Monday, November 28, 2011

The Walking Dead Season 2, Episode 7: Pretty Much Dead Already

Well, it's the mid-season finale, and the last show until next February. I hate when shows split their seasons in half like this with MONTHS in between. Hate it! Do you hear me, Hollywood? I hate it!

I was expecting a little more action or excitement in this episode, but any disappointment I may have had with the pacing was more than compensated for by that ending.


• Herschel talks Rick into helping him "rescue" two walkers trapped in the swamp. Could this swamp be an explanation as to why the farm is relatively zombie free? Is the farm surrounded by swampland that acts as zombie flypaper? If so, kudos to the writers for recognizing the problem and coming up with a solution.

• Daryl definitely needs to work on his terms of endearment. Calling someone who clearly likes you "stupid bitch" is generally frowned upon in polite society.

• Carol definitely has some issues with the men she chooses. First she was with Ed, who was a physically abusive alcoholic. Now she's making eyes at Daryl, who, though he has become my favorite character, isn't exactly prime husband material. I guess maybe in this world her choices are slim.

Although if Daryl and Carol do become an item, it'll be easy to come up with a "celebrity couple" name for them, like "Bennifer" or "Brangelina." Just call them "Darol."

• Lori managed to not annoy me this week, which is a pretty good feat. A few weeks ago she said her baby absolutely was Rick's. This week she's not so sure. Now neither am I.

• So Lori is home schooling Carl. A nice touch, and something you'd definitely need to think about in that situation. By the way, Chandler Riggs, who plays Carl, is a way better actor than any 12 year old has a right to be.

• Shane says Rick's insistence on going back to Atlanta for Merle (last season) caused the deaths of Amy and Jim. Um... how's that? Weren't they all sitting around a campfire eating fish instead of posting sentries when the zombies attacked the camp? How was Rick responsible for that? I guess I need to re-watch Season 1.

• Dale is a major character in the comic, so I didn't think the show would kill him off just yet, but when he was confronting Shane in the swamp I wasn't so sure. For a minute there I was afraid this would be his last show.

• In the comic, Herschel paid a bigger price for his beliefs. When the zombies got out of the barn, several of his people were killed, which jolted him into the realization that he was wrong about the walkers and they're not just "sick people." Not so on in this episode. Maybe that's to come in February?

• One of the barn zombies that Daryl shot was Herschel's wife. You can tell by the reaction shot of Herschel immediately after she was shot.

• OK, about that ending. Wow. I've been whining for two months now about the boat anchor that is the Search For Sophia sublot. It just went on and on and on with no end in sight. It stopped the storyline dead in its tracks and seemed to be going absolutely nowhere.

But I take it all back. Oh, all that is still true of course, but they redeemed themselves with that ending. I did NOT see that one coming. It took forever to get there, but the payoff was totally worth it. Seeing Zombie Sophia stagger out of the barn was heartbreaking and horrifying at the same time. It was a gutsy move and I'm glad they did it. I'm still thinking about it, and I know I'll be haunted by Zombie Sophia for days to come.

• Now, about Sophia and Herschel's barn... did he know she was in there? Let's examine the time line here. In Episode 1, everyone hides under cars on the highway as the zombie herd shuffles by. A couple of stragglers try to grab Sophia, who runs off into the woods. Rick follows her, tells her to hide under a fallen log, then runs off to dispatch the pursuing zombies. When he's done, Sophia is gone. Apparently she was attacked and bitten minutes later. They search for her in vain for a few days, before finding Herschel's farm in Episode 2.

So when exactly did Herschel put Sophia in the barn? Was it before Team Rick arrived? Or after? Either way, Herschel had to know who he had in the barn. At some point he found a "sick" little girl and stashed her in his barn. Then a group of people who just happen to be searching for a little girl shows up at his place. He had to make the connection.

Even if Herschel himself didn't put Sophia in the barn, one or more of his people did so. I guess it couldn't have been Jimmy, since he volunteered to help with the search. He wouldn't have done that if he knew she was in the barn. That leaves Otis, which would make sense. He died before Dale and the rest of the group arrived and resumed the search. So I suppose it's possible that Otis stashed Sophia in the barn and Herschel simply didn't know about it. But I'm not 100% convinced.

It's going to be a long wait until February!

Black Friday Update!

Ah, the Holiday Season. It's the Season of Giving, when people open up their hearts, love their fellow man and celebrate the true spirit of Christmas. And then they pepper spray the sh*t out of anyone who gets in their way.

This past Friday at a Los Angeles Walmart (natch), a woman wanting an XBox 360 pepper sprayed the crowd to incapacitate her fellow shoppers so that she'd be guaranteed a console.

Twenty shoppers were reportedly injured, some from pepper spray, others from "crowd movement" as the panicked masses vacated the area.

The woman has since turned herself in. Police are still deciding if charges will be filed. While I can't say I approve of her methods, I do admire her tactical skills and resourcefulness. I would not have thought to use pepper spray to gain the upper hand while Xmas shopping.

It's the reason for the season! Jesus would be proud.

Sneak Peek

If you're a regular reader of my blog (as millions are), you may have noticed that the art & illustration posts have been a little light this month. That's because I'm hard at work toiling away on this year's Xmas card. I don't want to give too much away just yet, but I can say that this year's card features The Space Dweebs, who I first drew around this time last year.

People seemed to like the Dweebs after I posted them, and I too felt they had some potential and wanted to do something more with them. When I started trying to think of ideas for this year's card, I figured I might as well use them.

Then I got the news that my job will disappear at the end of the year, and that kind of took the wind out of my sails. Suddenly I had much more important things to worry about than an Xmas card. I debated whether or not to even do one this year and ultimately decided absolutely not. I just wasn't in the mood for it and there would be no card this year.

Then one night at the beginning of November I started doodling in Photoshop and before I knew it I'd drawn a page of the card. I halfheartedly started on another page the next night, and the next, until now it's almost finished. Why, it's almost like it made itself.

Despite the fact that I initially didn't want to do it, I'm glad I did. It's been good therapy for me, helping to keep me from sitting in the dark wondering what the hell I'm going to do come January.

As of today it's almost finished; I have one last page and a cover to go, so it should be ready to post in a week or two. Stay tuned!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Birthday, Doctor Who!

This totally flew under my radar this week: Wednesday was the 48th anniversary of the very first episode of Doctor Who! What can I say, it's the holidays and I'm busy trying to find a job.

Doctor Who premiered at 6:15 pm, November 23, 1963. The first episode was titled "An Unearthly Child" and introduced us to the Doctor and his granddaughter Susan, who was attending an Earth school for some reason. Two of Susan's teachers, suspicious of her abnormally high intelligence, followed her home to the Doctor's TARDIS and were whisked away into time, space and adventure.

Ratings for the first episode were less than impressive, mostly because Britain's (along with the rest of the world's) attention was focused on another, more important event that weekend: the assassination of JFK!

The first storyline involved the Doctor and Team TARDIS going back to cavemen days and generated a collective "meh" from the populace. The next storyline however featured the Daleks and the show became an overnight success.

Despite the show's popularity, during the 1960s and 1970s the BBC destroyed dozens of master tapes of the series that were stored in the studio's warehouse. Although it seems incredible to us now, they did this to clear storage room for new material, believing there was no value in the old Doctor Who videotapes.

As a result of this purge, 253 episodes from the first six years of the show were destroyed. Amazingly, around 108 of them have been recovered, as every now and then someone finds a copy of an episode in some musty vault somewhere in the world. Fans and restoration experts continue to scour the globe in search of the missing episodes, but realistically most of them will probably never be found (unless someone invents a TARDIS!). Meanwhile, as I've said before, every excrutiating second of shows like Two And A Half Men will be preserved in high definition for eternity. There's no justice in this world.

The show went away for a few years in the late 1980s - early 1990s, but it's back with a vengeance and bigger than ever. Amazing that the show's still going strong all these years later.

Here's to another 48 years of the Doctor and the TARDIS!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Walking Dead Season 2, Episode 6: Secrets

There was a lot going on this week. Lots of secrets were revealed and things will no doubt reach a boiling point next week at the mid-season break.

Speaking of which: OK, time to go into Old Man Rant Mode for a minute here. Feel free to read this in the voice of the late Andy Rooney. When I was a kid, TV shows consisted of 24 episodes (sometimes 32, depending on the series!). Each episode aired one after another for 24 weeks and when they were done, they re-ran them. Barring the occasional Xmas special, your favorite show would be on each and every week. It was a pretty good system that lasted for decades.

Cut to today, where many series film a scant 13 episodes per season. They air the 13 episodes– the last of which is usually a cliffhanger– then go on hiatus for up to a year. By the time the show comes back no one remembers what the hell happened last season or who any of the characters are. I'm not a fan of this new business model, but none of the networks have called to ask what I think, so I doubt there's anything I can do about it.

Lastly, I recently bought The Walking Dead Chronicles, a "making of" book about the origin of the comic and the first season of the TV series. In it, producer Frank Darabont tells about how he originally shopped the series to NBC. He said the NBC executives loved the pilot and wanted to buy it, but they wanted to know if it "had to have zombies in it." Sigh... is it any wonder there's so much crap on TV?

OK, onto the review. Spoilers!

• Only Darryl could shrug off being shot in the head as just part of keeping the camp safe.

• Nice to finally see Carl out of bed and up and about. I'm still amazed at how much he resembles Comic Book Carl, now that he's started wearing the hat. He looks exactly like he stepped out of the comic, which is a good thing. The only difference is that TV Carl seems to be a couple of years older than Comic Carl.

• After all the gruesome scenes there have been in this series, I think the most disturbing one occurred this week, when the lady from Herschel's farm (does she have a name?) broke the chicken's leg– while it was alive. Man, that made me wince!

• When Dale confronts Herschel about his zombie ranch, Herschel says his wife and stepson are in the barn. In the comic, Herschel tells Rick that his wife died six years before the world went to hell. I think the TV show made the right call by changing this. It helps justify Herschel's insane motivation a bit better.

• Lori finds out that Herschel wants Rick and Co. off his farm as soon as Carl is able to travel. She immediately lights into Rick for keeping this from her, while knowingly keeping her pregnancy a secret from him. Hypocrisy, thy name is Lori! It's almost like she's deliberately trying to make me hate her.

• The scenes of Carl wanting to learn to shoot and the resulting debate between Rick and Lori is straight out of the comic, almost word for word.

• We all knew that Shane and Lori did the deed while Rick was in a coma, but I think this is the first time we got an actual confirmation. Right? Or am I forgetting something?

• I refuse to mention the matter of the Earch-Say for Ophia-Say. Although we did get a cool zombie attack out of the deal this week.

• During the subdivision zombie attack, Andrea suddenly relaxes and uses the Force, allowing her to wipe out the entire herd. All that was missing was her lightsaber.

Seriously though, Comic Book Andrea is an uncommonly good shot, so it's nice to see TV Andrea finally taking on this mantle as well.

• So, Andrea and Shane are becoming an item. That's new.

Shane was killed (by Carl, no less!) in Issue 6 of the comic. Writer and creator Robert Kirkman now says that was probably a mistake on his part, which is why Shane is still alive in Season 2 of the series. Shane's a flawed and dangerous character and keeping him alive definitely makes for a more interesting show and character dynamic. Hopefully now that Carl's learning to shoot, he won't off Shane anytime soon.

• Woah, that confrontation between Dale and Shane! That was pretty intense. Dale's beginning to suspect that there's more to Otis' death than Shane's telling. Dale's better be careful or he's gonna be needing a new head!

Next week's episode is the last one until February and is titled "Pretty Much Dead Already." Sounds pretty ominous. I'm betting all Hell's going to break loose as the zombies get loose from Herschel's barn, and some characters are going to bite it, so to speak.

My predictions: Obviously Rick, Lori and Carl aren't going to die. Not yet, anyway. Shane seems pretty safe as well, since his descent into madness isn't over. Dale and Andrea are major characters in the comic, as well as Glen and Maggie. Daryl's not in the comic, but he's become one of the most interesting new characters, so I hope he survives. Carol can't be killed off until they find her daughter. After that, she's toast. I'm guessing T-Dog isn't long for this world either. He hasn't had much of anything to do all season besides heal from his wound.

Most of the people on Herschel's farm are nothing but red shirts. I don't even think they have names. If there's a bloodbath, I think they'll all supply the suds.

Black Friday

It's well known that the staff here at Bob Canada's BlogWorld is not particularly fond of Black Friday. I participated in a few Black Fridays back in the 1990s. It was a shameful display of rampant consumerism and an all-around unpleasant experience and I've vowed never to do it again.

What I can't understand is why anyone does it.

Why would anyone in their right mind do this:

When you can do this:

Why venture out in the cold, dark wee hours and risk death and dismemberment? When you order online you get to sleep in, you can shop in your underwear, the selection's better and a surly Postal worker brings it to your house for free. There's no comparison!

Oh Fuuuuuuuudge!

Yesterday I reluctantly went to the local mall, something I haven't done since... well, probably this time last year. While there, I thought I'd check out the Hallmark store to see what kinds of Xmas ornaments they have this year.

I think my favorite this year is the "Oh Fudge" ornament from the movie A Christmas Story. It depicts Ralphie as he's helping the Old Man change a tire on the family car, right as he accidentally spills the lug nuts into the air.

And just in case you're wondering, when you push a button on the ornament it plays the following sound clip from the movie:

Oh! For a brief moment I saw the bowl sillouted against the lights of the traffic. "Oh fuuuuuuuuuuuudge!" Only I didn't say fudge.

Now that is pure awesomeness! Thank you Jean Shepherd and Bob Clark, for bringing the F word to the world of Xmas movies, and to Hallmark for bringing it to the world of Xmas ornaments! Kudos!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Memorable Moments In Whostory: Earthshock

Hey, it's another Doctor Who infographic!

This time instead of showcasing the various Doctors or his enemies I decided to focus on one particular episode: Earthshock, aka "The One Where Adric Dies." I'll probably do more episode specific infographics as time permits. There've been over 200 stories so far (consisting of more than 770 episodes), so that ought to keep me busy for a while.

Obviously you'll have to click "View All Sizes: Original" to read the text. Hopefully everyone will figure out how to read it; start at the upper left and follow the arrows.

Earthshock is one of my favorite episodes. It was the sixth episode of the 19th season and Peter Davisons's first year of playing the Doctor. Davison had the unenviable task of taking over after fan favorite Tom Baker left the series. He had some very large shoes to fill, and did an admirable job in my opinion. I always liked Davison's portrayal of the Doctor.

The TARDIS was becoming a bit crowded during the beginning of Davison's run, as the Doctor had three companions-– Nyssa, Tegan and Adric– traveling with him, something that hadn't happened since the early days of the show.

I had a huge crush on Nyssa back in the day, in her demure little crushed velvet jumpsuit. Tegan I didn't like so much, although I've come to appreciate her more as time passes. Maybe it was her character's abrasive personality that initially put me off?

And then there was Adric. Many fans hated the character and were definitely not sorry to see him go. He was the Wesley Crusher of Doctor Who: the whiny, know-it-all teenager. Personally I never had a problem him; I just figured he was there for kids to identify with.

Matthew Waterhouse, who played Adric, was reportedly a very inexperienced young actor when he joined the cast, and quite often it showed. He finally got a chance to shine in this episode and did a great job, in my opinion. Too bad it was his last show!

I kind of liked having a larger cast, but unfortunately the writers had trouble coming up with something for all of the characters to do in each story. For example, in Earthshock poor Nyssa has absolutely nothing to do and pretty much sits out the episode inside the TARDIS. They occasionally cut to her as she watches a viewscreen and practices looking worried, in order to remind us she still exists.

Since the cast was becoming too large for the writers to handle, it was decided the TARDIS crew needed whittled down a bit. Poor ol' Adric drew the short straw.

British comedienne Beryl Reid plays Captain Briggs in a very odd bit of casting. Kudos to the producers for casting against type I guess, but seeing a elderly lady with a bright orange beehive hairdo in the role of a hard-nosed space freighter captain was more than a little jarring. In fact some fans have taken to referring to her as "Captain Grandma." Reid pulls it off as well as can be expected though, barking out orders in her futuristic leather space jacket.

This episode marked the first appearance of the Cybermen after a seven year absence. The Cybermen seen here are rocking an all new, more advanced design. From what I've read, their big reveal at the end of Part 1 was a huge surprise to viewers. This was years before the internet and spoiler sites, so no one in the audience had any inkling that the Cybermen were returning until the final minutes of Part 1.

The same goes for the death of Adric. Everyone just naturally assumed the Doctor would pop up at the last second and save him. When that didn't happen and Adric bought the space farm, it was a massive shock to the audience. Companions just didn't die on Doctor Who, especially teenage ones. It was a turning point and the beginning of a somewhat darker tone for the series. The death of Adric showed us that the Doctor doesn't always win. That was quite a jolt to viewers.

For the first time in the history of the series, the end credits rolled silently over the image of Adric's shattered star pin.

No episode is perfect though, even classic ones, and this one is no exception. The Cyberleader's Plan B involves rigging the anti-matter powered space freighter so that it will crash into Earth and wipe out all life. Fair enough. So why then was the entire Cybermen army stored in suspended animation on the ship? That never made a lick of sense to me. Surely it wouldn't have taken more than a handful of troops to overpower the five or six crew members manning the freighter. There was no need for an entire army to be stashed there. Once the ship was rigged the whole army had to high-tail it off the ship before it blew up, to a nearby Cybermen fleet. Why were they on the ship in the first place? Why store your army inside a bomb?

Also, the Cyberleader is constantly stating that Cybermen have no emotions. He says this proudly, almost boastfully, while constantly screaming, wildly gesticulating and even taunting the Doctor. If he had a mustache he'd be twirling it. For a member of a race with no emotions, he gets pretty darned theatrical.

As for the actual drawing of the infographic, I changed the color scheme many, many times. When you have so many characters in an image it's tough finding colors that don't cause them to blend in with the background or contrast too much. At one point I thought that since it was Adric's story it would be a good idea to use the colors of his clothing– gold, avocado and red– as the color scheme. That might have been a good idea on paper, but it was eye-searing in reality. I finally settled on the steel blue-gray of the Cybermen as the main color.

I'd already drawn the Fifth Doctor before, so I was able to reuse him here. He was originally holding a sonic, but my pal Ian Ledger pointed out that #5 had lost the sonic by this point in the series, so I redrew his right arm. I'd drawn this version of the Cybermen before as well, so I was able to reuse them too.

Adric's likeness didn't give me too much trouble, nor did Captain Grandma, er, I mean Briggs. Nyssa took a while to get right, but I'm happy with the way she turned out. Tegan was the hardest one of all. I'm still not completely satisfied with her, but it'll have to do.

Lastly I would like to add that I'm glad this infographic is finished because my fingers seem to be incapable of typing Earthshock correctly. I'm tired of typing "Earthsock" or "Earthschok."

Very special thanks to my pal across the pond, Ian Ledger, who helped out with editing, text correction and support.

Drawn and laid out entirely in InDesign.
Just for fun, here's what the page for this image looked like in InDesign. I usually place reference photos off to the side and draw the characters there, then drag them onto the page when they're done. Looks like a mess, but it works for me. You can see my many attempts at a Tegan likeness on the left hand side, and several versions of Nyssa, Adric and Captain Grandma on the left.

DVD Dopplegangers: Buried vs. Buried Alive

It's time for DVD Doppelgangers, where I call out art directors who deliberately copy DVD covers of classic and popular movies, hoping to fool the public into buying their knock-off version.

On the right is the 2010 movie Buried, starring Ryan Reynolds. On the left is the 2011 movie Buried Alive, starring no one you've ever heard of.

Usually when I find doppelgangers in the video store, it's only the covers that have been copied. The actual content is often only vaguely similar. Not so much this time. Here's the official plot synopsis (synopsises?) of the two films:

Paul is a U.S. truck driver working in Iraq. After an attack by a group of Iraqis he wakes to find he is buried alive inside a coffin. With only a lighter and a cell phone it's a race against time to escape this claustrophobic death trap.

Buried Alive:
When a young man wakes up from a drug induced coma, he finds himself in a coffin, buried alive. With very few clues to go on, he must race the clock to solve the mystery and escape from his tomb.

Wow! I think the Doppelganger Bar has just reached a new all-time high! Not only has the cover been faithfully reproduced by Buried Alive, but so has the title and the actual plot!

Nice grammar there on the Buried Alive tagline too.

Also, take a good close look at that Buried Alive cover. Doesn't it look for all the world like a second person is holding the lighter in front of the protagonist's face? It is possible to hold your right hand like that, but it's incredibly awkward (try it and see). I don't understand why he's not just holding the lighter with his palm toward the camera.

Lastly, Buried Alive is apparently a very popular movie title, as I found out during my Google search for images.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

It's Not My Vault!

As you may or may not know, I've been working in the Marketing Department of a local bank for the past three years. Sadly, the bank failed and was bought up by another bank in August. As a result of this merger, by job will be eliminated at the end of December. Thanks, Economy! You're the greatest!

But enough of my whinging. The bank building in which I work was built in 1914 and contains an absolutely beautiful and awesome old safety deposit vault. Before I leave the bank forever I wanted to be sure I got some photos of this amazing looking vault.

Here's a wide shot of the vault with the enormous door wide open. According to the unofficial tour guide at the bank, this vault housed the safety deposit boxes of the cream of Evansville society, back in a time when people didn't wear pajama bottoms to the grocery store.

The vault was designed to impress, with lots of unnecessary but opulent details.

Whenever I'd go downstairs to the vault if felt more like a movie set than the interior of a bank. It's like some kind of steampunk time machine or a portal into some other dimension.

The vault was transported to the bank site by horse and wagon. It was lowered into the ground in 1912 and the rest of the bank was actually built around it. The building was completed in 1914.

The vault's made mostly of steel with lots of brass trappings and decorations.

Working in the Marketing Department, I never had much reason to go downstairs to the vault. I would occasionally be asked to help close it, as it takes two people. I loved going down there and just staring at the thing. I was always fascinated by the design and craftsmanship.

This, obviously, is the back side of the massive door.

A closeup view of the intricate workings inside the door. It may not show up here, but there's a thick panel of glass covering those gearing mechanisms.

Those gearing mechanisms control the locking rods (I'm making up my own names for the parts as I don't know what they're officially called). When you turn the handle on the front, all those silver rods slide out into corresponding holes in the door frame. There are 24 locking rods radiating out from the center of the door. Needless to say, no one besides Superman is gonna budge this door once it's locked.

Here's a better view of the locking rods. That discoloration on the lower silver part of the door isn't dirt or rust. I'm not exactly sure what it is; I think it's just showing up on camera, as I didn't notice it in person.

Now that is a big-ass door. It's a good three feet thick and weighs 37 tons. Yeah, tons. That's 74,000 pounds.

Despite this massive weight, the door is so precisely balanced that one person can open and close it. It ain't easy; it takes a bit of pulling to set it in motion, and it takes a long time to move it, but it is possible. It's amazing to think that you're moving something that weighs 37 tons.

Once the door's moving, you have to start pulling in the opposite direction when it gets to the halfway point in order to slow it back down so that it doesn't slam into the frame!

Here's a closeup of the outer ring of the door. Those giant bronze nuts and bolts there? Totally for show. They're just covers that can be unscrewed and removed. There are actual bolts underneath, but they're not as large. I guess the real bolts would probably get scraped and worn when tightened, so these covers keep everything looking shiny and new.

Wow, all those fingerprints look awful. They're not as noticeable in person.

The thing that impresses me most about the door is the craftsmanship. This thing was built a hundred years ago. Think about the level of technology available then and then try and imagine how they could have possibly machined something as precisely as this. Those locking rods you see sticking out there? You can't slip a piece of paper between them and the sockets. They fit together that tightly. Amazing.

In fact, once the door is shut the vault is air and water tight. Evansville experienced a massive flood back in 1937, causing the entire basement of the bank to be under water for weeks. Despite this, the inside of the vault (and the contents of the safety deposit boxes) remained absolutely bone dry!

The vault's cool to look at, but be sure you don't accidentally get shut inside it. You might be able to survive overnight, but if you got locked in on a Friday? There wouldn't be enough air to last you until Monday.

The vault has a time lock to prevent it from being opened before the pre-set time. Even if you enter the correct combination, it won't open unless the time lock is at zero. As I took these photos I could see tiny gears spinning away behind the little clock faces.

A big-ass door needs some big-ass hinges to hang on. Here's a couple of shots of the upper hinge.

Here's a closeup shot of the front side of the door.

A few more closeups of the front side of the door. That spinning handle looks a lot like a ship's wheel.

Funny story: since the door was open when I was taking these shots, the front of it was hidden against the wall. I had to close it part way in order to get some photos of the front side. I pushed it hard for a minute until it started slowly moving, then stepped between the door and wall to take some photos. As my attention was focused on the camera, I didn't notice that the door started slowly moving back toward the wall, and me. Luckily I looked up and saw it coming at me and slipped out of the way at the last second, before it pinned me to the wall until someone found me.

Here's some views of the door frame. Again, most of these details are decorative rather than functional.

Here we can see, sort of, the actual vault. The gate was locked so I couldn't go inside. All the safety deposit boxes have been emptied in preparation for the closing of the bank. 

Each safety deposit box had two locks in it. The bank had a key and the customer had one as well. You couldn't get into any of the boxes without both keys. Just like launching a nuke!

It's hard to see here, but just a few feet behind the gate is a mirrored wall (I had to stand off to the side so that the flash didn't reflect in it). Supposedly this was so that clients could watch what the bank employees were doing as they handled the boxes.

A closeup where you can kind of see the boxes beyond the gate. The boxes were very decorative and opulent as well; the fronts were made out of some kind of light-refracting metal that produced a distinctive pattern.

Here's the entrance to the Stargate, er, I mean the vault. There's even a little ramp to walk up, just like on the show. Lock Chevron Three into place! As I said earlier, when you're down there it feels like you're on a movie set. It looks for all the world like some kind of portal into time or something.

This is a shot of the "escape hatch" on the back wall of the vault. I think most vaults have hatches like this as a safety feature, in case some hapless clerk gets trapped inside. The time lock prevented the main door from being opened except during business hours, but the escape hatch could opened at any time- from the outside. You can't open it if you're on the inside, so if got trapped inside, better start holding your breath until someone notices you're missing and opens the hatch.

I have no idea what's going to happen to the vault once the bank closes for good in December. I would hate for it to just sit down there and fall into disrepair.

Even if another bank bought it, safety deposit boxes are going the way of buggy whips and powdered wigs. I bet if you asked a thousand 20 year olds if they knew what a safety deposit box is, 999 of them would stare blankly at you and then go back to texting on their phones. It's just not something people under 50 seem to need anymore.

That's a real shame too. It's such an awesome piece of history and craftsmanship, it needs to be seen by everyone. Maybe they could turn it into a tourist attraction?

Action Presidents!

Last weekend I watched the 1997 movie Air Force One for the very first time. Hey, don't judge me! I'm busy! Sometimes it takes me a while to get around to watching a movie.

Anyway, I liked the movie and thought it was a pretty good action flick. Harrison Ford made quite the kick-ass president. That got me to thinking: How come 1990s movies get no-nonsense Action Hero Presidents, while here in the real world we get mealy-mouthed Commanders In Chief who can't even decide what to eat for breakfast?

In Air Force One, Harrison Ford plays President James Marshall, war veteran, chopper pilot and hand-to-hand combat expert. When terrorists take over his plane, does he cave in and agree to their demands? Heck no! He jettisons his escape pod as a decoy, incapacitates ten or twelve heavily armed thugs, gets his staff off the plane (in parachutes!) to safety, sabotages the engines to force them to land, gets shot in the arm and shakes it off, saves his family and ultimately breaks chief bad guy Gary Oldman's neck and tosses his lifeless body out the back of the plane! Then he grabs a zip line and jumps from the crippled Air Force One and into a rescue plane. Now that's a President!

Then in the 1996 movie Independence Day, Bill Pullman plays President Thomas Whitmore, Iraqi War veteran and fighter pilot. When a fleet of alien ships arrives and destroys the White House, does Whitmore surrender to the outer space overlords? Hell no he doesn't! Whitmore sets up shop at Area Freakin' 51 and then leads a damned fighter squadron in an F-16 attack against the alien armada! And wins!

Contrast these awesome movie leaders against the last few we've had out here in the real world. Our recent presidents make Wally Cox look like He-Man.

There's no doubt about it- what this country needs is a good 1990s Movie President to save us!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

It Came From The Cineplex: In Time

In Time is a sci-fi action movie set in a futuristic world in which time very literally is money.
In this world, genetic science has figured out a way to stop the aging process at 25. In order to prevent the world from being overrun by immortals, once a person reaches the magic age of 25 they're allowed one additional year to live, unless they can "earn" more time. People no longer work for money, but for units of time. Everyone has a digital "tattoo" in their right forearm that constantly counts down the minutes and seconds of their remaining life. When their clock reaches zero, their hearts stop and they die.
In this society the poor are constantly scrambling for a few extra minutes to live another day. Food and shelter are paid for with time. Prices and interest rates are constantly on the rise, making it difficult to survive. Meanwhile, the wealthy have enough time stockpiled in their clocks to live for centuries. Hmm... sounds a bit familiar, eh?
Justin Timberlake plays Will Salas, a worker from one of the poorer "time zones" of the city who barely manages to earn enough time to survive each day. He crosses paths with "millionaire" Henry Hamilton, who has over a hundred years stored in his personal clock. Despite the fact that Hamilton looks like he's 25, he's lived for over a hundred years and has become world-weary and ready to cash it all in. He transfers his time to Will's clock and dies shortly after.
Unfortunately for Will, his time windfall catches the attention of the Timekeepers (this world's version of the police), who believe he murdered Hamilton for his time. As he flees from Timekeeper Raymond Leon, Will meets up with Sylvia Weis, the socialite daughter of one of the richest men in the world. Fascinated by Will and bored with her privileged lifestyle, she goes on the run with him.
It's a neat little premise and a timely one as well, coming out at the same time as all the "Occupy" protests. It's a nice commentary on how the average American worker has become a "wage slave," toiling away at a jobs they'll never be able to afford to escape.
There are lots of clever touches that raise it above the usual sci-fi actioner. In particular I liked the way the poor, who can't afford cars or public transportation, have to run everywhere they're going. After all, they can't afford to waste a second of the time they have left. They even have to wolf down their food quickly in order to rush back out to earn more time. Contrast that with the rich, who linger over meals and take their time getting to wherever they're going.
Another nice touch: the rich have all the time in the world (literally) and will live virtually forever unless they're killed in an accident. Therefore they're terrified of taking part in any kind of dangerous activity and their dull, endless lives are spent playing it safe.
I was never much of a fan of Justin Timberlake, but he can actually act and does a decent job of carrying the film. Who knows, he may  have a future as an action hero. Amanda Seyfried plays the bored socialite part well. The only actor I had a problem with was Cillian Murphy as Leon the Timekeeper. Everyone else in the film plays their parts with a kind of real-world restraint. Murphy, however, goes way over the top, chewing the scenery like an old-school Doctor Who villain. All that was missing was a mustache for him to twirl.

Also, I would like to nominate Amanda Seyfried for a special Academy Award. She spent the majority of this movie being dragged behind Justin Timberlake, running flat out for all she was worth in a pair of huge platform heels without stumbling once. That couldn't have been easy and is worthy of an award in my book.
Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't bring up one Mr. Harlan Ellison. As I left the theater I started thinking, "Didn't Harlan Ellison write a story about a society obsessed with time? I wonder how long it'll be before he files a lawsuit against this movie?" 
Mr. Ellison is an outspoken and controversial sci-fi author who's written many books and short stories. He's a very polarizing figure in the world of science fiction; you either love him or despise him. He's also extremely litigious, suing any movie that comes out of Hollywood that even vaguely resembles one of his stories or concepts. He usually wins too. He successfully sued writer/director James Cameron over the original Terminator movie, claiming he stole the idea of a soldier going back in time to prevent war.
Back in 1965 Ellison wrote a short story called Repent Harlequin! Said The Ticktock Man. The In Time movie is vaguely similar to his story, but in my opinion is not an outright ripoff. Sure enough, when I got home I checked the internet and saw that Ellison had already filed a lawsuit demanding the film be removed from theaters and all copies destroyed.
Hollywood has never been shy about stealing concepts and even whole scripts outright. In this case though, I don't think they're guilty.
Repent Harlequin! Said The Ticktock Man is about a future society in which time and schedules are strictly controlled. Everything must run on time, or else. Being late for anything is a crime, punishable by having minutes or hours shaved off your life. If you violate this law enough times, the Master Timekeeper, also known as the Ticktock Man, can end your life by remotely activating a device that stops your heart. A terrorist who calls himself the Harlequin (who also dresses as such), takes delight in disrupting the highly ordered system by sabotaging the motorized sidewalks, distracting workers, etc. The Harlequin is eventually caught and after being brainwashed, goes before the public and admits he was wrong to be disruptive and that it's good to be on time.
I'm honestly not seeing much here that was copied. The only real similarities are the heart-stopping device and the "Timekeeper" name, which could have been coincidental. What else would you call a cop who investigates time-based crimes? "Time Cop" has already been taken.
Repent has no mention of paying for goods and services with time, as in the movie. There's nothing about the aging process being halted at 25. Nothing about a clock implanted into everyone's forearm. Nothing about the divide between the poor and wealthy. Nothing about the rich and poor living in different "time zones." Nothing about the poor having to run everywhere while the rich dawdle. Nothing about the rich accruing enough time to live virtually forever. Nothing about the hero stealing time from the rich and giving it to the poor.
Despite this (to me) lack of similarity, the judge in the case ruled in Ellison's favor, and the DVD will now carry a special, "Based on a story by Harlan Ellison" credit.
Harlan Ellison is a talented writer, but he needs to learn that you can't copyright a concept. Hollywood is definitely no angel, but in this case I think the small similarities between the movie and his story are coincidental. Besides, by this point in human history there are few if any original ideas left in the world.

Apparently the story that the judge in Ellison's case ruling in his favor was erroneous. He did not win the case after all. In fact, now it's being reported that Ellison stopped yelling at kids to get off of his lawn long enough to actually go and see the movie. After seeing it he reportedly dropped the case. Did he drop the suit because he agreed with my assessment and didn't see enough similarities? Or did he drop it because he received an out of court settlement from the studio? No one's talking.
In Time features a cool concept and a script that elevates it above the usual sci-fi action film.  I give it a B+.

THIS Is Why al-Qaeda Hates America: Peeing Santa Drink Dispenser

You know how sometimes you watch the news and see a story about al-Qaeda and they're always out in the streets chanting, "Death to America?" Did you ever wonder, "Gosh, what's their problem? Why do they hate us so much?"

It's because of things like this:

Presented without comment.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Walking Dead Season 2, Episode 5: Chupacabra

There was a lot going on this week: flashbacks, hallucinations, brewing distrust between Rick's and Hershel's groups, shoe-gnawing zombies and a revelation about the barn.


• Ha! Last week when I saw Merle in the previews, I said I bet we'd see him in a flashback instead of in real time. Well, I was close. He appeared courtesy of his brother Daryl's injury-fueled hallucination. Man, Michael Rooker is really good at playing assholes, isn't he?

I really liked the scene where Merle was dragging Daryl by the feet and then morphed into a zombie trying to eat his foot.

• Sigh... another week without a resolution to the Sophia storyline. Even some of the characters in the show are getting tired of this subplot. We're getting closer though; last week Darryl found where she'd been staying, now this week he found her doll. Hopefully next week he'll find her.

Here's a thought: maybe Sophia doesn't want to be found. Maybe as she was wandering through the woods she found a better group that wasn't such a magnet for zombies and she went off with them.

I'm trying to figure out why I hate this subplot so much. I think it's because her disappearance is keeping the rest of the characters from moving on until they find her. That makes it feel like the series has ground to a halt as well. Supposedly the show's going to take a break after episode 7. I have a bad feeling Sophia won't be found until then.

UPDATE: Two days after I posted this, creator Robert Kirkman confirmed in an interview that we wouldn't learn Sophia's fate until episode 7. Sigh...

• Geez, the show's getting their money's worth from that traffic jam "set." They even used it in the LOST-style flashback at the beginning. Fortunately they had the foresight to film that scene before Shane shaved his head.

• Andrea finally starts to show the beginnings of her sharpshooter skills, which is a very prominent part of her character in the comic. Luckily for Darryl TV Andrea isn't as good a shot (yet) as Comic Andrea.

• I really liked the scene in the RV between Dale and Glen, in which Glen puts forth his theory about menstrual synchronization.

• We see Herschel filling up his generator, which explains why his remote farmhouse still has electricity. Nice to see the writers are paying attention and answering (some of) our questions.

• And finally we get to see what's inside Herschel's barn, and why he wants Rick's crew to stay away from it. So far this plotline is playing out exactly as it did in the comic. Next week we'll no doubt find out why Herschel's playing zombie rancher.
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