Tuesday, March 31, 2009 Things I Found Looking for Something Else #3

From Wikipedia
Centzon Totochtin

In Aztec mythology, the Centzon Totochtin ("four-hundred rabbits"; also Centzontotochtin) are a group of deities who meet for frequent parties; they are divine rabbits, and the gods of drunkenness. Some of their named members include Tepoztecatl, Texcatzonatl, Colhuatzincatl Macuiltochtli ("five-rabbit") and Ometotchtli ("two-rabbit"). Their parents were Patecatl and Mayahuel, and they may have been brothers of Ixtlilton.
While I'm tempted to form a band with that name, I think "The Four Hundred Rabbits" works much better as the moniker for a Wodehousian gentleman's club. Start working on your Edwardian toff banter now!

Oh, and I call dibs on "Cetochtli" as my club title.

Monday, March 30, 2009 "Bow Down, Puny Humans" or "Buy Cheap Viagra"?

The web is buzzing with stories about Conficker. It has a definite launch date, it could be affecting millions of computers, and no one knows what it will do - in other words, it's a godsend for anti-virus companies and the media. (And asshats like the ones who set up some "Conficker removal" scam sites.)

Most people are too worried about the global economic meltdown to pay attention to a little thing like computer viruses, and they'd be right. Investigations have shown that most of the infested computers are in China (25%), Brazil, Russia, and India (suck it, Bangalore!). Even if your computer is infected, it's relatively easy to detect (such as with the free cleaning tool at www.f-secure.com - if you can't reach the site, you're infected!) and cure (install the relevant Microsoft security patch, which most home users have already done automatically).

While the smart money says nothing much will happen on April 1st, the idea of up to 9 million computers all running the same unknown program at once is an exciting one. Will the program create a malevolent AI that will take over our entire computer infrastructure and declare war on humanity? Will it seize control of the Hadron Large Collider and open a gateway granting an extra-dimensional army access to our world? Will it do anything besides steal our PayPal passwords and redirect us to porn sites?

A fella can dream.

T-minus two days...Ready or not, here comes Conficker

Homeland Security Keeps Tabs On Conficker Worm

The "no bull" guide to Conficker

The Conficker Work Group FAQ Page

Sunday, March 29, 2009 School Officials Battle Vampire Rumors

From the Boston Globe for March 26th, 2009:
Boston Latin officials seek to quash 'vampire' rumors

By Martin Finucane and Maria Cramer, Globe Staff

A school administrator wants to set the record straight: There are no vampires at Boston Latin.

The headmaster of the prestigious exam school took the unusual step today of sending a notice to faculty, students, and parents saying that "rumors involving 'vampires'" had begun spreading through the building Wednesday, causing disruption and anxiety for a number of students.

Lynne Mooney Teta asked everyone's help in calming the school community down.

"I seek your cooperation in redirecting your energy toward the learning objectives of the day. Please do not sensationalize or discuss these rumors," she said.

She also said she was concerned that some students' safety might be jeopardized because of the rumors, and asked students to report if any student is being harassed.

"At no time was anyone's safety in jeopardy," she said.

A law enforcement official with knowledge of the case said a group of girls at the school had been bullying at least one other student who likes to dress in the style known as "Goth."

The official said the girls began spreading a rumor that the student was a would-be vampire, who had cut someone's neck and sucked the person's blood.

When Boston police went to the school Wednesday for an unrelated matter, that only fueled the rumor as students began speculating that the so-called "vampire" was being arrested.

The headmaster's notice, which was addressed to faculty and students and forwarded to parents, did not say exactly what the rumors were. Teta's office referred questions to a Boston schools spokesman.

Chris Horan, a spokesman for the Boston Public Schools, would not confirm reports of bullying.

"My understanding is [Teta] got reports that the teenage rumor mill ... was getting out of hand and she wanted to help the teachers and students and families put an end to it and get back to the business of teaching and learning," Horan said.

Officer Eddy Chrispin, a Boston police spokesman, said police went to the school Wednesday after hearing that some students were spreading rumors.

"We did go over there and speak to some of the students and quelled the rumors that were going and kind of told them the effect those rumors could have on the rest of the student population," he said.

Teen interest in vampires has surged in recent months with the release of "Twilight,'' the first movie from a popular Stephenie Meyer book series. Last weekend, "Twilight'' sleepover parties were held in many US cities coinciding with the DVD release of the movie, starring teen heartthrob Robert Pattinson.

The prestigious Boston Latin public school was founded in 1635, and its students have included Ben Franklin, Sam Adams, John Hancock, Louis Farrakhan, Sumner Redstone, and Nat Hentoff.

Megan Woolhouse of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

Saturday, March 28, 2009 2 Tone Remembered

We live in an age where many of carry around entire music libraries wherever we go, where we can listen to just about any song we like with a few clicks of a scroll wheel. Still, nothing beats hearing a favorite song come up unexpectedly on the radio.

Tonight, I caught the Specials' "Monkey Man" while running through the presets on the car stereo. It was on a local public broadcasting station that typically plays bluegrass or gospel this time of night, and I had expected to scan past it pretty quickly. Instead, I cranked the volume up full blast and bounced along all the way home.

Great stuff, though the DJ got a little of his facts about the band... well, not wrong, really, but incomplete. It got me thinking about a couple of documentaries BBC Radio broadcast last year in honor of the 2 Tone record label's 30th anniversary.

This Are 2 Tone follows comedian and DJ Phil Jupitus on his pilgrmage to the cities, studios, and dance halls that gave birth the 2 Tone sound. Too Much, Too Young is a "too"-part program that goes into further detail on the history of the 2 Tone movement and its cultural impact. Both shows feature loads of interviews with members of the Specials, the English Beat, and Madness, as well as prominent fans and those who worked behind the scenes to bring the 2 Tone sound to the world.

And because I have more crap lying around here than I know what to do with it, I'm also offering 2 Tone Britain, a 2004 Channel 4 documentary covering much the same ground with the added benefit of visuals to go with the great music.

Click on the links below to be taken to the Rapidshare download pages. You will need WinRar or a similar program that can rejoin and unzip rar files.

Too Much, Too Young (152 mb)

This Are 2 Tone (25.6 mb)

2 Tone Britain part 1 (143 mb)
2 Tone Britain part 2 (143 mb)
2 Tone Britain part 3 (143 mb)
2 Tone Britain part 4 (14.5 mb)
You will need to download all the parts before attempting to extract the avi file.

The image at the top of this post has been sitting on my hard drive for, like, forever, but it originally came from http://tipa-ska.narod.ru. There's more wallpapers and lots of other stuff there. It seems pretty safe for a Russian site!

Thursday, March 26, 2009 Zombie Radio

Of late I've been following A.Z., a bi-weekly radio drama produced by KCMD 970 AM in Portland, Oregon. A.Z. stands for "After Zombies", and the series follows the exploits of a group of survivors of an undead apocalypse. Despite being broadcast by a professional radio station, this is strictly an amateur affair.

The scripts and acting have improved a bit over time, but the writers really need to do a better job of getting action across. As it stands, it's often hard to tell just what's going on, especially when all the cast is screaming in horror. More ambient sound effects, a crucial element to this medium, would be a big help. In episode 3, for example, it's hard to tell if the characters were supposed to be walking through the snow or just standing around. I also think the desire to broadcast the episodes live are hindering things. Yeah, that's how they used to do it back in the day, but they really didn't have much choice at the start, and the use of transcription discs eventually became the standard for all but the biggest shows.

All that said, I'm enjoying the series. I'm a big sucker for the genre, of course, and I have to give mad props to anyone actually trying to bring back radio drama to the American airwaves. A.Z. is an obvious labor of love from folks who share a lot of my interests. The poor bastards.

I'm following the show via KCMD's podcast page. All six episodes of A.Z. are available for free download, as are the other efforts of the "CBS Radio Theater" team.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009 Real-Life Spider-Man Rescues Boy

From yesterday's BBC News:
Thai 'Spider-Man' to the rescue

13:05 GMT, Tuesday, 24 March 2009

An unusual disguise has helped a Bangkok fireman rescue an eight-year-old boy who had climbed on to a third-floor window ledge, Thai police say.

The firefighter dressed up as the comic book superhero Spider-Man in order to coax the boy, who is autistic, from his dangerous perch.

Police said teachers had alerted the fire station after the boy began crying and climbed out of a classroom window.

It was reportedly his first day at the special needs school.

Efforts by the teachers to persuade the pupil to come back inside had failed.

But a remark by his mother about his passion for comic superheroes prompted fireman Somchai Yoosabai to rush back to the station, where he kept a Spider-Man costume in his locker.

The sight of Mr Somchai dressed as Spider-Man and holding a glass of juice for him, brought a big smile to the boy's face, and he promptly threw himself into the arms of his "superhero", police said.

Mr Somchai normally uses the costume to liven up fire drills in schools.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009 Random Image: Chemistry Lab

From Shaun O'Boyle's stunning Modern Ruins website.

Monday, March 23, 2009 DVD Shuffle: Random Play 2

Lexi Alexander - 2008

Is Punisher:Warzone a gory cartoon spoof or a kickass vigilante wet dream? The filmmakers tried to have it both ways and, IMO, failed. Campy moments jar uncomfortably with scenes of extreme sadism and clumsy attempts at poignancy.

The actor playing Jigsaw seems to be channeling Jack Nicholson's Joker; a bad choice, but it's not what ultimately derails the character as villain. Jigsaw and his brother are despicable creatures we want to see dead, but they are never credible threats to someone who routinely plows through heavily-armed goon armies with ease. The Punisher's "weaknesses" are his outlaw status and his rigid morality, and Jigsaw was in a position to exploit both points. But having the NYPD work hand-in-glove with Castle neuters the former and the villains didn't hit upon the latter until the very end, far too late to establish any tension.

Good points? Castle's flashbacks and the supporting cast will please fans whose main criteria is adherence to the comics. Colin Salmon is always watchable and manages to keep his dignity in a role that is little more than Castle's punching bag. And I'm pretty sure the over-the-top gore will excite the Punisher's core audience.

But goddamn, Julie Benz has wasted away since Angel. I guess that's what it takes to get roles these days - actresses are required to be as nearly two-dimensional as the characters they play.

Pao Hsueh-Li - 1977

I have a fondness for loopy movies, and I now have a new favorite.

Based on Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils, a sprawling wu xia novel by the legendary Jin Yong, The Battle Wizard tells the story of a young prince who masters kung fu without really trying. If I say the movie is fast-paced, it'd be a bit of an understatement. Clocking in at just over 72 minutes, The Battle Wizard careens from plot twist to bloody fight and back again without pausing for breath. And whenever things look like they're settling down, you're hit with a new "WTF?" moment. I don't want to ruin too much for potential viewers, but there's a chicken-footed villain whose lust for vengeance is surpassed only by his desire to control a really tough gorilla, and a love interest who throws flesh-burrowing snakes at people she doesn't like. Oh, and the deadly plastic bone! Fans of Kung Fu Colt Master and Super Inframan will want to give The Battle Wizard a try.

Brian Trenchard-Smith - 1975

Jimmy Wang Yu plays a brutal Hong Kong cop who comes to Sydney to extradite an HK drug smuggler (played by Sammo Hung). When his prisoner is assassinated, Wang decides to take on the local drug kingpin responsible for the hit.

Man From HK is no classic and drags a bit at first, but once it gets going it really doesn't stop. There's car chase, foot chases, big explosions, bloody fights, and countless kicks to the crotch. In his commentary track, writer/director/producer Brian Trenchard-Smith swears the whole thing was meant tongue-in-cheek; when a romantic montage kicks off with, "Have you healed enough to make love?", you have to hope he's telling the truth.

Sammo also does the fight choreography, and while it's not his best work, one has to remember he was working with Wang Yu and a crew of mostly Aussie stuntmen. (Though they all scream "ah-yah" like HK stuntmen when they get hit, for some reason.) The final duel between George Lazenby and Wang is a standout, however, with Lazenby showing off some decent moves and even performing an outrageous fire stunt himself. The Aussies do shine when performing the non-fight stunts, including a pretty rousing car chase and a hang-gliding romp high above Sydney Harbour.

It's all very Seventies - even the car seat belts are wide. The villain's office is decorated in Early Eyesore, and one of Wang's police liaisons looks and dresses like an oversize hobbit. When Wang isn't ripping throats out, he's driving muscle cars and knocking boots with local gals. (I'm pretty sure he had a good time making this film.) Oh, and the theme song is "Sky High" by Jigsaw! I was giddy to learn that this AM staple from my yoot was commissioned especially for the film!

As mentioned in my post on Wang Yu, I had ordered the Australian DVD of Man From HK. The 2-disc set from Madman Entertainment has some nice extras, the most interesting of which is Kung Fu Killers, an Australian TV documentary also by Trenchard-Smith. Killers follows stuntman Grant Page around Sydney, Hong Kong, and Macau as he learns about martial arts and kung fu filmmaking. There's lots of footage from Wang Yu and Bruce Lee films (including scenes with "Harlem Globetrotter Raoul Jabbar"), and interviews with George Lazenby on the set of Stoner and Stuart Whitman on location for Shatter. Carter "Maybe I Can Herp You" Wong and Angela Mao (who looks far cuter in "modern" hair and wardrobe than she ever did in her movies) also turn up. There's even a talk with a professional voice dubber! The grand finale has Page doing a rope stunt off the side of a mountain.

The anamorphic R4 DVD is definitely worth picking up if you're interested in this film. I'm now jonesing for similar quality releases of Stoner and Beach of the War Gods.

Coming this fall - Law & Order: The Shire

Sunday, March 22, 2009 Lair Hunting in a Buyer's Market

If you're a neophyte hero like Mysterion or the Coon, you may be looking for a secret lair. Via dornob via the forteana mailing list, here are a couple of real-life dwellings that may prove inspirational.

First up is this grand design, well-suited as either the convivial home for a band of heroes or the impressive lair of a brooding evil genius:

The house, by an Australian firm, is essentially a sphere with the "unnecessary" parts removed. There is a green element to the design, such as rainwater collectors and partial solar heating. You will have to supply your own AI majordomo and laser security screens, however.

Speaking of green, here's a lair that exemplifies the concept:

It's a solar-powered cabin in Sweden, carefully designed to provide maximum space and a terrific view while still adhering to some rigid zoning laws. The cabin actually extends on steel railings when in use, pushing the living area over the lake that borders the property. While there's no running water or phone lines, the cabin is off-grid and, with the solar panels and lake water, nearly self-sufficient. Coupled with an exterior that blends in perfectly with its environment, the cabin makes an excellent choice for animal-themed supers with privacy issues.

The photos above only give a rough idea of these amazing structures. For a more in-depth look at these houses, including interior shots, make sure to check out the links above.

Saturday, March 21, 2009 Hickey & Boggs

I own a lobby card and theatrical insert for Hickey & Boggs, but not a DVD. Because there isn't one.

I have no idea why that is. H&B is a terrific little crime drama written by Walter Hill and directed by Robert Culp, who reunites here with his I Spy co-star Bill Cosby. The duo play a couple of down-on-their-luck private investigators hired to locate a missing woman. The trail leads to a small fortune in stolen money and many, many dead bodies.

This film must have shocked fans expecting a breezy I Spy follow-up when it was first released in 1972. It's unrelentingly grim, cynical and pessimistic. And while the espionage show made occasional stabs at portraying the brutality and futility of violence, it was still light years removed from the ugliness depicted by the later film. Hickey & Boggs is buoyed only by the patter and presence of its leads, who remain likable even when portraying alcoholic losers.

Outside of a few episodes of Greatest American Hero, Culp never directed again, which is a darn shame after such a strong debut. Hickey & Boggs was an obvious inspiration for Don McGregor's Detectives, Inc. graphic novels and is probably the best of the neo-noirs of the era (until Chinatown came along, at least). Thanks to Fancast.com, you can check it out yourself. Look for Michael Moriarty and James Woods in small roles.

Saturday, March 14, 2009 DVD Shuffle: Random Play

Still been struggling to catch up with the unwatched pile. You would think with my unemployed status I'd have more time to watch movies, but I've spent the past several weeks doing nothing but sleeping and playing Call of Duty 4. And crying. Lots and lots of crying. Still, I managed to eyeball a few films, all from my NetFlix queue.

Prachya Pinkaew - 2008

An autistic girl goes ballistic on various thugs in the latest Thai backbreaker to storm our shores. She's the daughter of two gangsters, a sexy Thai loan shark and a stylish Yakuza boss, who wind up in one of those Montague and Capulet affairs. Left to raise their child alone, the mother succumbs to a movie disease and needs pricey medical care to survive. Zen, the daughter, and her adopted brother Moom find Mom's old ledger and attempt to recoup the money still owed her by various lowlifes. Luckily, Zen is a martial arts prodigy who got her skills the same way (according to Joe Bob Briggs, at least) the simians evolved in the Planet of the Apes films - she paid really close attention.

Twenty years ago, Chocolate would have been made in Hong Kong as the left-turn sequel to a heroic bloodshed film about Zen's parents. I think I would have preferred to see that movie instead of the one we've got. Zen's parents are far more interesting than their daughter, which I guess is only natural given the circumstances. Zen's dad has a touch of autism himself, manifesting as an obsession over defects in otherwise pristine objects. And Zen's mom, Zin, is just gorgeous, even when she's supposed to be wasting away from illness. The movie makes no real attempt to give these two any back story - heck, it doesn't even show the fate of a major character - and I found myself wondering about how they both ended up where they were at the start of the picture.

But we watch these things for the fight scenes, in much the same way that our parents and grandparents watched musicals for the songs and dancing. Chocolate is a bit of a let-down for most of its running time, I'm afraid. Star Yanin Vismitananda seems a bit stiff through most of the film, rechambering herself awkwardly after every move. This might have been intended to reflect the autistic nature of the heroine, but the end result is that the fights look stagey and unconvincing. Happily, the move is redeemed by its blistering finale, when Zen finally takes on professional gangsters instead of whatever amateur mooks happen to be around. Yanin comes off a lot better in these scenes, showcasing some real skill and a spunky willingness to put herself through a lot of punishment. Make sure to stick around for the outtakes over the end credits.

Inspired by this film, I plan on someday using an all-transvestite hit squad as adversaries in my modern pulp RPG campaign. Don't tell my players.

Ben Rock - 2008

A group of gunmen take over a small-town supermarket just before closing. At first it appears to be an ordinary robbery, until some of the hostages are singled out and executed in cold blood. The armed men appear to be hunting someone or something, and they're prepared to die if necessary to see their mission through.

I rented this one based on good buzz throughout the intertubes. I don't feel the urge to rush out and buy a copy, but I enjoyed it. It stands out among its DTV brethren because it's so friggin' competent. The direction is decent, the cast is solid (and would probably be familiar if I watched broadcast TV), the pacing is strong, and the script doesn't have characters doing dumb things just to advance the plot. There's no groan-inducing moments, save perhaps for an unnecessary "twist ending" you'll see coming a mile away. Another big plus is that most of the effects appear to be live and not CGI; between this and the Feast movies, I hope we're seeing a new trend in low-budget genre pictures.

The title is awful, of course, and makes the movie sound like a SciFi Channel production. But if SciFi made films like this, I'd actually watch the damned thing once in a while.

Olivier Megaton - 2008

Well, it was better than Transporter 2.

Sam Liu & Frank Paur - 2009

First Hulk smash Canada, then Hulk smash Asgard. Then Hulk go home, wait by phone to see if Hulk's agent gets Hulk another live-action sequel, maybe have tacos for dinner.

If you're the guy in the audience who shouted "Boring!" five minutes into Watchmen when I saw it last week, have I got a DVD for you. The latest in Marvel's series of DTV cartoons, Hulk Vs. is essentially two long fight scenes. It takes some real effort to make animated mayhem interesting to me. The filmmakers have to either give me a strong emotional connection to the characters, or show me something really neat and inventive in the fights. Hulk Vs. didn't deliver on either score.

Hulk Vs. Thor at least tries for some drama involving the fate of Bruce Banner in Hel (not a typo). However, the scenario was lifted pretty much wholesale from Alan Moore's "For the Man Who Has Everything" (most likely via its JLU adaptation), and on top of that it isn't given enough time to develop. I also felt the actor playing the God of Thunder had too high and too young of a voice for my liking, and he really dropped the ball delivering the movie's take on a fan-favorite Thor quote. Still, it was kinda neat to see the Warriors Three in animated form.

Hulk Vs. Wolverine - geez, I can't even work up the enthusiasm to comment on it. Deadpool had some good lines, I guess, but I was just waiting for this one to end. And yet this is the segment getting the most fanboy love on the 'net.

In fact, I'm sure there's plenty of Marvel fans who'll get a big kick out of Hulk Vs. There's loads of blood and destruction, and the characterizations hew closely to their comic book equivalents. If you're the type who hated the X-Men movies because of the costumes, thinks Wolverine could kick God's ass, and/or can look at Omega Red without giggling, these cartoons may be right up your alley.

Friday, March 13, 2009 Spider-Man Has A Giant Robot

And a motorcycle, and a ginourmous wristwatch, and..

Grainy episodes of the 1978 Toei Spider-Man television series have been floating about the intertubes ever since they were wide enough to squeeze video through. But now Marvel is hosting subbed episodes on their website, with a new one uploaded every Thursday. Now we can finally follow the dialogue, and at long last confirm that it still doesn't make any fricking sense.

The Japanese series is vastly different from its comic book inspiration. Our Hero is a hot-blooded motorcycle racer given spider-like powers, a spider-like costume, and a leopard-like spaceship by aliens who obviously knew nothing about thematic consistency. The spaceship transforms into a giant robot, and legend has it that the success of Spider-Man resulted in all subsequent Japanese TV superheroes to be likewise saddled with the things. Yes, the Power Rangers are the direct descendants of Spider-Man and there's nothing we can do about it.

The first episode is posted below. You'll have to head over to Marvel's video site to watch the rest.

And because you'll want to listen to the catchy theme tune on your iThing while performing your superheroic workout, here's a link - courtesy of the late, lamented CosmoBells blog - to download the soundtrack album in mp3 format. Now let's head to the gym.

"Joker" Gunned Down by Police

All over the web by now, I'm sure, but the story below comes from CBSNews.com
Gunman Dressed As The Joker Shot By Police

Man, A Soldier, Pointed Shotgun At Police After Chase In National Park

FRONT ROYAL, Va., March 12, 2009

(AP) A soldier dressed and wearing face-paint like Batman villain The Joker was shot and killed by police in the Shenandoah National Park after he pointed a loaded shotgun at them after a chase, an FBI affidavit says.

Army Spc. Christopher Lanum, a suspect in the stabbing of a fellow soldier at Fort Eustis, was killed hours after the attack when officers attempted to stop the minivan he was driving, according to court documents filed Wednesday that first disclosed the weekend shooting.

Lanum's girlfriend Patsy Ann Marie Montowski, a passenger in the van, was hit by gunfire and treated at a hospital. She was arrested Wednesday evening and charged with being accessory after the fact to assault, authorities said.

A lawyer for Montowski was not listed in court documents.

According to the FBI affidavit filed in federal court in Montowski's case, Lanum was dressed in The Joker outfit at the time of an argument early Sunday with his Fort Eustis suite mate, Spc. Mitchell Stone. Montowski told the FBI that Lanum idolized the character.

Stone told emergency workers that Lanum stabbed him and used a stun gun on him, authorities said, adding he was taken to a hospital for serious injuries and later released.

Stone told emergency workers that Lanum stabbed him and used a stun gun on him, the affidavit said. Stone was taken to a hospital for serious injuries and later released.

Lanum and Montowski fled in her van, which a park ranger spotted about 200 miles northwest of the base, according to authorities. The ranger called for help, and Lanum led police on a slow-speed chase before running over a spike strip laid down by police and crashing, they added.

The FBI said Montowski told them that Lanum handed her the shotgun and asked her to kill him, but she refused. The affidavit says Lanum pointed the gun at police, his finger on the trigger, and refused commands to drop the weapon. A trooper fired through the driver's side window, Lanum's shotgun discharged, and police fired several times.

The trooper and park rangers involved in the shooting were placed on administrative leave with pay pending the outcome of internal investigations, according to a joint state police, FBI and National Park Service release.

Now would be a good time for parents to start their kids on the Clark Savage regimen. I give it another ten years at most before costumed villainy is commonplace.

Thursday, March 12, 2009 'Vampire' Discovered in Mass Grave

From the March 7th, 2009 issue of New Scientist:
A SKELETON exhumed from a grave in Venice is being claimed as the first known example of the "vampires" widely referred to in contemporary documents.

Matteo Borrini of the University of Florence in Italy found the skeleton of a woman with a small brick in her mouth while excavating mass graves of plague victims from the Middle Ages on Lazzaretto Nuovo Island in Venice.

At the time the woman died, many people believed that the plague was spread by "vampires" which, rather than drinking people's blood, spread disease by chewing on their shrouds after dying. Grave-diggers put bricks in the mouths of suspected vampires to stop them doing this, Borrini says.

The belief in vampires probably arose because blood is sometimes expelled from the mouths of the dead, causing the shroud to sink inwards and tear. Borrini, who presented his findings at a meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences in Denver, Colorado, last week, claims this might be the first such vampire to have been forensically examined. The skeleton was removed from a mass grave of victims of the Venetian plague of 1576.

However, Peer Moore-Jansen of Wichita State University in Kansas says he has found similar skeletons in Poland and that while Borrini's finding is exciting, "claiming it as the first vampire is a little ridiculous".

Borrini says his study details the earliest grave to show archaeological "exorcism evidence against vampires".

Occult Detectives: The Return of Doctor Spektor

Following up to a previous post, here's the remaining run of Don Glut's Occult Files of Doctor Spektor series. I've split them up into two RAR files. The first includes Doctor Spektor #07 through 14, the second contains issues 15 through 24 and Gold Key Spotlight #8. Whitman did publish a 25th issue of Doctor Spektor, but it was simply a reprint of the first issue.

Click on the links below to be taken to the Rapidshare download link. Each file is near 200mb, so set aside some time if you're not on high-speed.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 Obligatory Watchmen Post

Like every other geek on the internet, I went to see Watchmen this weekend. I'm actually old enough to have bought and read the original series as it hit the newsstands every month - every month except for that long delay between issues late in the series' run (funny what had been strange and maddening then has become commonplace now, and rarely with a payoff as worthwhile as Moore and Gibbon's work). When the first rumors of a movie adaptation had started in the early 90's, I was pretty excited at the idea of a project helmed by Terry Gilliam and starring the likes of Kevin Costner, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Gary Busey(!). Years down the line and with production finally getting past the development stage, I found myself uninterested in the whole idea.

Because at that point, I had realized that what made Watchmen great isn't easily transferable to film. The interplay between words and pictures, detailed-filled panels that were meant to be lingered over, text pieces that added so much to the story - these elements and more were combined in a way that is impossible to duplicate in any other medium. Watchmen wasn't pulp with pictures or movies on paper, it was one of the first works to take full advantage of the comics medium, and one of the few books to actually deserve the title of "graphic novel".

A filmmaker is denied most of this comic's great strengths and is left with only the story, the least of Watchmen's charms, the outermost layer of the onion. Even then, time constraints require most of the character development and subplots to be jettisoned, weakening the original even further. A good director could still make the project work, adding his own imprimatur, maybe updating certain aspects so that Watchmen the film could comment on its time in the same way Watchmen the comic did.

Zack Snyder is not that director. About all he added was more sex and violence, in one case at least doing so to the disservice of the characters and story. Having Laurie casually knife a mugger strips away an important difference between her and Dan and the likes of Rorschach and the Comedian, and makes a mockery of her conversations with Dr. Manhattan regarding the importance of human life. It speaks volumes about Snyder's grasp of the nuance and subtlety of the original work, as do many other of the minor changes he makes. Bits are kept or jettisoned based on their "cool" factor and not their importance to the narrative. Snyder is like a child reciting Shakespeare from rote, parroting the words without true understanding, without really appreciating the poetry he has memorized.

What we are left with is a movie where all the actors look exactly like their comic counterparts, where all the major plot points are hit faithfully and on time, and where nothing new or challenging occurs. This may describe some comic fans' idea of a perfect movie adaptation, but I was bored watching the film. So much was lost, and nothing of substance was added. It was like listening to a friend describe to you in detail a book you have already read without adding any insight of his own. At some point, you're better off walking away to re-read the damn thing yourself.