Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Does Anyone Else See A Conflict Here?

I saw this at Wal-Mart today:

Go ahead! You ARE the birthday boy. Beat the crap out of Elmo!

If You Live in LA...

I suggest seeing this. It looks tremendously twisted.

Playing at the New Beverly theater Aug. 19-25 (6:30 pm and 9 pm showings.)

Smile for the Day

This could be trouble!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

It's a Wonderful Strife

This is a brilliant short film by Fry & Laurie, spoofing Rupert Murdoch with Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life."

I post it here as a warning to those who have read about Murdoch's recent "reticent" admissions about his papers.

(found via Roger Ebert's Sun Times blog)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Heaven, Hell and Working Together

I hate spam. And as spam, I mean any unwanted email - from ads for Viagra to jokes with "FW: FW: FW:..." in the subject line.* I tend to click "DELETE" first thing before looking through my legitimate mail. 

But last week, I happened to open this one from my parents:
A Holy man was having a conversation with the Lord one day and said,  "Lord, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like."
The Lord led the holy man to two doors.
He opened one of the doors and the holy man looked in.
In the middle of the room was a large round table.
In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew,  which smelled delicious and made the holy man's mouth water.
The people sitting around the table were thin and sickly.
They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles that were strapped to their arms and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful.
But because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths.
The holy man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering.
The Lord said, "You have seen Hell."
They went to the next room and opened the door. It was exactly the same as the first one.
There was the large round table with the large pot of stew which made the holy man's mouth water.
The people were equipped with the same long-handled spoons, but here all the people were well-nourished and plump, laughing and talking.
The holy man said, "I don't understand."
"It is simple," said the Lord. "It requires but one skill.
"You see, they have learned to feed each other. The greedy think only of themselves." 
It's a simple tale about working together for the common good of man framed in a religious context of a wise man speaking to God. And it makes me think of Republicans - the party most associated with Christian values - and their stance on entitlement and social programs which assist the poor and elderly.

They want to stand behind the "teachings" of the Bible when it comes to restricting other people (like in the case of marriage equality) but can't seem to remember the lessons Jesus taught about helping to take care of their fellow man (when it comes to issues like healthcare.)  

Whenever I think of this, I'm reminded of one of my favorite scenes from Aaron Sorkin's "The West Wing" where President Bartlet confronts a Conservative talk show host:

What do you think, America?

Isn't it about time to stop hand-picking philosophies to follow that only benefit ourselves and start doing the right thing for everyone?
* A recent report from Symantec stated 90 percent of email is spam and causes a good portion of Internet bandwidth usage (i.e. slowdown.)

Oh, To Be A Kid Again...

I've already been through a decade or two of kid envy - looking at the toy and game choices of younger generations as they have evolved through the years.

My generation was on the cusp of children's electronic technology. My father bought an early VCR for $800. We had a Pong game (the one you plugged into your television) then an Atari 2600 then a Commodore 64 where the best my father's generation could have hoped for as an electronic game was "Operation."

Now, powerful personal computers, the mobile laptop and home entertainment systems like Playstation and Xbox (all possibly linked to all-connective Internet) are commonplace. And as I've grown up and older with them, I haven't been as jealous of these innovations.

Until I saw this:

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore iPad App Trailer from Moonbot Studios on Vimeo.

Is it a book? Is it a video game? Whatever it is, it looks to be an adventure. The only thing I could possibly equate it with is the mystery books of my childhood - where you would get to choose what happened next and the choice would tell you which page to turn, continuing your reading.

Author William Joyce, writer of some of Pixar's early works, has created a book not just to be read, but explored. Options. Games. Animation.

I am officially jealous.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Book with Past Ellison Scripts Available Soon

This is truly exciting news. As an ardent admirer of Harlan's work, these works will be something to both cherish and study.

(Reprinted with permission from J. Michael Straczynski from his Facebook fan page)

I don’t have to tell you who Harlan Ellison is, or that he wrote some of the most seminal episodes of science fiction television in the history of the form. His scripts for The Outer Limits, Star Trek, Twilight Zone and others have won countless awards and are considered landmarks of the genre.

A while back, I got wind of a top-secret project being developed by Publishing 180, the company that publishes the Babylon 5 script books, involving Harlan’s scripts for these series. (Important note: I do not own any part of P180 nor do I receive any financial remuneration of any kind from this project. My involvement here is strictly as a fan and admirer.) I now hold in my hand a preliminary copy of that book, and I wanted to give everyone a heads-up because folks, this is a doozy.

The book, entitled BRAIN MOVIES, contains Harlan’s scripts for “Soldier,” and “Demon With a Glass Hand” from THE OUTER LIMITS, “Paladin of the Lost Hour” and “Crazy as a Soup Sandwich” from the TWILIGHT ZONE, “Memo from Purgatory” from ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, “The Face of Helen Bournouw” and Harlan’s near-legendary manifesto on how to write good science fiction, written exclusively for incoming writers on BABYLON 5. (The scripts for Paladin and Demon received the prestigious Writers Guild Award.)

In many cases, the book contains both the script and the treatment for the script, something almost never seen outside the studio. Most amazing of all, the book contains not just the shooting script for Harlan’s HITCHCOCK episode, it contains an earlier draft filled with his handwritten annotations and changes.

When an episode is broadcast, you don’t get to see the writer’s mind at work, don’t have the opportunity to experience the moment he decided to make a line of dialogue or a scene go thisway instead of thatway, how a turn of phrase was altered in just the right way at the last moment, you see only the end product. By including the draft with the handwritten annotations, you can see the creative process being enacted right before your eyes. The opportunity to see inside the writer’s mind is unspeakably rare.

Best of all, these are not re-typeset versions of the script, they are painstakingly scanned reproductions of the ORIGINAL SCRIPTS, exactly as they were written.

And for the budding science fiction writers out there, what better than having Harlan Ellison break down in his manifesto how to write effectively in the genre, how to avoid various kinds of traps and make your writing better?

The value of this book to up-and-coming writers, academics, collectors, fans, and just plain folks who love science fiction television is inestimable. This isn’t just a book of scripts, it’s an important piece of history.

When I heard that Harlan was going to include the B5 manifesto (entitled “A Terrifying List of Things Not to Do When Writing For Babylon 5”), I offered to write an introduction to the volume, entitled “Touching Magic.” That introduction is now also in the book.
Last, and maybe coolest of all, because of the presence of B5 material, they are doing a limited number of books that are DUAL AUTOGRAPHED by both myself and Harlan. With only one prior exception, this is the ONLY time that Harlan and I have autographed something together, and never before for a published book. Once those signed editions are gone...they’re gone.

Because Publishing 180 is a boutique publisher, they do not generally release information on its upcoming titles until right before publication. But this volume is so important, so extraordinary, that I asked if I could give the B5 fans out there, and the fans of Harlan Ellison who are also in that group, a heads-up on this event. This way we reduce the risk of missing the chance to get one of the double-signed editions.

The book will go on sale in a couple of weeks – I think it’s somewhere around the 20th and those already on the B5 mailing list will get the announcement automatically – but I’ll be sure to post the info here the second it goes online. If you want to be sure not to miss it, a signup page will be up soon at