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
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 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.

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.)

"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. 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
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 "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.