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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Iron Man by Cameron Hobbs

Tomorrow (or later tonight depending on how you gauge this sort of thing) is the premiere of Avengers: Age of Ultron in cinema houses across the country.  And just in time for that, Cameron Hobbs has delivered another work of art: this time it's a frontal profile of Iron Man poised for action:

Worthy of hanging in the office of Tony Stark himself!

Find more of Cameron's work at his official Facebook page as well as the original Superhero Art page.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

One hundred years ago today: the Battle of Gallipoli

Yesterday on this blog we remembered the one hundredth anniversary of the start of the Armenian Genocide.  One day after that came another historic event of World War I, also happening to be associated with Turkey.

It was on April 25th, 1915, that Great Britain along with most of her Commonwealth nations (Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland, and India) as well as France launched what is arguably one of the most ambitious operations of twentieth century warfare: the Gallipoli Campaign.

British infantry land on Lemnos during the Battle of Gallipoli
The Gallipoli offensive had as its goal the securing of the Dardanelles between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, which would have given Russia a sea route to its allies.  But the British and French figured that they'd do better than that... by capturing the Ottoman capital of Istanbul.  The amphibious assault landed on two beaches of the Gallipoli Penninsula: Cape Helles and what has become known as Anzac Beach, on April 25th.  Four other landings followed, bringing five divisions onto Turkish soil.

A few days later the real fighting began.

Eight months later the Allied forces were forced to retreat.   They came nowhere close to taking Istanbul.  The Dardanelles were still in Ottoman hands.  And of the more than half a million personnel who had been committed to the battle, almost half were casualties.  Nearly 45,000 never came home.

Even so, the Battle of Gallipoli became, and remains today, a point of pride for the Allied nations who fought in it, especially Australia and New Zealand, for whom today is known as Anzac Day.

And all of this began one hundred years ago today.

Friday, April 24, 2015

What a lousy day to be a Batman fan

First it was the news that Frank Miller is making ANOTHER sequel to his legendary graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns.

And now tonight it's this: the first look at Jared Leto as the Joker in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie:

Disney shareholders, be of good cheer.  Your Marvel Cinematic Universe need not fear any competition from DC.

Romero.  Nicholson.  Hamill.  Ledger.  Leto.  One of these is not like the others.  One of these just doesn't belong...

One and a half million dead: the one hundredth anniversary of the Armenian Genocide

They had been ridiculed and spat upon for hundreds of years.  The ultra-nationalists in power launched dehumanizing propaganda against them.  Their semblance of official protection had been stripped away and made them relegated to a class of life undeserving of life.  Their property was confiscated.  And in the end they were beaten and butchered and starved and raped and shot and crucified and whoever was left were herded onto railroad cars to be sent off to concentration camps stretching from border to border.

And it took place nearly thirty years before the Nazis implement their "final solution".  But it was not a Germany frenzied by the mad ravings of a failed artist, or any other European nation.  It was instead the Ottoman Empire.  The time was World War I.  And the target for extermination was Armenian Christians as well as many other minorities that did not fit the criteria of existence by the Muslim government.

It was one hundred years ago today, on April 24th, 1915, that the Armenian Genocide began, starting with the arrest and eventual murder of nearly three hundred ethnic Armenian leaders and intellectuals.  Very soon after, the government widened its scope to include all of the predominantly Christian minorities: peoples who had enjoyed some measure of toleration since the days of the fall of Constantinople.  But no more.

By the end of the war, one and a half million Christians, Jews, and racial minorities had been killed by the Ottomans.

Armenians being evicted by Ottoman soldiers
Nearly three-quarters of the Armenian people were wiped out.  To this day, the Armenian Christian community is still reeling from what can only be described as the first genocide of the Twentieth Century.  A genocide that  for one reason or another, the rest of the world for the large part seems entirely ignorant of or else consciously denies that it was nothing more than a "mass deportation", if there is any acknowledgement at all.

Naked Christian girls, crucified during the Armenian Genocide
Today, the modern nation of Turkey refuses to address the facts of the genocide.  I can't understand why.  Even Germany acknowledges that it was her own people... if not itself as a modern state... who perpetrated the Holocaust.  In Turkey there is outright disavowal of any responsibility altogether.  It would be wrong to lay the blame on the Turkish government for something that happened under Ottoman rule but even so: this is and will ever remain a very dark spot on Turkish history.  And it's past time that there be some owning-up to that.  By Turkey and by the rest of the world.  Including the United States.

The Armenian Genocide Museum has a vast amount of material about the genocide, including much photo documentation of the atrocities.  It is well worth reading, if for no other reason that because it is a vivid chronicle of the situation and events that led up to the slaughter.

May we learn from it.  May such a thing as this never happen again.

So, Chris Hardwick featured me on Comedy Central last night...

Not for the first time, not for the last, I am smacked with the realization that the rest of my life is going to be dogged by my being the man who ran for school board by blowing up a little red schoolhouse with the Death Star...

Yes, it's true: Chris Hardwick used my school board commercial - the one with the Star Wars theme - on his Comedy Central show @Midnight late last night/the wee hours of this morning.  The clip came during a segment called "Smeared Campaigns" and was one of three political ads taken from YouTube.

I would have missed it had good friend Aaron not spotted it.  I was hopped-up on Dr. Pepper and Swiss cheese, wrestling between sleep and stuff about my book, when I happened to get on Facebook and Aaron was blasting my timeline with the news.  Needless to say, I had to check it out.  And you can too: here's the link that takes you straight to the episode's stream on the Comedy Central site.  It comes on shortly after the first commercial break.  And it's pretty hilarious!  But I'm still shaking my head in disbelief that more than eight and a half years later, this commercial is still getting all that attention.

But hey, how often do I get to see myself and Chris Hardwick in the same picture?  And on Comedy Central?  So I guess I shouldn't complain :-P

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Human embryos, genetically modified for the first time ever

Isn't this how Khan Noonien Singh came about?

"Superior ability breeds superior ambition."

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Photos from my Florida odyssey

I needed this trip, severely.  Looking in the mirror this morning, I barely recognize the guy who set off eleven days ago on what became over a week in Florida.  It's not the face of the Chris who's spent most of the past several months in grief over the passing of a parent, or in frustration of other things that have tested my perseverance.

Sometimes you need to step away from things and give God some elbow room to work His way on your life.  I have been so focused on writing my book and the hard wall of progress I've been hitting since late February, so trapped by the four walls of my living room and too many times bouts of depression, that those had become the only substantial elements of my life.  And that's not right at all.

For sake of myself, the book, everything... I had to get away from all of that.  And I think that the book project is going to be helped immensely by this.  I consider going to Florida to be the first part of a two-course "treatment" for my problems in writing the book.  The second part is going to be soon, when a friend is going to help me go through some material from over the years.

But this journey really was the thing that my life needed most right now.  I'm very thankful that I got to make this trip.  And I've got some photos to prove that I was there!

Very Beach, Florida's ummmm... beach?

Not a beach bum.  Just a bum.  On a beach.

Lauryn and her boyfriend Matt.  Yes, this is THAT Lauryn that I've posted pictures of
on this blog over the years.  The one that a LOT of guys have asked me about if she's single.
Sorry to disappoint y'all :-P

Me and "Uncle Bob".
Okay, he's actually my cousin.  How he came to be "Uncle Bob" is one of those stories
that the family is always going to be laughing about :-)

On the streets of West Palm Beach.
Aunt Billie and Bob.
I used to own a pair of plaid blue shorts exactly like that.
They look better on Bob than on me.
City Place in West Palm Beach.
One of the nicest uses of real estate that I've ever seen by any town.
Hard to believe this beautiful promenade of shops and social areas
used to be brothels and crack houses until the city razed it all down.
Me with the car that I'm going to get when my book
becomes a multi-million copy bestseller (yah right!)
The most criminally CREEPY restroom in the history of anything.
This is at an ice cream shop in City Place in West Palm Beach.
The way it's SUPPOSED to work is that a person goes inside, hits a switch
and the window fogs up and becomes completely opaque.
But as Bob and I discovered when one unfortunate young woman was using
this restroom, that was NOT the case.  We saw everything.  Yes, that's Bob
inside the restroom on the other side of the window.  I'm standing where
a table and some chairs are situated.  Of course we notified the staff
but Lord only knows how long this thing had been broken.  WHY was
such a thing made like that anyway?

My cousin Cheryl and I in front of her brand new car:
the "Starship Indigo".
The Batmobile ain't got nuthin' on the technology this baby has.

My second cousin Angela and one of her two children.
Well, one of her two children at the moment: she and her husband are
expecting another soon!
Angela's other kid.
Doing what all boys should do sooner or later: handle a real live snake.
Of course, I had to get in on some of that action too :-)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Dear people of Jacksonville, Florida...

Driving south down I-95, your stretch of which must be the most treacherous length of interstate in the continental United States.  The GPS blaring red alerts of "stay in the left lane" practically the entire time from the Georgia border until well past town.  Hopped-up on Dr. Pepper and Lindsey Stirling's "Shatter Me" playing over the car stereo.

It was one of the most crazy awesome experiences I've ever had as a driver.  But please... please... do something about that highway.  A lot of the time I could barely tell where one lane ended and the other began.  You guys are one confused motorist away from a collisional calamity of crippling proportions.

Looks like a pretty nice town though.  Maybe next time I'll stop for a bite to eat there.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Well, here it is: the new trailer for STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS!

"Chewie. We're home."

I've watched this at least ten times so far and I still can't believe that I'm looking at something this mind-droolingly epic...

It's happening. Good lord... this is really happening.

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens gets unleashed this Christmas.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Does this drug stop hay fever? You may not want it...

Please note: I am not a physician or a chemist or a pharmacological engineer or anything of that nature.  I'm only your friendly neighborhood blogger who comes across interesting things to share, and more importantly musings and observations from my own peculiar vantage point on the world.  So you know to take what I'm about to say for whatever that's worth.

That said, this is by now something worth putting out there.  Maybe others have had the same thing happen to them.  I'm very eager to find out if that's the case.

Hay fever is the bane of my existence.  Come every spring and the yellow residue of pollen collecting everywhere, those damnable grains infiltrate my nostrils, set off the chemical receptors and flood those inner tissues with histamine.  And so the cascading effect ends with me sneezing my head off, my eyes and forehead scrunched together in writhing unrelenting nuisance bordering on agony, my nasal breathing nigh impossible because of blood vessels so swollen that they cut off the passage of air.  All the while my nose trickles water that I have come to learn is actually plasma from my blood stream, seeping through the walls of my nasal capillaries.

This time of the year is the second worst for my allergies, after ragweed in August.  April, going on into May and early June, I am a ticking time bomb of histamine-laden mast cells set to explode if even a single point of pollen flits by.  A few years ago it was so bad that I had to miss several rehearsals of our community theater guild's production of The King and I.  Hay fever had reduced my vision to bare squints so, that I could barely see the stage, much less blocking with other actors.

To summarize: I am a textbook study in the deleterious effects of hay fever, also known as seasonal allergies.

But here's the thing: this year so far, in the midst of a pollen-heavy season, I haven't had hay fever at all.

Not one sneeze.  Not one runny nose.  No watery eyes.  No symptom of hay fever whatsoever.

And it's been like this for almost a year.  I went through most of last spring without pollen-induced allergies.  All throughout the summer and on into ragweed season and beyond, there was no indication at all that I'm severely susceptible to pollen particles... and seemingly any other airborne pollegen.

It has totally mystified me.  So of course I set about to understand it.

I've gone over everything related to my medical situation, what it's like now and everything I'm doing to maintain it, and its status more than a year ago.  And I keep coming to the same conclusion about my own case:

I think being on lithium carbonate for treatment of bipolar disorder has made me immune to pollen.

It was late last April when I was put on lithium carbonate - more often referred to as simply lithium - following a very suicidal bout with depression.  The lithium has been a tremendous boon in that regard.  Although the episodes of depression still come and go, I've no doubt that lithium has helped me focus my mind through it, and given me enough grasp over the situation to know that I can and will get through it.  Last April, my depression was so severe that it very nearly destroyed my freelance writing.  I'm still trying to make up for it.  Having a means of managing the worst symptoms of the depression is going a long way toward that.  As well as toward my goal of writing my book about life with manic depressive illness.

Lithium carbonate is a very simple drug.  So simple in fact that it barely qualifies as a "drug" at all.  It's an elemental salt: something that doesn't need a hunnerd-zillion dollar drug factory to churn out.  I don't know if that has any bearing on my case, but there it is.  I'm only putting what I know out for consideration.

I've been taking lithium for almost a year and in that time I have had no symptom of hay fever.  If there's anything at all, it's a very mild "scent" of pollen that my nasal receptors pick up and have a tiny recoil from, but that could be just a reflex action.

It beats the heck out of me.  But in my particular case, it really does seem as though I'm managing my bipolar disorder and completely staving off seasonal allergies, all in one shot.

I don't know if this is something that most people would want, though.  I mean, to be on lithium in the first place you have to be in some pretty dire straits mood-wise.  Definitely not something that I would want anybody to have to experience firsthand (or secondhand either for that matter).  And it's not a matter of simply popping a pill into your mouth once a day either.  Two days ago I went in for periodic blood work: putting my red vino on tap so that it could be analyzed for lithium concentrations which, if too high, could result in liver damage.

I don't know if there's any real correlation between the lithium carbonate and what is now a year-long lack of hay fever.   But, it certainly is a very intriguing coincidence.  And one that, until I know better, I am happy to abide.

So I'm wondering: anyone else out there on lithium and also allergy sufferers noticing this?

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Another work of art from Cameron Hobbs

Last month I was honored to introduce this blog's readers to Cameron Hobbs, a young artist who has come a long way already.  And I've no doubt he's going to go much, much further.

Well, Cameron has unleashed another creation upon the world and I'm again honored to publish it.  So without further ado...

Letting Go, by Cameron Hobbs, 2015
You can find more of Cameron's work on his official Facebook page as well as his original Superhero Art page.

And this is still just the beginning.  He's let me peek at some of his other projects and when they're ready, he is going to blow y'all's minds!

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

It was a dance for the ages...

 Congratulations Duke
and especially
Coach K!

Monday, April 06, 2015

David Lynch should direct a new Star Wars movie

Just a wild idea that popped into mind while thinking about yesterday's horrid news about the revival of Twin Peaks:

If David Lynch won't be returning to helm the new Twin Peaks, then he should be allowed to direct one of the new stand-alone Star Wars movies.

I'm serious.

It's been thirty years.  He's ready.
It almost happened anyway, with Return of the Jedi.  Apparently Lynch was George Lucas' top choice to direct the third Star Wars film.  But Lynch wanted to take the movie into... well, a different direction.  One that veered away from the vision of the saga's creator.  By all accounts the two filmmakers shook hands and each went their way: Lucas to pick Richard Marquand to direct Jedi.  And Lynch would soon after direct the sci-fi epic Dune, based on the novel by Frank Herbert.

That was more than thirty years ago.  And in light of how there will be new Star Wars films that will tell different stories apart from the Skywalker mythology, there is now room for practically every director to potentially bring his or her vision of Star Wars to the big screen.

Including David Lynch.

It would likely be the most disturbing and confusing Star Wars movie that could possibly be conceived by maddened man.  But I for one would trust Lynch to deliver.  Time and again he's proven himself to be one of the premiere filmmakers of our generation or any other.  And he does know how to realize a story that is approachable by any audience: witness 1999's The Straight Story for proof of that.

Disney should let David Lynch direct a Star Wars movie.  It's time.  If Lynch can't be given the resources to return to his own creation of Twin Peaks, then the Mouse House should seize the opportunity to put Lynch's brilliant mind to work in its favor.

But what would a David Lynch-directed Star Wars film look like?  This is after all the genius who made Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet and so many other movies of dark atmosphere.  Personally, I think Lynch should shoot his Star Wars movie on grainy film, in black-and-white, with Seventies-style audio quality.  What if Lynch was directing The Force Awakens instead of J.J. Abrams?  It would probably look like this:

David Lynch, directing a new Star Wars movie.

It could happen.

It should happen.

Disney, make it so.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

UPDATE! Showtime cancels new TWIN PEAKS

Sorry Laura, but Showtime just made a liar out of you.

I guess it was too much to hope for.  Just as it seems that now, as then, this show really is too innovative for any network.

News coming out of WonderCon this afternoon, lighting up Twitter like a Christmas tree, is that the new episodes of Twin Peaks have been cancelled by premium cable network Showtime.

You may remember that it was six months ago when the announcement came that a third season was in the works, and would debut exactly twenty-five years after the last episode aired in June of 1991.

The anticipation for new Twin Peaks has been nothing less than extraordinary.  I think this show has built up an even more rabid following in the intervening years than it had in the early Nineties.  A quarter-century's worth of fanhood was primed and ready to have a real fitting closure to this trail-blazing series...

...and now, apparently, that closure will not be happening.

Can't express how disgusted I am by this.  I don't know what happened but it was pretty widely known that David Lynch and Mark Frost were looking forward to this.  So too were Kyle MacLachlan, Sherilyn Fenn and a bunch of others from the original cast.

Maybe some sanity will prevail yet.  I guess Netflix could pick it up still.  If given the opportunity they would be crazy not to.

UPDATE 7:47 p.m. EST:  Well, this gets stranger by the hour.  Now comes word that Showtime is probably still going to do Twin Peaks... but without Twin Peaks creator David Lynch at the helm.

Try to imagine this without David Lynch.  I dare you...
(There must be a lot of people hooked on this news because since this post was first published, Google Analytics has said that it's been read more than 200 times, mostly from search engine looksies.)

io9.com has the full story about what happened, which Lynch ascribes to not being given enough money to make it the way he wanted it to be.

So we likely going to get Twin Peaks.  But without David Lynch.

I still think Netflix should step up to bat.  THEY would provide Lynch all the cash he needs to do this and to do it right.  Otherwise, anything Twin Peaks without Lynch's involvement is going to be a tough, tough sell.

I have never understood Easter

Seriously, I haven't.

This is the day when Christians celebrate the resurrection of their Lord.

If that cannot be celebrated every day of the year, what difference does it make if it's celebrated one day out of that year?

Even so, Happy Easter.  He is risen.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Does this look like Lucille Ball to you?

The people of Celeron, New York are condemning... and that may be too nice a word... a bronze statue of hometown heroine Lucille Ball.

Here is said statue:

Ye gods, what a monster!!  It looks like something out of The Walking Dead.  Makes me wonder if this is what June Cleaver would be like envisioned by H.P. Lovecraft.  That is nothing like the stunning beauty, amazing actress, comedic legend and all-out wonderful person that Lucille Ball was.

To sum up: Celeron does not love this Lucy.

The statue has been up since 2009.  No real notion as to why only now is it getting the attention it is (maybe it's 'cuz in recent days a Facebook page about it has been created and racked up a zillion likes).  New York Daily News has more about this bronze monstrosity.

And I can't help but wonder if it works for Celeron, maybe going a similar route would deliver my own hometown of our pending atrocity.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Got to see Neil deGrasse Tyson this afternoon at Elon

Dr. Tyson's badass jazz-hands

Astrophysicist, bestselling author, science education advocate, "some guy from a Fox show" (as we heard one passerby say while we waited in the standby line), advisor to multiple White Houses and general megaboffin Neil deGrasse Tyson came to my alma mater Elon University this afternoon to speak at the school's spring convocation.  This was a tough thing to get into.  Tickets sold out in less than 30 minutes when they went on sale a few weeks ago, with only a few allotted for the general public.  Not even being esteemed alumni as "Weird" Ed and myself are was any help.

But Ed was determined to see Tyson, and nothing was going to stop him.  He drove four hours to pick me up and then after some lunch on the way we got to Elon and became the third and fourth people in the standby line.  That was at half past noon.  Convocation was scheduled for 3:30.  Thirty minutes before it began they began handing out tickets for the standby people and we proceeded in to await the appearance of Dr. Tyson.

After the processional of the class of 2015 into the hall, Elon's chaplain delivered an opening prayer.  President Leo Lambert and a member of the science faculty extolled the virtues and accolades that Tyson has accumulated during his colorful career.  And then it was time for the man himself...

He spoke for at least an hour, in what he called a "stream of consciousness" speech as opposed to something really prepared.  He had multitudes of information and was nothing short of animated in presenting it.  Tyson totally took hold of the scene and captivated us with thought on objective and subjective realities, the guiding forces of exploration and scientific inquiry (I especially appreciated his remarks on the real reason why President Kennedy challenged the country to reach the Moon in less than a decade).  During his opening Tyson spoke of Aristotle and how experimentation had not been developed as a tool of investigation.  To demonstrate the point he took off his shoe and dropped it onto the stage: trust me, it was the coolest demonstration of the tenets of Newton's Principia that I've yet seen.

What I appreciated most of Tyson's lecture however had nothing really to do with science.  He made a point numerous times: that we can't be defined by the majority.  We certainly cannot be defined by political parties (which, he noted, are capricious in the extreme).  That was something which resounded especially strong with me.

I will be honest: I do not agree with Neil deGrasse Tyson on everything.  In my estimation, he is too focused on the objective means of understanding the universe around us, while showing considerable disregard and even some amount of disdain toward what he termed the "subjective": of which the spiritual is part.  Throughout my years I have come to understand... and Tyson would be the first to note that this is purely something that I cannot prove, as it lacks grounds for experimental proof... that science and faith are not counter to each other, but are instead two sides of the same coin.  Each is the pursuit of truth.  For the love of truth.  Truth for its own sake, without ourselves within its frame of reference.  More than we give them credit for, I do hold that those from the spheres of religion are, for the most part, seeking that truth... and not to draw from it any sense of power.

But I also came away from his lecture with a far deeper respect for Tyson's perspective as a scientist.  And during his lecture I came to understand something: that we may disagree on the methods, but our motives are the same.  Although, it must be said, he definitely has a classier presentation!

I enjoyed this.  I came away from this with a deeper appreciation of the human condition.  "Weird" Ed agreed.  And his four-hour drive wasn't for naught after all.  Mission accomplished!

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

VA forces vet to get x-ray taken... to prove that his leg is missing

Has the caseload down at the VA ever included any paperwork for Captain Obvious?

So on the left we have one Chad Fleming, a former soldier who served in the Army Rangers.  And as you can see, he has a prosthetic left leg.  He sought aid from the Department of Veterans Affairs because... well, you know, that's what they do for men and women who have been in the armed forces.

But in order to determine if Chad was eligible for benefits, Veterans Affairs compelled him to get an x-ray taken of his left stump.  This is what the VA required so as to discover if Chad Fleming was truly an amputee.

From the story at TheBlaze...
Chad Fleming, a veteran who served in the 75th Ranger Regiment, says the VA took an X-ray of his artificial leg to prove he was actually an amputee. Though they could have referenced his extensive medical history or just used their eyes, he said, they wasted precious resources taking an X-ray of a leg that "doesn't exist."
"[The doctor] actually laughed," Fleming said. "And I told him, I said, 'You wonder why the country is in such a deficit? It's because you're wasting money taking X-rays of a leg that doesn't exist.' It's like, 'Dude I'm not a starfish. It isn't going to grow back.'"
Another veteran in the story went in for a dental appointment, only to be told that he needed to make an appointment to make an appointment to see the dentist.

I could make some snarky commentary about this and how it demonstrates how over-bureacratized and wasteful the government has become... but what would be the point of it?  What good could come of it?

Apologies to those I have come to know who work in the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Each of you are doing an admirable job in spite of the conditions of not just your department but government in general.  That being said: this kind of idiocy is irredeemable.  The pennies do add up and in time things like this are an enormous strain on precious resources.

I mean, really: how hard is it to look at a leg that isn't there?

(Thanks to good friend of this blog Dewana Hemric for finding this story and passing it along.)