Saturday, October 22, 2011

AGF #2

Anytime a character in a horror movie goes into a medicine chest for anything, we know it’s a cheap excuse to close the chest and suddenly reveal in the mirror that the ghost/killer/whatever is standing right behind her.

But of course when she turns around there’s nothing there.

In fact, maybe mirrors in horror movies in general should be absolutely goddamn forbidden.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Duck Slayer

I’m doing some research for an upcoming Veterans Day list of celebrities who have surprising backgrounds as war heroes. During my digging, I ran across this interesting tidbit: when Tom Savini was serving in Vietnam, he got spooked while on guard duty by something in the underbrush triggering a warning flare. Contrary to orders, he began firing blindly into the bush, only to have a duck waddle out. Apparently the incident earned him the less-than-heroic nickname “Duck Slayer.”

And on only tangentially related lines, George Romero was inspired to make horror movies at least in part by an early experience shooting a segment for Mr. Rogers Neighborhood about the host getting a tonsillectomy.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How my attention span works

I’m beginning to get the impression that “popular science” is an oxymoron. Case in point: How the Universe Works, a series from the Discovery Channel about, well, the obvious.

To be sure, there’s some hard science here. And pretty pictures. Lots and lots of pretty pictures. So many, in fact, that they start to get in the way of any genuine understanding of the topic at hand. Stars blow up. Planets collide with one another. The universe looks like a big Jerry Bruckheimer blockbuster.

Some of the graphics are unrealistic, either showing events at a greatly accelerated pace (with no note to that effect) or showing impossible scenes that look good but bear no direct connection to physical reality. And of course in true high-band cable style, they use the same animated sequences over and over again.

More troubling are the attempts by narrator Mike Rowe and many of the scientists interviewed for the series to sensationalize the science involved. For example, antiprotons are called the “arch enemies” of protons, two antagonists squaring off like gunfighters in some dirt-paved cowtown main street. Cataclysmic doom scenarios abound, as do science nerds’ stereotypically lame attempts at humor.

Sensationalism is one thing, but some of the statements play a bit too fast and loose with actual physics. The discussion of the Big Bang was particularly bewildering. Several of the scientists made statements akin to “One millionth millionth of a second after the Big Bang, the universe was the size of a baseball.” Such claims ignore the proven physical fact that neither time nor space is a constant. Particularly under extreme conditions such as those present just after the universe blinked into existence, things like “seconds” and “baseballs” wouldn’t have had any meaning that would correspond to our current understanding.

This slipshod attempt to simplify science for public consumption left me wondering if any of these folks had any idea what they were talking about. Though I appreciate the effort to explain things in terms that can be easily understood by the average Discovery Channel audience member, there’s still such a thing as dumbing things down until they aren’t true anymore.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Absolutely goddamn forbidden

Sequences in horror movies in which something scary (and non-undo-able) happens to a character, but then she wakes up and oh, it was only a nightmare.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Our first YouTube video

Yeah, it doesn’t particularly amount to much, just 15 seconds or so of an LED circuit I built out of Elector magazine (and modified a bit). The trick here is that I shot it with my phone, uploaded it to YouTube and added it to this blog entry just to see if I could do it.

And lo and behold, I can. Fun stuff.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Review – Buck

I haven’t seen The Horse Whisperer, so I don’t know what the fictionalized version of Buck Brannaman’s story is like. But the real guy is unusually interesting. Coming from a childhood of abuse, he developed the notion of treating horses with kindness and respect rather than “breaking” them with indifferent cruelty. The non-intrusive documentary style of this picture does a great job of telling his touching story. Worth seeing

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Review – Contagion

On the surface this is a perfectly acceptable picture – at least until the plot twists take a turn for the ridiculous – about a killer plague temporarily devastating the human race. However, the problem with making a production about paranoia is that it tends to make your viewers paranoid. The more the movie encouraged me to fret about how many times a day I touch my face, the more keenly I noticed the bizarre politics of the drama. The pro-homeopathy, anti-establishment blogger is a creep and a profiteer. But then then the medical establishment gets tarred for taking too long to approve drugs, concerning itself with profits over people, and helping itself before aiding anyone else. Thus I struggled to figure out what lesson I was supposed to learn, other than “Gwyneth Paltrow makes a disturbing corpse” and “Matt Damon coveys emotion by repeating himself.” Mildly amusing

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ah, that’s more like it

For the last couple of entries I’ve been picking on our good friends at Chasing Fireflies for offering boys’ Halloween costumes that would most likely get your son’s ass beat by a bully. In the spirit of holiday cheer, objective fairness to the retailer and parents’ need for good advice as well as bad, here are some selections from the catalog that should safeguard your kid’s ass from potential beating.

Now this is a lot more like it. Scary costume = true spirit of the holiday. Plus if your son’s class is going to do a Halloween parade at a local rest home, there’s nothing the residents like better than the Grim Specter of Death (even a miniature version). 

Anything with a gun is a fairly safe bet.

“Astronaut” is a good blend of science nerd and macho man. Plus unlike Soldier, Cop or Cowboy, Astronaut has no Village People connection (not, mind you, that most 12-year-old bullies are likely to have heard of the Village People).

If your kid insists on going as a clown, this is a more ass-beating-safe option than more traditional Bozo suits. Here we have a solid blend of “whimsical” and “Juggalo.”

They also have Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, but Gene Simmons is your best bulwark against ass beating. No Paul Stanley, so if he’s your favorite member of KISS … well that’s just sad.


I’d maybe leave off the Super Mario moustache, but the rest of this should work. If nothing else, a bully might not want to risk a self-defense briefcase to the jaw.

Like astronauts, most superheroes are a nice blend of nerdy and tough. This Iron Man comes with extra weaponage, making it an excellent option.

I have no idea what this even is, but it looks badass.

“Robot” doesn’t automatically say “don’t beat my ass.” But this one looks enough like metal that a bully might fear bruising his knuckles. Plus those crab claws portend danger (though good luck to your kid trying to trick or treat with them).

Bully’s thought process: “Wow, that kid’s parents dressed him as a Speed Bump. They must hate him even more than my parents hate me. Maybe I’ll cut him some slack.”

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Quiz answers - Bad Halloween costumes

Yeah, so it was a bit of a trick quiz. The short answer is “all of them.” The specifics:

The snake head is an excellent start, but problems crop up below the waistline. Despite evolving public opinion about sexual orientation, at this point it’s still a bad idea to send your son out in a dress.

 I am Poseidon, Lord of the Sea, King of Getting My Ass Beat

The ghost thing is a step in the right direction, but this execution isn’t exactly a ticket out of ass-beating land.

Even Hollywood has figured out that you pretty much have to dress Robin Hood in jeans and a T-shirt in order to keep him from looking like the Sheriff of Nottingham is going to beat his ass. If you want to do the outlaw thing, try “biker” rather than this.

“Behold, I am the Thief of Ass Beat!” Seriously, that sword isn’t fooling anyone.

Harry Potter and the Painful Ass Beating


Octopi rock. But this one’s just a little too glittery, and for those of us who remember the 70s it’s also too Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. Plus I think we already had the dress conversation.

Bully: “Quit molesting yourself! Quit molesting yourself!”

Traditional vampire = goth outsider = ass beating. However, if you have to do the vampire thing, this one is way better than …

This one actually has matching costumes for sister, Mom and Dad. So your entire family can experience the joy of getting your asses beat by a 12-year-old.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Review – Exorcismus

So is the title Latin for “exorcism,” or is this one of those cases where a word in another language sounds like something in English but actually turns out to mean something completely different, such as “stupid” or “boring”? It’s more than apparent early on that this is yet another indie exorcism movie (and why are indie producers so attracted to exorcisms all of a sudden?), but I watched it anyway because Doug “Pinhead from Hellraiser” Bradley was on the cast list. Turns out he’s in it only briefly, and the rest of it is a moody teenager who gets more and more grimy as a demon latches onto her and her Catholic priest uncle tries to drive it out. See if desperate

Quiz Time! Bad Halloween costumes

The first week of October means that the holiday season is once again upon us. And that means parents are searching for answers to the first of a long string of holiday-related questions: what are the kids going to dress as for Halloween?

Not being a parent myself (unless you count a couple of cats who would kill me if I tried to stuff them into costumes), I’m generally not much help with such issues. However, earlier this year the good folks at Chasing Fireflies were kind enough to send me an unsolicited costume catalog. And after going through it, I’ve actually come up with some input parents may find helpful.

First let me say that this company is staffed by nice people and offers a wide selection of Halloween-related merchandise that actually doesn’t suck. What concerns me, though, is the array of costumes for boys. Many of them are perfectly acceptable. But a handful … well, see if you can spot the problem.

Which of the following costumes are likely to buy your 10-year-old son an ass beating from a 12-year-old whose idea of a Halloween costume is a Knicks jersey?