Monday, May 24, 2010

Why Angelenos Don't Like Hockey

It's NHL playoff time again. And no one in southern California knows what the heck is going on. There was a CA team playing in the semi-finals (granted, they lost...badly) but it seems like most people in L.A. have never even heard of the San Jose Sharks. They've heard of their L.A. Kings, but since Gretzky left, I don't think the average person on the street could name a single player from the team. Now, they could tell you Kobe's life story and what kind of candy Lamar Odom ate for dinner two nights ago, but they couldn't even name a King. When the Anaheim Ducks were in the Stanley Cup Finals a few years back, people up here complained that hockey was on TV when they went to the bars. They wanted to watch beach volleyball or something like that. The bartender, a fellow Pennsylvanian, politely informed them that they were going to watch the Stanley Cup and that they were going to like it. They had no idea who this Stanley guy was, or what he had to do with hockey, but they had no interest in finding out. So, I've been thinking about L.A.'s irrational hatred -- it's actually more like a fear, really -- L.A.'s irrational fear of hockey. I'll be discussing some thoughts and making some valid points which I hope you'll consider.

First of all, when a guy as white as me tries to promote hockey, I have to qualify myself as a non-racist. No really, I'm very white. But I totally love black people and other minorities. No, seriously. The reason hockey is my favorite sport has nothing to do with the predominance of really, really white people in the sport. Honestly though, nobody in my family was ever a Nazi -- I'm actually like 1/128th German Jew. I had an Asian pastor and a black pastor marry me to my Latina wife 8 months ago. Both sides of my family are from the North. They fought for the Union.

But I must say, I think Angelenos don't like hockey because it's too white. The players are white, the rink is white...the ice and snow that fall in the cities where people actually do like white. And out here, it's all about hip-hop culture. It's really not that cool to be a white guy in L.A. It's like that song Pretty Fly...for a White Guy by the Offspring. The girls have to specify that he's ok...considering he's Caucasian. And those guys are from southern California. They know what it's like. I married a Latina -- well, because I love her -- but also because my kids will have at least a little bit of street cred.

But did you know there are a good many black guys in the NHL? Right now, our very own Kings have Wayne Simmonds. A couple years back, we had Anson Carter. Elsewhere in the NHL, Don Brashear, Mike Grier, and Jarome Iginla are all great hockey players of African descent...and there's a bunch more. Check this out.

But besides the whiteness, I think Angelenos are scared of the cold. This is a city where people complain as soon as the thermometer hits 59 degrees outside. They post tweets about "frigid arctic winds" at temperatures where most cities are wearing shorts and sun dresses. We can't expect them to go into a room cold enough to keep a giant floor made of ice completely frozen and have a fun time.

Also, Angelenos don't like hockey because they perceive it as an "east coast thing." The east coast threatens people from L.A. because cities like Boston, New York, and Washington get a lot of attention. Everyone who lives here thinks L.A. is the be-all and end-all of civilization, and they don't want any rival cities to steal the Southland's thunder. Enjoying hockey would almost validate the existence of all those east coast guys that annoy them so much.

And if you're wondering why the Staples Center is so full at Kings games if Angelenos don't like hockey, it's because most of those people are transplants from the northeast or northern Europe, a few of them thought they were actually headed to a Lakers game and just got the date mixed up, and the others are gangsters that fell in love with those old black Kings jerseys, and going to a game was the best excuse they could come up with to wear them again.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Example of a Press Release

Of interest to editors and journalists covering:
lifestyles, retail, commerce, tech news, and pop culture

New Furniture Company Makes Traditional Furniture Stores Take the Back Seat
From bedroom sets to kitchenettes, Magic Dingleberry Furnishings can match your style, and they promise you'll like theirs. This new store uses a breakthrough computer program to enhance your living space.
ANAHEIM, CA - April 27, 2010 - Magic Dingleberry Furnishings, an innovative new furniture and decor company, announced its official launch this week. Georg Holzenkopf, founder of MDF, has teamed up with the same programming wizards that brought us Dunkelblau, the super-program that defeated the World Parcheesi Champion, Barry Kasparitus, in 2002. The Carnegie Mellon-based computer gurus worked with Holzenkopf to develop TasteUrSpace, a brilliant system that can select an item of furniture to perfectly fit any decor.

Furniture-shoppers simply provide TasteUrSpace with digital photographs of each room they're shopping for. Then, they tell the program what particular items they need, and TasteUrSpace instantly provides a list of recommended furnishings. The super-program calculates the ideal matches based on 1) the color of existing furnishings, walls, and floors 2) the size and shape of the room 3) the size and shape of existing furnishings, and 4) the style of existing furnishings. TasteUrSpace was designed to extract this information directly from photographs, with no additional input required.

After the list of furnishings is generated, shoppers make their selections, and they can either take home their new purchases immediately, or for a small fee, have Magic Dingleberry deliver it directly to their door within 24 hours. Says Holzenkopf, "I think our customers will be very impressed with how intuitive TasteUrSpace really is. It's truly revolutionary. And, you can expect the same great customer service you'd get from a mom and pop's furniture business."

About Magic Dingleberry Furnishings:

This company is the brainchild of entrepreneur Georg Holzenkopf. Originally a furniture designer for a local home furnishings outfit, he saw such great success, he wound up buying the furniture store he had worked at for over 3 decades. After spending 2 years developing and co-programming the TasteUrSpace software, he equipped his sales model with the new technology, and thus, Magic Dingleberry was born. Funded by monies from Holzenkopf's personal empire and private investors, you can follow Magic Dingleberry on the stock market under the abbreviation MADF.

Georg Holzenkopf, CEO

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Note to Morning Commuters on Sunset Boulevard

Dear Sunset Blvd. commuters:

I must respectfully request your cooperation on the matter of allowing pedestrians to cross the crosswalk on Sunset Blvd. at Las Palmas Ave. As a pedestrian, I must daily walk across Sunset Blvd. at that very intersection. Unfortunately, local pedestrians and walking tourists have not been blessed with a stoplight at that particular junction, as there is one nearby at Sunset and Cherokee. The civil engineers that laid out this part of Los Angeles, as diligent and detail-oriented as they are, didn't even see it fit to throw us a bone and give us one of those sets of blinking yellow lights that drivers have been programmed to ignore. At least with those, drivers hesitate for a moment, buying us pedestrians precious time to scurry beyond the path of the oncoming vehicles. However, it has become clear to me over the past year that the enormous yellow signs on either side of the street indicating that the very thick, unmissable white lines painted across the street are in fact a crosswalk, are not enough of a warning for the average L.A. driver to yield the right of way to a pedestrian, or even to slow down. Now, I'm not a jaywalker, nor have I ever been -- but I feel I must remind you that the pedestrian has the right of way in this scenario.

Now, I'm not making this appeal to you with the foolish assumption that human life is valuable to you. Of course I wouldn't ask you to slow down or yield to me just because I want to live or go about my life without being crippled. I mean, what's in it for you?

I'm making this appeal to you on the basis that a collision with a pedestrian will damage your vehicle. Yes, your masterfully crafted, German engineered luxury automobile will withstand a lot more than my feeble human body -- however, I might at least break up one of your headlights, maybe put a dent on your hood -- depending on the color of your vehicle, you might have to worry about a trip to the carwash to get rid of the nasty bloodstains. Who wants that? And though your insurance will afford you the bodywork needed to hammer out the dents in your auto, and your lawyer will find some way to put me at fault -- think of all the red tape. Really. It would take hours to go through all that trouble...versus just a few seconds to slow down for a pedestrian. I usually even wait for the light at Sunset and Cherokee to turn red, so that you'll only have to slow down at a time when you should be slowing down anyway -- I know it's really important you get right up to the light as quickly as possible so you can beat that guy in the souped up Honda off the line -- just wait until the light at Seward. You'll get 'im.

And when you're explaining to your boss why you arrived at 9:05am and 33 seconds instead of 9:05am and 29 seconds, just tell him some a-hole stepped out in front of your car at Sunset and Las Palmas, and you were worried about having to scrape flesh out of the grill of your car -- which would have made you even later...

Thanks for your time and cooperation.


Nathan M. Rodgers, pedestrian

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Oh-So Deep and Philosophical Meaning Behind the Title of My Blog

"Nate-dog, the title of your blog is weird. What does it mean?"

Well, I'm glad you asked...It's an allusion to "bog mummies," of course. Bog mummies are preserved human remains found in swampy marshes mostly in the U.K., Ireland, and other parts of northern Europe. It's just like that sequence in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers when Gollum, Sam, and Frodo are trudging through the Dead Marshes. They see the bodies of soldiers long dead, well-preserved just below the surface of the water. It seems that certain bogs have a particular pH level and mineral content perfect for the preservation of organic matter. It's kind of like natural formaldehyde.

Similarly, my blog is a place for random thoughts and rants to fall out of my head and be preserved electronically by the good folks at Perhaps, many years in the future, some web-surfers will stumble upon my blogs with their 10th generation iPads and stop for a moment to learn what life was like in early 21st century L.A.

Since many of the posts deal specifically with life in the Los Angeles area or the entertainment industry, I thought it appropriate to include the word "Hollywoodland."

Did you know the "Hollywood" sign used to say "Hollywoodland"? Yeah. Then like the last four letters fell over in an earthquake or some gang tagged them all with graffiti or some rich fool tried to build a house there or some such calamity befell them...and they just left it "Hollywood" after that. "Hollywoodland" sounds more...mythical...a good place for blog mummies to pause for rest, and be crystallized in time for posterity.

I originally titled this blog "The Father of Modern Bloggetry." It was an homage to Robert Goddard, "The Father of Modern Rocketry," who was instrumental in developing the technologies we now use to launch spacecraft and satellites into orbit. He was a fellow sci-fi geek, and he really did a lot to make what was once science fiction a reality. I changed the name of the blog because "Father of Modern Bloggetry" sounds even more pretentious than "Blog Mummies."

Monday, May 3, 2010

Why Are There Black Bars on My TV When I Watch Movies?

"Why are there black bars on my TV screen when I watch movies?" I've heard this question a million times. It was even more common a few years ago when we all still had the old style tube TVs, but even now, you'll occasionally see black across the top and bottom of your HD set. And now, there's black on the left and right sometimes! What's up with that?

After earning a Bachelor of Arts in film and video in college, working in the home entertainment department of a major retailer for a year, then at a video store for a year, and then at a major camera rental house in Hollywood for over 6 years, I've learned a little bit about those black bars on your TV set, and I'll attempt to explain them in layman's terms:

First of all, every TV show and movie you watch is shot for a particular aspect ratio. The aspect ratio is the length of the top or bottom of the frame divided by the length of the side of the frame. For example, old school tube TVs are a 4:3 aspect ratio ("Four by Three"). The frame is 4 units wide and 3 units high. Another way to express this is "1.33," since 4 divided by 3 equals approximately 1.33 (Folks in the industry say "One-Three-Three"). It doesn't matter if you had a big screen or just a little 13" set in your dorm room, it's all the same aspect ratio, and it has nothing to do with the size of the screen. It's really all about the shape of the screen.

All TV shows prior to the advent of HDTV were presented in a 1.33 aspect ratio. So, everything from I Love Lucy to Full House was 1.33, or 4:3.

Now, if you've upgraded to an HDTV set, you'll notice that the screen is significantly wider than your old TV. This new aspect ratio is 16:9 ("Sixteen by Nine"). Or, if you divide 16 by 9, you get "1.78" ("One-Seven-Eight").

Take a popular modern show, say, Lost, for example: If you're watching it on an HDTV set, not only do you get a better quality picture, but you get the wider 1.78 aspect ratio. People watching on the old style televisions can watch the same show, but they are viewing it in the old 1.33 aspect ratio.

So, when the camera guys shooting Lost start filming, they have to keep in mind two separate formats; all of the vital information must be contained within the 1.33 frame (for the people watching on old tube TVs), but the 1.78 frame can't pick up anything that shouldn't be in the shot, such as lighting equipment or the boom operator. The end result is that people watching on HDTV will get a more cinematic experience, and will actually see more information on the extreme left and right of the shot, usually just more beach or ocean or jungle; nothing crucial to the telling of the story.

Now, there are two common aspect ratios for cinema: 1.85 and 2.40. As you might have guessed, 1.85 ("One-Eight-Five") means that the top or bottom of the frame is 1.85 times longer than the side of the frame, and with 2.40 ("Two-Four-Oh"), the top or bottom is 2.4 times longer than the side. You may also hear people talk about 2.35 or 2.39 aspect ratios, which are, for all intents and purposes, the same thing as 2.40, or "anamorphic widescreen." Some of these movies were shot with true anamorphic lenses, and others were shot 2.40 with regular spherical lenses...but we'll talk about that in another blog. Movies like The Big Lebowski and The Truman Show were shot in 1.85. Movies like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings were shot in 2.40.

When either of the cinematic aspect ratios is viewed on an old tube TV, the frame must be "letterboxed."

That means that black bars are added to the top and bottom of the frame in order to preserve the original aspect ratio.

They used to offer "Full Screen" versions of movies for people who preferred to have the image fill their entire screen. However, viewing a film in this manner meant losing up to a third of the original cinematic image.

Now, with 1.78 televisions, the 1.85 films have an aspect ratio so close to that of the TV screen, that they can be stretched to fill the entire screen with no noticeable distortion, although to perfectly preserve the original image, there would need to be very thin bars at the top and bottom of the screen.

2.40 films are still too wide to match up perfectly to an HDTV screen, so when viewing a film of that aspect ratio, there will still be black bars at the top and bottom of the screen.

And, unfortunately, viewing any old TV shows on an HDTV means having black on the left and right of the screen.

Of course, most new TVs have a "fit to screen" option that will stretch an old 1.33 image to fill a 1.78 screen, but not without noticeable distortion to the image.

I've encountered a number of other scenarios since I've owned my HDTV. For example, I've noticed that very old DVD discs that have letterboxed 1.85 versions of films, when viewed on an HDTV, will have the correct aspect ratio, but will refuse to fill the entire screen. The image will be surrounded by black on all sides. Any attempt to force the image to fit to the screen will cause it to stretch to a 2.40 AR, filling the screen from left to right, but leaving black on the top and bottom, and causing significant distortion to the image.

If anyone else has encountered any other weird aspect ratio scenarios, please leave me a comment below, and I'll try to check it out! Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

We were in line for the lamest attraction at Disneyland, but we looked fabulous with our 3D glasses. I love Sonia.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Best Gifts for Guys

Ladies, get your man what he really wants for Christmas, his birthday, or any special occasion. Here are my top ten picks for men's gift ideas.

Don't know what to get for your man? Here are a few gift ideas that he'll love:

1. Sports stuff

You should know what sports teams your man is loyal to. Buy him a jersey, a hat, or a t-shirt. Even if he can't make it to the game, he'll wear the stuff on the weekend while he watches on TV at home. Check this out!

2. Video games

Most guys like video games no matter how old they are. If he has a PS3, XBOX 360, or a Wii, get him a video game. There are loads of games to choose from in the $20 range. If you don't know which game to buy, get him an extra controller...or get him a subscription to GameFly. Click here.

3. Fragrances

Guys like to smell good, too. And women know which fragrances they like to smell on their man. Spray-ons like Axe or Tag are popular and inexpensive, and they now offer lines of body wash, roll-on deodorant, and hair products. Buy separately or as part of a gift set. $5-$15. Look at this.

4. Gadgets

Does he have an iphone? Get him a case for it. Does he have an ipod? Get him mini-speakers for it. $5 - $100. Try this link.

5. TV on DVD

You know which TV shows he likes. Almost any popular series is available on DVD or Blu-ray. Buy him a season of his favorite TV show so he can watch it again and again. $25-$45. This is a good site.

6. Clothing

Most guys are picky about what they wear. But if its something you really want to see him in, and you buy it for him, he'll probably wear it. If you know his size, his sense of style, and what colors he likes to wear, you can probably pick out some great additions to his wardrobe. $15-$100. Great stuff right here.

7. Spirits

Good whiskey, expensive vodka, and premium tequila are all special treats for a guy who enjoys fine spirits, poured with a mixer of his choice...or straight, on the rocks. $15-$50. Enjoy responsibly.

8. A Trip

Surprise the man in your life with a trip to Vegas, a roller coaster park, or a weekend at the beach. Hook him up with a break from the rat race. Doesn't he deserve it? Click here for fun.

9. Baked Goods

It's just like mom used to make. Only better. Because its from you. Simply break out your favorite ingredients and make him a batch of those famous cupcakes...or brownies...or cookies...or whatever it is you're good at making. From scratch is always best, but most of us need a little help from our good friend Betty Crocker. Yummy.

10. Technology

Does he have a good laptop? An HDTV? A Blu-ray player? If not...he probably wants one...Whatever the latest thing is that he doesn't's a good bet it's on his wish list. $100 and up. Check out this link for good buys.

Multi-night Discounts

Always ask for a discount if you're staying at a hotel for more than 3 nights.

If you're staying at a hotel while traveling, and you didn't have time to do research before hand -- or perhaps some unforeseen circumstance has prompted an unplanned hotel stay, always try to negotiate a discounted rate if you're staying more than 3 nights. Often times, nightly rates at a hotel can be modified. If the clerk at the front desk is unable to adjust your rate, politely ask for a manager. Most hotels are willing to work with you if it will get you to commit to a multi-night stay, particularly now, while the economy is slow and tourism and traveling are hurting.

Monday, April 26, 2010

How to Book a Cheap Flight

Nobody likes to overpay when they fly, but with a little research and a little flexibility, there are quite a few ways to keep those airline ticket costs to a minimum.

Traveling on a budget? Here are some easy steps to ensure you are getting the cheapest flight possible:

1. The cheapest plane ticket you'll ever get is a free one. If you know anyone who works for an airline, they can usually get you a "buddy pass," which affords you the opportunity to fly on "stand-by," either for no cost, or for a greatly reduced price. You must have a flexible schedule to fly like this, because the buddy pass does not guarantee you a seat on any particular flight. It is especially difficult to travel with a buddy pass around the holidays, when flights are over-booked, and cancellations due to weather can fill up airports with paying passengers who get put on stand-by status. However, if you're not on a tight schedule, a buddy pass could save you a couple hundred bucks.

2. Check discount airline ticket websites. Check as many sites as you can to compare prices, departure times, and other flight details. My favorites are and . Also try,, and The more sites you check out, the better your chances are of finding the cheapest possible ticket. And, it doesn't hurt to compare ticket prices on actual airline websites. Airlines like Southwest offer great specials that might occasionally beat the discount ticket websites.

3. Unless you're buying a ticket at the last minute, take a week or two to see how airline prices fluctuate. Even over the course of just a few days, you will usually see the ticket prices go up and down a little bit. Before you buy the ticket, get a feel for how low prices might dip down. Although, if you see a ticket that's just too good to be true ($50 or $100 cheaper than other comparable flights), it's probably not a good idea to wait, because those tickets won't last long.

4. Be careful of hidden fees. Most airlines now charge a baggage fee, usually in the ballpark of $15 for the first bag, $25 for each additional bag (not counting 1 carry-on and 1 personal item). And some airlines, like AirTran, actually charge you if you want a guaranteed seat next to the person(s) you are traveling with! The charge is only $5 or $6...but that's per seat, per flight. Imagine a family of four flying round trip; that's almost an extra $50! So if you think you've found a great bargain, do your homework and check the airline's official website to find out their policies on baggage and seating fees. Also, if it's a long flight, you might want to find out how much they'll charge you for an in-flight meal. There's no such thing as a free lunch anymore.

5. If your schedule is at all flexible, in your flight-search options, experiment with departures on different days of the week. Flights that leave in the middle of the week are generally cheaper than flights departing on a weekend. And, another variable to play with is the time of day your flight is leaving. If you can sleep on a plane, or don't care if you miss a night's rest, look into a "red-eye." Overnight flights are often more affordable than morning departures, and you won't waste any good daylight hours on travel time.

6. Always check departure options at multiple airports. If you live in a major city, there are usually only one or two major international airports, and they almost always have the cheapest flights. However, on occasion, the smaller local airports will have the better bargain. In your flight-search options, there should be a box that you can check that says "Search nearby airports." If any cheap flights are found at any airport within a certain radius, they will show up on your search results.

7. Allow for connecting flights. Opting for multiple stops can greatly reduce the cost of your ticket. It can be inconvenient, and it can add hours on to your total travel time, but it might also knock $50 or $100 off the pricetag of your trip. Make sure your connecting flight doesn't leave too soon after your original flight is scheduled to touch-down. If there's less than 20 minutes between flights, there isn't a whole lot of room for error or delays. Sometimes the airline's confidence that they'll get you there in time proves to be unrealistic.

8. If you can, travel during the "off-season" months. What's considered "peak season" may vary, especially if you're traveling internationally. However, traveling around Christmas and New Year's is almost invariably expensive. Sometimes, booking a flight on the actual holiday, as opposed to around the holiday, can save you some cash. Spring break prices (March) are generally high. And in the U.S., summer time is vacation time, and that means more travelers, and thus, more demand, and thus, higher prices.

Nobody likes to overpay when they fly, but with a little research and a little flexibility, there are quite a few ways to keep those airline ticket costs to a minimum. Happy travels!

Wal-Mart Undercover: Inside Loss Prevention

Retail giant Wal-Mart is a target for crime. Find out what goes on behind the scenes to prevent shoplifting in the aisles of a Wal-Mart Supercenter.

Yeah, that was me, over a decade ago: a bona-fide Wal-Mart employee. I'd don my khakis, a nice polo shirt, and Wal-Mart's trademark blue vest - nametag clipped in place over my left breast pocket - and I was ready to do some serious customer service. I worked at two different Wal-Marts over a period of two years in central Pennsylvania. And although I was ready to help customers find the DVD player of thier dreams, my smiling face didn't tell the whole story...

A few months into my Wal-Mart career, I had met a gentleman employed by Wal-Mart - he was wearing plain clothes, no blue vest - whose full-time duty was to track down thieves in our Wal-Mart supercenter. I worked in the electronics department, and CD's, DVD's, and video games were favorite targets of shoplifers, so I saw a lot of our undercover watchdog. Some of the more expensive items were kept behind locked cabinet doors, but many of the electronics items were still left out on normal, unsecured shelves.

Day after day, he would stalk suspicious customers and wait for them to stuff the store's merchandise in their pants or purse. He had to wait for them to attempt leaving the store with the items still unpaid, but then he'd nab them, grab them by the arm, and tell them to come with him. It seemed like twice a day he'd catch someone. He had seen everything from new mothers lifting their infants out of their strollers to place unpaid items under them, to groups of thugs grabbing handfuls of goods and making a run for the exit. We'd watch him escort the criminals to the back of the store, where he'd hold them for a time until the police arrived to make the prosecution official.

If one of us spotted a shady character in a particular department, we could page the undercover Wal-Mart agent by his real name, and tell him to report to that department -- only we'd say that a customer needed assistance instead of announcing over the P.A. that someone suspicious was in the store.

Once, I was interviewed by a detective about a transaction I had rung-up in the Wal-Mart electronics department. It seems a criminal had purchased a television and some other accessories with a stolen credit card. The store I was employed by was a favorite target for credit card fraud, and the detective needed to make sure it wasn't an inside job; that I hadn't deliberately helped this criminal make his purchase in exchange for a cut of the goods.The Wal-Mart corporation focused largely on "shrinkage," or "loss prevention." If you heard a Wal-Mart employee ask another if they had seen "BOB" lately...that was a code to remind that employee to check the "Bottom Of the Basket."

In other words, the employee asking the question thought that a customer was trying to steal some Wal-Mart merchandise by leaving it in the bottom of his or her shopping cart on purpose so the cashier couldn't ring it up. If the employee began talking about "LISA," she was really saying "Look InSide Always" -- telling other employees to check inside any bags or containers among the items the customer was purchasing to see if he or she was stowing away extra merchandise there.

What appeared to be the everyday world of retail was actually a web of crime, espionage, and justice. Every shopping day was an Wal-Mart Undercover.

Alien Film Invasion: The Ten Best Alien Movies of All Time

We love extraterrestrials! Check out our freaky and fantastic picks for the greatest alien movies ever...

Alien movies have been a staple of the science fiction film genre since it began. From the cute and cuddly, to the gruesome and grotesque, outer space aliens have captured our imaginations, filled us with fear, and made us re-contemplate our place in the cosmos. Here are our picks for the 10 best alien flicks ever:

1) Our first pick is the original Ridley Scott "Alien." If the title of this film isn't imaginative, then the film itself makes up for it with originality, groundbreaking effects, and an H. R. Giger-designed monster. A young Sigourney Weaver heads up the brilliant cast, which also includes Tom Skerritt, Ian Holm, and John Hurt. While visiting a distant planet, the crew of the Nostromo picks up an extraterrestrial killing machine that begins terrorizing the people on board. It's as much a suspense/horror thriller as it is a science-fiction film.

2) Next is Steven Spielberg's touching alien drama, "E.T." Has anyone not seen this movie?

3) A new addition to our favorite alien movies list is the Peter Jackson produced "District 9." Shot documentary-style, this movie chronicles the arrival of an alien spacecraft, the extraction of its inhabitants, and their incarceration at a detention facility full of dilapidated shacks and shanties. It's a unique alien invasion scenario; malnourished prawn-like aliens travel many light-years across the galaxy to become oppressed by the human race.

4) Also making the list is James Cameron's "Aliens," a follow-up to the Ridley Scott film. This time Ripley finds herself in the company of a rough and tumble unit of space marines, armed to the teeth with cool weapons and tech gadgets, ready to fight their way through not just one alien this time, but a whole swarm of the vicious creatures. Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, and Paul Reiser join the cast for this critically-acclaimed sequel.

5) Although this film has hardly stood the test of time, we're going to have to drop another Cameron film into this list: "Avatar." Recently smashing box office records, employing brand new 3D technology, and introducing audiences to a new breed of blue extraterrestrials, this Golden Globe winner has already made its share of waves in the ocean of science-fiction filmmaking. Greedy humans begin mining operations on a distant planet, inhabited by a troublesome native population, the Na'vi. Military forces are deployed to "relocate" these aliens. Military scientists combine the DNA of human soldiers with that of the Na'vi, thus creating big, blue super-soldiers; or avatars, controlled remotely by the thought patterns of their human counterparts, of course. The avatars, bringing with them the cruel agenda of the human mining operation, intermingle with the natives. Big budget action ensues as Sam Worthington's avatar leads a rebellion against the well-armed human oppressors.

6) "Contact." Robert Zemeckis helms an adaptation of the Carl Sagan novel by the same name. The astronomy community is all aflutter after receiving a mysterious message from deep space. Jodie Foster's character, Ellie Arroway, is an astronomer at the center of all the commotion. Her foil, Palmer Joss, played by Matthew McConaughey, is a man of faith. They face-off in thought-provoking philosophical debate about God, science, and life on other planets. Pay close attention to the character named S. R. Hadden...Is he an alien?...Or is he an angel?...Or perhaps both?

7) "The Day the Earth Stood Still"(1951). Robert Wise directs. An humanoid alien, Klaatu, does his homework on planet earth to make the ultimate decision: whether it should be destroyed or not. Meanwhile, his giant robot buddy, Gort, intimidates the U.S. Army with fancy lasers that melt tanks.

8) The original "War of the Worlds"(1953) makes our list. This Oscar-winning sci-fi flick, directed by Byron Haskin, is as classic as they get. The first film adaptation of H.G. Wells' terrifying alien invasion tale is still worth a watch today. **SPOILER ALERT: Wells surmised that alien intruders would die from our common cold. Imagine how safe Earth is now we have H1N1.

9) Next up, "Lilo and Stitch." That's right, we put a Disney cartoon on this list. Full of off-beat humor and plenty of heart, it's a tale of a misfit Hawaiian girl adopting an intergalactic fugitive as a pet. The two title characters are sophisticatedly strange for a children's movie. Artfully drawn figures and beautiful renditions of Hawaiian scenery add depth and style to this quirky, Oscar-nominated film.

10) Another Spielberg movie, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" rounds out our top ten list. Featuring special-effects that still hold up to modern standards, this film, starring Richard Dreyfuss as Roy Neary, takes place in remote parts of New Mexico. Neary and others spot UFO's in the skies. Visions of a mountain and mysterious music run through Neary's head, eventually leading him to the rendezvous point where he'll meet advanced interstellar visitors.

If you love aliens as much as we do, then you've probably seen most of the movies on this list. But these are essentials, so if there's one you haven't seen, then you're missing out. Check it out today!
Animals may or may not have souls...

But this pug definitely does have some style...

And out here in Hollywoodland, that's way more important.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


I wrote this review not thinking about which of my two blog pages to post it on, and realizing that it deals a little bit with southern California and a little bit with space-geekiness, I decided to post it on both. Here in Blog Mummies, I post-dated it for Valentine's Day since this is one of the best romantic films I've ever seen.

Max Mayer's Adam combines the sweet and the real, yielding a subtle, but successful romantic comedy. Hugh Dancy stars as the Asperger's-stricken Adam, an awkward electronics engineer with few friends and even fewer romantic prospects. Rose Byrne plays opposite him, as his intimidatingly pretty, but kind-hearted neighbor, Beth.
This movie's ability to portray the fumbling nervousness associated with young infatuation between two slightly socially-awkward human beings is this movie's heart. Adam's social ills are obvious. Asperger's syndrome causes glaring obsessive-compulsive-like behavior in the title character. He rambles and rattles on about "nerdy" subjects that his audience seldom cares about and almost never comprehends. He is obsessed with space, the cosmos, and the origins of the universe. His fascination with scientific discovery and knowledge of astronomy and quantum mechanics gets balanced out by an equally obsessive love of the theater.

Beth, though not as blatantly challenged socially, reveals her own insecurities throughout the film. As an only child, she shares with her father in one scene that she feels "emotionally retarded" and inter-personally underdeveloped. (As an only child myself, I can certainly relate.) Adam's innocent fondness for Beth intrigues her, as her previous relationships have ended in heartbreak. The film opens with Beth reminiscing about a children's story she had read when she was little. It's about a prince from outer space. His weirdness, his awkwardness, and his love of the stars suggest that Adam is indeed that prince from outer space.

What sets this film apart from other romantic comedies is its adherence to the dying notion that a relationship isn't about being loved, but is about loving. Through their brief, but life-changing relationship, both Adam and Beth are deeply moved. Beth, as the slightly more advanced counterpart in the relationship finally realizes that central truth; that Love (yes, Love with a capital "L") isn't about receiving love for herself. It's about loving the other. It's about meeting a prince from another planet and finding a way, not only to appreciate him in spite of his weirdness and faults and flaws, but to truly sacrificially care for and cherish his whole being.

**WARNING: The following paragraphs may contain SPOILERS**
In the movie, Beth's mother, bearing the brunt of an adulterous affair, chooses to continue loving her husband in spite of his unworthiness. She chooses to love him in the middle of a world that promotes the idea that love must be earned. Likewise, Beth chooses to love Adam, despite his unworthiness.

At the end of the film, she readies herself to sacrifice all for him. Adam, not fully grasping this sacrificial concept of love, insists she must follow him to California because he "needs her." He can't tell her he loves her. He can't ask her to come with him on the basis that he is ready to sacrifice for her -- because he isn't. But in the closing scene, Adam receives a children's book from Beth -- the book tells a children's version of their own romance. Adam realizes how deeply he impacted Beth's heart, and he finally realizes that he is truly loved by her. For one reason or another, whether he deserves it or not, he knows he is loved. We know from earlier in the film that Adam's mother died early on in his childhood. This moment is probably the first time in his life that Adam feels loved by a woman. And although they don't wind up together at the end of the film, Adam takes a giant step toward being able to love someone else, now that he understands that he himself is loved, despite his many flaws.

The end of the film takes place at the Mt. Wilson observatory, a famous southern California haven for stargazers, astronomy buffs, and researchers of the heavens. Adam found himself in the land of Receiving Love. He didn't belong there. But there he was. (As a Christian, blessed with a myriad of things I don't deserve, I can certainly relate.)