Thursday, December 31, 2009

Enter 2010


What can one say about the first decade of the twenty-first century that has not already been said? The only thing that I can come up with at such short notice is Happy New Year, Gentle Reader. It’s time for another trip around the sun!

“God bless us, everyone.” – T. Tim

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas 2009


Let me go on the record and say the best Christmas Present that I got this year has got to be the Star Trek, Phaser Type-1 unit Hallmark ornament with three settings. I love this thing. It’s got a cool trigger mechanism and a setting dial for beam intensity. I’ve been carrying this death-ray with me wherever I go. One never knows when there will be an attack from either the Klingon or Romulan Empires. It’s wonderful. I can now annoy my kids in a variety of new and exciting ways.

“Dad, my food is cold.”

“No problem, honey.”

ZAP!

Man, I love that thing.

Merry Post Christmas, Gentle Reader. I hope that you and yours have a wonderful Christmas season and a Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

AVATAR the Promise of IMAX has been Fulfilled


We had tickets to see AVATAR in IMAX 3D in Atlantic City yesterday at 3:15 PM. Then the snow came. Not just snow but SNOW and record breaking SNOW at that. What to do – What to do? A Recon mission – that’s what! I took the ole SUV out onto the roads, bolstered by the driving lesson that Chick 1.0 and I did earlier in the day, and took a gander at what we may be facing on our journey. Such an expedition could either end wonderfully or very, very badly. What to do – What to do?

We went.

I’m glad we did.

Much has been said about AVATAR and I don’t wish to repackage too much of all the information that is out there concerning this film since you have probably already heard it. Just know that James Cameron took off 12 years between projects, that he wrote the script for this film 15 years ago and that he had to invent the technology (the stereoscopic 3D camera) to bring it all to life. It should also be known that his new film AVATAR was worth the wait.

There are moments when you know that everything has changed. Moments when you understand the world that you are familiar with has moved on and there can be no going back. Cinematically speaking those who were in attendance for “The Jazz Singer” must have been amazed when the actors on the screen actually started to talk & sing. And the age of the silent film came to a close. Members of the audience for “The Adoptive Child” (1911) or for “The Wizard of Oz” (1939) must have been in a state of awe at seeing color films come to pass via Kinemacolor and Technicolor. And the chapter on black and white film passed on. There have been some amazing things happen in the cinema concerning special effects; not the least of which are motion capture technology, wirework, and Computer Generated Graphics. “Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King” won every Oscar imaginable for it’s storytelling. It is an amazing powerhouse trilogy and wonderful story that Peter Jackson put together, no doubt but I wonder if he would have opted for Cameron’s Stereoscopic 3D IMAX camera after seeing AVATAR.

AVATAR is a “game changer”. I understand that not every theater is IMAX but when you see this film in its natural setting you glimpse the future. I am not kidding. Yes you can see it in a regular movie theater. You could spend the extra bucks to see it in 3D or you could spend $15.00 (at the ticket booth) and see it in IMAX, the way that it was intended to be seen. I will not bother to give you my synopsis; just know that the story is solid and you will be taken someplace that you have never been to before.

Go.

See.

You will not be disappointed.

I am a huge fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs “John Carter from Mars” books and I am seriously geeking out at the fact that the mighty Pixar (a company that I would LOVE to work for) is going to be making a foray into live action by bringing those books to life on the big screen. After seeing AVATAR, they have their work cut out for them. I believe this is what George Lucas was shooting for when he did Episodes I - III of the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy. Cameron found the lightning that escaped from the bottle.

Seriously.

I hear that Cameron’s next project will be working on part two of his AVATAR trilogy. I cannot wait to see what he has up his sleeve for the next two installments. This film cost a LOT of money to make – and it was worth every single penny. Believe the hype.

See you at the IMAX, Gentle Reader.

Sad Songs Say So Much


All right, let me just get to the point; there are songs out there that will make me cry; do you know what I mean? They are out there. Waiting to attack. You will not see them coming but they will hit you at the most unsuspecting times. You may be driving or in line at Target or around your coffee pot at work and BANG there it is. One of those songs that just goes for the sappy gland and makes it gush.

“Evil Chicken, what are you talking about?”

What am I talking about? Gentle Reader today it happened to me. I was getting a cup of coffee in the break room and that song about that little kid buying his mother those blasted shoes for Christmas but he has to hurry because he wants her to have them if she goes to see Jesus tonight! Now I have heard the song before, in fact I believe that it’s about three of four years old but BANG there is was and then BOOM the children’s let’s sing to our dying mother chorus kicks in and I run blubbering from the room. If I was in line at Target or Wal-Mart I would have shouted, “I’ll buy the shoes – just get me to aisle 12! JUST PLEASE STOP SINGING!”

This has happened to me before. I was at a Billy Joel concert, I think it was “The River” tour and he debuted a song called, “Good Night My Angel”. I had never heard this song before but the chords and the lyrics killed me. It’s about a father singing a lullaby to his daughter who is asking about death and how their love will live forever. It’s this touching, beautiful piece of music that should NEVER EVER be played over the airwaves for the simple reason that if I hear it while driving I’m going to be a sniveling, four-lane freeway crossing mess and Gentle Reader that’s a dangerous situation.

Oh and there are others too, like Dan Fogelberg’s “Leader of the Band” and Bob Carlisle’s “Butterfly Kisses”. These songs will reduce me to a puddle of goo. These sad songs are out there on the airwaves, CD collections and MP3 players of the world. Be careful out there and remember where you heard your warning.

…Gentle Reader, there ought to be a law.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

There’s No Place Like Home


Here at Rancho del Evil Chicken we LOVE being connected. That is we love our internet flowing freely and abundantly and in that spirit we have done our share of “Home Page” research. We have four (sometimes five) users in the Ole’ Chicken Coop. One uses Action News www.6abc.com, two use www.comcast.net as their home page and I currently use www.yahoo.com. Well, Gentle Reader, I am currently feeling a wanderlust for another Home Page. It’s not that I don’t like the pictures or the coverage but Yahoo has just changed things up so that I now have to click onto a story twice to read it completely and that just complicates my whole instant gratification zeitgeist. I think it’s time to move on.

I like Channel 6 Action News in the Philadelphia area but I think their website homepage stinks on ice. Do NOT have annoying pop up commercials that can get around my security and firewall settings. It is disconcerting when one is trying to read the news and an annoying actor pops up at the bottom of the screen and starts yammering on how he is saving so much on his new car. Sorry. Inexcusable. NEXT!

Comcast has a decent home page option but it goes straight to videos instead of a news feed. That’s a check in the minus column. I think that this will change once the dust settles from the recent Comcast NBC acquisition; perhaps then it will rock my world. Currently the world rocking takes some thoughtful clicking to get into. NEXT!

The iGoogle homepage option (just do a search). Google gets a lot of flack for being THE go to search engine for just about EVERYTHING in the known universe. They are increasing their grip on information – not that that is a bad thing, it’s just that Google is an EMPIRE. On the other hand, if not Google then who – the government? Who knows? The fact is they are good at what they do… which is turning into everything from common net searches to genetic screenings; from Google Earth (which is simply amazing BTW) to the blog that you are reading right now. Sure all of the searches and emails that you send are saved in a huge central processing area of Google cyberspace but hey, Google is so gosh darn convenient. When confronted with accusations of being too invasive Google has said, “Trust Us.” Hey, you can’t argue with logic like that!

I’m going with iGoogle for the time being. Yahoo and I have had a long run of things but it’s time for us both to move on. The changes to their news feed sealed the deal for me. Yup, I’m going with iGoogle because security is an illusion these days and my instant gratifications needs are met; well… instantly. I’ll investigate Comcast / NBC once they get their collective eggs in the same basket. When that will be nobody knows.

I blog with Google (Blogger - who do a great job at what they do BTW) and, in a few keystrokes, it will become my homepage too. How about YOU Gentle Reader? Where do you call home?

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Zombie Vaccine


I love WIRED Magazine. If you are or have ever thought of stepping over the line and becoming a card carrying GEEK (like yours truly) then the publication is required reading. It is humorous and insightful and it occupies itself with tech and science for the geek masses. It’s a great read. Their website is a daily stop for me. There are some absolutely wonderful blogs there including “Geek Dad”, “Underwire” and “Danger Room”. Anyhow, while perusing the “Danger Room” blog I came across an interesting article by Katie Drummond entitled, “Pentagon: Zombie Pigs First, Then Hibernating Soldiers”.

That got my attention.

As it turns out a team from Texas A&M has developed a “zombie vaccine” which is designed to save peoples lives after bodily trauma by stopping the heart (which stops people from bleeding out) and safely shutting down the brain (which stops “brain death”). The team is going to be moving to trials in pigs, which have very similar vascular system to ours (humans, that is) and, ultimately, on to humans. I’m not doing the story any justice by paraphrasing it so here is the link for you to check out for yourself: http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2009/12/pentagon-zombie-pigs-first-then-hibernating-gis/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+wired%2Findex+%28Wired%3A+Index+3+%28Top+Stories+2%29%29&utm_content=Google+Feedfetcher.

The potential military and civilian applications for this procedure are mind blowing. That “golden hour” between injury and treatment could be extended tenfold via suspended animation. There is no such thing as science fiction anymore. As Paul Simon once sang, “These are the days of miracle and wonder…” I believe that he was onto something there.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Iron Man 2


“Iron Man 2” will be hitting theaters on May 7, 2010. It will feature characters such as Whiplash (portrayed by Mickey Rourke), War Machine (the gray armored suit with the chain gun on the shoulder, played by Don Cheadle as Rhodes) and Nick Fury (Mr. Samuel L. Jackson). Robert Downey Jr. is reprising his role as Tony Stark the brilliant inventor, billionaire industrialist / weapons manufacturer who is all too human behind that iron mask. This is great stuff and it’s a great time to be a geek.

Man, I can’t wait. I’m so there opening night… Guaranteed.

Who’s With Me?!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Blue-Ray Dossier - Volume 3.0


This is a busy time of year for yours truly. November is National Novel Writing Month, the holidays are right around the corner, I’m collaborating with a friend of mine on a screenplay, I’m still blogging, and then there are all of those wonderful Blu-ray movies that keep popping up.

Gentle Reader, all thought there are shenanigans aplenty, I humbly want you to know that I am still fighting the good fight; I’m still watching movies – Blu-ray movies that is. I rate movies on a one – five star, two round system; round one is all about the story and round two is all about the Blu-ray. The more stars the better. Here’s what has been on the menu…

Beetlejuice” 4 Stars / 3.5 Stars. I love Tim Burton. Say what you will but the man has a unique vision when it comes to creating worlds on film. He has an eye for telling stories. Beetlejuice is no different. What’s not to like about this Tim Burton film about a Bio-Exorcist (a ghost who gets rid of the living for you)? You have a recently deceased, naive couple that is trying to rid themselves of the obnoxious new owners of their home. They can’t do the job themselves and when the regular lines of bureaucracy in the afterlife fail them they call on Beetlejuice adeptly played by Michael Keaton. Brilliant stuff. You will giggle. The Blu-ray aspect is not as good as it could have been but I believe it is only a question of technology. “Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland” is being released in 2010 and I have no doubt that when that hits Blu-ray my jaw will drop. Beetlejuice is retrofitted but worth your time.

Monsters Vs. Aliens” 3 Stars / 4 Stars. This is a cute movie. Reese Witherspoon voices Susan, a woman whom on her wedding day becomes the 50 Foot Woman. She is captured by the government and then is united with a group of monsters that have been hidden away since the fifties. It’s light, it’s entertaining and the kids loved it. There you go. The Blu-ray factor is better. Watching the Golden Gate Bridge get destroyed was a feast for the eyes. When the President of the United States is attacked by the giant robot the detail was gorgeous. This was worth the rental and you may want to pick up a copy if you have little ones.

Up” 5 Stars / 5 Stars. I do not think that I have ever seen a better picture about the human grieving process than “Up”. There is a lot of symbolism in this one. Pixar can do no wrong. Be warned, this is a tearjerker that has mortality and adventure at its heart. You will be moved. The wizards at Pixar are able to accomplish more with a well-told, heartfelt story via computer animation than a lot of flesh and blood directors and actors can on film. It is brilliant storytelling and yes, I cried. The joy of this film is that Pixar never once treats you, the viewer, like an idiot by making the characters anything less than flesh and blood. Simply brilliant. The Blu-ray factor will knock your socks off. The balloons and the detail on the Tapui mountain tops… spectacular. This is not in my collection yet but it will be.

King Kong the Extended Edition” 4.5 Stars / 5 Stars. Peter Jackson is one of my favorite guys to watch in the business. Not only is he a great storyteller but also he is a fan. This is at once an homage and a digital upgrade to one of my all time favorites, 1933’s RKO Pictures, “King Kong”. This film is a love letter to the original and Jackson delivers. He used some of the actors from his Lord of the Rings trilogy so you may see one or two familiar faces along the way including Andy Serkis (Golem from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy) who plays Lumpy the cook and does the motion capture work for King Kong himself. The trouble with doing a remake of a legend is that everyone already knows how it ends. Still this one is worth your time just for the action that takes place on Skull Island alone. The Blu-ray factor is mesmerizing. Your jaw will drop. The detail is startling. If you are a fan of Kong you probably already own this one. If you are not the Extended Edition (emphasis on the ‘Extended’ at over 3 hours and 20 minutes) is most certainly worth your time.

G.I. Joe” 2.5 Stars / 3 Stars. I went into this one prejudiced. I went in thinking preconceived and assumed bad things about the movie, which is not entirely too fair. I should approach unseen movies / films with an open mind instead of being closed off to the possibility that I may actually like a project and that, perhaps, it can stand on it’s own merit. I should aspire to be a better Evil Chicken. What can I say? I was wrong to be so heavy handed. It was better than I thought it was going to be. They took a toy line and cartoon from the eighties (they ignored the G.I. Joe that I grew up with minus a “Kung Fu Grip” nod) and put it on the big screen with aplomb. This being said, “G.I. Joe” is not Shakespeare or Spielberg – It’s “G.I. Joe”. Don’t go into this movie thinking it’s going to be a film and you’ll have a good time. I liked the

Star Trek” 4.5 Stars / 4.5 Stars. J.J. Abrams and the new crew of the Enterprise deliver BIG TIME on this resetting of a cultural and science fiction behemoth, Star Trek. I am a fan so it was important to remain as fair and balanced as possible. Mr. Abrams and company know what they are doing. This crew from a universe just next to ours take an over 40 year cannon of stories and flip it on it’s pointy ear. That is no easy feat. What’s old is new once more and sacred cows are the first things to be slaughtered. Anything goes in this new universe. Kirk and Spock hate each other, a major federation planet implodes and Captain Pike does not BEEP! Oh, it is a good time to jump on board the Enterprise. Speaking of the Enterprise; she looks beautiful in Blu-ray. There is a special section on disc two where you can investigate the Enterprise. Do so. I have always loved the design of this vessel and J.J.’s starship is a wonder to behold unto itself. I can’t wait to boldly go where no other Star Trek has gone before… back to the beginning – this is not wrote, it’s new and anything can happen. I own this one and you should too.

So there you have it, Gentle Reader, Volume III of the Blu-Ray Dossier. I’ll see you in line at Blockbuster!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

How Free Enterprise Will Save the Future of Space Exploration


We were going back to the moon in 2020. I taught a summer camp class on “Star Trek” this past summer at my local Community College. The meat and potatoes of my class was not only Star Trek, but also a history of space exploration, where we are and where we, humanity, may be heading in the next handful of years. I told my class about the Ares and Orion programs from NASA where were going to be replacing the Space Shuttle and that, if the funding was there, humanity would be returning to the moon. Well, funding will be going to other places for now. Chances are NASA will not be able to afford the trip.

Abstract ideals such as exploration are not enough for your Average Joe to hang his hat on and get behind. No. Exploration has to have purpose, has to be a means to an end; it has to turn a profit. Historically, this has always been the case. It is, therefore, not proper for me to throw too many stones towards the bureaucrats.

So just how does one make exploration a profitable venture? Well, you’ve got to give ‘em the old razzle-dazzle. You have to captivate the senses of said Average Joe and you have to show a profit at the end of the day; a reason for reason, so to speak. Before he died, Arthur C. Clarke postulated that orbital platforms could be tethered to the earth like great swinging stones. Why? These tethered orbital platforms would have access for experimentation and tourist dollars but the best benefits would be to communication and to energy production since as this orbital platform is cutting its way through the ionosphere it is producing electricity which, in turn, would be completely green and, as long as the orbital platform remains tethered to the earth, inexhaustible. Think of how many jobs such platforms would provide for Average Joe’s around the world. Speaking of energy and jobs how about orbital solar arrays? Unfiltered sunlight, unspoiled by the earth’s atmosphere, channeled directly to your outlet from Mother Nature herself. Money made.

I don’t have the capitol to attempt either of these options but someone out there does. Don’t believe me? Well, back in my Star Trek class I also told my students about Virgin Galactic and how Sir Richard Branson was going to be putting the future of space travel into the hands of entrepreneurs instead of bureaucrats. This December (2009) the VSS Enterprise is going to be making history. Based on the technology from Space Ship One (which won the X-Prize and is now hanging in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum between the X-1 and the Spirit of St. Louis) it will usher in a new era. Space flight is now within the Average Joe’s hands. Granted that Average Joe will have to pay about 200 K for a ticket but let it be known, that is a LOT cheaper than NASA, not only that but this technology is real; it has happened and, come December, it will be happening on a regular basis. Here is Virgin Galactic’s computer generated promo of what is about to happen – NEXT MONTH: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IytjSl6voP0. New Mexico is now the home to the world’s first Spaceport. Seriously.

Free enterprise will save space exploration. It is a matter of time and a matter of profit. We were going back to the moon in 2020. I do not believe that NASA can do it. With the world the way it is unprofitable exploration is not at a premium. If you can make a dollar, yen or rupee that mindset will change in a New York minute. Therefore, I say give Sir Richard Branson a shot; I believe he will have us to the moon much sooner and at a fraction of the cost that the bureaucrats are projecting.

If I could afford it, I’d go aboard the VSS Enterprise inaugural flight. What about you, Gentle Reader?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Evil Chicken Supports Uncle Floyd


I do not usually talk politics here on Chicken Scratch. I subscribe to the original Greek breakdown of the word; poly meaning many and ticks meaning blood sucking creatures. Obi Wan Kenobi while talking to Anakin Skywalker about then Senator Amidala said, “Anakin, she is a politician and not to be trusted.” Episodes I, II & III are pretty underwhelming but that line has always rang true. Politicians are not to be trusted. The political players are all the same. Do you know what happens on November 4, the day after Election Day? Absolutely nothing. The commercials and obnoxious mailings come to a halt, mercifully; and all of the promises during the campaign (from either side mind you) remain just that – promises.

These, however, are different times and here in New Jersey I believe that it is time for a real change. That is why I am officially endorsing Uncle Floyd Vivino for Governor. Check it all out here: http://gardenstatejubilee.com/ for the gory details.

That’s right, I’m voting for Uncle Floyd!

“Oh, you are throwing your vote away.” You may say.

No, Gentle Reader, I am participating in a democracy. I am making my voice of dissatisfaction heard. I have my reasons that I don’t want either of the big two in the office so I am casting my vote for a true New Jersey native, a man who has made me laugh and entertained me from the time that I was but a child; Uncle Floyd.

Go out and vote today. I don’t care how you do vote, just vote (although I am pulling for Uncle Floyd). If you don’t vote then you really don’t have a right to complain when the chuckleheads do something that you don’t like.

See you at the polls.

GO UNCLE FLOYD!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Blu-Ray Dossier Volume 2.0: the Halloween Edition


“The Children of the Night… what (or vhat) music they make.”

Tis the season, the Halloween season that is. I thought that I would round up a few possible options for you Blu-ray pleasure with this edition of the Dossier. I’ve seen 4 movies recently and I’m about to tell you what I thought of ‘em but before I do here are the ground rules. As before (see: asdf) the movies are rated on a two round system; round one is all about the story and round two is all about the Blu-ray. That’s, that. Now open up your bag 'cause here come the goodies.

Diary of the Dead” 4 Stars / 3.5 Stars. This is George Romero’s latest foray into the genre that he practically invented, the “Zombie Movie”. This is a smaller more personal venture and it is a turn for the better. His last movie, “Land of the Dead”, really didn’t do it for me. It had some great ideas but great ideas do not a great movie make. But enough about that, we’re talking Diary. The plot follows a group of college kids whose film project becomes a documentary of the first few days of the Zombie Outbreak. It made me jump a couple of time but, admittedly, that’s not all that hard to do. If you are a Romero fan this will make it’s way into your collection.

Sleepy Hollow” 4 Stars / 3 Stars. I would like to go on record and say anything that Tim Burton and Johnny Depp make together is worth seeing, if not on the big screen then, most certainly, on Blu-ray. Burton’s Sleepy Hollow changes up the story but still makes it atmospheric with a suburban Victorian feel. Ichabod is no longer the schoolteacher / choir director, he is now a constable who has been sent to the little settlement to investigate a series of murders and thanks to a certain ghostly headless Hessian solider business is brisk. There is something about this story (Washington Irving’s original and Tim Burton’s interpretation) that strike a chord with me; it always reminds me of the fall season, of my childhood and why I never take covered bridges at night. A masterfully realized story but the jaw dropping Blu-ray factor only ranks an average.

Poltergeist” 4.5 Stars / 4 Stars. This is a great example of what a horror film could be. Even after all the years since the film’s release and a few dated special effects – this movie works. The story is by some guy named “Steven Spielberg” and the director duties go to some guy named, “Tobe Hooper”. What an amazing marriage. The character development and acting are spot on the money. This one deserves to be among the pantheon of great horror movies for it’s creepy factor alone; which is, by the way, something woefully ignored by the lion’s share of today’s filmmakers. The Blu-ray quality stands out when you see the housing development where the story unfolds. If this is not in your collection then Halloween is, most certainly, a great time to rent it and to remind yourself what a decent horror movie looks like.

Hellboy II – The Golden Army” 4 Stars / 4 Stars. This is one that is technically not a horror movie. Oh sure there are elements that are impossible to not recognize or ignore but, at it’s core, “Hellboy II” is the story of a heroes journey. Guillermo del Toro is one of my favorite filmmakers working today. There is a reason why he is the man at the helm for “The Hobbit”. His attention to detail and story are evident from the first few frames and overtly obvious when the cast is at the Troll Market. It is simply beautiful. If you missed it the first time around check it out. It is part of my collection. It may not be for young eyes due to big monsters fighting each other in Manhattan and Ireland but if you can remember that it’s only a movie you will be entertained. Here’s hoping that Hellboy III gets a green light!

And there you have it; some Blu-Ray Dossier picks for Halloween. Rent some and see for yourself; but beware… “For even a man who is pure of heart and says his prayers by night may become a wolf (or volf) when (or vhen) the wolves (or volves) bane blooms and the moon is full… and bright.”

Thursday, October 29, 2009

National Novel Writing Month 2009


The MIGHTY NaNoWriMo is poised to RETURN in but a few days. The one question for YOU, Gentle Reader, is “Are you in?”

Here is the main website: http://www.nanowrimo.org/, it will answer any questions that you have and, if you have a novel in you wanting to escape, is your portal to a wonderfully insane creative activity. You see, in the month of November YOU, if you sign up and are dedicated enough to the cause, are going to write a novel.

“That’s impossible.”

NAY! It is possible all you have to do is start on November 1st, follow through and finish on November 30th with 50,000 words under your belt. Congratulations; YOU have just written the draft of your first novel.

Honestly.

It is a lot of fun and a personal challenge. I’ve participated in four of ‘em and have crossed the finish line twice. If a hack like myself can do it so can you.

So… are YOU in?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Blu-Ray Dossier


Welcome, Gentle Reader, to a new feature here at Chicken Scratch – the Blu-Ray Dossier. It is no secret. I love movies. I love the way stories are told. I love to hear how they came to fruition and I like to see them realized correctly – how the storyteller’s (hopefully) intended. Friends, let me just say that, if you enjoy movies, especially blockbuster, tent pole productions, then you need to get an HDTV (LCD, 1080p, with at least a 128 megahertz refresh rate for the video games), a Blu-Ray player and a surround sound system.

“Why?” you may ask. “Why should I spend the money on such equipment?”

I could explain that HD is now the broadcast standard, I could tell you that a 5.1 surround sound experience is a wonderful way to enjoy a movie, broadcast, or videogame and I could say that Blu-Ray justifiably deserves to be at the top of the heap when it comes to watching film and/or movies BUT until you see and hear it for yourself you would be a fool not to ask and, Gentle Reader, you are no fool. What can I tell you? Bite the bullet and make the jump. You will not be disappointed.

That being said, I have been watching a lot of Blu-ray movies recently. They are crisp, clean, 1080p (that is how movies are filmed) transfers of the films from the original footage. The picture is startling. The sound is astonishing. The movies are, now, taking on a life of their own, even more so than before. Please don’t get me wrong nothing can replace the theater experience, nor should it, but the joy (and yes this is the correct word here); the joy is that it removes the human element. There is no one answering their cell phone, talking, texting or getting up to pee or get more popcorn in your living room (unless that is what you want). NO it is a flawless transfer of a story from the filmmaker to you on your terms. It is worth its weight in gold.

“All right, so what’s this Blu-Ray Dossier that you keep talking about?”

I am so glad that you asked, Gentle Reader. The Blu-Ray Dossier will be not only a review of the film/movie (there is a difference), but it will also be a critique of how good the Blu-Ray Disc delivers. I will be looking for cinematography that makes my jaw drop and when I see it I will let you know about it.

So here is how it works; there will be two star ratings on a sliding scale from 1 to 5, the more stars the better. The first star is a rating for the movie and the second is for the sheer, jaw dropping, awesomeness of the quality of the film in question. With the Blu-Ray Dossier it will be possible for a 1 star movie to have a 5 star rating for the jaw dropping, crystal clear cinematography. The reverse is true too. Since I’m a geek I may ruminate a bit about the film/movie in question and I might recommend it for purchase, rental or to bypass it completely. All right, that’s enough of that; here we go with Volume I…

“The Dark Knight” Rating: 5 Stars / 4.5 Stars. What can you say that has not already been said? This is a great film. The sweeping shots of Hong Kong and Gotham will take your breath away. This is one for your library.

“Batman/Superman, Public Enemies” Rating: 4 Stars / 4 Stars. This is the first animated Blu-ray movie that I have seen and it did not disappoint on story (which is based on Jeff Lobe’s graphic novel) and clarity of picture. One of the best things about this Blu-ray is the special features which include a dinner conversation with the producers, writers and Mr. Kevin Conroy – the voice of the Batman. Just great stuff. Comic geeks may consider adding this to your collection and interested muggles will enjoy the rental.

“Casino Royale” Rating: 5 Stars / 5 Stars. Daniel Craig is the best James Bond since Sean Connery and probably the closest thing to the original intent of Ian Fleming’s books as we will ever see. This is a great Blu-ray Disc and, to date, the finest I have seen. The cinematography is unbelievably beautiful and the exotic locations have never looked so detailed and clear. This is a must see.

“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” Rating: 4 Stars / 4.5 Stars. I love keeping up with the Jones’s. It is great to see Indiana Jones back in action. It’s not “Raiders of the Lost Ark” but, then again, what is? The Blu-ray action is a crisp, clean transference and worth the rental. It is in my library but you may feel different.

“Quantum of Solace” Rating: 4 Stars / 4.5 Stars. This one takes up right where “Casino Royale” ends. It’s a good one – not as good as “Casino Royale” but certainly worth the rental. If you’re a Bond fan you may want to make it part of your collection.

“Drag Me to Hell” Rating: 4 Stars / 3.5 Stars. I love Sam Rami. He has taken the art form of making movies to another level with his camera angles, sweeps and close ups. He is an exciting filmmaker and always worth a look-see.

“Land of the Lost” Rating: 3 Stars / 3.5 Stars. I liked this much more than I thought I would. As a child of the seventies the idea of Sleestacks on the big screen makes my inner geek smile. Worth the rental for nostalgia’s sake but be prepared to explain a couple of sexual themes to little ones if they happen to be watching.

“Nightmare Before Christmas” Rating 4.5 Stars / 5 Stars. This is an animated, stop motion, masterpiece. Tim Burton’s vision is realized through Henry Selick’s stop motion, directorial, art. Amazing film and it has never looked so crisp and clean. This is one that you should have in your collection.

“The Prestige” Rating: 4.5 Stars / 4 Stars. What a wonderful story. This is one that could stand up to repeated viewings. This is a genre-bending tale that is so incredibly well realized that you will have to watch it more than once. The direction and acting are superb. David Bowie as Tesla! Please. You just may want to make this one part of your collection too.

“Transformers – Rise of the Fallen” Rating: 2 Stars / 4 Stars. Story wise there is not too much that meets the eye. Megan Fox eases it up from a 1.5 to a 2 star rating. It’s pretty awful; it is not designed to be, no, this movie was made to highlight the brilliant computerized special effects laced throughout. Note I only give the Blu-ray factor a 4 star rating. That is because the movie, while in jaw dropping, Blu-ray only highlights a jumbled mess of action on the screen that is pretty hard to decipher. It is a beautiful jumbled mess but a mess, nonetheless. Rent it if you have to.

There’s volume one; volume two will not be far behind. See you at the Blockbuster – I’ll be the one with the worn ID care, the coupons and the box of Raisinettes.

See ya next time.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Game is Afoot!

Gentle Reader, I am sorry. I am sorry that I have not checked in recently. Rest assured, I still love you, it's just that my attentions have been other places recently... I blame the addtion of HDTV and Blu-Ray to my life. For a movie geek like me it is like manna from Heaven. I've been enjoying it so much that I will be starting a feature here on Chicken Scratch in the VERY near future on different Blu-Ray releases.

That being said there is also much afoot. Work, a topic that I do not trouble you with, has been quite... interesting lately. NaNoWriMo is going to be starting in November, I'm still colaborating on a script with a buddy of mine, I'm looking forward to James Cameron's "Avatar" & "A Christmas Carol" (in the theaters real soon), and I am mourning the loss of one of my childhood icons, Captain Lou Albano. Each of these particular items is "blog worthy" but for now please consider this Yours Truly, "checking in".

We will talk in greater depth soon, Gentle Reader, I promise.

Rest in Peace, Capt. Lou!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Blu-Ray Worthy


I am a movie geek a title which has its privileges and its responsibilities. Oh yes, it’s true. A little known fact is that it is no easy burden to be a movie geek there are pitfalls and the calling requires a certain degree of commitment. Some of these pitfalls include; the poor, lost souls who talk, text or send / receive cell phone calls during a movie (Dante envisioned a special ring in Hell for these folk), sold out opening night showings, Blockbuster not sending you “home happy” for one reason or another, and collecting a large amount of DVDs that really are not the Grade A movies that you hoped they would be. Ah, Gentle Reader, the path of the Movie Geek Warrior is beset with many a trap.

“Where are you going with this?” you may ask.

Hear me out (Good question BTW). Blu-Ray won the war between formats when industries chose it over HD-DVD. Disney, Warner and porn went with Blu-Ray and the rest is history… or at least history that is right now being written. So, I got to thinking, now that Blu-Ray is the new gold standard what films are worth purchasing and which are just rentals?

I compiled a short list of movies that I think would be deemed Blu-Ray Worthy…

1. Jaws
2. Hellboy I & II
3. The Forbidden Kingdom
4. Blade Runner
5. Star Trek (2009)
6. Sleepy Hollow
7. Nightmare Before Christmas
8. Iron Man
9. Superman (1978)
10. Godfather I & II
11. John Carpenter's The Thing
12. Big Trouble in little China
13. Shaun of the Dead

And that's only the beginning.

So I ask YOU, Gentle Reader, what movies are worthy of a Blu-Ray Disc purchase?

Friday, September 18, 2009

FREE Museum Day is Coming, September 26th


“Free Museum Day – what’s that?”

Ah, Gentle Reader you always know just what to ask! Please click here: http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2009/08/free-museum-day/ for all the answers.

How cool is that? As the article from Wired says, “You can’t just show up and get in for free. They won’t let you in. You need to visit the Free Museum Day website and download a free admission card.” This “free admission card” is good for you and a guest. That website can be found here: http://microsite.smithsonianmag.com/museumday/index.html. There are Google links to show you what museums near you are participating.

I’ll see you there next weekend!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Life and Times of Wook Kundor


So I was checking out some shots on my Yahoo homepage when a picture of a little old Malaysian woman catches my eye. I click on said picture to read the segment of her story from AFP headlines. I found it interesting on several levels; so much so that I thought I would break it down piece by piece for your thoughtful consideration, Gentle Reader. Here we go…

“Wook Kundor, 107, sits outside her house in Malaysia's northern Kuala Terengganu state on September 13, 2009.”

Ok, so far so good. 107 – God bless her! This lady must be hitting the bran flakes and Flintstone vitamins; she looks great.

“Wook says she is ready to marry for the 23rd time…”

…I’m sorry, I didn’t quite get that?

“Wook says she is ready to marry for the 23rd time…”

Ok, Wook has been married 22 times. Hey, if at first you don’t succeed try try again.

“…because she fears her current drug addict husband Muhammad, 37, who is undergoing voluntary drug rehabilitation treatment in the capital Kuala Lumpur, will leave her once the program ends.”

Wow.

This woman has had quite the life. At 107 years of age she is marrying another man because her drug addicted, 70 years her junior husband is probably going to leave her after he gets out of rehab.

This is not just a little picture from Yahoo, oh no; this is an entire Morey Povitch / Jerry Springer mini series. What this woman must have seen in her days.

Click here for the brief article on Wook: http://news.yahoo.com/nphotos/Most-Emailed-Photos/ss/1756/im:/090914/photos_od_afp/f41f9dc721ef49457200fe29acf44cbd.

All the best Ms. Kundor I truly hope that husband number 23 makes you happy.

Ah those crazy kids.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Patrick Swayze has Passed


He lost his battle with pancreatic cancer today. Here are better details than I could provide: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090915/ap_on_en_mo/us_obit_swayze_11.

As an adolescent in the eighties it was hard to avoid films like “Ghost” and “Dirty Dancing”. Some of the roles that really stick out in my mind are bit ones that sneak up on you like that sleazy self-help guru from “Donnie Darko” or Vida from “To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar”. He was good at what he did and he will be missed.

It pained me when I heard of his diagnosis and it pains me now hearing of his passing. I’ve said it before and I will, unfortunately, say it again; man, I hate cancer. I know that amazing strides have been made in combating the plague of our time but it is a testament to our values that we have more pills for erectile dysfunction and creams for hair loss than we have viable, sustainable, cancer treatments.

My thoughts and prayers are with the man’s family and friends at this time.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Flashing Lights Against the Sky or How I Fought the Law and the Law Won


“So can Sheriffs give out tickets?” I asked as I drove back from dinner at Red Robin on 322 this very evening. BTW, if you’ve never been to a Red Robin (like us) I think you’ll like it. There are a great variety of burger combinations. The prices are a little steep but for something a slice above the usual corporate fare, I don’t think you will be disappointed. The steak fries are banging too.

Please forgive me, Gentle Reader, this blog is not about where to get a decent cheeseburger (although that would make an excellent blog); no, this blog is about the law and personal responsibility and how I have been breaking both of these tenants for… let’s just say, a while now.

“Well?” I prompted.

“What?” Mother Hen (my wife) asked.

“Can Sheriff’s give out tickets?”

“I think so.” My wife said, “But mostly they serve warrants and notices. Why?”

“I have one right on my tail.” I said. I had noticed that instead of completely passing me in the left lane he had applied his breaks and maneuvered behind me. I was mindful of my speed and did not go too fast or too slow. I cleared my mind and I began to think happy thoughts; such as rainbows and ponies and monster trucks – you know what I mean. Finding my happy place as I drove onward was important since I have been harboring a secret; a secret most foul. Gentle Reader, they say that confession is good for the soul, well…

I pulled over, shut the vehicle down, put the keys on the dashboard and my hands were in the 10 / 2 position on the steering wheel. I do this whenever I am pulled over. I see no reason to upset anyone who carries a gun and knows how to use it.

“This might be expensive.” I said. You see, Gentle Reader, I knew something that the Three Chicks and the Sheriff Officer didn’t… yet.

The Sheriff Officer came up to my side of the vehicle. “License, registration & insurance card, sir?”

“Sure.” I said and I retrieved the documents and gave them to the Officer.

“Do you know why I stopped you?” he asked.

“Well…” my mind began to work and do the things that it does. For a brief moment I thought, Could it be the three children in the back seat that my wife and I just kidnapped from the mall? Or, I don’t know Officer, there are several very good possibilities but whatever you do, don’t check the trunk! Or, if he were to follow up by asking me something like ‘Do you have any guns or drugs?’ I could say something like, “Sure, what do you need?NO. I had to focus. I had to tell my mind to stop working the way it usually does. He looked at my credentials and all were valid. He then looked at the inspection sticker and I knew that my life of crime was about to come to a screeching halt.

“Your vehicle has not been inspected since…” he double-checked my windshield just to be sure what he was seeing was correct. “…2007.” He was correct. “Did you know that you were overdue?”

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t you get it inspected?”

“The dashboard light is on so I knew it would not pass but I also knew it will be expensive to fix.” I said.

“I’m going to run your license and registration.” He said as he handed me my insurance card. I thanked him and he disappeared into the flashing lights behind us.

I heard a sound directly behind me that sounded something between a whimper and a sob. “Chick 2.0,” my wife said to our middle child save for the fact that she used her real name as opposed to her ID on this particular blog, “it’s going to be all right, you don’t have to cry.”

“I’m not crying.” Chick 2.0 said and she burst out in an infectious giggling. “It looks like Johnny Law’s caught up with you.” And with this we all broke out into laughter.

“Are we going to be arrested?” Chick 3.0 asked.

“No, honey. Not today.” I said. “It’s going to be all right.”

“What did we do?” she asked.

“Nothing, honey. We didn’t do anything and that is the problem.” I said. “We were pulled over because of something that I didn’t do.” I then explained to the girls that I was obviously in the wrong and I had been since 2007. The law is clear and I have been breaking it. For me, it was only a matter of time that I was going to get spotted. I said that when the time comes for them to drive that it is important to be responsible and to take care of the vehicles that they drive. I made sure that they understood that the Officer was doing his job and, in doing so, he was keeping everyone safe and the law satisfied. “Well… we had a good run.” I said looking towards my wife.

“Well, we’ll see what happens.” My wife said, “It is what it is.” My wife says that one a lot.

“You know what this means?” I asked her.

“It means that we are holding off on the mortgage until next paycheck.” She said.

“Oh no.” I said pursing my lips and gently blowing her a kiss. “It means that I’m a bad boy. That’s right, baby, I’m a rebel.”

“Right.” She said.

The officer appeared at my window again. “Ok, Mr. Evil Chicken” he began using my given name as opposed to my secondary handle. “The good news is that you are not getting any points but I have got to give you a ticket for the expired inspection sticker. I know these are hard times but you just don’t see too many blue stickers these days.”

“No, I suppose you don’t.” I said.

“If you want to contest this ticket the address to the court is printed on the back.” He said.

I nodded my head indicating to him that I did not have any inclination of contesting a ticket that I so obviously deserved. I took my ticket and we parted. He was kind enough to block traffic so that I could get back out onto 322 to resume our trip back home.

“That’s right baby,” I said to my wife in a raspy low octave voice, “I’m a bad man… a fugitive who’s been on the run from Johnny Law.” The mention of Johnny Law’s name made the back seat giggle once again. “I had a pretty good run.”

“Well, Mr. Bad Man, I wonder how much this is going to cost?”

“I don’t know.” I said in complete honesty.

“I guess this means we’re not going out for ice cream?” Chick 1.0 said giggling.

“No.” Mother Hen and I said in perfect synchronicity.

And so it came to pass that my two-year run as a law-breaking citizen came to an end. Learn from my story. It’s the story of a man (a bad man… whom some might call a rebel) who by his very non-compliance fought the law; well, tonight, Gentle Reader, the law won.

Justice has been served.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Spider-Mouse!


Disney buys Marvel Comics for 4 BILLION dollars. Here’re the gory details: http://www.nydailynews.com/money/2009/08/31/2009-08-31_spiderman_meet_mickey_mouse_disney_to_buy_comic_book_powerhouse_marvel_for_4b.html.

Disney has kept their fingers out of the PIXAR pie (creatively speaking) I have high hopes that they will keep in step with the acquisition of MARVEL. This could be a great day in comic book history, that and the fact that I have always thought Stan Lee would have made a great Walt Disney. Until I hear otherwise, Make Mine Marvel!

EXCELSIOR!

Friday, August 28, 2009

In the Mouth of Madness


This is Phillip and Nancy Garrido. 18 years ago they kidnapped an 11-year-old girl, named Jaycee Lee Dugard. Ms. Dugard made her way to a police station in California to tell the tale just this week. Phillip was a registered sex offender who was “previously convicted of kidnapping and rape.” He married his wife, Nancy, while he was in prison. The child that they abducted 18 years ago was repeatedly raped and held in a backyard camp / compound. She is now the mother of two of Phillips children.

Details of this case can be found here: http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=8438914. (BTW, Phillip is now being looked at in the murders of some prostitutes too.)

Meanwhile, the stepfather who witnessed the abduction of Jaycee 18 years ago and his wife, Ms. Dugard’s mother, have split over all of the hell that their lives had become. Phillip and Nancy destroyed their family. In the process they shattered a child’s life to the point that Ms. Dugard is feeling sorry for turning Phillip and Nancy into the police. Yes, this is the man who raped her and became the father of her two children – the same man that made them sleep in tents in the tin roof and tent compound of a backyard that he constructed.

I heard an “expert” on such topics say on morning TV concerning their defense say, “She’s going to say that her husband made her do it and he’s going to say that the Devil made him do it.” And both of those might be the case concerning Phillip and Nancy; the fact remains that the damage is already done. A family was ruined 18 years ago and these unhumans made it happen. They did not stop there. He impregnated this abducted child twice and now the kidnap victim, Ms. Dugard, is uncertain if she had done the right thing.

Wow.

I believe that our justice system is a little askew. Why on God’s Green Earth would a man who has been charged with “kidnapping and rape” be allowed to EVER see the light of day? Phillip had done this BEFORE. This was not something new to Phillip and apparently not something new to Nancy either. Why would he be allowed to go free and do it again? I have no sane answer, Gentle Reader; none, whatsoever. Hey, did Phillip’s parole officer EVER visit his compound? Would he or she have even noticed that there was a family living outside just in the backyard?

I subscribe to the idea that there is a greater good and that horror and suffering are just symptoms of this thing called life. I put my trust in a higher power even when I do not see why things progress the way they so often do and even if I cannot see why some atrocity is happening I understand that there is a reason – a greater purpose that is being served somewhere or some when. With stories such as this it is the only way I can stay sane. Anything else is madness. It is all in bigger hands than mine and I am pleased that such is the case and that judgment is not in my hands since I can be creative in device, description and execution… but in doing so I would be no better than Phillip or Nancy.

My prayers are with Ms. Dugard, her mother and her stepfather at this time. It is my sincere hope that some degree of normality can be extended to Ms. Dugard and her two children.

…Wow. And I thought I had a bad week.

Friday, August 21, 2009

On District 9


Back when the term “Science Fiction” meant little more to most people than little green men in flying saucers, robots and ray guns messages could have easily been misconstrued or, more likely, completely missed. Stuff like “Godzilla” representing the man made evils of atomic power, like “THEM” and “The Blob” representing the invading forces of the “Red Menace” or like “The Terminator” and the Hal 9000 representing our technology outpacing our own ability to remain the master of said technology. Those were the days when “Science Fiction” was definable; the days when you knew what you were getting into when you bought your ticket at the movies. I am a believer that the term “Science Fiction” is no longer applicable. It has reached its expiration date. It should be something like Soon to be Realized Fiction. There is no such thing as Science Fiction anymore. If you don’t believe me pick up a newspaper (do they still print those?), flip on the news, or listen to what corporate America is selling you in any venue they can. The future is here. Any speculative fiction these days is exactly that, speculative fiction; or rather, just fiction.

Before my wife and I snuck away to see “District 9” this afternoon I was horsing around on Twitter. I clicked over to see what John Favreau (director of "Iron Man") had to say on the topic. He had Tweeted that the movie was “Kafka meets Cloverfield”. After seeing the film this afternoon I am hard pressed to find a more succinct description. Please note, Gentle Reader, there will be some major spoilers ahead so if you wish to remain pure then stop right here and go to the theater to support this film. Be warned it is not a “feel good” summer movie. Still, go; the allegory and story are worth the trip. BTW I hear that theaters are air conditioned these days! See you next time.

Still here? Good. About a year and a half ago I heard rumors about a possible “HALO” movie with Peter Jackson producing and, at the time, he was marketing around Mr. Neill Blomcamp as director. Not much was known about Mr. Blomcamp but Peter Jackson? After making some pretty amazing genre related films he brought “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy to the big screen in jaw dropping Oscar sweeping fashion – suffice to say, Mr. Jackson’s got Geek Credibility. The major studios, SONY especially, were almost interested. Jackson invested time, energy and money into developing this “HALO” movie and, at the end of the day, SONY said “no thank you”. Now I am just guessing here since no matter how hard I try to meet Mr. Jackson for an interview or autograph, those restraining orders are still quite legal. Anyway, I believe that Blomcamp and Jackson had some great WETA Workshop stuff already completed for the Arbiter character from the HALO series because the aliens from “District 9” are his splitting image. Whatever the case the alien’s work; speaking of working the film works on several levels since this is one of those stories that holds a mirror up to just who we truly are as a people and a global society. And that reflection is scary.

In the world of this film aliens have been zoned to live in a barbed wire and walled shanty town know as “District 9”. There is not a human character in this movie save for the lead (adeptly portrayed by Sharlto Copley) who by no means other than accidentally, falls into a set of circumstances where he is quickly becoming the thing that he hates and the human you begin to hope for. It is a fascist world where humans keep the aliens “contained” thought brute force and cruelty. The most noble character is an alien who wants to save his people by returning to the mother ship (and ultimately his home world) that has been hovering above Johannesburg South Africa for the last twenty years. The unlikely pairing of the MNU bureaucrat and an alien is the only glimpse of the noblest qualities that we aspire to has a species. There are no degrees of evil here. There are no clich├ęd evil verses less evil factions in this film. The African warlords in “District 9” are no worse than the MNU (Multi National United) army – the multi national force that is “legally” in control of the aliens. The real monsters here are all too human. Whether it is destroying alien eggs to control population, medical & genetic experimentation on the aliens or just target practice the startling lack of “humanity” is all too… real. If this particular set of circumstances were actually play out, sadly, this is how it would happen. “District 9” is not your typical summer excursion at the movies. It holds a mirror up to just who we truly are. I would hope that when the aliens do return for their brethren that they are as forgiving as we aspire to be.

As I have said, this is not a “feel good movie”. Favreau was right, “Kafka meets Cloverfield” pretty much sums it up. May God and the returning aliens have mercy on our souls.

“District 9” is worth your time.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

On Teaching Star Trek


I had the pleasure of teaching a course on Star Trek to give or take 13 kids this past week at the Cumberland County College’s Summer Kids Camp. For how all that came about see this: http://evilchickenscratch.blogspot.com/2009/05/college-camp-class-final-frontier.html, it’s got all the gory details.

There were adventures and misadventures, crafts and conversational Klingon, some young fans and some kids who were just signed into the class because it was open. At the class’s heart; however, was Star Trek and, therefore, hope – and YES I am aware how cheesy that sounds. As I said on the first day of class, standing in the glow of a PowerPoint presentation, “Star Trek is a lot of things, science, history, technology, sociology, exploration; but at it’s core is hope; hope that we don’t destroy ourselves, hope that we learn to live together as a people, hope that we can live in an age of exploration where people Boldly Go into that great and final frontier. I was hired to teach Star Trek and that’s exactly what I did. Of course, when one is hired to teach such a class it really is a history of the future and the history’s future is being written right now and in the last 43 years of history. This is how I approached this class. Case in point; the words, “To boldly go where no man has gone before,” were lifted from a brochure that President Kennedy’s office prepared for congress to make the case for going to the moon. How did we get to the moon? It was through hard work and determination – the Saturn 5 rocket and the Eagle Lander. How was it possible to understand how the rocket would take the men to the moon? The scientists involved with launching such a (dare I say) enterprise had to have a firm knowledge of mathematics, physics, and science; they must have understood Newton’s three laws of motion, Copernicus and Galileo’s controversial heliocentric theories. No doubt the men, not only on the moon 40 years ago, but the scientists who helped put them there had some inkling of an idea who those men were.

After the Star Trek class so did my kids.

But what about now - the Space Shuttle program is ending in 2010, what’s going to replace it? Well if Sir Richard Branson has his way anyone will be able to go into space as long as they can afford a ticket ($200,000). As I am typing this he is building the worlds first consumer oriented spaceport. The V.S.S. Enterprise (Virgin Space Ship) from Virgin Galactic is reportedly 60% completed. Branson based his design off of the X-Prize winning Space Ship One which now hangs in between the X-1 (the plane that first broke the sound barrier) and The Spirit of St. Louis (the first plane to cross the Atlantic ocean) at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. Of course NASA has plans too. The Ares program will replace the Space Shuttle in 2020. The Ares rocket will be able to put payloads into orbit such as the new Orion Spacecraft, which has been designed to be a big part in our return to the moon and for our first trip to Mars.

Any parent who asks their child what they did in the class can point to these two very real programs that will take place in the very near future – in their lifetimes and say that they heard it first in Star Trek class.

“Yeah, but did you cover anything Star Trek related?” you may ask.

Have you not been listening? We are outlining the history of the future here! Of course we covered Star Trek but you must understand that Star Trek is based on the world we know – the world in which we live. We are just pre-warp drive society... for now. Other things covered in the class were our solar system & galaxy; how long a year is on Mercury as opposed to right here on Earth, robotics & androids (such as Mr. Data), conversational Klingon (such as Hab SoSlI' Quch! “Your mother has a smooth forehead!”), and just where each of the student’s would sit on the bridge of the Enterprise. We were going to cover dangerous alien species such as targhs, tribbles, & Ceti-eels and have a guest speaker but the guest speaker from an organization that will remain nameless (who is not the SPCA or any of the local zoos) never showed. I choose to believe the no call no show was due to a miscommunication just one or two levels above the woman who told me she would come if it was cleared with her supervisor (whom I also spoke with). Another possibility is that this organization heard that they would be presenting to a Star Trek class and failed to see any connection with what they do. I had an alternate lesson just in case; just in case happened so Plan B went into effect. The kids now know more about robots in today’s world than they do about dangerous animals.

Such is life.

The class was a blast. Still I was surprised at how many non Star Trek fans I had in the class. In my naivety I assumed that I would have a class full of Trekkies; this was not the case and the majority of my kids were just signed in because there was something open. Even though this was the case I think that they enjoyed it too. In my adventures this past week I have discovered a new respect for the profession of teaching. Seriously. It takes a LOT of work to feel comfortable teaching on any topic with any degree of legitimacy. Star Trek I knew I could handle; the science behind it was another story. I stayed up a lot of nights perfecting my PowerPoint presentations and the You Tube animations to back them up.

I hope that the kids had a good time. I think that they did. The last day we checked out an episode of Star Trek the Next Generation, “Hide and Q”, talked about the Ares program and had the Massive Multiplayer Trivia Challenge and it was fantastic. I laughed so hard that I still grin just thinking about it.

It they will have me back at the Cumberland County College’s Summer Kid’s Camp, I would gladly, NAY – Boldly Go! What can I say? It was a hoot.

Live long and prosper, Gentle Reader.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Facebook Intervention


I love the internet. Seriously. I love it. I blog, I Facebook, I Twitter; I love it. I find it a wonderful little outlet of thought and idea. Since I’d be writing anyway why should I not do so electronically?

I also play poker; badly, mind you, but I play. I sit in on one of the longest standing poker games in Southern New Jersey. It is a group of interesting souls who make up the seven who sit around that table, including yours truly. We meet and play on the first Friday of each month. So, it was no surprise that on 8/7/09, that is where I was. We grilled and it was great. We played cards and that was a lot of fun too. And then came the intervention. After one hand of Texas Hold ‘Em one of my comrades told a story of his wife giggling about some piece of silliness that I wrote on Facebook. Apparently I had used the words, “good night”.

“Why… WHY, on God’s green earth would you say “good night” to anyone on Facebook? I just don’t get it.” Said the man to my left. The man to my left happens to be quite computer savvy and in some circles he is near the top of his game.

“Yeah, it doesn’t make any sense.” Said the man to my right. He is a brilliant man as well.

“I don’t have the time for any of that stuff.” Said the man opposite of me.

“Hey, I just got on to share photos with my family.” Said the man next to him trying to distance himself from yours truly in any way possible for the moment. He could see the tide turn.

“Yeah, you Twitter to, don’t you?” another asked who happens to be on Facebook as well.

“Yes, I do.” I said with a smile.

“You know what I think it is?” the man to my left asked. “It is just a group of people starved for attention. Look at me! Look at me!”

“Like a narcissist.” I said.

“Yes.” He said. So why do you do it? Why do you think that I CARE what you have to say?”

“Well, I think you can make a case for narcissism in some cases when it comes to Facebook.” I said. “But you would be painting with broad brushstrokes.” I understand that whether you care about what is written on Facebook or do not is subjective and up to the reader to decide. “If you don’t like what you read stop reading it. That’s why they make so many flavors of ice cream.”

“Then why?” Asked the man to my right.

“Social networking. It’s a tool.” I said. “Facebook is a wonderful way to be personably impersonal.

“That does not answer the question.”

“Look, I don’t have to tell any of you sitting here at this table how much I despise the phone.” There was a general nodding of heads around the table. They know (and now you do too, Gentle Reader) that I hate talking on the telephone. The contraption just demands entirely too much of my attention at any one time. I like information in digestible, well reasoned, bits – say in an email, on Facebook or on Twitter. It is simple; to the point, and just how I like it. “Facebook is a social tool. How the reader reads it or does NOT read it is purely up to them.” The simple fact of the matter is that’s the way it is with anything. I could tell you that there is a wonderful world to be found in the pages of a book but unless you pick it up and read one for yourself it is pretty much moot. People either will accept a message or reject it. The gentlemen on either side of me remain in a reject it frame of mind.

Oh well. These friends of mine and I just don’t socialize on Facebook. And the world keeps on moving. We socialize while playing cards and that is a good thing.

As for narcissism, “I” am one of my favorite subjects but I am more than well aware that the world does not revolve around me, my blog, my Facebook account or my Twitter feed. These gentlemen were casting aspersions that it did. Ah the power of the written word – even if it is electronic in nature. And, dare I say, even if those casting stones did not have their own Facebook or Twitter accounts.

Que sara sara.

As much as I hate the telephone I wonder how many people said to Alexander Graham Bell, “Why would you ever want to use THAT thing?” Only Bell knows and he’s not saying. I guarantee he heard it though. Fast forward to a hot summer night in 2009 with a group of friends sitting around a poker table some willing to use a different form of communication and some not. No matter what technological advance may come to us now or in the future there are going to be those who resist. Some will get it some will not.

Oh well. Que sara sara.

As for yours truly, Gentle Reader, I know enough about addiction to see that I have not yet hit rock bottom. It is only from the bottom that I can truly make progress and admit that I have a problem. Until then, I’ll see you on Facebook, on Twitter, and right here on the electronic pages of Chicken ScratchLONG MAY SHE WAVE!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

“Bueller…? ...Bueller…?”


John Hughes past away this morning. Here is the story as I found it a few moments ago: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/41966.

His movies really hit home for this movie fan growing up in the eighties. Quint from Ain’t it Cool News does a wonderful job of expressing one fan’s remembrances. For yours truly, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, “The Breakfast Club”, and “National Lampoon’s Vacation” were top of the list of films that defined the eighties.

My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this time. Thank you, Mr. Hughes. You had a hand in shaping a generation of movie goers – including me.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Green Smoothie


A couple of weeks ago I was crawling around searching for a coffee cup just past the crack of dawn. I was groggy but I was able to flip on the TV and navigate to channel 10, my NBC affiliate, for the Today Show. As I poured myself a cup of coffee and took my first sip my senses began to return to me. Some well quaffed gentleman was delivering a news story that by the sound of his voice and the seriousness of his cadence was somewhere on the importance scale of a meteor hurtling towards our planet roughly around the size of Mexico. My head cleared further as I listened…

“…But the custody of Michael Jackson’s children is still in question…”

Next up was a segment with Hoddah and Kathy Lee. “Really?” I said out loud to no one at all. My prognosis was not looking good for getting ANY relevant news of the day from the Today Show so I flipped over to channel 6, my local ABC affiliate to see what was happening on Good Morning America. There I found a health segment already in progress. All of the morning anchors were gathered around a wonderfully honed and Arobisized Beautiful Person. The table in front of them held bunches of green produce, some apples, lemons, pears, a blender and a glass filled to perfection with Green Smoothie. She, the Beautiful Person, turns out to be Nutritionist Kimberly Snyder and she appeared quite knowledgeable on the topic of detoxification of the human body and was firm in her stance that fad diets did not work. She suggested using the Green Smoothie as a meal replacement for three or more meals a week.

Hmm… I’m a fat guy in my forties and know that I have to do something to become less of a fat guy so I listened more intently; besides, who am I to argue with spandex? The recipe is as follows:

Green Smoothie Recipe:

1 1/2 cup of water
1 head of organic romaine lettuce, chopped
3-4 stalks of organic celery
1 organic apple, cored and chopped
1 organic pear, cored and chopped
1/3 bunch of organic cilantro
1/3 bunch of organic parsley
Juice of ½ fresh organic lemon

Combine the water and chopped head of romaine into your blender. Starting the blender on a low speed, mix until smooth. Gradually moving to higher speeds, add the herbs, celery, apple and pear. Add lemon juice last. Serve chilled or at room temperature. This recipe makes about four servings.


“Hmm…” I thought to myself, “I think I’m gonna try that out.” Last night I did the shopping and this morning I made my first blender full of Green Smoothie! After sampling said Green Smoothie I can not help but believe that half a bottle of vodka (your choice) would certainly improve the overall meal replacement experience. The recipe says that it can be served at “room temperature”, I do not subscribe to this theory. Chill it. If it is colder it will go down quicker. My first few sips reminded me of that story from the movie “Creepshow” where Stephen King turns into that plant – do you remember? Well if not, Gentle Reader, then know that the Green Smoothie is as close as you can get to performing photosynthesis yourself.

I do not mean to sound all together negative; the Green Smoothie is healthy and, since it is all pureed together, you really don’t have to digest it! Mmm… I’m going to stick with it though, Yours Truly knows that he has to do something and the Green Smoothie just may be a part of that.

I’ll let you know how it goes.


Recipe and picture of the Green Smoothie were found at http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Weekend/Story?id=8052138&page=1

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Triathlon


An old friend of mine, Scott Champion, is raising funds for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society by participating in the “Nation’s Triathlon” down in Washington DC on September 13, 2009. He is on the Team In Training team. As his email to several people including yours truly states the following, “The race is structured beginning with the swim (1.5 miles) in the Potomac River, then transitioning to the cycling portion (approx. 25 miles), and ending with the run (6.1 miles). I believe in the hope and support we can bring to finding a cure through endurance races, such as the Nation’s Triathlon.” This will be the second time that he does this and, please allow me a little aside, as a fat man I am very impressed.

He is seeking sponsors. I have not yet but I will be and when I do I will go to this link right here: http://pages.teamintraining.org/snj/nattri09/schampion where I’m told that it is possible to “donate online quickly and securely plus learn more about my (or rather Scotty’s) progress. You will receive a confirmation of your donation by email, and I will be notified as soon as you make your donation.”

Gentle Readers if you are so inclined Scott thanks you for your generosity, come to think of it, so do I.

All the best Scotty, good luck and God bless.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Beyond the Dreams of Avarice


It is that time of year again where Geeks the world over bow to the west and worship at the Mecca that is the San Diego Comic-Con. At one time Comic-Con was only about the gushing of fan-boys over all things new, bright and shiny. While that is still the case it has grown to a multi-media, panel discussing, pop culture phenomenon. It is a place where movie makers, publishers, writers, actors, videogame developers, artists and everything in between present their wares for the next year to the world. Those with their finger on the pulse of such things, both buying and selling, recognize Comic-Con as the BIG one.

As for yours truly, I do not worship all things bright and shiny but I am a HUGE fan of storytelling and all of the ways that a story’s plot can be delivered. It is for this reason that Comic-Con captures my attention. …Well that and I am a card carrying Geek. This year I am looking forward to the “Tron 2.0” Trailer, the Doctor Who panel, Tim Burton’s panel on “Alice in Wonderland” and the film’s trailer and any dark horses that might separate themselves from the pack.

The 2009 Comic-Con starts today and runs all weekend.

Monday, July 20, 2009

FOOD on the HIGHWAY


The top three are Coffee, Hot Soup, and Tacos. And here I was pulling for Fondue, Lobster, or Alaskan King Crab legs.

Now Behold “The 10 Most Dangerous Foods to Eat While Driving” from Wired Magazine: http://www.wired.com/autopia/2009/07/dangerous-foods/. Insure.com has the information presented in a clear, concise fashion too: http://www.insure.com/car-insurance/driver-distractions.html.

People do stupid things. It’s like a moth to the flame. It’s just what we do and driving is no different. It is for this reason that I am petitioning congress to have the purchase and consumption of an Extra Value Meal part of the standardized driving test of these United States. One should be able to safely suck down a cheeseburger on the way from Point A to Point B. If this is too much to ask then you don’t deserve a license. You can join the fight by donating heavily to the cause as often as possible; please make checks payable to Evil Chicken. Together we CAN make a difference.

Gentle Reader; never forget the most dangerous part of a car is the nut behind the wheel.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Happy Birthday Nikola Tesla


One day late... 153 years ago, on July 10, 1856, Nikola Tesla was born in Serbia. He later moved to Paris and then to the United States. Tesla was brilliant, he was eccentric and he, quite literally, changed course of the world.

Nikola Tesla was one of the founding fathers of the harnessing of electricity and how it is used by each and every one of us today. His experiments with electricity and magnetism are the foundation on which our power grids are presently built. Tesla was on the frontlines of the “War of the Currents” between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse. This war was to see who would dominate the future, Edison with Direct Current or Westinghouse with Alternating Current. Tesla had, at one time worked for Edison but Edison thought that his ideas for Alternating Current were foolish and could not be realized in the real world. Edison said of Tesla, “His ideas are splendid but they are utterly impractical.” Edison cheated Tesla out of work that he did for him and it was not long before that Tesla was working for Westinghouse. Westinghouse & Tesla won out in the end but that was not before Edison, seeing that his hold on the future was in jeopardy, went on a huge publicity campaign against AC power which included the electrocution of “Topsy” the elephant and the covert funding of the Electric Chair. The “Wizard of Menlo Park” had a bit of a dark side.

Tesla was also one of the original pioneers of Radio and was credited by the United States Supreme Court in 1943 for being the “Inventor of Radio”. Chances are he would have been the father of transatlantic communication via his Wardenclyffe Tower (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wardenclyffe_Tower) project but his funding ran out. Wikipedia (my favorite second brain and the main source of the data found in this particular blog) states this: “After his demonstration of wireless communication (radio) in 1894 and after being the victor in the "War of Currents", he was widely respected as one of the greatest electrical engineers who worked in America. Much of his early work pioneered modern electrical engineering and many of his discoveries were of groundbreaking importance. During this period, in the United States, Tesla's fame rivaled that of any other inventor or scientist in history or popular culture, but due to his eccentric personality and his seemingly unbelievable and sometimes bizarre claims about possible scientific and technological developments, Tesla was ultimately ostracized and regarded as a mad scientist. Never having put much focus on his finances, Tesla died impoverished at the age of 86.”

I wonder what the world would look like today if the whole Wardenclyffe Tower project was funded and successful. Wireless internet, that glorious modern wonder that we now take for granted, may have been available decades earlier. Yes, I know that’s pure, unadulterated speculation on my part but what if? Tesla was “ultimately ostracized and regarded as a mad scientist” and he “died impoverished at the age of 86.” He was too busy envisioning the future to take care of the present. Of his failure to find the backers needed to complete the construction of the Wardenclyffe Tower Tesla said, “It is not a dream, it is a simple feat of scientific electrical engineering, only expensive — blind, faint-hearted, doubting world! [...] Humanity is not yet sufficiently advanced to be willingly led by the discoverer's keen searching sense. But who knows? Perhaps it is better in this present world of ours that a revolutionary idea or invention instead of being helped and patted, be hampered and ill-treated in its adolescence — by want of means, by selfish interest, pedantry, stupidity and ignorance; that it be attacked and stifled; that it pass through bitter trials and tribulations, through the strife of commercial existence. So do we get our light. So all that was great in the past was ridiculed, condemned, combatted, suppressed — only to emerge all the more powerfully, all the more triumphantly from the struggle."

Nikola Tesla towards the end of his life may have been ridiculed and ostracized but he was a brilliant inventor and innovator who deserves a far better epitaph.

Happy Birthday Mr. Tesla

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The E-Reader Blues


Someday, not today but sometime in the near future, from one electronic device you will be able to have an entire library of books in the palm of your hand. It will be a wonderful thing. Instead of lugging around a wheelbarrow full of textbooks or best sellers you will have it all at your fingertips wherever you go and whatever you want to read. Perhaps you will be able to download different books from online libraries the world over or, if you are in college, download the semester’s curriculum in one fell swoop. But that day has not arrived. Perhaps we will be able to procure new E-books from a variety of sources including the big three, Amazon, Boarders and Barnes & Noble – who’s to say? Again, that day has not yet come.

Alas, Amazon has the Kindle 2.0, which has now dropped in price to $299.00 from $360.00, is nice enough but the only place that you can get your E-books from is, shockingly, Amazon. Even with the price drop three hundred bucks is, at least for yours truly, a decent chunk of change; and then there’re all those books to buy at $10.00 a pop – discounted from an honest to goodness book in your hands but ten bucks, nonetheless (see: http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2009/04/kindle-readers/). And that’s just the Kindle. There’s a slue of these puppies hitting the marketplace and there are things to consider if you feel so inclined such at the jetBook (http://www.geardiary.com/2009/03/09/the-ectaco-jetbook-universal-portable-reading-device-review/) and the Cool-er (http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2009/05/cool-er-e-book-reader-turns-up-the-heat/). You are going to need to know if you can get the books/data that you want to read, you will want to know what formats are supported (very important) and, of course, you are going to want to know how much you are spending. I don’t know what to tell you, Gentle Reader, other than steering you to this nice little article on choosing an E-book Reader that may help clear things up a bit: http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2009/05/buying-guide-e-book-reader/. If that does not assuage your thirst for knowledge check out what my favorite second brain has to say on the subject: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-book_reader.

Man, I love me some Wikipedia.

Someday the book publishers and electronic media makers will come to some consensus. When that day arrives I will see about making the jump. Until then I will wait and dream of the titles that I would put onto such a device; several versions of the Bible, the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, the Hobbit, the entire Harry Potter and Gunslinger series would be worth rereading. I am also quite fond of Neil Gaiman, Jules Verne, Ian Fleming, Christopher Moore, Ray Bradbury, Edgar Allen Poe, Stephen King, Kurt Vonnegut, Mark Twain, Anne Rice, Shakespeare, Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs… the list really is endless and the idea of having THAT library with me waiting to be read on one device is wildly appealing. I’m probably not alone with this little desire for the future.

So on that one day in the not too distant future, just what will be on your E-book Reader?