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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Happy 80th Birthday to Aunt Glendora!

My aunt Glendora is 80 years seasoned this weekend... but just try believing that after seeing how good she looks:

Lots of people can't believe she's really 80 now ("but you don't look it!" they all say). You wouldn't know it either if you knew how fast she gets around. Definitely an inspiration to live and let nothing stop you. This picture was from the lil' breakfast we had in her honor at Golden Corral this morning. So here's wishing Aunt Glendora a Happy 80th Birthday!

Friday, March 30, 2007

One of the most bizarre things I've ever seen

The Snake Plissken Memorial Playground Project.

Now go back and re-read that again, and hit the link.

Apparently this is for real. The plan: build a playground for children in Kosovo, and name it after Kurt Russell's character from Escape from New York.

What's next... the Ash Williams Memorial Wildlife Preserve?

The North Carolina Lottery is one year old today

Yes, today marks the one-year anniversary since state-sponsored gambling finally came to the Tarheel State. We have indeed come a long way from the days when you could go to jail here for buying a copy of Penthouse Magazine.

In all seriousness though, I don't know if the lottery has had much of an impact... at least yet... on state education. If North Carolina was smart we would manage the lottery proceeds like how Georgia does theres, what with their Hope Scholarship and all. That, and bolster our teachers' pay a lot more than they're getting now (and they more than deserve it).

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Twenty years ago today...

...WrestleMania III took place at the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan. This was supposed to be the all-time world record for attendance at an indoor event: 93,173 screaming fans packed the Silverdome to watch a bunch of now-classic matches, including the one between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant for the WWF World Championship title.

How did I remember to commemorate this historic anniversary? It's actually pretty scary...

CANCELLED: The Darth Plagueis novel by James Luceno

Bad news from the Star Wars realm: the novel that James Luceno was writing about Darth Plagueis has been cancelled. The word given is that Lucasfilm "decided that this was not the right time to delve into Palpatine's back story and Plagueis's beginnings..."

Bummer. This was the one forthcoming Star Wars novel that I was seriously looking forward to. I was really intrigued by what little we learned about Darth Plagueis in Revenge of the Sith and have been dying to know more about him. Looks like it's gonna be a long time before we find out anything more definitive about him. There is a positive side to this though, I'm thinking: if the book has been cancelled, then Plagueis may not necessarily have been a Muun, as he's said to have been since the novel was announced. I think Plagueis should be human, and maybe there's a chance he will be after all.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

It's just been the "opening gambit" of tonight's LOST...

...and this episode is already screaming classic!

More later.

EDIT 10:27 PM EST: Now halfway through the show. This may be one of the best Lost episodes ever. Last week's still rates in my book as all-time (so far) best but this one is amazing.

EDIT 10:39 PM EST: Paulo goes to the toilet again... and this episode is so cool that it even makes THAT good!

EDIT 11:01 PM EST: HOLY @&$%!!!

It was like they brought on Stephen King to write the last few pages of the script or something. That was gnarly.

I think it's safe to say that "Exposé" is going to be in the top ten Lost episodes thus far. Everything about this was perfect. It wasn't a "myth-moving" episode, but it did answer a lot of questions and amazingly enough it did make us care for the characters of Nikki and Paulo... if only for a little while.

I didn't have the highest hopes for this episode. But it wound up surprising me immensely. Definitely can't wait to watch it again off the DVR tomorrow with Lisa (and see her reaction to it :-).


I didn't see it. Had to run down to Wal-Mart to get a few things and I got back about 9:37. I asked Lisa "who got the axe tonight?"

She said it was Chris Sligh.

I wondered last week if American Idol had finally jumped the shark. Tonight, there is no doubt (but there was Gwen Stefani... get it? :-)

There are two singers left in this season's competition that I would like to see win this thing. Neither one of them has appeared on-stage with a hairdo that looks like a rooster. That's all I'm going to say about that. Except at long last, I think it can be said that American Idol is no longer compelling "must see" television.

As for Chris Sligh: I will definitely buy his first album when it comes out.

At last: the cover artwork for HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS

I am so digging this. Bright and brilliant and an amazing contrast to the previous six covers. This one screams, how do I say this... "Here I am, at last. Here is where I make my final stand. No matter what happens, I will hold my head high and proud. Now do your worst."

And here is the full cover artwork - front and back - minus the title. Notice that this is the VERY first time (I'm assuming this is him) that we have seen Voldemort's face depicted in any of the book artwork:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows comes out on July 21, 2007.

EDIT 5:53 PM EST: I keep looking at this cover and for some reason I can't help but think: Harry is gonna die. There's something about this cover that hints at at, just like the last cover seemed (well it did for me at the time anyway) to be hinting at something major. It's the heavenly glow of the whole piece, it has a welcoming warmth to it.

Wouldn't it be something if Harry is killed, and we then see him come to Heaven and finally meet his parents and everyone else that he has lost?

From the "Ape Has Killed Ape!" file...

James Dobson is saying that possible presidential candidate Fred Thompson is not a Christian:
Focus on the Family founder James Dobson appeared to throw cold water on a possible presidential bid by former Sen. Fred Thompson while praising former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is also weighing a presidential run, in a phone interview Tuesday.

"Everyone knows he's conservative and has come out strongly for the things that the pro-family movement stands for," Dobson said of Thompson. "[But] I don't think he's a Christian; at least that's my impression," Dobson added, saying that such an impression would make it difficult for Thompson to connect with the Republican Party's conservative Christian base and win the GOP nomination.

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Thompson, took issue with Dobson's characterization of the former Tennessee senator. "Thompson is indeed a Christian," he said. "He was baptized into the Church of Christ."

In a follow-up phone conversation, Focus on the Family spokesman Gary Schneeberger stood by Dobson's claim. He said that, while Dobson didn't believe Thompson to be a member of a non-Christian faith, Dobson nevertheless "has never known Thompson to be a committed Christian—someone who talks openly about his faith."

I've alluded to this before here, and I'll say it again: I'm damn thankful that I didn't wind up working at Focus on the Family a few years ago. It's true: I almost wound up in James Dobson's camp. But the Lord was gracious and started opening my eyes to a lot of things that are being done in His name... but are only about getting earthly power.

James Dobson is one of the worst offenders when it comes to "pimpin' Jesus for votes".

Well, turnaround is fair play I guess. So... I don't believe that James Dobson is a real Christian. George W. Bush has never acted like a real Christian at all. Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell couldn't care less whether a soul is saved through their "ministries", just that their faithful all vote straight Republican.

There aren't that many real Christians in positions of authority in this country anymore. Ron Paul comes to mind as one of them. But he's one of a very few.

The time is coming, my friend, when we who are Christians are going to have to make a choice: seek the kingdom of God, or seek the influence of power. I don't think we're testing the spirits as much as we should be when it comes to figuring out if these "Christian leaders" are the men of God they profess to be...

Circuit City to lay off workers who are "paid too much"

Circuit City is laying off 3,400 store associates and replacing them with lower-waged workers. The reason for the layoffs is that the current employees are earning "well above the market-based salary range for their role".

This is either a pretty bad move by Circuit City, or it signals something wrong with their finances. Or both. If a company has a competent workforce in place already, what's the point in replacing them with new employees who will need significant training time before they can adequately take over from the previous associates?

And why should the current employees have to suffer for Circuit City's mistake anyway, if they're just now realizing that they've been paying "well above the market-based salary range" for all this time? Is that really a mistake? Employees who have shown commitment deserve to be compensated for their loyalty. It's the associates - and not the execs who hardly ever enter a Circuit City store - who make or break the company. Not doing right by them like this is wrong on so many levels.

Chalk it up as another example of the deterioration of American industry, folks.

Happy Birthday "Weird" Ed!

This blog wishes a very Happy Birthday today to my longtime friend and collaborator "Weird" Ed Woody...
Happy Birthday Ed!

Most obscene depiction of the Hulk ever

This is something that you won't be able to get out of your mind once you see it, so consider yourself warned.

Credit goes to Shane Thacker for finding this... thing.

Speed-drawing John Locke from LOST

Here's a video that's sparked quite a fad on YouTube: time-lapse video of people drawing John Locke from Lost. This one is amazing:
By the way, tonight's episode of Lost is supposed to center on Nikki and Paulo (or as I call them "the Coy and Vance Duke of Lost"). I've heard this one could be either incredibly cool or "bait for the shark". But it's got Billy Dee Williams appearing in some of the flashback scenes so it's worth checking out because of that anyway. Dunno how they're gonna try to top last week's ep though...

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

So now I'm on Twitter

So last year it was joining the mob on MySpace. This year I've got a thingy going on Twitter. Don't expect too much detailed blow-by-blow of my poor miserable excuse for a life. But it might be something fun to try out for awhile...

The silliness of THE SECRET

So a few weeks ago a close friend asked me if I'd heard anything about this new book called The Secret. Bookworm though I be, this is something that hasn't appeared on my radar screen at all (though let's face it: I have been pretty busy lately with things not ordinarily experienced). He said there was also "a movie about it" too. Well last night I finally got around to looking into this...

...and without even cracking open the book once I can confidently say: The Secret is crap.

According to the book, there is some big "secret" that has been put together after being fragmented through the ages: a secret that will bring about "money, health, relationships, happiness". All you have to do is believe that good things are going to happen to you, and you will miraculously lose weight, gain libido, and have a lot more cash coming in. That is, according to The Secret.

It's not that much different from the "name it/claim it" mindset preached by Benny Hinn and some other professed "Christians". And that too is what The Secret is: Gnosticism, repackaged for a new generation that is fixated on things of the flesh rather than growth of the spirit. Only this time, the bold claim is that there really is a universal all-powerful "force" that does your bidding.

And to think that some people say I carry the whole Star Wars thing too far...

The book and the accompanying DVD are selling like crazy (the book is listed at #2 on Amazon.com only after pre-orders for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows). Compared to The Secret, the Harry Potter books are a veritable trove of profound wisdom. Heck, I could see Lord Voldemort getting into this book bigtime. The Secret encourages materialism, while the big lesson from the Harry Potter series has been the real Christian principle that to not fear death is the only way to really live and enjoy life.

Besides, The Secret is going to ultimately prove to be just one more silly fad that will be almost totally forgotten about in another few years: some big "secret" indeed!

Monday, March 26, 2007

First image of Stallone from JOHN RAMBO

It's being called John Rambo now, like how the final Rocky movie was titled Rocky Balboa. Anyway, here's what will be the first glimpse we'll have had of Rambo in darn nearly 20 years:

Doesn't look bad. Stallone as Rambo still looks like he can kick tail. I just wonder if this means Chuck Norris will be doing more Missing In Action movies now. Anyway, head over here for more on-set pics from John Rambo.

Knockin' on Heaven's Gate

Remember these guys?

It was ten years ago tonight that the 39 members of the "Heaven's Gate" cult were found dead - after committing mass suicide - in their house in California. That was one weird thing when it happened. In case you were a bit younger: these guys were a UFO cult that believed a flying saucer was accompanying the Hale-Bopp Comet, which was big in the skies that spring. By killing themselves - or "leaving their earthly vehicles" as they put it - the Heaven's Gate bunch thought they were going to be takign a trip into outer space. Remember when they were showing footage shot inside the place: all those bodies with bags around their heads, wearing the same outfits and all found to be carrying five dollars in quarters (for the "videogames" that were going to be onboard the UFO that was supposed to pick them up).

Just plain screwy. Made all the more freakish by that nonstop video of cult founder Marshall Applewhite (the guy with those strange eyes) that ran on the news.

If you really want a blast from the past, here's the group's original website. Which not only describes the oddity of this bunch but also is a sterling example of the art of website design in the 1990s at its height. And if you want something a little light afterward, here's one of the Heaven's Gate website parodies that popped up after the suicides.

ROME series finale last night

This is a show that knows how to wrap-up: by leaving them wanting more. That final shot, with Titus Pullo just about to tell Caesarion "about your father..." was timeless and beautiful. The whole hour and fifteen minutes (yup they went over a quarter-hour on this one) was awesome. Except... now we'll have no more adventures from Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo. But at least Kevin McKidd and Ray Stevenson seem to be spinning their work on Rome into other stuff: both are said to be doing some TV pilots and such. Here's hoping we find them back on the screen soon 'cuz these are two actors who captivated a lot of people. It was their work, and not the machinations of Antony and Caesar and Attia and Octavian and the rest, that is what made Rome so must-see these two seasons.

All told, it was good stuff. I might have to spring for the DVD sets of both seasons when they're out in stores.

Geez, what's HBO going to do since Rome and now The Sopranos are going away for good? That's a lot of good TV slot to fill. Maybe they'll get smart and bring back Carnivale...

Sunday, March 25, 2007

MySpace page of Catholic principal who banned students from having MySpace pages

This is clever.

Apparently it's in response to the following story...

School Prohibits Use Of MySpace
Students Can't Have MySpace Account At School Or Home

POSTED: 10:02 am PDT March 23, 2007

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. -- A Bloomfield Hills school is enforcing a new policy that bans the use of a popular Web site.

St. Hugo of the Hills Catholic School students were told recently that under a new school policy, called Think First, Stay Safe, the use of MySpace.com will be prohibited at school and at home, reported WDIV-TV.

The policy states that students enrolled at the school can't have a MySpace.com account or any similar type of personal site, according to a news release.

"The Internet can be wonderful for educational material, but it also can be unsafe," principal Sr. Margaret Van Velzen said.

At the beginning of each school year, students and parents will be required to sign an Internet policy.

School officials said it was necessary to apply the new policy after recent cases of adults, some in authoritative positions, posed as minors to converse or meet with young boys and girls.

Van Velzen said the decision was made with full support from the school's parents' organization.

"Ninety-nine-point-nine percent have been very supportive, and I've received many e-mails thanking me," Van Velzen said. "Our parent community is very supportive."

St. Hugo parent Kate Lynch said it's a great start.

"I think we've got a long way to go because it's a very difficult situation to grasp in its entirety," Lynch said. "There's so many things going on on the Internet and there's so much vulnerability for children."

Another St. Hugo parent, Liza Stanczak, said all schools should implement the policy.

"I think this is just the beginning of schools taking a stand against this kind of thing," Stanczak said. "I think this is going to have to happen because things are getting out of hand."

Students who have existing MySpace.com accounts must delete them. Students who do not delete their accounts cannot attend the school, Van Velzen said.

This is stupid! This will do absolutely nothing to deter the kids of St. Hugo of the Hills from having MySpace accounts. They'll simply find new ways to go underground and keep it up. In fact, Principal Van Velzen has probably caused more students to start using MySpace: it's the same thing that happened during Prohibition, they outlawed it and it only made people want it that much more.

That said, I thought "Sister Margaret Van Velzen"'s MySpage page was pretty hilarious.

LOST Season 3 finale...

...is apparently going to have Ben as its flashback character.


Mash down here for more goodies about the next nine or so episodes.

By the way: it was more or less confirmed by the producers of Lost this past week that the show is going to run for two more seasons and then end. Which I think is great: with a definite schedule to adhere to, it'll keep the show from getting spread too thin and for too long (like ummm... what happened to The X-Files). Five seasons will be plenty of time to tell this excellent story and then give it a place of honor on the DVD shelf.

As for that Ben-centric finale for Season 3, I can't help but speculate as to whether this is when we'll finally get to see who this "Jacob" guy is (who was also confirmed this past week to be the mysterious "Him" that has been referred to since last season).

Tonight on HBO: the last ROME ever!

The adventures of Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo wind down tonight when, after only two seasons, HBO airs the final episode of Rome. Guess it was only natural: the past few episodes have been about the rise to power of Octavian and things were pretty peaceful in the empire after he took over. But still, I've been loving this show since the very beginning, and this is gonna be one heckuva void to fill when it comes to quality television.

So, long live Rome. And for the last time: "Thirteenth!"

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Hugo Weaving is the voice of Megatron in TRANSFORMERS

Whoa. Never saw THAT one coming.I don't think anyone can ever really replace Frank Welker's long stretch as the Decepticon's leader. For those of us who grew up in the 80s, well... Welker's and Chris Latta's were the voices of pure diabolical evil. Sadly both are no longer with us. We will still have Peter Cullen as the voice of Optimus Prime though.

But the more I think about it, the more I'm liking the idea of Hugo Weaving doing speech for the Megster.

EDIT 6:17 PM EST: Geoff Gentry just told me that Frank Welker has NOT gone to the great beyond, as was previously reported. Bad, bad mistake on my part. Guess it was late and I was thinking too much about how it's Chris Latta who has passed on (he was the voice of Starscream, as well as Cobra Commander on the G.I. Joe cartoon). Nice to know that Welker is still active.

How about we retain Welker's voice as Megatron and use Weaving's for Starscream?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Florida city will seize your home over a $5 parking ticket (and my e-mail to them)

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you may have noticed that I haven't been posting much "heavy" stuff of late here. There are several reasons for that. Not the least of which is that I've been playing around with a new blog: one that's going to be completely dedicated to something that's absolutely serious. Stuff like what I'm posting about now is going to be going there when it's ready (and I'll just make links to them from here when I post on there so both of my loyal readers can find them). But in the meantime...

The city council of Brooksville, Florida has voted this week to foreclose on the houses of people who don't pay their parking tickets. Yes you read that right: don't pay a $5 parking ticket and the town of Brooksville will kick you out of house and home. Here's the full story:

Florida: City to Seize Homes Over a $5 Parking Ticket
Brooksville, Florida proposes to foreclose homes and seize cars over less than $20 in parking tickets.

The city council in Brooksville, Florida voted this week to advance a proposal granting city officials the authority to place liens and foreclose on the homes of motorists accused of failing to pay a single $5 parking ticket. Non-homeowners face having their vehicles seized if accused of not paying three parking offenses.

According to the proposed ordinance, a vehicle owner must pay a parking fine within 72 hours if a meter maid claims his automobile was improperly parked, incurring tickets worth between $5 and $250. Failure to pay this amount results in the assessment of a fifty-percent "late fee." After seven days, the city will place a lien on the car owner's home for the amount of the ticket plus late fees, attorney fees and an extra $15 fine. The fees quickly turn a $5 ticket into a debt worth several hundred dollars, growing at a one-percent per month interest rate. The ordinance does not require the city to provide notice to the homeowner at any point so that after ninety days elapse, the city will foreclose. If the motorist does not own a home, it will seize his vehicle after the failure to pay three parking tickets.

Any motorist who believes a parking ticket may have been improperly issued must first pay a $250 "appeal fee" within seven days to have the case heard by a contract employee of the city. This employee will determine whether the city should keep the appeal fee, plus the cost of the ticket and late fees, or find the motorist not guilty. Council members postponed a decision on whether to reduce this appeal fee until final adoption of the measure which is expected in the first week of April.

This is a crazier scam than the red-light cameras ever were.

It honked me off enough when I read this, that I just now fired off the following e-mail to the entire City Council of Brooksville, Florida:

From: Chris Knight (theknightshift@gmail.com)
To: dpugh@ci.brooksville.fl.us,
fburnett@ci.brooksville.fl.us, jbernardini@ci.brooksville.fl.us, lbradburn@ci.brooksville.fl.us, rlewis@ci.brooksville.fl.us
Subject:Voting to seize homes over $5 parking tickets

Dear members of the City Council of Brooksville, Florida:

Claire Wolfe wrote some years ago that "America is at that awkward stage. It's too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards."

By voting to seize the homes of people who don't pay a $5 parking ticket, you are making it "that time" more than you realize.

Just a friendly word of caution from someone who has spent his life studying history.

Chris Knight
Reidsville, North Carolina

p.s.: your website is an eyesore.
p.p.s.: I sure as hell will never spend any of my money in your town if I were to visit Florida.

It probably won't do any good: these people and too many others are a little too drunk on their own power. They're past the point of rational thinking.

Maybe it's time for a good ol'-fashioned tar-and-feathering?

Ever seen a 248-dimensional object?

You have now...
Here's the story about what this... thing... is:
This is a 2-dimensional projection of E8, a 248-dimensional object seen here simplified into only 8-dimensions to help preserve sanity. Essentially, if I understand it correctly, it’s like a 2-D shadow of a 248-D sphere, an object so symmetrical you could theoretically rotate it in any direction in up to 248 dimensions and it still appear the same. Talk about a stick in the mud. It took 18 mathematicians four years to produce the calculation for this object, its formula weighing in at 60 gigabytes. The computation was announced at MIT by David Vogan this Monday, the 19th of March, 2007.
So it took four years for 18 mathematicians to come up with... something that looks like it was made with an old Spirograph set?

I'm still trying to wrap my brain around this one, folks. Here's a page that has a lot more about it though.

Chris Daughtry live in concert tonight in Greensboro... FOR FREE!

Yes you read that right ('course if you are reading this now then it's way too late to get there probably): Chris Daughtry and his band performing live at Hamburger Square in downtown Greensboro, in an absolutely free concert.

We tried getting in tonight but the place is absolutely nuts! Probably 20,000 people in there, and they've been gathering there since early this morning. Lisa and I opted not to try to get in, but have vowed to see him in concert eventually.

(I have an awesome record of making good on promises to see singing artists in concert, by the way: ask me my story about "Weird Al" Yankovic sometime, if I haven't already shared it here :-)

Anyways this whole area is quite proud of Chris Daughtry, so it's a good thing to memorialize about here anyway, even if we aren't there.

Was Harry Houdini poisoned?

His family wants to exhume his body to see if the great magician was actually murdered.

Wouldn't it be funny if they went and got his casket out and opened it up... and Houdini wasn't there?

(I know, bad joke :-)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

"I love you for loving me! Goodbye!"

You might have heard the sad news already: it was reported last night that Calvert DeForest... who will forever be known as that lovable oddball Larry "Bud" Melman on the original Late Night with David Letterman (NBC wouldn't let him keep the Melman name when the show moved to CBS)... has died at the age of 85.

Whether he was Larry Melman on the NBC show or Calvert DeForest at CBS, he was definitely a unique and memorable personality. Usually he'd be put in some weird situation as a Late Night/Late Show correspondent (remember him doing the 1994 Winter Olympics in Norway?) and proceed to act confused and flub lines... usually with the cue cards right in front of him too.

Melman was on the very first edition of Late Night that I saw (it was like 1986, four years after Letterman started his show at NBC). I watched him quite a few times over the years at NBC and then when the show moved to CBS. He did a lot of hilarious stuff. But the one thing that I'll always remember Calvert DeForest for was his very last appearance using the Larry "Bud" Melman name, on the final Late Night show on NBC in June 1993: Melman strode out onto the stage. He then yelled at the top of his lungs "I love you for loving me! Goodbye!" and then walked off. The next time we saw him he was Calvert DeForest in a tuxedo standing in the pupil of the CBS eye a few months later when Letterman's Late Show premiered: "This is CBS!" he bellowed.

Well, for people my age who remember David Letterman's original NBC show, he'll definitely be missed. In his honor, here's one of DeForest's early appearances as Larry Melman on a 1983 installment of Late Night, handing out hot towels to people stepping off the buses at the New York Port Authority...

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Tonight's LOST: HOLY %&@# !!!

Best. Lost. Ever.

That was more stuff happening in the first fifteen minutes of "The Man from Tallahassee" than what happened in the past three episodes put together. And then this episode really brought it on.

That was just... geez Louise, I really don't know what more to say about this. It was six flavors of crazy with sprinkles on top. If this one episode doesn't mark Lost as the best show on TV right now, I don't know what it'll take.

It has to at least be said that Terry O'Quinn is perhaps the best actor on TV, anyway. This was the best Locke-centric episode yet and O'Quinn poured everything into tonight's performance. That last flashback scene was especially powerful.

Brace yourself: remember the end of last week's episode, the "football scene"? You know how that one blew our minds? If you haven't watched "The Man from Tallahassee" yet, you ain't seen nuthin'...

I couldn't help it

After swearing that I'd never do it again, I fell off the wagon tonight.

Dear lord, will this madness ever stop?

I couldn't help myself. It just happened.

We were flicking through the high-def channels and I wound up on UNC-TV, the state's PBS system. And they were doing their annual "Festival" pledge drive. The moment I saw that 800 number, my lips quivered and my hands started shaking.

Lisa couldn't stop me. I ran to the phone, and I... did it.

After all these years, I still can't stop doing it.

I picked up the phone and dialed the toll-free number. A nice lady answered and asked would I like to make a pledge to support public broadcasting. I told her "yes".

Then I told her that I would like to pledge $10,000...

...but only if PBS brought back the old Doctor Who reruns.

Then I hung up.

This has been going on FOR ELEVEN YEARS NOW! Somebody please, make it stop make it stop make it stop!!

Has AMERICAN IDOL finally jumped the shark?

A little while ago I got to watch last night's American Idol (ain't DVR the greatest gadget ever?). This hasn't been the best season of Idol. Truth be known, apart from three singers in this year's bunch, it's been pretty boring. I've wondered - and quite a few times I should note - whether it's possible that American Idol has, at last, jumped the shark.

Last night's show might have been it. In case you haven't heard about it already, this is Ashley:

Starting with Sanjaya Malakar, the camera kept focusing on this girl who was sitting toward the front of the audienc, and she was crying like crazy. It happened so much that I seriously wondered, and even said this to my wife, if she was a "plant": someone put there by the producers for the show value. I mean, we're talking about this girl getting roughly the same amount of camera time that Sanjaya had whie he was onstage singing. And how did the producers know exactly where to find this girl, out of all those people?

Well, it turns out that as for whether she was a plant or not, the answer is: "kinda, yeah". Here's the story from the Los Angeles Times:

First things first: Who was the crying girl? After the show, I chatted with Idol's newest superstar, the crying girl, Ashley Ferl, aged 13, from Riverside. For some long minutes after the show, Ashley remained in a state of inconsolable sobbing, unable to choke out a single word. However, through an interpreter (her mother) we were eventually able to learn some facts about the young superstar.

The family, I was told, obtained tickets on a website to attend a taping of "Smarter Than a 5th Grader" a day passage that included not just the taping of the show itself, but also the dress rehearsal of either "Grader" or "Idol." The fates were kind, and the mother and daughter found their way to the "Idol" rehearsal, where Ashley’s waterworks began. Her prowess was quickly brought to the attention of "Idol" producers who summoned the clan to a ringside seat of honor at the final taping.

Her powers of speech slowly returning, Ashley revealed that while she was on stage she had been thinking that "this was the coolest thing ever." Asked whom she was supporting in the competition she named "Sanjaya, Melinda, Gina and Jordin" as her picks, refusing to narrow her vote down to a single choice. All my journalistic powers of persuasion, cajoling, bullying and insistence that on her vote might turn the entire competition, that "Listen to reason, young Ferl, there can't be four American Idols," would not convince her to name a single favorite. To my every argument, she would only repeat her mantra, "All Four: Sanjaya, Melinda, Gina and Jordin." And so the race begins in earnest, with tears at every step of the way.

So Ashley was not someone that the Fox suits intended to be a plant (look it's happened before, it was reasonable to be suspicious) but she was very much overwhelmed by the experience of being there during a live American Idol show and the Fox execs played it to the hilt. Probably without her knowing it. Which if Ashley is fine with it, it's fine with me. But it does seem like a rather tacky move on the part of Fox to exploit a thirteen-year old girl's emotions like that.

Was this attention to Ashley done in an attempt to influence the voting? I have to wonder about that too. However it is, I don't know if this show really has that kind of allure for me anymore. Last year's competition that produced Taylor Hicks and Chris Daughtry (among others) seems more and more like the high-water mark of American Idol, that will never be equalled. This latest thing just impresses in my mind all the more that this show can't ever be that good again.

Was last night when American Idol finally jumped the shark? Time will tell...

Thy king-dumb come: Left Behind finally ending

Two weeks from now will find closure coming to something that should have ended a long, long time ago. Kingdom Come, purportedly the LAST installment of the Left Behind series of novels, comes out on April 3rd.

These books have done absolutely nothing positive for Christianity. They've scared a lot of people into professing Christ as their lord and savior. Unfortunately a relationship with Christ has to be built on something more than fear. Being a Christian isn't supposed to be something you embrace as "fire insurance" against Hell: there's more to it than that. This is something you do because you realize that on your own, you really don't have meaning or purpose. Being a witness for Christ means showing others the work that God is completing in our lives. It doesn't mean scaring people: there's no spiritual growth possible when fear is made out to be the biggest motivation for seeking God.

That aside, this series started out fairly good... before it became a joke. It's just too damn long for one thing. As I've noted before (in a now-classic rant against Left Behind), Stephen King only needed seven books for his Dark Tower saga, and when the final book comes out this summer the Harry Potter series will likewise number seven in all. Left Behind is going to be sixteen full-length novels: more than The Dark Tower and Harry Potter combined. Seven books would have been plenty: one for each year of the Tribulation. And maybe one wrapping up a thousand years later like Kingdom Come is going to be (but even that might be overkill).

For another thing, Left Behind really has become too much of a franchise: something driven more by money than an earnest desire to serve God. I mean, a Left Behind video game...? There's also the comic books, a HORRIBLY-produced movie ("It's like The Day of the Jackal as conceived by Ned Flanders..."), I haven't seen them yet but I hear that action figures are floating around out there somewhere. A friend told me just yesterday that Left Behind, while something that's supposed to be apart from this world, has become too much like the world.

Dear lord... Left Behind has become a bloated whore.

Well, in two weeks it'll finally come to a conclusion. I might get a copy, if nothing else than to post a review here. And also 'cuz I've read the twelve "core" books (but not the prequels) so I guess I do have a morbid curiosity about how this all ends.

But before Kingdom Come is published the week after next, there's something you should know. This is Kingdom Come, the Left Behind novel written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins:

And this is Kingdom Come, the classic DC Comics graphic novel by Mark Waid and Alex Ross:

Both are about the Book of Revelation, so please don't confuse the two!

By the way, that's Absolute Kingdom Come, the 10th anniversary edition of the book that DC published last year. It costs $75. Kingdom Come the Left Behind finale is sixteen bucks on Amazon. Guess which one I would recommend to be the better deal. I mean c'mon...

On the left is Nicolae Carpathia from Left Behind: the biblical Antichrist himself. On the right is Magog from DC's Kingdom Come: the man who made Superman run away and hide.

Who do you think is cooler?

Tonight on LOST: "The Man from Tallahassee"

John Locke (Terry O'Quinn) had been paralyzed from the waist down for at least two years prior to boarding Oceanic Flight 815 bound from Sydney to Los Angeles. He was brought onto the plane in a wheelchair.

Then Flight 815 crashed on the island. And when he regained consciousness, Locke discovered that he could walk again.

It's one of the biggest mysteries thus far on Lost: what happened that put John Locke in the wheelchair. Tonight's episode, "The Man from Tallahassee", is set to reveal how Locke was paralyzed. I've been wondering since Hurley's episode in Season 1 if that was Locke that we saw falling past the window at the accountant's office. However it happened, we'll find out tonight. And maybe we'll also get to see what the heck was going on with that absolutely jaw-dropping cliffhanger from last week's episode (you know: the football game).

How to deal with anonymous cowards on the Internet

Found this article at The State's website:
Internet's anonymity leads to nasty comments

The Associated Press

When a California woman recently gave birth to a healthy baby just two days after learning she was pregnant, the sudden change to her life was challenging enough. What April Branum definitely didn't need was a deluge of nasty Internet comments.

Postings on message boards made cracks about Branum's weight (about 400 pounds — one reason she says didn't realize sooner she was pregnant). They also analyzed her housekeeping ability, based on a photo of her home.

And they called her names. "A pig is a pig," one person wrote. Another suggested that she "go on the show 'The Biggest Loser.'"

"The thing that bothered me most was, people assumed because I am overweight, I'm going to be a bad mom," Branum says. "And that is not one little bit true."

It was yet another example of how the Internet — and the anonymity it affords — has given a public stage to people's basest thoughts, ones that in earlier eras likely never would have traveled past the watercooler, the kitchen table or the next barstool.

Such incidents — and there are countless across cyberspace — also raise the question: Is there anything to be done about it? Or is a decline in civil discourse simply the price that we pay for the advance of technology?

"The Internet really amplifies everything," says Jeffrey Cole, of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California. "We have a lot of opinions out there. All of a sudden there's a place we can go to share them." Add to that the freedom that anonymity provides, he says, and it "can lead to a rowdy Wild West situation, with no one to filter it."

"It's all things said reflexively, without thinking," says Cole, who tracks the political and social impact of the Internet as director of Annenberg's Center for the Digital Future.

"My guess is that if you went back to these people, a lot of them would have second thoughts."

And if you asked them to add their name, as in a traditional letter to the editor? "They’d be embarrassed..."

I can vouch for how true this is: as both the recipient of anonymous attacks, and being one who has sadly let the safety of being behind the keyboard get the best of the better angels of my nature.

Over the years, I've done any number of things that seemingly never fail to beckon losers who apparently have nothing better to do than insult others. My little "stunt" when I proposed to Lisa was one of them. So was that first commercial from my school board campaign. There's a reason why the commercial's page on YouTube is set to where comments are posted only after I approve them: it's the only way I can keep the profanity off the page. Bunches of twerps have tried to post something to the effect of "you f---ing idiot". And when Forcery was released... well, let's just say that "Marty Broxterman" showed me a whole new level of nastiness that comes with (a) being a legend in one's own mind and (b) lacking self-discipline over one's carnal nature.

Like I said though, I'm not entirely innocent when it comes to "posting nicely". I've written things on the 'net that I'm not too especially proud of when I look back on them. But every time, I did have the guts to make it so that what I wrote could be attributed to me one way or another. That's the way I've always operated: when it comes to writing, I can't remember a time when I was at all completely anonymous. Want to see me at some of my worst? Go to Free Republic or Liberty Post and search for posts by "Darth Sidious".

That's the biggest reason why I quit doing the "political message boards" thing: those places make it way too easy for you to say something that you'll regret later. I decided the best thing to do would be to give it up entirely.

But anyway, back to people who thrive on being anonymous insulters...

When I did my "proposal thing", it was something of a shock to see some of the nastiness that it evoked. But I was wise enough to expect it when I started posting my campaign commercials. I knew the savagery would be coming, even when I was putting the commercial together... and I did it anyway.

Wanna know what I think about people who hide behind the Internet's anonymity when they attack others? I think they're a waste of humanity. And I'm absolutely serious about that.

People like me - the ones who are writing things and producing videos and making music and all of this other stuff - we're the ones who are producing things. We're engaged in creating new and different things. People like us are the ones who are following a different drummer. Hurting other people is not on our agenda. The goal of achieving "fame" or "money" or "power" doesn't appeal to us. For me and, I like to think plenty enough other people, we're just trying to find and fulfill our purpose, however best we can. Insulting other people, even anonymously, doesn't figure into our equations at all.

But then there are those who have embraced the American culture of Schadenfreude. The ones who are not happy unless they are lashing out at someone that they don't even know. They're only hurling their insults because they really are too scared to put a face and a name to their words. But do you know why they do it in the first place?

It's because they won't do anything productive of their own, because they're either too timid or too lazy to commit to doing it. And they are too jealous of those who are brave enough to put themselves on the front line. Their fear and jealousy are too much to bear, and so they deal with their frustration the only way they know how: by viciously attacking those that they resent.

I don't let them get to me. Because if I afford them that, then that is time and energy that I would spend feeling bitter about it, that would be better used on more productive things... like writing a book or making more films. Which is going to infuriate these losers even more when I've shown that I can still produce something and they have... well, nothing at all to show for their nastiness.

Hey, I made a commercial that put my name and photo in The New York Times. Is even one of the bozos who've tried to insult me able to boast of doing that?

I'll make it short and sweet: my campaign commercial is going to be watched and enjoyed twenty years from now... long after the twerps who keep trying to post "F--- YOU!" to it are completely forgotten. I doubt they'll have made anything by then with the staying power of the Death Star blowing up a schoolhouse.

Wanna know how to deal with these very sad saps? Don't worry about them here in the present. Aim for the future instead. That's where "they" are too frightened to follow you toward.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

STUNNING new trailer for AT WORLD'S END

I've been out of the zone for the past 28 hours and totally missed this bad boy for Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End going online late last night...

Now this is a trailer! Bewarned though: some spoiler-ish stuff in this for those who haven't seen Dead Man's Chest yet (you know what I'm talking about if you have seen it). This thing feels positively epic. Mash down here to see it in three flavors of high-def Quicktime goodness!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Doom, Super Mario Bros. 3 deemed "historically significant"

Last week, a committee that had been working on it for some time announced ten of the most culturally significant video games of all time. It's similar to the National Film Registry that's run by the Library of Congress. On the list of games deemed to have historical value: Tetris, Zork, Super Mario Bros. 3, SimCity, the Warcraft series, and... get this... Doom! Yes, Doom is among the first video games to be listed as having made an impact on culture and history. But as a longtime Doom-er, I knew that already. As is often said among Doom-aholics: "Doom will never die... only it's players will".

It's a good list. But if it ever gets expanded upon I think that we should see The Legend of Zelda (the original NES game), Pitfall II and Wing Commander added to it. Heh-heh, Wing Commander: now there is a game franchise that I would love to see return in a big way!

Friday, March 16, 2007

The clown is down

What if Quentin Tarantino directed a Burger King commercial? It would probably look something like this...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

That sound you hear tonight...

...is the groaning in agony of millions of people who just watched in horror as their brackets in the NCAA Tournament office/campus pool got completely screwed up by Duke.

Congrats to Virginia Commonwealth though on a good game.

The first half just ended between UNC and Eastern Kentucky and it doesn't look like the Colonels are gonna topple #1 seeded Tarheels. I still remember when Western Carolina almost pulled that off against Perdue in the '96 tournament: my sister was a student at WCU at the time and she said she'd never seen a college campus go so crazy, when it really looked like it was gonna happen. So far as I know though, no #1 seed has ever gone down in the first round.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

RETURN OF THE JEDI Special Edition is 10 years old today

Turns out that it was ten years ago today that Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi Special Edition came out in theaters. It was originally supposed to have opened on March 7th, but the Special Editions of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back were performing so awesomely well at the box office that 20th Century Fox decided to let them play an extra week before introducing the next one. I remember it well: it was a cold, rainy day that it opened. "Weird" Ed, Gary and I caught it that afternoon at the West End Cinema in Burlington. Of the Special Editions, this was the one that I think I'd been waiting for the most because several months earlier word came that in the final moments of the movie we would see the capital planet Coruscant for the first time ever. The Special Edition of Return of the Jedi is also notable for adding the beak to the Sarlacc, for the "Jedi Rock" dance number at Jabba's Palace and my favorite change: the new, "upbeat" celebration music at the end of the movie that replaced that annoying "Lugnuts" music from the original version of Return of the Jedi. Now the Star Wars saga ends on a true triumphant note, instead of weird Ewok stick-banging.

And with Return of the Jedi's Special Edition opening, this meant that for the first time ever, all three movies of the original Star Wars trilogy were in wide theatrical release at the same time! What at time it was to be alive. Some theaters even had all three playing simultaneously: so you could go to the cinema and watch A New Hope, then The Empire Strikes Back and wind up on Return of the Jedi without having left the theater the entire day. I didn't get to do that though but after seeing each of the Special Editions no less than four times each, it wasn't really necessary.

Anyways, happy birthday to the last of the Star Wars Special Editions! And in case anyone's wondering: I do have one of the theater-exclusive Luke Skywalker figures from that day's release (although I bought it at a toy show about 2 years later for fifteen bucks... but I still got one :-).

Routine cursory reaction following a new episode of LOST

"We're here."

The several seconds after that is one of the most mind-boggling cliff-hangers I've ever seen in an episode of any TV show.

Great episode about Claire tonight. The thing about her and her father, I'd suspected that since last season.

Next week: Locke invades Othersville. Which is sort of like Drew Barrymore boarding the Hindenburg when you think about it.

The $1,000 pizza pie

A restaurant in New York City is selling a pizza that costs $1,000, or $250 per slice.

Instead of regular sauce and cheese the pizza "will be topped with creme fraiche, chives, eight ounces of four different kinds of Petrossian caviar, four ounces of thinly sliced Maine lobster tail, salmon roe, and a little bit of spice with wasabi." It's also not cooked, because that would ruin the fish.

Doesn't sound like anything I'd really like to eat. Even if I had a few million bucks to spare, I would rather get my pizza from PieWorks in Greensboro or King's Inn Pizza in Eden... which may be the best pizza anywhere.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Watch this week's MONDAY NIGHT LIVE that I co-hosted

Click here to watch last night's Monday Night Live (in Windows Media format). This was the first time that I'd co-hosted a full show and the first time that I'd ever done one with regular host Ken Echols. I had a lot of fun doing this last night. We got to show a little bit of Schrodinger's Bedroom and the show closed out with the final moments from Forcery (including the credits with Slim Whitman singing "Una Paloma Blanca"). I also got to give a shout-out to friends in Raleigh, Waynesville, and Bellingham in Washington (so hey to Chad, Ed and Jenna). And of course no episode of Monday Night Live would be complete without a call from Jaybird in Eden. So if you want to watch your good friend Chris in action, mash down on the link above and catch the show.

They are remaking ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK

I kid you not.

It could work, given the right script and director. An updated retelling of Escape from New York would potentially have more relevant commentary on the current state of things than the 1982 original was.

But I'm still going to keep a wary eye on this. The original Escape from New York may be horribly dated by today's standards, but it's still one of my favorite movies for so many reasons (not the least of which was the casting, the scenery and the soundtrack).

Monday, March 12, 2007

I'll be co-hosting MONDAY NIGHT LIVE tonight

Tonight at 9 p.m. I'll be co-hosting Monday Night Live for the entire hour along with Ken Echols (Mark Childrey couldn't make it tonight so he asked if I could fill in). I've been asked to bring along copies of Forcery and the promo for Schrodinger's Bedroom so looks like I'll be able to shill for KWerky Productions some in addition to the usual insanity that happens on that show. Click here if you'd like to watch it streaming live over the Internet beginning at 9 p.m. EST.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Intro sequence from Star Wars: TIE Fighter

Star Wars: TIE Fighter came out in June of 1994. I'd been waiting months for its release: earlier that winter I'd bought the original Star Wars: X-Wing and played it like crazy on my then brand-new 486 25-mhz computer (with 4 megabytes of RAM and a 170 MB hard drive). Well on its release date I was at Babbage's in Four Seasons Mall right when they opened, plunked down the money and took it home, where I eagerly installed it (from like 6 DOS floppy disks). I spent the rest of the day blasting those bloody Rebels out of the sky, then I had to go to the seafood restaurant that I worked at. I think I spent five hours playing it after I got back from work that night.

Here's the first thing you'd see when you started the game. From the very first moments of this intro, I knew this would be one of my favorite video games of all time. Thirteen years later, it still is. Imagine: a game that lets you fight for the Empire... and let's you feel good about it too! Maybe someday LucasArts will make another good game like this that lets you give in to the Dark Side (The Force Unleashed sounds like it has potential). Anyway I found this a few days ago and thought it would be fun to post here...

Saturday, March 10, 2007


Who the hell buys this stuff?

I've seen two Enzyte commercials twice in the past hour or so (which is two times too many). And I mean... seriously, who in the world could possibly be conned into paying good money for this?

I only started noticing the Enzyte commercials a few months ago when I was working at the TV station. We never ran the ads ourselves, but they were part of the packages with a number of syndicated programs that we did run, so I wound up seeing "Smilin' Bob" quite a bit. If you don't know what I'm talking about, Enzyte is claimed to be a "natural male enhancer" (i.e. it's supposed to drastically increase the size of male genitalia). In the ads for it a character named Bob - who has this perpetual Jack Nicholson "Joker" grin - is shown in all kinds of situations where it's implied that his penis size is a determining factor in business dealings, golf swings etc.

The syntax of the message being delivered here: big penis = good, small penis != good.

This is what our culture has deteriorated into: one that prides itself not on intellect and compassion, but on the size of its sex organs. And I'm not sorry for saying this, but any man who bases the belief that he's "not man enough" because of feeling inadequate about the size of his member... is an idiot. And he deserves to lose over fifty bucks a month for a supply of this new-wave snake oil.


I really can't begin to say how disgusted I am when I see stuff like this. Twenty years ago, nobody would have marketed something like Enzyte on nationwide television. Now it's everywhere. What does that say about our shallowness and gullibility... and our overall spiritual condition?

Friday, March 09, 2007

He's on a mission from God

27 years after Jake and Elwood did it, somebody has finally acted out in real life the mall scene from The Blues Brothers. Stephen Lowe of Augusta, Georgia drove his SUV plum through the glass doors of the Augusta Mall and drove all over the place inside the mall. He even did Jake and Elwood one better: Lowe drove on the top floor of the mall. See some amazing footage of his rampage here and here.

It must be reported though that Lowe's career ended spectacularly short of that of the Blues Brothers, as he was apprehended outside the mall soon after.


Yee-haw!!! 85-80 over Duke in overtime in the first round of the ACC Tournament.

I'm just now finding out about this! I can't believe that I missed this game! AAAARRGGGHHHH...

Speaking of N.C. State, tomorrow is March 10th. That's my Dad's birthday. March 10th is also the birthday of Jim Valvano. He would have been 61 tomorrow. Can't believe it's been almost fourteen years already since he was taken from us. I can't tell you how many people I saw crying the day he died.

Goodness gracious: has it really been almost a quarter-century since that night in Albuquerque?

Valvano was one of my heroes. And he still is. This excerpt from his speech at the ESPY Awards - just two short months before he died - shows some of why that is...

"When people say to me how do you get through life or each day, it's the same thing. To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special."
And because this seems to be as good a time as any, here's something I found just the other day...

But lest we forget:

"Trees will tap dance, elephants will ride in the Indianapolis 500, and Orson Welles will skip breakfast, lunch and dinner before State finds a way to beat Houston."

-- Dave Kindred in The Washington Post on Monday, April 3rd, 1983

And then that night:

CONFIRMED: Rorschach is REALLY gazing back in new 300 trailer!

It's probably gonna be the biggest geek story of the week and Ain't It Cool News is verifying it this morning: 1 minute and 52 seconds into this extended trailer for 300, the following image appears VERY briefly (this pic is from a cap I took and it took a bit to nail it down)...

After all these years of saying it couldn't be done... and even that it shouldn't be done...

I guess nothing is impossible: there really is going to be a Watchmen movie. There's the proof staring right back at us: Rorschach. In the flesh. Looking exactly as he does in the graphic novel. Not only that but click-on this high-res still (which also came from Ain't It Cool News)...

Rorschach is holding the Comedian's blood-stained smiley-face button, just as he's depicted doing in the first few pages of Watchmen.

This is really... well, quite astonishing. I really don't know what else to say. I wasn't quite 16 years old when I first read Watchmen and it completely blew me away. Watchmen is easily on my personal top ten list of favorite books of all time (with Number One being the Holy Bible and Number Two being The Lord of the Rings, Watchmen probably ranks ninth or tenth... but that's still good). I've probably read that book at least 20 or 30 times over the years. And from the very beginning, I have always wondered, more than anything else from this book: "what would Rorschach look like in a live-action movie?"

Well, there he is: "the abyss gazes also..." Now I just have to wonder about who in the world is going to play this psycho.

"And starring Eddie Murphy as Tattoo!"

Dear Lord, when it rains it pours...

This has been one crap-tacular weak on the pop culture front. First it's Captain America getting killed off. Then we hear that a film version of Gump and Company (the loathsome sequel to the novel Forrest Gump) is in the works.

Now this: Eddie Murphy will star in a movie remake of Fantasy Island.

For those of you who may have only come of age in the 90s or this decade, Fantasy Island ran from 1978 until 1984 and was ABC's original series about an island somewhere in the Pacific where weird stuff happened. In the case of Fantasy Island though, people willingly came to the place on "de plane! de plane!" and they ummmm... had their fantasies come true. Even as a little kid, I remember this show being odd as hell. It starred Ricardo "Co-reeen-thee-an leather" Montalban (yes Khan himself) as Mr. Roarke, the guy in the white suit who ran the island, and Hervé Villechaize as midget sidekick Tattoo (Villechaize also played Nick Nack in The Man With the Golden Gun). Knowing Eddie Murphy flicks like I do, Murphy will probably be playing Roarke, Tattoo, all the island's guests, the hula dancing girls, the plane's pilot...

Well I guess there are worse things that could happen. It could have been The Love Boat directed by Wolfgang Petersen and featuring Briney Spears as Charo.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Finally an (almost) complete set of Harry Potter

There's a book fair going on at my wife's school this week. She bought a few things from it and brought them home. Chief among them is this hardcover copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets:

This needs some 'splainin' about why this is a big thing for me. The first Harry Potter book I bought was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire back in June of 2000, right after it had been released. I figured at the time that as fast as it was going, it might be nice to have a first edition for a collector's item. I didn't read it then though. A few months later I bought a paperback copy of the first book in the series, started to read it and then dropped it: seemed kinda boring at the time. Then about six months after that I decided to see what the big fuss was about, made myself plow through Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone... and thoroughly loved it! So then I bought a paperback of the next book: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Then I bought the hardback of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban while visiting Lisa on the 4th of July in 2001. I read that and finally started reading Goblet of Fire around Christmas of that year. The two books that followed, I bought the hardcovers when they went on sale at midnight on their publications dates.

And going back to Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone: I bought a hardcover of that when I was in Indianapolis for Star Wars Celebration II in 2002. I ran out of the convention center to the B. Dalton's down the street, got it and brought it back so that I could get it autographed by Warwick Davis (who plays Flitwick in the movies), as a graduation present for Lisa.

What this all means is that eventually, we wound up with hardcover editions of all the Harry Potter books except for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. And it's bugged me to no end that there was that hole in the series as they sat on our bookshelves.

After today, that's no more. Behold the entire series to date of hardcover Harry Potter books:

It will become a complete set this coming July, when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - the final book in the series - gets published. And then we will have all of the Harry Potter books that we can show off and cherish and someday read to our children from.

Now if only there could be nine Star Wars movies sitting on my DVD shelf...

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Cursory reaction to tonight's LOST

I'm going to have to watch this again but...


The mythology is definitely developing further, although this episode - titled "Enter 77" - seemed to ask as many questions as it answered.

Will try to be as spoiler-free as I can here: notice how that's now two of those things that Locke has managed to destroy?

May post some more thoughts tomorrow, after watching it again.

FORREST GUMP 2 ?!? Dear Lord, spare us this...

Works has begun on a sequel to the 1994 movie Forrest Gump.

Presumably it's going to be based on Gump and Company, Winston Groom's sequel to his original novel Forrest Gump.

I'm probably one of the few who will actually admit to reading Gump and Company and let's just say that... it wasn't good. The most ridiculous part was when Forrest and Lieutenant Dan commandeer a tank during the Gulf War, drive all the way to Baghdad and capture Saddam Hussein. That comes after Forrest invents New Coke, steers the Exxon Valdez into the rocks and gets involved with the Jim and Tammy Bakker scandal.

Like I said: it wasn't good.

Marvel Universe: Maybe it's time for a reboot?

Geoff made this comment on the post about Captain America getting killed in the Marvel Comics...
"Marvel is a crazy universe. I can't believe the did this."
Me neither, Geoff. But it does lend some validity to something I've been thinking for awhile, about the Marvel Comics universe...

It's this "moving time" principle by which Marvel establishes that all of its comics are canon, even though most of them now contradict real-world stuff. I mean, it's like Tony Stark was originally wounded in Vietnam and that's what led him to become Iron Man. The thing of it is it's 2007 and Stark would now have to be, what in his sixties-seventies by now, if he started then? The Fantastic Four's fateful spacelaunch happened because America had to beat "the commies" - as Susan Storm put it - into space. See where the problem there is?

Well, the thing of it is, Captain America is firmly established as a product of World War II. So is Nick Fury. And with more and more years that pass by, well... it's really starting to stretch belief that these guys, even with the Super Soldier Serum and the Infinity Formula would still be fighting the good fight. There's a few other things mucking-up Marvel's moving timeline, but World War II is the big kahuna of them.

So, maybe it is good and proper that Captain America die now. And let him stay dead.

And maybe along with him, Marvel can do something drastic to make these stories last forever, instead of creeping into obsolescence.

So here's my proposal: with Captain America, and the events of the Civil War, let the Marvel Universe as we have come to know and love it... have it stop. Right here. In 2007. Make that the new immovable date in Marvel history. Everything that has happened in the Marvel Universe, let it be reckoned as happening between World War II and 2007.

And then, reboot... or perhaps "reboost" would be a better way to put it... the entire shebang.

No, I'm not talking about something like the Ultimates line (which put me off with that ridiculous "Ga Lak Tus" thing). I mean something more daring... and the more I think about it, more right.

Marvel should start every character in the Marvel Universe as they are now, and then, year by year, chronlogically age them as they would in real life, if their lives really did start at 2007 and proceeded forth.

Yes, I mean let's see them grow. Let's see them age. Let's see them meet all the challenges that come with those things. And then, one by one, let them die.

If Peter Parker were a real person and he was 15 years old in 1962 when Spider-Man first appeared, he would be sixty years old now. Personally, I think an older, wiser Spider-Man would be a wonderful thing to behold. Peter Parker is the paragon of everything that is good and noble about human character and determination. But for him to mean anything as a symbol for us... well, he has to be like us. With all the weaknesses and frailties that come with living a life bereft of things like whole-body cloning and whatnot.

Whether at the hands of one of his enemies, or from illness, Peter Parker should be given the chance to die like the rest of us. All of these characters should. Because that's what it's going to take if they're meant to persist as metaphors for everything that is good, and bad, about humanity.

If Marvel is wise, they will do this. Start a long-term strategy where the characters from this point on will age chronlogically alongside real time. And one by one, let them go into that long twilight.

But as they go, introduce new characters to take up the mantle after them.

Let some new kid pick up the shield and go forth in Captain America's name. Give Spider-Man a child who inherits Parker's abilities. Let there be a new Fantastic Four led by Franklin Richards... with his daddy Reed advising the team as "leader emeritus". As for Hulk: he might be one of the few characters who could persist for some time, what with his gamma-enhanced biology. The same with Wolverine. The fun thing about those guys is that they are going to live a long, long time: well, let's see how they adapt to the changing times and let them be a "cipher" through which we come to see the world around us in the way that only comics can do.

I don't think that this would mean the end of the "classic characters". Not by a longshot. Marvel can still publish stories set within the 1941-2007 timeframe, and this would give them a chance to re-interpret a lot of those pre-existing stories so that very messy thing called Marvel continuity could finally get the cleanup it's been screaming about for ages.

(Hey who knows: maybe in long-term Marvel canon, the "clone saga" really didn't happen after all.)

I really doubt the honchos at Marvel are going to follow through with something like this though. But that's how I would manage things if I were editor-in-chief over there. Use Captain America's death (assuming he stays dead) as an opportunity for some much-needed growth against rising graphic stagnancy.

If nothing else, think of this: the X-Men would die. And they would remain dead... forever!

Captain America has been assassinated!

Breaking on news outlets everywhere now. Cap had just surrendered after the events of Marvel Comics' Civil War #7 and was being taken into a courthouse when he was shot and killed by an unidentified assailant.

I say: if he's dead, let him stay dead. Let his death have meaning. 'Course this being Marvel Comics, it's probably only a matter of time before Doctor Strange does some mystical hoodoo and not only resurrects Cap, but mind-wipes everyone on the planet into forgetting that Civil War took place, that Spider-Man unmasked himself, will make Mar-Vell dead again too etc...

LOST tonight promises to be one of the best ever

On the November 1st episode of Lost - titled "The Cost of Living" - Locke led some of the castaways back to the Pearl Station, hoping to use the equipment there to locate Jack, Kate and Sawyer. While Sayid was playing around with the electronics of the video feed, this man appeared on one of the monitors before abruptly disabling his camera...

Who is this guy? For some reason he's become one of the most intriguing mysteries to me about this show. Well we're supposed to find out who he is in tonight's episode, called "Enter 77". And I've heard that's just one thing that this episode is supposed to have in it. Word is that we're gonna find out a lot more about DHARMA and the Others and how they relate to each other, we finally get to see the Flame Station (which was referenced on the blast-door map that Locke briefly saw), yet another "orientation" film with the Asian guy is shown, and Ms. Klugh is said to be in this one too. Throw in Mira Furlan (always a pleasure to watch) as Danielle Rousseau and the fact that this episode is Sayid-centric and it sounds like one toad-strangler of an hour tonight (and I very rarely say that about anything on television).

Speaking of Lost, I've been working on a theory about what may be going on in this story that, though it doesn't explain everything, in my mind it seems pretty plausible and so far as I know, nobody has suggested this one yet. I'm going to watch tonight's episode, reflect some on it and probably post it in the next few days or so :-)

France bans citizen journalists from reporting violence

I was in France years ago. It's a nice place that gets too much of a bad rap: I found the people to be quite friendly (and the food there is delicious). But when they screw up... maaaaan can they do it bigtime. The French government has made it illegal for anyone other than "professional journalists" to video or otherwise document acts of violence.

First of all, what the hell is a "professional journalist"? Journalism isn't something you're supposed to have a license to practice. You don't even need a formal education to be one. Just go out and find stuff and then share what you got with others. It can be either something you do full-time for pay or something you simply do for the love and passion of it (which is what I'm doing presently).

Smells about time that them French peoples have another revolution, if they're letting stuff like this happen. But then I remember that the U.S. Congress has recently attempted to force bloggers in this country to register as "lobbyists" with the federal government.

Someone explain to me again how it is that we're supposed to be better than the old hard-line Soviets.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Physics laws that Hollywood ignores

Neatorama has a list of 9 laws of physics that are routinely ignored by producers of motion pictures. Among the conveniently forgotten concepts: bullets don't spark when they hit metal, cars don't usually explode and sound doesn't move at the speed of light.

This article has inspired me to make all my future movies adhere to physical principles. Which will probably significantly drop the number of people who will want to watch them, but hey you gotta stick to principles...

Monday, March 05, 2007

Stomach-turning testimony about Walter Reed makes me wonder...

I just saw about this on the evening news. Here's the link to a story about it.

Here's what I can't help but wonder: after all these years, the U.S. government is just now coming to find out about the HORRIBLE conditions in military hospitals?!

I was hearing bad stories about those places when I was like 5 years old, and have only heard more of the same over the years.

I agree with what expert witness Annette McLeod told the House panel today: if these men and women are going to sacrifice years of their time - and maybe even a lot more - in the service of this country, then they deserve better. Much better.

I'm sorry, I just can't comprehend how come this hasn't been addressed a long time ago already.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Finally watched THE PRESTIGE

The Prestige is a movie that I really wanted to see when it came out but I was too wrapped up in my school board campaign to do so at the time. It's just come out on DVD and it arrived at our place via Netflix a few days ago. So tonight Lisa and I put it in and checked it out...

Man, I can't remember when was the last time I saw a movie that I just had to watch again. I'll probably watch it at least two more times before it goes back into the mail.

The Prestige, directed by Christopher Nolan (from a script he co-wrote with his brother Jonathan based on a novel by Christopher Priest) is about the bitter rivalry between two magicians at the turn of the twentieth century. Alfred Borden (played by Christian Bale, who was also in Nolan's Batman Begins) and Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman aka Wolverine from the X-Men movies among other things) start out as friends who work as "ringers" for a veteran magician. Then during one night's performance something goes horribly wrong with an act and Angier's wife is killed. Angier blames Borden for what happened. That's all I really want to say because The Prestige really is a movie that someone should go in fairly unawares on.

I really, really liked this movie. Period pieces are a big thing for me and in that regard alone, The Prestige shines. The fact that it throws in a few things from real-life history definitely doesn't hurt either. Speaking of which, David Bowie does an excellent job portraying Nikola Tesla, and there's plenty of touching-on the very real rivalry (which I thought mirrored the one between Borden and Angier) between Tesla and Thomas Edison at work in the movie. The Prestige also stars Michael Caine and Scarlett Johansson... which is the very first time I've ever seen Johansson in a movie or anything else for that matter (does that show how out-of-touch I've become with a lot of pop-culture things or what?)

Very enthralling, oftentimes horrifying and thoroughly entertaining, The Prestige is recommended viewing not once, but twice. Maybe even three or four times. The only real question is: "Are you watching closely?"

News & Record runs article on SCHRODINGER'S BEDROOM

From what I'm hearing, the calls to those who made it to the second tier of the On The Lot competition have already gone out. I won't be going any further with this season's contest, 'cuz The Call(tm) hasn't come here. But it was fun to have at least tried... and to have put together a movie like this so fast.

Anyway, the News & Record, which is the big newspaper around here, ran a story about my entry Schrodinger's Bedroom in the Rockingham section of the paper. It's not up on their website so I transcribed it here:

A couple, a room, a hopeful director

- Chris Knight hopes his short film gets him chosen to be on a reality TV show.

Staff Writer

REIDSVILLE – Dead cats, quantum physics and newlyweds thread into a short film that was shot, written and directed here as a contest entry for a reality show.

Christopher Knight, of Reidsville, made it for Fox's "On The Lot," in which 16 directors work to win a $1 million development deal from DreamWorks studio.

Right now, Knight is among thousands of entrants for the show.

The 32-year old former technician at WGSR hopes people will visit its Web site and see his film and that he'll be among the finalists.

Knight's short, "Schrodinger's Bedroom," is a comedy based on an experiment by Erwin Schrodinger, a German physicist and colleague of Albert Einstein.

Called "Schrodinger's Cat," the experiment uses a cat to help explain the atoms often used in quantum physics theories.

In the experiment – which occurs in thinking, not reality – a cat in a closed box dies from poison if a radioactive atom in that box breaks down. The cat could be alive or dead, but there's no telling unless someone opens the box and sees the cat.

Anything could be happening in there, the experiment is supposed to prove, because two universes are happening in the box – one with a dead cat, one with a living cat – like atoms in an experiment.

No cats really die in the experiment, nor in Knight's movie, where he replaced that box with a bedroom and the cat with newlyweds.

As the movie says, anything could be happening in a closed bedroom with newlyweds.

He got the idea after moving into a new apartment with his wife in May. A friend helping them out joked that everyone who helped knew what was happening in the Knight bedroom.

Knight made the film in January after friends urged him to enter the contest.

"According to 'Schrodinger's Cat,' everything and nothing could be happening in there," Knight said.

Starting around 7 p.m. one day, Knight wrote the script on that idea.

He finished writing at 4:30 the next morning.

He shot footage around Reidsville, in a downtown restaurant and at the YMCA. He paid the cast nothing but had them sign a contract.

"If I end up winning a million-dollar contract," he said, "I'm going to pay everyone at least $1,000."

He heard this week that calls for finalists have already gone out, but he said he doesn't expect one from among thousands of entries.

"On The Lot" should begin airing in May.

"There's always other projects to move on," he said.

Hey, at least the film might have a good second life.

"If some physics teachers want a copy of this," Knight said, "I'll get a DVD to them."

Contact Gerald Witt at 627-4881, Ext. 120, or gwitt@news-record.com

And they also printed the link to the movie along with the article. I've noticed that it's picked up a number of more viewers than what it's been averaging lately already... so hopefully more folks in Rockingham County are checking this out :-)