Friday, June 01, 2007

Camera Obscura - Knox Geek Alert; 'Battlestar" Ends

Geek Alert!!

Fans of comics, sci-fi movies and TV shows and even 'rasslin (?) will be all over the Knoxville Convention Center starting today and continuing this weekend as they host Adventurecon. One name that caught my attention was Irvin Kershner, who directed The Empire Strikes Back, and of course a host of Star Wars celebs, like Anthony Daniels (C3PO), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) and the guy in the Vader suit for the first three movies, David Prowse. (David was also in A Clockwork Orange, too). Also set to attend is actor Billy Dee Williams.

Another name I immediately noticed was Caroline Munro, a Hammer horror gal who was in one of my favorite old horror movies, Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter. Of course she was a Bond girl, starred in the very odd "Starcrash" and in "Golden Voyage of Sinbad" and many more genre flicks.

From Star Trek, there's Walter Koenig and Denise Crosby. A full list of celebs is here at the Adventurecon site. Comic artist John Romita Jr, and many more newer artists and writers are also scheduled to appear. Plus tons of dealer tables and lots and lots of new toys!!! (Oh, I mean "Collectibles")


Since I'm here in cult film fans and geeks, allow me to point you to the first preview of the new Star Wars show, The Clone Wars. (At this time, no network has signed on to air the show ... maybe a direct-to-DVD release??)


Director Darren Aronofsky's science fiction movie from 2006, "The Fountain" is out on DVD and I saw it last week. It stars Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz as a couple whose love story is charted over a thousand year time frame via three parallel stories from the past, the present and the future.

Praise for this movie has been quite large, but I have to say that although I did enjoy the movie, it all kind of fell flat for me. The movie does have much to recommend it for viewing, though for me what most viewers saw as the 'future' time-frame set in a weird bubble-like spaceship I interpreted completely differently, as more of a spiritual landscape of two loving souls searching for each other over time and space.

Acting and effects are all excellent - it just sort of seemed like it needed one more script revision to express itself better. I would say this is one of those movies that a viewer will either simply love or truly hate and find boring. I'm more in the middle - call it an Good Try Which Fails.


Makers of the highly acclaimed "Battlestar Galactica" series have announced the upcoming fourth season will be the last for the show:

This show was always meant to have a beginning, a middle and, finally, an end,” read a statement issued by executive producers Ronald Moore and David Eick. “We’ve decided to … conclude the show on our own terms."


And a favorite mash-up video for you: Ron Burgundy as the King of Sparta!

Turn All The Web Into LOLCats

Goofiness is one of my close friends. So what follows on this post is me letting that friend take over a post here.

Via an entry on Metafilter, one intrepid web walker devised a page which can convert any RSS feed, Facebook, Twitter, news feed, CraigsList personals, and just about any page on the web into goofy pictures of cats to go with the headlines on post entries. I had much laughter doing that. The following picture was from one of my entries this week:

Oddly, when I popped in the Instapundit address, all I got was the constant repetition of this picture, with no headlines. Guess this is just InstaCats, hard at work.

Go here if you wish to play the game.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

2008 Primaries In 2007

The race for the 2008 Presidential election, as if ya didn't know, is underway NOW. Why is it here 16 months before the actual November election day?

It's because the nominees of the current two party system will be locked into place within the next 7 to 8 months. Yesterday the state of Georgia moved their primary date to Feb. 5th, the same as Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, California. Delaware, Idaho, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York , Oklahoma and Utah. Even earlier, on Jan. 29th, primaries are to be held in Florida and South Carolina and before then, election primaries will be held in Iowa, Nevada and New Hampshire. Even more changes are ahead as another 12 state legislatures have pending bills to move their primaries - which means nearly 40 states would have their primaries by Feb 5th.

The candidates who win primaries then - about 8 months from now - will be the two who battle it out between February and November. So the campaign is in full tilt mode today. And I think John H. pegged another reason for the push "most of America is ready to get rid of the current bunch."

Given the more immediate nature of media today, with instant news and instant web reports, a candidate with deep pockets of quick cash could easily wait until December to announce and still gain the edge by February. In fact, the less time a candidate has to endure the daily grind of media and public grilling, the better their chances. And given the current timeline of primaries, it will be that grind over the next 7 months which will lead to the two nominees. And all the smart money today, approaching the first of June, says the race is wide open and anyone of the announced and unannounced candidates could be their party's winner. That has to churn the insides of campaign organizers and candidates.

This summer and early fall will make or break a campaign.

That's why the debates are taking place now and the heat of summer has not yet begun, and it will be getting hotter than seven hells for all of the Seekers for the next seven months. The web will roil with riotous upheaval -- and I think there's a reason for that too: no candidate or party has a really solid idea on what to do next to resolve the issues of the Bush administration, though all of the voters know there is a hell of a mess to clean up.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Horace Silver Quintet

While I often link to videos at YouTube (as I did yesterday) that might have some political statement, I have found most often I go the site to watch a vast collection of musicians often captured live onstage. Some web users have patiently and diligently brought out many incredible performances. From Miles Davis to Stan Getz or Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Bill Evans and many others I could name, there is a galaxy of musical genius to witness. (As opposed to watching say, the blunders of politics or just average folks yakking at a webcam.)

Tonight as dusk was approaching I was driving thru town and listening to the Horace Silver Quintet play "Senor Blues". Something about that jazzy, bebop sound and summer nights can coalesce into amazing moments. So, web junkie that I've become, I searched YouTube for some Horace Silver performances and found this incredible performance before a Dutch crowd in 1959. I also highly recommend Horace's official web site - much history and inspiration about the legendary performer can be found there.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Acting Candidate

When a politician comes out in a coyish, alluring way to announce maybe he'd like to run for and become the President of the US of A, I immediately distrust them. Either on the bus or off, as Ken Kesey used to say.

The coyish-candidate is Fred Thompson. He's a good actor. So is he acting like he's being coy or is he really being coy? He certainly acts patriotic in a video released in 2003. In response to his video, is this one:

The Fred-wooers and war-lovers are up in arms by Kleinheider's post about the above video.

My only complaint about that video is it needs to include reference to other soldiers, not just the American military. While I absolutely respect a person's decision to serve in the military, there are other ways to defend and fight for freedom, democracy and human rights. You, dear reader, know this and if you do not, it's time to re-evaluate your worldview.

It's comforting to think our military presence in Iraq is made of patriotic volunteers and no doubt there are many, many of such folk. There are also over 126,000 highly paid members of privately contracted "security forces" at work in Iraq too, funded by our tax dollars. And the more than half a million soldiers are still not enough to achieve whatever definition of success the current administration in Washington is seeking.

But for Fred to wax sentimental (act sentimental?) in his courtship with the presidency is rather hollow. Denigrating other groups, like students or reporters, is too much of a repetition of the currently divisive nature of Washington politics. If that's Fred's take on America, I hope he stays on the sidelines. Being dramatic is easy work. Tackling the issues and shaping the policies both at home and around the world is much more difficult and complex.

UPDATE: Radio talker Steve Gill rips angrily at both Kleinheider and Brittney for daring to even consider posting the Thomspson video. How dare K and B express an opinion??!! Especially on the internet!! Especially about a non-announced candidate for president!?!?!? Gill sets his Blamethrower to full power, which is the mundane status quo of talk radio (is it time to start calling these shows Hate Radio?)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

So You Think You're a Star Wars Fan?

30 years, six movies, a gajillion product tie-ins and fan conventions which seem to occur every few seconds at some place on the globe -- all that has made George Lucas' "Star Wars" a bona-fide legend (and made Lucas one rich man). Memories of the first film (now known as Episode IV) have been abundant this weekend as fans mark the anniversary of the release of the original film.

I have my own personal memory. It started on a summer night in Newport, TN when some friends and I went to watch a movie at the Woodzo Drive-In. I can't recall what movie we went to see, but I vividly recall seeing the preview for "Star Wars." First, though, a little background. Way back then, the Woodzo was adjacent to another drive-in, called Scenic Drive-In. That drive-in exclusively showed soft-core porn - which was a little odd in that the screen actually faced the highway, so anyone driving past might catch a glimpse of a 40-foot close-up of a boob or butt check or even more.

Anyway, on that night, my friends and I were scooting across the fence between the Woodzo and the Scenic to watch some movie with naked girls. However, just before I scooted across, I happened to hear and see the first images of "Star Wars." The announcer was talking about aliens from 1,000 worlds and spaceships firing off lasers and robots talking and walking around and that preview just froze me to the spot. For the first time in my young life, thoughts of naked women became a secondary issue.

I was friends with the owner of the Woodzo, so I immediately went into the projection booth to talk to him about the preview he had just shown:

"Harold, what was that movie?"

"It's called The Star Wars," he said.

"When will you show it?? I have to see it!"

"Well, not fer a while. All the hard-top theatres will get it first, but it'll come here later this summer." (NOTE: hard-top theatre is an indoor theatre.)

By the time it did arrive at the Woodzo, I had already seen it in a hard-top theatre, which was a good thing, since it was nearly impossible to get to the Woodzo in time for a parking spot for their showings as the movie was a monster hit by then. And yes, I was one of those legions of folks who saw the movie about 40 times during it's first release.

Still, I often ponder if it was the movie or the marketing for it which made it such an icon of entertainment. The marketing continues full tilt to this day. As the photo above shows how folks today can order Star Wars Halloween costumes for their pets.

Back in the early days, you could even buy your little girl Star Wars Underoos. Insects now have scientific names based on Star Wars' character names.

The inter-web, of course, is loaded with collectibles, parodies, jokes, essays and more - there is a four-page collection of links here at Look At This (such as the rock band that wears Star Wars costumes and is named AeroSith) and the Star Wars related theme posts on MetaFilter is likewise a huge list of links.

One odd bit of movie trivia I learned from watching the movie and it's sequels so much was the inclusion of a sound effect scream, known as The Wilhelm Scream, The scream is in all the Star Wars movies, but dates back to the early 1950s and is still being used today, in movies like "Reservoir Dogs", "Spiderman", and "Shrek the Third". A full list of the movies with the scream is here, and the history of the scream here. Whose voice made the scream? Best bets say Sheb Wooley.

So these days, I divide the fan loyalty (or madness) into two groups: those who know about the Wilhelm Scream connection and those who don't.

RELATED: Some other remembrances are here from Kat at NiT.