Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Force Awakens...In My Pants

Greetings Star Warriors!

This blog didn't exist back in 1998 when the trailer for Star Wars: The Phantom Menace first dropped. In fact the term "blog" was coined only one year earlier. There were plenty of internet forums (like Ain't It Cool News, for example) and every single one of them immediately exploded in reaction to seeing the first original moving images from "A Galaxy Far, Far Away" in fifteen years. Fans even crazier than yours truly bought tickets to movies showing the Phantom Menace trailer just to see it up on the big screen...and then promptly walked out of the theater again.

But then, when the actual film was released in May of 1999, it was as if a million nerd voices cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

In spite the reparations that came courtesy of the Clone Wars cartoon series, the prequel trilogy has pretty much been relegated to the dustbin of pop culture history. If you don't believe me then look at how often the characters from Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi are used in promotion and advertising for the saga versus the prequel characters.

The once-beloved and now grievously-tarnished space opera was forced to go to fallow for another decade. During this time a scorned, confused, weary and apparently oblivious George Lucas gave up trying to reconcile our fickle demands for frivolous thing like "story", "dialogue", "characters" and "quality" and pawned the whole kit-and-caboodle off to Disney for a cool four billion space-credits. When the omnipotent entertainment giant / talking mouse soapbox bought this license to print money it wasn't a matter of if more films would be produced but how quickly, how many and how well.

Immediately my hackles went up but then three things happened in quick succession they gave this crusty old fanboy A NEW HOPE. First off Disney hired J.J. Abrams to direct. Now, anyone who's seen Abrams' rebooted Star Trek knows that this was little more than a consolation prize to him. It certainly didn't come as a shock to me when he famously told Jon Stewart that he "didn't like Star Trek as a kid". Clearly Abrams would have preferred to direct a new Star Wars flick back in 2007 but instead he had to settle on ruining Star Trek, shoe-horning the relatively-intellectual property into the incongruous realm of space opera. At least now his "whiz-bang" sensibilities are focused in the right place.

Second, they brought back the Original Trilogy cast. Now let it be known that I don't want the OT crew to be treated like paragons at the expense of everything else. I want these new films to focus on a fresh-faced pack of Rebels and Imperials. By the same token, I'm glad that we're headed back into uncharted territory instead of mining ancient history. The fact that Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, 3PO and R2 will be there to usher them (and us) along is just gravy.

And, frankly, the fact that they lured Harrison Ford back into the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon is enough of a minor miracle to pique my interest.

But here's the thing that really gives me optimism: the movies aren't being written by George Lucas. In my humble opinion the Original Trilogy succeeded mainly because it was still the product of collaborative film-making. In order to get the first two movies off the ground Lucas had to rely on other talented people to make up for his own deficits. His original screenplay for The Star Wars was as boring, impenetrable, dorky and scatterbrained as the prequel trilogy scripts but thanks to genuinely gifted scribes like Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck, the story was hammered into something film-able.

The main thing that The Force Awakens has going for it is a return to the winning formula that made the original films so good in the first place. Lucas contributed some basic story ideas which Empire and Jedi screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan has (hopefully) managed to parley into a decent story featuring three-dimensional characters who experience pain, growth and change and interact with one another like real(ish) human beings.

All of these things have conspired to give fans both lapsed and loyal a raging nerd-semi. This came to a head back on November 28'th when Disney ignored the hollow threats of Kim Kardashian and really broke the internet with the following teaser trailer:

And since we live in a sad, navel-gazing age in which every chuckle-head with a webcam is considered to be a unique and beautiful snowflake with something valid to say, we were immediately deluged by a veritable tsunami of fan made "reaction" videos. Hey, news flash "WAMPARULEZPICARDSROOLZRONPAUL2012": I really don't give a flying frig what you think! Especially when forming an opinion about an unfinished film based on one ninety-second teaser trailer is like doing a movie review for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy based on the Netflix summary.

At the risk of looking slightly two-faced here's some neutral observations about the teaser trailer and the inexplicable psychosis that it seems to be generating.

(1) The thing starts up with a dramatic voice-over about the Force waking up. What's wrong with the Force? Is it hung over? In a coma? Did it make the mistake of taking a double dose of NyQuil? Regardless, this is the first time I can recall hearing the "Light Side of the Force" being referred to as its own thing. Before it was just "the Force" and "the Dark Side". Is this significant somehow? Well, I could answer that but since I'd be talking out of my own ass I'm just gonna go ahead and not indulge in rampant speculation. See how easy that was? Let's move on...

(2) John Boyega as Finn pops up out of the bottom of the frame looking decidedly sweaty and distressed. Little wonder: he's wearing a full set of Art Deco stormtrooper armor in the freaking desert, presumably Tatooine. Plus it sounds as if he's being pursued by an Imperial Probe Droid.

Now, apparently some Cheeto-stained basement dwellers out there have decided to bitch about the concept of a black stormtrooper. Seriously? I can understand complaining about Boba Fett and the stormtroopers being descended from a bunch of freakin' Kiwis, but that's only because it forced Lucas to redact things in the original films that were perfectly fine to begin with. Besides, Finn could have pilfered a suit of armor just like Luke and Han did in A New Hope.

But even if he is a lapsed Imperial soldier, who cares? Star Wars is a fantasy, and mercifully it doesn't have to subscribe to the prejudices and failings of our own modern society. In fact, if there's any legitimate complaint about the Original Trilogy it's that the main cast was uniformly W.A.S.P.-y. Even worse: Vader, the BIG BAD, was the only character to be voiced by a person of color: James Earl Jones.


Thank God Lando showed up in Empire. Which brings me to a related aside: where the f#ck is Billy Dee Williams? Seriously, if he doesn't appear in any of these sequels I'm gonna make a pilgrimage to San Diego Comic Con just to plow J.J. Abrams in the melon with a bottle of Colt .45.

Sorry, I digress.

The rampant butt hurt about this point highlights one major downside about the internet. Back in the day, when one of your "I-think-this-dweeb-is-way-too-dweeby-to-be-hanging-out-with-dweeby-me-and-my-dweeby-friends" would say something like "Stormtroopers can't be black!" you could all turn to this social retard and stare at him until he shut up.

But now, thanks to the omniscient and global reach of the innerwebs, friendless / dickless wonders like this can disseminate their warped vitriol all over the planet and, even worse, have their bullshit backed up by a small handful of similarly-minded idiots. And then, to make matters ten times worse, our feckless media has the unmitigated gall to treat this bullshite like a legitimate story that actually warrants our attention. This results in a never-ending cycle of stupidity. 

Which reminds me, if we're smart enough to build the internetz in the first place, then why can't we build a decent douchebag filter for the damned thing?

(3) We then get a quick glimpse of a young, fresh-domed, eager l'il go-gettin' astromech droid named BB-8 just a-truckin' along.

Again, for some inexplicable reason, people are losin' their ever-lovin' Bantha shit over this. R2-D2 might have been more intrinsically and genuinely lovable at first sight but if I were to tell you just half of the behind-the-scenes stories about that drunken little bastard it would curl your hair.

The sad truth is: R2-D2 had a Bender-like addiction to alcohol-based lubricants which is probably why the producers of Episode VII decided to marry his design with that of a Dyson vacuum cleaner. While he was all gooned up on the sauce, R2 had a terrible habit of colliding into stuff, wandering off course, getting hung up on pebbles and / or tipping over at a moments notice. To be brutally honest, he was about as reliable on set as Amanda Bynes.

BB-8 also addresses one of my biggest gripes about how little technology seemed to change in the twenty years between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. Same droids, same blasters, same spaceships....b-o-o-o-o-o-o-ring. At least this agile little guy displays a modicum of design evolution.

(4) Next up are some Mark II stormtroopers. Or, like Mark IV if you not a filthy prequel denier like me.

A part of me is sad that we won't be seeing the classic stormtrooper design but I suppose we've seen platoons of those poor, Rebellion-era bastards slaughtered wholesale in the original movies, the novels, the comics, board games, video games and fan films. Abrams probably concluded, rather wisely, that we needed to see a new threat.

Which brings me to the beef I have with stormtrooper critics who keep making fun of their supposed inability to hit stuff:

F#ck you, Poindexter.

If sit and think about it for a minute you'll realize that the stormtroopers were actually a pretty ruthless bunch. They whacked Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, slaughtered a bunch of Jawas, blasted C-3PO into bits and managed to shoot both R2-D2 and Princess Leia. At the very least, their hit percentage is vastly superior to the goons hired by your average James Bond villain. Or C.O.B.R.A. soldiers. So go eat a bag of rancor dicks, you haterz.

Ultimately, I'm glad that they tweaked their design a little bit. The change immediately gives the viewer an impression that you're dealing with something new, more badass and more lethal.

Plus, sharp-eyed viewers might have noticed that one of them looks "a little short" to be a stormtrooper. Could that be John Boyega as Finn in disguise?



Let's move on, shall me?

(5) We then see Daisy Ridley as Rey firing up her speeder bike:

As soon as I saw this I immediately thought of an old sketch that Original Trilogy concept designer Ralph McQuarrie did of Luke as a girl:

One of the dumbest and most ungrateful things that Lucas ever did was let his relationship with Ralph McQuarrie lapse during pre-production for Return of the Jedi. Ralph doesn't get nearly enough credit for his role in shaping the look and feel of the Star Wars universe. Truth is, he came up with the basic design for many of the saga's most iconic characters, ships and sets.

In fact, his famous production painting featuring R2-D2 and C-3PO on Tatooine is one of the main reasons why 20'th Century Fox decided to bankroll Star Wars in the first place. I really do believe that his absence from the prequels is why those films looked so boring, uninspired and forgettable.

But ever since Disney took over they've started to make amends. Even though Ralph passed away in 2012 the producers of both Rebels and The Force Awakens are using many of Ralph's old sketches to create some visual connective tissue between the the original trilogy and these new shows. And I, for one, couldn't be happier.

(6) For a precious few seconds we get to see Poe Dameron in the cockpit of some sort of fighter aircraft. To further my previous point, his helmet and flight suit are highly-reminiscent of Luke's pilot gear in the Original Trilogy, but tweaked just enough to convey a sense of design evolution that's hypothetically occurred over the past twenty / thirty years or so.

And then the camera pulls back to show that he's actually flying some sort of evolved X-wing. The look is slightly different but the whine of the quad engines is an unmistakable and immediate hit of full-bore nostalgia. If nothing else, at least J.J. Abrams knows that impactful sound effects make for a very effective trailer.    

(7) The next thing we see is an intense-looking black-cloaked dude stop in the middle of a dark snow-covered forest and ignite a triple-bladed light saber.

Of everything in the trailer, this seems to have pissed people off the most. Sorry, but if you thought that Darth Maul's double bladed staff-saber was kosher but this design somehow ruins Star Wars and destroys your fragile eggshell mind, then you really need to drink a tall, cool pint of shut the f#ck up.

I'm actually going to let Steven Colbert field this one for me:

We miss you already, buddy! Please don't leave us alone with all of these idiots!

Admittedly I'm still not one-hundred percent sold on Stephen's explanation on how this hilt is supposed to protect the wielder's hands but again I refer you to point numero uno about drawing a distinct line between fantasy and reality.

(8) Finally, fifteen years worth of prequel regret, disdain and denial is suddenly wiped away as the Star Wars fanfare blares. We follow the dizzying climb and decent of the hallowed Millennium Falcon as it bottoms out and then flies straight toward a small swarm of T.I.E. fighters, their twin ion engines screaming and their blasters hissing like sky-borne serpents.

But wait, what's that you say? The Falcon's radar dish has been changed from circular to rectangular?

*flips table and stalks off , muttering about how J.J. Abrams is ruining the franchise and molesting my childhood*

EPIC REACTION VIDEO  Rich Evans from Red Letter Media serves up the one and only reaction video you'll ever need to watch:

EPIC DESIGNER   Here's a great mini-doc about the late, great Ralph McQuarrie. Watch this and getcher self edumacated, kids.

A FAILURE TO FAIL  I was gonna provide a link to this whole RACIST STAR WARS FANS ARE RACIST thing since it's clearly the FAIL-iest FAIL that ever FAIL-ed a FAIL. But, then I thought: 'This non-opinion really doesn't deserve any more attention then it's already gotten'.

So, seriously, f#ck those guys. F#ck 'em right up their thermal exhaust ports.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Far Away, So Close - HAL-CON 2014


Greetings, Con Crawlerz!

Before I get into the meat of this month's entry, Gentle Reader, please permit me a brief biographical indulgence.

For close to four glorious years I lived life large, pretending to be a real, bonafide full-time independent writer, editor, novelist, videographer, and all-around busybody. And while this venture was supremely liberating it was also financially draining, eventually depleting my life savings down to a fraction of what it used to be. For the full story, please see the previous two-hundred and fifty one entries of this here bloggie. Assuming, of course, that you're particularly hard up for entertainment value.

This necessitated my tentative re-acquaintance with the reality of gainful employment. Mercifully I was lucky  enough to snag a part-time job just over year ago that actually dovetails with my interests for the first time ever. Subsequently I've been trying to sustain a precarious balancing act between my creative pursuits at home and working at this new gig at night to keep the lights on. In popular parlance this is often referred to as "burning the candle at both ends".

Well, color me horrified when my new place of employ took on a major presence at HAL-CON 2014 and blacked out November 7'th to the 9'th for vacation time. Ever since this event rose phoenix-like from the ashes back in 2010 I've played amateur journalist every year: video-capturing the Q&A's, producing a series of independent promo reels, meeting celebrities, conducting interviews and much, much more. For further details here are the links to my previous HAL-CON-related entries:

HAL-CON 2010/11        HAL-CON 2012        HAL-CON 2013

Although I was disappointed by this blackout I also wasn't surprised. Working at a place with close ties to my geeky interests was always an occupational hazard. Paradox would be a constant risk where obligation and intent were concerned.

Now, if I had a brain in my head I would have looked at the HAL-CON event schedule and tried to scheduled around some of my usual must-sees. But since this was the first year of the blackout I really didn't want to impose any restrictions on my availability. Besides I'd already decided that my attendance this year was heavily dependent on what guests they brought on-board.

As an ersatz replacement for the late, lamented Fleet Con, HAL-CON was always mandatory attendance at first because me and my circle of peeps used it as an excuse to play board games all day long. But now that HAL-CON was doing it's own separate game day I didn't have as much of a burning desire to attend the flagship event.

Or so I thought.

When the likes of Michelle Forbes, Kristian Nairn, Morena Baccarin and the multi-talented Mark Sheppard were all announced as guests I started to experience major pangs of ennui regret. Distracted by my work, these feelings went from vague nagging to full-fledged panic as the big weekend drew closer.

This desperation prompted me to compose a pathetic eleventh hour "Hail Mary" email to the powers- that-be to see if I could, at the very least, document some of the guests Q&A's for my YouTube channel. Much to my surprise not only were they totally open to this idea they bent over backwards to accommodate me. Needless to say, it's pretty awesome to be working for a non-authoritative / non-draconian work environment for the first time in my life.   

Knowing that my odds of meeting any of the guests fell somewhere between "lottery winner" and "lightning strike victim" I didn't do any research or come up with any hypothetical questions. I just picked up some digital video tapes and then bombed into the event the next morning, duly armed with my delusions-of- grandeur inspiring vendor pass.


10 am - 2  am: Worked.

2:45 pm - 3:30 am:   Michelle Forbes Q&A.

I was super-stoked to see Michelle speak. I've been an ardent fan of hers ever since her character Lieutenant (née Ensign) Ro Laren finally made Bajorans interesting to me on Star Trek: The Next Generation . Over the years she's made tons of new fans by playing the less-then-hinged Admiral Helena Cain in Battlestar Galactica: Razor and the walking aphrodisiac sex monster Maryann "the Maenad" Forrester on True Blood.

For anyone out there who risks losing their tenuous grip on reality if they watch something that doesn't involve aliens, monsters or elves: you're really missing out. Michelle has appeared in a bunch of critically acclaimed dramas, including Homicide: Life on the Street, 24 and most notable of late, The Killing. Plus if you haven't seen the movie Kalifornia, featuring Michelle, David Duchovny and a batshit nuts Juliette Lewis / Brad Pitt, then you need to rectify that shiznit A.S.A.P., son.

Beautiful in more ways than one, Michelle is one of those rare celebrities that seems completely devoid of pretension and totally down to earth. Despite having a rough trip to the con she was nothing but gracious, warm and approachable. Some guests claim to be excited to meet their fans, but Michelle really walks the walk. You can definitely get a sense of this as you watch her funny, informative and quite candid Q&A linked below: 

By rights I should have been exhausted by the time my work obligations and the Q&A were over but the collective energy of like-minded people milling around really sustained me. As such, I spent the better part of the day shooting B-roll video of the vendors, auction items, models, props, video games, pinball machines and my usual haunt, the third floor gaming space.

Later that day I bumped into one of my regular HAL-CON cohorts, Sabina. Jetting to the front of the autograph lineups and claiming the closest Q&A seats thanks to the newfound powers inherent in her shiny, limited-edition Warp Pass, she was having an absolute blast. By the time I found her she was just about to get her photo taken with Kristian "Hodor" Nairn.

"You should totally jump into the picture with me!" she enthused.

"Oh no," I replied. "I don't think so."

"Why not?" she returned. "I've seen lots of guest photos that have two or three people in them. I'm gonna ask to see if it's okay!"

Sabina sure has come a long way. When she first started going to these things she was downright terrified by the prospects of meeting celebrities and now, here she was, strong-arming me into a photo opportunity with the gentle giant from Game of Thrones. Was this glorious feeling of drunken entitlement merely the result of  her now-veteran-level con status or a side effect bestowed upon all Warp Pass holders? If it's the later, then I know why every one of them sold out in a matter of hours! 

Before I could form another protestation we cut through the lineup like a White Walker's blade through a Stark's carcass (Starkass?). Sabina snagged the requisite approval, resulting in the following historic photo:

Two funny l'il pieces of trivia about this awesome snap:
  1. That look of shock and awe on my face is 100% genuine.
  2. If you're looking at this and thinking "Wow, I didn't think Kristian would be so short" then you really need to know that he's SITTING DOWN ON A STOOL IN THIS PICTURE. I.E. he's a big boy.
In the brief time we shared with Kristian I got nothing but positive vibes from the dude. Happiness comes offa this guy in waves; just look at that genuine smile! Let's face it, he snagged a pretty sweet gig. He shows up to the Game of Thrones set, brightens up the place with his good karma, carries stuff around, never needs to memorize dialogue and gets to hang out with a lot of incredibly cool and creative people. Plus he's a master-class D.J. to boot! Indeed, Kristian is livin' large in more ways than one.

Later, when a few of my beloved coworkers were finished their shifts, we hung out together for awhile and played a tile-laying board game called Monster Factory. As soon as we started into it I began to suspect that Carcassonne designer Klaus-Jürgen Wrede doesn't retain a particularly vigilant legal team.

In the game players take turns picking up and placing tiles, trying to perfectly time the creation of their boss monster before moving on to spawn a host of minions. The gross-out factor makes this one perfect for kids and the simplistic rules turned out to be a perfect fit for a bunch of mentally exhausted, punch-drunk retail monkeys.

I stuck around for as long as my energy level held out which was around  9:30 or so. I left that evening feeling pretty content, having enjoyed a surprisingly-fulfilling day.


I rolled in around 10:15 am to help my peeps set things up but then rushed off to document the:

11:00 am - 11:45 am: Morena Baccarin Q&A

As moderator Garrett Wang would likely attest, it was just a privilege to be within line of sight of Morena for an hour. If you think she looks incredible on screen in Firefly, How I Met Your Mother, Stargate SG-1, V and most recently in The Red Tent and Gotham, then you need to realize that she's even more striking in person.

But Morena isn't just another pretty face. She's shown tremendous range in such dramatic fare as Homeland and Heartland where she played Jessica Brody and Jessica Kivala respectively.

Hmmm, interesting.  Homeland. Heartland. Jessica Brody. Jessica Kivala. Co-incidence? Perhaps...

The other considerable compliment to Morena's unearthly beauty is that she's smart, sassy, self-depreciating and funny as all get-out, as her insightful Q&A will attest:

I get a bit morose watching this because I met Jewel Staite last year and I really wanted to meet Morena and get her autograph as well. Oh, well, maybe it's for the best. Standing in her presence I probably would have exploded like Ben Affleck at the end of Dogma.

As folks started to file out of the auditorium I remained rooted to the spot. Mark Sheppard's Q&A was up next and I didn't want to miss it. Knowing what I knew about Mark, I expected a pretty wild ride and he certainly didn't disappoint.

12:00 pm - 12:45+ pm:  Mark Sheppard Q&A

Unless you've been living underneath a genre-warded rock for the past two decades then I guarantee you've  seen Mark Sheppard somewhere. The first time I ever remember laying eyes him he was playing the pyrokenetic serial killer Cecil L'Ively in the first-season X-Files episode "Fire". Years later I marveled at his instinctive turn as the incompetent penny-ante minor crime boss Badger in Firefly and as Paddy Armstrong in the tremendous "Guildford Four" biopic In The Name of the Father.

M.A.N.T.I.S., Battlestar Galactica, Sliders, Star Trek: Voyager, Charmed, Bionic Woman, Dollhouse, Doctor Who: Mark's resume is so chock-a-block with sci-fi and fantasy credits that he arguably usurps Hugo Weaving's "King of the Nerds" crown. Speaking of royalty, his guest-starring gig as Crowley, the King of Hell and chief foil for the Brothers Winchester on Supernatural has generated so much buzz that he was elevated to the status of series regular in Season Ten!

Mark's been an accomplished musician ever since he was a wee lad growing up in London and this video certainly bears that out. Clearly he's comfortable being on stage and can work a crowd like an accomplished stand-up comedian.

So here it is, folks. Sit back, relax and enjoy what I consider to be the best HAL-CON Q&A I've ever seen: 

The Mark Sheppard Happy Smile Time Show™ ran a bit late so I had to scramble to get something to eat before my shift started. Pressed for time, I was forced to dislocate my jaw and swallow my chicken shwarma wrap whole like an anaconda as I ran back to my station.

2 pm - 8 pm:   WORKED.

By the time my shift was over I was beat to a proverbial snot. At that advanced hour all of the autograph sessions and panels were done with so I just crawled home, knowing that I had yet another long day ahead of me on the morrow.


10 am - 6 pmTWERKED. No, wait... that's wrong. I actually WORKED. I got all of my twerking done the previous Sunday. Sorry.   

My obligations kept me pretty busy that day so I couldn't break away at all. By the time I was done, everything of note was long since been over so I just helped the guys pack up the booth and then hit the bricks around 7:30 pm.


So yeah, th-th-that's all, folks! No autograph-related meet and greets. No guerrilla-style interviews. No board games played. No writing-related panels. No cool vendor finds. And, trust me, there were ample opportunities for all of this plus much, much more!

The most painful omissions included missing out on both Kristian Nairn and Garrett Wang's Q&As. I also had to pass on Mark Sheppard's Sunday afternoon "Bonus Round" Q&A, which, by all accounts, was just as raucous and memorable as the first. Sorry, but that just sucks. 

Now, I don't want to make it sound is if I harbor any resentment towards work; quite the opposite in fact. The vendor pass I wore for most of the weekend gave me the freedom to come and go as I pleased. I didn't pay to be there; in fact I was paid to be. In other words, I was one of the only HAL-CON attendees who walked out of the World Trade and Convention Centre Sunday night richer than when I went in on Friday morning.

Besides, the onus was on me to try and get scheduled around these things a lot earlier. And even when I sent that last-minute request as an afterthought my employers did everything they possibly do within their power to help me. It's times like this when I think about all of the poor local nerds out there who would have loved to have gone to HAL-CON but couldn't either because they didn't have the cheddar or their all-too-terrestrial work/life responsibilities kept them away. 

Still, working through HAL-CON certainly wasn't my first choice. It was pretty painful at times; especially when my free-range friends popped by every once and awhile to tell me about all of the fun they were having. It was kinda like hearing your favorite band playing all of their best songs in another room while you're stuck working at the merch table.

If challenged to come up with an overarching central theme for this blog one possibility might be:

"We earn money to do things we want to do but often can't do those things because we're too busy earning money." 

Such is the irony inherent in our wacky modern work-a-day world. If I'm mad at anything I'm mad at society for making me choose between economic necessity and once- in-a-lifetime opportunities.

Here, let me give you another example. Back in 1997 my buddy Dean passed up going to a local outdoor music festival called Summersault because he "had to work". In doing so he missed his chance to see A Perfect Circle, Foo Fighters and the Smashing Pumpkins, the later being one of that particular band's last live shows as a cohesive unit. Now, I know what I did that day but I daresay Dean would be hard-pressed to remember what was so gorram important at work that required him to miss out on something so incredible and unique.


If any of the HAL-CON organizers are reading this then rest assured that you guys totally hit it out of the park this year. After the "unlimited day pass" debacle of 2013 you more than made up for that little faux pas this time out. Trust me, I met hundreds of people over the course of those three days and literally everyone I talked to seemed to be having the time of their lives. Kudos for once again making major strides to improve the pedigree of geek culture here in the Maritimes.

EPIC VID If you were at HAL-CON this year then I calculate that there's about a 17% chance that you're somewhere in this video.

GLORIOUS CON FAILZ  Leave it to my favorite indie movie-makers @ Red Letter Media to take the piss out of the convention format by viciously skewering both No Brand Con and Chicago Comic Con:

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Obligatory Halloween Post Walks Among Us!

Greetings, Fear Fiends!

Not long after the events detailed in my very first Halloween blog entry I had an opportunity to step up to the Big Leagues and watch a real, bonafide, adult, R-rated horror movie. A movie that my trusty horror tomes had warned me about:

In Horrors: A History of Horror Movies Tom Hutchinson and Roy Pickard wrote that this film "gave a whole new impetus to the monster-making industry" and is "one of the goriest of all such horror stories". They go on to say that this flick "proved that there were now no limits or restrains on the special effects department" and that all that matters is that the film-makers the "reduced audiences to quivering jellies".

In The Encyclopedia of Horror Hutchinson (co-incidentally) wrote: "the monster here is barely seen: all we know about it is that it is growing all the time, and that it needs flesh."  

And in Horror Films Nigel Andrews decreed that "its not too fanciful to see echoes of Vietnam in the guerrilla-style horrors" as the titular creature "ambushes the crew one by one and eats them". He goes on to say that the beast is "a master of camouflage. It hides in dark corners, it borrows color and textures from its surroundings, and it shocks the life out of us near the end by uncoiling from the very pipes and wires of a spaceship wall."

Naturally I was sold but how was I going to see it? The film was last in theaters back in 1979 when I was but a wee lad of only nine summers; way too young to sneak into our local theater. In the early Eighties home video was still in its infancy and to make matters worse we lived in a podunk town where everyone knew everyone else's bidness. In other words, there was little chance that I'd be able to rent it surreptitiously.

The answer came in the form of a prime-time television showing back around 1982 or so. I was only about twelve at the time so I needed special dispensation from my parents to stay up late and watch the thing.

"Is it one of them scary movies?" Mom quizzed, remembering the havoc that Night of the Living Dead and Poltergeist had inflicted on me a year earlier.

"Um, no, mom," I lied, "it's a sci-fi movie. Y'know, like Star Wars."   

"Alright, fine," she reneged, "but you better have you ass in bed by eleven or you'll be too tired for school tomorrow!"

In reality had no idea when the movie would end, I just knew that it supposed to start in twenty minutes, at 9 pm sharp. In preparation I filled a mixing bowl to the brim with chips and pretzels and then proceeded to ensconce myself within irradiation distance of the television. To give the film every possible advantage to scare the wits outta I also turned off all the lights like a prepubescent masochist.

And so the table was set and the wine was chilled for my fateful date with Alien.

To recall the film's meteor-like impact on my psyche I recently re-watched the move. Here are both my recollections and my latest revelations concerning this timeless sci-fi classic.

P.S. If you just so happen to own a copy of the original theatrical cut watch it and then just look down here when you hit the appropriate time code! 

8 Seconds In: Hey, look, it's the 20th Century Fox fanfare and logo! This is gonna be just like Star Wars!

18 Seconds In: Nope, no it's not! The creepy-ass credit sequence and scary music tells me that Darth Vader ain't got nothin' on what's comin' in this fright-fest!

55 Seconds In: Great, now it sounds like wind blowing through a haunted house. Wonderful. That's not freaking me out at all.

2 Minutes, 20 Seconds In: Hey, a large space ship is flying overhead! It is gonna be just like Star Wars! Hurrah! The interior of ship even vaguely looks like the Millennium Falcon, with cool l'il tchotchkes hangin' offa the rear-view mirror and everything!

5 Minutes, 50 Seconds In: The crew's starting to wake up. Okay, so it's not exactly like Star Wars; clearly these people don't know what a hyperdrive is.

6 Minutes, 50 Seconds In: Since the crew interactions during the "breakfast" scene are all ad-libbed and sounds 100% authentic to my youthful ears I start to wonder if I'm watching some sort of space documentary...FROM THE FUTURE. Adult me can't help but notice that smoking apparently had a big resurgence in popularity in the future!

9 Minutes In: Also in the future, the term "Mother" is a catch-all descriptor for any smothering, all encompassing, claustrophobic environment. Kidding, mom!

12 Minutes In: The ship's crew always seem to be bitching and moaning at one another, which I should've taken as an omen for my adult working career.

13 Minutes In: The film's techno-babble and special effects look completely convincing to me, so by now I'm totally onboard. The illusion is distressingly flawless and my young brain is having a really hard time convincing itself that what it's witnessing is some sort of artifice. This ain't good.

20 Minutes In: Does Ash seem kinda twitchy, or is it just me?

21 Minutes In: Cripes, the weather on this planet is even worse then Newfoundland in February.

22 Minutes In: As a put-upon middle-manager, Ripley has to deal with the ship's different personality types and temperaments, further foreshadowing my own future working career.

23 Minutes In: KITTY!!! I didn't know it at the time but the initially-comforting sight of this very-terrestrial feline would be short-lived.

24 Minutes In: The unnerving music makes a very unwelcome return. Suddenly everything grows distressingly still. The downed spaceship that the characters see in the distance is so weird and, well, alien-looking that I'm now screaming at the characters to turn around and go back. Oddly, they don't listen to me. Mom yells at me from downstairs to make sure everything is alright, which temporarily shakes me out of my panicked reverie.

26 Minutes In: Even as a totally virginal eleven year old kid my unconscious brain recognizes that the vulva-like entrance and ridged walls of the alien spaceship has some sort of unconscious sexual ramifications. Thirty years later I finally realize that Kane (John Hurt), Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) and Dallas (Tom Skerritt) are actually sperm in this weird little psycho-sexual analogy.

28 Minutes In: I experience one of many crippling "WTF?!?" moments when the astronauts stumble upon a giant dead alien with a blown-out chest fused onto his space-seat. His chest "exploded from the inside", huh? Well, I'm sure that's not relevant. The character of Lambert suddenly reads my mind when she blurts "Let's get the hell out of here!"

30 Minutes In: After circumnavigating Ash's cock-blockery, Ripley discovers that the transmission they received wasn't a distress signal after all but "a warning".  No shit, Sherlock(s)!

32 Minutes In: Wow, a giant cargo hold filled with huge eggs. F#cking wonderful. By now,  every fiber of my being is screaming for Kane to come to his senses and scramble back up that rope. Instead he takes a closer look at one of the eggs which appears to be translucent with something gross, pulpy and decidedly Lovecraftian fluttering around inside it. And then, when the goddamned thing opens up like a bloomin' onion, the stupid toolbox actually leans over to look inside of it!

34 Minutes In: AAAAGGGHHHH!!!! 

35 Minutes In: Ripley, once again the voice of reason, is overridden by Ass. Er, Ash. What the f#ck is that guy's problem, anyway?

36 Minutes In: Dallas and Ash use some sort of laser-tool to cut Kane's helmet off.  I'm dying to see what's ins...AAAAAHHH!!! PUT IT BACK ON!!! PUT IT BACK ON!!!

39 Minutes In: Jesus, that thing stuck to Kane's face is freakin' hideous, like the worst possible case of spaces herpes. And it's got acid for blood?!? Good Lord, this is getting worse by the second.

42 Minutes In: Ash seems to be sporting w-a-a-a-a-a-a-y too much wood for this alien. Ian Holm is absolutely brilliant here, acting vaguely defensive when Ripley tries to rattle his cage. Even though I've probably seen this movie about a dozen times by now I finally notice that his drink of preference is a certain liquid known to "do an (artificial) body good".

46 Minutes In: Oh, gawd, the thing's not on Kane's face anymore...where f#ck did it go?!? An agonizing two minutes of painfully-protracted screen time goes by as Ash and Dallas poke their light-tipped dicks into every dark corner, practically begging to be Frenched to death by that slimy mcnasty.

48 Minutes In: Naturally, the repellent thing plops down dead onto Ripley shoulders. At the time I let a out a scream considerably louder then Sigourney Weaver's, prompting another matronly verbal check-in from down below.

49 Minutes In: Ash starts poking around in the facehugger's innards which nearly causes me to hurl into my snack bowl. I didn't know this at the time but director Ridley Scott had actually pulled a fast one and arranged a bunch of fish gusts and shellfish scraps into a prop facehugger to try to make the thing look as gross, real and weird as possible. Good show, sir! Ash says "I assume that it's not a zombie" but even back then I was well-read and knew that the best precaution against a zombie outbreak was to burn the f#cking body. C'mon people, what's wrong with a few precautions in this day and age of rampant space herpes?

50 Minutes In: Like the typical site manager, Dallas tries to pass the buck of responsibility off to one of his subordinates. His excuse is that "things happen because that's what the company wants to happen", once again foreshadowing my future work experience.

53 Minutes In: Hey, look! Kane's up and around as if nothing's happened! Oh, I'm sure he's fine...

54 minutes In: Man, Kane sure seems to be wolfing down a lot of food. It's almost as if he's eating for two, hmmmmmmmm. Oh, oh! Looks like something went down the wrong pipe!

Suddenly there's a burst of on-screen chaos: a series of guttural sound effects, actor John Hurt launches into a completely convincing fit of agony and Parker (Yaphet Kotto) tries to prevent him from swallowing his own tongue by forcibly jamming a spoon in his mouth. By this point I can safely say that me nerves are officially shot.

56 Minutes In: Wha...what in the almighty f#ck just happened there?!?

Oh...Sweet...Baby...Jesus...CAIN IS PREGGERS!!! Even long after the labor pains are over the sound of dripping hemoglobin and Kane's twitching fingers completely and utterly traumatize me for days and nights on end.

I breath a sigh of relief as a timely "word from our sponsors" momentarily causes the horror to abate. I try in vain to collect my frazzled wits as ABC gamely attempts to sell Whoppers, Cheerios and/or Fruit Roll-Ups to me.

57 Minutes In: From this point on Alien becomes a standard haunted house scenario. Unfortunately it's also one of the most effective and consistently scary haunted house movies ever made.

101 Minutes In: The interiors of the ship look so believable that it's just as creepy as any abandoned school or condemned insane asylum. BRRRRRR!!!!

102 Minutes In: F#CKING CAT!!!  Jesus, that thing just scared the kitty litter out of me!

103 Minutes In: Ripley and Parker send Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) out alone to look for Jones. In their defense, the last time they saw the alien it was only as big as a garter snake. Still, would it have killed them to stick together a little while longer?

105 Minutes In: Okay, the alien is shedding its freakin' skin! Even as a stupid kid I knew what that meant!

106 Minutes In: Man, this friggin' ship is so huge it apparently has its own climate The sound of rain and clinking chains is a nice touch. Such creepy. Much haunted house. Very scare. So incontinent.

107 Minutes In: Um, what the eff did I just see? The cat, Brett, trust the cat!!! DON'T LOOK NOW BUT THERE'S SOME SORT OF BIO-MECHANICAL PSYCHO-SEXUAL PHALLIC-HEADED XENOMORPH STANDING RIGHT BEHIND YOU!!! BEHIND YOU MAN!!!  oh god it's got jaws within its jaws I'm immersed in a goddamn Freudian nightmare right now.

109 Minutes In:  In another moment that foreshadows my future work experiences, upper management (I.E. "Mother") proves to be completely useless when Team Lead Dallas asks for some much-needed support. As a result, Dallas decides to venture alone into the air ducts in an attempt to flush out the alien. Sounds legit.

110 Minutes In: Dallas's delightful delve into the vents is pure sustained, sweaty, claustrophobic terror. The music, editing and sound effects all conspire to horrify me like nothing I'd seen prior or hence.

Things get ten times worse when Lambert picks up the alien's signal on her motion tracker. In 1986 James Cameron would derive considerable inspiration from this scene, delivering one of the best sequels in cinema history.

150 Minutes In: Dallas descends a ladder, turns a corner and then run smack dab into Grabby McBiteypants. My bladder shows it's appreciation for this scene's craftsmanship by partially venting itself.

116 Minutes In: Ripley decides to call an impromptu (and decidedly dysfunctional) staff meeting that foreshadows my own future work experience. Sigourney Weaver is so completely believable here that, if you look closely, you can actually see her becoming a star right before your very eyes.

119 Minutes In: In a moment that, once again, foreshadows my future work experiences, Ripley learns that all employees are "expendable" for a company obsessed with nudging up their profit margin. Sadly, this is the most realistic bit of horror in the entire film.

121 Minutes In: In an odd moment of solidarity / synchronicity (solinicity? synchrodarity?), Ripley's nose spontaneously starts bleeding at the exact same moment that mine does while sitting there watching the film at home as a kid. Weird.

In stark contrast, Ash begins to sweat milk out of his pores. Ridley Scott then uses his hand-held camera to convey dizzying levels of disorientation as Ash casually attempts to murder Ripley to death. His creative use of a rolled up porno magazine is particularly disturbing, instantly evoking thoughts of a twisted, mechanical psyche.

122 Minutes In: Jeezus, this little dweeb is STRONG! Parker bombs in and then smokes Ash right in the shoulder clubs metal canister, causing him to suddenly spazz out.

123 minutes In: Annnnnand off with his head! Up to this point in my very short life, Kane's unconventional birthing scene was the most messy, organic, nasty and visceral thing I'd ever had the misfortune to witness. That is until Parker knocked Ash's block off with that fuel canister. By then I wanted to be watching the movie on VHS so I could stop the tape, pop it out and then bury it deep in the back-yard where it belongs.

There weren't enough Tootsie Roll and Wendy's ads in the world to make me recover from this level of psychological trauma.

125 Minutes In: What's left of Ash describes the alien as "a perfect organism". Well, if the creature's sole raison d'être is to scare the ever-lovin' shit outta people then, yes, I'd say that's an apt description.

128 Minutes In: What are you people doing?!?! Don't split up!!! Even if someone needs to take a poop, all three of you need to go together!!!

129 Minutes In: The film is betrayed by its first major script contrivance which ends up tarnishing the illusion for me quite a bit. Ripley, who up to this point has been the only sensible one, wanders off to look for Jones the f#cking cat. This gives every single male watching the film an opportunity to roll their eyes and say "Hmph, ain't that just like a woman?" Even as a kid, I though that this was lame, mainly because it gave the alien an opportunity to sneak around her and get onboard the shuttle.

131 Minutes In: FUCKING CAT!!!

132 Minutes In: Hey, Parker n' Lambert, is there any way you might be able to make just bit more noise there?

We're then "treated" to some of the best full-body glimpses of the alien, and, let me tell ya, kiddies,  it's light-years away from the bug-eyed, tentacle-flailing, Muppet-footed cliches that scared the fertilizer outta me in The Green Slime. First off: this f#cker is taller then Hakeem Olajuwon. And *ick* we get to see some real, spring-loaded extendo-jaw action after the alien clobbers poor Parker with a nasty tail-whip.

And, sorry, but I can't shit on Lambert's paralysis too much. If I was her I'd be doing my best "deer in headlights" impersonation as well.

135 Minutes In: With Lambert's mournful screams now reverberating down the darkened hallway, the ship has literally become a Funhouse of pure terror. Ripley decides to nuke the place from orbit (it's the only way to be safe) and we get to witness the most genuine-looking self-destruct procedure in cinema history

138 Minutes In: Smoke, strobe lights and frantic dashes down industrial-looking corridors: once again we get a sneak preview of the movie Aliens, which followed seven years later. Ripley's adrenaline and stress are palpable as she vainly tries to abort the self-destruct sequence. I was on pins and needles as she scrambled back to the shuttle. At that stage, I knew that the alien could be lurking anywhere, waiting to pick her off as soon as those first few hunger pangs hit.

140 Minutes In: Aaaaand it's gone! *Phew*  Look's like everything's comin' up Ripley!

143 Minutes In:  Ridley Scott throws all the stoners out there a bone by delivering the most blatantly "Whoa, man!" technicolor explosion in cinema history.

144 Minutes In: "I got you, you sonavabitch!" Wow, talk about counting your facehuggers before they're hatched!

145 Minutes In: Sigourney Weaver strips down to her Underoos™, giving 12-year-old me (and 44 year-old-me for that matter) an unexpected thrill that, for once in this damned movie, has absolutely nothing to do with violation, murder and death. Now, some people might say that this scene diminishes Ripley's strong character but I don't agree. She is planning to hit the ol' cryo-pod after all. What, do you wear your space suit to bed? Whatever.

146 Minutes In: No fair! That bastard's camouflage is perfect!

148 Minutes In: DAT JAW!!!  *Ewwwww!!!* Meanwhile Ripley continues to display her smarts, courage, moxie and fortitude, which more then makes up for her previous feline-related gaffes.

150 Minutes In: Ripley uses the SUPERFLUOUS INTERIOR EXHAUST SYSTEM to blow the critter right outta its hidey-hole. The creature's resulting screams are pure, unadulterated nightmare fuel.

151 Minutes In: We get another regrettable eyeful of H.R. Giger's most famous creation and realize that the dearly departed mad Swiss genius had a unique talent to tap into our worst unconscious psychological fears.

153 Minutes In: After a well-earned victory, an angelic-looking Ripley sleeps contentedly in her stasis tube, oblivious to what she'll hafta deal with just fifty-seven short years later. 


This movie scared the crap out of me in a way no other film had. It wasn't a fifteen year old (at the time) black and white flick like Night of the Living Dead or a horror movie with training wheels like Poltergeist. Because of Alien I didn't sleep properly for nights on end.

Now, remember, it terrified me in spite of three important insulators:
  1. I watched it in the re-assuring confines of my own living room.
  2. The tension was periodically alieved by incongruously-cheery ads for margarine and car insurance.
  3. Since it was shown on prime-time network television, what I saw was likely heavily edited. 
When a movie manages to elbow its way past all of the modern bulwarks of re-assurance to scare the wits out of you, then you know you've dealing with something truly frightening.

For days I kept asking "Why do I keep subjecting myself to these patently awful things?" and "Why do I wanna do it again sooner rather then later?". I swiftly came to the conclusion that, as a sheltered child without any siblings, I wanted to use the medium of horror to toughen myself up.

Looking back I realize that I was a pretty astute kid.

Now, don't mistake my intent, Gentle Readers: I'm not saying that kids should be exposed to dark subject matter at an early age, quite the opposite in fact. I'd much rather see kids remain kids for as long as they can, which is no small feat in this media and communication-soaked age of technology.

But I also know that the world is a nasty and scary place; an ugly truism that all of us must confront at some point in time in our lives. And I can't thank film-makers like Ridley Scott enough for taking me by the hand and guiding me along my first few baby steps towards this unfortunate but pragmatic realization.

EPIC DOC Wanna know all there is to know about this timeless horror classic? Then enjoy this amazing doc. You're welcome.

FAIL-URE OF ORIGINALITY  Granted, Alien wasn't 100% original, but, like Wolverine, it's the best at what it does. These films, not so much.   

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Arguing With Idiots For Sport And Pleasure


Felicitations, Free Thinkers!

Although his career as a wrestling heel was just a shade before my time, I quickly became enamored with Jesse "The Body" Ventura as a color commentator with the WWF. Even at that impressionable young age I could tell that Ventura was smarter then the average bear. 

I anxiously followed Ventura's dalliances with Hollywood, as he starred in such classic sci-fi fare as Predator and The Running Man. I never did see Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe, but in case the spirit ever moves me some evening, I'll just leave this right hur.

Since so many actors have done the same, I wasn't surprised when Jesse moved out of the public light and entered politics. He first served as the Mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, from 1991 to 1995 and then went on to become the very first politically-independent Governor of Minnesota from 1999 to 2003.

In this day and age, this latter achievement is almost inconceivable. Despite running a bare-bones campaign on the cheap, Jesse appealed to the everyman by offering an alternative to the usual Republican / Democrat paradigm. While in office he refused to meet with lobbyists and made tremendous strides regarding public transit and tax reform. During this time he also became highly disillusioned with partisan politics and the ruinous nature of corporate-controlled media.

He parleyed these observations into a wildly-successful writing career, penning several notable books including I Ain't Got Time to Bleed: Reworking the Body Politic from the Bottom Up,
Do I Stand Alone? Going to the Mat Against Political Pawns and Media Jackals and 
Jesse Ventura Tells it Like it Is: America's Most Outspoken Governor Speaks Out About Government. As you can probably gather from the titles, Jesse's dark take on the American political system is the direct result of his own experiences serving in office. 

Via Don't Start the Revolution Without Me! I began to learn more about this interesting and multifaceted dude. A former Underwater Demolition Team expert and Vietnam veteran, Jessa had a habit of reading voraciously while traveling across the country between matches with the WWF. While absorbing the works of political rebels such as Major General Smedley Butler and L. Fletcher Prouty Jesse developed a healthy skepticism about the motivations of a government puppeteered by big business.

Thanks to his many years as a wrestler, commentator and bureaucrat, Jesse developed quite a reputation for speaking his mind in a clear, direct and often humorous fashion. As such, when he moved into the realm of political commentary, Ventura certainly wasn't afraid to ask uncomfortable questions about the invasive nature of American foreign policy, the corporate influence on government and the blatant murder of the country's last autonomous President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

What I'm trying to say is that Jesse Ventura isn't your average retired wrestling meat-head.

But because he had the unmitigated gall to publicly criticize the false concept of American Exceptionalism, Jesse became the target of Chris Kyle, the self-professed "most lethal sniper in U.S. Military history". In an appearance meant to promote his book American Sniper on an episode of The O'Reilly Factor, Kyle claims to have cold-cocked Ventura for the sin of autonomous critical thought during a speaking engagement at a Navy S.E.A.L. bar: 

So, the other night I'm killing time on Google + and I come across a post in my news feed by the "Americans Against the Tea Party". It featured Ventura in a recent episode of his weekly on-line political screed Off the Grid

During this episode Jesse says:

“You are not gonna beat ISIS and somehow make everything right over there. You are still gonna be hated. None of this would have happened had we not gone over there and destabilized it. So here’s who we have to thank for all of this mess today: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Two guys who were too chicken to go to Vietnam. Too chicken to join the service and stand up and fight for their country, but they took us over there. If Barack Obama says, 'we need to get involved' and we end up with boots on the ground, I’ve said this before, the first two pairs of boots that oughta be on the ground over there are George Bush and Dick Cheney, leading from the front and not the rear.”

Now any reasonable human being who's even vaguely informed about America's compulsive history of meddling with affairs in the Middle East (dating back to Iran in 1953) would look at this quote and agree with it in principal, in spite of its lack of realism. But as I drilled down on the comments I could see that a bunch of crazed Tea Bagg...er Tea Partiers had responded with nothing but crude, mindless vitriol, verbal thuggery and Fox News-style regurgitations.

"Venturas (s.p.) a whiney (s.p.) little bitch. Sues (s.p.) wife of dead hero that slapped him down."

"Hey Jesse, go suck one!"

 "Ex- wrestler, conspiriscy (s.p.) nut job, black copters are following me loon."

"Ventura is a douce (s.p.) bag. He needs to just put the aluminum foil back on his head and off himself."

"AATP is blathering stupidity and now Ventura is their mascot. "

"Jesse Ventura is an old psychotic, narcissist has been acting like a never will be. What a punk!"
Now, I want to make this crystal clear before I proceed: although I'm a huge fan of Jesse and I agree with a lot of what he says, we don't see eye-to-eye on everything, particularly on the subject of gun control. His now-defunct television show Conspiracy Theory was kind of alarmist, giving casual viewers an excuse to dismiss very real and very serious issues as tin-foil-hat histrionics. He often refers to himself in the third person, comes across as opinionated and defensive and likely harbors a justifiably-inflated sense of ego. 

But I also understand Jesse's motivations and know that, underneath all of the bluster and bravado, he's a very well-researched and intelligent guy who uses shock value in an effort to wake people up. He doesn't hate America, quite the opposite. I get the impression that he loves his country so much that he's deeply troubled by its free-fall and would like nothing better then to see the U.S. of A. regain some semblance of its former glory.

As a result, I felt compelled to weigh in on this little tête-à-tête, not so much to defend Jesse, but to see if I could lure these Tea Party wing-nuts into an actual debate.

Here's what happened.

Spoiler alert: what happened is exactly what you'd expect to happen. 

Matthew M: "This traitor! Jesse Ventura, who sued a dead American Navy Seal hero's widow! And now says America deserved 9/11 and to be bombed! Oughta be shot for treason!"
ME: @Matthew M "Chris Kyle blatantly LIED about Ventura in a mass-market publication, he deserved to get sued. And Ventura has never, ever said that America deserved to get bombed on 9/11. He's trying to educate people blinded by the myth of American exceptionalism that, like it or not, the United States has a very long and very checkered history of geo-politcal interference around the world, which gives radical forces plenty of motivation to attack us."

Alexandre A: @David Pretty "that's exactly what Jesse Ventura is saying!!! I never heard him say anything against America but true things !!! @MM "every president of the United states needs to be tried for treason at least the living presidents that are around specially Bush and Cheney who sold us the war!!! The people who want us to go neck to neck against each other have been doing this for years they know how to keep an open wound bleeding!!!! How many of you have taken sides about immigration,the survival of Israel, Isis , Ukraine, the deficit, 9/11 all those are topics to keep us from seen what really us going on !!!"

ME: @Alexandre A "You're absolutely right. I've done a lot of research on this and I truly do believe that the last U.S. President that wasn't a puppet of corporations and / or the military industrial complex was JFK."

Alexandre A: @David Pretty "don't forget Dwight Eisenhower warn us about the industrial military complex !!! I trusted Obama up until I saw him going along with war guru's!!!!!"

ME: http://emblogificationcapturedevice.blogspot.ca/2013/04/will-historys-real-greatest-monster.html

Elizabeth M: "I have heard many people quoting from actress and actors, politicians, ect (s.p.)...
These type of people in my opinion, don't have a mind of there on (s.p.), simply because they are to busy with this materialistic life and lazy to go out and gain their on (s.p.) knowledge.

I also think Jesse has an aggressive attitude but maybe is (s.p.) all the anger inside of him, as a former governor he fond (s.p.) out despicable things our government is doing against humanity and therefore expresses himself in a rude way to let all that anger out.

In my personal opinion, I think he is on point on most of what he says, but I do dislike when he speaks so aggressively, if he was to express himself in a more humble way, it would be better for him.

I to (s.p.) respect your opinion and I thank you for respecting mine. :)"

Color Commentary: Hey, look a dissenting comment that doesn't stoop to insults! Although her opinion isn't fact-based (I.E. Jesse is a helluva lot better informed then, say, Matt Damon) but at least her comment is civil and reasonably well-thought-out.

But then, just a few short seconds later it was right back to The Attack of the Knuckle-Draggers:

Greg Hi-Z: "You can have Jesse on your side any time."

William F: "He was piled drived (s.p.) a bit to (s.p.) much by the Arabian sheik, and Bruno sanmartino (s.p.). They did not know the long term effects can make you an idiot and azzhole (s.p.) at same time."

Color Commentary: Who the f#ck is the "Arabian Sheik"?

ME: @ William F "Speaking of libel your statement is nothing but conjecture. Please provide some back up for that blatantly inflammatory statement." 

Matthew M: "Shutup. I don't wanna hear from more like him. You all disgust me! I woulda done more then knock him out if I was there! God bless America!"

Alexandre A: @Elizabeth M "he does speak aggressively but because his in the know how and can't wake up the vast majority of Americans !!! Jesse Ventura is a patriot navy seal remember!!!!"

ME: "Good strategy, +Matthew M. By sticking your fingers in your ears and yelling 'LA!!! LA!!! LA!!! I CAN'T HEAR YOU!!!' you're sure to avoid reality ad infinitum."  

Matthew M: @David Pretty "yeah liberal idiots know all about that!" 

ME: @Matthew M  "I wouldn't know. I'm not a 'liberal'."

Alexandre A: @Matthew M "I'm an American before any party affiliation left or right !!!! My eyes are wide open and see both points specially when their trying to push something down our throats!!!!"

Austin Stevens: Color Commentary: this guy's on-line handle was clearly inspired by former WWF superstar "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, replete with a profile pic of Austin. Right away, I'm thinking that this guy ain't exactly gonna be Noam Chomsky and two seconds later he proves it by stating:  "Ventura is an idiot a complete moron."
ME: @Austin Stevens "Cut and paste from above but it applies to you too: 'Speaking of libel your statement is nothing but conjecture. Please provide some back up for that blatantly inflammatory statement'."

Matthew M: "Ventura, the cowardly, deserter, traitor anti- American, big mouth moron who sues dead hero's (s.p.) widows, and his sheep, will get there's! (s.p.)"

ME:  @Matthew M. "* sigh * If I shot my mouth off and called a friend of yours 'a cowardly, deserter, traitor anti- American, big mouth moron' wouldn't you want me to produce proof of this claim? And if I couldn't, then exactly who is the 'big mouth moron?' Hello? Is this thing on? * taps microphone *"

Alexandre A: @Matthew M.  "Jesse Ventura served our country therefore he can say all he wants about anyone !!!!"

Peter B"ANYONE...can say what they want, Regardless of whether they served their country! I know plenty of Patriots, who never enlisted, and plenty of ENLISTED, who forgot their roots, and are world class DB's. Jesse Ventura falls in the latter category. World-Class-conspiracy-theory-Douche-Bag!!! Everyone can agree that the Iraq was handled poorly, after the battle was won. People forgot about the reasons for going into Iraq. WMD's were the least of the issues. Firing on US aircraft, and plots to assassinate Bush Sr, have long since been forgotten. The issue in front of us now, is do we need to leave a QRF force in Iraq, and robust Special Ops units, in order to at minimum, protect our friends(the Kurds and other secularists). Obama has screwed this(like everything else) up! Now it's coming back to haunt him. He's a World Class politician. Period. This is why most active duty soldiers despise Obama, (AND Ventura): because he doesn't listen to his Generals;  he listens to his latest polling!"

Color Commentary: Peter's comments are promising and I wish he'd stuck around as well. Yes, he's grossly informed about Ventura and stoops to cheap name-calling but he's reasonably articulate and included reasons if not hard evidence for his claims. Sure, his perspective is dead wrong, but at least he's trying. 

Alexandre A: @Peter B "Obama listens to those who have money ,to hell with the polling!!!"

ME: "Good Lord, I'm gonna get carpel tunnel syndrome typing this over and over again." @Peter B. '"Jesse Ventura (is a)...World-Class-conspiracy-theory-Douche-Bag!!!' This is nothing but baseless hyperbole. What are you basing this statement on?!?"

Matthew M. @David Pretty "I don't have cowardly traitors for friends! Unlike you it seems? proof? Are you and idiot who can't read?"

Matthew M. @Alexandre A "I've (really) served our country! So I can say what I want about him! Like the truth! He has zero credibility now!"

Alexandre A. @Matthew M "a true patriotic American questions,and that's what Jesse Ventura is doing !!"

ME: @Matthew M. "Despite asking over and over again no-one in this thread has provided a single shred of evidence supporting their attacks on Ventura. Does the phrase 'innocent until proven guilty' mean anything to you?  How 'bout 'burden of proof'?"    

Richard s: @Alexandre A. "if he were a real patriot i think he should have dropped the ridiculous lawsuit against fellow seal and decorated hero after he was killed. Unless he's donating the settlement to a worthty (s.p.) charity he's a little bitch."

Alexandre A. @Richard s. "what lawsuit are you talking about Can you cite your source??!!!"

ME: @Richard s. "Cut and paste from above: "Chris Kyle blatantly LIED about Ventura in a mass-market publication, he deserved to get sued."


Color Commentary: Interesting turn of events here: the only thing I really knew about Chris Kyle was the creepy vibe that came off of him in waves during that slavishly pandering Bill O'Reilly interview. By doing a quick bit of research and providing the aforementioned link I discovered that Kyle had tendencies towards self-aggrandizement and playing fast and lose with the facts. This shows how important it is to avoid mixing "truth" up with "truthiness".

Richard s.: @David Pretty "disagree. Thought it was kind of a bitch move to sue a fellow seal in the first place over a claim that he got knocked down. Then to continue the case after mr.kyles death was without honor. That he won the case doesn't really mean the truth as been seen. ( oj. Casey anthoney, etc....) obama lied about keeping your dr. seems there should be a whole lot of folk suing him."

Matthew M: @Richard s "agreed it was a little bitch move! And the little bitch deserved to get knocked down for what he said! Can't believe people defend him. Your (s.p.) a good American."

Color Commentary: Actually I'm not an American, just someone who's more informed then the average American. Which, sadly, isn't saying much.

Richard s. @Matthew M. "i love how some people pick and choose what they believe by virtue of celebrity, because otherwise ventura sounds like a conspirousy (s.p.) nut bag most of the time. Still alot of us left . GBA."

Color Commentary: By the way, the "GBA" in that last post stands for "God Bless America". That right, folks, these people habitually cap off their vicious personal attacks by evoking the favor of an invisible sky man who supposedly teaches tolerance, understanding and peace. Oh irony, why you so ironic?

ME: @Richard s @Matthew M "Whether or not you guys think it's a 'bitch move' what Kyle did was defamation cut and dried. If you read the article I linked above you'll find out that Kyle has a history of self-aggrandizement and making stuff up.  Ventura defended his public honor using perfectly legal means and not by sucker-punching Kyle when his back was turned. "
ME: @Richard s. "'ventura sounds like a conspirousy (s.p.) nut bag most of the time. Still alot of us left . GBA.'  Richard, if you're trying to sway people to your POV, then you need to provide a little something called EVIDENCE otherwise this is just an opinion and not fact."

ME: @Matthew Madigan "John Lindsay once stated, 'Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.' For that reason alone I'll defend true patriots like Ventura to the bitter end."

Alexandre A: @David Pretty "well said !!!"

ME: @Alexandre A. "Thank you, sir."

Matthew M: @Richard s "yes your right well said. And I agree there's still lots of good Americans."

Richard s: @David Pretty "and i'll believe the one that left his blood on the battlefield. To each their own."

ME: @Matthew M "I'd like to agree with you on that but (A) Richard S.'s own form of Chris Kyle-style of libel is still only HIS OPINION and (B) he didn't even bother to spell 'conspiracy' properly."

Richard s: @David Pretty "what libel would that be."

Alexandre A: @David Pretty "this people are totally uneducated and it's obviously by their uneducated opinions!!!!"

Color Commentary: I genuinely winced when I read this. Just watch as this cheap shot causes the quality of the discussion to degenerate almost immediately. 

ME"Oh, I dunno, how 'bout: 'ventura sounds like a conspirousy (s.p.) nut bag most of the time' or my own personal favorite from earlier in the thread: '(Ventura is a ) cowardly, deserter, traitor anti- American, big mouth moron'. This is SLANDER. If I said that kinda stuff about YOU behind your back you'd be pissed at me. And justifiably so." 

Richard s: @Alexandre A. "and your opinion matters because you think you have an education. Don't make me laugh. That's all you've given is opinion."

Alexandre A: @Richard s "you've only given a mouth full of sewer!"

Color Commentary: "A mouth full of sewer"? Really? What is this...Grade Four?

Richard s: @Alexandre A "now theres edumacation for y'all."

ME: "For the record, when he was challenged by Pierce Morgan about the lawsuit on CNN Jesse said: 'He never hit me. I don’t even know who he is. This never happened. [This lawsuit] has always been about clearing my name and getting back my reputation. I was accused by this gentleman of committing treason; that’s very serious. In fact, it’s a capital offense in the military. It’s not about money; it’s about my reputation.'

When Morgan pursued with 'Are you uncomfortable suing Kyle’s widow?' he replied:

'No, because an insurance company is paying for the whole thing, anyway. It’s the insurance company of the book publisher. I have to sue her just because she is now the estate, since [Chris Kyle] passed away'.”

ME: "Here's another fun fact: Chris Kyle made six million dollars from his book American Sniper.  Oh, and where did I find that out? A friggin' Tea Party website, no less."

ME: @Alexandre A "I don't give a crap about who's 'educated' and who isn't. I think we're starting to make some progress here, so let's try to keep things civil, shall we?"

Richard s: @David Pretty "it's been my understanding from what i had read that publishers insurance was't picking up the entire amount. Didn't know ventura's reputation was that important to him look at his past acting choices. Don' t know of witnesses accounts? never said coward,traitor or anything other than nutbag , pretty sure thats not libal (s.p.)."

ME: @Richard s. "Well, it only took a jury six freakin' days to determine that Chris Kyle made up the whole story. And, of course, Ventura's reputation is important to him: if he runs for President in 2016 he can't have allegations like this floating around out there uncontested."
ME: @Richard s. "And you're absolutely right, 'nutbag' isn't libel. It's just a nasty thing to say out of turn without any evidence to support it." 

Color Commentary: Faced with this, Richard s.'s incontrovertible stance seemed to sway just a little bit. But for most die-hard Tea Bag...er, Party people FACTS are the equivalent of flashing a red flag in front of a bull.

Matthew M "Guess all you Ventura ass kissers also deny the facts about the 'Muslim' attack on 9/11 too? (koo koo)And think America deserved it, and deserves to get bombed to hell? As per Jesse's ventures disgusting comments! hey, I hear ISIS is recruiting?"
Matthew M "These 'types' are, partly, why I worry America doesn't have the moral clarity anymore to deal with the great threats we face!" 

Steven O "I say Jesse is a gutless coward and should shut his big mouth the only thing he's good at is attacking men that are dead COWARD! !!!!!!"

Color Commentary: Opinion doesn't magically transform into fact with the liberal application of five exclamation points.  

Matthew M @Steven O "very true! G.B.A"

ME: @Matthew M. "What facts? I'd ask you to specify but I've asked before and I'm not holding my breath." @Steven O. "Again, your opinion. And unless you did a tour in Vietnam as a Navy S.E.A.L. and continuously stick your neck out in an effort to inform people about genuine societal ills then your words are pretty cheap to me in comparison. God, I'm tired. Honestly, it's like trying to have a conversation with a bunch of pre-recorded messages."

Sean I"everyone I`ve talked to says the following. He (Color Commentary: I assume he's talking about Ventura here) was straight forward. He wasnt a coward. He admitted his mistakes and didnt lie like the rest of the balless and heartless successful politicians America has seen."

Richard s: "U.d.t. at the time ventura was serving was not a part of the navy seals. And himself has never actually admitted seeing action in vietnam (s.p.). Although he may have done classified type stuff. How about 'may not have both oars in the water' is that better than nutjob? still think ventura should donate settlement if it ain't about the money."

Color Commentary: Above and beyond the thinly-veiled insult, I want to concede a point that Richard makes here. By all accounts, Ventura was a frogman with the Underwater Demolition Team in Vietnam and not a full-fledged Navy S.E.A.L., a title he sometimes lays claim to. Eight years after Ventura left the Navy, the U.D.T. was folded into the SEAL team, prompting Jesse to  observe: "Today we refer to all of us as S.E.A.L.s, that's all it is". Semantics? Maybe.

william r: "Let me know when this guy is relevant. I was going to add 'again', but, well, he never was."

Jammie K: @Richard s "and you actually believe that? I guess you personally know them, huh? Oh... you heard about it on Fox.. it must be true."

william r: @Jammie K "Ah, that dear old Fox thing! Gotta love it!  , are you gonna blame Bush next? Then what-call people racists? Substance-not vitriol. Like it or not- 2/3 of America watches Fox. And, also, like it or not, the majority of what they comment on is news. All that being said-if you watch cable TV, you aren't watching news, no matter WHAT channel you watch. You're watching news COMMENTATORS. So, yeah, keep through out that good ole 'Fox News' biscuit! It was tiresome in 2007. Its pedantic at this point."

Color Commentary: No, Billy-Boy, it's this.

Jammie K @william r. "Oh WOW! I guess I should have used one of the other media outlets. Didn't realize my point would be over shadowed by someone devotion and belief in Fox news. But you sir, are a complete idiot for not seeing through the lies and bullcrap the media uses to fuel debates that otherwise would never get attention. As far as blaming Bush and any other crap you can come up with, no, I dont blame Bush. I blame people just like you who are too damn stupid to see reality and choose to believe what they hear instead of what is right in front of their face. But no since in arguing about it... you obviously don't have the intelligence to form an opinion based on facts. Keep believing the media, they like fools like you. It keeps the ratings up. As you pointed out, 2/3 of this country watches Fox. SMH"

Color Commentary: in case you don't know, "SMH" stands for "Shaking My Head".

william r "And, you assume I watch Fox. Which, I don't. Havent had TV for 3 years now. So, again, you're making assumptions based on your personal feelings (we call that talking out your ass). So, once again, name calling and hateful comments-those very things we presume you associate Fox news for spreading-are your tools for communication? Pot, meet kettle."

Jammie K. "Who is making assumptions here?  Who attacked who first about comments, and who is talking out their ass?  For the record, I don't even watch TV.  Shows what you KNOW.   You sir, are the one that attempted to belittle my comments, which I might add had NOTHING to do with FOX or racism.  But you take it how ever you perceive it to be.   Pot, meet kettle."

Color Commentary: From here on in, things continued to degenerate, reminding me of Monty Python once again. Completely bored now, I decided to sit back and watch the fireworks.

william r: "You referenced Fox news, did you not? You called me names, did you not? You also stated I watched Fox news, did you not? Or, am I lying? And, yes, I threw the Bush and racist comments out there-because, lets face it-anyone who references Fox news is OBVIOUSLY a Bush supporter AND a racist. I mean, a simple Google search will prove that out. So, please, just go away. You're stealing valuable oxygen."

Jammie K: @william r "Did you even actually read the comment you so eagerly commented on?  I guess I should have added ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, BBC, etc.  Maybe then you wouldn't ASSUME all these other things you mentioned.   You attack me and then tell me to go away?  Who are you?  To me... the answer is... ABSOLUTELY NOBODY!  No arguing with a dumbass cop, you know everything and everyone else knows nothing.  You must be the pride of the department!   Typical!"

william r: "Ah, more personal attacks. Lovely. That the way you speak to people? Proud of the way you treat people? Making assumptions, calling names, personal attacks? Trying to justify your comment by name calling and mud slinging is pretty low brow. Stop being hateful. No one likes mean people."
Jammie K: @william r "I apologize...  I didn't realize this was a popularity contest.  But my point was made.  Just remember this... you called me out, not the other way around.  Like you said...  Pot, meet kettle!"
william r: @Jammie K "lets see, your first post was attacking someone else, and jumping to blaming Fox news-even though there was NO REFERENCE to that individual making any comments regarding Fox. In fact, he mentioned people he SPOKE TO. Yet, you took that opportunity to attack HIM and to throw the Fox reference out there. THAT WAS YOUR FIRST POST. I called you out. You attacked me, called me names, attacked my profession. Now, who, in their right mind, would agree with you-who, through your very posts here, is doing the exact same thing you claim to oppose? It certainly is not a popularity contest. I'm merely calling you out as a hypocrite. The only point you successfully made here was that the very thing you claim to stand against, you certainly have no issue doing to others. In America, we call that being a hypocrite."

Color Commentary: See how pointless, boring, pedantic and useless all of this hot air is? Unless you're brokering in cold hard facts in the form of citations, links and quotes then just engaging in the equivalent of "You're stoopid!" / "No, you're stoopid!" Unable to tolerate this anymore, I forced myself to venture once more back into the breach.    

ME: "So, here's what I've learned so far in my mercifully short exposure to Tea Party supporters:

(1) They're 100% convinced that they're right all the time.
(2) They're 100% convinced everyone else is wrong all the time.
(3) Facts and truth are irrelevant to them.
(4) They try to compensate for their willful ignorance with personal attacks and belligerence.
(5) If they're losing a debate (or what passes as for a "debate" in their minds) they'll write "G.B.A!" like its some kind of mystical ward against the truth and then either leave the discussion or Block you before their fantasy-based world starts to crumble.

Please, for the sake of everything holy, make some sort of effort to prove me wrong on these points, Tea Party people. Reality might be a bitter pill to swallow but it ain't that bad if we're all in it together."

william r: @David Pretty "not sure who you're addressing here? Or, are you jumping to conclusions and generalizing people too? I mean, the progressive movement is, after all, all about inclusion. Unless you don't fit their narrowly defined criteria. Then, your a tea party terrorist, support Zionism, hate the poor, etc. You know, progressives: love everyone exactly like you, and, if they don't think like you, blame Bush, then call them a racist. yawn. OF course, we can point to other progressive movements-climate change, lets say-and the 1.2 TONS of trash they left in NYC. Radical is radical. Name calling sure helps though :/"

ME: @william r "I'm referring to the people I've been trying (and failing) to have a civil discussion with here. Please take the time to read the entire thread; it clearly illustrates every single point I just made. For the record I used the term 'Tea Party people' for lack of a better term. I can only assume that they're 'Tea Party people' because they've chosen to come to a 'AATTP' thread and attack Ventura without so much as a single shred of evidence. "

And with that I was out. The thread went on for a little bit longer but no-one responded directly to my last post.

Want to know why Americans are so polarized right now? Why so many of them are convinced that they're right and everyone else is wrong? Why there's so much political paralysis? Why Congress can't get anything done and currently has the lowest approval rates in history? Well, I suspect that answer lies encoded within the shattered DNA of the pathetic little thread detailed above.

I'll tell you right now: unless Americans start coming together to hash out their differences using the proper etiquette of debate and remember how to make common sense decisions based upon well-established facts, then the entire country is going to mired in malaise and indecision forever.

EPIC RANT:  Tea Bag...er, Partiers hate Jesse Ventura because he dares to employ dirty pool (otherwise known as "facts") in an effort to show Americans the real face of their country, warts and all.  


ECHO CHAMBER FAIL: As the old adage goes, "the truth hurts". Don't get caught wearing the "I'm With Stupid" shirt: its not too late to get informed, get enlightened and get active.