Saturday, March 31, 2012

CSI At TRU

I was in Toys R Us (sorry, I can't figure out how to type a backwards "R") earlier this week and while looking around I wandered into the CSI aisle. Yeah, I said CSI. I gotta say, I was a bit surprised. Do kids even know what CSI is? Do they actually watch the myriad CSI shows?

Heck, I'm an adult and I don't even watch them. I can't imagine a graphic scientific police procedural show would have much to offer a kid. I know the playsets probably contain fun little experiments, but it just seems a bit iffy to tie them in with a show that's clearly aimed at adults. Like having a Desperate Housewives Dollhouse or a Sopranos Board Game.

It reminds me of when the R-rated ALIEN movie came out in 1979 and Kenner Toys produced an action figure of the titular extraterrestrial. It was a cool toy, but probably not a good idea given the adult subject matter of the film.

Appropriateness aside, here are a few of the playsets they had for sale:

The Official CSI DNA Laboratory. Hey kids, ever wonder if maybe you were adopted? Or have you noticed that you look more like Daddy's best friend than you do Daddy? Now you clear up any pesky questions about your parentage by performing your very own DNA analysis!

The instruction book on how to obtain DNA samples ought to be interesting reading...

The Official CSI Fingerprint Analysis Kit. Kids, when you come home from school does your room look a little off, like things have been moved slightly, but you can't quite tell for sure? Now you can find out who's been rifling through your crap while you're gone with the CSI Fingerprint Analysis Kit.

Simply dust your room for prints, then when you confront Mom about reading your diary and she denies it, you can yell, "AHA!!!" and fling the cold, hard scientific proof right at her lying face.

The Official CSI Impression Kit. Gals, are you tired of old Mr. Feeney from down the block always peeping in your bedroom window? Tired of not being taken seriously when you tell an adult about it?

Take matters into your own hands! Next time that old perv slobbers outside your window, wait until he leaves and then make a plaster cast of his footprints. Now you've got hard evidence to show the authorities and that skeev Feeney will be making new friends in Cell Block H!

The Official CSI Field Investigation Kit. Yeah, that's a pair of handcuffs there in the box. Expect these to keep "mysteriously" turning up in Mom and Dad's room.

The Official CSI Junior Investigation Kit. Wow, look at all the stuff you get in this playset! Police tape to drape across the front door, to give Mrs. Kravitz next door something to talk about. Evidence bags and tags, and rubber gloves with which to handle any hair or skin samples left at the crime scene . It says it even comes with an "alternate light source." You know what that means, kids! That's right! Blacklight semen detector!

The Official CSI Forensic Facial Reconstruction Kit. I think this might be my favorite playset of all. Remember that hooker that Daddy killed and buried in the back yard? Now you can dig up her skull and reconstruct her face, so the police can finally put a name to this Jane Doe case and close the file for good! Of course Daddy may have to go away for twenty years or so, but hey, justice must be served!

Look at this playset! Dear Lord, it even comes with the little erasers you place on the skull, just like the real thing!

Barrels Of Laughs

Last weekend I drove to and from Indianapolis and along the way passed through several 20 mile long lane closures lined with hundreds of thousands of orange barrels. Naturally there didn't seem to be any purpose to the barrels; there were no workmen present and no discernible road work going on.

After seeing these vast and endless stretches of barrels I've come to the conclusion that the INDOT (Indiana Department of Transportation) doesn't have a warehouse. I think they're storing the barrels right there on the highway. When they actually need some barrels they just drive over to the highway, load a few hundred in some trucks and off they go. When they're done they bring 'em back and store them on the highway at the pretend worksite again. It's the only explanation that makes sense.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Alcafizzle

Well, the season (or is it series?) finale of Alcatraz aired last night, to a resounding round of audience indifference.

I had high hopes for this series when it first started. It had a really cool premise-- Alcatraz inmates from 1963 vanish and start reappearing in the present day. It featured some of my favorite TV stars (Jorge Garcia, Parminder Nagra, Robert Forster) and it was produced by J.J. Abrams, one of the creators of LOST. With a pedigree like that, how could it miss?

It found a way.

I enjoyed the first two episodes, but then I worried that the series might suffer from repetition. Looks like I was right. Every week it's the same damn plot: Dangerous inmate reappears in the present day, wreaks havoc for a while and is killed or caught, while the mystery of what happened in 1963 is slowly and maddeningly revealed one tiny piece at a time.

I'd hoped that the producers of Alcatraz learned from their mistakes on LOST and wouldn't drag the mysteries out for too long this time. They have given us a few answers, but they haven't been all that interesting and just as they did on LOST, for every answer we get, another ten questions pop up. It also suffers from the same "Don't Give Anyone A Straight Answer So We Can Prolong The Mystery" syndrome that plagued LOST. Several times this season Madsen and Soto asked their boss Hauser to tell them what the heck was going on, and rather than simply tell them, each time he'd tilt his head, grimace like he was constipated and silently walk offscreen. Maddening!

Last nights's finale jealously doled out a couple of answers to us before ending on the requisite cliffhanger. To be honest, the whole thing was just plain dull. I hate to say it but I'm starting to lose interest in whatever the heck's going on and am very close to giving up on this show.

Some thoughts about the finale and the season as a whole:

• We finally get to see what's behind the Warden's mysterious door in the basement of the prison. So what's inside? Pretty much a whole lot of nothing. Just a map showing us that the Sixty Threes are popping up all over the country, not just in San Francisco. Oh, and some scientist guy we never saw until now, whose appearance was apparently significant somehow.

•  Several characters find out that Lucy is a Sixty Three in the finale, something the audience has known since the second episode. Yawn. Nothing more exciting than watching people find out something you already know.

• Lucy tells Madsen and Soto to ask her anything and she'll answer them honestly. Instead of the logical question, "How the hell did you jump forward in time fifty years" all they want to know is if her boyfriend Hauser was a sweetie when he was younger. Oy gevalt!

• Did the writers do the math before they started this show? Hauser is the head of the project that's rounding up the Sixty Threes, but he was also a guard who was present the night the inmates disappeared 50 years ago. That means Hauser has to be well over 70 years old. And we're supposed to believe he's still running around, kicking down doors and punching out time-traveling criminals?

• Hauser and Lucy were in love 50 years ago, before she disappeared. They've finally been reunited, but she's probably 29 or so and he's 75. Ew.

• Tommy Madsen, Alcatraz inmate and Rebecca Madsen's grandpaw, has some kind of magic colloidal silver blood that heals wounds and apparently somehow causes you to jump through time. Colloidal silver is a real thing, and I'm pretty sure it has no inherent time travel properties. Couldn't they have made up some kind of anti-matter blood or something? Some kind of substance that sounds like it could exist but doesn't?

• As I've stated before, it's very considerate of the Sixty Threes to show up in the present one at a time, once per week.

• There's apparently some kind of Mastermind behind the reappearance of the Sixty Threes who is orchestrating their return and activities in the present. Gee, who could it possibly be? Surely not creepy old Warden James, who no one's seen since 1963? If the Warden doesn't turn out to be behind the whole thing, I'll eat my hat.

• I've always liked actor Robert Forster, but I wish he'd just admit to himself that he's bald. I don't know what's up with that hair-like substance on top of his head, but it's very distracting. You're bald, Robert. It's OK. We'll still love you.

• Doc Soto is apparently very efficient at managing his time. He not only runs a comic shop, but also draws a (monthly?) comic book, in addition to following Rebecca around on cases 18 hours per day.

• Rebecca finally corners her still-young grandpa, Tommy Madsen. Before she can get any answers out of him, he stabs her in the side and escapes. This incident could probably have been avoided if she hadn't been standing literally 6 inches away from him the entire time. A gun is a long-range weapon, Rebecca. You don't need to touch the barrel to a suspect's chest in order for it to work.

• As soon as Tommy stabbed Rebecca and scampered off, I let out a weary groan. Not due to any concern about Rebecca's health, but because I knew it meant that it'd be months, maybe even years before we finally find out the truth about Tommy. I think maybe I'm losing patience with these long-term mystery shows.

• So Rebecca is dead, huh? Wow, what a shocking cliffhanger. I wouldn't worry too much about her though. Given the fact that half the people on the show have magic silver blood and she's the star of the series, I think she'll probably get better.

UPDATE: WHOOPS! Never mind. The show's been cancelled, probably for all the reasons I pointed out.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Out Of Context Star Trek Moment #10

I've been an avid Star Trek fan for many decades, but even I have to admit that certain episodes could get a little silly now and then, especially when viewed out of context.

So sit back and enjoy these Out Of Context Star Trek Moments.

Once again this scene is from the third season episode Plato's Stepchildren, which is an absolute goldmine of bizarre out of context moments. This is the last time I pick on this poor episode, I promise.

Here we see Captain Kirk slapping his own face.

Followed by Captain Kirk wearing laurel leaves and showing his dentist his teeth.

And lastly Captain Kirk in a toga getting mugged by a dwarf.

Farewell, Plato's Stepchildren! It's been fun shredding you to bits!

Stay Classy, Columbia Pictures

Like the majority of Americans I did my patriotic duty this past weekend and went to see The Hunger Games. While I was waiting around in the lobby I noticed this poster for the 21 Jump Street remake.

Take a close look at the tag line up at the top of the poster. Cheezus, are you kidding me? That's considered an acceptable slogan these days? Right out in public for Little Cindy, Aunt Martha and Sister Mary Catherine to see? Just because the movie's rated R doesn't mean the poster should be as well. Congratulations, Columbia Pictures. You just brought the B.J. joke to the nation's theater lobbies.

We're very near the end of civilization...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

I'm A Grown Man And I Bought This: Doctor Who License Plate Frame

This past weekend I went to Whona, the all-Doctor Who store that inexplicably popped up in the middle of Indianapolis. They're normally an online-only store, but occasionally they have an open house so that customers and fans can come and shop in person.

I picked up my nephew Saturday morning and we headed for Indy and went to the Whona open house. Among the many things I bought was this: an official Doctor Who License Plate Frame. This was actually a pretty hot seller; nearly everyone I saw there was buying one.

Bonus: My license plate is the perfect matching shade of TARDIS blue! One of the few perks of living in Indiana.

I figure why should just the people who read my blog know that I'm a big nerd? Why not let everyone who drives behind me know it as well?

You can read about our previous visit to Whona here.

Doctor Who: Out With The Old...

This week in Doctor Who news: the BBC announced that British actress Jenna-Louise Coleman will play the Doctor's new companion in the upcoming Season 7. She'll make her debut in the 2012 Christmas Special.

That of course means we'll be saying a reluctant farewell to the Ponds about halfway through the season.

I'll be sorry to see them go; Amy and Rory are the first married couple to ever travel with the Doctor and I've enjoyed having them on board. Rory especially. It was fun watching him evolve from a nerdy, milquetoast character into a kick-ass action hero. His relationship with the Doctor went through an evolution as well: the Doctor was initially dismissive of him, but eventually grew to respect and rely on him, as they become close pals.

But if you don't like change, then Doctor Who isn't the show for you. Nothing stays the same, not even the main character!

One thing that worries me about the Ponds' departure: showrunner Steven Moffat says their exit will be "heartbreaking." Gee, that doesn't sound ominous at all, does it? He'd better mean "heartbreaking" as in "sad to see them go." If he means "heartbreaking" as in "I'm gonna kill off one or both of them" then I vow to personally fly to Cardiff, knock on his door and punch him right in the d*ck when he answers.

So far nothing is known about the character Jenna-Louise Coleman will be playing, neither her name or if she's even human. That sweater she's wearing in the photo above looks a bit retro; could she be from the 1960s? She's cute, I'll give her that. The Doctor seems particularly skilled at attracting beautiful young women to accompany him on his travels, despite the fact that he's now over 1,000 years old.

The BBC seems reluctant to ever pair up the Doctor with a male companion. Maybe they fear that two blokes traveling around in the TARDIS would look a bit gay? I think it might be interesting to try it for a while though-- it'd be a sort of Holmes/Watson dynamic, with the kind of banter that Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law had between them in the Sherlock Holmes movies.


Anyway, here's another photo of the striking Jenna-Louise Coleman at a celebrity function. . . wearing a little black dress. . . and. . . looking at. . . . . . camera. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . I. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  I'm sorry, I lost my train of thought there. I can't seem to remember what I was going to say?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Today's Forecast: Cloudy With A Chance Of Orcs

Would you look at that-- it's the Eye of Sauron is hovering over the continental United States.

I don't know what the heck's going on with the weather today, but whatever it is it ain't anything good.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sol Glickman: Demon At Large

Sol just loved the spotlight. Too bad it didn't love him back!

Wow, it's been a while since I posted an actual illustration on my blog. That because last year's Xmas card took a lot out of me. After it was done I didn't even want to look at my graphic tablet for a month or so. Then there was all the job drama. Losing my job, getting a part time job, and then finally finding a good full time job... it's been an eventful few months. All that's behind me now and I'm ready to get back into illustration mode.

This illustration started life as a sketchbook doodle, as most of them do. And like most of my drawings, the finished product looks quite different from what I had planned in the beginning. It started out as a square drawing, but about halfway through I decided I wanted the demon to be under a spotlight, so I kept making the page taller and taller until it looked right. That's usually how I work; I get a better idea halfway through.

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.I deliberately went with a washed out color palette, just because.


Here's the original sketch of Sol. Nothing much changed in the final drawing, except maybe his fingers.

Bowm Chika Bown Boww!

This morning on the Bob And Tom radio show they were talking once again about finding your "porn star name." To determine your porn name you take the name of your first pet and add it to the name of the street on which you grew up.

Hmm. Using that formula, my porn name would be:
Mickey Rural Route 14.

Whoops! I think I broke the formula.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Walking Dead Season 2, Episode 13: By The Dying Fire

Well, Season 2 of The Walking Dead is now behind us. It wasn't a perfect season; there was way too much talking and not enough zombie action early on and the gang spent far too much time rooted in one spot. But there were also some awesome and intense moments, mostly in the last few episodes, that helped make up for the lulls.

When the show started back up in October I really didn't expect they'd be spending the entire season stuck on Herschel's farm. I know the characters saw the farm as a refuge, but I saw it as a storyline quagmire. As long as they were on the farm it felt impossible for the plot to progress.

They finally got off the farm in the season finale, but from the closing seconds of the episode it looks like they're going to be holed in the prison all next season. Ah well. C'est la vie.

Something I forgot to mention last week: In addition to reanimating its victims, the zombie virus also apparently alters their facial features. When Zombie Randall attacks Glenn and Daryl, he already has the sunken eyes characteristic of all walkers, after only an hour, two tops. Same thing with Shane. Rick kills him and less than five minutes later his eyes have begun sinking in like a typical walker. That virus must work fast!

On with the highlights!

• So the zombies attacking Herschel's farm apparently followed Team Rick all the way from Atlanta? Those are some determined walkers! I don't think we really needed to know where they all came from, but I guess the producers thought it necessary to show us. I guess they were worried we'd wonder why hundreds of zombies suddenly showed up at the farm after it had been zombie free for months.

•  A couple episodes back Carl was playing with the zombie that ended up killing Dale. Now we find out that his shooting of Shane is what attracted the zombie herd to the farm (although to be 100% accurate, Shane also fired off a round before he died). There's a lot of blood on that little monster's hands!

• The zombie attack on the farm was definitely the highlight of the season. Everyone was shooting zombies as fast as they could and they just kept coming and coming, like waves crashing on a beach. For once Team Rick had some decent tactics: luring the walkers inside the barn and then lighting them on fire, mowing them down from their moving cars, etc.

• There's no doubt about it: Rick Grimes is Herschel Greene's personal Satan. Before Rick came along, Herschel was living a relatively peaceful life with his family and friends on his magically protected farm. Then Rick and his crew show up, and in short order Otis is killed, Herschel is forced to confront the unpleasant truth about his dead wife and walkers in general, he falls off the wagon, one of Rick's crew encourages Herschel's daughter to slash her wrists, two of the people under his care are killed, he loses his farm... I wouldn't blame him one bit if he picked up a gun and shot Rick right in his sh*t-stirring head.

• Jimmy and Patricia, we hardly knew ye! I was pretty sure most, if not all, of Herschel's redshirt "family" were going to exit the show-- with the exception of Maggie of course. I'm honestly very surprised that Herschel himself survived. I fully expected him to go down with his farm.

Herschel went through quite a transformation throughout the season. When we first meet him he's a quiet and humble scripture-quoting patriarch who honestly believes the walkers are just "sick" and can be cured. By the end of the season he's abandoned that belief and has become a kick-ass action hero. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. Bad Ass Herschel is infinitely more interesting that Peace-Loving Herschel.There's probably a message in there somewhere about how the brutality of the world changes a person or something like that.

• I'd like to know where Herschel bought his Nev-R-Out™ brand infinite round shotgun. He fired off about 57 shots in a row before we finally saw him reload. I freely admit I know little to nothing about firearms, but I'm pretty sure that's not possible.

• Unintentionally hilarious moment: Rick shoots a zombie that's about to attack Herschel and sprays brains all over the back of his silver haired head. It stayed there for the rest of the episode too!

• I was very surprised to see that T-Dog survived this episode, since he's had about 4 lines all season. And why does he keep wanting to go east? They're in Georgia, right? Georgia, the southern state that borders the eastern coast. I guess they could be on the western side of Georgia, but it doesn't seem like they could go too much farther east. Maybe T-Dog thinks they'll be safer with the ocean at their backs. One less direction for walkers to attack.

I was also expecting Carol to be written out since she's the most useless character there is, but that would probably be too obvious. Plus she needs to stick around long enough to tame Daryl.

• So now we know what Dr. Jenner whispered to Rick at the end of Season 1: Everyone's already infected with the zombie virus, just like in the comic. Odd that Rick chose not to tell anyone about it. His reasoning (that Dr. Jenner didn't seem to be playing with a full deck) made a certain amount of sense, but he still should have told the gang and let them make up their own minds about it.

• OK, I was wrong about Randall's group showing up. Really wrong. Boy was I wrong. And I was wrong about Merle being the leader or at least a part of the group. It's just that they talked about this dangerous group so much and made such a big deal out of them that I thought for sure we'd see them. So now I'm altering my prediction: next season we'll finally meet Randall's group and they'll turn out to be a scouting party of the Governor's.

• Wow, Shane must have passed his craziness onto Rick. He definitely seems like he's starting to lose it, telling everyone the group is no longer a democracy. Foreshadowing a confrontation between Rick and the Governor, perhaps

• Then there was the highlight of the episode, and maybe even the whole season: just as Andrea's about to get eaten by a walker, she gets saved by... Michonne! OMG! Pure awesomeness. I think I had a little nerdgasm when she showed up with her sword and her zombie bodyguards. It was an amazing scene ripped straight from the pages of the comic. We didn't even get to see her face and it was still a cool scene.

When reading the comic I was never quite sure how to pronounce her name, if it was Mish-Own or Mish-On. Thanks to The Talking Dead I now have confirmation that her name is indeed pronounced Mish-Own.

• To top it all off, at the end of the episode we get a nice crane shot that reveals... the prison! Just like in the comic! Squeeee! Season 3 is gonna be awesome! It's gonna be a long wait until October. Quick, someone loan me their time machine or put me into an 8 month drug-induced coma!

Now it's time to present my Season 2 awards: 

The Neverending Story Award
The Search For Sophia. It was a boat anchor of a subplot that just would not end. Every week I'd hope they'd find her; not for Carol's sake but for the audience's. It was a grueling storyline to have to sit through, but the writer's redeemed themselves by giving it an amazing ending that more than made up for it.

Worst Hairstyle Award
Shane Walsh and his hillbilly skinhead coiffure.

Runner Up: Carol Peletier and her faux Jamie Lee Curtis man-cut.

Silence Is Golden Award
Theodore Douglas, aka T-Dog, who spent the majority of his time on the farm in the background, uttering about ten sentences all season.

Maybe T-Dog is being silent on purpose. By staying out of the spotlight and laying low he probably gets passed over for a lot of Rick's incredibly dangerous missions. Rick invariably picks the chattier Glenn, so maybe T-Dog's figured out how to hack the system! 

Grossest Zombie Award
It's gotta be the bloated waterlogged zombie trapped in Herschel's well. That thing was just plain nasty. And when it split in half, I thought I would plotz! 

Most Annoying Character Award
Hands down, it's Lori Grimes. From her hot & cold running feelings toward Shane, to her insistence that Andrea should stop guarding the farm and do some laundry instead, she's the one character that most deserves a punch in the throat.  

Best Punch To The Gut Moment
After Team Rick massacres the zombies in the barn and Zombie Sophia slowly shuffles out into the sunlight. What a devastating moment. It made the interminable Search For Sophia plot line worth it. 

Biggest Threat That Never Materialized Award
Randall's mean and ornery gang. A lot of time went into building up this ruthless collection of rapists and serial killers as the ultimate threat against the safety of Team Rick, and then... nothing. My guess is that they're saving them for Season 3, but who knows? 

Dumbest Action By A Character Award
Lori Grimes again, for her decision to take a drive through the zombie infested countryside and then flip her car over a couple of times. Was there a point to that subplot? It went absolutely nowhere, it had no bearing on the storyline and there were zero consequences arising from it. My theory is that that particular episode came up short and they needed a few minutes of filler to pad it out to a 45 minute running time. 

Best Uncomfortable Moment
When Rick and Co. were confronted in the bar by Dave and Tony. A superbly written and acted scene full of almost unbearable tension. You weren't quite sure what those two guys were up to, but it was clear that it was nothing good. 

Worst Diagnosis Ever Award
Herschel Greene, for his bizarre belief that the walkers in his barn are merely sick and can be healed with the right treatment. This despite the fact that most of the walkers are missing parts of their faces or bodies and smell like the rotting corpses they are.  

Best Zombie Kill Of The Season
Wow, there were so many. I think I'd have to go with Rick's Zombie pig pile in "18 Miles Out" when he sticks his gun into a zombie's mouth and shoots through the back of its head to kill one behind it. 

Most Extensive Resume Award
Herschel Greene again! He's a family man, a farmer, a veterinarian who can treat humans like a war medic, a biblical scholar, an ex-alcoholic, philosopher and a crack marksman!

Runner up: Otis. Ranch hand, Emergency Medical Technician, hunter, beloved husband, zombie wrangler and guitar player.

It's gonna be a long hard wait for Season 3!

Soup For None

One of my favorite foods is Vietnamese Pho. Pho (pronounced "fuh"), for any philistines out there, is sort of the national dish of Vietnam and is a noodle soup containing beef or chicken along with basil, mint leaves, lime and other assorted vegetables and spices. It's awesome and I could eat a gallon of it right now.

A couple of weeks ago I was in the local Asian grocery and found some pho soup base mix. Hungry for a good bowl of pho, I bought a jar.

I couldn't wait to try it and started cooking it as soon as I got home. First I dumped some fresh chicken and vegetables in a large pot, according to the instructions on the jar. It then said to empty the entire contents of the jar (which was slightly smaller than the average coffee mug) into the pot and add water. It seemed a bit odd to use the entire jar at once, but as I squinted at the instructions with my glasses-less eyes, I was sure that that's what it said.

I cooked the pho for the recommended time. The kitchen was filled with the unmistakable and wonderful smell of fresh basil leaves. When it was finally done I poured the soup into a bowl, sat down and ate a big spoonful.

And immediately did an impressive spit take.

Something was wrong somewhere. The soup tasted not unlike the salty armpits of Zeus after a sweaty day of hurling lightning bolts at unbelievers. It tasted less like traditional pho and more like a liquified salt lick. It was like I poured a couple spoonfuls of water into a large box of Morton's salt and tried to eat it.

It obviously wasn't fit for consumption but I was reluctant to throw it out because A. the jar of mix wasn't cheap, clocking in at around $7 and B. I was hungry. I did my best to choke down a bowl, but I only got about halfway through it before I had to throw in the towel.

I dug the jar out of the trash and reread the instructions, THIS time wearing my glasses. I saw now that it did not in fact say to dump the entire contents into the pot, but rather to pour TWO teaspoons full into it. One jar of the mix made 20 servings (!). I just ate 20 servings concentrated down into one bowl! I'm lucky I didn't have a sodium-induced stroke.

There was nothing for it at that point, so I grabbed the pot, opened the back door and heaved the vile concoction into the back yard.

Cut to this past weekend when I was mowing the lawn for the first time this Spring. I noticed a large brown patch of dead grass near the back door of my house, next to the air conditioner. That's it in the photo above; it's hard to tell but it's a good two feet wide. I stood there scratching my head for a minute, wondering what happened to render the lawn lifeless in this spot. A particularly large dog relieving himself? A tiny UFO attempting to burn a crop circle in my back yard?

Nope! It was the pho I threw out the back a couple of weeks before! Apparently my poisonous soup was so toxic it killed the grass where it landed. And it's still dead!

Let that be a lesson to you, kids. Always wear your spectacles when you're readin' a recipe, lest you poison your family.

Out Of Context Star Trek Moment #9

video 
I've been an avid Star Trek fan for many decades, but even I have to admit that certain episodes could get a little silly now and then, especially when viewed out of context.

So sit back and enjoy this totally Out Of Context Star Trek Moment.

Today's Moment comes from the Star Trek:Deep Space Nine first season episode "Move Along Home." This is the first time I've featured DS9 and also the first time I've used a video clip. 

DS9 had a darker and more somber tone than most of the other Trek series, but every now and then a ridiculous scene would slip through the cracks. Like this one, for example. Lean in close to the screen and enjoy this jaw-dropping video of the DS9 crew playing hopscotch with a little alien girl.

My favorite part of this clip: seeing galactic douche bag Dr. Julian Bashir plow nose first into a force field.

By the way, Commander Sisko (the black gentlemen) is played by actor Avery Brooks, who hails from my city of Evansville, Indiana. After seeing the scene above the whole darn city can barely contain their pride.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Walking Dead Season 2, Episode 12: Better Angels

The housecleaning continues on The Walking Dead! Housecleaning of the cast, that is. Only one more episode left in Season 2.

Once again, BIG HONKIN' SPOILERS BELOW!!!

• Loved the opening scene with the group takin' care of zombies intercut with Dale's funeral. Take that zombies! Bet you won't be killin' Dale again, will you?

• Hooray! T-Dog not only showed up for the second week in a row, but he actually had a couple of lines! Don't start celebrating just yet though, T-Dog fans. I have a nagging feeling this was just to remind us all that he exists so when he's killed off next week we won't all think, "Who the hell was that guy?"

• Carl wore his Science Dog t-shirt again, just like in the comic! A nice shout-out to Invincible, one of the other twenty or so monthly comics written by creator Robert Kirkman. I need to find me one of those shirts.

• Randall's description of his group only reinforces my belief that we're going to meet them next week. They've talked about this group way too much to just drop them sight unseen. It's foreshadowing, I tell you! And I still believe this group will be led by Merle Dixon. If not led by him, then he will at least be a member of it.

Of course I'm gonna look really stupid next week when none of this comes to pass and I'm wrong yet again.

•  It's a moot point now, but I still don't understand why Rick thinks that driving Randall an hour away and releasing him means they'd never see him again. Randall's from the area. Even if he was dropped off 100 miles away, all he'd have to do is look at the address on a letter in someone's mailbox to find out what town he was in, then find a road atlas and boom, he could find his way back to the farm.

• It's been a long time coming, but Shane finally went all Travis Bickell on us, didn't he? I can't say I was surprised by Shane's demise. He was killed very early on in the comic, in issue #6. He's been living on borrowed time on the series all season and I knew he'd eventually be killed off.

Then a few weeks ago the news hit the interwebs that John Bernthal, the actor who plays Shane, had signed up with another series. Most everyone logically interpreted that news as meaning that Shane would be leaving The Walking Dead. Robert Kirkman tried to do some damage control by saying that because of the way cable series are scheduled, it was entirely possible for an actor to be on two different series at once. I knew that was a load of banana oil though, and I was right.

I think it would have been better if they'd given us some space between Dale's and Shane's deaths. Dale's death last week was truly a shocker and in my opinion took the wind out of Shane's swan song.

The Rick vs. Shane scene followed the comic book version somewhat closely, with a few changes. In the comic Shane, driven mad by jealousy, lured Rick into the forest with the intent to kill him. Right as he was about to pull the trigger, he was shot through the neck by Carl.

So why the change? Why have TV Rick stab Shane and then have Carl shoot Zombie Shane? I suppose it was more dramatic for Rick to be forced to kill his best friend, and then we could have the "Rick Thinks Carl's Going To Shoot Him But He's Really Shooting At Zombie Shane" scene.

• OK, we now have proof positive that TV zombieism works the same as comic book zombieism. ANYONE who dies from ANY cause will turn into a zombie (or a walker, or a roamer or whatever the hell you want to call them). You don't have to be bitten by a zombie to turn, but of course it helps. This was a big revelation in the comic as the characters realized that no matter what they did, they were all destined to become the walking dead.

Is this the big secret that Dr. Jenner whispered into Rick's ear way back at the end of last season? It's kind of looking that way, but if so, why didn't Rick say anything about it to anyone? Maybe Dr. Jenner said something like, "We are all the walking dead" and Rick didn't understand what the heck he was talking about until now?

• Be sure to tune in for next week's season finale and watch Herschel's entire redshirt family (except for Maggie) get eaten. And probably Herschel as well. Then we can finally get off of the magic zombie proof farm.

• Looking forward to Season 3 (which probably won't start until sometime next year!) and the introduction of Michonne!

Flushed With Pride

There are several important milestones in a person's life. The day you buy your first car. The day you buy your first television set. The unforgettable day you buy your first house.

This past weekend I reached another milestone: For the first time in my life I bought a new toilet seat. Ah, the joys of home ownership.

I ended up having to go to the home improvement store twice; the first time I went I didn't realize there was more than one size of toilet seat. Never having thought about them all that much, I naturally assumed that all toilets are the same standard size. Silly me. There are round ones and oval ones and they come in a variety of widths. I had no idea what kind I needed. I ain't exactly in a position to study my toilet seat when I'm using it, so I never noticed its dimensions before. I had to go home and measure it and go back for one the next day.

For the record I bought a plain white seat to match my plain white toilet. I decided not to go with the camouflage model or the transparent Lucite one with coins inexplicably imbedded in the rim.

It was quite a momentous occasion, buying a new toilet seat, one that I savored as I doubt I will ever have cause to buy another. I can't imagine anyone ever having to buy more than one of them in their lifetime. Two at the absolute most. If you're wearing them out that fast then you're using them wrong.

Look, Up In The Sky! It's A Bird! It's A Plane! It's A Venus/Jupiter Alignment!

If you can, try to pry yourself away from the computer screen on the evening of March 13 and take a gander outside (that is, take a look outside, don't actually take a male goose out into the yard). If you gaze to the west just after sunset, you'll see something rare and beautiful: the alignment of the planets Venus and Jupiter.

There'll be no mistaking them, as they'll be the brightest (and probably only) objects visible in the sky at that time. On the 13th the two planets will appear just three degrees apart, which means nothing whatsoever to me but appears to be some kind of unit of sky measurement that's got scientist all excited. It's an uncommon sight that won't be repeated until 2036, which is too bad since the world's ending later this year and no one will be around to see it.

Venus of course was named after the Roman Goddess of Love, which is fitting for a planet who's temperature is a scalding 872 degrees and is covered by clouds of sulfuric acid. Jupiter is famous as being the largest planet in the solar system and possesses a gargantuan red cold sore on its lower equator.

Don't fret if you miss the show tonight; the two planets will still be unnaturally close all through the month.

The Past Ain't What It Used To Be

Last weekend I went to a flea market mall here in town. You know, the kind that has dozens of individually owned booths inside. This is the largest such place I've ever seen, as it's located in what was once a large, two storey department store.

Time was when I went to flea markets I'd see items mostly from the 1960s and 1970s, with an occasional helping of 1980s ephemera. Things that would make you say, "Hey, I remember that! I haven't thought about those things in years!" Dried up Lava Lamps and Six Million Dollar Man lunchboxes; things like that.

Not any more. It's been years since I've found a decent Tiki mug at a flea market. These days when I go to one everything there is from the recent past. And I do mean recent. On this particular visit I saw wheelbarrows full of Hanna Montana items, dozens of High School Musical DVDs and about a metric ton of Silly Bandz. That stuff all came out in the past couple of years. Even less in the case of the Silly Bandz.

I assume this is a side effect of the public's gradually diminishing attention span. It used to take a year or more for a fad to burn itself out. Now thanks to the internet, today's hot new sensation becomes old news in a month or less. Soon fads will be popping up and going out of style in the same day.

Since it's destined to end up there anyway, maybe the manufacturers of all this crap should cut out the middle man and just deliver it from their factories straight to the flea market!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Walking Dead Season 2: Episode 11: Judge, Jury And Executioner

Just a warning to everyone reading: this is a pivotal episode with a shocking ending, so if you haven't yet seen it, go watch it and then come back. You've been warned.

BIG HONKIN' SPOILERS BELOW!!!

Wow, now that was a shocking ending! In the comic book Dale died a couple of years ago, but I didn't think TV Dale would put down so soon.Now who's gonna be the moral center and voice of reason of the group?

I knew something was up at the end when Rick decided not to shoot Randall and Andrea said, "I'll go tell Dale." Something about the way she said it told me this was Dale's last show.

Jeffrey Demunn, the actor who plays (or I guess, played) Dale, has been in many of producer Frank Darabont's films. Darabont was unceremoniously dumped from the show by AMC last year. Some fans are speculating that Dale's demise may be related to Darabont's firing. Who knows. I don't work at AMC.

• According to Dale, Andrea used to be a civil liberties lawyer. Really? That's probably the last profession I would have guessed. She must not have been very passionate about her job. I would think a civil liberty lawyer would be a bit more compassionate and on the liberal side. Andrea seems to have no problem picking up a gun and shooting anything that comes near the camp. She's even been siding with Shane and conspiring with him to overthrow Rick as leader. In fact it's not until the very last minute she tentatively agrees with Dale to not kill Randall. Not the typical attitudes I'd expect from someone in her profession. I guess the end of the world probably changes your priorities.

• I never noticed the "SS" symbol on Darryl's chopper before.Interesting.

This has absolutely nothing to do with the show, but I've always wondered why motorcycle gangs often sport swastikas and other Nazi symbols on their clothing and bikes. Do they do it to shock the general public? Do they agree with the Nazi's views on racial purity? If so, it's a misguided admiration. The Nazis were a highly organized and disciplined force- a far cry from the chaos and anarchy of bikers. Plus there's no way true German Nazis would have tolerated a fringe group like a motorcycle gang. I just don't get the connection.

• Shane was quite restrained in this episode. In fact he was very nearly a voice of reason. I guess Rick's "talk" with him last week settled him down. I don't see it lasting long though.

• Lori managed not to annoy me this week. That means she'll be twice as annoying next week.

• I liked the scene between Glenn and Herschel. Unfortunately on this show, scenes like this generally occur shortly before a character's demise. I don't see much of a future for poor Herschel though.
Plus if Herschel's gone, that'll leave Maggie free to join Team Rick and run off with Glenn, just like in the comic.

• I would have pegged "Herschel Greene" as a Jewish name rahter  than Irish.

• When Carl found the zombie stuck in the mud and started playing around with it, I was going to nominate him for the Stupid Character of the Week award. But as I thought about it some more I realized it's exactly the type of thing a kid would do. Kids are fascinated by dead and gross things. What kid wouldn't play with a zombie if he ever found one? So kudos to the writers for depicting Carl as a realistic kid.

The writers did a good job of handling Carl in this episode. He's starting to show the early signs of becoming a cold and twisted little psychopath, which is probably what would happen to a kid growing up in a world like this. The adults still have the memory of civilization to keep them in check, but for Carl, this insane, lawless life is all he knows.

• During the voting scene T-Dog showed up to remind us all that he exists. I honest to god forgot he was on the show. It's plain to see that the writers have absolutely no idea what to do with this character. He's got potential, as witnessed by several nice scenes he had with Dale early on in the season. Too bad he's being wasted.

• In the comic Dale's last name was Horvath. I don't think it's ever been mentioned on the show. If it has I don't remember it.

For the curious, Comic Dale had quite a different fate from TV Dale. After the group began living in an abandoned prison for a time, Dale was bitten in the leg by a zombie. Rick amputated Dale's leg to save his life. Later Dale and Andrea hooked up, but Dale had trouble believing she could ever love an old man like him. During a later attack Dale was bitten once again by a zombie and secretly left the group so as not to cause them harm when he died and became one of the undead. He was captured by a group of cannibalistic humans who removed his remaining leg and ate it. Dale found the fact that the cannibals were eating his tainted flesh to be darkly humorous. The cannibals returned Dale to the group as a warning to them. Dale eventually died in Andrea';s arms. She then shot him in the head before he could turn and come back.

• I think this is the first time we've been shown that a zombie's hands are just as dangerous as its teeth.

• Last week Mopey Blionde Girl said she didn't see any point in living in this zombie filled world. She said no matter how hard they fought to survive, ultimately they were going to end up dying. Dale's death probably isn't going to help convince her she was wrong...

• OK, so far most of my predictions about this show have been spectacularly wrong, but that doesn't stop me from making them. 

So here's my new theory: during Daryl's "interrogation," Randall reveals he's from a group of 30 guys with heavy artillery. He also speaks of seeing members of the group raping a couple of teenage girls and forcing their father to watch. These are not nice people. So what if their leader is... Merle Dixon? 

At first I thought Merle would return as the TV version of the Governor. With the recent news that actor David Morrissey is being cast in the role next season, that theory was out. So how else could they have Merle return?

I believe he'll return as the leader of this outlaw group. I have a bad feeling Merle will find the farm and it's gonna be a massacre. Merle's got a bone to pick with Rick. And he's probably not going to be happy with the way they've treated Randall. And Daryl will have to decide whose side he's on: Team Rick or his brother's.

There's only two episodes left in the season, so we'll find out if I'm right soon.

RIP Ralph McQuarrie

I was saddened to hear of the recent death of artist and illustrator Ralph McQuarrie. He wasn't a household name to the public at large, but to Star Wars fans he was nothing less than a legend.

Back in the 1970s when George Lucas was trying to sell a little space opera script he'd written, studio after studio turned him down. His story was full of robots and aliens and people with weird names and was simply beyond the comprehension of studio executives. Then as now, Lucas had all the charisma and personality of a damp sponge and just wasn't able to convey the adventure, granduer and sense of wonder of Star Wars to the suits.

In desperation Lucas turned to illustrator Ralph McQuarrie, who had worked as a technical illustrator for Boeing. Lucas commissioned McQuarrie to produce a series of pre-production paintings to illustrate key scenes from the film. McQuarrie easily grasped what Lucas was trying to do and produced a beautiful series of paintings.

Finally the studio honchos had something tangible to go on and immediately green lit the script. There is no absolutely no doubt that without Ralph McQuarrie, there would be no Star Wars.

As you can see from his paintings, McQuarrie had a HUGE influence on the look of the film. He designed the look of the droids, the ships, the landscapes, and even Darth Vader himself. His contribution and importance to the Star Wars universe cannot be overstated.

In 1977 Ballantine Books published The Star Wars Portfolio, a series of prints of twenty of McQuarriie's pre-production paintings from the film. It cost all of $7.95, which was quite a princely sum back then. I bought a copy and hung all the prints on the walls of my room. Other kids had posters of Kiss and AC/DC adorning their walls; I had Ralph McQuarrie prints.

I spent countless hours staring at his paintings,studying them in minute detail and trying to figure out how he'd done them. His designs, his colors and above all his sense of composition spoke to me the way no artist's work had ever done before, or since. I stared at them so much that each and every brush stroke is permanently seared into my brain. Long after dementia causes me to forget my own name I will still remember these paintings.

McQuarrie also dida series of production paintings for The Empire Strikes Back, which were just as impressive, if not more.

His image of the Cloud City of Bespin is my all time favorite painting- not just of his, but of any artist. In fact, more often then not when I'm illustrating something in Photoshop, my first instinct is to give it a reddish-yellow background just like this one. Could this painting be subconsciously influencing my choice of color?

Scoff if you like, but I truly believe his work belongs in an art gallery or museum.

McQuarrie also produced production paintings for the original Battlestar Galactica, Cocoon, E.T. and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

His art has had a huge and lasting influence on me and no doubt inspired me to become an artist. I probably wouldn't be a graphic designer and illustrator today if not for Ralph McQuarrie. His talent and sense of design will be missed.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

February Journal Doodles

I have this journal (it's not a diary!) that contains calendar pages at the beginning of every month. I live a simple life here at Bob Canada's BlogWorld and have no real use for the calendar, so I fill up each day's box with a doodle.

Enjoy the February doodles!

By the way, if the powers that be are going to insist on cramming an extra day into the calendar every four years, then I think we should all get that day off. If you're an hourly worker then you come out OK-- you just got an extra day's pay this year. If you're a salary worker like me though, you just donated a day of your life to your company without pay!

Out Of Context Star Trek Moment #8

I've been an avid Star Trek fan for many decades, but even I have to admit that certain episodes could get a little silly now and then, especially when viewed out of context.

So sit back and enjoy this totally Out Of Context Star Trek Moment.

It's Talent Night on the Enterprise, and Spock is treating the crew to an interpretive dance. He we see him dancing the concept that we're all just puppets on strings, our lives controlled by a vast and uncaring universe. His performance was so powerful that even Dr. McCoy was seen dabbing his eyes with his handkerchief.

Once again this scene is from the third season episode Plato's Stepchildren, which is an absolute goldmine of bizarre out of context moments. In the episode a group of telekinetic aliens force Spock to do an energetic flamenco dance just inches from the prone Captain Kirk's fragile skull.

How a group of aliens who hadn't had contact with Earth for 3,000 years could possibly be familiar with flamenco dancing was was not explained.

While you're pondering that, enjoy these photos of Spock trying to stomp on William Shatner's head.

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