Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"The Comet" lives on!

Several months ago, I wrote here about one of my guiltiest pleasures, the greatest apocalyptic sci-fi movie ever made starring angst-ridden, big-haired, weapon-totin' teenage girls, the glorious 1984 epic Night of the Comet. Now I've been alerted that there's actually a website dedicated entirely to this wonderful film, and it's a doozy, filled with everything from downloadable wallpapers, to cast biographies, to interviews, to a nutty fan forum. If you love this crazyass movie as much as I do, check out the site right here. It's a great way to spend a half-hour or so.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

To preserve and protect...

The Utah Highway Patrol dispenses justice.

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Solomon Kane: pretty cool for a Puritan

Sure, Conan rocks. But of all Robert E. Howard's pulp heroes, I've always preferred his grim Puritan swordsman Solomon Kane, fighter of 16th century ghosts, demons, and vampires. And I'm thrilled to learn that a Kane movie is in the works, the first of a planned trilogy directed by Michael J. Bassett and starring James Purefoy. The promotional poster is pretty cool. The very mediocre Van Helsing of a few years ago was a kind of lame Solomon Kane rip-off. I'm hoping this will turn out to be the real deal.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Happy holiday -- see you Nov. 26

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The cursed Thanksgiving menu

H. L. Mencken, Baltimore Evening Sun, December 10, 1910:

The chief objection to the New England Puritans, of course, is not that they burned Indians at the stake … but that they cursed the country with crude cookery and uneatable victuals. The pumpkin pie, clam chowder, the mince pie, pork and beans — these are some of the awful things we have inherited from those gross and chilblained moralists. The common notion that they also gave us roast turkey, with the attendant sauce of cranberries, is an error arising out of the imbecility of the persons who manufacture covers for the November magazines. As a matter of fact, the turkey was unknown in New England until the downfall of the theocracy and the repeal of the blue laws against intellectual eating. The customary Thanksgiving fowl, in witch-burning days, was the common jack rabbit, with the puddle duck as an occasional variant. The turkey, as every sophomore in victualry is aware, really hails from Virgina, and the cranberry from the miasmatic marshes of New Jersey

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"What Really Happened at Plymouth"

The Thanksgiving story, as only the great Murray N. Rothbard could tell it.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Harlan Ellison says "Pay the writers!"

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Hollywood time capsule

A history of the movie industry, told through the gorgeous faces of its leading ladies. Thanks for the tip, dirty harry.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

"The Actor and the King"

Hat tip to Roderick T. Long for recommending this wonderful little fable by novelist B. Traven, best known as the author of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

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OK, now they've peaked my interest

Until now, I've had little interest in the new TV series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which debuts January 13 on FOX. Yeah, until now. FOX, which I admit is never to be trusted, has released a set of promotional posters. Here are two of them, featuring stars Lena Headey (aka Sarah Connor) and Summer Glau (aka Cameron. the "Terminator"). OK, I'm sold. I'll tune in at least for the series premiere.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Congratulations, Milla!

It seems that my favorite gun-toting female sci-fi action star, Milla Jovovich, has given birth this month to a baby girl. Her name's Ever Gabo J. Anderson (I don't get it, either).

And yes, the only reason I'm making this announcement is as an excuse to post still another photo of Milla on this blog. So there.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Ira Levin, RIP

I guess I'm out of the literary loop, because I only now learned, thanks to Sunni, that Ira Levin died this past Monday at the age of 78. Most people know Levin for his novels Rosemary's Baby and The Stepford Wives. But for my money, his best books were A Kiss Before Dying (1953), his very first, and the extraordinary libertarian classic This Perfect Day (1970), which is unfortunately hard to find but very much worth seeking out.

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Biggest movie duds of all time

AOL has posted the 25 biggest movie bombs of all time. Nothing too surprising. Of course, there are the bombs we’ve long heard were bombs, like Liz Taylor’s Cleopatra (#5), Heaven’s Gate (#4), Madonna’s Shanghai Surprise (#17), and Ishtar (#3). I’m surprised by how few of these big-budget disasters are science fiction movies. Just five, two of them Kevin Costner films: A Sound of Thunder (#15), Battlefield Earth (#10), Waterworld (#8), The Postman (#7), and The Adventures of Pluto Nash (#2). Is Pluto Nash sci-fi? Maybe not.

The #1 biggest movie dud of all time? I’ve never heard of it before, but it’s a 2001 thing called Town & Country, starring Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton. It must have been a real loser. Few things with Ms. Keaton, whom I’ve adored for 36 years, fly beneath my radar.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Take these pamphlets to the streets!

Comrade William Gillis has begun issuing a terrific new market anarchist pamphlet series. There are five available so far at agorism.info in easy-to-print downloadable PDF format. Each sports a provocative title and showcases a historical article that illustrates market anarchy’s relation to the revolutionary Left. These are great tools to add to your activist arsenal. Check them out here!

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Saul Alinsky's class struggle analysis

[Continuing my reflections on Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals]

Saul Alinsky’s approach to class conflict analysis was simple, which is not a bad thing at all. He wrote:

“On top are the Haves with power, money, food, security, and luxury. They suffocate in their surpluses while the Have-Nots starve. Numerically the Haves have always been the fewest. The Haves want to keep things as they are and are opposed to change. Thermopolitically they are cold and determined to freeze the status quo.

“On the bottom are the world’s Have-Nots. On the world scene they are by far the greatest in numbers. They are chained together by the common misery of poverty, rotten housing, disease, ignorance, political impotence, and despair; when they are employed their jobs pay the least and they are deprived in all areas basic to human growth. Caged by color, physical or political, they are barred from an opportunity to represent themselves in the politics of life. The Haves want to keep; the Have-Nots want to get. Thermopolitically they are a mass of cold ashes of resignation and fatalism, but inside there are glowing embers of hope which can be fanned by the building of means of obtaining power. Once the fever begins the flame will follow. They have nowhere to go but up. …

“Between the Haves and Have-Nots are the Have-a-Little, Want Mores — the middle class. Torn between upholding the status quo to protect the little they have, yet wanting change so they can get more, they become split personalities. … They insist on a minimum of three aces before playing a hand in the poker game of revolution. Thermopolitically they are tepid and rooted in inertia. Today in Western society and particularly in the United States they comprise the majority of our population.”

I appreciate the simplicity of Alinsky’s class theory. It paints a valid picture of the struggle. But it fails to acknowledge the role of the State, and for that reason, it’s incomplete. The agorist (radical Rothbardian, radical market) approach to class theory recognizes Alinsky’s Haves, Have-Nots, and Have-a-Little, Want Mores, but adds the overarching shadow of the oppressive, managerial State to pull the class war into tighter focus.

Even more simply than Alinsky, agorist class theory draws a sharp line between just two principal classes: a parasitic ruling class (which gains by the existence of the State) and a productive class (which loses by the existence of the State). But unlike Alinsky, it also concedes that people are complex and often confused, so it applies a graduated spectrum to measure a person’s (or group’s) actions as predominantly statist or agorist. While Alinsky divided the world into near-Randian bad guys (Haves), good guys (Have-Nots), and wishy-washy masses (Have-a-Little, Want Mores), agorists allow for greater shades of difference in the class struggle without compromising principles.

I’ll continue to evaluate Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals as a guide for libertarian revolution in the coming weeks. In the meantime, for further expansion on agorist class theory, go here.

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I celebrate Christmas early

I’m still breathless from my trip to Costco yesterday afternoon. Costco has marked down all five DVD box sets of Babylon 5 — seasons one through five, every damn one of them — to just $15.99 apiece. I’ve been a big fan of the series for more than a decade, but have always winced at the $59.99 price tag I see on the sets. So as you can imagine, I quickly plunked down $79.95 at Costco and bought all five of ’em yesterday. An early Christmas present to myself.

For the next few weeks, it seems my life’s gonna be filled with Babylon 5. Hooray!

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

HEROES: the webcomics collection

Oddly enough, as big a fan as I’ve been of the Heroes TV series, I’ve never followed the online graphic stories offered each week on NBC’s website. These five to six page vignettes, produced by various writers and artists under the guidance of Tim Kring and Jeph Loeb, are intended to bridge gaps between TV episodes. Plus, they’re obviously a nice bonus for diehard fans of the show. But I’d never dropped in on the website and had never so much as looked at the comics. Until today.

DC Comics has collected all of the first season’s webcomics into a handsome hardcover book titled Heroes: Volume One, so now I’m caught up at least with the initial 34 short stories. And I’m blown away. I guess I imagined that these free online stories were all throwaway bits, extraneous padding like so many of the “deleted scenes” found on DVD sets. Well, they’re not. Rather, they add genuine depth to Heroes’ enormous cast of characters and an enhanced resonance to the story arc from season one. The artwork is fantastic, and each story, brief as it is, really packs a punch.

Each story is introduced by a Tim Sale “cover” from the fictional 9th Wonders! comic book. These images, many of them familiar to viewers of the TV series, are startling and are alone worth the price of the book. And I want to stress what a beautiful book this is. The colors are vibrant. The paper is of the highest quality. It is absolutely gorgeous.

Warning: This comics collection is not a good introduction to the television series. Most of it will mean nothing to you if you haven’t watched Heroes faithfully. But if you are a fan, I can’t recommend this volume highly enough. It’s the perfect companion to your Heroes: Season One DVD set.

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How to use a ring-tone for political outreach

Yesterday morning, waiting in line at Starbucks, my cell phone rang.

Actually, my phone doesn’t ring for incoming calls. Like many cell phones these days, it plays a song. In the case of my phone, it plays John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance.”

“Your ring-tone reminds me of the old days in college,” said the woman behind me, after I’d finished my call. “We used to sing that song a lot during antiwar sit-ins. It’s too bad so few people seem to care enough to participate in demonstrations when we most need them right now.”

“So true,” I agreed. And with that, we spoke briefly of Bush’s saber-rattling and of how the Democrat “opposition” is really no opposition at all. Then we collected our coffees and parted company.

I wish I'd been armed with appropriate Libertarian Left pamphlets. I must make a habit of carrying some before another opportunity like this one arrives.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Buckaroo Banzai returns!

It’s no secret that one of my favorite films of all time is the 1980s cult classic The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. (Just check out my profile on this blog.) So it should come as no surprise at all that I’ve got my knickers in a twist of excitement over Moonstone Books’ announcement that next March, Buckaroo will be returning in a new two-issue comic book miniseries prequel to the movie. The two-parter will flashback to Banzai’s early musical career with the Hong Kong Cavaliers and explain just what happened to Peggy Priddy at the hands of the nefarious Hanoi Xan. Best of all, the series is written by original Banzai screenwriters Earl Mac Rauch and W.D. Richter. I’ve already got my local comics shop on alert.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

A new life for HEROES?

As I mentioned earlier today, this past week was busy. So much so that I didn’t even have time to blog about Heroes, one of my few passions on TV right now. But here’s the dope: after six poorly paced episodes, last Monday night’s Heroes — particularly the closing moments with Peter and Adam (aka “Kensei”) — kinda turned this second season on its head, and it looks like all those missteps may have been worthwhile after all. But the bad news is that we have tonight, then just three more episodes will wrap up Volume 2 on December 3. What’s wrong with that? Well, this second season was originally scheduled to include two or three volumes (i.e., story arcs), but due to the writers’ strike, eleven episodes may be all we get this season. Creator Tim Kring even retooled the December 3 episode just before the strike so it could serve as a possible “season finale.” So enjoy Heroes while you can, friends. And expect a series “reboot” after the writers’ strike is over.

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Good times, tempered by bad news

I’m sorry there’s been no blogging for awhile. It’s been a mixed week here.

One high point is the progress on our home remodel project. Bedrooms were all thoroughly painted last week, and new wood laminate flooring is being installed in those rooms at this very minute. At this rate, our nights of sleeping in the living room should be over by this next weekend. We could be done with everything but annoying little odds and ends by Thanksgiving; Christmas in the “new, refreshed” house looks very good.

Another high point was Saturday, when Deb and I drank our way along the Madera Wine Trail with dear friends we seldom get a chance to see. Good wines, good food, good friends — a great weekend.

Unfortunately, all these wonderful things were diminished by news that my brother-in-law has been diagnosed with cancer. No details yet about treatment, but a cloud now hangs over the coming holidays.

Keep us in your thoughts.

Monday, November 05, 2007

This movie classic is real horrorshow

The films of Stanley Kubrick are being reissued on DVD in 2-disc “special editions.” Among them, naturally, is his extraordinary Oscar-nominated adaptation of Anthony Burgess’s novel A Clockwork Orange, which I first saw on its release in 1971, when I was just 17. Seeing it then, of course, required my passing for 18, because A Clockwork Orange was rated X. This was in the day when “X” didn’t necessarily signify pornography, and critically acclaimed movies like Midnight Cowboy, The Damned, and Last Tango in Paris sported X ratings. Anyway, I’d already read the Burgess book for a high school English class, and I wanted to see the movie version, so I not-so-confidently walked into a theater on Hollywood Boulevard, trying to act eight or nine months older than I was.

I was staggered then by A Clockwork Orange. And I was staggered again this past weekend, when I watched it for the first time in many years. The movie is, by turns, horrifying, edifying, and comedic. Even by today’s film standards, it rattles you. Watching it with much more history behind me, I was struck first by the obvious influence the movie’s had on filmmakers, music, and even clothing trends over the past 36 years. Then I was reminded again of what an angry and devastating polemic it is against bureaucracy and the nanny State, and of how prophetic it was. Malcolm McDowell, then 28, brilliantly plays teenaged Alex, every society’s nightmare — and I think the film’s opening shot on just his face is one of the most memorable in cinematic history.

On a recent list of the top 50 dystopian movies of all time, A Clockwork Orange came in at #2, behind only Fritz Lang’s silent classic Metropolis. It absolutely deserves that placement. If you’ve somehow missed seeing this film, by all means see it, but with this suggestion: Don’t be frightened. It’s only a movie. (Sure it is…)

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Remember, remember...

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Saul Alinsky's "ideology of change"

[Continuing my reflections on Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals]

When the late Saul Alinsky wrote Rules for Radicals in 1971, most existing handbooks for revolution were largely bogged down in communist rhetoric. And Alinsky admirably committed his book to “splitting this political atom, separating this exclusive identification of communism with revolution.” But in doing so, I think he made a mistake in dismissing ideology altogether.

“An organizer working for and in an open society is in an ideological dilemma,” Alinsky wrote. “[H]e does not have a fixed truth — truth to him is relative and changing; everything to him is relative and changing. He is a political relativist.” Alinsky’s “free-society organizer” is “loose, resilient, fluid, and on the move in a society which is itself in a state of constant change.” Anticipating the likely charge that such an activist is “rudderless,” Alinsky explained that the effective revolutionary has only one conviction — “a belief that if people have the power to act, in the long run they will, most of the time, reach the right decisions.” But without guiding principles or goals of any sort, how do you know when “right decisions” have been made? Alinsky doesn’t really address this.

Likewise, by embracing a wishy-washy, directionless “ideology of change,” Alinsky had no use for political consistency. After all, how can you be consistent when your only “good” is change for the sake of change? “In the politics of human life,” Alinsky wrote, “consistency is not a virtue. To be consistent means, according to the Oxford Universal Dictionary, ‘standing still or not moving.’ Men must change with the times or die.” In other words, keep moving, keep changing, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll eventually fall into something that works. But in Alinsky’s world, even if you finally create a workable, free society, you’ve got to keep moving and changing anyway. If you don’t, like a shark, you’ll die.

I think Saul Alinsky’s “ideology of change” is nonsense. In fact, I’m not sure he really believed it. More likely, he leaned on it to make Rules for Radicals acceptable to the broadest range of activists. But even with the book’s philosophical problems, there’s still much of value in it. I’ll have further thoughts to share in the next week.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007


An AOL poll this morning shows that half of viewers think Heroes has gone stale in its second season and are moving on. Thirty-two percent admit that the show ain’t as good as last year but “are hanging in there.” Just 19% think the series is “better than ever.” (I know these numbers don’t add up, but it’s a friggin’ AOL poll, right?)

I’m hanging with the 32% right now. I’m unwilling to believe, at least for the time being, that this show that rocked me just six months ago has rolled over and gone dead. This past Monday’s episode (#6) showed some promise. Nikki-Jessica was back briefly — which was a good thing. Kristen Bell was missing, just one week after her debut — which was not a good thing. HRG’s torture-killing routine was shocking enough to get me wondering again about his agenda. And am I the only viewer here not captivated at all by the kids crossing the U.S. border from Mexico? Sure, they’re accompanied by Sylar, but so what?

Maybe I’m delusional, but I still have high hopes for next Monday night.

Addendum: Andrew Wallenstein at The Hollywood Reporter says NBC decided yesterday to pull the heavily promoted Heroes: Origins spin-off/miniseries from its anticipated midseason launch. This may be due to the expected writers' strike. But it also may have something to do with Heroes' drop in the ratings. Stay tuned, fellow geeks.

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