So all I'll say is, here's praying that 2010 will be a good one for all of us :-)
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Hope you and yours have been having a wonderful holiday season!
(By the way, Star Trek rocks on Blu-ray! Yah thanks to Dad I have finally crossed that threshold :-)
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
(However I would be remiss in my duties if I didn't come back in the next few days to write about this year's Doctor Who Christmas special, especially since it will see the departure of David Tennant from the role and Matt Smith coming on as the eleventh Doctor. Those reviews are always fun to write :-)
I'm also gonna be thinking about how to overhaul this site. It's still too much 2007.
And in case anyone's wondering: I'm already set to deep-fry a turkey for Christmas Eve dinner!
Not much else to say, except to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas (and here's hoping that our Jewish brethren had a Happy Hanukkah :-)
But as always, as is the tradition for this blog, I'll close this out by reposting something that I originally wrote for our student newspaper at Elon in 1998. Of all the things that I've composed in almost a lifetime of published writing, this remains one of my very favorites.
So here it is again. Y'all take care and God bless :-)
Originally published in The Pendulum, Elon University, 12/03/1998
Celebrating the Christmas season means celebrating the memories
Some of the best memories that we take through life are about the times we cherish the most. And sometimes, it doesn’t take much to bring back the joy. Arf arf arf, Ahh... you know how it goes. Dedicated to the memory of W.C. “Mutt” Burton, for whom Christmas was always “In My Bones.”
Last Friday as I was driving around Greensboro, the all-time coolest Christmas song ever came over the speakers.
Who knows what this genius recording artist’s name is? Does it really matter? Whoever he is, he’ll forever be remembered as giving us the immortal sound of “Dogs Singing Jingle Bells”:
Arf arf arf,
Arf Arf Whoof Whoof Whuf…
And there’s the ever-beuh-beuh-beauh-beautiful rendition of Porky Pig singing “Blue Christmas” and the Chipmunks and of course “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Christmas at Ground Zero,” but hearing those dogs singing “Jingle Bells...” ahhhhh.
It brought me back to the very first time I heard that: on the radio coming back from school just before Christmas in 1982. I was in third grade at the time. And it brought back memories of the Christmas we had.
It was cold and very cloudy. I remember that because Santa had brought me a telescope and I didn’t get to use it that night. Which wasn’t too big a worry, ‘cause me and my sister had our brand-new Atari 2600 to play with!
Another Christmas memory: To this day, I’ll never forgive Anita for the pounding she gave me in “Combat.” I don’t care how fancy Sega or the Playstation get... they’ll never touch the 4-bit pleasures of the Atari!
There have been many a Christmas since then, and I remember each one well, for all the little things they had with them.
I’ll never forget Mom and Dad taking me and my sister to see Santa Claus at the mall in ‘84. That morning Dad asked if I’d come with him to cut firewood, so we rode the tractor into the woods. There had been snow earlier in the week, which lay around us in the crisp, cold morning.
Dad also brought his 30-30 rifle, why I still don’t know. After we had the wood loaded, Dad asked if I wanted to try shootin’ the gun.
There I was, a ten-year old kid, holding what looked like an anti-aircraft cannon in my tiny hands. Well, I aimed at this tree like Dad told me to, and pulled the trigger.
To this day I cannot describe the colors that flashed before my eyes, or the sound in my ears. When my existence finally returned, I was flat on my back in the snow, and blood was gushing from between my eyes where the scope had hit my nose from the backfire.
That night Santa saw the bandages and said “Ho ho hoooo, and what happened to you, little fellow?”
“I got shot, Santa,” was the only thing I knew to say.
Hey, was I gonna lie to the Big Man? Uh-uh, no way was I gonna lose all that loot!
The following year’s Christmas I remember for many things, but especially feeding the young calves on our farm. It would be the last year our family would be running a dairy farm, and I had started helping with some of the work around the barn.
Dad set up a Christmas tree in the milking room, with wrapped-up boxes beneath it.
Tinsel hung from the front doors of the barn. And there was something about the feel of the place there, that has always held a special place in my heart, as if we knew that there would not be another Christmas like this one.
I wish there had been another Christmas on the farm, because there’s something I wish I could have seen. And as silly as some people might find this, I really believe that it happens.
You see, if you go out at midnight on Christmas Eve, you will see all the animals in the farmyard, and in the fields, and in the forests, and wherever else they may be, stop where they are.
And then they kneel.
They kneel in remembrance for another night, long ago. It was Christmas, but how many people could know it then?
Nothing remarkable, to be sure: Caesar had decreed a census through the land, and each man went with his family to his town.
One man in particular took his wife, a young woman quick with child. But there was no room for them at the inn. So that night, in a dirty and filthy stable and surrounded by animals, a child was born.
You see, it’s easy for us to forget. At this time of the year, we are too overwhelmed by the consumption and the material and the glitter /and all the customs that come with Christmas.
And it’s too easy for us to forget that Christmas is, before everything else, a birthday.
But the animals, who watched over Him as He lay as a newborn babe, two millenia ago... the animals have not forgotten.
And so they kneel every Christmas and give glory to the newborn king, and in awe that God would send His Son to live among us in the greatest act of love.
And to teach us many things, but especially to “love one another”. And to bridge the gap between man and God.
The birth of Jesus Christ: the greatest Christmas present there will ever be. His birth, which would give mankind the greatest present it could ever ask for.
Who in the world on that night could know the price that this present would someday have?
Heaven and Earth sang praises to His glory on that night. The animals have always remembered that night. And Heaven and Earth still praise and sing unto Him.
And if you only take a little time out from how busy things become at this part of the year, you can hear the singing, too. And it is a great temptation to join in that chorus.
And perhaps in hearing, we will not forget the real meaning of Christmas, either.
This Christmas Eve night I plan to be outside, with the same telescope that I got for Christmas all those years ago, and trying to envision a bright star over Bethlehem. Around midnight, I’m going to take a walk over to my aunt’s farm.
Merry Christmas. Peace on Earth, and goodwill toward men.
Arf arf arf,
Ahh... you know how it goes.
Dedicated to the memory of W.C. “Mutt” Burton, for whom Christmas was always “In My Bones.”
Yeah yeah, I've heard it too. "Thundersmurfs" and "Dances with Smurfs" etc. During the climactic battle scene I turned to my friend/fellow blogger Steven Glaspie and cracked that "Rambo Smurf is destroying the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier!"
Yeah, it borrows heavily from Dances With Wolves and Last of the Mohicans and even Forrest Gump among many others. Yeah, Avatar employs every American Indian cinematic trope without once being a movie about American Indians (but for good measure it has Wes Studi as the Na'vi chief). Yeah, it could be said that Cameron is ripping off John Carter of Mars and Dune and a bunch of other classic sci-fi.
Well, once upon a time a filmmaker named George Lucas drew inspiration from The Hidden Fortress and old Flash Gordon serials and dozens of other previous material to make a little arthouse film then simply dubbed Star Wars. Nobody seems to complain about that though, aye?
The biggest complaint I'm hearing about Avatar is that it's too "political". That it's really a film about the "white man's guilt" over treatment of Native Americans. Is Avatar's story analogous to things like the Trail of Tears? Sure is. But that's not the purpose or moral of Avatar, and I really believe that without looking at this movie through the fake paradigm of conservative/liberal that there's plenty of good to chew on and debate for years to come. To me personally, Avatar has a strong Christian message to it: that one must admit that one does not "have all the answers". That one must "die unto self" before understanding and wisdom of the truth of things can possibly come. Sully (played by Sam Worthington) tells Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) that his "cup is empty" at one point. That is the real beginning of his understanding. To not have faith in his own self but to have faith in something larger than he is. I can totally dig that.
Is there an "anti-Iraq"/"anti-Bush" vibe in Avatar? Hell yes there is. But knowing now what we know do, should that even be a problem? RDA, the fictional megacorporation in Avatar that's exploiting the mineral wealth of Pandora, is a thinly-veiled take on Halliburton. The marines stationed there? Like Sully notes early in the movie, they're not really soldiers: they're mercenaries (heavy tones of Blackwater USA, which I've never liked at all). Colonel Miles Quaritch (brilliantly played by Stephen Lang) is classic vintage Cameron bad-a$$, but he's also George W. Bush... if George W. Bush had ever been man enough to step into his own warzone and get down and dirty, that is. I would love to see the Avatar treatment that Cameron wrote before 9/11 and the Iraq War (one extended scene in the movie will certainly bring back memories of the attack on the World Trade Center) and compare that to what he was finally able to bring us in 2009, just to see how real life impacted the evolution of this story. If the differences are only marginal well... that would make for a very interesting study indeed.
I have barely touched on the effects work in Avatar. Had I written this review immediately after seeing it the first time, that's what I would be gushing about. But instead I've talked about the story. Which to me means that James Cameron has succeeded with Avatar. Yah it's an overwhelming shock to see things like floating mountains and the Pandoran megafauna (and in the most convincing 3-D I've ever beheld). That's not what Avatar is about. Cameron and his crew created the most vibrant and living alien world ever depicted in fiction, but this isn't a movie concerned with eye candy. Those unprecedented visual effects have purpose: to draw us in and convince us that Pandora and its life is real... or at least as real as it could possibly be for two hours and change.
I don't know quite what else to say about Avatar. I'm still so blown away by this movie, and there are so many reviews of it already, that I wasn't sure what I could even say. But I had much the same experience after seeing The Dark Knight and it kept me from writing a review of that movie, and I'd come to regret it. I didn't want to make the same mistake with Avatar.
This is not a movie that you go see. This is a movie that you experience. Go and experience Avatar while it's in theaters. Experience it multiple times if you can.
And go in leaving your preconceptions and prejudices at the door. You owe it to yourself to see Pandora for its own sake, not how others tell you to see it.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
As for what I thought of Avatar...
...I can't remember the last movie that left me feeling so many shades of conflicted.
I'm going to see it again tomorrow night with friend and fellow blogger Steven Glaspie. Between now and then I'm thinking enough of it will "sink in" and maybe I can absorb the story as much as I've already beheld the astonishing visual effects (easily the best I have ever seen in a film). I'll attempt a real review afterward.
But for now: yeah, it's good. It's very good. But not without some issues.
Well, there were two e-mails from YouTube in the e-mail account I use for KWerky Productions. And both of them said that the clip I had posted two years ago of E!'s The Soup had been yanked for "copyright infringement".
It's an exact repeat of the situation with Viacom in the summer of 2007.
You know, the first time this happened, I had to laugh. Couldn't help but giggle at the absurdity of it all. I mean, that was about, what... one minute of a television program and most of it consisting of MATERIAL THAT I HAD CREATED FOR MY SCHOOL BOARD CAMPAIGN!!
It was no different than quoting from a news article. But Viacom jumped flunky about it and had that pulled. I fought, it got reinstated (with more than a little help from the Electronic Frontier Foundation) and I thought that whole thing ended amiably enough.
This time however, I'm more than a little pissed-off.
But this is what it's like under the conditions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, dear readers. As things with the law stand now, ANYONE can have ANY material removed from YouTube or any other hosting service, for the most dubious of reasons... and without YouTube even being obligated to check the veracity of such a claim.
One of these days a political candidate who's campaign has been posting clips on YouTube like crazy is going to find all of his or her videos deleted by order of their opponent. And YouTube will be unable to stop it. The videos can be reinstated 'course, but that first video took me two weeks (and a lot of publicity) to be restored. And that's an eternity in politics, and many other things.
So guess I have no choice. Gonna have to fight all over again. But this time I'm gonna do my damndest to make something out of this that Lord willing will make it a lot harder for this crap to happen to anyone again.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
As cool as that looks, I can't help but think that a bike-mounted minigun like the one at the end of the Machete faux trailer would be much more useful/intimidating.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
My cousin Lauryn got her college sheepskin today! Always cause for celebration when one of our clan gets a higher education :-)
(That, and because the last time I posted her photo and said that all the women in my family are this beautiful, I literally got over a dozen e-mails asking if Lauryn was taken and if not "where does she live please!?" So I'm curious as to what will happen when I post her photo again and say that she's not currently! But I'm also screening inquiries with common sense and if that fails, a sawed-off shotgun.)
Seriously though: congratulations Lauryn :-)
Cracked.com has documented seven historical figures who were absurdly hard to kill. If you don't mind a bit of profanity lacing the chronicles, it's quite a good read.
(Thanks again to Shane Thacker for a great find!)
Meanwhile the computer models are still calling for more snow come later this coming week. Like, around December 24th or so.
If that happens, it'll be the third White Christmas of my life. The last one was 1999 (and the one before that was 1998).
Friday, December 18, 2009
Officials say that the loophole in the law keeps them from pursuing charges.
God help us.
Read the story here at WSLS if you have the heart for it.
Here's a hearty morsel of Rev. Baldwin's fine essay...
You see, the wizards in Washington and on Wall Street have us figured out. Along with their compatriots in the propaganda press corps, they know that no matter how loudly we scream, how much we protest, or how angry we become, the system is rigged to protect them. The best we the people can seem to come up with is "throwing the bums out" every two or four years. BUT NOTHING CHANGES--at least, not in terms of restoring the fundamental principles of freedom and constitutional government.If anyone cares to know why I've never jumped on the Sarah Palin bandwagon (or why to this date I've yet to listen to a minute of Glenn Beck on the radio and I don't even know what the hell his voice sounds like anyway) well, Baldwin articulates much of my own personal sentiment here.
Throw out George H.W. Bush in 1992, and nothing changes. Throw the Democrats out of Congress in 1994, and nothing changes. Throw Bill Clinton's party out of the White House in 2000, and nothing changes. Throw out G.W. Bush's Republicans in 2008, and nothing changes. The only thing that happens with a changing of the guard is an escalation in the pace of whatever version of socialism--or Big Government program--is currently in vogue. With Bush it meant expanding the Warfare State. With Obama it means expanding the Welfare State. But both do everything they can to expand Big Government.
When will we awaken to the reality that Washington, D.C., has had the American people chasing their tails for decades? People, wake up! As long as we continue to focus our attention and energy on Washington, D.C., we will only continue to supply more rope to those who wish to hang us.
Washington, D.C., is too far gone to salvage. Admit it! Washington is a cesspool, a landfill, and a putrid pond of corruption and duplicity. Neither the Republican nor Democratic Party will ever allow a principled constitutionalist to become its Presidential nominee. No matter whom we elect as President, the beat toward Big-Government socialism and one-world internationalism will go on without interruption. Big Government scalawags own the entire federal system, including Big Media, Big Business, Big Labor, Big Religion, and Big Special Interest Groups. They are all feeding at the government teat.
Therefore, it is absolutely obligatory that freedom-minded Americans refocus their attention to electing State legislators, governors, judges and sheriffs who will fearlessly defend their God-given liberties. And, as plainly and emphatically as I know how to say it, I am telling you: ONLY THE STATES CAN DEFEND OUR LIBERTY NOW! And awakening to this reality means we will have to completely readjust our thinking and priorities.
It means awakening to the fact that Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly (and the rest of Big Media's talking heads) are, for the most part, irrelevant to providing real solutions to the continuing loss of liberty. And, in truth, they are, more often than not, part of the problem, because they continue to focus our attention on Washington, D.C., and off the source of genuine solution, which lies with the states drawing a constitutional line in the sand for freedom. Good grief! Beck and O'Reilly have recently even advocated for higher federal taxes! Yeah! That's a real solution: more power and money to Washington, D.C. Ughhh!
Instead of getting all worked up about what Glenn Beck says or what Sarah Palin says or what CFR member and Big Government neocon Newt Gingrich says, start paying attention to what your State legislators and candidates are saying.
And if you are interested in this kind of... stuff... click here to follow the Twitter feed straight from the newlyweds' bed.
But not long after that O'Bannon turned in a screenplay for a Ridley Scott-directed project called Alien. That would have been more than enough to have Dan O'Bannon's name emblazoned forevermor into movie legend.
He didn't stop there. Some years later O'Bannon wrote the script for Total Recall: another masterpiece of science fiction. Word is he was still working on a number of other screenplays.
And now the sad news has come out of Los Angeles that Dan O'Bannon has passed away at the age of 63.
Thoughts and prayers going out to his family this morning.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
And we stand a good chance of snow on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as well.
The bad news is that it puts a crimp in plans to see Avatar tomorrow. But if worse comes to worst I suppose I can always download it :-P
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
The scientists have discovered more than 30,000 transcription errors in genetic replication that give rise to melanoma (and almost all of these are triggered from too much sunlight).
And if you're a smoker, think about this the next time you light up: you typically acquire one fresh new mutation for every 15 cigarettes that you smoke. Not all of these are malign, but there are more than 23,000 genetic errors and some of them will lead to lung cancer.
That's about, what... 1.25 mutations per pack of cigarettes, on the conservative side of the figures?
Yul Brynner was smoking five packs a day. This is what he had to say about it, in a 1985 television spot intentionally airing after he died...
The International Cancer Genome Consortium researchers are hailing their findings as a tremendous breakthrough in the fight against cancer. That it certainly is.
But folks, let's not pin too much hope on research. Take care of yourself so that you don't have to likely appreciate the fruits of future medicine.
But I am getting pretty darned close to sold on Clash of the Titans, if this new trailer is indication of what we'll see in theaters on March 26th a few months from now...
Mash down here for the Clash of the Titans trailer in full beautiful Quicktime!
(Go for the Quicktime, it's better.)
Gotta wonder if Steve Jobs is looking at this and secretly wanting to make such an entrance at an Apple event :-P
Iron Man 2 comes out on May 7th, 2010.
Maybe we should name it "Saunaworld"? :-P
Few will argue that Disney as an entertainment brand would not be anything like the powerhouse it is today were it not for Roy Disney fighting behind the scenes: both to foster creative drive and in the corporate boardroom. His history with Michael Eisner - the man who Roy Disney first brought in as chief executive officer before being ousted in a stockholder coup led by Disney - is the stuff of business legend.
I don't know if there's any comfort in saying this, but I'm glad that Roy Disney lived long enough to see his uncle's company return to traditional animation before he passed. I haven't seen The Princess and the Frog yet but that Disney's 2-D department has been revitalized is a huge victory for Roy Disney.
Thoughts and prayers going out to his family. And Los Angeles Times has a fascinating article about his career.
Look people: Those things are DANGEROUS!! They cause more human deaths on the African continent than any other animal.
And they cost a fortune to feed, too..
The Germans called it "Operation: Watch on the Rhine". Among the Allies it was officially referred to as the "Ardennes-Alsace Campaign". For General Anthony McAuliffe of the 101st Airborne it was simply "Nuts!"
But you and I know it better as the Battle of the Bulge.
It was perhaps the hardest-fought battle of the European theater. It would have been that even without the snow and ice and freezing temperatures that the Allies (mostly American but several British as well) were forced to endure.
But in the end, more than a month later, the Nazis were in retreat. The Allies had prevailed... and the western front was poised to arrive right at Berlin's front door.
For those who fought - and especially for those who fought and never came back - from this most pivotal moment of World War II, this blogger tips his hat in gratitude.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Markus Haering appeared in court in Basel, Switzerland today. The charge leveled against him: that his company's activities caused earthquakes, one of which measured 3.4 Richter magnitude. Haering's firm is researching geothermal-generated electricity. Well, according to court documents his company's deep-drilling in 2006 triggered the quakes. There were no injuries but $9 million in damages were reported. If the judge finds him guilty of intentionally damaging property, Haering faces five years jail for making the earthquakes happen...
...which is gonna be a heckuva retort when he gets asked "So what are you in for buddy?"
(Seriously though, sounds like it's gonna be an easy charge to beat. Lex Luthor might have been put behind bars for doing something like this but not Markus Haering. Dude doesn't even have a nuclear weapon, fer pete's sake...)
Monday, December 14, 2009
As Scott puts it...
If we needed any confirmation that LucasArts was undoubtedly out of touch with their fanbase, the announcement of the newest LucasArts game, creatively titled “The Force Unleashed II”, has unfortunately given us the signal.I have to agree with Scott. Star Wars should be one of the most dynamic and exciting franchises in history, but LucasArts has been loathe to take risks with it and as a result Star Wars video gaming has become... dare I say it?... exceedingly stagnant. That's what happens when you keep "playing it safe" with your most prized vehicle. George Lucas and his companies should be letting it tear up the highway, not making it sit in a garage out of fear of a few dings and scratches. Because in the end it's the little quirks like that which add character to a franchise. Paramount finally understood that when it let J.J. Abrams direct Star Trek and there's no reason why it can't work for LucasArts too.
I could talk about how making a sequel to “The Force Unleashed” doesn’t make sense, in a narrative sense, since (SPOILER AHEAD) Galen Marek dies at the end. I could discuss how this violates the whole “no body/no death” trope. I could bring up the fact that most fans complimented the game not on the gameplay, but on the actual story told.
But I won’t. Looking across the internet, you can find people discussing just that.
Now is the time to come to terms with LucasArts’ cowardice in making new, creative Star Wars games. Yes, you read it right: cowardice. With this cowardice, you’ll only see fans getting tired of the same old games that you’ll come to expect from LucasArts.
Scott suggests new installments of the X-Wing and TIE Fighter series. I would love to see that. But I think LucasArts should stop being afraid to plow some new ground too. We've just had Death Troopers, the first Star Wars horror novel: something like that would make for a hella game in the mold of BioShock or Alien vs. Predator. There may not be any more Star Wars movies forthcoming, but video gaming can certainly keep Star Wars fresh and vibrant by going into sub-genres that have never been considered.
Gosh I'm loving these new Muppets shorts! I've probably watched the "Bohemian Rhapsody" video about a hunnerd times so far (along with a few million other people :-)
(And thanks to Shane Thacker for the great find!)
It was on December 14th, 1979 - thirty years ago today - that the mostest highest-decibel movie ever directed by Steven Spielberg was released.
I am, of course, referring to 1941.
With a crazy eclectic cast featuring John Belushi, Christopher Lee, Slim Pickens, John Candy and Dan Ackroyd among many others and backed up by a rousing score by John Williams, 1941 pokes fun at the very real paranoia that beset the West Coast in the days and weeks following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. At the time 1941 confused and bewildered critics (who weren't sure if it was supposed to have been a drama or a comedy) but three decades later, it is now considered a cult classic. 1941 is a screaming movie. The filming was so loud that Spielberg had to fire a prop machine gun into the air rather than yelling "cut" because otherwise the actors couldn't hear him.
A rather peculiar movie that has only gotten better with age, 1941 is great for an evening's worth of laughs. Check it out if you haven't already... and make sure the volume of your home entertainment system is cranked way up!
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Here they are!
The "Jingle Bells" cover is attributed most to Pearl (center of top row) although Caesar, King, Dolly and Pussy also turned in solid renditions of "Pat-A-Cake", "O Susanna" and "Three Blind Mice".
Want to know the real history of "Dogs Singing 'Jingle Bells'"? Click here for the story of the Caroling Dogs of Copenhagen.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
I was at HyperMind in Burlington a few nights ago, my now-familiar haunt on many Thursday evenings (and a few other times during the week) and I got my butt handed to me twice during a coupl'a rousing games of Monsterpocalypse and... ahhh THAT'S BESIDE THE POINT!! :-P
Anyway, this very fine friendly local game store that I have written about much in the past year is doing some groovy charity events this month for the Marine Corps Toys for Tots and Loaves & Fishes Christian Food Ministry! This weekend there's a YuGiOh Tournament and next weekend it's a Magic: The Gathering tourney. The buy-in is to bring items of non-perishable food and while you're there you can donate to the Toys for Tots box.
HyperMind is at 3396 S. Church Street in Burlington, North Carolina. Their phone number is 336-584-1760 and you can find plenty more information on the store's website at hypermindonline.com. Bring some food and toys and yer playin' cards and get ready to have fun for a good cause!
Friday, December 11, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Early yesterday morning the above... whatever... appeared in the sky over Norway (Click here for plenty more photos). It's been captured on video and still photography all over that country. Speculation has run the gamut from an off-kilter display of the Northern Lights, to little green men. Bad Astronomy might be onto the real culprit: a Russian rocket that was test-launched Wednesday and went awry, spewing its fuel into the atmosphere. A more mundane explanation, but still makes for a pretty awe-inspiring show.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
It could prolly also be said that Darth Bane is the galactic poster child for anyone who ever chose to read a book instead of going outside and playing football with the rest of the kids. 'Course, Bane still worked out like crazy later on so that he'd have the physique and prowess to match, but anyhoo...
Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil by Drew Karpyshyn came out yesterday. This newest Star Wars novel is the final chapter of an impromptu trilogy that began three years ago with Darth Bane: Path of Destruction. The unexpected success of that novel led to Karpyshyn getting tapped to write Darth Bane: Rule of Two, released a year later.
It's good to keep these things in mind while talking about Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil because for a trilogy of books that may not have even been planned to begin with, this wound up being one of the most satisfying and thrilling arcs of storytelling that I've ever read from that great saga of a galaxy far, far away. And I'll reiterate something that I suggested in my review of Darth Bane: Path of Destruction three years ago: that the story of Darth Bane is one that I would absolutely love to see realized in a visual medium someday (and I'm still hearing Clancy Brown's voice coming out of Bane's mouth). For someone who started out as pretty much nothing more than a throwaway reference in the background story of the Star Wars saga, Darth Bane has certainly become one of the most intriguing and popular characters from the mythology.
If this was all planned out, Drew Karpyshyn deserves to be recognized as among the top tier of Star Wars authors today. If it wasn't, then all the more reason why Karpyshyn should be so ensconced. His Darth Bane trilogy should be required study for any future author that might have the chance to write Star Wars.
Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil begins ten years after the events of Darth Bane: Rule of Two. Darth Bane and his apprentice Darth Zannah are still continuing the Sith order through the Rule of Two instituted by Bane: that there must always be only two Sith at a time. Master and apprentice. One to have the power and the other to covet it. Bane has been training Zannah since the day he found her on the battlefield of Ruusan.
And Bane has been doing so knowing fully well... accepting it as inevitable even... that the day must come when Zannah must face him and destroy him. Such is the only way that Zannah can earn the title of Sith Master. But as the years slip by, Zannah has not taken the step of challenging her master. And Bane is beginning to feel the ravages of time and age. That he is still recovering from the orbalisks that once covered his body isn't helping him either...
Fearing that Zannah might not be strong enough to carry on the Sith lineage and knowing that he won't live long enough to adequately train another apprentice, Darth Bane begins seeking out hidden and forgotten Sith lore. His search brings him to the story of Darth Andeddu: an ancient Sith who legends speak of discovering the means of immortality. Bane begins seeking out Andeddu's lair, believing that if he can find the means of staving off death for long enough, he can do away with Zannah and replace her with a more fitting apprentice.
Meanwhile, a labor dispute on the world of Doan has spiraled into something darker when a Jedi sent to mediate between miners and the ruling families ends in the death of the envoy. Serra, the newly-widowed wife of the king's son, leaves for Coruscant on a diplomatic mission of reconciliation with the Jedi Order. It is at the Jedi Temple that Serra discovers a very terrible thing: that for all the boasting of the Jedi, the Sith are not extinct. There is still one out there: the Sith Lord that killed Serra's father many years earlier.
Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil is a little less than 300 pages in length. The second half flies past with the blur of a lightsaber, and Karpyshyn deftly ties up all of the loose ends that we had known were there, as well as tidying up things that we perhaps didn't realize were still there to begin with. In short: it felt every bit like a classic Star Wars tale.
And when Darth Bane and Darth Zannah meet for their final confrontation, Karpyshyn does not disappoint. We've known for the longest time how the Sith of the Rule of Two (the same Sith order that will a thousand years later produce Darth Sidious and Darth Vader) propagates: with the master intentionally training the apprentice to one day rise up to destroy him. This is the first time that we get to see how that happens. I think that Karpyshyn might have inadvertently created a whole new sub-genre of Star Wars storytelling with how masterfully he pulled off his Darth Bane trilogy and its final installment. We've got Jedi stories up to our armpits. With the arrival of Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil, the Sith have satisfied us yet fittingly tantalize us with the promise of more.
If you've read the first two Darth Bane novels, then plunking down coin for Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil is a foregone conclusion. If you haven't already, then start with Darth Bane: Path of Destruction and prepare for a Dark Side treat from the days of the Old Republic. This is Star Wars tale-tellin' at its finest, and I hope that Lucasfilm will give Drew Karpyshyn plenty more opportunity to play with the saga in years to come!
Well, the TSA has somehow goofed and posted its "top secret" manual for screening airline passengers online. And the TSA apparently believed that covering sensitive up with black rectangles in an Adobe Acrobat file would be enough to hide confidential information... without realizing how easy it is to just remove the layers with the rectangles!
Want to read it for yourself? Here's the zipped-up archive containing the TSA screening manual!
Between this and the leaked e-mails from University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit, it is a great time to be a believer in limited government :-)
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
"The hard part is how to make it into something that doesn't feel like a world torn asunder and people just in battle," he described. "I think we really want to focus on the idea of a world that's running well, and then it's Emergence Day and kind of make it impactful and immediate and the survival of those 48 hours as people survive Emergence Day. It's more like Cloverfield or something like that."Not just a "let's make a movie of an insanely popular video game 'cuz we can dammit!" then, but apparently this is going to be a thoughtful and well-considered chapter of the Gears of War canon as much as any of the games or books. Hey, with two-some hours of running time, we're potentially looking at the tail end of the Pendulum Wars, a really good look at Sera (maybe even how the humans came to be there in the first place) and then the horror of Emergence Day and its aftermath.
Sounds like full of win to me. Maybe Gears of War will be the movie that finally bucks the trend of video games-to-lackluster movies.
Here it is, featuring Willie Nelson's rendition of "Amazing Grace"...
The final season of Lost begins on February 2nd, 2010.
Monday, December 07, 2009
Yeah you read that right: the Pentagon is working on zombie pigs now.
Before you reach for the nearest shotgun or chainsaw though, you should know that there's some practical applications being sought from this. The problem is severe injuries of military personnel in combat situations: massive blood loss from wounds that without immediate (and often nearly impossible) treatment leads to death or debilitating lifelong trauma that may stand a chance of being averted. So the eggheads at DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) are experimenting to see if a state of hibernation can be achieved in pigs, similar to squirrels and other mammals. If it can be made to work in pigs, humans could be the next step. Artificially slowing down brain and heart functions long enough to get an injured soldier to proper treatment could save many more lives from the battlefield.
'Course, another idea to drastically lower the number of combat deaths and injuries is to stop waging wars with no damn purpose or definite goal! But, that's just me...
This next item though is sufficiently wacky enough that it screams to be talked about.
Some people have been writing to let me know that Johnny Robertson and all of his followers (those being James Oldfield, Micah Robertson "The Lesser" and Mark McMinnis) have been conspicuously absent from the airwaves of local television station WGSR in recent weeks. Instead What Does the Bible Say? and A Word from the Lord (AKA "The Martinsville Taliban Show" and "A Word from James Oldfield") have been in reruns, one of which was Oldfield's two-hour spiel about why it's a sin to place money in the Salvation Army kettles. That particular screed prompted one person known to this writer to make a fifty dollar contribution to the Salvation Army on behalf of James Oldfield, but I digress...
So, wanna know where Johnny Robertson and his crew are?
Siddown. Y'all ain't gonna buh-leeeeve this one.
Robertson and his cronies are currently on a madcap dash around the country visiting the few other gatherings of their "Church of Christ" cult (which again, has nothing at all to do with the mainstream Churches of Christ) in a bid to raise money for more airtime on WGSR.
But wait: it gets better...
Currently, the "Church of Christ" cult broadcasts for four and a half hours each week on WGSR out of Martinsville, Virginia and Reidsville, North Carolina.
Johnny Robertson has decided that this isn't enough "information" (which approximately consists of 50% bragging about himself, 40% harassing other people and churches and 10% sloppy PowerPoint presentations and 0% about Jesus Christ).
So now he is attempting to raise funds to purchase TWENTY-FOUR HOURS OF AIRTIME PER WEEK!
That is about 3 and a half hours per day that Robertson and his co-villains will be attempting to fill with god-knows-what (not God that is, but the god of this world that Robertson and his cronies serve and commit evil for).
Wouldn't surprise me if Robertson ordered what few followers he still has to ramp up their attacks and intimidation tactics of innocent people and church congregations around here. Maybe even going as far as harassing Greensboro, Burlington and Winston-Salem since Robertson is apparently goading WGSR general manager/personal stooge Charles Roark toward expanding into those markets...
...But that also means that this blog will be expecting a lot more traffic in the near future as people start Goggle-ing about Johnny Robertson, "Martinsville Church of Christ" and the like as more begin to discover the brazenly unethical behavior coming out of WGSR and its current management.
Twenty-four hours per week? I don't know of any politician who's that conceited...
But what of the fifth Japanese mini-sub?
There's been evidence for decades - particularly an intercepted radio transmission from the day after the ambush reporting on the success of the mini-sub - but no hard proof of the role it might have played. Historians have debated it for years.
But today history has one less mystery. The scuttled remains of the fifth Japanese mini-sub have been found three miles south of Pearl Harbor, its 800-pound torpedoes emptied and likely fired at the battleships West Virginia and Oklahoma and perhaps causing enough damage for the latter to capsize in in one of the most iconic destructive acts of the raid.
Amazing, isn't it? That even today, there are still things we don't know about World War II that every so often finally come to light.
Even as we remember those who fought and served and even perished in this most terrible of conflicts, let us pray that there may never again be such an occasion for enigma.
Sunday, December 06, 2009
So Eric, this one's going out to you especially :-)
This is one of the few appearances of Bert's adorable baby nephew Brad, who is staying with his uncle and about to get a bath. Of course, Ernie has to show up and... well, be Ernie.
The results? Hilarity!
This was my third productions with Theatre Guild of Rockingham County and I can see how it's true, that each show has its own vibe, dynamic, spirit, whatever that the cast and crew imbue it with. This one... was certainly unique in that right, but there was also something else at work that I'm at a loss to find words for. Our final show this afternoon once again played to a sold-out house and no doubt as with the rest, there were more than a few people in the audience that were brought to tears as much as they were laughing out loud.
Darn. I'm gonna miss doing this. Yeah, even the fireman's gear and heavy oxygen pack that I wore while running up the aisle and onto the stage :-)
But this might not be quite as final as we are usually conditioned to believe. There are whispers... whispers mind ya... that The Best Christmas Pageant Ever could be in production again and sooner rather than later. If that happens, I would gladly don the firefighter getup again... if only just to once again bellow out "HEEEELLLPPP!!!" at the top of my lungs :-)
To everyone who came and enjoyed our show: Thank you for your patronage! We are glad you got to see it :-)
And to everyone that I have worked with during the past seven weeks: I thank God for the opportunity to have collaborated with good friends once again, and to have met and made many new friendships along the way as well. Looking forward to doing another show with y'all ;-)
And now we do it for the final time of this production his afternoon at 2:30. Theatre Guild of Rockingham County's website has all the info you need about the show. Hope to see you there :-)
Saturday, December 05, 2009
The show was great! The kids in the cast are especially doing a phenomenal job. The one thing close to an Opening Night calamity though happened to Yours Truly, when I was leaving the stage after the fire scene and tripped on the risers in the dark... while wearing all that firefighter outfit and oxygen pack, mind ya. I didn't "fall off stage". I actually "fell onto off-stage", LOL!
The upshot is that I have a slightly sprained ankle. And I've still gotta run up that aisle with the heaviest costume in the show three more times. There is no understudy in community theater. But hey: The pain is temporary, the play is forever! :-)
Next show is this afternoon at 2:30 and then again tonight at 7:30 p.m., with one more tomorrow at 2:30. Performances are at Rockingham Community College Advanced Technologies Building Auditorium. Visit the Theatre Guild's website for ticket pre-ordering and other information.
Friday, December 04, 2009
Click here for many inevitable jokes on Slashdot about this hard-earned... victory?
Thursday, December 03, 2009
A lot of people in the cast and crew have mentioned that in the past few days, that I might have lost weight. So after getting home I got on the scales.
Since dress rehearsals began Monday night, I've lost fifteen pounds. All from wearing the full firefighter gear and carrying the oxygen pack around.
Wondering how much of that might be water, 'cuz inside that thing, under the lights, you can't help but sweat like a pig. I've said it before but it merits saying again: I now have a whole new appreciation for firefighters, after experiencing just this very small bit of activity they go through regularly.
Four more shows to go before the end of the weekend! And call me crazy but... I'm beginning to think about going into firefighting now. Hey, who says I couldn't ride a ladder and do filmmaking on the side too? :-)
Cast and crew was in the auditorium at 7:30 this morning. The first show was at 9 playing to a packed house of elementary students. Then we did it again at 10:30. And again at noon!
Looks like we've got a hit on our hands: the kids loved the show! Many of them said they'd be coming back and bringing their parents (which is always good :-)
So we've got three shows down, five more to go. The next one is a closed performance tonight and then it opens to the public tomorrow evening at 7:30. Visit the website for Theatre Guild of Rockingham County for ticket information and directions to Rockingham Community College.
And now... I'm going to take a nap before showtime! :-P
Up early, prepping for four performances of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever today (three this morning and afternoon for the county's elementary students, and a closed performance tonight). Then four more across the weekend.
And there's a chance of wintery weather for Saturday. As if the kids in the cast weren't excited enough already... :-P
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Anyhoo, during our dress rehearsal last night we often found ways of entertaining ourselves until our cues (we know when we're about to go onstage because of the baby monitor that's broadcasting live from the auditorium: can you tell now that we really are community theater? :-). Here's Eric Smith (who plays Reverend Hopkins) strumming a tune on his new banjomer (a combination of banjo and dulcimer)...
By the way, word on the street is that Eric has been wrecking all kinds of good-hearted mischief running around town in his reverend getup :-P
During our first dress rehearsal on Monday I found that my firefighter pants have a tendency to drop. Not so much that it would be a hazard or, ahem, expose me (even though I'm wearing bluejeans underneath) but I was wanting a bit of extra piece of mind. I asked Dad if he had any suspenders that I could use with my costume.
So he found a set...
And if you click on that photo to embiggen it, you can make out the Miller Beer logo printed all up and down the front of them bracers! Yah I know: not completely the most appropriate attire for a play with a large cast of children, but nobody is going to see the suspenders under my firefighter jacket. And besides: every fireman needs red suspenders for his outfit! :-)
Here's a better pic of me in full costume, including the real oxygen pack...
Opening Night for Theatre Guild of Rockingham County's production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is this Friday at 7:30 p.m. Click on the Theatre Guild website for more information and ticket pre-ordering. Hope to see y'all there!
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
...and I hope I can keep up the pace 'cuz I'm wearing what many are saying is the heaviest costume in Theatre Guild history! Yesterday evening I wore the full firefighter getup again, plus a real oxygen pack on my back. That's something like one hundred pounds of costume that I've got to put on and charge up onto the stage in. But the story and the message of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is so touching (not to mention entertaining) and this is such an amazing bunch of people that I'm getting to work with, that I'd gladly do this five times a day between now and Christmas :-)
Anyhoo, since we're getting so close to the show, how 'bout some photos to whet yer appetite for Christmastime community theater?
And now Disney is getting ready to "reinvent" The Black Hole. Aim here for the details from TheHollywoodReporter.com.
The Black Hole was Disney's first foray into "serious" storytelling beyond the G rating (meriting a PG instead). If the same film had been made today it might have well been a PG-13. The Black Hole was also Disney's first movie that literally sent small kids seeking therapy. Those cute lil' robots voiced by Roddy McDowell and Slim Pickens? Yeah, just let them weave their seductive Artoo-ish spell, while red robot Maximilian (another favorite design) looms silently over them. And then the themes of slavery and obsession that build up to that horrifying crescendo, before the trips to Heaven and Hell...
What in the world was Disney thinking?
Here's the ending sequence from The Black Hole. If you've never seen this before it will probably shock you that Disney in 1979 produced this movie, much less envisioned it to begin with...
Listening to rap and reggae on a borrowed iPod every day has helped Everett Dixon, a 28-year-old stroke victim at Beth Abraham Health Services in Bronx, N.Y., learn to walk and use his hands again.The Wall Street Journal has plenty more about this fascinating new use for personal media devices.
Trevor Gibbons, 52, who fell out of a fourth-floor construction site and suffered a crushed larynx, has become so entranced with music that he's written 400 songs and cut four CDs.
Ann Povodator, an 85-year-old Alzheimer's patient in Boynton Beach, Fla., listens to her beloved opera and Yiddish songs every day on an iPod with her home health aide or her daughter when she comes to visit. "We listen for at least a half-hour, and we talk afterwards," says her daughter, Marilyn Povodator. "It seems to touch something deep within her."
Caregivers have observed for decades that Alzheimer's patients can still remember and sing songs long after they've stopped recognizing names and faces. Many hospitals and nursing homes use music as recreation, since it brings patients pleasure. But beyond the entertainment value, there's growing evidence that listening to music can also help stimulate seemingly lost memories and even help restore some cognitive function.
"What I believe is happening is that by engaging very basic mechanisms of emotions and listening, music is stimulating dormant areas of the brain that haven't been accessible due to degenerative disease," says Concetta Tomaino, executive director of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function, a nonprofit organization founded at Beth Abraham in 1995.
Dr. Tomaino, who has studied the therapeutic effects of music for more than 30 years, is spearheading a new program to provide iPods loaded with customized playlists to help spread the benefits of music therapy to Alzheimer's patients even at home. "If someone loved opera or classical or jazz or religious music, or if they sang and danced when the family got together, we can recreate that music and help them relive those experiences," she says.
What the hell is Games Workshop thinking?
Ya know, I'm no stranger to the crazy world of alleged "copyright infringement". And even though my situation was in the purview of the American legal system and Games Workshop is a company based in the United Kingdom, some things are common sense no matter where the jurisdiction is. I didn't mind it that my TV commercial was picked up and broadcast without my permission: I was too honored that so many (like E!'s The Soup and Jay Leno) found it interesting, thought-provoking and funny enough to share with others than to get angry at them for it.
So it should be with Games Workshop. Especially in these days of downturned global economy. Fans of Warhammer 40,000 and other Games Workshop products are doing the company a huge favor by demonstrating their love and loyalty to the game and its fictional universe. It's free advertising that Games Workshop doesn't have to spend a single pound or dollar on. The company had already come to rely on word of mouth to maintain and generate interest in Warhammer 40,000. Well, that's all it is that these fans are doing. There is no intent to violate intellectual property on their part, and every intention to support the game.
But it looks like Games Workshop has no intention of likewise supporting the players, and is even choosing to punish them for their enthusiasm.
This will come back to haunt Games Workshop in the end. Maybe not in the short term but in the long range of vision this is going to drive away many of even the most loyal customers that they currently enjoy. What Games Workshop is doing is not good marketing at all. The company needs to reconsider its position and like yesterday, if it wants Warhammer 40,000 to continue with anything like robust growth.
Unfortunately, I have to report that I did not.
It was back in late July that I first mentioned that I was taking part in this year's National Novel Writing Month. About how each participant had to churn out a 175-page novel between November 1st and the night of November 30th. When all was said and done I missed the mark by about 60 pages: not enough to qualify as having been successful.
But that's okay. In spite of a month of unforeseen circumstance I produced a lot of material for my novel. And it will be finished soon.
And then, Lord willing, I will be able to share the tale of W------ F--- with y'all :-)
Iron Man 2 flies onto screens on May 7th, 2010.