The Knight Shift SWIMSUIT EDITION!

Shamelessly attracting readers with quite lovely attire

Does this drug stop hay fever?

One blogger's medical report.

Bitter Blood: Thirty Years Later

The most bizarre crime spree in American history.

Is Priness Leia a Disney Princess?

We go looking for answers!

Friday, July 31, 2009

7-year old boy doesn't want to go to church, heists car instead

A seven-year old lad in Plain City, Utah decided that it was too hot to go to church earlier this week.

So the kid sped off on a joyride in his dad's car.

911 calls soon flooded the Weber County Sheriff's Office about the pint-sized motorist. A dash-mounted video camera caught the following footage of the boy, who came to a stop and then dashed off (perhaps to find his mommy)...

Hey, that kid is driving better at 7 than I ever was at 16 :-P

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Rough-cut final scene of THERE WILL BE BLOOD

Flicking through channels this evening and happened upon There Will Be Blood. I watched this movie for the first time last month and personally I think it's one of the finest movies in many years. And right now I'm DVRing it in high-def. Boo-yah!

Anyway, when I first wrote about it my good friend Lee Shelton let me know that there was a rough version of There Will Be Blood's brutal ending floating around on YouTube. Here it is...

And by the way, CONGRATULATIONS to Lee and his wife on the new addition to their family: baby Olivia, who they adopted in China! Here's wishing them all the best :-)

A "beer summit"?!

So in a little more than a hundred years we have gone from President Theodore Roosevelt negotiating peace between the Russians and the Japanese, to now President Barack Obama inviting Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Sgt. James Crowley to the White House to drink some beer.

(Read my original thoughts last week about this whole inane situation.)

If this is what it now means to be President of the United States, then perhaps Jimmy Carter didn't fully employ the assets available to him. He should have turned his brother Billy Carter loose onto the international stage... and we could have had world peace within a few short months!

Can anyone honestly imagine Ronald Reagan or Harry Truman doing something like this? Not as President, anyway. The office carries with it a kind of dignified weight that, unfortunately, I'm not seeing honored very much at all lately. Then again, this sort of thing has been building/devolving for years anyway, so I guess it's only a natural progression.

Coloring for blue M&Ms found to heal spinal injuries

In what has to be one of the more bizarre bits of medical news we've heard lately, the blue dye used to give blue M&Ms their color has been found to help mend severe spinal injuries.

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York discovered that when tested on laboratory rats, Brilliant Blue G blocks the action of a chemical that causes more damage to neural tissue around an already injured area. Rats with damaged spines who received injections of BBG eventually regained the ability to walk, while those that did not receive the BBG treatment never recovered. The one side effect found so far: injections of BBG causes the skin to temporarily turn bright blue.

Research is still being conducted, but it's thought that human trials with BBG may begin within the next few years.

(I wonder if Brilliant Blue G can counteract all those effects of Yellow 5 in Mountain Dew that my old roomie used to tell me about...)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Department of Homeland Security halts Monsterpocalypse strategy guide publication! "Radical ideas" espoused by board game a terrorist threat?!

Folks, please understand something: this is NOT a joke! That was my first thought when I read about this situation late last week. And then over the weekend I played Monsterpocalypse for the very first time (and very much enjoyed it) at HyperMind and this was the #1 topic of discussion among the faithful players meeting there.

So then I contacted the good people at Privateer Press, the producers of Monsterpocalypse, and received confirmation: the Department of Homeland Security has delayed the publication of the Monsterpocalypse Series 3: All Your Base Strategy Guide due to "national security concerns".

Throughout the day I have made attempts to contact the Department of Homeland Security, by both phone and e-mail. As of this writing no one in any official (or unofficial for that matter) capacity with the United States government has gotten back with me about why a collectible miniatures game focusing on giant monsters, aliens and robots wrecking havoc on tiny plastic cities is supposed to be a threat to national security.

But look! Press release!

Bellevue WA July 21, 2009—Privateer Press reports that the release of the Monsterpocalypse Series 3: All Your Base Strategy Guide for the Monsterpocalypse collectible miniatures game will be delayed due to national security concerns.

Homeland Security pulled the shipment for an intensive examination last week when it arrived in the United States. While no comment was made to the nature of the investigation, several crew members within Privateer Press believe the government became concerned over some of the more radical ideals espoused by several factions within the Monsterpocalypse game.

Privateer Press Chief Creative Officer Matt Wilson said of the investigation, "Privateer Press would like to extend its complete support to the men and women who defend our national security on a daily basis. However, I am confident that the investigation's outcome will reaffirm the rights of free speech and protest of the radical environmental group Green Fury at the perceived devastation man is having on our planet as well as the freedom of people to practice religion without governmental oversight—even those religions which may very well bring forth the minions of the ancient Lords of Cthul."

For more information and updates on this and other Monsterpocalypse news visit www.monsterpocalypse.com.

About the Monsterpocalypse Collectible Miniatures Game

The collectible miniatures game (CMG) Monsterpocalypse brings the giant-monster genre—a pop culture favorite—to the tabletop in the form of a fast-paced, action-packed game. Designed by Matt Wilson, the award-winning creator of WARMACHINE and HORDES, Monsterpocalypse leverages the critically acclaimed abilities of Privateer Press as a leading miniatures manufacturer to enter a new category of product with a property that appeals to a worldwide fan base of all ages. Players can visit www.monsterpocalypse.com for game previews and updates.


About Privateer Press, Inc.

Privateer Press, Inc. is a privately held producer of entertainment and hobby brands based in the Seattle area. Its products include the newly released Monsterpocalypse collectible miniatures game, the award-winning WARMACHINE and HORDES hobby miniatures games, the award-winning Iron Kingdoms property, Bodger Games, the full-color No Quarter Magazine, and the Formula P3 hobby line. To learn more about Privateer Press, visit www.privateerpress.com or contact the president, Sherry Yeary, at (425) 643-5900 or sherry@privateerpress.com.

July 21, 2009

Incidentally, something very similar was reported a month ago happening to comic book artist/writer Mark Sable, whose new graphic novel series Unthinkable deals with possible terrorist scenarios that begin coming true.

But so far as Monsterpocalypse goes: I suppose that this might well mark the very first time, ever, that the U.S. government has made an official position against giant dinosaurs, Martian invaders, and Lovecraftian horrors from beyond the realm of normal space and time.

Sleep soundly, folks! Whether it be protecting us from Taliban terrorists or Green Fury activists, the Department of Homeland Security is on the job!

I just wish that I could be anything but a nervous wreck. I mean, after making this video for HyperMind's entry for the Monsterpocapalooza event...

...does this mean that I'm now suspected by Homeland Security of colluding with "terrists" and using weapons of mass destruction?!?

In a different time and a saner age, that might be pretty funny. But when tiny plastic toys are considered a legitimate enough danger to American sovereignty as to warrant spending time and money stopping the publication of a game manual, something is seriously off-kilter in this country.

PLEASE think of the children!!!

A great pic found by fellow blogger Ben Hwang...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Review of WATCHMEN Director's Cut

A week ago Watchmen arrived on DVD and Blu-ray. You have a choice between getting the original theatrical edition (when the movie debuted back in March) or you can opt for the Director's Cut. There's also another version coming out later this fall that incorporates the "Tales of the Black Freighter" animated material into the movie itself. I'll most certainly be buying that when it comes out ('cuz I'm such a Watchmen nut)...

...but if you're wondering which version to get now, the Director's Cut stands as the definitive adaptation of the Watchmen graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Don't get me wrong: I loved Watchmen when it came out in theaters (read my original review here). But having watched the Director's Cut three times now, I cannot help but believe that had the studio execs let Zack Snyder release his original vision from the getgo, that Watchmen would have performed substantially better at the box office.

As a huge fan of the book, I had to applaud all the new additions that the Director's Cut brings to the Watchmen film. The flashback sequences, apart from Sally's, are each greatly extended. Jon's memory of the Comedian during the Vietnam War particularly stands out: I love the shot of the helicopter as it flies past Jon, with Eddie hanging on from the outside and opening fire on the Vietcong... and then landing and roasting one poor schmuck with a flamethrower (after igniting it with his cigar, how cool is that?). Rorschach gets much more dialogue - most of the new stuff being lifted straight from the book - and action. I don't recall the scene where he retrieves his equipment and his "face" as being in the theatrical version, but it's in the Director's Cut. The scene where Dr. Long is trying to talk with Rorschach in prison also has more to it. We see Jon teleport everyone out of the studio following the disastrous television interview. In his flashback on Mars we see Jon inscribing the hydrogen atom symbol on his forehead, and we also find out how the United States government determined that Jon was on Mars (via satellite telescope) when the theatrical edition never bothered to explain that.

But by far the biggest and most welcome - if also the most heartbreaking - new thing that Watchmen Director's Cut brings to the table is the death of Hollis Mason at the hands of the Knot-tops. Most of the scene is done from Hollis's point of view, as we see him fighting the costumed bad guys from his younger days as the original Nite Owl... and then the film juxtaposes the villains of that more innocent time with the unrestrained depravity of the modern day street gangs. All while the Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana plays during the scene. That was a tragic but appropriate detail, if you've read the Under the Hood excerpts from the Watchmen graphic novel. It's not long after that when we see Dan, as the second Nite Owl, hear the news of Hollis's death while he and Rorschach are at the tavern and then vent his rage on an innocent Knot-top. Both scenes are brutal to an extreme that has never been witnessed in a comic book-inspired film before (incidentally, there's also far more gore during the assassination attempt on Adrian, and during Rorschach's killing of the child murderer).

To sum up: Watchmen Director's Cut feels like the complete and defining vision of Watchmen. There's a refinement and exposition here that was missing from the theatrical run, and I found myself "buying" the world of this alternative 1985 far more easily than I did when I first saw the movie in March. The film doesn't feel overwhelmingly lengthened, in fact I thought the new material made the time watching the movie go by even smoother. I'll give Watchmen Director's Cut a very high recommendation for your DVD or Blu-ray collection.

Monday, July 27, 2009

National Novel Writing Month (like I need something ELSE to do...)

Inspired by my good friend Jenna St. Hilaire, I am taking part in this year's National Novel Writing Month.

So what the heck is National Novel Writing Month?

Between this coming November 1st and midnight on the night of November 30th, each participant will try to crank out a 50,000 word, 175-page novel from scratch. You can read more about it here.

As Jenna puts it, "...I smell challenge--the sort of challenge I cannot resist." So it is with me. And this is gonna be tough to do, not the least of which is because my life seems constantly besieged by all manner of general craziness (self-employed, more than occasional crises, trying to do what some will say is too much creative project already, community theatre, etc.).

But the biggest reason why I'm going to take a stab at "NaNoWriMo" is because I think this is going to be very therapeutic and cathartic for me as a writer.

It's like this: try though I have, writing fiction is very hard for me. I can write a fictional screenplay quite easily. But a long narrative novel? That is something that I have never been able to do. So I'm thinking that if compelled (by my own volition) to write a novel within the narrow span of one month, that it might break that stranglehold/bottleneck on my authoring skills. And maybe even free my mind and spirit to write more fiction.

It's gonna be hard. But in the end, I think it will be worth it.

So far as ideas for a novel go: I've had a few already since last night. There's one in particular that I'm inclined to go with at the moment, but we'll see what percolates in the ol' gray matter between now and October 31st.

KONG: KING OF SKULL ISLAND to become a real movie!

Variety is reporting today that Spirit Pictures is setting out to adapt Kong: King of Skull Island as a feature film. The plan is to use motion-capture technology like what Robert Zemeckis used to make The Polar Express and Beowulf (i.e. very life-like computer modeling and animation).

The thought of that kind of filmmaking applied to Kong: King of Skull Island is enough to get me totally jazzed about this project...

Kong: King of Skull Island was a lavishly illustrated 2004 novel by Joe DeVito and Brad Strickland. It serves as a sequel to the original 1933 movie King Kong (it even received the blessing from the family of King Kong creator Merian C. Cooper) as well as being a "prequel" of sorts in that it lays out the tale of what Skull Island was like before Carl Denham and the crew of the Venture arrived. I reviewed the book way back in late 2005 and had nothing but good to say about it. In fact, I recently wound up re-reading it and was just as overwhelmed by Kong: King of Skull Island as I had been the first time.

Trust me folks: if done right, this could be a seriously terrific movie. One that I would gladly pay to see several times at the theater (and even multiple times in IMAX). In the meantime, I'll be keeping an enthusiastic eye on this as it develops.

Just a random thought for the day...

God does not work on our time. God works on His own time and it's more than a little silly to demand otherwise from Him.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A most excellent quote to share this evening

"Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric."

-- Bertrand Russell

Found by my friend R. Lee Wrights (who keeps a terrific libertarian-minded blog that y'all should check out).

Stating the obvious

Barack Obama's public approval ratings are plummeting through the floor.

His opponents are crowing about how Obama is now officially not as bad as George W. Bush was.

But let's call it for what this really means...

All this seriously demonstrates, unequivocally, is that twice in a row we have had Presidents of the United States who were/are so bad that they suck donkeys balls to no end.

The demise of cursive handwriting

Among the unwitting casualties of our increasingly techno-mad society: good penmanship is becoming an endangered species. So notes Claire Suddath in the latest issue of Time...
I can't remember how to write a capital Z in cursive. The rest of my letters are shaky and stiff, my words slanted in all directions. It's not for lack of trying. In grade school I was one of those insufferable girls who used pink pencils and dotted their i's with little circles. I experimented with different scripts, and for a brief period I even took the time to make two-story a's, with the fancy overhang used in most fonts (including this magazine's). But everything I wrote, I wrote in print. I am a member of Gen Y, the generation that shunned cursive. And now there is a group coming after me, a boom of tech-savvy children who don't remember life before the Internet and who text-message nearly as much as they talk. They have even less need for good penmanship. We are witnessing the death of handwriting.
This takes me back to 1982, when Mrs. Casanega was teaching us in second grade how to write in cursive. By the end of the year, I felt like John Hancock himself. I'll always be grateful to her for giving us this skill (and I hold only myself accountable for that hideous beast of illegible scrawl that has arisen from my hands over the years... sigh).

Anyhoo, 'tis an intriguing commentary from Claire Suddath. Perhaps it's time to reinvest in teaching handwriting? Much like the samurai of old, I'm inclined to believe that it lends itself a certain self-discipline to the pupil and practitioner. A small detail to be sure... but a little refinement more often than not goes a long way in the scheme of things.

WAY weird LOST video from Comic-Con

Every year since Lost began airing, its producers have let loose a teaser video for the upcoming seasons during Comic-Con. The one for Season 4 gave us our first glimpse of the Orchid station, and last year's hinted at the messed-up time/space stuff that this past season became notorious for.

So what did Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse unload for the sixth and final season of Lost?

Hurley as the CEO of Mr. Cluck's (what the...?!?!?):

Even for Lost, that is way out of left field.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Something I've long wondered about...

I just saw a TV commercial for Lysol. And like usual it was boasting about how Lysol "kills 99% of household germs".

Okay so if that's true, then logically if I spray a can of Lysol twice on my furniture or toilet or whatever, then that should kill the remaining 1% of germs that survived the initial onslaught.

Right? Right?!?

Are there any consistent politicians left?

As I write this, Drudge Report has a red-colored link to a story about Governor Rick Perry of Texas vowing that he would assert that state's Tenth Amendment rights if he had to in order to oppose President Obama's plans to nationalize health care.

Hey, I'm all for that. I think every state should consider using that Tenth Amendment. But does Governor Perry seriously oppose Obama's mad medical plot on account of principle?

Because as recently as two and a half years ago Perry was very much for government-mandated medicine! It was in February of 2007 that he issued an executive order mandating that all girls entering the sixth grade be vaccinated against cervical cancer. The only vaccine available, Gardasil, is manufactured by Merck & Co.

And it soon turned out that Perry was more or less in Merck & Co.'s pocket, having received $6000 from the corporation's political action committee and that his former chief of staff was one of three registered lobbyists for Merck.

Ultimately the executive order was defeated by act of legislation, after a tremendous uproar from doctors, parents and others. Had it been enforced, that would have been all of Texas's young ladies having to get a shot at $120 each... with the money going to one of Perry's campaign contributors.

Rick Perry wanted to take a vital health care decision out of the province of families and their private practitioners, and hand it over to bureaucrats and government flunkies.

Sounds like Rick Perry was "for it before he was against it" when it comes to government-managed health care.

I am so damned sick and tired of these partisan #&@$ers who apparently have no virtues or principles that they aren't willing and able to sell out for the right price. And I mean both of the major parties that are dominating this country's politics.

How many elected officials in high office can I say that I respect? I'll only remark that I can number them all on one hand. And maybe only one of those is from my own home state of North Carolina.

It's not just a parliament of whores. It's a system-wide corruption.

So when the hell are we the people gonna stop falling for the "shuck and jive" of these bastitches and whip them all out of where they should have never been allowed in the first place?

Or to paraphrase that Nazi agent from Raiders of the Lost Ark: "Shoot them. Shoot them all!"

Friday, July 24, 2009

Concept footage/semi-teaser thingy for TRON LEGACY

This afternoon Disney finally made an official release of that concept footage for Tron Legacy, next year's sequel to the 1982 movie about a parallel reality that exists within the realm of computers. This is the same footage that Disney showed at Comic-Con last year, but with the new Tron Legacy logo...

Click here to zap back down onto the game grid.

And you might wanna also take a looksee at Flynn Lives, a Tron Legacy teaser website about what has happened to Kevin Flynn (the character that Jeff Bridges played in Tron and will reprise again in the sequel). It hints that in the years since Flynn took over ENCOM he has become a "Bill Gates meets Howard Hughes"-type of person.

Wanna meet the proprietor of THE KNIGHT SHIFT in person?!

I'm planning on being at HyperMind in Burlington, North Carolina tomorrow for most of the day, doing videography for their big Monsterpocalypse store-wide event but also gonna finally play this game for the first time ever. Here's the promo video that I made for it (which is also in the Top Ten for the Monsterpocapalooza contest!)...

Anyhoo, the festivities start at 9 a.m. at HyperMind, located at 3396 South Church Street in Burlington, North Carolina. It's a family-run store with great atmosphere and good people always stopping by to play Monsterpocalypse, Magic: The Gathering, Star Wars Miniatures, Dungeons & Dragons and just about everything else :-)

Gary Oldman sez: Third Batman movie shoots next year!

Awesome news coming out of Comic-Con in San Diego: Gary Oldman - who plays James Gordon in Christopher Nolan's Batman movies - was asked during a panel about his upcoming movie The Book of Eli about when the next Batman film would begin filming. Oldman's reply was surprisingly open (read that as: he was encouraged to let it slip by The Powers That Be): "We start shooting next year, so we are at least two years away. But you didn't hear it from me!"

So that potentially puts the next chapter of the definitive Batman film saga with a release date of 2011.

Until then, I guess we just keep watching The Dark Knight: a film so overwhelmingly good that I couldn't bring myself to write a review of it. But if that movie was any indication, I suspect that the next installment is going to ramp up the "escalation" and start bringing in a lot more freak villains to Gotham City... and ironically, Gotham will come to realize that it has no other choice but to turn to Batman for help.

However the story goes: We're getting more Batman movie people!! That's always a good thing (unless Joel Schumacher is making the movie...)

Missing: Michael Jackson's nose

For the first time ever, it is not a joke.

Michael Jackson's prosthetic nose has disappeared. It was discovered gone as the late performer's body lay in a Los Angeles morgue. In its place was "a small, dark hole surrounded by bits of cartilage": what remained of Jackson's decades of plastic surgery.

But the good news is that a security camera at the morgue caught this image of two individuals who are suspected of heisting Jackson's nose...

(Okay, that's actually a still from Woody Allen's 1973 classic comedy film Sleeper, which was the first thing that came to mind after I read this story :-)

Fifty years ago today: The "Kitchen Debate" between Nixon and Krushchev

On July 24th, 1959, one of the more unusual events of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union took place. At the opening of the American National Exhibition in Moscow, visiting U.S. Vice-President (and future President) Richard Nixon accompanied Russian Premier Nikia Krushchev on a tour of a model "typical" American house, complete with all the modern conveniences of the late Fifties. It was meant to be a goodwill gesture on the part of both countries... but soon devolved (or escalated) into a rambunctious argument between Nixon and Krushchev about the pros and cons of their respective countries' systems of capitalism and communism. The impromptu discussion reached its climax in the kitchen of the model house, where Nixon enthusiastically pointed out American household appliances such as an automatic dishwasher.

And so it was that the "Kitchen Debate" received its more-or-less formal moniker.

Here's a newsreel clip of the event...

Fifty years ago, our country's leadership was arguing against government-run industry. A half-century later, and our "leaders" seem hellbent on running as much industry as they possibly can.

Kinda makes you pine for a simpler time, don't it?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The dumbest thing Obama has done as President thus far...

...and Obama is doing plenty of dumb things since taking office just six months ago.

I'm talking about how President Obama brought up the arrest of his friend and Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. during his press conference last night, denouncing the police involved in the matter as acting "stupidly".

Here's what was wrong with that: in doing so, Obama has now compromised his moral authority as President of the United States... and particularly when it is seen that he did so on behalf of his own personal and private interests. Obama has also - and in a more egregious fashion than any President in perhaps living memory - used his public office to level an accusation beyond the scope afforded him by the Constitution. And in doing that, Obama has now involved the Presidency in what should have remained a matter for the local community.

(Incidentally, Bill Cosby has now weighed in and said Obama's remarks last night "shocked" him: "If I'm the president of the United States, I don't care how much pressure people want to put on it about race, I'm keeping my mouth shut.")

I have thought for some time that Obama has been neither wise or inspiring. His comments last night only solidify that sentiment in my mind...

...but then, it's been twenty years or so since we did have a President that was wise and inspiring, so why should I be expecting any different?

Latest stories of law enforcement gone bonkers

As I shouldn't have to state every time I post something about this: I do believe that most of those who choose to serve in law enforcement are doing so honorably. But I also must point out that a virtue like trust does not come automatically with a badge and a uniform. Trust must be earned and kept. And it is inherent to a free and peaceable society that all citizens be vigilant in the upholding of liberty.

So it is that The Knight Shift now presents more of the sadly seemingly-escalating chronicles of cops gone screwy.

The first comes from Philadelphia, where police officer Alberto Lopez Sr. publicly bullied civilian Agnes Lawless in a convenience store because Lawless was involved in a minor fender-bender with Lopez's son a short time earlier. At one point Lopez shoved his service pistol into Lawless's face. Here is the footage from the Lukoil's security camera...

The next story comes from Wyoming, where Franklin Joseph Ryle Jr., formerly of that state's Highway Patrol, plead guilty in federal court to charges of depriving a man of his constitutional right to be free from unreasonable seizures by kidnapping him. Earlier this year and while on duty as a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper, Ryle "stopped a Wal-Mart truck with the intent to murder its driver and stage an accident with the truck that would either injure Ryle or kill his wife, allowing him to seek a monetary settlement from Wal-Mart."

And rounding out this report, Washington D.C. chief of police Cathy Lanier is blasting iPhone users as "cowardly". What has Lanier so honked-off is Trapster: a new iPhone app that tells you when you are approaching a red-light camera, speed trap and other safe-driving revenue-enhancing schemes. I say: things like the red-light cameras are a cowardly tactic on the part of government agencies... and if citizens want to strike back at them, more power to them!

(I wonder how many iPhone users have bought Trapster all because of Cathy Lanier making such a fuss about it? Bet that app's creator is now enjoying some profit on account of the free publicity! :-)

DNA not the same throughout body, study finds

For all these years it's been assumed that every cell of an organism shared the same DNA. The differentiation between cells only arising from the synthesis and properties of the associated proteins that were expressed by the DNA... but otherwise, a cell is the same as every other cell in the body.

Funny how quickly old assumptions can easily get tossed aside, ain't it?

Now comes word that DNA is NOT the same throughout all cells of an organism... or throughout a human organism anyway. That's the finding of a study in Montreal regarding the genetic causes of abdominal aortic aneurysms.

It's both a fascinating read and a rather scary one, when you begin to consider all the medicine that has been based on the notion that our genes are uniform throughout our cells. And then, you have to wonder what the implications are regarding something like DNA evidence in a court case. Technically, I don't think it will matter much... but just wait and see how long it takes before a legal challenge comes up in a paternity suit or murder trial on grounds that all genetic testing is now suspect.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

It's Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy Krueger!

Last night I started on the Watchmen Director's Cut DVD (review coming soon) and I was thinking then: Jackie Earle Haley might do all right as Freddy Krueger in the upcoming remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Now comes the first photo of Haley in the trademark hat, sweater and glove...

Can't see much of the face 'cuz it's swathed in shadow, but just going by this one pic it looks like Haley is channeling Freddy in all the right ways (though that may not necessarily be the healthiest of things to channel).

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

HyperMind's video for the Monsterpocalypse contest makes the Top Ten!

Two weeks ago I let y'all know about a promotional video that I worked on for HyperMind, that groovy game store in Burlington. The video was for HyperMind's big Monsterpocalypse day this coming Saturday, and was also an entry in that game's Monsterpocapalooza mega-event going on this summer.

Well, the votes have been tallied and our lil' video has made it into the Top Ten! There wound up being about 22 entries altogether. We are very thankful to be in one of the top spots, and we wish to thank everyone who voted for us!

Here it is again if you haven't seen it yet...

Again, thank you to all who watched and rated our video. The final winner will be announced on July 31st... and we'll be keeping our fingers crossed 'til then! :-)

Monday, July 20, 2009

BBC releases first look at Matt Smith in full DOCTOR WHO garb

Production has now begun on next year's season of Doctor Who (following the hiatus it took during 2009) and the BBC has published the first photo of Matt Smith in full costume. Smith will be the next actor to take on the iconic role of the Doctor (taking over from David Tennant).

So what does the Eleventh Doctor look like? Here he is (along with new companion Amy Pond, played by Karen Gillan)...

Heck, that's darn near how I dress on a regular basis! I mean, nice shirt along with rugged pants and sturdy boots... except I don't usually wear a bow tie :-P

Next season's Doctor Who will be the first with new showrunner Steven Moffat at the helm. If that name doesn't ring a bell, I probably only have to mention that he wrote the previous episodes "The Girl in the Fireplace" and the "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead" two-parter and that should be enough to make you swoon with eager anticipation.

Can't wait to see the Doctor's newest adventures in time and space when they begin again next spring!

"That's one small step for a man..."

"...one giant leap for mankind."

(And before anybody gives me grief over it, in the past few years audio analysis has determined that Armstrong did indeed say "step for a man" :-)

Forty years ago today, on July 20th, 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Eugene "Buzz" Aldrin, with the assistance of a few hundred thousand of their good friends back on Earth, fulfilled an ages-old dream when Apollo 11 landed on the Moon. Armstrong was the first man to stretch his legs on the lunar surface, while Aldrin has the distinction of being the first person to "drain the main vein" on another world.

I didn't know until this past year that before they began their "extra-vehicular activity" (in layman's terms: they went outside the spaceship), that Aldrin also took communion on the Moon. At the time he was an elder of Webster Presbyterian Church and asked that a communion kit be prepared for his mission. The chalice he used on the lunar surface is now kept by the church.

Now, wanna see something really cool? Just in time for the fortieth anniversary, NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has taken this image of the Apollo 11 landing site! You can clearly see the Eagle lunar module's descent stage, just as Armstrong and Aldrin left it forty years ago. The LRO has found four more Apollo landing sites thus far. Future photos will be even more detailed.

Forty years ago today came the greatest technological triumph of human history. It did not come cheap, and it was not without sacrifice. And it seems that somewhere along the way, we've lost that same spirit which once upon a time, did put a man on the moon.

But I like to believe that it's there still... and can be found again.

Here's a toast to the people of Apollo 11. May what they accomplished ever serve to inspire us all.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Cultist Johnny Robertson reacts to this blog (Plus: Facebook is laughing!)

It started several months ago, when I began cryptically referring to what I called "Evil Incarnate(tm)" on my Facebook updates. It wasn't long before many friends started asking "Hey Chris, what are you talking about?!" (or words to that effect).

So that's how it came to be that quite a few people on Facebook are now watching - and laughing at - local cult leader Johnny Robertson. I'd dare say that quite a considerable amount of WGSR's bandwidth is now being used by people from Florida to New Hampshire to Oregon who are tuning in via streaming video just to giggle at this loon and his cronies. And now we've started doing a live "running commentary" over Facebook where we poke holes and point out the lies in Robertson's mad rantings, along with generally making fun of him and his followers.

So one friend further west pointed out something a few minutes ago: that Robertson is crowing this evening about how supposedly he got some ministry in this area to change their website... but Robertson "ain't said nothin'" about how this very blog has caused him to shut up about something!

And... it's true.

Since The Knight Shift first revealed a number of weeks ago that the "Church of Christ" cult has been run out of the town of Reidsville, Robertson has not once on his broadcasts mentioned any "Reidsville meeting"! And neither has Robertson spoken any further about any meeting of the group taking place in Ruffin... which Robertson claimed on the July 5th broadcast had been going on for "more than a year". All that the cult currently has going on is the "Martinsville Church of Christ" and the "Eden Church of Christ".

Some are beginning to wonder if it has that much left, but I'm gonna withhold comment on that for now.

(Actually, I'm on top of a bunch of stuff that I'm withholding for the time being...)

ROCK BAND will allow indie artists to add own songs (and make $$$ from it!)

Are you an independent musician looking to promote your work? Might wanna check this out: you'll soon be able to add your own original music to the popular music game Rock Band! Indie artists and bands will use Microsoft's XNA Creator's Club to mesh the song's MIDI file to the format used by the game. The work will then be submitted to other Creator's Club programmers for critique and then must meet final approval by Harmonix and MTV Games. After they go live the songs will sell between 50 cents and 3 dollars, with the artists getting 30% of the cut! Not a bad business model at all, and there's the potential for some great publicity for indie musicians.

Today's FOXTROT takes on Comic-Con

One of these days, Lord willing, I will go to Comic-Con. Just to say that I attended at least once. In the meantime, today's Foxtrot strip suggests what might be a way to simulate the experience...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Walter Cronkite has passed away

As I got older I came to see how in some ways, he obviously did let the sense of power get the better of him. I'm not going to not acknowledge that.

But I'm choosing not to dwell on that tonight. None of us are perfect. And there were fewer people that more defined television news coverage or came to be an icon of modern America than did Walter Cronkite.

"The most trusted man in America" passed away at age 92 this evening. Ironically on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, which even more solidified his reputation as both a calm newsman and a giddy spectator alongside history in the making... something that happened many times over his long career.

Thoughts and prayers going out to his family.

Is God trying to tell me something?

"God doesn't give you the people you want, He gives you the people you NEED. To help you, to hurt you, to leave you, to love you and to make you into the person you were meant to be."

Twice in as many days, I have heard a friend or relative say those exact words.

Curious, that...

Fridays always need a good (bad?) joke

What did Helen Keller say when she found the cheese grater?

"That was the most violent book I've ever read!"

(Never heard that one before. Thanks to Bob Ceres for telling it!)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Vice-President Biden sez: We have to KEEP SPENDING to keep from going bankrupt

Read about it here.

I would say that this country is in the hands of madmen... but then I cannot but think that we have been that way for quite some time.

Jessica Wanstall and the one that DIDN'T get away!

The big fish in the photo is a nearly 9-foot long catfish weighing 193 pounds.

And that grinning lil' girl holding it is Jessica Wanstall, 11 years old, 4-feet 10-inches tall and weighing 83 pounds. She's the young lady who caught the fish on the River Ebro in Spain.

Bet ya it won't be no ordinary fish tale Jessica tells her mates when she comes back from holiday...

Click here to reel-in the story of Jessica and her record catch!

Canadian toddler in toy truck survives 13 kilometer river ride

Demetrius Jones, just turned all of three years old, was on a camping trip with his family in the British Columbian wilderness when he went out for a lil' spin on his battery-powered miniature Chevrolet Silverado.

And then young master Demetrius chose to attempt to turn his Chevy into an amphibious vehicle.

Demetrius drove his toy truck into the nearby river and was swept away by the current. His frantic family and Royal Canadian Mounted Police launched an intensive search for the tyke, expecting the worse...

...but three hours later Demetrius Jones was found alive and laughing and 13 kilometers (a little over 8 miles) away by a group of fishermen. Demetrius had clung to the truck - what he called his "boat" - for the entire crazy ride. After being treated for mild hypothermia at the hospital, he was soon released.

Incidentally the toy truck was pulled from the river and still works fine.

(Bet I'm not the only one who thinks Chevy should work out a huge endorsement deal with Demetrius and his family: "Like a rock!" :-)

The Rondina Family: Brother and sister Christian filmmakers racking up awards with LEGO animation!

They work with a medium found at any typical Toys R Us... but their vision is as grand as Cecil B. DeMille's.

Anthony and Jessica Rondina are a talented brother/sister pair out of Huntersville, North Carolina that got into animation with a high school project. A few more films under their belt and now their feature Jericho: The Promise Fulfilled is sweeping up film festival prizes and earning the duo widespread acclaim! Christian-Movie.com interviews the Rondinas about their Gideon Production Group, how they animate with LEGO minifigures, their future projects and how they dedicate it all to God. And if you wanna see more of the Rondina pair's awesome work, mash down here for their official website!

When Star Wars meets classic art...

...it's quite often an entrancing spectacle. And sometimes even a pretty disgusting one: witness this rendition of Darth Sidious (left) as if it has been done by the great master Beougereau.

Worth1000.com is currently hosting Round 3 of their Star Wars/Classic Art mashup series, and it will have you both in stunned awe and sidesplitting laughter! And yet, Renaissance art ever seems to be the perfect motif for that saga of a galaxy far, far away.

And if you want to see some earlier Star Wars/classic renderings, here's Worth1000.com's first batch and here's the results of their second call for the same theme. And Something Awful has a similar thing going on too.

Man charged $23,148,855,308,184,500.00 for pack of cigarettes

Josh Muszynski of Manchester, New Hampshire went to the local convenience store and bought a pack of Camel cigarettes. He put the purchase on his debit card. And then when he got home found out that he had been charged more than TWENTY THREE QUADRILLION DOLLARS for his smokes.

Turns out to have been a programming error on the part of Visa, and apparently it's hit a number of its cardholders. Visa and his bank quickly resolved the issue for Muszynski, and he was no longer stuck with a tab that was more than 2007 times the current national debt.

But hey, as bad as inflation is getting, it's just a matter of time before all our purchases are this astronomical! :-P

I don't post "Beautiful" nearly enough on this blog...

...so here is a photo of my second cousin Lauryn, who is celebrating her 22nd birthday:

And here is a photo of Lauryn and her mother (and my cousin) Robin. They could be - and have been - mistaken for sisters!

And in case any of y'all are wondering: Yes, ALL the women in my family are this beautiful! :-) Not to mention very sweet and among the most Christian ladies I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Anyways... Happy Birthday Lauryn!

Photos of those Belgians!

All two regular readers of this blog know that last week I hosted four friends from Belgium in my home. We had quite a number of interesting adventures while they were here... and things got so wild we even had to dial 911! So to memorialize the fun times I thought I'd post a few pics from the past few days.

This is Bennie. She and I have been friends since 1992, when we first met while she was tagging along with family that was visiting from out of state (she used to be an exchange student with them). We hit it off so well that the following summer I visited her in Belgium... and that was my first time ever outside of America! We've hooked up quite a few times over the years. Here she is in the kitchen, making a special Belgian dinner...

What was Bennie and her family cooking up? Well, first there were these stuffed peppers and tomatoes...

And then for dessert, there was this chocolate mousse (made with real Belgian chocolate!)...

I'd thought that I'd gotten a photo of Bennie's stepson Gaetan, but apparently not. He does show up quite often in the camcorder footage though (so there is evidence that he actually exists :-). This photo is of his sister Fleur. And as you can see like any typical fourteen-year old girl, Fleur enjoys using Facebook to keep in touch with her friends (that's what she's doing on one of my computers, and incidentally this is one of the VERY rare occasions that you will EVER see my video editing room... and yeah it's a spare bedroom too :-P). The only thing really different is that when Fleur is on Facebook, she's doing it in French! How kewl is that?!

And finally, here is a picture of Bennie and her husband Eric. Yes, THAT Eric! The same Eric who told us last Thursday around 3:30 in the afternoon that he was going for a walk... and didn't come back. At 7 p.m. I had to call 911 because we had no idea where he was, Eric speaks no English, he was in unknown territory and this was the first time he had ever been overseas (or even on a plane trip for that matter). Around 7:30 a Rockingham County Sheriff's Department car pulled into my driveway and a deputy that I've known for years told me "he's walking up the road!" James didn't speak French and Eric didn't speak English but James told him "Chris Knight?" and Eric smiled and nodded. Turned out Eric walked to the end of the road I'm on toward thick woods, kept walking and ended up going more than six miles, then turned down a road he recognized from earlier that day and walked back along U.S. 158, stopping to get a Coca-Cola from a nearby store. When Bennie and I found him he was sans shirt and grinning like nobody's business. All told that was around FIFTEEN MILES that Eric walked through Terra Incognita without getting shot for trespassing, sunk in quicksand or held hostage by drug dealers. Someday I'm going to bring Eric (and Bennie to translate for him) to talk to our Boy Scout troop, 'cuz this guy definitely set a new standard for hiking in Rockingham County!

Anyway, here he is along with Bennie, sitting on the front steps of Speedwell Presbyterian Church near Reidsville...

'Twas quite a good time, with an old friend and some new ones. Lord willing I'll get to reciprocate and get back to Belgium sooner than later. It really is a sweet lil' country, and as you can see it breeds some rather hardy folks (not to mention being the home of Belgian chocolate, the Smurfs and Tintin, and the saxaphone).

Bennie, Eric, Gaetan and Fleur, thanks for stopping by. Y'all come back now, y'hear?!? :-)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Video of Michael Jackson's hair fire made public 25 years later

It's probably going to get yanked as soon as you try to view it, but rest assured: this will be showing up on YouTube for many years to come...

Well, there it is: Michael Jackson's hair catching fire during filming of a Pepsi commercial in 1984, in footage published for the first time by US Magazine. This is something that had grown to legendary proportions long before Jackson's death a few weeks ago. And at the time this was a huge story.

Seeing this at last, the only thought that really comes to mind is "My God..." This was a far more gruesome mishap than I can recall ever hearing it described. Amazingly, Jackson was still dancing for several seconds, completely unaware that his head was ablaze.

Harry Potter and the (Sometimes) Crazy Christians

So today is opening day for the eagerly-awaited film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I haven't seen it yet but advance word from friends who have is that it's a pretty good movie. I'll probably go check it out this afternoon (and write a review for this blog 'course).

Something that I have found rather intriguing about the Harry Potter phenomenon over the last few years: Where the heck has all the "Christian" opposition to these books gone to? I mean, I remember when the movie of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was coming out, and the local TV news showed these overly-righteous "Bible-beating" types marching outside of a nearby theater about how the Harry Potter books were "evil", "witchcraft" and "leading children astray". I'll never forget this one particularly stern-faced young woman in an outfit like something out of Old Salem (or perhaps olden Salem, Massachusetts) who said she would "never" let her children read Harry Potter.

To which I said to the screen "Fine you hard-hearted ninny, but don't tell the rest of us what to do with ours!"

But nearly eight years later, and all of that alleged "Christian opposition" to Harry Potter has pretty much evaporated.

Well, not completely. At left you see a photo taken yesterday of severe nutcase Rev. Doug Taylor in Lewiston, Maine, as he publicly destroys a hardcover copy of a Harry Potter book.

Look at Taylor's face. Especially look into this man's eyes. Does that truly resemble at all the visage of a person who has the love of Christ, the grace of God, the humility that comes with fully knowing that one's self is not perfect and that we are all struggling in this world? I don't see that. Instead I see something in Doug Taylor that I have seen many more times than I care to count: someone who cannot or will not control his desire to hate others and is willing to use the name of Jesus Christ to excuse that hatred.

Thankfully, Doug Taylor and his Harry Potter-hating kind (including those lunatics from the Jesus Camp documentary and only the better angels of my nature kept me from weighing in on that as fully as I had wished!) have been relegated to the region of laughingstock over the last few years. But... why is that?

Part of the reason is that I cannot help but believe that J.K. Rowling, the authoress of the Harry Potter novels, completely and without apology disarmed the self-righteous wrath against her work with the publication of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final novel of the saga. No one who read that book could take away anything from it other than it, and subsequently the entire Harry Potter series, has carried a brilliant pro-Christian message. Indeed, many have since come to praise the Harry Potter novels as the finest Christian allegorical writing since C.S. Lewis wrote The Chronicles of Narnia. What I found especially endearing about the Harry Potter novels is that Rowling not only touched upon, she fully delved into something that has gone missing all too much from not just most children's literature but a lot of Christian fiction as well: how we approach death. The theology of Harry Potter's world is absolutely recognizable as that of the Judeo-Christian tradition, where to cling to life is to ultimately lose it and where there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for his friends.

Now, why does that sound so familiar?

So I think that in some measure, the Harry Potter books themselves have shamed thoughtless opposition into silence.

But mostly, I think that the reason why there is not nearly as much fevered hatred toward the Harry Potter books is that most of these same "Christians" who have publicly shown spite against the books in the past, are now... well, bored with Harry Potter.

And I think that says a lot about what kind of Christians they are, or have been.

I said earlier that Christians like Rev. Doug Taylor desired to hate others and used Christ as an excuse to hate. But that by itself is nothing without a target upon which to fixate and focus that hatred toward. And that's all that the Harry Potter books have been over the years to these people. It has never been about sincere serious theological disagreement with the contents of the books. All that these loons had to hear was "witchcraft and wizardry" and that was enough reason to rail against these books until they were (often literally) hoarse with screaming.

But as the Harry Potter books have passed from fad into defining literature of the current Zeitgeist, these same Christians have also lost interest. They now have bigger and better enemies to latch their hatred onto: Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Sonia Sotomayor, Democrats in general, whatever. One Baptist minister in California is now even publicly praying not just for the death but for the eternal damnation of Obama.

That's why Harry Potter has fallen out of hate-filled vogue. Why would anyone want to pick on a fictional teen wizard when they can just as easily - and with even more intoxicating wrath - hate and seek to destroy a President of the United States?

Do these people have any idea not just how silly they look, but how much they are turning others around them away from Christ?

As a follower of Christ, I have come to understand how it is that we, as one minister wisely told me years ago, are supposed to be "in this world but not of this world". We are called not only to be missionaries of His word, but also ambassadors for His kingdom. And that does mean an active and passionate abandoning the lust for the powers and institutions of this carnal realm.

It's not Harry Potter or Barack Obama that is causing grievous damage to the world around us. No amount of book burning or lobbying or legislation is going to heal the land, or provide it what it really needs.

What this world needs more than anything is for those who profess to have Christ to start living for Him... for His sake, not for our own.

Oh crap: Socialized medicine coming to U.S.?!?

Years ago when I was a Cub Scout, there was a cartoon in Boys Life showing a kid, obviously over-zealous with carpentry tools, telling his dog that he was there to give him a new doghouse. It was a parable about working with plans (which the lad decided for whatever reason that he didn't need). In the first panel after the kid announces his intentions, the dog thinks "Oh no, spare me this!"

That was the first thing that popped into mind this morning when I read that President Obama might push through a vote on national "health care reform", that it's going to cost at least $1.5 TRILLION and to fund it Congress is looking at a 5.4 percent additional tax on the richest Americans.

Much like the dog in that cartoon: "Dear God, PLEASE spare us this!"

Lemme tell you what is going to happen if Obama and his allies have their way with their medical machinations: the quality of health care in America will plummet, a lot of the economy (that we can't afford to lose) that isn't related to health care will simply relocate rather than pay higher taxes, and the United States will lose its driving motivation toward cutting-edge medical and pharmaceutical research that the rest of the world benefits immensely from.

I thought "health care reform" sucked donkeys balls to no end when the Clintons tried to pull this one over on us fifteen years ago. It was a rotten plan then and as Obama and his crew are trying to do, it's even more rotten now.

And I hope and pray that there will be even more Americans opposing it this time around!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

After-action report on today's Warhammer 40,000 battle: Space Marines versus Orks and Chaos

It was not a good day to have played loyalist Space Marines.

And not even the presence of the mighty Marneus Calgar himself - chapter master of the Ultramarines - was enough to stave off the combined threat of a massive Ork Waaaagh! led by Ghazghkull Thraka and a surprise attack by several squads of Chaos Space Marines who appeared on the scene to... well, spread chaos.

So today was the first time in three weeks that I've been able to get down to the nearest friendly local game store (FLGS) for a battle or two of Warhammer 40,000, the far-flung future-based miniature wargame that's wildly popular all over the world. Once again I brought several squads of Space Marines from the Ultramarine chapter. By 3:30 a new game was starting with 1,800 points of tactical value allowed for each side. Now, my own complete Space Marines only number a little over 500 points... but as there were two others playing Space Marines we mustered our forces along the eastern side of the table. Leading our forces was the indomitable Marneus Calgar (a miniature that I'll probably be adding to my own collection sometime). Before us stretched the landscape of a world held by the Orks, and among the more prominent features was a tower of some sort (we figured it was an oil derrick drilling for Ork petroleum). But no matter why we were there: we determined to enforce the will of the Emperor of Humanity... and the Orks were goin' die!

I think those of us playing the Space Marines had a feeling not long into Turn 1 that this battle was going to be especially brutal. First it was our entire squad of Scouts that we lost, and I was hoping we could get to use them to great advantage with their sniper skill. Alas! The Scouts were among the first to go, perishing by the guns of Ork heavy weaponry. At the same time a squadron of three Ork Deffkoptas attempted to take out my Dreadnought but he easily evaded the attack (for the moment). And then as if we didn't have enough to worry about, a squad of Chaos Space Marines attempted to teleport in front of our forces. However these missed a roll and wound up stuck intangible amid the wildness of the Warp, so for the time being we didn't have to worry about these traitors to the Empire.

Meanwhile on the southern end of the table the battle was becoming one of heavy hardware as several Space Marine troop carriers and tanks engaged with Ork battlewagons and a number of Chaos Space Marine vehicles. Calgar himself was put in the midst of this action which saw at least one troop carrier explode (and costing the lives of all the Space Marines within it). I wish that I could report more about the southern front of the battle however as we were too busy holding down the northern end, that's the part that held my attention throughout the nearly three hours that we were in combat.

After the Orks and Chaos forces had resolved their moves and weapons fire for Turn 1, now came our turn. My own Space Marines killed four Orks with fragmentary grenade fire, and attempted to move into position to better engage the huge swarm that was the rest of the northern Ork forces... which threatened to overwhelm my position. And now I was faced with a tactical decision: should I attempt to take out the Deffkoptas or the ground-based Orks? After conferring with fellow "general" John, we decided to concentrate the next attack on the Deffkoptas...

...unfortunately, not long into Round 2 the Deffkoptas utterly destroyed my Dreadnought in one fell swoop!

And then the rest of the Orks rushed forward in a frenzy of lust and death:

From there, nothing worked. The Tactical squad of my Space Marines that was armed with missile fire still attempted to destroy the Deffkoptas... but on my roll I only got a 1! That wasn't just a miss, it was as miss as you can possibly get (think Stormtroopers from the original Star Wars movies).

As for the rest of the battle: the Orks made mincemeat out of my Space Marines and none of my rolls went good (save for taking out five Orks with one well-placed shot of fragmentary grenade). One by one I was having to remove the shattered corpses of my trusty Ultramarines from the field of battle. The Orks on the northern end moved down the battlefield to join their brethren, and the Deffkoptas roared ahead to continue their carnage.

All that was left after that was basically mop-up action as the Chaos Space Marines and the Orks decimated what remained of the Ultramarines. Marneus Calgar himself somehow made it off to fight another day, and Ork warleader Ghazghkull Thraka let out a howl of victory...

What happened next? Well, it was 7 p.m. and I was starving so it was time for me to grab some dinner. I can only imagine that the Orks and Chaos forces then turned on each other (and probably it was the Orks who started it).

So there's another week before the league at the aforementioned friendly local game store meets again to throw our armies of Space Marines, Orks, Tyranids, Chaos at each other: plenty of time to study tactics and maybe even bolster my forces (I'm thinking maybe about investing in a Rhino tank).

By the way, if you play Warhammer 40,000 also and are in the Greensboro/Reidsville/Burlington area or so, write me at theknightshift@gmail.com and I'll fill ya in on the very exuberant league we've got going, and I'm always up for having a good-natured battle with a new friend :-)

Here we go again! Online petition for a full release of TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN score by Steve Jablonsky

Two years ago, an online petition drive spun out of this very blog and may or may not have convinced The Powers That Be to release a CD of Steve Jablonsky's amazing score for the motion picture Transformers.

In 2009, Warner Bros./Reprise did release a CD of Jablonsky's score for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. And everything was cool this time, right?

Well...

A LOT of folks have written in here over the past few weeks about how much of Jablonsky's score for the new movie is missing from the current CD release. And we know for certain that there were plans to publish the full score (or a much bigger chunk of it than we have now anyway) but now, those plans have been officially dashed. It's currently not set to happen.

But now, a warrior has arisen "to light our darkest hour"!

Mike Casteel, a fellow fan of Transformers and Steve Jablonsky, has started a NEW online petition dedicated to getting a full score CD of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. It just went live tonight... but we all know how fast the last one drew support, aye? Let's hope and pray that Mike's will get even more! And I'm heartily asking EVERYONE who signed the one from two years ago to please sign this new one.

Have faith, friends. I believe that there will be a release of this CD, if there is substantial enough support and we nicely convey that. And from what I've seen on this end, the support is definitely there! So be a good fan of Transformers and Steve Jablonsky and everyone else at Remote Control who worked on this score, and sign the petition today!

"Weird Al" Yankovic does Disneyland in "Skipper Dan"!

There is simply no stopping "Weird Al" Yankovic! Last month he released his new single "Craigslist" done in the style of Jim Morrison and The Doors. And now Al's "Internet Leaks" collection has grown even more with "Skipper Dan"! It's about the never-ending lament of a poor guy who could have been a great actor... but instead wound up a guide on the Jungle Cruise ride at Disneyland. Not so much a parody as it is just Al waxing philosophic in his own signature style. All in all, a pretty good song!

Hit here for the "Skipper Dan" music video (directed by Divya Srinivasan) on YouTube, where you can also find links to purchase the song via iTunes and other online outlets.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Economic downturn hits Rapture! BIOSHOCK 2 delayed!

Not even the sub-Atlantic metropolis of Rapture is safe from the global financial meltdown. In a move that would certainly have Andrew Ryan spinning in his grave had he been given a proper burial, Take-Two Interactive is delaying the release of its much-anticipated BioShock 2, the sequel to the critically-acclaimed 2007 first-person shooter that challenged players' morality as much as it did their aim.

The cause for pushing back the release? To give BioShock 2 more development time and because the retail environment for the near future is being forecast as bleak. The game is now said to be coming out in "fiscal 2010"... which could mean anything. Take-Two's stock dropped a dollar and a half following the news.

Bummer. BioShock 2 was the video game that I was most looking forward to. But I guess in the meantime I'll have to make do with playing the original BioShock again, along with Ghostbusters: The Game (which a lot of people are telling me is very good) and Batman: Arkham Asylum later this summer.

Review of the PLAY! A VIDEO GAME SYMPHONY concert in Cary!

Last week this blog received a nice e-mail about Play! A Video Game Symphony. It's exactly what it sounds like: a full symphony orchestra playing a selection of music from a variety of video games. The accompanying press release had details about the concert's performance later on that weekend in Cary, North Carolina.

So on Saturday afternoon fellow blogger and gaming junky Matt Federico (who wore a t-shirt reading "I GAVE UP VIDEO GAMES and it was the worst 15 minutes of my life" for the occasion, and is a very cool guy even though he is dead wrong about daring to think that Fallout 3 is a bad game) and I high-tailed it to Cary and the Koka Booth Amphitheater there. There was even a very neat press pass waiting for me since I'm an established journalist by way of this blog! Kewl aye?

Well, that was still not as kewl as the actual Play! concert itself. The amphitheater was packed with a plethora of people eagerly awaiting the performance by the North Carolina Symphony and the Concert Singers of Cary Chamber Choir. At 8:30 p.m. guest conductor Andy Brick took to the podium and after a series of introductions, the concert was on! The first bit of music was by Nobuo Uematsu, the composer of the Final Fantasy games, and was written exclusively for the Play! concert series.

Then, with footage from the games accompanying the performance on a giant screen hanging above the orchestra, the show got started in earnest with Kojo Kondo's immortal music from the Super Marios Bros. series! We heard the classic theme, the underwater music, the theme often heard whenever Mario is underground, and the notes from the finished castle sequence. I recognized just about all of the Super Mario Bros. games when they were shown on the screen, including Super Mario Bros. 2 (the "black sheep" of the Super Mario games). And all the while, at conductor Brick's encouragement, the audience was often cheering and whooping and hollering with joy!

Next came the music from Battlefield 1942, which I have never played but I thought it had both a unique sound of its own and also, for me anyway, evoked imagery from Steven Spielberg's film 1941.

Next came music from the Silent Hill series, with guest accompaniment by acclaimed guitarist Carlos Alomar, who has played with John Lennon, David Bowie and Bruce Springsteen along with many others. I've also never played a Silent Hill game, but the music and the associated imagery on the screen is tempting me to give it a try sometime.

Then came an extended and very neat arrangement from the Castlevania series! Never before has the centuries-old tale of the Belmont family and its endless battle against Count Dracula looked and sounded so sweeping and epic. This was by far one of my favorite parts of the show.

The music from Square Enix and Disney's Kingdom Hearts series followed. Now, I for one think that the whole Kingdom Hearts concept is more than a little... strange. I mean, having Donald Duck fighting alongside Final Fantasy characters stretches credulity even for a video game. Nonetheless, I thought that Yoko Shimomura and Hikaru Utada's composition was beautiful. And in and of itself the Kingdom Hearts stuff was plenty enough reason why a concert like Play! has come into its own and found appreciation: because video game music has become as much of a form of art as soundtracks for movies and television shows.

The first half of the show wrapped up with a return to the work of Kojo Kondo, and a series that began in 1986 on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Of course, this was the music from The Legend of Zelda series. Flutes and other woodwinds tantalized us and then the strings kicked in as the universally recognized main Zelda theme began. Once again the audience got riled up into wild applause and even laughter, especially as the screen showed the unintentionally hilarious "I am Error" bit from Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. The Underworld theme from the first game was particularly haunting, especially now as darkness had enveloped the amphitheater.

A short break followed, and then at 9:30 the concert began again with something that conductor Andy Brick had composed himself: the music from Sim City 4, which he described as having to be both monotonous and simultaneously not boring. I liked it a lot, and once again the crowd joined into the spirit of the show as the screen depicted a Sim town being wracked by tornadoes and monsters (hey, this is a Sim City game after all ;-)

Following this came the music of the Elder Scrolls games, and particularly The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, before which Brick enlightened us about how composer Jeremy Soule wrote some of this music following a near-fatal car crash he was in and how it moved him to compose something touching upon mortality and the preciousness of human life. I found this music to be dark, tragic and moving: without knowing anything else of the game, I thought that Soule accomplished what he set out to do.

Then came the music from Chrono Cross and Chrono Trigger, also two games that I have never played before (and having Matt along for the ride came in very handy 'cuz he has played many of these games before, so he could 'splain to me when I needed it :-). I found this music to be wild and dreamy.

And then it started to rain, and those on the ground went scurrying for cover. Matt and I found it beneath a hospitality shelter not far from where we'd been situated on the lawn. And maybe the rain in some way made the next bit of the show even more appropriate...

...'cuz now it was time for music from the Halo series.

The Carolina Symphony Orchestra and the Concert Singers of Cary Chamber Choir, performing the music from Halo: Combat Evolved and its sequels. That, my friends, was utterly majestic, especially as the choir began. The ancient beyond reckoning constructs of the massive Halos came into mind as the arena shook and our hearts beat in awe. Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori did some unbelievably powerful work with the Halo games, even the music from the trailer for Halo 3, which was also part of the arrangement. You could almost see a miles-wide Forerunner artifact opening beneath Raleigh, just from listening to the music like that.

Halo music in the rain. Just one more moment of experience that I will take with me for as long as I live :-)

Now it was time for something considerably more light-hearted: the music from the Sonic the Hedgehog games! Can you believe that I've never played a single game from this series in all its many years? That still didn't keep me (along with everyone else) from cheering and laughing and otherwise being thrilled by the driving and whimsical beat of Sonic as he did his... whatever :-P

The music of Warhammer Online came next, which can be described in one word more than any other: "brutal". I've never played Warhammer Online either, but I thought it fits well the motif and genre of the Warhammer Fantasy Battle tabletop game's mood: dark and fearsome. Hopefully the forthcoming Warhammer 40,000 Online will feature just as awesome music :-)

And then the orchestra started playing the music of World of Warcraft. Which I have also never played... but I am now feeling more than a little tempted to buy all of the CD soundtracks from this series. Matt's "narration" was very much appreciated 'cuz he told me which was the theme for the human capital city, what was the music for the Lich King's realm, etc. This was definitely one of the best parts of the show for me, and I found myself thinking that if Star Wars: The Old Republic has music even half as good, that it's going to be a heckuva MMO game. Nearly two days later and I still can't get the World of Warcraft music out of my head!

The Cary performance of Play! came to an end with a selection of music from the Final Fantasy games. Yeah, I haven't played these either, and I've never understood at all why these games can be called Final Fantasy when (a) they have no common continuity at all across the entire series and (b) the series hasn't ended yet and I think it's now up to Final Fantasy 47 at the moment. But again, I thought the music was quite nice.

I just wish that the Play! concert had included some music from the Gears of War games, 'cuz as the show was in Cary this is the hometown of Epic Games and Gears of War! Maybe next time? :-) I'd also thought afterward that it would have been unbelievably awesome if the music from the first Doom game had been thrown into the mix: can you imagine a full orchestra playing the theme from the very first level of Doom? Again, maybe in the future they can do this, 'cuz that alone would demand a concert ticket!

But those very minor quibbles aside (and hey, there's no way that every bit of classic video game music can make it into one concert) I thought that Play! A Video Game Symphony was a fantastic show, and one that I will give my heartiest recommendation for. The show is next coming to Salt Lake City, Utah in November. If you're out that way, you should do everything you can to attend! And I'll certainly be looking out for it the next time it performs anywhere around here :-)

EDIT 07/15/2009 9:40 a.m. EST: Matt Federico has also posted a review of this concert! Check out his write-up, which also includes a bit about the crazy drive we had on the way to Cary :-P