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Jar Jar Binks Confirmed for Episode VII

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014 - by Walter Hudson
Return of the Chaos

Return of the Chaos

Director J.J. Abrams promised a new hope for the Star Wars franchise when tapped to continue the saga in next year’s Episode VII. That hope may have just faded like the cryptic spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Producers today announced that wayward Gungan klutz Jar Jar Binks will return to the series, playing “a significant role” in the 2015 release. This from the official Star Wars website:

Disney and Lucasfilm are excited to announce that Star Wars: Episode VII, directed by J.J. Abrams, will welcome the return of children’s favorite Jar Jar Binks…

“We think there’s more story to tell,” said Abrams. “His arc was never fully resolved in [Revenge of the Sith]. Every other major character either died, went into exile, or otherwise positioned for their role in the original trilogy.”

Since Jar Jar did not appear in George Lucas’ original films, the creative team behind Episode VII felt that an opportunity presented to reprise the character in a new setting.

“We understand that for many older fans who experienced the prequels in adulthood, Jar Jar wasn’t the most popular character,” confessed executive producer Kathleen Kennedy. “But kids liked him. They really did. And these films have always been directed primarily at a younger audience.”

Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, who returns to the series with a pedigree penning The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, indicated that Jar Jar won’t be precisely the same Gungan we remember. “It’s been 50 years since last we saw him. Even a creature like Jar Jar matures in that amount of time. He has the same heart, but a little more grace and wisdom.”

So what do you think? Has the new trilogy just jumped the sarlacc?

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Crispin Glover’s Gripe with Back to the Future

Friday, February 28th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

YouTube Preview Image

Back to the Future actor Crispin Glover sat down with IGN recently to talk about his experience filming the classic time-travel adventure. Glover only worked on the first film in the franchise, though his likeness and select footage from the first film was used in the second.

In his interview with IGN, posted above, Glover explained some of the creative differences which contributed to his leaving the franchise. He objected to what he called “propaganda” in the film promoting “corporate interests.” Specifically, Glover felt that the ending of the first film, portraying the McFly family as happier and notably wealthier than when it began, sent the wrong message.

The happier was fine to me. And the idea of the characters being in love, I thought was excellent. But I thought – I saw that if there was a kind of a financial reward, where the son character cheers because he has a truck in the garage – I thought that the moral aspect ends up being that money equals happiness. And I questioned that, and that was met with a lot of hostility and upset.

Glover recalls watching old movies in revival houses as a teenager in Los Angeles, films which he felt “were questioning things.” He apparently did not want to be complicit in a film which takes for granted that “money equals happiness,” a message he felt deceived moviegoers into sacrificing their interests to that of corporations.

Propaganda is essentially fooling people into believing that there’s something good for them, but it’s actually in the interests of the corporations. I mean, you can call anything propaganda. You can say what I’m saying right now is propaganda. I mean, you’re saying – it’s propagating an idea. But the kind of propaganda that I’m speaking of, that I think is very damaging, is the propaganda that is making people at large feel that what’s being put forth to them is good for their own interests. But in fact, it’s actually best for the corporate interests and it ends up hurting the people at large.

And unfortunately, I think – even though there are very positive things about Back to the Future – there’s very good story structure. There was good writing within it. My argument was, if we just take out the element of wealth as a reward – and it was only that the characters were in love, I would like the film altogether wholly.

The philosophical notion fueling Glover’s objection was that money should not matter if you pursue those things which you love.

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Why The Fantastic Four Casting Annoys This Black Man

Friday, February 21st, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

fantastic-four-reboot-cast

The Fantastic Four returns to theaters in 2015 with a new and controversial cast. The New York Daily News reports:

Within minutes of the bombshell reports that Fox has found its titular superheroes in the Fantastic Four reboot, naysayers flamed on social media to pick apart the reported selections of actors Miles Teller (Mr. Fantastic), Kate Mara (Invisible Woman), Michael B. Jordan (Human Torch) and Jamie Bell (The Thing) .

Complaints ranged from the good points (Teller’s track record of one-liner spewing parts is a poor fit for the super-serious Reed Richards) to the bad (Mara isn’t blonde) to the ugly (Jordan is not Caucasian like the character in the comics).

The author leaves unclear what makes that last compliant “ugly.”

Changing the racial identity of an established character in order to cast the best actor for the job works in many situations. The Avengers‘ Nick Fury was Irish in the comics long before Samuel L. Jackson portrayed him onscreen.

The offbeat casting choices in Zack Synder’s Man of Steel worked despite diverging wildly from past iterations. Laurence Fishburne starred as Perry White. Photographer Jimmy Olsen became a Latina intern named Jenny. And red-head Amy Adams portrayed the traditionally brunette Lois Lane.

However, there are times when a character’s physical characteristics or racial identity serve a narrative purpose. When Idris Elba, a black actor, was cast as the Norse god Heimdall in Marvel Studios’ Thor, it seemed like a gratuitous bit of multiculturalism. Then again, the Marvel version of Asgardians prove more alien than divine, so perhaps racial diversity makes sense in that context.

But casting a black man to play Human Torch makes no sense whatsoever. The character’s given name is Johnny Storm, biological full-brother to sister Sue, the Invisible Woman played by the decisively Caucasian Kate Mara. Unless this turns out to be some kind of artsy color-blind thing like you might see in a stage play, the relationship between these characters which has been integral to past narratives will have to be changed.

Will one of them be adopted? Will they be related at all? I suppose it could be handled in any number of ways which would not necessarily throw off the story, but for what purpose? Why do this? The only answer I can come up with is gratuitous multiculturalism, which this black author regards as an insulting bit of pandering.

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Fifth Beatle Brian Epstein’s Unsung Revolution

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

fifthbeatlecover

Gay at a time when homosexuality was a felony and Jewish in an era of “polite” antisemitism, one Liverpool lad broke into entertainment management at a time when the Anglo Lords in London ruled the biz. 50 years later the music world is only beginning to acknowledge that there’d be no Beatles without their manager, Brian Epstein.

This past weekend, Vivek Tiwary, the Gen-X producer that brought Green Day’s American Idiot to Broadway, spoke to an enthusiastic crowd at The Fest for Beatles Fans about his mission to bring Epstein’s little known story to life via a critically acclaimed graphic novel, The Fifth Beatlereleased by Dark Horse Comics.

What I unearthed after much difficult research (there is a paltry amount of information readily available on Brian, which is part of why I want to bring his story to the world) was not just an inspirational business story and a blueprint for what I wanted to accomplish with my career, but also a very human story, as summarized above. It’s a story I could relate to—and wanted to relate to—on so many levels. Brian became my “historical mentor”, if you will. A person from whose history I’ve tried to learn from—both what to do and what NOT to do. Brian was certainly a flawed and imperfect hero, but a hero all the same.

Tiwary has drawn inspiration from Epstein’s trailblazing ingenuity, citing that without Epstein’s persistence, Ed Sullivan never would have brought The Beatles to America. “People scoffed when I brought Sean Combs to Broadway in A Raisin in the Sun because they didn’t believe that Broadway attracted a black audience. I told them that was ridiculous; if we gave them a product they wanted, they would come.” Like Epstein decades before, Tiwary’s was a winning gamble.

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Flappy Bird Creator Has Right to Deny Fun

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

flappy_bird_large_verge_medium_landscape

There was a time, not too many years ago, when I was up on all the latest games on any given platform. Nowadays, with a wife, two young sons, and several other responsibilities — not so much.

I never even tried the most recent smartphone craze, something called Flappy Bird. Now, I may never get the chance. IGN reports:

The creator of Flappy Birdpulled the game from the iOS App Store and Google Play because it’s become an “addictive product”.

In his first interview since he followed through on his threat to remove the game, 29-year-old Dong Nguyen told Forbes that he has no plans to bring it back.

“Flappy Bird was designed to play in a few minutes when you are relaxed,” he said. “But it happened to become an addictive product. I think it has become a problem. To solve that problem, it’s best to take down Flappy Bird. It’s gone forever.”

Ultimately, it was guilt that motivated his decision to pull the game. “My life has not been as comfortable as I was before,” he explained. “I couldn’t sleep. I don’t think it’s a mistake. I have thought it through.”

Thus Nguyen disposes of his intellectual property in a manner that would make John Galt proud. We can argue whether Flappy Bird was actually addictive or whether it caused real harm. Regardless, though many may enjoy the game Nguyen created, as its owner he retains sole discretion as to whether it should remain available.

The decision to yank a smartphone game from the market may not prove controversial. However, similar decisions made upon the same principle of ownership generate controversy all the time. The champions of antitrust law and consumer protection, along with critics of intellectual property, adhere religiously to that famous Vulcan maxim: “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.”

Think of all the smartphone users like me who will never get the opportunity to play Flappy Bird. Who’s looking out for us? Who does Nguyen think he is, robbing us of the fun we never knew we could have?

Of course, it was never ours to have in the first place. We played no role in its creation, and thus hold no claim upon its use. Wasn’t there another flappy bird, The Little Red Hen, who taught us this long ago?

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Pop Culture’s Sexy Double Standard: It’s Elementary

Saturday, February 1st, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

sherlock

The BBC/PBS Masterpiece series Sherlock wraps up its third season this Sunday, much to the chagrin of a fan base that has come to embrace the belief, as “The Woman” Irene Adler explained in season 2, that “brainy is the new sexy.” The self-proclaimed sociopath Sherlock Holmes is a character that has turned the otherwise average looking actor Benedict Cumberbatch into an international sex symbol; even religious readers of Christianity Today dig Sherlock’s sex appeal:

The show highlights a male hero who breaks our hypermasculine stereotypes while demonstrating qualities we also find in a mature Christian life: Sensitivity to those around us, friendships that support growth, investment into community, and a discerning focus on truth. No wonder he gets our attention.

The “spiritual is sexy” conclusion isn’t lost on the show’s creator/writer, either:

“The most attractive person in the room is not always the best-looking; it’s the most interesting.” …The showrunner emphasizes that his Holmes isn’t a Vulcan with no emotions – he’s simply decided that things like sex and jokes would interfere with his deduction. “It’s the decision of a monk, not an affliction,” Moffat says. “It’s an achievable superpower.”

In fact, Sherlock’s female-skewed fan base flies in the face of pop culture’s obsession with the Greek-god-like male form:

“It wasn’t like, in all fairness, anyone was salivating over Benedict before he was Sherlock Holmes,” he told the University Observer when asked about the newfound popularity of the show among women. “It’s a meeting of part and actor I think that makes geeky sexy.”

The show’s writer went on to admit that this is probably the first time the Sherlock Holmes audience has been “female skewed” despite the fact that more traditionally attractive actors have taken on the role in the past.

Pop culture goes on to obsess over all things geeky, praising Big Bang Theory and Comic-Con to the skies, while establishing a new double standard when it comes to the intersection of gender and sex appeal. Sure, geeky guys can be cute, but it isn’t as if Amy Farrah Fowler look-alikes are trolling geekfests to be drooled over. Sherlock may be breaking new ground when it comes to depicting the sex appeal of an intelligent man, but women are still expected to house their brain in their booty.

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Has Fox’s Gotham Already Jumped the Shark?

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

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Like perpetually conflicted district attorney Harvey Dent, I find myself of two minds regarding the new Fox television show Gotham based in the years before Bruce Wayne donned the cape and cowl. Early indications proved more inspiring than recent news. Entertainment Weekly reports:

…The network’s licensing deal with Warner Bros. includes the rights to ALL the classic Batman characters — The Joker, The Riddler, Catwoman, Penguin and Batman himself. They will all be young versions of the characters and the show will tell how each became the psychologically damaged character we love today.

“This is all of the classic Batman characters,” [Fox chairman Kevin] Reilly said during the panel. “It follows the arc of how they all became what they were. I’ve read the script its really good. It’s going to be this operatic soap that has a slightly larger-than-life quality.”

Batman will be followed from the time he’s a child to “the final episode of the series when he puts on the cape.”

That formula should sound familiar to viewers of Smallville, the ten season exploration of Clark Kent’s journey from high school junior to Man of Steel. Around the time of Smallville’s debut, a young Bruce Wayne show was considered by Warner Brothers. It was reportedly scuttled by Christopher Nolan, who did not want to shift focus from The Dark Knight film franchise.

Nolan’s objection may factor into why we currently have Arrow, a series on the CW network following lesser known billionaire vigilante Oliver Queen as he battles many of the same villains who make up Batman’s rogues gallery – Deadshot, Ra’s al Ghul, and Deathstroke among them. In many ways, Arrow seems to beat around the Batman bush.

The announcement of Fox’s Gotham, timed as it was around the reveal of director Zach Snyder’s Man of Steel sequel in which Batman will headline, seemed likely to steer clear of Bruce Wayne and focus on police lieutenant and future commissioner James Gordon. That led many to believe that Gotham might be a police procedural set in a comic book world, much as Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a secret agent thriller set in a comic book world. These new revelations from Fox head Reilly indicate that Nolan’s lockout has been lifted, and the adventures of young Bruce Wayne are upon us.

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Janet Yellen New Chair of Q Continuum

Sunday, January 12th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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The Ancient World Was Not What We Think

Saturday, December 28th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Yes, he's a monkey.  But at least he won't grow up to write awful graffiti.

Yes, he’s a monkey. But at least he won’t grow up to write awful graffiti.

As we get ready to say goodbye to another year (and I don’t know about you, but though I’m not triskaidekaphobic, I’m about ready to bid 2013 goodbye) it is important to remember that the world has been going downhill for a looooong time.

If you need proof, here are some colorful phrases from Roman graffiti (with to a link to others, less safe for work.)

Among my favorites:

4. “Oppi, emboliari, fur, furuncle.”

“Oppius, you’re a clown, a thief, and a cheap crook.”

A clarivoyant graffiti writer would have added “And two thousand years from now, in a land yet to be discovered, you could become immensely wealthy by taking public office.”

5. “Miximus in lecto. Faetor, peccavimus, hospes. Si dices: quare? Nulla matella fuit.”

“We have wet the bed. I admit, we were wrong, my host. If you ask ‘why?’ There was no chamber pot.” Found inside an inn.

So long as they had a good reason…

9. “Vatuan aediles furunculi rog.”

“The petty thieves request the election of Vatia as adele.” In ancient Pompeii, an “adele” was an elected official who supervised markets and local police, among other things.

Well, okay, so they would have understood American politics — at least in Chicago.

10. “Suspirium puellam Celadus thraex.”

“Celadus makes the girls moan.”

And you should totally believe him, because he’s not self-interested at all in posting this publicity!

So, as the new year approaches, take heart.  The world is not going to heck any faster than it was in ancient Rome, and there’s hope for humanity yet. I mean, look on the bright side — in most of the civilized world you don’t need chamberpots in hotel rooms!

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock Copyright: khd

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Hercules Slams California Tax Proposal

Friday, December 27th, 2013 - by Walter Hudson
You're gonna tax what now?

You’re gonna tax what now?

Kevin Sorbo, the actor best known for his role as television’s Hercules, apparently likes to rage against government on Facebook. Who knew?

In one of his latest posts, the Californian takes umbrage with a decree from self-styled Olympians governing from Sacramento:

Oh, did I mention that the State of California, where I reside, has a bill on the table to tax/fine anyone who decides to leave California for another state or country. True story. Fine you for moving to another state!! WTF!! Maybe I can sneak out on a boat to Mexico.

In a cursory search, I was not able to find anything to substantiate this claim, though I have no trouble believing it. Such a proposal has been made before, and the Left has demonstrated on more than one occasion their willingness to punish or ban interstate relocation. Recall the National Labor Relations Board strong-arming Boeing when the aircraft manufacturer sought respite from Washington state’s smothering labor climate in right-to-work South Carolina? That ended only after Boeing capitulated to the NLRB’s extortion and threw a bone to the unions.

Fundamentally, only one difference exists between such actions and the Soviet Union’s construction of the Berlin Wall. That difference is a matter of degree. A tax on relocated wealth or an NLRB fine acts to deter escape from progressive utopia. The Berlin Wall merely dropped the pretense and made imprisonment within political borders obvious.

Those who propose such taxes, or otherwise seek to keep individuals and companies from voting with their feet, ought to be aggressively challenged utilizing the Berlin Wall comparison. Why did the free world oppose the Berlin Wall? What made that wall immoral? How does that differ from any government action to punish expatriation? Modern tyrants must be thus exposed.

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On the Run

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013 - by Charlie Martin

Screen Shot 2013-12-18 at 10.29.36

In case you wonder why I haven’t been around much recently, here’s the reason. I’m on the run from the North Korean secret service.

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Click on the image for your own denunciation.

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College Football Star Lets His Geek Flag Fly

Monday, December 16th, 2013 - by Chris Queen

Chris Conley

On Saturdays in the fall, Chris Conley puts on a uniform and goes into battle, where his legs and arms serve as weapons. The wide receiver at the University of Georgia will finish up his junior season on January 1 at the Gator Bowl, but once the season ends, Conley will don a different uniform and brandish a different type of weapon. He is organizing a light saber duel for friends at UGA to film:

Other than his No. 31 jersey he wears for the Georgia football team, the junior receiver has a Star Wars Jedi costume he will break out on special occasions. Like when he wore it to the Gym Dogs’ meet against Alabama on Feb. 2.

“It was pretty epic,” Conley said. “I was dressed as a Jedi and we had two Storm Troopers.” But he is hoping it’ll come in handy again sometime soon.

Conley is trying to organize lightsaber duels on UGA’s campus with other fellow Star Wars fanatics. His campaign to get production of the fan film going began on Twitter.

[...]

“I’ve actually had a lot of response,” Conley said. “A lot of people really want to do this. It’s something I’m kind of spearheading. It’s been a goal of mine before I graduate. This is just for me, just for fun. All of the people who are involved like that sort of thing and we accept our nerdiness.”

Conley began tapping into all of his possible resources. He recruited a Georgia football videographer — Frank Martin, who has overseen the production of the Bulldogs’ pregame hype videos, such as A Letter for Larry and Awaken The Nation — has been out shopping for props to build lightsabers and has continued to build his production team.

Conley doesn’t yet have a timeline for his project, but he and Martin are scouting locations, designing props, and recruiting participants.

The Bulldog star admits to being a fan of the Star Wars franchise since he was a kid – along with the rest of his family – and he freely admits his geekdom:

“My brother and I got into the games and into the some of the Star Wars history outside of the movies and I’ve just been a fan of it ever since,” Conley said. “I’ve been a big guy who prides myself on remaining who I am regardless of who I’m around or how old I get. It’s something that I like and regardless of what people tell me, if it’s frowned upon or not. It’s me.”

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Study: Being Born Without a Father Leads to Anger, Hate, Suffering

Friday, December 13th, 2013 - by Walter Hudson
"There was no father." And we all know how that worked out.

“There was no father.” And we all know how that worked out.

Anakin was doomed from the start, being born as he was by the will of the Force, and not by the seed of a present father. So we may conclude after considering a recent study from the journal Cerebral Cortex. Here’s the summary from The Christian Post:

The absence of fathers during childhood may lead to impaired behavioral and social abilities, and brain defects, researchers at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, Montreal, Canada, found.

The researchers found that the mice raised without a father had abnormal social interactions and were more aggressive, compared to the mice raised with a father. The effects were stronger among daughters than sons.

Being raised without a father actually changed the brains of the test subjects. The research found defects in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which controls social and cognitive functions, of the fatherless mice.

Mice were used because their environment could be controlled to ensure that the effects of fatherlessness were measured accurately. Plus, their response apparently proves “extremely relevant to humans.”

The real finding here affirms the human capacity for needless studies to confirm what plain sense makes clear. Kids need their Dad.

As a father of young children, I have been struck by the profound sense of gender identity inherent in even the youngest child. My six month old responds differently to men and women, snuggling up readily to the latter, and employing more caution around the former. My four year old presents different challenges to my authority than to that of his mother, and endures different challenges from each of us in return.

Here’s the deal. We had all the findings we needed on this topic when we first discovered that it takes one man and one woman to make a child. I’m not sure how much more we’re going to learn from mice.

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Geeks Raise Money for the Troops

Thursday, December 5th, 2013 - by Spyridon Mitsotakis

Boba-fett-010

During the weekend before Thanksgiving, thousands of comic book, sci-fi and television aficionados gathered in Boston for the annual Super Megafest. Among those present to greet them were Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future), Barbara Eden (I Dream of Jeannie), Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite), Sgt Slaughter, and many others. Joining these stars were a number of the most popular internet models in the business. The guests, many of whom came dressed as their favorite characters, were also met by another common theme: opportunities to give back to our troops though a charity of their choice.

“We’re happy to do it,” said a man selling raffle tickets for an oil painting of Star Wars villains Boba Fett and Darth Maul facing off against each other, signed by the actors who played them (Jeremy Bulloch and Ray Park, respectively) who were also on hand for pictures and autographs. The money from the raffle went toward the Wounded Warrior Foundation.

At the entrance to the event and wandering the corridors were uniformed Marines collecting donations for the Corps’ Toys for Tots Program. At one point a pair of Marines attracted the attention of a number of adult actresses. One of them, Sophie Dee, said that they were big fans of the Marines and Toys for Tots. “We try to give back,” she said, adding that she and her fellow stars often hold fundraisers for the cause.

While a precise accounting is not available, sources say that despite the bad economy the fundraising was a success.

This is all welcome news – especially given the fact that, of all the programs Obama could cut in its sham attempts to look fiscally responsible, the administration is moving to eliminate discount supermarkets that service low-income Military families.

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Why Disney Brings New Hope to Star Wars

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013 - by Walter Hudson

vader-emperor-mickey

Star Wars holds a sacrosanct place in my heart, as it does with so many among my generation. As we’ve grown up, its mythology has served as a ready reference, shaping our perception of the world. Good and evil, light and dark, rebel and tyrant – while its moral dichotomy may prove simplistic, the struggles in Star Wars nonetheless resonate with conflicts we face in real life.

Anything which has such influence over a child, sparking imagination, shaping morality, and stimulating aspiration, ascends to an object of reverence. It becomes something we carry around with us (some more literally than others) and cling to like a sacred idol. A kind of theology develops around it, with conflicting doctrines advanced by competing denominations of fandom. So it is with Star Wars. For that reason, any tinkering with the the saga’s mythology inevitably draws cries of heresy.

Betsy Woodruff of National Review went so far as to declare Star Wars dead, due in large part to the brand’s acquisition by mega-corporation Disney. Citing George Lucas’ own introspection regarding his Vader-like transformation from ragtag rebel of the film industry to head of his own corporate empire, and detailing her experience trying out for a role in director J.J. Abrams’ forthcoming Episode VII, Woodruff concludes:

Here’s why Star Wars is dead: First, because they made a huge mistake in not casting me. Second, because it’s no longer in the hands of a bunch of nerds in California and because it’s been entrusted instead to the kind of people who think eight-hour meet-and-greets are a good idea either as A) publicity stunts (or, giving them the presumption of good faith) B) a good way to determine who’s going to be the next Luke Skywalker. It’s because Star Wars — a story that’s profoundly anti-centralization, anti-bureaucracy, anti-depersonalization — is being micromanaged and scrutinized by nameless bureaucrats who think that people who’ve stood in line for five hours will be satisfied with being directed to a website. And it’s because a film enterprise that was initially about risk is now about bet-hedging. No one should need to be told that the seventh film in a franchise probably isn’t going to be super great. But, you know, just in case, consider yourself warned.

Consider me a fan of another denomination. While the next film in the franchise may indeed bomb, it won’t do so for the reasons Woodruff cites.

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Book Plug Friday: Discoverabiliy is Key

Friday, November 22nd, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt and Charlie Martin
The key to the future of publishing rests with you.

The key to the future of publishing rests with you.

This week Kris Rusch is blogging about “discoverability” which she says is the new publishing industry buzzword. (And do read the whole thing, and bookmark her blog if you’re at all interested in publishing.)

The traditional publishers use this discoverability thing to lure new writers to their stables. “Come with us,” they say. “We’ll make you a star.”

We all know how that worked in the old movies, and let me tell you, it works pretty much for traditional publishing these days. As Kris puts it, doing a step by step analysis of the cost of advertising in various venues, and your chances of getting it if you’re a midlist writer and even if the traditional publishers are bringing you out in print, which isn’t always the case these days:

Sure, a publisher might spend that $1050 to advertise the latest book in a growing series, but that ad will be viewed by a few thousand readers instead of a couple million. (And that’s still one-fifth of that mid list advance.) Suddenly, the print/online ads seem less likely for a traditional published book, don’t they? Here’s something else to remember: It’s not that hard for an indie author to reach 6,000 readers, through Amazon or Good Reads or a dozen other venues, which traditional publishers badmouth or ignore. Then there’s the expectation side of advertising. Book publishers know that book ads are informational only. The ads do not increase sales at all. The publishers buy the ads to inform the consumer that a new book is out. The consumer must see references to that new book several times before the book ever makes an impact on a consumer’s consciousness.

Also, let me tell you unless you get an advance over 10k, you’re not likely to see even that much advertisement. Or even placement on shelves. In the good old days, when Amazon didn’t force the publishers’ hands, Sarah once had six books out in a year, with two major publishers without seeing a single copy on the shelves – ever.
Later on in the same article, Kris says that book reviews do matter, since they’re seen by booksellers. Which is why the smart indie publishers are now doing print titles and sending out review copies months in advance. They might not get on the shelves, but they have as good a chance as any.

What about the quality of self-published work? Oh, sure. We’ve seen some terrible stuff out there. But then we see some terrible stuff from the traditionals. [And don’t talk to me about the superior editing and copyediting of traditional publishing. As I bring out my books that reverted, I find I had to go over them line by line – and that the published version often introduced errors – I don’t want to go over them line by line, but I want to make sure my indie version is better than the “traditional” one-- S.A.H.]

Also, later on in the article, Kris says that as far as electronic publishing only, you get no advantage from traditional publishing. This is probably right. So, if you choose to go indie, make sure you put a good product out and feel no regrets. Also, of course, send your book plugs here. We’re all about the discoverability. If you don’t go over and read Kris’ article, I leave you with this sentence, which blew me away:

That assumption was true, back in the olden days, y’know, about five years ago.

She’s right. It’s changing that fast. That means, whether you’re going indie or not, you need to stay alert, move fast, and the odds of success are all in your hands. I don’t know, guys. It sounds like we’re braving into a new frontier and the future is ours to forge. You got to like that about a future.


[Charlie here.] It’s a light week this week, largely because of a number of submissions that lack the necessities of making a book plug. That is, the TITLE, the AUTHOR’S NAME, the BLURB, and an AMAZON LINK.

Of the four, the AMAZON LINK is most important. We don’t have any arrangements with iTunes or Barnes and Noble yet. “It’s available on Amazon” is not an AMAZON LINK. A link to CreateSpace is not an AMAZON LINK, even though CreateSpace is owned by Amazon.

For more detailed guidelines, explaining the we need the TITLE, the AUTHOR’S NAME, the BLURB, and an AMAZON LINK, send an email to book.plug.friday@gmail.com.

To submit a book to be plugged, send the TITLE, the AUTHOR’S NAME, the BLURB, and an AMAZON LINK to book.plug.friday@gmail.com.


cover

Leap Of Faith: Quit Your Job And Live On A Boat
By Ed Robinson 

They gave up everything and now they have it all.

Follow them as they leave the working world behind and become carefree boat bums and beachcombers. Read how one couple got rid of all their belongings, quit their jobs, and moved onto a boat. This is a story of finding happiness in paradise through simplicity of life. It’s tales from tropical adventures. It’s a simple plan for financial freedom. It’s social commentary on the state of today’s society, sprinkled throughout with lyrics from the songs that inspired them.


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The Secret Life of Movies: Schizophrenic and Shamanic Journeys in American Cinema
By Jason Horsley 

Film blurs the line between myth and reality better than any other artistic medium, one could argue. Using movies to explore the unconscious realms of society in order to reach a better understanding of what drives it, this book examines filmmakers and films that center on schizophrenic themes of alienation, paranoia, breakdown, fantasy, dreams, dementia and violence, and that address–as entertainment–the schizophrenic experience. The loss of individual identity as reflected in the films is investigated, as well as the shamanic potential inherent in the broader theme.


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The Port of Houston
By Mark Lardas 

The Port of Houston is the second-largest port in the United States as measured by cargo tonnage. It is also 50 miles from the sea. How did such an improbable location become such an important port? The answer lies at the intersection of geography and technology mixed with a bit of Texas brag.

Seasoned with 191 illustrations, The Port of Houston tells the story. Starting with a not-so-wide spot on Buffalo Bayou in 1836, it follows the growth of a minor river port into a shipping colossus. It is a tale worth exploring.

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The Borg Vs. The People

Thursday, November 21st, 2013 - by Ronald R. Cherry

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Government power derives from collectivization of the people’s property. When government – a small group of other people after all – owns or controls vast amounts of the people’s property it is thereby empowered – like the Borg – to employ others to carry out its predictably self-serving desires – where resistance is supposedly futile. Flush with the people’s property, and thereby their power, collectivist government can also redistribute property to a government-dependent so-called proletariat class in return for votes – while at the same time expropriating property from the laboring middle class – the social engineering of economic class struggle. Total collectivization of property into the hands of a Marxist-type government leads to total government power; thus Karl Marx, in Orwellian fashion, advocated the abolition of private property, not for “social justice,” but as a means to concentrate property, and thereby power, into the hands of a few.

“It had long been realized that the only secure basis for oligarchy is collectivism. Wealth and privilege are most easily defended when they are possessed jointly. The so-called “abolition of private property” [Communist Manifesto] meant in effect the concentration of property in far fewer hands than before… In the years following the Revolution it [The Socialist Party of Oceania] was able to step into this commanding position almost un-opposed because the whole process was represented as an act of collectivization… It had always been assumed that if the Capitalist Class were expropriated Socialism must follow; and unquestionably the Capitalists had been expropriated. Factories, mines, land, houses, transport, everything had been taken away from them; and since these things were no longer private property it followed that they must be public property. Ingsoc [Socialist Principles of Oceania], which grew out of the earlier Socialist movement and inherited its phraseology, has in fact carried out the main item in the Socialist program with the result; foreseen and intended beforehand, that economic inequality has been made permanent.”  George Orwell – 1984 

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Why the World Doesn’t Need a Gay Superhero

Thursday, November 21st, 2013 - by Walter Hudson

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If you love movies, you owe it to yourself to subscribe to the AMC Theaters channel on YouTube. You will enjoy the thoughtful commentary offered by the crew at AMC Movie Talk.

Responding to a viewer question asking whether Hollywood will ever make an action hero or superhero film with a gay leading character, AMC’s John Campea offers several well-considered insights, none more so than this one:

The other thing I think is a little bit less nefarious than homophobia. And that’s simply the idea of cognitive identification. A lot of times, when we’re watching superhero films like – ridiculous guys like me. I watch Captain America and there’s a part of me that feels like I can be that guy. When I’m watching Iron Man, there’s a ridiculously disconnected [from reality] part of my brain that thinks, “I can be Tony Stark.” There’s an association with it… There’s very few things that are more strongly embedded within us, with our identity, than our sexuality.

The moment Captain America starts making out with another man, the ability of a heterosexual male to relate drops off substantially. Campea goes on to apply that observation beyond the context of sexual orientation to race, dialect, and other cultural differences.

Let’s say we see a guy, a character onscreen who is a small – speaks broken English – Asian gentleman. We have a hard time identifying with that. That’s not us. We can’t identify with him. And so we don’t really get attracted to those types of characters, those types of movies, and those types of projects.

It comes down to business and math. There just aren’t enough gay men in the world to justify catering a big budget action film to their particular tastes.

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Antique Tea Caddy Carved From Tree Shakespeare Planted Auctioned

Monday, November 18th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
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The Cobbe portrait, believed to be the only portrait of William Shakespeare painted during his lifetime.

Okay, not even in his comedies would Shakespeare write something that silly.  However, according to the Daily Mail:

A tea caddy carved from a mulberry tree may have been planted by Shakespeare himself has gone under the hammer for £13,000 at auction.

The antique – which features a tiny carved bust of The Bard – was whittled out of wood recovered from the famous tree planted outside the playwright’s home.

It lay in a private collection for years but was finally passed on for a five-figure sum after it was sold off at Christie’s auction house in London yesterday afternoon.

The immaculate caddy, dated 1760, is emblazoned with Shakespeare’s coat of arms and contains three ornate sliding-lid compartments decorated with intricate mulberry fruit designs.

Reverend Francis Gastrell – who bought New Place in Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire, after Shakespeare’s death – had the tree cut down in 1756 after he became fed up with visitors asking to see it.

He had planned to burn the tree but enterprising locals flocked to purchase the wood in order to create Shakespeare souvenirs – kick-starting the historic town’s centuries-old tourist industry.

Woodworker George Cooper – whose signature is carved into the 6in high by 10.25in wide wood-and-metal box – created dozens of trinkets from the timber.

Good show! And that figure for a box designed to keep your tea in is something the Bard himself — a money-minded entrepreneur –  would not have laughed about!

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Disney Plans To Phase Out Star Wars And Marvel-Themed Slot Machines

Monday, November 4th, 2013 - by Chris Queen

Star Wars Slots

In the last few years, Disney has made some of the boldest corporate moves, purchasing Marvel Studios in 2009 and Lucasfilm in 2012. In both cases, the company quickly incorporated both acquisitions into their brand, making and planning films and increasing their presence in theme parks and on television. Disney is also ensuring that both Lucasfilm and Marvel fit in with the company’s family-friendly reputation, announcing last week that they will phase out Star Wars and Marvel-themed slot machines over the next few years, according to The Guardian (UK).

A Disney spokeswoman told the NY Times the decision to phase out gambling machines linked to its recently acquired brands had been in place for some time, but was only now being made public. “Marvel discontinued plans to initiate or renew slot machine licensing arrangements as part of its integration with Disney,” the spokeswoman said. “The handful of remaining licence agreements have expiration dates within the next few years.” LucasFilm would follow suit, though it might take several years for branded slot machines to disappear altogether.

Taking on the lucrative gambling industry is nothing new to Disney. The company has fought attempts to bring resort casinos into Florida for several years, despite the protests of critics.

Disney is particularly determined to fight the proliferation of gambling in Florida. “We oppose the legalisation of so-called destination resort casinos because this major expansion of gambling is inconsistent with Florida’s reputation as a family-friendly destination,” said Andrea M Finger of the Walt Disney World resort.

Competitors, however, argue that Disney fears competition more than gambling. Michael A Leven, whose Las Vegas Sands Corporation hopes to open a casino in south Florida, told the Times: “Disney’s internecine warfare against integrated resorts in Florida under this pretence demeans them significantly.”

What do you think? Is Disney right to align its brands with a family-friendly focus? Is the company’s battle with the gambling industry a fight against the inevitable?

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Run a PC In Your Browser

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013 - by Charlie Martin

Okay, this is geeky but cool …

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Click on the screenshot, and it will take you to an IBM PC emulator running DOS.

In your browser.

If this thing just ran Word for DOS 6.0 I’d be in Heaven.

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Why You Should Give Yourself A Cable-Free Life For Christmas: Go Roku

Sunday, October 27th, 2013 - by Rhonda Robinson

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For most of our adult lives, television at the Robinson household consisted of a large antenna in the attic. We jokingly called it “farm vision.” Then we did what all old people do when their children are grown–we moved into town. I really enjoyed the luxury of cable–that is for about two years. Then I started to feel a bit cheated.

This past year forced us to reevaluate almost every aspect of our lives: our health, our lifestyle and our spending habits. When assessing the cost of cable, and the value it brings–cutting it was a no-brainer.

However, my husband and I both have favorite programs we enjoy. I’m not going to lie, as an information-junkie, my withdrawals from news and commentary hit fairly hard.

We’ve had AppleTV, and enjoyed streaming Netflix and routinely mirrored videos or live streaming church services or breaking news. But it really doesn’t offer a whole lot more than what’s on your computer or iPad.

Enter Roku.

Pronounced Row-Koo. If you’re considering Apple TV as an alternative to cable or DVD rentals checkout Roku first.

Roku is a little black device about the size of the palm of your hand and it streams Internet “channels” to your television. Roku comes loaded with access to over 1000 channels.

It’s a mixed bag of hundreds of free content and paid subscriptions. The best part about it, is you can add the channels you want and you’re not forced to weed through hundreds of channels to get to the couple you prefer. You can get Netflix, Hulu Plus, VUDU, Amazon Instant Video, PBS, The Blaze and Fox News. There are no fees connected with the device itself after the initial purchase. You will have to have wi-fi of course, as it is a streaming device.

Roku currently offers four different devices starting at $49.99. You can add a few bells and whistles at a time.

Currently, we have a yearly subscription to Amazon Prime, and are in the process of comparing Redbox (which offers four DVDs and unlimited streaming for $8.00 monthly) and Netflix. The subscriptions or combination you choose all depend on your viewing habits.

We have enjoyed the ability to watch entire seasons of television shows, watching episodes back to back without commercial interruption. Who cares if they are last year’s season–I’m no longer subjected to ED commercials or dating sites no matter how late we stay up.

You now have several options.

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The Empire Strikes Back Screenwriter Back on for Star Wars VII

Friday, October 25th, 2013 - by Stephen Green

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Best. News. Evah:

J.J. Abrams and “Star Wars” veteran Lawrence Kasdan have taken over screenwriting duties on “Star Wars: Episode VII,” replacing Michael Arndt, who was originally hired to pen the project.

“I am very excited about the story we have in place and thrilled to have Larry and J.J. working on the script,” said Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. “There are very few people who fundamentally understand the way a ‘Star Wars’ story works like Larry, and it is nothing short of incredible to have him even more deeply involved in its return to the big screen. J.J. of course is an incredible storyteller in his own right. Michael Arndt has done a terrific job bringing us to this point and we have an amazing filmmaking and design team in place already prepping for production.”

If it weren’t for Kasdan’s script and Irvin Kershner’s direction, The Empire Strikes Back would have been a Lucas-infested and disappointing sequel. Instead, it’s inarguably the best movie of the original trilogy.

I have a new hope for the upcoming sequels.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Oldest Plant Yet Brought Back To Life

Sunday, October 6th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt
Jurassic Park Meets Little Shop of Horrors

Jurassic Park Meets Little Shop of Horrors

According to National Geographic:

A Russian team discovered a seed cache of Silene stenophylla, a flowering plant native to Siberia, that had been buried by an Ice Age squirrel near the banks of the Kolyma River (map). Radiocarbon dating confirmed that the seeds were 32,000 years old.

The mature and immature seeds, which had been entirely encased in ice, were unearthed from 124 feet (38 meters) below the permafrost, surrounded by layers that included mammoth, bison, and woolly rhinoceros bones.

The mature seeds had been damaged—perhaps by the squirrel itself, to prevent them from germinating in the burrow. But some of the immature seeds retained viable plant material.

The team extracted that tissue from the frozen seeds, placed it in vials, and successfully germinated the plants, according to a new study. The plants—identical to each other but with different flower shapes from modern S. stenophylla—grew, flowered, and, after a year, created seeds of their own.

Okay, so it’s not the stuff of Jurassic Park, unless they can coax the rather pretty white flowers to roam the countryside overturning jeeps and terrorizing tourists, but pretty exciting, nonetheless.  And maybe next time they’ll find seeds for some massive ancestor of Venus Fly Trap and recreate Little Shop of Horrors.

What?  Oh, it would be terrible of course.  But think of all the people you could send one of those to.  I bet Washington DC would be full of flower pots and carnivorous plants before you could say “inadvisable horticulture.”

Picture courtesy of the author’s frighteningly bad photoshop skills! Stop me before I spoof again!

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