D-Day 3D: Normandy 1944 @ Houston Museum of Natural Science
Heads up history nerds! Opening at the Houston Museum of Natural Science between May 23rd and running through June, D-Day 3D: Normandy 1944 is a 3D film presentation what looks to be a docu-drama, blending multiple cinematographic techniques, including animation, CGI and live-action sequences. Though D-day is one of the most violence moments for the U.S. forces during WWII, the presentation looks to be geared toward a younger audience. Just spit-balling here, but D-Day 3D wont be your typically meaty Ken Burns take on the war, instead, according to the Houston Museum of Natural Science website, the presentation will be an educational tribute to those who gave all on the beaches of Normandy, bringing “this monumental event to the world’s largest screens for the first time ever. Audiences of all ages, including new generations, will discover from a new perspective how this landing changed the world. Exploring history, military strategy, science, technology and human values.” Obviously, this isn’t for the “hardcore” of us, but who cares?!? This still looks like fun and its a great promotion for history in general. So get your young-ins together and hitch up the fam-mobile and head downtown and support the troops who stormed those beaches and the history that followed. You can check out the advertisement below.
For more information regarding D-Day 3D, check out the Houston Museum of Natural Science website.
For more information regarding D-Day actual, check out American Experience on PBS.
Houston Haunted Houses: a short guide for local haunts
Finally, the Halloween season is upon us! And what better way to celebrate the month of freight then to visit one of Houston’s (and her surrounding area locations) many haunted house attractions. But which one? Houston does have plenty of options. Before moving to Houston, growing up in the small town of Vinton, Virginia, haunted attractions were slim pickens; however, often times the lesser known beatnik locations can be some of the best in causing youngsters fleeing out the doors. To this day, though I cannot remember the name of the haunted house my responsible loving mother took me to during 1994-95 Halloween season, what I do recall being scared out of my wits thanks in part to a chain saw welding maniac. With this in mind, i’ve generated a list, in no particular order, of some of what Houston has to offer for popular haunted attractions. I’ve even included a few Hell Houses for the religiously inclined reader. Enjoy!
Though this list isn’t generated from best to worst, we’re not making that kind of list; however, i’m listing ScreamWorld at the top because of its obviously prestigious notoriety. Not that ScreamWorld is better than the rest; they’re just more accredited. From 2007-2012, ScreamWorld has been listed as one of America’s Best Haunts, not just Texas (voted #1 in Houston by the Houston Chronicle), but America folks! Opening back on September 20th, ScreamWorld will welcome brave souls through November 2nd, charging upwards of $40 for the VIP Pass and $32 for general admission. There will be a $5 parking fee as well. 32 bucks may seem a little steep for admission, but you’re not paying for just one attraction; you’re paying for 5 separate haunts, which includes: The Skull Cave, Edge of Darkness, Jake’s Slaughterhouse, Maze of Maniacs, and Zombie Graveyard. Not yet convinced? Check out their YouTube video below, if you dare!
Phobia is another “scream-park” with 5 separate attractions, including: Mind Control, Simon Fowler Woods, ClaustroPhobia, Darke Institute, Dawn of the Machine. The difference here is that you can purchase tickets for each separate attraction for $13 and upwards of $50 for all five haunts. I’ve never personally been to Phobia, so I cannot attest to its quality as a haunt, but the 50 buck admission for all 5 attractions seems a bit steep, especially considering the $32 cover for ScreamWorld. However, it is nice that you can purchase single tickets for just one house, if you wanted to be in and out without having to attend an entire festival. Phobia is located between Beltway 8 & 1960 on 290 Feeder, RR track side Jersey Village: 18777 HWY 290 – EXIT WEST RD, HOUSTON, TX 77065. If you need a little more convincing for paying up 50 buck-a-roos for this particular haunt, check out the following video.
Claiming to be Houston’s scariest haunt, Terror Dome sets themselves apart from the nightmare pack by focusing on one single attraction. VIP tickets cost $30 with no wait and unlimited access on day of purchase. Regular admission is $20, which doesn’t seem to bad, if they can deliver on all the hipe, claiming to have spent “most of [their] budget into building the most elaborate haunted house legally possible.” Terror Dome is located next to Spookers Halloween Super Warehouse Store on East I-10 exit #784 Cedar Lane. If you want to get a little peak at what you’re visit will be like, check out the following video.
Catering to the more artistic and historical tastes for macabre, Kingwood Asylum offers two haunted attractions with a unique twist: the fictional back story of Dr. Phillip Blackman and his mental asylum of terror! Another interesting tidbit is Kingwood Asylum’s humble beginnings as a private residence haunt over in Hunters Ridge. Now, obviously, the operation has grown from its merger beginnings into a full fledged business located over @ 1965 Northpark Drive, Kingwood Texas 77339. General admission fees are $20, with unlimited access on the day of purchase. Kingwood Asylum is one of the more interesting sites because the haunt has been built around a fictitious legend, giving the audience something more imaginative, instead of just walking through and having things jump out at you. Check out the following hilarious video of a group of teenage girls walking through the haunt!
5. Haunted Trails and Natures Nightmare
Boasting as Houston’s most terrifying outdoor haunt, Haunted Trails is definitely something different then the traditional haunted house, here, as “night falls and the monsters of these woods begin to howl, you’ll enter a realm of terror you could not have imagined. Acres of mortifying scenes and unnatural creatures await eagerly to quench their undying thirst for your screams.” Haunted Trails seems to be, from what i’ve gathered from the pictures on their site, a basic maze with various jump and chase scares. With a $17 admission fee, it may not seem worth it; however, on October 11th & 12th, scream queen Marilyn Burns, who played Sally in the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, will be at Nature’s Nightmare (the second attraction) to meet and greet with fans. I couldn’t find a video for Haunted Trails, but here is the poster for the celebrity guest promotional.
Houston most definitely has plenty of haunted houses to choose from, and these are only five of the most popular. There are still plenty of others out there not listed above, including: Scream Fest, Fearshire Farms, Redrum, Creepy Hallow Haunted House, Heart Stopper, and many more. And, as promised, for the more religious reader, you can visit fun filled houses of judgement, such as: Hell in a Cell & Judgment House. Another alternative are localized fire-stations who also host mom & pop haunted houses; proceeds normally go to various children s organizations. So, if you’re in the mood for a scare or two, Houston (and her surrounding area) has plenty to pick from, all i’m sure will be fun and entertaining for you and you’re friends.
comiCulture: a comic symposium
Thought i’d offer some new local nerd news this morning. Coming September 21st, 2013 @ University of Houston, Clear Lake location, the universities art department is hosting the first ever comic symposium. Exhibits are running through October 18th, but the main event will be next Saturday from 10 AM till 4 PM. But this isn’t your normal comic-con, where focus is given to characters and stories; at this convention, the focus will be geared towards aspiring artists and the trade they love. Some of the more notable panels include: comic narration, illustration, and a rare opportunity to have YOUR portfolio reviewed by seasoned comic industry veterans. What more could you ask for, right? Oh, and its absolutely, 100% free!!!
Curious on who the panelists are? University of Houston comiCulture will feature: Leroy Brown (Ice Cubes), David Doub (Dusk Comics), Charles Martin (Literati Press), Mark Nasso (Land of the Rats), James O’Barr (The Crow), Terry Parr (Shonuff Studio), Bruce Small (Transyltown), Maurice Terry Jr. (Bad Cog), Terry Wagner (Mental Diversions Studio), and Gary Watson (After Twilight), to name a few. comiCulture is proudly sponsored by local comic book shop Bedrock City Comics and lavish Candlewood Suites. You can reserve your seat at the panels and check for more information @ http://www.comiculture.org
The UHCL Art Gallery and the Garden Room are on the first floor of the Bayou Building.
University of Houston-Clear Lake
2700 Bay Area Blvd.
Houston, TX 77058
Houston Space City Con 2013
The summer geek festival, known to locals as Space City Con, returns to Houston this weekend, August 2nd through the 4th. Doors open high-noon tomorrow @ the luxurious Houston Marriott, in the downtown area. This year marks the second annual celebration for Space City Con; obviously less prestigious than San Diego’s Comic-Con, but nonetheless entertaining for both nerds and families alike, with dozens of guest appearances, including fan clubs, writers, game designers, artists, and everyone’s favorite, cosplay enthusiasts. According to the Houston Chronicle, there was also be special events, such as: Dr. Horrible Shadowcast, Ask a Stormtrooper, writers workshops and group role-playing games (including, but not limited to, Tribble Warfare and Killer Breakfast), instructional workshops (making your own chain mail and tips for buying and selling collectibles), and last but not least, sword fighting.
Some of the more notable guests appearances include:
- Jewel Staite- Firefly and Stargate Atlantis fame
- Sylvester Mccoy- Dr. Who, The Hobbit, and King Leer fame
- Walter Koenig- Star Trek fame
- Tim Russ- Star Trek Voyager fame
- Robert Picardo- Star Trek Voyager, Atlantis fame
- John de Lancie- Star Trek TNG fame
- Torri Higginson- Stargate Atlantis fame
- Denise Crosby- Star Trek TNG fame
- Alexis Cruz- Stargate STG1 fame
There will be, as mentioned before, a dozen more guest appearances from all walks of nerd life. An individual three day pass will run you $45, but you can also purchase daily passes for $20. The Master of Ceremonies is none other than legend actor, fresh from the “Galileo Seven”unveiling, Robert Picardo. There will be no doubt plenty of sponsors, partners, artists, and vendors to go check out and fill your time between events. For more information, check out the official website for Space City Con @ http://spacecitycon.com/
And if you need more convincing, listen to this special invitation by Sarge and Hamish:
RECAP: Inside the NRA Houston Expo
Beginning this past Friday, May 3rd, and lasting through Sunday, the Houston NRA expo was ablaze with 70,000 plus people bustling amongst the nine acre gun extravaganza. There was plenty to see beside the political rants, including: manufacturer showcases complete with bra holsters, 1963 Völkswagen microbus complete with hippy peace signs, flowers, and mini Gatling gun mounted on a makeshift sunroof, and everybody’s personal favorite, zombie targets that came in a variety of images, such as: terrorists, Nazis, aliens, zombie kangaroos, clowns and even…presidential! That’s right folks, according to BuzzFeed Politics, the vender, Zombie Industries, “sells a range of three-dimensional ‘life sized’ targets that ‘bleed when you shoot them.’ Obama likeness [were] on display for two days.” The expo only lasted for three, but don’t worry, after an NRA rep asked the vender at Zombie Industries if they’d be so kind and remove the Obama targets, they were notably absent come Sunday morning. When asked why they thought the NRA reps asked them to remove the “Obama” targets, they said “They are just scared some liberal reporter will come by and start bitching,” a worker told BuzzFeed. However, Zombie Industries wasn’t the only booth to display something contentious. Over at the Coonan Inc. booth, a gun manufacture, there was also a similar Obama likeness; an Obama vampire with a stake in his heart, advertising their custom “Zombie silver bullet” set. Yet, these risqué displays were not the only booths at the convention; just the more colorful ones, because for most folks coming to the convention, it’s all about the guns.
Sadly, you cannot have guns without some kind of debate.
The place to be on Saturday evening was the Stand and Fight Rally. As the sun set on Houston, a “patriotic” fervor was being presented for those “lucky” enough to have purchased tickets. The NRA’s emotionally driven Stand and Fight Rally included speeches from Col. Oliver North, Wayne LaPierre, Larry and Brenda Potterfield, and impressionist Frank Caliendo. The main event for the evening was a near two hour impassioned speech given by none other than Glenn Beck, the host of new media network, The Blaze. Beck used his spot light to warn NRA audiences that the “freedom of all mankind is at stake,” according to ABC News. This is the same man who claimed that the Houston George Bush Intercontinental airport shooting was a conspiracy set up by vicious liberals to thwart the NRA expo. You can find that report here. However, according to the NRA blog report, in the end, Mr. Beck “received a standing ovation from the crowd for the inspirational message.”
What was Mr. Beck’s message?
The fear Mr. Beck uses is backed by an overwhelming miss-representation on the issue of gun control, the very same miss-representation the NRA leadership has been clouting over. Some of the key-notes Mr. Beck spoke on include the positive nature of guns (saving lives), defense, and other so called “cold hard facts…rejected by the political elites.” The fear Beck uses is universal, based on a baser instinct. He deliberately manipulates that fear of not being able to defend oneself. Mr. Beck’s performance seems rather orchestrated in drawing out said fear that “big bad government” will come in the night and take away the very symbol of protection in American culture, the gun. The appeal to emotion isn’t just a fallacy, it’s dangerous. Why? Emotional arguments do not require factual evidence. They drive the fear of the mob. Since Mr. Beck is so keen in using Nazi history to describe the U.S. government, allow me to return the courtesy. Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Minister of Propaganda, said that there were two kinds of speakers: rational and emotional. Goebbles couldn’t understand the rational, because to him, emotional speakers were the ones who could “fire up the masses for a great cause.” To Goebbles, Hitler was an emotional speaker who could use nuggets of truth to elicit an emotional response from the crowd who were also equally miss-informed, angry, and afraid. According to Goebbles, in his published book regarding Hitler’s ability to persuade, the Führer’s words could “inspire the heart and have a lasting impact in forming a new international epoch. There is probably no educated person in the world who has not heard the sound of his voice and who, whether he understood the words or not, felt that his heart was spoken to by magical words.” You can find Goebbles’ complete entry here.
Speakers, like Mr. Beck, who use emotional driven speeches with the smallest nuggets of truth, do not require that their audience understand the words they are actually saying, and when we follow the rhetoric of fear to its logical end, it will only bring about tragedy, as it did for Germany during the Third Reich. Mr. Beck’s speech doesn’t just miss-represent the issue on gun control, but also responsible gun advocates. Without a doubt, folks around the world are looking at Mr. Beck and his message and thinking, “Are all gun owners this nuts?” As we reported last Friday, a huge fallacy in the gun debate is when people take the extreme either-or argument as factual; when most folks are actually somewhere in the middle. You can watch Mr. Becks speech yourself here.
The ugliness in all this is in imagining how positive the NRA expo could have been. Instead of getting folks all worked up over a false fear, a more responsible leadership among the NRA could have promoted gun safety awareness, effectual background checks (because remember, 65% of Americans thought that the expanded background checks should have passed legislation), a reasonable pursuit for safer schools, or, at the very least, presented some kind of alternative to the already very moderate bill that was shot down in the Senate. Instead, the NRA leadership promoted fear, fear of big government taking away American rights. Despite the fact that most attended the expo for the simplicity of responsible gun sportsmanship and to view the “goodies”, those folks are being overshadowed by the dogmatic political debacle from ineffectual leadership who seem to be more concerned about gun manufacturer rights than gun owner rights.
The NRA Comes to Houston
The NRA goes Texas, Houston that is. The 142nd annual NRA national meeting is fused to ignite today, Friday, May 3rd, 2013, at the George R. Brown Convention Center in the heart of downtown, hosting 550 exhibitors and covering over 400,000 square feet with all the trimmings: educational speakers, celebrities of the likes as Glenn Beck, Gov. Rick Perry, the always favorite (yikes) Sarah Palin, Sen. Ted Cruz, special events, wholesome family atmosphere, and protesters. Wait…what? That’s right folks, gun-control groups and other advocates are also planning on attending the rock star event at what has been called “ground zero,” in our nation’s big gun debate- the NRA. Protestors will gather outside the impromptu gun event, hosting a three day vigil for victims of gun violence.
According to the Houston Chronicle, the NRA plans on educating attendees on such issues as: “a gun-owners’ registry, assaults on the Second Amendment, the necessity of enforcing laws on the books instead of passing new ones, the futility of background checks and other gun-related issues.” The convention comes shortly after a fresh victory for the NRA and gun advocates over President Obama’s failed push on expanded background checks when it flopped by a mere 6 votes of the 60 votes needed to adopt the measure and keeping the bill from going all filibuster in the House.
(Check out this interesting article on the future of filibuster reform.)
Why Houston? Why now? It would seem rather impromptu of the NRA to host a gun convention in the midst of a heated national debate regarding gun control, and the necessary steps to reduce said gun violence so soon after national tragedy. However, for the NRA, Houston seems like the perfect environment to host a gun convention in the hopes to recharge for more expected political struggles as gun control advocates tally their own successes in states around the country. According to Andrew Arulanandam, an NRA spokesman, “the convention will draw the largest crowd in history.” Why is that Andrew? Is it because all us Texans own guns? Just like we all wear ten-gallon cowboy hats and ride horses to work. Stereotypes aside, a majority of Houstonians do own fire arms, according to the Houston Chronicle, for obvious reasons. Texas is still very much a part of the frontier culture. Folks love to hunt ducks “in the wetlands around El Campo and Eagle Lake. [Folks also] hunt deer in the Texas Hill Country. And, yes, many [Texans] keep a gun or two in a closet at home for safety, security and peace of mind.” And some good ole Texans even keep a few guns under their bed. The pathos of the Second Amendment is very much alive in Texas, especially in Houston, and rightly so. But I would also think that our support for the Second Amendment does not preclude support for sensible rules and regulations that are designed to protect the sanctity of human life. Extending background checks for gun purchasers in both online sales and at conventions makes sense. Don’t take my word for it. Check out the resent trends developing on social media sites. According to Pew Research Center, calls for stricter gun control shifted from 30 to 65% in favor, while opposite dropped from 50 to 21%, on Twitter. You can view the complete poll here. These trends on Twitter also match a poll taken recently by Gallup back on April 29, 2013, where a whopping 65% of Americans thought that the Senate should have passed the measure to expand background checks for gun purchases. You can view their report here.
So, what do all these trends in polls really tell us? Well, for starters, all this talk about the 90% is bull. Yes, percentages in favor of expanding background checks are higher than those against the measure, but let’s be real about it and avoid inflating the numbers, because to be honest, it would take an act of God to get nine out of ten Americans to agree on anything, especially on something as heated as gun control. Secondly, these polls verses the actually vote in congress shows us that something very wrong is going on in Washington…or maybe something very right. What could be going wrong? Well, if 65% of Americans wanted this bill to go through and it failed, as it did, then the people’s voice is no longer effectually being represented in Washington. According to Senator Pat Toomey, “In the end it [the background check bill] didn’t pass because we’re so politicized. There were some on my side [Republicans] who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it.” Also, there could be something wrong in the way bills are passed through the Senate. At first glance, the 54 YEA’s trumps the 46 NAY’s right? Nope. A bill requires, for some reason, 60 total votes to go into effect. To some, this 60 vote thing may make sense, but to me, I am at a loss. A majority vote is a majority vote, plain and simple. The one thing that could be right in all this is that in representing our “voice,” our elected officials also understand the dangers inherent in giving into mob mentality. As it seems, we simple folk get all worked up in larger crowds, but when you single us out, we’re rather reasonable. Consider Brown v. Board of Education and how long it took for the “mob” to realize how wrong segregation was. For our elected representatives, walking the tight-rope between listening to their constituents voices and avoiding worked up crazed mobs, seems rather precarious. Perhaps we ought to give our officials some benefit of the doubt, and simply ask them questions instead a seeking the tallest tree to noose them up in.
While gun-control advocates scrabble to seek a new path after the “shameful day for Washington,” gun advocates, such as the NRA, will likewise continue to promote the “stand and fight” methodology to remain steadfast in what outgoing NRA president David Keene told NBC News, “was a victory in a battle, but the war continues.”
Today, the NRA celebrates their big win in Houston, but opponents are also in the works, launching, according to NBC News, “a coordinated effort ahead of the 2014 midterm elections,” to advocate that folks like the NRA may not be as concerned about the rights of gun owners than they are about the rights of the gun industry itself. In an interview with Ladd Everitt, the spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, “I think the NRA leadership is wildly out of step with their own members on the issue of expanding background checks.” If that’s the case, perhaps the upcoming national elections in 2016 may prove for Republicans to be difficult in keeping seats in Washington. Obviously, each side of the debate claims the other to be fervently wrong. But where do most Americans fall? Time will tell in the above mentioned coming elections in mid-2014 and in 2016.
In the meantime, lets address some fundamental fallacies in the raging arguments from both perspectives:
- Guns are not a living entity. They cannot walk down the street, on their own, and fire into a crowd. Gun control advocates are aware of this. They are not attacking responsible gun owners. If you are a responsible gun owner, you are already going to pass a background check. Background checks are looking for folks with a history of violence. If you are a violent person, perhaps you should take a yoga class and forgo purchasing that sweet glistening AR-15.
- Not all gun advocates are back-water anti-government crazies. While a majority does support background checks, they also believe that gun-control shouldn’t be the only measure taken in avoiding tragic events such as Sandy Hook.
- Gun control advocates are not trying to take away our Second Amendment Rights. Only a few extreme left are; they are the minority voice, just like the minority crazy anti-government folks. So, the argument about drunk drivers and sales of alcohol thing is a bit over-the-top. Obviously, the government has already tried the “no alcohol thing,” and it didn’t really work out in the end. Instead, just like how most gun control advocates are trying to do, they promoted greater public awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving, increased judicial punishment, and established a drinking age. Beer is a controlled substance; shouldn’t guns be just as controlled? You don’t see government kicking in your doors looking for a delicious New Belgium 1554, do you? Then you won’t see government kicking in your doors looks for your licensed hand gun.
- Gun control will create a gun registry. News flash folks, we currently already have a gun registry, of sorts, and a sucky one at that! The current, twenty plus year old system, simply tracks make/model/and serial numbers through a basic record of sale. Why not change? I think most gun advocates fear this policy the most because of a basic fear of “big brother,” which I totally understand. I don’t care so much for being watched on video cameras, but yet, they somehow help catch criminals. So, lets think about what this registry will actually do, which is, help law enforcement, our brothers and sister that help keep our streets safe, to be better equipped in tracking fire arms that tend to make their way illegally into the hands of violent offenders.
As it seems, we’re sadly pitted against extreme either-or arguments, while most of us tend to take a rather moderate position on the subject. Most of us enjoy our right to gun ownership. Most of us also understand the need to control the very thing we have a right to own. Just as we have a right to drink, we are also responsible about it, or should be. Shouldn’t we also be responsible about gun control, without having to be so extreme about it? Only time will tell in where the great debate on gun control takes us, so for now, Houston, enjoy the convention.