's been something I've made an occasional study on in the years since. A number of them "stuck with me". Since we're now getting into the Halloween season, I thought it might be fun (and maybe even horizon-broadening) if I shared here what I thought were the top ten ghostly photographs taken to date.
So far as I can tell, these are the real deal. Meaning that they've been sifted through with a fine-tooth comb by people who know photography and have withstood all scrutiny. These are the pictures that simply can't be explained, or at least haven't yet according to anything we can explain currently. That doesn't leave very many photos for serious consideration: there are tons of professed ghost photos. Most of them are explained away with extreme ease: Too many "ghosts" are simply camera straps that got in the way of the lens. Ghostly "orbs" are probably nothing more than light scintillating off of dust particles. Some ghostly images are mere double exposures (an example of which is glimpsed in the movie The Godfather). Occam's Razor applies bigtime here: the simplest explanation tends to be the correct one. Tends to be, that is...
So with all that in mind, for your viewing pleasure (and excluding the one photo that I've already said I can't show here, even though it's really unsettling to look at) and just in time for Halloween, here are what I consider to be:
And there you have it, my personal list of the best ghost photographs (or not) taken so far. But before I close out this article, I want to make mention of just one more photograph: one that I found while doing some research ("The Best Ghost Photographs Ever Taken" at About.com’s Paranormal Phenomenon site was a HUGE help, as was the website for L.E.M.U.R. Paranormal Investigations). This photo is, ahhh geez what else can I say about this: if this is the real deal, then there's something cosmically sweet about this picture. Some people say that love is forever... well, this might be the first time ever that we've got documented proof of that. I’ll let Denise Russell take it from here, courtesy of About.com’s Paranormal Phenomena:
"The lady in the color photo is my granny," she says. "She lived on her own until age 94, when her mind started to weaken and had to be moved to an assisted living home for her own safety. At the end of the first week, there was a picnic for the residents and their families. My mother and sister attended. My sister took two pictures that day, and this is one of them. It was taken on Sunday, 8/17/97, and we think the man behind her is my grandpa who passed away on Sunday, 8/14/84. We did not notice the man in the picture until Christmas Day, 2000 (granny had since passed away), while browsing through some loose family photos at my parents' house. My sister thought it was such a nice picture of granny that she even made a copy for mom, but still, nobody noticed the man behind her for over three years! When I arrived at my parents' house that Christmas day, my sister handed me the picture and said, "Who do you think this man behind granny looks like?" It took a few seconds for it to sink in. I was absolutely speechless. The black and white photos show that it really looks like him."I don't need what might be a ghost's photograph to attest to this truth: when you're in love with that one special someone, nothing will stop you from being with that person. But it's still pretty nice to get a tangible confirmation of that every once in awhile...
A student at George Mason University is harassed by campus police, then arrested for "anti-recruiting". The behavior of the people who didn't agree with his stance is nothing short of fascist, including the supposed "Marine".
I'm wondering if anyone will write me an e-mail or comment on this, and defend what happened to this guy.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Count Zero comes to mind now that Microsoft has lost at least two executives - including one of their top computer scientists - to Google. An enraged Microsoft CEO Steven Ballmer reportedly threw a chair after one of the execs told him about an imminent departure for Google. The big fear at Microsoft now is that Google is going to be hiring even more staff from the "House that Gates Built". Part of that is the worry that Google will be offering word processor and spreadsheet applications over the web, instead of having to pay Microsoft several hundreds of dollars for MS Word and Excel.
It's almost enough to chalk up one more mark for things that William Gibson foretold in his books. First it was the Internet (Gibson is the man who first came up with the term "cyberspace"), now it's (nearly) all-out war between rival corporations. Maybe someday soon we'll have "simstim" also.
This has got to be one of the most surreal things I've seen in quite a long time.