Sunday, April 30, 2006

Films that are Worth a Second Look

As with any form of art, whether or not its any good or not lies strictly in the eye of the beholder. There are some wonderful offerings out there if one is willing to take a chance. The following short list is submitted for your approval.

Donnie Darko (2001) Directed by Richard Kelly. Modern masterpiece. This film suffered at the box office because it opened the weekend after September 11th. Do yourself a favor and rent the director’s cut. What an amazing piece of filmmaking. This is the kind of picture that leaves you with an impression that last long after the film. Trying to find answers to the questions that you come away from after your first viewing will rack your brain and be the fodder for many a conversation over a couple of cups of coffee or a few beers, if one was so inclined. Can one outrun fate? How about those pesky time paradoxes and Stephen Hawking inspired wormholes? Amazing picture.

The Americanization of Emily (1964) Directed by Arthur Hiller. Timely and timeless. It is one of the most intelligent discussions on war ever put to film. It stars James Garner and Julie Andrews. I was lucky enough to catch it on Turner Classic Movies. If by chance you get the opportunity, see it. It will make you laugh and make you think.

Time Bandits (1981) Directed by Terry Gilliam. Lets get something straight; I love Terry Gilliam. The man is a genius – bottom line. The story revolves around a group of dwarves who work for the Supreme Being and a young boy that they scoop up along the way. They steal a map that shows where and when portals in time and space open and close, using them to rob the treasures of history. The Supreme Being wants it back and Evil, played by David Warner, wants to exploit it. It is just an amazing picture in a line of amazing pictures from Gilliam.

Blade Runner (1982) Directed by Ridley Scott. Rick Deckard is a “Blade Runner” whose job is to hunt down and kill “replicants,” genetically engineered – android super beings, that have lived past their allotted years or have gone renegade. He is very good at what he does, but some things are not all they appear to be. This is another film that will stay with you not just because of the jaw dropping shots of a future Los Angeles but because of the revelation of a man who may or may not be all that he thinks himself to be.

Shaun of the Dead (2004) Directed by Edgar Wright. This is one of the films that I would gladly take with me to a deserted island. Simon Pegg is Shaun (he and Wright wrote the film too). The tagline is priceless, “A romantic comedy – with zombies.” What’s not to love? You’ll laugh and you will be surprised as to how much heart and wallop the film brings as well. The characters, which are played as real people under quite extraordinary circumstances, all grow and develop to the point that you really care about their survival. It’s amazing what a man in love with a Cricket Bat can do. Fun film. See it.

All right then, there are five that I don’t believe you should miss. They are most certainly worth a second look.

(All copyrights belong to other entities and I’m not making a shilling off of their efforts.)

Saturday, April 29, 2006

What’s in a Name?

People ask, “Hey Evil Chicken, how’d you get your crazy name?” Well, therein lies the tale…

My wife, our two daughters (at the time) and I were at a family birthday party. There were 20 or so kids outside playing within the confines of a large, fenced-in yard while the adults who remained at the party chatted inside about NASCAR, the right to bear arms, insurance rates and the local school district. My cousin, our host, kept chickens in an old wooden chicken coop that sat in the west end of the lot.

“Can you imagine the concentration that a driver has to have?” one father asked me. “I mean, you are really movin’ down that track – 200 MPH!”

“Boy, I’ll say.” I replied taking a sip of coffee.

If I live to be 142, I’ll never get the concept of NASCAR. My love for racing ended when Speed Racer left the airwaves back in the seventies. I’m sure that it is quite exciting and that there are some hard earned lessons to be taken from the spectacle – I just lack the vision to see it. To me, it just seems like a bunch of guys driving cars. That’s a spectacle that I try to avoid on the highways Monday through Friday – I can’t think of a reason to take up any time on the weekend to watch more of it. Still, there I was standing in a sea of black and red tee shirts with number “3s” on them.

“Oh my Gawd! That girl’s gonna get hurt!” a seated woman said. She had just packed the last few crumbs from a thick slice of birthday cake into her jowls.

My wife and I exchanged glances. On some base molecular level we knew that it was one of our daughters. Knowing our daughters and the sheer haphazard destruction that they can wreak, it was almost inevitable. I looked out the window and saw two figures – no, two combatants, the 4 year-old Kathryn and a 2.5-foot tall rooster. I excused myself from the NASCAR conversation, pushed my way through crowd, stepped through the open doorway and, so as not to startle the rooster into doing something rash, I slowly descended the stairs.

Putting one hand in front of me, as if I were a Jedi Knight using the force, I said, “Honey… Step away from the chicken.” No sooner had I uttered these words than my daughter assumed that famous Lou Ferrigno stance from The Incredible Hulk TV show and began to roar.

“Grrr!” she growled. The sound was guttural – the Hulk would have been proud.

The rooster had had enough. This roaring creature was a clear and present danger. A threat to his barnyard was imminent and it was time to show all in attendance just who ruled the roost. He sprang into the air, his talons both raised and ready to sink into my baby’s face. This is instinctual behavior with birds. They go for the eyes. This chicken was going for my daughter’s beautiful eyes. Kathryn pulled back as the chicken struck – instead of blinding my daughter, the rooster inflicted two scratches on either side of her throat.

I scooped up my baby, estimated the rate of decent of the chicken and kicked. My foot connected with the bird, launching it into the side of a nearby outbuilding. It bounced off and scurried away clucking curses in chickenese at my offspring and me.

I carried Kat back to the steps and set her on her feet. She was shaking and breathing heavy. Her scratches were superficial.

“Man, that’s one evil chicken.” She said.

“EXPLETIVE!” the hostess said from the top of the landing. She was furious. Her eyes scanned the yard looking for her husband, my cousin. She found him.

“I want that EXPLETIVE chicken dead! Do you EXPLETIVE hear me?”

My cousin verbalized that he understood. He looked to his older brother and then to me. I knew what was going to happen next. She was the judge and the three of us were to carry out the sentence; capitol punishment – pure and simple. I had never been party to such events. I began to think that DNA evidence would not be needed for the bird’s appeal. His day in court was over and done with. Dead chicken strutting.

“You know, it wasn’t really his fault.” I said. This was true. The bird had escaped from his cage and was protecting himself from the onslaught of the incredible 4 year-old.

“No! That EXPLETIVE bird is dangerous.” She said. “This has EXPLETIVE happened before.”

I looked back to my cousins. The bird’s rights to appeal had been denied. It was time for action. Surprisingly, the bird was easily coaxed back into the outbuilding. I heard later that he had roosted there from time to time. My cousins and I entered behind him and closed the door.

Gentle reader, I will spare the gory details and censure myself. I will leave out the parts about the dull axe, the switched executioners and the three whacks that still kept the head on the evil chicken’s shoulders. Suffice to say that I was the bagman and assisted with the sentence. We deposited the earthly remains in a Hefty bag.

We emerged from the garage with grim expressions on our faces. It was over. The deed was done.

“EXPLETIVE - A!” our hostess said upon seeing the bag in my arms. We deposited him at the curb.

The party broke up shortly after the sentence was carried out. We said our good byes and made our way home, taking with us the weight of the memories of the day.

Time passes, as it always does, and I now pause to reflect – hoping that some part of the evil chicken lives on somewhere. A place where there are no coops or chicken wire or children’s birthday parties – a happy place. I suppose that if I were to attempt a deeper, more heartfelt moral to the tale it would be this; any and all wayward cocks should just stay away from my daughters.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Re-Energized Part II, The Movies

Star Trek movies have grossed over a BILLION dollars worldwide. That makes the Star Trek juggernaut a force to be reckoned with and something that Paramount Pictures will use to their advantage. Some have lamented the “odd / even” curse; which says in the nutshell that the odd numbered pictures are trash and the even numbered pictures are good. I don’t buy that; as you will see by the overly scrutinized list below. For this fan, the Star Trek movies run the gamut from wonderful entertainments to sentences of punishment in small countries.

“Omar, time and again you have failed to heed the chicken licensing laws of our country. I sentence you to three consecutive viewings of Star Trek Nemesis!”

“AHHHH!” Omar screamed as he was dragged away from the judge’s tent. “Not THAT!”

I’m getting ahead of myself. The following are my opinions of the Star Trek movies in order of their releases. Why? You may ask – because I can and I promised a “part II.” : ) Beware lads and lasses, there be spoilers aplenty below…

Star Trek – The Motion Picture (1979). After seeing how much money a little film called Star Wars had made in 1977, Paramount decided to appease “Trekies” the world over and dust off their own space opera. I am glad that they did. This movie has taken a lot of criticism over the years; yes it reintroduced Kirk, Spock and McCoy (and on the big screen, no less), but it didn’t mesh with much of the public. Robert Wise directed the film. The guy was a genius, however, he had no idea who the characters were. Even so this is closest hard science fiction effort from the Trek franchise ever and one of my favorites. The effects and score are great. I even loved the tagline, “The human adventure is just beginning.”

Star Trek II – The Wrath of Kahn (1982). To date this is the finest Star Trek film ever to grace the big screen. Directed by Nicholas Meyer who turned Starfleet into a tightly run navy (which is how it should be), this film reached back into Trek history and pulled back Khan Noonien Singh, from the Classic episode “Space Seed.” Khan is pissed at Kirk for marooning him and his people on a dieing planet and he wants his pound of flesh. Great character interplay and story this one has drama, death, mid-life crisis and phaser battles between Federation ships; you can’t go wrong. Mr. Spock dies saving the Enterprise. I saw this picture at a matinee and I was able to blame the afternoon sunshine for my watering eyes; only you, gentle reader, know the truth. This one set the bar for excellence in the movies; it also set the dress code as well. The uniforms worn here influenced each and every successive Star Trek effort since.

Star Trek III – The Search for Spock (1984). Directed by Leonard Nimoy (Spock), a man who knows the world of Star Trek. The remaining crew of the Enterprise hijacks the starship to recover Spock’s body from the Genesis planet and cart him off to the planet Vulcan for a re-fusion with his “Kat-Tra,” the Vulcan soul. Sacrifice, destruction and death still haunt them, as do a particularly nasty group of Klingons. There is a somber tone to this one; it is a bridge – this is part two of a trilogy. In the end the crew’s sacrifice pays off and Spock rejoins his shipmates. This was not an easy task to pull off but Nimoy does. How about that, the needs of the one did outweigh the needs of the many; huh, whodathunk?

Star Trek IV – The Voyage Home (1986). Nimoy is at the helm once more. All of the solemn and sober tones are gone in this one as the crew journey back in time to save the Federation and some extinct humpback whales. This is a light movie but it is a lot of fun. Seeing Spock and McCoy at odds with each other again is great. Each of the crew has camera time, as well. Although much of it is played for humor, you can see why each member of the crew is where he or she is in the Star Trek universe – a professional member of the executive staff of a starship; even if that starship was destroyed in the last film. After saving the world once more, Kirk is made a Captain again and the crew is assigned to their new vessel. Starfleet re-commissions another Constitution Class ship and christens it with the name and registration number, “Enterprise NCC-1701-A.” The sight of it gave me geek chills; dare I say, it still does.

Star Trek V, the Final Frontier (1989). William Shatner had a clause in his contract basically saying that whatever Nimoy gets a crack at, so do I. This clause must have been taken out of his contract after the release of ST5. Until the release of Nemesis, ST5 was considered the worst in the whole film series. Instead of a character driven, holistic view of the 23d century we spend most of our time on Kirk, Spock and McCoy. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, it’s just that the time that we do spend with them is moronic. The three sit around a campfire singing ‘row your boat,’ roasting ‘marshmellons.’ In a plot-thinning move Spock’s brother (?) hijacks the Enterprise to search for God. Set phasers on disintegrate and pull the trigger.

Star Trek VI, the Undiscovered Country (1991). Nicholas Meyer returns to the director’s chair for this one and delivers. I really enjoyed this film. It would have been a wonderful way to end the series with the original actors. That, however, wasn’t going to be the case. Anyway, over the years the title has confused many, however, ‘the undiscovered country’ (yet another Shakespeare reference), is a reference to peace between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. Kirk and crew become the lynch pin between peace and war in the galaxy. Kirk and McCoy escape a Klingon penal colony, Spock and crew solve a mystery aboard the Enterprise and a reunited crew stops an assassination plot. What else can you expect from the crew of the Enterprise? Good story, well paced and plotted. Themes of hatred, reconciliation and forgiveness are at the heart of this one. Excellent stuff. BTW I heard Nicholas Meyer speak at a screenwriter’s convention a few years ago – very cool guy. Star Trek was never mentioned once.

Star Trek (VII) Generations (1994). Directed by David Carson. Generations has always reminded me of Marlon Brando in “On the Waterfront” as he laments to his brother that he “could have been a contender.” This movie could have been something special too. It’s not, but it could have been. Oh don’t get me wrong; there are plenty of things in there to keep a fan interested; Data receiving an emotion chip, a glimpse of Enterprise – B, a crash landing of the saucer section of Enterprise – D, not to mention Kirk and Picard on the screen together saving the day; yeah, a fanboy like myself should have been delighted. Unfortunately, this first venture onto the big screen for the crew of the Enterprise – D, is marred by too many good ideas and not enough time to flesh them out. The whole Nexus Wave phenomenon should have been called the Writer’s Convenience Stream and the death of Captain James T. Kirk should have been handled completely different. It’s Captain Kirk; couldn’t there have been a better summation for the life of a tent pole character than to drop him down a crevasse? By plucking him out of the Nexus Wave at the very end of the movie to help save the day the filmmakers ignored any possible character development between the classic and the next generation crews; too bad. If Kirk had been around for the whole film I might have been able to forgive the whole crevasse death thing. They also recycled an effects shot from an earlier movie, which, for some reason, I find annoying.

Star Trek (VIII) First Contact (1996). This one is directed by Commander Riker himself, Jonathan Frakes; a gentleman who knows the Next Generation. It shows. For my money this is to date, the best Star Trek featuring the Next Generation cast. In this one the Borg go back in time to stop the Earth from ever making first contact with an alien race (Vulcan’s BTW). Anyway, this is a fun offering even though it ignored a lot of what was happening in Star Trek’s own timely continuity; i.e. the Jem-Hedar war happening over at DS-9. Oh well. Geordi’s got eye implants now, which is a good thing. Mr. LaVar Burton is an expressive actor and giving him his full facial features to work with was a good idea. I also liked to see the cameo that Robert Picardo did as the Holo-Doctor on Enterprise – E; well done. It is a good entertainment that gave spotlights to each of the crew; unlike what the weaker films do by highlighting one small group of characters. It takes a crew to run a starship.

Star Trek (IX) Insurrection (1998). Once more directed by Jonathan Frakes. This effort has Captain Picard and Co. protecting the ideals of the “Prime Directive,” Starfleet’s number one rule which boils down to ‘don’t interfere with developing alien cultures.’ Picard finds himself defending this principal against Starfleet itself. You see, there’s this planet that emits a re-generative radiation and makes the population very long lived. Some in Starfleet want to know how at any cost. This is a watchable movie, although it feels like a television episode as opposed to a feature film. As a Star Trek movie; it’s passable. The filmmakers dropped the ball almost completely when it comes to the character development of Mr. Data who completely ignores his emotion chip this time out. Yeah, passable is a good word to sum it up.

Star Trek (X) Nemesis (2002). The tenth installment of the series, directed by Stuart Baird, lackadaisically goes where so many Star Trek films have gone before. The tagline for this the movie is, "One Generation's Final Journey." It's a shame that this final journey is so tragically handled. All of the bridge crew reprise their roles, although they are relegated to cameo appearances. While the Enterprise-E may carry hundreds of Starfleet personnel, "Nemesis," at its core is a Captain Picard and Mr. Data flick played effectively, once again, by Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner. No other characters need apply.

As in Star Treks I through IX, the crew detects a strange sensor signals and go to investigate. They find an interesting piece of technology that is brought back to the Enterprise. This plot device is used back in Star Trek VII. There is an IQ dropping Federation VS Bad Guys planet side, off road chase with Picard at the wheel. – Say, why would the Federation invest in a compliment of Dune Buggies when shuttlecrafts and transporter beams can take you wherever you want to go? Good question. – After the races it’s back to the Enterprise where in a surprise move that hasn't been seen since Star Trek VI, the crew is diverted from their current mission to urgent emergency. During this emergency we meet a very personal enemy, much like the Borg were in Star Trek VIII. After some telepathic mind violation, which hasn't been seen since Star Trek VI and some space battles that have not been glimpsed since Star Treks II-III and V-IX, the captain beams over to face his nemesis one on one. That hasn't been seen since Star Treks VIII & IX. There is also an act of self-sacrifice that we haven't seen since way back in Star Trek II! The only difference is that in Star Trek II the viewer cared. The same plot devices are used over and over again; the characters are not used to a shade of their potential.

This one beats out # 5 (which was pretty bad) as the worst Star Trek movie to date; disappointment aplenty. Levar Burton is horribly underutilized and his character's relationship with Data is never underscored like it should have been. I forget if Gates McFaden (Dr. Crusher) had a speaking roll or not and the Romulans, whose make up looks chunkier than usual, do not act like any member of the Romulan Star Empire that this fan has ever seen. Nothing looks real. This is a serious issue since the job of fiction is to make the unbelievable not only believable, but also accepted in the mind of audience. The Herman Munster makeup that the Romulans were is so distracting that it takes the viewer out of where they are supposed to be (the story) and into the realm of camp. Too bad; when this was made Voyager was the only other alternative. The producers had set the franchise to “auto-destruct.”

The time had come for a rest. Star Trek, the franchise that I loved so, had come to a point of mind numbing repetition. The producers were spent and the ideas looked canned. Yes, time for a rest. It has been a few years since there was no Star Trek to be seen on the television or in the theaters. There have been grumblings on the net; whispers of new Trek carried on the winds. Star Trek is now in the process of re-emerging from its cocoon. Out with the old and in with the new. Paramount is under new management and they remember the day when earning profits soared. They want those days back. Enter Mr. J.J. Abrams; the man who will write and direct Star Trek 11. Rumor on the web says that it will be the adventures of a young Kirk and Spock.

BTW Mr. Abrams, if you need any help with the script I’m available. I’ll bring back Q; Picard would join the Q Continuum and become “P.” I’d bring in the entity that Captain Sisko turned into as well. Maybe I’d have the three of them erase the existence of the television series Voyager. I don’t know what I’d have them do with Star Trek – Enterprise (like I said in Part I of this diatribe, I haven’t seen it yet.) I wish Mr. Abrams the best with this latest ‘Re-Energization.’ I can’t speak for all of geekdom, but I can guarantee that I’ll be in the theater when it opens.

Live long and prosper.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Don’t You Just Hate Random Thoughts

Ten minutes (or so) of Random Thoughts.

- I paid $2.92 for a gallon of gas today. Insane. Everything I said in “The Price of Complacency” I meant.
- Wendy’s Hamburgers. Why is it that something that tastes so good is so bad for you?
- Got a call from a friend of mine today, a film company in England is very interested in a script that he wrote called, “Scent.” They should be, it’s one of the finest scripts that he’s produced thus far. Good on you mate!
- We are about twenty geocaches away from hitting 500. We’re not really ‘about the numbers,’ so to speak but it’s still a cool anniversary.
- I should finish up Re-Energized Part II, but it’s getting late and I’ve got work tomorrow.
- I would get a whole lot more accomplished if I didn’t have to work. Come to think of it; a WHOLE lot more.
- A body was found today in Brendan Byrne State Forest here in South Jersey. Some contractors found it. Scary. My family and I spend a lot of time in these woods and other nooks and crannies around South Jersey. Sad.

Alright, that’s enough for now, I’m hitting the hay.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Re–Energized (part I of II)

I am a geek. I’m proud of this fact and will let my geek flag fly wherever I go. I am a card-carrying member in good standing, mind you, of my geekship. There is no self-respecting fan-boy out there who doesn’t have a special place in his heart for Star Trek. The original 78 episodes of the series started in 1966. There have been five television series and ten feature films. I grew up on the syndicated reruns of the original. I am steeped in Trek lore. The adventures of Kirk, Spock & McCoy introduced me to the wonders of science fiction. It is for this reason that I, Evil Chicken, am very pleased with this announcement…

Yup; Star Trek is going to return. Rick Berman, the man who has helmed the Star Trek universe since Star Trek the Next Generation, is out. Paramount has named new producers and given the reins to Mr. J.J. Abrams (creator of Alias & Lost and the writer/director of Mission Impossible III – which BTW has great early spin). Not too shabby. This is the shot in the arm that the franchise needs. After Enterprise, Star Trek needed a rest. After Nemesis (the tenth & worst film of the series), it needed time to lick its wounds and heal. (I’ll rant about the movies in part II of this wonderful and heartfelt blog.)

The post Classic Star Trek TV experience in the nutshell…

I loved Star Trek the Next Generation. Once the writing team hit its stride and the cast congealed, it was TV magic. The Enterprise – D was a decidedly different vessel than NCC – 1701. Captain Picard (played by the amazing Patrick Stewart) was almost a polar opposite of Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), but it most certainly kept me watching. It was about the story and making the 23d century a real place. Deep Space Nine took a couple of seasons for it to do the same, but in the end I cared about what happened to Captain Sisko and his crew. Voyager just never jelled for me; it never seemed real and in any type of fiction that’s exactly what you are selling, “reality.” I think it was Tom Clancy who said, “The difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense.” Amen. With all due respect to the character of Seven of Nine, Voyager never did. It was wooden, fake. There was no passion or center. It became generic and because of this viewer ship nose-dived. They done went and poisoned the well. Enterprise did a much better job of character development and story telling but unfortunately due to Voyager, people had tuned out. I know that I did. I forgot that it was on. Too bad really, I hear that it got pretty good toward the end. If I get a chance I’ll catch it on DVD.

Star Trek is one of those properties that should inspire the viewer. The casual fan should come away feeling a little bit of hope for the future; hope in knowing that we didn’t blow ourselves up and that, just maybe, the human adventure is just beginning. In today’s world, that’s refreshing. Speaking of today’s world, how many inventors and storytellers have been influenced by Star Trek? If you have a flip cellular phone, a GPS unit, a laptop or a PDA then you may have first seen them being used on a show in the sixties that almost lasted for three seasons. Yeah we are still working on matter transportation and warp drive technology but give it time; the Romulan Empire wasn’t built in a day.

I can’t wait to see what J.J. Abrams has up his sleeve for bringing Star Trek back to the big screen and to the public’s mind. It sounds like the fate of the Federation is in good hands. I’ll be there opening night to confirm my suspicions.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Price of Complacency

I love Spring, the new budding lush greenness all around, the sunshine as seen through the newness of the leaves and the fact that I will not have to pay $500.00 to fill my oil tank until late Fall. Ah Spring; when a young man’s thoughts turn to words that were once held in disgust – alternative fuels, and how much he wishes he could have utilized them during the past winter. My family really felt the squeeze this past winter. I had hoped that the future would resemble the dreams of the futurists. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Welcome to life in the twenty-first century and a future that remains dependent on oil.

Why does it have to be this way? The signs were there and nothing was done. Nothing. I’ve lived long enough to remember the energy crisis of the seventies. OPEC tightened the screws and gas prices soared to the unheard price of 76 cents a gallon. There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth. Dependency on foreign oil brought us to our knees and introduced the concept of Odd – Even days to a public and society that ran on fossil fuels. Time passed, deals were struck and OPEC dropped the price of oil once more. Prices dropped and instead of learning from such an experience we ignored it and went back to our lives, driving into a future paved with cheap oil. Why should we consider the use of alternative energies? Oil’s cheap; what are you, some kind of tree hugger?

It’s time I faced the facts – I just may be; although not for all of the usual reasons. I live work and play in South Jersey and today, 4/18/06; I paid $2.69 for a gallon of gas. $2.69! I’m sure that there are a million reasons why but for me it comes down to complacency. Big oil companies do not want to retool their shops, American carmakers? Same thing. The public? We follow; we do as we are told. We resist any type of change and hang on securely to our status quo. It is this stubborn dedication to the norm, to our own comfort, that is really killing us. Our greed betrays us, yet again. One cannot mention greed and leave out the oil companies. It is not just a natural resource that is being exploited; it’s also the public – you and I, each and every time we put a twenty into a gas tank or $250.00 into a heating oil tank to be half filled. Now, imagine if you will, a country run on clean, renewable energies not dependent on foreign oil or the interests of big, corporate institutions that care absolutely nothing about anything but the bottom line. Perhaps it is this that ticks me off the most; the ‘what ifs’ – the future that could have been if we didn’t accept things the way they were.

History has taught us nothing.

So who will fund the revolution? I bet on Japan and China. Did you know that 40% of Chinese high school students want to become engineers and that less than 4% of American high school students want to go into the field? Man, it’s a great thing that we have our MTV. Our short attention spans (mine included) don’t allow us to focus on too many things at once. It is systemic.

I don’t mean to sound too negative there are signs that things could change. I love any vehicle that can get 50 miles to the gallon and recently, while driving into Atlantic City from the Atlantic City Express way I glimpsed the future. Off on the back bay sits a new wind farm! I found the sight of it amazing; all hope is not lost. Can you imagine if we had been using such resources since the seventies? Our infrastructure could have been rebuilt to use wind power, solar power, tidal power, geothermal power and hydropower. It would be a different world. Yes there would have been initial problems and attitude adjusting, but all of that would be over now. How many stable, long term jobs could have been created by perfecting and utilizing these emerging and completely renewable technologies? Imagine how it could have been if we refused the status quo and threw off the yoke of oppression that we so gladly have harnessed ourselves to. A world without the dependency on oil; it didn’t have to remain science fiction – we just liked it that way.

Ah, the price of complacency. I don’t believe we can afford it anymore. The wind farm and its five spinning turbines give me hope. Hope that all is not lost, that the world we hand our children is a better place, and that the future really does belong “to those who believe in the power of their dreams.”

Now there is a status quo that I could get behind.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Of Praise and Pitchforks

I am a Christian. Feel free to form your lines now; pitchforks and torches to the right, living and let living to the left. I am a Christian due to my acceptance of Jesus Christ. There was a change – I have no other way to explain it to others save to say that in a moment I knew that it was all real; salvation that is. I cannot deign it; it happened. I’m not going to debate dogmas. Dogma fighting is illegal where I’m from. Just know that yours truly, Evil Chicken, is a Christian.

Did I mention that the torches are to the right?

I rub shoulders with all kinds of people at work and at play. I’m not one to scream what someone is doing is wrong or sinful due to the simple reason that I myself am wrong and sinful. I’m good at it. Please don’t look for judgment from me; I would humbly ask the same in return. Judgment is fortunately not in my hands. Differing views are nothing new; on any given day I run into Evolutionists, alien abductees, Wicans, Druids, Creationists, Atheists, Muslims, Agnostics, Jews, Buddhists, people who say they are Christian and people who live it; their Christianity, that is. I run in several circles. These days people seem to know that I’m Christian. It is not something that I beat over people’s heads – its just part of who I am. You can either accept it or not. I’m ok either way. Hey don’t get me wrong the more people to accept Christ’s message the better. If Christ can use me, a decidedly cracked vessel, to this end all the better. My job is to arrange the meeting – to plant a seed; it’s Christ that does the rest. I mention this little caveat (the people I run into and with) to illustrate the worldly concept of “live and let live,” or as Christ said more proactively, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Powerful words.

Long story short; a Wican acquaintance of mine who knows my faith is always taking shots at Christianity and “Those Christians.” We run in some of the same circles and see each other at events and such. When it happens, I acknowledge what she says with a smile and go about whatever business I may be doing. She seeks a provocation. It is as if on some level she wants me to turn red and scream at her that “she’s going to hell!” I haven’t, however. I try to treat her with the same love and respect that I do for any other member of this mutual organization that we belong to. If I were to explode, I’d be giving her the opportunity to shout to the winds and whoever else is listening, “There! Do you see what I mean about Christians?” And then what sort of example of Christianity would I be?

I’d rather plant seeds.

Anyway, I mention the above as an undercurrent of the way things are in contemporary western twenty first century life. Things are slipping; shifting. People in the world are losing faith and one of the symptoms is what we laugh at. Christians, these days, are an easy target. In our entertainments Christians are painted with broad, intolerant stokes. To many we are a humorless lot bent on controlling everything the individual wants to do. It’s ok to make fun of the Christian, these days; we’re easy targets. We don’t riot in the streets when some blockhead draws a cartoon. My savior taught love. Our treasure is not here. We turn the other cheek, plant seeds and wait for the day when we can hear those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

If you get a chance check out Matthew chapter 24; you’ll see that things are going to get worse before they get better. Hey, it’s just the way it is. It is how it’s going to be. Despite all the storms and the wars and the earthquakes, I still have hope.

How about you?

It’s the Easter season; the most important event in history has unfolded. The prize is there and all you have to do is ask. Just ask.

He is risen. He is risen indeed.

Happy Easter

Sunday, April 09, 2006

If Wishes Were Kayaks

Paddling; canoe, kayak, inflatable raft – I love ‘em all. I grew up around water and being in any one of these self-propelled vessels really reconnects me with the timelessness of the element and clears my mind. There is so much beauty right off the beaten path, river, back bay or creek for that matter. It boggles the mind. Some have the eyes to see it and appreciate it; some don’t – for those who do the world can be a sight to behold; even the world of one’s own back yard.

My back yard is the Jersey Shore. I dream of opportunities to use a sea kayak to traverse my back yard; paddling around the barrier islands, camping, pods of dolphins off the Cape, seeing each of the lighthouses from the deck of a 17 footer – nice. If I extend the area that I’d like to explore from the deck of my sea kayak I’d have to include Assateague Island of Virginia, the Outer Banks of North Carolina, the Florida Keys, the Dry Tortugas, New Brunswick Canada, Nova Scotia Canada, Bar Harbor Maine, British Columbia and Alaska. For some reason, I’ve always had this crazy dream of kayaking with whales.

Yeah, it’s crazy but it’s my dream – cut me some slack. It will remain a dream for the time being since I don’t have a sea kayak. It’s on my list of purchases for when the non-existent rich uncle dies, I hit the lottery; sell a novel that becomes a best seller or maybe a screenplay.

Ah yes… if wishes were kayaks then all men would paddle.

Still and all there are other options that would include the family. Ocean Kayak has several nicely designed “Sit On Top” kayak designs. The nice thing with a Sit On Top is that you don’t have to worry too much about swamping. If you tip and wind up in the drink just climb back on board and paddle away. There are some nice options for the kids as well. I’ve got three daughters, two of which are old enough to fall head over heals for the sport. I figure that we could get them started on a couple of Yak Boards, while their old man (yours truly) would paddle along with them in a Scrambler XT. Sit On Tops also have the extra option of being fun to play with in beach surf. Yeah buddy – much fun.

Did I mention that non-existent rich uncle?

Ok, what if I built some boats? Yes; I could do that. My dad and I built a 16’ 4” strip cedar canoe about twenty years ago. It was a beautiful boat – twenty years ago. The girls and I need to refurbish her and bring her back to the glorious boat that she is; it’s on the list. The problem with the canoe is that she’s heavy, big and cumbersome to paddle solo and, no matter how you look at her – even in her beauty; she’s not a kayak.

What’s that? You ask about possibly building a kayak kit or plans? My, you are astute! Yes, I’ve delved into this option and the simple fact is that after one pays for shipping, supplies, fiberglass, wood and the tools that would be needed it’s just plain cheaper to spring for a polyformed boat; lighter too. That’s always something I keep my eye on since I’m the guy that would be car topping these boats. The other thing I keep an eye on is how much weight capacity a potential kayak has. I’m no lightweight and my camping equipment is heavy too. There are plans and boats out there that would fit the bill; I can name several off of the top of my head. Still and all, pre-built and preformed appears to be the way to go.

Ah dreams…

Well, I’ve gotta go buy some lottery tickets.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

1408 Casting

Quint from Ain’t It Cool News wrote the following article for Harry’s site. As always, Quint does a great job. This particular article is about Samuel L. Jackson and John Cusack being cast as the leads. Go on, check it out; I’ll wait.

Still there? Great! Here’s Evil Chicken’s spin.

1408 is a short story that appears in Stephen King’s latest collection of short stories, “Everything’s Eventual.” It’s a good short story, but it’s just that; a SHORT story. Whoever’s making it is going to have to stretch and add a whole lot more to the plot to make a full-length motion picture. When this sort of thing happens the story is what usually loses integrity. Studio executives will stretch it out to fill time and make regular, standard, paper cutter horror movie fare. The addition of Cusack, as the writer, is most welcome IMHO and Jackson, in the right roll, is awesome. I hope that 1408 will showcase his talents and that he makes the roll of the hotel manager his own. He can do it; check out Pulp Fiction and Unbreakable – two rolls that he owned! I still have hopes that Tarintino will come out with the ‘Further Adventures of Jules Winnfield as he Walks the Earth Like Kain.’ Hey, if they make it I’ll be first in line. : )

This being said, I’m still having a hard time wrapping my mind around the time constraints. 1408 would be best served in its original form and length. I’d love to see this as part of “Creepshow 3” instead of stretched to the point of breaking. The story is best served in its original form and at the end of the day, with my rose colored Hollywood glasses, that’s what should be served – the story. The major players in the film industry will usually take the easiest way out by slapping together a half realized version of a property, smack the author’s name on the product and release it to an illiterate public that has never read the book in the first place; too bad. Still and all there are still people who read, thank God. Some of these readers go to films and or the movies (there is most certainly a difference between the two). It is the reader (and possibly the author) who will walk out of the theater betrayed and downtrodden; knowing that some studio has dropped the ball once more.

Oh well. I still wish the best for the project. 1408 is a decent short story and it should translate well to the movies. Do yourself a favor before you shell out the $10.00 for your ticket – read the book; you won’t be disappointed.