The winter of 2015

Not as much snow as our northern friends, but no less beautiful...

The artwork of Cameron Hobbs

A young artist to watch out for.

Tammy the Pup approves of new look!

Semi-psychotic pooch gives two paws-up to The Knight Shift's overhaul.

Movies I've Never Seen: THE BIG LEBOWSKI

"It really tied the room together."

Catherine Rose: genius, pioneer, mother

A story of love, creativity, and perfect timing.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Disney to buy Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion

Click on over to ComingSoon.net for the story that I thought had to have been a joke when I first heard about it this morning.

But it's true: Disney is purchasing Marvel Entertainment and everything that comes with it - comics, characters, movies, the whole shebang - for $4 billion in cash and stock transaction.

All that I can think of at the moment is that this will probably become the entertainment industry's equivalent to Ted Turner's Time Warner purchasing of America Online.

V declares Vendetta for Johnny Robertson!

Look folks: honestly, that isn't MY blog at all! And I have no idea whatsoever who it might be who created it. Heck, lately I haven't had much time to devote to this one, much less start and maintain a new one. Especially one as slick and polished and inspired as what I'm about to show you.

But that doesn't mean that I'm not flat-out stunned at whoever it is out there who has assumed the guise of V and decided to take on Johnny Robertson...

Vendetta For Johnny Robertson popped up out of nowhere this morning and a reader passed it along to me. Yes folks, V - the masked protagonist from V for Vendetta - has arrived on the streets of Martinsville, Danville and Reidsville to take on the cult leader/convicted felon who has been trying to "defeat destroy" in the name of God everyone he hates...

Johnny Roberston a "pastor" residing and terrifying the WGSR viewing area. His supposed Church of Christ in Martinsville Va., the only ones not damned to hell.

Spewing vitriol at his enemies and any and all who disagree; in this vast sea of hate is where we find dear lost Johnny.

Here and now is the victory. A vying of his virtues, our dear lost Johnny.

Judgment shall ran down upon he, and a judgment ruled impartially.

The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta held as a votive, not in vain, for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the virtuous. Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it's my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V.

By the way, whoever this "V" is, he/she/it went to the expense of registering a top-level domain name for the site: head on over to vendettaforjr.com to see more of Vendetta For Johnny Robertson.

"People should not be afraid of Johnny Robertson." Darn right! :-)

Ancient musical instruments getting resurrected

Scientific Blogging has an intriguing story up about how one group of scientists is working to reproduce musical instruments that had previously been lost to antiquity... along with the the unique sounds that they produced. One such instrument is the barbiton (right), an early type of bass guitar.
Do you long to hear the dulcet sounds of the salpinx, barbiton, aulos or the syrinx? Of course not, because no one has heard them in centuries. Most people have never even heard of them.

But you will soon have the chance to experience musical instruments familiar to ancient civilizations but long since forgotten.

Ancient instruments probably got lost because they were too difficult to build or too difficult to play. The ASTRA (Ancient instruments Sound/Timbre Reconstruction Application) team is tasked with bringing them back to life and already have successfully reconstructed the sound of an earlier instrument called the 'epigonion'.

The team has been so successful at reconstructing these instruments that they plan to have a concert with their own "Lost Sounds Orchestra" later this summer.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Another hilarious DILBERT strip

Methinks that Scott Adams is veering perilously close to real life in today's Dilbert cartoon...

A shot across the bow

To a certain few reading this blog...
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

-- Ephesians 6:12

I don't have to win. I only have to fight.

Meet "The Dude Who Took Down Viacom" at SPARKcon in Raleigh!

That commercial is going to haunt me for the rest of my life, isn't it? :-P

SPARKcon is a grassroots-organized four-day festival in Raleigh celebrating individual creativity around the Triangle area and throughout North Carolina. This will be the fourth annual event and this year SPARKcon will be held September 17-20. And I've been invited to speak that Friday night about the very crazy situation that happened between Yours Truly and Viacom two years ago.

Look! Event announcement!

The Dude Who Took Down Viacom: One Filmmaker's Story
EVENT LOCATION
Artspace

EVENT DESCRIPTION
Meet North Carolina filmmaker Chris Knight, a.k.a. "The Dude Who Took Down Viacom". In 2006, Knight made a campaign advertisement to help promote his running for a seat on Rockingham County's Board of Education. Knight did not win a seat on the board, but he did win some internet and media fame as his commercial was featured in The New York Times, on the Fox News Channel, every major newspaper in the state, on National Public Radio, the Canadian Broadcasting Company, by the Heritage Foundation, VH1's show "Web Junk 2.0", and E! Entertainment Television's show "The Soup". The major attraction of Knight's commercial was his creative use of Star Wars as an allegory for his strong commitment to reforming education practice. Life was good for Knight, until he loaded a few clips of his infamous commercial's featurette on "Web Junk 2.0" onto Youtube and was slammed with a copyright infringement claim. Come here the details of Knight's battle tonight as the filmmaker recounts his battle with Youtube and VH1's parent company Viacom firsthand.

SPONSOR
Artspace

And look again! There's even a Facebook page for "The Dude Who Took Down Viacom"!

I'm really exciting about doing this, and I'm very much thankful to Nene Kalu, Kathy Justice and the rest of the good folks organizing the filmSPARK track for inviting me to take part in SPARKcon. Check out the SPARKcon website for more information and hey, if you're gonna be around that evening I'd love to meet ya! :-)

Trailer for THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS

A film starring George Clooney, Ewan McGregor and Kevin Spacey based on the real-life experiments that the United States military conducted in psychic warfare. I didn't know anything about this one but judging by the trailer, The Men Who Stare At Goats looks rather promising...

It's due to open in theaters this November 6th.

This has been the craziest day that I've had in awhile...

...and it's not even 6 a.m. yet.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bev Perdue giving lottery money back to North Carolina schools

Bev Perdue - who for as long as she is Governor of North Carolina will be referred to on this blog as "WORST GOVERNOR EVER!" - is returning $38 million to the school construction proceeds from the North Carolina Education Lottery, which she raided back in February

(However there's still $50 million from the lottery's reserve funds that Perdue isn't paying back yet).

Does Bev Perdue have any clue at all about the mess she has caused for this state's public schools? Probably not. Here in Rockingham County plans to build four much-needed new schools were thrown into turmoil because the construction funds earmarked from the lottery were swiped by Perdue so that she could play games with the state's budget problems. Many other school systems across North Carolina were also hit by Perdue's monetary mayhem.

I would imagine that in the greater scheme of things, Perdue's unwise fiscal planning has cost the state more than whatever financial pain North Carolina may have eluded in the short term. And it will likely as not fall to the local governments and school systems to deal with the ramifications of the fault of state officials in Raleigh.

Damon Lindelof Twitter-ed me about LOST!

We're about four and a half months away from the return of Lost. What many have called the best scripted television drama ever is heading into its sixth and final season, with plenty of mysteries still abounding. Like, f'rinstance, the statue of the Egyptian goddess Taweret that we saw in last season's finale.

Well, this might or might not mean anything but hey, it's my own lil' claim to having what might be a viable theory of Lost, so... why not share it with everyone? :-)

Damon Lindelof, one of the Lost showrunners, asked this via his Twitter account on August 13th...

"QUESTION: What is the significance of the statue of Taweret? (Creativity + ingenuity will win over ridiculous humor or familiar theories.)"
I'm sure that Lindelof got hit with a slew of responses. So I figured I'd posit my own rumination on the subject. Here's my tweet to Lindelof...
"@DamonLindelof Re: Tawaret statue: because giant alligator-headed women are a honkin' lot scarier than a "Beware of Dog" sign?"
And then like a lot of things on Twitter I completely forgot about it. Until a week later when Lindelof Twitter-ed my answer for all the world to see...
"@theknightshift Because giant alligator-headed women are much scarier than a "Beware Of Dog" sign?"
Whoa! Did I inadvertently stumble on something here? That was the only response that Lindelof conveyed via his own Twitter. Could it be that this really is the purpose of the Tawaret statue (which is estimated to be as tall as a 30-story office building)? Kinda would make sense, given that it looks out toward the sea. In times of yore that would certainly be quite a visual deterrent against approaching the Island.

Guess we'll just have to find out together in a few months' time!

Been playing BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM

It came out this past Tuesday and I bought it then from the nearby Gamestop. I'll post a full review when I finish the game.

But until then, believe the hype: Batman: Arkham Asylum is very, very, VERY good. I'll even say that without completing it yet, it's already my personal choice for best video game of 2009.

Don't even think about whether you want this game. Because you do. You really do. The inmates are running the asylum... and you're trapped with them. And when said inmates include the Joker, Riddler and Killer Croc among many others, there can be no doubt that you are in for a hella scary (and thrilling fun) stay.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Obama to control the Internet? Not likely...

The Intertubes are burning out today with reaction to news of a bill introduced into the United States Senate by Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia that would give the President the power "to seize temporary control of private-sector networks during a so-called cybersecurity emergency."

In other words: Obama would take over the Internet. That's the chatter about it anyway.

Is such a thing even possible? Plausible? I'll suggest that it's more than okay to raise hell about the civil liberties aspect of such a notion, but in terms of technical capability I don't see how we should be anything more than cautiously alarmed about this. For one thing, the Internet was designed from the getgo to take a lickin' and keep on tickin' in the event of a catastrophic systemwide loss of communication (namely, nuclear war). It's too decentralized, far too distributed a network. I'm not saying that there wouldn't be a loss of some data traffic in the event that the occupant of the White House (whoever that might be) goes mad with power, but more likely than not, to paraphrase Princess Leia "the more they tighten their grip, the more systems will slip through their fingers."

Then there is what we have just seen happen in Iran: one of the most tightly-controlled regimes in the world. Even when that country's government tried to shut down all Internet traffic, people on the outside were busy setting up proxy servers and the like to keep the news, e-mails, photos and Twitter tweets of the post-election violence coming out to the rest of us. I'm apt to think that those of us in the United States would enjoy similar assistance should our own government try to put up the twenty-first century's version of the Berlin Wall.

Might anyone dare to purposefully halt the United States' Internet traffic and somehow manage to pull it off, they would subsequently be bringing down a huge chunk of the world's commercial economy in one fell swoop. Which I'm all too aware that some will claim that this would be one of the primary motives of such an act anyway...

But the biggest reason why I doubt Obama or any other President would seize overwhelming and absolute control of the Internet: it would most likely be the one thing that stirs the vast majority of Americans to storm Washington D.C. with torches, pitchforks, ropes and blistering-hot tar and proceed to break bad on damn near every elected official and bureaucrat in town. Threaten to take away people's Facebook and YouTube and Twitter and blogging and iTunes and online video gaming (the Gears of War players alone would raze D.C. into the ground) and porn and pirated music and movies and sports coverage and news and porn and political discussion and porn and everything else...

Who doesn't think that this would be the most politically suicidal act of modern American history?

If you wanna call your Congress-critter and tell him/her/it "hell no!" on this, then definitely do it. In fact, a call or written letter would be much better than an overly-convenient e-mail (trust me on this). Barrage the Capitol switchboard with angry but polite phone calls.

But in the meantime, be of good cheer: the Internet shouldn't be going away anytime soon :-)

YouTube video: Police officer says "It ain't (America) no more"

From August 25th, 2009 at a public meeting between Rep. Jim Moran and his constituents at South Lakes High School in Reston, Virginia. As is happening a lot lately, the meeting was to discuss President Obama's health care "reform".

And outside the school, this exchange was taking place between a private citizen and polie officer Wesley Cheeks, Jr. During which Officer Cheeks is told that this is America and replies "It ain't no more"...

The only comment I'll make is that I've seen this sort of thing happening for a long time already. It certainly didn't start with Barack Obama (I saw much of the same happening on George W. Bush's watch). And I like to think that now that the shoe's on the other foot, that some Americans who had been too dense before will start paying attention.

I like to think that, anyway.

It's a pentacene molecule

Pentacene, chemical formula C22H14 and the above image is such a big deal because it's the first time ever that photographs of actual molecules have been obtained.

Mash here for the story on how IBM's scientists conquered a decades-long technical challenge.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Elon dorms plagued by bats!

I just had to post about this 'cuz I'm an Elon alum and have friends from there who read this blog: Virginia, West and Sloan dormitories at Elon University have been invaded by bats.

Fourteen students already moved in but had to evacuate for two days while the bats (mostly in Virginia) were removed. Elon's fine maintenance crew (you know, the ones who have to paint the grass green whenever the school's honchos come to visit) installed a gadget that emitted sonic frequencies which drove the chiropterae to flee the premises. Then various holes in the dorms were patched up with caulking so that the bats couldn't get back in.

If Virginia has problems with bats, then Lord only knows what is lurking inside Smith...

Yes Johnny Robertson, by all means let's talk about "honesty"

Say what one might about Bob Lawson, to the very best of my knowledge there was only one person in that "debate" on WGSR this past Tuesday night who has lied boldly and publicly when he accused not one but two churches, with no evidence whatsoever, of what can only be called child pornography.

And Bob Lawson wasn't that person.

More than a few people have told me that Johnny Robertson is "scum", "a dirty-minded individual", "a sick man", "a complete bastard", and numerous other epithets that I won't share here for sake of polity, for making those unfounded accusations against First Christian Church in Kernersville and Osborne Baptist Church in Danville. Interestingly, Robertson hasn't dared bring those accusations up any more since they have been chronicled by this and other bloggers in the area.

Based on the footage I have seen from Tuesday night's "debate" and now tonight, Robertson is certainly becoming increasingly unhinged from reality. Already tonight he has said that he has "loathing" for Baptists, that a full-blown war is going to be needed to get rid of "denominationalism", has called Bob Lawson a "whoremonger" because Lawson is divorced, has claimed that he is the only defender and upholder of "the truth in this area", has declared himself superior to everyone else in this area, and that the First Amendment somehow gives him the right to harass whoever he wants to.

(Robertson must have missed civics during what was likely his two or three trips through ninth grade: the First Amendment of the Constitution only guarantees that the government cannot stifle free speech. It says nothing about churches exercising their right to protect themselves against disrupters like Johnny Robertson and his cult.)

There's way more that I could comment about the extraordinary nuttiness that Robertson is descending into, but for now I'll just note that tonight I took a look for the first time at WGSR's streaming video feed. There's been one for the Reidsville station and from what I understand the one for the Martinsville station went live Tuesday night (just for the "debate" apparently). Bear in mind then that the Reidsville one has been established the longer of the two.

So how big an Internet audience does Johnny Robertson and his so-called "Church of Christ" cult have?

Eleven viewers. Only ELEVEN! So that's me, and at least three other friends of mine who are watching Robertson and his cult from across the country just to laugh at him.

How many "serious" viewers does Robertson have then?

I'll wager an RC Cola and a Moon Pie that this blog gets many more regular readers than Robertson does.

And I don't think any less of you, Dear Readers, either. Hell, I know that y'all - well most of you anyway - are smart enough to think for yourselves. And I will be the first to admit that I don't understand enough about God than to harass people with it.

I sure as frak won't ever accuse a church of pornography like Johnny Robertson has done.

(And Charles Roark raised eyebrows in some places with his comment that said church is filled with "perverts", but that's all I'll say about that.)

A Transformers costume that REALLY transforms!

What happens when some double-jointed guy with a knack for engineering decides to draw inspiration from the Transformers franchise and make a Bumblebee costume? EPIC AWESOMENESS!

I bet if Hasbro gave him a license to do it, this dude would make a fortune mass-producing this getup.

1,000 banks to fail across America?

That's what John Kanas of BankUnited is now saying. Kanas believes that a thousand banks - mostly small, privately-run institutions - will go belly-up during the next two years.

Ordinarily I'm automatically inclined to disregard this kind of statement as extreme alarmism (like how I never take any "climate experts" from the United Nations seriously). But given the number of banks and more than a few of those being larger ones that have gone down in just the past year, I do have to think this is something that merits serious credence.

But hey: if worse comes to worst, I guess the Federal Reserve only has to inject another five trillion dollars or so into the economy and thinks will be fixed. Right? Right?!?

THE HOBBIT will be THREE movies... and in 3-D!?

Is it 1998 again? 'Cuz I'm getting the same feeling now that I did when word first broke all those many moons ago that Peter Jackson would be making a film trilogy of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.

Well, ever since the third and final installment The Return of the King came out more than a half-decade ago, there've been whispers on the wind about Jackson adapting The Hobbit as well, as a prequel film. And for those of us who've been paying attention, it's been a very crazy ride toward no assurance that this would be happening at all (conflicts with the Tolkien estate, Jackson's dispute with New Line, etc.)... which makes me hope all the more that it's gonna go down this way.

GeekTyrant reported last week that The Hobbit will be THREE movies, with Guillermo del Toro directing the first two chapters and Peter Jackson helming the third. In and of itself that's hella kewl... though I have to wonder how there could possibly be enough material from The Hobbit novel to justify three films (and it might be stretching it too much across two, but in Jackson and del Toro will I trust).

And now GeekTyrant is also passing along word that all three movies will be shot in stereoscopic 3-D.

Whoa.

Smaug the Dragon. In 3-D.

That fries my retinas just thinking about how utterly insanely overwhelmingly spectacular that might be.If the report is true, dare we also hope for IMAX?

(Nah, that would be way too much more crazy eye candy than we possibly deserve.)

Throw in Howard Shore returning to score this, and this might be the definitive movie trilogy of the next decade, just as The Lord of the Rings has been for this one. Now all we need is for Peter Jackson to do a six-film movie adaptation of The Silmarillion and the trifecta will be complete! :-)

Man tricks Apple into giving him 9,000 new iPods

As you can guess however, he didn't get away with it. Nicholas Woodhams of Kalamazoo, Michigan has pleaded guilty to mail fraud and money laundering and has been sentenced to a year in prison and made to pay $650,000 restitution for his scheme that tricked Apple into sending him nearly ten thousand brand new iPods...
Prosecutors say he took advantage of a warranty program by guessing the serial numbers of iPods still under warranty and claiming they were broken.

The company sent him 9,000 new ones over a year and a half.

Investigators say he turned around and sold those on the Internet.

Actually rather clever. I have to admire him for coming up with such a plan, even though it was obviously the wrong direction to direct such creativity toward.

Papa John's founder reunited with cherished Camaro

In 1983, John Schnatter had a gold and black 1971 Chevrolet Camaro Z28. It was one of his most beloved possessions. And then he had to sell it to help pay the bills for his father's tavern. The Camaro was bought for $2,800 and there was some money left over after his dad's business got out of hock.

Schnatter used the leftover dough to start up Papa John's Pizza. Everyone knows how huge a success that turned out to be, how John Schnatter has become a multi-millionaire from that initial investment.

And yet, John Schnatter still needed something to be happy. He wanted to be reunited with his favorite muscle car. So Schnatter went on a nationwide quest to hunt it down.

Last week, with some help from car enthusiast website Jalopnik.com, Schnatter's dream came true. The Camaro was in the ownership of Jeff Robinson of Flatwoods, Kentucky (not far from the headquarters of Papa John's in Louisville). And Robinson is now $250,000 richer after transferring the title of the car over to Schnatter.

Here's John Schnatter with the Camaro in 1983, and Schnatter with it today...

After getting his Camaro back, Schnatter said...

"The Camaro represents what I gave up to start Papa John's. Words cannot capture the emotions I am feeling in getting back that part of my history. I didn't have much back then, but for my business dreams to come true, I had to part with the one true asset I had to my name, and even then, there were no promises of success. I never gave up hope that someday I would get that car back. The foundation of Papa John's was built on my decision to sell the Camaro, and while it may not appear to be a huge sacrifice to some, it represents my roots in this business. And, perhaps it can serve as proof to others that hard decisions today can pay off for you later, if you're willing to believe in what you are doing. I'm extremely grateful for the success of Papa John's, and really wanted this critical piece of our history back."
What an awesome story! And methinks there's a lot of good lesson here about success, having faith in one's self and having hope that no matter how hard the sacrifice, it will be worth it in the end. It certainly did for John Schnatter. So it can be for anybody.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I'm FINALLY watching STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS

I'm either losing my interest in Star Wars (probably not) or just incredibly lazy when it comes to checking out new television (more likely). Whatever it is, at long last I'm getting to see Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the CGI-animated series on Cartoon Network set between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.

And against what I assumed would be my reaction, I must profess that I am very pleasantly surprised and delighted at this show. Star Wars: The Clone Wars is some of the saga's finest storytelling. The action and dialogue is vintage classic Star Wars, and in many ways hearkens back to the tone of the original trilogy. I've only watched a few episodes so far, and I'm told that what I've seen isn't even the best of the series: that better yet is still coming for me to behold.

So if you're a Star Wars fan too and have been wondering about The Clone Wars series: I'll stake my reputation as a true fan (maybe too true, LOL!) on telling y'all that this is something that you should look into. And I'll definitely be buying the complete Season 1 DVD set when it comes out soon.

Thoughts on Ted Kennedy

I try not to speak ill of the dearly departed. Regardless of that, some things demand saying...

If it were not for his last name and his family, Ted Kennedy would have gone nowhere. The choices that he made as a person and that he continued to make would have been too grave a taint.

And then, to have held the same elected position since 1962 is way too much. I've known of some people who had been in office for just as long and even longer, but I'm hard pressed to think of any that came to think of their post as something they were entitled to. Ted Kennedy did however, and it thoroughly corrupted his character as a supposed public servant.

The only other thing that I can add is that I sincerely hope he made peace with God before passing away. I don't think that's impossible for anyone.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"Weird Al" Yankovic imitates the inimitable Queen with "Ringtone"!

Yes, I'm up way early (or is that way late?) awaiting a new song by "Weird Al" Yankovic. But can ya blame me? Especially since Weird Al has bestowed upon us a better summer than we deserve with his "Internet Leaks" collection. A short while ago the fourth and final song from the set was released: "Ringtone". It's a Queen-style anthem celebrating/condemning cellular phone ringtones (duh!). And as always, it's uproariously funny! Can this Al guy make a song about anything or what?

Here's the video for "Ringtone" on YouTube, directed by Josh Faure-Brac and Dustin McLean of Current TV's SuperNews. And on the video's page you can find links where you can purchase the "Ringtone" song or the "Ringtone" video from various online outlets like iTunes. Or you can purchase both and put more coin in Al's pocket (as sound an investment as anything these days).

And if you haven't purchased any of the "Internet Leaks" collection yet (though Lord only knows why) you can buy the whole shebang at iTunes with one lump sum. Or, perish in flames.

It's your choice. But not really.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A thought from the weekend's contemplation

They who sacrifice enlightenment for power are never free.

Factory worker steals motorcycle one piece at a time

So the very next day when I punched in
With my big lunchbox and with help from my friends
I left that day with a lunch box full of gears
Now, I never considered myself a thief
GM wouldn't miss just one little piece
Especially if I strung it out over several years.

-- "One Piece At A Time"
Johnny Cash
(written by Wayne Kemp)

Zhang, a worker in a motorcycle factory in China, was no doubt thinking of Johnny Cash's 1976 hit single when he embarked upon his scheme to steal a motorcycle by smuggling one part at a time home with him. "I don't have that much money, so I came up with the idea of taking the parts home and assembling them on my own," he said.

It took him five years but he was able to pull it off. And then he was pulled over as soon as he hit the road for lack of driver's license and title to the bike. Zhang was fined, put on probation and had to return the motorcycle to the factory (and presumably fired).

(It also reminds me of that episode of M*A*S*H where Radar is trying to mail a jeep back home one piece at at time :-)

Back from the weekend

A lot of zaniness piled up on my desk. I'd better get to work.

I heared you people behaved yourselves pretty well while I was gone. For that you can buy a candy bar and pretend I got it for you :-P

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Gone for the weekend

Back Sunday night or Monday. Unless something crazy/bad/extraordinarily ridiculous happens that demands posting about, no new articles for the next few days.

Probably some fresh and new stuff when I resume next week :-)

First trailer for James Cameron's AVATAR

Haven't been able to find it on YouTube yet, so for the time being you'll have to watch it in Quicktime format. Which may be for the best anyway, since Quicktime is much more high-res.

Avatar certainly looks good. So far as what the story is supposed to be about, I'm not quite jazzed about it. Yet, anyway. But hey, I've been pleasantly surprised about a movie before, maybe this one will too.

Avatar opens this coming December 18th.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

12,000-year old barbecue joint found in Cyprus

Archaeologists working on the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea are saying that a cave discovered there in 1961 may have been a take-out barbecue diner used around twelve thousand years ago. Except that instead of beef or pork, those ancient Cypriots were feasting on small hippopotamuses... and the human's appetite may have helped drive the species into extinction.
Thousands of prehistoric hippo bones found in Cyprus are adding to a growing debate on the possible role of humans in the extinction of larger animals 12,000 years ago.

First discovered by an 11-year-old boy in 1961, a tiny rock-shelter crammed with hippo remains radically rewrote archaeological accounts of when this east Mediterranean island was first visited by humans.

It has fired speculation of being the first takeaway diner used by humans to cook and possibly dispatch meat. It also adds to growing speculation, controversial in some quarters, that humans could have eaten some animals to extinction.

In Cyprus, where islanders' love of the barbecue is alive and well to this day, it would have been the pygmy hippo, or "Phanourios minutus," an endemic species resembling a large pig which apparently vanished around the same time people appeared on the island...

I wonder what kind of sauce they used on those hippo ribs.

Two giants of journalism have passed away

Enigmatic but always sincere and true to himself. That's how I'm always going to think of Robert Novak - called and not without reason "the last of the shoe leather newspaper reporters" - who passed away yesterday at age 78 after a heroic battle against brain cancer.

Novak embodied and epitomized everything that it's supposed to mean to be a reporter: working hard, cultivating sources, and never taking anything at face value. A lot of people are calling him a "conservative" commentator. I don't know if that could really be said about Novak. He was the kind of journalist who, better than most, separated his politics from his profession. But when he had to weigh in on the issues he did it on his own terms. As Novak once observed: "Always love your country — but never trust your government!"

And it goes without saying: Robert Novak was a damned brilliant writer.

And then today comes word that Don Hewitt has died at age 86 from pancreatic cancer.

Hewitt's place in television history would have been secured for any number of things: the first nationwide satellite news broadcast, producing and directing the presidential debate between Kennedy and Nixon, and a bunch more during his more than half a century at CBS.

But it was his idea for a new format of television journalism that Hewitt will be most remembered for. As he wrote in his autobiography "The formula is simple, and it's reduced to four words every kid in the world knows: Tell me a story. It's that easy." In 1968 60 Minutes premiered. It has been the most acclaimed, the most respected and at times the most feared television news program ever since.

Thoughts and prayers going out to the families of both men.

Awful quiet lately

Too quiet.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

"Too funny!" Billy Bobb videos on YouTube

Holy cow!! Now I have seen everything.

Years ago there was a local television station called WGGT Channel 48, broadcasting from Greensboro. This was back when unaffiliated stations were extremely independent in their programming and such. Well, WGGT might have been one of the last to have what many people will fondly remember as a "horror host": a home-grown character who presented various scary movies and sci-fi flicks on Saturday afternoons.

Except that WGGT did things a little different. It's "horror" host was a goofy redneck named Billy Bobb, and his show was called Billy Bobb's Action Theatre.

And believe it or not, someone somewhere has a trove of old recordings of Billy Bobb from WGGT and is now putting them on YouTube.

Here's a set of promos for Billy Bobb's Action Theatre...

And here are some commercials featuring Billy Bobb for area businesses...

I wonder whatever happened to Billy Bobb's puppet sidekick Junior Prankster. Probably moldering away forgotten in a sock drawer somewhere.

What else can be said but "Too Funny!" :-)

Mozart killed by strep throat?

That's what researchers are now saying about the famous composer. Instead of foul play or fouler pork, it might have been nothing as mundane as an infection of streptococcus that took Mozart's life at the age of 35.

Read the rest of the story here, including all kinds of neat details about gory death in the Austrian Empire.

Southeastern Conference bans social media at sports events

"No Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or TwitPic!" That's the dictate being sent to sports fans and students of Southeastern Conference member schools if they want to attend athletic events. Under its newly adopted media policy, the SEC has informed its schools that "Ticketed fans can't produce or disseminate (or aid in producing or disseminating) any material or information about the Event, including, but not limited to, any account, description, picture, video, audio, reproduction or other information concerning the Event."

It's effectively a ban on all so-called "social media". Per the new regs, a fan could get ejected from the premises simply for using his iPhone to take a picture of himself at a Gators football game and sending it to his friends on Facebook.

So what's behind this boneheaded move? The $3 billion contact with CBS for the next 15 years, giving that network exclusive media rights to cover SEC games. In other words: if you go to an SEC event, you and your cellphone are potential competition to a multi-billion dollar broadcast television corporation equipped with the latest cutting-edge high definition technology.

This isn't entirely unheard of, but for a collegiate athletic conference to crack down on the fans themselves is certainly new (and treacherous) ground to tread. Not to mention darn near unenforceable.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Don't sin at your own funeral, sez cult leader Johnny Robertson

If anyone still harbored doubts about Johnny Robertson - leader of the local cult calling itself the "Church of Christ" - those were erased during last night's broadcast of What Does the Bible Say? on WGSR Star 47.1 from Reidsville.

During the program, which included pre-recorded footage of Robertson speaking yesterday at his "Martinsville Church of Christ", Robertson exclaimed that to have the wrong funeral is grounds enough to displease God! Robertson told his followers to make sure that no instrumental music be played during their last rites.

Here's the transcript of what Johnny Robertson said at "Martinsville Church of Christ" on August 16, 2009 (with bold-faced text indicating spoken emphasis)...

"If you haven't determined how your funeral is going to go, you need to! Because you have family members who do not agree with what I just quoted from the Bible in Ephesians 5:19 about speaking to yourselves in songs, hymn and spiritual song! They will have you in your funeral, all kinds of pianos and stuff like that playing, and you won't want that not at all! But if you haven't said so, guess what? Your family gets to do what they want to do. So let me encourage you today, as we sing that song and we think about going home: when you leave us here behind, as you go home, make sure you leave us some instructions and your family some instructions so EVERYBODY knows how your funeral is SUPPOSED to go. We won't want people dishonoring you, your memory when you leave, what we mean by that is dishonoring you before God. So make sure you make those instructions, young or old, and give them to somebody else who is faithful and will make sure those things get carried out."
So according to Johnny Robertson, you are sinning before God if you have musical instruments playing at your funeral. Which makes it all so vital that you leave explicit directions prohibiting pianos, organs and the like from being used when you can't raise any objections from your casket or urn.

That is hyper-legalism to the nuttiest extreme that I have ever heard of.

Heck, Robertson and his followers are worse than the Pharisees were! Jesus took the Pharisees to task for the ridiculous lengths they went to in following the law. In the case of the "Church of Christ" cult (again, it has nothing to do with the regular Churches of Christ) they can't follow the law nearly enough so people like Robertson have to make up law that's not even scriptural! Ephesians 5:19, from the New International Version, simply states "Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord". Nowhere does it ever say in the Bible that to have instrumental music is an affront to God.

And then there's the glaringly obvious fact that for all his boasting about "knowing the Bible better than anyone", that Johnny Robertson does not have much of a sincere knowledge of the Bible at all. Because if he did, Robertson should already understand that...

"We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord."

-- 2nd Corinthians 5:8 (NIV)

We can't dishonor God after we have already left this world and gone into His presence. And not Johnny Robertson or anyone else should have this kind of unhealthy focus on whether our funerals are "right or wrong" anyway.

It's the life which Christ has given us that matters most of all: that life free by grace according to the rule of love, and not enslaved to the rule of law.

I have an idea...

It came to me when I happened to catch tonight's CBS Evening News (which I don't usually watch at all).

Want to know how to economically revitalize the newspaper and television news industries, and increase enlightenment among the general public in one fell swoop?

It's very simple: ban the words "conservative" and "liberal" from usage by professional journalists.

Those words are worse than useless. They are woefully outdated terminology. The only function of "liberalism" and "conservatism" is to excuse one's own intellectual laziness.

(And truth be known, I'm seeing a lot of laziness in CBS's reporting tonight... but not really more than one would expect from CNN or Fox News either.)

That's no doubt a big reason why television and print journalism is suffering a slow and lingering death. The alternatives on the Internet - which are not confining themselves to a paradigm that was faulty well before it was obsolete - are attracting a vast audience wanting and demanding a fresh look at things replete with new ideas. Dumbed-down "debate" along the conservative/liberal lines is horridly boring... and doesn't represent reality at all.

People are getting tired of fakery and illusion. There is a dire and growing hunger for truth that we haven't known very much in living memory. And if the traditional media has any desire at all to survive, it's left with no choice but to commit to the higher standard of ideas, and abandon adherence to the lowest common denominator of cheap ideologies.

Neill Blomkamp's ALIVE IN JOBURG

District 9 was the big winner at the theaters this weekend. A lot of folks are raving about how this movie is much better than a summer box office blockbuster deserves to be. I'm looking forward to catching it again later this week.

In the meantime, here is Neil Blomkamp's short film that inspired his District 9 feature film. You won't be spoiled by watching Alive in Joburg but if you've seen District 9 you'll certainly catch the similarities...

eBay auction for crypt above Marilyn Monroe

Elsie Poncher says she needs money. But instead of pawning her wares or otherwise liquidating what most people consider to be normal assets, Mrs. Poncher has opted to sell off what must be one of the most unusual pieces of real estate in the world: she's selling the tomb of her husband at Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles. The crypt is currently occupied by the remains of Richard Poncher.

It's also located directly above the final resting place of Marilyn Monroe.

And what's more, Elsie Poncher is auctioning the tomb on eBay.

The initial bidding began at $500,000. As of this writing eBay Item #320412140795 "Crypt Above Marilyn Monroe For Sale" has received 23 bids and is up to $2,750,600.

Here's the item's description:

Here is a once in a lifetime and into eternity opportunity to spend your eternal days directly above Marilyn Monroe. This crypt in the famous Westwood Cemetary in West Los Angeles currently occupied above Marilyn Monroe is being vacated so as to make room for a new resident. "Spending Eternity next to Marilyn Monroe is too sweet to pass up", recently quoted by Hugh Heffner, who has reserved his place in eternity next to her. The lucky bidder will be deeded a piece of real estate that he or she will make their last address. And below you will be Marilyn Monroe. In fact the person occupying the address right now is looking face down on her.
"In fact the person occupying the address right now is looking face down on her"...?!

Words fail.

But in case anyone's interested, here's a photograph of what Mrs. Poncher is selling on eBay:

And she even takes PayPal!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Safety First: Why Apple should never retire the iPod Classic

There's some tragic news out of Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania this weekend: a 19-year old woman is dead following an automobile accident. And apparently the motorist was distracted by the iPod she was trying to work while driving the car.

Before writing anything else, two things need to be said: I have no idea what model of iPod the driver was using. And I'll be the first to admit that I also use my iPod while driving. I might as well come clean on that much because otherwise I wouldn't be able to share these thoughts to begin with...

Normally, I don't think it's much of a problem to talk on a cellphone or work an iPod while driving. It's not much different an effort than messing around with the radio trying to find a good station (and it's pretty darned rare to hear of any crash being caused by touching that dial). Just for safety's sake though, I don't usually do things like that unless I'm securely on the road (i.e. not about to make any turns) and not otherwise distracted by anything else. 'Cuz hey: at that moment the velocity of the car is gonna be my top priority.

But I also don't believe that a driver should be text messaging while going down the road. That's a lot of focus and attention getting demanded from a device as opposed to passive use just by talking into it, or using simple movements with your thumb.

And that's one of the reasons why I ain't been keen on getting an iPod Touch, either.

I've tried the iPod Touch before, either at an Apple Store or one of those that some of my friends own. Personally, I found the model to be much harder to passively use than the original design of the iPod Classic. Even a simple task like changing the volume requires considerable visual contact with the device. And to use the iPod Touch (and the iPhone for that matter) most efficiently, one more often than not has to use both hands.

None of these things have ever been an issue with the iPod Classic and its simple, yet extremely functional click wheel. A driver can very easily adjust volume and skip tracks in an album with only the gesture of a thumb... and without having to take the eyes off the road. If need be, a bare minimum of visual confirmation (again, not more than to glance at the car's stereo system) is all that's needed to change album or artist or podcast.

Is the same ease of use of the iPod Classic to be found on the iPod Touch? If it's there, I haven't experienced it. There's definitely not enough to want to trust myself with working an iPod Touch while on the road. I can and do however have plenty of confidence that I can work my iPod Classic while in my car... just as I do every day. But that's not something I could see doing with the iPod Touch at all.

Some are reporting that Apple might be preparing to drop the iPod Classic model entirely, and compel its users to adopt the iPod Touch instead. I can't think of a worse thing that Apple could do with its popular multimedia device (yeah, even worse than not giving us the option to easily replace the battery) than to abandon the iPod Classic. And I say that as one who is absolutely eager to eventually get an iPod Touch: I'm just waiting for the flash storage capacity to catch up with what I'm used to from the hard drive of the iPod Classic (though I still wouldn't wanna drive with it). There is not only room for both models but a substantial need for consumers to be able to choose between the two. And for those of us who have operating a motor vehicle as an integral part of our daily lives, the iPod Classic is obviously the more safety-conscious alternative.

Ideally, I would love for Apple to not only retain the iPod Classic, but to continue advancing it along with the latest technology (an iPod Classic with more than 80 gigs of flash storage would be nice, hint-hint).

I just hope that Apple isn't considering letting the iPod Classic go just because the company wants to push sales from its App Store for the iPod Touch and iPhone. Doing so would certainly neglect a substantial portion of its users who appreciate the iPod Classic for its proven reliability, its iconic look, and its quality of being safe to operate in most any circumstance.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hypocrisy: Republicans launch site to track wild spending

So the House Republican Conference has just started up a new website dedicated to helping "the public and the press keep track of the billions of taxpayer dollars spent each year on government projects".

Who the hell do these people think they're kidding?

WHERE was this kind of concern from the Republicans about "billions of taxpayer dollars" between the years 2001 and early 2009, when they had the White House and for most of that time control of the House and Senate?

George W. Bush and his allies misspent more money from the public treasury than any other presidential administration in modern American history. Thus far the fiscal practices of Barack Obama have not been intrinsically different or substantially more wasteful than those of his predecessor. And it could be readily argued that Bush and his Republican colleagues certainly paved the way for whatever Obama will be doing for the next three or seven years.

The Republicans may complain about Obama's reckless abandon... but it was certainly the modern GOP that showed Obama and the Democrat party how to do it big and bold and without apology.

The Harry Tuttle action figure!

Good Lord... I would love for this thing to be mass-produced and sold somehow!

There's a dude calling himself Sillof who excels at creating custom action figures, making replicas of movie props and all kinds of other uber-kewl stuff. Sillof has already achieved fame with his "steampunk" inspired renditions of characters from the Star Wars saga.

But check this out: Sillof has made an action figure of Archibald "Harry" Tuttle!

Every detail of the renegade terrorist heating and air-conditioning repairman that Robert De Niro played in Terry Gilliam's movie Brazil has been reproduced: right down to the pistol and ventilation maintenance tools.

Well done Sillof! And I can't think of a toy that more reflects what our society is becoming... or one screaming more to be made than this one.

Mathematicians model zombie attack and survival odds

"Hit hard and hit often." That's the conclusion reached by a group of Canadian mathematicians who have produced a model of epidemic rates of a hypothetical zombie attack and how one might be survived.

According to the researchers, an infestation in a city of 500,000 people would find the living outnumbered by the undead within three days. However, a strategy of "impulsive eradication" adopted early enough would be adequate to deal with the crisis.

It is good to know such things, yes?

Friday, August 14, 2009

THE BALLAD OF G.I. JOE

Thanks to Phillip Arthur for finding this. And I have not seen the new G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra movie but I have heard that "The Ballad of G.I. Joe" is gads better than that... film. Here it is, starring a lot of famous faces!

And in case you're wondering who's who, here's the cast list:

Laz Alonso as Doc, Alexis Bledel as Lady Jaye, Billy Crudup as Zartan, Zach Galifianakis as Snow Job, Tony Hale as Dr. Mindbender, Frankie Kang as Storm Shadow, Geoff Mann as Buzzer, Andreas Owald as Snake Eyes, Daniel Strange as Torch, Kevin Umbricht as Ripper, Vinnie Jones as Destro, Joey Kern as Tomax, Joey Kern as Xamot, Chuck Liddell as Gung Ho, Julianne Moore as Scarlett, Henry Rollins as Duke, Alan Tudyk as Shipwreck, Olivia Wilde as The Baroness, Jamin Fite as Cobra Commander, Sgt. Slaughter as Himself

I honestly don't know what to say about DISTRICT 9

I just came back from a midnight premiere showing in Greensboro. And I want to start pouring out words like mad about how wog-boggled I am over how insanely excellent this movie is!

But then I remember how it was that I went into seeing District 9, the first feature film to be directed by Neill Blomkamp (it's also produced by Peter Jackson).

The first I ever heard about District 9 it was about two weeks ago, when the first word of mouth started trickling around the blogosphere about how this might turn out to be the best movie of the summer. I only really caught "aliens in South Africa" and how it was inspired by the history of apartheid in that country. And that's been it. Up 'til tonight I had seen not one television spot for District 9 or seen any trailers for this movie. Other than catching a look at the official posters here and there, I entered the theater to see District 9 as cold as a person could possibly be.

And that's how I want you, dear reader, to see it also. Without knowing what to expect at all, or at least knowing as little as possible. There are too few good things in life that catch us unawares and leave us... how do I put this?

Haunted? Enlightened? Enraptured?

I came out of watching District 9 all of those things and more. And I'm very much looking forward to seeing this movie again during the weekend, and possibly even once more after that.

District 9 is the most original science fiction movie that I've seen in a very long time. And let's just leave it at that. Absolutely worth checking out during its cinematic run!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Today on this blog...

...I ain't got nothin'.

Why are you reading this anyway? Go out and play instead :-)

(More good stuff coming soon. Including, Lord willing, a movie review tomorrow.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Newly discovered pitcher plant eats rats!

Behold the Nepenthes attenboroughii: a pitcher plant found on the slopes of Mount Victoria in the central highlands of the Philippines.

First spotted by a group of Christian missionaries who were attempting to reach the summit of Mount Victoria in 2000, a team of botanists confirmed the existence of the plant, which has been named in honor of British broadcaster and naturalist Richard Attenborough.

Nepenthes attenboroughii boasts a monstrous-sized maw: big enough to drown and eat prey as big as a rat!

Read more about it here at the BBC's website.

I'm beginning to seriously wonder...

...if the next American civil war might begin over, of all things, health care.

No, really.

I've openly mused on this blog before about what issue it would take for this country to begin tearing itself apart. Previously I thought it would be about illegal immigration (which is still a huge problem and one that very few elected officials seem inclined to address).

But now, having seen numerous videos coming from "town hall" meetings between members of Congress and their constituents, and seeing the very real disdain that too many politicians obviously have toward the people they have sworn an oath to serve...

No, I don't think this is "partisan" very much at all now. I do however believe that the disconnect which has been growing for many years between regular citizens and their elected representatives - during times in which both major parties have been "in power", it should be noted - is finally come to the point beyond mere "strained" and hurtling toward complete breaking.

I don't want the United States government managing my health care. As "Cash for Clunkers" has demonstrated, this government can't even run a used-car business. And that is a legitimate enough thing for anybody to be worried about. Most likely, a lot of people, And it's also quite probable that darn near as many will be honked-off enough to fight against it. By any means necessary, if push comes to shove. If for no other reason than because I like to believe the American people for the most part do not cotton to being dictated to by unaccountable bureaucrats in a far-off city.

For what little that it's worth... 'cuz hey, I'm just a guy with a blog... I'll simply note this: that if President Barack Obama continues pressing ahead with his "health care reform", nothing good will come of it for him.

And neither do I believe that this should be seen as a ripe "political opportunity" for the Republicans, either. This is something that must be opposed for the right reasons: on grounds that it is the scariest push toward socialism in living American memory.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Warhammer 40,000 battle report: "Komedy of Errors" as Orks slaughter Chaos Space Marines!

Finally got to return to the friendly local game store after business the past two weeks kept me from indulging in one of my latest newfound pastimes: Warhammer 40,000. But in the interim I've been building up a new army. Ever since this past winter I've been playing Space Marines of the Ultramarines chapter (the ones that come in the Warhammer 40,000: Assault on Black Reach intro set). Lately though I've thought about changing things up a bit, and Space Marines of various stripes do tend to be the most popular faction anyway, what with every player seeming to possess at least one army of the Emperor of Mankind's most faithful servants.

So for the past few weeks I've been getting my first army of Orks ready for battle. And the timing was perfect, 'cuz as a personal rule I never field any model until I'm satisfied that it looks good. If my soldiers are going to fight and possibly die for me, then they merit enough respect for me to paint them like they deserve, right?

Anyhoo, today I threw my Orks into combat for the first time. Four players this afternoon at our table. There was me with a little less than 500 points worth of Orks...

And here's my Ork Warboss. I think he's unique/powerful/ugly enough to need a proper name: anyone have any suggestions?

Playing with me today was Tom, who brought along a gnarly collection of Tyranids (think of the Borg from Star Trek crossed with the Bugs from Starship Troopers). Normally Tyranids and Orks don't get along 'cuz Orks fight everything and Tyranids eat everything. But this game (as chosen by a roll of the die) was a "unit/points" thingy, where destroying anything considered a unit is 1 point and the side with the most points at the end winning. Let's just assume for today's battle that these are Tyranids cut off from the Hive mind that are maddened or the Orks are using in battle or something. Anyhoo, here's Tom...

And playing a whole bunch of Chaos Space Marines were Brandon and Joe. Joe is also Tom's kid brother, and it was evident from the start that he was out to "show up" Tom. This was also Brandon and Joe's very first time playing Warhammer 40,000, so naturally a lot of the adults were on hand to show them what to do/all the tricks etc.

But look in Brandon and Joe's eyes. Yup, two more poor unfortunate souls that have been ensnared by Warhammer 40,000. I saw them earlier oggling the Assault on Black Reach intro set, which is like the "gateway drug" for this hobby. Way too late for you now kids: you're in deep and the hole goes very far indeed...

Admittedly, the first few rounds did not go well for our side. Both squads of my Ork Boyz took light casualties at long distance from Chaos Space Marine fire and neither of the Big Shootas that I was armed with hit anything. I decided to push the Orks forward and engage at close range (which turned out to have been a very wise thing in the long run).

Meanwhile, Tom and Joe were having at each other in what must be the most hilarious thing that I have seen playing Warhammer 40,000 thus far. Joe brought forth his Chaos-possessed Dreadnought, which quickly lost what I call the "insanity roll" and went mad and plowed headlong toward Tom's swarm of Tyranid Termagants...

...and then the Termagants completely overwhelmed the Chaos Dreadnought!

The Chaos Space Marine Dreadnought was hopelessly engaged for the rest of the game fighting off the Termagants. And as you can see from the pic above, that freed my Nobz to press forward without having that to worry about.

The Ork offensive was well underway...

Soon afterward however, one squad of "da Boyz" engaged in close quarters combat with the Space Marines and were, to an Ork, wiped out. And in the next round my other squad of Boyz were completely killed off too after I had declared a Waaagh! (the one time that kamikaze-style tactics failed to carry this day). So in retaliation my Warboss took on a Chaos-claimed Rhino bare-handed. Well, if you count the power claw as being a hand too...

The results of that bit o' mayhem were one destroyed Rhino which blew up and no damage taken by the Warboss! It was the start of a great green tide that would soon wash over the landscape.

I must confess though: at this point I thought it was pretty hopeless 'cuz with both squads of Boyz gone, all I had were my Warboss and the Nobz. But as this was my first time playing Orks I had no idea just how strong the Nobz really were. First they utterly over-ran one squad of Chaos Space Marines and took their mad Waaagh! right to into Brandon and Joe's hapless faces...

I still can't believe I was rolling so many 5s and 6s during this murderous rampage.

So with the Nobz destroying two squads of Chaos Marines (and taking only one casualty among their own) the mighty Orks turned to the last two opposing unit left with any real fighting capability...

And a few minutes later, it was all over...

The cunning and beguiling forces of Chaos had fallen to the dumb and ugly Orks! Which, I guess in the higher scheme of the universe, means that this was ultimately a victory for Good. Orks aren't really evil: they're just that way by nature. Hey, J.R.R. Tolkien even said that his Orcs would not be eternally beyond redemption, so I like to think that the Orks in the Warhammer 40,000 universe have some positive inherent value too.

Or maybe I've just been spending too much time painting and detailing Orks lately :-P They're definitely my favorite army to play in this game for the time being, mainly 'cuz they're such a rich source of comedic value (even though their shooting abilities leave much to be desired).

Next week: the Orks are back and hopefully by then I'll have my Gretchins and Deffkoptas ready (and maybe even something a little "shokking" ;-)

EDIT 11:45 p.m. EST: I've come up with a name for my Ork Warboss. Think I'm gonna call him Kaneegutz! Which is sort of the Ork-ish corruption of my last name (and it sounds like "ka-neeguts" from Monty Python and the Holy Grail). And doesn't "Waaagh! Kaneegutz" sound like a great title for an Ork crusade? :-)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Another cartoon from the twisted mind of Dave Lowe

Yech! But I mean that in a good way :-)

Find more of Dave's insanely genius (or is that geniusly insane?) humor at the website of his comic Para Abnormal!

Ever watch this show MAD MEN on AMC?

It must be pretty new. I've never seen it before, but they're running a whole bunch of episodes today. I had the teevee on mostly for background noise whilst I work, but keep finding myself turning to watch the show.

Mad Men is uncommonly good. I may have to put the DVDs on my Netflix queue and catch up, or something.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Classic SESAME STREET: Bert and Ernie's appliance war!

Dang, it's been a long time since this blog has seen any vintage Sesame Street sketches! Here's one that just got hosted on the official Sesame Street YouTube channel. From the very first season: Bert and Ernie do battle with dueling appliances!

This show certainly was darker and more violent in its early days. I doubt we'd ever see a sketch like this produced circa 2009.

Sunday political commentary (suitable for any modern American Sunday)

I got asked to state my political beliefs today. So here they are...

I'm damned disgusted that too many Americans don't think for themselves with the minds that God gave them.

American politics is two cages of howler monkeys throwing handfuls of dung at each other. With the rest of us expected to choose between which dung is better than the rest.

Any other questions?

"Now is the time for Helter Skelter."

"PIG" (left), written in blood on the door of Sharon Tate's home on August 9, 1969, and "Healter Skelter" (right) also written in blood on the refrigerator door of the LaBianca residence the following day

Forty years ago today, in the early morning hours of August 9th, 1969, what is still considered to be the most infamous and bizarre act of multiple murder in American history began.

Just after midnight Charles "Tex" Watson, Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Linda Kasabian climbed over the fence of 10050 Cielo Drive in Los Angeles and stealthily made their way to the house of movie director Roman Polanski.

Polanski himself was not at home. But his wife was: the stunningly beautiful and nearly nine months pregnant actress Sharon Tate. So were her friend and well-known hairstylist Jay Sebring, Sebring's girlfriend Abigail Folger (heiress to the coffee fortune) and Polanski's friend Wojciech Frykowski. Also present was 18-year old Steven Parent, visiting the house's caretaker and his friend William Garretson.

The bodies of Sharon Tate and Jay Sebring at 10050 Cielo Drive

Beginning with Parent, the four intruders confronted and then butchered everyone that they encountered at the house. William Garretson alone escaped the wholesale slaughter by remaining hidden and silent in the small cottage he lived in behind the main house.

Susan Atkins - who later admitted that she had wanted to tear Sharon Tate's unborn child out of her womb with a knife - wrote the word "PIG" in blood on the door of the house. She had been ordered to "leave a sign... something witchy".

And of the four, only Linda Kasabian refused to commit murder. It was Kasabian's conscience which would later come back to to testify in court and condemn the man who had sent the four on their mission of madness: Charles Milles Manson.

Charles Manson, leader of the Manson Family

The bodies were discovered later that morning by housekeeper Winifred Chapman as she arrived to work. A hysterical Chapman ran from the scene screaming "MURDER! MURDER! MURDER!"

But it was not to be the end. Later that night, Manson himself - determined to "show them how to do it" - led six members of his "Family" to 3301 Waverly Drive: the home of grocery store executive Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary. After entering the home and then confronting and tying up the couple, Manson returned to the car and told his followers to kill the LaBiancas. Again Linda Kasabian refused to take part, but her reticence was made up for by Leslie Van Houten.

The LaBiancas were stabbed dozens of times with a bayonet. Charles "Tex" Watson carved the word "WAR" on Leno's abdomen. And throughout the house, Patricia Krenwinkel dabbed a towel in the victims' blood and wrote the words "Rise" and "Death to pigs"... and on the refrigerator door, the words "Healter Skelter".

Admittedly, the Tate/LaBianca murders weren't the real beginning of Charles Manson's insane attempt to ignite his fantasy of Helter Skelter: a race war between blacks and whites which Manson envisioned from his twisted interpretation of the Bible and the Beatles (ironically, it was on the day before the Tate murders that the Beatles shot the famous photograph for the cover of their Abbey Road album). Manson and his disciples had killed music teacher Gary Hinman a few weeks earlier, also leaving the words "Political piggy" written in blood. But it was the serial slayings of August 9th and 10th which kicked off the horror in the minds of most people.

What happened afterward has variously been described as "the murder trial of the century", a masterful performance by the prosecution to bring those responsible to justice, and severe bungling on the part of numerous law enforcement agencies. The entire saga of the Manson Family murders was later chronicled by lead prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi in the bestselling true crime book of all time: Helter Skelter.

There are countless legitimate resources on the Internet about Charles Manson, his followers and their crimes. Many of the photos used in this retrospective were found on CrimeShots, which has a gallery of photographs (some of which are extremely graphic, so caution is advised) of the murder scenes.

And I cannot recommend enough reading Helter Skelter if you are at all interested in real life crime. Even forty years after the murders, there is nothing comparable in modern history that comes close to approaching the collective madness of Charles Manson and his cult.

BIOSHOCK 2 marketing hits the beaches!

BioShock 2 may have been pushed back to next year but that's not keeping 2K's PR team from going to some extraordinary lengths of viral marketing for the much-anticipated game. This past week a mysterious note appeared on the game's teaser site listing numerous beaches around the world and a time to be there... which was yesterday morning.

This was the scene at Australia's Bondi Beach, where BioShock fans found dozens of wine bottles (from Arcadia itself) washed up on the shore. Within each bottle was one of several posters from Rapture, including this advertisement for Andrew Ryan Industries. Kotaku has photos of more discoveries. And wouldn't you know it, but the Rapture wine bottles are already fetching a pretty price on eBay.

BioShock 2 is due sometime next year. Hopefully sooner than later.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Star Wars merchandise from Uncle Milton

What's happening to Star Wars merchandising lately? Is it just me, or has the brand's licensing gone wacky amid the absence of new movies in the series? A few months ago we were presented with the Darth Vader Toaster.

And now Uncle Milton - purveyor of such classic educational toys as the ant farm - is coming out with the Star Wars Mustafar Volcano Kit. Yes, your kids (or you yourself) can learn all about the physics of vulcanism while reliving the epic first duel between Obi-Wan Kenobi and the just-turned Sith Lord Darth Vader!

And then there's this lil' item: the Star Wars Dagobah Frog Habitat...

And when the frogs get bigger, you can feed them to Jabba the Hutt! :-P