Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2011 Non – Resolutions

There is a lot of craziness that happens here at Rancho del Evil Chicken. We’ve had an interesting year. I’m not going to rehash such events… if they were blog-worthy then you probably know about them already. If they were not fit for blog-consumption then they never made the electronic pages of Chicken Scratch.

Oh well.

After getting into a lot of trouble this past year (most of it legal, I might add) I find that it’s good to have a plan of attack. This being said some of the best adventures are spur of the moment jaunts that only require my cache bag or a change of clothes for yours truly and the family. Still it’s good to have some sort of idea of where you’re hoping to head. It should be noted that this is in NO WAY related to any type of ‘resolution’. In the words of Jimmy Buffett, “I’ll make a resolution that I’ll never make another one.” Bubba’s right. I’m not talking resolutions, I’m talking possible outcomes. That being said here are some of the things that I would like to see transpire in the new year…

1. I want to do some camping. We missed out on Assateague Island camping this past father’s day and I’d love to go back. I also wouldn’t mind camping at Point Lookout State Park in Maryland or several other destinations. That being said I am lusting after an RV. Confession is good for the soul.
2. Geo-Woodstock IX. This is on the list of possibilities.
3. Read more comic books.
4. I want to figure out the best way to wear my watch – top of the wrist or slung on the bottom. Hard to say. Now that I’m packin’ a solar atomic perhaps topside is the way to go …still I’m used to the underside. In the coming year I want to decide on what is best for my chronometer.
5. Read more eBooks.
6. Geocache more. There was a time when we did a lot of caching. That time is not now. These days we attend more events then we actually cache. I’d like to turn that around.
7. Eat more Sushi.
8. I want my oldest daughter to get her license. For far too long I have had to drive to Wawa for coffee. NAY! Says I. During this New Year SHE’S gonna get a license so I can send her on coffee runs.
9. Be a part of at least one book signing.
10. I need to be at the opening night showings for the following movies: “Green Lantern”, “THOR”, “Captain America – the First Avenger”, “Sucker Punch”, “Rise of the Apes”, “Pirates of the Caribbean – On Stranger Tides”, “X-Men – First Class”, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II” AND “Cowboys & Aliens”. Why the Need? Well, I detest the idea of people spoiling movies / deflating stories for me. It’s not their job but so many are so good at it that it is best if I just go to the theater. It’s part of my geekdom and it’s a ‘win – win’.
11. Figure out what a good birthday present and anniversary present would be for Mother Hen. This is not as easy as it sounds. I’m open for suggestions.
12. Figure out online storage.
13. Be a better coupon shopper.
14. I want to do New York City with the family. I figure that it’ll be a nice long weekend – hopefully during the Cherry Blossom Festival in Brooklyn. “Brennan & Carr’s” roast beef is calling… so is “Forbidden Planet” and Times Square. Yup, I want to be a tourist.
15. I want to take the family to Sleepy Hollow, New York. I have only wanted to do this for the last 5 years or so. In 2011 I’d like to see it come to pass.
16. Listen to more MP3s.
17. Get passports for the family. They’ll come in handy if we decide to push north, to hop on a cruise ship or to Europe or China.
18. Continue to maintain a flushing toilet.
19. To make Kenji the happiest dog known to man.
20. Get into more trouble with my family. Not to pat ourselves on the back but we’re good at it. Such shenanigans should continue.

There is nothing too serious on this list. For a hopefully refreshing change I’m pulling back on the whole ‘drama’ reigns. I have a more serious list (still sans resolutions) but that’s not what this particular list is all about. While there’s nothing too out of step on the above list I’d like to think that it’ll be worth our time. And time, I don’t have to tell you by now… what a fleeting commodity it is.

What’s in YOUR plans for the New Year, Gentle Reader? Who knows, perhaps we can share an adventure or two together in 2011? I hope that will be the case.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 27, 2010

TRON Legacy

I am of the geek generation that remembers and keeps the original “TRON” close to their heart. Yes it was the eighties. Yes the original is not an “A list” film. But who cares?


I said, “WHO CARES?” It is TRON and it did far more to explain those new contraptions called “personal computers” than IBM ever did. You see with TRON there existed a world within a world. It was a world where programs were forced to fight for their lives on the games grid in hopes of surviving for the next battle and the chance of connecting with their User – you and I, Gentle Reader, here in the “real world”. I will be the first to say that YES the original was flawed. That being said I will also tell you that I LOVED the first film. I wanted to believe that those Basic programs that we were playing with had a life of their own. I wanted to believe that there was some connection, nay, some network out there where thought and idea and passion and creativity could live in harmony. I wanted to believe that communication could be free and powerful and available to the masses. TRON wanted to believe it too.

Fast forward about 28 years... It still wants to believe and so do I.

If you wish to remain pure STOP READING NOW!

Still here?


Here is what I LOVED. TRON is back. It is not a reimagining – it’s a sequel! And, dare I say, to a film that deserved one. This film owes its existence to Comic Con. Two years ago a trailer was made and it shook the pillars of geek heaven. Disney took notice and BAM “TRON Legacy” became a reality. I loved seeing the Recognizers, the Light Cycles, the Tanks, the Grid and the Jeff Bridges as Flynn once more. Technically this is a beautiful and eye candy laden film. The battles on the Grid, the nostalgic scenes in “Flynn’s Arcade” and the Light Cycle stuff are banging enough to warrant the price of a ticket. If you are a child of the late seventies and early eighties you have a place at TRON.

That being said, here is what I would have liked to have seen. TRON. He’s there. You know that he is. It’s obvious. But this is (as with the first film) less about TRON and more about Flynn. TRON is delegated to a lackey in a faceless helmet. This time around I’d expect a little more. TRON is Darth Vader in this one. He is the program that NO ONE wants to face on the Grid. Clu, Jeff Bridges / Flynn’s ageless digital doppelganger and all around bad guy has enslaved TRON into being an unbeatable bad ass / enforcer figure that only a User (Sam – Flynn’s son) can almost challenge. There is a brief moment of faceless recognition and redemption but it is BRIEF! I want TRON!

Come to think of it I’d also like to see Yori. There are female programs out there too. Also there was a cameo that I was REALLY pulling for – I wanted to see the “Tron Guy” someplace – anyplace in this film! He would have been a VERY welcome little aside. Producers: if there is to be a third (and I am pulling for one) Do Not Overlook the Tron Guy. Hey Daft Punk got their cameo (Brilliant soundtrack BTW) why not Tron guy?

What else do I want? I want TRON’s world to be hooked into the our current understanding of the world of computing. I don’t want TRON on Flynn’s personal server; no I want him on the World Wide Web, Baby! I want TRON global. When you go to Facebook I want to know that programs lives are at stake! I want to know that there are programs fighting for every transaction you make in Farmville or in Mafia Wars. I want to see it. I want to see libraries of programs working for Wikipedia or Google or Bing. I want to see epic battles of Networks VS Viruses. I want to understand their world by understanding ours. I want to see some correlation between the world of TRON and our everyday – fact searching, internet using, Facebook & Twitter incorporating world. Bring it on.

NOTE: Remember when I said “SPOILERS”? Also, I want to understand the ending. Quara is here in our world. I can see Users being digitized into the world of TRON but having programs re-digitized into our world – the real world, needs a little explanation. Something. Anything.

Come to think of it why doesn’t Sam show her a sunrise?

I do not wish to leave you with the idea that I was completely disappointed. No, that is simply not the case. I dug “TRON Legacy” and the only issues I had were that ones that I have already discussed. To the creative talent and purse holders at Disney – Please, PLEASE, PLEASE! consider TRON 3.0. All of the questions could have answers and YOU guys are off to a wonderful Act III!

“So Evil Chicken, should I buy a ticket?”

Yes, Gentle Reader, do so. You will not be disappointed with the performances of Mr. Jeff Bridges as both Flynn and Clu or with the absolutely wonderful eye candy that the Grid will provide. Support this movie. I REALLY want a part III!

So will you, Gentle Reader, so will you.

End of line…

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


This past Sunday the family piled into the car to go to see “A Christmas Carol” at the McCarter Theater in Princeton. It was an unbelievable production that I could not recommend higher. I could go on but that is not really what this tale is about. You see when we returned from North Jersey back to our home in South Jersey a certain something was missing – that something was our dog, “Kenji”. Kenji is a Japanese Chin (think hairy pug) with the gentlest of dispositions and temperaments. In our haste to get into the car and onto the road we must not have seen him slip out the door.

“Kenji is missing.” My wife said to me. It was an instant after we got home.

What – how is that possible?” I knew it was unanswerable as soon as I asked.

We grabbed flashlights and took to the woods.

“KENJI!” we repeated again and again into the cold, cold darkness.


He was gone.

We ushered the kids inside while my wife and I took an extensive driving tour of our immediate neighborhood. He is a small dog and he really couldn’t get too far if he tried. We scoured the roads looking for something we didn’t want to see but had to rule out.


We rejoined the kids at home agreeing that not finding his body was a good sign and we concluded that he must have been picked up. We explained the situation to the family and formulated a plan to call the local shelters in the morning & the municipal building for animal control & to make and distribute “LOST DOG” signs for the local Wawa.

We cried.

We prayed.

The next day I started calling. I spoke with a wonderful lady named Cathleen who works at the Buena Vista municipal building concerning our situation. She took my information, description and cell number. She said that she would follow up with the animal control officer to see if he had picked up any small, white dogs with tan spots. I thanked her and called the Cumberland County SPCA. They weren’t open, apparently on Mondays they open at 1:00 PM. I called the Atlantic County Animal Shelter. They had no dogs that fit Kenji’s description. After 1:00 PM I paid a visit to the Cumberland County SPCA. They were crazy busy. I gave a woman Kenji’s description and my cell number. She told me to take a seat while she checked to see if there were any dogs that matched Kenji’s description in the back.

They did not.

We drove out to “Ron’s Animal Shelter”. Ron told us that he only served Salem County.

We went home.

“We don’t know where Kenji is but we hope he is happy and safe. We don’t know if we will see him again.” We explained to the kids. Our youngest child’s face fell and she began to tear up.

So did I.

Sometimes you simply don’t realize how much you care about something until it’s gone. It is easy to take things for granted – as given. I mean Kenji is the sweetest dog that anyone could ask for and we let him slip out of our fingers. This gentle and trusting creature that we had taken care of for the last six years and who was a part of our family, our pack, was gone; just gone. Night time closed down upon once us again; a second night without our Kenji. Unanswerable questions lingered; was he safe? Was he happy? Was he even alive?

The next day I receive a call on my cell phone. It was Cathleen. “Someone has found your dog!”


“Yes, but he’s been hit by a car.” She gave me a name and a number of a woman who had called to report that she had an injured little white dog with tan spots. “I knew it was your dog!” she said. I thanked her for everything she had done for my family. “Merry Christmas!” she said.


I called my wife. She called the woman. My wife picked me up and explained to me that Kenji had been hit by a car, that one of his eyes was damaged, he had some teeth missing and he was not able to stand for long periods of time. We knew what that might mean. We wanted Kenji back but we certainly did not want to prolong any suffering that he may be enduring. We simply did not know so we drove on in silence neither of us voicing our concerns for whatever may come. Then we were there.

We met Emily and her husband Tim, the people who had saved our dog’s life. And then, there he was. He stumbled to his feet and his tail started to wag before he collapsed. Tim picked him up and put him onto a table in their kitchen. Kenji rolled over to have his belly scratched. I began to cry as I scratched away at this tiny 11 lbs bundle that had been the source of such concern and loss.

“He’s your dog.” Emily said. “I can tell. You never know these days. But he’s your dog.”

“We have a friend of ours who is a retired veterinarian and he came over with his kit. He’s had a cortisone shot and he has a concussion. I don’t know if he can see out of that eye.” Tim said.

“We don’t know how to thank you.” Linda said. “There is a reward…”

“As a reward for taking care of your dog we wanted to see if you had a church family and if you didn’t then we would like you to come to our church.” Emily said.

“We have a church family.” I said. “We go to Calvary Chapel in Vineland. In fact we’re doing a play…”

“That’s what we were doing Sunday night at our church in Milmay, the Milmay Christian Church, when I got the call from Billy saying that he had found a dog that had been hit by a car. He found him on the white line of the road and thought he was dead. That is until he got close enough and that little head looked up towards him.” Tim said. He brought him to our church. Everyone there helped. He wasn’t bleeding and it looked as if he didn’t have any broken bones but his core temperature was low. He was cold and wet and dying. He was just there in the road waiting to be hit again and that would have been it.”

“Unbelievable.” I said still scratching Kenji’s belly.

“We love animals and I’ve really taken to this little guy.” Tim said. “Anyway, he is having a hard time standing and is going to need some help going outside to the bathroom. When we first got him he couldn’t walk at all. He started trying to stand yesterday and now he is starting to walk again. All over the place but he’s improving. It’s neurological; probably from the concussion. He’ll be alright especially when he gets home to his own grounds.”

“He has his own Facebook page.” Emily said. “We had this dog and knew that he belonged to someone. While he was frozen and soaked we could smell the shampoo. We knew that there was a family out there somewhere who was searching for this little guy.”

“I don’t know how to thank you.” I said.

“Are you sure we can’t give you anything?” Linda asked.

“All we wanted was to use this situation as a chance to bring someone closer to the Lord.” Emily said. “But you are already part of a church family.”

We took Kenji outside and watched him stumble, wobble, fall and get back up again. “See! He couldn’t do that a few days ago.” Tim said. “He’s gonna be all right. It will just take some time.”

We thanked them again and took Kenji back home for a reunion which included tears and hugs and many, many belly scratches. Kenji is home again with his family. He’s mending and sore but he is back home with us for Christmas. We owe a debt to Billy, the man who stopped to scoop our dog off of the road, to Cathleen, the lady who put the pieces of the puzzle together and, of course, to Tim & Emily. We are so thankful and humbled for the kindness that they showed to a strange, helpless, injured creature on a dark, cold night. Their gesture reminds me of the reward that was refused but in a certain sense, received. They refused any monetary remuneration and instead gave all the glory to God. They never thought of themselves but thought of others knowing that by serving a helpless and wounded animal that they were really serving the Lord - for His glory. While we attend different churches we are a part of the same body – the same family. This Christmas season, Gentle Reader, know that you too can come home.

We are thankful.

What once was lost has now been found and just as Tiny Tim said in the play that we saw that fateful night that we first missed Kenji, “God bless us every one.”

Merry Christmas, Gentle Reader; God bless us, every one.

…Now if you’ll excuse me I have a belly to scratch.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Leslie Nielson

Leslie Nielson passed away this evening due to complications of pneumonia. He was 84. The man was in over 100 movies but for people in their 40s, my generation, probably knew him best as Dr. Rumack from “Airplane!” and as Lt. Frank Drebin from “The Naked Gun” trilogy. He was wonderful in “Creepshow” and as the Captain in “Forbidden Planet”.

Here are some articles that are more eloquent than this particular blog entry. I just wanted to mark his passing and, in some way, to say 'Thanks' for all the laughter.

The man made me laugh at times when I did not feel like doing so. Well done, Sir. Well done.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Comic Book Store

Here’s one for the True Believers out there…

I enjoy comics. I got into ‘em back in the late eighties. Found out that I couldn’t afford the luxury and took a long break. I have three daughters and as a cool way to get them into reading a few years ago I picked up another comic subscription. My youngest is a big fan of “Sonic the Hedgehog”, while my middle child is a HUGE Anime fan. My oldest likes “The Runaways” and as for yours truly I’m a sucker for “Ultimate Avengers”, “The Unwritten” and “The Invincible Iron Man”.

These days and for the last two years or so I have had the distinct pleasure of getting my comics from The Comic Book Store in Glassboro, New Jersey. Mr. Alex Willingly is the master of ceremonies and his Kung-Fu is strong. I am a comic book fan and his subscription service is second to none. I am not into gaming but I know people who are and The Comic Book Store has quite a following. Worlds of Warcraft (card game), Magic the Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons and Warhammer 40 K are played in tournament fashion all the time (check the calendar for exact times).

So, True Believers, the next time that you are in the Glassboro area check out The Comic Book Store. Alex is located at 30 North Main Street. 856-442-0402 is his number and is his website.


Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday

"When Black Friday comes, I’m gonna dig myself a hole. Gonna lay down in it ‘til I satisfy my soul". – Steely Dan

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. The family and I were heading home from my wife’s aunt’s house. It was 10:00 PM. On our way back home we decided to see if there was anyone in line yet for Black Friday, the official ‘first shopping day of the holiday season’ when stores are supposed to go from being ‘in the red’ to being ‘in the black’. This is the BIG day for merchants & holiday shoppers, advertising agencies & stockholders. This is the day that the general public has been programmed to respond to the endless barrage of sales pitches & ‘door buster sales’. It’s like we have been personally invited to SHOP and come skipped heating bills or bankruptcy THAT’S just what we’re gonna do!

Folks have been know to erect single file tent cities with sleeping bags & cots or to sit on foldable stadium chairs sipping on thermoses full of coffee just waiting for that magic moment for the doors to open at 4, 5, or 6 AM and for the carnage, that the holiday season has become, to begin. Now don’t get me wrong here, Gentle Reader; I’m not throwing stones. I can remember being in such lines waiting to get a ticket that guarantees my purchase for one of the limited number of ________ (insert item here) that the store had. I stood in line for a Nintendo Wii when they first came out and I remember one year when my wife and I were in line for an unbelievable deal on laptop computers that we actually did camp out for. This year – not so much; this is due to two clear and present factors. Factor 1, there is nothing this year that we deemed worth camping out for. Factor 2, even if Factor 1 was valid we don’t have the extra cash sitting aside to blow.

Where was I?

Oh right! It’s 10:00, we are heading home and we wanted to see if the lines were forming. Were the shoppers there? Yes they were. At Target – yes (to the corner of the sidewalk), at Wal-Mart – yes (with a police presence & barricades), at Best Buy – yes (to the corner of their sidewalk as well) but what really knocked my socks off was the magnitude and scope of the line at Toys-R-Us.


In the generic shopping-scape of America there was a time when the ‘mall’ was the biggest fish in the ocean. Online shopping and the clustering of ‘shopping districts’ have taken a lot of the wind out of the sails of the malls across the country; still, however, they are large players. That being said, the Toys-R-Us that we past by is located in a mall and it happens to be, from the left of the hulk of the mall-complex, the second store in. From its position the line stretched to the left passed one, two department stores, the shopping mall entrance, around a corner and passed the J.C. Penny.

It was 10:30 PM.

By the time that I am posting this blog many of the ‘door buster’ sales will have come and gone leaving behind them a wake of chaos and destruction (you’ll have to trust me on this if you have never seen a crowd of angry holiday shoppers all competing for a ‘Tickle me Elmo’ or a laptop computer). It is scary out there. Our quest for material goods can compel little old ladies to become axe murderers. …Hey, if you play your cards right you could easily push down that group of orphans who have been pooling their money to buy that last X-box Kinect or trip that guy with the cane who wants a chance at buying his grand-daughter a netbook. They are not the uber-shopper that you are, stud.

Don’t be that guy. It’s just stuff. Really.

Please be careful out there, Gentle Reader – a holiday shopper is dangerous creature that, once provoked, can be treacherous. There are precious few souls I know who love a stampeding crowd.

So Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays. Grab your wallet & helmet and good luck soldier.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Danny MacAskill - "Way Back Home" - NEW street trials riding short film

This must be seen. Mr. Danny MacAskill is hypnotic in his movements and balance. Sit back, relax and prepare to be amazed.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Oh The Things I Could be Writing About

Please let it be known, Gentle Reader, I have never meant to abuse this blog. Hey, I love Chicken Scratch! That being said there have been some pretty cool things that have come and gone without me even typing a peep of it. That's too bad really. What can I say? Life has a way of encroaching on the things that we would really like to be doing verses the things that must take priority as a means of getting things done.

Here is a brief list of stuff that I really should be writing about but, for one reason or another, have not...

1. The Christmas play, "Glorious Impossibilities" by Kathryn Ross is coming up at my church and I'm still trying to learn my lines. It is gonna be a blast this year - seriously. I get to unleash my inner Stooge. I am really excited about this one. If you can make it come on out!

2. Work. I make a clear effort to never discuss work here on Chicken Scratch. Let's just say there's been some interesting things afoot.

3. We, the EC-5 went to Washington DC for the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on 10/30/10. I have a thing for John Stewart and Steven Colbert. They did not disappoint. I will be blogging about this at some point but until such time know that we had a blast, had some interesting adventures in Social Studies and would do it all over again.

4. Netflix. Brick and mortar is quickly becoming obsolete. That being said, some of the people who work at MY local Blockbuster are simply wonderful individuals who love film and are doing their best to keep things together and going. I will continue to rent my Blu-ray discs and video games from my local Blockbuster BUT Netflix is just the shape of things to come. In an instant gratification world they deliver - instantly. No longer does one have to wait until their Blockbuster queue is depleted to see that samurai, gangster, ninja, zombie flick that they have had a hankering to see - no, that sometimes month long wait has been replaced by the press of the button on my remote, X-box, laptop, Nintendo Wii, smart TV, or even Blu-ray player. Bickety-Bam; instant gratification. I don't have time to wait on movies. Now I don't have to. My middle aged attention span is longer than some others but is not designed to handle the onslaught of all the other things screaming for my attention. This being said, I am not giving up on Blockbuster; there are some great people there and that is the only source of Blu-ray and video games in South Jersey. Netflix, however, cuts the price more than HALF ($8.99 a month VS. $20.00). That's a lot of cabbage.

5. The progress of our Turtles. We have two turtles; Van Goff and Sheldon/Bertha. I could be writing about their progress and how they came into our home but NO! I have not done so.

6. NANOWRIMO? I have no time for National Novel Writing Month this year. I'd write and tell you about it but I simply don't have the time.

7. Downed Trees. A cherry tree limb snapped off and hit a maple tree limb in my yard - both of which collapsed in my driveway. Thanks to my Ford I was able to pull them onto my front lawn. Thanks to a friend (Thanks Rich!) and his chainsaw the gravity challenged limbs are no longer an issue. I could have written about this but the time just did not materialize.

8. Weight loss. I don't want to but I must. I'm too fat but I have a taste for butter, egg yolks, red meat and salt. I would write about it but I'm just too busy. Let's just say that I'm gonna be eating a LOT of salad and veg in the future; I may even write about it.

9. The Christmas movie season. There are some decent offerings this holiday season. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I", "True Grit" and the one I'm really waiting for, "Tron Legacy" will all be hitting theaters in the next month and a half. Yeah, if I had time I'd be writing about those too.

10. Injustice and false representation. I don't like to wallow in this for too long since the stench sort of follows you around. Just like... Well ya know, Thumper's mother was right, if you don't have anything nice to say about someone it's best to not say anything at all.

Gentle Reader, please forgive me. Also let me just say that these days my life is NOT my own and I am actively looking forward the END of the holiday season when I can relax with my family, play some video games with the girls and do some geocaching with Mother Hen - oh yes, and spend some quality time right here at Chicken Scratch. I am happy to be busy and a part of things greater than myself this time of year but I'm looking forward to a time when the wheels are not spinning as fast as they are right now.

Stay tuned, Gentle Reader, the best is yet to come.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cinema Reborn at the Landis Theater

I live relatively close to the city of Vineland which is right in the heart of Cumberland County and one of the nicest things for the city, in recent memory, is the return of the Landis Theater. It has been restored, retooled and rebooted and has been hosting a variety of musical acts, assorted plays and film festivals. Well the theater will be presenting classic cinematic films once again. Here’s the Daily Journal article by Kristi Funderburk: The first film that they are presenting will be “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” – Hepburn and Peppard; I’m humming ‘Moon River’ already.

As a movie geek this is simply GREAT news. My sincere hope is that more cinema is explored at the Landis. There are so many great films to choose from. That being said, let’s discuss a movie that I truly and selfishly want to see specifically at the Landis Theater. That film is “Blade Runner” by Ridley Scott staring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos and Daryl Hannah.

“Why Blade Runner?”

Well, apart from the fact that it is a cinematic masterpiece and one of the most influential films ever made there is the fact that my dad and I were supposed to see it together back in 1982 right there at the Landis Theater. We bought our tickets, we were sitting in the theater and we were ready to have our minds blown when an usher comes down the aisle and announces to the handful of people present that the projector was broken and that we would receive passes to come back after the projector was fixed.

WHAT!” I remember thinking to myself, “That’s just not right!” By the time dad and I were in our seats under the lip of the balcony my mind was filled with flying cars called “spinners”, a futuristic noir city of Los Angeles with buildings that looked like pyramids and genetic androids – replicants who were in a bad mood and had a serious beef with the Tyrell Corporation – the company who created them. Oh I was so ready to see it on the big screen at the Landis Theater. I had read up on the film in Starlog magazine(pre-internet) and I was primed and ready to behold the film in all its rated “R” wonder. But the bubble burst. Dad and I never made it back for Blade Runner but the hope of seeing it on the big screen at the Landis Theater still burns.

Therefore, I would like to lend my voice to the cause. If Blade Runner should become a consideration in the future I will do my part to fill the house. I do not say this lightly. I will full court press this to highlight the Landis Theater, one of the greatest films ever made and to selfishly giggle with geekish delight at seeing Blade Runner at the Landis Theater just like I was supposed to back in 1982. I wish my dad was here to share the experience (should such an occurrence occur). Blade Runner is a classic film and I do not doubt that geeks would travel from far and wide to behold it once again, for the first time, on the big screen at the Landis Theater. I do not doubt that it would be a home run.

Details for the “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” showing as per the Daily Journal website story:

- Tickets are on sale to see the film "Breakfast at Tiffany's" at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 18 at Landis Theater Performing Arts Center.
- To purchase tickets, visit the box office at 830 E. Landis Ave., call (856) 691-1121 or go online to
- General admission is $5, plus an extra $2 fee. Online purchases include an additional $3 processing fee.

Go on out and support CINEMA at the Landis Theater on November 18th. I’m looking forward to seeing you there!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Desks of Legend and Yore

My laptop was downstairs for the summer. It was just too hot up in my computer room. I tucked it away next to my bed so that I could use it in the air conditioning of my bedroom. I will be migrating upstairs in the near future to place my laptop back onto its appointed position on my impromptu desk. I use a door laid flat on top of two old metal filing cabinets. It works just fine for what I need it to do but recently I asked myself, “Self,” I said, “what sort of desks are out there for geeks and/or eccentrics to use?”

Gentle Reader, before I knew it I was hitting Google and searching which is where I found this blog: Oh yeah, that’s pretty cool. “Expensive and perhaps a tad extravagant?” you might ask. No doubt about it. Still the steampunk gear desk and the Han Solo are just plain cool.

Hey, Batman has the desk in the Batcave, Tony Stark is surrounded by cool desks – apart from being priced WAY out of our league why not us? Yes, I know that they are both imaginary billionaires but that’s not the point. The point is they have cool desks I thought I’d pass these your way for consideration.

Until next time, Gentle Reader; I’ll be in line at Ikea!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Of Inaugurations and Balls

I had the pleasure of witnessing the inauguration of President Thomas A. Isekenegbe as the sixth President of Cumberland County College this afternoon. (For those of you playing at home that was October 15, 2010 at 2:00 PM.) He is only the sixth President in 40 years. The ambassador of Nigeria and the Grand Chief of Nigeria were in attendance and spoke on the new President’s behalf. All and all it was something to see. Presidents and delegates from dozens of colleges and universities – all in their dress robes were there to witness the inauguration. The Faculty was in the precession too. Family, friends and, yes, even politicians were recognized. It was a beautiful ceremony.

What struck me most about the proceedings was the sense that the community’s best days are still ahead of it – which is one of the primary themes of Isekenegbe’s platform. I truly like that concept. “Engage, Inspire, Transform” are the words that are being put forward. I’ve met the man on different occasions and the truth of the matter is they are not just words for a ‘catchy slogan’; no, he means them. By all accounts he is the real deal.

Tomorrow night is the “Ball”. I’ve never been to one but the tux is hanging on my bedroom door, Mother Hen’s gown is a go and pretty soon we can say that we have been to a real – honest to goodness – Ball. We can’t wait to celebrate the occasion.

All the best President Isekenegbe; this is one blogger and alumni of Cumberland County College who wishes you a bountiful tenure.

I’ll see you there. ...Although I'm still concerned about that whole 'pumpkin after midnight' thing.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Three More for the Blu-Ray Dossier

Gentle Reader, you know the drill by now. I likes the Blu-ray movies. I rate ‘em on a two tier system; story first and Jaw Dropping Blu-ray quality second. That’s the nuts and bolts of things so, that being said, here’s what I’ve been watching…

The Untouchables – Special Collector’s Edition, 3.8 Stars / 4 Stars. Brian De Palma captured a lightning in a bottle with a great cast and a taught story back in 1987. You’ve got Costner, Connery, Garcia and De Niro in roles that they were born to play. Blu-ray moments? Oh yeah, the whole Canadian set up is quite beautiful. Rent it. You’ll remember why you loved it the first time and you’ll see the joy of Blu-ray unfold before your eyes.

Robin Hood (2010), 4 Stars / 4 Stars. I went into this one with preconceived notions. I had read some pretty bad things and I brought that baggage alone with me for the ride. What can I say… I was wrong. I loved this version of Robin Hood. I think that the reason it didn’t really take off here Stateside is because the studio did not know how to market it correctly. This is ROBIN HOOD; it should not be plagued by poor advertising. Ridley Scott delivers and not just with putting Russell Crowe through his paces as the titular title character. This is a Robin Hood that I really want to see a ‘Part II’ for. Then there is the cast… Crowe does a wonderful job as Robin of the Hood but it’s the unexpected performances that really grab you. Max Von Sydow? Check. William Hurt? Check. Cate Blanchett? Check. Mark Strong? Check. This is a film that lays down the epic and I’m glad I was there to pick it up. As for Blu-ray quality, the White Cliffs of Dover look as menacing as they should and I liked the water scenes too. This is just a great version of a classic. Check it out for yourself.

Superman / Batman – Apocalypse, 3.5 Stars / 3 Stars. DC Showcase has produced a number of GREAT animated movies for some pretty ICONIC characters. They consistently deliver the goods. Superman / Batman – Apocalypse is no different. Expect to see Darkseid, Wonder Woman, Bats, Superman, Big Bartha and Super Girl at the tops of their games and if any of those names don’t ring a bell then you should rent this disc. You’ve got about 30 years of comic history dancing in front of you with crystal clear Blu-ray reproduction. It is a GOOD time to be a geek.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Blu-Ray Dossier Review Retrofit

NOTE: Please forgive all of the “I” and “Me” that you are about to read here. It all sounds so egocentric. I suppose that’s the nature of a blog or social media. Someone feels that they have an idea that they want to share and they just start typing. Well, this is my blog and I like to share my passion for story delivered via the Blu-ray format.

Now let's get down to business...

I review movies on Blu-ray. I try to separate the wheat from the chaff. I do this because I love fun cinema and I don’t wish there to be viewer remorse after plunking down whatever you paid to buy or rent said movin’ pictures Blu-ray disc. I rate on two factors: story and jaw dropping Blu-ray picture quality. Recently I’ve been doing some house cleaning here at Chicken Scratch, which included removing “My Favorite Coffee Houses” and putting up “Blu-Ray Dossier at a Glance”. While I stand by my ratings I gotta say that if I could turn back time there are a few films that I may have rated a bit differently – just a bit mind you. Here are some of the changes that would have been…

“Kick Ass” might get a 0.5 increase for story.

“9” would be reassigned a 2 Star / 3 Star rating.

“G.I. Joe” should be a 1.5 star movie for story.

“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” could be a 3.5 Star / 3.5 Star.

“Land of the lost” could easily be a 1.5 – 2 Star for story.

“Quantum of Solace” 3.5 Story / 4 Stars for Blu-ray quality.

“The Road” could easily be a 3 Star / 3 Star.

“Transformers – Rise of the Fallen” should really be a 1.5 for story.

"Zombieland" is about a 4 Star for story.

So there we have the delicate business of Monday morning quarterbacking my own reviews. As previously stated, I stand by my ratings but… if I was writing the above reviews right now, in the fullness of time, the ratings for the above films could have easily looked like these.

Please forgive me Gentle Reader. I will continue to strive for consistency but until then I just may have to hold my own feet in the fire from time to time.

‘Nuff said.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Five More for the Blu-Ray Dossier

Blu-rays - I watch ‘em, I rate ‘em. The first rating is on a 5 Star scale with 5 being best. The second is for the Jaw-Dropping Blu-ray quality and if the filmmakers used it to their ability or not. Some do, some don’t. It should also be noted that I’ve done a little housecleaning here at Chicken Scratch. I got rid of the “Favorite Coffee Houses” section (Too many of my favorites have been disappearing) and now there’s the Blu-Ray Dossier at a Glance section. The same rules apply. Now that this is out of the way, let’s get down to business…

Kick Ass: 3 Stars / 3 Stars. “Kick Ass” is a film that caters to the modern comic book geek audience. I happen to be one of those so I enjoyed the movie. I have never read the comics that inspired the film but it is written by a man by the name of Mark Millar. His “Ultimates” will be the blueprint for “The Avengers” movie coming out in 2010. The man knows how to tell a story and I am a fan of his work. It did not perform well at the box office. Perhaps this is an expectation issue with the audience. The general public has a preconceived notion as to what a “comic book movie” should be. When John Q Public saw “Kick Ass” I believe that they saw the comics industry for what it is and not so much what it was. In other words this was probably the first time they looked at a “sidekick” and considered the very real and present danger within that world of child endangerment. (That being said, Hit Girl is awesome.) This film will find its audience eventually.

Bounty Hunter: 1.5 Stars / 2 Stars. “Bounty Hunter” is a movie that you have seen dozens of times… chances are against your will. This is a chick flick – pure and simple… emphasis on the ‘simple’.

The Good, the Bad and the Weird: 4 Stars / 4 Stars. This is a gem of a picture. It is a subtitled, South Korean, Western that I fell in love with. The story takes place in 1940s era Manchuria and revolves around a hunt for a treasure map and the adventures and misadventures of the three main characters in search of said treasure; the good – a bounty hunter, the bad – a ruthless bandit and the weird – a thief. I found the images and cinematography stunning, which truly aid in the telling of this tale. Expect gun and knife fighting a-plenty; chases too. Hey, it’s a western after all. Ji-woon Kim (director / screenwriter) has a knack for inventing worlds that I would like to visit. Gentle Reader, if you are seeking an over the top entertainment western set in Manchuria experience I advise you to do the same.

Clash of the Titans: 2 Stars / 3 Stars. Before the movie started the trailer for the original “Clash of the Titans” graced our HDTV screen. I was expecting my girls to be into it. It was great back in the day and I had no doubt that they would dig it. These expectations were mugged when the girls started to giggle at the effects and the acting in the trailer. They are fans of “The Annoying Orange” (look it up on You Tube) and when the statue of Dianna’s head falls to the floor of the temple and the obvious projected image danced across it’s features I heard my youngest exclaim, “Hey Apple!” (Like I said, do a search on You Tube) All hope was lost. This newest version of “Clash of the Titans” has wonderful special effects but it just has no heart. It tries but it made me pine for Ray Harryhausen and his stop motion creatures. It made bank at the box office and I understand that there are plans for a “part II”. Here’s hopin’ that they can shoehorn Perseus into a better story this time around.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid
: 3.5 Stars / 2 Stars. It was cute. It was funny. It made us laugh as a family. If your intention is to find a family film that will please everyone you really should give this one a try. The message of finding ones place in the world and being a better friend than you think you are get explored here – right on the first day of middle school. Beware the “Cheese Touch”!

See you at Blockbuster.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Ashes to Ashes, Vinyl to Vinyl

In my regular surfing duties I found an interesting new way to deal with the problem of what to do with ones remains after being cremated that caught my eye. I thought that this was unique and actually kind of cool. I don’t know abut you Gentle Reader but after I shuffle off this mortal coil I would like to think that any organ that I have not destroyed (admittedly this is a short list by now) could be harvested and given to someone who needs it on this side of Glory. After that I am seriously pulling for a Viking Funeral. I am not joking. Come on, a Viking Funeral is the BEST! Put my harvested carcass in the canoe that my Dad and I built, cover my corpse with plenty of fireworks and gasoline and shove me off – preferably into the ocean; Cape May would be perfect! Now instead of putting roses onto my coffin everyone in attendance would be given an arrow. After the Gospel is shared and I (or what’s left of me) get past the breakers the arrows are to be lit and fired at the boat. BOOM! After that I highly recommend a decent BBQ.

Trust me; it’s what I would have wanted. Look, I can’t speak for YOU, Gentle Reader; I’m just giving you a glimpse at my wishes.

Across the ages people have found interesting ways of interring their bodies and/or dispose of their earthly remains. Heck the Pharaohs had pyramids built to usher them into the afterlife, Gene Roddenberry (the father of my beloved Star Trek) launched his ashes into space to orbit the earth. There are people who go into cryogenic freezes and those whose ashes are pressed into diamonds. I’ve heard of people being interred inside their cars or with their pets but, quite frankly, most of that is boring. They still don’t make hearses with luggage racks; even in the 21st century. You just can’t take it with you and that’s ok, I’m one of those ‘Treasure in Heaven” types anyway.

But I digress… I tell you that to tell you this and I thought this was cool: Yup, that’s right; your earthly remains can now be pressed into vinyl. Now I ask you, Gentle Reader, how cool is that? As per the article: “The basic package costs £2,000 and comprises of the standard artwork along with up to 30 ash-flecked discs with whatever sounds you choose, lasting a maximum of 24 minutes.” 24 minutes! Hey depending on how much ash you make you could have up to 30 discs. Granted this service is only in England right now but, come on, with a service like this can we (citizens here Stateside) be all that far behind? I think not. Oh man, so what would you want to say or share?

I’ll have to give it some thought. Perhaps you will as well. Don’t worry our answers will not be graded. Right now I’m pulling for “Don’t Fear the Reaper”, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It”, “The Passenger”, “That’s Life” and “It is Well with My Soul”.

What’s on your permanent record?

[BTW the picture is from the And Vinyl site ( and Wired brought the original article to my attention. All the other insanity is mine all mine.]

Friday, August 27, 2010

Wiki-hunt the Search Continues

Paperclip – Cream Cheese I got in 7 steps.

Mongoose – Jack Kerouac I got, again, in 7 steps.

Star Wars – Tesla I got in 5.

I’ll post my progressions in the next few days. Someone already beat me soundly – in 4 steps! Your Kung-Fu is good RDOwens! : )

Ivory discovered a fun little exercise with the Wiki-hunt. I hope you dig ‘em as much as I do Gentle Reader.

Good Luck!

Monday, August 16, 2010


I was recently horsing around on Facebook and a friend of mine (let’s call him, Ivory) posted that he was able to connect “Mario Tennis” and “Chiropractor” in 9 steps in a “Wiki-hunt”. He went on to challenge the rest of his sphere of FB friends to take up that challenge and to try to beat his score. Hey, Wikipedia is my favorite second brain so I had to give this a try. I got it down to 5 linkable steps – so did my wife, Mother Hen. I tell you this, Gentle Reader, not to gloat or to say “HA!” in any way, shape or form but to let you know that I had a blast and a half doing this search!

“Really, Evil Chicken; Really?”

Yes really. …Don’t be snarky.

The Wiki-hunt is like a puzzle that unravels as you find the connections – sort of like “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” without having to go to the movies. Well Ivory’s Wiki-hunt is just such an animal to a Wiki-head. Here is the progression that I found… Mother Hen and then Ivory found it too...

Now there is the very real and present possibility that you could find a connection between “Mario Tennis” and “Chiropractor” in fewer steps than we did; if so please let us know – we would love to see the progression!

Now that you’ve seen how it’s done give it a try. Test your Mad Wiki Skillz, Gentle Reader but be warned… once you start connecting Point A to Point B with the fewest Wiki links you may find the puzzle can become quite the quest. That being said…

Paperclip / Cream Cheese

Mongoose / Jack Kerouac

Star Wars / Tesla

Happy hunting, Gentle Reader, and Good Luck!

Wikipedia, Wik-ihunt, Wikihunt, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, Facebook, Ebony and Ivory, Ivory,

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Starlog Magazine

Not to brag but I knew who Kevin Flynn, Snake Plissken, Ellen Ripley, Mad Max and Rick Deckard were long before they made their first appearances onto movie screens the world over and into the collective unconscious of popular culture. I listened to what people like John Carpenter, Ray Bradbury, Gene Rodenberry, Ann C. Crispin, Terry Gilliam and Stephen Spielberg had to say about their latest projects while I plotted and planned at just how I was going to get to a movie theater or a bookstore in South Jersey that would actually peddle the wares they were creating.

“Evil Chicken, just how did you find out about this stuff before it came out?”

Gentle Reader, I was a fan of Starlog Magazine, that’s how. Sure Forrest J. Ackerman’s Famous Monsters of Filmland was a primary influence on the publication but I grew up reading Starlog. Starlog published glossy wonder and I ate up each and every page. I remember bugging the magazine guy on the first Tuesday of every month to see if the new issue of Starlog had arrived. Starlog was, for this Geek and a great many others, the bee’s knees. The magazine was around for almost 33 years, which is some feat when one considers that nature of the publishing industry these days. After all, Newsweek Magazine was bought yesterday for the grand total of $1.00. Starlog, however, was always near and dear to my heart. You see, back when a world wide computer network was nothing but science fiction Starlog was one of the only fountains for a Geek to drink from – it was a literal oasis in the publishing world. This magazine fed an entire generation of fanboys, including yours truly. Starlog fanned the flames of wonder.

And now, it’s gone.

I believe that it was the internet that killed Starlog. I remember heading to their site and hoping beyond hope that they would embrace this new technology to work in tandem with their print version. Alas, this was never the case. Their web site never took into account the vast changes in media that were taking place. On the internet readers could now comment and become a part of the conversation about all things geek. If there was an interview with a leading science fiction author or a report from a movie set or hints being dropped about what the next ‘Star Trek’ film was going to be about all fans had to do was drop a name onto a search engine and press ‘Enter’. This eliminated the wait for next month’s issue. Now information was instantaneous, plentiful and, depending on where one found it, accurate. The Starlog website never adapted which is ironic for a magazine that so prominently promoted the future to remain fixed in the past. Some magazines made the jump such as Wired ( and others did not such as OMNI ( and, sadly, Starlog (

The first issue was published in August of 1976 and the final issue, #375, was published in April of 2009. I want to believe that Starlog is only in hibernation. I would love to see a multimedia version of a resurrected Starlog come to pass which would be launched electronically and in print; with a web presence and a go-to show on G4 or the SyFy Channel – all the Geek news that’s fit to print, blog or broadcast. The rights to Starlog are currently held by “The Brooklyn Company INC”, the same people who publish Fangoria (which was a sister publication to Starlog). I mention this tidbit as a means of introduction to the good people at The Brooklyn Company INC…

Please consider this blog the preamble to my resume. I am Evil Chicken and if you ever want to reboot Starlog... I am your man.

Monday, August 02, 2010

I like Ike’s

So do you like seafood? Yeah? Me too. In fact I like it so much that when Mother Hen said that she had procured a gift certificate from we made a beeline to the Flagship Restaurant on Route 49 and Union Road in Millville, NJ. Here is their website for your surfing pleasure: and here is the review that I submitted to…

You know that secret for when you travel that you want to ask a local where the best spots are? Sure you do. Well I’m a local and I would like to pass along such a spot – it’s called Ike’s Seafood and it is worth your time. Ike’s prides themselves on their crab cakes, which are amazing but one of my favorite items on the menu are the Giant Clam Strips. My wife and I split a plate as an appetizer. I could make a meal on these alone but, if you have a yearning for seafood, then you will want to save room.

I started off with a cup of the Corn Clam chowder while my wife had her old standby, French Onion soup. She stole a spoonful or two of mine but that was all right. One of the arcane secrets to a marriage is to develop the ability to share food items.

My wife had the Crab Imperial and I had a combination of fried delights that included flounder, shrimp, scallops and one of Ike’s Famous Crab Cakes. My, my, my…


Their salad bar is good too but my wife and I went straight for the seafood. I suggest you do the same. Take it from this local; you will not be disappointed.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hope for the Abysmal Summer of 2010

It has been an abysmal summer when you think about it. I’m not talking about the tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico (Thanks BP!), the heat or about the wars and rumors of wars that we find ourselves in these days; no. I’m talking about the mediocrity of what has been released to the multiplexes from sea to shining see during the summer of 2010.


For my dollar there have been two films that have actually made me want to get off the back of my front and head to the theater; “Iron Man 2” and “Toy Story 3”. Both of these films are worth the price of admission and, I have a sneaky sensation that both of them will worm their way into my Blu-ray collection. “Iron Man 2” was a fun time at the movies and “Toy Story 3” is about the best film I’ve seen all year. I have not been able to truly be excited about any of the other summer cinema fare – “The Last Airbender” will be a rental for me, “Twilight – Eclipse” will be a free rental… perhaps even a wait for cable. No, probably a wait for cable. It’s been abysmal with little to look forward to in the field of storytelling through cinema.

With little to look forward to what’s a geek to do? Look for the sleepers that’s what! That being said, “Cyrus” and “Inception” look to be films that may actually be worth the time and drive to the theater.

Here is the plot synopsis for “Cyrus” from my favorite second brain, Wikipedia, “John is seven years divorced from his wife and is having trouble adjusting to his new life. After meeting Molly at a party, he thinks that maybe he has found the perfect person again. There's just one problem: Cyrus, Molly's grown son. John must find a way to make his romance with Molly work despite intentional and unintentional interference by Cyrus.” John C. Reilly is John, Marisa Tomei is Molly and Jonah Hill is Cyrus. That happens to be an amazing cast. Spin is really good. I just might have to sneak out to see this one.

Then there is “Inception”. Once more as described through my favorite second brain, “Inception was first developed by Christopher Nolan, based on the notion of "exploring the idea of people sharing a dream space - entering a dream space and sharing a dream. That gives you the ability to access somebody’s unconscious mind. What would that be used and abused for?” Furthermore, he thought "being able to extract information from somebody’s brain would be the obvious use of that because obviously any other system where it’s computers or physical media, whatever – things that exist outside the mind – they can all be stolen ... up until this point, or up until this movie I should say, the idea that you could actually steal something from somebody’s head was impossible. So that, to me, seemed a fascinating abuse or misuse of that kind of technology.”

Sign me up. That’s just a great concept for a story. Christopher Nolan, by my humble opinion, is one of the premiere storytellers that we have making movies these days. “Memento”, “The Prestige”, “Batman Begins” and a little film called, “The Dark Knight” cemented his ability. This concept is aching to be mined too. The last time that I recall a good dream movie was a film in the eighties called, “Dreamscape”. It would be cheesy by today’s standards by I dug it (I’ll have to put it in my Blockbuster cue).

But I digress. Let’s get back to the last hopes of the summer of 2010 and what may be worth a look-see on the horizon. I’m pulling for “Cyrus” and “Inception” for the remainder of the summer. Thanksgiving will bring “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part I” and Christmas will bring, “TRON Legacy”.

Now I’m getting my GEEK up again!

See you at the multiplex.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Happy Birthday!

Today (7/13/10) was a great day for birthdays. Julius Caesar, Patrick Stewart, Harrison Ford, Cheech Marin and Tom Kenny – all on the same day; so Happy Birthday to Caesar, Professor X, Han Solo, Cheech and Sponge Bob!

That would be an interesting party…

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Dad, You Were Right

I just finished a book that my father absolutely loved. He passed it along to my mother who, I was told, during her pregnancy with yours truly, read the entire series. That book is “Tarzan – Lord of the Apes” by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I remember reading ERB’s “John Carter of Mars” series and a few others here and there such as “Beyond the Farthest Star” or “At The Earth’s Core” but I had never read Tarzan. It was one of the books my dad read that has always been on my list. I was always more a Conan fan… until recently, Robert E. Howard’s highlander barbarian was my favorite pulp icon to read about. Mine to root for.

Dad, you were right.

Tarzan kicks all kinds of but and, literarily speaking, the character is one of the most recognized even to this day. Mr. Burroughs may have invented Barsoom and all its wonders on Mars (a world I still like to visit via my e-reader) but he will eternally be remembered for giving the world John Clayton, Lord Greystoke better known as Tarzan, Lord of the Apes; after reading the first volume, justifiably so.

I wish that I could have this discussion with my Dad but that is not possible. It is merely the latest discussion that I wish I could have with him. This one, however, was one that I wanted to share with you, Gentle Reader. There is no one else who would understand; no one else who may grasp the joy of these works of fiction. Yes, I know I’m beginning to ramble but if you have read the two authors who do you prefer? Which do you like better – Robert E. Howard or Edgar Rice Burroughs? Conan or Tarzan?

After reading ERB’s first volume I’m beginning to convert. Conan is great but Tarzan runs in the family. I just wish; even after these 23 odd years, that I could let my Dad know about it too.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Upper New York State of Mind

From 7/2/10 – 7/5/10, we, the EC-5 were officially on Holiday. I am a firm believer that the absolute best things to collect are memories. Material possessions you can’t take with you but reminiscences and time spent together are things that last a lifetime. This is something that I hope we have passed onto our children. I am also a man who feels the pressing weight of days... let's just say, I like to escape. And so, ‘getting away from it all’ with the family is something that I/we take pretty serious. In that vein I wanted to jot down some of the highlights of our adventures.

7/2/10 – We climbed into our Ford Explorer, said a prayer and took off leaving New Jersey behind for higher latitudes. “Judy”, our Garmin Nuvi (yes, Judy Garmin) is better than Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer when it comes to navigation. I remember a time when I was nervous about finding the right exit or off ramp on whatever 3 – 7 lane highway we found ourselves on. Those days are over. I am a transportation machine with the assistance of Judy.

Our first real stop was Fillmore Glenn State Park. We went there to swim and take in some of the local sites. The Three Chicks and I hit the ice-cold spring fed waters while Mother hen hit the trails for a series of bridges and waterfalls. After a freshwater leach attached itself to Chicken Little’s small toe we got out of the water. When we all met up again Mother Hen said that we should really check out Cow Shed Falls which was right around the corner from where we were splashing about before the leach attack. Cow Shed Falls gets its name from the rock out-cropping that hangs over the valley next to the waterfall that drops some 40 feet or so into the gorge that feeds the stream where we were swimming with the leaches. Years ago farmers would find their cows cooling themselves off under the rock shelf and drinking from the waters of the falls. Cow Shed stuck. What a beautiful park. If you are in the area you ought to stop by… just watch out for the leaches.

We piled back into the Explorer and hit the road once more. We made our way to our home away from home, a Days Inn in Syracuse. Mother Hen found a really great deal online which got us a room for three nights. We only slept in Syracuse. It was our flophouse. It did not need to be a 4 Star hotel or a 3 Star hotel; just the 2 Star hotel that it was. A place to lay one’s head; which after a day’s worth of driving and leach adventures, was a welcome sight. We grabbed dinner at Denny’s and retired to our room.

7/3/10 – Gas, ice, Dunkin Donuts and the open road. I long for the gypsy life style. Our next stop was Thousand Islands, New York where we boarded an Uncle Sam Boat Tour shuttle to Heart Island to tour Boldt Castle. Heart Island sits in the middle of the St. Lawrence River. George Boldt (of Waldorf Astoria Hotel fame) built this castle for his wife, Louise. He built it for her but when she died abruptly at the age of 45 all construction stopped. The island and castle were ornate and beautifully kept but the project remained unfinished and it is to this very day. There are paths, coves, towers, a power house, tunnels and spectacular views of the St. Lawrence River. It is an amazing stone and mortar, six-story construction that begs to be explored. Here is what Wikipedia, my favorite second brain, has to say on the topic: We loved it and, if you are ever in the area, Gentle Reader, so would you.

After a tailgate lunch of tuna fish in the parking lot we hit the road once more. The Chicks fell right asleep which left Mother Hen (shot gun) and I (driving) to ourselves to behold the sight of three huge Crow standing what looked to be about 12 foot a piece.

“Did you see that?” we asked each other.

I had no time to reach for the camera and we were on a highway heading towards our next destination. It is only now that I can find out the details on this gigantic murder of crows. Here is what Roadside America has to say on the subject: Keep your eyes open out there… you never know what might present itself when you keep your eyes open.

Our next destination was Fort Ontario on the shores of Lake Ontario in Oswego New York. We just missed being able to get into the fort but we enjoyed dipping our toes into one of the Great Lakes and finding out some of the local history. The view of the lighthouse from the park is reportedly a wonderful place to catch a sunset. We weighed our options for our next adventure, I was either going to walk out to the Oswego Harbor West Pierhead Lighthouse for a Virtual Geocache or we were going to slide over to Wal-Mart to replenish some supplies for the cooler. Wal-Mart won but not before we paid a visit to the H. Lee White Marine Museum. The museum was closed but we were able to see the Army tug boat, “Nash” that took part in the D-Day invasion and a formally sunken dredging canal barge that has been restored. I met the curator of the museum, a nice lady who encouraged me to tell my friends about their non-profit museum. That being said, Gentle Readers consider yourselves encouraged:

We asked some locals where would be a good place to eat and they suggested an Italian place called, Canale’s. Oh, they were sooo right. Listen to the locals. They know where the good spots are as well as the ones that should be avoided. Canale's ( is one of the good ones. If you are in the neighborhood of Oswego you CAN NOT go wrong eating here. I had Eggplant Parmesan that was unbelievable. Mother Hen pointed out that they have marinara for sale in the restaurant and on their website. I’m looking forward to receiving our order.

After dinner we trekked back to Syracuse and our room at the Days Inn.

7/4/10 - Gas, ice, Dunkin Donuts and the open road. Our next stop was Niagara Falls. On the way into the city of Niagara Falls, New York the Niagara River is to your left. One can see motion and currents at work within the water and it is possible to catch a glimpse of mist from the Falls that drifts into the city. Prior to getting into the city itself one can see the rapids and the waters churn and boil around rock formations on their way towards the Falls and the Niagara Gorge. This is just on the way into the city.

The city of Niagara Falls was hopping. The streets were teaming with people from nations all over the world celebrating the Fourth of July. A sightseeing helicopter was buzzing around shuttling tourists from the helipad to the falls and back again from the time that we got there until just after 9:00 PM, an hour before the fireworks display. Once we found a place to park we hit the ground running. I had water and granola bars in my backpack and I was not afraid to use ‘em. In said hustle and bustle was the EC-5.

You hear the falls before you see them. When you see them you are struck with the power and timeless force at play before your eyes. The roar of the water… the hundreds of thousands of gallons of water on its way to the 167 foot drop to the bottom of the Niagara Gorge. To paraphrase it is simply ‘poetry in motion’. There are two sides for viewing the Falls, the Canadian and the American. In honor of the birth of our nation (and the fact that we do not have passports) we saw the falls from the American side. Some say that the view is not as good as the Canadian. The view from where I stood was mind-altering and humbling. Here is what Wikipedia has to say on the topic: Who knew it but it appears we visited 134 years to the day that Maria Spelterini crossed the Niagara Gorge on a tightrope.

You go girl.

On the American side one can also find the Observation Platform, which looks much like an uncompleted bridge. It is through here that thousands of people pour into to see the Falls from a higher elevation and to purchase tickets for the Maid of the Mist, the boat tour of Niagara Falls that has been in operation since 1854. The Observation Platform houses the elevator that takes you from the view from above the Falls down into the Niagara Gorge, where the Falls surge into. It is here that you board the Maid of the Mist.

“Oh right, now I have to buy a ticket and wait in a line?”

Yes; and why are you so snappy all of the sudden? Suck it up (consider decaf). Look, I do not care how long the line is (we went on the Fourth of July) or how much the ticket price may be (currently $13.50 for an adult and $7.85 per child) it is worth the wait and double the price. A trip on the Maid of the Mist is something that you will never forget. You owe it to yourself, your significant others and/or your families to take the trip if you are there. It is called the Maid of the Mist for a reason. You will get wet even through the blue poncho that you will be wearing. You will see the American Falls, the ant like people as they clamor up the Gorge side and the “Cave of the Winds” side next to Bridal Falls and the boat will take you into the horseshoe of the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side. After our boat ride we climbed the steps up the Gorge to be hit with the gale force energy of the surging spray of the Falls themselves. Do this as well when you go; it is part of the entire experience. The power, the sound, the fury and the striking beauty of Niagara Falls are surreal and simply unforgettable. I could continue to throw adjectives around like peanut shells at a steakhouse but the fact remains that Niagara Falls is something best experienced for oneself than it is described by another. You should make the trip.

We found a patch of grass in the park and sat down for the fireworks display above the Niagara Gorge. It was a wonderful Fourth of July; one that I will carry with me for the rest of my days.

7/5/10 – And now, after 1,205.4 miles, we have returned. Unlike the Hobbits of Tolkien lore who wish to go there and back again I find that the going back again part is less and less appealing.

I just want to go.

I am Evil Chicken and I am actively planning our next escape.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Bionic Cat

When nine lives are simply not enough...

In between changing the background here at Chicken Scratch and horsing around on Twitter I came across a Boing Boing posting concerning the "Cybercat". Here's that post:

From there I went to Wired where the story originated. I was hoping that there was video of the cat and there is! Check it all out here:

Howzabout dat.

Blu-Ray Dossier the Return

A running article here at Chicken Scratch is the Blu-Ray Dossier. I am a movie geek and a bit of a snob when it comes to the art and business of film. I love cinema and it has become one of my favorite delivery devices for plot and story. It is for this reason I am picky. Here in the Blu-Ray Dossier I like to give credit where credit is due for the good, the bad and the just plain ugly. The first rating that you see is all about how good a movie/film it is. The second rating is all about the jaw dropping Blu-ray factor. Modern cinema is shot in 1080p just the way a director usually intended you to see it. It is the gold standard the cameras use. Television has evolved to the point of High Definition and now 1080p is now an option for ones own home.

Now that the formalities are out of the way, grab some popcorn because here is what has been playing in Evil Chicken’s living room…

Where the Wild Things Are: 3 Stars / 3.5 Stars. I love Spike Jonze. The man can tell a story in a way that truly makes it his own. And Where the Wild Things Are is no different. The challenge is to make a full-length motion picture from a 15 or so page beloved children’s book. No easy feat. Yes, the Wild Things represent different people and parts of Max’s psyche and yeah, that’s cool to a degree but the film gets bogged down in it’s own complexities and loses a bit of it’s heart.

Sherlock Holmes: 3.5 Stars / 3.5 Stars. I loved the pairing of Robert Downey Jr. (Holmes) with Jude Law (Watson). Great chemistry. I am looking forward to the sequel to this adventure through a blue-screened Victorian London. It was fun to watch and worth the rental. Some have criticized this film by saying that there was too much fighting that Holmes was involved with and that the filmmakers wanted to make him into an action hero. Conan Doyle’s Holmes WAS a pugilist and a man of action. He was not just Basil Rathbone with a violin, a pipe and a magnifying glass. That being said it is a passable action flick.

Twilight New Moon: 2 Stars / 3 Stars. I wanted to be fair with this one. I was hoping to walk that thin line between objectivity and honesty. I hope this passes. I am not a Twilight fan. Sparkling hundred year-old vampires who fall for high school girls who have friends that happen to be a pack of werewolves just don’t cut it for me. The CGI is not as wooden as the acting. The best part about this franchise is knowing that it is half over. Perhaps if I was a teenage girl I would feel differently? Nope, my three daughters are as perplexed at this phenomena as I am.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus: 4 Stars / 4 Stars. I love Mr. Terry Gilliam. He is worth seeing no matter what it is he does. His work has a tendency to stay with you YEARS after you have seen it. It’s a sad state of affairs that he does not get the backing that he truly deserves most of the time. This time, and perhaps partiality due to the sad and untimely death of Mr. Heath Ledger, Gilliam does and he nails the dismount while doing so. The scenes shot in the real world – with Heath Ledger were complete. The scenes inside the Imaginarium – an amazing dreamscape where anything is possible were not. To rectify this Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Collin Ferrell assumed the roll of the Hanged Man (Ledger) in the dream world. Check this one out. I guarantee that it is the most original thing that you have seen on your HDTV in a long time. The dedication of the film is pretty classy too.

Ponyo: 4 Stars / 4 Stars. Hayao Miyazaki, the same man who brought us “Spirited Away”, “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “Princess Mononoke” gives the world his take on “The Little Mermaid”. Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli have been powerhouses of Japanese animation for decades. PIXAR is the house of magic here in the Americas and Studio Ghibli holds that honor in Japan. Miyazaki is a brilliant and gifted storyteller. If you are familiar then you know the spectacle that you are about to behold. If you are just discovering him and his work I am envious. You are in for a treat.

The Road: 4 Stars /3.5 Stars. I was depressed after viewing this film. But it stuck with me. Some may just say that it is just a downer of a film but now, after considering it further I believe this is a film about hope. Hope when there is absolutely nothing to be hopeful for. The plot follows a father and son as they traverse across a post apocalyptic world heading towards the ocean. There are some allegories at play here as well. SPOILER – SKIP TO THE NEXT REVIEW TO REMAIN PURE: Not to spoil your experience but the father is Moses. He gets to see the Promised Land but he is not allowed in. But there is hope for the children who actually make it to the land of milk and honey. This story of love and survival is not easy to watch but it will stay with you.

The Wolfman: 1 Star / 2 Stars. I so wanted this movie to knock it out of the park. It did not. I so wanted Stan Winston’s final film to be one for the ages. It is not. I so wanted to see Anthony Hopkins and Benicio del Toro rip into their scenes together. They try but are caught in what must have been a development hell on set. One gets the feeling that once they started shooting the filmmakers really did not know which direction they were going to take this. Where they take it is clichéd and tired. I can’t believe I’m about to type this but “Twilight New Moon” is better than “The Wolfman”. Ouch.

Alice in Wonderland: 4 Stars / 4 Stars. Tim Burton – Johnny Depp? Here… just let my buy my ticket now. We (my daughters and I) really dug this quasi-sequel to the original Alice stories. Dizzying imaginations are at play in this production. The story is well served and realized and the green screen work is something to see. Depp shines as the Mad Hatter as does Mia Wasikowska as THE Alice – the Underland prophesized champion and potential slayer of the Jabberwocky. I thought it was fun film and worthy of the name, Alice.

4.5 Stars / 4 Stars. Back before “The Man With No Name” played by Clint Eastwood roamed Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns a ronin samurai, Sanjûrô Tsubaki, was pitting two rival gangs against each other in Yojimbo. What an amazing and influential film this truly is. Leone and his Japanese counterparts did a lot of ‘borrowing’ from each other in the early sixties. Thankfully we the viewers have a win win because of it, two great films one timeless story.

The Godfather Parts I & II: 5 Stars / 3.5 Stars. Yes, technically these are two separate films but they are meant to be one picture. What can one say that has not already been said about these classic films? I can say that it has been re-mastered for Blu-ray and that the print that they used to do so is an improvement over the regular DVD release. Where these films truly shine are in the storytelling and the acting. The characterizations that Brando, Pacino, Caan, DeNiro, Duvall and Keaton bring to life are epic in scope. Francis Ford Coppola made lightning strike twice with these films. They are national treasures. If you have not seen them in some time check them out on Blu-ray. Have some pasta with meat gravy and maybe some cannoli. You really cannot go wrong with these films and that’s something you can take to the mattress.

See you at Blockbuster!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Weird Al Live

It was a wonderful Father’s Day weekend. And, for yours truly, there was nowhere and no one else that I wanted to spend it with then my family. We played, we ate, we giggled, we guffawed, and we spent time together as a unit (which is good since we can do more damage that way). It was great. I count my blessings every day for the other four members of the EC-5. I tell you this, Gentle Reader, because I would be remiss in not telling you about one of the greatest Father’s Day events of this past weekend. My family, Mother Hen and the Three Chicks, took me to see “Weird Al” Yankovic at the Atlantic City Hilton!

Friends… what a show it was.

I have been a fan of Al’s for the last 29 years or so. I had the “Weird Al Yankovic In 3D” album (yes, that’s right, album) which had the song, “Eat It” on it which was Al’s first big hit. Since then Al has had other big hits such as, “Amish Paradise” and “White & Nerdy”. These are great but there are so many wonderful songs… “Weasel Stomping Day”, “I Love Rocky Road”, “Another One Rides the Bus”, “Charles Nelson Riley”, “I Want To Be Your Hog”, “The Saga Begins” and “Don’t Download This Song” are all classic Al. If you have not discovered his catalog for yourself then I urge you to do so. Mother Hen and I grew up with his music and we have passed this love along to our children. The Three Chicks are HUGE fans too. I suppose that was as inevitable as the tides. When the opportunity to see him live presented itself we jumped.

I am so glad we did.

Yankovic’s genius is evident not only in the song writing or his longevity but also in his live performance where it really shines. A Weird Al show is a multimedia extravaganza but the musicianship and sound reproduction of the band simply cannot be discounted. Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz on drums, Jim West on guitar, Steve Jay on bass and Rubén Valtierra on the keys are formidable.

Some find it is easy to dismiss Al Yankovic as an artist and musician but I am here to tell you that any such aspersions are highly misguided. There have been efforts for the last ten years or so to have him inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Gentle Reader, I am here to say that they deserve to be there.

If you get the chance to see him and the rest of the band live do so. You will not be disappointed.