Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Schmoikel Saturnburg

What's that device that Schmoikel has in his hands? Is it some sort of multi-dimensional sensing device? A detonator for an antimatter bomb? Or maybe it's just his cell phone.

By the way, in the unlikely event I ever have a son, I am so naming him "Schmoikel." I can't think of a cooler name.

Schmoikel was drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.


Here's the original sketch of Schmoikel.

I'm A Grown Man And I Bought This: Doctor Who The Astronaut and Silents Figures

I first started buying Doctor Who action figures around 2007. The original plan was to buy the Tenth Doctor and Rose and maybe a Dalek and that's it. You can probably guess how that turned out, five years and several hundred figures later. Sorry wallet. Sucks to be you!

These are my newest Doctor Who acquisitions: The Astronaut and the Silents (or if your prefer, the Silence) from the season 6 episode The Impossible Astronaut.

These three figures are actually rereleases as they were all previously produced last year. I bought the original versions, but decided to pull the trigger and buy these as well. Normally I don't care for rereleased/repaint figures; it's a cheap ploy by the toy company to get some more mileage out of their molds and squeeze a little more cash from their customers. But in this case the redo figures were different enough that I didn't mind acting like Waylon Smithers squealing over Malibu Stacy's new hat and buying them again.

 
First up is the Astronaut. It's a standard NASA spacesuited figure, circa 1969. In the episode the Doctor and his crew are picnicking along the shore of Lake Silencio (I see what you did there, Doctor Who writers) in Utah. Suddenly a mysterious Astronaut rises from the lake and after revealing its identity to the Doctor, kills him in front of his friends. Don't worry, he got better.

The figure's a good hefty hunk of plastic and stands up fairly well despite the heavy pack on its back (if you're a regular reader of my blog, as millions are, you'll know that action figures that can't stand under their own power is a big pet peeve of mine). 

The detail on the suit is a little soft and could have been a bit sharper. There are a couple of mission patches on each side of the chest that are nothing more than blank circles. Would it have killed them to print a tiny authentic image on the patches, say of an eagle landing on the moon? Apparently so. The patches are multi-colored so it's obviously technically possible.

The Astronaut comes with zero accessories. Again, would it have killed them to include a green lightning bolt to attach to its hand? I guess I could always borrow one from one of the Silents (which I will get to in a moment, keep yer pants on) but still.

Aside from those minor complaints, it's a nice looking figure.


It's also surprisingly articulated for such a seemingly clunky figure, as you can see here where it's trying to recreate Burt Reynolds infamous 1970s nude photo. In fact it's far more articulated than some of the previous figures of the Doctor!

WARNING! SPOILER AHEAD!
Try not to look at the next three photos if you haven't seen the episode! You've been warned!












 
The Astronaut features a flip up visor, which reveals the identity of the assassin inside, who is none other than Professor River Song, everyone's favorite time traveling archeologist, former hit (wo)man and future wife of the Doctor. It's a long story that would take way too much typing to explain, so just go with it and don't ask questions.

It's a pretty good likeness of actress Alex Kingston, which stands to reason since they've sculpted her at least three times before. To my rapidly fading eyesight the face looks identical to the River Song figure that came with the Pandorica chair, but the hair looks completely new. 


As I said earlier this is actually the second Astronaut figure they've released. As near as I can tell the two figures are identical. Well, almost.


The first Astronaut figure featured the face of young River Song beneath the helmet. Now you see why I went ahead and bought both figures; so I'd have the two versions of the character as seen on the show.

Don't ask me how a little girl can fit inside an adult sized suit and still be able to walk around in it. The episode had some technobabble excuse, but again it would take too much typing effort to explain. When you're watching Doctor Who it's often best to just go along with things.


Next up are the Silents figures. The Silence (which is the plural form of the name) are aliens who have been secretly infiltrating Earth for centuries. They have the perfect defense mechanism: you're only aware of them while you're looking directly at them. Once you turn away you instantly forget they ever existed. That means one could be standing in the room with you right now and you'd never know it as long as you weren't looking at it.

The design of the Silence is very obviously based on Edvard Munch's The Scream, which I guess would qualify as ironic (I hope you're taking notes, Alanis Morissette). Their natty suits are also supposed to evoke images of the men in black from UFO lore.

As you can see above, there are two different Silent figures; one without a mouth and one with. Normally the Silents appear to not have a mouth at all, but when they attack a gaping maw appears in their face as they suck the life force from your body.


The figures are sculpted well and appear to be identical except for the heads. The suits aren't smooth, they feature an odd rough texture that indicates they're probably not supposed to be made of Earthly seersucker cloth. Both Silents are taller than normal figures, to reflect their towering stature in the episode. Both figures are reasonably well articulated too.

Both versions of the Silence come with two accessories each; blue translucent energy bolts that can be slipped over their fingers. They actually stay on the hands fairly well. Why they couldn't have included one of these bolts with the Astronaut figure, I have no idea. I would just go ahead and use one of the bolts with my Astronaut, but I don't think it would fit over its clunky glove.


Here's the same shot with a little Photoshop glow added/*
*Caution! Energy bolts do not actually glow. When I was a kid the boxes my toys came in always said stuff like that, and I always wanted to say it. So now I said it. Move along.


Like the Astronaut, this is actually the second time they've made the Silence figures. The first versions are the flesh colored ones on the right. Their skin tone is closer to that in the actual episode. The first versions didn't come with the energy bolt accessories, so that's why I went ahead and bought the new versions. There were dozens of them in the episode, so you can't have too many Silents! I'm not sure why the new versions have grey skin. Maybe to tie in with grey aliens? Or maybe the factory just ran out of flesh colored paint.

Remote Possibility

Last week Eugene Polley, inventor of the TV remote control, died at age 96. Millions of immobile Americans mourn his loss. His simple invention changed the way we watch TV forever.

I grew up in the era when families had only one TV (an American-made Zenith, natch) and no one had a remote. They existed of course, but they were considered luxuries back then, something only those showoffs in the fancy part of town owned.

Actually our household did have a remote control-- me. Most days my Dad would lie on the couch and make me crouch in front of the TV and turn the channel dial (no pushbutton controls back then!) repeatedly until he found something he wanted to watch. We only had a total of three stations to choose from in those days; four if the atmospheric conditions were right and we could pick up Channel 4 in Indianapolis, some 70 miles away. I would stand there for hours cycling through the three channels over and over until I finally landed on something Dad deemed acceptable to watch. Why he thought there would be something different on Channel 10 eight seconds later than the last time he saw it, I have no idea.

Eventually the constant search for quality programming took its toll on our trusty set and the channel dial broke, twisting off in my hand. Resourceful chap that he is, Dad got a pair of pliers out of his tool box and simply used them to turn what remained of the dial. These pliers were retired from general duty and became the "TV pliers," forever kept on top of the set for easy access.

In addition to my channel changing duties, I was also responsible for volume control, picture quality and vertical hold.

My grandmother had a much more elegant solution for her remotelessness at her house. She'd simply plop down in her easy chair and watch Channel 10 non-stop for months without ever once touching the dial. Then when she started noticing reruns cropping up, she'd finally hoist herself from her chair, walk slowly over to the set and change the dial to Channel 2. She'd then proceed to watch it non-stop for the second half of the year. Lather, rinse, repeat.

We didn't have cable TV back then either, as it wasn't offered in our rural area. Once again it did exist, but only in very limited areas. It was most definitely a luxury item, like chauffeurs and polo lessons. It was quite a different animal back in those days, consisting mostly of local and public access programming rather than the endless barrage of mindless pablum it is today. 

No, back in the day we relied on over the air broadcasts, picked up by our trusty rooftop TV antenna. If you've never grown up in a house with an antenna, they were usually motorized and had a clunky control box that sat atop your TV. If your reception was less than optimal you turned the antenna until the picture came in sharp and clear. I wasn't just the channel changer, I also acted as Dad's antenna tuner. I spent many hours turning the antenna while he carefully scrutinized the screen, ready to tell me to stop the instant the picture came in at its best. He'd say, "Keep going, keep going... keep going... OK STOP!! STOP!! OK, you went too far! Go back... back... THERE! STOP!!!

You would think that once the antenna was pointed in just the right direction that you wouldn't ever have to mess with it again. You would be wrong. Just because the picture looked best when the antenna was pointed at 128ยบ on Tuesday didn't necessarily mean it would look good again on Wednesday, forcing you to turn it to find the sweet spot yet again. But just because you finally got the station tuned in properly, you were't finished! Once the reception on Channel 10 was at its best, Channel 2 would then be a snowy mess, prompting you to have to adjust the antenna for it as well. Yes, it was a golden age.

We had the same black and white Zenith set for many years until we finally got our first color set sometime in the early 1970s. Back then the technology was still in its infancy and there was apparently great difficulty in displaying realistic skin tones. Everyone we knew was constantly adjusting the color and hue knobs on their sets in the quest for the perfect setting. It was a big topic of conversation as well. People would tisk and cluck, "Did you see the faces on the Johnston's TV set? Everyone was green! How can they watch TV like that?" None of that for us though! In our household everyone on TV had glowing ruddy orange complexions, the kind you'd imagine inhabitants of the planet Mercury would have. The oranger the better!

Vertical hold was also apparently a big problem back then, a problem which doesn't seem to affect modern sets. Back then the image on your TV would suddenly and without warning start scrolling vertically up or down, forcing you to run over to the set and start twisting the vertical hold knob to stabilize it. Why this happened so often, I have no idea. We had some neighbors whose TV set was permanently locked into vertical scroll mode, the picture constantly crawling up the screen. Occasionally the scrolling would stop and you'd see the actors' heads on the bottom half of the screen while their feet hovered at the top. Apparently this had been going on for so long in their household that they no longer noticed it, until they saw our heads nodding up and down in an effort to keep up with the picture.

There were no onscreen channel listings back in those days, so if we wanted to know what was on we had to consult the TV Guide magazine. In our household the TV Guide was held with the same regard and reverence that the Bible is in more religious homes. Especially by my Dad. Every week Mom would bring home the groceries and the first thing Dad would do was root through the bags for the TV Guide so that he could start planning the next week's viewing.

The Guide was kept in the magazine rack by Dad's easy chair. The rack was sort of a holy reliquary for the Guide, and God forbid it should ever be moved from it. Occasionally the Guide would go missing, which would cause much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments by Dad. All other activity would then come to a halt and the entire household would be turned upside down until it was found again. Homework could wait, the TV Guide was missing!

Eventually the TV Guide went missing once too often, and Dad actually started tying it to the magazine rack each week, so that it would always be within reach at a second's notice. That's the kind of story that usually makes your therapist's eyes light up when you confess it, as he begins fantasizing about a larger cabin cruiser.

There were no DVRs back in those dark times either. "Appointment Television" was a very real thing and just business as usual. If you wanted to watch a show, you had to be home plopped in front of your set in order to see it. None of this "watch it later when it's convenient for you" jazz like they have nowadays. Many's the time we'd be downtown at Zayres or Topps (two very extinct examples of Departmentus Retailerus) and I'd be perusing the toy aisle, when my parents would suddenly appear, grab me by the arm and frantically yelp, "C'mon, get in the car! It's 7:50 and Rat Patrol starts at 8!" Dad would then take us on a French Connection-like thrill ride through town, going around corners on two wheels in a desperate attempt to make it home before the opening credits started.

Don't chuckle too loudly at the primitive technology we used to watch TV back in the day though. The day will come when viewers, floating serenely in their sterile Enviro-Chambers, are hooked up directly to their 3D Holosets and will change the channel with but a mere thought or blink of the eye, and they'll smile patronizingly at the memory of us with our 70 inch 1080p liquid crystal display sets.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

It Came From The Chinese Grocery: Tako Chips

I was browsing in the local Chinese grocery the other day (the good one, not that other one) and came upon these: Nong Shim TaKo Chips.

Note that these aren't the tako chips you're probably used to: for one thing they're spelled differently and for another, they're Octopus Flavored. You heard me, I said Octopus Flavored. I have to assume their slogan is "More tentacles means more flavor!" I'm also assuming that "Nong Shim" translates to, "Oh dear lord, why?"

Seeing the "Octopus Flavored" on the bag sealed the deal for me; how could I not buy them after that? How often do you see something like that printed on a bag of chips?


I got them home and after taking a couple of beauty shots of the bag for blogsterity, I tentatively opened it. I expected a wave of visible cartoon stink lines to emanate from the top of the bag, or to at least hear a chorus of alley cats wailing outside the window, looking for the source of the briny stench, but was disappointed on both counts. There wasn't any discernible smell.

The chips themselves are fish shaped, which was a bit of a let down. Would it have killed them to invent and construct an extruding machine capable of producing a chip with eight separate and distinct tentacles? Shoddy.

But I know you, you want to know how they taste, amiright? I tentatively tried a couple of chips and... surprisingly they're not bad. I was expecting them to taste like a mouth full of old fish heads that'd been setting in the sun all day, but they were reasonably tasty. In fact they tasted a lot like Bugles. Well, sort of. Imagine if you'd been fishing in your row boat all day since 6 a.m. and without washing your fish scale-covered hands, you reached into a bag of Bugles, grabbed a fist full and crammed them into your mouth. That's pretty much what they tasted like.

There was just a slight hint of fishy flavor. Nothing overpowering, thank goodness. Just a subtle impression; nothing that screamed "savory cephalapod."

For the record I've eaten real octopus before. I tried it when I visited China. It was OK, if you like eating pencil erasers.

So will I buy Octopus Flavored Tako Chips again? Probably not. They were far from the worst thing I've ever eaten; that honor goes to canned hominy (remind me to tell you about that some day). I'm just not a big fan of seafood, especially when if comes to salty snacks. I'm more of a BBQ flavor kind of guy. Sour cream, if I'm feeling adventurous.

Happy Birthday, Christopher Lee!

May 27 was the birthday of one of my favorite actors, Sir Christopher Lee. He turned 90 years old this year and is still going strong.

Lee's career has spanned decades, and he's starred in 275 films since 1946, making him the Guinness World Record holder for most film acting roles!

He's played everything from the monsters to Sherlock Holmes to Bond villain. He was of course Saruman in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and his Count Dooku, silly name aside, was one of the few highlights of the Star Wars prequels.

His most famous and iconic role is no doubt Hammer Studio's Count Dracula, which he played eight times. In Dracula: Prince of Darkness, he reportedly thought the dialogue was so bad that he refused to speak it on camera, instead spending the entire film hissing and glaring (to great effect, I might add).

Lee wanted to quit the Dracula films after the second one, but according to him the producers "emotionally blackmailed" him, telling him how many people would be put out of work if he didn't agree to star in the films. He would eventually relent and show up each time. His blackmailing was our gain, I suppose.

I can't think of any other actor who's played three of my all time favorite iconic movie monsters. If only he could have squeezed a werewolf and a gill man in there while he was with Hammer... (Note: I'm aware that he was in the werewolf film The Howling II, but that was far from an iconic role).

Lee is also a war hero, speaks eight different languages and is an accomplished singer. Geez, I feel productive if I do the dishes AND take out the trash all in the same day.

When Peter Jackson began filming The Hobbit this year, Lee desperately wanted to reprise his role of Saruman in the two films, but didn't think he could make the long and arduous flight to New Zealand at his age (as someone who spent 27 hours in a plane getting to China, I can sympathize). Peter Jackson apparently wanted him in the film just as badly, so he took a film crew to England and shot all of Lee's scenes there! Cool!

He's also the only Lord of the Rings cast member who actually met J.R.R. Toklein, was on Wing's Band On The Run album cover, and even hosted Saturday Night Live!

I'm worn out just reading his bio! And I haven't even mentioned that he's a British Knight, is descended from Italian nobility and has been married to a model since 1961. Here's to another 90 years!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Wonder Blog Powers, Activate!

To be read in Ted Knight's pompous baritone:

"Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice, Batman makes an amazing discovery!"

Yeah, that's right, biatches. I visited the freakin' Hall of Justice, where Superman and Aquaman hang out. And I bet you thought it was in New York City or probably Los Angeles, or maybe Vancouver because of the tax breaks. Nope, it's in downtown Louisville, practically right in my backyard. Tremble before me, mortals!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Drug Names That Sound Like Volcabulary Words

It must be tough for Big Pharma companies to come up with a name for a new drug. Most of the time they can't use the actual scientific name because it's too long and hard to pronounce, as well as meaningless. For example, would Viagra have been as successful if they'd called it by its real name of sildenafil citrate? Eh, OK, bad example. People would still buy Viagra if it was called Hitlerific Schlonger-uppers. 

For most drugs though they need a catchier name. One that vaguely suggests its effects but doesn't mean anything embarrassing in a foreign language. They spend millions coming up with such names. In some cases, they needed to spend a million more. 

Here are Thirteen Drug Names That Sound Like Vocabulary Words (note: these are all honest-to-god actual names of real drugs).

Abilify
verb. 
To slander or persecute. 
"The conservative townspeople abilified the young unwed mother."

Ambien
noun.
A unit of mood light measurement in 1970s era bachelor pads.

Sectral
abbr.
The name of an evil organization that has frequent clashes with suave British super spies.

Cataflam 
interjection.
Something the early Jerry Lewis used to bleat out in his movies.
"Oy, Mr. Lady, please stop with the hitting and the hurting and the cataflam!"

Singulair
noun.
The thing found at the center of a black hole, from which not even light can escape.

Celebrex 
noun.
One of the Elven leaders in The Lord of the Rings.

Simcor
abbr.
A huge, evil corporation that makes unstable artificial humanoids that accompany the crews of deep space missions.

Skelaxin 
slang.
How a skeleton rap star spends a quiet evening at home.

Cisapride
noun.
The kind of parade they don't like these days in North Carolina.

Soma
Are you F-ing kidding me? Someone actually named a real world drug "Soma?" (see Brave New World)

Clobazam
interjection.
Magic word a weak and sickly doctor exclaims to transform himself into a god-like, brawny superhero.

Spiriva
noun.
A horrifying type of spirochete contracted through intercourse. 
"I'm sorry Mr. Jenkins, but I'm afraid your test results indicate you've contracted spiriva."

Clomid
adjective.
Atmospheric condition resulting in uncomfortable sleeping weather. 
"Man, I couldn't sleep a wink last night. The whole house was really clomid."

You Got MichONNED! (Hey, You Try Coming Up With 25 Titles A Month!)

This week in Walking Dead news: Our first good look at Danai Gurira as fan favorite character Michonne!

Yeah, we got a quick glimpse of her in the second season finale, but this is the first time we've got a full, unobstructed view. I must say, she looks pretty darn bad-ass, and looks like she stepped right out of the pages of the comic.

I can't wait for Season 3!

What A Hoot!

In the news this week, British wildlife sanctuaries are being flooded with unwanted pet owls. It seems that at the height of Harry Potter mania, lots of people rushed out and bought freakin' owls for pets. Now that Potter's not "in" anymore, they've grown tired of their highly inappropriate house guests and are dumping them at sanctuaries or worse, opening the window and letting them "accidentally" fly off. Pet owls generally don't survive well in the wild, and those that do upset the local food chain. Ginger billionaire J.K. Rowling is even pleading with people to not flush their unwanted owls down the toilet, which is mighty big of her since she started the whole mess in the first place.

I won't ask what kind of an over indulgent ill-informed nimrod of a parent buys their precious entitled snowflake a wild and dangerous untamed bird of prey as a motherfrakin' pet, because the answer is obvious.

Instead, my question is: Where the hell do you even buy an owl in the first place?

I've been to plenty of pet shops in my day, and of course they all carried birds. Parakeets, budgies and even the occasional parrot. I can't ever remember browsing in the Owl Section though. Maybe they're not with the birds, maybe they're over between the Honey Badger Pit and Uncle Miltie's Scorpion Farm.

Is there some kind of Owl Store? Are there owl breeders who sell them to unsuspecting city folk? Or do you cover yourself in mice and sit in the woods until an owl swoops down and you catch it in a bag? Seriously, I wouldn't have any idea how to go about procuring an owl if my life depended on it.

Listen up, parents. You've got to learn to say no to your treasured little angels. They're going to end up hating you whether you clad them in the finest Oriental silks or keep them locked in a dank basement, so why go to the trouble of buying them a giant bird ill-suited for captivity that needs a huge amount of space and a special diet? Tell them they can get another body piercing or facial tattoo instead.

"Hey Daddy, I want an owl! I want you to get me an owl right away!"
"Alright, Veruca, alright. I'll get you one before the day's out."
"I want an owl NOW!"

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Marvel Origin Story Books

I found this series of Marvel superhero storybooks a couple of weeks ago at Target, which were no doubt released to coincide with the release of The Avengers movie juggernaut.

There are six books in the series, although the inner dust cover hints at a seventh X-Men book, which I have not seen. They're written in simple storybook style with short, easy to read sentences and lots of large and colorful art. They hew pretty closely to the old school origin stories of Marvel's flagship characters (much more so than the current comics!), which of course is always a good thing.

I of course bought the books for the illustrations. I love the art of vintage Little Golden Books and like to study it to see how it was made. The illustrations here are bright and colorful and have the look and feel of old Little Golden Books.

Each of the books was illustrated by a different artist of team of artists, but they all share a uniform look. I like the art in them all, but of the six I think my favorite is the Spider-Man book. The color and lighting effects in it are very well done. The Spider-Man art is somewhat reminiscent of the work of the Hildebrandt brothers (or the Brothers Hildebrandt, as they preferred to be called).

If you've got a child who's all amped up for superheroes after seeing The Avengers for the third time, these books would make a perfect introduction to the Marvel Universe. Much more so than the actual comics these days, sad to say. I don't know what's going on in the comic industry, but in the past decade or so comic books have mutated from fun adventure stories suitable for kids to dark, grim and disturbing tales made for basement-dwelling 40 year olds. There's no way I'd let a kid of mine read a comic these days unless I leafed through it first. It's gotten that bad. These books are a fun and worthy substitute.

So far the only place I've seen these is at Target, but then again I haven't been anywhere else for a while (I'm quite busy with my duties as President and CEO of Bob Canada's Blogworld) so it's entirely possible other stores may carry them.

It Came From The Cineplex: The Cabin In The Woods

This is by necessity going to be a pretty vague review, as much of this movie's fun depends greatly on the element of surprise. There's no shocking twist ending as in The Sixth Sense; rather the whole movie is one long series of twists, switchbacks and surprises. If I were to reveal any of them to you you'd no doubt seek me out and rain blows upon my head. Therefore I'll tiptoe around the plot as much as possible.

The film starts out the same as dozens of other slasher movies: five college students travel to a remote cabin in the middle of nowhere for some R & R. The gang consists of the typical horror types. There's the Athlete, the Whore (hey, it's the movie's word, not mine), the Scholar, The Fool and of course, the Virgin. As part of the nature of the movie, each isn't exactly what they seem though; the Athlete is actually quite intelligent, the Virgin isn't really a virgin, etc.

Shortly after they arrive at the titular cabin, strange and unusual things begin happening and hijinx, as they say, ensue. The characters are attacked by a family of redneck pain-worshiping zombies and are picked off one by one.

Sounds like a standard slasher movie so far, right? Wrong! We soon discover that the students' every move is being monitored and the entire supernatural scenario is being controlled by someone. Who exactly is orchestrating events and the reasons why are definitely not what you might think. To say more would stray too far into spoiler territory and start that whole raining blows thing.

The movie is a lot of fun and plays around with the conventions and trappings of the horror genre. There's lots of humor in addition to genuine scares, and a huge free-for-all near the film's end that involves pretty much every horror movie archetype you could think of.

The film was co-written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard. Whedon also co-wrote and directed a little indie film you probably never heard of called The Avengers. Goddard, who directed the film, wrote Cloverfield as well as episodes of LOST and Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

The movie was completed way back in 2009, but due to the unfortunate bankruptcy of MGM Studios it was shelved until sold to Lionsgate, who finally released it in 2012. Lionsgate got quite a deal; they supposedly paid $12 million for the film, which had an original budget of $30 million.

Pros:
• An original concept, which is pretty rare in these days of endless sequels and remakes.

• Lots of twists and surprises to keep you guessing.

• Climax features pretty much every type of monster and horror movie villain.

• Lots of fun horror movie Easter eggs for sharp-eyed viewers.

• A surprise cameo at the end.

Cons:
• A convoluted and flimsy excuse for all the goings-on that really doesn't hold up to much scrutiny. Don't question the premise too vigorously or the whole thing will deflate like a balloon and fly across the room with an embarrassing noise.

• The very first scene of the movie gives us a partial clue as to what's happening. I'm really not sure why they did this. I think I would have waited a bit to tip my hand and reveal the big secret, but then again I'm not a director.

All in all a fun and original little film that shakes up the horror genre, and one of my favorite films of the year.  I give it a B+.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Life Imitates The Simpsons

Today in the news, a man from Thiensville, Wisconsin is suing an All You Can Eat restaurant because the establishment allegedly cut him off before he was full.

The restaurant was holding a fish fry last Friday, and they refused to serve him after he'd already eaten twelve pieces of fish.

"It's false advertising," said the 6' 6", 350 famished customer, who then called the police, saying, "I think that people have to stand up for consumers." The customer is now picketing the restaurant and will continue to do so until there's a resolution in the case.

Something about this story seems very, very familiar.

Waaaaay back in Season 4 of The Simpsons's in an episode titled New Kid On The Block, Marge and Homer visit Capt. McAlister's All You Can Eat Seafood Restaurant. Homer proceeds to take an entire steam tray from the buffet line and carry it back to his table.

Homer continues to gorge himself, prompting Capt. McAlister to say, "Tis no Man. 'Tis a remorseless eating machine."

Long after closing time, the wait staff drags Homer, still trying to eat, from the premises. Outraged that he didn't get "all he could eat," the next day he visits attorney Lionel Hutz. After hearing Homer's story, Hutz says, "Mr. Simpson, this is the most blatant case of fraudulent advertising since my suit against the film The Never-Ending Story" and advises him to sue.

In court, Hutz places Homer's wife Marge on the stand. She says that after they were ejected from the restaurant, they drove around until 3 A.M. looking for another All You Can Eat restaurant. When they couldn't find one, Homer then went fishing. Hutz rests his case by saying, "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, does this sound like a man who had 'all he could eat?"

Eventually Capt. McAlister offers Homer a settlement, which he accepts. At the end of the episode, we see Homer gorging himself in the window of McAlister's restaurant, with a sign above him that reads, "Bottomless Pete: Nature's Cruelest Mistake." McAlister has placed Homer in the window to attract curious customers, saying, "Come for the freak, stay for the food."

The real life story is practically a scene by scene recreation of the TV show!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Joe Jetpack

Like most of my illustrations, Joe started out as a sketchbook doodle. I did a quick little sketch of an alien with holes in his head and light shining from the holes. Originally he was just standing there, but I thought that was too boring so I gave him a jetpack and put him in a flying pose.

Usually when I draw an alien I give them detached pointed ears. I thought I'd try something new this time and draw ears that are built into his head.

I had a lot of trouble coming up with a suitable color for the sky. No matter what color I tried, some part of Joe's body would blend in with it. I finally quit worrying about it and made it green already. Now that I step back and look at it, I think the clouds are too much, or maybe there are too many of them. I might go back and fiddle with it later (I always say that, but I never do it).

Update! I revised Joe and fixed a couple of things that were bugging me.

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.

Here's the sketch I did of Joe. Don't worry, I remembered to call the dentist. No emergency, just time for a checkup.

Life Imitates Trek (Again)

Once again life imitates art, or more specifically, Star Trek. Last week a French-American scientist invented a spray that makes you feel intoxicated without drinking alcohol, just like Star Trek: The Next Generation's Synthehol.

What's Synthehol, I hear you asking? Sit back for a Trek history lesson while I tell you. After a hard day's work of keeping the Federation safe from the Klingon menace, you could always count on finding Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy and Scotty knocking back highballs in the Enterprise's rec room (never Spock, of course. Lord no. He was always in his quarters, busy inserting a fresh stick up his ass). The crew of the Enterprise only drank real alcohol; you know, the hard stuff. Cool, delicious, brain-rottting, and dare I say it-- human liquor. None of these fancy alien brews for Kirk and his men. Well, that's not quite true; Scotty wasn't above sampling a Saurian brandy or Romulan ale, but then he'd drink the anti-freeze from the warp engines in a pinch, so he hardly counts.

Flash forward 70 years or so to Captain Picard and his touchy-feely crew. Vaal forbid real alcohol touch the lips of any of those overgrown boyscouts. No, they exclusively drank Synthehol. Invented by the Ferengi, Synthehol gave the drinker a pleasant buzz, but without all the unpleasant side effects like hangovers, projectile vomiting, liver-implosion, addiction and losing the house to that brittle ice queen you married against your mother's wishes. And its intoxicating effects could easily be shaken off, allowing you to fake-booze it up right before you went on duty.

It would seem that scientist David Edwards (who apparently is secretly Senator Al Franken in disguise) has invented Synthehol a couple of centuries early. It goes by the incredibly catchy name of WA|HH Quantum Sensations, and comes in spray form, much like Binaca. One spritz and you instantly feel pie-eyed. The only problem: the intoxicating effect only lasts a few seconds. It would reportedly take around 1,000 sprays in the mouth to equal the normal effects of one conventional alcoholic beverage, and sounds like something no one should do unless they enjoy bleeding uncontrollably from the tear ducts.

One bottle of the spray costs $26. I honestly don't see this becoming a huge seller. Sure, the concept of instant intoxication sounds great; if your mother-in-law walks in the door, you could get sloppy "I love you, man" drunk in a flash. But who wants to be kippered for only five seconds? When I want to get sauced I want it to last all night, in order to still the shrieking voices in my head for a few precious hours.

Regardless of its usefulness though, Synthehol can now join the ranks of real life Trek inventions, along with cell phones, hyposprays and iPads. I'm still waiting for the transporter though, so I can travel to China in ten seconds without having to sit on a plane next to a screaming baby for 27 hours.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Only Her Hairdresser Knows For Sure

If you watched TV at all during the 1970s you'll no doubt recognize Nancy Walker.

Among her more prominent roles, she was Rhoda's mom Ida Morgenstern on TV's Rhoda and Mildred the maid on McMillan and Wife. She also guest starred on numerous other TV shows including Happy Days, Newhart, Mary Tyler Moore, The Partridge Family, The Golden Girls and of course The Love Boat.

She also inexplicably directed Can't Stop The Music, which of course was the pseudo-biographical story of the Village People. If you've not yet seen it, stop what you're doing and run, don't walk to the video store. You won't regret it.

She was probably best known as Rosie the Waitress, spokesperson for Bounty paper towels (the quicker picker upper!) for a good 30 years.

That's a pretty good resume for a woman who has the exact same hairstyle as Dr. Zira.

Seriously, look at that hair. The sleek, swept-back style, the razor sharp widow's peak, the curly locks at the bottom... it's all identical. The only difference is the color. Well, that and the fact that one is a human and the other a mutated ape with the power of speech.

I first noticed this when I was a kid, but back then I didn't have the means to take screenshots nor a place to display them to the world at large. But I do now. I do now.

You can't tell me that the hair stylist on Planet Of The Apes didn't later become Nancy Walker's personal groomer.

Lest you think I cherry-picked images of Nancy Walker to support my point, I assure you I did not. She was sporting this same 'do in every photo I found of her. She apparently wore this particular style her entire life.

One would think that at some point someone in her family or at the very least her agent would have noticed the similarity, pulled her discreetly aside and said, "Nancy, bubala, you know I think you're the tops, but what's with the hair? How about a nice beehive, maybe? Or bangs? Would it kill you once to try bangs?"

Kudos to friend and fellow blogger Ted Parsnips for reminding me that Nancy Walker existed.

May The Odds Be Ever In Her Favor

Direct from the Capital to your District! Last week Mattel unveiled a Hunger Games Barbie, based on a small little film of the same name. 

They've been releasing special collectible Barbies like this for years now, based on movies and TV shows like Gone With The Wind, Star Trek and I Love Lucy. I'm not an expert Barbieologist, but as far as I know this is the first time they've released a Barbie based on a movie that's still in theaters.


As likenesses go, this is a pretty good one. It actually looks like Katniss Everdeen aka Jennifer Lawrence. Usually these collectible dolls end up looking more like Barbie than whoever they're based upon. The outfit looks pretty good too, and she's even wearing her trademark mocking jay pin.

It's a nice looking figure, but I don't see myself buying one. I collect action figures after all, and this... this is a doll. HUGE difference. One is a scale model of a human that comes complete with an authentic outfit and tons of accessories, and the other is a doll. I collect action figures. To suggest that I should collect a doll, well that would be downright silly.

WARNING: If you do decide to collect one, don't be surprised if she starts hunting down all your other dolls until she's the only one left.

Pandora? More like Pan-ADORE-A!

As I'm sure 98% of the internet already knows, Pandora Internet Radio is the wonder of our age and one of the greatest inventions our fair Republic has ever produced.

I, or course, only just recently discovered it a month or two ago. I'm not what you'd call an early adopter. I don't like to jump on the bandwagon until there's only one seat left. I'm still watching my 17 year old non-HD TV and I only just got a cell phone three years ago (a flip phone, which I'm still using). I'm just not interested in being on the cutting edge of technology, lest I slice my fingers.

Chalk it up to having parents who grew up in the depression and passed down their philosophy of "If it still works, it's good enough."

Normally I don't like to listen to music while I work. I know a lot of people do, but I've always found it too distracting. When I'm supposed to be typing out the features of the latest Nike running shoe for an ad, I don't like it when I instead type out lyrics boasting of how my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard. That doesn't do the company nor me any good.

That said, I started listening to Pandora not out of want but of necessity. There are a disproportionate number of women in my office and there are times when their constant and unceasing chatter becomes overwhelming. To say it sounds like a hen house, while no doubt unkind, is undeniably only too apt. Call me a chauvinist if you will, ladies, but I'm only speaking what is true.

I don't mind when the talk is work related, as that's why we're all there. But when the blib blab veers toward subjects like who was unjustly sent packing on the latest singing or dance show, or how many times they've read Fifty Shades of Grey that week, it's more than I can take. That's when I pop in the earbuds and escape to my own little aural sanctuary.

If you've not yet tried Pandora, I heartily recommend it. What's not to love? You type in the name of a band you like and it immediately starts playing entire songs from said band, along with music from similar groups. For free! Can't beat that with a stick. Well, you could I guess, but there would be no advantage in it.

If they play a song you don't like, simply click the "thumbs down" button and they'll yank it and offer up another song for your approval. Eventually you'll have a channel that plays music tailored to your own eclectic personal tastes. I'd like to see you do that, Over-The-Air-Ad-Supported-Radio!

Once in a while when you give a song the thumbs down, a box will pop up that says, "Sorry. We didn't mean to play this. As soon as this song is over, we'll never play it again." Neurotic that I am, I always feel like apologizing to them and saying, "Hey, that's OK. I didn't mean it. Go ahead and play the Pina Coloda song if you want.

Honestly I don't understand how the creators of the site make any money. They do have the occasional commercial, but they're few and far between. Certainly not enough to seemingly keep such a venture afloat. Sometimes I have this uneasy feeling that a few months from now I'm going to get a bill for several thousand dollars for all the songs I've listened to on the site.

They have a huge catalog of music too, not just a list of well-known hits. I've got some pretty obscure tastes in music, and so far every song or band name I've typed in is on their list. It's pretty amazing.

I'm still trying to figure out all the rules of the site and hack them for my benefit. If you want to hear a specific song from a group, you type in the title and the site says, "OK, we'll play a list of songs similar to the one you want." Um, no, how about you play the one I just said? It's not a perfect arrangement, but then what is in this sorry world?

Pandora therefore receives my highest rating, which I'm sure will be cause for celebration at their headquarters. I highly recommend it. And if you've been using it for years, just pat me on the head and chuckle, "Aren't you the cutest little thing."

Friday, May 11, 2012

Alcafinale

FOX announced today that it's pulling the plug on Alcatraz. Crap in a hat! I discussed my feelings about the first season in an earlier post, so I won't dredge them up again. Let's just say I had high hopes for the show (since it was sort of a cousin of LOST) but was profoundly disappointed with how it played out.

I was hoping it would get renewed and, now that we'd been introduced to the show's universe, things would kick into high gear and the second season would see a large improvement. Alas, it's not to be. Now we'll never how things would have played out.

This in a nutshell is why I rarely if ever watch TV anymore. I'm always reluctant to get all invested in a new program only to have it yanked out from under me, leaving the storyline in limbo.

It happens to me over and over again. I'm convinced that there's a direct line between my TV set and the networks, manned by a large room full of lab-coated technicians who constantly monitor my viewing habits. Banks of computers with blinking lights and spinning tape spools tirelessly analyze what I'm watching. Hundreds of printouts and graphs provide up to the minute details on my TV preferences. The second it's determined that I'm regularly tuning in to a particular show, the lab becomes a hive of activity as the team springs into action. The lead technician barges into the network President's office, saying, "Sir, we've detected a pattern in the Canada household. Apparently he's tuned into Alcatraz every Monday for the past 13 weeks." "Damn," exclaims the President. "I had high hopes for that show, and the late season ratings were beginning to show improvement. Ah well. You know what has to be done. We don't have to like the law, but we do have to follow it. Pull the plug!" Laugh if you will, but I firmly believe this is true.

Now thanks to FOX I wasted 13 hours of my life on this ferkakta show, for nothing.

I'm pretty much done with network TV for good. I'll just stick with my DVDs of All In The Family and The Monkees, thank you very much. At least I know those shows won't be unexpectedly cancelled.

Brand New Sentence

The English language has been around for well over a thousand years. In that time there've been many sentences that have been spoken hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of times. Sentences like "It's not my fault," "Take out the garbage," "I ain't in the mood" and "Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow." It's a well worn language with few surprises left in it.

Every one in a while though, a sentence comes along that has never before been spoken in the entire history of the English language. A brand new pristine sentence. I believe I have discovered such a sentence.

This week scientists were studying the effects of probiotics in yogurt and found that eating it made mice slimmer and "sexier."

One scientist said of the sexy, swaggering mice in the study, “You know when someone’s at the top of their game, how they carry themselves differently? Well, imagine that in a mouse.

We have a winner, folks! That right there is a brand new sentence, never before uttered in the existence of the English language.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

April Journal Doodles

I have this journal (it's not a diary!) that contains calendar pages at the beginning of every month. I make my own calendars at home and have no need for the one in the journal, so I fill up each day's box with a doodle.

Enjoy these April doodles!

April around these parts was very different this year. Normally April in Evansville means 30 straight days of rain, resulting in rivers that spill out of their banks, swamp-like back yards and mosquitoes the size of carrier pigeons. This year we scarcely had any rain at all in April, to my surprise and general approval. Of course that just means May will likely be filled with goose-drowners and I'll end up rowing to work.

If I had to declare a theme for the April doodles, I'd probably have to say "eyes." Eyes and teeth. For some reason I always end up drawing lots of big and ridiculous looking eyes.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Famous Business Cards

One of my many fascinating hobbies is collecting old business cards. Here are just a few from the collection:

Here's a card from the McMann & Tate Advertising firm. For many decades they were the number one ad agency in New York; none of their other competitors could touch them. No one could ever figure out the secret to their success. In fact one of their rivals said their ability to win over important clients and come up with innovative campaigns was almost "like magic."

A rare matching sets of cards from a now defunct California bank. It's unusual to find two cards in such good shape from the same business. The Commerce Bank was a cornerstone of the California financial system for many decades. Then tragedy struck as their largest depositor pulled his assets from the bank sometime in the 1980s, sending the institution into a downward spiral from which it could not recover. Tragically the C.E.O. took his own life by leaping from the roof of the bank when the F.D.I.C. arrived to take control.

Here's the story of this classic card dating from the 1970s. Phillips & Associates was a small architectural firm that produced few noteworthy designs. Many of their critics denounced their concepts as "out of date" and "stuck in the past." They limped along for many years, barely managing to survive, until sometime in the early 2000s. Suddenly their retro designs were "in" again, and the public went wild for their work, generating their greatest successes to date.
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