Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Don’t Blink

It’s almost 2009. Douglas Adams wrote, “Time is fleeting; lunchtime doubly so.” I think he was onto something. Tempus fugit. Time files. And here it is, the end of the year. Unbelievable. It really did not feel like Christmas this year to yours truly and I blame it on the passage of time. I feel it outpacing me now and that’s ok, that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Still it does not seem that 2008 has even started let alone the fact that it’s coming to a close.

Resolutions. My New Year’s resolution is to NOT make any Year-End lists for myself (or for you either, Gentle Reader) here at Chicken Scratch. I’m seriously curtailing any such compilation. All I want to do this coming year is grow in my faith, work out some holdout areas in my life and see what’s around the corner. However; there are those (including me, I must admit) who like to review such things; so therefore, Gentle Reader here’s this; http://www.time.com/time/specials/2008/top10/, for your review. Time Magazine did a pretty decent job of the whole list thing, don’t you think?

According to my friend the internet, Carl Sandburg said, “Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” My sincere hope is that time in 2008 was time well spent. Here’s hopin’ for a better 2009.

Happy New Year

Monday, December 29, 2008


“I’d like a comic book.” Mother Hen casually said about a month before Christmas.

“You know, I have a bad ear,” I said, “but I would have sworn on a stack of Bibles that you just said that you wanted a comic book.”

“No, you heard me right.” She said.

“Which comic book?”

“The Amazing Spiderman number… five seventy something.” She said.

“Why?” I asked. Now yours truly wanting a comic book not very big news, Mother Hen wanting a comic book, on the other hand, lent itself to having Rod Serling step from around the corner of the doorway and literally explaining the reasons to me.

“Who are you looking for?” she asked me as I searched for Mr. Serling.

“Huh? …Oh, no one…” I said taking one last look at the doorway. “So why do you want a Spiderman comic?”

“Stephen Colbert is on the cover and he is still in the running to be President of the United States in the Marvel Universe. There’s a story written by Joe Quesada in there too.” Oh she was speaking my language. I met Joe (the head of Marvel Comics) Quesada in Philadelphia a few years back and heard him speak. At the time he mentioned that he wished there was no such things as secret identities and discussed how cool it would be if Tony Stark held a press conference just to say, “I’m Iron Man.” That was before he did that in the comics, in the movie and in the whole “Civil War” story arc. There are a lot of Colbert fans out there who would be grabbing up the variant issue.

And so it came to pass, Gentle Reader that yours truly set off on a quest to find the Stephen Colbert issue of The Amazing Spiderman. After a bit of research I found the number (573) and that there were three covers; the regular cover with Venom and the Scorpion, the minor variant cover with Anti-Venom and the Scorpion and, the issue that geeks and Colbert fans are clamoring for, the one where Stephen Colbert is saving Spiderman and emulating the same pose from Amazing Fantasy # 15 (Spidey’s first appearance). I covered the South Jersey area looking for it. I went to three comic book shops before stopping in over at IT’S A TOY STORE (see: http://evilchickenscratch.blogspot.com/2008/11/its-toy-store.html) and they steered me in the right direction.

“Yeah, they have a copy over at CAP’S COMICS in Millville.”

“Millville!? …Cap’s Comics?” I said, truly surprised. It’s just not like me to NOT know about a comic book shop in the South Jersey area. “How long have they been open?”

“Since about February.”

“No kiddin’.”


So with hot tip in hand I placed a call to CAP’S COMICS. They had it and I said that I’d be there post haste. And I was. Like many of the characters that it deals in the storefront itself is like a secret identity but lest there be no doubt a Comic Book shop is there at 1301 N. 10th St. Suite G in Millville (N.J. 08332 – that is). I paid a fair price for the issue and struck up a great little conversation with the owner – who is not only a nice guy but he’s also a Comic Fan! Believe it or not that’s not always a prerequisite for being in this line of work. We talked Iron Man, Silver Age and Red Hulk for about forty minutes or so and, I gotta tell ya, I can’t wait to get back there. I picked up a card, which says, “Silver age, bronze age and back issues also collectibles. New comics every week. 10% off all subscription titles.” Their hours are Wednesday 6:00 – 9:00 PM, Thursday 6:00 – 9:00 PM, Friday 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM, and Saturday 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM. Their phone number is 856-825-5779. I can tell you CAP’S came through for me (and Mother Hen) and if there’s something that you’re looking for, I bet they can do the same for you.

Too cool.

I’m thinking about getting the Red Hulk graphic novel; hey it’s been a while since I’ve read any comics and I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Fortunately, CAP’S COMICS is there to ease my transition back.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Loose Ends

I’ve been pretty busy as of late so here are some loose ends that I thought could use some attention.

Eartha Kitt passed away, she was 81. She led a very interesting life which you can read all about here; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eartha_Kitt and here; http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081226/ap_en_mo/obit_eartha_kitt_15. I first discovered Ms. Kitt via the old Batman TV show. She was the best (and dare I say sexiest) Catwoman to date. My kids (and me too for that matter) loved her character Yzma from Disney animated film, “The Emperor’s New Groove” and “The Emperor’s New School” on the Disney Channel. My thoughts are with her family and friends at this time.

The new Doctor Who BBC Special, “The Next Doctor” was broadcast across all of Brittany on Christmas Day. While this was great for Doctor Who fans there it did precious little for fans here in the good ole United States. Fortunately, it’s possible to check it out on Youtube cut up into eight segments. If you’re interested just do a search for “The Next Doctor” and enjoy. David Tennant will be the Doctor for the next four specials in 2009 but that will be it. A new Doctor is going to regenerate in 2010. Tennant stepped into some big shoes when he succeeded Christopher Eccleston in the role; and the wonderful thing is that he was able to keep stride. I will miss Tennant as the Doctor but I’m glad for the specials coming in 2009.

Battlestar Galactica is ending. The story is coming to a close. You can tune into the SciFi Channel on January 16th to see the beginning of the end. If interested, and I’m assuming you are if you’ve hung in this long, in the meantime you can check out the 10 episode web series that bridges the gap between season 4.0 and 4.5 here: http://www.scifi.com/battlestar/webisodes/. So say we all!

Back in August of 2008, I entered a script-writing contest sponsored by Ain’t It Cool News. The task was to write the ending to Star Wars – Revenge of the Sith that you wanted to see. No winner has been announced yet. I believe that the volume of the entries was unexpected by AICN. No news is good news and, to the best of my knowledge, I’m still in the running. Hey, who’s to say? I’ll let you know if my script is in the running.

The world keeps moving… no really; there was an earthquake yesterday between Lancaster and Three Mile Island. It was only a 3.4 but it was enough to get people’s attention. Here’s the details here; http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=news/local&id=6575318 and here; http://earthquake.usgs.gov/eqcenter/recenteqsww/Quakes/ld1023196.php. I’ve never been in an earthquake – at least one that I was aware of – but I’ve got friends who have lived and live in southern California and they have stories to tell. The AP report says that 1,000 people called 911 after the quake. I would have been 1,001. I’m glad that it wasn’t more to the north west of the epicenter since that’s where Three Mile Island is located.

There’s some loose ends tied. Mischief managed.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


The four performances of “Joy, Joy, Joy” are now over but the show is on a continuous for the holiday weekend – you can check it out here: http://www.ccvineland.org/livewebcast.html, just click on the box that says, “Watch Our Services Live” and enjoy.

Merry Christmas, Gentle Reader. God bless us… everyone.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

On the Road with Chick 1.0

Bad Wolf and Evil Chicken, after church this morning, attempted to grab a bite to eat. We stopped at Jim’s Lunch but unbeknown to us, Jim’s Lunch is closed on Sundays. We stood looking into the window at the cold grill and empty seats.

“We could go to Larry’s.” I said.

“Not the same as Jim’s.” She said.

“True.” I nodded in agreement. “How about we grab a cup of coffee from Bogart’s?”

“That would be great but…”


“But I’m hungry.” She said.

“Me too.” I agreed.

“We could come back to Bogart’s.”

“Yeah,” I said, “I suppose we could.”

And after a series of adventures and misadventures, both of which I won’t go into here, that’s just what we did. We hit Bogart’s Books for a cup of coffee and to pick up a couple of books. She picked up a book called, “Emergence” by David R. Palmer and I picked up “DUNE” by Frank Herbert. The book that I bought her back cover reads as follows, “This is the saga of Candy Smith-Foster, a brilliant, witty girl on the verge of womanhood, survivor of a bionuclear war that destroyed most of humanity, first of a new stage of human evolution – homo post hominem. EMERGENCE is the story of her turbulent odyssey across a scarred America seeking others of her kind and a new future for the people of Earth.” Between sips of Gingerbread coffee and conversation, the book sounded good to both of us.

And then there’s “DUNE”. I have had a hankering to read this book for a long time now; a LONG time. I’m embarrassed to mention this but this marks my third purchase and attempt to read this book. I don’t know why there were two previous failures to launch concerning finishing this book but there were. Confidence is high this time out. We’ll see how it goes. I know that Paul is the Kwisatz Haderach and have an understanding of just how that happens – well... maybe I won’t lose the book this time.

After Bogart’s we did some food shopping went home and cooked dinner. She put the food away and I did the dishes. We had a great day, father and daughter. I am staggered by the fact that my little girl is about to turn 16. I am thankful beyond words for the wonderful day that the two of us had, the relationship that we have, and the amazing young woman that she is.

Thanks Angel, Dad loves you.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Pirate Looks at 40

“Yes, I am a Pirate. 200 Years too late. The cannons don’t thunder there’s nothing to plunder, I’m an over 40 victim of fate. Arriving too late, arriving too late…”


The first 40 years are now down. I hope the next 40 are as sweet – Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

“Joy, Joy, Joy” Part Deux

Another show has been added for 12/22/08, at 7:00 PM (There are also shows scheduled for 12/23/08, at 7:00 PM and for 12/24/08, at 6:00 PM and 8:00 PM). ALL of the performances by the Calvary Chapel Theatrical Choir will be on Live Streamed on the internet (and around the world) here: http://www.ccvineland.org/livewebcast.html.

Tickets are still available for the upcoming Christmas Musical but they are only available on a first come / first served basis (although, I have a hard time believing that we’d be turning anyone away at the door). The whole ticket thing is to gage how many people we have coming to the different performances. Bottom line is that is better to have a ticket than not so give Calvary Chapel a call at 856-696-9409. Tickets are free but they are moving.

Give it a looksee. It’ll put you in the Christmas Spirit.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

G is for GEEK

All right. It is a well-established fact that I am a geek so I’m not going to go into that any further. That being said, I was on the Marvel Comics website and found something called “Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited”.


Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. Check it out here: http://www.marvel.com/digitalcomics/?utm_source=comics&utm_medium=Btn-blwbanner&utm_content=digital_comics&utm_campaign=MDC_TNav. For a yearly fee of $4.99 a month (which they bill as one payment of $59.88) or a monthly fee of $9.99, you have access to Marvel Comics back issues. That’s a 60-year history of some pretty marvelous stuff. Currently there are about 5,000 comics online in their vault and that is growing. “Unlimited access” to full runs of some of the greatest comics ever written and drawn and inked.

Now THAT is some good readin’.

If there are any Marvel Zombies with computers with internet connections on your Christmas list this year check it out. You’ll be happy – they’ll be happy and, Gentle Reader, that’s a win win.

“Joy, Joy, Joy!”

Man, I just can’t believe that it is DECEMBER. Time, most certainly, keeps on slip, slip, slippin’ into the future. The 25th will be here in no time and, come to think of it so will this year’s Choir Production. Speaking of which…

The Calvary Chapel Theatrical Choir Presents

Joy, Joy, Joy"

Tickets for the upcoming Christmas Musical Production will be available on a first come/first serve basis. Please sign-up that info counter and let us know how many tickets you will need and for what performances. You will need to have tickets this year in order to be assured of seating. Tickets are available for Tuesday, December 23 rd at 7:00 PM, Wednesday December 24th at 6:00pm or 8:30 PM. There is a special family night preview-show on Monday December 22nd, which does not require tickets and is open to anyone, but those attending should note that this is also a final dress rehearsal for the production.

No pressure but if you want to see a singing and dancing Evil Chicken or, more importantly, come out and celebrate the Gospel and Christmas with us give the church a call (856-696-9409) and ask for tickets. Don’t pay scalper’s prices! The tickets are free. From what I understand there are still some seats left for the first performance but it is filling fast.

Merry Christmas, Gentle Reader; now’s your chance to scream “Break a leg, Evil Chicken!”

And ya know what? …I just might.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Yeah, that’s right, I said it. Uncle. It is – unbelievably, the 30th day of November and that translates to the last day; nay – the last few moments of National Novel Writing Month are upon us. Time waits for no novelist. To claim victory for NaNoWriMo, a writer has to pass the finish line by midnight on 11/30/08 with a word count of 50,000 words. My particular NaNo, “The November Project”, clocks in at 19,172 so far; that’s 30,828 words too short to claim victory.

Such is life.

I will not trouble you with excuses. You either have 50K or you don’t. So I will not even go there. I won’t begin to tell you of the emergencies at work, the Wednesday night Bible studies, the Thursday night choir practices, the unfortunate discovery of a social networking site, and the, ever-present, things I must do to pass go list. No, I will not stoop so low. Someone once said concerning excuses, “Your friends don’t need them and your enemies will never believe them.” Such behavior would be beneath me. I’m a writer after all.

What to do? WHAT TO DO?

I gotta tell ya, I’ve really liked the progress that the characters have made thus far. They are still speaking to me and, therefore, I don’t mind recording what they are saying to me on my word processor. I’ve got about six solid chapters and I want to complete their story.

You know, I think I will. Hey, why not?

So there we have it. The tenth anniversary of NaNoWriMo was not a crossing of the finish line for yours truly but it was, as always, a joy. I still highly recommend you joining NaNoWriMo next year, Gentle Reader. As I have said in the past, misery loves company.

Look out November 2009 – I’m coming for YOU!


This weekend I had the distinct pleasure of discovering a toy and comic shop not all that far from the Chicken’s Coop. A friend of mine has been trying to get me to go but every time that I went, they were closed. I have impeccable timing.

Well, it just so happens that my friend and I had been working on my truck’s alternator, (mostly my friend since I have NO IDEA how to work on an internal combustion engine) and, as we were driving by, we saw that IT’S A TOY STORE was open. We turned around and had a look see.

I’m glad that we did.

Gentle Reader, if you have poked around these pages for any time you know that I am a bit of a Geek. No, that’s not right, I’m a GEEK. …No, that’s not right either – I’m an UBER-GEEK. Yeah, that’s about right.

Well if you are a bit of a Geek, a Geek or an UBER-GEEK, you will absolutely love IT’S A TOY STORE. It’s a toy/comic shop inside of a house in Richland, NJ. You’ll be able to see the eight foot tall Incredible Hulk on the outside if they are open. If you happen to see the Hulk pull in and check them out. The whole place is also a museum. Waves of nostalgia will smack you from all sides when you see all that they have on display. I’ve been looking for a Spinner from Blade Runner and a TARDIS too (I know that they would work well with the Fengshui of the computer room – Evil Chicken HQ) and have a sneaky suspicion that I could probably find what I’m looking for right here in Richland.

I picked up a card on the way out. IT’S A TOY STORE is located at 1256 Harding Highway (Route 40) in Richland, NJ 08350. They are open on Thursday and Friday from 12:00 – 6:00, on Saturday from 11:00 – 7:00 and Sunday from 12:00 – 4:00. Their number is 856-697-1348. They specialize in “New & Vintage Toys and Comics.” They, “Buy, Sell and Trade Toys.” The place will make you remember a simpler time and that can be a beautiful thing.

The visit is worth the trip.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

MP3 Shuffle

I just opened my cell phone and hit the menu for my “Music Library”. I’ve got about two gigs of music stored there. I am going to hit the “shuffle” button and list the first baker’s dozen of songs.


Once again, Gentle Reader, you have asked a fine and poignant question. The only answer that I can come up with, at such short notice, is why not?

So here we go.

1. The Kinks, “Destroyer”
2. Chess, “One Night in Bangkok”
3. Jimmy Buffett, “Nautical Wheelers”
4. The Hooters, “Karla with a K”
5. Jimmy Buffett, “He Went to Paris”
6. Alice Cooper, “Poison”
7. Dan Zanes, “Loch Lomand”
8. Adam Ant, “Goody Two Shoes”
9. The Grateful Dead, “Hell in a Bucket”
10. Duran Duran, “the Chauffer”
11. The Smithereens, “The Blues Before and After”
12. Pete Townsend, “Give Blood”
13. Tom Petty, “House in the Woods”

So there you have it. So what’s playing on your MP3 Player / Ipod?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I thank the Lord. I thank my wife, I thank my kids, I thank friends and family old & new, I thank that guy who let me out of the Wawa parking lot to get out into the right lane of traffic, I thank the ever-present challenges and shear cliff walls that are placed in my path on a daily basis – that make me a better man than I would be without, I thank the makers of Ben & Jerry’s, I thank the heater for not breaking down yet this year, I thank the roof for not leaking, I thank the wireless keyboard that I use to type assorted stuff with, I thank NaNoWriMo – although I will not be crossing the finish line on time this year, I thank the dog; Kenji, for going to the bathroom outside, I thank you Dreamfields Low Carb Pasta – mac & cheese really rocked with you this year, I thank what was, what is, and what will be, and I thank YOU Gentle Reader.

I hope you’ve had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

D.B. Cooper – Where Are You?

Yesterday (11/24/08) marked the 37th anniversary of the disappearance of the hijacker D.B. Cooper. Wikipedia, my favorite second brain, states the following; “D. B. Cooper (aka Dan Cooper) is an alias of an aircraft hijacker who, on November 24, 1971, after receiving a ransom payout of US $200,000, jumped from the back of a Boeing 727 as it was flying over the Pacific Northwest of the United States somewhere over the Cascade Mountains, possibly over Woodland, Washington. His body was never found, and only $5,880 of the ransom has been recovered.” For full details on Mr. “Cooper” see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D_B_Cooper.

The FBI does not believe that he survived but his body and parachute have never been found. Wiki goes on to say that this case has baffled government and private investigators alike. The unsolved nature of the crime and the idea that he may have gotten away with it continue to intrigue and beguile. There have been clues but no answers. “…Despite the case's enduring lack of evidence, a few significant clues have arisen. In late 1978 a placard containing instructions on how to lower the aft stairs of a 727, later confirmed to be from the rear stairway of the plane from which Cooper jumped, was found just a few flying minutes north of Cooper's projected drop zone. In February 1980, eight-year-old Brian Ingram found $5,880 in decaying $20 bills on the banks of the Columbia River.”

I’m not defending a guy who hijacks an airplane; especially in a post 9/11 world but there is something to be said about the elegant simplicity of his plan and how it was executed. If he pulled it off this was a work of pure genius. For his efforts, his success and his disappearance, D.B. Cooper has been rewarded with counter culture folk hero status (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D_B_Cooper#In_popular_culture). It's been said, “There is no such thing as the perfect crime.” While that may be true D.B. Cooper just might be the exception to that rule.

All the best Mr. Cooper, wherever you are.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

AC/DC or For Those About to Rock – We Salute You

Mr. Brian Johnson is 61 years old. Mr. Angus Young is 53 years old. Evil Chicken was given a ticket to the AC/DC concert tonight due to his pending 40th birthday. Let me just say, we all had a blast tonight. Mother Hen had given me this premature birthday gift and God bless her for it.

Oh, what a night.

I traveled to Philadelphia PA, on 11/17/08 to see AC/DC, with three other gentleman of similar age and interest. We are friends and have known each other since Hector was a pup and it truly was an honor to share the experience with them since much of the music pertains to our own developmental milestones. In other words, we grew up with AC/DC. There has never been a band that has kicked high-knee on such a level as AC/DC.

Bottom line.

The guitarmanship that I witnessed tonight was simply uncompromising. Unbelievable. I’m just pleased that I saw it happen before my eyes. Angus has secured his place in the Valhalla of guitar gods; seriously. The original lineup was wonderful to see too. And I must say, Mr. Brian Johnson was in amazing form. It appears that the band has decided to collect the cream from top of their concert performances over the years and give it directly to the fans; we saw, the inflatable Rosie, Hell’s Bell, and Angus’s striptease during “The Jack”.


Please, let it be known, I enjoy the whole concert experience. I love seeing artists perform in the medium in which they choose. I find musicians and interesting breed of artist. The gifts that they bring are reproducible, to a certain degree, but must fully be appreciated LIVE – and by those who wrote and are displaying their efforts. For musicians, their art is an act; and, oh what an act it can be. For AC/DC, it is an affirmation.

With our backsides literally kicked from what we had witnessed, we paused to watch the sold out crowd disperse. We took a couple of pictures with our cell phones to save the moment but we know that, in all actuality, this will probably be the last time that the band will tour. So for Brian Johnson, Cliff Williams, Phil Rudd, Malcolm, and Angus Young – you have ROCKED and we salute you.

The goofy similes on our faces will stay there for weeks to come. We have seen art in motion and in sound and we ate it up. Past, present, and future collided on stage tonight at the Wachovia Center in Philly. I’m just happy to have been a part of it. If you get the chance and if you are so inclined, go see AC/DC. See them now because the Rock and Roll Train can not last forever.

I promise that you will not be disappointed.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Zombie Fans?

I must admit, here for you now, that two – possibly three of the Evil Chicken clan are and always will be ZOMBIE FANS.


Zombies; you know, the undead? The topic, their place in storytelling (in movies and literature), game play, and folklore always get our attention.

“Whose attention?”

Ours; Chick 1.0’/Bad Wolf's and, mine, Evil Chicken’s. We dig Zombies here at the Chicken Coop. So it was with great joy that I read this here: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/39103. Feel free, read it over.

So there you have it and just so you know, Marc Forster has been announced to be the director for Max Brooks, “World War Z” for Brad Pitt’s company, Plan B. Mr. Forster is a pretty decent story teller, in fact you can go this weekend to see the newest James Bond movie, “Quantum of Solace” and see some of his handiwork for yourself.

Chick 1.0, as a testament to my parenting skills, is a Zombie Nut. She loves them any way she can get them. Trust me, when the Zombie Uprising happens, you will want her in your corner. Any way, she and I were talking after dinner and I told her that a director has been chosen and that Mr. Brad Pitt’s company, Plan B, is producing. She’s ecstatic, she knows that the story is in good hands BUT she asks, “Are they going to have Max Brooks and the interviewer?” I had to tell her that I didn’t know. “He’s gotta be the interviewer! The way he writes prose… he’s gotta be the guy.”

Ah, from the mouths of babes.

You know what? She’s right. Max Brooks, the son of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft NEEDS to be “The Interviewer” in this film. Seriously. If you have had the chance to read the book or listen to the audio version you will understand. Come to think of it some of the other actors from the audio book version could be used too; Alan Alda, Henry Rollins, Mark Hamill, John Turturro, and Rob Reiner would truly be feathers in the cap for this production. Really. If you have not read it, check it out. Mr. Max Brooks had done a pretty amazing job of making the unreal real. The beauty is watching humanity’s response to the crisis and that is where Mr. Brooks shines.

We can’t wait to see this play out on the big screen. I know that Chick 1.0 and I will be there.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The New Enterprise

Here’s a look at the new Enterprise from J.J. Abram’s new Star Trek movie. Entertainment Weekly had the shot and now, you too have seen it, Gentle Reader.

The Star Trek 11 trailer is attached to “Quantum of Solace” the new James Bond film. Now I’ve got two reasons to go to the theater; Trek & Bond.

BTW, Daniel Craig is an amazing James Bond. I had my doubts before seeing “Casino Royal” but I was wrong. I hope that he’s the man for the foreseeable future.

I’m falling incredibly far behind in my word count due to simply unbelievable circumstances that have cropped up. Oh well, keep typing – hack now, edit later.

See you at the movies.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Here’s a Quick Couple of Things

Thing 1: Pretty historic election year, no? It was very cool indeed. While I did not vote for either McCain of Obama (I’m independent and voted accordingly – what can I say, I believe that there should be more than two generic parties representing the whole of American society) you just can’t let this moment in time pass by without saying something. One of the best quotes I heard concerning the results of the election came from an African American man on the streets of Philly. He said, “I can now look into my children’s eyes and finally say that they can be anything that they want to be.” How amazing is the weight of that sentence? Although I didn’t vote for Obama I do stand behind our President Elect and wish him (and all of us for that matter) a prosperous four to eight years.

Thing 2: Michael Crichton passed away earlier this week. Wikipedia says the following about Mr. Crichton, “(October 23, 1942 – November 4, 2008) was an American author, film producer, film director, medical doctor, and television producer best known for his science fiction and techno-thriller novels, films, and television programs. His books have sold over 150 million copies worldwide. His works were usually based on the action genre and heavily feature technology. Many of his future history novels have medical or scientific underpinnings, reflecting his medical training and science background. He was the author of The Andromeda Strain, Congo, Disclosure, Rising Sun, Timeline, State of Fear, Prey, and Next. He was also the creator of ER, but most famous for being the author of Jurassic Park, and its sequel The Lost World, both adapted into high grossing films and leading to the very successful franchise.” For yours truly, I loved Jurassic Park, Eaters of the Dead, and Timeline; great reads all. If you haven’t read him, put him on your list. I recommend that you start with Jurassic Park. If your only experience with the story is seeing the movie then you are in for a treat.

Thing 3: I need to get back to writing this month’s novel for NaNoWriMo (see previous post or click on the link to the left). Due to circumstances unforeseen by this writer my word count is falling behind and I should be hacking away at unresolved plot points.

I’ll talk to you later, Gentle Reader; I must now apply nose to grindstone.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Gentle Reader

It’s on NOW, baby; NaNoWriMo that is! I’ve slipped from being a casual observer into a participant. Since I’ll be primarily writing a novel in November I wanted to just jot down a few things here at Chicken Scratch before I hang my “Do Not Disturb” sign on the computer room door.

Thing 1. Don’t forget to vote on Tuesday. I don’t care who you vote for but I like to pretend that voting still matters and I believe that the more people who share this delusion there are the better. Democracy – or at least something akin to it, wins.

Thing 2. Guy Fawkes Day. “Remember, remember the fifth of November…” from Gunpowder, Treason and Plot. For any readers in London, try not to blow off any fingers or Parliament Buildings during the celebration.

Thing 3. Veteran’s Day. Thank a vet. They put everything on the line to serve our country so that people like us can actually practice stuff like free speech, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Thing 4. Thanksgiving. I love this holiday. It’s not too commercial, it’s not gaudy, it’s just a time to pause and reflect on just how good we have it. Even now, with all of the troubles and woes that face us, there is so much to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving.

Thing 5. Black Friday. In my mind’s eye I can see the people lined up waiting to grab up that sale price. This will be interesting this year concerning consumer spending. We shall see what we shall see.

Thing 6. Gas Prices. I put $20.00 in the gas tank today and it gave me almost 3/4ers of a tank of gas! I’d still love to be off the stuff – oil, that is. Dependency is a dangerous thing.

Thing 7. Playstation 3 vs. the X-box 360. Which is the system to get? We’ve got a Nintendo Wii and love it but there are a few games coming out (namely Resident Evil 5) that we just can’t play on the Wii. What to do…? The PS3 has a Blue Ray player built in while the X-box has titles like, “Halo” and “Fable 2” in it’s stable. Time to hit the lottery.

Thing 8. National Novel Writing Month. November has just started and there is still time for YOU to start writing YOUR novel. As I’ve said before, misery loves company.

So there you have it, a whole month of blogging condensed for your reading pleasure. Oh I’ll be dropping in from time to time, I’m sure, but this month a noveling I will go.

Yours truly & see you soon,

Evil Chicken

Monday, October 27, 2008

The November Decision

There are many things to consider in the month of November. Will my vote for change mean anything? Well, why not cast a vote for something that will really mean something after Election Day? Why not fight for a cause that you can believe in? My fellow Americans and the smattering of individuals who may have stumbled upon this humble blog from parts outside of the continental United States, why don’t you make the decision to write a novel in November?

Oh yeah, baby, Nanowrimo is back! National Novel Writing Month is, in 2008, “Celebrating 10 years of Literary Abandon”. And that’s a beautiful thing.

“A Nano-whatzit?”

Check it out for yourself here: http://www.nanowrimo.org/. Click around for all the gory details. It boils down to writing a 50,000 word novel beginning on November 1st and ending on November 30th; …that’s about 175 pages. If you’ve ever wanted to write a novel NOW is the time. It’s doable. I kid you not.

The following is from their web site and I quote, “National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that's a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

As you spend November writing, you can draw comfort from the fact that, all around the world, other National Novel Writing Month participants are going through the same joys and sorrows of producing the Great Frantic Novel. Wrimos meet throughout the month to offer encouragement, commiseration, and—when the thing is done—the kind of raucous celebrations that tend to frighten animals and small children.

In 2007, we had over 100,000 participants. More than 15,000 of them crossed the 50k finish line by the midnight deadline, entering into the annals of NaNoWriMo superstardom forever. They started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.

So, to recap:

What: Writing one 50,000-word novel from scratch in a month's time.

Who: You! We can't do this unless we have some other people trying it as well. Let's write laughably awful yet lengthy prose together.

Why: The reasons are endless! To actively participate in one of our era's most enchanting art forms! To write without having to obsess over quality. To be able to make obscure references to passages from our novels at parties. To be able to mock real novelists who dawdle on and on, taking far longer than 30 days to produce their work.

When: You can sign up anytime to add your name to the roster and browse the forums. Writing begins November 1. To be added to the official list of winners, you must reach the 50,000-word mark by November 30 at midnight. Once your novel has been verified by our web-based team of robotic word counters, the partying begins.”

Gentle Reader, it’s time for a change – a change in you from being a non-novelist to a novelist. Trust me, this November that may be the only thing you can count on.

I’m Evil Chicken and I support this Blog.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Last night Mother Hen and I schlepped over to Frank Guaracini, Jr. Fine & Performing Arts Center at Cumberland County College to check out the live tour of Best Week Ever. We had a blast. Although the whoever runs the promotions department could have done a better job of getting the word out that a comedy show was going to be happening. The auditorium, which can hold about 500 or so people, only sat about 100. That’s tough when you are a comedian and have to use the crowd’s energy to move from topic to topic, sculpting a moment in order to make people laugh. Still in all, from our seats, which were excellent by the way; Mike Britt, Melissa Rauch, and Sherrod Small delivered.

Mike Britt played master of ceremonies and, after his opening set, introduced the other two. He had a good set and established the tempo in the sparsely populated theater. Melissa Rauch was next. She was funny but affected by the size of the crowd. She is used to performing to packed college theaters full of kids either high on life or some other type(s) of chemical(s). When confronted with an empty theater and a crowd that had to be worked a bit to get in the mood of the evening, it was tough. Still she was funny. Next was Sherrod Small. He killed. Mother Hen and I were laughing from the moment he started his set which put us into the “Top 2%” of the crowd. He had a funny observation concerning “Dumb Friends and Hot Pockets” that has already made its way into my everyday lexicon. He brought the funny.

Next up is my big regret of the evening. It was the part of their show where a member of the audience is invited onstage to sit down with the other three comedians and comment on pop culture figures that are projected onto a screen. When they asked for volunteers only two people put their hands up – I watched them do it. I could feel Mother Hen’s eyes looking squarely in my direction. Before I had time to process the data I heard Sherrod say, “You – in the striped shirt!” Striped Shirt’s hand was in the air. Striped Shirt made his way to the stage and joined the cast for the pop culture review. “He who hesitates is lost.” Well, Gentle Reader, Evil Chicken hesitated. Let this precautionary tale be a lesson to you. Don’t hesitate – just do it. As Striped Shirt made his comments I had that strangest craving for Hot Pockets.

Such is life.

After this segment people from the audience were invited to come on stage and explain just why they were having the best week ever. The crowd votes by applause. Mike Britt requested that there should be no lame reasons before the people got onstage, but they got through anyway. The winner got a check in the mail from an insurance company.

Such is life.

Mother Hen and I had a blast. If you get the chance or if it is at all publicized in an area near you, do yourself a favor and check the live show out.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Who Watches the Watchmen?

Me on March 6th of 2009; no doubt.

“The Watchmen. Another comic book movie?” you may ask.

No… well yes and no. If you read Alan Moore’s opus (and I highly recommend that you do) you will notice immediately that it is a “comic book”. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. There is enough complexity contained within the "Watchmen" that Time magazine placed it onto their list of the “100 All-Time Greatest Novels” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All-Time_100_Greatest_Novels); minus the stigma of the word, “comic”. The synopsis, according to my favorite second brain, states; “The story is set in an alternate 1985 where superheroes exist, Richard Nixon is still president, and tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union are at an all-time high. The vigilante Rorschach is investigating the murder of a former hero, the Comedian, and uncovers a plot to discredit and murder various heroes. Rorschach discovers a far wider-ranging conspiracy involving his colleagues' past which could completely change the course of history.”

That’s about the size of it.

Back in the eighties this book literally changed the face of the comic book industry. The “Watchmen” and “The Dark Knight Returns” (by Frank Miller) were primarily responsible for the dark turn that the entire comic book industry took in the eighties. Grim and gritty was the standard. The rest of the industry did not rise to the standards of storytelling set by both Moore and Miller at the time. They set the bar that high. Really.

Chances are you’re not going to pick up the book. I wish you would but, realistically speaking, you won’t. Now you might go see the movie; which I believe, is in good hands. Mr. Zack Snyder is at the helm and he’s got a pretty impressive track record including the remake of “Dawn of the Dead” (which I really enjoyed although there were fast moving zombies) and “300” (which was also a “comic” written by Frank Miller). Moore knows how to tell a story and what a story the Watchmen is.

Alan Moore has gone to great pains to remove himself from the film versions of his work including, “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” (an amazing graphic novel but an abomination of a movie) and “V for Vendetta” (a good film but one that Moor was lied to concerning some key elements and as a result he had his name removed from the project.). Once more from Wikipedia; ““…Moore has also stated that he wishes his name to be removed from all comic work that he does not own, including Watchmen and V for Vendetta, much as unhappy film directors often choose to be credited as "Alan Smithee." Too bad, really; I have a lot of faith in Snyder.

I, for one, can’t wait to watch the “Watchmen”. Perhaps I’ll see you there.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Scotch Tape X-Ray

While poking around the internet I stumbled across a news story on WPVI.com that let me to this: http://www.nature.com/news/2008/081022/full/news.2008.1185.html; an article by Katharine Sanderson about Scotch Tape shooting out X-rays. How about that? Scotch Tape emits X-rays when it unrolls. Here’s the video: http://www.nature.com/nature/videoarchive/x-rays/. It’s a little dry but stick with it, pretty cool, no?

As it says in the beginning of the article, “Christmas could bring with it a new hazard…” Well, not really – the process has to happen in a vacuum but that’s pretty cool when you think about it; such a common, everyday commodity like cellophane tape producing X-rays. From what I can glean it has something to do with photons, ions, electrons and how they interact with each other when the tape is unspooled. Simple tape can produce 50 kilovolts. That’s pretty amazing but hey, what do I know? I’m just a singer in a rock and roll band.

It begs the question, what sort of applications may this hold in the future? Who knows, perhaps a couple of hundred spools of tape could light a home for a year or so? The X-ray tech will wrap you in cellophane the next time you need an X-ray? Silly? Yes but still, that’s pretty interesting.

The cool picture of the X-rayed finger is from Nature.com, you should check ‘em out. Interesting stuff.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Boldly Go 2.0

Yesterday a small group of pictures surfaced on the internet. The pictures were released by Paramount Pictures and they give us (dyed in the wool Geeks and other interested parties) the first real glimpse of what the next Star Trek film is going to look like; how it fits into cannon and, maybe – just maybe, how much respect and love the filmmakers have for the property. If the pictures (which were individually given to major geek sites to disseminate to the masses) are any indications then J.J. Abrams and Co. have risen to the challenge. Aint It Cool News was one of those sites and they have posted links and images to Star Trek 11 right here: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/38759.

Go on… check ‘em out.

The first is a publicity shot that I’m not really taken with. It looks more like a CGI Spock instead of; well… Spock. The next is the latest cover of Entertainment Weekly, which apparently has a thing or two to say about the new movie. Scroll down to get to the real meat of the matter and BAM! Star Trek is back.

Please allow further for an extended geek moment that only someone with a love for most things Star Trek would care about. (NOTE: now is the time to move on if this is not your bag, Baby.) For this fan the shot on the bridge proves to be a nice modernization of the original; plus it’s brighter and easier to film. If you notice the shot is taken from the science officer (Spock)’s position. The command chair looks as iconic as it should and navigation and helm are in their appropriate positions. The standing console that is next to Bones 2.0 (Karl Urban) harkens back to Christopher Pike’s ship from the original pilot and re-imagined in “The Menagerie”. I assume that engineering is located either to the left of the console or is part of the console itself. The Turbo lift behind Kirk is gone replaced by other consoles. I bet this bridge has a bathroom.

The pictures look jaw droppingly amazing. Zachary Quinto is the second coming of Mr. Spock; unbelievable. Chris Pine, Kirk 2.0 is striking some very Shateresque poses too. How about that shot of the crew minus Spock? Wonderful picture, although Chekov (Anton Yelchin) looks a tad out of place. Then again he is supposed to. How about Simon Pegg in the background channeling the ship’s engineer, Mr. Scott? Oddly enough, I’m really excited about hearing Pegg’s brogue; it’s essential to the character. I have no doubt he’s going to nail it. Zoe Saldana is just plain hot in the role of Lt. Uhura. I'm looking forward to seeing how her character is going to be developed. How about John Cho as Sulu and Karl Urban as Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy? This is inspired casting.

So there you have it. After a long and slow decline I’m proud to report that Star Trek is back. Star Trek 11 or Star Trek 0, or Star Trek – Whatever the Movie is Going to be Named, opens on May 9, 2009.

12:01 for 1701. No doubt.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Of Balloons and Devils

The weekend started a little early when I had the opportunity to assist with launching of a hot air balloon. There was camping and a hunt for the Jersey Devil. Not too a shabby a weekend I’d say.

I had the distinct pleasure of assisting with the Dream Works Hot Air Balloon Team last week as they lifted a group of students into the friendly skies of Southern New Jersey. I was really impressed with the whole thing. If you have not had the experience you should give it a try. I did not hop in but I sure did hold on. Each time that the balloon descended and there was a passenger switch, yours truly was there. Hey, it’s about time that all those super-sized extra value meals paid off – if it all falls down at least I know I make great ballast. Being under and holding onto the gondola of this great balloon towering above your head is an amazing experience. My muscles are still sore but it was so worth it. The Dream Works Hot Air Balloon Team were a wonderful group of people and if you are in need of ballooning services you should look them up. They are out of Forked River, NJ (609-693-0044). Their commercial pilot, Captain Emelia Bernava has ballooned across Portugal and I highly recommend you ask her about it. Her card does not have a web address, but it does have a quote from Leonardo da Vinci that I really like that says, “For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.”

One of these days Capt. Bernava, one of these days.

Moving forward through the past… And then there was camping. We are part of SJG (South Jersey Geocachers – see: http://sjgeocaching.org/SJG/modules/wfsection/) and, from time to time, we participate in some pretty neat organized craziness. This past weekend happened to be our 5th annual Jersey Devil Hunt (“5 Years and Still Looking). We camped the whole weekend and had a blast. Old friends and new friends – I can’t believe that this was the fifth time in search of the legendary beast! Well, HE found us, once again – and he wasn’t alone! Let’s just say that Mother Leeds 13th Child is a very resourceful creature, lest there be no doubt! I’d say there were about 75 people there for the hunt. Before we left I manned the grill making Old Bay and cracked pepper burgers (which rock out loud, BTW). It was a charcoal grill that I got for $17.00 from Wal-Mart. It was once red but the weather has faded it to a shade of pink. The one design flaw is that the lid, when folded back, channels smoke to the person cooking (i.e. the Chef) in a billowing and merciless fashion, causing redness of skin, bloodshot eyes and streams of tears. Tears, however, go wonderful on burgers creating a wonderful flavor so all was not lost.

Too much fun. I can’t wait until the next batch of craziness stirs it’s way into reality.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Of Poker Chips and Guitar Picks

I am part of, at least to my knowledge, one of the longest standing poker games in South Jersey. A group of reprobates and fellow travelers that I call my friends meet the first of every month to play for nickels & dimes and to catch up with what’s been going on in each other’s lives. We have been doing so for the last ten years (ish). When we started out it was an excuse for us to get together – it still is. I have known these individuals for the last give or take, 25 years – for better or worse. It’s a diverse group of similar individuals.

In between the questions, “Just who are you going to vote for?” and “So, are you going to the reunion?” was a question that got my attention; “Who have you seen in concert?” Now THAT was a good question – something I could sink my teeth into. The roots of said question sprung from the fact that one of our members was able to procure 4 tickets to the AC/DC concert at the Wachovia Center in November; and 4 of the 7 of us, including yours truly, will be going (Lord willing and the creek don’t rise).

This will probably be the last time that the band tours and I think they’re worth checking out before they hang up their guitars. In fact, on the short list of people I wouldn’t mind seeing live; Angus and Co. rank pretty high.

So, sitting there at the poker table, I got to thinking; just who have I seen in concert? I compiled the following list of artists and a short blurb of info next to their listing. I don’t remember dates but I do collect experiences. I might be leaving someone out so please bear with me. Here we go…

Genesis – my first real concert. It was the “Invisible Touch” tour. Great show. They opened with, “Mama” and even covered some of Peter Gabriel’s stuff. Great show.

The Hooters – I saw on the beach in Atlantic City as a free concert sponsored by WMMR. It was summer; I was in long pants – why I’ll never know. I almost passed out and met Pierre Robert for the second time.

Billy Joel – Amazing show. I got into an accident on the way home from Philly. Since then I have learned to never shout, “Lets do something crazy!”

Aerosmith – Good show in Philly.

Def Leopard – Hey look, the drummer has one arm. You’d never know by the sound. This was a great show. They were in the round too. Awesome.

Skid Row – Hair bands – ATTACK!

Queensrych – This was a truly pleasant surprise, it was during the “Operation Mindcrime” tour and they rocked. There’s no other way to put it. Great show.

Def Leopard – Hey look, the drummer’s arm hasn’t grown back yet. Great show once again. The new guitar player who replaced one who passed away did a wonderful job.

Chicago – Peter Cetera just left but the band still brought the goods.

Chicago – Hey, didn’t I just see these guys?

Anderson, Buford, Wakeman & Howe – These are some of the founding members of the progressive band, “Yes”. Very cool show, Anderson walked through the crowd at the Spectrum singing all the way to the stage; very cool indeed.

Jethro Tull – Say what you will, this was a great show. As Ian Anderson says, “A flute is a heavy metal instrument”.

Phil Collins – I’ve always been a Phil fan and he delivered. Great stuff.

Chicago – You know… these guys are familiar.

Beach Boys – I wasn’t too thrilled to go to this show; BUT when you are there and the beach balls are being thrown everywhere and the music is so familiar and catchy you just can’t help but be a Beach Boys fan. This I guarantee. Brian Wilson joined them on stage for a couple of songs as well. Too cool. Yeah, that’s right I said it, the Beach Boys concert was too cool.

Yes – I saw them in the round in Atlantic City; Old Yes and New Yes – or West Coast Yes and East Coast Yes – or whatever they were calling themselves. This was a great show.

Billy Joel – even on a bad night Billy Joel is worth seeing. There will never be another like him. If you get the chance do so. Wow, what a musician.

George Thoroughgood & the Delaware Destroyers – Great stuff from someone who didn’t get a haircut or a real job.

ZZ Top – the little band from Texas. This was a lot of fun. If you like guitar heavy blues you’ve got to give ‘em a listen. Nice. Great show.

Sting – Sting is a consummate musician who suffers for his art. But be warned if you don’t like jazz-fusion mixed with old tried and true favorites then you will be suffering too. I enjoyed the show, Mother Hen not so much.

Phil Collins – This is my third and probably final time seeing Phil live. He was in the round (which is a great way to see a show) and it was wonderful.

Susana Hoffs – Solo from the Bangles. Good stuff, compounded by the fact that I ran into her later in the casino. “Great show.” I stuttered. Oh yeah, I’m a charmer – or at least her bodyguards thought so.

Don Henley – This was a great show. There were four of us who saw him in Atlantic City. Interesting evening. Did I mention it was a great show? “All She Wants to do is Dance” – great song; great musician.

Bella Fleck and the Flecktones – who knew that an electric banjo could be so cool? Not me. I’m a convert now. Good stuff.

Dave Matthews Band – I received these tickets for my birthday from Mother Hen. DMB is one of the great jam bands touring today. If you get the chance, take it. Wonderful show.

Jimmy Buffett – Gentle Reader, as I have said before, I am a Parrothead. This was like mother’s milk, or that cheeseburger that you so desperately need after sailing into that one particular harbor just at ¾ time. What can I tell you – it was Jimmy and I’m most certainly up to another chance to find that lost shaker of salt.

Billy Joel – The Maestro is still in the house. Wonderful show.

Elton John – Another fine piano man. What a great musician and showman. If you get the chance to see him take it; the greats are disappearing so if you get the opportunity do yourself a favor. Mother Hen and I saw him together with Billy Joel. We’d like to return to see a solid evening of Elton. Who knows – it could happen!

Duran Duran – Mother Hen and I saw them at the Tower Theater in Philly. What a great show. Seriously. Man, it brought back memories for both of us. It was the original lineup and Simon and Co. delivered.

Trans Siberian Orchestra – If you are not familiar with TSO think orchestral Christmas Carols fused with the edge of electric power chords from 3 or 4 guitarists. There were between 30 to 40 people on stage with lasers and pyrotechnics. This was an amazing show to experience. You’ve got to see them if you get the chance. You won’t be disappointed.

I have been fortunate to see the shows that I have. There are those that I’d see again in a heartbeat (Jimmy Buffett, TSO, the Hooters, even Duran Duran) and those I can say that I’ve seen once and that was enough. These days I am a very simple man and my tastes drift. I wouldn’t mind seeing X, Dan Zanes, Mac McAnally, Ingrid Lucia and the Flying Neutrinos or even AC/DC.

So there you have it; that’s the list to the best of my recollection at this point. So how about YOU – what are some of your favorite concert experiences?

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Neil Gaiman in Philadelphia

On Wednesday evening, myself and chicks 1.0 and 2.0 saddled up the ole Ford, crossed the bridge into Philadelphia and made our way to the University of the Arts to the Levitt Auditorium in the Gershman Y to be exact, to see Mr. Neil Gaiman read a chapter from his new book, “The Graveyard Book”. I have been a Neil Gaiman fan for years and I’ve been subversively including my children in my madness for quite some time. They are now hopeless geeks, much like myself. ...Oh yes.

Please forgive me Gentle Reader, I digress; as I was saying, I’ve been a fan of Neil Gaiman ever since I read “The Sandman” Vertigo Comics series. I haven’t read the entire story arc but I’ve read enough to say that this is the book that you put in front of someone who asks, “Why would you want to read a comic book?” Gaiman has a unique narrative quality to the stories he tells. There is an underlying intelligence and humor that he brings to the conversation that exists between an author and a reader. And once you start you will have a hard time not wanting to continue reading from his works. “The Anansi Boys” is one of my favorites. It follows the sons of the mischievous African spider god Anansi on their journey to discover just who they are and who killed their father. Karaoke, for yours truly, will never be the same. The whole family and I enjoyed the films “Mirrormask” and “Stardust”; both written by Gaiman. If you haven’t seen the movies or read the books you should give them a try. You won’t be disappointed. He’s one of my favorites – which, oddly enough, is hard for me to pin down. I forget who it was that said when asked the question “who’s your favorite author?” The reply was that it was whomever they were reading at that moment. I resemble that statement. Gaiman, however, is one of my favorites; so it was with great joy that I was able to take 3 out of 5 of us and go listen to the man read a chapter (Chapter Two – that is) from, “The Graveyard Book”.

After the introduction by Vincent Price who came back from the dead for the event (very cool BTW) and some guy from Borders Books, Mr. Gaiman took the stage and explained what was going on with this particular book tour. He said that this was an experiment in that he was reading a chapter of “The Graveyard Book” at each of his stops, filming it and posting it to his website. The theory is that once the book tour is done you can go to his website, click away and have him read you the whole thing. There are three chapters up so far. You can see them here: http://www.neilgaiman.com/ (click on Journal) or here: http://www.mousecircus.com/. He further explained that in the past at book signings that he would read about 15 minutes from something that he wrote, have a brief Q & A, he would begin to sign books and “you” the people who came would "get into long lines that would snake around the book store" and that, “it would be 11:00 PM before you got to me. You would have forgotten the question that was fresh in your mind 5 hours previous.” He said something about muscle spasms from repeating his signature and he said that he was sorry that he couldn’t meet with everyone to sign and personalize their books. He showed the crowd his broken finger and said, “But now… I’m not that sorry.” He explained that he broke his finger in China while slipping on a moss covered stone. Pre-signed books were available and - yes – I got one. After he read chapter two there was a short intermission and then the trailer for “Coraline” was presented, followed by a healthy Q & A session. “Coraline” is adapted by Neil Gaiman based on his novel about a girl who finds an alternate universe and life behind a wall in her bedroom. The same man who did, “A Nightmare Before Christmas”, Henry Selick, has directing duty. No CGI will be used instead it will be stop motion animation – just like Nightmare. There will be a 3D version that will really highlight the use of the models and landscapes.

Yeah, I’ll be buying about 5 tickets come February of 2009. What can I say – I’m a geek; it’s what I do.

If you get the chance to see Neil Gaiman, take it. You’ll be glad you did.

…Now where is that book?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Paul Newman

We throw around words like “classic” and “legend” on a fairly regular basis these days. This complacency of language can make us numb to their usage. Classic and Legend adeptly and naturally describe the personage of Mr. Paul Newman who passed away yesterday from cancer at the age of 83. For the details see IMDB’s article here: http://www.imdb.com/news/ni0574069/ or Yahoo’s write up here: http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080928/en_afp/entertainmentusfilmnewman_080928014506.

By all reports he was a humble and relaxed human being who never became full of himself. This actor, director, political activist, racecar driver, humanitarian and family man was happy just being who he was and helping others. To date the Paul Newman Association has given about $250,000,000 to charity. That’s not too bad for salad dressing and popcorn. Check out this: and click on the YouTube link at the bottom. Amazing man. Amazing life. I was aware of The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp and how they helped seriously ill children but I didn’t realize that they have been doing what they do for the last twenty years. Wow. For more information on The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp click here: http://www5.holeinthewallgang.org/.

Apart from this lasting legacy of his generosity is the string of jaw dropping performances that he left behind as an actor. “Cool Hand Luke”, “The Sting”, “The Hustler”, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and, of course, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, are so much a part of American cinema that you really have a hard time considering one without the other American cinema and Paul Newman, that is.

My heartfelt prayers are with his family and friends at this time. He and Joanne Woodward have been married for the last 50 years. Paul Newman was man who fought the good fight and used whatever means he had at his disposal to help others. He went out guns blazing – just like Butch and Sundance in Bolivia. He made a difference and inspired others to do the same.

Now there’s a legacy.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Tattoo

I’m stingy when it comes to tattoos. I believe that a little goes a long way. That being said I really don’t have anything against people with full sleeves or full body tattoos but, for me, I find one of unique or intricate design pretty hot. Too much of anything is a bit much for yours truly. If I were to get one that’s all it would be – one, either on my right shoulder or someplace only Mother Hen would see.

But enough about me… have you ever considered getting a tattoo and, if so, what would it be and where would you put it? Yeah, I know it is something you will have with you for the rest of your days and I know that it really isn’t something that you should just jump right into either. Jimmy Buffet has more than one song about a “Permanent Reminder of a Temporary Feeling.”

Still – there is a bit of an allure, no?

I have thought about surprising Mother Hen with one from time to time by having something show up somewhere that has never had anything before. But still my more than ample canvas of a hide is, to date, without ink, so to speak. I know hundreds of people who have made the commitment including friends, family and acquaintances. Their results, as with many things in life, vary. The artist putting needle to flesh means a lot. After all, you don’t want the person applying permanent ink into your skin casually saying something like, “This is harder that it looks in the textbooks.” Have you ever seen tattoos gone bad? Ouch. That’s a lot of ugly for a LONG time. Hey, I’m not trying to discourage you Gentle Reader, I’m just saying that it pays to do your homework.

I suppose the same goes with body piercing (s). I’m pretty stingy when it comes to this topic too – a little goes a long way and too much is freak show material in my book. And that’s coming from someone who likes a good freak show every now and then. I guess too much of anything is bad. Still the occasional belly or nose ring, at least in the eye of this beholder, is hot but too much is just too much. I know people who fall into both of these categories – so do you.

Back to tattoos, that is the topic after all.

So what would it be for yours truly? Hmmm; perhaps a Christian tattoo or perhaps something that represented something from my misspent youth such as the Enterprise, the Millennium Falcon or the TARDIS? Maybe Jack Rackham’s pirate flag – perhaps a tall ship like my Dad had on his bicep? Awwww, who am I kidding? I’m gonna get the Evil Chicken chicken on my arm. Yeah, that’s about right – either that or something only Mother Hen would appreciate.

: )

It’s late, and I’m tired. Please forgive my excessive ramblings. BTW this whole weird blog does NOT apply to my daughters. I’ll be better in the morning – with my pelt intact; thank you very much.


Monday, September 22, 2008

All Work No Play Make Evil Chicken Dull Boy

Please bear with me Gentle Reader. I’m playing with the gadgets on Ye Ole Blog of Yore – Chicken Scratch. I am experimenting. Maybe it has something to do with the first day of autumn – I don’t know… What I do know is that you can now play Breakout and get information on “What Happened on This Date” just by looking to the left.

There may be some more weird things popping up so keep your eyes pealed.

Eyes Pealed? That’s just disgusting if you think about it.

Thanks for your indulgence.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Go Speed Racer, Go!

Apart from watching Speed Racer as a kid I have never understood the allure of auto racing. It all seemed like guys with thick accents (Scottish or Southern USofA) driving in circles; accelerate, turn, repeat. Where’s the sport in that? I asked myself. What you need to broadcast on ESPN is getting onto 295 from 42 – now THERE is a challenge. I just didn’t get it.

And then there was Indianapolis. I was a part of a group of people who went to Indianapolis a few months back. We had a few hours to kill before our plane back to Philadelphia so we went to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. If you are a racing fan it is Mecca, if you are not a fan then this is where you go to ask yourself “Why am I not a fan?” The sheer history of the place is something to sink ones teeth into alone. The Hall of Fame Museum was well worth the $3.00 admission. In it’s halls you will find hundreds of cars and motorcycles from teams that had won at “The Brickyard” on display. I took several shots of an old Indian motorcycle since my dad had one and I still remember the stories that he told me about driving on bright moonlit nights with the wind in his face and the stars suspended above. There is a certain amount of romance with the road that goes into racing that I never really saw before. What really aided me in my quest to understand what the big deal was with racing was taking the bus tour around the track. I had the unbridled pleasure experiencing this with a true fan of racing who was a member of my group. He lit up at each turn. “I can’t believe I’m here at the brick line.” He said. “A lot of milk has been spilled right here.”

“Really?” I asked wondering if lactating cattle were raced here like everything else.

“Yes. When you win a race the winner gets to drink ice cold milk.” He explained.


We were at pole position, The Pylon, where they run the Indy 500 – there have been 92 runnings of the race thus far. Ninety-two. According to my favorite second brain (Wikipedia) there is a seating capacity of 257,325 permanent seats plus temporary infield seating to make a grand total of about 400,000! That’s a lot of race fans. Henry Ford used to test drive cars on this track before selling them to the public. It opened in 1909 and it was originally made of bricks. The Brick Yard is the starting line and, yes, it is literally a yard of original bricks from the speedway. My friend explained to me the science, strategy, and talent behind both Indy and NASCAR racing; that combined with his exuberance had me glued to everything around us. It was magic and he was the wizard. I ate it up.

Enter today. Today another friend of mine gave me some passes to the “Wheels and Warbirds” Vintage Airshow and Races at NJMP. NJMP stands for the New Jersey Motorsports Park (see: http://www.njmotorsportspark.com/ for the gory details). I’ve wanted to check this out ever since it opened. It just so happened today was my/our chance to do so. And that’s just what happened; the five of us schlepped out to Millville and saw fast vehicles in the air and on the track. I’ve always been a sucker for WWII aircraft. We came late and missed the air show but we saw a lot of planes in the sky including several P-47s and at least one P-51. The Thunderbolt Raceway is named after the P-47 since the Millville Airport was home to a squadron of them during the war. BTW if you are from the area and have not checked out the Millville Army Air Field Museum, do so. Here they are online: http://p47millville.org/. If you have an interest in history and/or aviation you’ve got to go.

Thunderbolt Raceway is something to see. I don’t know what regular pricing is but watching the races and being a part of the excitement is worth the trip. The go-carts look like a lot of fun and I really dug the bridge over the track. From what I understand they have been voted the “Best Track in the Tri-state Area”. By whom this honor was bestowed I don’t know but I do know that you will have a good time.

Here’s to the races.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Strangelove Indeed or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Large Hadron Collider

At about 3:14 AM, EST (09/10/08) a large particle accelerator buried about 300 feet underground in Geneva will begin it’s 9 month – a year run of accelerating particles near the speed of light and colliding them with other particles running the opposite direction. Hilarity ensues.


Yup read all about it right here: http://science.howstuffworks.com/large-hadron-collider.htm#. An excellent article by Jonathan Strickland begins by saying, “One hundred meters (or about 328 feet) underground, beneath the border between France and Switzerland, there's a circular machine that might reveal to us the secrets of the universe. Or, according to some people, it could destroy all life on Earth instead. One way or another, it's the world's largest machine and it will examine the universe's tiniest particles. It's the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).”

…“One way or another”?

I have an interest in quantum physics – that is I enjoy the discoveries and the theories that blow conventional wisdom out of the water; such as time travel, particles that vibrate in two places at once and the ever popular parallel universe theories. As a card-carrying geek this stuff is like mother’s milk. I’ve got three story arcs bouncing around my neural passageways already with who knows how many short stories, essays and/or screenplays based on the LHC and what it may or may not do and/or find.

I do not want to cast any illusions here. I’m like Major Tom speaking to Ground Control or the ever-popular cow watching the passing train when it comes to the hard science that the team firing up the machine in Geneva live and breath. Its all well beyond my ken and understanding. “I’m just a singer in a rock and roll band.” Even so you can’t go and make statements like, “There is an incredibly small chance we’ll create a black hole within the earth” and not expect someone to glom onto it. That’s a loaded statement and don’t forget what Blue Oyster Cult said, “History shows again and again how nature points out the follies of man.” What about all those movies where science runs amok?!

Oh yeah, go go Godzilla.

There have been independent studies that have verified the safety of the LHC so chances are a rip in the time space continuum; universal overlapping and/or planetary implosion due to black hole creation at the planet’s core are hardly factors at all. When the Sleestacks become our overlords – don’t blame the scientists!

Just kidding – blame the scientists. Tomorrow’s always been a crapshoot, LHC or not. I’ll see you on the other side, Gentle Reader.

Sleep tight.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Go See Tropic Thunder

The monster tropical storm that was going to buffet the peninsula known as New Jersey never really materialized this past Saturday. Our plans for a 4th birthday party for South Jersey Geocaching (http://sjgeocaching.org/SJG/modules/wfsection/) had to be rescheduled due to the deluge and high winds that never happened. That’s one for you, weatherman. All of that rescheduling had us asking the question, “What to do?” Fortunately, we had an answer, “Go to the multiplex – that’s what we’ll do!”

And that’s just what we did.

If you get the chance and, if needed, get a babysitter and go see Tropic Thunder. If you have a sense of humor, you will laugh. If not don’t go but please keep your misery to yourself (see: http://evilchickenscratch.blogspot.com/2008/08/tropic-thunder.html).

Ok, let’s get down to business. This is a send up of Hollywood and all the trappings that go along with it. There is intelligence behind the jaw dropping humor. Ben Stiller really swung for the fences with this movie and as actor, writer and director of the project he proves that he’s an all star. I am not a Ben Stiller apologist. I didn’t fall for “Zoolander” or for, “Along Came Polly”; still I’ve always loved, “There’s Something About Mary” and the kids love, “Night at the Museum”. Hey, the guy’s a Star Trek fan so he can’t be all bad. Well, after this film, Stiller has cemented himself as solid force of humor on the big screen. Let’s talk a little about some of the other actors in the film for a moment. Each of the leads has their time to shine in this offering. Jack Black, Jay Baruchel and Brandon T. Jackson are great but the man who truly shines is Mr. Robert Downey Jr. In a perfect world he would be receiving a nomination for best supporting actor. This is not a perfect world and the Oscars will continue to ignore comedy as a functioning member of cinema but if they had the stones, Robert Downey Jr. should be in the running. Bust a gut brilliance – bottom line. There are no small parts only small actors – well, I’d have to argue that the big actors in the small parts are just drop dead amazing. Tobey Maguire, Matthew McConaughey, Nick Nolte and Tom Cruise ramp up the craziness to 11. Forget whatever the tabloids say about Tom Cruise and whatever couch he may have jumped on – he kills in this movie. He steals whatever scene he is in – he is that good. It’s scary when you say to yourself, “yeah, this guy sounds just like a producer would sound.”

Very scary.

Tropic Thunder is all about the funny. If you want to laugh – go. There’s some jaw dropping humor so don’t bring the kiddies. Prepare to giggle. In this day and age it’s comforting to know that it’s still not illegal to enjoy a great comedy – Tropic Thunder is just that. You’ll laugh ‘till your eyes rain.

See you at the multiplex.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Time is Fleeting – Lunchtime Doubly So

"Ain’t nobody on the road, ain’t nobody on the beach. The feeling in the air, the summer’s out of reach." – Don Henley

Where did it go – the time – the summer? Do you feel that summer has not started yet? Was it a blur to you? Are you sad that you missed it and that time is fleeting, at best? Has it all past you by? Did you get to hear those words, “Watch the Tram-Car Please”? Do you PINE for them now?

Snap out of it! It’s September, there’s still plenty to do. Local craziness abounds (if your ‘local’ is relatively close to South Jersey). Come to think of it there’re some pretty good crazy things happening in October too! Don’t believe me? Here’s the proof:

Downtown Millville: Antiques, Arts & Music Festival (http://millvillemerchants.com/news/visitors_participants.html) will be happening on Sunday, September 7th, 2008 on High Street in Millville, NJ. It will start at 10:00 AM. Music will be happening all day and about 100 different artists will be showing what they’ve got.

The Gloucester City 2008 Shamrock Festival (http://gloucestercityshamrockfestival.com/index.html) will be taking place on Saturday September 13th from 11:00 AM – 7:00 PM. There will be live Celtic bands all day including Birnam Wood (http://birnamwoodusa.com/index.htm). The Three Chicks and I caught one of their shows at cultural festival in Vineland about a year and a half ago and we’ve enjoyed them ever since. Hey – if you can’t share Irish drinking songs with your daughters – whom can you share them with? (Just kidding… sort of.)

The 2008 National Book Festival (http://www.loc.gov/bookfest/) is coming to the National Mall in Washington DC on September 27th, 2008. The day will be sponsored by the Library of Congress and “about 70 different authors” will be in attendance. It will happen between 3rd and 7th streets from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. The festival is free and open to the public. (BTW, I plagiarized this paragraph from here: http://evilchickenscratch.blogspot.com/2008/08/2008-national-book-festival.html.

The 2008 New Jersey Lighthouse Challenge (http://www.njlhs.org/challenge/challenge.html) will get underway the weekend of October 18th and 19th. The challenge is to visit 13 lighthouses around the New Jersey peninsula from Tinicum in Paulsboro to Sandy Hook Light at Fort Hancock. I’ve always wanted to do the challenge but it just has not happened yet. Who knows, maybe this is the year?

The 25th Annual Cranberry Festival in Chatsworth (http://www.cranfest.org/festival.html) will be held on
October 18th & 19th from 9:00 – 4:00. If lighthouses aren’t doing it for you this weekend check out the Chatsworth Cranberry Festival. Here’s what their website has to say, “The Cranberry Festival is a celebration of New Jersey’s cranberry harvest, the 3rd largest in the United States, and offers a tribute to the Pine Barrens & Culture.” Admission is free but parking might cost you a fin.

The Legend Weekend (http://www.olddutchburyingground.org/) will be happening in Sleepy Hollow, New York just outside of New Jersey on the Hudson on October 27th and 28th, from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. I believe that there is a reading of Washington Irving’s short story in the same church where Ichabod Crane held choir practice before being stalked by a certain Headless Hessian. Irving based several of the characters in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” on actual residents of the town who are now occupants of the cemetery; so now too is Washington Irving. Perhaps the coolest way to see the cemetery would be during one of the nighttime Lantern Tours that begin on September 27th and run every Saturday until November 1st. Here are the gory details for what’s going on at Sleepy Hollow: http://www.sleepyhollowcemetery.org/PDF/sleepyhollowevents08-15-2008.pdf.

Fall Foliage; for here in New Jersey(http://www.state.nj.us/travel/feature_fall_foliage.html) and for parts near and for wherever you may roam (http://www.foliagenetwork.com/default.php). Take a look around, the days are growing shorter, the air is a little crisper and the leaves have started to change. Keep watching and you will see nature explode in color right before your eyes. But be warned, seasons don’t last long these days so enjoy whatever season you find yourself.

See you on the road, Gentle Reader.

Monday, September 01, 2008

2008 Summer Movie Wrap Up

My, my, my… what a summer it has been. As any fan boy, film nut or movie geek worth his salt will tell you is the most magical time of the year. The summer of 2008 is no exception save for the fact that the quality of the blockbuster has gone up. Amen. The studios bring out their A game at the summer solstice and oh, what a game it was.

I’m not a professional film expert, nor am I a professional writer; I’m just a guy with a laptop and a blog who knows what he likes. And what I like most of all is the story. “Serve the story” has become my mantra. Whatever medium or vehicular delivery the plot is passed from point A to point B – serve the story. Filmmakers, novelists, artists, cartoonists, puppeteers, song writers, actors, writers, directors, whatever; if serving the story is not their passion then they are in the wrong profession. Bottom line. There must be respect for the story and if the tale you are telling has something to do with existing characters that are already established firmly in popular culture, literature, or history – respect the character. If you want to tell your own story, fine; but don’t sacrifice the venture on a pyre of your own vanity in the process. Show some respect. Many of these characters have been around a lot longer than you and will be remembered long after your chance to progress their story has slipped through your fingers. Love the characters you write, respect them and serve the story. That’s it. That’s the recipe for success; primarily to successful storytelling but also to selling a lot of popcorn at the theaters.

Speaking of selling popcorn; to usher in the New Year I put together my summer movie picks for ’08. No pressure but if you are interested that can be found here: http://evilchickenscratch.blogspot.com/2008/01/evil-chickens-spring-summer-movie.html. In this blog I picked my favorites for the upcoming movie season. When I wrote it Heath Ledger was still with us and we were in the middle of the writer’s strike. We were about to enter another uncertain year with a war going happening on two fronts and an uncertain economic future; well, why not start the year off with some comfort blogging? At the time I thought projecting my favorites would be a good idea. Now at the end of the season I thought I’d give you my favorite four films of the 2008 summer movie season. So without further ado; lets get down to business.

1. The Dark Knight will floor you and not just as a popcorn summertime movie. Its scope is far reaching and it is everything a Batman movie should be. It is truly a wonderfully realized piece of cinema. If the Academy ignores this one they should be stormed with pitchforks and torches. Here’s what I had to say about the movie then: http://evilchickenscratch.blogspot.com/2008/07/dark-knight.html. I stand by those statements.

2. Iron Man was a wonderful way to start the summer. For this fan boy it was a close second and in a summer without Batman it would have easily taken the number one spot. They set the bar high right outta jump street. Here’s what I had to say on the film then: http://evilchickenscratch.blogspot.com/2008/05/basking-in-after-glow-of-pure-geek-joy.html. I stand by those statements.

3. Hellboy II: the Golden Army was visionary and fun. It progressed the Hellboy story along by throwing in some neat little plot twists in between shots from one of today’s most imaginative filmmakers. Here’s what I had to say then: http://evilchickenscratch.blogspot.com/2008/07/hellboy-ii-golden-army.html. You know what? I stand by those statements.

4. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was a lot of fun. It made me smile to see Indy make his way onto the big screen for another go round. I hope that it doesn’t stop with this one. There is so much more to do before Dr. Henry Jones Jr. hangs up his whip and fedora; and now that there is an heir apparent the franchise is ripe for the picking. Back when the movie came out instead of doing a blow-by-blow review I did a little recap on the “trilogy”. I was content with the fact that Indy had returned. My hopes were rewarded. If interested you can read all that jazz here: http://evilchickenscratch.blogspot.com/2008/05/pssst-indy-iv-is-coming-soon.html. Mr. Lucas, Mr. Spielberg – Yes please, my I have another?

Of course one never knows how the marketplace will react to a film. Speed Racer immediately comes to mind. I thought that it would have wheels instead of hitting the wall like it did. I grew up watching Speed Racer; so did a lot of other fan boys so I was surprised that it didn’t work. Who’s to say why? Perhaps it was too high a concept? No. Maybe it was just too stylish for its own good? Maybe. Whatever the case it didn’t work. The public just stayed away. I’m sure that studios will be scrutinizing the whys and hows of it for years to come. It didn’t find its audience. It probably will on Blu-ray.

As for my favorites of the summer of 2008, well each one of these films served the story. As a result of that everyone was happy; the studios, the filmmakers and the fans both old and new. Each of these pictures will have a hand in selling a lot of Blu-ray players and HD TVs (don’t forget the magic number of 1080 p). I do not yet possess such equipment but would gladly test some if any company like a Panasonic or a Sony would like me to field trial such electronics under a wide variety of consumer situations and user conditions – well, just say the word.

I’m willing to sacrifice.