Sunday, December 27, 2009

New Item listed in my Blog Roll

I just added the blog for White Shadow Dojo. Even after a quick reading of their posts it was clear to me that they'd be worth following. I like how they respect both old and new approaches to martial arts training. Give them a read and see what you think.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What makes this clip so wrong is also what makes it SOOOOOOO right!

You may go to hell for enjoying this as much as I did. You've been warned.

Kick-Ass:coming to a theater near you in April -- and poisoning minds forever after.

The Mighty Thor fights crime for real in Scotland

This happened earlier this year, but it's way too good not to pass along now:

A burglar in Scotland was shocked to discover that the home he was ransacking actually belonged to the Norse God of Thunder, Thor!

Or, at least, it belonged to 39-year-old body builder Torvald Alexander, who was returning home from a "fancy-dress party" (that's Brit-speak for costume bash) in his divine attire of red cape, breastplate, and horned helmet!

Thor charged at the burglar (somewhat safer to do in the UK, where guns are harder to come by) and the scared thief jumped out the window. Presumably this was to avoid capture and internment on a slab of rock while a serpent drips stinging venom into his eyes... (Look it up, I'm not doing all your work for you...)

I know. You're thinking, "Holy Crap! That sure would scare me to death if I looked up and saw the Odinsson!" And well, you might if the Thunderer looked like one of the two incarnations above... But this is Torvald's actual costume... Note geek chic decor in the background.

However, I'm sure I can one up this next Halloween. I mean really, dude, where's your Hammer? (Or do you think that's why they only photographed him from the waist-up?)

Friday, December 18, 2009

SF operating in Afghanistan

Wired's Danger Room blog ran a snarky semi-editorial about a Fox News piece concerning Special Forces doing aerial patrols and seemingly random searches of vehicles in Afghanistan. Apparently the wunderkinds at Danger Room objected to the fact that no useful information regarding the military strategy or tactics was released. It was all cool video of the SF Operators with their super-M4's jumping out of Black Hawks and searching Afghan civilians.

Hello? Why would you expect the Operators to give up the real inside story on an ongoing operation?

Why can't you -- like me -- just go "Cool! They're wearing MultiCam!"

It easy to be cynical about the small "piece of the elephant" you see in this video. I admit that the piece is feel-good fluff, but what do you reasonably expect? But there's a snippet near the end of this companion piece that reminds you why these guys (in their MultiCam) are out there in the first place. And no, the Special Forces aren't all there harassing locals by doing elaborate traffic stops... That's some classic counter-insurgency work.

Signs, signs.

A group of "someones" has apparently stolen the infamous ironwork sign from the gate of the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp.

The sign lied: "Work will set you free."

This just boggles my mind. Why would anyone do this? Apparently, the screws were undone from one side of the sign and it was ripped from the moorings on the other. Due to the size and weight of the sign, it's obviously the work of a group of conspirators.

Who would want this? Neo-Nazis? What good does it do them? Holocaust survivors are probably unlikely. Art collectors? What does this fetch on the art black market? And isn't it a little big and obvious to hide even in a private art collection?

I actually felt a little sick reading about this. It is an afront to everyone of goodwill, not just Holocaust survivors or Jews in general. This is a piece of humanity's cultural heritage -- admittedly, it's a dark piece, but it reminds us all how low our species can sink. I don't go around thinking about Auschwitz or the Holocaust every moment of every day, but it's part of my back brain; and it informs my opinions about grave matters. I recognize the importance of keeping these reminders around for future generations to ponder -- so it will become part of their back brains and inform how they think and act. Hopefully for the better.

Coincidentally, the sign greeting visitors to my hometown was stolen a few months back right off of main street. I wouldn't necessarily equate the two in terms of gravitas, but as I drove by the temporary sign this evening (It reads "Our Town Wants Our Sign Back!"), I thought the two incidents had an eerie similarity in some respects: The thefts are both senseless. Neither sign could possibly mean as much to the individuals who took them as they do to the public at large. Both involved planning and logistics unlikely to have occurred quickly over beer and drawn up on cocktail napkins. Both make you scratch your head and ask, "Why?"

So, from my little corner of the interTubes, let me raise my voice and say this to the douchebags who took the Auschwitz sign, "Humanity wants Our Sign Back!"

Sunday, December 13, 2009

As long as we're rebooting movies...

You know what would be cool? If someone took all the technical "know-how" from Lord of the Rings and the visual design and sensibility of 300 and remade Clash of the Titans! Wouldn't that be awesome?

Oh wait... They are doing that.

Okay, okay... So what if they take one of the most iconic and best-loved scenes from Fantasia and try to mix it with the modern angle of Harry Potter, with maybe a dash of the fantasy hipster favorite Harry Dresden novels... You'd get The Sorceror's Apprectice. Oh, boy...

Friday, December 04, 2009

Expedition Everest

I won't bore you with blow-by-blow details about my trip to visit the Mouse House in Orlando, Florida.

But I do want to say a few words about Expedition Everest, the roller coaster in Disney's Animal Kingdom.

I'm not a big roller coaster fan. Meaning that I don't like Big roller coasters. But I was really intrigued by some of the things I'd heard about this one -- including that the Yeti stalks the coaster. Did somebody say, "Yeti?" I am so there. I mean, it's not like I'm likely to go to the real Himalayas anytime soon to catch a glimpse of the real Yeti in the flesh? Given how I managed to miss Nessie in two trips to Loch Ness, I figure my chances of coming home with a scientific discovery are pretty slim anyhow.

This was an impressive bit of Disney Imagineering. The queue takes you through an extremely detailed mock-up of a mountain outfitter's office first. You almost expect Karen Allen to walk in and challenge you to a drinking contest. Then you wind your way through a faux Buddhist temple -- complete with distressed prayer flags, statues and devotionals to the guardian spirit of the mountain: Mr. Yeti himself. The fake Buddhist temple was -- sadly -- more impressive than the real Buddhist temple I frequent! The final building in the queue is the outfitter warehouse/Yeti museum.

Yes, a Yeti museum. And the most impressive thing about the Yeti museum is that it seemed to be a REAL museum to the Yeti phenomenon! They had pictures, books, and artifacts I recognized as real, or replicas of existing items. We could devolve into a semantic argument about "real" when it comes to the Yeti, but what I'm saying is: it was very hard to tell what they were making up out of whole cloth, and what they borrowed from the existing lore.

As for the ride itself... The coaster has no loops or inversions. At 200 feet, this fake Everest is the tallest mountain in Florida. The ride does move backwards. the tracks switch, which is a little disorienting. It plummets through some very dark passages. It also has a pretty spectacular ascent (through another meticulously re-created, faux monastery ruin), and an outside drop that left me with my stomach upside down. The ride did not disappoint.

Do you see the Yeti? Well, let me give you a first-person view of the ride, and then a broader overview from several perspectives. The second video may load a little slow, but provides some better views of the different areas with accompanying James Bond music. Neither film substitutes the g-forces.

Oh, and if anyone knows where I can procure one of those fake bronze statues of the Dancing Yeti Mandala -- let me know. They weren't in the gift shop and I want one.

Modern Warfare

Let me tell you something. I'm old enough to remember when the kid across the street got Pong in his house. That was some serious cool. I had Pac-Man fever. Atari games? No way; I was all over Activision.

The guy across the dorm hall from me was techno-geeky enough that he had both Nintendo and Playstation. The 1.0 versions -- or damn close to it. I spent many an hour in his room playing games. but that was also about the same time I got uninterested in video-gaming.

The controls got too complicated. They added buttons. Now the contollers have more buttons then players have fingers. Why? Added interactivity, of course. But all the "push left twice, while simultaneously mashing A, then C, and finally B three times" in order to pull off a super-special finishing move was just too much for my mind to transmit to my fingers. So I eventually quit playing.

But have you seen Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2? It's a vertible thing of beauty. Get the prestige edition and you get working NVGs! (What's an NVG? watch the video...)

I'm serious thinking about going out and getting an xBox... Fortunately for my wallet, I don't have the money right now for the system and the game. I might be able to afford going to the mall to salivate over the box.

While we're on this topic, let me say I'm looking forward to the Matt Damon movie Green Zone. The trailers look pretty good, and it's been awhile since I got a decent techno-thriller movie. I need a Bourne fix, and this looks pretty close.