Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Adventuring Party Politics

As a long-time D&D guy, I love this.

I thought some of you might like it, too.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Please Help a Mother Recover Her Child's Body

This is no internet rumor. I know the people involved, and the tragedy is real.

There is a paypal account near the bottom for donations.

Please pass this along to those who might care to help.

Thanks for reading.

-- Steve Sullivan


To our friends --

Please pass this around and help if you can --

Our closest friends have heard of MICHELLE CALANOG PRINCIPE.

But you haven't heard the rest of it:

Michelle works in the comics industry abroad and is quite involved in many of the comics being published. She manages Glass House Graphics Asia and Studio Sakka, a creative agency and manga studio, respectively, coaching and guiding dozens of artists and colorists across the Philippines, Japan, Hong Kong, and even India. What's more, she oversees bunches of free seminars each year, bringing in experienced talent to teach hopeful young artsts about the comics biz.

Among her talent roster: Bong (Star Wars) Dazo; Carlo (Hulk) Pagulayan; Stephen (Wolverine: Manifest Destiny) Segovia; Lui (New Terminator) Antonio; Noah (Red Sonja) Salonga; Patrick (Avengers/Invaders) Berkenkotter; Harvey (Avengers: The Initiative) Tolibao; Jonathan (Battlestar Galactica) Lau; Anthony (Bratz) Tan; Wilson (Wolverine Manga) Tortosa, Tina (Space Ace) Francisco, and plenty of colorists for Marvel, Dark Horse, Dynamite, Dabel Bros., and so on.

She's also been a comic book character. Michelle is the sister of Jinky Coronado (artist of TokyoPop's Avalon High series and writer/artist of her own series Banzai Girls). Michelle has been a character in every issue of Jinky's comic book. And the two of them even appeared together in FHM Philippines. So Michelle's overall ties to the comics industry go pretty deep.

Married at the beginning of the year to her college sweetheart Rhene Principe, Michelle had a baby exactly one month ago. That should be cause for celebration, and it was. But within 12 hours of taking home newborn Reinee, Michelle found him not feeding and unresponsive. Back at the hospital, doctors discovered what they thought were blood clots in his brain. A catscan and surgery further revealed them to be inoperable deposits of calcification in his brain. Soon they also learned the baby had multiple hernias -- intestines pushing through muscle walls -- and areas of bowel that were not processing food. Young Reinee went through four weeks of painful surgeries, spending nearly every day in ICU.

Born September 26, 2008, Reinee Jaden Principe died today, October 26, 2008. But every mother's worst nightmare HASN'T ENDED.

Although Michelle and her husband emptied their savings account on hospital expenses, and Glass House's head honcho David Campiti and Jinky Coronado (they are married) have each donated thousands of dollars toward Reinee's medical expenses, the hospital wlll not release Reinee's body to Michelle for burial until she pays the remaining $9,000.00+ in medical costs.

What's more, they now have funeral expenses to worry about.

Jinky is trying to help her sister to raise the remaining money. Help from anyone -- a dime, a dollar, $10, whatever -- is greatly needed in a hurry, and appreciated. Michelle and Rhene need to bring some closure to their heartbreaking situation and, literally, put him to rest.

She has set up a PayPal donation Email specifically for this --

For any generous individuals donating $1,000.00 or more, Jinky will illustrate and personalize a custom cover-quality illustration of whatever characters they want.

Your help for Michelle and her family is appreciated.

-- David

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

DESTINATION TRUTH - Ninki Nanka; Kikiyaon

SciFi Channel - Original Air Date: 10/15/2008

Josh and the crew go to Gambia to look for two mythical monsters: one dragon-like river  beast, and the other a gigantic owl.  Their first problem is that the Gambians, fearing spies, refuse to let the team use their Fleer thermal imager and their state-of-the-art night vision equipment.  (The virtues of which I've extolled many times.)  That refusal haunts the data collection on this expedition.  After the usual talks with locals, the team travels upriver to find the Ninki Nanka, a trip that includes running out of gas and having to wait until night for their captain to return.  They locate a witness who has some of the creature's scales, and they obtain one for analysis.  Avoiding dangerous hippos and chimps, they take to the river again and head to the center of the sightings.  Without their best gear, poking around in the dark on the river is even more dangerous than usual, and Josh and company fear crocks and hippos as well as unknown creatures.  Something tries to eat and run off with their underwater camera -- but only disconnects it and bites through the camera housing.  On their way back to base, the weather turns bad and the boats fills with water, only the rest of the team holding lights allows Josh and his guide to find their landing.  The crew moves on to the next search.

Before leaving Gambia, the team goes looking for the kikiyaon, a five foot tall cross between owl and man.  After consulting an ornithologist, they head out to find the monster.  Naturally, their rented vehicle breaks down, and Ryder teaches the local kids athletics until the repairs are done.  When they arrive at the village near the recent sightings, the villagers -- much afraid of the creature -- do an elaborate dance to ward off the kikiyaon.  Josh hears some strange calls near dusk, and Ryder and Casey see a large shape in a tree which then flies away.  But, lacking their usual equipment, the crew doesn't get pictures.  Rain drives them to seek shelter before they can investigate further, but they go back afterh the storm breaks.  They hear more strange noises and see more flying shapes before storms again end the hunt.

Back home, an expet and DNA testing prove the Ninki Nanka scales come from a fish; the strange cries come from an ordinary owl, not a giant.  The expert ornothologist opines that normal, local birds can take on huge aspect (a four-foot crane becoming a nine-foot monster) in the dark.  Josh declares that both creatures are a testament to the power of folklore.  Since this is the final show of the season, he also declares his renewed faith in hearing people's stories and looking for strange monsters.  The quest for the truth will continue.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

DECODING THE PAST: Abominable Snowman

History Channel - Original Air Date: 2005-7

The Abominable Snowman is the bigfoot of the Himalayas.  This show looks at whether the Yeti, the Sherpa name for the creature, could actually exist. There are other similar creatures sighted across the world: Mono Grande in South America, Almas in Russia, and of course Bigfoot.  Are these the hairy giants of the Bible?  Certainly hairy wild men exit in many traditions and mythologies including Gilgamesh and Beowulf.  And of course there is gigantopithecus, at 10' tall, the largest of the apes and now extinct.  A Tibetan book of 18th century medicine describes the medicinal properties of a creature called the man-animal.  The Sherpas of Tibet and Nepal believe in the creature to this day -- and their monasteries keep relics of caps and skin of the supposed animal.  Villagers and monks know many stories about the creature -- but whether it is natural or supernatural remains unclear.  One woman shepherd claims to have been attacked by the creature and thrown into a stream as the monster ate her cattle.  She insists the attacker wasn't a bear or a snow leopard of any known animal.  Since Sir Edmund Hillary found strange tracks during his quests for Everest, western media have embraced the legend of the snowman.  But scientific expeditions have returned without any evidence.

Tom Slick's 1957 expedition broke into two groups, one searching the high mountains for footprints, the other searching the valley for other traces -- and supposedly finding hair samples, droppings, and a "nest" much like those made by gorillas.  Slick also saw some monk yeti relics, but could not get the monks to give up the samples for scientific examination.  A man called Burn stole some yeti bones from the monastery, replacing what he stole with human bones.  The bones turned out to be from an unknown primate; but (according to Loren Coleman) a later expedition (with Hillary and Marlon Perkins) found the fakes and declared the relic to be a fake; a yeti scalp turned out to be from a local sheep.  The H/P expedition declared all the relics to be fakes.  Sadly, since then the entire hand has been stolen, so no further testing is possible.  Slick was killed in a plane crash, and his evidence wasn't examined until Loren Coleman (mentioned in Uncanny Radio 027) examined the crates many years later.  Some of the bacteria in the scat samples seemed to suggest an unknown primate.  The show recaps the panda, the megamouth, and other creatures not known to science until recently. Vietnam is home to two such creatures, and also rumored to be home of a wild man.  Richard Greenwell looked for the Chinese wild man, the yarin, and brought back hair samples to examine.  The hair brought back established that the ratio of zinc to copper in the samples indicated that the hairs came from an as-yet undiscovered creature.  The rest of the scientific community has yet to weigh in on whether this proves the existence of an unknown primate.

Scholars contend that such wild man stories should not be taken seriously but are psychological remnants of our pre-human history and/or collective unconsciousness.  Does the wild man represent our repressed desires?  In 1996, the "snow walker" video claimed to capture an actual abominable snowman.  It appears to show a humanoid creature waking up and moving downhill through the snow; neither the filmmakers nor the location has ever been disclosed, so the film seems likely a hoax -- though a videographer disagrees.  He thinks the thing in the film is larger than 9' tall.  With no indisputable solid evidence, the hunt for the yeti continues.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

DESTINATION TRUTH - Issie & Icelandic Elves

SciFi Channel - Original Air Date: 10/8/08

Josh and crew first go searching for Issie, an elephant-sized monster in Lake Ikida (Japan again) that, like Nessi, is plesiosaur shaped.  Locals describe the classic humped back (as well as a long neck and flippers).  After flying over the lake, which is the flooded crater of an extinct volcano, the team decides to go looking with sonar and divers.  While Ryder waits nervously on the surface, the divers see a huge dark shadow with silvery reflections, but no large fish live in the lake.  Bringing their massive technology to bear at night, they chase something large breaking the surface.  Then something knocks their underwater camera around.  Whatever it is, it's large enough and tough enough to damage the carbon cover of the camera.  Back in the US, an expert suggests that an eel -- which can reach up to 6' long in the lake -- may be responsible.  The team remains open to the idea that there could be something in the lake.

From there, the crew moves to Iceland (again) to look for elves.  I might think this quest absurd, or believe such creatures were merely confined to my novels, were it not for my friendship with Edward Readicker-Henderson -- Uncanny Radio 016 -- who's been to Iceland and knows they take their elves very seriously.  In fact, he even brought back an "elf rock" for me from that visit.  (Hear the story on the UR 016 podcast.)  So, I was intrigued by what Josh and crew might find; to them, the idea seems more than slightly absurd.  But one Icelandic expert says that 54% of Icelanders believe that elves exist.  Some say that angry elves vex construction projects (and electronics), and the government will build roads around elf habitat.  And, of course, locals claim to have seen the "hidden people."  One local claims the best way to find them is to sit quietly (which, I note, seems to rule out Josh).

After the midnight sun sets, the team goes looking with their IR equipment.  Supposedly, one of the way you know elves are around is that machinery breaks -- and the Fleer thermal is the first to go.  To pass the time, Josh and Ryder have an "elf off" - each naming elves until one runs out.  Other cameras start freaking out, too.  The team does some call and response and actually hears a high-pitched reply.  Then, some team members start hearing laughing and other noises (and there are no other people around).  Then one of their cameras is pulled apart and its power and video cords disconnected.  Ryder, trying to put the camera back together hears a big crash, and soon the others are hearing strange thuds, too.  And something the thermal (now repaired) won't pick up is moving branches.  Then they get a thermal hit that vanishes when they look in the bushes, though there's no escape, even for a burrowing animal.  Then their time-lapse camera is knocked over, despite its solid tripod.  Josh looks into the incidents, but is at a loss to explain how two cords, one of which won't work unless it's "locked," could be unplugged.  Eventually, the team goes back to LA to check over their evidence.  While they don't find any hard evidence -- despite a very harried exploration -- Josh concludes that it's difficult to dismiss Iceland's love of elves, since the creatures represent respect for nature in a world beset by ecological trouble.

MONSTERQUEST: Giant Squid Ambush

History Channel - Original Air Date: 10/8/08

Previously, in 2006, MQ went out looking for colossal squid in the Sea of Cortez -- they found something experts thought could be what they were looking for.  Now, the team returns for another go.  Last time, they mounted a camera on a Humbolt squid and caught a tantalizing glimpse of another squid, deep in the ocean, estimated at upwards of 60' in length.  Was it a massive Humbolt or something else?  They're going back with better lights on their camera as well as a laser measuring system.  Divers will be going amid the ravenous Humbolt's again,with a special safety vest to pull them out should the squids try to drag them down.  (Humbolts can be as large as a man.)  The crew believes that their big advantage this time is the experience they gained during the last hunt.  One scientist shows fascinating high-speed photos of smaller squid shooting out tentacles to attack their prey.  Legends have giants and even Humbolts attacking and killing humans. How much danger is the team in?  The first small squid they catch is attacked and killed by larger squid before they can reel the subject in.

The next squid they catch -- a 4 1/2 footer --  turns on the diver once the camera is attached to it.  Unfortunately, the squid goes down into the deep so fast it breaks their camera rig.  They replace the camera with a backup and try again.  The next squid they catch is too small, and the one after that turns on them again.  But they managed to attach the camera and send the squid into the deep.  But the other squid seem to fear the new laser set-up, and when the team tries to detach the laser, the squid attacks again.  With the lasers gone, the squids return in droves.  After four days, the crew has a lot of film to review, but though they have some great squid attack footage, this time, they have no giants.  The skin of their "Trojan squid," though, shows signs of attack by a large squid with inch-wide suction cups.  Tantalizing, but not proof.  Again, this MQ show suffers from the short duration of the expedition, and I have to wonder what they might find with more funding and a longer quest.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

DESTINATION TRUTH - Haunted Forest; Aswang

History Channel - Original Air Date: 10/1/08

At the base of Mt. Fuji, in Japan, there is a forest that is Japan's most popular place to commit suicide.  Naturally, the forest is reputed to be haunted.  The thick woods and spectacular scenery are "the perfect place" to kill yourself.  It is also, apparently, a very easy place to get lost.  Ryder the researcher makes yet another of her ongoing appearances in procuring an undersized horse for Josh to ride.  (The forest is gorgeous and looks like something out of a samurai film -- and, in fact, it probably is.)  Josh and his crew pick a secluded spot and look for spirits -- which may appear as apparitions or even strange mist.  Ryder quickly gets lost in the dark, and the other folks struggle in the dense foliage, too.  During their trek, the crew encounters university students out looking for dead bodies; they also claim to have seen spirits.  The forest is dotted with suicide prevention signs.  Soon, lots of the crew are lost, and some are freaking out, and compasses seem unreliable -- the whole situation is very Blair Witch.  An abandoned campsite (perhaps from a suicide) becomes the focus of their call & response (and EVP) work.  Soon people are hearing and seeing things -- and even Josh freaks out when he spots something that looks like a person lurking in the dark.  (No one's there.)  They also find photos, cut-up credit cards, and other debris from desperate people's lives.  Josh describes their experience as a "long and terrifying night."  EVP work turns up a strange "voice," and the camera picks up a "human shaped" figure that appears and then seems to collapse into itself.  (Unfortunately, the show doesn't do a lot of video enhancement on this evidence to better show us the shape.)  Josh concludes that the best evidence is what he and Casey saw, people that weren't really there.  This is one of the crew's most unsettling investigations to date.

The aswang is a Filipino creature with stringy hair, long claws, and a thread-like tongue; the creature lurks in the trees and attacks people.  (Clearly the show spent a good deal of time in the Philippines.)  The creature is also reputed to be able to shapechange into a dog, a cat, or even a human.  (Which must make it very hard to pick out from normal fauna and folk.)  After the usual oddball trek into the countryside, the team reaches the center of the recent sightings.  A medicine woman gives Josh a strange blessing, and he then heads out to find a tree so haunted that a small church has been built next to it to counteract its evil.  The team sets up their equipment and then eats -- or mostly barfs -- a local delicacy of unhatched chicken.  They spot something on the infrared camera and hear a strange "ticking" sound (reputed to be one of the noises the aswang makes).  One of the infrared shapes turns out to be a cow.  In the church, they hear strange noises -- whispering and moaning -- from outside, but can't track down anything.  Something flies by a camera, and a cat and a bat appear in the church on their observation cameras.  When a dog appears (completing the monster's trinity of unholy shapes), Ryder freaks and retires from the investgation.  Once again, full-blown back-country superstitions are on display, and it seems convenient to me that the monster can appear as local small animals.  At the end of the show, Josh reaches the same conclusion.  Returning home, one analyst declares the ticking sound a probable bug, and the shadow on the camera a probable cat.  Josh points out that the aswang is a local boogie man based more in superstition and the natural noise and animals of the jungle than anything real.  He suggests that Ryder not buy into the legends so much in the future.