Wednesday, November 3, 2010 Close, But No (Lethal Exploding) Cigar

From yesterday's USA Today (USA Yesterday?):
Pa. woman guilty in fatal 'pizza bomber' bank robbery

Nov 01, 2010

A federal jury has convicted a 61-year-old Erie, Pa., woman for a 2003 bank robbery in which she outfitted an accomplice with a collar bomb that later killed him.

Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong was convicted of criminal conspiracy, bank robbery and using a weapon during a crime of violence in the so- called pizza bomber case. She will be sentenced Feb. 28 to life in prison plus 30 years.

She was accused of plotting to rob a PNC branch with several others, including pizza deliveryman Brian Wells, who walked into the bank carrying a shotgun fashioned to look like a cane and with an explosive device locked around his chest and neck. He fled with more than $8,000 but was apprehended soon after. The device exploded while he was handcuffed and state police waited for the bomb squad, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette explains.

Wells, who was 46, was named as an unindicted co-conspirator. His family doesn't believe he was part of the plot and was instead murdered. Last week, his brother called the proceedings "a circus show trial."

Diehl-Armstrong has been in prison since 2005 for pleading guilty but mentally ill in the shooting death of her boyfriend, and earlier this year she was diagnosed with cancer and given three to seven years to live, GoErie reports.

Other sources are claiming that Diehl-Armstrong's murdered boyfriend was one of the co-conspirators, and that a fourth man who may have been involved has since died of cancer. Wikipedia has more info on the case in their article on the victim, Brian Wells, including a picture of the shotgun cane.
A note found on Wells had instructions for him to carry out four tasks — the first of which was the bank robbery — in a set period of time before the bomb went off. Wells would gain extra time with the completion of each task. However, it was later determined that regardless of what had unfolded, Wells would never have had enough time to complete the tasks to get the bomb defused.

I have to give mad props to the woman for fully embracing her inner criminal mastermind. Deathtraps and gadget guns and mindgames - fabulous. However, I can't decide if she took things too far, or not far enough.

First off, she used the bomb collar on one of her own minions. Big mistake. There's this thing called "known associates" that really help law enforcement types track down everyone involved with a crime, which is a major reason why bad guys in the movies always grab some random schlub off the street for this sort of plot. Even if your mark is terrified for his life, there's still a chance he might accidentally blurt out something that will lead the cops straight to your door, so less he knows about you the better.

Her second mistake was bumping off members of her gang, as killing subordinates who displease you only works in media. There, when henchmen see one of their own get whacked for making a simple mistakes, they become more motivated. In real life, they turn state's evidence. Which is exactly what happened here. Betraying the "pizza bomber" was bad enough, but dispatching your own lover sends the message that no one is safe.

The trickiest part of a bank robbery is the escape. Any fool can march into a bank waving a gun and be rewarded with cash for his efforts, but getting back home with the loot is another thing entirely. The police will no doubt have video footage of the getaway vehicle and the longer it spends farting around town the better the chance they have of catching up with it. Which is why complicating things with a series of timed tasks is a huge error, unless number one on the list is dropping off the money at a safe location. I mean, I liked Die Hard 3 as much as the next guy, but get the cash in your hands before you start making the puppets dance to your tune.

So in conclusion, I applaud the sheer supervillany on display here, but the execution left a little to be desired. Fortunately, the perpetrator will have plenty of time in prison to reflect on her mistakes and perfect her next criminal scheme, which she will no doubt implement as soon as her cyborg gorillas spring her from jail.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010 The Dead Walk (On TV)


I don't have cable, so I had to catch the Halloween premiere of AMC's The Walking Dead on the downlow. While early buzz on the show was good, the opening episode should truly dispel any lingering doubts fans of the comics may have. Aside from the "light switch" speech, which was too long and poorly scripted, all of the changes from the source material were rock solid and heightened the sense of pathos and dread that define Kirkman's series. And it was surprisingly gory, though I couldn't help notice the modesty extended to even the most decomposed female zombies - even undead boobies are too dangerous for basic cable.

The show needs to be a different beast from the comic, if for no other reason than to keep the comic fans from anticipating every little plot point. It's clear that the show is in good hands, and I look forward to seeing how the new twists and turns play out.

I've heard through the geekvine that there's a theater in North Carolina showing the series "live" as it airs every Sunday. I would love the Brew N' View to do something similar.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010 Dead Set on IFC


Your poor, blighted masses without region-free DVD players and/or the good sense to order a Region 2 copy of the fantastic zombie mini-series, Dead Set, are in luck. IFC has been airing the program all this week, with a encore showing of the complete series on Halloween. Set them DVRs, people.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010 Beware the Naked African Guy with a Colicy Baby!

Here's a real WTF story from news.com.au:
11 jump from window fearing 'devil'

From correspondents in Paris
October 24, 2010 4:13AM


ELEVEN people were injured when they jumped out of a second-storey window near Paris early on Saturday, thinking a naked man tending his crying baby in the night was the devil, the local prosecutor said.

"Thirteen people were in an apartment on the second floor when, around 3am, one of the occupants heard his child crying," the deputy prosecutor in Versailles, Odile Faivre, said.

"The man in question of African origin, who was completely naked, got up to feed his child, at which point the other occupants took him for the devil," Ms Faivre said.

"He was seriously wounded in the hand after being stabbed with a knife before he was thrown out of the apartment, via the door."

The naked man then tried to get back into the flat in the town of La Verriere west of Paris, population 6000.

"That's when the other occupants tried to escape by jumping out of the window, panicked by a fear of the devil," Ms Faivre said.

Police have questioned the would-be devil, aged 30, and another man who jumped from the window with a two-year-old girl in his arms.

Seven of those injured were taken to hospital for emergency treatment.

Investigators are trying to clarify a number of issues surrounding the case, including whether everyone jumped voluntarily or if some were forced to do so, Ms Faivre said.
I'm pretty sure these people weren't trying to get away from the actual Devil, but from watching the M. Night Shyamalan movie of the same name. Which would explain why they wouldn't take the elevator down.

Seriously, though, what the hell is the thought process here? You're sharing an apartment with a dozen other folks. Someone starts walking around in the middle of the night. And you go straight past the logical conclusion that one of your flatmates has to take a leak to the assumption that a major mythological figure has appeared to kill you all. I mean, I've shared sleeping quarters with a large number of people on several occasions, and not once did I mistake someone staggering about in the dark to see if there's any more pizza left on the coffee table for a sudden manifestation of Belial, Bringer of Hellfire.

UPDATE: I hear via rpg.net that French-language sources have followed up on the story. It appears to have been a domestic dispute, in which the naked man was tossed out the window only after he went on a bit of a knife-wielding tantrum. The only person involved pushing the devil story is the gentleman in question. So there.

Monday, October 25, 2010 Zombies vs. the Windy City

I am really looking forward to Sunday's premiere of AMC's adaptation of The Walking Dead. All of the advance buzz has been really positive, and the stills and press releases have convinced me that the production team knows what they are doing with the property.

The promotional team, on the other team, may have hit a bit of a snag. As part of a world-wide PR event, zombies will swarm down Michican Avenue early tomorrow morning - right when one of the strongest windstorms in seventy years is expected to hit Chicago. Oops. Expect bits of latex application and promotional flyers to land as far away as Urbana.

From the Chicago Tribune's RedEye:
'The Walking Dead' zombies to swarm Chicago Tuesday

Curt Wagner on 10.25.10 at 11:05 AM

Zombies will invade downtown Chicago Tuesday to promote AMC's "The Walking Dead" series, which launches Halloween night.


AMC's zombie infection series "The Walking Dead" begins Sunday, but the network launches a worldwide promotional invasion Tuesday that hits Chicago.

Beginning at 7 a.m., zombies will swarm around the Chicago Tribune building, home of RedEye and Show Patrol. You don't want to get too close to the zombies--even a scratch and you'll be infected--but feel free to talk to the brand ambassadors accompanying them.

The ambassadors will have information for you about the new series--which is awesome by the way--and about how to win a role as a zombie on the show. I am sooo going to try for that.

"The Walking Dead" premieres at 9 p.m. Sunday on AMC. The show is based Robert Kirkman's popular graphic novel series of the same name that's published by Image Comics. Kirkman and writer/director/producer Frank Darabont are part of the team that is bringing it to TV (read more in my "The Walking Dead" archive), not only in the U.S. but around the world. AMC and Fox International Channels are releasing "TWD" how films are released: FIC will debut the series in 120 countries and 33 languages within the first week of its U.S. premiere.

I'll have more on the show later, including cast interviews with Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies and Emma Bell, photo galleries and my review--um, 4 stars by the way. Pick up Friday's RedEye for more, and come back here Tuesday and all week.

I have more from the AMC release below.

"The Walking Dead," from the graphic novel of the same name, premieres at 9 p.m. Oct. 31 on AMC.

WORLDWIDE ZOMBIE INVASION SWARMS CHICAGO
WHO: Zombies and Brand Ambassadors for AMC's "The Walking Dead" will swarm outside the Tribune building during Tuesday morning's commute as part of a global invasion staged by AMC and Fox International Channels on Tuesday, October 26 in anticipation of the premiere of AMC's new drama series, "The Walking Dead," which premieres on Sunday October 31 at 10 p.m.

WHAT: Taking direction from "The Walking Dead's" legendary make-up artist Greg Nicotero, hundreds of zombies will consecutively take over major cities worldwide during a 24-hour period. The planned global outbreaks will center in and around the world's major landmarks, including Westminster, Museo del Prado, Marienplatz, The Bosphorus Bridge and more. They will begin at daybreak in Taipei and Hong Kong, followed by Istanbul, Madrid, Munich, London, Sao Paolo, Buenos Aires, New York City and Los Angeles, among others. Attacking a total of 26 cities, each outbreak will be documented and shared with fans the world over as it happens.

WHEN: Tuesday, October 26, 2010 Walk begins promptly at 7:00 AM

WHERE: Chicago Tribune building (435 N. Michigan Ave.)

ABOUT THE WALKING DEAD
"The Walking Dead" tells the story of the weeks and months that follow after a zombie apocalypse. County Sheriff Rick Grimes (played by Andrew Lincoln) travels with his family and a small group of survivors, constantly in search of a safe and secure home. The original television series also stars Jon Bernthal ("The Pacific" "the Ghost Writer"), Sarah Wayne Callies ("Prison Break") and Laurie Holden ("The Sheild"). Kirkman serves as an executive producer on the project and three-time Academy Award nominee Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile) serves as writer, director and executive producer. Gale Anne Hurd (The Terminator, Aliens, Armageddon, The Incredible Hulk), chairman of Valhalla Motion Pictures, serves as Executive Producer. David Alpert from Circle of Confusion serves as Executive Producer. Charles "Chic" Eglee (Dexter, The Shield, Dark Angel) serves as Executive Producer.

"The Walking Dead" Global Zombie Invasion Attacks

* Chicago, USA
* New York City, USA
* Washington DC, USA
* Boston, USA
* San Francisco, USA
* Los Angeles, USA
* Taipei, Taiwan
* Hong Kong
* Istanbul, Turkey
* Athens, Greece
* Sofia, Bulgaria
* Estonia, Tallinn
* Belgrade, Serbia
* Munich, Germany
* Madrid, Spain
* Rome, Italy
* Johannesburg, S. Africa
* London, UK - Westminster
* Lisbon, Portugal
* Sao Paolo, Brazil
* Buenos Aires, Argentina
* Santiago, Chile
* Caracas, Venezuela
* Bogota, Colombia
* Mexico City, Mexico
* Guatemala City, Guatemala

Thursday, October 21, 2010 The Dead Walk (Again)

Folks in Norfolk, Virginia have organized a pretty cool variant on your basic zombie walk. From Virginia's Daily Press:
Run for your lives! Play a game of zombie tag at Survive Norfolk on Friday

The zombie-fied game of tag boasts a guest list of more than 7,000 on Facebook. Only 1,500 will be able to play.

By Amber Nettles Mobile and Social Media Manager, Daily Press
2:55 p.m. CDT, October 20, 2010


Dear City of Norfolk,

We really hope you can withstand a crushing horde of the undead.

Survive Norfolk, a zombie-fied game of tag, descends on Ghent Friday night. If all goes well, it could mark the beginning of a new phase of community-organized events. Whitney Metzger created the event (via Facebook) a few weeks ago and invited her friends. Donations would benefit various charities, including Hope House Foundation, D'Art Center, and the Hermitage Museum and Gardens. They invited their friends, and THEY invited their friends, and so on ... A few weeks later, more than 7,000 people RSVP'd "Yes" and she's dealing with a city-imposed fee for shutting down streets, hiring off-duty police, insurance, etc.

Metzger has already raised the money, taking donations through PayPal. AltDaily.com got involved, creating a "Save Survive Norfolk" Facebook page, writing about the event, publicizing two different fundraising events and having Mertzger write her own take on the event. The Virginian-Pilot, Wavy-TV 10 and WVEC have covered the inception of the event. YourMusicShow.Net also has an interview with Metzger on its podcast.

Survive Norfolk is a two-hand game of tag, featuring runners and zombies. Runners receive an armband at the starting point of the game, and are given a five minute head start before the zombies are unleashed. If a runner is tagged by a zombie, he/she becomes a zombie. Runners have two and a half hours to hit four checkpoints (at which agents will give them stamps) and reach the end location. "Bonus areas" are also included (in which the runners enter at their own risk to find Monitors will patrol the area to help and give direction. Only 1500 people can play (it's first-com, first-served) and many armbands have already been reserved. The winners will include the First place finisher and the zombie with the most kills. Players have to sign a safety waiver and must be over the age of 18.

Meanwhile, a New Zealand charity is defending it's upcoming zombie walk fundraiser - for victims of brain injuries. Oops.

Saturday, October 16, 2010 This Could Have Been Tragic


Luckily, I found out about a zombie pub crawl planned for my neck of the woods before I could accidentally stumble upon it. Cripes, can you imagine the carnage that would have resulted? Me slamming my car into a crowd of "undead" before leaping out and laying waste to even more would-be revelers with the zombie killin' kit I keep in the trunk?

I, of course, will not be attending.
  1. I hate the smell of make-up.
  2. Who the hell drinks on Roosevelt Road, anyway? I've been hanging out on Madison Street for twenty years.
  3. It would be like asking a Viet Nam vet with PTSD to party with a bunch of Viet Cong cosplayers.

Thursday, October 14, 2010 Brides of Kung Fu


While this story has been picked up by many news outlets - naturally! - they all seem to originate with Orange UK:
Kung fu sisters challenge suitors

A pair of kung fu sisters have given traditional dating the chop - to hold a challenge tournament where only the survivors will get the chance to date them.

Marital arts experts Xiao Lin, 22, and little sister Yin, 21, are to stage a three day fighting festival in Foushan, south east China, where only the toughest suitors stand a chance of getting through.

First contestants must show off their archery skills, then they must carry a heavy weight over sharpened bamboo spears, and finally they have to defeat one of the sisters in full contact combat.

Only then will contestants earn the right to remove the girls' masks and propose to them.

"They can chose open hand or any weapon they wish but we won't be holding back. If they can't beat us they aren't worthy," explained Lin.

"We tried dating agencies but the men we met were all too weak. We could beat them easily," said Yin.

"So we went back to ancient ways called Bi Wu Zhao Qin - which was the way warrior princesses would find their men."

But so far, only a trickle of brave contestants has come forward.

"I'm a very good martial artist - but I think I'd want to see them with the masks off before I decided whether I wanted to fight for them," said one doubtful suitor.
No mention of when or exactly where this tourney will be held, which along with the fact that all the news reports are pretty much parroting the one source strongly indicates that this is a big ol' hoax. Which really really sucks because I really really want to live in a world in which this kind of thing actually happens. Even if my archery skills stink.

Most Realistic Halloween Decoration Ever

And yet this isn't the oddest thing I've found in a box at a garage sale. From Monday's Tampa Tribune:
Human skeleton among scary decorations at Valrico estate sale

By YVETTE C. HAMMETT | The Tampa Tribune
and NATALIE SHEPHERD | News Channel 8
October 11, 2010


VALRICO - Good thing they didn't immediately hang it from the front-yard oak tree.

The skeleton Judith and Mitchell Fletcher purchased for $8 at an estate sale, turned out to be the real thing.

Just how it landed at a yard sale, well, that's something the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is attempting to determine.

The Valrico couple found the skeleton among a box of scary Halloween decorations they purchased at a Brandon estate sale, three weeks earlier, said Debbie Carter, spokeswoman for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. They didn't realize they had a box of real human bones until they opened it on Friday.

"They thought the skeleton was plastic but as they were decorating for Halloween they realized that it in fact appeared to be human bones," Carter said.

The couple didn't even look in the 2-foot wide box until later, Judith Fletcher said. "It had a lot of loose bones and they were wired," she said. "I asked him (her husband) 'what are you going to do with that?' And I brought it out and took a good look at it and I said, 'you know what? I think this is the real McCoy.'"

Then, they called the sheriff's office.

"We get calls a lot of times from people who say their dog came home with a bone they think is human, but it's not often we get an intact skeleton," Carter said.

Deputies who took the skeleton from the Fletchers said it appears to be a human anatomical skeleton utilized for study at a college or university. The skeleton has a serial number on a femur, but so far, Carter said, that number has not shown up on any data bases of stolen or missing property.

The skeleton has been turned over to the Hillsborough County Medical Examiners Office. The investigation is continuing to determine the origin of the skeleton.
It's not much of a mystery as to how a skeleton ended up in a box of Halloween decorations. Be honest - you can totally see your mom doing something like this as she goes through your stuff looking for items for the church jumble sale.

And really, it's not like they found a rotting corpse or anything. An anatomical study skeleton is no big deal. I mean, we've all got stories about one of those, right? *cough cough*

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 Signal from Space?

Nope! From SPACE.com:
Claim of Alien Signal from Planet Gliese 581g Called 'Very Suspicious'

By Denise Chow
11 October 2010
11:09 am ET


The recent discovery of Gliese 581g, an alien planet in the habitable zone of another star, has been an exciting development for scientists probing the galaxy for signs of extraterrestrial life. At least one claim of a possible signal from the planet has already surfaced – and been met with harsh skepticism among the science community.

Following the Sept. 29 announcement of the discovery of Gliese 581g, astronomer Ragbir Bhathal, a scientist at the University of Western Sydney, claimed to have detected a suspicious pulse of light nearly two years ago, that came from the same area of the galaxy as the location of Gliese 581g, according to the U.K.'s Daily Mail online.

Bhathal is a member of the Australian chapter of SETI, a non-profit scientific organization that is dedicated to research, exploration and education in the field of astrobiology.

"Whenever there's a clear night, I go up to the observatory and do a run on some of the celestial objects," Bhathal told the Daily Mail. "Looking at one of these objects, we found this signal. We found this very sharp signal, sort of a laser lookalike thing which is the sort of thing we're looking for – a very sharp spike. And that is what we found."

Still, there are some scientists who are skeptical of Bhathal's assertion.

"I know the scientist, and when he first announced it, I asked him for the details, and he wouldn't send them to me," astronomer and SETI pioneer Frank Drake told SPACE.com. "I'm very suspicious."

Drake is credited with conducting the first search for signals from extraterrestrial intelligences 50 years ago as part of what was then called Project Ozma. He coined the famed Drake Equation to calculate the number (N) of alien civilizations with whom we might be able to communicate

Further study would perhaps confirm or deny the supposed observation, but Drake thinks that the claim is likely a dubious one.

Bhathal claimed to have detected the puzzling signal in Dec. 2008, almost two years before researchers announced the Gliese 581g finding, and long before it was announced that habitable planets were found orbiting the star Gliese 581 itself.

"I'm not aware of the location that was claimed for the source of that light, and [Bhathal] refused to tell me where it came from," Drake said. "I think it's very unlikely that it came from the direction of Gliese 581."

Gliese 581g is one of two new worlds that was discovered orbiting the red dwarf star Gliese 581, which is located about 20.5 light-years from Earth. In total, there is a family of six planets that has been found around Gliese 581.

Steven Vogt, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, and his colleague Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington announced the Gliese 581g finding in a press conference held by the National Science Foundation on Sept. 29.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010 Beware Your Dorky Vampire Roommates!

Kids, no matter what Stephenie Meyer tells you, vampires are not your friends! From the October 7th Phoenix News:
"Vampire stabbing" details released by police

by Alicia E. BarrĂ³n
Posted on October 7, 2010 at 5:48 PM
Updated Monday, Oct 11 at 9:16 AM


CHANDLER, Ariz. – Police have released additional details on a stabbing that took place in Chandler on Oct. 4. The story has attracted national attention as the "vampire stabbing" after suspects told police they practice vampirism and paganism and said they were trying to suck the victim's blood.

Police said the victim, Robert Maley, 25, was stabbed after refusing to let his roommates suck his blood.

Maley was reportedly staying with two friends, Aaron Homer, 24, and Amanda Williamson, 21, at an apartment complex in Chandler. Maley told police that he had allowed the couple to suck his blood on previous occasions, but he wasn't interested this time, which led to the stabbing.

"These people ... practice paganism and vampirism and follow the vampire cult," said Sgt. Joe Favazzo of the Chandler Police Department.

Homer reportedly told officers that he became enraged and stabbed Maley because he felt Maley was making fun of his religion.

Firefighters happened to be at the same apartment complex on an unrelated call when they saw a blood-covered Maley run out of another apartment. The firefighters alerted police.

Chandler police officers who initially responded said there was a lot of blood at the scene and a trail of blood leaving the apartment. Homer and Williamson initially made conflicting statements to police. Williamson first said she had been attacked and stabbed her attacker in self-defense. Both suspects later confessed and confirmed Maley’s claims.

Homer has been charged with aggravated assault and Williamson is charged with false reporting to police. Maley was also arrested on an unrelated outstanding warrant.

The recent rise in popularity of vampires in pop culture has some officials worried that this sort of behavior could become trendy.

“We have young people that are very impressionable that are following this pop culture, they're following this vampire culture, they're going to get infections, it's dangerous," Favazzo said.

Meanwhile, television shows like HBO's True Blood and the Stephenie Meyer novels and film series Twilight are more popular than ever.
The police spokesman mention of a "vampire cult" is worrisome. As with the Satanic panic of the 80's, certain folk are all too keen to take a couple of dumbass kids replicating something they half-remembered from a movie as evidence of an organized global cult whose writhing tentacles have infiltrated all levels of our society. This time around the fundies are more crazed than ever (what with a secret Muslim in the White House and all), and such hysteria can only lead to mass burnings of Anne Rice novels and law enforcement officers staking Twi-Hards in the street.

Wait, did I say "worrisome"? I obviously meant "AWESOME"!

Monday, October 11, 2010 Highlander vs. the Nun's Bank Account

At last! The lady Immortals get their hand in! From the October 5th edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer:
Woman accused of sword attack

By Eileen Kelley
October 5, 2010


A 29-year-old South Fairmont woman was ordered held on a $15,000 bond Tuesday on accusations that she sliced the fingers of her boyfriend with a Japanese katana sword and then five days later tried to cash a forged check that belonged to a Covington nun.

Angela Dawn Offill faces charges of felonious assault, receiving stolen property and forgery as well as two unrelated cases that involve theft and a driving infraction in which there had been warrants issued for her arrest.

In court on Tuesday. Offill’s lawyer said the woman had a seventh-grade education and that she has lived with the man she is accused of attacking for the past nine months.

As for the check forgery allegation, the amount was for $95. It was not clear in court Tuesday why there was the delay in tracking down and arresting Offill on the series of charges.
The mention of two more "unrelated cases" leaves me wondering how a sword attack and a check-forging scheme could be related when they occured almost a week apart.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010 Beware the Sludge!


From the BBC:
Hungary battles to stem torrent of toxic sludge

Emergency services in Hungary are trying to stop a torrent of toxic red sludge flowing into major waterways, including the River Danube.

5 October 2010 Last updated at 13:03 ET


A state of emergency has been declared in three western counties after the chemical waste burst from a reservoir at an alumina plant.

So far at least four people have died and 120 injured. Six more are missing.

At least seven villages and towns are affected including Devecser, where the torrent stood 2m (6.5ft) deep.

The flood swept cars from roads and damaged bridges and houses, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of residents.

The sludge - a mixture of water and mining waste containing heavy metals - is considered hazardous according to Hungary's National Directorate General for Disaster Management (NDGDM).

While the cause of the deaths has not been established officially, it is believed the victims probably drowned.

Some 600,000-700,000 cubic metres (21m-24m cubic feet) of sludge escaped from the plant, 160km (100 miles) from the capital, Budapest.

With 7,000 people affected directly by the disaster, a state of emergency was declared in the county of Veszprem where the spill occurred, and Gyor-Moson-Sopron and Vas, where the sludge appeared to be heading.

At least 390 residents have been relocated and 110 rescued from flooded areas, the NDGDM said.

Nearly 500 police officers and soldiers, including six emergency detection teams, have been deployed.

Plaster has been poured into the Marcal river in a bid to bind the sludge and stop further flooding.

Dr Attila Nyikos, of the NDGDM, told the BBC News website that a police investigation had been opened.

He said tests were still being carried out to determine the environmental impact of the leak.

Zoltan Illes, state secretary for the environment ministry, described the flood as the worst chemical accident in Hungary's history when he visited Kolontar on Tuesday.

He said there were fears that the sludge could reach the Raba and Danube rivers. An alert has been declared on both the Marcal and Torna rivers.

Tamas Toldi, mayor of Devecser, told MTI news agency that between 80 and 90 people had been taken to hospital with chemical burns.

Dr Nyikos said the victims had probably been drowned by the sludge, which had flowed out with the speed of water.

The sludge, he said, triggers an alkaline reaction on the skin but the effect can be neutralised by washing with plenty of fresh water.

Peter Jakabos, a doctor at a hospital in Gyor where several of the injured were taken, said on state TV that some burns could take days to reveal themselves and what might seem like superficial injuries could later cause damage to deeper tissue.

One eyewitness in Devecser, Robert Kis, said his uncle had been taken to Budapest by helicopter after the sludge "burnt him to the bone".

Alumina, a synthetically produced aluminium oxide, is a white or nearly colourless crystalline substance that is used as a starting material for the smelting of aluminium metal.

It also serves as the raw material for a broad range of advanced ceramic products and as an active agent in chemical processing.

Weeks of heavy rain are likely to have played a role in the accident, the BBC's Nick Thorpe reports from Budapest.

The sludge escaped from a reservoir at the Ajkai Timfoldgyar plant in the town of Ajka. Police say they have confiscated documents from the company's headquarters.

MAL Rt, the Hungarian company which owns the plant, earlier said that by EU standards the sludge had not been considered hazardous.

There had been no sign of the impending disaster and the last examination of the reservoir pond on Monday had shown nothing untoward, it added.

It said it believed the company management "could not have noticed the signs of the natural catastrophe nor done anything to prevent it even while carefully respecting technological procedures".

The sludge flooded 19 streets in Devecser and two in Kolontar, where at least three of the four deaths occurred. Five other areas were under threat.

Rescue workers used an axe to cut through the living room door of Mr Kis's house in Devecser, to let the red liquid flow out, the Associated Press news agency reports.

"When I heard the rumble of the flood, all the time I had was to jump out the window and run to higher ground," said his wife, Tunde Erdelyi.

The Hungarian government said it was not seeking any international assistance for the time being.

More pictures at the site. Quick, what's Hungarian for "Smog Monster"?

Monday, October 4, 2010 Who Watches the Watchman?



Ah, facial hair - the weak-chinned hero's bestest friend! From Sunday's Milwaukee, WI Journal Sentinel:
Riverwest has real-life masked avenger

He calls himself the Watchman. Armed with a flashlight, pepper spray and a cell phone, he spends his weekend evenings hunting out suspicious activity in Riverwest.
He's hitting the streets to root out injustice - without superpowers

By Mike De Sisti
Oct. 3, 2010

When the two main loves in your life are helping people and reading comic books, the call is loud and clear: Become a superhero.

He calls himself the Watchman. He won't give his real name.

His identity is obscured by a bright red mask that covers half his goateed face. He wears black boots, black pants, black leather gloves and a black trench coat, but there's a large yellow circle on the chest of his black hooded sweatshirt, with a big W.

"I'm what people refer to as a real-life superhero," he says.

By night, on weekends, he patrols Milwaukee's Riverwest neighborhood, looking for injustice and evildoers. By day? That's a mystery.

"While most reactions to what I do are positive, there are a few negative responses," he explains, adding that the disguise protects his family - a wife and two young sons - from any of that. "I'm the one who decided to do this, not them," he says. "They should not have to suffer for it."

For him, it's not about fulfilling a childhood fantasy, or getting the attention of late-night bar patrons.

"Somebody needs to do something," explains the Watchman, who contemplated becoming a police officer before donning his mask.

"There's something everybody can do to make the world a little bit better," he says.

So the 6-foot, 200-pound, 30-something crime fighter patrols Riverwest in costume, with a flashlight and pepper spray on hand - and a black Motorola cell phone as his weapon of choice.

"It's about reporting it," he says. "Contacting police, or getting an ambulance out here if it's a medical situation."

As for super powers? None, he says. "I'm just a guy. I may look a little funny, but I'm just a guy. And I'm out here to let everybody know that they can do their part."

He's not the only guy. The Watchman belongs to the Great Lakes Heroes Guild. "We combine resources, work together and share information," he says.

Milwaukee area freelance writer Tea Krulos is chronicling him and others like him around the nation.

"Heroes in the Night: Inside the Real Life Superhero Movement" is a book Krulos hopes to self-publish by December or January.

"I think one of the most interesting things about this story is that most of the guys are pretty normal," Krulos says. "They're just sick of sitting around watching TV. They want to go out and do something, even if it is a small act, to make their community a better place."

But on a typical night in the Riverwest area, the Watchman needs no book to draw attention. The mysterious red mask does the trick as reactions from mortals come throughout the night.

Patrick Georgeson is hanging out with a few friends in his garage as the Watchman makes his rounds. "I've seen him around here before," says Georgeson.

His friend Meghan Bundy chimes in: "It's awesome to know we have a little Batman here."

"I really think he actually cares." Georgeson says. "There's enough stuff that goes on in this neighborhood that I've seen. . . . If there's one more person looking out for it, it's probably a good thing."

Looking out for people is what the Watchman plans on doing for a long time to come.

"In some form or another, I will do this for the rest of my life."

Video at the site. The Watchman really needs to work on his hero voice. His sidekick, who is obviously trying to rock the "mysterious avenger" angle, was smart enough to stay silent for the camera.

The whole "real-life supers" thing is interesting, as there are striking parallels to the "mystery man" craze in The Watchmen. As in the comic, for most participants it's just a chance to dress up, hang out, and get a little attention. But again like in the comic, there is a minority that fully embrace the concept and try to help people. The fad has the potential to go into fascinating directions, but I can't help feeling that it's all going to end up just as badly as it did in the graphic novel.

I'd be curious to learn the average length of time would-be superheroes stick with their patrolling. I've a gut feeling that these men and women can be split into two groups, those who quickly drop their patrols but hang onto their heroic personae, and those who keep up the activity but lose the costumes. As we see in the video that accompanied this news story, hero patrols often attract non-costumed participants. I can't help thinking that the camaraderie of an organized neighborhood watch combined with the satisfaction of helping the community would soon lead to the costumed identity being discarded.

Okay, except for maybe the crazies. If anyone's gonna kick-start this into full-fledged four-color madness, it's them.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 You Will Believe a Man Can Fall

A reminder to be discreet while testing out your new superpowers. From MSNBC:
Witnesses: Person falls from sky, then vanishes

'There's no doubt that it was a person. We're 100 percent sure,' witness says
updated 9/16/2010 12:10:05 PM ET


Several people in New Jersey claimed they saw a person falling from the sky with no parachute, but an extensive police search has turned up no evidence, NBC Philadelphia reported.

Witness Kelly Hale and two of her co-workers at Shore Veterinarians in Egg Harbor Township said they watched from their office windows as a human fell head-first from the sky on Tuesday.

But there were no reports of missing skydivers.

"I [saw] the guy falling, at an angle, like this," Hale told NBC Philadelphia while gesturing. "Straight down. No parachute. No paraglider."

Authorities were still investigating the incident, Egg Harbor police told msnbc.com on Thursday.

"We're not actively out there searching, but we're waiting for more information," said police Sgt. Robert Gray. He could not comment on the ongoing investigation.

Several people contacted Egg Harbor Township Police at about 3:20 p.m. Tuesday, saying that they watched a person free-falling from the sky. The witnesses described the person as falling head first, at a slight angle, toward the ground, police said.

"You could see the arms and legs flailing and his clothes were blue, a dark blue like a navy, black and gray," Hale said. "There's no doubt that it was a person. We're 100 percent sure."

The witnesses also told NBC Philadelphia they saw a small plane flying nearby right after they saw the person plunging to the ground.

Egg Harbor Township police and aviation units of the Coast Guard and New Jersey State Police extensively searched the heavily wooded area until about 11 a.m. Wednesday. The search will remain suspended until further information becomes available, police said.

"We didn't see any signs of debris, we didn't see any broken branches of something like, falling through the tree-line," Coast Guard Lt. Commander Paul Whitmore said. "We didn't see anything out of the ordinary, but that's not to say it didn't happen."

Hale, for one, is convinced of what she saw. "They need to find him," she said. "I mean, there's somebody lying back there.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010 August Zombie Round-Up

Whiz-banging around the intertubes is the length preview trailer for AMC's upcoming series based on Image Comic's The Walking Dead. Early promo stills had me excited, and the preview just stokes the flames.



If the series is only half as good as the comics, it's going to kick ass. I keep up with Robert Kirkman's zombie opus via trade paperback collection, and I swear I tear through each new volume in mere minutes, rushing through the pages in an anxious desire to find out what horrible thing happens next. I expect - and hope - that the television series will carve its own path and eventually stray from the on-going plot of the book. As long as AMC preserves the mood and nail-biting tension of the source material, I'll be happy.

_________________________________________

While The Walking Dead may be unique on traditional television, the 'net is crawling with zombie web series. Most are amateur affairs, long on enthusiasm but short on production values (and all too often, talent). So a professional joint like Universal Dead really stands out from the pack; even though it's budget probably wouldn't cover catering for a Tom Cruise film, it looks great and features a couple of actors you might actually recognize. The downside? Chapters are short and are apparently released on a sluggish bi-monthly schedule. The first installment is below, and you can catch up with the rest via the link above.




_________________________________________

Social commentary in zombie flicks ain't nothing new - Fido, Deadgirl, Homecoming, and of course Romero's pioneering works. The latest in this vein is a Spanish-Cuban production called Juan of the Dead. As the title suggests, it's a comedy. A slacker named Juan decides to profit from an undead uprising by selling his services as a zombie killer. Wackiness ensues. Expect a third-act epiphany that leads to Juan abandoning his capitalist ways in order to defend his family and country. Oh, and there's a rumor I totally believe that Fidel himself has a cameo. As a zombie.



Sneak peeks like the one above (more are available on YouTube) have not been very enticing, but it is cool to see a zombie movie coming from such unexpected quarters. The unique viewpoint may make Juan of the Dead worth checking out. I mean, it can't be any worse than Zombies of Mass Destruction.

_________________________________________

And finally, thanks to RPG.NET, I have been made aware of a site selling custom zombie marital aids. The sellers also offer models inspired by Cthulhu and Alien. We can only hope they are being purchased for their conversational value and not for any practical use.

Monday, August 30, 2010 British Museum Mystery

From the BBC:
British Museum alert will remain mystery

29 August 2010 Last updated at 08:58 ET

The British Museum has reopened after a suspected noxious substance left visitors with irritated eyes and throats, as managers admitted the cause of the scare will remain a mystery.At least 8,000 people were evacuated from the British Museum on Saturday after what was described as a "gas" incident.

Police and the fire brigade moved in but have been unable to identify the cause.

Nobody was injured during the incident.

A British Museum spokeswoman said: "The fire brigade conducted a full search but could not find anything.

"They declared the site safe and handed back control of the museum at 5pm."

She continued: "The answer won't ever be known for sure.

"It was just a strange one-off incident."

A London Fire Brigade spokesman said: "When we arrived we used our equipment to carry out very extensive checks.

"We were there for about four hours. But we did not get any readings."

The spokesman added: "People may well have smelt something but it dispersed before we got there."
Mass panics are nothing new, though most reports we get these days typically involve schoolgirls and/or the developing world. There was a case in the US a couple of years back where a spritz of perfume set off fears of gas attacks, and I wonder if a similar cause wasn't at work here as well.

On the other hand, this is exactly the kind of thing a brilliant criminal mastermind might engineer if he needed some alone time with an exhibit. No fatalities means no follow-up investigation, so you can swap out some rare artifact with a cunning copy or resurrect the mummy of the Princess of Amen-Ra without anyone being the wiser. At least until you're marching your army of animated terracotta soldiers down Victoria Embankment.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010 Water Sucks

I was affected by the flooding that hit Chicago's western suburbs last month. Lost a couple grand worth of trade paperbacks, all my RPG magazines and many games (including full runs of Feng Shui and Underground and my Mayfair/DC Who's Who binders), and my radio-controlled Dalek. Oh, and I will probably have to buy all new furniture. While many other folks suffered far greater losses, it was still a heart-rendering moment for this geek.

The apartment has been cleaned and repaired, so I'll be moving back in this weekend. And maybe posting more.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010 Zombie Justice!

Once the undead start lawyering up, we're all doomed. From Monday's Star-Tribune:
Minneapolis will pay $165,000 to zombies

Minneapolis will pay seven people who were jailed after a street theater protest.
By RANDY FURST, Star Tribune
Last update: August 23, 2010 - 12:20 AM


The Minneapolis city attorney's office has decided to pay seven zombies and their attorney $165,000.

The payout, approved by the City Council on Friday, settles a federal lawsuit the seven filed after they were arrested and jailed for two days for dressing up like zombies in downtown Minneapolis on July 22, 2006, to protest "mindless" consumerism.

When arrested at the intersection of Hennepin Avenue and 6th Street N., most of them had thick white powder and fake blood on their faces and dark makeup around their eyes. They were walking in a stiff, lurching fashion and carrying four bags of sound equipment to amplify music from an iPod when they were arrested by police who said they were carrying equipment that simulated "weapons of mass destruction."

However, they were never charged with any crime.

Although U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen had dismissed the zombies' lawsuit, it was resurrected in February by a three-judge panel of the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which concluded that police lacked probable cause to arrest the seven, a decision setting the stage for a federal trial this fall. The settlement means there will be no trial.

"I feel great that the city is being held accountable for the actions of their police," said Raphi Rechitsky, 27, of Minneapolis, one of the seven zombies, who said he and his friends were performing street theater when they were arrested. He is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Minnesota.

Minneapolis City Attorney Susan L. Segal said it was in the best interests of the city to settle. "We believe the police acted reasonably, but you never know what a jury is going to do with a case," she said.

If a jury had concluded that the seven plaintiffs' constitutional rights had been violated and awarded $50,000 to each, plus defense attorney's fees, "it could have been quite substantial," Segal said.

The four men and three women, all of whom lived in the Twin Cities at the time, were playing the role of zombies to illustrate their belief that people buy and rely on new products "as a replacement for real interaction," said Rechitsky.
More at the link. I like how the protesters are almost never referred to as anything other than "zombies" throughout the story.

Sunday, August 22, 2010 Real Life Supervillains Suck #2

From the August 18th edition of the Peninsula Daily News of Port Angeles, Washington:
Deputies arrest man in banana costume with shotgun

By Paige Dickerson
August 18. 2010


PORT ANGELES -- A man in a child's banana costume and a friend were arrested after a string of events led Clallam County Sheriff's deputies to corner their car on Old Olympic Highway on Tuesday evening.

Carlton Jeffery Kohnert, 21, who is apparently in the Marine Reserve, was arrested for investigation of reckless endangerment, aiming or discharging a weapon and indecent exposure, said Clallam County Sheriff's Sgt. Randy Pieper.

Police believe Kohnert -- fully costumed in the yellow banana costume -- exposed himself to a woman at the Port Angeles Wendy's restaurant and drove through Four Seasons Ranch brandishing a shotgun.

Anthony Marks Maybury, 21, was arrested for investigation of reckless endangerment.

An 18-year-old woman was in the car with them, but Pieper did not name her because she was not arrested nor is she thought to be involved in any crimes.

"The banana costume has been seized and put into evidence," Pieper said.

"[Kohnert] couldn't really tell us why he was in the costume.

"All we know is he was drinking earlier in the day, but he didn't really have a reason for the costume."

The Port Angeles Police Department received the first report about a costumed man at about 6 p.m., after he was seen at Wendy's, Pieper said.

After leaving Wendy's in a Dodge Stratus, Kohnert -- the costumed man -- and Maybury drove to Saar's Market on U.S. Highway 101 on the east side of Port Angeles, Pieper said.

"They then were called in for a car doing a burnout -- in other words pulling 360s in the Saar's Market parking lot," Pieper said.

"They did not, it appears, get out at Saar's, though."

After leaving Port Angeles, the group made a stop at Four Seasons Ranch, where Kohnert -- still dressed in the banana costume -- got out, brandished a shotgun and began yelling, Pieper said.

"We believe he was yelling something or other about white supremacy," Pieper said.

The group then left and drove east on Highway 101 again.

State Patrol troopers and Clallam County Sheriff's Office deputies followed the car, which turned off onto Old Olympic Highway, where another deputy was driving from the east, Pieper said.

The car stopped at about 6:15 p.m. and the occupants got out. The costumed man, holding a shotgun, released the weapon when told to put it down, Pieper said.

Investigators are awaiting a warrant to search the car. They could see two empty shotgun shells in the passenger seat, Pieper said.

"At this point, though, we have absolutely no reports of any shots fired," he said.

"And he denies that it was loaded at any time, so those might not be related."
There was absolutely no art to this rampage at all. The Banana Bandit utterly failed as a supervillain because he utterly failed to properly incorporate his fruit motif.

1) No Banana-Themed Crimes. Granted, it's easier to work with some themes more than others. Clock King can heist Rolexs between major gigs, various holidays provide easy inspiration for the Calendar Man, and there's always something feline-related for Catwoman to snag. But if the Signal Man can pull off a fifty-year career, there's no excuse for this guy to not even try. Maybe he's not ready for something major like kidnapping Bob Dole, but why not knock over a Banana Republic? At the very least, work the motif into your robbery patter: "What's long and yellow and holds up liquor stores? A banana with a shotgun!"

2) No Banana-Themed Equipment. Of course, it's unreasonable to expect a beginner to start out wielding a banana-shaped deathray. But using banana peels to trip pursuing policeman is a no-brainer. And it's not like there isn't gear out there that's appropriate right off the shelf:


3) No Banana-Themed Henchmen. Would it have killed his buddy to wear, I dunno, a yellow track suit and black beret? And I'm betting that the woman they were with was not named "Chiquita". You know what would make awesome minions for the Banana Bandit? Trained monkeys! With a little financial backing, he could be rocking something like this:


Trust me, a guy with a fleet of chimp-guided banana tanks is not gonna meet a gratuitous death in some stupid crossover event!

4) Lame Costume. Freddie Mercury did it much more stylishly.



So yeah, the Banana Bandit sucks and real-life supervillains continue to disappoint.

Monday, July 12, 2010 Rule #1 - Cardio

"If you're ready for zombies, you're ready for anything" has been my personal motto for years now, and yet I still don't get my fat ass off the couch. From the Chicago Tribune:
Zombies as exercise motivation

St. Charles' Zombiefit classes don't really have the undead, but do use parkour and other techniques to whip students into shape.

By Pat Dunnigan, Special to the Tribune
June 24, 2010


St. Charles bills itself as a place that "bursts with naturally charming adventures" where paddlewheel boats cruise the Fox River and pedestrians stroll safely through leafy parks.

So why are residents of the area drawn to a fitness course designed to improve their chances of survival in the event of a zombie invasion?

Rich Gatz, the 28-year-old lawyer who founded Zombiefit in October, says the program, which is built around the practice of parkour, attracts people because of its focus on "functional fitness." Parkour enthusiasts practice running, vaulting and climbing an obstacle course of structures found in an ordinary urban landscape.

"Nobody actually comes to class because they really believe in zombies," Gatz said.

But Gatz isn't taking any chances. "If you're ready for the zombie apocalypse, you're ready for anything," he said.

And so, two nights a week in a gymnastics studio in St. Charles, five to a dozen people gather to run, jump, climb and vault up, over and around obstacles that stand in for the features of a city in the grip of a zombie infestation. They also undergo strength and conditioning training because zombies are relentless.

There are no actual zombies or zombie stand-ins, though Gatz says they are invoked for inspiration. A precision jump, for example, requires participants to land in an exact location, much as they would have to do if fleeing a zombie from rooftop to rooftop.

"You've got to land that, or the zombies are going to get you," Gatz tells students.

Gatz says he and partners Jeff Strening and Jesse Randall didn't go into the fitness business with any particular expertise in zombies. The idea, he says, sprang from a discussion in which something was said about being in the kind of shape where you'd be "unstoppable, ready for anything, even zombies."

But as word of the program spreads like an out-of-control virus, the zombie element is threatening to take over. There is no place to hide. Everyone, it seems, wants to talk to Gatz about zombies.

At times, his weariness comes through and he sighs like a man who has just spent a sleepless night barricaded in an abandoned building surrounded by the ravenous undead.

"Aren't zombies kind of slow?" asks a reporter. "Why the sprints?"

There is, says Gatz, a debate on that point, of which he was blissfully ignorant before Zombiefit. He would rather talk about the distinction between anaerobic and aerobic workouts. But it turns out there may be different types of zombies, fast and slow.

"In a hypothetical zombie apocalypse, you want to be as ready as you can," he says.

But for a place only hypothetically infested with zombies, the area has had its share of zombie-related happenings.

In 2008, an old farmhouse west of Illinois Highway 47 was the scene of a horrifying standoff between a young woman and a mob of zombies intent on devouring her.

Geneva filmmaker Jose Carlos Gomez, who witnessed the scene in the course of shooting his film "Bled White," says the area provided more than a zombie-conducive setting for his movie..

"When I put out an ad asking for zombie extras," he says, "most of my zombies came from St. Charles."

Police in St. Charles had little to say about the possibility of zombie activity.

"No comment," said spokesman Paul McCurtain. The mayor declined to be interviewed.

But at least one expert says the city's natural landscape and proximity to a major population center are textbook zombie bait.

"Imagine you roll yourself in honey and lie next to an anthill," said Max Brooks, a Los Angeles writer whose 2003 "The Zombie Survival Guide" launched his career as a zombie defense consultant.

Brooks' latest work, "World War Z," recently garnered him an invitation to speak at a book club on the campus of the U.S. Naval War College in Rhode Island.

Brooks says St. Charles residents would be wise to prepare. But he is not quite ready to endorse Zombiefit.

"Parkour would probably work better against vampires," he says. "Vampires are the wall climbers. Zombies are the shamblers. To get away from zombies, you want to do something more like power walking."

But Gatz says his students will be ready.

"Take some of my athletes against readers of the book, and I bet they will do pretty well for themselves," he said.

They won't be the only ones without a plan. At the St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau, Executive Director Amy Egolf would not be caught dead unprepared.

"From a tourism standpoint ... if I find it's burgeoning and they're willing to spend the night in our hotels," she said. "We'd be delighted."

Considering St. Charles' close proximity to Fermilab, preparing for a large scale sci-fi catastrophe might not be that silly.

Zombie Roadblock

The undead are rapidly becoming America's greatest road hazard. From the website of KGW TV, Portland:
"Zombies" crash on I-84 near Lloyd exit

Emergency crews had various lanes of eastbound I-84 shut down as they investigated the crash.

by Justin Burton, KGW news staff
Posted on July 9, 2010 at 11:38 PM


PORTLAND, Ore. -- A car full of people dressed as zombies crashed on Interstate 84 near downtown Portland on Friday, causing initial confusion by people who witnessed the crash.

Portland Police said the car was swerving in the eastbound lanes of the freeway just east of the Lloyd District just after 9:30 p.m. when it rolled over and crashed onto its top.

Emergency crews took five victims from the crash to area hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries.

Police said that in their investigation they learned that the people inside the car were dressed as zombie costumes and they were headed to a party at the time of the crash.

Sgt. Greg Stewart said people who witnessed the crash initially thought the victims' injuries were much more serious, because of the zombie costumes.

"We're glad that everyone is alive, despite being 'undead'," Sgt. Stewart said, referring to the costumes.

While everyone in the car was taken to the hospital, Stewart said crews are investigating the possibility that more people were in the car at the time of the crash but fled the scene on foot.

The crash halted traffic in the eastbound lanes for about an hour, reducing travel to just one lane. All eastbound lanes were opened at around 11 p.m.

Wow, they're pulling a reverse Scooby-Doo here, claiming that the undead milling about after a car accident were merely folks in costume. The tip-off is that none of the names of those involved have been released; you can't tell the world that Joe Blow survived a car crash while you're trying to explain to Widow Blow why she can't see her husband's body.

Thursday, July 1, 2010 Catwoman Strikes!

We had a real-life Joker turn up last year, and now this. All we need is some fat little mofo stealing rare bird's eggs or something and the rogue's gallery will be complete. From Tuesday's New York Post:
Holy masquerade! Cat woman strikes

By JOHN DOYLE and LACHLAN CARTWRIGHT
Last Updated: 4:15 AM, June 29, 2010
Posted: 3:00 AM, June 29, 2010


Cat Woman is on the prowl.

A serial stickup artist with a penchant for disguises -- including a
cat mask -- has sunk her claws into shoe and beauty stores in
Manhattan and Queens, The Post has learned.

The last two hits by the sleek, amber-eyed thief took place last week
-- targeting the high-end Arche shoe store on Astor Place in the East
Village on Thursday and The Body Shop in Forest Hills, Queens, the
next day.

In the strike at Arche, which was caught on video, the slick thief
donned a cat mask, the source said.

According to the source, the lithe 5-foot-6, 115 pound thief,
described in a wanted poster as possibly Middle Eastern, strode into
the store at around 1:30 p.m. She prowled for about 45 minutes before
donning her disguise and pouncing on a sales clerk.

"Give me the money. I have a gun," read a note Cat Woman passed to the
worker, according to the source.

She got her paws on $86 in cash and scampered off, the source said.

A day later, Cat Woman turned into the Burqa Bandit, wrapping a black
scarf over her head.

According to the source, she strode into The Body Shop on Austin
Street and Continental Avenue in Queens at 12:50 p.m. and barked out
her order to hand over some cash, the source said.

She fled with $500.

When I first started reading this story, I was wondering if she was like a Julie Newmar Catwoman or an Eartha Kitt Catwoman or a Michelle Pfeiffer Catwoman. Then I saw she only netted $560 from two robberies, and realized she was a Halle Berry Catwoman.

Clearly, the police artist is no Darwyn Cooke.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 Another Reason to Hate the Undead

Bloodsuckers are dangerous in more ways than one. From the website of KDVR, Denver:
Western Slope woman blames vampire for car crash

Web Staff KDVR Denver
10:24 AM MDT, June 29, 2010


FRUITA, Colo. - If a Western Slope woman is to be believed, vampires may be lurking in Colorado's Grand Valley.

The woman claims she spotted a vampire in the middle of a dirt road near Fruita, Colo. Sunday night. She told Colorado State Troopers she was startled by the undead being, threw her SUV into reverse, and crashed into a canal.

She was not injured.

State Troopers say the woman's husband arrived at the scene and took her home. The vampire, which was not seen by anyone else, apparently let her get away.

Troopers do not suspect drugs or alcohol to be factors in the crash.

The bastards would be much less of a hazard if they sparkled at night instead of the day.

It'd be funnier if anyone on the internet actually knew how to spell.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010 Linky Go By-By

I am chained to the wheel of commerce and have had no time with which to maintain this blog. However, I did want to pop in and state that, due to Rapidshare's idiotic and self-destructive new pricing structure, all of the file links at the Sanctum are about to go dead. If there's something here that you really wanted, better grab it now.

And while I'm here, I might as well link to some shenanigans that occurred during my absence:

Highlander vs. Al Queda

Highlander vs. Porn

Highlander vs. Elvis!

Thursday, May 20, 2010 Ninjas to the Rescue

From CNN:
Would-be muggers in Australia thwarted by ninjas

May 20th, 2010
09:09 AM ET


A group of would-be muggers in a Sydney, Australia, met their match Tuesday night in the form of black-clad ninjas.

The three stalked and attacked a German exchange student, 27, in a dimly lit alley that fortunately for the victim ran behind the Ninja Senshi Ryu warrior school, according to an Australian Broadcasting Corp. report.

Ninja student Nathan Smith was standing in the shadows outside the dojo when the attackers set upon the victim and quickly called for help from his classmates inside, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Sensei Kaylan Soto and three other students in full ninja gear quickly responded.

"We looked around to see what was happening and there were three blokes on this guy just kicking him and punching him in the head," he told the ABC.

"We started running towards them and they took off. They would have seen five of us in ninja gear ... all in black with our belts on, running toward them.”

The ninjas gave chase but could not catch the assailants.

Police told the ABC they arrested two male suspects, ages 16 and 20, and are looking for a third. Their intended victim suffered only minor injuries.

Ninja Steve Ashley told the Herald the assailants must be lamenting their luck.

"It was probably the worst place in Sydney where they could have taken him,” he said.

Bah! True ninjas would not have let any of the muggers escape. In fact, they wouldn't have left any of 'em breathing.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010 Highlander vs. the Airport

Via Reuters:
American held at Cairo airport with weapons

Wed May 12, 2010 11:39am EDT

CAIRO (Reuters) - An Egyptian-American was arrested at Cairo airport on Tuesday night after arriving on a direct flight from New York carrying two pistols, 250 bullets, two swords and 11 knives in his luggage, airport officials said.

It was not immediately clear how Mohamed Ibrahim, a university botany professor teaching in the United States, was able to get through security in New York and board the plane.

Ibrahim, who is of Egyptian origin, was detained on accusations of trying to smuggle the arms into the country. It is illegal to import weapons into Egypt without a permit.

No other details were available of the New York airport involved or the airline.

For you young immortals out there, this is why antiques dealers and historians make for the best cover stories. They can carry a lot of weapons around as long as they call them relics or something. Conversely, there's no good reason why a botany professor would need so much hardware. Unless he's expecting to run into a really dangerous plant.

Monday, May 10, 2010 R.I.P. Frank Frazetta










1928 - 2010

Saturday, May 8, 2010 Kiwi Vampire Rampage

Okay, so not that much of a rampage, but I was feeling a bit tabloidy tonight. From Thursday's edition of the Telegraph:
New Zealand man 'attacked by vampires'

By Paul Chapman in Wellington
Published: 7:00AM BST 06 May 2010


A New Zealand man claimed he was bitten by three people who allegedly drank his blood during a vampire-style attack in the dark.

Details of the bizarre late night incident on Mount Victoria, an unlit beauty spot that overlooks the capital, Wellington, emerged after two people appeared in court jointly charged with wounding with intent to render a man unconscious.

James Phillip Brooks, 22, and Xenia Gregoriana Borichevsky, 19, were both remanded on bail without entering a plea.

A warrant was issued for the arrest of a third accused, James Eric Orr, 19, who failed to appear at Wellington District Court.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in jail.

It is believed the victim, whose name has been suppressed by the court, passed out after being bitten on the night of February 20.

Outside the court, Mr Brooks said he understood there was blood drinking during the incident but added: "That wasn't me.

"Do I look like a vampire? I'm out during the daytime," he told the city's Dominion-Post newspaper.

Mr Brooks, who has a number of facial piercings and a mohawk haircut, said: "I may look like a punk but I'm not a punk. I'm just different.

"Yeah, I bit a guy. He hit on my missus. My girlfriend and my mate were biting him.

"If I'd hit him, I'd have really hurt him, so I thought I'll bite him seeing as they're already biting him."

He said drinking blood "wasn't my agenda".

Police refused to discuss the case because it is before the courts.

Ms Borichevsky's bail conditions were relaxed by the court after her lawyer asked the judge to lift a night-time curfew on her.

Dr Marc Wilson, a senior lecturer in psychology at Wellington's Victoria University, who specialises in studying paranormal beliefs, said drinking human blood was "incredibly unusual".

He said human teeth were not designed for breaking skin and sucking blood.

"You could do it but you would have to really want to."

Whenever someone responds to an accusation of being a [blank] with, "Do I look like a [blank]?", it's a sure sign that they're a [blank].

Sharpen the stakes, boys. We're going on a road trip.

Friday, May 7, 2010 The Bridge


Speaking of hard-working heroes, tonight This American Life ran a story about a man who spends every weekend patrolling a four mile long bridge in China. The bridge is famous for the number of suicides it attracts; the man, Chen Si, does his best to prevent as many of them as he can.

It's another one of those "driveway moment" stories that TAL does so well. The episode goes up for free download Sunday night. In the meantime, you can check out some English translations of Chen's blog posts in which he talks about his efforts.

Thursday, May 6, 2010 Yoda Was Wrong!

Turns out the Dark Side may just be stronger after all. From LiveScience:
Good and Evil Deeds Stimulate Surprising 'Superpowers'

By Rachael Rettner, LiveScience Staff Writer
04 May 2010 08:34 am ET


The mere act of kindness, or one of evil, can boost willpower and physical strength, a new study suggests.

The results, based on three experiments, show that those who performed good deeds, or envisioned themselves acting charitably, were able to hold a weight or squeeze a hand grip significantly longer than those who didn't perform or think about such deeds.

But evil acts appeared to confer similar and perhaps even greater superpowers.

"When you think of superheroes or super villains, [you think of people] that can possess huge amounts of willpower and are relatively unfazed by pain," said study researcher Kurt Gray, a doctoral student in psychology at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. "And because of your stereotype of heroes and villains, you kind of embody that, or transform yourself into your perception of hero and villain," when you perform good or evil acts, he said.

In one experiment, 91 volunteers were asked to hold a five-pound (about 2.3-kilogram) weight for as long as they could, and then given $1 for their efforts. About half were asked if they would like to donate their dollar to the United Nations International Children's Fund, or UNICEF. Everyone in this group agreed to donate, while those not asked of course didn't donate.

All participants were then asked to hold the weight a second time. Those who had donated to charity were able to hold the weight for an average of 53 seconds, or 7 seconds longer than those who did not donate.

In a second experiment with 151 volunteers, participants held the weight while they wrote a fictional story featuring themselves either helping, harming or not causing impact on another person.

Those who wrote about helping someone were able to hold the weight 5 seconds longer than those who wrote about a neutral interaction. Envisioning evil acts seemed to confer even more strength — those who thought about harming someone else held the weight about 8 seconds longer.

The boost in strength from evil might be because participants who thought about hurting someone needed to first conquer their conscience telling them that evil is wrong.

"Evildoers have more [agency], because they need to overcome the voice of their conscience to harm others. It takes even more agency to harm those around you," Gray said. Agency refers to the ability to have self-control, tenacity or strength.

The findings might have implications for all areas of life in which strength or willpower is needed, Gray said.

"This suggests that the way to get more willpower is to just do good or evil, hopefully good," Gray told LiveScience. "So if you want to diet better, maybe do good before you try to avoid that dessert."

The study will be published in a forthcoming issue of the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

I'm cool with Evil being stronger than Good. We all kind of suspected it anyway. It just means that Good has to work that much harder.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010 Machete - Cinco de Mayo Trailer

Ain't It Cool News has an exclusive trailer of Robert Rodriguez's upcoming opus, Machete. It's definitely in the same campy vein as Grindhouse and it looks awesome (as does Michelle Rodriguez, yesiree). I won't spoil all the casting surprises as you really need to check out the trailer yourself. Get it while it lasts!


And oh, yeah - Fuck Arizona!

Beware the Tortillas!

From yesterday's Ultimate Clear Lake, a subsidiary of the Houston Chronicle:

Woman gets threatening message - via tortillas

May 4, 2010 8:30am

League City police are investigating a threat written in Spanish on two corn tortillas that a woman found underneath her car over the weekend.

The tortillas were discovered in the 1800 block of Wren Drive at about 5:45 a.m. Sunday after the 24-year-old woman moved her red Toyota Corolla, League City Police Sgt. David Hausam said.

Hausam said the message translated to, “Do you like my tortillas? Death.”

The message's writing was divided between the two tortillas.

The woman is unsure who left the tortillas, but suspects that it may have been her ex-husband, Hausam said.

“People do some crazy stuff,” Hausam said, “but no one before had left tortillas with messages on them that I can think of.”

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010 Electron Boy Saves Seattle


From April 29th's Seattle Times:
Local boy with cancer turns into a superhero for a day

By Katherine Long
Seattle Times Eastside reporter


Thursday was shaping up to be just another school day for 13-year-old Erik Martin, but then something extraordinary happened: Spider-Man called.

Spider-Man happens to be one of the few people who knows that Erik, too, has a secret identity — he's Electron Boy, a superhero who fights the powers of evil with light.

And Spider-Man needed Erik's help.

Erik, who is living with liver cancer, has always wanted to be a superhero. On Thursday, the regional chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation granted him that wish with an elaborate event that involved hundreds of volunteers in Bellevue and Seattle.

The local chapter, which serves four states, grants more than 300 wishes every year to children with life-threatening medical conditions, but only a few of them involve so many participants.

Pulling off a wish like this one required a big story, and a lot of heart. And so, with a note of panic in his voice, Spider-Man explained the dilemma: "Dr. Dark" and "Blackout Boy" had imprisoned the Seattle Sounders in a locker room at Qwest Field. Only Electron Boy could free them.

Erik got into his red-and-blue superhero costume, and called on the powers of Moonshine Maid, who owns a DeLorean sports car. For good measure, more than 20 motorcycle officers from the Bellevue Police Department and King County and Snohomish sheriff's offices escorted Electron Boy to Seattle.

"They shut down 405 — they shut down I-90," marveled Moonshine Maid, aka Misty Peterson. "I thought it would just be me, in the car."

At Qwest Field, Electron Boy was directed by frantic fans to the Sounders locker room, where the entire team was shouting for help behind jammed doors. With a little help from Lightning Lad, the alter ego of local actor Rob Burgess, Erik opened the door with his lightning rod. The Sounders cheered.

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Everyone was startled when, overhead, the Jumbotron crackled to life.

"Electron Boy, I am Dr. Dark and this is Blackout Boy," sneered an evil voice, as the villain — Edgar Hansen, and his sidekick Jake Anderson, both of Discovery Channel's "Deadliest Catch" — taunted the young superhero. "We are here to take over Seattle and make it dark!"

On the Jumbotron, a video showed a Puget Sound Electric employee Jim Hutchinson trapped in the top of his bucket truck in front of PSE's Bellevue headquarters. Only Electron Boy could save him.

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More than 250 PSE employees gathered outside the company's headquarters and cheered as Electron Boy freed the trapped worker. "It was so loud, people in office buildings were looking out the window," said Make-A-Wish communications director Jeannette Tarcha.

But Dr. Dark and Blackout Boy were still at large. Electron Boy got a tip that the evil duo were at the Space Needle, where they had disabled the elevator and trapped people on the observation deck. Racing back to Seattle, Electron Boy stepped out of the DeLorean to a cheering crowd of dozens of admirers, and confronted his nemesis.

"How did you find us, Electron Boy?" Dr. Dark demanded.

Erik wordlessly leapt at Dr. Dark with his lightning rod, freezing the villain. Then he unlocked the elevator and freed the people trapped upstairs.

Bellevue police Officer Curtis McIvor snapped handcuffs on Dr. Dark and Blackout Boy, who couldn't resist some last words: "How can we thank you for saving our souls?"

A tiny smile played around Electron Boy's mouth. Just for good measure, he held his lightning sword to Blackout Boy's throat again. The crowd went wild. "Hip-hip, hooray!"

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Watching her son run across the plaza in front of the Space Needle, mom Judy Martin said Erik goes to school when he's able, but is often too tired. "He hasn't had this much energy in a long time," she said. "They called it the power of the wish, and they're right."

Like any good superhero, Electron Boy kept his innermost thoughts to himself. But he did have one important thing to say:

"This is the best day of my life."

The full story, with lots of pictures, can be found via the link above.

Electron Boys joins some hallowed company, including Pittsburgh's Beetle Boy and Boise's Star (whose favorite hero was the Adam West Batman!).

Warning - don't surf the Make-A-Wish site while you sit in your cube at work after everyone else has gone home unless you want the cleaning woman to catch you sniveling like a big damn baby. Wuss.