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: 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” (; 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 that let me to this:; 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: 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, 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:

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: 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: (click on Journal) or here: 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?