Wednesday, October 31, 2007

US Judicial System Needs an Overhaul

Roy Pearson, the judge who aroused the ridicule of most of the nation for suing a drycleaning firm for $54 million because they'd ostensibly lost a $100 pair of pants (he only makes $100,000 a year, please remember) has lost his job, as reported in the Washington Post.

Post article

They give many reasons, and based on those reasons one wonders why he didn't lose his job a long time ago.

But, to go back to the crux of this entry, which is that Pearson's suit cost the dry-cleaners a heckuva lot of money, so much so that they had to close one store and needed donations to pay their legal bills.

And my question is.... why did the legal system allow this suit to begin with? A business loses a $100 pair of pants, they give you $100, and it's done. If they refuse to pay, you take them to small claims court. How did this suit go as long and far as it did, and cost as much money as it did - money given to lawyers who charge probably $300 an hour if not more, for a measly $100 pair of pants?

It's because the US judicial system allowed it.

That is what is most ridiculous about that whole case.

Frivolous lawsuits are the bane of the judiciary system, yet lawyers make their living off them.

Sad, and of course, scary.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What you can do with Legos and a little imagination.

Darth Vader conducts the Star Wars theme.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Correction to "American Apartheid" entry

On 9/26, I spoke about Boston Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who is the first player of Navajo descent in the major leagues. I also made a comment about reservations:

The average Native American, of any tribe, seems to be set up for failure from the get go... which is *not* the same as the blacks and latinos in ghettos and the barrios, because there the children grow up integrated into American society - and should they get a good education and a good job they could get out of those poor areas and into better ones with no "culture shock" except the one we all go through when we can live a life of luxury! But Indians are raised differently on reservations... they can't get out.

Okay, that's an observation from just a couple of days quick research, but that seems to be the case.

Natalie, from the Warm Springs reservation, emailed me privately to take issue with those comments (which just goes to show that one shouldn't be making comments after only "a couple of days quick research.")

I asked Natalie if I could share them here, and she said yes:

What? Only Indians who live off the rez do good? I'm 100% "Native" and I live here on my "rez" and I think I'm doing just are a lot of people here! Because we are not in the spotlight does not mean we are living in poverty! Far, far from it, as a matter of fact. And Jacoby's mom works on our Rez here in Warm Springs where she has been for a very long time as the speech therapist at The Early Childhood Education Center.

Natalie also pointed out:

I think the majority of America still have the stereotypical thought when it comes to Natives. We're uneducated, drunk and living off the Government. [But] We all know FICA and pay taxes like everyone else, and just for the record we don't get free housing or free education or free medical...I wish that were true so my insurance wouldn't be so high for dental bills!!!

So...a lesson for me to do a bit more research before talking in generalities.

And, by the way, check out the Museum at Warm Springs: "A stunning display of innovation. ... The largest collection of Indian artifacts still in Indian hands."

How to destroy an evil clone

I don't usually pay attention to "Suggested videos" on my google desktop, but for some reason I clicked on this one, and as it has a science fiction theme I thought I'd share it here. A little baby girl accidently creates an evil clone - who goes about destroying all her toys!

The video is entitled Ready Set Bumbo III, and the guy who did it has three on offer, although it's the last two that I find hilarious, and show below.

Basically, this is what you can do if you have a cute baby, a Bumbo child seat (now recalled, by the way), and an imagination!

[Note: click on arrow twice to play]

And this one, made before the one above, is even funnier. The dog in his bed goes after the baby in her bumbo, and there's lots of lasers shots and stuff. It's great!

I've also started a new website to highlight videos like these, so check out

Oct 28: Wonder Woman Day against domestic violence

2nd annual event, taking place in Portland, Oregon and Flemington, NJ

Wonder Woman Day

"A celebration and benefit for domestic violence shelters"

Lots of Wonder Woman art on display to bid for in a silent auction, and more info on the event. (Scroll alllll the way down to see the artwork).

And check out the rest of the pages at the

Wonder Woman Musueum website.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Terry Pratchett at YouTube

Terry Pratchett is one of my favorite authors, and it's a joy to listen to him speak (although as an American I had to get used to his accent).

If anyone hasn't heard of him, he's the creator of the Discworld series, with various leading characters such as Rincewind the Wizard (the one character I don't like), Sam Vimes of the City Watch, and the witches Nanny Ogg, Granny Weatherwax and Magrat to name a few.

Convention goers have uploaded various talks and such at YouTube, I provide only a couple here:

Pratchett on Writing, at a convention in Germany:

Also from Germany, a somewhat risque joke:

Pratchett in Russia (bad sound)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Sarah Connor Chronicles

For someone who publishes a webzine devoted to science fiction in all media, I've been remiss in watching the science fiction programs of past years...I simply haven't had the time.

But I'm looking forward to Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

What a joy to see a strong woman character as the lead in a TV show! Hopefully she'll be the one kicking butt!

It's set after the events of Terminator 2: Set after the events in 'Terminator 2' Sarah Connor and her son John, trying to stay under-the-radar from the government as they plot to destroy the computer network Skynet in hopes of preventing Armageddon.

12 episodes are completed.

Summer Glau .... Cameron / ... (12 episodes, 2008)

Lena Headey .... Sarah Connor (12 episodes, 2008)

Thomas Dekker .... John Connor (12 episodes, 2008)

Richard T. Jones .... James Ellison (12 episodes, 2008)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Harry Potter fans will want to watch this

The latest Harry Potter film had actress Imelda Staunton as the evil Dolores Umbrage, and was scored by Patrick Doyle.

Alan Titchmarch, an interview in the UK, interviews them both, and below, from Youtube, are the interviews.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Welcome to 1984

Never heard of The Republican-American, but here's the link to the article:

Woman arrested for potty mouth

A woman's toilet was stopped up - inside her own home, so she was swearing at it - inside her own home.

Her next door neighbor, a retired police officer, didn't appreciate her language and "asked her to keep it down." When she didn't, he called the police, who cited her for disorderly conduct.

Now of course there are a few unanswered questions in this report. Did she continue to swear up until the time when the real police got there? Or did she stop swearing as soon as her toilet was unstuck? What time of day or night was it?

Frankly, this is a very scary report if she only let fly with "a few choice words" and then stopped.

What people do in their own homes should be their own business. Whether it's smoking, drinking (as long as they don't come outside afterwards and try to drive) having consensual sex with an adult - if its within someone's own home, it's nobody else's business!

Of course there's always caveats. If someone is drinking and partying in their own home at midnight, with all their neighbors unable to sleep because of the noise, then sure, it would qualify as rudeness, and disorderly conduct.

But swearing a couple of times at a backed up toilet?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Doomwatch was a British TV series in 1970, starring Simon Oates and Robert Powell. All about scientists trying to stop the destruction of the environment.

In 1972, it was made into a movie. And, let me say that the Brits have nothing on the Americans when it comes to taking source material and twisting it around until it is unrecognizable.

The movie made a new character, played by actor Ian Bannen the star, and the Doomwatch crew of the TV series, in particular my particular fave Simon Oates (whom American audiences will know better from a couple of villainous roles in The Avengers), were relegated to walk-on roles.

Simon Oates second from right

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Earth Vs The Giant Spider

No closeups today, but instead a shot of the Disney movie Lilo and Stitch. Stitch, Experiment 626, is an indestructible alien destruction machine, sentenced to prison on an abandoned asteroid. He escapes to Earth, where he meets Lilo, an orphaned Hawaiian girl being raised by her sister. While Lilo and her sister Nani are talking on a street corner, Stitch sees a movie taking place on a TV screen in a TV store.

The movie is Earth Vs the Giant Spider, 1958, written and directed by Bert I. Gordon, a classic 50s B movie SF director.

Peggy Whitson

Making History


Attired in Russian Sokol launch and entry suits, NASA astronaut Peggy A. Whitson, Expedition 16 commander; cosmonaut Yuri I. Malenchenko (center), Soyuz commander and flight engineer representing Russia's Federal Space Agency; and Malaysian spaceflight participant Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor walk from the RSC Energia Assembly and Testing Facility to report their readiness to the Head of the State Commission.

The crew launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at sunset on Oct. 10, 2007, in their Soyuz TMA-11 spacecraft and docked at to the International Space Station on Oct. 12. Whitson and Malenchenko will spend six months on the station, while Shukor will return to Earth on Oct. 21 with two of the Expedition 15 crewmembers currently on the complex.

Photo Credit: NASA/Victor Zelentsov (Copyright free)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955) Closeups

My second entry in the Oct 12-21, 2007 Close-Up Blogathon, sponsored by The House Next Door.

It Came From Beneath the Sea (1955) with special effects by Ray Harryhausen, features a gigantic octopus heading from the ocean towards San Francisco, and its eventual destruction.

Spoilers below.

The titles and list of credits rise up from beneath the sea.

Like many 1950s science fiction films, It Came From Beneath the Sea opens up in documentary fashion. A "newsreel" type voice tells us about the United States' mosst powerful weapon, the atomic submarine. First we get a closeup of the blueprints, then we see the sub itself in drydock. The voice details everything done to make it the best sub ever.

"The mind of man had thought of everything, except that which was beyond his comprehension."

Within the submarine, this closeup shows how cramped it is within a sub. Note the pipe blocking part of the view.

While on a shakedown cruise, the sub comes into contact with .... something. Something...radioactive. Bits of it are caught in the dive planes, and once the sub gets home, the stuff is brought to the greatest scientific minds in the land.

All new locations are identified by the close up of a sign of some kind.

Most 1950s science fiction films will have one female scientist, amonst the cast of at least two men (love triangle), and the rest of the military, also of course all male. Here - our first look at the female scientist in this film, played by Faith Domergue.

Female scientist emerges after changing out of her radioactive suit, but...wait for it...

Quick cut to a close up of her face. Yes, I am beautiful, aren't I?

Whenever a female scientist is in a 1950s movie, she's generally in a room with a bunch of military men, and its her task to convince the military minds that she knows what she's talking about and that they'd better listen to her about the monster/alien/etc.

What is the creature going around terrorizing the neighborhood? That's the question asked in a great many SF films. There's usually the clue of a footprint or similar... In Them! (1954) it was a single ant print, in ..Beneath the Sea, it's a single tentacle sucker....

One of two subjective closeups in the film, as the Admiral of the atomic sub and Faith Domergue's character watch from within the car as they head towards Golden Gate Bridge.

The octopus reaches the Golden Gate Bridge. One of its tentacles rises up over the bridge. We're shown it in closeup as it rises...and rises...and an impression of how large it is, before the camera draws back and we see it in its entirety (except for the two tentacles it persists in keeping beneath the waves).

[Harryhausen had a limited budget and couldn't afford to animate all 8 tentacles. So he only did 6.]

The other "subjective" closeup shots in the film. Two helicopter pilots see the gigantic tentacle of the octopus before it destroys them. This is the final shot of the scene, we don't see a long shot of the copter actually in the tentacle's grasp.

In the finale, the giant octopus has the sub in its grasp. The Admiral (Kenneth Tobey) has gone out in scuba gear to place an explosive charge on the beast. He's knocked unconsious, so the second man of the love triange with Faith Domergue, also goes out in scuba gear and recovers him. But within the sub, the First Officer doesn't know if they're alive or dead. He must issue the order to detonate the explosive charge, but note the distress on his face...

Fortunately, our two heroes managed to surface in time, and are rescued. The octopus is blown to bits, and alls well that ends well.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Close Up Blog-A-Thon: Them! Them! Them!

Them!, (1954) starring James Whitmore, James Arness, Edmond Gwenn and Joan Weldon, was among the first of the "Radiation Theater" films of classic 1950s science fiction movies.

In this, my first entry in the Oct 12-21, 2007 Close-Up Blogathon, sponsored by The House Next Door, I present three photos of "the little Ellison girl."

Found wandering through the Joshua trees in a near-catatonic state.

The audience hears the weird sound of chittering. Within the ambulance, the little Ellison girl sits up...then lays back down as the noise ceases.

Formic acid (the aroma of ants) has been waved under her nose, and the little Ellison girl breaks out of her catatonic state. She lunges towards the stationary camera, screaming "Them! Them! Them!"

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Tales of Sci Fi Conventions Past

My own convention activity during the 1980s consisted of going to see a couple of Doctor Who conventions in Chicago, but I love to read stories of the early days, from the first convention in 1939 onward, of all the fans and what they did and how they arranged the cons.

To that end, Michael Sinclair, very active in fandom in the south (Chattanooga, Nashville, Bowling Green, et al) during the 1970s and 1980s, is very kindly writing up reminiscences of those times, and also contributing photos of convention badges, programs, etc. which I've put on Collection pages.

It's a wonderful trip back into the land of Nostalgia.

Check it out at The Commodore's Ramblings.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Boycott Warner Brothers!

If this story is to be believed, Warner Brothers will no longer make a movie with a female lead.

Deafline Hollywood Daily

I think it's sad that women don't come out and support the movies with women in the lead (although having said that, I have no interest in "chick flicks" and no interest in The Brave One...

But give me adaptions of Honor Harrington's On Basilisk Station, bring back Witchblade, do a decent Modesty Blaise or Lara Croft, and I'm so there...

Friday, October 05, 2007

Terry Pratchett's Nome Trilogy - Truckers

The Nome Trilogy (or the Bromeliad Trilogy, as it is sometimes called) is ostensibly a trio of books for children, but frankly, it can be read with great enjoyment by adults as well. As with the best of animated films, the bits for the adults and the bits for the kids are interweaved so successfully that it's difficult to think how they could have been un-interweaved.

The three books are Truckers, Diggers, and Wings.

Truckers introduces the readers to Masklin and Grimma, two young nomes, and a few older nomes, who have spent all their lives out "in the open" where the 4 inch high human-looking creatures struggle to survive against foxes that eat them, food that won't grow, and so on.

The Nomes live in a faster time than the humans do... the humans are slow moving, unintelligible, but probably intelligent.

Masklin arranges for his small band of nomes to hide away on a truck, which brings them to.... the Store. Arnold Brothers, established 1905. There are nomes there...nomes who have lived there all their lives and regard the Store as their entire world, with various gods (Bargains Galore, a godlike figure just below Arnold Bros (1905) and a devilish figure also known as Prices Slashed) and their own religious caste (the Stationeri).

The Outside nomes have brought with them the Thing, a small box which comes to life when it is held near electricity, and turns out to be the small computer from a crashed spaceship. The nomes's ancestors came from outer space, their scout ship had crashed on earth over a hundred years ago ago...and the mother ship remains in orbit waiting for the nomes to return so it can take them home.

But the Store nomes don't believe this of course. Still less do they believe the Thing's news (it can communicate with the computers in the store) that the Store is closing and will be demolished.

It's up to Masklin to save the day, and the 2,000 nomes in the Store - in a hilarious and thought provoking tale that all will enjoy.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

When an adaption is better than the book

This happens verrrrrrrrrrrrrrry rarely - indeed I can count on one hand the times when the movie or other production has been as good as the material it was adapted from....(and that includes Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings debacle - why the heck did he dismiss Lee's Saruman so stupidly?????)

But one such adaption is The AMazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. The BBC adapted it to radio in 2003, and BBC 7, which I listen to, broadcast it in June 2007, which is when I recorded it... but I didn't have time to listen to it until a few days ago.

And I love it. The voices fit the cast perfectly, including David Tennant as Dangerous Beans (Tennant is the new Doctor Who) and Shaun Prendergast as Darktan, and frankly I like the adaption much better than the book - which I read for the first time today.

Maurice is a cat who lived around the garbage heap behind Unseen University - a place where wizards lived. Some of their magic escaped and gave Maurice intelligence...and it also gave intelligence to a lot of rats - now called The Clan.

The Clan wants to find an island where they can live as civilized beings, away from humans. Their leader is Hamnpork, an old rat who isn't in tune with new ways, their spiritual leader is Dangerous Beans, who has read a book called Mr Bunnsy Has An Adventure - about humans and rats interacting, which he regards as true, and therefore, as his Bible, and various others.

Maurice has recruited Keith - the "stupid looking kid", and in order to get the money to buy their island, they go from town to town running the "Plague of Rats" caper. The rats invade, Keith comes in with his pipe and for a fee, plays music that causes the rats to follow him out of town.

Then they come to Bad Blintz. Where things are really, really bad.

The adaption leaves out much (it's only 90 minutes long) and adds a little. My favorite scene, in which Darktan dismantles a trap while new-to-the-trap-squad Nourishing looks on, is great on the radio, not so great in the book.

The only flaw in the radio adaption is a slignt one - the voice of Death, at the end. Death is one of my favorite characters in the Discworld series of Terry Pratchett (indeed, I prefer to think of that Death as Death in the real world, too, very comforting), but in the adaption, in his few lines, he comes across as way too.... avuncular and the very least the voice should have been put into an echo chamber of some kind so you'd know it was Death talking...

BBC Radio 7 repeats things all the time, so make sure you check back periodically for The Amazing Maurice and his educated Rodents, although I'll also let you know when it's being repeated again, here.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Comic Book: Retro Rocket

I visited my local comic book shop today... something I do about once a month just to see how much comics have increased in that time (I stopped buying them in the early 1990s when they started charging 75 cents, now you can't get them for less than $2.99 and more likely $3.99)

I bught issues 1 and 2 of Retro Rocket, Retro Rocket is a soldier in a battle suit. I've yet to read them, but browing through them... I'm not surprised that they came out in 2006 and apparently issue 2 was the last issue. Nevertheless I'll read them later on tonight and review them here in the next week or so.

I browsed through the covers, and came across a She Hulk cover that irritated me. I bought the first She Hulk comic way back in the 1990s, and indeed I think I had the first 20 issues before I divested myself of my collection in the early 2000s (much to my regret buy ya gotta do what ya gotta do.)

The She Hulk is supposed to be a super hero, but on this cover she's just standing there, looking bemused, while a pre-teen girl is "all up in her face," about something. Why this girl isn't splattered across the cover by one blow of the She Hulk's hand I do not understand.... I didn't bother to look inside to see if the cover contents was explained in the story... but it reminded me of those 1940s comics of Superman and Batman where, after the war, these characters were ridiculed and set up for comedy stories by a country tired of the rigor of war.

Perhaps understandable then... but today you don't see those in any other super hero comic books... but here we get the She Hulk..

As long as I'm on a feminist rant... I forgot to track down the Archie comics... I used to like those as a kid... not the regular Archie in which Betty and Veronica were always your stereotypical girls.... not doing anything interesting, just shopping for clothes, dissing each other, and trying to attract Archie's attention.

But Archie At Riverdale Heights was a fave, as it seemed aimed at a higher age group and the girls got to do interesting stuff, I used to have the first 20 issues of those as well...

But last time I was at a comic store I looked at an Archie comic and saw the same old stereotypical female stuff and I just wanted to rip the thing to shreds!

Well..end of rant for today.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Time keeps on slipping into the future...

I've been extremely busy the last 3 days, trying to catch up on everything I missed when I was out sick...not even nearly caught up now but hopefully by tomorrow...

If you visit BBC Radio 7 there's lots of Doctor Who to listen to, starring Paul McGann as the Doctor...

and if you live near Manhattan be sure to see The Last Starfighter musical...