GenCon. Sixty thousand attendees. Several thousand unique role playing games, table top board games and PC and console computer games. Several hundred vendors & dealers from all over the world running free demos of their games and selling more bloody games than you can shake a stick at. GenCon is the largest tabletop game convention in the world and this year marks its fiftieth anniversary.
But wasn’t always the behemoth game convention it is today. In fact, Gen Con’s origin story is quite humble. And it starts with the father of Dungeons and Dragons himself, Gary Gygax.
Gen Con 0 - 1967 - Location: The home of Gary Gygax, Lake Geneva, WI. Approx. Attendance: 12
Gary Gygax eventually becomes the co-creator of the well known role playing game, Dungeons and Dragons. But a few years before he helped write D&D, he was known in the small but fierce miniature tactical war gaming scene. I don’t want to get bogged down detailing too much Gygax history, instead I want to focus more on the history of GenCon. But they do intertwine. Here is an excellent piece detailing Gygax’s life and the history of D&D -- Wired’s, Dungeon Master: The Life and Legacy of Gary Gygax.
To my understanding there are no known pictures of the first Gen Con, named after Lake Geneva, where Gygax lived. Gygax invited some friends over to his pad and they played miniature tactical war-games. For those unfamiliar with the idea -- a game involving two six sided dice and a whole bunch of miniature soldiers. Players took turns moving the miniatures closer to the opposing player and then using dice rolls to determine if a soldier “hit” or “missed” with its attack. This process repeats until one side has no soldiers left.
The next year Gygax decided to shell out fifty bucks and rent a room in his hometown’s Horticultural Hall, charging folks $1 to attend. The first official Gen con was born. Gygax made just enough money from attendance to pay himself back.
(GenCon 1, 1968)
From then on GenCon increased in attendance almost every year. Through word of mouth people came from all over WI and then came from near by states, to game. For almost the entire first decade of GenCon it was at the Horticultural Hall in Lake Geneva, but once or twice was held elsewhere.
It wasn’t until Gygax and Dave Arneson co create Dungeons & Dragons, that the convention really took off. D&D wasn’t a typical miniature tactical war game. It had a lot of similar aspects - you rolled dice to determine some specific outcomes and there was a lot of strategy involved in the combat but most importantly you got to play a character. You could create and elf, or a dwarf or you could become a warrior or a rogue. And the more times you played that character, the tougher that character became! This idea of "a character" and advancement of your character becomes the core of all role playing games to come.
Dungeons and Dragons was a smash hit and Gygax formed Tactical Studies Rules (TSR, inc) to publish D&D, modules, supplemental material and even a magazine about D&D called, "The Dragon" -- later changed to "Dragon." D&D sold out again and again and again. And more people kept coming to Gary Gygax’s GenCon to play D&D. GenCon quickly outgrew the Horticultural Hall and for several years was run at the University of Wisconsin, Parkside. The attendance of the convention had grown to two, sometimes three thousand people. And not just to play D&D, there were other role playing games (RPG) that appeared -- Boot Hill (a western RPG co-created by Gygax), Champions (super hero RPG), Gamma World (post apocalyptic RPG), Star Frontiers (Space opera RPG), Top Secret (spy thriller RPG) and many others. (And, yes, I've played them all!).
But D&D was always the largest, the most well know and, sadly, the most targeted. Religious organizations all over the country began speaking out against D&D claiming it was the work of the devil and that it taught children how to cast magic spells and consort with demons and / or would possess your child. Silliness, all of it.
Dave Arneson, co-creator of D&D had a charming response to the controversy: “Invite parents to play. They’re going to be so bored. They will understand that anything this nerdy can’t possible lead to devil possession.”
Dave Arneson for the win.
But the bad publicity only got more kids interested and in the mid eighties D&D was so popular that the number of folks attending the premiere D&D convention in the country, GenCon, doubled.
The University of Wisconsin, Parkside was unable to house so many attendees. A new venue had to be found. Stat!
Gen Con 18 - 1985 - Location: MECCA (Milwaukee Exposition & Convention Center & Arena), Milwaukee, WI. Approx. Attendance: 5000
Throughout its early years GenCon expanded into other states - GenCon South (FL), GenCon East (NJ), GenCon West (CA) and even to other continents but none of them lasted more than a few years. GenCon Midwest kept growing.
Enter MECCA. An actual convention center. For an actual game convention that started, figuratively speaking, in Gary Gygax’s basement. With room to expand attendance rapidly doubled from five to ten thousand.
By 1992, GenCon’s twenty fifth birthday, I had finally heard about it. I had been gaming since kindergarten. First D&D, then the superhero role playing game, Champions and then recently had been turned onto the horror themed role playing game, Call of Cthulhu based on the writings of H.P. Lovecraft.
By 1993 I was attending GenCon. From that point on, year after year my friends and I would make the drive and we would hang out in beer scented Milwaukee for a week of games. And it was glorious. Attendance at the con was now fifteen to twenty thousand strong. Then, in 1997 a company called, Wizard’s of the Coast bought GenCon from TSR.
Gary Gygax was old and ill and had not been in charge of TSR for a long time. So he really had nothing more to do with the convention he created.
Wizard’s of the Coast was the company that created the extremely popular customizable card game, Magic: The Gathering. In 1999, Hasbro bought Wizard’s of the Coast. So now the multinational toy and board game company that created the iconic Monopoly board game owned GenCon. BUT THEN -- in 2002, Peter Adkison, former CEO of Wizard’s of the Coast, buys GenCon from Hasbro. So the convention is back in the hands of a gamer. A very, very rich gamer.
The convention continued to grow and by 2002 it was clear that Milwaukee no longer had the hotel capacity to house the twenty five to thirty thousand attendees.
It was time for GenCon to move. Again.
Gen Con 36 - 2003 - Location: Indiana Convention Center, Indianapolis, IN. Approx. Attendance: 25000.
GenCon moved to Indianapolis. The very same home of the Indy 500, which boasts one hundred thousand attendees so of course the city can absorb GenCon’s meager thirty thousand gamers. And then GenCon expanded. It’s not only at the Indy Convention Center, it’s also at all the surrounding hotels and halls and expo centers and every single scrap of open building space within a several block radius of the ICC.
GenCon Indy quickly went from thirty thousand attendees to forty and now sixty. Sixty thousand gamers descend on Indy for one week in August to hang out with other gamers and play games. Sixty thousand people have put hundreds of billions of dollars into the Indy economy.
And it’s all because Gary Gygax started GenCon 0 in 1968. In his basement.
Gen Con 50 - 2017 - Location: Indiana Convention Center, Indianapolis, IN. Estimated Attendance: 65000.
Which brings me to the end. I am packing and will be off to GenCon soon. I have games to play. I have friends to see. Friends from other states that I only get to visit with once a year, at GenCon. In fact it’s safe to say that the overwhelming majority of friends I have is because Gary Gygax created D&D.
Most of the long term friends I have I met at gaming halls, or game conventions, or game days in the basement of a VFW, or in the gaming section at a bookstore or at a game store. Perhaps role playing games would have evolved, without Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. Perhaps they would have evolved another way from other people.
It’s very likely. But, it doesn’t matter because it did evolve from Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson and Dungeons and Dragons. And it's because of those three names that I’m a gamer. And that’s why I’m going to GenCon.
Gary Gygax died in 2008, Mr. Arneson in 2009, both from complications of cancer. I never met either one. But their legacy lives on. D&D is now in its fifth edition. It's published in dozens of languages all over the world. And it will be heavily featured this year at GenCon 50.
And I will be there, at GenCon -- where it will be, just me -- and sixty five thousand of my closest friends.
Mr. Gygax, Mr. Arneson, rest in peace.
And thank you for the imagination. And the stories. And the memories.
According to recent reports, IMAX will reduce the amount of 3-D films shown in their theaters. With second quarter earnings down a significant percentage from a prior-year period IMAX executives will restructure the way they present tent pole flagship Hollywood films.
In a conference call with The Wrap, CEO of IMAX, Greg Foster said:
“We’re looking forward to playing fewer 3-D versions of films and more 2-D versions … which customers have shown a strong preference for (2-D),” Foster added, mentioning that Warner Bros. “Blade Runner 2049” will be shown in 2-D exclusively at IMAX theaters when it opens in October weekend.”
That’s all well and good. But does it really mean that 3-D is dying, or dead?
Probably. More directors are shooting on the 70mm IMAX cameras and if the company itself is dropping 3-D in favor of 2-D then, yes, I would say there is a strong possibility that 3-D is going the way of the dodo.
I for one, am happy to hear this. I know you will be able to find plenty of love for 3-D, usually in today’s youth. And I will admit to watching a 3-D movie, from time to time -- but only once by choice. A couple of times someone bought me a ticket for a 3-D movie. I thanked them and watched said film in 3-D.
A couple of times I read movietickets.com wrong and didn’t realize I was showing up for a 3-D version and decided to see it so as not to wait for the next 2-D showing at a much later time.
I felt, much as the way you probably do -- for the added cost of the ticket price the 3-D experience is not worth it. The movies are too dark. Frenetic, hyper-edited action sequences become even more of a negative ADD experience.
The only movie I actively bought a 3-D ticket for was James Cameron’s, Avatar. I’ll get to that later.
But first ...
Just where did this obnoxious 3-D crap come from?
“The stereoscopic era of motion pictures began in the late 1890s when British film pioneer William Friese-Greene filed a patent for a 3D film process. In his patent, two films were projected side by side on screen (one meant for the left eye to view, one meant for the right eye to view). The viewer looked through a stereoscope to converge the two images. Because of the obtrusive mechanics behind this method, theatrical use was not practical.”
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting 3-D to have been around in 1890. Though, it really wasn’t until the 1920’s when a few directors and cinematographers tried to make the process marketable for a then modern audience. Three 3-D films from the twenties - The Men from M.A.R.S., The Power of Love and The Ship of Souls had limited runs. Nothing really peaked audience interest.
The thirties and forties showed little additional interest in 3-D films with each era producing only a handful of 3-D films. Even the arrival of Technicolor didn’t help. A few 3-D films were shot and printed in Technicolor but none of them screened in color and the use of color printing was only to help achieve the red / cyan (blue) 3-D coding effect.
In the early thirties polarized filters (which reduce glare) hit the market as a commercial product. This really helped with the 3-D process but again, wasn’t enough to peak audience interest.
It wasn’t until the 1950’s that 3-D exploded and the time between 1952-1954 was known as the “golden era” of the process. It all began late 1952 with the hit, Bwana Devil -- a drama based on the real life Tsavo Man-Eaters -- a pair of man eating lions responsible for the deaths of a number of construction workers on the Kenya-Uganda Railway from March through December 1898.
“As with practically all of the features made during this boom, Bwana Devil was projected dual-strip, with Polaroid filters. During the 1950s, the familiar disposable anaglyph glasses made of cardboard were mainly used for comic books ...
Because the features utilized two projectors, a capacity limit of film being loaded onto each projector (about 6,000 feet, or an hour's worth of film) meant that an intermission was necessary for every feature-length film. Quite often, intermission points were written into the script at a major plot point.”
To make a long story short -- 3-D suddenly boomed. In 1953, House of Wax, landed in the year’s top ten at the box office, the first time ever for a 3-D film. House of Wax also catapulted and forever typecast legendary actor, Vincent Price into the role of creepy horror film guy.
Alas, the “golden era” was short lived. Endless problems occurred with 3-D technology, the prints, and the time management to run the films. A few of the issues:
The silver projection screen was directional and caused sideline seating to be unusable.
The prints had to project simultaneously and remain exactly alike after repair or sync would be lost. If sync was off by even a single frame -- the picture was unwatchable.
Oftentimes theaters had to have two projectionist keep sync.
Mandatory intermission meant less features could be shown daily which resulted in lowered profit for all involved.
By 1955, 3-D films were gone from theaters.
Thankfully 3-D went away forever, never to return!
Ugh. I wish. There was an explosion of 3-D in the eighties and suddenly, horror films thought all “third” films should be 3-D -- Jaws 3-D, Amityville Horror 3-D, Friday the 13th 3 in 3-D -- you get the picture.
Disney caught on and released Magic Journey and Captain EO (starring Michael Jackson and directed by Francis Ford Coppola) in special venues at their theme parks. In the mid eighties IMAX began producing non-fiction films in their 70mm format and pushed as a key point for their 3-D films vs. traditional 3-D -- the IMAX process, then and now, emphasized mathematical correctness of the 3-D rendition and thus largely eliminated the eye fatigue that resulted from the approximate geometries of previous 3-D incarnations.
3-D was back and it was here to stay!
Except, no -- it wasn’t.
3-D, like the tide, waxed and waned all throughout the decade but for the most part had faded from mainstream use by the nineties. It’s true that 3-D stayed alive through special attractions throughout the entire nineties but just as the fifties, it mostly faded from mainstream cinema.
The next resurgence of 3-D began in 2003, with the release of James Cameron’s, Ghosts of the Abyss released as the first full-length 3-D Disney / IMAX feature and filmed with the Reality Camera System. This camera system, built by Cameron and Vince Pace used the latest HD video cameras, not film to produce the 3-D effect.
The film joined James Cameron, actor Bill Paxton and a team of the world’s foremost historical and marine experts as they journey underwater to the site of wrecked ship, the Titanic. The film was a colossal critical and commercial success.
And suddenly studios were interested in 3-D. Again. Studios began experimenting in releasing both a 2-D print and a 3-D print for their high profile products. The Polar Express (2005) was the first feature length animated film released in both prints with the 3-D version pulling in about 25% of the films total box office. Which was enough to raise 3-D interest from other studios.
Over the course of the next decade studios went 3-D crazy. Selected large budget films were released in both 2-D and 3-D, old films were re-released with a post production 3-D process and handful of films were specifically shot in 3-D cameras.
Which brings me to …
James Cameron’s, “Avatar.”
Much has been written about the herculean effort Cameron put into Avatar. Entire books, movies, documentaries and short films can be found. I offer only a few tidbits for context:
James Cameron spent twelve years developing technology improving 3-D cameras in order to shoot Avatar. He is the only director who seems to fully understand that the 3-D process makes your film darker. And so what did he do?
Well, he spent six months working with botanists, creating an ecologically accurate planet to set his story in. A planet that has glowing flora. So even when the 3-D process darkened his film for all those nights scenes the entire film is still brightly lit do to the glowing plants all over the planet!
I want to make that last point clear. He didn’t just want glowing plants all over the planet -- because that would be easy to accomplish. He wanted his planet to work. And so he spent months working with scientists to make sure the plants he showed would be one hundred percent ecologically accurate. He wanted the planet to be able to survive -- if it had been a real planet.
Which is amazing and it’s only a few of the reasons that Cameron’s Avatar remains one of the monumental directing achievements in all of world cinema.
Not that it’s without flaws. I’ll be the first person to admit that I think the script to Avatar is awful and the acting, for the most part, is adequate to incompetent. That being said, the film was a must see movie event in 2009. But you had to see it in 3-D. Cameron spent so long working in 3-D that he just seems to be the only working American filmmaker to just -- get it.
In fact, of all the movies that have gone on to gross a billion dollars only one of them is an original story idea -- James Cameron’s Avatar. All the other movies in the billion plus club are sequels and franchise films.
Which says something (probably that Cameron was the first and only person to knock the novelty 3-D process out of the park).
Which brings us to today …
The “Avatar” resurgence has faded. 3-D is dying. Again.
It had a good run. But IMAX is right. Consumers, by and large, greatly prefer 2-D movie events. 3-D comes and goes and comes and goes and it never amounts to anything more than a novelty. 3-D was huge in the early fifties but, because it was a novelty, was gone in two years. 3-D had a resurgence in the eighties but, because it was a novelty, was gone in several years. 3-D had a second resurgence with Cameron’s technology achievement in the early 2000’s but, because it’s a novelty, has faded and will probably be gone in another three or five years.
Novelties, it seems, make a lot of money in short bursts but audiences quickly get tired of them. 3-D may be fading but if history repeats itself (again), I can almost guarantee you we’ll see another resurgence of 3-D -- oh-- somewhere around 2040.
For better or worse.
Welcome to the dog park!
Your dog is going to love it here! No leash laws are enforced. We have a large fenced in areas for your dog to run around and roll in the dirt in equal measure! I promise you there will be an endless stream of dogs for your canine family member to socialize with.
Off leash dog parks are great but there are plenty of ins and outs that should be respected. I have a thirteen pound mutt named Frodo (pictured above). I am lucky enough to work at a place where I can bring him to the office every day. I am also lucky enough to have the gorgeous Alimagnet Dog Park five blocks from my work location.
I bring Frodo to the dog park a lot. As much as three times a day. Usually we get in a fifteen minute visit before work, a thirty minute visit on my lunch break and a thirty to forty five minute visit after work. Three times a day, five days a week (as well as a time or two on the weekends). Multiply that by the two years my little furry companion and I have hung out together. That, my friend, is a great many trips to the dog park (almost two thousand).
Which is why I have a lot to say about the topic. I see doggie malfeasance multiple times per week and it’s usually because the owner has done something dumb. I do not claim to be a Dog Whisperer but because of my extensive dog park visits I have a lot of common sense canine wisdom to offer. Most of it based on personal observation and some based on a copious amount of internet research. With that in mind, here are some doggie dos and don’ts while you and your canine companions visit off leash dog parks.
Do Not Bring Treats Into An Off Leash Dog Park!
Dogs like to know their place in the world. They like to know who is in charge, and if they are not the dog in charge it makes them comfortable to know their place in the doggie hierarchy. And this is important because the dogs that is in charge controls the resources.
At least that’s how it plays out in doggie world. Alpha dogs control the resources and then they allow dogs below them to partake of their resources. It’s the way of dog.
And now you’ve brought treats into the dog park. And it’s for selfish reasons -- you want the dogs to like you! Well, they will. They will swarm you. Dogs can smell your treat from a mile away.
The problem is that dogs with alpha personalities will want the treats (the resources) first. It confuses them if THEY KNOW they are the alpha dog and you are not recognizing it. And so you pass treats out willy-nilly to all the dogs you can reach. And so it goes -- Alpha Dog wants the treat and you give it to another dog. Alpha dog thinks, “The was MY treat!” This is a recipe for an instant dog fight.
This is an extreme example, it’s true. The overwhelming majority of the time you bring treats to the dog park, nothing bad will happen. Dogs will eat the treats, dogs will like you. But still, I’ve seen plenty of dogs fights over treats.
So there’s just no great reason to bring them to the dog park.
Pay Attention To Your Dog! All! The! Time!
Dogs are dogs. They don’t make good or bad decisions. They make dog decisions. You can not take your dog to an off leash park and then read a book, check your text messages or flirt with girls for twenty minutes all the while completely ignoring your dog and (more importantly) your dog’s behavior.
Your dog might be too aggressive. Your dog might be too submissive. Your dog might be getting bullied and is desperately giving you signals for help. Or, your dog might be the bully. But how would you know unless you pay attention
An off leash dog park is NOT a place where you can let you dog run wild with zero human supervision. You, the human, must monitor your dog at all times to watch for over aggressive or over submissive behavior. That’s one of your prime responsibilities as a dog owner.
If you notice “bad” behavior -- separate your dog immediately from the situation, calm your dog down and try again. Remember that young dogs will have a much easier time adapting to canine socialization than older dogs. Older rescue dogs come with canine baggage and a lot of times have been abused. So, while it’s true that dogs are social animals, some have been raised poorly and might not be able to handle an off leash park. But in order for you to know if your dog is right for the park, you have to pay attention to your canine, all the time.
So pay attention. And while you are paying attention ...
Pick Up Your Dog’s Poop. No, Seriously. Like - Every Single Time!
If you are not paying attention to your dog you will not notice when it poops. And it’s your responsibility to pick up after your dog.
And if you don’t want to pick up after your dog then don’t go to a dog park.
Watch Out For Dog Obsession.
I didn’t even know this was a thing until I started attending dog parks. Dogs can get obsessed with another dog. Like stalker, rapey obsessed.
I see it all the time. Usually the obsession happens with a dog smaller than they. Frodo, for some reason, gets easily obsessed with five to eight pound fluffy yorkies and / or fluffy tiny poodles. And when Frodo is obsessed with a tiny, fluffy pooch, Frodo will not leave that poor dog alone! Frodo will ignore all other stimuli and follow that fluffy dog and sniff them and chase them and wrestle them and nip play with them and chew on their ears and try to hump dominate them at all times. Now I know the signs to watch for and I pull him away immediately when I see the obsession set it. But for a good long while I deluded myself into thinking, “They’re just playing.”
Obsessive dog behavior is not healthy dog play. Dog obsession will not stop unless you, the human, does something about it. If your dog exhibits obsession it’s best to pull your dog out of the situation and / or leash your canine and go somewhere else for a while.
What To Do In the Face of Aggressive Dog Behavior
I see aggressive dog behavior all the time. Some of it is innocent -- an overly energetic dog plays too hard and accidentally hurts another dog. I have seen actual aggressive dogs -- a white German Shepherd ran through the dog park and attacked three or four small dogs while the owner frantically chased after the Shepherd. But exceptionally bad experiences, such as the German Shepherd one, are very rare.
If dogs exhibit aggressive behavior -- leash them and / or remove them from the area immediately. Within thirty seconds your dog will be back to normal. Aggressive dog behavior can lead to dog fights. And dog fights suck. To be honest, they don’t happen often and when they do it’s usually posturing and not an actually bloody fight.
Here is a video showing a dog park scuffle. As the video says, “Sounds bad. Looks bad. No dog was actually harmed.” Most dog fights aren’t actual fights, per se. They are more like dogs jostling for position. That being said, you can see in the video that one dog is standing on top of the other dog for like ten seconds as both dogs stare into each others faces. The owners, frankly, should have separated those dogs immediately. And it looks as if one of the owners was trying to do just that BUT was one second too late and the dog fight occurred.
Again, if you see aggressive dog behavior remove your dog from the situation immediately before it leads to something worse.
And, of course, if your dog was the attacked the other dog owner will still blame your dog for being aggressive.
And that’s because …
Dog Owners Are Crazy People!
It’s true. The only people crazier are parents blindly defending their children (when it is obvious their child is in the wrong). Dog owners are like that.
Dog owners will insist their perfect, loving, charming, beautiful, kind, mellow [Dog Breed Name Here] would never, ever cause another living creature any harm. Ever. And if their perfect dog happens to act aggressive towards your dog -- the owner will, one hundred percent of the time -- blame your dog.
If you happen to notice that your dog is getting into a lot of fights -- it’s probably not the fault of all the other dogs at the park. It’s probably -- your dog! So you should do something about that up to and including, not taking your dog to an off leash park.
Off leash dog parks are not for every canine. Some dogs, usually older rescue dogs are too scared, submissive or over protective. These poor doggies will run havoc at an off leash park.
Know your dog and act appropriately. The off leash dog park might not be for you. I have a friend who has the sweetest (fifty pound) rescue dog you can imagine. That dog LOOOOVES people. That dog, also, HAAAAAATES other dogs. My friend found out early on that his loving canine should not ever, ever, ever go to an off leash dog park.
It would be bad.
And to be honest, that’s kind of the hard part. Recognizing that your dog has issues. Yes, dogs are animals. But they are animals capable of a wide range of emotions and feelings. It’s up to you, the human, to pay attention to your dog, know its body language, clean up after your pup and to try not act like a crazy person who lives in dog aggression denial.
And now, if you'll excuse me, I must away and take Frodo to the dog park!
Our newsfeeds are bombarded with so many stories about excessive use of force within the police department that it’s almost shocking to read something about cops that is the exact opposite. Now, I know that the vast majority of good deeds cops do go unreported because they are not sensational stories. The headline, “Cop does something nice” does not sell much of anything. And so there is a silent majority of cops that do their jobs and get little to no fanfare. And much has been written about the more and more common tragedy of a law enforcement officer shooting an unarmed civilian. But that’s not what I’m here to do today. Today I went and found a “cops do something nice” story. And I’m going to tell you all about it.
Meet: Heroes, Cops and Kids. A community organization comprised of Dallas Police officers, teachers and other community leaders created to be positive role models for the community and its kids. From their website, “We strive to promote good behavior, good decision making and to teach coping mechanisms for peer pressure.”
Well, that sounds delightful. BUT -- the cynical side of my brain immediately thought, “I bet it’s kind of racist. I bet it’s a bunch of white cops that go into poor black neighborhoods and tell the kids to stay off crack.”
Hrrmmm. Not exactly. In a moment where I must remind myself that my paranoid lefty-liberal brain is not always correct. (I try not to say that out loud too often -- I have a reputation to protect as a liberal know it all!).
So, what does Heroes, Cops and Kids, do? Well, basically, they dress up as superheroes and visit terminally ill children. They also work with communities to build positive relationships between the police and the community. A portion of their mission statement from the Heroes, Cops and Kids website:
"...WE CATER TO CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES, CHRONIC ILLNESSES OR BEHAVIORAL DISORDERS TO ENRICH THEIR LIVES AND ENERGIZE THEIR HEARTS ...
WE ARE A CHARITABLE, TAX EXEMPT, 501(C)(3) ORGANIZATION. WE DON'T RECEIVE FUNDING FROM ANY STATE OR LOCAL AGENCY. WE SOLELY RELY ON VOLUNTEERS AND DONATIONS TO ACHIEVE OUR GOAL.
WE'LL BRING "THE STORM" TO ANY BULLY THAT STEPS IN OUR WAY! WE SUPPORT THE ANTI-BULLY MOVEMENT AND TEACH PROPER RESPONSE AND REPORTING OF BULLIES!
THIS ORGANIZATION INCLUDES A DIVERSE BACKGROUND OF INDIVIDUALS WHOM HAVE DEDICATED THEIR TIME AND RESOURCES TO STOP BULLYING!”
Okay. I’m on board.
Meet Officer Damon Cole, founder of Heroes, Cops and Kids. Officer Cole has several hero costumes -- Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, Ironman and he even owns a tricked out Superman Dodge Charger.
Cole’s Twitter account is littered with photos of his visits to children’s hospitals, some of which he flies to and some of which he drives a thousand miles to get there in time. All on his own dime. Of course, now, through his charity he can accept donations. And I hope it works because he has literally spent tens and tens and tens of thousands of dollars costuming and tech'ing up -- his car, the costumes, his Batman costume alone has multiple gadgets and his War Machine costume has speakers that can blare music from within the armor. Which, apparently, the kids love.
In a fun, “life imitates art” moment, Cole, dressed as Batman for an off duty charity event, busted a man shoplifting DVD’s -- one of which was, “The Lego Batman Movie.”
Now, through his charity Cole can accept donations. He also has a team of volunteers that support, assist and costume up on their own. Reading about their organization, watching their videos and scrolling through their photos -- well, it even warms my dark liberal heart. I seriously love these people.
Heroes, Cops and Kids -- well done.
To book an event with Heroes, Cops and Kids or to contact them for further information you can find them here.
Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the duo directors behind The Lego Movie and the Jump Street film (revival) have been removed from production of the Untitled Star Wars Han Solo film after seventeen weeks of principle photography. Seventeen weeks! With only five weeks left of shooting, production shut down until replacement director, Ron Howard, stepped in to pick up the pieces.
According to the Hollywood Reporter:
“Several sources close to the movie and others close to the directors tell EW that ever since filming began back in February, Lord and Miller, who are known primarily for wry, self-referential comedies like 21 Jump Street and the pilot episodes for Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Last Man on Earth, began steering the Han Solo movie more into the genre of laughs than space fantasy.
According to some sources, the split was a subtle one that became magnified over time: Lucasfilm and producer Kennedy believed Lord and Miller were hired to add a comedic touch; Lord and Miller believed they were hired to make a comedy.”
Okay. Fair enough. I see the potential for disaster there. Another issue was that Lord and Miller have been known to allow significant improvisation on the set of their previous films. Which is precisely what they did on this set, too! Super screenwriter and Star Wars royalty Lawrence Kasdan (writer - Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Force Awakens and the Untitled Han Solo Film), was none too pleased at the dailies coming back from set. The entire story line, it seemed, had been significantly derailed, due to the improvisational direction that Lord and Miller had taken.
Writer / Executive Producer Kasdan stepped in with a, “Stick to the script” note. A note, apparently, the directors thought was just a suggestion. Lord and Miller ignored the note. Finally, Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm Ltd., fired Lord and Miller after seventeen weeks of filming. Seventeen weeks!
You keep saying “seventeen weeks” as if that’s significant. What’s up with that?
It is significant! Directors aren’t fired after seventeen weeks. Ever! If they’re fired at all, they’re fired after a week or two. Or three or four. It doesn’t take seventeen weeks to figure out that the movie isn’t working! That can’t be the only reason for the removal of the directors after about 80 percent of principle photography.
Seems suspicious. Or, as Bill and Ted would say, “Strange things are afoot at the Circle-K!”
Strange things indeed. The only other (potential) negative rumor coming out of the Han Solo film camp was that lead actor, Alden Ehrenreich (young Han Solo), didn’t have the acting chops they at first thought. According to the popular online movie news source The Wrap:
"Matters were coming to a head in May as the production moved from London to the Canary Islands. Lucasfilm replaced editor Chris Dickens (Macbeth) with Oscar-winner Pietro Scalia, a veteran of Ridley Scott films including Alien: Covenant and The Martian. And, not entirely satisfied with the performance that the directors were eliciting from Rules Don't Apply star Alden Ehrenreich, Lucasfilm decided to bring in an acting coach. Lord and Miller suggested writer-director Maggie Kiley, who worked with them on 21 Jump Street."
As has been pointed out by many sources, adding an acting coach is not unusual. But acting coaches are usually on set from day one and/or brought on by the actor themselves. Some actors have worked with the same acting coach for years, or decades, and work with them on set. But it’s certainly unusual to bring an acting coach in so late into production.
So, while it appears there were difficulties behind the scenes, even that is nothing new. If you’ve ever worked on set you know that making movies is controlled chaos, at best. There are no mystical properties that a director possesses. Directing is paperwork, organization, collaboration and making choices. In fact, the only solo choice a director adds to the production without collaboration from anyone else is tone. The tone of movie is decided by the director. Unless, of course, you work for Disney. Or Lucasfilm Ltd. In which case they will fire your ass if you change the tone of their films. Just sayin.
And now we have little Ronnie Howard piloting the fate of young Han Solo. How much of the original footage Howard will be able to use is unknown. It would probably be too expensive to reshoot the majority of the film. Besides, these tent pole flagship movies have marketed release dates to keep! It’s true that all huge films like this have time and money budgeted for the inevitable reshoots but this situation is unprecedented.
Unlike the Zack Snyder/Joss Whedon switch up on the Justice League film, Whedon is going in to finish up the film and do his best to match the style and tone of Snyder (because the film was ninety percent done). Whedon was not hired to rethink the entire movie and significantly restructure the picture.
Ron Howard will have to make due with a lot of footage that Lord and Miller produced, and he probably won’t get any extended amount of time to complete the picture. It should make for an interesting challenge. And hopefully, an interesting movie.
So, I'm sorry, Mr. Howard, but you will probably have to make due with what time is left for production. But in Hollywood, much as on Broadway, as they say -- the show must go on.
NOTE: This story is developing and will be updated with new information as it becomes available.
Update: This story was written a few weeks before the passing of George Romero. I may not like anything Mr. Romero has created in recent years but we will always have the Holy Trilogy of zombie films. And man-o-zombie do I love those three films! I was always partial to "Dawn of" but recent viewings of "Day of" have significantly warmed me to its horror charm (where charm = Bub!). Mr. Romero, literally, changed the face of filmmaking. Before "Night of" zombies were afterthought monsters in little seen bad horror films (that I love). Now zombies are mainstream fucking everywhere, watched by hundreds of millions -- especially in bad horror films (that I love!). Mr. Romero is gone and there will never be another (good or bad) true, "of the Dead" film. BUT ... perhaps ... one day a crazy madman genius will perfect a resurrection machine -- and perhaps that mad scientist will raise Mr. Romero -- and perhaps it will all go spectacularly wrong and zombie Mr. Romero himself will usher in a hubris driven mad science zombie apocalypse! Where I will be one of the awesome survivors in a world gone "of the Dead!" Maybe you'll be there with me. Together we go forth -- murdering the hell out of zombies left and right! But until that glorious day -- rest in peace, Zombie Maestro.
Zombie maestro George Romero, director of the classic "of the Dead" trilogy - Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Day of the Dead (1985), is still alive and kicking. And he’s making another zombie flick!
While some might rejoice at the very idea of the hundred and ninety-eight year old (not actual age) horror director making another movie -- I don’t seem able to find a shred of “care” anywhere inside my soul. Once upon a time we had a single zombie voice in the world of cinema. And the voice was pretty compelling. Now we are over saturated with thousands of zombie voices in the world of TV and cinema - many good, many bad but to be honest, most of them are just adequate.
Which is fine. I dig zombies as much as the next horror buff. I even watch bad ones. Like -- from beginning to end. I can't seem to bring myself to give a shit about the new Twin Peaks, which, to me, plays out like a bad daffy duck cartoon. But if you sit me in front of Zombies of Madison County IV and I will watch that shit. No accounting for taste, I guess.
But as for Romero keeping up with a new, young breed of horror filmmakers I just don't see it. Especially as evidence by has three misfires of recent years - Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007) and Survival of the Dead (2009), all of which seem they were filmed by low IQ Romero imitators.
But, nope. All written and directed by the zombie maestro himself.
Call it ageism but I seriously doubt that old dudes can make genre pictures for teenagers. You might be able to convince me that Spielberg has it in him to make family friendly young adult (and / or kid) movies. But Romero is no Spielberg.
I just don’t believe the crushing majority of old men filmmakers can keep up with what’s really relevant to today’s youth, culture and counter-cultures. And do you know who watches horror films? Mainly -- the coveted target audience - 18-24 year olds.
I am immediately reminded of Woody Allen’s worst film - Anything Goes (2003) upon which Mr. Allen tries to write dialog for twenty year olds. Mr. Allen, being at the time sixty-seven years young. Sure -- it’s possible a sixty-seven year old white man can write believable dialog for a twenty year old girl, but very unlikely. And in the case of Anything Goes -- obviously, Allen can’t. (I will also go out on a limb and say Jason Biggs & Christina Ricci give two bumbling performances, which certainly doesn’t help the believability of the screenplay. So it’s not entirely Mr. Allen’s writing that is at fault. It’s also, his directing!).
As for modern zombie movies? Romero just can’t keep up it seems. And has lost the touch he once had when creating his original trilogy. Of course what audiences wanted back then is much different from what they want now.
And if Romero honestly can’t understand why directors like David Fincher get the nod to make World War Z II and Romero doesn’t -- well, then he doesn’t understand it.
But I sure do.
Mr. Romero -- you’ve had a great run. And you might have good films left in you. But your new proposal for Road of the Dead doesn’t sound like one of them. Please. Stop. Making. Zombie. Movies.
But hey, Dear Reader, don't take my word for it. Let me know if this sounds like the zombie movie you’ve always been waiting for:
From the Indiewire article linked above, Mr. Romero explains his pitch:
“In the darkest days of the zombie apocalypse, the last safe place on earth is anything but, as a mad despot uses the spectacle of high-octane carnage to keep control of his populace” — suggests a “Mad Max” vibe. It also serves to remind that, from “Dawn” to “Day” to “Land” and now “Road,” the decades-old franchise is ever-changing.”
“There was a sequence in ‘Survival of the Dead’ where there’s a zombie that’s behind the wheel of a car, and Matt (Romero's new director) proposed an idea: ‘How about zombies that know how to drive!?'” Romero explained over the phone during a 4th of July interview. (He lives in Canada, where he’s a permanent resident.) That setup is certainly in keeping with some of the biggest action movies in recent years, a connection Romero readily copped to: “It’s ‘Fast and the Furious’ with zombies at the wheel.”
Wow. You read that right, "Zombies that know how to drive."
I don’t know about you -- but I can not wait to never watch that movie.
Despite the fact that in 1938, Congress changed Independence Day to a paid federal holiday -- here I am. At work. Writing about the paid federal holiday.
Which is my choice. I have come in on a national holiday for the sole purpose of entertaining you. The dear reader. On a day, traditionally, where pretty much no one reads news.
That’s just how I roll.
Um, that’s great. So why are you here, then?
Because it’s the Day of Independence. We get plenty of the 4th of July in movies and they usually revolve around alien invasions or overly patriotic war movies. To celebrate the day -- some of us watch fireworks. Most of us eat -- like, a lot. Case in point, when I leave work I will attend two separate grilling events! Because the 4th of July, like many holidays, has been watered down to mean nothing more than food (and in this case -- fireworks).
Such is life.
But it’s not just a day to eat fine grillery and to watch fireworks with kids. It’s also the celebration of the exact date when members of Congress signed the Declaration of Independence way back in 1776 and began the Revolutionary War!
Er -- well -- that’s not exactly true, either.
That sounds suspicious. And anti-American. What are you talking about?
Well, we celebrate the signing of our Independence on July 4th, so it would reason that the signing happened on -- well -- July 4th. But that’s a bit historically unclear. In 1776, the legal separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain occurred on July 2nd, not the 4th. Then, Congress debated the wording of the Declaration of Independence for two days, finally approving it on July 4th. John Adams, one of our fine founding fathers, wrote to his wife Abigail:
“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
Okay. So Adams thought we should be celebrating on July 2nd, not the 4th. To further complicate matters, most historians conclude that the Declaration was not actually signed -- until nearly a month after its adoption, on August 2nd, 1776.
So maybe we should celebrate on August 2nd?
To even further complicate matters -- the Colonies had already been at war with the British for a year! Which means the Revolutionary War began before Congress formally declared independence. Perhaps we should celebrate Independence Day on the first day of the Revolutionary War, which would be -- The Shot Heard Round the World -- on April 19th, 1775?
So it’s all a little murky and for some reason we have latched onto July 4th as the day, and that’s what it shall remain for as long as we are around. For better or worse, Brexit 1776 is now, and forever will be -- that 4th day in July.
And to that I say to you -- Happy Independence Day. On July 4th.
Uh-oh. You’re going to end with something depressing, aren’t you?
Well, we should also try to remember that any country's independence is filled with, not just patriots and parades, but also fraught with death and bloodshed. Or in the case of our country -- genocide and slavery. I am not trying to push a moral platitude, just a reminder that there is always a price.
The founding fathers politically paved the way for our independence. I also believe that the disenfranchised, the downtrodden and the displaced are as equally as responsible for our independence, since we built the country on their backs or on their graves. I wish I could offer them more than empty words. And fireworks.
A couple of days after former police officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted in the killing of Philando Castile, authorities released dashcam footage of the shooting.
The video is as sad and shocking as you might expect. At about the one minute mark what appeared to be a routine stop turns explosive and begins with the following exchange:
The officer explains to Mr. Castile that he was pulled over because of a broken brake light. This is true but Yanez also pulled the car over because Mr. Castile, “fit the physical description of an armed robbery suspect from the previous week,” which is more fully explained in the aftermath transcript.
Then, from the video:
Officer Jeronimo Yanez: Do you have a license and insurance?
A few seconds go by as Yanez waits. Philando hands something out of the car to officer Yanez, presumably, either Mr. Castile’s license or proof of insurance (or both). The officer takes what is handed to him and glances at it for a few seconds. Then -- it’s hard to tell but -- it looks like the officer keeps the item in his hand or maybe, tucks into a uniform pocket. Then:
Philando Castile: (calm voice) I have to tell you, I have a, I have a firearm on me.
Officer Jeronimo Yanez: (calm voice) Okay. Don’t reach for it then.
At this point Philando, his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds, who is in the passenger seat, and Yanez all start talking and eventually shouting over each other. Over the course of four seconds -- it sounds as if Philando is saying, “I’m not reaching for it,” Diamond says, “He’s not reaching for it” while officer Yanez says, “don’t reach for it -- don’t pull it out.” Then Yanez reaches into the car with his left hand -- for some reason (but it does fit the narrative that Yanez is trying to prevent Phialdo from grabbing -- something). Finally, Philando’s girlfriend yells, “No!”
That’s when Yanez pulls his gun with his right hand and fires several shots into the car hitting Philando five times and killing him almost instantly. About forty seconds later, Diamond uses her cell phone to live streams the aftermath of the shooting. The terrifying video goes viral.
What really shocks me is how fast the fatal shooting escalates. One second they were calmly discussing “license and insurance” up to and including the first exchange of “I have a gun” and “Okay, don’t reach for it then.” All of that was reasonable and polite. Several seconds later, Yanez fires into the car.
Life or death. In the matter of four seconds.
Now, I can’t imagine being a police officer and having to make these kind of decisions -- usually within the span of a few seconds. But, and this is equally as important, I also can’t imagine what it is like to be a black man in America, so, there’s that.
That being said, in this instance, it’s pretty clear officer Yanez panics -- and I mean, seriously panics. Yanez lost his job and many feel he should have been criminally charged.
Of course, the jury didn’t see it that way. The jury did not believe there was proof beyond reasonable doubt of manslaughter. I have not read the full court transcript nor seen all the evidence one way or another so I won’t speculate further on their reasoning.
But, like many of you, I have watched the video(s). I also want to say that I completely understand the video is not the only piece of evidence that should be taken into consideration. But the video is a pretty compelling piece of evidence. And it makes a strong case that officer Yanez panics.
I thought watching the dashcam video would show me clear cut evidence; evidence beyond reasonable doubt that Yanez murdered Philando. And then I watched it. And now I have doubts. Which is fine! Not that I was on the jury but keep in mind, prosecutors don’t have to prove a crime beyond all possible doubt! They need to prove a crime beyond reasonable doubt. What that means is that you, as a member of the jury can have some doubt and still apply a guilty verdict.
When I watch the dashcam video it’s pretty clear Yanez fears for his life and it does create a bit of reasonable doubt, which, I suspect is what the mostly white jury focused their acquittal on. I mean, to be honest, we can’t see if Philando is reaching for his gun (or not). We don’t know why Yanez reached into the car with his left hand. But the full video is ten minutes long and continues several minutes after the shooting, during which Yanez is completely non functional from fear and (probably) adrenalin. Which, again, creates doubt.
We would love to think we knew what happened. But we just don’t. Not really.
I think the main question in my mind is -- should officer Yanez have been so scared? Is it reasonable for Yanez to assume Philando was reaching for a gun and therefor the officer had no choice but to shoot Mr. Castile? Or is it more reasonable to assume Yanez fell victim to “fear the black man” racial profiling and then needlessly panics and kills Philando?
Can both be partially true? Is this more of a sad tragedy than a cold blooded case? Can both of those be partially true, too?
At the trial, Use-of-force experts weigh in on the matter. Emanuel Kapelsohn, a firearms trainer and consultant called by the defense to testify, said:
"We can't expect, and the law doesn't expect, police officers to be perfect.
If we established a standard of perfection, we'd have very few, if any, people who could meet that standard to become police officers. Instead, what the law requires is that the police officers act reasonably, and that they use what is called objectively reasonable force.
And obviously the jury here, after four and a half days of deliberation, decided that the force used by Officer Yanez was objectively reasonable when he saw Mr. Castile pulling a gun out of his pocket."
Okay. Fair enough. Michael Quinn, a retired police sergeant and training officer for the MPLS department responds to that with,
"I think it's really difficult for a citizen to put themselves in the shoes of a reasonable officer at the scene of a scenario like this. And I think I understand why they came back with a not-guilty [verdict] after viewing the video.
Not being police officers, not being put in that situation themselves — they don't have to do that. They can say, 'Whoa. That would have scared me too. Because if he's reaching down and he's already said he's got a gun, I would have a right to be afraid.'
A reasonable officer I think would have acted differently — and at least would have given Philando a chance to explain, to do something different other than what happened."
Officer Quinn, I agree with you. There was a reasonable scenario here where Philando Castile should have lived.
The interview has finally aired. Last week I snarkily wrote about all the speculation of what was going to be said / unsaid in the interview. Alex Jones claimed that Kelly was going to edit the interview to make him look bad. Jones, going so far as to challenge NBC to release the unedited interview (they probably won’t) which led Alex to claim he has a recording of the entire interview and if NBC does not release the full thing -- he will!
To my knowledge, he hasn’t.
Well, anyway, we have now seen the interview.
Well, Jones was partially correct -- the interview does indeed make him look bad. But I certainly wouldn't blame it all on the editing. Mainly I would blame his words and the twenty plus years of Alex Jones footage that Kelly was able to draw upon to support her claims that Alex Jones is a lunatic. Now, she doesn’t come out and call him a lunatic, I’m reading between the lines. But she obviously went after him with every gotcha tactic journalists use these days.
And she didn’t even touch on the Joe Rogen / Alex Jones conversation. The one where Rogen gets Jones high and Alex talks about aliens, extra dimensions, psychic vampires and other random insanity.
Kelly spent the majority of the eighteen minute interview showing footage from Jones’s past rants and “greatest hits” and not much time showing the actual interview between the two of them. The short snippets we do get from the Kelly / Jones interview mainly involve her acting smug and Jones dodging questions.
Not exactly the stuff of interview legend. The interview apparently tanked in the ratings getting beat out by games shows and reruns of America’s Funniest Home Videos. Jones viewers probably assumed the Kelly piece was going to be all lies and mainstream audiences just didn’t seem to care one way or another.
I guess I don’t know much that will change. Megyn Kelly came off as a dull interviewer and Jones came off as someone who says crazy shit, feigns innocence and seems barely able to control his explosive anger.
If Jones did indeed record the interview and releases the unedited footage I suspect we’ll just get more of the same.
The Alex Jones Show is on GCN.