Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Share My Pain

I haven't been able to get this song out of my head. One of the downsides to Jack-FM coming to my hometown...

Jessie's Girl
Jessie is a friend, yeah, I know he's been a good friend of mine
But lately something's changed that ain't hard to define
Jessie's got himself a girl and I want to make her mine
And she's watching him with those eyes
And she's lovin' him with that body, I just know it
Yeah 'n' he's holding her in his arms late, late at night

You know, I wish that I had Jessie's girl
I wish that I had Jessie's girl
Where can I find a woman like that

I play along with the charade, there doesn't seem to be a reason to change
You know, I feel so dirty when they start talking cute
I wanna tell her that I love her, but the point is probably mute
'Cos she's watching him with those eyes
And she's lovin' him with that body, I just know it
And he's holding her in his arms late, late at night

Like Jessie's girl, I wish that I had Jessie's girl
Where can I find a woman, where can I find a woman like that
And I'm lookin' in the mirror all the time, wondering what she don't see in me
I've been funny, I've been cool with the lines
Ain't that the way love supposed to be
Tell me, where can I find a woman like that

You know, I wish that I had Jessie's girl, I wish that I had Jessie's girl
I want Jessie's girl, where can I find a woman like that, like Jessie's girl,
I wish that I had Jessie's girl,
I want, I want Jessie's girl

Would you believe the Official Rick Springfield website includes the "warning:"
Some material might be inappropriate for people who don't know how to rock.


These guys were overachievers at their Best Halloween costume contest.

Okay, for the record -- all you WH40K geeks -- I don't know anything about where these came from either, so don't ask.

This is a legendary picture in WH40K online circles. The two guys are armored as Space Marines from the First and Second Companies of the Ultramarines Chapter. They represent the Holy Grail of WH40K geekdom: armor costumes. I'm sure even a layman can tell that suits of armor like these aren't easy to make and have the finished product look good. While there are dozens of armorers turning out servicable Star Wars Imperial Stomrtrooper costumes, no one is performing a similar service for the WH40K fans with money to burn. So whenever this picture turns up, the WH40K geeks start deluging the poster to find out if he knows who made the armor, and how much it would cost to have similar suit made.

Give it up, geeks.

Alyson Hannigan

I know it's not true, but I feel like I know Alyson Hannigan. I don't really. I know the character, Willow Rosenburg, that she played oh so well for seven glorious seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I invited Willow over to my house once or twice week for almost a decade. I own every season of the TV series on DVD. I watched Willow grow into a young woman, fall in love, and find herself. I laughed with her, and yes, I cried (don't laugh).
So, way back when... I heard Alyson Hannigan was making a movie. A comedy. Something called American Pie. I watched it on video, and I was horrified. Who knew that Alyson was a saucy little minx? And I never knew a flute could be used in such ways...
Up until then, Alyson was the girl next door for me. In a way, she was like my kid sister. Sure, I thought she was cute. But I never thought of her "that way." Jeez. I feel so dirty.
Not that I was stopped from posting these naughty little pictures for the rest of you. I'm a little bothered that they go a step beyond my usual standards of "tasteful" but hopefully you'll sense the horror I felt when I discovered Alyson wasn't the good girl I thought she was.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go make sure my 12" GI Joe figures aren't mackin' on my Willow action figure.

A Former Weather Catastrophe...

Our news is filled with images of Hurricane Katrina. Sure, I feel bad and I've done my little bit already. So it is without guilt that I turn my thoughts to the mystery of Atlantis...

Watching a hurricane flood out a major American city from an indirect hit, it makes you consider the possibilities...

Bond... James Bond

I have said for years now that what the Bond franchise needs desperately to enter the 21st Century is a dramatic overhaul of the format. The Powers-That-Be have been afraid to tinker with the Girls, Guns, and Gadgets formula that has worked since the '60's.

But truthfully, that view is a mistaken reading of the film series. The movies have evolved in format from time to time. The first two were straight up thrillers. (God, From Russia With Love really was brilliant, even if it does seem quaint now.) The next few started the gadget-era. Lazenby was an anamoly, but brought us some pathos with Bond's marriage. Roger Moor veered the movies very close to farce, and several really ought to be considered outright comedies. The Timothy Dalton era proved that evn Bond can be dull.

As good as he was for the role, Pierce Brosnan's films really solidified the "formula" by combining elements of the previous movies. But it was really the producers and writers at fault there.

In the meantime, Matt Damon of all people made a really great, sexy spy series, the Jason Bourne movies. I'm genuinely interested in the last in the Bourne Trilogy. How many Hollywood movie series can you say that about these days?

So I was excited to learn that they've turned to a real film script writer for Casino Royale. Could this be the defibrilator this series so desperately needs?

There's no reason why Bond can't be unpredictable, dangerous, and sexy again. We live in an uncertain world where Bond's heroics are more necessary than ever. I hope they take a nod from the Bourne series and tone down the unbelievability-level of the Bond movies.

The Boss

You know, even as a card carrying Republican loyalist, I still feel that Bruce Springsteen is the voice of America's own soul. So I wasn't surprised to learn this little tid-bit. I was surprised to learn it from the BBC website though. CNN and MSNBC were too busy teetering between hard hurricane news and the Bradgelina debacle.

While I'm on the subject, and I'm still in the mood to wax poetic about other authors' views of the warrior soul (See the quote from Folk of the Air below), I want to print some lyrics from Bruce's latest album...

Now every woman and every man
They wanna take a righteous stand
Find the love that God wills
And the faith that He commands
I've got my finger on the trigger
And tonight faith just ain't enough
When I look inside my heart
There's just devils and dust

Well I've got God on my side
And I'm just trying to survive
What if what you do to survive
Kills the things you love
Fear's a DANGEROUS thing
It can turn your heart black you can trust
It'll take your God filled soul
Fill it with devils and dust
Yeah it'll take your God filled soul
Fill it with devils and dust

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Shogun's Ninja

Sometime ago, I purchased a cheapo DVD collection, The Ten Faces of Sonny Chiba, for about $10. This is a no-frills DVD set. The only extra on every single disc is a Sonny Chiba Filmography. The ten movies are reasonably well transferred to DVD. They are also a good cross-section of the feature length films made by Chiba in the '70's and '80's. Included is his famous Street Fighter series, and one appearance by Chiba as Yagyu Jubei, one of his most famous roles.

These are chanbara movies -- the swashbuckling, blood-and-thunder films of Japan. The casual viewer may not realize there are really two kinds of samurai movies: the jidai-geki, which are "period movies" and chanbara. What's the difference? Seven Samurai is a jidai-geki. Chiba's Shogun's Ninja is chanbara. Now imagine the comparison was: Unforgiven is a historical movie, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is a "Western." Or maybe this anaology, 2001: A Space Odyssey is hard science fiction. Star Wars Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back is Space Opera. All of these examples are films in the same vein, but the gap between them is enormous.

I watched Shogun's Ninja, made in 1982, the other night and I enjoyed it immensely. It wasn't a Kurosawa movie, but it was good. Best of all, it included those quirky moments Japanese cinema is famous for: actions that are meant to be stirring to the original audience, but are only squirm inducing to Americans. May two favorites? The torture scene which culminates with Chiba (who was playing the villain in this movie) stoically grabbing the hero's testicles. Also, in the aftermath of a daring prison escape which left half of his friends dead, the hero builds a bonfire and then does a kung fu routine that turns into a disco dance. No, I'm not making this up. (And as a bonus, the "Spider Ninja" troupe dressed in leopard spot camoflage almost made this list.) These are the kinds of things that make most Americans vow never to watch a foreign-made B-movie ever again.

Shogun's Ninja has another distinction of importance to many of my readers. While it is very much fictional, many of the main characters (and the incidents propelling their lives) were real live ninja from the Sengoku (Warring States) period of Japan. The plot has Shogun, in this case the name (not the title) of a villainous Koga Ryu ninja, wiping out the Momochi ninja Clan in order to steal the secret of the family's hidden gold mine. Shogun personally kills the clan chief, Momochi Sandayu, assisted by his adopted sons -- one deaf, the other mute, both trained as acrobatic ninja. Sandayu's son, Takamaru, is sent into hiding in China, where he learns Kung Fu to defend himself. A decade later, Takamaru returns to Japan. There he finds the remnant's of the Momochi clan living in hiding as street performers, and moonlighting as a group behind the charade of the Japanese Robin Hood-figure, Ishikawa Goemon. Meanwhile, Hattori Hanzo is working to keep the Momochi gold mine secret from Shogun and his master, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. This is a virtual Who's Who of famous ninja. Only Shogun is fictional. (Although Momochi "Takamaru" is probably meant to be the second Momochi Sandayu that appears in the historical records.)

Although this is chanbara, the movie incorporates some actual historical events. The Momochi Clan is killed during the Iga no Ran, a purge of the Iga Province of the ninja and ji-samurai families carried out by Oda Nobunaga. Toyotomi is desperate to find the Momochi gold mine because he needs the money to finance his invasion of Korea, which actually, and tragically, happened. Ishikawa Goemon appears in Japanese folklore of the period as a single character, but his ninja training is indeed credited to Momochi Sandayu, and several historians theorize that Goemon was a corporate identity for a bandit gang of ninja put out by the Iga no Ran -- so this too matches up. Momochi Sandayu is an important figure to modern ninjutsu practitioners because he is credited as the head of both the Gyokko Ryu and Koto Ryu schools that make-up the backbone of the "Takamatsu-den" traditions, principally the Bujinkan Dojo Budo Taijutsu. It caused me to smirk a little when the Momochi secret "Spider ninja" were equipped with Shuko and Ashiko, steel claws for hands and feet. While many ninja-fiction savvy readers may believe these were common weapons among the feudal age ninja clans, they were in fact the secret weapon of the Togakure Ryu, an off shoot of the Gyokko Ryu practiced by the Momochi.

I wish I could say the fighting techniques were authentic ninjutsu. Sadly, the most noteworthy martial arts techniques in the Japanese made film appear to be Kung Fu. There is even a scene in which a jujutsu-trained Momochi challenges Takamaru to a bout and is soundly beaten by the acrobatic Kung Fu. Even the claws of the Spide Ninja are used for climbing trees, which is possible, but no where near as easy as the books would make you think. The Shuko were instead used as an adjunct to Gyokko Ryu strikes and throws.

However, if you just enjoy watching ninja movies, this one is better than most, and seems much more reverential to ninjutsu history than anything Sho Kosugi ever did.

Mariska Hargitay

Blatent Cheescake -- with a weapon (a Glock).

More Zhang (For Tommy)

The Witnesses

Author Peter S. Beagle wrote a fantasy novel called The Folf of the Air. The plot concerns what happens in a California college town when a young girl who is part of the college's Rennaissance Festival / Society of Creative Anachronism club manages to learn real magic.

The main character is a musician, Farrell, in his late twenties who returns to the town after many years away. At one point, Farrell goes to visit a training session given by John Erne, the club's Master of Combat, an expert on medieval fighting forms who teaches the "warriors" how to use their play swords and shields. But he sees this as his true vocation, and he enters into a discussion with Farrell about all martial arts and their place in the modern world. I've always been haunted by the passage...

"This is my time." He leaned forward and patted Farrell's knee hard. "This is the time of weapons. It isn't so much the fact that everyone has a gun -- it's that everyone wants to be one. People want to turn themselves into guns, knives, plastic bombs, big dogs. This is the time when ten new karate studios open every day, when they teach you Kung Fu in the third grade, and Whistler's mother has a black belt in aikido. I know one fellow on a little side street who's making a fortune with savate, that French kick-boxing." Farrell watched the combat master's face, still trying to determine how old he was. he appeared most youthful when he moved or spoke, oldest when he smiled.

"The myriad arts of self-defense," John Erne said. "They're all just in it because of the muggers, you understand, or the police, or the Zen of it all. But no new weapon ever goes unused for long. Pretty soon the streets will be charged with people, millions of them, all loaded and cocked and frantically waiting for somebody to pull the trigger. And one man will do it -- bump into another man or look at him sideways and set it all off." He opened one hand and blew across his palm as if he were scattering dandelion fluff. "The air will be so full of killer reflexes and ancient disabling techniques there'll be a blue haze over everything, You won't hear a single sound, except the entire population of the United States chopping at one another with the edges of their hands."

Farrell asked quitely, "Where does that leave chivalry?"

Matteo dei Servi and another student had begun to work out with their swords and shield, circling each other with the peculiar hitching stride that the combat master had employed. They carried the rattan blades well back and almost horizontal, at helmet height, and they struck over the tops of their shield in the rhythm of fencers, turn and turn about. John Erne snapped his fingernails sharply against his own sword as he watched them.

"A dead art form," he said, "like lute music. As unnatural to the animal as opera or ballet, and yet no body who puts on even cardboard armor can quite escape it -- any more than you can escape the fact that your music believes in God and hell and the king. You and I are what they use to call witnesses, vouching with our lives for something we never saw. The bitch of it is, all we ever wanted to be was experts."

More from Hanzo

I found the story about the death of Hattori Hanzo I referenced in the last post. Here is the story as it is recounted in Paul Richardson's Introductory History to the Schools of the Bujinkan...

"Some say that Hanzo Hattori met his death on 4th December 1596, while trying to bring the ninja of the Fuma Ryu to justice. The date must be wrong as Hanzo helped Ieyasu in the early 1600's. The story of his death says that the Fuma Kainin (he had two protruding teeth), and his Fuma Ryu originally came from Kanegawa. In small boats Hanzo and his men chased the Fuma out to sea. This was a mistake on the behalf of Hanzo as the Fuma were specialists in the use of water, and several swam under water, and began dismantling the rudders of the boats belonging to Hanzo. As their boats were now disabled Hanzo's men decided to jump overboard, and swam to the near by shore. When they entered the water, they discovered that the water was covered with oil. To which the Fuma Ryu Ninja set fire killing all of the Tokugawa Samurai and Ninja including Hattori Hanzo."

True? I have no way of knowing for sure. The Japanese have an odd relationship with their history. To them, often the essence of the truth is more important than the facts of the truth. It takes a long time to grasp the nature of this for non-Japanese.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Total Arashikage Craziness!

Good Lord, what have they done? There are Arashikage ninja everywhere! Can you name them all?

The Road Sign up ahead...

I am simply... The Tick!

The Tick, a favorite superhero of mine, has his own take on those ninja we've reading about so much lately.

Zhang Ziyi

Slightly different cheescake. Asian girl, dressed modestly, with sword...

Educational Beefcake

OK, so who is this guy? And how can my suppossedly comedic beefcake postings for the ladies (and gentlemen of certain persuasion... eh, Shinobi.wind?) be educational?

You're looking at Jon Erik Hexum, star of such television gems as Voyagers and Cover-Up. What, haven't you caught the reruns on Nick at Night TV Land? Oh, yeah, not ready for prime time.

Basically, these shows ran on one big cylinder (?) Jon Erik Hexum's good looks. The ladies tuned in to see Hexum as a time traveling guardian with the emotional range of Dudley Dooright paired with a precocious 12-year-old history buff with an Afro. And they followed Hexum over to the action romance of Cover-Up which stretched his acting chops by asking him toplay a male model -- who happened to be a covert agent. Classics both.

Anyway, Mr. Lantern Jaw here was fooling around on the set and had the bright idea one day of playing Russian Roulette with a prop revolver. He pulled the trigger and discharged a blank round. No problem?

Actually, it's a big problem. Blanks are still explosive charges of gunpowder, and the combustible powder is held in the brass casing by wax and/or paper wadding. At that close range, the wadding punched a hole into Hexum's skull and deep into his brain.

So, let's all remember the most important rules of handling firearms:
1.) Always assume the weapon is loaded.
2.) Never let the muzzle cover anything you aren't willing to destroy.

Because beauty is only skin deep, but stupid sometimes cuts through the bone...

oh boy.

Sometimes, you just have to say... WTF.

Some Unusual Items from Afghanistan

Yes, we're still in Afghanistan. Stay informed about this conflict with a couple of items from that mysterious land.

The Raven King

Here's an unusual job. According to superstition, if the ravens leave the Tower of London, the kingdomof England will fall. So many centuries ago, it was decreed that at least six of the birds would always be kept there. So now there is a civil service job of raven keeper. Only in England. I guess. I'll give bonus points to anyone who can correctly identify the origin of the names of each of the birds.

You can take the man out of bookselling, but not the bookselling out of the man...

Here's a brief article on the Fall's big news book releases.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Hattori Hanzo

Many moviegoers first heard the name Hattori Hanzo when they saw Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill. The "hip" film aficionados were smugly offering trivia to their seatmates about actor Sonny Chiba's performance as Hattori Hanzo on Japanese television many times -- and that the movie character was intended to be a modern descendant of the original character. But how many of these hipsters knew that Hattori Hanzo was a real, historical person?
Hanzo comes down to us as perhaps the most famous ninja in history. His fame is linked, as with so many other warriors, to that great powerbroker and general, Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Tokugawa shogun.

Hattori Hanzo was born in 1541 to Hattori Yasunagi, a hereditary retainer of the the Tokugawa clan. Hanzo participated in a nighttime assault on the castle of Udo in 1557 when he was 16. This was a typical age for a warrior's first battle. We know he later participated in two more battles at Anegawa in 1570, and Mikata go Hara in 1572. Hanzo came into prominence in 1582 when he came to the aide of Tokugawa Ieyasu.

In June of that year, the virtual dictator of Japan, Oda Nobunaga, was assassinated by a rival. At the time, Ieyasu was a staunch ally of Nobunaga. He was making a visit to a noble whose loyalty to Nobunaga was also suspect. Thus, when the news of the assassination reached Ieyasu, he found himself behind enemy lines and far from his nearest stronghold with only a handful of warriors (including, as it happened, Yagyu Munenori). Ieyasu gathered his men and made a break for his closest fortress before the enemy armies could reach him. The enemies sought to cut off the route of escape, so Ieyasu made a gamble and crossed into the physically dangerous, bandit-ridden territory of Japan's Iga province, home of the families we know as ninja.

As Ieyasu crossed into Iga, Hattori Hanzo rendezvoused with him, bringing about 200-300 of his own men. Hanzo acted as a guide for the rest of the journey. The Hattori network of spies provided warnings and bulletins throughout the course of the escape. (It should also be mentioned that many historians also credit the local knowledge of the Yagyu in this escape, which calls into question their connections to the Iga ninja. This is a thread we may pick up again another day.) We don't know much about this trip after this point, other than Ieyasu arrived safely. It is hard to imagine that it was completely uneventful. What subterfuge was employed to slink the famous lord through the hostile territory? What methods of guerilla warfare were employed to clear otherwise immovable obstacles?
In gratitude, Ieyasu took Hanzo and his men into his service. Hanzo was appointed the head of security to the rear gate of Edo Castle, and to this day, the gate is referred to as "Hanzomon" or "Hanzo's gate." Hanzo is generally credited with establishing a national network of agents to spy on the recalcitrant lords. The network survived Hanzo's death and provided information to the Tokugawa for many years. The legend is that the Iga warriors and their descendants were employed as the Edo Castle "gardeners" between outside missions.

During the wars of consolidation fought by Ieyasu to establish his grip as shogun, Hanzo came to be counted as among his greatest generals. Hanzo died in 1596 at the age of 55. One story surrounding his death has it that he and a strike force of ninja commandos were engaged in putting down a mutiny of pirates, and Hanzo died on a burning ship. Hattori Hanzo is buried in Tokyo in the garden of Seinenji Temple. The temple also houses his spear.
Death, however, has rarely kept a good ninja down. The legend of Hattori Hanzo has continued to grow and today it would be safe to say that the legendary Hanzo is much better known than his historical original. There have been countless printed tales of Hattori Hanzo and almost as many films and television shows. As mentioned one of Sonny Chiba's most recognized roles was as multiple generations of Hattori Hanzo engaged in preserving Tokugawa-era Japan from conspiratorial plots. There's even an action figure of Chiba's Hanzo (see above). Modern ninja master, and sometimes actor, Hatsumi Masaaki has played Hanzo for TV. And anyone who has played the video game Samurai Showdown knows that Hattori Hanzo is a prominent character in the game. All of these enduring images of Hattori Hanzo typically show him in the stereotypical black uniform and hood of the ninja. Most of these are also fantasy images showing him skilled in the use of mystical powers or even magical spells. The real Hanzo was a skilled warrior with a flair for information.
"I'm done doing what I swore an oath to God twenty-eight years ago to never do again. I've created "something that kills people." And in that purpose, I was a success. I've done this because, philosophically, I'm sympathetic to your aim. I can tell you, with no ego, this is my finest sword. If, on your journey, you should encounter God, God will be cut."
-- Hattori Hanzo; played by Sonny Chiba, Kill Bill Vol. 1

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

More Beefcake for my female readers

Here's David as Mitch, the buff lifeguard who use to drive a bitchin' talking car but didn't pick up nearly as many chicks...

And here's David desecrating the memory of Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD. I think his next line after coming around the corner is, "Dude, where's my car?" But maybe I'm wrong.

The Bloodless Duel of Miyamoto Musashi

After posting the story about Jubei over the weekend, I got to thinking that another story from the Yagyu family might help illustrate the lessons of Jubei's actions in his duel.

It seems that nearly everyone has heard of Miyamoto Musashi, and most Americans would probably say that he was the greatest swordsman who ever lived. They'd be wrong. If you've heard of Musashi, you've probably also familiar with his impressive record of sixty undefeated duels. While many of these are notable stories, the truth is that the majority of his opponents were carefully selected for the fact that their reputation far outstripped their actual skill. But not all. There is a lament among Musashi fans that he never tested his skill against the "A-list" swordsman of his day. But, as we will see, that's not quite true either.

Musashi's modus operandi was typically the same as the ronin in Jubei's tale. He would stroll into town, find the swordsman with the best reputation and either challenge him to a duel or ask him for a "lesson." By defeating these men, he built his own reputation. And when Musashi arrived in Edo (modern Tokyo), he wasted no time in requesting a meeting with Jubei's father, Yagyu Munenori.

Munenori had built his reputation on the battlefield and served Tokugawa Ieyasu in his struggle to become shogun. Munenori's art was the Shinkage Ryu, and not only had he mastered the armed sword techniques, Munenori pioneered the Shinkage Ryu techniques of meeting a swordsman with empty hands and disarming him. It was after demonstrating these techniques to Ieyasu that Munenori was awarded the position of sword instructor to the Shogun's family.

As a martial artist, Munenori was in an especially visible position, and everybody wanted to knock him down from it. Any martial artist worth his salt was at least benchmarking himself against the Yagyu. Additionally, as a member of the Shogun's household, Munenori was a symbol of the Shogun's power.

Munenori sent a speedy reply to Musashi. In the letter, he regretted that he was feeling under the weather and could not offer full competency in his current condition. He would, therefore, have to decline Musashi's request at this time. Sent with the letter was a single, cut flower. Musashi left Edo and never again sought Yagyu Munenori.

The story is usually explained that Musashi looked at the cut stem of the flower and realized it had been severed by a perfect sword cut. Perhaps this is true. Modern forensic experts can easily determine the kind of instrument that makes a cut, and the geometry of a sword blade makes a unique cut. Musashi was an expert with his sword, and surely would have the experience to recognize a clean sword cut. The implication is that through that cut, Musashi saw Munenori's mastery and realized that to fight such a man meant that the best possible outcome of a duel would be mutual death -- ai uchi. That would be senseless.

But as I've thought about this over the years, I've decided the perfect cut only illustrated a code in the letter. It was the letter instead that told the real mastery of Munenori. Duels are not settled by perfect cuts, they are settled by timing and distancing. (The lessons Jubei's story taught us.)

The perfect poise of Munenori's letter was like a perfect, impenetrable defensive posture. Had Munenori curtly dismissed Musashi as a mere ronin, he would've signaled weakness. Had he hidden behind his status as the Shogun's vassal he would've signaled cowardice. Claiming illness was not a dishonorable lie, but the feint of a master swordsman who leaves a deliberate opening to draw his opponent to a specific attack. The issue of sickness created a no-win situation for Musashi. Had he rudely insisted on a duel and won, the "illness" would preserve the dignity of both the Yagyu and the Shogun. After all, Musashi would've beaten a "sick" man. Had Musashi lost, it would've only increased the stature of the Yagyu as the premier sword school, because even the "ailing" master's techniques would be proven superior to the young upstart.

Had this been all the letter said, Musashi's withdrawal would've been the equivalent of an ai uchi and proven relatively equal mastery between both men. But Munenori's carefully crafted letter included one more sly line. Munenori asked Musashi to consider returning when he felt better.

"Nun" for You!

Real quick now... This Catholic nun in the UK is upset with The Da Vinci Code filmmakers. Bet she won't get anywhere near the coverage that Cindy Sheehan gets...

More Nessie News

Well, I stretched a little to put in the Nessie news over the weekend, but then I came across a slew of stories...

It seems that Channel Five in the UK decided to have a little fun with tourists. They commissioned animatronics experts to build as lifelike a plesiosaur as possible. Then they submerged this thing in Loch Ness without telling anybody. You can't get away with this kind of thing here in the United States. Read about it here, here, and here.

Back in July, they ran a triathalon in the Scottish Highlands that included a swim across Urquhart Bay, a frequent Nessie spotting site. Whether it was for publicity purposes or prudent planning, the organizers took out an unusual form of insurance. I hope they got a good rate.

Finally, you can say what you like about whther or not anything unusual is currently living in the Loch, but there is no further dispute about ancient residents of the area.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Peta Wilson

Good, Lord! This woman looks good in anything. Including that billowing black, robe thing they stuck her in for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Peta Wilson is best known in the United States for the TV version of La Femme Nikita, based in the film of the same name. It ran for several seasons on the USA Network. The show was basically another proto-Alias. It was a truly scary examination of the question of: do the ends justify the means? I can't begin to decribe the twisted nature of this show. If you like this sort of thing, get the DVDs. I highly recommend it.

Before the TV role, Peta played women's basketball in Europe. And, of course, she modeled. So, like Famke Janssen, the camera is very kind to her (and she knows all the tricks to look her best).

Her breakout role was suppossed to be the aforementioned League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a film based on Alan Moore's comic book story following several Victorian era literary heores. Peta played Mina Murray/Harker, and the film made it clear that she had not escaped Dracula's designs entirely, although the vampire connection in the comic is more subtle. Unfortunately, the movie sucked. She was the best thing about it and actually breathed life into the undead character. Oh yeah, and she was totally sexy. Something about the purr in her voice...

She also marks the first blonde cheescake we've had.

40K Fan Art

These ladies are Sisters of Battle, one of the many WH40K armies. I have a small army of these tough ladies. When my wife asks me, "What are those?" I tell her they are fighting space nuns. Wacky? Yeah, I agree. You have to get sucked into the whole WH40K thing for awhile before you accept fighting space nuns without laughing. So go ahead, laugh... Anyway, the Sisters are a hard hitting force of shooters equipped with bolt guns and power armor. Their weakness on the playing table is their close combat ability. No staying power in the fray. If a tougher foe gets stuck-in with them, these ladies usually get routed. This second picture is really good. Nice line work and drafting. He really should try to break into comics are book illustration.

I found a lot of art online this weekend. The spirit moved me to post a boatload of pictures. Scroll through whatever you don't like. I did write an editorial about humility in martial arts that might interest a few of you. There's some cheescake, some beefcake, a car review (well, sorta), some movie news, and well, the usual craziness... Enjoy, Dear Reader!

The Silent Master