Friday, July 29, 2011

Schlockmania Ponders Fangoria #10

in which Don Guarisco confronts the question of the ages: Which is scarier – an exploding head or a Faeries TV special?

As I noted in my comment to Don's writeup, I have to wonder if Fangoria #10 can go down in history as the first magazine to put an exploding head on its cover. Has anyone else done it? Famous Monsters? Castle of Frankenstein? Car and Driver? I think not.

Read Don's description on Schlockmania.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Japan's SF Magazine: Great Magazine Covers, Continued

As another in my occasional series of great magazine cover appreciation, I present this 1971 issue of SF magazine from Japan. For more Cold War-era SF magazines, see Meanjin's Spike, and for more Japanese Sf magazine covers, see Pink Tentacle.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Sneak Peek at Never-Seen Deleted Star Wars Footage

Here's just a taste of the deleted Star Wars scenes that we'll get to see in more detail when the movies are released on Blu-ray this September.

(If that embedded video doesn't work, see it at Huffington Post.)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

News International Continues Trying to Change the Subject

Not to be outdone by The Wall Street Journal's whining that it was being drawn into the salacious scandal of its owner, over in the UK News International (which, like the WSJ, is owned ultimately by News Corp.) is trying desperately to change the subject.

The subject, of course, is the phone hacking scandal that has morphed into a Watergate-level threat to that country's political elite.

So how did The Sun, News International's other bottom-feeding tabloid besides the now-defunct News of the World, report on the scandal today? The only thing I saw on its website was this:
Yes, this is News International's "Leave Britney alone!" moment.

Maybe if I dug and dug I might have found something else on the paper's website about this huge scandal. But if this is the first thing one comes across when searching for the hacking scandal on that scandal sheet's website, then this is the first thing the paper's owners want you to see.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Digital Magazines Magma & Galaxis Keep Growing

I was so pleased in late June when I noted here that my digital science-fiction/science magazine Galaxis had reached the 1,000 viewers milestone.

Today, I happened to notice that my previous digital magazine, Magma (a magazine about the magazine industry), had also reached 1,000 viewers. That was a very pleasant surprise; I knew Galaxis had a larger audience, because science fiction is a popular topic. But Magma caters to a much more specialized reader.

So now Magma is at 1,000 and counting. And Galaxis keeps zooming along; as of today, it's at 1,600!

Enjoy them both!

I should note that the second issue of Galaxis is well under way and should be available (from issuu and magcloud) in early September. As always, you can find all of my publications at my main website.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

David Brooks Strikes Again

Coming on the heels of his braining of the GOP over its refusal to accept the "no-brainer" budget deal offered to them by President Barack Obama, New York Times columnist David Brooks struck again today with a column that continues his line of accusation that today's Republican Party is not a serious governing party.

Some choice bits:
[Grover] Norquist is the Zelig of Republican catastrophe. His method is always the same. He enforces rigid ultimatums that make governance, or even thinking, impossible. ...

Republicans now have a group of political celebrities who are marvelously uninterested in actually producing results. Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann produce tweets, not laws. ...

All of these groups [components of the GOP] share the same mentality. They do not see politics as the art of the possible. They do not believe in seizing opportunities to make steady, messy progress toward conservative goals. They believe that politics is a cataclysmic struggle. They believe that if they can remain pure in their faith then someday their party will win a total and permanent victory over its foes. They believe they are Gods of the New Dawn.
Mind you, Brooks has not become a liberal. He is an honest conservative writing this, and as such, deserves a hearing.

Read the entire column at The New York Times.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Why Didn’t Sylvester Stallone Run for Governor? The Starlog Project, Starlog #196, November 1993

The 1980s and 1990s were the era of over-muscled heroes, from Douglas Quaid to Rambo to the Terminator. Brains were out, cartoonishly rippled chests and arms were in. And two actors ruled in this era.

There were pretenders, such as Dolf Lundgren. But the two actors who were consistent box office gold were Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. And, though I might not care for many of the pictures they starred in, certainly millions of others loved them and threw their money at any cinema showing the flicks. (Did Stallone and Schwarzenegger ever confront each other on screen? I don’t think so. But it would have been something to see.)

So they kept making the films. With 1993’s Demolition Man, Stallone takes the lead again, playing a police officer cryogenically frozen for several decades, who is awakened to find that the world has gotten stranger during his time asleep. The antagonist is Wesley Snipes, a criminal who was also frozen and thawed to provide some drama in 2032.

On page 29 of this issue of Starlog, a photo caption reads: “Death Race 2000 is Stallone’s only other SF venture up until Demolition Man. The future, however, holds quite a few more.” That would come true a year later with the release of Judge Dredd, the long-awaited but disappointing American film of the legendary UK comics.

Meanwhile, Demolition Man reportedly debuted at the box office in the #1 slot and went on to make almost three times its production cost.

Starlog #196
92 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $4.95

This classified ad on page 79 caught my eye: “SCI-FI + ROCK = AUDIO COMIX. Series on cassette. Buy one. $11.50. …” No, I still don’t have any idea what that equation means. Also this issue, the magazine advertises its latest licensed movie magazine: Jason Goes to Hell, featuring all of the gruesomeness horror fans need.

The rundown: Sylvester Stallone’s Demolition Man character takes up the cover shot, while a Joe Chiodo illustration of RoboCop controls the contents page. In his Medialog column, David McDonnell reports first news that Tom Cruise got the controversial call to portray the vampire Lestat in Interview with the Vampire. Has anyone told Anne Rice yet? Michael McAvennie’s Gamelog reviews Iron Helix, Acclaim’s Alien3, and more. Communications letters cover Star Trek, of course (including one writer who says that Star Trek: The Next Generation “is frequently a politically correct bore”), as well as The Abyss and Lost in Space, while Mike Fisher’s Creature Profile features an Invader from Venus. And Booklog reviews Virtual Light, Night of the Cooters, The Jaguar Princess, Retief and the Rascals, Camelot 30K, Dancer’s Rise, Icarus Descending, Manhattan Transfer, Greendaughter, Against a Dark Background, Hunty Party, Larissa, and On Basilisk Station.

Of course the Fan Network features the usual convention calendar and Scott Briggs’ directory of fan clubs and publications. David Hutchison’s Videolog includes Francis Ford Coppola’s movie Bram Stoker’s Dracula, plus other recent video releases. A two-page Tribute section includes Jean-Marc Lofficier’s obituary for publishing legend Lester Del Rey, and Tom Scherman remembers production designer Harper Goff, whose work includes Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and other classics. And Kerry O’Quinn’s From the Bridge column features a letter from novelist Simon R. Green talking about his early perserverence in becoming a successful author.

Marc Shapiro interviews actor Sylvester Stallone, who calls his new movie Demolition Man “a science fiction/action/comedy.” Kyle Counts talks with actor Richard Hatch, who – in 1993 – was just getting started trying to revive Battlestar Galactica. Joe Nazzaro chats with Red Dwarf star Robert Llewellyn, who also talks about his appearance in the ill-fated American pilot of the UK’s Red Dwarf.

Steven Spielberg, for all of his astounding successes at the movie box office, has never been a raging success on the small screen. His Amblin Entertainment would try again – with Spielberg as executive producer – on the submarine show seaQuest DSV (which, as I noted in an earlier writeup, was dubbed by one early critic as Voyage to the Bottom of the Ratings). Well, Bill Warren previews the new show; like all TV series preview articles, it’s filled with the actors and other creators making glowing, positive remarks about the show and telling you little of real insight or detail. A more successful sea voyage would be the 1993 Sea Trek cruise in the Caribbean, about which David Hutchison reports. A highlight of the trip – or at least an unexpected occurrence during the voyage – is the rescue of four Cuban refugees at sea.

On dry land, Ian Spelling interviews Trek’s Marina Sirtis, who describes how things might have been different if she had gotten the part for which she had originally auditioned: the security chief (eventually played by Denise Crosby). David Hirsch profiles composer Basil Poledouris, who discusses his work on RoboCop, Conan the Barbarian, and other films. Mark Phillips brings us back to the water with an interview of Allan Hunt, who portrayed Stu Riley in one season of Irwin Allen’s Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. (See? This entire issue is connected.) Ian Spelling also talked to Sigourney Weaver about Alien3, which she discusses in a one-page article. She admits that the film “was sort of a downer” but defends it as a brave attempt to continue making each Alien film different than the previous ones. And editor David Hutchison wraps it all up in his Liner Notes column with a report on his trip to Australia, where he did not pick up any Cuban refugees.
“Trying to generate renewed interest in Battlestar, either as a theatrical feature or as a three-parter for the Sci-Fi Channel … Hatch has written a script that picks up where the original Battlestar left off. … ‘It ties up all the loopholes and puts the characters on track to finding their home. My story tells what that journey would really be like, rather than suddenly having them find Earth, which is what they did in Galactica 1980. [While Hatch was offered a role in that incarnation of the saga, he turned it down due to work conflicts.] I think they threw the premise away and turned it into a gimmicky show. The original series had a much different mystical, profound quality to it,’ Hatch observes.”
–Kyle Counts, writer: “Life Beyond the Battlestars”
For more, click on Starlog below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent site.

Friday, July 8, 2011

UK Phone Hacking Scandal in Taiwan Video News Treatment

Naturally, I join the entire civilized world in reveling in anything that causes Rupert Murdoch headaches.

But I think there's an even more important thing at stake. Britain's "lively" tabloid newspaper culture is sometimes defended as the cost of a free and vigorous press. But clearly there's a lot that's just criminal going on, and it's hardly a matter of hard news and civic duty to report on a celebrity's shenanigans.

Meanwhile, over in Taiwan, they're showing us what a lively news culture is really about: taking the stuffing out of people in a manner that is fearless, borderline bad taste, and sometimes downright brilliant. NMA rules.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

My Column in Marina Times: Lying Liers

My Northside San Francisco column this month is also printed in its sister publication, San Francisco's Marina Times.
Common Knowledge
Living on lies 
By John Zipperer

Former congressman Anthony Weiner made a revealing (forgive the word) statement when he belatedly explained his recent unraveling sex scandal. At a press conference, Weiner admitted that even when he first lied about the situation, he ultimately knew he wouldn’t get away with it.


My Latest Column in Northside San Francisco – No Lying

The July 2011 Northside San Francisco has my latest column:
Common Knowledge
Living on lies 
By John Zipperer 
Former congressman Anthony Weiner made a revealing (forgive the word) statement when he belatedly explained his recent unraveling sex scandal. At a press conference, Weiner admitted that even when he first lied about the situation, he ultimately knew he wouldn’t get away with it.

Weiner lied, of course, in the horror of being caught doing things that were inappropriate for a sitting U.S. Representative – or anyone else, probably. But his lies were direct attempts to avoid or delay a reckoning that might ruin his career and marriage. 

My Review of Erik Larson's In the Garden of Beasts

by Benjamin Benschneider
In the current edition of Northside San Francisco, my review of Erik Larson's new nonfiction book In the Garden of Beasts is published.
Book Notes
Strangers in a stranger land 
By John Zipperer 
Adolf Hitler met my stepmother. True story. She was a young schoolgirl in the 1930s, one of thousands of locals lined up to observe the Nazi leader on his visit to their eastern German city. As the dictator walked through the crowd shaking hands, he stopped long enough to playfully tug on my stepmother’s pig-tails, and he moved on. 
History is filled with such minor but interesting details that either make history come alive or bogs it down even further for people who hate history. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin, the new nonfiction book from author Erik Larson, is filled with just those kinds of details of character and location, sight and even smell.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

ISI Full Civic Literacy Exam

In my new column in Northside San Francisco (which is out on the stands now, and I'll post a link to the online version in a week or so), I note some of those notorious survey results that show that Americans are less knowledgeable about the world than they should be. Real survey results, such as that more Americans can name two members of Snow White's Seven Dwarfs than can name two members of the U.S. Supreme Court. Or that a majority of Americans don't believe in evolution. Or that a quarter of Americans don't know what country we fought to gain our independence.

One could go on, but demonstrating the lack of informed opinion in this country is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel; it's just too easy. And all the water leaks out from the bullet holes.

So I was pleased when a friend send me a link to an online survey from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute's 33-question Full Civic Literacy Exam. It notes: "The average score for all 2,508 Americans taking the following test was 49%; college educators scored 55%."

Take the test, then come back here and tell us in the comments section below what your score was. (Be honest; you can post anonymously.)

For the record, I got 93.94%. Now, that and $3.00 will get me a cup of coffee, and I don't even drink coffee, so it's pretty useless. But it should be noted that I'm an editor, writer, and publisher, not a college educator, so you can now think your own thoughts about the decline of American civilization.

UPDATE July 3, 2011, 9:35 a.m.: I should note that after I took the test and posted this to Facebook and my blog, I looked further into ISI, which is connected to the conservative Collegiate Network, which used to be known as the Institute for Educational Affairs (a nonprofit that helps conservative college newspapers, including one I edited back in the 1980s at the University of Wisconsin-Madison). The test isn't necessarily conservative, though there are a few economics questions that likely wouldn't please left-wingers. Just FYI, in the interests of full disclosure. (And though no, I wouldn't fit any real definition of a conservative today, I do think that overall this is a good test. It's not tricky, and most people really should know all of the information it tests.)