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Where are you coming from Spiderman…Nobody Knows Who You Are. May 3, 2014

Posted by regan222 in Books, Film and Television, General Ranting, Movie Madness.
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The Amazing SpidermanSpiderman 2…Just got back.  I am not a great movie reviewer but I do have a peculiarly accurate memory for certain details as well as a desire to see justice done.  I feel that something here is amiss.  I am an old man now but it hasn’t been THAT long since I faithfully followed your friendly neighborhood web-slinger through comics, TV cartoons, and even a 33 1/3 rpm vinyl album.  To say that I was a fan would be an understatement.  Having said that, I was more than willing to cater to my small boy’s request to brave the crowds and watch the latest reincarnation of Aunt May’s favorite nephew and New York’s “favorite” son.  Initial reaction was positive.  It was big, loud, and not overly complicated as a summer blockbuster should be.  However, all through the movie a tingling annoyance, not unlike our hero’s spider sense, bothered me.  They are really playing fast and loose with the story.

<spoiler alert>  If you haven’t see the movie you might want to go right now and get tickets.  It is probably showing somewhere near you and it is definitely worth a viewing.  It is really good in digital Hi-def. 3D.  The spoilers I am alerting you to, gentle reader, are details from the original story, not necessarily the film.  Here goes…

In 1962, in Amazing Fantasy #15, Peter Parker was bitten by an radioactive spider and the rest is history…amazingly profitable history and merchandising rights, and copy rights, and royalties.  Spiderman is the flagship character and mascot of the largest comics publisher in the world (as well as what is rapidly becoming the most profitable movie production house in America).  Based upon whichever biography one reads, Spiderman was invented by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, or a combination of the three.  He was a teenaged “everyman” who had greatness thrust upon him by a million to one accident, and responsibility thrust on him by the tragic consequences of his own actions.  Peter and his supporting cast brought to life an alternate dimension very similar to our own but filled with amazing and sometimes frightening differences.  That is how I felt after watching this most recent movie.

In the comic story line, Gwen Stacy, Peter’s initial love interest, and Harry Osborne are all friends.  Harry’s father, Norman, becomes Spiderman’s arch nemesis, and Electro is a Caucasian.  The Rhino is a big guy in a suit and Professor Smyth is an employee of the King Pin.  Needless to say, Marvel is drastically rewriting history and it bothers me.  I felt the same cognitive dissonance that someone who is just beginning to feel the effects of Alzheimer’s Dementia must feel each day.  I understand the concept of editorial license and I am sure Marvel has perfectly good reasons for rewriting my childhood but what bothers me is WHY??  The story doesn’t NEED revamping.  It is still relevant and compelling.  The property is still amazingly profitable after 50 years and Spiderman is an icon.  Why mess with it?

Perhaps it is the way of things…The world changes.  It might interest you to know that in the cartoon story arc, the original Spiderman, Peter Parker, is, in fact, dead and his consciousness rests within the mind of his mortal enemy Dr. Octopus.  Could it get anymore convoluted?  In April of 2014, Parker’s brain returns to his body and there is no telling where it will go from there.

Well I’m glad I could get that out in the open.  It was really bothering me.  I also needed an excuse to write something as I have been sorely lacking in content lately.  I promise to return to form as soon as school is out.  Meanwhile, if you get the chance, give Spiderman 2 a look.  I like this guy better than Toby McGuire (he looks too much like Frodo from LOTR) and Harry Osborne was right…He does have an impressive uni-brow.

Excelsior (you know that is Styrofoam packing peanuts right)

Boggy Creek After Action Review September 28, 2013

Posted by regan222 in Books, Film and Television, General Ranting, Movie Madness, News and politics.
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As I look back upon today and the amazing opportunities I have been given, one thing comes to mind…Man I am POOPED!! In the last 2 days I have driven almost 700 miles, swam over half a mile, and then walked ALL day in search of cryptid life-forms. Along the way I met new friends, faced heartache, fear, and loss, and also ate a pretty tasty chicken-fried steak at Magel’s in Paris, TX. The only thing that I DIDN’T get to see was a monster. 😦
Lyle signed my copyOur intrepid guide, Lyle Blackburn, could not have BEEN a better person to head out into the Sulfur River Wilderness with. Lyle was knowledgeable, down-to-Earth, and very entertaining. If you get a chance to see him in person, by ALL MEANS take advantage of it. I am QUITE PROUD to say that I was one of 13 lucky people to be the first ever to join Lyle on a tour of the Boggy Creek area at the First Annual Boggy Creek Festival. He showed us the Willie Smith Bean Field made famous by the movie Legend of Boggy Creek. We crossed Boggy Creek twice and even stopped and got off the bus to see what we could find. We also spent an hour with Smokey Crabtree. He is 86 years old and still talking about the monster that changed both his life and the town of Fouke, AR.

Be sure to check out my blog site in the next few days as I get the pictures and the video edited and posted. I think you will be amazed at what we found and what we did. Be sure to check out the links in this post and if you have a chance to visit Fouke, AR, be sure you are in doors before dark. The creature may very well be traveling the creeks again. PS. Lyle Blackburn, if you happen to ever read this and would comment on my blog it would really make my day.

The First Annual Boggy Creek Festival September 27, 2013

Posted by regan222 in Books, Film and Television, General Ranting, hobby, Movie Madness.
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The First Annual Boggy Creek Festival

Day 1 of the expedition: We have arrived at base camp and established a perimeter.  Dinner was a quiet affair as each member of our research team was lost in thought as to the consequences of tomorrow’s journey.  I can not shake the eerie feeling that we are being observed by beings whose purposes we can not know.  The approaching darkness brings no comfort nor will the night bring rest I fear.

Our plan tomorrow is to link with Lyle Blackburn, another cryptobiolgist and rhythm guitarist.  Lyle has been featured on the Discovery Channel, Coast to Coast AM, and the CBS Network.  He is world-famous for his knowledge of our quarry and it’s habits.   I only hope he is as competent as his book makes him out to be.  Lyle will be guiding us on the bulk of our expedition through various areas known to attract the creature. 

I'm SOO SORRY!!

I’m SOO SORRY!!

I’m not sure what to expect. I just want to tell everyone that if we don’t make it back, leave my stuff alone. I’m sorry I just want to apologize to Mike’s mom and Josh’s mom and my mom
and I’m sorry to everyone. I was very naive.umm..no that’s the wrong movie. Sorry about that. Anyhow, we leave at dawn (or about 8:30 am) tomorrow. Wish us luck.

A Knot in the Tail of Schrodinger’s Cat May 4, 2012

Posted by regan222 in Computer and Technology, Film and Television, General Ranting, Movie Madness, Science and Technology.
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How is your catA few weeks ago I introduced you happy readers to the physical paradox that is Schrödinger’s cat. In a nutshell, the cat is a thought experiment where one places a cat, a poison delivery system, and a random trigger into a box. Eventually the cat buys it but we don’t know exactly when until the box is opened. The premise being that the system is in chaos and is unstable until the lid is opened and cat examined. At this point perception forces the system into one of two stable conditions – either the cat is alive or dead. There is some math involved but for the most part, this is the simplified version.

I wonder if the following applies. Reality, in this case, is based on perception. We see the cat and it is either alive or dead. Perception, however, is just a collection of bioelectric nerve impulses and can be fooled. Given sufficient technology it is possible to make a person believe they are seeing, tasting, touching, or hearing anything you want. Nerve impulses can be counterfeited. In that way, reality is subject to counterfeiting. The Enterprise’ holodeck is not that far away. Better yet, if the eye and ear can be fooled, the sense of touch and taste are equally easy. Impulses to the right area of the brain are all that is required. This begs the question, IS THERE a reality? Do we even exist except as mutually agreed upon hallucinations. You watched The Matrix, right?? If this WAS the case, is there any way you could know?  This is the sort of stuff that keeps me from sleeping well.  Nite all.

And Now…The Rest of the Story April 15, 2012

Posted by regan222 in Books, Computers and Internet, Film and Television, General Ranting, Generate Wealth, Movie Madness.
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When last we met, gentle reader, I promised you a moderately smooth path to wealth and fame (or at least some spending money) made online.  Today I will share my revelations with you.  The process is simple.  Generate content.  Create media.  Write something, film something, or play something on an instrument.  The Internet is a big hungry place and if you can create something that no one else has a claim to, you can sell it.  It does not have to be a work of art.  Allow me an example.

Have you ever heard of a movie with the pretentious title of Awaken the Dead?  How about a little gem called The Zombie Apocalypse?  Both of these films were shot in a few hours on a low-end pro-sumer video camera with minimal production values for next to no budget.  In a word…They are AWFUL.  However,  they are also available on Netflix for rental or instant streaming.  Someone is getting paid royalties every time a Netflix customer gets drawn in by the cool cover art and clicks to rent or clicks to instantly stream on of these two cinematic enemas.  It doesn’t matter that 3 minutes into the movie the viewer violently vomits and clicks over to a different movie and never returns to finish what they so foolishly started.  Someone gets MONEY every time one of these monstrosities even partially plays.

One more example…Drop by your local Hastings or Half Price Books or any other chain book store.  Walk down the “teen interest” aisle and stop at a random spot.  Close your eyes and take any book off the shelf.  There’s an 85% chance that you are holding a cheesy, over dramatic, and badly written vampire novel.  (The other 15% is divided up into werewolves and something by J.K. Rowling).  Now put the book down before someone sees you.  Close your eyes and get another one.  It is very likely you are holding a book with exactly the same story line, characters so similar that only the names have been changed to protect the guilty, and yet BOTH books will set you back about $10 each.  You could legally buy one, go home and change the names of characters, settings, and a few other details, and offer that baby up for publishing and it is very possible that you could get a best seller out of the deal.  Everything today is derivative (go over to google and look the word up if you don’t know what it means).  Everything is the same because the people who control what gets published and what does not, are bound by the idea of formula.  What has worked before will work again without much risk.  Anything new or original or different is risky.  It does not require talent to write something like that, just a decent memory and a thesaurus.

Want to be a rock and roll star?  Ever heard of sampling?  Today all music is made of music that was written yesterday.  Hip Hop artists sample other people’s songs and edit them together with canned drum beats to create a generic background noise for their latest rap.  Once again, originality is NOT a requirement.

Are you seeing a pattern here?  Is the path becoming visible.  Wanna make a movie?  You can buy a Canon XM-1 video camera on Craig’s list for next to nothing.  Pirate a copy of Adobe After Effects and Adobe Premier and you have the tools needed to create a movie that will pass muster and get a distribution deal.  Get some of your neighbors to play zombies or better yet, a slasher film that does not even require makeup.  Production values are not a requirement.  All you need to do is be fast and get the lighting half-way decent.  If you can get in touch with the right people and show them that you know the formula, you are well on your way to having a movie of your very own premier on Netflix and the Direct-To-Video section of Best Buy.  The really cool thing is that once you have a movie in production, the royalties come in every time it runs.  It doesn’t matter if the viewer hates it and shuts it off thirty seconds into the opening credits.  You get paid.  Do it again and follow the same formula.  You can get rich like this with a little luck.  Just ask Uwe Boll?  (You get LOTS of geek cred if you know who Uwe Boll is).  He finances his own movies and bases them on video games.  (Anyone remember House of the Dead)?  He is considered one of the all-time WORST directors and yet he has several motion pictures in rental and streaming distributions and yes, he makes WAY more money than you.  He knows the formula.

Books, movies, video games, music: if you know the formula and have a vague idea of how to put them together you can get rich.  The Internet is starving for material.  It does not judge on the basis of good or bad, it grades on how well you follow the formula.

Now if you want to do something good or original or worthwhile…THAT is MUCH harder…

Night all.

Do It Yourself Filmmaking: DI WHY January 15, 2012

Posted by regan222 in Educational Ranting, Film and Television, Movie Madness.
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Tonight Anita and I worked on another scene from the short film we are producing.  We filmed the scene in the movie where Anita is driving to work and she gets a call from a co-worker telling her that the boss wants to see her as soon as she gets in.  As the film is entitled The Power of Negative Thinking,  you can imagine her reaction.

As it is very dangerous, as well as illegal in some areas to film, talk on a cell phone, and drive at the same time, we decided to do the entire scene sitting in our driveway and then add the views through the windows by using a green screen (just like they do on the evening weather).  In filming this scene tonight I have learned some things that I would like to share, technique wise, for anyone else who wants to try their hand at green screen replacement.

First and foremost, the most important part of filming is lighting.  The key (ha ha get it…”key”.  If you don’t get it then you should not be reading this post because you won’t understand the rest of it either.)  Where was I?  Oh yeah, the key to the entire green screen process is to make sure the lighting is right.  You must have your screen far enough behind your actors so that the lighting for the screen and the lighting for the actors is completely independent.  The screen needs to be lit separately so that if you turn the lights off of the actors, the screen will not be affected and like wise, if you turn the lights off the screen, the actors will not even notice.  This is very important as the keying process requires that the screen be one single constant color from top to bottom and side to side.  Wrinkles, shadows, or other artifacts cause weird shadows to appear when you key out the green screen.

The toughest lesson I learned tonight was not to put too much light through the window of the car.  You will blast the face of your actor and fade them out entirely.  Tomorrow when we reshoot that sequence I will put small lights INSIDE the car and not so much huge ones outside shining in.

I suppose the most useful thing I learned tonight is that a two-year old stage manager does not make filming easier.  Bless his heart, he wanted to help so much and it seemed like I had to fuss at him every time one of us turned around.  I will be glad when he can play with grown up toys and can join in on the family projects.

The last and most useful bit of information I picked up tonight involves stretching your screen.  Wrinkles make shadows which are not green and don’t go away like they’re supposed to.  Pull your screen tight and CLIP it in place (clothes pins are not strong enough).

If you follow these techniques and use a simple three-point lighting system, make sure to put enough distance between your screen and your actors, and don’t try to get to carried away with lights, you should have at least as much success as Anita and I had.  If you happen to have a two-year old stage manager then you also might have as much fun doing it as we did.

True to My Calling January 9, 2012

Posted by regan222 in Books, Computers and Internet, Film and Television, General Ranting, Movie Madness.
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Once again, I remain faithful to my committment to write here once a week.  As to topic, well I do my best to keep things interesting.  Tonight at church Anita and I presented on the topic of positive thinking.  It must have been well received because the Devil fought so hard to keep us from presenting.  Due to the resistance we received, we have decided to flesh out the premise and make a short film.  The basic storyline involves a worker at a phone counseling desk who has a terrifically negative view.  The title will be The Power of Negative Thinking and it will premiere on Youtube.com.  I will place a link here next week when the final edit is made.  Hopefully it will be enjoyable and effective. 

I envision a repository of content.  Videos, slide shows, skits and stories that others can use to do bible schools or services or youth groups or whatever.  A small fee might even be charged for the material.  I am beginning to understand that content creation is the name of the game.  If you can make something original that is even vaguely interesting to others, they will seek it out.  Next week will be the first full test of my theory.  Please feel free to comment once the movie is up and let me know if I am right or not.

Turn Down the Lights…Turn Up the Volume November 15, 2010

Posted by regan222 in Computer and Technology, Educational Ranting, Film and Television, News and politics.
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Antique Radio

And Now…The Halls of Fantasy.  The Golden Age of Radio is considered to extend from the 1920’s when locally produced content began to proliferate on the air, until the 1950’s when TV replaced radio as the dominant media venue.  During this time, some of the best drama, comedy, and general entertainment was produced and presented to the American people.  As transmitter range and power increased, news from around the world began to penetrate areas of America where no such contact had ever been made before.  A great opening of the American mind to many new ideas occurred.  Whether this is good or bad will no doubt fuel debates for years to come, but whether for better or worse, America was introduced to the world at large.

Prior to the “roaring 20’s” the country was an innocent place.  Isolationism, the belief that America’s interests would be best served if America remained aloof from the politics and wars of the rest of the world, was the order of the day.  This idea, coupled with the difficulty in gathering and distributing global news, meant that most Americans lived, died, and even thought, no more than a few miles from the place of their birth.  Americans did not think about the rest of the world beyond what was available in the local newspaper.  In urban areas global news was available to an extent and Americans were fairly cosmopolitan but the country was still agrarian in nature and, outside of larger towns and cities, the majority of Americans could care less about Europe, Asia, or the rest of the world.

World War I introduced America to the rest of the world.  However, the isolated nature of battle in World War I prevented much contact with soldiers of other nations.  Trench warfare and the confining of most soldiers to their own areas behind fortified lines, kept new ideas at bay.  Radio was in its infancy and mostly limited to tactical and strategic applications.  Little news reached the folks back home in rural America beyond what was printed in the papers and even this was slow in coming.  At the end of World War I, the United States rejected the Treaty of Versailles, rejected membership in the League of Nations,  and quickly abandoned the European battle fields to return to her isolationist policies.  Middle America and the rural part of the country had adopted a distinctly “us vs. them” philosophy.  Statesmen like William Jennings Bryan and George W. Norris led the charge to keep the Monroe Doctrine firmly in place.  They vigorously attacked the Eastern, urban elite who promoted involvement in matters European.

Meanwhile, on the technological front, America continued to move forward.  By the 19th century, many scientists and inventors were aware that wireless communication was possible.  All that remained was to put in place an infrastructure of transmitters and make receivers affordable to the average household.  Many famous inventors such as Henry Ford, Nicolai Tesla, and Thomas Edison worked to improve the range and clarity of radio broadcasts.  However it was an Italian named Guglielmo Marconi who was awarded the patent by the US government.  Some people feel that this was done in order to avoid paying Tesla royalties for the patented process he was already using. (citation. In March of 1916 the American Radio and Research Company became the first station to broadcast a continuous presentation.  It lasted around 3 hours and contained dance music, university lectures, the weather, and bedtime stories.

World War II was a very different conflict as compared to World War I.  The philosophy of the battlefield had changed from a medieval siege warfare mentality to a more flexible fire and maneuver scheme.  Small units of soldiers were frequently in contact with units from other countries, both enemy and ally for extended periods of time.  Soldiers were allowed to enter towns and villages and came into contact with local residents.  These events helped to expose Americans to new ideas and customs but it was the advent of the battlefield correspondent that brought about an end to the isolated philosophy in America’s rural areas.  Evening after evening, families gathered around the wireless to hear the news from battles in places most had never heard of.  People began talking about terrain features in Berlin and rivers in France that, until the war, no one could have found on a map even if they had known what country to look in.  The United States, and the world, were ready for an awakening.

The new prosperity in America after the end of World War II allowed people of every sort the time to rest and enjoy the fruits of their labor.  While all the goods and services had not yet reached the country folk, radio was a staple in nearly every household.  Suddenly it was important to know what was going on in the world.  The new prosperity marked a change in the thinking of middle America.  The old isolationist ideas were set aside and a more progressive mind-set was adopted.  Of equal importance, the amount of free time that agrarian families had exploded as tractors and mechanical tools replaced horse-drawn implements.  These two conditions joined to give radio and more specifically radio entertainment an in-road into rural America.

What began as a trickle became a flood.  Soon stations were springing up all over the US.  Shows were being produced locally, perhaps not always well, but content generation is the key to success in the media.  Soon the idea of producing and selling shows became popular.  Now local stations could present “Big City” quality material for a small fee.  The fee could be more than made up for in advertisement revenue.  Broadcast radio was in its hey day.  Only the advent of pictures to accompany the sounds could have derailed its popularity.

In honor of the old radio broadcasts and to introduce young people who may not have ever heard of Old-Time Radio, we present a typical broadcast from HauntedRadio.net.  The following presentation is an episode of the old Abbot and Costello show (brought to you by Camel cigarettes…How long has it been since THEY advertised anything?).  This show features the great Peter Lorre.  Click here if you have never heard an old radio show.  This one even includes old commercials and announcements.  Abbott and Costello (with Peter Lorre)

What is Rotoscoping and how can I use it to take over the world?? April 11, 2010

Posted by regan222 in Film and Television.
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You can’t really use rotoscoping to take over the world.  It is an animation technique that uses real live footage to create cartoons.  One takes a segment of film or live video and traces over it to create a series of images that can be played in succession to create an animation.  The technique creates a cartoon with a very realistic look.  The motion looks very much like the live footage.  The drawback is that much detail is lost in the process.  It is also very labor intensive.  What brought this topic up was my discovery of a copy of Ralph Bakshi’s “Wizards” at the bottom of my DVD rack.  Bakshi was a producer of cartoons for grownups in the 70’s and 80’s.  He wrote, animated, produced, directed animated films such as American Pop, Fire and Ice, Coonskin, Heavy Traffic, and the infamous Fritz the Cat.  While most definitely not for children, many of these early works were very entertaining.  Bakshi’s magnum opus was his interpretation of the first book and a half of Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”.  He did a creditable job for such a huge project but, because the box office was not kind to his efforts, he never completed the second half of the epic.  Bakshi made much use of rotoscoping in his features because it greatly reduced the amount of work involved in animating a full length feature film by hand.  His reputation as a rebel was established by creating animated features that addressed subject matter considered too mature for cartoons.  They frequently included nudity, profanity, extreme violence, and often broached subjects like racism and discrimination.

One of my favorite Bakshi films is a fantasy feature called Wizards.  The story, set in the post apocalyptic world of the future, chronicles the epic battle for supremacy fought between the powers of technology and magic.  Man has been wiped out by a world-wide atomic exchange.  Fairies, dwarves, and other fantasy creatures have reclaimed the Earth.  In the good lands, free of atomic contamination, free creatures thrive and a utopian society of peace in tune with nature.  In the land of Scorch, contaminated as it is with the nuclear fallout of atomic Armageddon, the creatures have mutated into horrible caricatures of men.  Each new birth is a new tragedy.  The evil wizard Black Wolf decides to conquer the good lands and lead his people to prosperity.  In order to accomplish this he digs up and studies bits and pieces of pre-holocaust technology, finally succeeding in building a conquering army based on the World War II Nazi War Machine.

Avatar, the good wizard, and twin brother of Black Wolf, leads the forces of love and peace.  He owes much to the underground comic work of R. Crumb.  At one time he strode the planet like a messiah, curing radiation sickness in man and animal.  Now his main concern other than whether or not he packed his scotch, is keeping tabs on the lushly drawn and scantily clad Princess Elainor, daughter of the president of the free lands and queen of fairies (although she is not yet a full-fledged fairy).  I will not spoil the plot for you but I can tell you that the hero gets the girl in the end.  Here is a trailer embedded from youtube.com

This film, while entertaining in the extreme, was doomed from the get-go.  It opened in 1977 on the same weekend that another fantasy epic arrived on the scene.  Had Wizards shown up three months earlier or later it would have been a commercial success by any standard.  However, since it had to compete with the premier of the original Star Wars movie, it was relegated to obscurity.  Now available on DVD it enjoys a good deal of success as a cult classic.

Lights Camera Action!!! April 4, 2010

Posted by regan222 in Film and Television.
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I miss Joe Bob Briggs.  He had a refreshing attitude concerning films.  The movies he featured would probably never be considered for an Oscar or Emmy but they were, without doubt, entertaining.  In the end, isn’t that the objective?  Citizen Kane or Starship Troopers, as long as the audience is entertained.  For a moment we are transported to Maycomb, AL or Transylvania or Tatooine.  If we can escape from this world for a  short time then the movie is worth the price of admission.  If not, it doesn’t matter how expensive the movie was or who starred; the movie is a flop (think Waterworld).  The cardinal sin of movie making is to be boring.

Well its kinda short for an inaugural entry but it will have to do.  Happy Easter to all and Good Night.