12
May
2011

Fukushima nuclear power plantTokyo Electric Power company (TEPCO) has now confirmed that the No. 1 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant partially melted down in the days following the Japan Earthquake-Tsunami.

While Tepco suspected there may have been a melt down, nothing was confirmed until this week when a camera was finally able to reach the bottom of the reactor.  What they discovered was a pool of melted fuel rods laying there, which has now made some wonder if there may have been a hole melted in the floor, allowing radioactive water to have leaked out into the ground below.  There were already other leaks discovered, making the water fall to a level of 10 feet, three feet below the tops of the rods.

While the potential impact from this event is not fully known yet, the entire situation has now been complicated by the water situation, and bringing the reactor to a cold shutdown will take longer than was first anticipated.

As the checkups on the reactors has continued, leaks in other towers have been discovered that have lead to radioactive water leaking into the ocean in the surrounding area.

In short, while things aren’t as bad as they could have been, it’s still going to be a very long time before this area will be livable again or the true extent of the lasting damage will be.

Please remember you can help by checking out the Japan Earthquake-Tsunami Relief. It has been over a month since the tragic events of March 11th, but they still need our help.

11
May
2011

Amityville HouseYou have to wonder if the makers of the 1979 horror film The Amityville Horror had any clue that 32 years later people would still be making films stemming from the original.  And you have to wonder if even they would say, “Just stop.”

While the concept of the Amityville house being haunted is up for debate, there is no doubt that it is based around a real 1974 murder where a son, Ronald DeFeo,  killed six family members in the house.  The ghost/horror story that came out of the house didn’t show up for a couple of years, and the validity of the claims have been made time and time again.

While the novel was turned into a 1979 film, what has followed has just gotten progressively worse.  Now my good friend Steven Hodson pinged me earlier with the news that another film based around the house is going into production, and, yes, it’ll be in 3D.  Of course it will be.

Amityville: The Legacy 3D is due to begin filming his fall with a targeted release for Oct. 2012.  First Showing has a lengthy synopsis of the plot:

Six priests enter an abandoned home in the middle of an intense thunderstorm. The leader of the group, Father Manfred, quiets the doubting Father Kibbler, the youngest priest. The priests separate and Kibbler follows the sound of laughter into the attic. Inside, flies swarm by the the iconic windows of the Amityville house. The door slams shut and an unseen demon claws at Kibbler. Manfred kicks open the door and battles the demon until it consumes him in fire. The attic erupts but the demon is vanquished — contained in a weak, but still-alive Manfred.

Thirty years later, we meet Nancy and Michael Evans and their daughter Amanda, a happy family recently touched by tragedy. Nancy’s sister Carolyn committed suicide, leaving Nancy and Michael to care for her kids, Brian and Jessica. The Evans family is in the process of moving from the city to live in Carolyn’s suburban home, where Nancy hopes to bond with Brian and Jessica. Michael plans to fix up the house, sell it, and move the family back to the city.

Before they settle into the home, the friction between Michael and Jessica threatens to splinter the family. Very soon after their arrival, Nancy begins to sense a palpable, evil presence. She can’t seem to sleep through the night due to mysterious and horrifying noises. Their family cat is found in the attic — dead. Slaughtered. Worse, as a family unit, they have a hard time meshing with Brian and Jessica. Michael becomes consumed with renovating the house, and hires a couple of hard-partying locals, Ant and Sean, to help him. But they are afraid to go in the attic. They know what happened in there.

As Michael’s passion turns to obsession, Nancy struggles with her very sanity. She’s coming apart at the seams, unhinged by the evil presence that only she seems to feel. She knows it will stop at nothing to get them out of the house. When she finds some letters Carolyn wrote to Father Manfred and Father Kibbler she makes a startling discovery — Carolyn went through the same thing. Unable to track down Manfred, she locates Kibbler — but he offers her no help. He is no longer a priest, and only communicated with Carolyn because Manfred no longer could. She begs him to help her find Manfred, and Kibbler finally admits the truth: Manfred is in an insane asylum.

Nancy goes to see Father Manfred and convinces him to help her vanquish the evil spirit. Michael’s erratic behavior intensifies as the hauntings escalate, culminating in a horrific attack on one of Jessica’s friends and the mysterious disappearance of a local delivery man. And it soon becomes clear that Michael is building an exact replica of the Amityville house. Nancy finally convinces Kibbler and Father Manfred to put aside their bad blood and help her fight the evil spirit and cast it from the house. But if they think the spirit will go quietly or that they even know the source of its strength, they have another thing coming.

Why?  Why does this move need to exist?  The simple answer is that it doesn’t.  While you can pick on the original horror story idea, but you have to remember that at its core this is a series of tales that are based on a family’s tragedy.  While there have certainly been other movies to profit from tragedy, this one just continues to get sillier by the minute.  And what kills me is that these aren’t exactly huge money makers, it’s not like anyone is leaving a fortune on the table if they don’t make this.

Just stop, this series has long ago run its course, and it’s time for them to come to an end.

10
May
2011

Stacy HopkinsStacy Hopkins, a teacher in Tennessee, has been arrested in connection with allegations that she had sex with two underage male students.

A physical education teacher and assistant girl’s basketball coach at Arlington High School in Arlington, Tennessee has been charged with two counts of aggravated statutory rape by an authority figure and two counts of solicitation, exploitation of a minor.  Stacy Hopkins, 28, allegedly texted nude photos of herself to two male students aged 16 and 18, although the older one was 17 at the time of the instances.  She is also said to have engaged in sexual intercourse with both students.

Hopkins came to the attention of the school when her ex-boyfriend phoned an assistant principal to inform her of the nude photos that were sent to the cell phones of the students.  When confronted with the allegations, Ms. Hopkins reportedly confessed to the crimes according to an affidavit.  When the students were questioned by authorities, they also confirmed the text messages and the sexual intercourse.

According to The Commercial Appeal, her Facebook status was set to “Teaching high school students what not to do or how to do it without getting caught. :-)”  Yes, with a smiley face.

Hopkins has been put on unpaid administrative leave from the school where she has been a teacher since Aug. 2005.

It never fails to amaze me that no matter how many teacher sex scandals I’ve covered over the years, they never cease to amaze me in their depravity.  No, just one student is enough, you have to go for two.  While you can sometimes go, “Ok, fine, it’s wrong you slept with this student, but perhaps there is some bizarre chance you actually fell in love with them,” but two?  What possible excuse is there for that?

I’ll answer that for you, there is absolutely no excuse for that.

9
May
2011

Thor movie posterFinancially, Thor had the third best start to a Marvel Comics movie franchise, but yet it was middle of the pack based on attendance. Thanks, 3D!

According to Box Office Mojo, the $66 million that Thor brought in this weekend was the third best opening for the first film in a Marvel series, coming in behind Iron Man and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. While impressive, going by attendance numbers, the film came in below Hulk, X-Men and Fantastic Four, but was ahead of Daredevil and Ghost Rider, which is not exactly high praise.

While some of this can be attributed to the inflation of ticket prices over the years, 2,737 of the 3,955 screens showing the film were playing the 3D version of the film.  Seeing as tickets for 3D showings are higher than 2D, it accounts for the discrepancy between box office receipts and attendance.  While I am unclear on what the average price differential is across the country between the two versions, in my own town it’s $2.

Considering the general panning I have seen from people of the post production conversion 3D effect, I imagine I’d be asking for my $2 back.  (No, I have not seen the movie yet.)

As I noted late last year, movie studios have begun using 3D as a way to make up lost revenue from declining attendance numbers.  Essentially we are being forced to pay extra for a special effect that in the vast majority of instances does not enhance the story.  You hear about movies that have thousands of effect shots such as the Star Wars films, but yet you pay no extra to see those movies.  Run a film through a 3D conversion process and suddenly it’s worth charging you more.  Some cheap plastic glasses you are encouraged to not keep?

The studios have figured out a way to squeeze a few more dollars out of the audience, and they’re going to do it for every penny they can.  They can’t use the argument that this is some sort of essential aspect of the movie because then they wouldn’t release 2D versions, and what about when they go to home video?  While there are at home 3D solutions, they are cost prohibitive at the moment, and they have not achieved much consumer penetration.  If it’s so important to the film, wouldn’t they release it only as a 3D version on Blu-ray despite the potential lack of sales?  Of course they aren’t doing that because they want to sell as many as they can.

At the theaters they know a good number of people will opt for the higher priced version thinking they will get a better experience, but at home they know people just haven’t spent the money to adopt the technology so they will sell what they can get the most money from.

The consumer is getting played, and considering Thor’s opening numbers were lackluster in spite of 3D, we appear to be reaching a point where it’s no longer going to matter.  While the studios have tried to convince us 3D is here to stay, it will only be for so long as they are making some extra money from it.  When they see attendance numbers falling yet again, they will go back to 2D-only versions to cut the costs, lower the ticket prices and hopefully attract more people to the theater once again.

Until that time, vote with your wallets and opt for 2D versions of films, or simply don’t go at all.  Stop letting Hollywood play us for idiots.

8
May
2011

Empire AvenueEmpire Avenue is yet another way of trying to measure just how influential someone is in the social media scene, but, as with all of its predecessors, it’s broken on launch.

I won’t lie, the link above to the new social media game Empire Avenue will earn me some credits in the game.  Just because I’m going to mock something doesn’t mean I don’t also participate in it.

Since the dawn of social media, people have been trying to figure out who is the most influential, who has the furthest “reach”, who has the most “klout” and so on.  The problem is that as soon as these services launch, someone figures out how to game them, or they give such a weighted value to well-known social media types that people lost interest because they know that their scores will never go up.  Lets face it, unless you are a blustery windbag (like some I won’t name), you’re never going to be considered a “network influencer” because you don’t cause enough drama.  And if you don’t think manufactured drama fuels the social media scene, then you should be thankful for being blissfully unaware.

Empire Avenue is at least up front about the fact it’s a game, and that’s part of the reason I’m enjoying it so much.  People are desperately running around trying to improve their “worth” on a fabricated stock exchange because they have some sort of delusion it will prove how valuable they are in the social media sphere.  While I am well aware I’m playing a game and know that my supposed “worth” isn’t even as valuable as the pixels that take to display it on my screen.

Lets take a look at my profile.

Empire Avenue Profile

In another day or so it should look even more “impressive” because I will have been on the service for five days and that’s when calculations for your activities on other sites kicks in.  For now, it’s a decent amount of “achievements” and so on, but can you spot the gaming?  Notice it says the my two blogs (SeanPAune.com and FunJug.com) have been endorsed ten times?  For a blog to help your score it needs to be endorsed five times, so how did I get my endorsements so quickly?  I went on the blogging community board and asked people I don’t know to endorse them, and I did the same for them.  Yep, really measures your influence, doesn’t it?

Seven people have bought shares in me thus far, a couple of them then left me messages asking me to do the same for them as the more investors you have, the higher your ranking on the site.

Once again, a site comes along to help you see who is the most influential in social media, and immediately people begin gaming it to get a higher score and make people think they are big names in the industry.  The thing I hate to break to these people is … no one is ever going to look at Empire Avenue as any sort of true metric.  It’s just not going to happen.

The other issue?  You will never get your average person to play this game because they just aren’t going to care about it.  A virtual stock exchange where you buy shares in people?  It’s absurd, involved and quite frankly, boring.  Do you think your average Facebook user is really going to care what their value is on a faux stock exchange?  No, they don’t.

While this game is all the rage right now in the social media scene, just like so many other things that have popped up over the past few years, it will fade into relative obscurity within a month or two.  The main reason is it does nothing useful.  Something like Twitter is useful, Empire Avenue is a time suck with no useful aspects that people will eventually figure out and move on to “the next great thing.”

You want to know the secret to knowing how influential you are in social media?  Just don’t care about it and use the tools that actually do you some good.  If extra people start following you, it’s just a nice byproduct.

8
May
2011

writingA total of 34 this week.

FunJug.com

SeanPAune.com

TechnoBuffalo.com

7
May
2011

In general I’ve been excited for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides … and then I saw this clip.

While the entire Pirates of the Caribbean series has been unrealistic with zombies, squid-headed villains and more, this clip from the fourth in the film series is just so silly as to actually turn me off to it somewhat.  It is just unbelievable moment after unbelievable moment.  Are we to believe the muskets fired just right to sever the rope?  That Capt. Jack (Johnny Depp) knew a guard would rush him in such a way that he could use them as a counter-weight?  That the chandelier would swing in such a way that he would be able to reach it?  (And I have no clue why food is on it)

Again, I get the films are filled with wild stunts and mystical moments, but when you’re trying to lure me into a film, could you have picked a worse scene to release as the first clip?  Why not show us something a little less ridiculous?  It does note bode well for the overall tone of this film.

At least even Depp told The Hollywood Reporter that they need to wait on Pirates of the Caribbean 5, and I couldn’t agree more at the moment.

6
May
2011

It’s episode #143 and it’s dog-free this week!

A very general episode this week with lots of thoughts on the news of the past seven days.

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subscribe to Scattercast via iTunes.

5
May
2011

The first trailer for the new Conan the Barbarian film that actually shows footage has appeared, and I have to say I’m less than impressed.

While I know fans of the original stories have their problems with the 1982 film, I come strictly from being familiar with the movies, and this just looks bland in comparison.  Jason Momoa, best known for starring in Stargate: Atlantis, is not exactly a great actor.  Yes, I know, neither was Arnold Schwarzenegger, no arguments there, but if anyone else can portray even less range, that would have to Momoa.

Then there’s the CGI, I am so tired of movies that are more computer graphics than story.  It could just be the trailer, but we’ll have to see what the end product looks like.

This is definitely a trailer that does not increase my interest or faith in a project, and that’s never a good sign.

4
May
2011

A second full theatrical trailer has been released for Green Lantern, and it’s a good mixture of footage we’ve already seen as well as some new scenes.

While I’m still not 100% sold on this film adaptation due to things like the costume having some weird aspects, and I’m also concerned by the number of characters that it looks like we’ll be meeting, but I have to say visually it really looks like it’s working.

Some of the more interesting things in this one is we finally see some Hal Jordan’s (Ryan Reynolds) training, his relationship with Sinestro (Mark Strong), Michael Clarke Duncan as the voice of Kilowog and finally a good look at one of the Guardians of the Universe, the aliens who founded the Green Lantern Corps.

It continues to intrigue me, but considering my lack of interest in seeing a 3D, somehow I think I’ll still miss this one in the theater.  Hopefully enough of you will like it for there to be a sequel … that I can watch down the road at home without the 4D mess they’ll probably add to that one.

3
May
2011

Patricia GallegosA substitute teacher at the Robert L. Craig School in Moonachie, New Jersey has been arrested on charges stemming from sexual conduct with a 14-year-old boy at the school.

Patricia Gallegos, 24, was arrested last week in Moonachie, NJ and charged with one count of second-degree child endangerment. She was taken into custody afternoon of questioning by the Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli’s Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Unit. She was booked and had bail set at $20,000. Due to the nature of the charges it implies that nothing physical happened between the two, but there was some sort of relationship between the two since this past March.

Gallegos has been released from her teaching duties which saw substituting a few times a month at the elementary school.  She is also said to be engaged to marry a U.S. Marine next year according to the Cliffview Pilot.

While there is no indication of what exactly the nature of the relationship was between Gallegos and the student, and while it happened within the city limits of Moonachie, nothing occurred on the actual school grounds.

While I have absolutely no idea what in the world the nature of this relationship could have possibly been, but for her to have been interviewed for hours and then charged, there had to have been something there for them to have thought they could charge her with, but it is truly puzzling what it could have been.

This is a definite first in the teacher sex scandals I’ve covered over the years.

 

2
May
2011

Fast Five movie posterI’m not sure what amazes me more: The fact that a fifth installment in the Fast & the Furious even exists, or that Fast Five brought in $86,198,765 in its opening weekend.

Is this really where we are now movie wise?  A fifth movie in a brainless series about cars can bring in just north of $86 million in its opening weekend?  The good news it cost $125 million, so it’s nowhere near making its money back, but, still … $86 million.  Wow.

While I have never watched any part of this series, I’ve caught a minute or two here, and … I just don’t get it.  Near as I can tell it’s about pretty cars, and there’s some mumbling going on that has a remote resemblance to “acting.”  For whatever reason, people seem to like them, and apparently they were really hungry for another installment in the series.  This one weekend alone made this the fourth most successful of the films according to Box Office Mojo, and it looks to easily get into the third spot, surpassing the second film in the series.

There’s been a short discussion going on in the comments of my post for the Transformers Dark of the Moon trailer about how supporting films like this just make them make more.  Well, in this particular case it isn’t exactly correct because a sixth film was greenlit before this one even hit theaters, and there has been talk of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s character being spun off into his own film.  Yep, looks like it’s true, you go to crappy movies and they breed like rabbits as studios try to make more.

Is it really any wonder that the quality of films has continued to fall like a rock over he past decade or so?  There is no reason why there should have ever been more than one of these films let alone five of them with more to come.  Can’t we just end this insanity?  Stop complaining about movies like this if you keep going to the theaters to see them!

Please Note: No, I’m not seeing Dark of the Moon in the theater, I’ve cleared that up now, so I’m not part of the issue, thank you.