Thursday, June 26, 2008

MONSTER QUEST: Giant Killer Snakes

History Channel - Original Air Date: 6/25/08

Do giant anacondas up to 150 feel long live in the jungles and rivers of Venezuela, South America?  This new MonsterQuest show covers much of the same ground covered by Josh Gates in Destination Truth.  (There are enough programs of this type now that there's starting to be a lot of overlap.)  Expert snake hunters go out looking for such monsters.  One villager claims a 45 foot snake killed his 13-year-old cousin 55 years ago.  Naturally, there are no photos.  New internet photos seem to show giant snakes swallowing people, but are the pictures real?  One expert sets up game cameras to see how bad the snake infestation is near Miami.  Many pet pythons and boas escaped during a hurricane several years back.  Another set of experts hauls a special sonar camera south to peer into Venezuelan rivers where snakes may hide.  Analysis of the big snake photos seems to indicate that one is probably fake, the other possibly real.  One expert says a 30' python could open its mouth 2-3' wide -- wide enough to swallow a human being.  In Venezuela, neither the camera traps nor the sonar finds a monster snake.  The everglades camera, though, does capture a 12-foot-long albino snake -- not a giant, bur further proof of the encroachment of wild former pets into human territory.


History Channel - Original Air Date: 6/11/08

The show goes to Lizzy Borden's house and talks to ghost hunters, witnesses, and hired scientific experts.  The show says that more than a third of Americans believe in ghosts. Does a famous film really show ghosts marching across a Gettysburg battlefield?  Are any photos of ghosts real?  Did a ghost move a video camera set in the Borden house? The show tackles such questions using state-of-the-art equipment and expert analysis.  A Vatican "ghost" turns out to be merely a shirt on a pole (used by a tour guide).  A gas station "ghost" looked to this viewer more like an out of focus bug or piece of debris -- though the experts are reluctant to say for sure (though all debris close to the lens ends up being blue).  An expert points out that people who need answers more, are more likely to believe in the paranormal.  The amount of equipment set up in the Borden house is impressive, including a top of the line Fleer thermal camera (similar to the one on Ghost Hunters).  Will they recreate any of the many "anomalies" of the house?  An expert believes the Gettysburg film looks like reflections -- possibly a hoax, Naturally, the creator denies any such shenanigans.  All the photo equipment in the Borden house gets nothing (save for a warm toy box and a cold wall).  The EVPs prove somewhat more interesting -- though why the voice says "Sooo..." and what it means remains a mystery.  The program concludes, without much evidence, that "something strange was happening in the Borden house."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sullivan Wizardworld Booth

Stephen D. "Manwolf" Sullivan's booth at Wizardworld Chicago is #5910 in Artists Alley.  The convention runs from June 27-29, 2008, and is located in the O'Hare Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois.  Stop by, see Steve's new books, and chat about the Blue Kingdoms or Uncanny Radio.  Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

AREA 51 - Unsolved History

Discovery Channel - Original Air Date: 2002-5

This show looks at the history of the most famous military site that officially doesn't exist, Area 51 -- a.k.a. Groom Lake in Nevada, USA.  The program traces the history of the site from its post-WWII.  It then proceeds to the base's use in spy plane missions, starting with the U2, going on through the SR-71, and up to the stealth aircraft testing of the present.  Bob Lazare claimed to have worked there and seen otherworldly craft -- which were being back-engineered to create better US aircraft.  There seems to be little evidence for his claims, though some continue to believe him.  (Ironically, for me, Stanton Friedman is not one of his supporters; which puts me and Stanton on the same side for once.)  There seems little doubt that the base continues to test top-secret aircraft to this day.  And this, perhaps, explains the many UFO-type sightings surrounding the area.

The show also briefly investigates Kecksburg, and whether a Cosmos-style Soviet satellite or the falling engine from an SR-71 could help explain the supposed UFO crash.  They insert artist renditions of these possibilities to Kecksburg eyewitnesses.  Two eyewitnesses pick the satellite pieces as being very similar to what they saw, which seems to rule out the SR-71, Area 51 connection.  The show then speculates about whether new stealth technologies -- including a chameleon-like cloaking device -- are still being tested in Area 51.  UFO reports, it further speculates, might be a good cover for military tests.  Until the veil of government secrecy is lifted from the base, we may never know the truth.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Steve "Manwolf" Sullivan at WizardWorld Chicago

I should be at WizardWorld Chicago for the entire convention at the end of next week. (June 27-29, 2008).

I hope to have an artist alley table, though this hasn't been confirmed yet. You should be able to find me under my own name, or possibly under Glasshouse Graphics or Phil Longmeir -- who will be in the spaces next to me. (If everything goes according to plan.)

I will have books -- including preview copies of the brand-new Blue Kingdoms: Buxom Buccaneers -- for sale and a few other items. too. With luck, I may even be sporting advance copies of the Uncanny Radio T-Shirt and Hat.
I hope to see lots of my friends and fans there! I look forward to talking to everyone about my books, stories, comics, and -- of course -- Uncanny Radio.

-- Stephen D. Sullivan

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Long Time Coming

Usually I don't blog about sports.  I watch them, being married to my wife the sports nut, how could I not?  Some of you probably know I support the local teams: Packers, Brewers, Bucks.  Other, though, may know that I'm a transplanted easterner -- and, even for an artist kid like me -- old sports loyalties never die.  Especially not when you come from metropolitan Boston.

All of which is to say I'm THRILLED almost beyond words by the Celtics' NBA Championship victory tonight.  It's been a long time coming; I've had two kids since the last championship -- and, until tonight, every year was the longest stretch of my life without a Celtics championship.  I grew up in the glory days of Russell, Havlicek, and Bird.  Five years without a championship?  Almost unthinkable.  Twenty-two years -- impossible.  (Well, it should have been, anyway.)  But all that is behind us now.  Now the Celtics are back at the top of the heap where they belong.  And, as I said, I'm thrilled.

But, you know, more than being thrilled for myself or the other fans, I'm thrilled for the new Big Three (though KG doesn't like that nickname).  I'm thrilled for Pierce, Garnett, and Allen because these are guys who have worked their hearts out in the NBA for years--about thirty years combined (maybe more), by my rough estimate.  And they are great guys; upstanding citizens with superb work ethics.  And for all those years, they never got the big prize.  But this year is different. This year is when selflessness and team play and outside shooting ability finally pay off.  I'm especially happy for Ray Allen, who was one of my favorite players when he was with the Bucks.  I always thought he was just the best all-around guy in the league, and how he's got a trophy to prove it.

The great thing about this series against LA is how many Celtics stepped up.  We got amazing minutes from not only the Big Three, but from a lot of our bench players, too.  One of the reasons we won this series was our team was just deeper than the Lakers.  If KG wasn't big, Pierce was, or Allen was, or Rondo was, or Powe was, or Posey was, or House, or ... somebody.  Everybody came to play, and that's why we won.

And beating the Lakers for the championship?  What could be better than that?  Beating the Lakers by 39.  Yeah, that'd definitely be better.

Pierce is a worthy MVP, though I might have given it to Allen; Allen won the Comeback Game for the team, and he shot the lights out in the finals.  Need a 3?  Just get it to Ray.  No surprise he tied the single-game 3-point record and shattered the series record.  Told you, I love the guy.  Damn!  Am I glad he's back on a team I root for!

Hey, I almost forgot to talk about Doc Rivers?  What can I say?  During this series, he out-coached one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game.  Way to go, Doc!  You deserved this one, too.

And the crowd!  Classic Celtic crowd.  In it and on their feet from beginning to end.  See, LA?  This is what fans are supposed to be.


One last thing before I go: Kobe.  Is he the best player in the NBA or even the world?  I don't know; haven't watched enough basketball this year, despite the Celt's resurgence (the Bucks are sucking), I do know this though: WE OWNED HIM THIS SERIES.  I know one other thing, too.  He ain't no Michael Jordan.  No way no how.  Not even close.  He's more Scottie Pippin.  The truly great players make everyone else around them better.  Kobe ain't there -- at least he wasn't in this series.  So let's stop hearing all this talk of him being as good as Jordan.  MJ was and is the best.  Period.  (Bird and Magic a close second.)

But enough about that Jordan wannabe, tonight is about the Celtics.  They played great offense, and even greater defense.  They deserved this win, and I'm happy they have it, not only for them, but all those of us who have been waiting the last 22 years.

The Celts are back!  Deal with it.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

UFO HUNTERS - Hist. - The NASA Files

History Channel - Original Air Date: 5/7/08

Is NASA keeping proof of UFOs from the public?  If you've followed this show this far, you probably know that to ask the question is to forecast the conclusion.  "What do we have to do to prove that there's a UFO cover-up in Nasa?" the team leader asks. Since the early days of space exploration, strange objects have appeared in NASA footage and photos, but NASA has no official policies on UFOs.  An early report, the Condon Report, dismisses any need to investigate further; they conclude there is no defense significance to UFOs.  Of course, the "investigators' on this show take issue with that report.  The show then details the history of NASA UFO sightings.  Pictures taken and things seen are explained by NASA as space junk or reflections, though one astronaut believes he may have photographed a secret defense satellite.  As usual, this show reads sinister motives(and cover-ups) into conversations between astronauts and controllers.  The team interviews a supposed ex-NASA worker who believes she saw NASA suppress evidence of UFOs.  She claims that NASA airbrushed a disc-shaped object out of a satellite photo of a ground survey.  (The idea that perhaps this was a secret project or installation is never explored by the show.)  She claims to have been intimidated not to reveal her information.  Of course, she has no evidence.

The team then visits a science center, Wonder Works, to explore the theory that some of these things are reflections, ice from the space ship's exterior, or other similar phenomena.  The elaborate experiment shows that the view outside can be distorted by the 4-5 panes of glass in spaceship windows and the play of light and shadow.  There is not only debris outside the craft, but also debris in the panels.  This seems a very convincing explanation for most of the photos and films taken from inside the craft.  But what about from outside?  One strange object seems to reverse direction and change speed.  The shows expert seems to think this is some kind of orbital arc, though the team leader disagrees.  Another shuttle film seems to show an object changing direction, and streaks of light shooting up from the earth.  Did the retro rocket cause the one object (ice?) to move?  But why does the object pause in its flight?  As usual, the show reads great importance into small details.  "It stops.  That means there's some intelligent control going on," declares the team leader.  Is this some kind of a weapons test?  Or is NASA shooting at UFOs?  When a tether breaks away from the shuttle, why do glowing objects seem to circle it?  The shows experimental producer shows that the apparent discs are merely unfocused debris, reflecting the shape of the lens taking their picture.  The orbiting is explained as just an optical illusion.  One former astronaut believes that there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe (though he doesn't say this life is in UFOs); another believes there have been cover-ups since the beginning of the space program.  Astronauts are known for their credibility -- at least they were until the recent stalker incident.  Does that mean their opinions are more valid on this subject than most?  The show seems to think so.  (But I'm not so sure.)  This episode of the series has had some of the best scientific experimentation and explanations seen in this show, though the program is still filled with unsupportable statements by believers (including the team leader).  Overall, if you want to watch one episode of this show, this one wouldn't be too bad a place to start.


History Channel - Original Air Date: 6/4/08

Is there some kind of terrible vampire beast lurking in North Carolina?  Pets are dying and there seems to be some resemblance to a similar series of incidents in the 1950s.  Witnesses describe the thing as a cross between a dog and a cat with vampire-like fangs.  Victims seem to be largely dogs and goats.  One man buried his dog only to find the carcass back in his yard the next morning.  Four-inch tracks found at the scene resemble those found 50 years earlier.  A track expert suggests the prints look dog like, and local hunters decide to set camera traps.  Another man decides to dig up his mysteriously killed dog and have it given a necropsy.  One expert suggests that the most obvious suspect to have killed these pit bulls would be another pit bull.  One hundred miles north, the victims are goats, not dogs, but the cases are similar.  Pictures of the dead goats suggest coyote attacks; one expert disagrees, though she offers no better explanation.  The forensic expert says that the dead pit bull must have been killed by a large animal -- possibly another dog or bobcat (though bobcats seem too small). A sound expert sets up a series of sound tests to see if any cries of known animals match the cries of the supposed vampire beast.  One of the witnesses says the cry that comes closest is that of a tiger; another witness pegs the sound as "catlike."  A cougar would be a good candidate, but they're believed to have been gone from North Carolina for 100 years.  Yet, they continue to be sighted.  And, after all the team has done, it remains to an amateur to, months later, take a cell phone picture of a cougar -- supposedly from the same area.  The hunters agree, this makes sense.  (In early 2008, a cougar was found in Wisconsin, where cougars have been gone for decades.)  Some insist, though, that the vampire beast remains unknown to science.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Uncanny Books Reminder - Support Your Favorite Authors!

Just a reminder to all our fans, family, and friends to check out the latest books by me (Stephen D. Sullivan) and my partner in Uncanny Radio, Linda Godfrey.

You can find Linda's award-winning Strange Wisconsin at here.  Or go to her site to order her many other books.

You can get my latest creator-owned book, Zombies, Werewolves, & Unicorns at here.  Or from Amazon's CreateSpace outlet (which gives me a better royalty) here.

My collection of short stories Martian Knights & Other Tales includes a great Blue Kingdoms story and can be found at Amazon here or CreateSpace here.

You can also find some of my other work on the Walkabout Publishing site (along with great books from other authors).

Don't forget to review the books on Amazon once you've bought them!  And be sure to listen to Uncanny Radio live on WBSD on Wednesday nights from 8-9 (central time), or find our podcasts on our Uncanny World blog.  More books are coming from both of us soon.  Keep your eyes peeled!

Thanks for your support!

-- Steve Sullivan


Release Date: May, 2008

I enjoyed this movie and I'd see it again.  It's important that I tell you that up front, because it may not seem I like this movie during the rest of the review.  IJ&TKOTCS is set in the 1950s, years after the last IJ film -- which makes sense, since more than 20 years have past since the last sequel.  Since it's the 50s, we have Russian spies rather than Nazis, but the goal remains similar to the first film: find the mystical artifact before the bad guys do.  From there, the film gets more tangled than necessary.  It's filled with things that listeners of Uncanny Radio may like: Roswell (though not named), Area 51, Nazca lines, El Dorado, psychic Russians, and the title-mentioned crystal skull.  The trouble is, the film just kindof breezes through this stuff -- never lingering long enough to give us any telling details.  We get a fly-over of Nazca, a mumified conquistador, some "undead" blowgun attackers, and a whole village full of perhaps-undead natives -- but none of these are really essential to the plot.  Nor are they drawn well enough to be interesting, or even good decoration.  The Russian psychic?  She never gets to do anything with her supposed powers.  (My wife thought maybe the powers were a sham -- but why do that in a world in which the Ark of the Covenant is filled with vengeful ghosts?)  Yes, there are some thrilling fights and chases; yes, we get some joy out of the return of Marion Ravenwood.  And Harrison Ford, pushing toward 70, is still comfortable in Indy's hat.  (For the kids, we have Shia LeBeouf doing his best Brando Wild One.)  But one of the points of the original Indy was "old-style" filmmaking -- raw and unrefined seat-of-the-pants production and practical effects and stunts -- and here we get highly polished filmmaking with a lot of CGI.  It looks more like Sky Captain than any of the original Indy pictures.  And while I like Sky Captain, it's not Indiana Jones.  But the real problem is the story, and the fact that it doesn't really hang together -- not even as well as the original trilogy.  You'd think that with over 150 million dollars to spend, they could have spent some on a good writer -- or at least a good story editor.  (Heck, I could have solved most of their problems for well under a million bucks.)  But go see it.  It's fun, if not deep.  And it's nice to see Harrison in the hat and carrying teh whip again.  See? I told you that you'd forget I liked it.