Sith Happens

'Join me and together we will rule the galax-ooh, are those anchovies?'

Wanted: Darth Vader

from E! Online

Darth Vader is on the lam.

Someone impersonating the Dark Lord of the Sith - i.e., a guy in a Darth Vader helmet - held up a movie theater in Springfield, Illinois, and made off with a Death Star-sized load of credits.

The Darth doppelganger, who apparently blended right in with other moviegoers attending Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith Saturday, was not armed - even with a lightsaber. Using the force - the brute kind - he pushed an employee away from the register and snashed the case.

The Vader raider then fled into some nearby woods. Police are investigating, but do not have any suspects.

In a copycat case, the Orlando Sentinel reports that a man disguised in a Dark Vader mask, Star Wars T-shirt, and black pants, robbed a pizza delivery man in Kissimmee, Florida, on Sunday night. [Dajoro Note: Actually, E!, this happened way back in October!].

According to Osceola police, someone phoned in an order with Pizza Best and delivery driver Alfred Santos took the call. Upon making the delivery, Santos told investigators that the masked man pulled out a stun gun and zapped the driver when he refused to hand over his cash.

Once again, however, the Darth disguisee managed to elude the law.

You'll Put Your Eye Out!: Are Star Wars geeks the true phantom menace?

'Lightsaber Duel,' Two Critical


LONDON, England - Two Star Wars fans are in critical condition after apparently trying to make "lightsabers" by filling fluorescent light tubes with petrol, British media reports say.

Mark Webb, 20, and an unnamed 17-year-old girl are believed to have been filming the mock duel as they poured fuel into two glass tubes and lit it.

The pair were taken to hospital after one of the devices exploded.

A videotape was found nearby.

Drunk with power after destroying both Iraq and Alderaan, Darth Dubya reminds his enemies of the price of dissent. 'Bring it on!'

Star Wars Exerts Force in Earthly Politics

from Reuters

LOS ANGELES - A year after Michael Moore weighed into the 2004 presidential campaign with Fahrenheit 9/11, both sides of America's partisan divide are debating the political messages of a far different movie - Star Wars.

Even before it opened in theaters last week, some observers were drawing unflattering parallels between the story of interplanetary treachery in Star Wars: 'Episode III - Revenge of the Sith and the Bush administration's war on terror and its decision to invade Iraq.

Star Wars creator George Lucas has insisted that his themes of corrupted democracy and the rise of a fear-mongering tyrant were outlined decades ago, informed by Watergate and the Vietnam era, as well as Hitler's rise to power, rather than today's politics.

But that has not stopped liberals and conservatives alike from reading anti-Bush metaphors into the film and its dialogue.

Anakin Skywalker, the troubled young Jedi falling under the influence of the "dark side," warns his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi, "If you're not with me, you're my enemy" - reminding many of Bush's post-Sept. 11 declaration: "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."

Likewise singled out as a jab at Republican ambitions is the line uttered by Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) as the galactic senate cedes power to the evil Emperor Palpatine: "This is how liberty dies, with thunderous applause."

Last week, as the film opened, the liberal advocacy group MoveOn PAC launched an ad campaign seizing on Star Wars imagery to depict Senate Republican leader Bill Frist as Darth Vader's villainous mentor, Darth Sidious, in his showdown with Democrats over judicial nominations.

For its part, the Republican National Committee shrugged off comparisons to Star Wars.

"It's an interesting cultural phenomenon, but if you look at the last few elections, the force has been with the Republicans," party spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt told Reuters. "And I would add that we're not taking our cues from Darth Vader, C-3PO or Yoda."

Nevertheless, the response of some conservatives has been so angry that one Web site called Patriotic Americans Boycotting Anti-American Hollywood recently added Lucas to its list of enemies.


Rank Them I Will

1. The Empire Strikes Back [A+]
2. A New Hope [A-]
3. Return of the Jedi [B+]
4. Revenge of the Sith [B]
5. Attack of the Clones [C+]
6. The Phantom Menace [D]


Umm...Frasier...An X-Man?!?

Grammer Is Beast in X-Men 3

from SciFi Wire

Marvel entertainment chief Avi Arad told SCI FI Wire that Kelsey Grammer will plays Dr. Henry "Hank" McCoy/Beast in the upcoming third X-Men film and also confirmed earlier reports that Vinnie Jones has signed to play the villainous Juggernaut. Grammer, best known to audiences as TV's Frasier Crane, will play the blue-furred biochemist whose strength and agility are matched by his genius intellect. Beast will play a prominent role in the third X-Men film, whose story is being kept under wraps.

Arad added that casting will be announced in a matter of days for two new mutant characters: the winged Angel and Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat, who can phase through solid matter. Both roles will be played by North American actors, Arad said in an interview. Variety reported that Maggie Grace (ABC's Lost) was in talks to play Kitty Pryde.

Arad said that director Matthew Vaughn and the filmmakers were seeking to avoid a British actor to play Beast when Grammer read for the part. "We've been looking around for actors that are American," he said. "We didn't want to resort to...if someone is intelligent, [he] has to sound like a Brit...[Grammer] has this delivery and the voice. You close your eyes, and you hear Hank McCoy. And there is this innate intelligence, the warmth, the strength there. He read — here is this big star—and he just knocked it out of the park. And the rule in our movies is, you go with the actor. It's not about lookalikes. It's about someone who brings a special tone, a special feeling, to the character."

As for Jones' role, Arad said: "Juggernaut is an interesting guy. He's like, once he's in motion, he cannot be stopped, like a bullet. And he [has] an interesting affiliation: He's actually Xavier's [Professor X, played by Patrick Stewart,] half-brother. And, again, I cannot obviously get into the plot, but he's going to be [a] very interesting villain."

About the other new characters, Arad said: "Angel is a very emotional thing. We're very close. We'll have someone in the next few days. He'll have a big role in the movie. And Kitty Pryde has a big role."

Arad said the X-Men 3 is gearing up to begin shooting in Vancouver, B.C., in July, with an eye to a release on Memorial Day 2006. The film will bring back the main cast from the previous two films, including Halle Berry, James Marsden, Famke Janssen, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, Arad said. "Everybody's coming back," he said, adding: "And Matthew Vaughn [Layer Cake] brings a lot of fresh air to the table. Very, very smart filmmaker. He's working on the script with the screenwriters, with Zak [Penn] and Simon [Kinberg], and all of us are very involved in it. This is, I'm telling you... huge. It's better than one and two combined. That's a big statement. The main concept, the theme of the movie, it's just scary, brilliant and thought-provoking."


Monster Manual Omission?

Belief in Sex-Mad Demon Tests Nerves

from Reuters

CHAKE CHAKE, Tanzania - Mohammed Juma starts to sweat and fidget as he recalls his rape by Popo Bawa, the most feared spirit-monster of the Zanzibar spice islands.

"We believe reading the Koran is our only defense, nothing else," says the 41-year-old driver and father of four. "But Popo Bawa is real, and well prepared."

Vacationers on the Indian Ocean islands tend to smile dismissively at accounts in guidebooks of the bat-like ogre said to prey on men, women and children. But for superstitious Zanzibaris a visit from the sodomizing gremlin is no joke.

Although no one ever has seen it, belief in the monster and his unnatural lust is so strong that entire villages will sleep out of doors for protection: Popo Bawa (Swahili for Bat's Wing) prefers to attack behind closed doors at night.

In huts set amid rustling groves of jackfruit and mangoes on Zanzibar's Pemba island, victims told Reuters in interviews that they detected a bad smell, became cold and went into a trance in the moments before they felt the creature's inhuman strength.

Some attacks were heralded by the sound of giant wings and claws rattling and scraping on huts' tin roofs. Others cringed in terror at what sounded like a car engine ticking over.

"We heard a rustling on the roof," recalls Asha Saleh, in her late 50s, in Machomanne village near Pemba's main town of Chake Chake. "I felt someone fondling me. I felt very cold. I felt weak," she said, recalling the attack some 35 years ago.

"I couldn't call out for help to my husband who was lying asleep beside me. Popo Bawa is strong: He really presses down on you. And it took such a long time: One hour! Eventually I lost consciousness. And I was one of many who were attacked."

Successive waves of colonizers and traders - Arabs, Portuguese, Hindus, Chinese, Britons, Persians and Africans - left behind a multinational array of legends on Zanzibar.

Accordingly, many dismiss Popo Bawa as another of the satanic stories swapped over the centuries by migratory Indian Ocean peoples as they moved back and forth on the tides from Indonesia to the Comoros, from Madagascar to the Maldives.

Zanzibar's distinctive past as an Arab-run slave market prompted some academics to speculate that the story of Popo Bawa emerged from a collective race memory of the horrors of slavery.

But Popo Bawa is unlike the many goblins believed by the islanders to populate the tall grasses that ring their huts.

Many on the islands are adept at exorcisms, placing charms at the base of fig trees or sacrificing goats to avert evil or draw favor from the spirit world.

So experienced are the isles' traditional healers that they draw visitors from the Gulf and east Africa, with the successful amassing riches and prestige.

But no placatory offering or witch doctor can deflect Popo Bawa when he has made his mind up to strike, islanders say.

The monster favors Pemba, the poorer and more backward of the archipelago's twin islands despite being home to the clove plantations that provide the mainstay of Zanzibar's economy.

He also becomes active at election time: a habit that is testing nerves ahead of polls due in October.

His last major visitation was during elections in 1995, when Juma says he endured his terrifying ordeal, although some reported his presence again in 2000 and in 2001.

Pemba's population are staunch opposition supporters. Many accuse the ruling party of Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa of neglecting the island since 1964, when Zanzibar merged with mainland Tanganyika to form the United Republic of Tanzania.

But Juma says Popo Bawa is apolitical even though electoral emotions seem to summon him from the beyond. "He can strike even if the opposition wins the elections," he said.

The driver vows to do his utmost to avoid what happened to him back in 1995 as he sat alone late one evening.

"Many were afraid and were sleeping outside. But I was confident and was alone in my room. I was reading the Koran for protection. After about 20 minutes I started feeling sleepy. I heard something falling on the roof. I continued reciting. I started feeling something in the room.

"I felt my mouth becoming bigger and bigger. I started losing my ability to form words. My feeling was that my lower lip had stretched to my lap. I felt weak in my body. I became very sweaty. My experience was like that of a neighbor of mine who said his head seemed to grow to an enormous size."

Popo Bawa gets annoyed if villagers deny his existence - a fact to which Khamis Juma Hamad says he can testify.

Hamad, a retired village chief now aged 75, said that in 1971 Popo Bawa spoke to terrified villagers on Pemba through a girl possessed by the monster.

"I am Popo Bawa," said the girl, called Fatuma, speaking in the unnaturally deep voice of a man. "You have challenged my existence so I have come to prove I am here."

Seconds later, he says, the villagers heard the sound of a car revving and a rustle on a nearby roof - signs of Popo Bawa. "The people felt cold, almost paralyzed. They were terrified."


Dark Crystal 2?! Questions! Questions!

Dark Crystal Sequel in the Works

from Dark Horizons

The Jim Henson Company will produce a feature film sequel to The Dark Crystal, the 1982 fantasy classic directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz with conceptual designer Brian Froud, which has remained a fan favorite with consistently strong worldwide home video and DVD sales. The announcement was made by the Company's co-CEOs Brian Henson and Lisa Henson. Incorporating a hybrid of live action animatronic characters and CG animation, production is expected to commence in fall of 2005.

The original screenplay by Annette Duffy and David Odell (the original Dark Crystal, The Muppet Show) is set many years after the events of the first movie. The Power of the Dark Crystal (working title), sees Jen and Kira (the original film's heroes) as King and Queen and guardians of the Crystal who fight to save their kingdom when the Crystal is once again split.

"The Dark Crystal created its own world. We are now going to fully explore this universe through the sequel film, which will be followed up with an animated series as well as interactive games and other media," said Lisa Henson.

Brian Henson said, "With The Jim Henson Company celebrating its 50th anniversary, The Power of the Dark Crystal is a wonderful tribute to our legacy of fantasy projects. The original film set a new standard for the genre and broke new ground in visual effects. We hope to honor its devoted fans with an exciting new chapter in this great adventure."

A Brief Synopsis of the Film... When Jen and Kira welcome a fiery and unexpected visitor to their castle they learn that the very existence of the U-mun people, who live in the searing heat of the centre of the earth, is threatened by the death of their sun. There is apparently only one thing powerful enough to heal the ailing star - a shard of the Crystal.

The Gelflings flatly refuse the request for a fragment and the desperate visitor takes matters into her own hands and steals one, making a hasty escape through tunnels deep in the bowels of the castle. So begins an adventure that will see love and goodness triumph over evil and re-introduce cinema-goers to a host of indelible characters including the mystic Ur-sol, Aughra the one-eyed seer, the evil Skeksis and their crab-like and violent Garthim foot soldiers.


Chronomancers Take Note(s)!

Time Traveler Convention Planned for Saturday, May 7

from LiveScience.com

If you're into time travel, mark your calendar for Saturday, May 7, 2005, when the first Time Traveler Convention will be held at MIT. Or if you miss it, perhaps you can wait a few years and attend anyway. That's kind of what organizer Amal Dorai is banking on.

While scientists have not figured out the practical specifics of time travel, they also haven't ruled it out as a possibility.

Dorai, a graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science, hatched a rather ingenious plan to test the concept. Though obviously a stunt, the whole idea is a mindbender worthy of any scientifically inclined mind.

"We are doing this as a very low-risk, low-cost way to investigate the possibility of time travel," Dorai told LiveScience. "Of course the odds are against us, but imagine the scientific discovery we would have on our hands if a time traveler shows up. Of course, no time travelers doesn't rule out the possibility of time travel; they could have just decided not to come to our convention."

The gathering will be held at MIT's East Campus Courtyard. Dorai gave the specific coordinates for anyone needing to plug them into some futuristic machine: 42:21:36.025N, 71:05:16.332W.

The convention's plans sound pretty loose.

"We have a basic party planned but we also hope to get speeches about time travel from a few MIT professors if they are interested," Dorai said. "In any case, the party is only a backup in case no time travelers come, since if they do show up they will of course be the center of attention."

And how might someone a few millennia from now find out about the event, should they wish to attend?

Dorai suggests those interested in helping "write the details down on a piece of acid-free paper, and slip them into obscure books in academic libraries," or "carve them into a clay tablet."

On the geek-chat web site Slashdot, the convention has spawned lively discussions, including whether it would be possible to travel back in time and kill Hitler before he rose to power. One person wrote, "I already went" to the convention. And another asked: "Why didn't they set the date for yesterday? That way we wouldn't have to wait to see if it was successful."

Anyone attending the convention from the future is advised by Dorai to bring proof, such as "a cure for AIDS or cancer, a solution for global poverty, or a cold fusion reactor."


When Nuns Attack!

The year is 2028. Earth is at war. Following their successful colonization of the planet, during the period history has dubbed "The Nun Landing", these once peaceful visitors made known their true intentions.

First came The Invasion in Nun Lander...

Their first act of war: The detonation of their secret weapon, Pope John Paul II. The blast wiped out mush of southern Europe, and a shadow of interstellar hostility fell across the globe...

Nearly three decades of war were to follow. Now we find ourselves at the turning of the tide...

And now comes The War in Nun Gunner!

A great army has amassed on the Nun Homeworld - an amy the likes of which has never been imagined. They are coming. May God have pity on our souls...

Get That Nun!


Illustration of the Week

From The Book of Exalted Deeds in the Best of the D&D Art Galleries...