Monday, December 16, 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

--from Calvin and Hobbes
If there is magic in Christmas, it is all of you who create it. Thank you for being a part of my blog and for reading my posts. I will see you again in January 2014 for the Insecure Writers Support group. Until then, take care, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Friday, December 13, 2013

This Christmastime chūshingura prequel drips more coolness than any Desolation of Smaug trailer.

I absolutely love this poster for 47 Ronin.
This Christmas, fans of Japanese samurai and magical worlds are getting a real treat in the form of a super-ambitious high quality live action movie starring Keanu Reeves. My fear though is that some people in America may not realize that 47 Ronin is a Chūshingura and may just dismiss what could be the greatest fantasy film of 2013 (yes...I'm saying it could be better than Desolation of Smaug) and miss out on it entirely because of their unchecked prejudice.

So what is a chūshingura exactly? Well, they are fictionalized accounts in Japanese literature, theatre, and film that relate the historical incident involving the 47 Ronin and their mission to avenge the death of their master, Asano Naganori. Including the early Kanadehon Chūshingura (仮名手本忠臣蔵?), the story has been told in kabuki, bunraku, stage plays, films, novels, television shows and other media. With ten different television productions in the years 1997–2007 alone, the chūshingura ranks among the most familiar of all historical stories in Japan.

So this new telling of 47 Ronin is nothing different. In fact, it is a tradition in Japan, and you should embrace it wholeheartedly. Also, "I hate Keanu Reeves" is not a valid excuse to avoid this film. Keanu is a pretty decent actor and he's poured his heart into this role, even going so far as to become fluent in the Japanese language (he's also half-Japanese so he has more cred to be in a Japanese film than Tom Cruise).

However, despite 47 Ronin being so well-known across the Pacific, audiences here risk confusion as to what this particular chūshingura is about. Have we ever seen one replete with dragons, ki-rin, tengu, and other such monsters? To prepare those of you who've been bitten by the curiosity bug, there's an animated prequel to the movie done in comic book style and I've embedded it below. It's so wonderful, I wish book trailers had this kind of quality. Heck, I'll take one please! All kidding aside, you should watch it and marvel at the really cool art panels and how the whole thing is reminiscent of those beautiful silk screens for which Japanese art is famous.
Some terms you may need (in order to understand the prequel) defined by me with essential text lifted from Wikipedia's extensive knowledge base:

Bushido: This word means "the way of the warrior" and it is a code that defines a samurai's life. The western comparison might be chivalry, although this is a "loose" comparison as chivalry mostly developed out of medieval misogyny (the fear of women). And if you're surprised to know this then I'm sorry to burst your little bubble. Yes, chivalry was developed because men feared the power and association women had with Satan (and it all goes back to Genesis when Eve got Adam kicked out of the Garden of Eden and we've paid for it ever since).

Bushido originates from the samurai moral code and it stresses frugality, loyalty, martial arts mastery, and honor unto death. Born from neo-Confucianism during times of peace in Tokugawa Japan and following Confucian texts, Bushido was also influenced by Shinto and Zen Buddhism, allowing the violent existence of the samurai to be tempered by wisdom and serenity.

Under the Tokugawa Shogunate, aspects of bushidō became formalized into Japanese feudal law.

Samurai: the military nobility of medieval and early-modern Japan. According to translator William Scott Wilson: "In Chinese, the character 侍 was originally a verb meaning to wait upon or accompany persons in the upper ranks of society, and this is also true of the original term in Japanese, saburau. In both countries the terms were nominalized to mean "those who serve in close attendance to the nobility," the pronunciation in Japanese changing to saburai. According to Wilson, an early reference to the word "samurai" appears in the Kokin Wakashū (905–914), the first imperial anthology of poems, completed in the first part of the 10th century.

By the end of the 12th century, samurai became almost entirely synonymous with bushi, and the word was closely associated with the middle and upper echelons of the warrior class. The samurai followed a set of rules that came to be known as bushidō. While the samurai numbered less than 10% of Japan's population, their teachings can still be found today in both everyday life and in modern Japanese martial arts.

Ronin: A rōnin (浪人) was a samurai with no lord or master during the feudal period (1185–1868) of Japan. A samurai became masterless from the death or fall of his master, or after the loss of his master's favor or privilege, and it usually meant losing all your land. Imagine how devastating it would be to have your house and job taken away from you. To add insult to injury, poor Ronin were oftentimes the butt of jokes and faced ridicule when the government should have set up a social safety net. But then we wouldn't have great stories like 47 Ronin now would we? It just doesn't have the same ring to it if the story is 47 Ronin who got approved for Social Security.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Are these what the vampires in The Strain for FX will look like?

In 2009, film maker Guillermo del Toro gave us the horror novel The Strain. He followed it in 2010 with The Fall, and in 2011 with The Night Eternal. Together with writer Chuck Hogan, del Toro explored the world of vampires that he had begun with the movie Blade 2. Do you remember the Russian vamps that could split their lower jaw in two halves revealing a larger mouth filled with all kinds of terrible things? Yeah, those vampires were a precursor for what del Toro planned to do with vampires. Let's just say (for the sake of convention) that these vamps are a far cry from Edward in Twilight. Rumor is they even defecate on themselves while feeding on humans. Gross but probably something I'll be drawn to watch. I'm a fan of well-done horror that crosses science-fiction boundaries and if del Toro is behind it, the production values should be incredible.

From what I gather, del Toro is exploring vampire biology in The Strain (the sciency twist). He views them as parasites. They introduce a capillary worm into a host's system in the most invasive of ways (del Toro has a thing about vaginas and vagina-like orifices in all of his films) and of course it introduces a virus that changes the host into, well, a blood-sucking vampire. Anyway, I've been looking at comic covers for The Strain to get an idea of how the vampires are going to look when the series makes its debut on FX, and I'm pretty sure it's going to be a fairly accurate reproduction of these panels:
I seriously would not want to be this hapless fellow.
This isn't a herd of zombies. It's a herd of vampires. Zombie Vampire apocalypse
is where the action is at. Wouldn't you agree?
I love the atmosphere in this piece...down to the exposed bloody ribs
of the human victim on the ground. The fact this act took place in what
appears to be a garden shed hints at the horror that engulfs the world.
Even suburbia isn't safe.
Anatomical sketches of the vampire head.
I kind of wonder if The Strain series will follow the path blazed by The Walking Dead. In other words, will they start with a band of survivors just trying to find a safe place to hole up in the ashes of a vampire apocalypse? Like The Walking Dead, The Strain has potential to just keep going season after season with new and different tidbits revealed about the vampires and by rotating the cast (killing off characters with abandon) in fall/season finales.

Have any of you read The Strain comic book or picked up the three novels? If so, what did you think of them?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Godzilla is the eldritch movie to satisfy your Lovecraftian wet dream

So, you guys know that I LOVE kaiju movies and yesterday was a treat because we got the first trailer for the new Godzilla reboot. Let's just say, it gave me chills. And yeah, I have to analyze it because that's just the way my brain works.

First of all, Let's begin with addressing some of the technical stuff for the uninitiated. The narration is done by actor David Strathairn. The last time I saw him on the screen was for the second season of the now defunct SyFy show "Alphas." For the record, I thought Alphas was good and hated how they ended the series by killing everyone (it's the only show I've ever seen that did that). David has one of those voices that's technically perfect for a voiceover movie trailer. But he's not the only one on the cast that I'm excited to see (insert mandatory "squee" here).

Walter White is no longer the "one who knocks." But aside from this jib at Breaking Bad (best series ever!) I'm experiencing a "baby blue euphoria" at spotting Bryan Cranston. The only thing really that could make the comeback of the King of all Monsters even better is a dash of Walter White and THAT'S TOTALLY WHAT WE'RE GETTING!

Now (I'm a little bit of a classical music geek) so I'll tell you that the opening score for the trailer during the paratroop sequence is called Requiem for Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano, 2 Mixed Choirs and Orchestra and hopefully some of you recognize it from the Stanley Kubrik adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey. It really makes the fall done by those soldiers seem like a descent into Hell (that combined with the absolutely stunning visuals of a city on fire). I'm reaching for words like "Eldritch" and "Lovecraftian." It really needed just one more thing: someone doing the whole "Oppenheimer speech" that I start my free short story, The Insanity of Zero, with. You know, the one that says "I am become Death, destroyer of worlds..."

As an aside, I'd like to point out that it appears atomic breath is back in a big way (the Matthew Broderick Godzilla film of yesteryear ignored this much to my chagrin). I point to evidence of the giant carved holes through the buildings that are all charred and melted-looking that we see in the trailer. Those weren't created by a big monster running cartoon-like through the sides of skyscrapers.

Also, what is a H.A.L.O. jump?
Ahem...a HALO Jump (for those of you that don't play the video game) stands for High Altitude Low Opening. This is used to keep aircraft above radar and limit the amount of time a jumper's parachute is visible. Think extreme height (like 20,000 feet) and deploy your parachute right before you go splat. That way you evade conventional anti-air fire or detection until the last minute. Because of the devastation and all the smoke, the flares we see are probably used more for the soldier's benefit than to actually hide from Godzilla. They probably think that the monster is stupid so can't act on the flares anyway, and they are so small they'll be beneath detection (which is entirely possible because Godzilla is frickin' huge).
This seriously needs to happen someday. Guillermo get on it please.
Now (small spoiler alert) the internet seems to think that the concept behind this film is that there's a secret organization called MUTO that's out there creating monsters and that Godzilla is a kind of "curse" the planet delivers unto us for doing so...for toying around with science. Find out more about M.U.T.O. by visiting their viral website HERE. The thing I love about this website is that it makes you feel like you're actually exploring some weird and classified information! And what better place to have Godzilla show up than the tech happy urban hub of San Francisco?

Honestly, I can't help but think that the reason San Francisco is being used is to support the "Occupy Google" movement. Yep, that's got to be it. So did I tell you everything you needed to know about Godzilla to be excited about it now? As usual, your comments on this important science fiction topic are greatly appreciated :).

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

It's inconceivable to suggest that the CW could have picked a more adorable Barry Allen.

Actor Grant Gustin nailed it. Seriously. I'm so excited for the new Flash series that it's entirely possible I'm anticipating it more than Pacific Rim and Prometheus combined. The Barry Allen they showed us in last week's Arrow episode was in my friend Sarah Falen's words "Pure adorbs" and I MUST AGREE.

If you are not watching Arrow, you are missing out on this:

If you didn't see last week's episode, watch the below embedded video right now. The exchange between Barry and Felicity is filled with geeky science, intelligent problem-solving, and just a drop of sexual tension. It'll make you want to go out and smell the sunshine. And if you're a stranger to DC Comics, you just need to know these four words (repeat after me): The Flash is AWESOME.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Stephen King's second tweet basically sums up all the #FAIL of twitter

Stephen King's second tweet basically sums up all the #FAIL of twitter. How on earth this social network is worth $40 billion and yet can't turn a profit is something I'll never be able to understand. 
I think every single one of us has felt this at some point unless of course you're on twitter to spam people to read your blog or to buy your book. I think with this single tweet, Stephen King finally earned me as a fan because having something worthy to say is where nearly all of us fall short.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Is Luke the new supreme on American Horror Story

Poor shirtless Luke and his mother prior to the
Borax enema that she forces him to use
in order to clean the evil out of her son. He's
becoming a more interesting character with
each new episode mmhmm
This week's episode of American Horror Story (it shows late Wednesday night on FX) had the coven witches basically looking for their next Supreme. For the uninitiated, there is always one witch of every generation who demonstrates powers above and beyond the rest. When this new person arrives, the powers of the old supreme begin to fade and the new one begins to come into their own.

Previously, I assumed that the new supreme must have been Zoe. But that is way too obvious for this show. So I started to look deeper. With the appearance of a male witch on the council, it started me thinking that (if a man could be a witch) a man could be the supreme.

Enter Luke Ramsey (played by Alexander Dreymon). Earlier in this season, Nan and Madison paid a visit to the next door neighbors (where Luke lives with his super religious mother) and we just assumed that Madison set the drapes on fire. But I don't think Madison is the one responsible. I think Luke set the drapes on fire because he was also in the same room. Additionally, in the Halloween episode where the zombies sent by Marie Laveau were thwarted (seemingly by Zoe) Luke was in the car outside with Nan and it's possible he may have been responsible for what happened to the zombies. Marie Laveau woke up and said, "They've got some kind of power in that old coven house!" or something similar to that when the zombies all collapsed back into moldy corpses.
A funny pie chart that doesn't include Luke, courtesy
Other evidence that Luke is the supreme? We know a supreme is super healthy and we've seen enough of shirtless Luke to know he fits the bill. Additionally, his own mother says that he's got some kind of evil inside him, even going so far as to give him a (was that borax?) enema in the tub just to clean him out from the inside (what a disturbing scene) and then locking him in the closet.

So here's my educated guess (as I find these little mysteries insanely fun to figure out before the big reveal): Luke is the new supreme. What do you think? Yes? No? If no, then who do you think it is and why?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Jai Joshi has been super productive lately and now's your chance to grab a Hidden Gem for the low low price of FREE!

You may not know Jai Joshi, but she's a regular commenter and participant in the blogging community. Because of this, I wanted to do a plug for her and mention that her newest short story is now LIVE to purchase on Amazon Kindle. Entitled Hidden Gems, it's an anthology of five short stories from her epic Mahabharat series. You can download it by clicking HERE for FREE all day long (Christmas comes early this year).

Oh and if you want to see the cover, feast your eyes below:
Seriously folks, this book is worth the time for you to go and download it right now even if you have no interest in reading it. The sales will help Jai get noticed by the Amazon algorithms at work and possibly propel her other stories into the "best seller category."

So who is Jai Joshi?

Well, she's the author of Never Fear. It's a short story that tells about an event that happened in Krishna's childhood. Here's a short synopsis: "When young Krishna turns the people on Earth from age old rituals to a new spiritual path, he makes a deadly enemy in the form of Indra, King of the Demigods. The clash between them will rock the foundations of the world." That sounds exciting, doesn't it?

Jai doesn't stop there though. She's written a book called Youth, one called The Ancestors, another called The Prophecy, Bhishma-Son of Ganga, and Follow the Cowherd Boy.

All in all, I count seven titles to her name. That's pretty darn good if you ask me. And just like I'm a fan of curry, I intend to gobble several of these up.

If you want to know more of J.A. Joshi and her stories of Indian culture, please check out her Amazon author page or her blog.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Insecurities in strikethrough is what confidence is all about

I got a bad review. I got a good review.
I'll never finish my book. I published my book today.
No one will read it. I got fan mail in my inbox.
I'm not the next Stephanie Meyer. There's only one Stephanie Meyer; there's only one me.
I don't understand self-publishing. I got a book loaded on Kindle Direct Publishing in only three hours.
Success will never find me. I am successful.
I am a writer. I am an author.
I'm boring. I'm fun.
Readers hate me. Readers love me.
I'm too old. Every passing second is another opportunity to turn it all around.

If you come away from this post with only one thing it should be this:

Insecure people have to make excuses and put others down to feel confident. Confidence isn't walking into a room with your nose in the air and thinking you are better than everyone else. It's walking into a room and not having to compare yourself to anyone in the first place.

Have a great Wednesday and...
Go HERE to sign up for the Insecure Writers Support Group.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A little Dickens is a great place to go to sharpen your financial acumen

Illustration for Nicholas Nickleby by Hablot Browne
With the holiday season almost upon us, I can't help but try to unite my two loves: writing and making money. So to bring these two worlds together in an article, I've decided to enlist the aid of Charles Dickens.

Now, I don't know much about Charles Dickens' personal life, but from having read several of his stories, the man must have been the equivalent of a C.P.A. because he understood the integral relation between a person and their money. To elaborate, lets look at how this famous writer used money to wreak havoc in the lives of characters. In Great Expectations, Dickens delivers a story where Pip receives a windfall from a mysterious benefactor who turns out to be a criminal. To contrast this with Nicholas Nickleby, the title character's troubles begin after his father loses his life savings in a bad investment (Bernie Madoff anyone?)

Now a question for you Dickens fans out there: have you ever wondered how often the plots in his written works turn on making bad financial decisions? How many of us wanted to save Pip from squandering his money? And poor Nickleby and his family could have been spared financial doom with just a little diversification, but that was probably an ugly word back then, right? Dickens is where many of us can get our first experience with the "Swindling Financier" character, and it would behoove us as critical readers to pay close attention because these "swindling financiers" are real people and they want nothing but to separate you from your hard-earned money. I can't help but think maybe a few people could have been spared financial ruin at the hands of Madoff if they'd just bothered to read a little Dickens.

Now, you may not agree with me (and that's fine) but I think money tends to dissolve concerns about a person's background and overall character. I'm not sure why this is, but I've just noticed it a lot in my life. Maybe the illusion of having money and wealth and not being a stinking poor person breeds "trust." And Dickens warns time and time again against this kind of thing: never ever judge a person by their appearance or by the things that they own.

And of course, any conversation about Dickens that centers around his view of money would not be complete without touching on Ebeneezer Scrooge. A Christmas Carol is the ultimate story that shows you a vast difference between "saving" and "hoarding." As many of you know (perhaps with first-hand experience) hoarding is dysfunctional and unhealthy. I wonder if they even had a DSM in Dickens' day. If they did, they could have used his thoughts on "hoarding" and put it in there as a  mental illness so that others who have this disorder could get help in order to pursue more productive lives.

In short, a little Dickens is a great place to go to sharpen your financial acumen, and that's all I've got to say about that. Have you noticed any nuggets of financial wisdom tucked away in the fiction you read? If so, please share in the comments.


I'm going to take a short blogging break. May you all have a great Thanksgiving, and I'll see you in December for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Gobble Gobble and all that :).

Monday, November 25, 2013

When the BBC decides to play Bill & Ted with three Doctors you're in for some campy fun

The 3-D oil painting of Gallifrey was really cool. Steven Moffatt has to be
insane to come up with this stuff.
I've decided that when the BBC decides to play Bill & Ted with three Doctors from different timelines, you're in for some campy fun. As a reminder, for those who have not seen Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure in some time (pun intended), you may recall that they used time travel by leaving things that they needed (and telling themselves that) so that they could find it. Example: "In the future, I'll go back in the past and leave the keys over here behind this bush so I can find them right now. And look! Here they are!"

Well in the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special, we got some of that and I liked it. The first happened when they were breaking out of the prison in the Tower of London, and the second occasion happened near the end, when they used time to start a calculation that would take centuries in order to remove Gallifrey from space so that the Daleks would annihilate each other. Clever and very cool.
I guess the huge "chip" on the Doctor's shoulders is now gone, because
he never started a holocaust. All's well that ends well, I suppose. Next
season has got to be all about finding Gallifrey though: an entire lost planet
of Time Lords just sounds really cool. Maybe that's how they intend to address
The Doctor's regeneration issue.
So the Day of the Doctor by all accounts was a resounding worldwide success. Simultaneously broadcast in 94 countries and screened by millions of Whovians, it was a pretty epic event that lived up to all of its hype. I'm glad I participated, even if the pre-show was kind of lame.

It does leave me with some questions though. You Whovians out there know that "The Day of the Doctor" addressed the decision made by the Doctor to destroy the planet Gallifrey (wiping out his own people in the process) because the Daleks had to be stopped. Now that this episode is over, and those events are changed, is the Doctor different now? I mean he'd have to be, right? For example, being responsible for a holocaust gave The Doctor an added depth that should be missing now that the holocaust didn't technically happen.

The painting of Gallifrey though was really cool, and I wish I had that to hang in my house.

So, did any of you watch "The Day of the Doctor?" And if so, what did you think of it?

Friday, November 22, 2013

This week's American Horror Story brings up an idea that I find disturbing and wonder if it's true

Kathy Bates joined the cast of American Horror Story this season, and she's playing Madame LaLaurie, an actual woman from New Orleans history who did horrible things to her slaves. Transformed into an immortal through the magic of voodoo queen Marie LaVeau, Madame LaLaurie is a pretty despicable person. She's murdered babies for their blood to make a poultice to keep her young, mutilated people, and just in general expressed a lot of delight while others around her suffered.
Delphine LaLaurie and Queenie (in the back). Queenie's witch power
is to be a living voodoo doll. Basically anything she does to
herself can be inflicted on another person.
So in Wednesday night's episode, she's cutting some sandwich meat in the role of "maid" some 200 years removed from the actual time period that birthed her, and explains to Queenie (played by black actress Gabourey Sidibe) and states that she's trying to be good. She says, "I'm learning. That was a different time. I'm learning to be good from people like you."

Now, this episode had A LOT of things in it. We had our first undead threesome, we had one of the best "I'm a millennial and people assume we are all about entitlement and narcissism" speeches ever, and we saw that Marie LaVeau has a throne of alligators that outdoes Katy Perry's throne in the music video "Roar" (If you haven't watched "Roar" you should because it's full of awesome!) But the one thing that stuck in my mind was this line from Madame LaLaurie.
Marie LaVeau 1 Katy 0
Is she saying that "good" can actually be taught? If that's so, can "evil" actually be taught?

Guys, maybe I've grown up in a bubble, but I kind of believe that true evil just exists, and you don't have to be taught that. It just happens and those of us that aren't evil are left to pick up the pieces. The same way with good. If you are truly a "good" person, it just happens. There's not a cruel bone in your body. You feel compassion for others and you follow a moral compass that unabashedly points true. Someone that's "good" is the kind of person that would give someone the shirt off their back and make do without one. That's what "good" is.

So I guess I'm soliciting some opinions from you all on this. Can "good" actually be taught? Can "evil" actually be taught? Now just to be clear, I'm not talking about lawful or illegal behavior. I'm not talking about a person doing what's right because they make a choice based off of repercussions that might happen if they don't do what's right. I'm talking about actual goodness that goes down through all the layers and into the very center of who we are. Is that something that can be taught? Or is it something like blue either have it or you don't.

I suppose that "teaching" is in line with this season's American Horror Story. After all, it takes place in a witch's school, and class is now in session.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Do Time Lords have control over their physical aging? Watch this 50th anniversary prequel and ponder it with me.

Below is a Doctor Who 50th anniversary prequel that confirms a secret of the Doctor's long-lived life. But after watching it, be ready to answer a question aimed at the serious Who fan.

Here it is: In the clip below, McGann clearly regenerates into a visually younger Hurt and we know he ages into angry old Hurt if you've followed the series. So, do Time Lords have control over their physical aging? Recall that Matt Smith's doctor took a long hiatus between the Ponds and meeting Clara but hadn't aged a day.

Yet for young Hurt to age to old Hurt that we're going to see in this weekend's Day of the Doctor, has a significant amount of time passed or did he just age himself into an old man? Seriously, this is the most important question you'll be asked this week.

If you do decide to take a stab at an answer, please provide supporting evidence.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Sometimes the world's beauty is truly stunning.

Below is a picture of Horsetail Falls in Yosemite National Park. At a certain time of the year, it catches the sun just right and lights up like it's on fire.
Here's what it looks like to live in Dubai on a foggy morning.
Below is a picture of the Beijing Airport by night. It looks like something out of a sci-fi novel.
Below is a highway in Japan surrounded by 10 meters of snow.
Here is an aerial view of the undersea tunnel linking Sweden with Denmark.
Wonder what a lightning storm must be like over the Grand Canyon?
A table and chairs for a couple of giants. It's easily the coolest shelter
for horses I've ever seen and very artistic.
Below is a picture of a pathway in Ireland that lines up with the stars
once a year. Kind of wonderful.
The Rosa Moss Bridges in Ireland
Belgium's hanging restaurant.
A spiral cloud over the Himalayas.
A view of Infinite Cave in Vietnam.
And last but not least, a fireman giving a very thirsty koala a drink during
the Australian fire season.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Randomly I ask how does an egg get its shell? The answer is kind of surprising.

Diagram of the egg factory that is a chicken.
So the other day, I was standing at the stove making scrambled eggs when I wondered, how does a chicken get its shell? It seemed odd to me that a chicken could lay one of these large things every single day and that it could come out in its own package. So I asked Google and found a video that explains it. But here are some facts I also discovered about hens that I find kind of cool.

1) A hen's ovary contains all of the ova it will ever have when its hatched.
2) The ovary begins to convert ova to egg yolks when she is mature.
3) You need the right lighting conditions to get hormones to stimulate ova to develop into yolks.
4) Yolks are released from the ovary into the oviduct when they reach the right size and travel down the oviduct to acquire their whites, membranes, color, and shell.

Anyway, below is a short video that explains how the actual shell takes shape. I thought I'd share it in case any of you out there also wondered how an egg got its shell. If you are one of these curious people, watch and learn. :) It's actually pretty interesting.

Have a great Tuesday.

Monday, November 18, 2013

47 Ronin is going to be everything that Dungeons & Dragons Oriental Adventures wanted to be.

47 Ronin is the movie that brings everything in this book to life on the screen.
As all of you know, I'm a total nerd. I've been looking forward to the Desolation of Smaug just like every other guy in the world. But the more and more I see of 47 Ronin, the more I'm convinced that this is probably going to be the best fantasy movie of the year. And that's a tall order when the other fantasy movie is one that has a magical talking dragon and a plethora of wizards, elves, and dwarves.

This Christmas' 47 Ronin is what is called in Japan, a chūshingura. It's got the same story of 47 leaderless samurai and their quest for revenge after their master is murdered, but it is set in a fantastical world that has ki-rin, wizards, dragons, trolls, and even tengu.
Pirate Island. Click to Embiggen
It is often said of great projects that "the devil is in the details." 47 Ronin honors this by making every single detail count, and that's why I think it's going to be a mind-blowing motion picture. In the Lord of the Rings boxed set, I remember watching several of the dvd extras and sitting flabbergasted at the production values. For example, they made miles and miles of chain mail, crafted high-quality unique weapons, and spent hours fussing over costumes and language. The same can be said of 47 Ronin.
Click to Embiggen
According to those who have seen clips of this film, everything is stunning. When the lord of the samurai dies, there are so many cherry blossoms that every single gust of wind floats a flower across the screen. The main star of the film, Keanu Reeves, actually learned Japanese so that he could be more convincing in the role. Everyone gets costumes down to the guy that stands in the background with no speaking part. Even dogs that aren't important to the film have costumes! Pastoral shots contain supernatural tidbits: giant statues are carved into the country's horizons, a character doesn't live in a castle but in a fortress on the top of a snowy mountain, and the pirate ship island is an entire island of pirate ships all strung together to make a floating city on the ocean. Nothing is understated and even the tiniest of details matters. There's a scene with handmaidens wearing a cream kimono with an important tree on the back. If they all stand together, they are actually a Japanese screen with the tree spanning complete through each and every one. In other words, each of the girls has a piece of the tree.

In the clip below, a witch draws a man's hatred out of his body and turns it into a living spider. It's really interesting and gives you a sense of how strange and magical this movie is going to be. I think 47 Ronin is going to be everything that Dungeons & Dragons Oriental Adventures wanted to be.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Will Jean-Claude Van Damme forever be known for his incredible splits? Yep

The question for this weekend, people, is will Jean-Claude Van Damme forever be known for his incredible splits? The short answer is ABSOLUTELY. This commercial by Volvo that reportedly only took one take is stunning. I grew up watching this guy kick other guys around the screen. But the movie was never quite finished unless you saw him do the splits at least once. I've missed you Jean-Claude; you're the man. Below is the complete commercial so that you can view it for yourself. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Flash and Nightwing are both coming to Arrow and that makes me excited

I am super excited that actor Grant Gustin is playing The Flash on this season's
Arrow. However, even more exciting is the fact that he's getting his own series.
The Flash totally deserves a series to make up for that awful one about twenty
years ago (yes it still haunts my dreams). Oh and he's Barry Allen. I like Barry
so that's a great choice. Wally West was always a little "meh" to me.
Marvel may be the undisputed ruler of the silver screen, but DC is really making a strong showing on the CW, and I've gotta say it's pretty cool. Sure, one could argue that DC's properties "The Dark Knight" and "Superman" are always money makers. But outside of those properties, I really can't think of any that are a success. In comparison, Marvel has Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, the Avengers, and will probably add Dr. Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy to that very soon. What does DC have? Ben Affleck playing yet another version of Batman only this time he gets to beat up on Superman. I'll go and see it, but I don't expect it to be spectacular in the same way that last year's The Avengers managed to be.

In contrast, however, Marvel has no showing on mainstream television that really grabs my attention. I've been watching Agents of Shield dutifully on Tuesday, but to be honest, I've almost fallen asleep twice during that show. I think I expected it to be more exciting, and it just has failed to live up to my perhaps "unrealistic expectations."

I suppose that the biggest surprise of all has been how much I love Arrow. I mean...I REALLY LOVE ARROW. I look forward to it every Wednesday, because the first season just blew me away. I never thought Oliver Queen could be so interesting. In Smallville he was some decent eye-candy and kind of/sort of was made interesting because of his association with random guests that showed up that happened to have a tie to the Justice League.

Since that time, the CW has reinvented Arrow as more than just a Batman clone. For one, he doesn't have nearly the extent of emotional baggage that Batman has. Ollie doesn't brood. He's a man of action and I love the flashbacks to his time on the island that became the crucible where all of his combat and survival skills were forged. Plus as Sarah Falen pointed out in a private conversation with me, it's cool when the hero gets beat up and Ollie gets smacked around a lot.
Nightwing is Robin all grown up. 
To add to this mix is a fully dynamic world that isn't afraid to introduce any and all elements of the DC Comics universe that make it super awesome. We've got the Birds of Prey in the form of Huntress and Black Canary! We have Raas al Ghul, perhaps Batman's most dangerous villain. If that isn't enough, the League of Shadows is everywhere and does that mean Bane is right around the corner? We've also got Flash being introduced in just a couple of episodes (and he's getting his own series soon thereafter) and I learned just last night that Nightwing is on his way into Arrow!
Actor Steven McQueen getting ready for his role as Nightwing on Arrow. I think
it's awesome that we live in a day and age where guys can actually have the bodies
of the superheroes that they play. I imagine it's pretty hard getting these roles. And
for those of you that don't know, this Steven McQueen is classic Steve McQueen's
grandson so good looks run in the family.
How awesome is that?!

For those of you who are at a complete loss as to who Nightwing is, he's Dick Grayson a.k.a. the first Robin who studied under Batman. He joined the New Titans where he fell in love with an outerspace princess by the name of Koriander (Starfire) and took the name Nightwing.

ZOMGAH! Seriously...this is so frickin' awesome. If they bring in Nightwing, they'll probably introduce Starfire at some point and then maybe we'll get Raven and some of the other New Titans. We could even be looking at a scenario where Batman shows up and that would be

I think that the CW is my favorite network. They've done such a great job with DC that I absolutely can't wait for the series "Amazon" slated for 2014. And no, this isn't about the bookseller. It's about Diana Prince a.k.a. Wonder Woman, and I won't be surprised to see them introduce the title character in an episode of Arrow in 2014.