December 31, 2007

Benjamin Barker: The Barber of Fleet Street

I'd like to wrap up the end of 2007 with a review of Tim Burton's latest. I saw it yesterday at 8:00 p.m. at the Providence Place Mall. If you look at the ticket stub over there on the left, you would have seen that I was lying to you, you gullible twit. Now that I have destroyed your trust in me, let's get on with the review.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, is directed by Burton and stars his regularly casted actors Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. Tim's team would have been complete if Danny Elfman provided the soundtrack, but in his stead is Stephen Sondheim, who does an excellent job. I saw this movie because Johnny Depp is so dreamy I'm a big fan of Burton's work.

The style is decidedly Burton-esque, anything less would have been a letdown. It's a dark movie in style and atmosphere, aside from a daydream sequence. And Burton's trademark black and white stripe combo makes an appearance as well.

The film starts with Sweeney Todd and a young sailor named Anthony Hope arriving in London from Australia. While Hope is hopeful of finding a good life there, Todd's aspirations are different. London is where he spent most of his years, and when his sweet life soured he found himself sentenced to life imprisonment in Australia by a crooked judge who wanted Todd's wife for his own. But the former Benjamin Barker escaped and assumed the name Sweeney Todd and dedicated himself to literally taking the lives of those who figuratively took his own. Barker/Todd was a barber on London's Fleet Street, so he returns to his old shop which is now situated on top of the worst bakery in the city. The bakery's proprietor, Nellie Lovett, is an old acquaintance of his wife's, and she laments that Mrs. Barker took her own life with poison. A bit of a kook herself, Lovett lets Todd reopen his barbershop, mostly because she is attracted to him. When Todd reenters his old place of business, he finds his set of silver shaving razors hidden under the floorboards, which become the tools of his wrath. His first victim is a rival barber named Signor Pirelli, who recognizes Todd as the former Ben Barker. He declares that he will blackmail Todd, but the demon barber "cuts" off his attempt. Signor had a child lackey named Tobias, who is then hired by Mrs. Lovett after claiming he was abandoned by his now former employer.

Meanwhile, the young man that Todd returned to London with is sitting on a bench across the street from a luxurious house when he hears a beautiful singing voice. He looks to the window it came from and spies a young, pretty blonde woman. It appears to be love at first sight when they lock eyes, and as Hope goes for a closer look, the door opens and an older gentleman ushers him inside. It turns out that the man who lives there is the main target of Sweeney Todd's vengeance, Judge Turpin, and the young lady is his adopted daughter Johanna Barker. Turpin himself is interested in Johanna, and threatens Hope with death if he ever shows his face again. Undeterred, Hope plans on stealing Johanna away and goes to look for Sweeney Todd for assistance.

Speaking of the judge, he soon makes his way to the barbershop and Todd finally sees his chance at retribution. But Hope bursts into the room right before he can do the job. Turpin, upon seeing the youth, is outraged by the company that the barber keeps and storms out of the shop. Todd is enraged after seemingly losing his opportunity for payback, but his anger is quelled when Hope tells him about Johanna, whom he realizes is his daughter. They devise a plan that will see Hope entering the judge's house with a key Johanna threw him from the window, and bringing her safely to the shop.

Thinking that his chance for justice has slipped through his fingers, Todd starts to go crazy, deciding that everyone in the world deserves nothing but death. Everyone who is to enter his barbershop for a shave and a haircut will get their necks cut instead. Lovett, wondering how they will dispose of the corpses, suggests that she use them to improve the quality of her meat pies. And that's when the killing spree begins, the barbershop, and in turn the bakery, enjoying heavy business. Back at the judge's house, Turpin discovers that Johanna is packing a suitcase and realizes she is planning to escape, so he sends her away to an insane asylum until she "learns her lesson". At the brink of executing his plan, Hope sees Johanna being packed into a carriage and taken away to a location unknown to him. Wandering the streets, he is fortunate to spy her in the window of the asylum, but can not find a way inside.

When Hope returns to Todd, the barber suggests he pose as an apprentice wigmaker, as the hair of the asylum's inmates are used for that very purpose. The plan succeeds as Hope makes his way in and tells the asylum's keeper that he is looking for blonde locks. He is led to a room full of fair-haired damsels, with Johanna amongst them. He rescues her by revealing a gun and using it to hold off the warden as they escape.

Tobias, the young boy who works in the bakery, becomes suspicious of what kind of person Sweeney really is, which leads to Lovett locking him inside her kitchen to be disposed of later. There, he discovers discarded body parts all over the place and realizes the truth of the pies at last. Todd comes down to kill him off, but Tobias seemingly escapes into the sewer. At the same time, Hope and Johanna, who is dressed as a boy so no one recognizes her, enter the barbershop. Hope tells Johanna to stay there while he goes to fetch a carriage so they can escape and live together in happiness in another location. With Hope gone, Johanna hides inside the trunk within the shop when Todd returns, trailed by Judge Turpin who has decided to get clean-shaven in order to make a better impression on Johanna when he goes to see her. What will happen with all these combustible elements gathered in the same place in the film's final moments? The conclusion features a shocking revelation when a background character turns out to be a key figure in the story, as well as a dramatic end to the tale by an unlikely hero.

Johnny Depp plays the film's protagonist... er, antagonist... let's just say "title character". He starts off as an anti-hero, deciding to limit the body count only to those who wrong him. But he soon evolves into a sadistic murderer when he feels that no one deserves to live anymore, including, as he puts it, himself and his partner in crime Lovett. Speaking of Lovett, played by Tim Burton's life partner Helena Carter, she comes off as a gentler, albeit still crooked, woman who falls in love with Todd and supports his endeavors. Sympathy can be lost for her when she gets the idea of making her pies out of the victims of Todd's "short cuts", but she often laments about the needless killing of innocents and wishes to eventually marry and live a somewhat normal life with him. The Sweeney Todd character himself is quite similar to one of Tim Burton's original creations, Edward Scissorhands. Both have wild hairstyles, pale skin, show little emotion, adorn themselves in dark clothing, and play with sharp objects. But of course, the biggest similarity is that they were both played by the same actor.

My only complaint with the movie is that there was too much singing for my taste. Just about 80% of the dialog is spoken in song. The songs were good and all, it's just that it was unnecessarily much. Although I guess one can't fault the movie because it's based on a stage play. I guess you could say that this movie falls into the horror-musical genre. As for the gore content, there's nothing visceral. Just a lot of gushing blood from severed blood vessels in the neck. If you love musicals but abhor blood, you may want to stay away from this one.

And that's just the way it is.

December 14, 2007

Journey To The Center Of Oz

Frank Baum's young audience spoke again, this time clamoring to know more about the former Wizard of Oz. They also decided that no book about Oz would be complete unless it involved Dorothy. Baum answered their wishes with the next installment in his popular series, called Dorothy and The Wizard in Oz. Like the previous book, most of the adventure doesn't occur within Oz, but in the fairy land that surrounds it. Or rather... beneath it. The first land they go to actually borders The Nome King's Dominions.

And now, your main characters for this excursion into the bizarre world that can't be found on any map:
Dorothy Gale- While on a trip to visit family in California, an earthquake takes her on an unexpected detour.
Zebediah Hugson- Dorothy's second cousin who takes part in her new adventure after the buggy carrying both of them falls far below the earth's crust.
The Wizard- The former ruler of Oz accidentally enters a crack in the ground while trying to land his balloon and rejoins his old acquaintance from Kansas.
Jim The Cab Horse- Zeb's old horse who tows the buggy. He still has a lot of physical endurance, as well as a bad temper.
Eureka The Kitten- Dorothy's pet who thinks herself to be the center of the universe, although quite resourceful.
The Nine Tiny Piglets- The Wizard's pygmy pigs who are part of his magic act.

Now a brief introduction to the new lands our explorers... explore:
The Vegetable Kingdom- The deepest part of the earth where the gravity is so low, one can walk in midair. The citizens are human in appearance, but are actually living vegetables. They don't take too kindly to the meaty intruders, who they accuse of bringing down a rain of stones that damaged their glass homes.
The Valley of Voe- A beautiful country where a fruit grows that renders whomever eats it invisible. The kind people who inhabit this land can only be identified by their voices. Unfortunately, that also goes for the bears who also inhabit this land.
Country of the Gargoyles- Home to hideous monsters who doesn't appreciate trespassers in their land. The most curious quality of this place is that everyone and everything is made of wood.
The Emerald City- Although reunited with old friends, don't think the troubles are over for the adventurers.

You know, I would briefly recap most of the story, sans the final scenes, but it appears that my descriptions of the characters and locations have already done that job. But if that isn't enough to satisfy your curiosity, I guess you have no choice but to pick up a copy yourself and dive right in.

One must wonder why Toto never gained the ability to speak while he was in Oz. I guess because Baum never thought that he would continue writing about it after his first book, so he never considered giving outside animals the gift of speech until more of them started coming in.

And that's just the way it is.

November 28, 2007

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Ozma of Oz: The Movies

After reading the first three stories of the Oz series, I decided to go back and revisit the films that were spawned by them. The first is a film you all probably watched at least once... most likely against your will when you were younger. The Wizard of Oz is Metro-Goldwyn-Myer's musical classic full of quotes and scenes parodied in other works for years. "I'll get you my pretty!" "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!" "I don't think we're in ______ anymore!" Yup, they all came from here. The reason why so many lines are spoofed even today is because everyone will recognize them.

I'm a big fan of how the three farmhands, Miss Gulch, and the phony psychic returned as characters in Dorothy's dream as Scarecrow, Tin Man, Lion, Wicked Witch, and the Wizard. Amusing is the overenthusiastic actings of the characters and their weird little quirks. The Scarecrow is always stumbling because he is an inexperienced walker, Dorothy seems to show more concern over the well being of Toto than herself, The Cowardly Lion's over-effeminate mannerisms, and The Tin Man rusting up. Jeez, those knot-heads most certainly would have gotten on my nerves. Especially that lion. But I do have to give credit to Dorothy's three traveling companions when they went on a witch hunt. The Lion had a bug net, Tin Man had insect spray... and the Scarecrow had a fucking gun. He was going to bust a cap in the witch's ass!

The Wizard himself... that is, the man behind the curtain... is probably the best character in the movie with his zingers and absentmindedness. When the Scarecrow asks the Wizard how he can repay him for the diploma, he quickly replies "you can't". Frank Morgan was the highlight of the film for me. He played the Wizard, the men who guarded the doors to the Emerald City and the Wizard's chamber, the "horse of a different color" chariot driver, and Professor Marvel at the beginning of the movie. Although there was one line he said to the Tin Man after giving him his "heart" that depressed me: "A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others." Rub it in, you hum bug.

I did pay special attention to the scene where the enduring rumor of a stagehand who hung himself in the background plays host. Although it was debunked already and the dead man was proven to be one of the several large birds let loose on the movie set, upon viewing the figure myself, I can't understand how anyone could have confused the emu or ostrich or whatever with a hanging corpse in the first place.

The Wizard of Oz is so far removed from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that you don't even think of the originator when you're watching it, which successfully makes itself its own entity that can be held in a separate regard from the book. That is also the case with the quasi-sequel Return to Oz, somewhat based on The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz, although mostly on the latter.

Auntie Em, looking much younger here than in the first movie, is fed up with Dorothy's claims that she really went to a land of Oz with all its ludicrous inhabitants. Knowing nothing is worse than a young child with an active imagination, she takes her niece to a doctor who has an electric gizmo that can eliminate your dreams. Before this can happen, a storm knocks out the power, and while the doctor and nurse go to check on the power and patients, another young girl comes to lead Dorothy out of the hospital. It turns out that the pained screams coming from the basement are from people whose brains have been damaged by the doctor's "treatments". Unfortunately for the girls, they slip on the muddy bank of a river and fall in. Dorothy manages to find solace in a floating chicken coop, while the fate of her savior is unknown. When Dorothy comes to, she finds herself stranded in a desert, and oddly enough, she is accompanied by Billina, one of the hens from her Kansas farm. Even strangers, she can talk now. Dorothy realizes she is back in Oz, and sets out towards the Emerald City. But Oz has changed for the worst since she was gone. Trees have sprouted everywhere, but yellow brick road is in shambles, and even worse, the Emerald City is in ruins. She is then pursued by an angry pack of Wheelers, people who have wheels at the end of their limbs as opposed to feet and hands. She is lucky to stumble upon a secret passage containing a highly advanced robot named Tik-Tok. Dorothy reactivates him, and Tik-Tok dispatches of the Wheelers and guides her to the decimated Emerald City. In the royal palace, they meet Princess Mombi, who locks Dorothy and Billina in a tower so she may take Dorothy's head when she comes of age. Tik-Tok's functions run down and is unable to aid her. Also in the tower is Jack Pumpkinhead, a man made of a pumpkin and branches. He uses his long arms to reach through and unlock the door. Dorothy rewinds Tik-Tok and steals Mombi's Powder of Life, which has the ability to animate lifeless objects. The group assembles a flying creature by tying together a pair of sofas, utilizing large leaves for wings and mounting the head of an antlered creature called a gump in the front. The magical powder brings the thing to life, and Dorothy, Jack, Billina and Tik-Tok ride it out of the window of the tower. They fly towards the mountain of The Nome King to save the Scarecrow and return the Land of Oz back to its former glory.

The friends Dorothy makes in this movie are more interesting and won't make you roll your eyes with their goofy mannerisms. The Gump has biting wit. Billina has a big attitude for a small chicken. Tik-Tok is brave and noble. And Jack is innocent and light-hearted. And best of all, nobody sings or dances.

Like the first movie, the land of Oz exists only in Dorothy's head. Which means many of the new characters are derived from people and things she sees before falling unconscious.
-The mean head nurse becomes the wicked Mombi.
-Dr. Worley becomes The Nome King, both of whom want to erase Dorothy's memory of Oz.
-Worley's machine becomes Tik-Tok.
-A jack o' lantern becomes Jack Pumpkinhead.
-A medic pushing a squeaky cot becomes a Wheeler.
-The young girl who helps Dorothy escape the hospital becomes Ozma.
-Dorothy's favorite hen from the farm Billina shows up with her, but now with the ability to talk.

Return to Oz introduces Fairuza Balk as the perfect Dorothy Gale, and she has also gone on to star in other notable films such as The Craft and The Waterboy. She did a lot more, those are just the other roles I've seen her in. Yeah, I don't watch too many movies. She is also Wiccan and single, the latter giving me another goal to shoot for in life.

And that's just the way it is.

The Mall of Rhode Island

Anyone who's ever lived in The Ocean State for at least fifteen years is probably very familiar with the Rhode Island Mall. Or at least, its heyday. One of the smallest state's biggest landmarks is now an empty shell of its former glory. At one time, it was bookended by Sears and Filene's. Now it's bookended by Sears and a blank wall.

When I was a tyke, I always used to go there practically every Saturday with my mother. I liked this mall because it was right next to a Toys 'R Us. But there were many great places within to explore as well. Here's a run down of some of the stores that made up the mall at various times of its existence. These are only the ones I remember, and is far from a complete listing.

Stores that are closed

Tape World- just your standard seller of CDs, games and VHS tapes.
Walden Books- I bought the second Jurassic Park novel, The Lost World, there. Also some compilations of the Calvin and Hobbes comic.
Greenhouse Cafe- Food court comprised of Dunkin Donuts, sbarro, Kobe, and some others I can't remember. Early morning shoppers would usually wait here for the other stores to open.
A pet store- Don't recall the name. I purchased my first pet, a small gray mouse, there. Probably even some tropical fish. No trip to this mall was complete without a visit here.
Some kitchen accessories store- Don't remember a name for it, but I think you can figure out what they sold based on my vague description.
Camping store- Unknown name, but can you guess what they offered?
Newport Creamery- A few years ago, this New England staple of restaurants started closing locations everywhere, and this was one of the victims. Too bad, because no Saturday morning trip to the mall was complete without having their Belgian waffles for breakfast.
Filene's- This was eventually shut down after the nearby Warwick Mall expanded their own Filene's.
Foot Locker- Sold athletic footwear.
Athlete's Foot- Sold athletic footwear, and right next to Foot Locker. But I wouldn't want to buy anything there with a name like that.
Aladdin's Castle- Arcade. I think I still have tokens from there.
Saturday Matinee- Bought many Godzilla movies from here. When this store disappeared, the lot was used to showcase a huge selection of comic books. I was lucky to find a rare one I needed there.
Hallmark- Has a way.
Spencer's Gifts- One of the coolest gift stores ever.
Auntie Ann's
- Freshly rolled pretzels of many varieties, I would get a small discount for being a AAA member. Please note the extra "A", for I am not a recovering alcoholic.
Fredrick's of Hollywood- Victoria's Secret's sluttier cousin, and I don't mean that in a bad way. I used to sit on a bench near this store during break and watch the men that passed by it for their reactions. Would they avert their faces? Shift only their eyes towards it? Turn their heads for a second to give a quick look? Or just flat out gawk at it?
Kid watching service- There was a place where parents could drop off their children so they could be free to shop in peace. It was full of colorful furniture and TVs playing mindless kid drivel.
Kay Bee Toys- Where a kid could be a kid.
Claire's- Girl stuff.
Western Union- The fastest way to send money worldwide.

Stores still open as of this writing

Sears- Where I worked for four and a half years. I have many a tale to tell about this place, so stay tuned.
Gamestop, formerly Electronics Boutique- I purchased numerous games there throughout the years, and still do.
Tazi's Gifts- This guy sells really gaudy items, some that you can even have personalized/engraved for that special someone you don't like very much. A few people go in to browse, but no one comes out with anything. Everyone at Sears knew Mr. Tazi himself, as he was always stopping in to check out the clearance priced items and still try to bargain for a lower price. And as the guy who was responsible for marking down everything in Electronics/Home Appliances, it pissed me off. I guess I can't blame the guy. He probably makes nothing from his store.
Bellow's Leather- Open only seasonally. When I first entered my Dark Spirit phase, I went here to try on some leather pants to see if they would suit my new attitude. I determined they were not my style. But the very persuasive store owner did convince me to buy a leather vest.
Mr. B's Coffee Cafe- A small coffee/latte/cappuccino/frappuccino/snack bar. I would stop by here pretty much every afternoon for an ice coffee during my half-hour break. I was such a regular that I didn't have to state my order anymore, as soon as Diane saw me, she grabbed a cup and went to work.
Department of Motor Vehicles- The happiest place on Earth.
The Toy Vault
- I found many great treasures here, and still stop in to buy new comic books. They sell toys that you probably played with as a kid. Now you can buy them again at about five times the price just to keep it in the package with false hopes that it'll be worth big bucks some day.
Silver Dragon- Sells really neat jewelry, statues, and medieval weapons that nobody ever buys. I purchased a ring that has a coffin on it that opens to reveal A CORPSE. Funny thing is, it doesn't fit me, so I have to find a silversmith to make it fit. And I bought it YEARS ago.
Caren Charles- a woman's clothing store that has the misfortune of being at the far end of the mall. Does anyone even know it's there?
U.S.S. Saratoga Museum- Everything you wanted to know about a battleship named after a county in New York.
First Place Sports- Sells some sporting equipment, but mostly shoes, hats, and jerseys.
The Dollar Tree- Supplied Sears employees with snacks that they ate behind the checkout counter.

Why is the Rhode Island Mall still standing? It was actually purchased by Stop & Shop in an effort to prevent the bordering Wal-Mart from converting into a Super Wal-Mart. There was a brief rumor that another arcade was going to open close to Mr. B's, but that never materialized. But the wide open spaces are still used occasionally. The Easter Bunny and Santa Claus still stop by every year. The boy scouts have some annual event where they race tiny homemade cars. One year, there was some kind of talent show with participants singing and/or dancing. (No Paul, I don't think that babe dancing on stage in that slinky red dress was eyeing me as we walked by.) And then there was a fashion show which I declared to anyone that would listen that I would try to model in. Didn't make it. The mall's fountain is still there, but the water spouts very low nowadays. The escalators are always breaking down. The floor tiles are always popping up so they have to be replaced. Powerwalkers stop in every day to walk off their weight and avoid the horrible, horrible outdoors. Hmmm... the few years I worked there, they've always been around with no visible difference in their shapes.

When asked why existing stores don't pack up and go to another location, the owners reply that the rent at the Rhode Island Mall is cheaper. And every holiday season, Sears would rent out some of the empty lots and use them to store excess merchandise and store supplies. I remember helping set up one vacated lot with a TV, speakers, tables, and chairs to be used as a meeting room for the visiting suits and ties of Sears Holdings.

I always believed that new life could be breathed into the RI Mall before half of it was torn down to make way for Wal-Mart and Kohl's, but it would have required a ton of money that I don't think anyone would have been willing to invest. It's already in a great location and a couple of minutes from the Warwick Mall, which already gets fantastic crowds. If they offered a selection of stores that the other didn't have, revamped the look of the mall's interior, and launched a massive advertising campaign, they might have bounced back. And Sears still does a fair enough business for a store that everyone who has worked there recently knows is on its last legs, so that would be a decent amount of customers to venture out into the mall again. They in turn could spread the word. But that's all in the past now. The lighting is dark, its look is dated, and all the empty lots give it a somber mood. All the remaining businesses will probably disappear before any new one would open. Even if completely emptied, the mall will remain just to ensure that Sam Walton's evil empire doesn't expand to drive every other store in Warwick into the gutter. Sure, it's nice that the mall will stand as a piece of history, but it'll be a pathetic and useless hall of abandoned retail caves.

If there's one thing you can still give the mall credit for, it's that it's very clean and secure. There's usually at least one member of mall security that makes rounds in what must be the most mind-numbingly boring beat in the city. The best they do is keep idiot children from trying to run the opposite way on the escalators... when they're operational, of course. Then there is the maintenance staff. At least two of them patrol the mall at any given time to sweep up the one or two pieces of dropped trash a day, mop the floor that no one has walked upon in weeks, and wipe down tables immediately after someone has finished eating at it. Of course, the maintenance crew was noticeably absent during that time when all the illegal immigrants went on a nationwide strike...

For more info on the history of the Rhode Island Mall, check out and do a search on "Rhode Island".
And I'll be damned, it has its own WIKIPEDIA PAGE!

And that's just the way it is.

November 23, 2007

The Y2G Problem

With the year 2000 looming close, man has one fear: the end of civilization. However, it won't be caused by crashing computers, but by massive meteors and killer kaiju. Godzilla 2000 is the second novel in Marc Cerasini's Godzilla series. Don't judge this book by its title, as it is not a novelization of the movie of the same name. This book came out in 1997, while the film was released in 1999. I'm sure you all remember that, as the century came to a close, tacking the number "2000" on everything was in style. This book is notable for being Godzilla's first major foray into the United States. I don't count the brief scene in Destroy All Monsters where Godzilla attacked New York merely by wading next to the city and blowing his breath on a single building. It's also worth pointing out that the TRUE Godzilla took Manhattan one year before the impostor Zilla did in theaters. This book is much longer than the first one, which is appropriate because there's so much more material to work with.

While Godzilla Returns was a single monster affair... I just wish I could remember which one it was... the sequel has the tagline of "The age of monsters has begun..." so we've got some of the Big G's famous co-stars tagging along for some action this time:
Godzilla- the indestructible nuclear monster rises up from the depths of the Mariana Trench and cuts a path of destruction through the United States. What could he be doing so far away from his native Japan?
King Ghidorah- a three-headed gold dragon from space who threatens to annihilate all life on Earth. Capable of spewing gravity beams that can vaporize an army vehicle in an instant.
Mothra- a massive moth who does its best to ensure peace for the Earth. She's equipped with a prism beam fired from her antennae and a pair of twin fairies who communicate with humans on her behalf.
Varan- a dinosaur that has evolved the ability to glide. Tears up real estate in search of his steady diet of humans.
Rodan- a Pteranadon that can fly at supersonic speeds. Can fire a super-heated uranium beam from his beak.
Kamacuras- gigantic mantises with an appetite to match.

The climactic battle is underwhelming when you consider that whenever a kaiju movie features several monsters in its lineup, they usually come together for a colossal brawl. Even Godzilla's old sparring partner Rodan had no part in the final outcome. His entire contribution to the story, in a nutshell (or eggshell), is flying from Alaska to South Dakota, laying an egg which immediately hatches, and then flying back home with his brood. The majority of this time is spent describing how the Special Defense Force goes about trying to stop him. But there is a nice build-up to his appearance, with an old village's shaman talking about how he's having visions of a giant Thunderbird, who was "coming to the places of man, for he may soon be needed". We needed Rodan to destroy a train and lay an egg? I feel safer already. Then there was the rare appearance of Varan, one of Toho's first monsters. He played the part of "wild monster on the loose", terrorizing the populace by feeding on them and toppling various structures. He also landed on a large ship to bask in the sun, much to the chagrin of the ship's crew. Mothra, though barely seen, played a role throughout the whole story by trying to convince a member of G-Force that Godzilla isn't the threat that he is assumed to be. It turns out Mothra was actually leading G to New York to have a showdown with King Ghidorah. As for Ghidorah, we knew he was coming since the beginning, being encased in a meteor that threatened to eliminate all life. But he didn't actually touch down on Earth until the last few chapters, trashing Paris before heading directly to New York and his eventual downfall. And if there's one thing Cerasini should get credit for, it's that he managed to do what no mortal writer has ever managed to do before: he made Kamacuras, the giant praying mantis, a credible threat. A large swarm of them ripped through America's midwest, eating all plant and animal life and laying waste to whatever wasn't edible. It must have been a terrifying time to be in the same region those mutated mantids, knowing nothing would be spared from their rampage.

Cerasini violated a cardinal rule of the Godzilla universe: never have the Special Defense Force victorious against kaiju unless they are utilizing a robot monster themselves. Kamacuras is exterminated, Varan is bombarded with firepower to an inch of his life, Godzilla is put down temporarily and the obscenely powerful Ghidorah has his middle neck blown off by a simple bomb. I can forgive the Kamacuras, merely house-sized insects, being taken down, and will even allow the idea that Godzilla's weaker cousin Varan can be fended off by the military like he was in his own movie, but King Godzilla and King Ghidorah are supposed to be indestructible to all of Earth's conventional weapons... yes, even American made ones, if you can believe that. The Japanese Special Defense Force is portrayed as being ineffective against their home grown threats, but the almighty American made G-Force goes on a kaiju killing spree. The purpose of the army, navy, and air force in kaiju movies isn't to win, it's to fail in a way that satisfies our desire for destruction. Even when the monster threat is evil, we still want them to crush those trying to save us. When a cast of characters we don't care about dispatch the kaiju we came to see/read about, it annoys us.

Waaaaaay too much time is spent describing the personal histories of people whose sole purpose in life is to be squashed. We don't care how an off-duty police man has concocted an elaborate plan to meet a pretty jogger at the beach, and we don't want to read about it for four pages only to have him die on the fifth. The worst is at the end, where Cerasini devotes a few pages to the humans that we forgot about as soon as their scene ended and the next kaiju one took place. Also seen in the book is Nick Gordon, a barely tolerable main character from the prequel. He is unmercifully dropped in press conferences, newscasts, and even as a witness to the final battle. The human cast in the previous book was better because there were less of them and more time was spent developing them. Here, Godzilla, Rodan, Varan, the Kamacuras, and King Ghidorah have their own plot points devoted to them, as well as their own small cast of human characters to react to them. Instead of reporters and NASA scientists, more time should have been devoted to G-Force, the people whose lives revolve around those this book exists for.

Much like how he described the horrific experience of being incinerated by Godzilla's nuclear breath in Godzilla Returns, Cerasini now tells us how it must feel to be splattered with G's radioactive blood and skin tissue. We seldom think about how every explosion that tears Godzilla's flesh must spray a considerable amount of gore all around the battlefield. One especially unlucky person ended up being showered with the stuff. He became violently ill, throwing up and feeling convulsions in his stomach, until just falling unconscious. We also were treated to a bonus fight where one natural disaster took on another: Godzilla vs. Tornado!

An awesome cover by Bob Eggleton depicts the kaiju apocalypse, with Godzilla rearing his head over a beam-spitting King Ghidorah as Rodan soars through the background. Although it would have been more appropriate to include Mothra in Rodan's place as the insect monster was the one who played a role in the final battle.

There's also a reference to that atrocious Blue Oyster Cult song Godzilla. That's right, I said it. I'm a Godzilla fan who hates that song.

And that's just the way it is.

November 9, 2007

Return to Oz: The Book

Kids couldn't get enough of Oz. They pestered Frank Baum for further Oz adventures and wanted to hear more about Dorothy in particular. LFB was only happy to oblige, and set to write the greatest Oz epic yet. Ozma of Oz follows the further adventures of the new princess and her allies. Although a little shorter than the previous two stories, this one pits our friends against their greatest challenge ever.

Here is the cast this time around:
Dorothy Gale of Kansas- Traveling with Uncle Henry to Australia via ship, Dorothy falls overboard and uses a lost chicken coop to survive the storm-swept waters.
Billina- a yellow hen who also survived being lost overboard with Dorothy. She has the ability to talk, and is a proud bird who doesn't take guff from man nor nome.
Tik-Tok- a mechanical man made of copper. His brain, movement, and speech require winding up with a key to work for a twenty-four hour period and is a loyal friend.
Princess Langwidere- the only member of the Royal Family of Ev left to rule the Land of Ev. She hates her position and wishes to be absolved of her responsibility. She also owns a large array of heads of beautiful women, which she is able to switch with her own as her mood sees fit.
Princess Ozma- the courageous Princess of Oz who sets out with her army to free the Royal Family of Ev from imprisonment in Nome King's palace.
The Scarecrow-Joins Ozma on her mission.
Tin Woodman- Commands the Army of Oz on behalf of Ozma.
The Cowardly Lion- Helps pull Ozma's chariot along, and also is ridden by those slower than he is.
The Hungry Tiger- Friend of the Lion who hardly ever eats because he knows he'll only get hungry again. He refuses to eat living things because of his strong conscience.
The Sawhorse- Resumes his role as a transport, mainly for the Scarecrow. Since his last adventure, he has been plated with gold.
The Army of Oz- Comprised of twenty-seven soldiers: eight Generals, six Colonels, seven Majors, five Captains, and one private. Each rank commands the one below it, until it's up to the lone private to carry out the orders. Fortunately, that private is braver than his officers.
The Nome King- the ruler of the underworld, this deceitful king only wishes to expand his collection of ornaments by enchanting living things into them. He commands magic with a belt of jewels.

The majority of this story doesn't even take place in the Land of Oz, but is set in fairy lands that border it called the Land of Ev and the Dominion of the Nome King. After being cast overboard when the ship taking them to Australia is struck by a powerful storm, Dorothy and Billina are washed up on the shore of Ev. After they are menaced by Wheelers, a race of humanoids with wheels instead of hands or feet, they discover the copper man named Tik-Tok, who formerly belonged to Evoldo, the King of Ev. Evoldo committed suicide over the guilt of selling his wife and ten children to the Nome King. Tik-Tok easily dispatches of the Wheelers and takes Dorothy to the castle of Ev, ruled by the vain niece of the King and Queen. Named Langwidere, she owned a collection of thirty female heads of extraordinary beauty which she could interchange with her own noggin whenever she wanted. It just so happened that she was wearing one of her more bad-tempered craniums when she met Dorothy and her allies. When Dorothy refused to exchange her own pretty head for one in Langwidere's collection, the princess locked her in a tower. Fortunately for little Miss Gale, Ozma and her Emerald City entourage just so happened to be on their way for a visit with Langwidere about setting the Royal Family of Ev free from The Nome King. Dorothy is released, and she joins her friends from Oz along with Tik-Tok and Billina in order to liberate the Queen of Ev and the five princes and five princesses from the Nome King's underworld.

My favorite character in this story is Tik-Tok, a strong and smart robot who knows he is not alive and seems to be proud of that fact. It's at this point that both the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman start to become full of themselves just because of the "gifts" the Wizard gave them. They claim to be better than Tik-Tok just because they're alive, and tell him they are smarter and more caring than he is. The Lion is more humble because he knows that the Wizard really did nothing more than hand them knick-knacks to symbolize the traits that they desired, as he claims he is still a coward. Tik-Tok does a lot more with the qualities he is programmed with than Scarecrow and the Woodman and doesn't brag about it, even going as far as to congratulate them on their so-called advantages. We saw their attitudes coming in the previous book too, with both Scarecrow and Woodman treating Jack Pumpkinhead poorly, who also made due with what he had better than those guys.

In 1985, the greatest year in the history of time, Return to Oz was released by Walt Disney Pictures. It stars a very young Fairuza Balk, who resembles a Dorothy much closer to the stories than the sixteen-year-old Judy Garland did in The Wizard of Oz. The framework of the movie is based on Ozma of Oz, although it contains certain characters, elements, and storylines from The Marvelous Land of Oz. I guess you could say they took ingredients from two different recipes, mixed it up with a few original spices and came up with a damn good cake. Using another food analogy, if The Wizard of Oz was chocolate, Return to Oz is dark chocolate. This definitely was not a musical, and the setting was far gloomier than the shiny happiness in the first movie. Younger audiences may have been frightened by the cruel Mombi, screeching Wheelers and the hideous nomes. But I was a fan when I first saw it, and still am today. If you're the kind of person who may turn their head to Return to Oz and the entire Oz book library because of the bright cheeriness that was the first movie, keep in mind that it's that first film that was a major departure in mood to the source material. As much as I recommend the Oz stories, I also say you should check out Return to Oz if you enjoy the fantasy genre. Like I said for The Wizard of Oz, I believe the Disney sequel is different enough from its source material to avoid having "book better than the movie or vice-versa" arguments.

Differences between Ozma of Oz and Return to Oz:
-No magical slippers this time, those artifacts are replaced with the bejeweled belt.
-Jack Pumpkinhead, The Gump, The Powder of Life, and the storyline about the missing Ozma are carried over from The Marvelous Land of Oz.
-The Scarecrow, The Tin Woodman, and The Cowardly Lion didn't have as big of roles in the movie, the latter two's appearances could probably be called cameos.
-The Emerald City and the yellow brick road are shown torn asunder from chaos in the film, but they are unaffected in the book and only seen at the conclusion.
-I understand there are references to later Oz books in the movie, but I have yet to get that far in the series to call attention to them.

And that's just the way it is.

November 8, 2007

Journey Back to the Marvelous Land of Oz

The children spoke and L. Frank Baum listened. His acclaimed book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz soon had its first of many sequels. Titled The Marvelous Land of Oz, we rejoin old friends and meet many bizarre new ones. Whilst the movie version of the first Oz story was a loose adaptation, the second story didn't fare so well in its transition to film. Elements of it were borrowed to create the animated Journey Back to Oz in 1974. No Dorothy this time around, a boy named Tippetarius (Tip for short) is the lead character.

Meet the main characters of the book:
Tip- A young man who tirelessly does chores for Old Mombi.
Old Mombi- Tip's guardian who buys many spells and potions in an effort to become a witch.
Jack Pumpkinhead- a scarecrow of sorts Tip built from tree parts, old clothes, and topped off with a pumpkin. Dimwitted, but occasionally has a good idea. Constantly worries about his head spoiling.
Sawhorse- an abandoned wooden sawhorse that Tip brings to life. Ridden by Jack Pumpkinhead so his shoddy limbs won't wear out.
General Jinjur- a young girl who has built an army of women who want to storm the Emerald City and rule the Land of Oz themselves.
His Majesty The Scarecrow- After being appointed King of Oz at the end of the first story, The Scarecrow finds his rule challenged by Jinjur's troops.
Nick Chopper The Tin Woodman- Now with a new name, the Emperor of Winkie Country rejoins his old friend Scarecrow to help him regain control of Oz.
Mr. Highly Magnified Woggle-Bug, Thoroughly Educated (H.M. Woggle-Bug, T.E.)- A large insect with great intellect, he helps come up with good ideas to aid Tip, Jack, Scarecrow, and Tin Woodman in their bid to reclaim the Emerald City.
The Gump- Brought back to life by the Powder of Life, the disembodied head of an elk-like creature is attached to a pair of sofas and given large leaves for wings. He is the main mode of transport for the group.
Ozma- The missing and true descendant for the rulership of Oz. In order to restore order to the land, Tip's party must locate her.

The story begins in the north section of Oz known as Gillikin Country. A young man named Tip makes a break for freedom from his cruel guardian Mombi. He brings along his creation Jack Pumpkinhead, who was brought to life by the Powder of Life, which is magic he stole from Mombi. Along the way, he also uses the powder on an abadoned sawhorse to act as Jack's steed. When Tip learns that an army wishes to seize control of the Emerald City and the whole Land of Oz in the process, he and Jack head to the city to warn its king, the Scarecrow. With the danger imminent, the king escapes with his new friends to join up with The Tin Woodman to lend a hand in restoring order. They also team with a large and genius Woggle-Bug who offers his great knowledge. The party decides the wise and powerful Good Witch of the South Glinda may have a plan to liberate the Emerald City from its captors. Glinda declares the only one who can rightfully rule Oz is the daughter of the King who was in power before The Wizard blew into town. So the mission is on to find the missing princess and finally restore Oz to its rightful ruler.

Much like the first story, the adventure takes place all over Oz, and there's no shortage of curiosities to behold. My favorite character in this installment is Jack Pumpkinhead for his amusing banter with the Scarecrow. As Jack is constantly worried about his fruit head being destroyed, Scarecrow always looks on the bright side by suggesting that he could make a good pie or his seeds could be used to produce more pumpkins. None of these things reassure Jack in the least. The story concludes with a twist that would make M. Night Shyamalan envious. So with an Oz-wide journey, cool new characters, light humor, and a clever ending, I highly recommend this story as I did for the previous installment.

In another example of "signs of the times", this story contains yet another word that meant one thing in the early 1900s, but has taken on a completely new meaning in the late 2000's. And it was a difference I wasn't even aware of. Apparently... ejaculate was another word for "shouting in an excited manner". Here's a sentence I could get away with a century ago but wouldn't dare say aloud now: "I may be a bit queer, but I'm gay about it! And I'll ejaculate it to anyone who has a problem with that!"

And... um... that's just the way it is.

The Lion King of the World

I haven't been a fan of pro-wrestling since 2003, but I'll always dive into the biographies of wrestling personalities I've been familiar with during my fandom. One of my favorites is Chris Irvine, who has had many nicknames throughout his career. But they've always revolved around his most well known alias: Chris Jericho. A Lion's Tale: Around the World in Spandex is the tome encasing a majority of Jericho's life that you have and haven't seen on television.

From his beginnings as the son of hockey legend Ted Irvine to becoming a legend in his own right, Chris Jericho's life is a success story where he set his goal to become a World Wrestling Federation superstar, and accomplished that and so much more along the way. He went on a world-wide tour through countries like Canada, Mexico, Germany, Japan, and various locations within the United States to build experience and reputation. And a lot of crazy stuff went down wherever he went, which Jericho is only too happy to recount for you.

Chris began training in the Hart Brothers Pro Wrestling Camp, despite the fact there was hardly a single Hart present. Even though it wasn't quite the infamous Hart Dungeon of legend, he did eventually find himself down there, too. He graduated the school along with another standout named Lance Storm and the two traveled to many shows around Canada together, usually paired as a tag team. The future Paragon of Virtue eventually found his way to Mexico where he adopted his Lion Heart moniker. It wasn't long before his face was plastered in magazines and TV... oh, and in the hearts of fans of course. He also went to Germany to participate in a tournament that was poorly organized. He spent some time in the now defunct US promotion Smoky Mountain Wrestling. Then it was off to the pro-wrestling paradise of Japan, competing in the WAR promotion. He participated in prestigious tournaments and even joined the heel (bad guy) group that inspired the nWo.

Feeling he was finally ready to make it big in America, Chris Jericho entered the original incarnation of Extreme Championship Wrestling and spends a brief time speaking of the chaotic atmosphere, provided by the fans and head honcho Paul Heyman. He lasted there for half a year before signing with the number two, although soon to be number one, wrestling company in the States, World Championship Wrestling. While there, Jericho was not only a conspiracy victim in a storyline, but real life as well. No matter how great his matches were or the fan reaction he was raising, the powers that be in WCW just did not want to get behind him, instead sticking with their guns and keeping Hogan and the New World Order in the spotlight. Much like most wrestlers who spent considerable time in Dubya Say Dubya, Jericho isn't too kind towards former boss Eric Bischoff.

Besides his wrestling career, Jericho takes time to discuss family and friend tragedies, meeting the love of his life, and his numerous forays into the music world. The latter cultivated when he joined the band Fozzy Osbourne, now shortened to just FOZZY. Originally, they only did covers, but now they create original pieces.

A Lion's Tale is a great and lengthy read, odd considering he hardly touches base with his World Wrestling Entertainment career. It's where he attained supreme stardom. Could this possibly mean a book chronicling Y2J's rise from the savior of the World Wrestling Federation to the King of World Wrestling Entertainment? After all, at the time of this writing (blogging) he is ready to set back in the squared circle with the WWE.

Chew on this for a while: Jericho has worked for Jim Cornette, Paul Heyman, Eric Bischoff, and Vince McMahon. How's that for a mind-fuck? If you had put those guys in the same room together in the late 90's, you'd have what's known in wrestling as a "shoot" fight. That means theatrics go out the window and the fists fly for real.

The book is loaded with Jericho's attitude, told in his own words. And I do mean own words, as he uses plenty that he's made up himself. As a writer who does that himself, I applaud him. Chris Jericho became a larger than life superstar and a greater rock and roll wrestler than Hulk Hogan. Everything Terry Bollea can do, Chris Irvine can do better. Hell, this book is worth reading just to find out what Hogan asked Jericho at the end of Owen Hart's funeral.

After turning the last page in this story, I gained a whole new outlook on the professional wrestling scene outside my own country. It also gave credibility to a phrase birthed after the boom period of wrestling's popularity ended. "Wrestling: In Canada, it's a tradition. In Japan, it's a sport. In Mexico, it's a religion. In America, it's a joke."

And that's just the way it is.

Miles Edgeworth: Star Prosecutor

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is the first in a series of court simulation games for Nintendo's dual screen hand held. Originally developed for Gameboy Advance in Japan, Capcom took a gamble and had them ported to the highly successful DS platform for an American release. They shipped out a very limited quantity as they were unsure if Westerners would go for this new take on the point and click genre. I guess since the rest of the series was quickly localized for our side of the ocean that it was received very well.

The instruction manual reminds the gamer that "All characters, laws, and legal matters in this game are works of fiction." Pay particular attention to the last two. The setting of this game is a few years in the future where the proceedings for court cases are a bit different. Trials for crimes are held pretty much the day after they are committed. Cases last for a maximum of three days, so both lawyers and prosecutors must dig up as much info on defendants and witnesses as they can to prepare for trials.

There's a colorful cast of characters, many whom have supporting roles in most of the cases featured in this game. You play the part of Nick "Phoenix" Wright, rookie attorney. He's smarter than you are, which can make playing difficult since you have to choose his actions. Then there's your arch-rival Miles Edgeworth, the headstrong star prosecutor who is rumored to go to any lengths to ensure a guilty verdict. Mia Fey is your boss and mentor, and her little sister Maya is a psychic-in-training who becomes your assistant. Another regular face you'll see is Dick Gumshoe, a slightly dimwitted but reliable detective who will give you valuable info on your cases.

The game is rated T for Teen for the following reasons:
-Suggestive Themes: Slight sexual innuendo from one witness in the second case, but nothing that will turn any youngins that play this into sexual deviants.
-Language: Damn and Hell. But never in the same sentence if that counts for anything.
-Blood: Each and every single case in this game is a murder charge. You'll see blood-stained evidence and cut scenes that show the murder as it happens. Nothing visceral, though.
-Violence: Goes hand in hand with murder, doesn't it?

There are five cases in all, but don't think you'll blow through this game in a day. Each takes a progressively longer time to complete. The first case is a tutorial of sorts, beginning and ending in one courtroom session. The following four cases take two to three days for a satisfying verdict to be reached. The usual process of a case is that you find a client convicted of a crime they claim they didn't commit. After interviewing him or her, you go to the scene of the crime, talk to people involved with the case and investigate the area. When you believe you have enough information to form a good defense in court, you enter the courtroom phase of the scenario and listen to witness testimonies. You try to look for holes in what they say and present gathered evidence to contradict them. If the judge feels there isn't a satisfying conclusion reached by the defense and the prosecutor, he will extend the case for another day. Based on the events that occurred in court, you get to go back into the world to question more people and snoop around more locations for evidence. This cycle continues until the maximum three days is reached, when a verdict must be rendered based on the finds of the defense and the prosecution.

It may sound boring by the way I explain it, but that's just an outline of how the game plays out. The characters are humorous and the courtroom proceedings are dramatic, and you'll oftentimes think that there's no way you can find your client not guilty and may even believe they are in fact cold-blooded killers. But soon you submit that one piece of substantial evidence that will break down an entire witness' case and you'll see your client in a whole different light.

Three words describe the gameplay of this game card: Reading, searching, and thinking. It's especially wordy during the court sessions, so it would be wise to save your game when you get to a point where you have to present evidence. You see, the only way to get a game over in Phoenix Wright is if you incorrectly try to contradict a witness' testimony five times. If that happens, you start over at the beginning of that day's court proceedings. That may not seem like a big deal, but due to all the text you have to go through, plus remembering which parts of a testimony to either press on or present evidence on, it can be a lengthy and tedious process to return to where you were before you last lost. But when you save with a few tries left, and end up losing them all, you can go back to the case at the exact moment you last saved, hopefully a bit wiser than you were before.

I personally loved this game, but if you prefer a lot of action to reading and thinking, you may have a different experience. Since this game is long out of print, you should be able to pick it up at a bargain price at a used games outlet. If this review is enough to pique your interest, then playing the actual game will demand your attention until the last case is solved. And guess what? At the time of this writing, there are two other Phoenix Wright titles available now, with another on the horizon. I also hear there's a Phoenix Wright manga that is being imported from Japan, localized in English, and sold on our shores sometime soon. You may hate lawyers, but you'll love Phoenix Wright.

The only one you'll hate at the end of it all is that fucking judge.

And that's just the way it is.

November 4, 2007

The Wizard of Oz: The Book

Like many great Hollywood films of this year, yesteryear, and probably next year, beloved classic The Wizard of Oz was adapted from a book. Written by L. Frank Baum in 1900, when queer meant strange and gay meant happy, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was meant to be a modern fairytale devoid of all the depressing endings of Grimm's classics. They weren't called "Grimm" for nothing. If you only know this tale by the similarly titled movie, you'd probably be surprised to know that it's only the first of FOURTEEN stories that took place in the fantastic world of Oz. The only known sequels to the The Wizard of Oz film are the animated Journey Back to Oz and Return to Oz, the latter being one of my favorite movies. Walt Disney Studios, who produced Return to Oz, never took advantage of the cash cow the Oz series could have been. I'm not sure who holds the film rights to the books now, but I feel if they could get their act together they could produce a movie franchise of Lord of the Rings proportions.

There is always a debate about whether or not the book a movie is derived from is the superior version, but I feel The Wizard of Oz is different enough to stand on its own. While the movie is a whimsical musical, the original work is a darker tale full of unknown danger and amazing discoveries. Let's examine some of the unique qualities of the book:
-More oddball lands to explore and the citizens who reside in them.
-The Wicked Witch of the West isn't the "be all to end all" evil here.
-The Cowardly Lion is a real lion, and still talks.
-Glinda is the witch of the south, not the north, and only plays a part in the end.
-The slippers are silver rather than ruby.
-Descriptive origins of Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and the Lion, as well as what they do with their lives at the conclusion.
-The Land of Oz is real as opposed to a dream.
-The story is far from over after the Wizard takes off in the balloon. If Metro Goldwyn Myer wanted to faithfully adapt the pages to celluloid, the movie would have been at least four hours as opposed to 103 minutes. And it's not even wordy padding either, there's a lot more to the adventure than you've ever seen.

There are countless more differences between the two versions to make the book worth checking out for fans of the movie. I also wholly recommend the book to people who are fans of the fantasy genre itself. Personally, I'm not that big a fan of the movie, but the book it's based on I can't suggest for you to check out enough. Even though it was written at the start of the twentieth century, it doesn't contain any old-time words that have fallen into disuse. It's easy enough for today's children to understand, but a great read for all ages.

And that's just the way it is.

October 11, 2007

Super Mario Lands On Gameboy

Sarasaland has been taken over by a slimy extraterrestrial named Tatanga. He has kidnapped Princess Daisy with the intention of marrying her and brainwashed the inhabitants to do his bidding. The plumber with a passion for princesses known as Mario decides to further his heroic resume by purging this land of evil.

Mario must venture through four kingdoms, each comprised of three stages, that make up Sarasaland.
-Birabuto is a desert land populated by insects that hop around, as well as fly and drop spears. You'll head into the treetops as you make your way to an Egyptian styled temple, decorated with hieroglyphics and guarded by a fire spewing lion named King Totomesu.
-Muda is a water land with spaceships and robots that launch their heads at you. Fish bones and sea horses that spit fireballs will leap out of the water to try and take you out. The last stage lets you navigate a submarine known as the Marine Pop, utilizing torpedoes to take out aquatic adversaries and the boss, a sea dragon named Dragonzamasu, who spits (apparently water-proof) fireballs at you.
-Easton features enemies that take after the legendary moai statues of Easter Island. There are stone heads that hop with wings, and others with arms that chase after you with great speed. After navigating two spider-infested temples, you'll encounter a boulder-chucking moai called Hiyoihoi.
-Chai may as well stand for "chinese", because it has a very Asian atmosphere to it, from the music to the background design. There are demons that hop around and pop back up after being stomped on, as well as walking plants that spit deadly seeds into the air. You'll take to the skies in the final leg of your journey in a plane called the Sky Pop, which controls like the Marine Pop you rode in previously. The boss in the sky is a bird-dispensing cloud called Biokinton. Upon evaporating it, Tatanga immediately appears to try and stop Mario himself.

The only familiar series character in this game is Mario. There's also foes that resemble Goombas, Koopa Troopas, Piranha Plants, and Bullet Bills but they are known as Chibibo, Nokobon, Pakkun Flower, and Gira. The turtle-oids in this outing have bombs on their backs rather than shells, so you best clear out after stomping them. The only lasting feature to come out of this game is the introduction of Princess Daisy, the damsel in distress this time around. She also does the old "your princess is in another castle" routine, except instead of rescuing her servants, you find a mock Daisy that morphs into an enemy and flees.

Power-ups in this adventure include Super Mushrooms, a flower that gives you a ricocheting Superball rather than fireballs, and an invincibility star that plays The Can Can when it's caught. 1ups are represented by hearts instead of mushrooms.

This entry in the Mario series occurs between Super Mario Bros. 2 and Super Mario Bros. 3. For the first and probably last time, a Mario title launched simultaneously with a new game console was overshadowed. Although you'll understand why because the other title was none other than Tetris, making its handheld debut and usually included in the package of the Gameboy unit itself.

The graphics aren't recycled sprites from the first Mario game, save for the Super Mario sprites. This makes it feel like you're in a whole different land instead of a rearranged Mushroom Kingdom. Nice game to blow through in about half an hour if you're good at it. The music is memorable and upbeat. Besides its short length, the major gripe about this game is how it controls. Hit detection seems to be a bit off, especially if you try bopping multiple foes at once. Mario also falls a lot faster than he did in the original Super Mario Bros., making it slightly harder to land on smaller surfaces after a jump.

And that's just the way it is.

October 4, 2007

The Rock's Game Plan

The Game Plan is the latest movie of pro-wrestler turned actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, this one put out by Walt Disney Pictures. This is Disney's latest attempt to take rough 'n tough action film bad asses and cast them in humbling roles. Remember The Pacifier? First it was Vin Diesel singing a lullaby, now it's The Rock in a ballet. Eh, he's had less macho roles before. Remember his gay bodyguard character in Be Cool? That's not a knock either, he was absolutely FABULOUS in that movie. Anyway, since I'm such a mark for The Rock, I had to see this.

I used a gift certificate to pay for my ticket... it's been years since I actually used cash to for one. Even though The Game Plan was #1 in the box office the previous weekend, the theater was empty except for a father and son who came in just as the open credits started. This movie review outlines most of the movie, so don't read any further if you plan on watching it soon.

The Scorpion King is now Joe Kingman, a star football player for a fictional team called The Boston Rebels. He has state-of-the-art furnishings for his apartment, a trophy girlfriend, million dollar endorsements, and the love of the fans. One thing he appears to be lacking, a notion reinforced by one of his married with children teammates, is a stable companion. Evidently, his girlfriend seems to enjoy going on extended trips to places like Paris. All this changes one day when the doorman for the apartment complex calls Joe to inform him that a cute girl wishes to see him. Naturally Joe tells him to send her up. When he opens the door, he looks down to see a kid named Peyton who claims to be his daughter. Shocked, Kingman denies having a child until he remembers a romantic interlude he had with an old flame right before breaking up with her. Peyton claims that her mother is in Africa doing charity work and sent her to meet her estranged father with the intention of him playing the part of babysitter.

Totally unprepared for the responsibility of parenthood (that's right folks, The Rock "doesn't know his role"), Kingman does everything from trying out a babysitter to enrolling her in ballet class. The teacher of the ballet school, a Puerto Rican doll named Monique, is unimpressed with Kingman's fame and insists that he take an active role in an upcoming performance. He reluctantly goes along with it and discovers that the training regimine of the petite and nimble ballerinas is enough to reduce Kingman into an aching, sweaty lump. As time goes on, Monique becomes more and more enamored with Joe's commitment to his daughter. Good thing too, because Joe's other flame doesn't seem particularly thrilled with the revelation of a secret daughter.

While at a restaurant, Peyton has an allergic reaction to nuts, causing Kingman to rush her to the hospital on foot, as heavy traffic conditions would have made waiting for an ambulance too time consuming. While she recuperates, a woman named Karen shows up claiming to be Peyton's guardian, and she's none too happy with some of Kingman's heavily publicized parenting mistakes, as well as the current hospital situation. It appears that Peyton's mother died in a car accident six months earlier, and appointed her sister to look after her daughter. It turns out that Karen was the one who went to Africa and sent Peyton to stay at a local ballet academy. However, Peyton took it upon herself to divert her cab to drop her off with her father instead so she could get to know him. With Peyton feeling better, Karen returns home with her.

The finale of the movie involves the Boston Rebels in a championship game, giving Kingman the chance to win something that's eluded him his entire career, and that's the championship ring. But Joe's heart isn't into it now that his daughter is no longer with him. Not only does he perform poorly, but a rough tackle appears to be enough to take him out of the game. Watching the game on television, Karen decides that Peyton belongs with her father after all, and takes her to the stadium to give him the confidence boost that he needs. Kingman forces himself not only back onto the field, but with the rigor that made him the most acclaimed star in the sport. The Boston Rebels do win the game in the end, but Kingman wins something even more important, and that's a family.

This movie must have been custom made for The People's Champion. Rock is a former football star with college team the Miami Hurricanes. The Joe Kingman character is also shown to be a major Elvis fan, much like The Rock. Those of you who are fans of both Elvis and Rock's melodic vocal chords should be happy that he sings a little bit of The King in this movie, even strumming a guitar. And much like his days back in World Wresting Entertainment, Rock and Kingman are the biggest stars for their respective industries. When all is said and done, this Disney family film exhibits the value of family and teamwork. Only go to this movie if you're ready to learn life lessons.

Overall, a great film. And unless I missed it... there was no People's Eyebrow anywhere in this film. So if I was grading it, I'd take off a point.

And that's just the way it is.

September 30, 2007

Varan The Underrated

A Siberian butterfly is discovered by a student in a remote region of Japan. This prompts two researchers to head there to do further research. They pass a desolate village where the villagers shy away from the newcomers. They venture into a forest nearby and are able to find another of the red-tailed butterflies. But they also discover something much larger. Or rather, it discovers them.
The institute that the two explorers came from learn that the men were killed, and even more distressingly, their jeep was crushed. So of course three other people (Kenji, Yuriko the reporter, and a camera man) have to go to that exact same area to find out what happened. This time the villagers are found within the forest engaged in some sort of religious ceremony, where they beg "Baradagi" for forgiveness after it was enraged by the trespassing explorers days earlier. However, Kenji denounces their God as superstition, despite the monstrous roar that would occasionally blast through the air. I'm just saying that it didn't sound like thunder, folks. The dog ("CHIBEE! CHIBEE!") of one of the younger villagers runs past a fence marking "the point of no return", prompting his owner to give chase. The village priest forbids any of the other villagers to go after them, lest they anger Baradagi further. But the research group, unafraid of the unknown, decide to rescue them. When they return and declare the boy is safe, the villagers decide that maybe their God isn't real after all, and decide to head out after him. They come upon the bank of a lake, the surface of which begins to foam. The recently converted disbelievers stare in horror as a large reptilian head pokes out of the water. It turns out their "god" is in fact real, and they run for their lives. All except the priest, who tries to repel the fifty meter tall reptile by frantically waving a religious instrument (stick) at him. He is crushed by falling trees. Kenji dubs the monster Varan, a species of dinosaur that somehow managed to survive into the present. Well, the present of 1958. In retaliation for his disturbed sleep, Varan levels the village, then returns to his lake.
Instead of cordoning off the entire lake and leaving the monster in peace so that it won't go on another destructive rampage, the Japanese Special Defense Force decides it would be wiser to agitate Varan out of his lake and destroy it. Because it worked so well against Godzilla (two of them), Anguirus, and Rodan. Of course, it doesn't. The cannon shells explode harmlessly off Varan's skin, prompting everyone to retreat as the spiked dinosaur looked for revenge. After the humans eluded Varan's grasp, they figured it would once again return home. However, it instead climbed a nearby mountain, raised it's arms to reveal flaps of skin connected from his arms to his legs, and proceeded to glide away into the distance.
Varan surfaces in the sea, heading towards Tokyo. Helicopters and battleships are deployed, but their efforts to stop him are futile. Meanwhile, a new type of dynamite is revealed that packs a punch powerful enough to crumble mountains. But it works best if detonated inside its target. The triphibian kaiju eventually surfaces at Japan's capital city and shrugs off firepower from the tanks and missile launchers awaiting his visit. A truck full of the experimental explosive is planted in Varan's path, and when it explodes under him, it seemingly knocks him out. Only for a moment, however, as the creature rises once more and starts his destructive march towards Tokyo's heart. Flares are fired above Varan's head in order to distract him, but it decides to eat them instead. This gives the JSDF the idea of attaching the dynamite to flares so that it can reach its full potential inside of their foe's stomach. The flares are fired, and Varan apparently enjoyed the searing sensation of fire on his tongue as he gulps down two more of them. When one bomb goes off, the creature collapses and begins to stumble back towards the ocean. As soon as he is submerged, a large explosion erupts from the waves, and Japan decides the great Varan is no more.

We are led to assume that Varan died at the conclusion of the film, but the explosion was far bigger in the water than it was when we saw it explode inside the kaiju. My guess is that, whilst in the water and unseen from our eyes, Varan must have purged the second bomb. Why not, as the first explosion inside his stomach would probably have made him vomit anyway. You can't have something blow up inside you without feeling the need to hack something up. You could back up this theory with Varan's appearance in the all-star monster bash Destroy All Monsters, although most feel that this is a separate creature. He makes a very brief cameo and doesn't do anything important except enable the producers to boast a larger kaiju count in this flick. Advertising eleven monsters rather than ten will guarantee you an additional $5,000 in revenue. Since Varan's self-titled movie was in black in white, it isn't until DAM that we learn that he is a sort of tan color. I think he would look better in purple, which was how he was portrayed in the first Godzilla title for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Am I getting off track here or what?

Varan has a back story that resembles that of King Kong. He is an unseen god feared by the residents of a village who hold religious ceremonies, hoping to appease him. Even the film's main theme, scored by genre favorite Akira Ifukube, features drum beats and chanting one would expect to be used in worshipping an ancient deity.

Varan can travel by land, sea, and air. If only he could actually fly and burrow underground, he'd have all the bases covered. Usually crawling on his hands and knees out of water, he moves slow on land. And I mean sloooooooooooooooooooooooooow. It's a good thing he can swim and glide, because that's when he really cruises. He walks so slow that during the scene where the army retreats from the failed ambush at his lake, the female lead stumbles around, gets pinned under a fallen tree, and is rescued by the male lead after he went searching through the forest for her when he made it back to the village and noticed she wasn't there. All before Varan could even get to the girl when she wasn't that far away from him in the first place.

I like to think Godzilla and Varan are related. Both are deemed to be dinosaurs (in the Toho universe) long thought to be extinct. They both have spikes along their backs. Their roars sound similar. They spend their off-time underwater and are quite adept at land travel. The difference lies in the fact that Godzilla was... I guess you could say "lucky" enough to be exposed to nuclear fallout. The results of that are the ability to spew a radioactive beam and being indestructible. As far as kaiju go, Varan is one of the more brilliant. Unlike monsters like Godzilla, who just marches forward and only tramples what's in his path, and King Ghidorah, who mostly flies above cities and fires his beams indiscriminately, Varan seems to actually pick targets and hone in on them. This is seen when he first attacks the small village close to his home, as he purposefully crushes each house. It's almost as if he knew he knew that his antagonizers resided there, and was paying them back for disturbing his own dwelling. With the job done, Varan returns to the lake instead of aimlessly wandering around to cause senseless destruction.

Final note: A DVD behind the scenes feature shows that the spikes on the Varan suit are nothing more than cut pieces of hose. Talk about destroying an illusion.

And that's just the way it is.

Godzilla Returns... In A New Medium

Godzilla Returns is the first in a four (almost five) novel series by Marc Cerasini. All are original stories featuring an all-star cast of kaiju that have co-starred with Godzilla over the years. Published in 1996, but set in 1998, this book takes place 44 years after Godzilla's first rampage in Tokyo back in 1954 (in case you didn't want to do the math). Apparently the events of the Showa or the Heisei era of Godzilla films didn't take place in what we'll refer to as The Cerasini Era. So things have been quiet in the near half-century since the kaiju king last appeared. This particular book seems reminiscent of the movie The Return of Godzilla, or Godzilla 1985 on our side of the ocean (if you're reading this in America). Aside from the similar sounding title, Godzilla is the sole monster in this book, who awakens and revisits his old stomping ground of Tokyo.

A Russian nuclear submarine is crushed by a U.S.O. (unidentified swimming object, I made that up) after their missile defense and evasive maneuvers fail. Excavators observe that the radiation emitted from the "decommissioned" sub is gone and can offer no explanation on what occurred. Two years later, more unexplained ocean disasters take place, but it isn't until one such wreck leaves survivors behind that the world discovers that Godzilla lives.

Brian Shimura is a a young Japanese-American who has lived in the United States for his entire life. It's when his late father beckoned him to revisit his homeland that Brian decided to take up a newspaper internship at INN (Independent News Network) in Tokyo. He meets American teenager Nick Gordon, a science correspondent in training at INN who is also going to be his roommate. While Brian doesn't have much of a distinct personality, Nick is a brash and girl-crazy delinquent. I suppose the writer expected the reader to get into a character like this, but you'll probably hate him.

The day following an evening of experiencing the Tokyo nightlife, Brian meets May McGovern, the boss' personal assistant who we discover is the former love interest of Nick. May introduces Brian to Everett "Boss Gaijin" Endicott III, the chief of the Tokyo news bureau. It turns out that the boss hates Nick Gordon as much as you will by the time the book ends. Then Brian meets Yoshi Masahara, a young Japanese man who is one of the best cameramen on their side of the Pacific.

As soon as the Japanese government learns that Godzilla has been causing trouble in the Sea of Japan, Brian, Nick and Yoshi are secretly put on assignment to cover the monster's advance. A meeting is held in Endicott's office, and we are introduced to the world's two top Godzilla experts: molecular biologist Dr. Hiroshi Nobeyama and Admiral Maxwell B. Willis, who turns out to be Brian's uncle. After a briefing by Dr. Nobeyama's assistant, Lieutenant Emiko Takado, the crew is relocated to a research vessel in the Sea of Japan to monitor the King of the Monsters as he does battle with the Japanese Self-Defense Force. The radioactive dinosaur is unfazed by the barrage of missiles and gunfire by the various ships and helicopters, and the attack is called off after he destroys a few of them.

A meeting is held where Dr. Nobeyama concludes his theory that conventional weapons can't harm Godzilla are correct. Meanwhile, the gigantic antagonist finally lands on the Japanese island of Honshu, where the army opposes him with shells full of cadmium, a substance used to contain nuclear fires. But both those and napalm attacks did little more than to enrage the Big G as he fought back and took away the lives and habitats of thousands of Japanese.

After they were split up to cover Godzilla's path of destruction from different angles, Brian, Nick, Yoshi, and Lt. Takado are reunited. However, it is only temporary as Brian and Nick are fired from INN, Endicott claiming that it was a measure to be taken to protect both their lives as well as their imminently successful futures. But instead of taking a helicopter back home as they were ordered, Nick and Brian hop in a car to follow Godzilla's expected march through Tokyo. The monster finally does emerge in Tokyo Bay and trashes the Self-Defense Forces' pitiful attempts at repelling him, including knocking down a barrier of high-tension wires that we've seen used against him so many times before. The story details the chase of the two former INN interns as they "tail" Godzilla at close range and the high danger they face. The living nuclear weapon soon takes out Tokyo Tower, where a small crew of INN reporters, camera people, and Yoshi Masahara were broadcasting. Nick and Brian soon come upon INN Headquarters, now nothing more than a pile of rubble. There they discover Endicott, who said he sent everyone home except for May McGovern, who was in the building when it collapsed. Nick and Brian dig through the debris to find her and they manage to pull her out of the elevator where she was safely trapped. A helicopter containing Yoshi, who managed to escape Tokyo Tower before its collapse, sets up a camera to broadcast a final news report.

Since they failed to convince various politicians and special interest groups about Godzilla's powers and intentions earlier, Dr. Nobeyama and Admiral Willis secretly concocted a plan that they were certain would lure Godzilla away from their homeland. A device which imitated the call of birds was loaded onto a plane and flown over the invincible kaiju. Godzilla's brain, like that of dinosaurs in which they are bird-like, started to follow the plane as Nobeyama and Willis flew towards the Mariana Trench. They dive bombed into the water, taking both their lives and Godzilla with them.

All in all, a very worthy edition to Godzilla lore, although it does exist in its own chronology. As I said before, you can tell Marc Cerasini is a fan of the big guy and it shows. You'll probably want to read the three sequels, especially since familiar kaiju from the movies show up in droves. Bob Eggleton, himself a major Godzilla fan, created a fantastic cover for this and most other Random House books for this franchise. Cerasini does an awesome job describing what it feels like to take a direct hit from Godzilla's radioactive breath. Burning clothes, melting skin, the works. It's a slow and painful death that will make you wish you were squished under his massive foot instead.

There are some homages paid to the scenes that American distributors inserted into the films Godzilla and The Return of Godzilla when there were released in the States. For those who aren't in the know, Raymond Burr's Steve Martin character is not in the original Japanese films. Anyway, Nick Gordon makes reference to a movie documentary and book based upon Steve Martin's point of view during Godzilla's original invasion. It even mentions that Martin was portrayed by Burr in the documentary. And as a nod to Major McDonahue in the 1985 rendition, he occasionally refers to the Big G as "Wonder Lizard", giving you another reason to hate Nick Gordon.

Most of Godzilla's journey takes place in the ocean, starting with his awakening, his initial destruction of several commuter and fishing boats, his first assault with the JSDF, and the instances when he was completely submerged, leaving the world wondering where he would strike next. Joe Mauceri of World of Fandom calls it "a high-sea adventure" and "an homage to Herman Melville's Moby Dick", in which the big black leviathan is a stand in for the big white whale. Once again drawing comparisons to The Return of Godzilla is the ending, although there is the slight twist of the heroes who utilized the bird-call device sacrificing themselves.

And in what can be seen as a sad ending, main character Brian is the only one who doesn't end up with an Asian girlfriend, and for that, he has my highest level of sympathy.

And that's just the way it is.

September 17, 2007

My Kaiju Credentials

My first interaction with Godzilla came with a small action figure I'm sure most boys had as children, the seven inch tall green monstrosity with bloody lips and a silver chest. I was a mere toddler when I first acquired it, and it wasn't till my preteen years where I decided to explore the world behind this plastic articulated doll.

The first Godzilla film I ever watched was Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, followed by Godzilla vs. Gigan and Godzilla 1985. That's all the local video rental store had. I began to amass my own library of Godzilla titles by buying VHS copies of movies such as Godzilla vs. Megalon and Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster, and recording titles such as Godzilla vs. Monster Zero and Son of Godzilla off of TV. Eventually I had every single movie featuring Godzilla or one of his well known monster allies like Mothra and Rodan. Now with the advent of that new-fangled technology Digital Versatile Discs I'm buying them all over again. At least these copies won't wear out and sometimes feature subtitles. True fans watch their kaiju flicks with original Japanese tracks.

Favorite Kaiju: Godzilla, Gigan, Biollante, and Varan
Favorite Godzilla Movies: Godzilla vs. Biollante, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II, and Godzilla.
Favorite Godzilla Era: Heisei

Perhaps as a testament to my Godzilla fandom, I tied for first place with two others in a 1998 Godzilla trivia contest on America Online. This remains as one of my life's great accomplishments 26 years later. The contest was held mostly to promote the American Godzilla movie that came out that year. You know, the one featuring the mutated iguana that is mostly reviled by fans and non-fans of Godzilla movies alike. But the triva questions, I think ten, were mostly about the Japanese series. Questions about Mechagodzilla's weight and what other book did Marc Cerasini, who created a series of original Godzilla books, write? I was mostly aided by a book I owned called The Official Godzilla Compendium, a treasure-trove of information about "The Living Nuclear Weapon". My prize consisted of Godzilla-centered literature, such as a few books by the aforementioned Cerasini and Scott Ciencin, a "making of" book for the American Godzilla movie, and even the novelization of that very movie. Also, another copy of the Compendium. I guess I wasn't supposed to have my own before partaking in the contest.

Let me talk more about the prize. In the mid-90's, publisher Random House received the rights from Toho, Godzilla's movie studio, to publish original books based on their kaiju franchise. The powers that be turned the pen to authors Scott Ciencin and Marc Cerasini to craft whole new adventures for the King of the Monsters. To my knowledge, this is the first instance of original Godzilla books for an American audience only.

Scott Ciencin's stories were written with the younger crowd in mind, featuring children costarring with the large lovable lizard lug. It's been a long time since I read them, but I do recall them being serviceable for its audience. But as I wasn't in the target age group, I can indeed confirm they were for a younger crowd, who I'm sure loved the book.

Then there's Marc Cerasini, an accomplished author and lifelong Godzilla fan who was given the job of writing a different set of books for an older audience. Books based on the concept of giant monsters smashing Japanese cities? Without any pictures? The results of this project had the potential to suck very badly if they turned it over to someone who saw the kaiju (giant monster) genre as nothing more than men-in-latex-monster-costumes tromping through cardboard sets of mock buildings. The dialogue would probably have been as horrendous as the dubbing for the American release of Godzilla 2000, where they substituted the original lines for awful tripe. But as you read Cerasini's take on "G", you discover that the author actually cares for what he writes instead of going for a quick n' easy cash-in, because we all know Godzilla fans would have laid down a paper Lincoln portrait for this book before knowing if it were worth it. I know I would have. But since this was only the first in a series, if we didn't like it, why the hell would we buy its sequels? And why the hell is spell checker telling me that "dialogue" is spelled incorrectly?

Speaking of books with pictures, there's also my small collection of Godzilla comics. Two different series created by two different comic houses (Marvel and Dark Horse) in two different time periods (1977-1979 and 1987-1999). In Marvel land, a green Godzilla with back fins who breathed real fire as opposed to to a radioactive beam surfaces in the United States and goes on a country-wide tour throughout its 24 issues, where he encounters quite a few well-known Marvel heroes. Dark Horse featured a correctly drawn Godzilla who faces a new myriad of monsters, as well as being sent through time to experience key events in human history. I only have a few issues from each series, but I am looking to expand my collection.

I can't claim to be a "hardcore" kaiju-phile. I couldn't tell you the names of the actors that performed as the monsters, nor can I remember the real and on-screen names of the supporting cast of humans. I do know a horde of info about the actual movies and monsters themselves. The whole reason for this blog entry is sort of an introduction to what will be a host of reviews of Godzilla's films and books. And to show off my qualifications.

And that's just the way it is.

September 6, 2007

The Brotherhood

Let's spend a little time talking about a man of greatness. A man of humor. A man of art. A man noble enough to know winning isn't everything and when to call a truce for the betterment of all. His name? James Gannon. This is his story.

The first submission to my web site's Official Listing of James Gannons was e-mailed to me on behalf of his friend Daniel Ryan. He describes James as "idiosyncratic, funny, and can be and a prince of a guy." He's an artist from New York. Dan tells me James is a renaissance man. An artist, thank God. Clearly a credit to J.G.s everywhere. On behalf of James Gannons worldwide, whether they be in America or Ireland... welcome.

This blog entry is pretty much over. Don't bother reading the rest. Trust me, I know what's coming. (The author of this blog would like to warn you that he is about to ramble about a topic of interest to nobody.)

A little known fact (because I haven't told anyone) is that I only started the listing because an unknown entity owned the web domain From 1996 all the way to 2006 when I finally registered my own site at, it was owned by a mysterious someone who did absolutely nothing with his domain during that time. Today, it's owned by a real estate agent. Maybe some day, Mr. Jim Gannon of Schiller Real Estate may join my prestigious list. Or I may exclude him out of spite. No... I don't want to seem racist against my own people. The James Gannon race. But wait, he clearly identifies himself as "Jim" Gannon, so I can leave him out. But "Jim" is a variation of "James", isn't it?

The original directory of people whom I shared my name with was tucked away on the bottom of my bio page. I also decided to just call it the "Listing" instead of "Rankings", because I don't want a war to erupt amongst us. So I'll just list them as I find them. But I'm also putting myself on the top of the list. Why?

Scroll down lower and I'll tell you.

Because it's my site, damn it. What started merely as a gag could have some good potential. James Gannons are not just members of society. We ARE society.

And that's just the way it is.