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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Dead Heads

Last weekend, when I should have been utilizing creative juices to spin a yarn or two, I found myself (re)watching season two of The Walking Dead. I have already watched each episode seven times over, but, there I was, glued to the flat screen with drool dripping from the corner of my mouth. As I looked over to my fiancée, she too had a transfixed glassy stare engaged with the electric light pouring from our back porch monitor.

This Post Apocalyptic world AMC has infiltrated my life with has parked itself within the lobe of my brain so much so that I find myself questioning everyday challenges with queries such as, "how would Rick handle this?" or, "how would Daryl kill this *sshlole?"

What makes this series so infectious?

It is not the Dead as the title would suggest, but the Living. The undead are just a "condition" of this dark world. Us "Dead Heads" are drawn to the well rounded rich character driven storyline as our heroes and heroines fight to survive and strive in a world gone to hell. What is so appealing is that these are everyday people, just like ourselves, who have been forged with the fires of this hazardous world into survivors. It romantically flirts with our own desire to become more than what we are.

The rules of the world have changed and keeping sheltered from the zombies becomes secondary. The primal side of our race emerges making other living individuals far more dangerous than the dead. We find ourselves thrust into this toxic world fighting alongside "the good guys/gals" exhilarating in their victories and mourning their losses. I admit I cried the first time when the old man who personified the moralistic magnet of our group of survivors was killed. Our futuristic world darkened even further on that day.

Not only do Dead Heads find themselves desiring certain characters to be on their Post Apocalyptic team of survivors, but we fall in love with hating the blackness of the ugly side of humanity within this dismal future. The villains really make this series what it is. They tantalizes our dark nature as we find ourselves passionately hating these protagonists madly anticipating how they will push the envelope of evilness next. Love to hate. I adore that three world phrase as I anticipate what our main antagonists will do next.

Those of you who are not with us may mistake a Dead Head for the embodiment of this series for season four of The Walking Dead is just around the corner. We will be the individuals shuffling through our boring mundane modern lives with a glazed over glare on our faces. You may mistake us for Zombies ourselves.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Best Science Fiction Monologue

Repost from 5/17/13
In my forty-five years of life I've seen a lot of Science Fiction movies. From Armageddon to Zombieland there have been a lot of memorable scenes that stick out in my mind. For instance, I will never forget the cargo bay scene in Aliens when Sigourney Weaver's character Ripley suits up in the Cargo-loader and fights the Queen Egg-layer. Very cool. Or, when the space marines stumble onto what is left of the original colonists. Terrifyingly tingling.

Another great scene is the trench warfare in The Empire Strikes Back harkening back to the first World War in a galaxy not so far far away here on Earth. Speaking of trences, in the first Star Wars movie the Xwing attack on the Death Star. Unforgettable. I remember sitting on the edge of my theater chair giddily drinking in every moment within that battle sequence.

The Predator was another great movie. The first time we see the red eyes flash through the murky blurriness of the alien camouflage suit. Delightfully eerie. Then seeing the creature rip out the spine from the dead soldier’s body. Unsettlingly disturbing.

I also will never forget the day I went and saw John Carpenter’s version of The Thing. That movie freaked me out so bad I didn’t sleep well for over a week. When the disembodied head sprouted legs and crawled out of the room I nearly peed my pants. This movie created a paranoia that rivaled the movie Alien from three years before.

It would take days to relive all these great moments in a limitless number of wonderful films. As I thought back over the years I also recalled all of the great monologues contained within these Science Fiction movies. There was the unforgettable Khan in the second Star Trek motion picture with his “buried alive” speech that prompted Captain Kirk’s unforgettable response: “KKKHHAAAAAANNNN!”

Additionally, the opening monologue in the 2005 remake of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds  was incredible. It was brilliantly articulated by the phenomenal voice talents of Morgan Freeman. I had chills from that speech.

Looking back over the years there have been countless of these dialogue driven moments in numerous movies, but one sticks out in my mind above them all. Here it is in all of its poetic glory, and we as a species should take note of it’s message. Enjoy.

"I'd like to share a revelation that I've had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species. I've realized that you are not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment. But you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You are a plague. And we are... the cure."
 -Agent Smith in The Matrix

Why not share some of your favorite scenes or monologues in Science Fiction over the years?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

James Kirk Recommends


Science Fiction Classics Worth Checking Out


THE BLACK HOLE (1979) ««½

Maximilian Schell, Anthony Perkins, Ernest Borgnine.

The age of the blockbuster began in the mid-1970s. With the success of Jaws, studios began working on material that would bring in the big bucks. By 1979, 20th Century Fox had Star Wars, Paramount had Star Trek and Disney had The Black Hole.
A small crew of space explorers come upon a massive black hole in space. At the event horizon they discover a ghost ship, the Cygnus, lost twenty years before. They board her only to find that she is alive and well, thank you, and commanded by a madman who intends to take the Cygnus into the black hole.
Disney’s 1979 foray into the world of big budget special effects sci-fi falls pretty flat overall, and it’s a shame.  Much work was put into production design, and the miniatures created for the project were astounding. The design of the space ship Cygnus was innovative and, frankly beautiful. But a film cannot live by special effects alone.
The script suffers from too many clichés and tries too hard to be something it’s not. While the plot is intriguing and imaginative, its execution is poorly realized. A smart rewrite would have made a world of difference. As written, The Black Hole tries to play to both adults and kids and can’t seem to find a happy medium.
The cast, which includes Maximilian Schell, Anthony Perkins, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Forster and Yvette Mimieux, capably move the plot forward. Perkins actually gives an arresting performance despite the fact that he has little to do. Rounding out the cast are Slim Pickens and Roddy McDowell, both uncredited as the voices of two robots. Sadly, the direction given this most capable cast is routine and uninspired.
Schell is entrancing at times as the crazed Cygnus captain Hans Reinhardt. He plays the over the top role with some relish, but some of his lines are just plain ridiculous. Drama, dark thriller, space opera, campy rocket ride—the script lacks a focus and an identity that would have benefitted the cast.
With a weak script and uninspired direction, The Black Hole must rely on its special effects to carry the weight of the film. What we have is, again, another mixed bag. The design of the space ship Cygnus is stunning and the model is beautifully photographed, but its integration with animated elements (like the glass tunnel through which a personnel transport sled speeds) falls short of spectacular.

There are robots in the movie, too. Lots of them. The head robot, Maximilian, projects a suspicious and sinister air, and remains the most menacing aspect of the film. Maximilian’s robot soldiers, however, are clumsy and unconvincing. The two talking robots, Vincent and Bob, look as if they were designed for an entirely different movie. While Maximilian and his minions aspire to a menacing realism, Bob and Vincent look like two refugees from Toon Town. They just don’t fit.
But there are too many highs to dismiss this film entirely. The space scenes are among the most beautiful in any science fiction film, with a star field a tapestry of texture of blues and black. The film aspires to an elegance seldom found in science fiction, and achieves it to some degree. And Anthony Perkins has one of the most gruesome and memorable death scenes on film, despite the fact that there is visible no blood or gore.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Spooky Tale From Richard D. Laudenslager

The Legend of Julia Legare

Chances are unless you are a paranormal enthusiast, or resident of Edisto Island, South Carolina, you have never heard of Julia Legare. Hers is a tragic story, one repeated many times throughout human history while the practice of medicine was still in its infancy.

In 1852, as a young woman in her teens, Julia Legare, was visiting family on Edisto Island and became very ill, eventually slipping into a coma. After a while she was pronounced dead by the family physician. The Legare family, being wealthy plantation owners, entombed Julia in the family mausoleum at Edisto Presbyterian Church.

This being before embalming and other means of preserving dead bodies had been developed meant that most people were buried immediately after death. And so it was that Julia’s body was laid amongst the remains of several decaying relatives in the family mausoleum, and the door resealed.

It would be more than a decade before the crypt was opened once more. Some say to lay to rest Julia’s younger brother who had died in battle fighting for the Confederacy, but none the less to add another Legare to the family tomb.

As the heavy marble door was unlocked and slid open the clattering of bones could be heard tumbling behind the cold stone slab as it traveled inward. In the tomb, now filled with the light of day, the mourners were horrified to see their dead relative’s bones strewn about the mausoleum floor. Even more horrifying was the decaying remains of Julia Legare directly behind the door.

She had evidently awakened from a deep comatose state in the pitch black tomb lying atop the bones of her long dead relatives. Undoubtedly confused and disorientated she had at some point figured out what was happening and tried to escape, as was evidenced by the dried blood caked gouges her fingernails had left on the back of the cold heavy marble slab door.

The realization was that Julia Legare had fallen victim to the limits of medical science and not passed away peacefully surrounded by her loving family. Instead, she had died alone, afraid, and in total darkness breathing in the stench of her long deceased relatives.

Presumably the scattered remains were gathered along with Julia and again sealed away with whomever they were laying to rest that day.

However, a short time thereafter, visiting family still reeling from the recent discovery were visiting the tomb and noticed the mausoleum door was ajar. Assuming it had not been locked properly to begin with the door was again sealed. But that door would never again remain closed for very long. Week after week, year after the year, the door would be found open without explanation. Many attempts were made to make certain the door remained shut, including chaining and pad locking, which eventually resulted in an open door with broken chains and locks scattered about.

Then, some 50 years ago, convinced there was a solution, a heavy steel door that could only be opened with use of industrial machinery was put in place. Shortly thereafter this door was not only opened, but found completely unhinged lying face down in front of the crypt.

After that, no attempts were made to close off the entrance to the crypt, and the remains inside were moved and buried elsewhere.

The original marble slab door was laid into the crypt floor with the inside of the door face up, visible to anyone who visits the crypt. And, if you look close enough, Julia’s fingernail gouges can still be seen in the slab.

Whether you believe the Legend of Julia Legare or not her plight was one that many more people than we may ever know suffered at the hands of inexperienced doctors. But if you think this is something that could never happen today … think again.

As recently as this year a young woman awoke inside a drawer at a hospital morgue having been pronounced dead just hours earlier…