Sunday, September 28, 2008
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: http://220.127.116.11/ 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
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
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
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
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.
Monday, September 08, 2008
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.”
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
"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
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.