Sunday, November 30, 2008

Friday, November 28, 2008

Oh You Silly Catholics

Vatican warns mobile phones are bad for the soul

The Vatican has warned that our obsession with modern technology, such as the internet and mobile phones, is not leaving people enough time for spiritual pursuits.

Pope Benedict XVI is keen to guard against the excesses of modern life
Pope Benedict XVI is keen to guard against the excesses of modern life

Father Federico Lombardi, the Pope’s spokesman, said that without a spiritual life, people risked losing their souls.

“In the age of the cell phone and the internet it is probably more difficult than before to protect silence and to nourish the interior dimension of life,” Father Lombardi told the Vatican television show Octavia Dies. “It is difficult but necessary.”

“There is an interior and spiritual dimension of life that must be guarded and nourished. If it is not, it can become barren to the point of drying up and, indeed, dying,” he added.

“Today, this is a very grave threat, and it is the most irreparable misfortune.”

The Vatican has long counselled against the excesses of modern life. Last month, Pope Benedict XVI said that the current global financial crisis was proof that the pursuit of money and success is pointless, and that wealth meant nothing.

“Nations once rich in faith and vocations are losing their own identity under the harmful and destructive influence of a certain modern culture,” he told a recent assembly of the Synod.

From the Files of Police Squad -- GTA 4

Friday, November 21, 2008

Cheech and Chong: Comics return, minus Dave

After more than 30 years, those comic poets of dope, Cheech and Chong, have reunited for their Light Up America tour, which arrives this weekend in the Bay Area. We caught up with the pair earlier in the week from a hotel room on the road and started by asking them why they've hit the road again.

Cheech: We're doing it for the kids.

Chong: The kids are our future.

Cheech: Yeah, the kids are the future, so we're doing it for them.

Chong: And they really appreciate it. Especially the kids that only know Cheech from "Nash Bridges" and me from "That '70s Show." We're doing it for those kids, letting them know who Cheech and Chong is.

Cheech and Chong are back. The stoner Abbott and Costello who substituted "Dave's Not Here" for "Who's on First" have only grown in stature in their absence. Their '70s movies are now considered cult classics, and a new generation of filmmakers pays tribute to the pioneers in films like "Pineapple Express."

Richard "Cheech" Marin, 62, has prospered as a character actor in movies and television. He put together an impressive exhibition of Chicano art that toured the country for several years and manufactures a righteous hot sauce. His partner, Tommy Chong, 70, who has also done some acting (mostly reprising his stoner hippie character) in movies and TV, made his biggest news in recent years with his 2003 arrest and conviction on federal charges of selling drug-related paraphernalia - the Chong Bong - and served nine months in prison. He wrote a book about his prison experience and recently published an account of the duo's history, "Cheech & Chong: The Unauthorized Biography."

They have put aside the difficulties that plagued their personal relations and led to an acrimonious breakup.

Chong: We only get along when we're working. When we weren't working, we never got along.

Cheech: So we decided to work.

Chong: Yeah, so we'd get along. And making money. When you're splitting up nice, big paychecks, it's soothing.

Cheech: Actually, this is for his felony and my alimony, so it's the Felimony tour.

They claim to have even prepared new material for the reunion and subsequent concert film they plan.

Chong: The whole act is brand new. It's really what we did 30 years ago, but no one's ever seen it, including ourselves, so it's all new, new to everybody.

Cheech: We're doing a lot of George Carlin's material, too. Is he going to complain?

They will reprise bits and musical selections from their six best-selling '70s comedy albums, all except one of their most famous pieces.

Chong: We agreed on that - the only thing we're not going to do is "Dave's Not Here."

Cheech: Yeah, because we couldn't sing it in the original key.

Jerry Lewis has nothing on these guys; the French know they, too, are filmic geniuses.

Cheech: There was a theater in Paris, Boite d'Homage, that played "Up in Smoke" every Saturday for, like, 10 years.

Chong: Even longer.

Cheech: Eleven years.

Chong: Every Saturday, midnight show.

Cheech and Chong emerged from '60s underground sensibilities around pot use in the counterculture - Gilbert Shelton cartoons and the like - but they endured into something more lasting, the two-headed Mount Rushmore of all dope comics.

Cheech: Stoner culture transcends every group, just like Cheech and Chong. There's no group that doesn't like Cheech and Chong, whether it's young, old, black, white, Chicano, biker, straight, gay, Republican, Democrat. It's like butter. Everybody likes butter.

Chong: It's like pot, too.

Cheech: Yeah.

Chong: 'Cause pot got into all the culture. When I was in jail, I was invited into all the groups - from the white supremacists who liked cowboy music to the rappers and Arabs - every culture, the Hawaiians. Every culture in prison would have me as their guest of honor when they had going-away dinners for people.

Cheech: We're thinking of starting a religion next.

Chong, in fact, is convinced that their notoriety led to the federal anti-drug task force singling him out for arrest and prosecution.

Chong: They weren't playing when they came after me. They knew exactly what they were doing. A lot of people think I'm blowing it out of proportion, but I think it was like a pre-emptive strike against the anti-war movement because, if you think about it, there was no protest against the war 'cause Bush and his people would clamp down on anything that looked like a protest. The Operation Pipe Dreams was designed just for that.

Cheech: They were looking for weapons of mass destruction and they just found the bong.

Chong: And that was the only weapon of mass destruction they found, too.

But Chong says he now eschews smoking the herb.

Chong: I evolved. When you get older you're slow and stupid naturally. You don't need any help. In fact, it doesn't help. Back in the day when I was younger, I'd do it to slow down. What happens is that it's in my body so much, even the sound of Cheech's voice gets me high. Just body memory. I quit smoking while I was in pretrial probation, during the time I was in jail, and a year after when I was on probation and I kind of got into it. When we started the tour - I'd smoked up to the tour - and then I decided, you know, I didn't want to get surprised at the airport, like having my bag searched and all of a sudden you find a joint that I forgot was there. It wasn't worth it to me. So I just decided not to smoke.

Cheech: A lot of people don't realize that being straight is addictive and once you start, it's a tough habit to break.

Egad. Does that mean Cheech, too, doesn't get high anymore either?

Cheech: F-, no.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Send Up to the Red Shirt Ensign

Star Trek: Does my ass look dead in this?

Martin Anderson

A short but nonetheless reverent tribute to the utterly doomed wearer of the red shirt in Star Trek…

Paramount are aiming J.J. Abrams' Star Trek at the lucrative popcorn kiddies that are the mainstay of any summer blockbuster, with action, stunts, SFX and SEX. But frankly they could have invented something new and stuck a couple of huge stars in it and not be hamstrung by Trekkers whining about canon. Abrams' Star Trek has a broader phaser bearing, additionally designed to make the crustier geek - like myself - warmly nostalgic.

Therefore it was (sorry to be callous) with some pleasure as well as amusement that I watched the short-lived red-shirt dive to his absolutely inevitable doom at the preview screening of scenes from Star Trek last week.

Back in the days of TOS, killing a character mid-season usually meant that an actor themselves had actually died or - worse - asked for a pay-rise; the bold strategy of developing a regular character only to plan - often more than a series ahead - to kill them off within the course of a multi-year story arc was but a glimmer in the eye of a network that liked to rifle-shuffle its episodes (it was against this sort of background that the death of Spock in 1982's Wrath Of Khan had such impact, even if Paramount spent the following movie reversing it).

Thus Kirk's love-interest of the week (how much action would Kirk have got if all those sexy aliens could have turned to Wikipedia to find out what a 'kiss' is?) was heading for the exit-swish by minute 49, and anyone who died that week would also have been introduced that same episode…Kirk's uncle, McCoy's ex-girlfriend, Spock's mum's neighbour's plumber…the principals were safe; unlike the red-shirted security guards who beamed down on 'away' details, whose lifespan was in the territory of a mayfly.

YouTuber comedy4cast paid a glorious editing tribute to these hapless hunks of phaser-fodder…

Number cruncher Matt Bailey worked out that 72% of fatalities on the Enterprise's original five-year mission were red-shirts (assuming the original three seasons covered that particular time span), and the Star Trek media wiki commemorates the fallen in the complete Trek canon death-count.

So I'd just like to thank J.J. for wasting poor Olson in Star Trek, since it brought back a lot of happy memories, and remind the anxious starfleet WAGs and mums that it is possible to reach a grand dotage in the dreaded colour…

How to Stop Internet Trolls

1: Avoid
2: Repeat

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Monday, November 17, 2008


75 comics being made into films

Martin Anderson

Comics are the new spec-scripts, and Hollywood is very amenable to a script with big pictures...

Freedom Formula (2010)
Radical comics GN depicts a Robocop-style future where corporations rule and purpose-bred racers compete in tournaments with 'Vicious Cycles', exo-skeletal armour shells giving the wearer Iron Man-style powers, and depicts the story of 'Zee', the 'Neo' of this piece determined to bring down the whole corrupt system. Bryan Singer is producing the movie.

Runaways (2011)
This Marvel comics original finds teenagers fleeing to make up the sins of their parents, who they have discovered to be covert super-villains. A finished script is expected by early 2009 and Runaways is said to spearhead Marvel's post-Avengers strategy.

Ramayan 3392 A.D. (2011)
Mandalay pictures are producing this adaptation of the 2006 GN, which tells the story of legendary Indian warrior Prince Rama, a reincarnation of Vishnu. The original Indian epic has been moved to the kind of post-apocalypse setting currently so bankable in Hollywood.

The Leading Man (2011)
Effectively a combination of The Saint, Jason King and The Persuaders, Nick Walker is a globe-trotting superstar actor who - Elvis-like - does some serious spying on the side. Wanted producer Mark Platt is hoping for more comic book gold.

War Heroes (2011)
We discussed the absurd speed at which his comics are made into films with Mark Millar in our recent interview, and his latest work is no exception, with his tale of enhanced supersoldiers sitting currently with Ghost Rider producer Michael De Luca.

Sleeper (2011)
Holden Carver - known as 'The Conductor' - has absorbed the ability to transfer pain inflicted on him back to the source, making him a useful intelligence operative. Presumably, then, the torture scenes will be refreshingly short. This project - produced by Sam Raimi - is currently beguiling Tom Cruise.

Kick Ass (2009)
Another Mark Millar project that's highly anticipated and pretty much finished, though no release date has yet been set for the story of the self-styled teen superhero whose first successful tussle with bad guys gets YouTubed to world acclaim.

The Goon (2010)
Eric Powell's 1999 GN about a musclebound mob-flunkie and sidekick Franky is being produced as an animated movie by David Fincher. It's set to continue Watchmen's rather 1930s vibe, as you can probably tell from this poster.

Caliber (2010)
John Woo's retelling of the Arthur legend is based on Sam Sarkar's Radical GN, and finds Excalibur the sword replaced by Caliber the six-shooter as the medieval tale is reimagined in the old west.

The Leaves (2010)
Originator Kevin J. Walsh is adapting his own recent graphic novel for the screen. Here a New York doctor visiting India to attend a friend's funeral is told by a fortune-teller that he is the bringer of the apocalypse. Summit entertainment are producing the movie.

Last Blood (2010)
This graphic novel about a post-apocalyptic world where vampires must protect a core of humanity from zombies in order to have a reliable food supply, is available online. A History of Violence producers Chris Bender and J.C. Spink - who have 49 other titles in development including Zombies Of Mass Destruction - is working with Family Guy supremo David A. Goodman on the adaptation.

Buck Rogers (2011)
John Flint Dille's swashbuckling, future-dwelling astronaut is set to fly again with a new production from Avi Lerner at NuImage/Millennium. The project still needs a studio and a script.

Hard Boiled (2011)
Frank Miller is set to helm the movie version of his own graphically violent 1990 graphic novel, where a tax collector called Carl Seitz discovers himself to be a Terminator-style cybernetic assassin. Spirit producer Deborah Del Prete is also on board.

ZMDs: Zombies of Mass Destruction (2011)
Underworld creator Kevin Grevioux is set to launch a new supernatural franchise with the intriguing story of military-bred zombies who are dropped into enemy territory at night but have been designed to dissolve at daybreak, but - wouldn't you know it -one of the crusty critters fails to oblige.

Thulsa Doom (2010)
Gladiator/Push actor Djimon Hounsou is set to spin off from the mainstream world of Conan as the Cimmerian's arch-enemy, a sorcerer of great power (played in the 1981 Schwarzeneggar movie by James Earl Jones).

Sherlock Holmes (2009)
The film that definitively proves graphic novels are the new spec script, as writer Lionel Wigram's source comic remains unpublished and was produced in lieu of a speculative script. Robert Downey Jr. has an unlikely Doctor Watson in Jude Law, and this is, it seems, the begin of a career departure for hard-knuckled Guy Ritchie.

Red (2010)
Warren Ellis's 2003 thriller - about a retired CIA assassin that a new administration feel is a threat - is the first DC property to leave the fold for other producers, and will be produced by Transformers/2's Lorenzo di Bonaventura, amongst others.

Ocean (2010)
Described as "an alien thriller with a fresh take on the origin of man.", Ocean is another Warren Ellis original heading screenward, this time under Gianni Nunnari and Nick Wechsler (already involved in comic-book films from Frank Miller's Ronin and 300). Angel-like bodies are discovered in coffins in the frozen oceans of Europa, and a UN weapons inspector must fight off a powerful company looking to exploit the discovery.

Hiding In Time (2010)
Christopher Long's now hard to find GN - about a witness relocation program that uses time-travel to hide witnesses - is being brought to life by Max Payne adaptor Beau Thorne and Terminator Salvation producer Dan Lin, and this tale of assassins who discover the chronological locations of their targets and go in pursuit of them certainly seems close to the Terminator world.

Elfquest (2011)
Richard Pini's 1978 cult comic - published at various times by both Marvel and DC - is finally set for the big screen after a number of false starts. DC hold sway as the film is being produced by Warners with Rawson Marshall Thurber at the helm.

Doctor Strange (2012)
Already the subject of two low-budget adaptations (in 1978 and 2007), there have been many contenders to helm and star in the tale of the New York superhero/mystic; Christian Bale - perhaps unimaginatively - is the latest to be offered the cape, while Guillermo del Toro has flirted endlessly with the project, which remains without a confirmed director.

Illegal Aliens (2010)
Further reinforcing the vanishing division between comics and films, Vanguard comics are proposing simultaneous film/comic launches, of which this tale of a reporter in search of the 'chupacabra monster' is one. Jeremiah exec producer Scott Mitchell Rosenberg is on board.

Resurrection (2010)
Marc Guggenheim's new GN depicts a world recovering from alien invasion (by a race called 'the bugs'). As the aliens depart, society must reform and retrench, so it's basically Mad Max meets Survivors. Universal have picked the project up and it may be the first 'post-post apocalypse' movie to be released.

Ghost In The Shell (2010)
Earlier this year, Spielberg was angling to make the first non-CGI version of the post-cyberpunk anime series that features Motoko Kusanagi, a female cyborg fighting technological crimes in a future Japan (what are the odds the locale will change?). The project is being developed by Dreamworks and Marvel supremo Ari Arad.

North Wind (2011)
Boom! Studios tale of antarctic apocalypse is being brought to the screen by Eureka producer Andrew Cosby. North Wind centres on those who have survived a new ice-age and are determined to rid themselves of the tyrant who has risen from the chaos to rule them.

Wonder Woman (2011)
Possibly the most controversial piece of casting of the decade, there are a million forums alive with speculation as to who will play DC comics' Amazonian warrior, though Jessica Biel is looking hot right now. Errr. Anyway Joss Whedon's wasted two years on the project are further indication that no-one really knows what to do with such a cheerful character post-Dark Knight.

Harbinger (2010)
Brett Ratner is heading up this very X-Men-like project, which deals with a group of outcast teenagers - the difference is that their powers must be activated by the 'Omega Harbinger'. After the poor critical reception of X3, this adaptation of Jim Shooter's comic could be Ratner's chance to get the concept nailed.

The Megas (2010)
T3 director Jonathan Mostow created this graphic novel for Virgin comics, presumably as a spec-GN for a movie. Megas postulates an alternate America where the founding fathers created an aristocracy instead of a democracy, and centres on a detective investigating the seedy underbelly of the American royal family. Mostow himself is heading up...

Namor: The Submariner (aka Submariner, 2010)
Originally with Chris Columbus, this Marvel Studios tale of the Atlantean wing-heeled hero has had Angel's David Boreanaz attached for some time. Central character Prince Namor will be caught up in an ecological war between the land-dwellers and the sea-denizens whose habitat they have polluted. Jonathan Mostow is still said to be attached to the project.

Starkweather (2010)
Like a cross between Sabrina The Teenage Witch and Doctor Strange, this entry from Archaia Studios Press tells of a young boy descended from sorcerers but ignorant of the fact until a coven seek him out in his twenties. Another one that'll be hard to Google, thanks to the 1950s murderer that inspired Badlands. Chris Bender and J.C. Spink (see Final Blood above) are attached.

The Avengers (2011)
Slated for a prime summer slot on July 15th 2011, this is set to be one of the most highly-anticipated movies of the next few years, directed by Jon Favreau with Robert Downey Jr. firmly signed to it as Tony Stark/Iron Man and new 'Rhodey' Don Cheadle attached too. Marvel Studios are financing and Paramount distrubuting, as usual. Rumours are obviously rife regarding casting.

Iron Man 2 (2010)
7th May 2010 and the wait will be over for Downey Jr. to rocket upwards for a sequel to the smash hit 2008 Marvel Studios' debut. Terence Howard's replacement by Don Cheadle (see The Avengers above) has caused a stir, but we're all pleased that Downey Jr. has signed on the dotted line up to Iron Man 3.

Nick Fury (2010)
Jack Kirby's streetwise S.H.I.E.L.D supremo was a huge hit in a guest spot with Samuel L. Jackson at the end of the credits for Iron Man, and many are hoping that Jackson will return and make the film that Shaft should have been.

Red Sonja (2009)
The Robert Rodriguez-produced adaptation of the adventures of the Marvel comics heroine (a Conan spin-off derived very loosely from a Robert E. Howard short story) generated much interest at comicon when Rodriguez and Sonja star Rose McGowan showed off some sexy new posters, but there's some speculation the film may go straight to disc.

Barbarella (2009)
The personal split between McGowan and Rodriguez doesn't seem to have stopped Sonja, but Rodriguez's adaptation of the 1960s French space-kitten comic by Jean-Claude Forest has had other problems over the last two years, and it's looking bloody unlikely this side of 2010 whoever does it.

Whiteout (2009)
Long completed, this Kate Beckinsale horror adaptation (of the 1998 graphic novel by Greg Rucka) keeps getting bumped, and is currently slated for a release in September of 2009. Whiteout concerns a US marshall (Beckinsale) investigating Antarctica's first murder.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
The movie they perhaps should have made to begin with, given how he hogged the three X-Men movies, this will show us the genesis of self-healing mutant Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) in the early 20th century as he makes an enemy of Sabretooth and gets kitted up with the lethal blades. Zack Snyder conceded the film to Rendition director Gavin Hood.

X-Men Origins: Magneto (2009)
Further details on the plot of the other X-prequel came to light recently, and producer Lauren Shuler Donner spoke further on the matter , describing the film as centred around Erik Lensher and Charles Xavier "in their early, early years." Despite a 2009 release date the latest project note states "A script exists, but there is no green light for the project at the moment.", and this refutes earlier intelligence on the matter.

Thor (2010)
Kenneth Branagh was entranced by the classical tale of Marvel comics' Norse god with a big hammer, which remains without a leading man (Daniel Craig turned it down). The film is slated for release 16th July 2010. Check out our interview with Thor comic writer Marko Djurdjevic here.

The First Avenger: Captain America (2011)
Jurassic Park III director and effects guru Joe Johnston is slated to direct the tale of the New York fine arts student who takes a super-serum that soups him up for action against the Nazis in WWII America.

Akira (2011)
Leonardo DiCaprio disappointed many fans of Katsuhiro Otomo's 80s manga strip by declaring that he won't be in this, though his Appian Way production company has set SFX wizard Ruairi Robinson to direct. The title character is a child of God-like powers who may have started the third world war that decimated the 'Neo-Tokyo' that biker gangs skirt round. Blade Runner-tastic. Appian Way are also developing...

Ninja Scroll (2011)
Another anime outing that DiCaprio is producing but not acting in, Ninja Scroll is set in feudal Japan where a ninja must fight eight demonic entities. Watchmen writer Alex Tse will be helming when he's done with the new script for Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man.

Battle Angel (aka 'Battle Angel Alita', 2011)
Yukito Kishiro's 1990 manga about an amnesiac cyborg trying to recover her life and survive in the margins of the 'scrapyard' remains slated for a James Cameron 2011 adaptation despite Avatar having dominated the headlines, though there's some confusion about the project's status. Like Avatar, the project is intended for dual 3D and straight release.

10 (2011)
Originator Shannon Eric Denton may have come up with the most un-Googleable new movie title ever (let me help), and to boot it will get confused with both the Blake Edwards 1979 comedy and its 2011 remake. The Boom! Studios comic proposes some Saw/Battle Royale-like shenanigans as ten unwilling contestants must hunt each other or die. Ice Cube is slated for this.

Silver Surfer (2009)
2009 is looking a bit unlikely for the (rumoured) return of Doug Jones as the shiny semi-hero of Fantastic Four: Rise Of The SIlver Surfer. J. Michael Straczynski revealed that the character's association with the unappreciated FF2 doesn't help. Galactus is rumoured to return, hopefully not just as a VGER-type cloud. Dark City's Alex Proyas refused the helm, and Fox is rumoured to be awaiting the reception of the Wolverine movie before committing.

Tintin (2010)
The trilogy based around Hergé's 1930s gee-whiz reporter is having trouble getting started considering that Spielberg and Peter Jackson are involved. Steven Moffat decided to abandon his three-film commitment in order to helm Doctor Who, and the film - a 3D CGI-fest using motion capture - received unfavourable funding terms from Paramount after Universal refused a 50% investment in the trilogy. Spielberg is slated for Tintin1 and Jackson for 2.

G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra (2009)
Boldly titling itself to hopes of an instant franchise, the character - known Britside as 'Action Man' - was a toy a long time before he was in comics, and Paramount is modestly positioning the film aside from big summer hitters like Star Trek and Wolverine with an August 2007 release. Ray Parks, Sienna Miller and Rachel Nichols are headlining the movie, where special US operatives pursue Asian arms dealers.

Sin City 2 (2010)
Frank Miller returns to helm the sequel to the stylistic 2005 hit. Based on the GN story "A Dame to Kill For", Clive Owen reprises his role as Dwight McCarthy to take revenge on (a rumoured) Rose McGowan, an ex-lover who makes an unwelcome return to his life.

Sin City 3 (2010)
Miller is slating the second Sin City sequel to cover the 'Hell and Back' story featuring ex-navy SEAL Wallace, a vigilante character that Miller says was based on Johnny Depp, though the actor is not officially attached to the role.

Proximity Effect (2009)
An inversion of the powers-scenario in Hancock, the heroes in Proximity Effect only have their special abilities within thirty feet of each other, and the story suggests other historical couples besides the heroes who were 'source' and 'siphon', such as Hitler and Eva Braun. Creator Roger Mincheff is set to produce, but the project hasn't been heard of for quite a while. You can read two issues of the source comic online here.

Sgt. Rock (2012)
The film of DC comics' NCO looks to be on the back burner for the time being according to producer Joel Silver. Guy Ritchie, currently directing Robert Downey Jr as Sherlock Holmes (see above) wrote a 'great' script but the project's thunder has been stolen by Inglorious Basterds.

Spider-Man 4 (2011)
Shrek 3 and Robots writer David Lindsay-Abaire is the latest esteemed scribe to get involved in Spidey 4 after the early draft of Zodiac writer James Vanderbilt. The usual speculation about potential villains is rife, with Carnage and Lizard rumoured. Sam Raimi confirmed his involvement this year.

Superman: Man of Steel (2011)
Despite profitability, Bryan Singer's 2006 Donner-loving reboot/sequel Superman Returns inspired little studio confidence for a franchise run, and many - including Mark Millar (see link in War Heroes above) have been seeking to completely reboot the franchise. Brandon Routh is not as out of the picture as many think, it seems, and neither is Bryan Singer. But how far will they have to reboot the franchise to get Superman off the ground again?

Virulents (2010)
An ancient Indian evil emerges in war-torn Afghanistan to menace the troops; they're not zombies and they're not quite vampires but they're rather nasty - and terrorists to boot! Virgin comics Indian push proceeded apace in 2007 with this GN. Max Payne's John Moore is attached to the project.

War in Heaven (2009)
Touted as 'the next 300', WiH was snapped up as a spec-GN in a 2007 bidding war, and tells the 'Braveheart-like' tale of the battle between angels Gabriel and Michael and soon-to-be-fallen Lucifer. Not much has been heard since.

Y: The Last Man (2010)
Yet another apocalypse setting, this time for Vertigo/DC Comics' tale of the last man on Earth. But this ain't I Am Legend, because the plague that decimates humanity only affects 'Y' chromosome possessors, leaving central character Yorick Brown amongst 3 billion women, who (perhaps not surprisingly) begin to create an ultrafeminist society. Disturbia's D.J. Caruso and Carl Ellsworth are on board.

The Witchblade (2009)
Battlestar Galactica's Michael Rymer is set to helm the movie adaptation of the Top Cow productions GN, in the wake of the TV version. The eponymous weapon is (of course) supernatural, a 'one-ring'-style sentient artifact that has afforded great powers to women such as Cleopatra and Joan Of Arc and now falls into the hands of NYPD detective Sara Pezzini. She doesn't look like any cop I've ever seen.

Billy Batson and the Legend of Shazam (aka Captain Marvel, 2010)
The Captain Marvel character is awfully close to Superman in capabilities, and the scrambling for 'dark' properties for superhero movies could have moved this project even further down the roster. Get Smart director Peter Segal is attached, and in his defence was talking about a 'darker' character well before The Dark Knight's release and box-office supremacy.

Night and Fog (2010)
2008's Studio 407 GN Night and Fog tells the Hammer-inspired story of a military experiment that goes awry on a remote island, leaving a group of survivors to fend for themselves against the majority of the small population that have turned into monsters. Studio 407 have specifically launched a slate of titles aimed at getting made into movies, and Death Defying Acts producer Kirk D'Amico is on board for this adaptation.You can check out some of the pages of the original artwork here.

Luke Cage (2009)
Marvel's titanium-hard man - a streetwise, Shaft-style Harlem bruiser given body-enhancing drugs whilst in prison for a crime he did not commit - is being backed by John Singleton (said to have abandoned The A-Team for the project) with Tyrese Gibson favoured for the lead.

Justice League: Mortal (aka Justice League Of America, 2011)
An early 2009 start date was cited in August 2008 for the film depicting a super-assembly of DC heroes including The Flash (Adam Brody). Green Lantern, Batman and Wonder Woman, with George Miller directing. Evidence of active pre-production has set tongues wagging further. Australian model Megan Gale is strongly hyped as Wonder Woman, though there's no casting association with the beleagured Wonder Woman movie (see above).

Iron Fist (2012)
Popularly thought to only have a chance if Luke Cage (above) does well (the character developed out of that series), Iron Fist is resting in development hell with Ray Park thought to have left behind his association with the role.

Green Lantern (2010)
Ryan Gosling has been hotly tipped to wear the green ring of power in the movie of the DC comics verdant hero. The script is said to be good at the moment, and producer Donald De Line confirmed his enthusiasm for it. The fact that Green Lantern is more a suit than a person (worn by a series of fictional characters) takes the pressure out of casting a franchise in a Doctor Who/James Bond -style.

The Green Hornet (2010)
Hong Kong martial arts cinema God Stephen Chow is set to direct (post-Kevin Smith) and play sidekick Kato to Seth Rogen's Hornet in an adaptation written by the pair in association with Pineapple Express co-writer Evan Goldberg. Since the production is set to be pretty 'straight', the casting of corpulent Rogen has caused some curiosity.

The Flash (2010)
The film of DC's lightning-fast sprinter seems to be tying its shoelaces at the moment. Likelihood seems to be that the JLA movie is confusing the issue in a way Batman never needs to worry about, so it could be quite a wait for Wally West to get moving. Dark Knight producer Charles Roven concedes that there has been no progress on the project.

R.I.P.D. (2010)
This tale of holy cops patrolling the afterlife in the 'Rest In Peace Department' is outlined as part of a seven picture deal between Dark Horse comics and Universal. Associated Wedding Crashers director David Dobkin will probably get round to this before getting anywhere near The Flash (see above) as it would be trading in a less crowded market and for less cash than Flash.

The Hands of Shang-Chi (2009)
This kung-fu crazy character emerged from Marvel comics at the height of the early 70s martial-arts boom and the stories incorporated Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu and Nayland Smith characters. Ang Lee is in the producer's chair with Forbidden Kingdom stunt arranger Woo-ping Yuen set to direct, but most of the news on the project is pretty old.

Hack/Slash (2009)
Devil's Due Publishing output this GN - about a typical female horror-film victim who strikes back - in 2004 to great acclaim, and screenwriter Justin Marks told CBR in October of 2008 that the project is going ahead just fine, profiled as "comedy with the gore in place"; so it all sounds very Buffy-esque so far.

Maintenance (2009)
Terminator: Salvation's McG has long been set to direct Jim Massey's tale of Terrormax Inc., who supply 'doomsday devices' and weapons to supervillains. You can check out 32 pages online gratis at the Onipress website; the movie may not be coming as quickly, but it still seems to be on.

Maybe...Maybe Not (2010)
Stepping away from the superhero realm, Ralf König's tale of a love-cheat forced to shack up with a gay friend has already been made as the German film Der Bewegte Mann (1994), and this English-language version is being prepped by Quarantine producer Clint Culpepper for Screen Gems.

Gamekeeper (2010)
Former 2000AD editor Andy Diggle (also a force on Judge Dredd and Swamp Thing) wrote this tale of a caretaker at a Scottish estate who uses his knowledge of the land to hunt he killer of his son, and Guy Ritchie sponsored it Tarantino-style. Though Ritchie is set to direct and Joel Silver produce, not much has been heard of the project since last year.

Jonah Hex (2010)
DC's scarred confederate officer of the old west was firmly based on Clint Eastwood's 'Man with no name'. It's therefore a daunting mantle to assume, and obvious candidate Josh Brolin is hesitant to take it on. Thomas Jane would take the role in a heartbeat. Crank franchise director Mark Neveldine is at the helm, and with a 'two-face'-style hero and a very dark ambience to transfer to film, it's an attractive proposition right now, listed as being in pre-production.

The Expendable One (2009)
This action comedy - about a guy who drinks a friend's enhancement potion and develops Wolverine-like powers of self-healing - was given the go-ahead in 2007, but has made little impact since. The central character decides to fight crime with his new powers but finds that it's a lot harder than it looks. Originators Shane Kuhn and Brendan Cowles are writing the screenplay.

The Ark (2010)
Described by creator Mark Verheiden in 2007 as "a big science fiction story", the original tale received a very limited run at Dark Horse comics, and notions of it having been written as a spec-GN for a movie have been bandied about. Columbia don't seem to have moved much on the property since the 2007 announcements.

Super Max (2010)
More green goodness, with a Green Arrow sent to a super-Prison and bent on escape. Another superhero project abandoned by Kevin Smith (see Green Hornet above), this currently rests with Dark Knight writer David S. Goyer (Hack/Slash's Justin Marks also produced a draft screenplay).

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Pax Romana -- Google Earth Style

Google Earth revives ancient Rome

Google Earth Ancient Rome
The Colosseum is just one of many ancient buildings users can tour

Google has added a new twist to its popular 3D map tool, Google Earth, offering millions of users the chance to visit a virtual ancient Rome.

Google has reconstructed the sprawling city - inhabited by more than one million people as long ago as AD320.

Users can zoom around the map to visit the Forum of Julius Caesar, stand in the centre of the Colosseum or swoop over the Basilica.

Researchers behind the project say it adds to five centuries of knowledge.

"This is another step in creating a virtual time machine," said Bernard Frischer of the University of Virginia, which worked with Google on the Roman reconstruction.

"The project is a continuation of five centuries of research by scholars, architects and artists since the Renaissance, who have attempted to restore the ruins of the ancient city with words, maps and images," he said.

Also involved was Past Perfect Productions, which reconstructs archaeological and historical sites through virtual reality.

Joel Myers, the firm's chief executive, said: "Cultural heritage, although based in the past, lives in the present, as it forms our identity.

"It is therefore our responsibility to ensure its conservation, to nourish it and make it accessible, with the objective of promoting global understanding. Ancient Rome in 3D is a major step towards this goal," he added.

'Ideal allies'

Ancient Rome is the first historical city to be added to Google Earth. Google's blog said the model contains more than 6,700 buildings, with more than 250 place marks linking to key sites in a variety of languages.

"Whether you are a student taking your first ancient history class, a historian who spends your life researching ancient civilisations, or just a history buff, access to this 3D model in Google Earth will help everyone learn more about ancient Rome," said Bruce Polderman, Google Earth 3D production manager.

Google Earth Ancient Rome
Information bubbles pop up on more than 250 sites in the ancient city

Within ancient Rome there are some 200 buildings scholars know a lot about - classified as Class 1 -which Google says have been rendered as faithfully as possible.

The 3D models are based on a physical model of the city called the Plastico di Roma Antica.

The model was created by archaeologists and model-makers between 1933 to 1974 and housed in a special gallery in Rome's Museum of Roman Civilisation.

The new map was unveiled at an event in the Italian capital, and the modern day Mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, praised the project.

"It's an incredible opportunity to share the stunning greatness of ancient Rome, a perfect example of how the new technologies can be ideal allies of our history, archaeology and cultural identity," Mr Alemanno said.

Haha, Suck it Creationists

Princeton Scientists Discover Proteins that Control Evolution

Evolutionary changes are supposed to take place gradually and randomly, under pressure from natural selection. But a team of Princeton scientists investigating a group of proteins that help cells burn energy stumbled across evidence that this is not how evolution works. In fact, their discovery could revolutionize the way we understand evolutionary processes. They have evidence that organisms actually have the ability to control their own evolution.

Let's get a few possible misconceptions out of the way first. The Princeton group, composed of researchers Raj Chakrabarti, Herschel Rabitz, Stacey Springs and George McLendon, haven't proven that intelligent design is a valid scientific theory. Nor are they claiming that DNA is making a set of conscious decisions about growing extra legs or wings (though that would admittedly be cool).

What they are saying is that evolution is not entirely random, as Darwin believed. The researchers were tinkering with a set of proteins forming the electron transport chain, a system that regulates energy use in cells. They discovered that the proteins were correcting any imbalance imposed on them through artificial mutations, constantly restoring the chain to working order. A mathematical analysis revealed that these proteins seem to make these minute corrections all the time, steering organisms toward evolutionary changes that make the creature fitter.

Said Chakrabarti:

The discovery answers an age-old question that has puzzled biologists since the time of Darwin: How can organisms be so exquisitely complex, if evolution is completely random, operating like a 'blind watchmaker'? Our new theory extends Darwin's model, demonstrating how organisms can subtly direct aspects of their own evolution to create order out of randomness.

Their work seems to confirm ideas held by Darwin's colleague Alfred Wallace, who co-discovered the theory of evolution. Wallace believed that life forms undergoing natural selection could adjust their evolutionary course "exactly like that of the centrifugal governor of the steam engine, which checks and corrects any irregularities almost before they become evident." In other words: Wallace believed that organisms had a kind of evolutionary feedback control mechanism.

Added Rabitz:

What we have found is that certain kinds of biological structures exist that are able to steer the process of evolution toward improved fitness. The data just jumps off the page and implies we all have this wonderful piece of machinery inside that's responding optimally to evolutionary pressure.

The researchers put together a paper recently published in Physical Review Letters, which suggests that control theory could help explain evolution. This is likely to spark a lot of debate. But Chakrabarti says their ideas fit neatly within theories of evolution:

Biological change is always driven by random mutation and selection, but at certain pivotal junctures in evolutionary history, such random processes can create structures capable of steering subsequent evolution toward greater sophistication and complexity.

In other words, organisms are evolving ways to evolve better.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I Totally Want One

Inspired by Leonardo da Vinci's backwards writing, this gadget plays with the idea of what the Renaissance Man's watch may have looked like, if watches existed back then. The numbers on the faceplate are not just written—and listed—backwards, but the hour and minute hands move counter-clockwise as well. For $36, this watch simply tells time backwards, and will not, in fact, act as a time machine and take you back to the future. [Fashionably Geek]

Remembering The Great War

Lest we forget

Last Updated: Friday, November 7, 2008 | 9:18 PM ET

A woman places a poppy at a makeshift memorial to Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier following Remembrance Day ceremonies in Ottawa, Nov. 11, 2006.A woman places a poppy at a makeshift memorial to Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier following Remembrance Day ceremonies in Ottawa, Nov. 11, 2006. (Tom Hanson/The Canadian Press) On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, Canadians are asked to pause and remember the thousands of men and women who sacrificed their lives fighting for freedom and democracy during the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean War, the Afghanistan conflict and during peacekeeping missions.

During the First World War (1914-1918), more than 600,000 Canadian soldiers volunteered to go overseas. As of November 2007, only one was still alive — John Babcock, 107, who was born on an Ontario farm and now lives in the United States.

The troops fought in a series of costly and bloody battles and by the end of the war, more than 66,000 Canadian soldiers had been killed and 172,000 wounded.

The 29th Battalion, part of the Second Canadian Division, advances into No Man's Land through German barbed wire and heavy fire in the right-centre of the Canadian advance on April 9, 1917.The 29th Battalion, part of the Second Canadian Division, advances into No Man's Land through German barbed wire and heavy fire in the right-centre of the Canadian advance on April 9, 1917. (Courtesy Veterans Affairs Canada)

They died fighting at Vimy Ridge, Hill 70, Bourlon Wood, Mons, Passchendaele and Ypres. In Ypres, Canadian soldiers were exposed to German gas attacks, yet continued to fight, showing amazing tenacity and courage in the face of danger.

During the Second World War, (1939-45) more than one million men and women from Canada and Newfoundland served in combat in the army, air force and navy. More than 47,000 men and women did not come home from that battle.

A Consolidated VLR Liberator provides air-cover for a transatlantic convoy during the Second World War. A Consolidated VLR Liberator provides air-cover for a transatlantic convoy during the Second World War. (Courtesy Veterans Affairs Canada).

Canadians lost their lives fighting in Dieppe, Normandy, the North Atlantic, defending Hong Kong, during the liberation of Italy, and in many other important air, sea and land campaigns.

As of March 2007, Veterans Affairs reported that there were 205,533 living veterans of the Second World War, including 25,684 females. Their average age is 84.

Canadian soldiers dig a trench in Korea.Canadian soldiers dig a trench in Korea. (Courtesy Veterans Affairs Canada)

In Korea, 516 Canadian soldiers died during the 1950-53 conflict, in which 26,791 Canadians served. The battles of Hill 355 and Hill 187, among others, saw Canadians fighting in swamps and rice fields, through torrential rain and snow, in the air and at sea.

In 2003, Canada marked the 50th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice by unveiling the Monument to Canadian Fallen at Confederation Park in Ottawa.

The words "WE WILL NEVER FORGET YOU BRAVE SONS OF CANADA" are inscribed at the base of the monument, which also contains the names of all 516 Canadians who lost their lives in Korean War service or subsequent Korean peacekeeping service.

As of March 2007, there were 13,943 living veterans of the Korean War. Their average age is 76.

Wreath laid by a nephew at his uncle's grave at Canadian Cemetery No. 2 at Vimy Ridge.Wreath laid by a nephew at his uncle's grave at Canadian Cemetery No. 2 at Vimy Ridge.

In 2004, Canada also remembered the 60th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, where Canadian troops suffered 18,444 casualties, including 5,021 killed. Of all the divisions that formed part of the 21 Army Group, none suffered more casualties than the 3rd and 2nd Canadian.

It was a huge sacrifice – and a huge factor in turning the tide of the war against Hitler's Germany.

The first Remembrance Day, held in 1919 throughout the Commonwealth, was called Armistice Day. The day commemorated the end of the First World War on Monday, Nov. 11, 1918, at 11 a.m. — the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

Grover Shines

Friday, November 7, 2008


RICHMOND, VA (NBC12) - The the search also continues for the person responsible for a deadly shooting in South Richmond.

Police have released the identity of a man killed in a south Richmond shooting. Authorities say that Marijuana Thompson, 31, was shot just after 4 p.m. Thursday afternoon at the corner of Lawson and 36th Street.

As police scoured the neighborhood for clues, a fight broke out among by-standers, behind the crime scene tape.

It's not clear what sparked the disturbance. Police say that the shooting appears to be drug related

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

So Andrew, You're..ahhh...Going to Detroit for Thanksgiving, right? Did I Ever Tell You About my Battle with Glaucoma?

Medical marijuana legalized in Michigan

Michigan residents suffering from an array of chronic conditions, from cancer to AIDS to Alzheimer's, will now be able to seek relief from medical marijuana.

State voters on Tuesday approved a measure to legalize medicinal use of the plan. Michigan is the first state in the Midwest and the 13th nationwide to legalize medical marijuana.

"This is a victory for the patients and their stories resonated with voters," Dianne Byrum, spokeswoman for Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care, told the Detroit News. "The scare tactics from the opposition were over the top and not believable."

Proponents of the measure say medical marijuana will be able to help up to 50,000 residents ease their suffering. It was subjected to expected opposition from law enforcement organizations.

Nearly two-thirds of Michigan voters supported the measure, which was one of nearly a dozen Marijuana reform initiatives on ballots across the country.

Massachusetts voters decriminalize marijuana

Massachusetts voters have approved Question 2, which eliminated criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of cannabis.

The new law, which will take effect in 30 days, calls for a $100 fine and confiscation of the substance for those caught with an ounce or less with no reporting against a person's criminal record. Those under 18 caught with cannabis will pay a larger fine, up to $1,000, and participate in a drug awareness program and perform community service.

Governor Patrick, the attorney general and district attorneys across the state were among opponents of the initiative, saying that decriminalization would promote drug use, cause a rise in violence and workplace safety hazards, and increase the number of car accidents and youths driving under the influence.

"The people were ahead of the politicians on this issue," said Whitney Taylor, chairwoman of the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy. "They want to focus our limited law enforcement resources on serious and violent crimes. They recognize under the new law that the punishment will fit the offense."

More pro-pot measures approved

According to the Marijuana Policy Project, local initiatives in California, Arkansas and Hawaii also passed.

Voters in Berkeley voted to expand areas where medical marijuana distributors could operate. In Fayetteville, Ark., and Hawaii County, Hawaii, voters told police to make marijuana possession their lowest priority.

In several Massachusetts cities, voters directed their state representatives to vote in favor of medical marijuana legislation.

Comedy GOLD!

Hillary Duff Blasphemes 'Personal Jesus' by Depeche Mode. it Blasphemy if the Song Sucked Originally?

Swank II

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Bigfoots enjoy wrestling, tickle fights, and, most surprisingly, gangbangs

Everything's Bigfoot in Texas


In a high school cafetorium, a small man in his mid-70s was lecturing to a rapt audience of several hundred people. Dr. Henner Fahrenbach, a retired zoologist from Oregon, is also a self-proclaimed expert in the behavioral habits of a bipedal ape sometimes known as Sasquatch.

“Their top speed for running is between 42 and 45 miles per hour,” Fahrenbach told the crowd, in a thick German accent. “They can cover 90 feet in just three steps, or 30 feet per step. So obviously, they have immensely powerful thighs and legs in general.”

Fahrenbach, one of the featured speakers at the seventh annual Texas Bigfoot Conference, held on October 18 in the north-eastern Texas town of Jefferson, seemed an odd choice for an event that promised to “establish the legitimacy” of the field. Unlike his colleagues—an assortment of authors, academics, and independent Bigfoot researchers—Fahrenbach made no secret of his beliefs. He didn’t speculate about the “possibility” of Bigfoot’s existence. He’s convinced that Sasquatch is not only real but borderline supernatural—a monster straight out of Greek mythology.

Fahrenbach.jpgDr. Henner Fahrenbach delivers his lecture to a dubious audience.

“Sasquatch has been observed walking with two 200-pound pigs under his arm through the countryside,” Fahrenbach declared. “On another occasion, he’s been witnessed grabbing three goats with one arm and walking over a five-foot fence without breaking stride.”

Drawing on interviews with dozens of eye-witnesses, Fahrenbach went on to say that Bigfoot’s diet is rich in mussels, clams, peacocks, and the “hindquarter” of deer. He insisted that Bigfoots enjoy wrestling, tickle fights, and, most surprisingly, gangbangs. He assured us that even a horny Sasquatch has an impeccable sense of orgy etiquette.

“When an especially large male came onto the scene,” Fahrenbach said, describing a sexual pileup involving one willing female and lots of dudes, “he didn’t try to buck the line but simply stood there and took his turn in good time.”

In the beginning of his lecture, there was some nervous giggling from those in the audience. After a while, they just stared at Fahrenbach, a few with jaws agape. Somewhere in the back row, a woman turned to her husband and whispered, “I can’t tell if he’s kidding.”

It’s been a rough few months for Bigfoot true believers. Last August, a pair of hoaxers in Georgia tried to convince the world that they’d found a Sasquatch carcass, which turned out to be a cooler filled with animal entrails and a rubber gorilla costume. The Bigfoot legend has always been a hard sell, but after such a high-profile scandal, it hasn’t been easy to keep the faith when even casual cryptozoologists are portrayed as gullible or insane, and sometimes both.

At least during the first half of this year’s conference, the speakers tried to prove that all Bigfoot researchers aren’t con artists or rednecks who subscribe to the Weekly World News. Most of the morning was devoted to raw data, delivered in a grave monotone by Daryl Colyer, a member of the Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy. He rarely used the word Bigfoot, opting instead for vague descriptions like “unlisted primate species” or “unknown, upright hair-covered species.”

Bigfoot-map.jpgA map showing reported Bigfoot sightings.

Colyer numerated a staggering amount of minutiae from reported Bigfoot sightings, including the creature’s hair color (31 percent of witnesses claim it’s red-brown), location of sightings (2 percent of Bigfoots hide up in trees), what the witness was doing during sightings (11 percent were fishing, 5 percent were biking, and just 2 percent were in the midst of a picnic), and a vast array of Bigfoot’s vocal sounds, from growls and screams to whoops, grunts, roars, howls, moans, and hoots.

“A hoot could be interpreted as being the same thing as a whoop,” Colyer admitted without cracking a smile.

Later, a wildlife biologist from Oklahoma named Alton Higgins talked about Bigfoot hoaxes, using a PowerPoint presentation to demonstrate how costumes and obvious frauds could be identified. There were the obvious clues—thick, tubular lower legs and zippers—and also more complicated hoax telltales, like irregular arm-leg symmetry and head/humerus proportions.

The audience nodded appreciatively, and those clutching notebooks wrote down every detail, as if these observations directly affected their own research. They were primarily male and middle-aged, an even mix of grizzled hunters and fantasy fan-boys. It was a sea of grey beards, plaid jackets, and Bigfoot-kitsch t-shirts.

But just how serious are they? According to Brian Brown, the conference’s M.C. and the host of several Bigfoot podcasts, their interest level is somewhere between aloof skepticism and giddy enthusiasm.

“A lot of people here try to be as conservative as possible,” he said. “It’s all about the results and not jumping to conclusions. But as in any field of study, there are a large number who just want to believe. They want to go out into the woods and get scared. They love the idea that there’s a hairy monster out in the shadows somewhere.”

Michael Cathey, a Bigfoot enthusiast from Oklahoma (he runs his own canoeing business called Bigfoot Floats), falls into the latter category. “I remember doing reports on Bigfoot in Junior High,” he said. “That’s what I wanted to do someday, go out and find Bigfoot. But you know, the older I get, I kinda don’t want him to be found anymore. It’s better as a mystery.”

Those who’ve devoted their careers to studying Bigfoot, however, aren’t content to let it remain folklore. And they certainly don’t like being dismissed by a cynical media. David Paulides, a conference speaker and Bigfoot researcher from Northern California, complained that “the biggest headlines are for the hoaxes and the people who probably aren’t doing the best kind of research. The guys in the background, who are sitting in the woods and doing the hard work, they aren’t getting the press they deserve.

“Like Dr. Meldrum,” he continued, pointing to a man sitting behind a table and selling plaster cast Bigfoot footprints for $40 a pop. “He put his entire career on the line by coming out and saying, ‘Hey, these things are real.’ And he’s still ridiculed about it. There’s a hero for you to write about.”

He may have a point that the media can be too quick to judge, but he and his peers need to share at least some of the blame. It was impossible not to smile during the conference when a lecturer was introduced as “the foremost expert and collector of Sasquatch hair,” or when a speaker discussed Bigfoot’s criminal history (according to Native American legend) of kidnapping young boys and eating human flesh, or when Paulides made the disturbing revelation that Bigfoot might be drawn to menstruating women, and has been observed digging though garbage cans, looking for used tampons.

If they don’t want to be ridiculed by the media, then they should try a little harder not to make it so easy.

They haven’t exactly received a warm reception from mainstream science, either. “Obviously there is no official consensus when it comes to a controversial topic,” said Dr. Jeff Meldrum, an associate professor of anthropology at Idaho State University, where many of his fellow professors have publicly dismissed his Bigfoot research as a “joke.” “Such a thing is a rarity in the scientific community, especially one such as the possible existence of Sasquatch. Those most vocal are the ideological or professional skeptics. But I find more and more colleagues interested to learn more about what I am doing to investigate this question.”

Dr. Henry Gee, a senior editor for Nature magazine, doesn’t think the climate is quite so accepting. “In my opinion, the scientific community at large regards Bigfoot as either a figment of peoples’ imagination or a hoax,” he said. Which doesn’t mean he doesn’t subscribe to his own special brand of crazy. “That’s not to deny the possibility, even if remote, that unknown human-like creatures might await discovery in some part of the world,” he said. “The discovery of fossils of Homo floresiensis, otherwise known as “The Hobbit,” a strange humanoid creature that lived in Indonesia until at least 14,000 years ago, increases that possibility.”

In other words, Sasquatch is probably fictional. But Hobbits running around in a prehistoric Middle Earth? Totally real!


spitznagel.jpgThe author poses with a Bigfoot head.

“Some day a good picture’s going to come out,” said Robert Swain, author of an unsyndicated comic strip called “Laughsquatch,” in one of the most heartfelt speeches of the day. “And it’s not going to be the Georgia hoax that we’ve all cringed about. It’s going to be something that you can really put stock in, and people are going to start looking at this community as something that’s really credible and something they need to take seriously. We probably have an endangered species that’s a very important scientific find, right here under our noses. We need to help science because science doesn’t know what to look for. It’s going to be up to us to find it.

“I appreciate everybody that’s out there looking for Bigfoot,” he added. “Because I think it’s only a matter of time before we bring him home.”

Perhaps the most telling moment of the conference occurred during the panel discussion. Asked if they thought it was ethical to shoot and kill a Bigfoot—if only to collect DNA samples for research—every speaker, without hesitation, said no.

“It doesn’t have to be killed,” said Craig Woolheater, the conference’s director and founder. “Somebody could be hiking in the woods of north Georgia, for instance, and actually find a Sasquatch body. But until that happens, we’ll stick with documenting it with video and photographic evidence.”

Kathy Strain, the author of a collection of Bigfoot lore called Giants, Cannibals & Monsters, just shrugged and said, “I don’t know that DNA is necessarily going to make or break this case.”

It’s unlikely that Bigfoot research will ever gain the credibility its proponents crave, at least while they consider DNA overrated. Real science requires more than blurry photos and first-person accounts from jittery hikers. But maybe scientific legitimacy isn’t as important to them as they claim. After all, gathering too much information might backfire, accidentally disproving the creature they’ve come to love and need. Better to keep Bigfoot at a safe distance, where it can remain mythical and larger than life, leaping over canyons and kidnapping women and hosting forest gangbangs.

The last word on Bigfoot hunting went to Dr. Fahrenbach. The question of whether to shoot Sasquatch was moot, he said, because such a plot would never succeed. “Bigfoot would just swat at the bullets as if a bee had stung him.” The audience laughed, but it wasn’t a derisive laugh. It almost sounded like a sigh of relief.

The mystery of Bigfoot, at least for now, is safe.

Illustration by John Hogan

Photos by Jim Lichtenwalter

It's Safe to Assume That Jen Would Go

Possible Genesis/Gabriel Reunion?
Posted by Dan Haggerty on 11.04.2008

With a third box set of catalog upgrades looming, a reunion of Genesis' revered 1971-75 lineup is still on the table, but hardly in stone: "We've never said never about it, you know," keyboardist Tony Banks said, "I know Phil (Collins) would be quite happy with the idea of just playing the drums; it would be quite fun for him. Mike (Rutherford) and I are certainly happy to do it. I know Steve (Hackett) is keen as well. I think it'd be down to Peter (Gabriel) more than anyone else."

Gabriel was actually the first to broach the idea of reuniting that Genesis lineup, initially for a handful of performances of the 1974 concept piece The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, in 2004. He later pulled back in order to concentrate on a solo album he's still making. It did lead to Banks, Collins and Rutherford reuniting for a tour in 2007, and there are still hopes that the older roster will eventually do something together.

"It would be fun to do something like that purely for the fun of working together again and seeing where it takes you," Rutherford notes. Hackett adds that, "I think we should do this before one of us dies; we're not getting any younger, to quote one of the songs, so maybe one day it'll happen." Banks, meanwhile, says that rather than merely "The Lamb...," he'd like to see the group "do a sort of best-of from that era. You want to do things like 'Supper's Ready,' I think, and 'The Musical Box,' definitely."

Monday, November 3, 2008


5 Questions With: Cheech & Chong

In the '70s and '80s, Richard "Cheech" Marin and Tommy Chong mined the counterculture for their stoner comedy. But after a string of popular albums and movies, the two had a falling out and went their separate ways in the mid '80s.

Cheech shed his hippie image and found work as an actor, most recently lending his voice to 'Beverly Hills Chihuahua' and landing a guest spot on 'Lost.' Meanwhile Chong capitalized on his pothead persona with a recurring role on 'That '70s Show.' Unfortunately his stoner image didn't serve him as well when he was busted for distributing drug paraphernalia in 2003, which led to a nine-month stint in federal prison.

After a two-decade hiatus, the pair reunited and returned to their live comedy roots, with the Cheech & Chong Light Up America tour, which will be aired as a TBS special later this year. AOL TV chatted with the comedy legends about their future plans, pot legalization and why they think their type of comedy is making a comeback.

1. You guys have been off the road for a long time. Are you attracting older audiences that remember you from back in the day or are you getting new fans too?
Chong: We have people that know Cheech from 'Tin Cup' and know me from 'That '70s Show.' Then we get the ones who remember seeing us some place that we don't even remember playing!
Cheech: It's amazing. I would say that 80% of our audience is now between 30 and 40. That means they were either not born or were, like, 5 years old the last time we were on stage together.

2. After a long hiatus there's a whole new crop of pot comedies these days. Why do you think that is?
Chong: Well, you know, there've been intermittent pot movies, like I was in 'Half Baked' in the '90s. But, you know, pot movies are like potheads. We forget that we have to do a movie, and so years will go by and then we'll go, "Oh yeah, we gotta do a movie."
Cheech: They come and go. Sometimes it's politically correct to do them, sometimes it's not. It seems that when it's totally not politically correct, that's when they come out. Like right now, we're in an unpopular war with an unpopular President, with a financial crisis. It's exactly the same era [as when we were coming up].
Chong: That's true. You know how Barack said when people get bitter they turn to religion? In our crowd, they get scared and turn toward their pot [laughs]. They reach for their bong.
Cheech: Yeah. We're the other religion. We're the alternative religion. I watch the History channel a lot, and I always see these stories where they do a lot of the early origins of the Bible, and it's all based on "God told me." Everything in the Bible is "God spoke to me."
Chong: "God came to me in the form of the burning bush." In other words, God is a pothead [laughs].

3. Do you guys plan on doing another film anytime soon?
Chong: Our live act is sort of a precursor to the movie. We work live until we get sick of going on the road. Then we say, "Well, let's just stay home and do a movie." We're enjoying working live right now so we're not even thinking about a movie yet, although everybody else is.
Cheech: We're thinking of having [the studios] just send over the money, and then we'll think about doing the movie some more.

4. Tommy, do you worry about getting sent back to jail? And are you bitter that you were sent there in the first place?
Chong: No, no. After my butt healed I was fine. [Laughs] Nothing bothers me now. My phone was tapped for a year before they finally arrested me. I wasn't doing anything wrong, so they had to make stuff up in order to justify the bust. They wanted to show the hippie culture that the government was in charge, that they were gonna crush us. And all they did was show the world what tyrants they are, and how misguided they are, and how greedy and what pigs they are. For me, you know, it started a new career. I got two book deals out of it. The time in jail was good for me. It was like going to a health spa for nine months.

5. You have always been big supporters of pot legalization. Do you think that's imminent?
Chong: The more they study it, the more they find out that it's good for you. It treats so many ailments. It really is a medicine, and it has been since the beginning of time. The Bible was actually written by people under the influence of cannabis, there's a lot of proof of that. I think personally that the marijuana culture is the answer to America's economic woes right now. Because this is the biggest cash crop in the world, and the stock market falling has not hurt the pot industry whatsoever. So whether they legalize it or not it really doesn't matter, because it's here to stay and it's up to the government to decide if they want to keep spending billions of dollars on a hopeless cause.
Cheech: I just want it to be legal so we can be the spokesmen, and then we never have to work again!