Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Godzilla returns! Does Hollywood make the right call?

The right call, of course, being to me. I'm easy to get ahold of, and while there may be bigger Godzilla fans out there, but I'll wager few of them are half the writer I am. Who else outdid Peter Jackson's King Kong by having a giant ape escape on a Zeppelin moored atop the Empire State Building? I rest my case.
Legendary Pictures has secured the rights to Toho Co.'s Godzilla, and hopes to return the iconic giant lizard to the big screen at some point in 2012.

For those of you dreading another Emmerich-level betrayal of the character, Legendary honcho Thomas Tull is saying all the right things. "Our plans," he tells Variety, "are to produce the GODZILLA that we, as fans, would want to see. We intend to do justice to those essential elements that have allowed the character to remain as pop-culturally relevant for as long as it has."

The above comes via Ain't It Cool News, and I have to say, I'm not sure if Hollywood will ever "get" Godzilla. The Big G is a force of nature, an elemental as it were, unleashed by humanity's tampering with the dangers of atomic energy. It's a metaphor for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the other giant monsters (aka Kaiju) can perhaps be best viewed as an allegory of the nuclear arms race. Which is something the Devlin/Emmerich film simply did not get on any level. At all. With atomic energy taking a back seat these days to nanotech, string theory, quantum physics and other universal/multiversal super-science, there's room to update and expand the mythos in a sophisticated, socially relevant way that still allows for a whole heck of a lot of Blowing Stuff Up Real Good.

I've got your storyline, Hollywood. It preserves all the Toho continuity--even the awful, cutesy stuff--while clearing the decks for an entirely new take. It's golden, folks. Money in the bank. All you gotta do is give me the call and take the pitch. I'm waiting.

Now Playing: Joe Walsh Little Did He Know

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday Night Videos

Video production quality wasn't very extravagant in the 1960s, nor was it all that creative. Herman's Hermits here, "performing" the mega-hit "I'm Into Something Good" simply look pained. I imagine all that hand-clapping would get pretty darn tiring after a while. The reactions of the band when the unseen piano comes in is quite amusing. That pretty much sums up Herman's Hermits--amusing. Enjoy.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Dick Dale and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Now Playing: Blue Öyster Cult Workshop of the Telescopes

Thursday, March 25, 2010

More fun with child rape from the Vatican

Earlier today I posted a link on my Facebook feed to a story about how then-Cardinal Ratzinger intervened to cancel pedophile priest's church trial for his repeated abuse of children. The article cast it in the greater context of historical church cover-ups and concern for suppressing scandal. Predictably, the Vatican has responded by attacking the messengers/victims, claiming the usual laundry list of anti-Catholic conspiracy, greedy lawyers and decadent Americans in general. I even received an "article" emailed to me from someone who ought to know better, but obviously doesn't, which basically defends and excuses the Catholic Church from any blame in the ongoing child sex scandals, because hey, Protestants are way worse. And then this article goes on to list all the good works the Catholic Church has done over the decades, and all the bad things Protestants have done, like, forever.

Yeah, pretty much guaranteed to set me off.

Yes, both Catholic and non-Catholic religions--be they Protestant, Muslim, Buddist, etc.--have scandals, often of a stomach-churning sexually abusive nature. The difference is that the Catholic Church continues to systematically cover it up. During the U.S. scandal--indeed, even now--Vatican officials say it's a vendetta driven by lawyers and others out to make money, and that it's not really a problem. And if it IS a problem, it's only a problem in the U.S. because of our poor morals.

Then BOOM, lo and behold, turns out that there's a longtime pedophilia problem in Ireland, an overwhelmingly Catholic country, in which children were abused in state-sponsored, church-run schools. The overriding concern of the Catholic bishops and Vatican was not for the victims, but to protect the image of the church. They leveled the same accusations against the accusers they had before in the U.S., then trotted out the tired line that "this is just an isolated incident." In Pope Benedict's recent letter on the subject, he went so far as to cast partial blame on the victims and their parents. There's compassion for you.

Now BOOM, another HUGE child sex abuse scandal in Germany, dating from when then-Arch-Bishop Ratzinger was the ranking church official in that country. Again, cover up, denial, and accusations against the victims. Even as the scandal continues to grow and more victims come forth.

What's the next country to explode? How many "isolated incidents" will there be in the future, how many before they're not isolated anymore? I'll wager EVERY SINGLE country in the world that has significant Catholic populations will eventually be touched by this scandal.

It's not that these events happened that is so offensive. It's that the Catholic Church at every level worked to cover it up, and transferred pedophiles to other parishes in secret where they were free to continue abusing children, and EVEN NOW FIGHT TO KEEP THESE DOCUMENTS SECRET in the face of criminal investigations. Back in the 1980s, we had a priest in my parish who had a problem. And just to show my contempt of the whole secrecy cult, I'll name him: Brian Crooks, at St. Anthony's Catholic Church. Crooks was Irish, drank way too much, and made an effort to interject sex at every opportunity. He was a troubled alcoholic. He told explicit sexual jokes at church gatherings that troubled my mother. He went out of his way to tell the students--the boys, at least--in CCD classes that sexual desires were normal and that they should be accepted, with an eagerness that unnerved me even then. He made repeated drunken, late-night sexual overtures to the Nuns of the parish, to the point that they eventually requested transfer to Wisconsin. After this, his drunken binges became so troublesome that the leading laity of the parish went to Victoria, seat of the diocese, to speak with the Bishop, Charles V. Grahmann, about getting Fr. Crooks some help--any kind of help. Bishop Grahmann refused to meet with them, said they "ought to be ashamed of themselves" and sent them away. Fr. Crooks was transferred away a year or so later.

Here's a fun fact about Bishop Grahmann--you see, unlike other folks, I keep track of these things--he was transferred to Dallas and became Bishop of Dallas in 1990. And what was Grahmann's greatest claim to fame as shepherd of more than 1 million Catholics? His involvement in the attempted cover-up of pedophile Priest Rudy Kos' crimes. Kos sexually assaulted hundreds--that's right, hundreds of altar boys--while a priest, and the response of Grahmann and his predecessor was straight out of the Vatican playbook: Transfer him secretly to another parish where he would be free to victimize more children. Such lofty concern for the victims eventually cost the Diocese of Dallas $23 million in settlements, an amount, if you ask me, that is far too low. And based on my first- and second-hand knowledge of Bishop Grahmann's handling of troubled and troubling priests, I suspect he was ultimately much more complicit than he ever admitted. It wouldn't surprise me if Fr. Crooks was an abuser as well, considering his out of control alcoholism and creepy preoccupation with sex.

Call me naive, but I hold my church, that which purports to be the DIRECTLY DESCENDED REPRESENTATION OF JESUS CHRIST ON EARTH should be a tiny bit more concerned and compassionate when it comes to their priests RAPING CHILDREN. All these so-called apologists who write articles defending the Catholic Church "because other people are worse" are completely missing the point. Excuse me if I think the Catholic Church should be held to a higher fucking standard that doesn't include the cover-up of child rape, because like it or not, that's what's going on.

Update: Oh, look! More "isolated incidents" in Italy, and a grudging, hostile reaction from the Vatican, which included "The bishop of Verona, Monsignor Giuseppe Zenti, initially accused the former students of lying." Nice. Jesus is so proud right now.

Now Playing: Gypsy Guerrilla Band Ernie's Pot o' Gold

A review! A review!

Who says good things don't come to those who wait? Well, actually nobody that I know of, but that's beside the point. John Denardo over at SF Signal has posted a terribly kind, and absolutely unexpected, review of Voices of Vision. Yeah, you read that right--my 2005 interview collection with the mind-bogglingly creepy cover.
I often say that I don't just like reading science fiction, I also enjoy reading about science fiction. Voices of Vision easily satisfies that hunger. It's an excellent collection of revealing interviews about some of the greats in the field of sf/f - and definitely worth a read.

I'm serious, glowing reviews like that come along every day. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it doubled sales of the book. Hear that, you six who've actually bought copies? You're about to have company!

Now Playing: Jiggernaut In Search of More

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Freebirds: It has to be said

Howdy Folks,

As a devoted, loyal and indeed, fanatical, customer of Freebirds for 19 years, I have to express my extreme disappointment for the recent decision to start watering down the habañero sauce. The first few times I encountered this, I assumed it was the local restaurant getting careless with the product. But when I encountered the same scenario in Austin the other day, I complained to the manager and was told it was a company-wide change. I pointed out that my 11-year-old daughter was sloshing the habañero sauce on her burrito and joking that it had no heat, and the manager apologized and said it was out of his hands.

An 11-year-old child was mocking the hot sauce. I know it’s a popular national trend to produce hot sauce that appeals to people do don’t actually like hot sauce, but Freebirds already has a wide variety of alternatives in place. I implore you, please reconsider this decision, lest kindergartners begin referring to Freebird’s famous “Death Sauce” as merely “Feeling Slightly Under The Weather Sauce.”


Jayme Blaschke
New Braunfels, Texas

Now Playing: ZZ Top El Loco

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Good news, bad news

I'm not one of those folks who buys a new computer every six months or so. I view it as a long-term investment, so rather than replace I'm more inclined to upgrade and refurbish. So when my old Dell Dimension 4600 started acting up a month or so back, I mapped out a plan: Get a new, 250gb hard drive to replace the old, small one that came with the machine, and then slave the old one as a backup. Also, it was time to upgrade the memory to the system's full 4gb RAM because of The Wife's increased heavy processing she does with Photoshop and the like for her photography business. Both the memory upgrade and new hard drive arrived in the mail today. Once I'm finished installing them, my desktop will be operating at peak efficiency. Ultimately, it'll still be a bit inadequate for what The Wife will ultimately need, and a new, high-end PC will need be bought, but this will serve nicely until then. So that's the good news.

The bad? A summons for jury duty arrived in the mail as well. I mean, crap on a cracker, this is about the eighth time I've been summoned in the last dozen years. And I invariably sit around for a day as lawyers motion back and forth before being sent home. I wish they had a "They won't pick me because I'm a journalist" box I could check and be excused from the whole ordeal...

Now Playing: Gypsy Guerrilla Band Ernie's Pot 'o Gold II

Happy St. Patty's Day!

This one's for all of you who know that Whacking Day was made up in 1924 as an excuse to beat up on the Irish. "But it 'twas all in good fun!"

Now Playing: Clannad An Diolaim

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Night Videos

It feels like summer outside. Seriously, after the coldest, wettest winter of the past 10 years, it's like Mother Nature woke up and said "Enough of that!" The sun is shining, the plum trees are in bloom and my pomegranate and figs are leafing out. Plus, weeds and thistles have taken over the yard, meaning I'll have to (shudder) mow this weekend.

So let's celebrate this warm weather with what is probably the most fantastic version of "Pipeline" ever, a guitar duet with Dick "King of the Surf Guitar" Dale and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Whoever came up with this pairing deserves a genius award. A word of caution, however. Dale's hair is one of the scariest sights I've ever laid eyes on. I may be permanently scarred. You have been warned.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Gary Numan.

Now Playing: Peter Gabriel Peter Gabriel 3

Friday, March 05, 2010

Friday Night Videos

Man, that crazy 80s New Wave synth-pop sound can't be mistaken for anything else, can it? I wonder if Gary Numan knew how dated he would be when making this video, or if he believe he was creating cutting edge art that would stand the test of time. The visuals here alone are the price of admission. Enjoy!

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Johnny Cash.

Now Playing: The Kinks Village Green Preservation Society

Monday, March 01, 2010

That time of the year

After surviving the coldest, wettest Texas winter in recent memory, we've had several days of beautiful sunny weather. The plum trees in the back yard are blossoming, bees are buzzing around them, and I see crimson buds popping out on the pomegranate bushes. All this points to one inescapable fact.

I'm about to become wholly obsessed with passion flowers again.


It's an annual event with me. I'll sell seeds and rooted plants on Ebay, using the money generated that way to buy more seeds and rooted plants of different types. And I'll trade a lot of the same with other passiflora enthusiasts. Especially this year, since the drought and heat wave in 2009 wiped out a huge portion of my collection--including some relatively rare favorites. Yesterday I cleaned out some of the old pots to recycle the soil, and was surprised to find still-living roots in one. I've no idea what plant this was from, but have potted up the roots in a started pot and will see if this mystery plant rejoins us for 2010.

I also pulled out some dried fruit I'd stored and opened them up for the seeds. I had a single fruit from an edulis plant--that's the commercial fruit variety--I'd cross pollinated with my Texas native incarnata, and I planted the 60 or so seeds it contained to see if any hybrids would be of interest. I also cut open several fruit I'd collected from the tetraploid hybrid "Inspiration." The fruits were heavy and firm, and to my surprise, when I cut them open I found them full of juicy pulp. This is surprising, since they were picked in October, and all the other passion fruit I collected usually dry out within a month or two. Obviously, this one has a much stronger moisture barrier. If commercial breeders could impart this into farmed varieties, the market (and longevity) of passion fruit would increase exponentially (currently, the fruit is considered fragile and doesn't travel or store well, which contributes to its high cost). There were many large, dark seeds within, so I'm cleaning them all up for another mass planting. I don't know of any viable hybrids that've come from an Inspiration cross, so I expect many of the seeds to be sterile, but you never know. I may get lucky and sprout the next big thing in passiflora hybrids.

Now Playing: Night Ranger Greatest Hits