Friday, June 29, 2018

Retro Firefly

I was browsing a popular social networking site, and after sifting through lots of stuff that normally goes in one ear and out the other, I stumbled across something which rocked my frigging world.

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Firefly 50's Style from

Okay, I have a weakness for cheesy low budget 50's and 60's scifi and retro stuff, and an absolute love affair for the show Firefly. So when I saw this... my brain stopped working for a few seconds. All of it is perfect.

Enjoy folks!

PS If you haven't watched Firefly yet, do yourself a favor and check it out. You won't regret it, unless you're allergic to good writing and fun. 

Happy Birthday Ray Harryhausen!

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Stop Motion Titan
I just now learned that today is the birthday of one of the greatest special effects experts who ever lived, the patron saint of stop motion, Ray Harryhausen!

You youngsters may not have heard of him, but he made some of the most amazing movies that ever graced the silver screen. Using his hands and imagination he brought monsters to life and shocked audiences across the world. His name has become synonymous with excitement, adventure, strangeness and imagination!

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The Cyclops, 7th Voyage of Sinbad
The patience he exhibited in the excruciatingly slow and time consuming stop motion process was nothing short of superhuman. The popular Disney cartoon Gravity Falls even made a joke about this.

Ray's work spanned fairy tales such as Little Red Riding Hood to dinosaur colossi, strange alien beings to creatures of fantasy. Few other men have such a diverse resume, and even fewer have made so many movies that are so iconic.

He was self taught in the art of stop motion. Inspired like the rest of the world by the amazing film King Kong in 1933, the effects done by the amazing Willis O'Brian, he sought to pave his own path and did so with the help of his mom and dad, practicing in his house with limited resources. And yet he succeeded in his endeavor far beyond what most people ever hope. As time went on he got involved in full-scale movies and soon became not only a special effects genius, but a creative writer and movie maker in his own right.

Many of his ideas defied genre, like the legendary Valley of Gwangi, one of my personal favorites. And yes, much of my own work was inspired by him!

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Valley of Gwangi, 1961

In fact, he indirectly helped spawn one of the greatest movie monsters of all time, none other than Godzilla! His classic The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, helped usher in the delightful craze of monster movies of the 50's which became a hallmark of the era. A producer at Toho films, Tomoyuki Tanaka, saw the American film and was spellbound, and determined to make something similar. In fact, his original working title was Big Monster From 20,000 Miles Beneath The Sea! Easy to see the influence there! The movie, which would be re-titled Gojira, would far outstrip The Beast in the long run, becoming one of the most iconic movies and monsters in cinematic history, but the seed of inspiration was still there.

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The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms

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Talos The Man of Bronze, Jason and the Argonauts

The genius even dabbled in classic works and fantasy such as Greek mythology with Clash of the Titans and Jason and the Argonauts or the Arab tales of Sinbad the Sailor.

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The Skeletons, Jason and the Argonauts
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Kali, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad

As if this weren't enough already, he was a very accomplished artist with pen and pencil. Recently many grand pictures have arisen that truly show his skill in hand drawing.

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Concept art of The Cyclops in 7th Voyage of Sinbad
A man could go on for hours about Ray's innumerable great works. Special effects legend, artist, director, creative producer, husband, father, and more, he paved the way for future film makers and artists like no other. The man is nothing short of a legend, and even now he is one of my personal heroes.

We are forever grateful to you Ray, and we will miss you, but we will always have your amazing creations. Happy Birthday Ray Harryhausen!

Thursday, June 28, 2018


I don't believe in those shows about chasing ghosts. I don't believe in seances that let you speak with the dead. I don't believe that the spirits of those past linger on in our earthly domain.

Nevertheless, I believe in ghosts.

Each of us is haunted by something. It might be a dark part of us we prefer to think isn't there. It might be a seemingly insurmountable obstacle in life. Or it might be a deed in our past that follows us like our own shadow. Our own ghosts are very real. But some have more than others.

Mine aren't the most numerous or the most difficult, but they are always present, lurking in my footsteps and following me wherever I go. For a time I might lose them and forget they exist, but always they come back.

The ghost that I fear the most? Paradoxically, it is both being alone and being with someone. So long have I dealt with loneliness that I am used to it, or so it seems. I'm terrified of it, yet it's what I know. I've grown accustomed to listening to myself. To taking care of my own needs. I've learned to stand mostly on my own with minimal help. Yet still, no matter how much I fight, I feel the yearning to extend my heart to some distant young lady with a kindred spirit.

Somehow romantic love seems intangible to me, something tantalizingly possible yet always beyond my reach. I see it everywhere. On TV, at work, at church, everywhere I look there are happy couples. Not all end happily, true, but many are. It's something I so desperately desire, and yet seemingly can't have. I confess that I sometimes fear that my heart or mind are broken, that something in me is inherently non-functional that prevents me from forming a romantic bond.

I've tried. Oh how I've tried. I've met some amazing women. Yet it never quite works out. I've felt myself grow callous to trying to meet new people. A barrier has built itself up around me. And yet my ghost continues to follow me.

I'm young. In body I'm still a young man, but I look younger that I actually am. And yet in mind and spirit I'm so much older. In a few scant years I've covered what most people take more than a decade to go through. I've had to. I had to grow up fast. It was the only way I was able to survive. So while I may still be a comparatively young man, I've aged far beyond how people should.

And yet, in spite of this disappointment and even cynical edge, I yet retain hope. Someday, heaven willing, I will find a young lady who will be everything that I need, that I can give my entire self to. I don't know when, where or how I will meet her, but I hope that it comes soon.

The good thing about ghosts is that sometimes they drive you towards good things.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Thoughts on Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

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Sequel Goodness

Whelp! Got back from Jurassic World 2 yesterday, and had a lot of fun. I decided to sleep on my opinion for awhile. I've noticed that my opinion often changes after my initial thoughts and have time to really think about it. Taking time to really digest a movie helps in my opinion.

My initial thoughts are that this movie is very different, but positive. On its face you might compare it to The Lost World in that there are comically evil bad guys kidnapping dinosaurs and taking them off of the island for profit, but it veers so far from that line that it's actually pretty fascinating. It almost feels like an 80's movie in how far it goes with over the top awesomeness.

What also strikes me is the breakneck pace of the movie. The first Jurassic World was extremely well paced. I felt that it took its time, slowed things down when it needed too, but always felt like it was building and ramping up over the course of the story with the most epic of the action taking place at the very end. Fallen Kingdom I thought peaked early. Wow, wrong! It started off pretty intense and kept it going throughout the entire flick. There are parts where action isn't happening, yes, but that tension is always there. You won't be bored during this movie. Almost all the action takes place within twenty four hours. It feels super tight though. The editing is fantastic and trims away all of the fat.

It's actually kind of an anomaly in that it doesn't feel its length at all. It clocks in at two hours and ten minutes, which is long, but it doesn't feel long. It feels so trim and sleek without wasting any time. Efficiency. I love it! It's not like the Transformers movies where it's an exercise in mental endurance. I've actually found myself groaning at my TV "Just end!" in the last one that I saw. Sweet Odin that thing was long, felt long, and just refused to keep things relevant to the story. People sometimes want fun dumb movies, and this movie fulfills that desire wonderfully. It's not smart, but it's done very well. You just need to sit back and enjoy the awesome.

Actually, I noticed several times throughout the first act that I was clenching my hands. I was feeling enough tension to trip my fight or flight instincts! That's saying a lot. Now, this movie isn't as smart as the first one. Jurassic World sprinkles ideas and themes throughout its running time, spicing the action with enough intellectual stimulation to make you think even outside the movie. That's very pleasant for me, and it doesn't sound boring or stupid. This one has a little dusting of that, but in reality it's more on the periphery rather than the primary focus. But I find that okay. It's not a repeat of what we've seen before. In fact, I'd say this one is the most removed out of any JP movie thus far. It gets us off the sodding island and dealing with awesome stuff elsewhere.

Although I admit later on it switches from an epic trek through ruins and a blasting volcano into a frigging James Bond movie, and then a horror movie. I kid you not! I almost felt like it was a different movie when we're in a dark room filled with evil Russians, Japanese and Chinese investors and even Texan oil barons bidding on kidnapped dinosaurs in an evil auction. It was so stupid and strange that I frigging loved it. See what I mean by seeming like a James Bond movie?

Then it turns into a horror movie as our heroes run around in a huge Wayne Manor-esque mansion with a monster-saur chasing them, for the most part unarmed. It's hair-raising when they're creeping through a private fossil collection in the dark as a storm is raging outside, knowing that somewhere else in there is a psychotic dino sniffing around for them. Everything is already dinosaur shaped in there, and you know it could be hiding anywhere. The tension is built up beautifully. It's one of those movies where you feel like you could be there and try to figure out how you would deal with it. That's good immersion. And the kills scored against bad guys and bad dinos are positively glorious. The coup de grace to the indoraptor made me want to jump out of my chair, fists thrust into the air and cheer!

So yeah, it's like getting three awesome movies in one, and its not an absolute mess. It has some flaws, but the movie is so engrossing and fast that you don't notice them unless you're a weirdo like me. I did find myself wondering "Wait, rich man didn't know they were updating the hidden lab in his own house? He's got like ten staff members down there doing evil science and stuff. It's hard to hide that!" or "Wait, they just shipped the dinos straight there from the island? How did they get past customs?"

So you can nitpick, but its just so fun that it's honestly hard to complain. There is one thing that actively bothered me, but I won't discuss it cuz of spoilers, but it regards the kid of the movie. It comes and goes so quickly that we had no real chance to digest it or understand it, so I don't know if it was epic or dumb. It was very much like "Wait, whiskey tango foxtr-(Explosions)"

I confess at one point I almost burst out laughing. Baddies are shooting at Blue, who tears them multiple new ones, and one baddie accidentally shoots tanks of flammable gas, which Blue realizes is going to blow and runs away just as it explodes. I honestly thought of the live action Grinch movie where Jim Carrie runs from that tiny car in an over the top action beat.

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Real Scene from JW2

So, other than that, not much really sticks out to me as being horribly wrong. I'm sure other things will pop out to me later, and even more after I watch it again on DVD, but for now it just really stands out to me as a wonderfully cinematic movie with great shots, great action and really fun ideas. Only bad thing I can think of is that Claire is unnaturally beautiful in this movie.

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Too gorgeous. Not listening to dialogue. Will figure out plot later.
Then again, Owen presents a similar problem.

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Too gorgeous. Not listening to dialogue. Will figure out plot later.
What was I talking about again? Oh, yeah, dinosaur stuff. Yeah, I like this movie. It's a solid sequel. But most importantly, it finally shatters the JP status quo. Dinosaurs are finally set loose on the world at large. Will they begin to breed? Establish small colonies? Spread? They're moving around outside of the island, and now free to move wherever they please. This sets up future movies beautifully. No more being stuck on the stupid island, yay! Risky? Oh yeah. But like the dinosaurs, the creative freedom for this franchise is now free of its cage and allowed to try new paths.

Let's hope the next one is as good!

Edit: Wait! Okay I found a flaw that I just now realized needs to be mentioned. There's no Barry in this movie! Oh, right, I'm the only one who cared about him in the first one. Yeah, the black guy who spoke French and actually survived the incident. I dunno why, but for some reason he resonated with me and I wanted him back. Sigh. Well, if that's the biggest complaint I can think of, that's saying something.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Book Discount Sale!

Hey all! In honor of today's release of Jurassic World 2, which I've been awaiting like a petulant child, I'm discounting all of my humble books! My first two are being knocked down to free, and the others chopped down to even less than before. This goes on from today through next week, so get them while you can!

I hope you all enjoy! Now let's all jump down to the theater and see if JW2 lives up to the hype!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Simple Joys of Life

I miss the childish days of imagination and wonder. Often we hear that a certain child has an overactive imagination, but they say it as if its a bad thing. What greater gift can a child have than imagination? Well, maybe obedience, but let's be realistic here. I miss letting my mind wander to completely strange and nonsensical realms. The world felt huge and ripe for exploration. A simple stick could be whatever you wanted it to be. A rifle, a sword, a magic wand, anything!

But then we grow up and imagination fades as we grow older and develop new interests like cars and the opposite gender which seems to grow more interesting by the day. More and more our minds are concentrated on what we can touch and we focus on responsibility. Phbbbbbt!

I prefer once in awhile feeling like a kid again. Popping in a black and white monster movie is a great way to do that. As a kid I eagerly awaited Halloween, because I knew that in October all the scary movies came on. And with those came the cheesy B-movies of the 50's. With today's effects its easy to brush these old movies off as quaint and poor in quality. But I still find something magical about them.

A few years ago I was babysitting my youngest brother and sister. This was also when Tivo was still a thing and hadn't been bypassed by Netflix. Lo and behold I managed to record The Black Scorpion! Giant scary scorpions menacing the Mexican countryside with stop motion goodness and silly props drooling like dogs! My little brother and sister watched, spellbound by the effects, wondering what would happen next, flinching at the distant roars of the monsters and cuddling close to me. It was wonderful!

But it didn't fade from their minds immediately after watching. And in this day of ADD kids, that's saying something. The heart of the whole household were warmed as the two went into the kitchen, took out the oven mitts which vaguely resembled scorpion pincers, and then chased each other back and forth with childish roars and imitated the banging of guns. What beautiful imagination and joy they took in such simple things! That dirty oven mitts could resemble monstrous claws!

Sigh. I love those moments. I wish there were more of them. Every now and then, at a special moment, I feel myself as a wee kid again, and the entire world is an adventure.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Tales on the Ranch

I love my new job at Cal Ranch. I enjoy the work, it's honest, my co-workers are great, and most of the customers are patient and kind. But like any job you have your moments that are... interesting. In fact, here are some brief little anecdotes that a few of you might find amusing.


Me: (Sees customer leaning against her cart near an isle, idly staring and hops over) Hello ma'am! How are you today? Can I help you find anything? =D (Voice is insufferably chipper)

Customer: Oh, thank you, no. I'm just waiting for my husband to finish with what he's looking for. (Tolerant smile)

Me: (Without a seconds hesitation and with perfectly straight face) Oh! Cattle prods are right over there ma'am! (Points)


Me: (Sees co-workers on feed isle peering under metal rack) What's going on?

Co-worker 1: Just saw a mouse.

Co-worker 2: Yeah, he's been running around here for awhile.

Me: Oh, him. His name is Ralph. He rides a motorcycle. (Straight face)

Co-worker 1 and 2: (Collapse with laughter)


Me: Howdy sir, what can I do for you?

Customer: Howdy, I'm looking for some chain. Need something awful strong.

Me: What for?

Customer: Dog. He tore his cable.

Me: He tore the steel cable? (Blink blink)

Customer: Yep. That kind right there. (Nudges coil of cable rated for 250 pounds with boot tip) Twisted it and yanked until it snapped. Only half grown too.

Me: ... I see. How about this chain here? Rated for 500 pounds. 

Customer: Looks nice, but I still don't think it'll work. He pulled my truck when it was in neutral.

Me: (Now picturing The Beast from The Sandlot and considering more drastic measures) Huh. Okay. Let's jump straight to the big stuff. How does this look? (Hefts length of chain rated for 800 pounds with links as thick as my thumb)

Customer: (Skeptical look) Hmmm... Might work, might work. Just afraid the f***er will break that too. Don't want to have to come back and buy more chain.


Me: Hello sir, help you with anything?

Customer: Sure, yeah, you got any wasp traps?

Me: Sure do! 

Customer: Great. It'd be nice if you had a gun for them though.

Me: ... (Dark smile crosses my lips and I thank the Armory Gods of Valhalla for this opportunity) We do.

Customer: (Pauses and looks at at me carefully, surely thinking I mis-spoke) What was that?

Me: We do. A gun for flying insects. Called the Bug Salt Blaster. Meant for splatting them right out of the air. (Practically salivating)

Customer: (Infected by my enthusiasm and a similar gleam enters his eye) I'd like to take a look at this.

Me: Gladly! (Leads him over to traps and the glorious Salt Blaster) Shoots a shotgun charge of salt. Pneumatic pressure design, like a BB gun or Nerf gun. Just pour in the salt, charge the handle, and you can exterminate flying critters out to ten feet! (Hefts the weapon as if it's a classic Holland and Holland double rifle)

Customer: (Grinning eagerly and imagining the heads of horse flies and hornets mounted above the fireplace) I'll take it!


Manager Radio: Hey EC? You there?

Me: (Picks up radio) Sure thing boss, whatcha need?

Manager Radio: Grab your jacket and come outside to the compound. I got a job for you.

Me: (Remembers its still winter with snow and bitter cold) Ummm... Shhhkkkkk! Can't hear- Shkkkkkk! Too much static- Sssshkkkkk! So noisy-Shhhkkkk! Can't come outside- Shhhhkkkkkk! 


Me: (Internally) Having a guy weighing 140 pounds lift a bale of barbed wire weighing 80 pounds isn't a good idea... (Takes deep breath, crouches in best stable stance possible, grabs hold of wire handle and lifts towards customer's tail-gate) Almost... There! (Feels something tug on inner pant leg, but is too busy trying to to burst a blood vessel to notice) Got it! (Looks down and sees a barb gutted my pant leg like a deer) ... Crap. 


Me: (At the gun counter helping customer) Yep, yep, the 22 and 17 are both great varmint cartridges.

Child of Customer: (Confused look on innocent face) What's a... a varmint?

Me: Any animal with hair that isn't a pet.

Customer: (Starts to object, then nods in agreement) Yep, pretty much. 

That looks familiar...

Image of : Hiller Model 1031-A-1 Flying Platform
Credit to Smithsonian

This is the Hiller 1031 Flying Platform, a fascinating contraption invented in the 50's. It sadly never took off (Hahaha) due to inherent limitations in the design. Meant for soldiers, they couldn't lean over to fire at lower targets as the shift in weight would tip the thing over. Attempts were made to develop a bigger one but it never worked out. So while most interesting and fun, I'd certainly want one, it turned out to be a dead end.

Except as I looked at this, I realized I'd seen it somewhere before...

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Jonny Quest intro clip

Ah ha! Caught you Hanna Barbera! Stealing retiring military secrets and giving them to secret organizations for their dastardly schemes!
I honestly don't know if the animators were inspired from this real machine, or if they came up with it on their own by accident. But either way I love how life has these quirks. By the way, if you haven't, watch old Jonny Quest. It's hysterical and imaginative. The 90's one was propaganda and the CG doesn't hold up.