News of the very strange…

Saw this article the other day on Huffington Post.  A Seattle based attorney claims that, between the ages of 7 and 12, he was part of a secret U.S. government experiment into…

…wait for it…

Time Travel.

Further, he points out a photograph taken at Gettysburg wherein he is supposedly present.

Curious?  The full article is here:

There is an included video, which I have embedded below:

I find the whole concept of time travel absolutely fascinating, even as I find the above very, very hard to believe.

I’ve heard it said more than once that young authors, especially those interested in writing science fiction, should not bother with time travel stories.  Why?  Because there are so many of them out there and written by so many well respected authors, that you simply couldn’t possibly do any better.  Alas, I didn’t follow this advice and have written a few time travel stories, my favorite of which is Dreams Do Come True, available in my Shadows at Dawn collection of short stories. (Shameless plug ends in 3…2…1…)

In terms of the possibility of time travel, when one looks away from the actual science and physics of the matter, which so far point to time travel being impossible, and toward the philosophical, there are those who argue that time travel doesn’t exist because if it did, we would have some evidence of it already.

They’re talking about things like accidentally discarded material from the future that is found in ancient sites (ie, a Coca Cola bottle found in Athenian ruins, etc.).  Also, if people could travel back in time, why not alter things?  There is the idea that one can’t do so, that history is somehow written in stone, but I have a hard time accepting this.  If one could go back in time, why couldn’t one alter things?  The fact is that I could choose to do any number of things today that could change history, though perhaps in only small ways.  But if I could go back in time to 1899, and somehow make my way to Austria and find the infant Adolph Hitler, what is to stop me from stopping him?  (The film The Terminator is duly noted)

Which brings us to the biggest philosophical questions about time travel:  The so-called Grandfather Paradox.  I’ll quote the concept from the link to the left, which is from Wikipedia:

Suppose a man traveled back in time and killed his biological grandfather before the latter met the traveler’s grandmother. As a result, one of the traveler’s parents (and by extension the traveler himself) would never have been conceived. This would imply that he could not have traveled back in time after all, which means the grandfather would still be alive, and the traveler would have been conceived allowing him to travel back in time and kill his grandfather. Thus each possibility seems to imply its own negation, a type of logical paradox.

Makes your head spin, don’t it?

In some ways, (shameless plug begins in 3…2…1…) I worked around on the fringes of this type of logic trap with my Dreams Do Come True story, creating the “perfect” murder, with what I felt was an interesting twist.

In the end, I suspect that the philosophers and scientists who don’t believe in the possibility of time travel are probably right.  Doesn’t mean I don’t wish it were possible.  I think it would be beyond exciting to be able to witness first hand all those magnificent historical events or recover lost objects of art or literature or film.  It would also be amazing to have the chance to save a Jimi Hendrix or Jim Morrison or John Lennon and, subsequently, live in a world where more of their music exists.

It’s a lovely dream, but a dream nonetheless.

10 Mysteries of Human Behavior…

…that science cannot explain:

Interesting, albeit a few years old article that lists things that we, as human beings, do without any clear scientifically recognized reason.

Most bizarre was item #6, picking your nose.  In that example, the article states: “ingesting ‘nasal detritus’ offers almost no nutritional benefit, so why do a quarter of teenagers do it, on average four times a day?

Ugh.  Four times a day?!

I think back to my adolescence and can’t recall ever doing that.  And most certainly not that many times a day!

One of the more fascinating is #8, Altruism.  I tend to agree with the article when it says that giving away things is odd when considered in “evolutionary terms”, and it most certainly makes you consider how different humans are to many animals, although I suppose one can argue that there are examples of altruism in the animal kingdom as well.

Birds, for example, find/hunt for food which they then give to their young offspring.  Perhaps that could be considered a form of “altruism” that is framed in evolutionary terms.  The adult bird, after all, could take the food they track down and keep it for themselves.  However, if the bird doesn’t feed its offspring, the offspring die and, as a result, the bird’s species will die as well.

Anyway, fascinating stuff, if you’re interested.

The Big Bus (1976) a (very) belated review

Another posting from my previous blog.  This one first appeared on March 16, 2011.  It is presented with some minor revisions for clarity’s sake:

Over time I developed a list of films I read/heard about yet hadn’t seen that I was intent on catching whenever I could.  Thanks to the proliferation of cable/movie channels and DVDs, this list of unseen -by me- films grows smaller ever day.  As of yesterday, that list is minus another film, one I heard about years ago and was curious to see.  A comedy that evoked memories of 1980’s Airplane!, yet was made a full four years before that classic.

Would it delight, or would it disappoint?  See for yourselves…

The Big Bus rolled (ugh) into theaters in 1976.  Like Airplane!, the makers of this film apparently looked over the landscape of then popular “disaster” films and decided to parody them.  In the case of Airplane!, the Zucker Brothers and Jim Abrahams took the very serious 1957 film Zero Hour! and essentially remade it as a parody, with nods toward the other Airport films that were, up to the previous year, pretty popular.

In the case of The Big Bus, the producers were far more ambitious.  They decided to parody almost the entire “disaster” film genre while having the “all star” cast face danger while aboard the most absurd moving vehicle they could think of: A giant, nuclear powered bus.

That’s right, a bus.

Even now I’m giggling at the absurdity of that concept.  Too bad the film, in the end, simply wasn’t all that good.  While Airplane! is a comedy classic and could well be my personal all time favorite comedy film, The Big Bus unfortunately disappoints because it just wasn’t as funny as I was hoping it would be.  Airplane! presented wall to wall jokes, from Three Stooges-type physicality to verbal jokes to outrageous sight gags.  There was simply no let up, and the most amazing thing is that it worked.

Airplane!’s secret ingredient, and one of the keys to its success, was that it took a bunch of “serious” veteran actors and stuck them in decidedly idiotic roles.  Despite the absurdities, the “serious” actors delivered their lines seriously.  Thus, you laugh out loud when Leslie Nielsen responds to the “Surely you can’t be serious?” line, or when Robert Stack and Lloyd Bridges mentally crack up while bringing the wayward airplane in for a landing, or when Peter Graves makes decidedly inappropriate comments to a young passenger.

The Big Bus, on the other hand, presents us with a large and fairly familiar cast that simply isn’t charismatic or zany enough to pull off the idiotic elements presented.  Perhaps the film’s best joke is presented early on, when we find out the man who will be driving the big bus on its maiden trip was involved in a previous bus trip that ended in disaster (and cannibalism!).  For those curious, the sequence is presented below.

I wish the rest of the film could have been that (dare I say it?) biting.

Sadly, the movie lumbers along, not unlike a real bus, with little momentum before reaching its climax.  Incredibly, it is there that the film seems to finally find some spark as the bus balances precariously on a cliff’s edge.  That sequence proved both surprising and visually exciting.

The bottom line: If you’re in the mood for a disaster movie parody, stick with Airplane!

Southern Comfort (1981) a (very) belated review

It’s been a while since last I posted some of my old blog entries.  Here is my (very belated) review of Southern Comfort, originally posted on July 27, 2010.  I have updated and clarified some of my thoughts:

For the most part, I love the films of director Walter Hill.  To the very casual movie-goer, his name probably doesn’t evoke much of a reaction, but his first seven films as a director, starting with his 1975 feature Hard Times and working his way to 1984’s under-appreciated Streets of Fire, this man was…well…on fire.  Those films firmly tread on the concept of myth and his characters, both heroes and villains, were always larger than life.  Today, he may be better known as the producer of the Alien films, and yes, he is listed as a producer on the highly anticipated Prometheus.

Coming out in 1981, Southern Comfort appeared the year before Mr. Hill’s biggest hit as a director, 48 Hours.  I recall, albeit vaguely, it was at best a modest success.  A few of the critics pointed out that the film was very similar, at least thematically, to the 1972 film Deliverance.  In fact, if there was a reason to dismiss Southern Comfort, that was it.  Deliverance, both the novel and the subsequent film, were (and still are) considered classics.  And when you decide to tread in the shadow of classics, you damn well better bring your “A” game.

I don’t know if I saw the film when it was originally released, but if I did, the only lingering memory of it was the climax, and this could well have been a result of a subsequent televised viewing.  Being a fan of Mr. Hill’s and seeing the film being shown on a cable channel (uncut), I set the DVR and, some four or five months later, I’ve finally had a chance to see the film all the way through.  It was the last of those seven original Hill films left for me to see, and I was eager for the opportunity to gauge it against my favorite Walter Hill films (The Driver; The Warriors, and the already mentioned Streets of Fire).

So, how did it stack up?

Not all that badly, as it turned out.

To begin, yes there are strong echoes of Deliverance throughout Southern Comfort.  And, to be very blunt, Deliverance is the superior film.  Far superior.  If similarities in themes between films bother you and you’re also a fan of Deliverance, there is a good chance that you may not enjoy this film.

Like Deliverance, Southern Comfort presents us with a group of weekend warriors (in this case, they quite literally are weekend warriors…they’re National Guardsmen).  As with Deliverance, our group travels off into the dark places just outside civilization.  And as with Deliverance, the group faces off against both the forces of nature and the shady locals.  This place is their playground, and our protagonists are clearly out of their element.

The biggest difference between the films is that while Deliverance was a story about self-confident city folk who head out to the woods with their brand new shiny state of the art hunting gear (in other words, they are poseurs) and find themselves quickly in over their heads in their rural location, Southern Comfort delivers more of a parable of the United States’ war in Vietnam.  The “weekend warriors” head out to the woods on a training mission and are equipped with fearsome weapons…all loaded with blanks.  They intrude into a land with its own rules, where the people speak their own language and have their own culture.  As the terrain shifts and these testosterone filled individuals get lost, things quickly become muddled.  The National Guard group unit we follow are barely a cohesive unit.  The individual members push things this way and that and, ultimately, the troubles they encounter are of their own making.  Going along with the whole Vietnam analogy, they have no real mission other than survival and the enemy is literally as much a part of the scenery as the deadly swamps they’re stuck in.

Powers Boothe, a sadly under-appreciated actor, simmers in the role of Cpl. Charles Hardin.  While his actions within this film aren’t always right, he more than anyone else becomes aware of the gravity of their situation.  Keith Carradine plays Pfc. Spencer, a good-natured “city boy” presented as almost the polar opposite of the more intense Hardin.  In this case, the near opposites form a strong bond and they eventually realize they have to work together or fall apart.

Southern Comfort, in the end, is an enjoyable Walter Hill film, again provided the similarities to the superior Deliverance don’t become too big a burden to the viewer.  While the action comes in spurts, the tension is well maintained and the dialogue is very snappy.  A highlight is the building, and final, confrontation between Boothe’s Hardin and Fred Ward’s Cpl. Lonnie Reece while the movie most fumbles with the way, way too-fast decomposure of Cpl. ‘Coach’ Bowden.

Still, the film is very much worth a look.

Excessive Coca Cola Blamed in Woman’s Death

News of the bizarre, for sure:

Not too terribly surprisingly, Coca Cola issued a statement noting that the very excessive use/abuse of any food/drink product can produce serious health issues.

Still, very sad to read this, considering the woman’s relatively young age and the fact that she was a mother.  If one were to look for blame, I wouldn’t put it on Coca Cola the product, but rather on the family and friends of the woman in question.  They must have known that her health was in serious decline and should have done something to change her unhealthy habits.  Of course, the woman herself should have recognized her daily intake of Coca Cola was too much.  It certainly appears she developed an acute addiction to the product, something I didn’t think possible.

The full story is here:

Disney Chairman resigns after John Carter failure

Interesting (and fairly brief) article from CNN regarding Disney chairman Rich Ross resigning from his position as chairman at Walt Disney Studios after the film John Carter cost the studio a $200 million dollar loss:

I suppose someone’s head had to roll after the failure of that movie.

And yet…

The film’s score on was a very mediocre 51% among critics yet a decent enough 68% positive among audiences (read that here).  While these results may not be superb, one can’t help but wonder why the film seemed to keep people away in droves.

Looking over the comments in that article, there is much speculation about why the film failed.  Some felt that the movies massive $100 million marketing campaign was to blame, that they hadn’t even heard of the film until it was out and/or gone.  Others speculated that the film was hampered by using unknown actors instead of more recognizable faces.  Still others felt the fault lay in the very bland name of the film.

But the one thing I noted was that several posted comments, by people who appeared to have avoided the film entirely, noted that the whole thing looked silly and/or stupid.

The film’s failure can probably be attributed to all those things listed above, but I believe it is that last element that truly sealed the movie’s fate.  I recall rumors seeped out well before the film was released that Disney Studio heads were uneasy about the movie, even as they pumped massive amounts of money into its budget.  There was the feeling at least to me, that this film had the potential to be very bad.  When the promotional material finally came along, an already bad situation got worse.  Posters for the film were bland, plain and, frankly, underwhelming.  The theatrical trailers, likewise, were uninspired.  They didn’t give one much reason to think the final product was worth going to.

By that point, the early unease about John Carter became something much worse.  With the combination of rumors and at best mediocre advertisement, audiences now anticipated a bad film.  Not surprisingly, they were thus unwilling to spent their hard earned money on it, even in spite of early, generally positive audience reactions.  Nothing could convince many to give the movie a chance, something I still see reflected in some of the comments on that CNN article website.

I suppose the bottom line is this:  The studios need to try their best to keep any –any– negative early word from leaving their doors and making its way to the internet (I know, just about impossible to do).  And if you’re going to spent $100 million on advertising your product, then make sure the firm you hired and spent that much money on actually does this well.

I suppose all this is easier said than done, hindsight is 20/20, and all those other cliches.  Regardless, I still scratch my head at how colossal a failure this film proved to be, especially when, in the end, it doesn’t seem like it was all that terrible to begin with.

10 Movie Errors That Bug You…

Love the concept behind this list, from Entertainment Weekly:,,20483133_20588281,00.html

There are a few movies with “errors” in them, both annoying and, at least to me, humorous/delightful.

The one I found very annoying?

In the 1995 sci-fi movie Twelve Monkeys, Bruce Willis plays a man who may be out of his mind…or possibly a time traveler sent from the future to save humanity from a devastating virus that is about to be released.  In the course of the movie (no big spoiler here), Willis’ character is very disoriented and the people he meet, naturally, don’t quite believe him when he says he is a time traveler.

In one sequence in the film, he is suddenly thrust in the middle of a battle in the Civil War.  He sustains a bullet wound to his leg before coming back to the movie’s “present”.  In the present, the bullet is removed and its examination proves very important to the movie’s plot.  For you see, when the bullet is examined, a character discovers it is “from the Civil War”.  This, in turn, convinces another character that Mr. Willis isn’t crazy after all, that he is telling the truth about his time traveling.

HOWEVER, what bugged me was this:  How did they know -and so quickly and convincingly- that the bullet was from the Civil War?  The movie implies the people examining the bullet dated it by, perhaps, using some kind of carbon dating.  But if you think about it, that makes no sense.  Willis’ character traveled back to the Civil War era, sustained the wound, and was then almost immediately transported back to the present.  The bullet within him, thus, might be an “older” model bullet, but it would be *brand new* to anyone examining it.

Now, this scene would have worked far more effectively if when the bullet was examined the examiner said: “Say, this model of bullet is of a type they used back in the Civil War!”  However, that was not what was said or implied.  It was clear that the examiner knew the bullet was from the Civil War.

I suppose its a small annoyance, but given the significance to the movie’s plot, that bit really bugged me.

Now, to the film with errors that, instead of bugging me, amused and delights me:

In the 1971 James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever (Sean Connery’s last “official” outing as the super spy), one should watch very carefully some of the stunt work in and around Las Vegas.  For example, when James Bond is driving around in the moon buggy, toward the end of the chase if you look carefully on the left side of the screen, you’ll see that one of the moon buggy’s wheels came off just outside camera range when the final pursing car does its flip (this happens at the 2:33 second mark of the clip below):

A second amusing screw up occurs just a little later and also involves stunt work.  In this case, James Bond is being pursued by people while driving a screaming red Mustang.  He goes into a too tight alley and has to drive the car on two wheels.

Only problem?  He goes into the alley using the car’s right side wheels but comes out of the alley on the left side wheels!  This occurs in the following clip at the 3:45 second mark.

They tried to fix the above glitch with a little moving camera work, implying that somehow in the alley the car switched sides, but clearly this was a goof!

Mind you, I still absolutely LOVE Diamonds Are Forever.  I think these goof ups add to the movie’s charm and most certainly are not errors that “bug” me.  There are those who hate the film, but I happen to think its a great action/comedy.  Perhaps more of a comedy than the typical Sean Connery Bond films, but I love it nonetheless.

2012 Summer Movie Madness!

Haven’t been as frequently to the theaters as I used to be (or want to be!), but looking over this list of upcoming 2012 summer movie releases, this is what I thought:

Firstly, there are a lot of films being released, many of which I may be interested in…and many I either don’t know enough about or don’t really care to see (nothing new here!).

There are five I’m borderline interested in (ie I will give them a look, but most likely when they’re eventually released to video):  The Avengers, Dark Shadows, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (provided the film is a comedy…the trailer seemed a little too serious given the outrageous title/concept), The Bourne Legacy (a Bourne film without Matt Damon and with Jeremy Renner?  Might it work?), Total Recall (despite all the booing and hissing from people who feel it sacrilege to remake director Paul Verhoeven’s original film, I thought that film was, at best, only OK, certainly not on the level of his much better Robocop.  The trailer to the remake has me intrigued, though I’m not a huge fan of director Len Wiseman), and, finally, The Expendables 2.

There are only a couple of films, at least so far, I know I will make a great deal of effort to see when they are eventually released:  Prometheus, far and away, has me the most intrigued, though I worry some of the movie’s trailers have given away a little too much plot.  Regardless, like many others, I’m seriously interested in seeing director Ridley Scott’s return not only to science fiction, but also to the alien “universe”.

The other film I will try hard to see is The Dark Knight Rises, the concluding film in director Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.  While Mr. Nolan’s works may not always completely knock me out, he’s clearly a man who puts a great deal of effort into each of his works and it shows.  I hope this one is on the level of the others.

Finally, the movie I’m finding it most difficult to build any big excitement about:  The Amazing Spider-Man.  A reboot of the Spider-Man franchise?  The last film in the previous Spider-Man franchise, Spider-Man 3, was released in 2007.  A mere five years ago.  Do we really need another re-boot?  Based on the trailers released so far, I’m not very impressed by what I’ve seen.  It looks a lot like the previous Spider-Man films, only with younger actors.

We’ll see.


That’s one way to beat a traffic ticket…

…although I suspect its a rather unique way:

This article, concerning the way physicist Dmitri Krioukov managed to convince a judge -via mathematics!- that his ticket for failure to come to a complete stop at a stop sign was incorrect, has to be one of the more interesting ways to get out of a ticket.

It does bring up an interesting point:  I recall going to traffic school many years ago (I was cited for speeding…I was going five miles over the speed limit in a 30 mile per hour speed zone) and the police officer giving us the lecture asked something to the effect of: “How many of you have received your first traffic ticket?”

Along with my hand rising were several others.  One middle aged/elderly woman (she may have been in her late 50’s or early 60’s) not only raised her hand but noted with great indignity that in all her years of driving this was her first ticket.

“Why did you get the ticket?” the officer asked.

“They said I didn’t come to a full stop at a stop sign.”

The police officer shook his head and said the following:  “I don’t feel any sympathy for you.  Every day every driver on every street commits on average at least five traffic offenses.  You’ve been lucky that in all these years, this is the first time an officer caught you doing something illegal on the road.”

The statement, frankly, made my head spin.  Now, I can’t speak to the veracity (or lack there of) of the police officer’s statistics.  For all I know, he may well have made them up for effect or heard someone else say them and believed them to be true.  The opposite, of course, might be true as well:  Maybe we do break the traffic laws many times each day, maybe even more than five times.

Also, and to be fair to the officer, the quote presented above isn’t absolute verbatum.  Its been many years since I received that ticket and participated in the class and I don’t pretend to recall every single word the officer uttered.  Well, with the exception of that first line.  Yes, the man did say he felt no sympathy for the woman and her ticket.  And yes, he went on to quote that five time a day lawbreaking statistic and did pronounced her lucky for having only received one ticket in all these years.

But to my mind, the most important thing I came away with regarding his statement was questioning traffic laws in general.  If we are to assume those statistics cited by the officer were accurate and if the traffic laws are such that on average a driver breaks at least five rules each day, then the laws, I think it could be argued, are way, waaaay too tough and/or arbitrary.

I suppose that traffic laws, in the end, simply fall into much broader gray areas than other laws.  After all, in the eyes of the law if it is proven you steal, you’re a thief.  If it is proven you killed someone in cold blood, you’re a murderer.

If you’re traveling at 100 miles per hour in 30 mile per hour speed zone, you’re clearly a menace.  However, if you’re going 35 miles per hour in that same 30 mile per hour speed zone, you’re just as guilty of breaking the law.  While you may not be a “menace” to others and the nature of your “crime” isn’t quite as serious, you’re still breaking the law.

It’s an imperfect system but it is tough to think of good alternatives to it.  Though the police officer’s remarks to the woman might have been brusque, he may well have been right.  And yes, while traffic laws may be impossible to follow 100% of the time each and every day, should we get rid of them because of this?  And if we do, then what?

In the end, I guess we can swallow our collective pride and pay the fee for getting “silly” traffic tickets now and again, provided when we do drive we know that others on the road recognize there are laws on how we should follow, and those laws not only protect ourselves, they protect others on the road.

At least that way we don’t feel like anything goes.