With the eleventh episode of The Following underway, we are introduced to another member, Vince, who is a right-wing militia fanatic. Special Agent Debra Parker traces the server for one of the Joe Carroll‘s fan sites to a server in New York that happens to be stationed in a BDSM (bondage-domination sadomasochism) place. Vince is one of those that enjoy whips, among other things, by her girlfriend who is the owner of the place. After an unsuccessful raid by both Debra Parker and Ryan Hardy, Vince’s girlfriend tells them of a Caroll‘s cult “training” camp nearby, and the FBI place a wire on her as she and Vince meet. The camp is discovered, but casualties on both sides ensue as Vince escapes as the FBI comes bearing down. The backstory of Molly is further explored as she is a mercy killer at a local hospital with evil intent. In fact, she wants to one-up Joe Carroll. Finally, Roderick is put in his place — with blood.
This is one of the most intriguing and un-family-friendly episodes there is. Although BDSM places have quite the following in Europe, being broadcasted as one in the United States may not be everyone’s tastes. The training the Carroll’s cult members undergo is a bit disturbing and excessive as the members have already volunteered to join Joe Carroll’s cult. It is a bit ritualistic, I suppose, as in hazing of the new members perhaps. It teaches them submission and endurance to survive torture — or worse. Kevin Williamson upped the ante in this episode, and it was one of the better episodes this season by far.
- The Following: Season 1: Episode 10: Guilt Review (fringefiction.net)
- The Following: Episode 6: The Fall Review (fringefiction.net)
- The Following: Episode 3: The Poet’s Fire Review (fringefiction.net)
- The Following: Season 1: Episode 8: Welcome Home Review (fringefiction.net)
- The Following: Season 1: Episode 6: The Fall Review (fringefiction.net)
- The Following: Season 1: Episode 3: The Poet’s Fire Review (fringefiction.net)
- The Following: Season 1: Episode 7: Let Me Go Review (fringefiction.net)
- The Following: Episode 5: The Siege Review (fringefiction.net)
- The Following: Season 1: Episode 5: The Siege Review (fringefiction.net)
- The Following: Season 1: Episode 2: Chapter 2 Review (fringefiction.net)
The United States Post Office, the USPS, has been in decline for some time as technology not only brought us email but tablets, smartphones and ultrabooks. Not only do most Americans have access to email easier, they have access to email faster — and with that, many Americans bank and pay bills online. Furthermore, Federal Express, UPS, DHL and other courier services not only provide the service better, they provide service much more efficiently and effectively. Consider the fact that just a few weeks ago, a delivery of an envelope sent via USPS got incorrectly delivered to Delaware of all places since as far I could see, after a couple days delay, it was clearly marked Philadelphia. The USPS system, once one of the crowning achievements of Americana, has fallen to the modern digital world. With Saturdays being cut out for mail delivery, the USPS is coming upon its last legs, quite possibly within a decade or less. Given the world has evolved, the United States Post Office system hasn’t — aside from putting up a clumsy and not very user-friendly website.
What does the USPS need to do? Fringe Fiction has some ideas.
- Privatize. With the government supplementing and endorsing the USPS, the USPS was never really forced to change with the times. Put in perspective, it is still a horse-and-buggy system.
- Develop an efficient network to track deliveries. With the USPS tracking system, “delivered” or “out for delivery” doesn’t usually mean the day of. For the most part, it takes at least one or two more days for the package to arrive. The second part of this is to have workers with a sense of urgency. I’ve had packages that were supposed to arrive in Philadelphia but were actually sent to Delaware of all places. It simply boggles the mind.
- Develop an application for shipping, mailing and tracking among other things. An Android and iOS application would be nice.
- Better locations for post offices. The locations need to be near places of business. Sometimes, they are located in isolated locations where no one bothers.
The Post Office will soon disappear if it doesn’t change, doesn’t evolve. It will go the way of dinosaurs if it is not careful.
- Report: USPS to End Saturday Mail Delivery This Summer (wreg.com)
- No more Saturday mail delivery, USPS says (cinewsnow.com)
- USPS: We Need Help! E-Commerce Is A Huge Opportunity, But We Don’t Have The Technology To Keep Up (businessinsider.com)
- USPS: We Don’t Pay Traffic Tickets (newser.com)
- Yes, Republicans are trying to shut down the United States Postal Service (deathandtaxesmag.com)
- USPS ends Saturday letter delivery. How much fuel will it save? (csmonitor.com)
- USPS Changes Causing Stress for Ecommerce Sellers (vendio.com)
- Time to save the postal service (blogs.reuters.com)
- USPS Cuts Saturday Delivery (newser.com)
It’s been a long eleven years since that tragedies of 9/11/2001. The United States has changed, and the world changed as well. The United States employed stringent security at airports nationwide and tightened its borders. Analysts and officers were employed by the FBI and other government agencies to crack down on terrorists within and outside the U.S. borders. Federal agencies were employed to scour the internet for terrorist cells. The United States armed forces finally eliminated their major threat, Osama Bin Laden, but possibly at the expense of other countries’ well-being. After four or five years of peace, again turmoil rears its ugly head. Worldwide economic downfall bit hard everywhere forcing federal and state law enforcement agencies to cut back. No more actively hunting terrorists unless they posed a major threat somewhat immediately. Now what’s brewing are homegrown terrorists once again, and with the distractions from the upsurge of street violence in many cities, law enforcement is spread quite thin.
The $700 million project of the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center in New York is projected to be completed in 2014, and it has attracted 4.5 million visitors within its first year. However, the economy is stifling. Although the completion of the project can and will stimulate the economy, the project’s feasibility may be difficult as government agencies tighten their belts. The project may have to rely on more private donations in due time. Unfortunately, as most of us would be more than willing to contribute, the ability to contribute may be a different matter, and most of us are not billionaires with lots of disposable income.
The Zadroga Act, named after NYPD Detective James Zadroga who died after working ground zero at the age of 34, was signed into law nearly two years to compensate the hundreds of rescue workers and people at ground zero on September 11, 2011. With the recent addition of cancer to the illnesses from working at ground zero, the $2.77 billion government fund will be reduced per sickened first responder. However, as of today, none of the sickened workers have yet to see this money. And with nearly 400 residents and rescue workers having already died from cancer since September 11, the news is a bit hard to bear for these people that gave their soul to rescue lives that fateful day. Now these heroes are paying with their own lives…
Overall, the United States has become somewhat safer, but the government agencies are still disorganized. We can have someone enter JFK airport via water without anyone stopping them. Yet the TSA is more than willing to strip-search grandmothers and young children. This is a bit contradictory and dangerous for the well-being of Americans. The economy is in malaise worldwide at this point and so are a lot of Americans. Xenophobia doesn’t benefit anybody. Paranoia doesn’t benefit anybody. And politics just falls incredibly short.
- US adds cancer to list of illnesses linked to 9/11 terror attacks (usnews.nbcnews.com)
- Zadroga Act Compensation Payments on Hold While Rule Adding Cancer to the List of Illnesses Covered by the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund is Finalized (prweb.com)
- Health program for 9/11 first responders to cover dozens of cancers (wtvr.com)
- Feds may acknowledge ground zero cancer link (whas11.com)
- Tough task for those compensating ill 9/11 workers (kfwbam.com)
With the previous scares of tainted meat in the past, now Americans have to be concerned with perhaps a greater threat — feed additives. Although most are approved the the United States Food and Drug Administration, in other parts of the world, they are a bit more hesitant. Since the United States is exporting more meat to other countries, the use of feed additives to keep the pigs and other livestock healthy and lean are now a much more considerable health threat worldwide. China and some of the European Union are halting import of American pork because of feed additives, specifically ractopamine hydrochloride (otherwise known as paylean). Ractopamine hydrochloride, or paylean, has been banned from the European Union and some of southeast Asia citing its effects on human health. While Americans may think they may have escaped The Jungle with assurance from the U.S. government, we could be possibly farther from the truth. Again, the meat industry is impacting American health, but this time with more subtlety.
Feed additives are generally concentrated product that provides a particular effect. For humans, a vitamin would be deemed a feed additive. According to the European Union, there are five kinds of feed additives for livestock: technological additives, sensory additives, nutritional additives, zootechnical additives and lastly, coccidiostats and histomonostats. Technological additives impact the additive directly by impacting its shelf life and handling characteristics. Sensory additives affect the appetite by providing flavors or fragrances. Nutritional additives provide nutritional benefits in the feed. Zootechnical additives impact the utilization of the nutrients gained from feed. Lastly, coccidiostats and histomonostats affect the intestinal health of poultry and be deemed as antibiotics.
In swine, ractopamine hydrochloride, or paylean, affects swine by increasing fat-lean growth and lean mass in general. Ractopamine hydrochloride has shown to have mutagenic and musculo-skeletal effects and change behavior. Residues of ractopamine were detected in pork sold from the United States in 2007 and has been banned from some of the European Union and southeast Asia, including China and Taiwan. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, there has been no global consensus on the impact of ractopamine on human health.
So think about this, the next time, you drop pork chops onto the grill…now there’s a whole lot of food for thought.
- Dispute over drug in feed limiting US meat exports (bottomline.msnbc.msn.com)
- New Bills Would Basically Make The Jungle Illegal (slog.thestranger.com)
With the coming apocalypse of 2012 to a neighborhood near you, I guess it is time to be prepared. Prepare for the best, expect the worst. But if it’s coming from outer space with advanced technology, it’s usually not friendly, according to the movies. Here are some guides in order for humanity to prepare for interstellar war and survival.
This movie may be the best to prepare us for interstellar war. With the likes of Will Smith, Brent Spiner and Bill Pullman to help humanity, anything is possible. With Pullman’s “Independence Day” speech, it is one for President Barack Obama to inspire from, should aliens invade Earth.
With the inspiration of the military, our boots on the ground, the Roughnecks, can battle giant, ugly insects on Earth as well as on other planets. However, these insects are capable of evolving and have many pawns to throw at us.
Nothing like Ellen Ripley to save a bunch of marines and to save our hides, if need be. With her smarts, resourcefulness and sheer willpower, if she doesn’t inspire, I don’t know who will.
The Predator is the ultimate killing machine. Facing one is dangerous enough as Major Dutch Shaeffer found out as the Predator slaughtered his fellow soldiers. Arnold Schwartzenegger can help us again…maybe.
Men in Black
Nothing like Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith (yet again) to save us from the hidden alien threat. Will Smith has the veteran chops to battle aliens everywhere and anywhere.
With no one to turn to, the Green Lanterns will be always to help. Despite some having an alien heritage, their rings and their brains will ultimately save us from alien threats.
John Carpenter’s masterpiece shows us that some aliens will choose to mimic those that the species that they want to take over. With scientists fighting for the Earth’s survival and without any equipment to warn of the incoming danger, it looks very bleak indeed. A prequel will be coming soon that might help us survive this onslaught.
With aliens able to mimic human beings and animals, they certainly should have the ability to mimic automobiles, helicopters, jets and other forms of human transportation. Should something like Megatron find its way to Earth, at least we have Sam Witwicky and the Autobots to protect us.
A party. A giant monster. A shaky-cam. Something doesn’t belong here. Oh that’s right, the giant freaking monster attacking the city! This is the survival guide that you shouldn’t follow.
With giant aliens taking over much of Mexico, it is a matter of time before they reach the United States. This guide will help you at least survive through Mexican territory, but it is a meager survival at best.
Well, this is the end of the guided tour of guides to surviving the alien apocalypse. These guides are helpful somewhat from determining normal aliens to aliens that can mimic. Both are dangerous in their own right. I wish you the best of luck…
With the decline in definitive American horror movies, some other nations have taken the mantle and made it one of their better exports. Spain was one of them with the original [REC] released in 2007. A young female reporter and her cameramen film and follow a crew of firemen during their night shift. Upon receiving a call of a woman trapped in her apartment complex, the firemen, the news reporter and her cameraman eventually enter the building but could not escape the horrors within. The filming of this movie was exceedingly similar to the The Blair Witch Project released in the United States in 1999, and it inspired Quarantine and its sequel, Quarantine 2: Terminal. The filming of [REC] 2 followed in a similar suit but a bit different as it dealt with two separate cameras once said and done.
Let’s begin with the important characters of this sequel starting with Dr. Owen. Dr. Owen, essentially a medical doctor/priest, is played by Jonathan Mellor. Jefe, the lead of the four-man SWAT team (in Spanish, El Grupo Especial de Operaciones or GEO), is played by Oscar Zafra. Larra and Martos are played by Ariel Casas and Alejandro Casaseca. And leading the rear is Rosso, essentially the cameraman for the GEO team, played by Pablo Rosso.
The other group, mainly consisting of teenagers, a fireman and Jennifer’s father (the father of the girl infected in the original [REC]). The teenagers are Mire, Ori and Tito; they are played by Andrea Ros, Alex Batllori and Paul Poch respectively. Manu, the fireman, is played by Ferran Terraza. Jennifer’s father is played by Pep Molina.
Some of the returning cast from the original are Jennifer, the young girl who becomes one of the infected of the original [REC], and Angela Vidal, the female news reporter of the original [REC].
The GEO team prepares to arrive into the apartment complex of the original [REC] fifteen minutes after. The building has been quarantined, and as the GEO team battles through the crowd, they finally enter the building. They are escorted by Dr. Owen sent to obtain the blood of patient zero, Sra. Medeiros. They go to the penthouse and ultimately obtain the blood. However, upon testing by Dr. Owen, the blood sample becomes lost. Dr. Owen then concludes the only way to obtain more blood samples is from patient zero herself. In the meantime, three teenagers are found playing on the roof the building prior to the quarantine of said building but are found by the police. They are escorted by the police down to street level. The teenagers find a way inside the building through the sewers. However, they are tailed by the police and after the teenagers have entered the building, the police seal the sewer entrance as well. The teenagers meet Jennifer’s father and Manu inside. Unfortunately, no other entrance exists other than the front door which is reliant upon Dr. Owen’s radio. Both groups eventually meet each other. However, most won’t survive as they are being attacked by the infected. The final sequence begins as the remaining survivors meet Angela Vidal who had remained hidden inside the building. Dr. Owen and the remaining survivors eventually meet up with Sra. Medeiros, but nothing goes as expected.
This movie lacked the punch of the original [REC] frankly. With the movie becoming The Hills Have Eyes 2 meets The Exorcist, the two separate groups (and cameras) involved and the non-linear storyline, the movie wasn’t quite as compelling. It did have a couple of good jump-out-of-your-seat moments, but the scares paled in comparison to the original. Having two separate cameras failed to draw me into either group. Perhaps the closest to a proper scare was near the ending with their encounter with Sra. Medeiros herself. The sequence mirrored [REC].
Verdict (Out of 10)
I won’t be quite as harsh as the other critics, but this movie is about a 6 out of 10. It has occasional scares, but nothing quite as pulsating as the original. In my opinion, the original had much more impact since it was with Angela Vidal and her cameraman throughout the entire film. In any case, this film was still significantly better than Quarantine.
This is the third and final movie of the Transformers trilogy, directed by Michael Bay, and thus begins the fall of Earth to the Decepticons. The Decepticon assassin Shockwave made his appearance in this movie as the video game of the same name introduced him. According to the video game, as declared by Optimus Prime, “he is about as deadly as they come,” and Shockwave was a hard nut to crack for Optimus Prime, the Autobots and the humans. It took all of them to defeat this mighty Decepticon assassin.
Shia LaBeauof reprises his role as Sam Witwicky, the hero of the first two films. Tyrese Gibson returns as Epps, and John Turturro is the former Section 7 agent Simmons. Josh Duhamel plays as Lennox again. Witwicky’s parents, played by Kevin Dunn and Julie White, also come back. Sam Witwicky’s new love interest, Carly, is played by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Patrick Dempsey plays Dylan, Sam Witwicky’s rival. John Malkovitch plays Bruce Brazos, Witwicky’s boss. Frances Macdormand plays Mearing. And lastly, Ken Jeong plays Jerry Wang, Witwicky’s co-worker.
For the Transformers, most of the Autobots return from previous films. The voice of Optimus Prime is by Peter Cullen. Robert Foxworth is the voice of Ratchet. Jess Harnell is the voice of Ironhide. James Ramar is the voice of Sideswipe. Francesco Quinn plays the voice of Dino, otherwise known as Mirage. George Coe is the voice of Wheeljack. Tom Kenny is the voice of Wheelie. Reno Wilson is the voice of Brains. Ron Bottitta is the voice of Roadbuster. John DiMaggio is the voice of Wheeljack. Lastly, Leonard Nimoy is the voice of Sentinel Prime.
For the Decepticons, Hugo Weaving plays the voice of Megatron. Charles Adler is the voice of Starscream. Frank Welker plays two roles — the voices of Shockwave and Soundwave. Keith Szarabajka plays the voice of Laserbeak.
The movie begins with the first landing on the moon by the United States, and a view of older footage brings insight to the crash of the Ark, an Autobots spaceship carrying pillars necessary for interstellar transport. Despite his assistance in the two defeats of the Decepticons in the previous films and being honored by President Barack Obama, Sam Witwicky can not find a job much of anywhere after college. He resides with Carly in Chicago, as he tries to find a job. He finally lands a job as a mailroom clerk in the office of Bruce Brazos. Meanwhile, the Autobots go to Chernobyl and encounter the Driller of Shockwave for the first time as they discover a missing Cybertronian artifact. Meanwhile, Laserbeak assassinates the original seven officers related to the American moon landing and the discovery of the Ark. As Jerry Wang passed on information concerning the dark side of the moon, he is assassinated by Laserbeak as he is thrown out of the office window. With this in mind, Sam Witwicky relies on the assistance of the unexpected — former Section 7 agent Simmons. Simmons and Witwicky decide to contact two of the former Russian cosmonauts on an explanation as to why their space mission to the moon was terminated early. The cosmonauts shows both Simmons and Witwicky the original satellite photographs of the moon. On the moon, there were hundreds of pillars, the source for interestellar transportation by the Transformers, stranded near the Ark. However, Witwicky discovered that they have been moved by the Decepticons here on Earth. He also concluded that Sentinel Prime perhaps had other plans that did not involve the Autobots nor assisting humans. Simmons and Witwicky rushes to NEST headquarters in Chicago to warn Optimus Prime and the Autobots. Unfortunately, they were delayed by an attack by the Decepticons on the highway, and ultimately, Sentinel Prime turns on the Autobots, and one of the Autobots fall to a surprise attack by Sentinel Prime. Luckily, Bumblebee escapes as Sentinel Prime causes havoc with NEST headquarters. Sentinel Prime makes his move on Chicago and around the world with the help of Megatron and the Decepticons. Carly is kidnapped by Dylan and Soundwave, and of course, Sam Witwicky is off to save the world once again. With a ploy by the Autobots, the Decepticons believe that they have destroyed the Autobots and finalize their process of bringing Cybertron to Earth. Sam Witwicky, Epps and Lennox plan to invade Chicago that has been overtaken by Sentinel Prime, Megatron and the Decepticons. The Autobots surprisingly return to assist the humans in taking back Chicago. With the Shockwave and his Driller among the first to fall, the Autobots and humans make their push closer and closer to Sentinel Prime. Ultimately, Optimus Prime defeats Sentinel Prime and Megatron with one arm, and as the half-formed Cybertron collapses in space, Optimus Prime and the Autobots realize that Earth is the only home now.
The special effects were amazing, like the first two films. The explosions, closeups of transformations of Decepticons, and the flying shrapnel were spectacular. The sound of the explosions were fantastic, like the previous Transformers films by Michael Bay.
3-D or Not 3-D?
The choice for 3-D is not really necessary for the first half of the film, as it was mostly buildup, plot and character development. However, once Sentinel Prime and his agenda gets rolling, the 3-D becomes useful and quite spectacular. The shrapnel flying as the Transformers battle against one another is an amazing visual. I can almost smell the electrical smoke as wires and gasoline were cut. Although the building collapsing was a bit over the top, the visual in 3-D was actually quite good. Is 3-D worth a $2 or $3 addition to a standard movie viewing of Transformers: Dark of the Moon? Only if you want to see shrapnel and transformations up close and personal. Otherwise, this movie, for the most part, can be viewed as a standard 2-D movie, and you won’t miss too much.
Verdict (Out of 10)
Perhaps the best summer action movie so far, but the best summer movie still goes to Super 8. Although it was better than the second film, Revenge of the Fallen, the story wasn’t as cohesive or as compelling as the first movie. There was no explanation of Shockwave nor of some of the other Decepticons in this movie. Also, there was no explanation of the new Autobots as well. If you played the video game of the same name, it would provide the necessary background, but in Bay’s arrogance perhaps, not everyone wants to or can play the video game. There were some nice, witty and funny one-liners in this film, particularly a tribute to Star Trek by Leonary Nimoy as Sentinel Prime. In spite of this, it is not to say that it is bad as Michael Bay spent all of his special effects budget on this film — the explosions, the battles and nearly all of the action scenes were fantastic. Overall, it is a solid 7.5 out of 10 for me.
The Potential Evolution of the Zombie Virus, Part 3: The Possibilities of Biological Weaponization Today
Prologue, Philosophy and Politics
Although this topic really falls in the realm of fiction, not simply because of the economics and morality of the issue, military and military-funded private research and development should not progress easily in biological warfare, with United Nations and opposing countries always looking over each other’s shoulders. With nuclear weapons at least kept in check somewhat even between the most conniving of nations, they cannot escape satellite imagery catching them in the act, and escaping with biological warfare is just as difficult. Unlike nuclear weaponry, biological warfare development is manageable as an industry, even in the most depressing economic times. History has shown us that in World War I, the Korean War and other wars in the past. In 1972, however, biological weapons were outlawed throughout the world by the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) and have been further ratified by 163 countries, as of 2009. Many countries fortunately can still pursue research into defense and protection from biological warfare, which is not prohibited by the BWC. Recently, as of 2001, Iraq admitted to the United Nations the production of biological weapons, specifically 19,000 liters of concentrated botulinum toxin. On September 18, 2001, a few members of the United States Congress were victims of an anthrax attack. However, the perpetrators of this attack has yet to be identified to this day.
Unfortunately, some private biotech company like Umbrella Corporation in the Resident Evil series would be hard to remain unnoticed in the era of satellites, YouTube and worldwide streaming news. With even a hint of alleged animal testing or creation of biological weapons, animal rights activists and other protesters would be on their front doorstep, protesting and streaming their illegally-obtained digital photographs and videos all over the internet. There would be sufficient uproar for the biowarfare development to cease while government intervention, domestic and international, would put a stop to this immediately.
As for the artificial manufacturing of the said zombie virus, it would still rely on the rabies, avian flu and mad cow disease, as described in the previous part of this discussion. They would be easiest viral samples to mutate or otherwise manipulate their DNA and/or RNA structures. The resources for a large private biotech firm could easily create such a biological weapon, but they would have to be beyond secretive in this age of social media which would be nearly impossible. For most of North America, Australia and Europe, threats in the Middle East such as Iraq and Libya would have the resources available (from the oil production), but whether the have the knowledge to so remains in question.
Purpose and Product
Once something like a zombie virus is manufactured, the consumerism of such a product would be limited to the black market, even if developed legally under sanctioned regulators. That would defeat the purpose of creating it originally under proper regulations in the first place. The product, the zombie virus itself, could also quickly deteriorate unless given to a host immediately (such as a chimpanzee or other mammal). In that case, it could potentially destroy the very nation that was creating it, should the host escape its confines, which would be illogical and financially unsound for that country. However, a private biotech firm could hold countries under its thumb potentially, but domestic and international intervention would make news worldwide.
The Impossible Engine
For now, the manufacturing of said zombie virus remains a virtual impossibility with international and domestic sanctions. However, it’s not to say that terrorist attacks of other, more conventional biological weapons, such as smallpox, anthrax, and botulism, aren’t possible, even in this day and age. Zombie virus as a manufactured biological weapon remains in the realm of science fiction presently. The Walking Dead television series and Resident Evil movie and video game series may instill fear of such corporations, but it’s a mere fantasy in our present reality — an impossible engine.