Friday, March 30, 2007

Confection Reflection

If there's still any remnants of a kid lurking somewhere deep inside of you, there's a good chance that you may remember these:

Or possibly this:

Or maybe even these:

Zotz were one of my favorites (I was partial to the fizzy centers) and I'm positive I haven't even seen them since I was 12-years-old.

Anyway, check out oldtimecandy and see if they have any of your favorites.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Seraphim Crossing

I find this really amazing.

(Click on the pictures for the full effect)

This is the Millau Viaduct, a road-bridge supported by cables, that spans the River Tarn Valley in southern France. It opened in December 2004 and it is a little taller than the Eiffel Tower and only 125ft shorter than the Empire State Building.

And people drive across it.

You can read more about it here or see more images here.

And, yeah, those are clouds.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

When Worlds Collide

On February 28, a 1,920-ton magnet, the equivalent of five jumbo jets, was lowered into an underground cavern at the multinational center on the Swiss-French border near Geneva. The magnet is part of the Large Hadron Collider which, when completed later this year, will be the largest machine on the planet at 17 miles long (circular). (Click on the pictures to get a better view.)

The collider will be run by CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, and it's purpose will be to accelerate subatomic particles to near light speed in the effort to answer fundamental questions about our universe and ourselves. Among other things, CERN scientists hope to find an as-yet unseen particle called the Higgs boson, nicknamed the God Particle, which is is thought to be responsible for the physical property of mass in the universe. The article that I read mentions that "the project could bring new knowledge such as the possible existence of dimensions beyond the four of traditional physics (width, length, height and time)."

Wow, not only will this be the largest machine in the world but it's potential for unlocking some secrets of the universe seems to be limitless. It's amazing to think that experiments performed with this accelerator could actually change the world as we know it.

I just thought I'd mention this in case anyone was interested. Any recent 'news' concerning this could have been easily overlooked since most of the televised news broadcasts have been busy dealing with the really important news surrounding the death of Anna Nicole Smith.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Swing Away Merrill

Time for a rant.

In case anyone was unsure, here are a few epiphanies:

Not all German soldiers were evil Nazis.
Not all cowboys were gunslingers.
Not all Muslims are terrorists.
Not all Southerners are dumb.
Not all Asians know martial arts.

While it's true that any number of movies would tend to indicate otherwise we, as the movie going public, are smart enough to know that a movie is simply that: a movie. If we want absolute truth, we'll go see a documentary, and even that truth can be questionable, unreliable or one-sided. The people who actually believe what they see in a movie are of little concern because everyone who knows them thinks they're 'a little off' already. So, basically, even the dumbest person (Southerners included) knows that a movie is just a movie and most of the content is fabricated for our enjoyment (even when the movie starts out with: Based on a true story).

So, if I go see a movie (which I did), that deals with a group of guys that get captured and are faced with being sacrificed and all of them are Mayan and the time period is near the end of the Mayan civilization, later, when the movie's over and I walk out of the theater I'm not thinking, "Wow, those Mayans were some bloodthirsty sacrificing lunatics with a serious penchant for violence - no wonder their civilization collapsed and all of their descendants are in gangs," instead I'm thinking, "Wow - what a cool MOVIE" (which I did). I didn't seriously consider the accurate historical representation anymore than I seriously considered applying to Hogwarts after seeing the first Harry Potter film, or joining the rebel alliance after seeing Star Wars. Accurate isn't as much fun as fabricated.

The only reason I bring this up is because of this article I read where Alicia Estrada, an assistant professor of Central American studies, accused Mel Gibson of misrepresenting the Mayan culture in his movie, Apocalypto. Apparently Gibson was answering questions from the crowd at California State University, Northridge, when the professor decided to start questioning his historical research for his movie. According to the article, Gibson directed an expletive at the woman, who was removed from the crowd. Now, of course, she wants an apology. My favorite part comes from another article that says as she was being escorted out of the room, Gibson shouted, "Make your own movie!" That is too funny.

I'm sorry - I just think it's time to leave Mel alone. He's already been told he can't say whatever he wants when he's drunk and now somebody's trying to tell him he's wrong for making a movie (with his own money) the way he wants to make it. It might be different if the entire scientific community agreed on the Mayan culture, but it doesn't, and while one group might want to say that the Mayan people were not as violent as they were depicted in the film, another group might say that they were but only during a different time period. (I can't say one way or the other but I'm sure I'm not the only person who recalls that Mesoamerican Ballgame where the losing captain would have his head cut off.) The reality is, it doesn't really matter who's right or wrong, we're still only talking about a movie. Fiction. Fantasy. Pretend.

I think I'm simply growing tired of all the bitching, whining and 'political correctness.' I think Mel should be able to take his own money and make whatever kind of freakin' movie he wants to make and if people don't like it, don't go see it. Simple. I also think that Mel should be allowed to say whatever he wants (drunk or sober) without having all of the 'super righteous' people swoop down on him from their ivory towers and while I may not agree with the things that he says, I firmly believe that, in this country, he still has, for now, the right to say them and that fact was reaffirmed with the defeat of all those evil Nazis.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Leon: The Professional

As visually stylish as it is graphically violent, this thriller directed by Luc Besson concerns Mathilda (Natalie Portman), a 12-year-old girl living in New York City who has been exposed to the sordid side of life from an early age: her family lives in a slum and her abusive father works for drug dealers, cutting and storing dope. Mathilda doesn't much care for her parents, but she has a close bond with her four-year-old brother. One day, she returns from running an errand to discover that most of her family, including her brother, have been killed in a raid by corrupt DEA agents, led by the psychotic Stansfield (Gary Oldman). Mathilda takes refuge in the apartment of her secretive neighbor, Leon (Jean Reno), who takes her in with a certain reluctance. She discovers that Leon is a professional assassin, working for Tony (Danny Aiello), a mob kingpin based in Little Italy. Wanting to avenge the death of her brother, Mathilda makes a deal with Leon to become his protege in exchange for work as a domestic servant, hoping to learn the hitman's trade and take out the men who took her brother's life. However, an affection develops between Leon and Mathilda that changes his outlook on his life and career. Besson's first American film boasted a strong performance from Jean Reno, a striking debut by Natalie Portman, and a love-it-or-hate-it, over-the-top turn by Gary Oldman. Léon was originally released in the U.S. in 1994 as The Professional, with 26 minutes cut in response to audience preview tests. Those 26 minutes were restored in the director's preferred cut, released in 1996 in France as Léon: Version Intégrale and in the U.S. on DVD as Léon: The Professional in 2000. (all movie guide)

This really is one of my favorite movies. I originally saw the edited American version which I thoroughly enjoyed but after seeing the original director's cut, I liked it even more. The American release was shortened, I'm sure, to bring the action sequences closer together because the average American movie patron can't or doesn't want to be bothered by annoying things like dialog or character development - particularly if it deals with the relationship between a grown man and a young girl. My point is that, for me, the developing relationship between Leon and Mathilda as well as the growth of each character is as engaging a story as the sinister plot and resulting action involving the drug dealers.

Jean Reno is amazingly uncomfortable and focused, shy and straightforward and clumsy and coldly precise depending on whether his character is in the everyday world of human interaction or his singular world of assassin. Mathilda is extremely well acted by Natalie Portman and, considering her age (11 years) at the time and the required range of the character, unusually believable. However, my absolute favorite performance in the movie is, without a doubt, that of Gary Oldman and it is, as mentioned in the synopsis, completely over-the-top, but, in my opinion, it was glorious. I so enjoy a movie where the antagonist has some type of flare and doesn't simply go through the motions of being the 'bad guy.' There are times in the movie where I found Oldman be scary but not so over the line as to become a caricature like certain 'Bond' villains have been known to do. My best description of Oldman's character would have to be, flamboyantly psychotic.

If you haven't seen the movie, give it a shot and, as usual, this is all merely my opinion and while I'm not trying to be definitive, I am hoping to possibly expand some horizons or give someone a couple hours of enjoyment that they would have otherwise missed out on.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Quick synopsis:

A top Army sniper who previously abandoned the military after a routine mission gave way to tragedy is double-crossed by the government after reluctantly being pressured back into service in Training Day director Antoine Fufua's adaptation of Stephen Hunter's novel Point of Impact. There was a time when Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg) was the best trigger-man in the military, but after growing disillusioned with the system, he disappeared without a trace. After being located at his remote mountain retreat by high-profile government officials following an extensive search, Swagger is coerced back into service in order to stop a determined assassin from taking out the President of the United States. In the process of carrying out his mission, however, Swagger suddenly realizes that he has been betrayed when he becomes the subject of a nationwide manhunt. Now wounded and desperate to reveal the culprits behind the conspiracy before it's too late, Swagger sets into motion a revenge plan that will send shockwaves rippling to some of the most powerful, and corrupt, leaders in the free world. Danny Glover, Rhona Mitra, and Ned Beatty co-star in this conspiracy-driven action thriller that asks what it truly means to serve one's country. (all movie guide)

Just got back from seeing this and decided to go ahead and write it up since it wouldn't take too much effort on my part because this is an easy one. When it comes to action movies, I'm super easy to please because I'm very good at 'suspension of disbelief,' but that's why I go to movies - entertainment. If I wanted harsh reality mixed with acting, costly sets and special effects, I'd watch C-SPAN or just wait for a Presidential Address. I watch movies to have fun and if there is realistic subject matter involved (Saving Private Ryan, Good Night,and Good Luck - for example) I'm already aware of it and that's part of why I'm there, but my main reason for being there is simply to be entertained. The only thing I ask of a movie is to not completely insult my intelligence. A few liberties, here and there, are acceptable, but don't get carried away. (And I'm only referring to action movies - not something like Pee Wee's Big Adventure, which falls under a completely different set of rules) Tell a decent story, have believable action (no visible wires) and don't over/under think it or spend too much time on either aspect and I'll be pretty much alright with it. Unless, of course, the acting sucks but, then again, I've seen several movies where the acting wasn't that good but the action more than made up for it - so, that can be kind of a tough call.

Anyway (enough rambling), I had a really good time seeing Shooter. Mark Wahlberg was a really good choice for the lead because he was able to be convincing as the character but not over-the-top action hero super bad-ass kind of guy. Granted, the director probably had a lot to with that, but, either way, I thought Wahlberg was good. The other good part was the bad guys. They were exactly the kind of polished but slimy, smart but overconfident types that you can't wait to see get what's coming to them because of all the harm they've caused without so much as a second thought.

Some people might complain that the movie is formulaic but, in this case, that's not such a bad thing. My point is: The action was good - I laughed out loud and had an overall good time for two solid hours. That's what it's all about.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

This Thing All Things Devours

Before I moved to Florida, in 1992, I lived in Rock Hill, South Carolina, which, at the time, probably consisted of about 50,000 people. Rock Hill was a large town that had become a small city in the shadow of Charlotte, NC which lay 15 minutes north across the state line. I had grown up in an even smaller South Carolina town but had been living in Rock Hill for about 5 years with 'no particular place to go.' While living there, I worked in a rather nice restaurant that was located a few blocks from Winthrop University that was frequented by all of the well-to-do people who didn't want to take the time to drive to Charlotte and by the people who simply wanted to go somewhere nice for a really good meal. The best part about the job was the people I worked with and while there was the average employee change over that you might expect, there was always a core group of us that that, at times, were as close as (if not closer than) family. Granted, it was sometimes a dysfunctional family, but it was still a family. Looking back I can honestly say that I believe our hearts were always in the right place - maybe not our brains - but definitely our hearts.

One of the people who was a part of our 'family' for a while was an art student at Winthrop named Tony Lange. His full name was Anthony Leo Lange but everybody (and I mean everybody) called him 'TL' - in fact, we called his wife "Mrs L" and she always introduced him as TL Lange. TL was a very unique individual with a great sense of humor. He was balanced while off-center, focused in his chaos and direct in his naivety. I remember, one night, sitting alone at a table in our private dinning room (which, when empty, doubled as our break room) taking a short break when TL, in his usual state of dishevelment, suddenly exploded into the chair beside me and with a very intent and serious, almost frantic demeanor said, "Hey John, if the Devil were to suddenly appear in front of you and offer to grant you any single wish, what would you say?" I looked at TL and said, "I would say, 'I wish God was here.'" TL's eyes narrowed as he stood up, and with a slight nodding of his head and lopsided grin he said, "That's really good," and he had a sound of contentment and conspiracy, as if regardless how unlikely such an event might be, were it to happen, he was incredibly prepared. On another occasion, TL, who didn't wear glasses, picked up a pair that belonged to Morgan, our overqualified dishwasher, and commented on the fact that he liked the style of the frames. As slipped the glasses on, his eyes lit up, a sense of wonder washed over his face and he said, "Oh my God - I need glasses!" He spent the rest of the evening wandering about the restaurant 'seeing' things (and people) for the first time. That was TL.

Graduation was about a year later and shortly thereafter TL and Mrs L moved to Atalanta. The last project that TL had worked on for school was a series of ten paintings dealing with the theme of murder. TL had purchased several target shooting silhouettes and incorporated bits and pieces of them onto the canvas of the paintings to, what I considered, great effect and I had told him so. After graduation and before leaving town, TL donated one of the paintings (his favorite) to the school for the local gallery and was nice enough to give me my favorite out of the remaining nine. I had the painting framed and it was with me in two different apartments before I moved and it now resides in my mother's home where she keeps a watchful (and somewhat frightened) eye on it for me. She has offered to send it to me but I always decline because I know this isn't where I've ended up - this is only practice.

I didn't keep in touch with anyone from the restaurant after I moved to Florida. I had lots of things going on and staying in touch simply wasn't as easy as it is now or, maybe, I'm merely more settled and have a better notion of whats important. Either way, the restaurant was recently sold, Matt, the owner (my old boss) moved on to other things and everyone else has long since gone on with their lives. I've spoken to Matt once or twice, over the years, and, coincidentally, I did recently get in touch with another of my fellow co-workers from back then and, hopefully, she and I can continue to occasionally correspond but, other than those two, I haven't seen or heard anything regarding any of my friends from 15 years ago.

A couple of days ago, I was perusing the internet in price comparisons for prints from one of my favorite artists, Michael Parkes, when, among the lists of artists, I happened to notice the name T. L. Lange and followed the trail to a listing of some of his pieces with prices up to US$3,500.00. Imagine my surprise to find that not only had TL continued his work, but he had actually become a somebody in the world of art. Maybe not a huge somebody, but a somebody nonetheless. As I continued to search, I found even more listings of poster prints made from his originals and there was no doubt that they were the work of my past restaurant compatriot. I decided, at that moment, that with a little more searching I should be able to find a means of contacting and catching up with my successful artist friend.

My next search brought up a page from Foster/White with listings of TL's work priced up to US$19,000.00. I was simultaneously shocked at the prices and pleased with his success. At the bottom of the page was a short write-up concerning TL with his quote,

“I derive the compositions from the beauty of chaos in decay, the colors of rusty pipes, and layers of billboard advertisements. Paintings are everywhere. I keep the studio floor littered with photographs, torn paper, flecks of paint, and objects to trip over while looking for something else.”

Continuing on I was again shocked to read that Foster/White had "began exhibiting T. L. Lange’s work in 2000, two years before his death at age 36."

In further searching I found a brief obituary concerning TL and several articles later lead me to the fact that he had committed suicide. I could find no references to his wife so I can only assume that they had separated or divorced prior to his death - probably quite some time, unfortunately. TL was, again, a unique individual who suffered from many of the stereotypical maladies often associated with creative and artistic types and, I'm sorry to say, since he was never the type to be proactive concerning his own mental state, his demons finally got the best of him.

I'm writing about this for no other reason than because I had to. Had I not spent the time that I have writing this down, whether on a computer or a piece of paper, I would have continued to think about it in some disjointed fashion for several weeks to come. At least this way I can enjoy a bit of continuity sprinkled among my jumbled thoughts and memories and I like to think that TL would be touched knowing that even five years after his death, someone is missing him as if it happened only yesterday. I'm also quite sure that TL would completely understand the fact my sense of loss stems from not only knowing of his death, but being brutally reminded of the passage of time, as well.

It's times like this, having the exacting and encompassing memory I do, that I truly feel blessed and resoundingly cursed, concurrently, and I can't help but wonder how many other people who have been my friends at various times are alive now only in my memories.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Detox & Zetox

Hello dum-dums.

Do I really need to say anything?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Michael Vale's Doppleganger

Meet, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. He's the terrorist mastermind behind a ridiculous number of terrorist attacks or, at least, he claims to be. Mohammed has claimed responsibility for 31 plots around the world, including the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington saying, "I was responsible for the 9/11 operation, from A to Z." Last week he also confessed to beheading US journalist Daniel Pearl "with my blessed right hand," and from the way things are progressing, I have a feeling if we give him enough time, he may even claim to be the Zodiac as well as being responsible for the deaths of Bob Crane and JonBenet Ramsey and could possibly turn out to be that guy who always drives so slow in the fast lane and talks during the movie.

All I know is that every time I see his picture I can't help thinking, "Time to make the doughnuts."

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Three/Four Musketeers

Richard Lester's adaptation of The Three Musketeers was only the latest of many when released in 1974, but it arrived with a spirit all its own, one influenced as much by Lester's '60s work as the Alexandre Dumas classic. Even so, it followed the plot of Dumas' novel fairly closely, its liberties in interpretation taken elsewhere. Coming off the success of Cabaret, Michael York plays D'Artagnan, the provincial, would-be swashbuckler who travels to Paris to make his name. There he encounters the eponymous heroes: cynical Athos (Oliver Reed), dashing Aramis (Richard Chamberlain), and arrogant Porthos (Frank Finlay). The trio introduces him to the world of court intrigue as they work to protect the Queen (Geraldine Chaplin) from the schemes of the villainous Richelieu (Charlton Heston) and his followers, Rochefort (Christopher Lee) and Milady (Faye Dunaway).

The Four Musketeers picks up where 1974's The Three Musketeers left off, as D'Artagnan, Athos, Aramis, and Porthos scuttle the plans of Lady de Winter to remove Queen Anne from the seat of power. De Winter is determined to get revenge against the Musketeers, and when she learns that D'Artagnan is infatuated with the lovely Constance, she first tries to foil their romance by seducing D'Artagnan herself, and then by persuading Rochefort to kidnap Constance. She then engineers the assassination of the Duke of Buckingham (Simon Ward), a close friend of D'Artagnan; when word of the Duke's death and Constance's imprisonment reaches D'Artagnan and his comrades, the foursome ride off to rescue the fair lady and see that justice is done against de Winter. The Four Musketeers was filmed concurrently with The Three Musketeers; it was originally intended to be one film, but when director Richard Lester realized the movie would be over three and a half hours long, the decision was made to release it as two separate features instead. This led to lawsuits filed by several of the stars, claiming that they were hired under false pretenses and entitled to be paid for making two films rather than one. The actors won their case, but their settlement was significantly less than the salary they hoped to receive. (All movie guide)

The best way, for me, to sum up this film (or films - depending on your perspective) is: Fun, fun and more fun. I have been a fan of this version of the Musketeers since I first saw the film as a kid in the '70's. As I grew older, I began to appreciate the scope of the cast as well as the fact that it was a huge joint effort which was equally shared by everyone involved - though I will say that, personally, Oliver Reed was my favorite and I feel that he amazingly brought an underlying sense of melancholy (which is explained near the end) to his scenes even when surrounded by comedy or action. You don't even need to be familiar with Dumas' book to enjoy this theatrical outing - just wait for a day where you don't mind being in for the afternoon, make sure you have a load of 'comfort food' - turn off the phones, sit back and enjoy.

Richard Lester, by the way, also directed The Beatles' 'A Hard Day's Night' and 'Help' as well as 'Superman II' and 'Superman III' and, one of my favorites, 'Juggernaut' with Richard Harris. On a sad note, Lester quite directing films in 1989 following the sequel to The Three/Four Musketeers. The movie was based on Dumas' book, Twenty Years Later which bought the Musketeers back together because of a new plot. The movie brought together the original Musketeers as well as Christopher Lee with newcomers Kim Cattrall as the daughter of Milady De Winter and C. Thomas Howell as Athos' adopted son. Another original cast member was Roy Kinnear who had played D'Artagnan's manservant and was known throughout England for his portrayal of a variety of comedic and sympathetic characters. Tragically, Roy fell from a horse during filming causing an injury to his pelvis which lead to his death. Since that time, Lester has only directed one project which was a concert documentary for his friend Paul McCartney.

Friday, March 16, 2007

These Pages Must Show

I'm a voracious reader. A portion of my daily life is spent reading and I make a concerted effort not to limit myself to only a handful of topics or genres. I tend to keep several books queued for future reading and will often quickly complete a couple of non-fiction selections, in a few sittings, while simultaneously enjoying a slow thoughtful journey through a detailed work of fiction that may take a solid month, or more, depending on it's girth. Sometimes, the exact opposite is true.

To me, a good book is a book that can make you laugh out loud, experience sharp intakes of breath or feel wonderfully content and yet, slightly forlorn once completed. There are several books that I've read six or seven times, at least, and upon each reading, I find that my progress tends to grow slower and slower as I approach the end in a contradictory effort to postpone the inevitable. I'm funny like that.

One of my favorite authors of all time is Charles Dickens and even though my list of favorite books is always changing to mirror my mood, "David Copperfield" is always present and also happens to be the point of this long, seemingly endless, selfish ramble. One of the characters in "David Copperfield" is a coachman, Mr Barkis, who is pleasant enough and eventually marries Mrs. Peggotty, a servant to David's family. Some time later, Mr. Barkis becomes ill (very rheumatic) and during a visit from David they have an exchange of which this is a portion:

'And I don't regret it,' said Mr. Barkis. 'Do you remember what you told me once, about her making all the apple parsties and doing all the cooking?'

'Yes, very well,' I returned.

'It was as true,' said Mr. Barkis, 'as turnips is. It was as true,' said Mr. Barkis, nodding his nightcap, which was his only means of emphasis, 'as taxes is. And nothing's truer than them.'

Mr. Barkis turned his eyes upon me, as if for my assent to this result of his reflections in bed; and I gave it.

'Nothing's truer than them,' repeated Mr. Barkis; 'a man as poor as I am, finds that out in his mind when he's laid up. I'm a very poor man, sir!'

I have no idea where the phrase 'true as turnips' originates but it has remained with me since I first read the book. I have searched numerous times and can find no other reference to the phrase, other than Dickens', and have resigned myself to the fact that the phrase was either a little-known geographical colloquialism from the mid 1800's or an invention to comfortably fit the character that was Mr. Barkis. I prefer the later which is why I chose to title this blog as I have with the notion of paying my respects to Mr. Dickens while simultaneously creating something that is a comfortable fit to the character that is me.

Thanks to Chris, The Scottish Lemon, for asking.

And by the way, the title for this post comes from the first line of the book:

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Getting the Punchline

I'm sorry.

I just realized that the title to yesterday's post was a little unfair to the uninitiated. My titles (besides the obvious movie titles) always have a meaning - sometimes double - referencing some aspect of what I'm writing about and are, for the most part, relatively easy to spot if you're familiar with the material.

Yesterday's title should have been more general concerning Alan Moore but, instead, I was referencing an event from The Killing Joke. So, a quick and simple explanation is in order.

At the very beginning, The Joker says the first line of a joke which is easily forgotten about by the time the story gets rolling along. At the end, after a number of significant events have occurred, it's just The Joker and Batman and the finale is still kind of up in the air. That's when The Joker tells Batman the joke. Here it is in it's entirety:

"See, there were these two guys in a lunatic asylum…and one night…one night they decide they don’t like living in an asylum any more. They decide they’re going to escape! So like they get up on to the roof, and there, just across the narrow gap, they see the rooftops of the town, stretching away in moon light…stretching away to freedom.

Now the first guy he jumps right across with no problem. But his friend, his friend daren’t make the leap. Y’see he’s afraid of falling… So then the first guy has an idea. He says “Hey! I have my flash light with me. I will shine it across the gap between the buildings. You can walk across the beam and join me.” B-But the second guy just shakes his head. He suh-says …he says “What you think I am crazy? You would turn it off when I was half way across”.

Now it makes sense.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Walking the Beam of Light

While we're on the subject of Alan Moore........

I thought a little more information could possibly be helpful or insightful or interesting or, well, you get the idea. Anyway, after writing about Watchmen, yesterday, I realized that it would be easy to be familiar with Alan Moore's work even if you've never read anything he's written.

For example, V for Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Constantine and From Hell were all written by Moore (graphic novels) before becoming films. In fact, the adaptations were treated so poorly, Moore had his name removed from each project and has basically sworn off film versions of any of his work that he owns the rights to, which is unfortunate for 'Extraordinary Gentlemen' fans since Moore has continued that series and the next book should be out later this year. Thankfully (maybe), Watchman had been sold long ago and has the potential to become the best complete adaptation of Moore's work. I say 'complete' because there is a rumor that another story of Moore's has been a big influence on Christopher Nolan (Director of Batman Begins) and he plans to incorporate certain aspects into his upcoming Batman sequel. The story that I'm referring to is the single-issue, Batman: The Killing Joke, first published in 1988. That story, along with Brian Bolland's art, created several shifts in the comics universe as well as providing us with some iconic images. The biggest shift created would have to have been the shooting and subsequent paralyzing of Barbara Gordon, which was a huge shock and, obviously, altered the character dramatically, effectively killing Batgirl. It is an intense read and tells a superb origin story for The Joker. If you're a Batfan or simply want to familiarize yourself with Alan Moore, I highly recommend this book.

By the way, the graphic representation of The Joker that acts as my sentry for this blog (upper right corner), and also alludes to a little of my inner workings, is the cover from The Killing Joke.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Keeping Watch

With this weekend's profitable release of the movie 300, I was excited, but reserved, at hearing the news that 300's director, Zack Snyder has now been tapped to direct the long, long, long awaited film adaptation of Alan Moore's Watchmen. I say 'reserved' because this is something that I (along with every well-read geek) has been waiting for (and dreading) for years. The project has started and stopped more times than anyone can, or cares to, count and the fans have grown cautious about any displays of excitement lest the rug be yanked from beneath us, yet again. Also, I mentioned that I (along with others, I'm sure) have a sense of dread regarding this project that simply stems from the fear that the story could never be adequately represented without a really, really long film. An epic, epic. There's also the concern, of course, that the story would be changed to fit some executive's idea of what it should be. Kind of like they always do, with very few exceptions, with books and, seemingly, Alan Moore's in particular.

Here's a quick synopsis borrowed from the wikipedia entry:
Watchmen is set in 1985, in an alternative history United States where costumed adventurers are real and the country is edging closer to a nuclear war with the Soviet Union (the Doomsday Clock is at five minutes to midnight). It tells the story of a group of past and present superheroes and the events surrounding the mysterious murder of one of their own. Watchmen depicts superheroes as real people who must confront ethical and personal issues, who struggle with neuroses and failings, and who - with one notable exception - lack anything recognizable as super powers. Watchmen's deconstruction of the conventional superhero archetype, combined with its innovative adaptation of cinematic techniques and heavy use of symbolism, multi-layered dialogue, and metafiction, has influenced both comics and film.

I could really go on about this for a while, and perhaps I shall at a later date. If you haven't read this and would like to, you can pick up the 12 - issue series in a single trade paperback volume for around US$15.00 at almost any book store or comic shop. I highly recommend this read since it is one of a handful of comics that forced an industry revolution and made it possible for deeper, richer and more meaningful stories to be addressed in a medium that hadn't changed much since it's inception.

Monday, March 12, 2007

What's the Buzz?

I'm not sure where to start - there's so many things that I could pick from and I'm (personally) having a rather busy day. There's too many to decide on one so I'll hit them all.

I'll make it quick.

The movie 300 opened with a huge (for March) weekend of $70 million. Way to go!

Richard Jeni died of an apparent self inflicted gunshot wound on Saturday. Quitter!

Eddie Izzard's new show "The Riches" debuts on the FX network tonight. Way to go!

Van Halen gets inducted into the Rock & Roll hall of fame tonight. Way to go!

Eddie Van Halen will (probably) not be in attendance since he just checked into rehab. Quitter! Sorry, I meant: Way to go!

Brad Delp, lead singer for the band Boston was found dead in his home on Friday. That just sucks.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Murder by Decree

In this 1979 film, the murders by the infamous British criminal, Jack the Ripper, catch the attention of Sherlock Holmes (Christopher Plummer), but he does not receive the expected call from Scotland Yard because he is being purposefully excluded from the investigation. Instead, Robert Lees (Donald Sutherland), a psychic who volunteered information to the police about the murders, provides the Great Detective with the necessary incitement to action. As the murders proceed, it becomes clear to all concerned that it is more important to stop them than to announce their solution, and Holmes enters the fray with the help of his trusty aide, Dr. Watson (James Mason). The former mistress of a "prominent personage," Annie Crook (Genevieve Bujold), provides crucial information leading to a final confrontation on London's docks. - All Movie Guide

This is an excellent non-Conan Doyle "Holmes" story and I'm always particularly intrigued by the thought of Holmes investigating the Ripper murders. Interestingly, the man whom most scholars agree was the inspiration for the character of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Joseph Bell, Conan Doyle’s professor of clinical surgery at Edinburgh University, was actually asked to help with the Ripper investigation, but that is another fascinating post for a later date.

I would normally make some reference to the actors, at this point, but it's Christopher Plummer and James Mason. However, they're both always wonderful so there's not a lot that I can say. The only concern for the two actors could have pertained to their chemistry together as their characters and that, I'm glad to say, is not an issue. The two actors have the type of rapport that actually seems to come from being friends for many years and my only regret is that they didn't perform together as these characters again before James Mason's death in 1984. Ironically, the original casting of Peter O'Toole as Holmes and Laurence Olivier as Watson never came to fruition because, having not worked well together in the past, O'Toole and Olivier were unable to overcome their differences.

The film is well made, the period is properly represented and, most importantly, the "solution" is based on several popular theories concerning Jack the Ripper rather than taking "creative license" to an exaggerated extreme. There are a few action sequences but this movie is primarily a visual Sherlock Holmes story - meaning that the movie will stimulate your brain more than your adrenal glands.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


300 is based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller and is a ferocious retelling of the ancient Battle of Thermopylae in which King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and 300 Spartans fought to the death against Xerxes and his massive Persian army. The film brings Miller's acclaimed graphic novel to life by combining live action with virtual backgrounds that capture his distinct vision of this ancient historic tale.

For me, this movie was a really good time. The story, while relatively simple, played out in such a way that the intrigue and politics were not left out, but layered between intense scenes as a form of pallet cleanser. Now don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the intense scenes in all of their violent, graphic and over-the-top glory, I'm merely saying that the deeper story was included in such a way as to remain interesting while acting as a break in the action, as well. I don't normally mention the editing of a film, but I would really be surprised if this one could have been edited any better.

I'm used to seeing Gerard Butler in supporting roles, of which his turns in "Timeline" and "Reign of Fire" are two of my favorites, but I thought he was excellently cast as King Leonidas and stood up to the task brilliantly. The other performance that I think I should mention is that of the character Dilios who proves to be instrumental in defining the future of Sparta and is portrayed with quiet intensity by David Wenham who is probably best known for his performance as Faramir in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. The political intrigue story is kept afloat very nicely by Leonidas' Queen, played by Lena Headey, and one of the council members, Theron, played by Dominic West. West was most recently a detective in "Hanibal Rising" and, if I'm not mistaken, Lena Headey is playing Sarah Connor in the series, "The Sarah Connor Chronicles," when ever it debuts.

Lastly, I must mention the visuals; the true star of the film. The fact that the movie was filmed completely in 'green screen' (as was "Sin City" - also by Frank Miller - but with a different quality of stylized results) may be well known, but the final product is now becoming the bigger topic of conversation. I thought the movie had beautiful, chilling and staggering visuals with an overall ethereal look and while the images were exaggerated to match the mythology of the story, they were also color muted so as to tone down the gore but not remove it entirely. I'm really looking forward to seeing this in high definition.

I guess I've rambled on long enough and the final word on this movie is much the same as all the others: If it sounds like something you might like, go see it and have fun.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

How Was School Today?

When I look back to my early years of school, I'm pretty sure that the sixth grade has the most meaning for me. I feel that way for a variety of reasons, but I think the biggest reason would have to be the teacher. That particular year, for whatever reason, we didn't change classes and had the same teacher all day and I'm absolutely positive that I learned more in school that year than any year before or after which I must attribute to our teacher, Mr B. That year was also special because it was the first time that I read "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings," because of the numerous references to them made by Mr B. He was well read, comical, and could really hold your attention during a lecture - or telling a story, but the most important thing about him was that he was unconventional. He didn't like the system and the system didn't like him. I remember he would bribe us to do our homework by telling us that if everyone brought in their homework for the entire week, we could spend the last half of Friday outside doing what ever we wanted to, as a class. It only took one ass chewing by the whole class to never forget you homework, again. On several occasions, we were busted for being outside (classes had to have special permission) by the administrators and Mr B. was reprimanded. There was even one morning that he showed up late and told the class that he was ill (and he looked it) but was going to have to stay because he'd gotten up too late for a substitute. He then proceeded to inform us that we could do as we pleased, all day, as long as we could (please) do it quietly. Next, he made out a list (in obvious agony) of 11 guys to take turns watching the door with 30 minute shifts. After giving the guys (I was one of them) their door watching assignment, he proceeded to the back of the room, climbed atop our work table and promptly fell asleep. With the exception of lunch and while diligent students, ready to sound the alarm, guarded the room against unwanted intruders, Mr B. spent the entire day sleeping through his illness of what occurred to me several years later as a bitch of a hangover.

That year was a very enlightening year because of introductions to actual "authors," short story writing, and more of an in-depth approach to science and math. I also remember that, after school, my biggest concern was getting home to watch "Battle of the Planets" and reruns of "Speed Racer," and then bury my head in a book until time for bed. It was at some point during that period that I discovered there was not only wonder in the world, but that I could create it.

What's my point? Well, (I've gone on longer than I intended - just kind of got carried away) my recollection of all this started when I read this article concerning the two sixth grade students who had sex in shop class. Of course, still being the kid that I am, my first thought was, "Why the hell didn't we get to have shop class when I was in sixth grade," and my second thought, showing a little more maturity was, "Shop class? Couldn't that be dangerous?" Basically, the gist of the story is that two sixth grade students "completed the act of intercourse" while ten other students witnessed the event. Apparently, the two students 'built their birdhouse' while the teacher was in another part of the room and a fellow student acted as a look-out. At some point, the teacher discovered what had transpired and the two students (they never mentioned if it was a male and female) were recommended for expulsion although no disciplinary action has been confirmed and the administration and staff have kept the event under wraps for four months. And while the adult side of me is shocked (okay, not shocked but definitely surprised), the less adult side of me can't help but imagine what the look on my mother's face would have been like if, in response to her "What'd you do in school, today?" inquiry, I had replied, "I got laid!"

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Making an Impression

First, the good news: NASA officials say the space agency is capable of finding nearly all the asteroids that might pose a devastating hit to Earth.

Now, the bad news: There isn't enough money to pay for the task so it won't get done.

In the article, "Killer Asteroid Hunt Starved for Funds," (posted on The Discovery Channel News site) NASA is referring to asteroids that are "slightly smaller than the Superdome in New Orleans" that could cause devastation to Earth by either direct impact or by heating up in the atmosphere and exploding with the force of 100 million tons of dynamite.

NASA came up with several solutions for the White House:

A ground telescope built for the sole purpose of finding the asteroids for $800 million - rejected
An infrared space telescope designed to do the job faster for $1.1 billion - rejected
Use other agencies' telescopes at a cost of $300 million - rejected

Apparently, my government thinks that the money, time and effort involved in saving the entire planet just isn't cost effective. No wonder we get such a bad rap.

It's too bad that only a small number of people saw or were affected by the Tunguska blast of 1908. We may not be so lucky, next time, and it's obvious that we'll be unprepared. At least we'll have plenty of oil.

I think I'll see if I can contact Bruce Willis.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Cliche Rotation Project

On Friday, Matt, at defective yeti, posted some of the submissions for his "Cliche Rotation Project."

The idea was to come up with new phrasing for old, worn-out cliches. For example, instead of saying, "Made a mountain out of a molehill," say,
"Saw a duck and shouted "dragon!" Go here to read the original posting.

If you're remotely interested, go check out the submissions - they're really funny and creative and there's even one from yours truly.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Forbidden Planet

Forbidden Planet, one of the truly great science fiction classics, was my dvd choice, last week.

Brief synopsis: MGM's first big-budget science fiction film, Forbidden Planet, combined state-of-the-art special effects with a storyline based on Shakespeare's The Tempest. In the 23rd century, Cmdr. J.J. Adams (Leslie Nielsen) guides United Planets cruiser C-57-D on a rescue mission to faraway planet Altair-4. Twenty years earlier, Earth ship Bellerophon disappeared while en route to Altair-4. Only the ship's philologist, Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon), survived; in the intervening decades, Morbius has created an Edenlike world of his own, for the benefit of himself and his nubile young daughter, Altaira (Anne Francis). His private paradise is zealously guarded by Robby the Robot, a piece of technology far in advance of anything on Earth. When Adams and his crew land on Altair-4, Morbius announces that he has no intention of being rescued and returned to Earth. When Adams attempts to contact home base, he finds that his radio equipment has been smashed by some unseen force. Holding Morbius responsible, Adams confronts the scientist, who decides to tell all. At one time, according to Morbius, Altair-4 was populated by the Krel, a wise, intellectually superior race. Using leftover Krel technology, Morbius has doubled his intellect and gained the ability to shape a new world to his own specifications. Forbidden Planet was a big influence on future sci-fi outer-space efforts, especially Star Trek. The letterboxed video version is the closest to the original. All Movie Guide

This one is easy. If you're a fan of sci-fi, then you'll enjoy this movie regardless of when it was made. In fact, Id really be surprised to find a sci-fi fan who hasn't seen this movie, but if you have missed this film, for whatever reasons, this new 50th anniversary edition release is the perfect opportunity to play catch-up. I've always felt that this was a very important movie because it laid the groundwork for so many future movies and television series; Star Trek being the most obvious. By taking a serious storyline, provided by Shakespeare, and investing extra time, money and creativity into the special effects (think Star Wars), an excellent movie was crafted that also happened to be science fiction rather than having a movie that was only science fiction for the sake of being science fiction.

Additionally, Forbidden Planet gave us one of the most recognizable sci-fi icons (for geeks like me) of all time: Robby the Robot. Robby was the predecessor and inspiration for the robot of Lost in Space known only as, Robot. Ironically, Robby appeared in two episodes of Lost in Space, appearing in one as an evil robot with which the Robinson's Robot had to battle in order to protect them. Over the years, Robby the Robot has appeared regularly in productions ranging from the original Twilight Zone, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Banana Splits (hi Chris), Columbo, Mork and Mindy, and the films Gremlins and Earth Girls are Easy, just to name a few.

And I would be remiss if I failed to mention how cool it is seeing Leslie Nielsen portray such an excellent predecessor to Captain James T. Kirk. It's really easy to forget that Nielsen can play a straight role as well as he can a comedic one.

Lastly, this film is one of a very select few that, every few years, when it gets mentioned in terms of a 'remake', fans, writers, and directors alike all rally against such a notion because it is generally believed that, even with the best intentions, a remake could not justly represent and would inadvertently diminish the importance and quality of the original.

Saturday, March 03, 2007


Zodiac is the true story behind the murders that many crime scholars believe to be the most perplexing series of unsolved crimes in modern history. David Fincher, director of Fight Club and Seven, tells the mysterious tale of the infamous Zodiac: A relentless serial killer is stalking the streets of the San Francisco Bay Area, leaving citizens locked into a constant state of panic and baffled authorities scrambling for clues. Though the killer sadistically mocks the detectives by leaving a series of perplexing ciphers and menacing letters at the crime scenes, the investigation quickly flat-lines when none of the evidence yields any solid leads. As two detectives remain steadfast in their devotion to bringing the elusive killer to justice, they soon find that the madman has control not only over their careers, but their very lives as well. (All Movie Guide)

This is a movie that clocks in at 2 hours and 40 minutes and yet, for me, it seemed like an hour and a half. I was already familiar with the Zodiac murders, but watching the details play out from start to as close to an end as you could get was absolutely mesmerizing. I felt every actor involved was superb and even though Jake Gyllenhaal will get most of the accolades, I felt that the performances by Robert Downey Jr as Paul Avery and Mark Ruffalo as Inspector David Toschi were as equally engaging. Toschi, by the way, was the inspiration for Steve McQueen's Frank Bullitt.

My favorite part of the film, however, had to be David Fincher. For me, what really set this movie apart from any other attempt or an A & E recreation was the attention to detail. Absolutely everything in each scene is representative of the specific time period. It actually felt like I was a fly on the wall as these events were unfolding. It is my understanding that Robert Graysmith, author of the two books on which the movie is based and the character in which Gyllenhaal portrays in the film, had his pick of directors and decided on Fincher, a San Francisco Bay Area native, because Fincher was more interested in making a good movie rather than opening weekend gross. Also, as a 7-year-old kid, Fincher remembered being escorted to school by police after Zodiac threatened an attack on a school bus.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Queen to Queen's Level 3

While we're on the subject of movies.......

********** GEEK ALERT **********

As if I haven't been geeky enough for the past couple of days, now I have Star Trek news to share.

First, I should clarify the type of fan that I am. I don't necessarily think that all the incarnations of Star Trek have been good, but I've watched every one of them because I'm a fan and that's what fan's do. I definitely felt that a couple of the series' were not up to standard, but I watched them anyway because without support it all goes away and I'd rather have an "okay" series than none at all. Plus, I'm not the type of person who gives up when things get difficult. Well, unfortunately, the series "Enterprise" was canceled and the last motion picture, "Nemesis" (which I really enjoyed), didn't fare well at the box office and so it all ended with nothing new on the horizon.

Then, a glimmer. In July of last year, Paramount announced that they had signed a significant deal with J. J. Abrams, the creator of "Alias", "Lost", and writer/director of "Mission Impossible 3", and given him the reigns to Star Trek in order to develop the next film. At the time, there were a lot of rumors about what Abrams' role would be and he was kind of non-committal except for stating that he would produce and "help develop" the story.

Now, I was aware of all of these rumors before I went to see MI:3, and while I never doubted Abrams' story telling abilities, I wasn't sure that he was up to the task of directing since, at that point, he'd never directed a feature film. Before MI:3 was over half over, I was convinced that Abrams would do a spectacular job directing - which meant, of course, that someone else would direct it.

Fast forward to Tuesday when what I'd been hoping to hear for six months was confirmed with Paramount announcing that Abrams would indeed be directing the next Star Trek feature with filming set to begin this fall and a projected release date of December 25, 2008. Merry #@!#$@%! Christmas! I am such the geek. Anyway, I'm very excited because I thought Abrams' work on MI:3 was exceptional and I'm anxious to see that level of ability applied to a Star Trek film. What I think I like the most is the fact that no one's really going to know what to expect. It's the complete unknown.....kind of like what Gene Roddenberry wanted us to experience every week.