Filed under “Entertainment”
February 22, 2013
February 15, 2013
Idea: Two Time Travel Movies Released In Real Time
[This post is part of an idea dump.]
I know actually writing this would be much harder than just coming up with a loose idea. But structurally, it would work something like this:
In 2015, a movie comes out that takes place entirely in 2015. In the story, a character travels five years into the future, has some profound experience, and then returns to the present where the ramifications of his future travel profoundly affect him. We never find out exactly what happened in his time jump, and we’re curious, but it’s okay because the present story stands well on its own.
In 2020, the sequel comes out. It takes place entirely in 2020. We finally have caught up with the time traveler, and now we get to see what the heck happened when he got here that affected him in 2015. The story in 2020 also works well on its own, but it sheds new light on events that happened in the 2015 movie.
For bonus points, the time traveller’s 2020 scenes could all be shot in 2015, so the actor will not have aged, but all his costars will. For a more enhanced effect, the movies could be more than five years apart, or the characters could be young so the five years of aging is more dramatically obvious.
February 13, 2013
Behind The Post: The Luke Hope Poster
You may remember that about four-and-a-half years ago, I made this image:
By popular demand, I sought to make it available on posters and t-shirts. But I wanted to do so through proper channels, and ended up partnering with Zazzle, which had an existing licensing agreement with Lucasfilm. (They no longer do, so don’t bother looking.)
But in order to get formal permission, I had to jump through some hoops. One question that came up — and I confess I found it a bit insulting — was whether or not I could prove that I actually made this poster, and wasn’t just passing off someone else’s work as my own.
I came up with a way to prove I did the work. I had kept all the layers intact from the Photoshop file I used to create the image (much later it was turned into vector art). Using all those layers, I created an animated gif showing the steps from start to finish.
I always liked how that animated gif came out, so the point of this story is to share the process gif with you:
February 11, 2013
Idea: The Movie Poster Alphabet
[This post is part of an idea dump.]
I never posted this idea because I wasn’t able to come up with enough material to finish it. Maybe you can help? Scroll down to the bottom for more about what I’m looking for.
Do you know of any good posters to fill in the gaps? Or better options for the ones I already have? Ideally, I want posters where the letter is featured large and centered. So, for example, “G” above isn’t great because the letter is so small and low. “W” could be better for a similar reason.
Also, it’s okay if there are other letters and words, but I’d like the alphabet letter to be the most prominent thing. That’s why I didn’t use the poster for Blankman, which features a prominent letter “B”, but it’s minor compared to all the distracting words on the poster. And similarly, I struggled with whether to use Malcolm X, seen above, or X-Men: First Class which has a similarly prominent “X” with fewer distractions. I chose Malcolm X for undefinable reasons.
If you have any good suggestions, let me know, and I’ll update the poster.
February 7, 2013
Idea: Zombies vs. Senior Citizens
[This post is part of an idea dump.]
Someone should make a zombie movie that takes place in a community of really old people. Because one group lumbers along slowly, moaning, with one foot in the grave. And the other one is zombies.
Idea: Famous For 15 Minutes: The Movie
[This post is part of an idea dump.]
In 1968, the catalogue for an Andy Warhol exhibit in Stockholm first featured the quote, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” Well, now we’re in the future. And speculation about the future is the stuff of sci-fi movies. So here’s my concept:
The movie’s working title is “The Warhol Paradox.” It starts in 1968, just a few months after Warhol’s Stockholm exhibition, when Valerie Solanis marches into The Factory and opens fire on Andy Warhol. But in the alternate universe of the movie, Warhol doesn’t survive. He is murdered.
Solanis goes to trial, but is acquitted on the grounds that she’s insane. Or some other reason. But she’s acquitted. There is a public outry which leads to the great Pop Art Riots of 1969. Cans of Campbell’s soup are thrown through store windows. Paintings of American flags are burned in the streets. Looters steal silk screen supplies from craft stores. Police officers are unsure how to deal with the unruly crowds, and things get out of hand. The sidewalks are covered with pools of blood or possibly tomato soup it’s kind of hard to tell.
The people revolt and overthrow the government. And now the pop artists and surrealists are in charge.
Jump ahead 30 years. It’s the future, 1999, and society is built around Pop Art. But power corrupts, and over the past 30 years the artists have become drunk with power. Warhol’s prediction that everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes is now a mandate. Every day, 360 people are chosen by the government to become world famous for 15 minutes.
One day, two young high school kids are chosen, a boy and girl who happen to attend the same school. But they don’t want to be world famous. They’re part of the emerging privacy advocacy movement that wants to return to a time when people could be anonymous their whole lives. So they run.
They meet a group of privacy activists that help people like them through the Velvet Underground Railroad.
The two of them become the most wanted fugitives in the world. And this, paradoxically, makes them famous.
That’s all I’ve got so far.
December 7, 2012
November 20, 2012
Inventors Episode 2: Batter Blaster
Save some room this Thanksgiving weekend for waffles and pancakes. Or don’t, and just have cold turkey for breakfast. Either way, at least watch Episode Two of my new PBS Digital Studios series “Inventors”, which profiles the man behind Batter Blaster, the pancake batter that comes in a whip cream style can.
November 8, 2012
“Inventors” series debuts with PBS Digital Studios
I’m very excited to announce that my occasional series of inventor portrait videos is about to get a lot less occasional, as it’s now part of PBS Digital Studios. I will be releasing a new video every two weeks and you can find them at the new Inventors Series YouTube channel.
Here’s the first episode:
[Note to self: I’ve really got to redesign this website to allow for embedding larger video.]
Going forward, a new episode will go up every other Tuesday. They will mostly be new episodes you haven’t seen, but I’ll throw in a few that I’ve posted here in the past, perhaps with some slight changes. They’ll be new to most people.
I hope you like what I’ve got planned!
July 31, 2012
Idea: Text Supercuts
Well, here’s a supercut of a different kind: the text supercut. Need an example?
Here’s every use of the word “cat” from Dr. Suess’ book The Cat in the Hat:
Cat cat. Cat cat Cat cat. Cat cat. cat. cat. cat cat. Cat Cat Cat cat. cat. cat Cat cat Cat cat, cat. cat cat! Cat
[My first effort was a supercut of every instance of “whale” in Moby Dick. But it turns out the word appears so many times that it ended up being way too large to reasonably share in a blog post.]
April 23, 2012
How I Scored A Million Points In SpellTower [Guest Post]
My father-in-law Jerry is great at word puzzles. He’s a retired economist for the FTC with a passion for music and a life-long interest in math and science. He says he dabbles in games and puzzles “occasionally for relaxation,” but that understates his skill. At family gatherings, he wins practically every game of Scrabble, Boggle, Bridge, you name it.
Over the holidays, I showed him SpellTower on my iPad. The game combines elements of Boggle and Tetris, and I thought he would enjoy it. By the time I took my iPad back at the end of the trip, he had already broken the SpellTower “Puzzle Mode” record on the Game Center leader board by almost 100,000 points (and shattered my high score of 17,876 which I thought was pretty good). He still has the high score on the leader board with 167,275 points.
Like most people who play the game once, he was hooked, so he bought SpellTower for his own iPad. The other day he told me that he’s been playing the same continuous game for over a month now and has obliterated his own high score. He has passed 1,000,000 points, adding about 20,000 points a day. He’s confident he can keep playing as long as he wants. (His score won’t show up in Game Center until he ends the game).
On Jerry’s behalf, I bragged to SpellTower creator Zach Gage via Twitter. Zach replied, “Holy [expletive]. He is a beast. I want to know his strategy.”
So I asked Jerry if he would share his strategy. Some of it may seem obvious, and some of it you may not have considered, but here it is in full, explained in his own words in this blog’s very first Guest Post:
How I Scored A Million Points In SpellTower
The key to getting a high score is patience. Don’t play too fast, and don’t feel that you have to enter a word just because you found it. There is no problem in letting several turns go by without making any words at all — that just gives you a bigger collection of letters and more choices.
The main strategic principle is to avoid developing towers on the sides of the board. Instead, try to cultivate a shape in which the board is even, or better yet, shaped like an upside down U where the middle columns are higher than the sides. The reason for this is simple: the side rows are the hardest to clear because there are fewer possible words to make when you can connect to letters on just one side. So always look first for words that use letters in the extreme side columns. If you can’t find any, just add another row until you can. Always enter the letters one by one until the board displays exactly which letters will be removed. Then examine the effect it will have on your shape before you hit the last letter a second time to enter the word. Look before you leap.
The next principle is to make long words rather than short ones. The obvious advantage is that you clear more letters, since five (or more) letter words clear all adjoining squares. You also avoid selectively removing the letters with no nasty little 6’s in the corners, creating a board in which most of the remaining letters do have these nasty 6’s. Yet another advantage is that you save the short, common words for an emergency. If you quickly use up many of the three letter words, you won’t have those words left to help you when they are the only way to save you from death. So again, if you can’t find a long word, it is usually better to add a row of letters than to make a 3 or 4 letter word. Save the short ones for emergencies and to help cut down pesky little towers or accumulations of black spaces before they get out of control. Even more important: save up the short J, X, Q, and Z words, because they are really helpful in a jam.
There is one more special technique that is handy when you really need it. Sometimes you just can’t find any word, and you are close to death. Rather than taking a chance with getting good letters in your next row, you can sometimes find a word which is almost connected, but not quite. By making a short word that removes a letter or two that is in the way, you can sometimes connect the word and use it in your next turn to clear out a critical column.
I haven’t said anything about how to find words — this is an issue common to all of these words games, most notably Boggle. Just use the same strategies, such as keeping an eye out for common sequences such as ER, ING, ION, etc., and keep trying different shapes and possibilities.
And one more thing — don’t be afraid to guess. No matter how many words you know, there are thousands of other words that SpellTower recognizes that you have never heard of before. So if you are in a jam, just press in any plausible sequence of letters, and you will find that a surprising number of them are accepted as words.
It really all comes down to patience. Never make a word just because the word has a high score. One word is worth nothing. Staying alive is everything. If adding an S to your word gives you another 100 points but makes your shape worse, leave out the S! If you find a 6 letter word that increases the size of a side tower by 1, spend a little more time and try to find a different one that has a better effect on your shape. If you find a great word that gives you 1000 points but eats up the middle of the board, you are just tempting fate. In fact, if you are playing the regular puzzle mode, there is no need to die. The only thing that would be guaranteed to do you in is that eventually you will use up so many words that there won’t be enough left. But even that is not a problem, because I have discovered that the memory cache for the words already used is too small, so that if you play long enough, you can start using the same words a second or third time. This starts kicking in after you have amassed about 600,000 points. But to get there, you really need patience!
April 18, 2012
Idea: Toddler TARDIS Console
About a month ago my son learned to pull himself up to stand on his own. Now that he can stand, he really enjoys his LeapFrog Learning Table. It’s about waist high and has all sorts of knobs and dials and levers and switches that trigger sound effects, lights and music. As he makes his away around the table fiddling with knobs and switches I noticed that he looks a lot like Doctor Who doing the same thing in the TARDIS.
Then it hit me: someone should really make a TARDIS console for babies.
Kids will love the bright flashing lights, the numerous knobs to turn and levers to flip, the central piston, the signature TARDIS groan, and other sound effects and clips featuring characters from the show. One button would play the theme song, and another button would trigger a Dalek voice reciting the alphabet. That’s sure to be a favorite feature of parents and kids alike.
There’s no better way to teach your baby Time Lord about wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff.
March 30, 2012
I saw this ad on the subway yesterday. I haven’t visited the site, but I assume it’s part of a viral marketing campaign to keep Community on the air.
Okay, now I’ve visited the site. They’ve built a pitch-perfect imitation of a mattress-cover company’s website. I’m not sure what it has to do with Abed, but I’ll bet if I dig deep enough I’ll figure it out. It must be some sort of meta-ironic-pop-culture-referencing thing. That’s so Abed.
March 6, 2012
Inventor Portrait: Ralph Baer, video game inventor, who turns 90 years old this week
[cross-posted from my photography blog]
Ralph Baer, the father of video games, turns 90 years old on Thursday. One of his early inventions, the Magnavox Odyssey, was the first home video game system. It turns 40 years old this year. I photographed and interviewed Ralph over the summer for my ongoing Inventor Portraits Project, and this seemed like a good time to share some of the video in which we discuss, among other things, why he’s still inventing at 90 years old.
At one point in our interview he expressed frustration that modern kids don’t read anymore because they’re too busy playing with their smartphones. So I asked him if he thinks kids play too many video games today. Did he accidentally unleash a monster with his invention? His answer:
Yeah. I did a bit. What I thought I unleashed was a family game. If you’ll stop to consider for a second, what’s the ping pong game? You can’t play ping pong with yourself. It was meant to be played by two people. And we had four-handed ping pong and hockey games early on, also. I always thought of it as a family game. And it just sort of degenerated into a one player type thing which was never in my mind.
I thought that was interesting. I think I see a pendulum swinging back in Baer’s direction with consoles like the Nintendo Wii, which put an emphasis on group play.
Anyway, Happy 90th Birthday, Ralph!
February 27, 2012
Bob& Carol& Ted& Alice.
But it’s been rattling in my head begging to be done, so here it is:
Now, it’s possible this has already been done. I mean, what else in popular culture is already set up as four names with ampersands between them? It’s almost as though the movie title was meant for this parody. But if so, I couldn’t find it. However I’m pretty sure that my other idea for a Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice poster parody hasn’t been done. I couldn’t even bring myself to do it. It was going to be Bobby & Carol & Greg & Alice. Yeah, I know. (Bonus: just as timely!)
Interestingly, the original movie poster for the film was entirely typographical, having no photos or illustrations. Just the title repeated in Cooper Black with the tagline “consider the possibilities.”
July 18, 2011
San Diego Comic Con 1988
This week is the annual San Diego Comic-Con International, the largest fandom convention in the United States. If you’re heading to San Diego, there’s a very slim chance that you will pass through a time warp along the way and find yourself at the 1988 San Diego Comic Con instead of the 2011 event. But to better prepare you for that remote possibility, I am providing a few things that you may wish to review in advance.
[Note: you should know that the convention in 1988 wasn’t as big as it is today, when 125,000 people are expected to show up. In 1988, attendance was around 8,000 people. So don’t be shocked if the place feels deserted.]
First, here is a Progress Report newsletter [download the PDF]. These were sent out in advance of the convention to get you excited about who would be there, and let you know how to get around the brand new Omni Hotel.
Inside you’ll find that some topics being considered for panel programming include “Alternative Animation Techniques,” “Are Comics Too Realistic?,” “The Film Noir Approach in Comics,” “Japanimation’s Appeal in the United States,” “Martial Arts in Comics,” “New Directions in Comic Strips,” “The Physics of Super-heroes,” “Presenting Taboo Material in Comics” and “Why Aren’t Comics Fun Anymore?”
You’ll also find out where the masquerade is going to be held for the first time (spoiler: the Civic Theatre) and how to register for the masquerade. Please note that if you plan any acrobatics, swordplay, or special effects on stage, it must be cleared with masquerade coordinators in advance.
Here’s a sneak peak at who else is lined up to be there:
Once you’ve gone through the Progress Report, arm yourself with the actual Events Guide [download the PDF]
On page 16 you’ll find a complete listing of all the movie screenings happening during the convention. Don’t miss Condorman in the Silver Room on Thursday, or the rare 3-D screening of It Came From Outer Space on Saturday.
Here’s what else is happening:
If you can, go to the 4:00 screening of the new X-Men cartoon pilot on Thursday. It never got picked up as a series, but there’s a certain excitement in the air at the possibility that it just might. And you can participate in the discussion over whether Wolverine’s Australian accent ruins the whole thing.
In case you don’t make it to 1988, here’s the pilot courtesy of YouTube:
One more thing: Be sure to visit as many booths as you can, and meet as many people as you can. Instead of asking for individual autographs, it might be fun to get as many people as possible from, say, Marvel Comics to sign one piece of acid-free board. If they’re willing to draw a picture on it, even better. And if Todd McFarlane says, “I did draw a picture. I drew a spider,” when you really wanted him to draw Spider-Man, just thank him graciously and try not to be disappointed.
See if you can find all these people:
[Ron Lim, Archie Goodwin, Ralph Macchio, Mark Gruenwald, Jeff Purves, Ian Akin, Tom DeFalco, Terry Kavanagh, Peter David, Todd McFarlane, Steve Saffel, and a couple more people whose names I can’t make out.]
Oh, one more thing. Before you go, pick up a copy of the Dark Horse Comics preview booklet [or just download the PDF]. It showcases some titles like Flaming Carrot and Concrete. They’re a relatively new publisher, but I predict big things for them. Here’s what it looks like:
Bonus:Now that I think about it, as long as you may be time traveling, perhaps you should look over the Wikipedia entry on 1988 in sports before you go, just in case you have some free time. And be sure to change your 2011 cash for 1988 or earlier bills so you don’t arouse suspicion.
February 22, 2011
Soylent Green is People Magazine!
January 3, 2011
Idea: Crowdfund a mission to put a monolith on the moon
The goal: Erect a monolith on the moon. (See 2001 for reference).
Is there an upper limit to the amount of money you can raise on Kickstarter? Because I guesstimate this project will require about half a billion dollars. So I only need to find 5 million geeks-like-me worldwide who think this is a cool enough idea to donate 100 bucks. That seems pretty doable, especially considering Kickstarter’s rule that nobody has to pay anything if I can’t raise all the money I need, so people can donate with confidence. But maybe my estimate is way off. Here’s my thinking:
Through the power of Google, I found a few estimates on what it would take to get to the moon. They ranged widely. In 2005, a private company estimated that they could send you on a roundtrip fly-by for $100 million, and another private company figured they could land on the moon for $10 billion. My idea doesn’t have to be a manned mission, but it does need to actually land on the moon and erect a monolith. It only has to be a one-way trip, though, which should keep it relatively cheap.
Last year, a kid and his dad in Brooklyn sent their cell phone into space and back on a shoestring budget. Okay, so the moon is about 3,272 times further than the edge of space, but it’s still inspiring.
Nobody would crowdfund a trip to send someone else to the moon, because there’s no incentive. Why should I pay a hundred bucks for you to go to the moon? Why do you get to be the lucky one? But this project is something nerdy folks worldwide could get behind. It’s space exploration and development through private enterprise, and a tribute to great sci-fi. And we can all enjoy the process and the result. Also: Everyone who donates gets a Monolith Project sticker.
So what would be involved in such a project? I have no idea where to begin, except that I know it would cost a lot of money. The money raised would probably be used for engineering, fuel, permits, design, mission control staff, supplies, tools, rent for a place to physically build the thing, other fees and salaries, etc. I’d probably need to start with a project manager, someone to oversee everything. In fact, maybe a lot of the work needs to be done before the fundraising just to figure out how much the whole thing would cost. Maybe I need to have a kickstarter project just to raise the research and development money to figure out how much money I would need for the main project.
Maybe this project should piggyback with some other entity that’s already sending a ship to the moon. Surely there’s a government or private group planning a moon trip that has room for a monolith on board in exchange for some money, right? Maybe that would make this idea less expensive.
What would the design of the monolith be? Aside from having 1:4:9 dimensions, how big should it be? I guess it should be hollow so that it’s light and requires less fuel to carry. I can envision a few monolith designs that pack up flat for transport. Some consideration should be given to how it will be erected. Will it drop down on a parachute and land in one piece? Will it land in a ball and inflate upon landing? Will it require robots to go down and assemble it?
What do you think? If a monolith-on-the-moon project were to be crowdfunded, how would it work? What would need to be considered? What would be the most efficient and effective way to get a monolith on the moon?
Could mankind put a monolith on the moon through micropayments?
Update: A commenter reminds me that parachutes won’t work on the moon because there’s no atmosphere, and I confess that I feel stupid for that oversight. But other than that, this plan should totally work.
November 22, 2010
Another important poll
Two years ago, I asked you to choose wisely. More than 15,000 of you answered, and I learned a lot about you from your responses. But we all change over time, so I have a new poll for you to take. I’m sure your responses will reflect how your personalities and attitudes may have changed, and speak volumes about who my readers are.
November 16, 2010
Idea: The uncanny valley as a plot element
I’ve been thinking the past few days about the uncanny valley in animation. I think it could be used as a plot element in a movie. Through some bit of sci-fi magic, an all-CGI character exists in our real world, but nobody accepts him because there’s something just not right about him. He exists in the uncanny valley and so everyone has a bit of revulsion or discomfort about him.
But that’s as far as I’ve gotten. I’m not sure what kind of story would best make use of this idea. How does a CGI character live in our world? Is it a ToonTown kind of thing, where animated characters have always lived among us, and he’s the first CGI character to be born? Or is it magic? I don’t like the idea of magic in a story like this. I think it should either be sci-fi somehow, or just left unexplained.
Maybe it’s a variation on the Pinocchio story. Somehow an old man uses a computer and some unexplained plot device to create a CGI son. But the boy isn’t accepted by the other kids because he’s all CGI.
Or perhaps it’s a variation on the Frankenstein story. A scientist figures out a way to bring a CGI character to life, and the townspeople are so repulsed by this character stuck in the uncanny valley that they turn on him and hunt him down with pitchforks and torches.
Maybe a computer-savvy high school kid figures out a way to bring his online avatar into our world, but now that avatar is stuck here and has to try to fit in. But being in the uncanny valley, nobody can accept him as the new kid in school, and he remains an outsider. Oh, and there’s a love triangle.
It might work best in a short film, where you could get away with having an unexplained bit of magic more easily than you could in a feature. And it would cost less, since the main character needs to be fully computer animated, which could be pricey.
Also, it should be called “CG, I.”
August 2, 2010
Mad Men Don’t Lie
I’m pretty good when it comes to grammar, but my wife is better, as I’m reminded every time I misuse the word lay and she corrects me. Some bad grammar sticks out like a sore thumb for me, but lay/lie misuse goes past me every time. My wife never fails to catch it, and she seemed to be pointing out lay/lie misuse every time we watched Mad Men. We wondered whether it’s the fault of the actors, or if they’re saying the lines faithfully as they’re written.
I decided to turn it into a learning opportunity. If I could catch every use and misuse of lay and lie in every episode of Mad Men so far, surely that would pound the lesson so firmly in my brain that I will never confuse the words ever again.
And so I made the video embedded above. Here is a list of every quote, from each episode in the first three seasons, in the order they appear in the video:
2.10 Joan: “Go ahead. Lay down. I’ll keep the drunks away.” (incorrect)
3.06 Joan: “Go lay down.” (incorrect)
1.10 Peggy: “Maybe you need me to lay on your couch to clear that up for you again.” (incorrect)
2.05 Peggy: “Do you mind if I lay down?” (incorrect)
2.05 Peggy: “I have to lie down” (correct)
1.03 Betty: “I’m going to go and lay the kids’ food out.” (correct)
3.01 Pete: “I should just lay down and we should run together holding hands.” (incorrect)
3.08 Pete: “I’d lie in bed at night, hear horses going by.” (correct)
1.13 Pete: “I think I should lie down.” (correct)
2.02 Don: “I’m going to lie down for a minute.” (correct)
2.12 Don: “Can I take a shower and lie down?” (correct)
2.10 Don: “Do you want me to lay everything out for you?” (correct)
3.09 Don: “I’m going to go lie down.” (correct) [Note: The subtitles for episode 3.09 say that Don says “I’m gonna go lay down” which is incorrect. But it sounds a lot to me like he says “I’m going to go lie down,” so I gave him a pass.]
3.11 Don: “I’m going to lie down.” (correct)
3.12 Don: “Take a pill and lie down.” (correct)
2.08 Ken: “You need someone to lay down on the barbed wire so you can run over them.” (incorrect)
3.07 Henry: “Victorian ladies would get overwhelmed. Corsets and things. They’d need a place to lie down.” (correct)
1.04 Client: “I hate to be a pain in the ass, but if they didn’t just lay there so flat.” (incorrect)
3.03 Carla: “Maybe you should lie down. Sally!” (correct)
2.04 Sally: “Do you lay on top of her?” (incorrect)
2.11 Jane: “I lay on my pillow at the Sherry-Netherland Hotel.” (incorrect)
2.03 Jennifer: “I need to lay down.” (incorrect)
2.04 Katherine: “And I don’t care if you have to lay there. Put your shoes on!” (incorrect)
2.04 Gerry: “I’m sorry, I’ve gotta lay down.” (incorrect)
3.12 TV: “Then Governor Connally, after slumping to the left for a moment, lay on the floor of the rear seats.”
(incorrect) (correct) — My mistake. The reporter is speaking in past tense.
I originally included three clips that I later decided to remove:
In episode 3.01, Sal says, “Our worst fears lie in anticipation,” which is correct. But he’s quoting Balzac so I wasn’t sure if he should get credit for it. In fact, he even follows up the line by pointing out, “That’s not me. That’s Balzac.” (The actual Balzac quote is “Our worst misfortunes never happen, and most miseries lie in anticipation.”).
In episode 3.05, Don uses the same Balzac quote after hearing Sal say it. Again, I was unsure whether or not to include it for the same reason. But I did like that the character he’s talking to replies, “Are you sure about that?”
In episode 3.09, Sal says, “I think if I get away from Lucky Strike and lay low from Roger for a day or two, everything will be fine.” I wasn’t sure if the common expression lay low is grammatically correct or not. So I looked it up. Dictionary.com says that lay low means to overpower or defeat (as in “to lay low one’s attackers”). The phrase Sal should have used is lie low which means to conceal oneself (as in “Until the dispute is settled, you would do best to lie low.”). So Sal’s usage is technically incorrect. But “lie low” falls strangely on my ears, and lay low is a common enough expression that I couldn’t decide whether to give it a pass or not, so I chose to simply not include the clip at all.
July 28, 2010
Stop Moose and Squirrel
I really hoped there would be some sort of statue or monument when I got there. But no.
July 14, 2010
Once upon an evening cheery, while I drank a mug of beer, he
Came into the Boston bar, descending from the upstairs door.
As I sipped, between drunk and buzzed, suddenly there the mailman was,
Sitting near me at the bar, at the end near Diane Chambers’ door.
“Another beer,” I ordered, sitting near Diane Chambers’ door.
Quoth Cliff Clavin, “Hiya, Norm.”
Ah, distinctly I recall how he enjoyed his alcohol
And Carla waited tables, serving drinks that Coach would pour.
Short of cash, much to my sorrow, twenty dollars I did borrow.
For instead of going home to Vera, I wished to drink some more.
Vera, my wife, who would rather that I drink no more,
Faceless here forevermore.
Cliff knew facts on lots of things: jet lag, cavemen, word meanings,
And he liked to share his knowledge of things he’d heard somewhere before.
Like the time Coach fell in love and pondered the big question of
How the heart works, a question he didn’t need an answer for.
A rhetorical question, one he didn’t need an answer for.
Quoth Cliff Claven, “It’s essentially an involuntary muscle, activated by electrical impulses…”
June 16, 2010
Idea: HBO vs HBO fighting game
The fighting genre of video games has some crossover titles like the Marvel vs Capcom series that pits Marvel Comics characters against fighters from Capcom’s games. So you could end up with Iron Man fighting a Street Fighter character, for example.
I’d like to see a crossover fighting game that pits characters from various HBO TV series against one another in fights to the death in locations from their shows.
You could have Ruth Fisher vs Larry David fighting on the set of Bill Maher’s show. Or pit Sookie Stackhouse against Rich Hall in the Sopranos’ kitchen. Or Wembley Fraggle vs Ali G in the Crypt Keeper’s crypt.
Everyone would have different strengths, weapons, and special attacks. Hank Kingsley’s all-powerful Hey Now of Death would inflict major damage, but he’d be vulnerable to the Dennis Miller Ravaging Rant and Tracey Ullman’s Go Home Grapple.
It’s a fight to the finish. There can HBOnly one.
April 21, 2010
Idea: eBooks that watch you read
Every device is an eReader these days. Some are dedicated e-ink devices, and some are multipurpose gadgets that have (or will soon have) front-facing cameras. Presumably those cameras are intended for video chat. But as long as the cameras are there, I think eReader software should take advantage of those cameras, too.
Using existing face detection technology, here are some things your eReader could do:
Gather analytics data: Movie studios do test screenings where they gauge how much audiences laugh or cry, and at what point in the movie. Books can’t do that. But what if the book were watching you? It could anonymously (with your consent) send data back to the publisher about where you were in the book when you smiled. This could be good feedback for the author, who would learn which jokes were hits and which were misses.
Dynamically change text size: Instead of setting your preferred font size, you can set your preferred apparent font size. As you move your head closer and further away from the page, the font adjusts accordingly. (Although I can’t come up with a real reason why I would use this feature).
Automatic page scrolling: With eye-tracking, the device could see when you’re reaching the bottom of the page, and scroll accordingly.
Advertising fodder: Imagine an ad for Stephen King’s new book: it’s a photo grid of real people’s faces while they’re engrossed in the pivotal and terrifying chapter where something really gruesome happens. Perhaps the eBook takes the photo without telling you, and it’s saved locally on your device. At the end of the book you get the opportunity to submit it, and you get some cash and a free copy of his next book if they use your photo to advertise this one.
Special edition of 1984: Every time you get to a page with the phrase “Big Brother,” the camera takes a photo of you and posts it on-line.
UPDATE: Well, it didn’t take long for someone to point out in the comments that Wired has already covered this territory. Hrm. I guess I’ll do some more research before I post my other related idea: eye-tracking high dynamic range photos that adjust the exposure according to the part of the image you’re looking at.
Previously: Idea: Fun With Facial Recognition
November 10, 2009
Actors you forgot were in Tim Burton movies
Next year, Tim Burton’s version of Alice in Wonderland hits theaters. It’s his seventh time working with Johnny Depp, who might be the first actor you associate with Tim Burton. He has also worked frequently with Helena Bonham-Carter, Jeffrey Jones, Michael Keaton, and a few others. But with this movie he adds a few new big names to his list. It’s his first time working with Crispin Glover, Anne Hathaway, Stephen Fry, and relative newcomer Mia Wasikowska.
Whenever a new Tim Burton movie comes out, I marvel at the caliber and range of actors he’s worked with. So inspired in part by the upcoming Tim Burton retrospective that opens at MOMA in a couple weeks, I decided to compile a list. Here are 94 notable people that you might have forgotten were in movies directed by Tim Burton*:
Helena Bonham Carter
Sacha Baron Cohen
Michael Clarke Duncan
Michael J. Fox
Anthony Michael Hall
James Earl Jones
Sarah Jessica Parker
George ‘The Animal’ Steele
Loudon Wainwright III
Billy Dee Williams
*For the purpose of this blog entry, I also include the actors from Tim Burton’s short film Frankenweenie, plus the “Aladdin” episode of Faerie Tale Theater that he directed.
October 30, 2009
A scene from life rewritten as a scene from Curb Your Enthusiasm
A while ago I had a conversation that seemed like it could have come from an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. This is roughly what happened, rewritten as a scene from the show.
At an Italian restaurant, Larry, Cheryl, Jeff, and Susie are finishing a meal. Susie announces she needs to use the restroom. “Me, too,” says Larry. “I’ll walk with you.
“What a gentleman,” Susie says, in an uncharacteristically good mood. They walk to the restroom, which is in a part of the restaurant where they can’t see their table. Larry comments on what a nice meal it was. Susie agrees.
They part ways, each entering their respective gender’s bathroom.
Minutes later, after doing what he went in to do, Larry emerges from the men’s room. He stands idly for a moment, looks at the door to the lady’s room, and then returns to the dinner table. He has a seat and rejoins Cheryl and Jeff in their conversation.
A few minutes later, Susie comes back to the table. She is upset. “Larry! Where were you?”
“What do you mean?” Larry asks.
“I was waiting for you to come out of the bathroom. Why did you come back without me?”
“Why did you wait for me? We didn’t have any sort of agreement. There was no ‘I’ll meet you back here so we can walk back to the table together’ agreement.”
“It’s common decency, Larry. Everybody knows. In the absence of an agreement to meet back at the table, you always wait outside the bathroom for the other person.”
“No. In the absense of an agreement, the default is that you just return to the table. There is no expectation of waiting outside the bathroom for the other person.”
An argument ensues, with hilarious consequences.
October 19, 2009
Forensic Reconstruction of Famous Skulls of Fiction
I recently saw an amazing example of forensic reconstruction. A skull had been found, but police were unable to figure out the person’s identity. So a forensic artist examined the skull and created an illustration of what the person may have looked like while alive. When the person was finally identified, photos of the person looked strikingly similar to the artist’s rendition.
This got me thinking: What would a forensic reconstructionist make of some famous skulls of fiction? There are characters in film, television, and video games who we’ve only ever seen as talking skulls. Surely they couldn’t have grown to adult size without once being flesh and blood, right? So what did they look like?
To answer the question, I’ve enlisted the help of an amateur forensic reconstructionist (okay, it was my wife, who never did any forensic reconstruction before but can draw better than I can). Provided with three images of fictional skulls, here are the results:
2. Manuel Calavera
3. Jack Skellington
September 25, 2009
Esoteric Comic #3
Related: The Mr. T Virtual Playset
September 14, 2009
Idea: Anthony Michael Hall and Martha Stewart make an elephant lamp
See we had this assignment, to make this ceramic elephant, and um—and we had eight weeks to do it and we’re s’posed ta, and it was like a lamp, and when you pull the trunk the light was s’posed to go on. My light didn’t go on, I got a F on it.
Last week, Jerry O’Connell was on Martha Stewart’s TV show. You might remember Jerry as a young actor in such 80s hits as Stand By Me and that early
FOX CTV show My Secret Identity. She showed him how to make a wood bunny lamp for Jerry’s new twins’ nursery. They sawed, drilled, hammered, glued, and assembled the lamp, just like shop class.
I landed on the show while flipping through the channels and it caught my eye because I suddenly realized that the 80s actor I really want to see make a lamp on Martha’s show is Anthony Michael Hall. Martha can show him how to finally make an elephant lamp with a light that turns on when you pull the trunk. Who do I need to talk to for this to happen? Do I need to start a petition? Does it need to coincide with something for him to promote? The eventual Breakfast Club release on Blu-Ray, perhaps (whenever that happens)? What would be a better promotional event than this one?
2010 is the Breakfast Club’s 25th anniversary. How can we make this happen?
Previously: The Breakfast Cereal Club
July 27, 2009
Esoteric Comic #2
June 10, 2009
The Death of TV on the Radio
Note: This post is not about the band TV on the Radio.
This Friday, June 12, TV stations nationwide will cease broadcasting analog signals and switch to digital-only broadcasts. That’s fine with me. I have a digital television, and I have cable anyway, so it won’t affect me. At least that’s what I thought. Only recently did I realize that one of my favorite ways to enjoy television will go away. Starting Friday, I can no longer get TV on the radio.
As a kid in the 1980s, I enjoyed the same TV shows my friends did. But I also loved listening to old time radio shows, most of which I checked out from the library on vinyl records. I especially enjoyed comedies like Burns and Allen, Fibber McGee and Molly, Abbot and Costello, Jack Benny, and the Great Gildersleeve. I couldn’t get enough Dragnet, or Dimension X. In my head, as I pictured whatever action was happening in the show, I also imagined the studio where it was recorded, the actors with their microphones, the audiences at the comedy shows, and the sound effects man simultaneously adding door slams and footsteps in real time. Theater of the mind was so great, I wished I could have been around when these shows were still on the air. The library only had a few episodes of each program. Why didn’t radio networks do this sort of thing anymore?
For my Bar Mitzvah, someone gave me a gift certificate to the Sharper Image. There were so many cool gadgets to choose from, I had trouble deciding. I considered the telephone in the shape of a bulldog whose mouth moved in sync with the person you were talking to. That would have been a riot. But then I saw the Sony Tap Tunes Shower Radio that received AM/FM and TV Audio. A radio that gets TV signals? I had to have it.
I didn’t use the radio in the shower as it was intended. Instead, I put it next to my bed. At night, I went to sleep listening to Johnny Carson or, if I stayed up late enough, David Letterman. During prime time, I could stay out in the living room and watch TV with my siblings, or I could retreat to my bedroom and listen to a sitcom while I did my homework (on those rare occasions when I did my homework). It’s true that some jokes or plot twists didn’t work without the visuals, but I could make sense of most shows. It was never my prime way of enjoying television, but it was a great supplement.
Years later, when I moved to New York, the radio came with me. I lived in a tiny apartment without a TV for the first couple years and the radio was the only way I was able to enjoy TV programs. When I took up running, I bought a walkman so I could listen to music while I exercise. I was pleased to discover a walkman model that received TV signals. I sometimes brought it to work and listened to Ed Koch on The People’s Court during my lunch break. (Unfortunately, daytime TV is just as bad without the visuals).
Today, that original Tap Tunes shower radio is still with me in my apartment. I’ve finally moved it to its intended destination, the bathroom, where it mostly plays the local NPR station while I shower. It’s rarely tuned to TV. But I also have a bedside alarm clock that gets TV audio, so I can still tune in at night. In the two weeks that Conan O’Brian has been hosting the Tonight Show, listening to him as I go to sleep has already become a tradition, and I only have a few days left to enjoy it before all my TV radios stop working.
Is there a future for TV on the radio? There are already so-called “HD” radios that receive digital broadcasts over AM and FM. Could they be expanded to receive TV audio as well? And if so, what kind of reception could I expect without needing a rooftop antenna just for my alarm clock radio?
This wi-fi clock radio by Aluratek may be my best compromise. It gets thousands of internet radio stations, and allows you to add your own, so I could listen to one of the streaming Old Time Radio stations found on-line and pretend that I live in the 1950s. But even with all the options that internet streaming provides, I’ll still miss the ability to listen to live TV on the radio.
Previously: Idea: “CSI: Drive Time”
April 15, 2009
First Look: Citizen Kane 3D
Have you heard? Citizen Kane is getting the IMAX 3D treatment!* From the press release: “Finally audiences can see Citizen Kane the way Orson Welles intended. From the halls of Xanadu to the Chicago Opera House, audiences will feel like they’re really there. Through a revolutionary process, Citizen Kane has been masterfully converted to 3D. No longer will some characters seem smaller than others on-screen, an unfortunate side effect of projecting images in two dimensions. Now audiences will finally see that the smaller characters are really just further away.”
Get out your 3D glasses. Here are some promotional stills from “CK3D”:
March 16, 2009
Idea: Not Your Usual Talking Dog Movie
The movie begins in the middle of a chase. Our hero, Buttons, a scrappy little dog, is running as fast as he can through dark and scary woods. A pack of slobbering wolves are hot on his heels. We hear Button’s cute voice saying lines like, “Oh, no! I’ve got to outrun these guys!” His lips don’t move when he talks. We just hear his voice, like in the Talking Dog Movies of the 1980s.
The thick woods reach an end, and Buttons is in a clearing. It’s bright, sunny, and he can see his home out in the distance at the edge of the field. His owner, a young boy, is standing outside calling out his name. “Buttons! Buttons! Where are you?” Buttons is running his little heart out, saying things like, “Tommy! I’ve got to reach Tommy! Almost there! I’m coming, Tommy!” The wolves are close behind. Buttons reaches Tommy and jumps up into the safety of his arms. The camera swirls around them, joyous music swells, Buttons licks Tommy’s face, and the wolves cautiously retreat back into the woods.
Suddenly, in voice over, we hear a gruff voice saying, “Wait a minute, wait a minute. What the hell is this crap? How many times have I said I’m not going to be in any more cheesy kids’ movies?” The chase scene ends abruptly, and we find ourselves in a Hollywood movie producer’s office. This is the Real World. Seated around a table are several people, and a dog. It’s the same dog we just saw. Or, rather, it’s the Dog Actor named Buddy Duke, one of the most famous actors in the world. With him are several humans: his manager, his agent, his assistant, his bodyguard, a producer, a director, and a writer. They’re pitching a new movie to Buddy, and we’ve been watching the corny scene they’re describing to him. Buddy hates it.
Here in the Real World, when Buddy speaks, we do see his lips move. In fact, all dogs can talk in this world, and their lips move like in any modern Talking Dog Movie. They have normal jobs, just like people. They work in every industry, alongside humans. But when humans speak, on the other hand, we don’t see their lips move. We just hear their words as voice overs. Preferably, the voices will be done by different actors than the ones we see on-screen. So the human actors on screen will have to act with body language and facial expressions alone, and then their voices will be supplied by other actors in voice over.
Buddy is pissed at this waste of time, and he leaves, followed by the studio people begging him to make the Buttons movie. He makes a sexist comment to the receptionist, a hot young poodle, on his way out.
Outside, Buddy’s assistant takes a phone call on his Blackberry. It’s Buddy’s Mom, and she needs to talk to Buddy right away. The assistant puts a little Bluetooth headset on Buddy (who relies on his assistant for these sorts of things, since he has no opposable thumbs). His mom is in a panic. “Buddy, your father has disappeared. He said something about digging up old bones, and left to go back to the old house in Montana. This was a week ago, and I haven’t heard from him since! I’m worried that something’s happened to him!”
Well, Buddy remembers the old Montana house, and the hiking trips he used to take with his dad in the woods nearby. He remembers that they’d go fishing, and sometimes his Dad used to leave Buddy by himself while he’d wander off alone, and he always came back with his paws dirty. Maybe he was burying something secret? Something that, after all these years, he had to go dig up again? What could it be? Treasure? A body? Bones?
Only Buddy knows where that old camping spot is, so he has to fly back to Montana to visit his Mom, and then venture out into the woods to find his Dad. But, being a big movie star now, he brings along his assistant, his bodyguard, his manager, and his agent, because he’s too big a celebrity to go do something like this by himself. And he has no opposable thumbs, so the extra human hands are helpful.
They all spend the first full day in Montana hiking in the woods. Every twist and turn looks identical, but Buddy knows exactly where he’s going. It’s a two day hike, so eventually they stop and set up camp for the first night. They build a campfire, and Buddy tells a heartfelt story about growing up in Montana with his father as his best friend. After dinner, everybody retreats to their tents, and they fall fast asleep.
In the middle of the night, a bear enters the camp looking for food. Buddy wakes up. The bear is spooked by the noise. It tears open Buddy’s tent, grabs him in his teeth, and throws him against a tree, killing him instantly. Everyone else wakes up, scared to death. They manage to get away from the bear safely and regroup to assess their situation.
Buddy is dead. It’s the middle of the night. There’s an angry bear nearby. And the assistant, the agent, the manager, and the bodyguard are all in the middle of the forest with no idea how to get home.
And thus begins the real adventure in the movie. It’s not your usual talking dog movie because as of this point the humans take over as the main characters. They are four scared people in the middle of the woods who now have to find their way home. Do they try heading straight back? Do they continue trying to find Buddy’s Dad? Do they unravel the mystery of whatever it was he buried? Do they get along? Do they fight? Do any of them have any wilderness survival training at all?
Other plot points I’ve considered: At some point the humans find themselves running as fast as they can through the woods, trying to outrun a pack of wolves who are chasing them. Also, maybe Buddy had a rival (who the receptionist poodle was in cahoots with?) who had a hand in Buddy’s misfortune. Perhaps he sends the wolves to go after the humans, to tie up loose ends. Also, at some point maybe the humans meet an old Dog Hermit who lives in the woods. I’m not sure what purpose he plays to the plot yet, but he might know something about why Buddy’s dad disappeared.
While you’re pondering those plot points, just try to remember that the actors’ lips never move in this world, and their voices are supplied by other actors. But the dogs all talk like normal people. It’s a 1980s talking dog movie flipped upside down. I guess it’s a big high concept, and it probably couldn’t sustain more than 90 minutes without getting old, but I’d sure get a kick out of it.
January 30, 2009
Coraline Box #40
I don’t want to encourage marketing people to send me stuff hoping I’ll write about it, but this is a particularly nice bit of marketing so I think it deserves a mention. It’s creative, and has a personal touch.
The team behind the upcoming movie Coraline has sent 50 handmade boxes featuring props from the movie to 50 different bloggers. I’m the recipient of Box #40, made from an old cigar box:
I admit, it was pretty cool to get the box and wonder what it contained. I won’t keep you in suspense:
It contains 3 headless dog bodies. Somebody else got the dog heads. It also contains one glittery halo, and still images from the movie scenes in which these objects appear. There is also this quote printed on a piece of paper: “She heard a shuffling noise, and a light came toward her, swinging from side to side. When it was closer she saw the light was coming from a flashlight being carried in the mouth of a large black Scottie dog, its muzzle gray with age.” -Chapt. IV
Not all 50 boxes have turned up yet, but NOTCOT has a pretty good roundup of those that have.
Thanks, Coraline Team!
January 16, 2009
For some reason I’ve had this line in my head for months now. So I decided to finally draw it and post it:
In my mind, this means something specific. Can you figure out what? And if so, how far can you continue the line?
January 5, 2009
The Breakfast Cereal Club
“You see us as you want to see us, in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a leprechaun, a monster, a cap’n, a tiger, and a rabbit. Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Cereal Club.”
November 17, 2008
Why didn’t anybody tell me about Ovation TV?
I know I’m becoming a High Def snob when I don’t even visit the standard definition stations anymore. But for some reason I was slumming it in basic cable today when I came across a channel I’d never really looked at before: Ovation TV.
Their slogan is “Make life creative.” For anyone with an interest in photography, architecture, design, music, etc, I encourage you to see what’s coming up and clear some room on your DVR.
Here’s an example of what they’re showing in just the next 48 hours:
• All six episodes of the BBC series “Genius of Photography”
• The documentary “Cindi Sherman: Nobody’s Here But Me”
• A profile of German photomontage artist John Heartfield
• Documentaries about architects I.M. Pei and Mies Van Der Rohe
• A concert by pianist Lang Lang
• A profile of Piet Mondrian
• An episode of their original series “Close Up: Photographers at Work.”
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Then there’s the Ovation TV website, which features TV schedules you can view by either date or subject matter, as well as interactive features like “art or not?” plus community and video sections that I look forward to exploring.
I wish I had enough time to watch it all. I could dedicate an entire DVR to the programming on their station. You can use the widget on their site to find out what channel it’s on in your area. Now if they would just upgrade to High Def I’d be in creative heaven.
November 6, 2008
Murder in the Hundred Acre Wood
I recently came across this story in my archives. It’s the first chapter of a whodunit parody I wrote ten years ago. Enjoy.
Murder in the Hundred Acre Wood
In Which Owl Is Killed.
It was a wintry Wednesday in the Hundred Acre Wood, and Roo was stuck indoors. He knew it was a Wednesday because he smelled banana bread baking in the kitchen. His mother only baked banana bread on Wednesdays. He knew it was wintry out because his mother made him wear a sweater. And a scarf. And mittens. His mother only made him wear mittens when it was wintry. And she would not let him go to Owl’s to play.
“Please, mom,” pleaded Roo as he hopped into the kitchen.
“Now, Roo,” Kanga said to her son, “it is far too cold outside to go bouncing over to Owl’s house.” She gracefully jumped about the room, doing motherly things. “You can go over to play tomorrow.”
“But I’m bored,” Roo whined. “I wanna go over to Owl’s. You promised.” Roo bounced around the kitchen, knocked over a sack of flour with his tail, and hopped into his mother’s pouch.
Kanga sighed. When she and Roo moved to the Hundred Acre Wood, she did not know what a hard time Roo would have finding playmates his own age. She was forced to move out of Oscar’s Fields so quickly that she had little time for planning and looking into such things. She picked up what belongings she could carry and moved with her son to the Hundred Acre Wood, a place where she could start over.
Of course, being a single mother, and moving into a forest where she was the only woman around, word quickly spread about the new neighbor and her son. As she settled in and began making her new home cozy, her neighbors stopped by to meet Kanga and Roo, and deliver housewarming gifts and salutations.
She got a jar of honey from the odd little Bear who lived just down the creek (rather, the jar looked like it once contained honey, but it was empty upon delivery). His stuttering roommate Piglet offered flowers to “b-b-b-b-brighten up” the new home. Noticing the way Piglet flung his pink scarf over his shoulder, and the tender way the Bear took his roommate’s hand as they walked away, Kanga wondered whether or not there were more to the roommates’ relationship than meets the eye.
When the Rabbit down the road came to meet the newcomers, the only thing he brought with him was a lecherous stare and a warning: “If I catch your son playing in my garden, I won’t be held responsible for whatever happens next.”
But when Tigger pounced into their home for the very first time, that’s when Kanga knew that her boy would have at least one playmate. The black and orange striped creature seemed to have springs in his tail. He bounced around happily, a bit too hyper for Kanga’s taste, but just right for her little boy. Roo, still learning to hop on his own, was eager to play with Tigger. The two quickly became friends, and hopped together nearly every day. Kanga noticed that in recent weeks Tigger seemed to be leaving the Hundred Acre Wood quite regularly, often for days at a time. As far as she knew, Tigger had no job or relatives to speak of, so where was he always going? She asked him once, but he didn’t want to talk about it.
And then there was Owl. Kanga and Roo had been living in the Hundred Acre Wood for about a month before they met Owl. Owl lived in a house at the bottom of the Wood, across the creek, and over a hill. Kanga first heard mention of him from Christopher Robin, the polite boy who lived behind the door at the top of the Wood, and understood that Owl was old and wise.
“He is very old and very wise, I think,” Christopher Robin had said. “If he hasn’t yet come to introduce himself, I’m certain it is with very good reason.”
“Just how old is he?” Kanga asked.
“I would say at least a year older than I am,” said Christopher Robin.
“What does wise mean?” Roo asked.
“Wise,” Christopher Robin explained, “means that he can spell a great many words.”
That very evening, Owl came knocking at the door of Kanga and Roo’s new home.
Roo opened the door and found himself staring at the sharpest Talons he’d ever seen (Roo had certainly never seen Talons so close before). Gazing upwards, Roo was fascinated by the colorful feathers, the sharp beak, and wide eyes of the wise old (and unbelievably tall) Owl.
Owl looked down at Roo and said, “Hello. Is your mother home?”
“Mom!” shouted Roo. Kanga came bouncing to the door.
Owl removed his top hat and pulled from it a bottle of wine. “I apologize for not coming to welcome you sooner to the Hundred Acre Wood,” he said, offering the wine. “I assure you I would have come previously, but I have been counseling a very depressed ass and have nearly reached a breakthrough point in his therapy. It is very time consuming. But now that I see just how beautiful you are, I regret that I did not come on your first day here.”
Kanga blushed. She was used to men complimenting her, but somehow Owl seemed more sincere than most. It might have been his age (which Kanga couldn’t quite figure), or his accent (which Kanga couldn’t quite place) or the tender manner with which he put his wing on her shoulder when he talked, but she took an instant liking to him. She was sure that if he had lips, Owl would have a friendly smile.
“Come inside,” Kanga said. “We’ve just finished dinner, but I can offer you some banana bread I’ve made for dessert” (it was a Wednesday).
“I’m afraid I cannot stay,” Owl replied. “I really must get back home to finish my report on the ass. But far too much time had passed already since you moved in, and I did not want to be a stranger.” Owl felt Roo tugging at his feathers. He looked down at the young boy.
“Mr. Owl?” Roo asked.
“Just Owl,” Owl replied.
“Mr. Owl,” Roo repeated, “why are you so wise?” Roo still wasn’t sure what that meant.
“I am so wise,” Owl replied, “because I have eyes on the back of my head.” Owl spun his head all the way around so it was resting backwards on his shoulders.
“Wow!” Roo stared, his eyes almost as big as Owl’s.
Facing forward again, Owl picked up Roo in his wings. “If you think that was neat, have your mother bring you over soon and I will show you some more of my tricks.” Owl winked at Roo and put him down again.
The next day, Kanga did bring Roo to visit Owl. And many days after that, too. Kanga was happy to see her son get along so well with the wise old bird, and figured that Owl would be a good role model for her son. An obvious scholar, counselor, and learned bird would have a lot to teach a little boy. And even though Roo eventually stopped being amazed by the head spinning, Owl seemed to always have a new trick up his sleeve.
Eventually, Roo began going over to Owl’s without his mother. He would come home with fascinating stories that Owl had told, tales of what it was like growing up a young scavenger bird, hunting for his meals by night and educating himself by day. Roo spent almost as much time with Owl as he spent with Tigger (even more so in recent weeks, with Tigger out of town so much). Which brings us to this particular wintry Wednesday, when Kanga wouldn’t let Roo go over to Owl’s to play.
Across the creek and over a hill from Kanga and Roo’s home was Owl’s treehouse. Owl sat in his den, in a chair by a window, reading a book on tracking prey and wondering if Roo would be coming over that day. Roo came to visit most days when Tigger was out of town, and Owl quite enjoyed the visits. But being such a wintry day Owl suspected that Kanga might not be letting her boy out to play.
The daylight through Owl’s window dimmed as heavy clouds blocked the sunlight and blanketed the Hundred Acre Wood. Owl moved his chair to the desk and turned on a lamp to continue his reading. He was slightly distracted by the sound of raindrops on his roof, but quickly blocked out the noise and focused on reviewing the best places to find worms after a winter rain.
Owl didn’t hear the Intruder climb up his tree.
Owl didn’t notice when the door behind him opened and the Intruder entered the den.
Owl was thinking to himself, “I wonder if Roo would like to learn to catch worms,” when the Intruder brought the brick bluntly down on Owl’s skull.
Owl’s scream was muffled by a crack of thunder. He dropped the book and his body tensed. His talons curled and he flapped his wings in pain. The Intruder jumped back to avoid being hit by the long feathers, then jumped forward and brought the brick down again.
This time, Owl’s skull split. His body fell to the ground, landing on one of his wings with its weight. From his head, blood ran across the den floor. His beak opened and closed, gasping for air. Milky fluid ran from his nostrils, mixing with the blood. His eyes glazed over as every last bit of wisdom left his body. His talons unclenched.
And the next day, when Roo came over to play, that’s exactly how he found him.
October 29, 2008
Idea: Reboot the Terminator
I currently have 4 episodes of the TV show “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” on my DVR waiting to be watched, but I think I’m just going to delete them. I can’t imagine wasting 4 hours catching up on that show. It’s boring. Each episode is just like the last one.
Now there’s another Terminator movie in the works. I’ve seen the trailer. I can’t say I’m very excited about it.
Why does Skynet keep sending Terminators after Sarah Connor? Or even John Connor, for that matter? Why not go back a hundred years, or two hundred years, and kill her great grandparents? Now that would make an interesting show (or movie, or comic book, or novel).
Future John Connor would surely send a human into the past to stop the Terminator from killing his great great grandparents. So how does this person fight against a robot killer in an age when technology is so primitive, using his knowledge from the future? And how does the Terminator blend in? What materials does he use to repair himself when he’s been damaged? Over time, as he gets more and more damaged, does he go from glistening machine to steampunk hodgepodge of parts?
I think there’s a lot of potential for period Terminator stories. Maybe there’s an 18th Century Ireland Terminator trying to kill Johnny O’Connor before he comes to America. Or a Dark Ages Terminator who’s trying to kill Sarah the bar wench. Primordial Ooze Terminator could have a heck of a time figuring out which slime mold eventual produces offspring that evolves into the Connor line.
The possibilities are endless. So why are they limiting themselves to telling the same old story the same old way time after time?
October 14, 2008
This is a thoroughly unscientific poll, and I’m not sure how I will interpret the results exactly, but I suspect it will speak volumes about who my readers are. There is no question, but there are eleven possible answers.
[People reading via RSS may need to visit the site to see the poll]
Update: It’s too late to add any more options without messing up the results, but I want to mention that all your suggestions have been great. I wish I had thought to include the following: 451 (for the literary crowd), 1.4 2 2.8 4 (for the photographers), 4/4 (for the musicians out there), and #000000 (for the graphic designers). I hope you were all able to find a choice that suits you anyway.
September 24, 2008
I’d buy that logo for a dollar!
On the left, the logo for the Congressional Budget Office, the federal agency that analyzes economic and budgetary decisions and provides projections on their effects on the national debt.
The Congressional Budget Office is supposed to be nonpartisan, but I think I get a whiff of corporate interest.
September 2, 2008
10 Lessons From the Movies
As summer ends, so does the blockbuster season. It’s time to stop watching movies all day and start attending classes. But wait! What if there were a way to do both? I thought it would be interesting to see what lessons are taught in the movies, so I’ve rounded up 10 classroom lectures from a variety of films. See if you can remember what movie each lesson is from. Answers are at the end.
(Hint: One of them is actually a lesson from a field trip, not a classroom).
1) “Parenthesis means multiply. Every time you see this, you multiply. A negative times a negative equals a positive. A negative times a negative equals a positive. Say it. A negative times a negative equals a positive. Say it!”
2) “The parts of a flower are so constructed that very, very often the wind will cause pollination. If not, then a bee or any other nectar-gathering creature can create the same situation. Yes, anything that gets the pollen to the pistil’s right on the list. I’ll try to make it crystal clear. A flower’s insatiable passion turns its life into a circus of debauchery! Now you see just how the stamen gets its lusty dust on to the stigma and why this frenzied chlorophyllous orgy starts each spring is no enigma. We call this quest for satisfaction a what, class?”
3) “Archeology is the search for fact. Not truth. If it’s truth you’re interested in, Doctor Tyree’s Philosophy class is right down the hall. So forget any ideas you’ve got about lost cities, exotic travel, and digging up the world. We do not follow maps to buried treasure and X never, ever, marks the spot. Seventy percent of all archaeology is done in the library. Research. Reading.”
4) “For many days before the end of our Earth, people will look into the night sky and notice a star, increasingly bright and increasingly near. As this star approaches us, the weather will change. The great polar fields of the north and south will rot and divide, and the seas will turn warmer.”
5) “You remember that thing we had about 30 years ago called the Korean conflict? And how we failed to achieve victory? How come we didn’t cross the 38th parallel and push those rice-eaters back to the Great Wall of China then take the fucking wall apart brick by brick and nuke them back into the fucking stone age forever? Tell me why! How come? Say it! Say it!”
6) “Three weeks we’ve been talking about the Platt Amendment. What are you people? On dope? A piece of legislation was introduced into Congress by Senator John Platt. It was passed in 1906. This amendment to our Constitution has a profound impact upon all of our daily lives.”
7) “In 1930, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, in an effort to alleviate the effects of the… Anyone? Anyone?… the Great Depression, passed the… Anyone? Anyone? The tariff bill? The Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act? Which, anyone? Raised or lowered?… raised tariffs, in an effort to collect more revenue for the federal government. Did it work? Anyone? Anyone know the effects? It did not work, and the United States sank deeper into the Great Depression.”
8) “In this life, you can’t win. Yeah, you can try, but in the end you’re just gonna lose, big time, because the world is run by the Man. The Man, oh, you don’t know the Man. He’s everywhere. In the White House… down the hall… Ms. Mullins, she’s the Man. And the Man ruined the ozone, he’s burning down the Amazon, and he kidnapped Shamu and put her in a chlorine tank! And there used to be a way to stick it to the Man. It was called rock ‘n roll, but guess what, oh no, the Man ruined that, too, with a little thing called MTV! So don’t waste your time trying to make anything cool or pure or awesome ‘cause the Man is just gonna call you a fat washed up loser and crush your soul. So do yourselves a favor and just GIVE UP!”
9) “You’re quite correct, you can’t dance to Mr. Beethoven. Can you tell me why, Mr. Manfield? Because the Beethoven piece doesn’t use a constant rhythm or tempo. Madonna is 4/4 time all the way through. The melody changes but the rhythm is constant. So you can dance to it. The quartet changes both melodically and rhythmically. I’m going to play them again. Listen for this.”
10) “Excrement. That’s what I think of Mr. J. Evans Pritchard. We’re not laying pipe, we’re talking about poetry. I mean, how can you describe poetry like American Bandstand? I like Byron, I give him a 42, but I can’t dance to it. Now I want you rip out that page. Go on, rip out the entire page. You heard me, rip it out. Rip it out!”
EXTRA CREDIT: PLAYTIME
11) “Now we’re going to do something extremely fun. We’re going to play a game called ‘Who is my daddy and what does he do?’”
Okay, pencils down. Trade answer sheets with your neighbor. Here are the answers:
1) Stand and Deliver; 2) Grease 2; 3) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade 4) Rebel Without A Cause; 5) Back to School; 6) Fast Times at Ridgemont High; 7) Ferris Bueller’s Day Off; 8) School of Rock; 9) Running on Empty; 10) Dead Poets Society; 11) Kindergarten Cop
August 6, 2008
I See Darth Vader
I’ve never been a fan of hotel room coffee, but it’s better than nothing. However I was a bit surprised to find Darth Vader hiding in this coffee maker recently.
Previously: I See AT-AT Walkers
July 30, 2008
Canada’s 1,968 foot wide movie
Forget IMAX with its puny 857 inch wide screen. I saw a move this weekend on a 23,622 inch screen. That’s 600 meters wide. More than a third of a mile. That’s also about how far back I stood to watch it.
Above is a photo of the Bunge Grain complex in Quebec City. The complex is made up of 81 individual silos 30 meters tall. In celebration of Quebec’s 400th Anniversary, artist Robert Lepage used the complex as a screen for an incredible site-specific motion picture called The Image Mill. The film tells the story of Quebec’s 400 years through video, pictures, and sound. I expected a cheesy patriotic movie. But what I saw was subtle and elegant.
The below video, which shows 10 minutes of the 40 minute film, gives a good idea of what the movie was like. It shows how Lepage made innovative use of the contours of the silos, turning them into bullets, candles, a printing press, cigarettes, etc, and how he turned the entire complex into other kinds of buildings completely, such as a factory and an airport.
You can also watch a behind-the-scenes video at Lepage’s website where he explains some of the technical issues that went into making the movie.
I would recommend that you fly to Quebec to see it, but unfortunately the movie’s 66-night run has just ended.
According to Lepage’s website, the movie is playing every night until August 24.
July 28, 2008
I see AT-AT walkers
I’d heard the rumor that the AT-AT walkers in Empire Strikes Back were inspired by Oakland’s container cranes, and while the resemblance is there I wasn’t surprised to read that George Lucas has debunked the rumor.
However, I recently saw these container cranes in Quebec that look even more like AT-ATs than those do. Maybe I can get a new rumor started.
Previously: I see the Death Star
June 26, 2008
The Daily Show: As the World Turns
If you are in outer space above the North Pole and you look down at Earth, you see the planet spinning counter-clockwise. When a globe of Earth spins correctly, the continents move from West to East. But the globes on the Daily Show spin the wrong way. Take a look:
There are three globes in this sequence. The first one is being twisted apart, so the North and South hemispheres spin in opposite directions, as you’d expect from a planet that’s being twisted apart. So I’ll forgive that one. But that globe opens to reveal another, smaller version of Earth. This one is definitely spinning in the wrong direction. And then we travel through the equator of that one where we see another Earth. And this one spins the wrong way, too.
When they go to or come back from commercial, the Daily Show logo appears at the bottom of the screen with a globe behind it that sometimes spins correctly, and sometimes spins incorrectly. Why the different versions? I don’t know. But here it is spinning incorrectly:
I guess it could be creative license. Or it could be that we’re meant to be in orbit. But I think it might be another NBC News Digest debacle.
And don’t even get me started on the scientifically inaccurate axis tilt.
Update: Here’s everything in one handy YouTube video:
May 8, 2008
How bold can Darth Vader be?
The above word-cartoon is the end result of that quote rolling around in my head for weeks. I’m not sure how successful it ended up being, but I know there’s a font pun to be made somehow with that line.
I started out trying to literally depict that scene from Star Wars using letterforms, intending to use bold letters for Vader and light letters for Princess Leia. I loved the idea of the @ sign filling in for Leia’s hair bun. But after a few attempts I concluded that I’m no LIDA when it comes to making art from letters. I just couldn’t get the fabric to look like fabric without making the entire thing out of parentheses and tildes of various sizes. And that kind of misses the point. The letter “M” sort of did what I wanted, but not really. It’s too rigid.
Then I wondered if maybe I needed to stop trying to depict the scene from the movie, and just draw Darth Vader alone, made out of bold type. In many ways it’s the most visually striking of the attempts, but I felt like I overlapped the letterforms so much in his helmet that they were becoming mere shapes rather than letters. But here’s how that ended up:
So ultimately I decided to just use different fonts and weights to write their names (seen at the top of this post). But just floating in the frame without a sense of place, I’m not convinced that works, either. And it’s less amazing than pictures made of letters.
April 14, 2008
Video Store Clerk Game: A Crowd Wisdom Experiment
On-line movie recommendation systems (such as those at Amazon, Netflix, etc) are pretty good at guessing what movies you might like based on your movie history. Improvements to these systems are constantly being made, using ever more sophisticated algorithms. But how good are they compared to the wisdom of actual people? That’s what my friends Jay and Andy are trying to figure out. And they need your help.
Jay and Andy have created a game called Video Store Clerk in which you play a video store clerk. You are told how a real customer has rated previous movie rentals, and then you are shown another movie title that the person also rented. Can you guess how the customer rated that movie?
They are collecting all the user-generated data and comparing it to the real customers’ ratings. A computer has already played the game with millions of customers, and we know how well it did. The question is whether or not the wisdom of crowds can beat the computer. To gather enough data for an accurate comparison, they need a lot of people to play. So please, pass the link around. Digg it. Blog it. They tell me their server can handle the load.
The experiment’s findings will ultimately go toward building a better movie recommendation system. Hopefully you’ll find the game fun to play, too. And if you have any ideas about improving the game, you can leave a comment here or use the contact link on their site.
Link: Video Store Clerk
April 4, 2008
Eyeglasses and the pushing up thereof
I’ve noticed lately that there seem to be
three four distinct ways that people push up their glasses, and yet not a single study has been done about this. “10 Things You Can Tell About Your Man By How He Pushes Up His Glasses” seems like a perfect headline for a women’s magazine in the supermarket checkout line, and yet nobody is doing this important research. So here’s an overview:
Method 1: Placing one hand on each side of the frame, use the fingertips or midfingers of both hands in concert to raise the glasses into a comfortable position.
Celebrity who uses Method 1: Actress Tina Fey
Method 2: Using the fingers of just one hand, grab the frame front securely on one side and push the glasses up into a comfortable position.
Celebrity who uses Method 2: Magician Penn Jillette
Method 3: Using just one finger, press upward on the bridge of the frame, raising the glasses into a comfortable position.
Celebrity who uses Method 3: Journalist Clark Kent
Method 4: [Added after being mentioned by Pavel in the comments] Spread the hands across the face, with a thumb on one end of the frame and a finger on the other. In one motion, push the glasses up into a comfortable position.
Celebrity who uses Method 4: Pavel in the comments below
I think method 2 is the inferior method, because it raises the glasses unevenly and could cause strain on the end pieces or hinges. Method 3, meanwhile, may be the simplest and most efficient method, but seems to be associated with nerd behavior for some reason. Do people deliberately use method 2 over method 3 just to look cooler? Method 4 is efficient, but I’m not a fan because it temporarily obstructs one’s vision. But perhaps there is a refined technique I haven’t considered. I have not yet formed an opinion about method 1. But surely there is a university out there looking for some useless research to do, right?
March 25, 2008
Idea: The Wikroll
A Wikroll is when a person rudely interrupts an on-line conversation to provide a link that seems to have nothing to do with the topic at hand, claiming that it goes to the video for Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” But the link actually goes to a Wikipedia article that adds relevant insight to the discussion.
For example, lets say I write a blog post about macaroni which prompts discussion in the comments about the origins of macaroni and the best tasting brand of macaroni. Then someone leaves this comment:
Hey, everyone. I really like that Rick Astley song “Never Gonna Give You Up” so I thought I’d post a link to the video on YouTube so everyone can watch it. Click here to check it out: http://tinyurl.com/296l7r
Did you click on the link? Snap! You’ve been Wikroll’d!
January 23, 2008
Humor in a Jugular Vein
I’m fighting the worst cold I’ve had in years, so instead of trying to muster up the energy to write something creative and new, I’m digging way back in the personal archive to post something that I hadn’t thought about in a long time but which I was reminded of this week: My 1987 letter to MAD Magazine.
Way back in March 1987, MAD published this “Madballs” parody on the back cover of issue #269:
Well, my friend Ethan and I had just been taught the differences between veins and arteries, including the fact that veins appear blue and arteries are red, so we decided to send off a letter to MAD Magazine. It appeared in print a few issues later:
Hopefully I’ll get better soon. Otherwise I’m going to have to dig out my letter to the editor that was printed in an issue of Amazing Spider-Man.
(Hmm. I wonder what ever happened to Ethan.)
December 31, 2007
Glamour Mug Shots
I had an idea today to take mug shots and make them into cheesy studio portraits or glamour shots. I call them Glamour Mug Shots. I whipped up a few examples using celebrity mug shots posted at The Smoking Gun. Feel free to make your own and post a link in the comments. Here’s what I came up with (mouse over to see the originals):
December 25, 2007
I see a Sandcrawler
It’s been a while since I’ve seen something from Star Wars hiding in plain site, so maybe my brain was a little too primed to find one. But sure enough, I found this Sandcrawler hiding behind an Anthropologie store this week.
November 19, 2007
I enjoy satellite radio as part of my mix of audio news and entertainment, which includes satellite, broadcast, and podcasts. But I was a bit surprised when Sirius sent me an advertisement this week which asked:
…and answered the question with this chart (I’ve put a red box around the portion that intrigued me):
November 5, 2007
The Constitutionality of Storyboarding
With a tip of the hat to Gilda Radner’s old SNL character Emily Litella, I present this blog entry on the constitutionality of storyboarding:
America has a serious question to answer about storyboarding. I’m not talking about whether or not storyboard artists should join the writer’s guild and go on strike this week, or about whether “storyboard” is supposed to be written as one word or two. I’m talking about the more serious issue of whether or not storyboarding amounts to torture. Somewhere, in a parallel two-dimensional universe, I imagine last week’s Attorney General confirmation hearing of Michael Mukasey looked something like this:
What? Water boarding? Ohh. Nevermind.
(This thought popped into my head shortly after I woke up this morning, and it wouldn’t go away until I posted it. Don’t know why.)
October 22, 2007
Interview: Art Binninger, the Ed Wood of 1970s stop-motion animated Star Trek parodies
(The sixth in a series of occasional interviews with people I find interesting or who work on interesting projects.)
Chances are, you’ve never heard of Art Binninger, the Star Trek fan whose mission to make stop-motion animated Star Trek parody films began in 1974, and ended shortly after a cease-and-desist letter from Paramount came in 1986. So let’s have him introduce himself:
Yes, that’s right. Art Binninger produced his films with help from his friends in the Air Force’s Audio Visual Squadron. That kind of makes your high school’s A/V Club seem wimpy, huh?
Between 1974 and 1975, Art and his friends produced three “Star Trix” short films (recently resurrected on YouTube). With each one, he refined his technique a little more. After Star Trek: The Motion Picture came out in 1979, Art began working on “Star Trix: The Flick,” which he finished in 1984 with even more amazing sets and special effects (it can also be seen on YouTube in five parts.
To me, the best thing about Art’s “Star Trix” project is that he actually documented the creation of all the films as he went, taking behind-the-scenes photos and footage. In an attempt to get the films shown on TV at the time, Art even made a “Making of” documentary so the total running time would better fit a TV schedule. The result is that today we have a detailed look at a particularly enthusiastic fan and his friends embracing the Do-It-Yourself spirit to create something wonderfully geeky in an era we now look back on with nostalgia.
Art recalls the entire period in a detailed website he put together recently. It’s full of photos and stories from behind the scenes, including the 1984 Cease-and-Desist letter he got from Paramount, and what he did about it. But I had a few more questions for Art, which he was nice enough to answer. With his permission, photos from his website appear throughout the interview:
Looking back at yourself when you were making those films, how do you see yourself? Were you more of an Ed Wood or a young Spielberg?
Very apt selection of names. I think I was Ed Wood trying to be Steven Spielberg. When the Ed Wood biopic came out years ago, a number of my friends who worked with me on those films saw a lot of humorous parallels and asked if I had any angora sweaters stashed away somewhere.
Were you trained in animation, or were you figuring it out as you went along?
There was so little material to learn from in the early 1970’s, especially in the vicinity of Vandenberg [Air Force Base], that I had to figure out a lot as I went along. I did have the advantage of the Mopic Documentary Photo section being near the barracks. I would wander over and haunt the place, asking questions and they were would show me what they were taught in the motion picture camera technical school… As for the clay animations, when I talked about a Star Trek animation, the guys got excited about this like it was something they could really sink their creative teeth in. Unfortunately, by the time we were almost ready to film, all my mentors (grand old men of 21 and 22 years of age) were either finished their enlistments or transferred. So I simplified things and carried on.
By using Air Force facilities for studio space, does that mean the Air Force indirectly funded these films?
Since I was in the Air Force at the time and getting paid twice a month, I guess they did indirectly fund them… When I arrived at Vandenberg AFB in California, I lived in my own room in a WWII-era barracks building. This arrangement had a sort of college dorm/apartment house vibe where you could at least close your door to the occasional rowdiness. It was here that the Star Trix shorts began their slow path to the screen.
I love the production photos, showing everyone working on the sets, etc. They make great documentary material. Why were those photos taken?
I had a Polaroid camera and my roommate Dennis Cargill had gotten hold of some out-of-date film that was going to be trashed. He gave it to me and I started using it for progress photos on the set construction. I’m glad I did that because as my memory gets a bit dodgy I can refer back to them. I’ve also noticed that after I scan them into the computer and bring them up onscreen, I can see details in them that I didn’t notice before.
Any plans for a “Star Trix: The Next Generation” movie?
Just as the series oversaturated the screen during the 1990’s, I noticed that there are countless parodies as well. One more by me would definitely be unneeded. I haven’t kept up with the technology either so it wouldn’t be very good.
What have you been doing since you made these films?
My steady employment during this time has been as an offset press operator. I’ve been with the Office of the Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools, A-1 Lithographers in Lompoc and presently in the print shop of the Lompoc Unified School District again (I worked on STAR TRIX-THE FLICK during my first stay there in the early 1980’s). I found that each time I tried to leave printing behind for the film business, I eventually ended up broke and bitter. After a few times of that, you eventually see where your bread is buttered. So I keep the lights on with printing to allow me to pursue my interests, many of which have very limited commercial value but are fun nevertheless.
And what’s next for Art Binninger?
I’ve been doing more drawing in recent years and for a time in the 1990’s, I was pitching ideas for comics that weren’t particularly commercial either. When I started on the Internet in the 1999, I discovered that here was a place I could put this stuff that nobody would buy and at least get it seen. I like being able to cut out the middleman and go directly to the audience. I’m experimenting with animated gifs and trying to keep the file sizes small enough to download quickly. Since I’m still doing dial-up, if the gif loads quickly for me than it’ll be a breeze for all the high-speed users. I always have to remember, though, that I gotta keep getting ink on my fingers to get the green for all these projects.
Update: Several of Art’s other early films are now available for viewing on YouTube. Check them out!
October 15, 2007
Best book title ever
Sadly, this book is no longer in print.
October 10, 2007
The Original Must See Movies Checklist
Note: This is a re-posting of a pretty long list of “Must-See” Movies that I compiled in 1994. I’ve written a brief introduction today for context, and I include for posterity a lengthy introduction originally written in 1994. You can read it all below, or just skip to the list itself.
BRIEF INTRO (WRITTEN TODAY)
Some of the projects I’ve done on-line over the years have disappeared into the ether, no longer hosted anywhere. I recently found one of my very first internet projects, from way back in 1994 when I was in college. I’m posting it here on Ironic Sans for posterity, with slight embarrassment looking back to this 13-year-old project. I was clearly not much of a writer back then. I used lots of exclamation points and even a smiley. And I coined the term “Netters” to mean “People who use the internet.” It never caught on.
There wasn’t much of a World Wide Web back then, but there were lots of interesting conversations happening on Usenet Newsgroups, including one called “rec.arts.movies” which was a message board for discussing movies. One day in May, I posted a message asking people to recommend “Must-See Movies.” I got dozens of e-mails in response, each with dozens of movie recommendations, including several suggestions from a guy named Col Needham, who was working on a relatively new project of his own called the Internet Movie Database.
I also got lots of requests to share the list once it was compiled. So I posted the list to rec.arts.movies. I suggested that people add up their total and post it to the group.
Eventually, the “Official Netters’ Must-See Movies Checklist” did make its way to the web, where I added interactivity. You could go down the list, and check off the movies as you go, and at the end the website calculated your total, and told you what the average was of everyone who came before you, so you could see where you ranked. Col turned out to be incredibly helpful in automating the process of linking all the movies to their IMDb listings. But sadly, the company hosting my website had a crash sometime around 1997, and lost my whole site. I had no backup and neither did they.
So the following is all that survived. Hopefully it has aged well with time. You can scroll down to read the embarrassingly badly-written and too-long introduction (like the one you’re reading now?) as it appeared in 1994, or you can skip the intro and go straight to the list itself.
by David Friedman
Last Revision: May 9, 1994
Here’s the Introduction:
This is the Official Netters’ MUST-SEE MOVIES Checklist!!! Version 1.1
This is NOT a FAQ. At the time of the first version, there had yet to be any questions asked about it, let alone any Frequently Asked Questions. There WAS a section, however, of Infrequently Asked Questions. These were questions that I anticipated people having while reading the list, but they hadn’t been asked of me yet. Since then, I have gotten lots of questions from lots of people. So there now are Frequently Asked Questions among the Infrequently Asked ones. But just because I feel proud to have coined a new phrase (Infrequently Asked Questions), I’m still calling the questions and answers section Infrequently Asked Questions.
CHANGES IN EACH VERSION
1.1 -Lots of things are cleared up in the Infrequently Asked Questions section.
-The Star Wars Rule has been ammended and explained more completely.
-The Leonard, Part 6 rule has also been ammended and explained in detail.
-About 75 more movies have been added. Any new movies are indicated with an asterisk.
-Any of the Infrequently Asked Questions that are new or have been somehow changed are indicated with an asterisk. Anything else that’s been changed or added is also indicated with an asterisk.
-Miscellaneous other things have been changed, mostly just slight changes. Thoroughly read the Infrequently Asked Questions for more details.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
No table of contents. I always thought they were a waste of space. Just keep reading…
INFREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS about The List
1. Why do we have The List?
Well, that’s quite simple. It’s best summarized by putting here some excerpts from the post that started it all. Read:
A friend of mine recently asked me to help her come up with a list of must-see movies that she should watch over vacation. Being put-on-the-spot, I was only able to come up with about forty or fifty. So I ask all of you to send me titles of what YOU consider to be must-see movies. The guidelines are as follows:
No OBVIOUS must-see movies that chances are everybody has already seen (e.g. Star Wars). “Everybody” in this case is defined as “a reasonably educated person of 20 years of age who has enough of an interest in movies that she has seen plenty of them but would like to further educate herself.”
No rarely-seen movies. She wants to see must-see movies that might actually come up in an intellectual conversation about cinema without other people saying “Huh? I’ve never heard of that one.”
A good tip: If you’ve ever been discussing cinema with an equally-educated movie buff, and you’ve mentioned a movie to which they replied “I’ve never seen that one. Always wanted to, but never got around to seeing it,” prompting you to say “WHAT?! You’ve NEVER SEEN So-And-So?! You’ve GOT to see it!” Send that title. Chances are, she’s never seen it either.
I got a vastly overwhelming response to this single post. Many people requested that I send them the completed list. So I decided to compile it all. These are the titles that YOU people said were MUST-SEE MOVIES. I didn’t make up the list, I only typed it all up. The members of rec.arts.movies made this list, so I give it to the members of rec.arts.movies. That’s why the apostrophe comes AFTER the word “Netters” in the title. It is by the Netters and for the Netters.
2. How on Earth can you justify calling [insert movie here] a MUST-SEE MOVIE?
Since the titles are things that people sent me, I felt it beyond me to decide that even though they feel a certain movie is a MUST-SEE, I don’t and therefore it doesn’t deserve to be on The List. So for the most part, if someone sent me the movie title, I added it to the list. I did use SOME discretion, though. For instance, I’m sorry but I could not justify calling _Leonard, Part 6_ a MUST-SEE MOVIE. I tried to make sure that most of the titles followed the guidelines listed above, but I did let some slip by.
3. How on Earth can you NOT include [insert movie here] as a MUST-SEE MOVIE? *
Well, first of all, it’s possible that nobody sent me that title. Secondly, it’s possible that I felt it didn’t meet the guidelines listed above. Thirdly, it’s possible you’re talking about _Leonard, Part 6_. If you’re really concerned, e-mail me about it and I’ll either add it to the list or tell you why I decided against adding it. No, wait. There IS a fourth possibility. It’s possible that you sent me the title among a whole big list of other titles and I was so damn tired that I decided to skip around a bit to make my life easier. I didn’t do this often, but I suppose if I’m gonna be honest I have to admit that I did do it from time to time. The way I justified it was thusly: If someone else wanted it, too, I probably already added it or will when I come to it on their list. If nobody else wanted it on the list, then really only one person is gonna miss it. Sorry, but I’ve got finals to worry about!
4. What are those question marks scattered around some of the years or directors on the list?
Well, if there is a question mark, it means that I either did not know the year or director of the film or I wasn’t certain. If you know the answer, please e-mail me so I can update it. I’m pretty sure that I got all of them right, but I’m only human. And considering the fact that I requested everyone to send me the YEARS and DIRECTORS for all the movie titles they sent me if they knew them and only got a couple who actually DID, I think I did a pretty decent job getting all those titles and names pretty accurately.
5. So what’s the deal with the Star Wars Rule? *
Okay… Here’s the deal. Initially, movies like Star Wars and Jurassic Park were not to be on the list because they were deemed too obvious. But after careful consideration, it has been determined that it’s okay to have obvious movies on the list because if this is going to be a complete list of MUST-SEE MOVIES, there really isn’t any good reason to NOT have them all, including the obvious ones! Besides, for every obvious on that I omitted, I got at least a dozen e-mail letters asking why they were omitted. And I must have gotten at least as many letters from people asking why some obvious movie or other is on the list. And incidentally, not a single person did request Jurassic Park, but just in case anyone wants to know (or doesn’t know for some odd reason) it was a 1993 film directed by Steven Spielberg.
6. And what about the Leonard, Part 6 Rule? Why doesn’t it apply to _The Beastmaster_ and others? *
Here’s why: Just because a movie is bad does not mean that it can’t be a MUST-SEE. For example, _Attack of the Killer Tomatoes_ is certainly not the greatest piece of cinema in the world. Neither is _Better Off Dead_ or _Ferris Bueller’s Day Off_ or any other number of films people mentioned for that matter. But they still have something to offer. They may just be a fun film. I mean, _Plan 9 from Outer Space_ is by no means a great film. In fact, it has long been heralded as the WORST film. But it’s still definitely a MUST-SEE because it’s so damn fun to make fun of! Ya see what I mean? The same holds true for _Killer Tomatoes_, _The Day of the Triffids_, and a bunch of others. This never claims to be a list of great films, just MUST-SEE MOVIES. One thing I kept in mind when trying to determine whether or not the Leonard, Part 6 Rule applies to a certain film was this: Does this movie have any relevence to cinematic history? If so, I would go ahead and add it to the list. Leonard, Part 6 has, in my mind anyway, no place in cinematic history. The only place it has in ANY history is only in a complete biography of Bill Cosby that wants to include his embarrassments as well as his accomplishments. If I decided that a film has as much place in history as Leonard, Part 6, I ommitted it from the list. And hey, if you have a problem with it, compile your own damn list! :)
Likewise, every good movie isn’t necesarrily a must-see either. For instance, I enjoyed _The Hand that Rocks the Cradle_ very much, but I would never call it a must-see movie.
7. Why are there little lines in front of all the movie titles?
It’s a checklist, silly! There has to be a space for putting a check-mark next to the movies you’ve seen!
8. Well now that I’ve got this large list, what am I supposed to do with it?*
For starters, print it out! Then go down your list and check off all the movies that you’ve seen already. The total number is your List Factor. The way I figure it, List Factor scores break down as follows:
0 - 15: Time to get a VCR
16 - 50 Not too bad if you live in a small town with a one-screen theatre that gets a new movie once every six months or so.
51 - 80 Not bad at all, considering the wide variety of movies that are on The List.
81 - 120 Good going! Keep watching ‘em!
121 - 200 Wow…! Quite the movie-goer!
201 - 300 Who do you think you are? Gene Siskel?!
301 - 400 Slow down! You’re gonna wear out your VCR!
400 - 499 I think SOMEONE has a WEE bit too much time on their hands! Mighty impressive!
500 + Do you realize that you’ve spent a total of about a month and a half watching just the movies on this list?! Now add all the time you’ve spent on ones that aren’t even MUST-SEE MOVIES and see how much of your life you have wasted away sitting in a darkened room watching light being projected through celluloid. Hmm… Gives ya something to think about, doesn’t it!?
9. So now that I’ve got my List Factor, what am I supposed to do with it?
Get on over to rec.arts.movies and let us all know what it is! We can all post our List Factor numbers and learn just how much each person has seen. Perhaps the average List Factor can tell us something about the average rec.arts.movies poster. I dunno, I’m not much of a statistician.
10. And once I’ve done that, what am I supposed to do with this large print-out that I’ve just made? Recycle the paper?
Hardly! Keep it handy! How many times have you gone to a video store only to find that the movie you really wanted was out. You walk around the store thinking, “Gee. There’s nothing here I really want to see.” Well now you’ve got a whole List of MUST-SEE MOVIES! Get yourself one of those Video Movie Guides (I recommend the Martin & Porter version) and look up some of the movies on the list that you haven’t seen. You’ll be surprised to find that you’ll want to see quite a few of them! You’ll learn quite a bit. Are you a big Jack Nicholson fan who always wanted to know where you could find a musical where he SINGS? Try _Tommy_. Are you wondering why the scene in _The Untouchables_ where the baby carriage falls down the stairs looked familiar? Rent _The Battleship Potemkin_ and find out why. Work on increasing your List Factor!
11. How often are you going to update and repost this thing? *
Well due to the average of 15-20 e-mail letters a day I’ve been getting, the first revision came out only four or five days after the original, and with quite a few changes and additions. But my life is pretty busy, so I don’t know when the next one will come out. Hopefully a new one won’t be needed for quite a while… I don’t know that exactly “quite a while” means but I guess when it rolls around I’ll know.
12. Is this file available via ftp someplace? *
Well you already have it, so you don’t really need it again, do you? Just kidding… Um… I’m working on it. If it is made available, it will be announced in rec.arts.movies.
13. How come you wrote “Dr. Strangelove” instead of “Dr. Strangelove; or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” which is the real entire title?
Well it just wouldn’t all fit. I’m sorry. But if you go to your local video store and ask for “Dr. Strangelove,” they should know what you’re talking about. Incidentally, that is the same reason that you won’t find “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid To Ask)” on the list. But just for completeness, it was directed by Woody Allen and released in 1972. A couple other films were abbreviated to fit also. But not so you’d notice. Only one, maybe two films had to be cut to fit.
14. Hey! Ya know what you could do that would really make this thing a million times better?!
No, but if you e-mail me, you can let me know!
15. Do you realize that some of your movie titles are out of order?
Really? Oops… Let me know which ones and I’ll fix it. I tried to do it all alphabetically, but I made some mistakes I guess.
16. What are the strange numbers and names after the movie titles?
The year of release and the name of the director. Duh.
17. Hey… Are you getting hostile with me?
No, I just kinda thought it was sorta obvious… I mean, you did ask about the years and directors way back in question number four.
18. Yeah well did you stop to think that maybe I forgot?
Insert rolling-eyes-towards-the-ceiling emoticon here
(if anyone has an emoticon to express this, please let me know)
19. And besides, you’re not quite mister wonderful yourself if you had so much time on your hands that you could actually type this thing up. What, don’t you have a social life?
Well it just so happens that I used this thing as a diversion from studying for my finals, okay? Ya can’t blame a guy for procrastinating! Sheesh! Anyway, without any further ado, here is…
_Abominable Dr. Phibes, The* (1971, Robert Fuest)
_Abyss, The (1989, James Cameron)
_Adam’s Rib* (1949, George Cukor)
_Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The (1989, Terry Gilliam)
_Adventures of Robin Hood, The (1939, Michael Curtiz)
_African Queen, The (1951, John Huston)
_After Hours (1985, Martin Scorsese)
_Akira (1990, Katsuhiro Otomo)
_Alien (1979, Ridley Scott)
_All That Jazz (1979, Bob Fosse)
_All the President’s Men (1976, Alan J. Pakula)
_Amadeus (1984, Milos Forman)
_American in Paris, An (1951, Vincente Minelli)
_American Graffiti (1973, George Lucas)
_American Werewolf in London, An (1981, John Landis)
_Angel at My Table, An (1990, Jane Campion)
_Angel Heart* (1987, Alan Parker)
_Annie Hall (1977, Woody Allen)
_Antarctica (1984, Koreyoshi Kurahara)
_Apartment, The* (1960, Billy Wilder)
_Apocalypse Now (1979, Francis Ford Coppola)
_Asphalt Jungle, The (1950, John Huston)
_Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1980, John DeBello)
_Autumn Sonata (1978, Ingmar Bergman)
_Backdraft (1991, Ron Howard)
_Back to the Future (1985, Robert Zemeckis)
_Barbarella* (1968, Roger Vadim)
_Barton Fink (1991, Joel Coen)
_Battleship Potemkin, The (1921, Sergei Eisenstein)
_Beastmaster, The (1982, Don Coscarelli)
_Beetlejuice (1988, Tim Burton)
_Being There (1979, Hal Ashby)
_Ben-Hur (1954, William Wyler)
_Better Off Dead (1985, Savage Steve Holland)
_Beyond the Valley of the Dolls* (1970, Russ Meyer)
_Bicycle Thief, The (1949, Vittorio de Sica)
_Big Chill, The* (1983, Lawrence Kasdan)
_Big Sleep, The (1946, Howard Hawks)
_Biloxi Blues (1988, Mike Nichols)
_Birds, The (1963, Alfred Hitchcock)
_Birdy (1985, Alan Parker)
_Birth of a Nation, The (1915, D. W. Griffith)
_Black Narcissus (1947, Michael Powell)
_Black Stallion, The (1979, Carroll Ballard)
_Blade Runner (1982, Ridley Scott)
_Blazing Saddles (1974, Mel Brooks)
_Blob, The (1958, Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr.)
_Blood Simple (1984, Joel Coen)
_Blue Velvet (1986, David Lynch)
_Blues Brothers, The (1980, John Landis)
_Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969, Paul Mazursky)
_Bob Roberts (1992, Tim Robbins)
_Body Double (1984, Brian De Palma)
_Bonnie and Clyde (1967, Arthur Penn)
_Brazil (1985, Terry Gilliam)
_Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961, Blake Edwards)
_Breakfast Club, The (1985, John Hughes)
_Breaking the Sound Barrier (1952, David Lean)
_Breathless (1959, Jean-Luc Godard)
_Bridge on the River Kwai, The (1957, David Lean)
_Bridge Too Far, A* (1977, Richard Attenborough)
_Bringing Up Baby (1938, Howard Hawks)
_Broadcast News (1987, James L. Brooks)
_Buckaroo Banzai (1984, W. D. Richter)
_Bullitt (1968, Peter Yates)
_Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969, George Roy Hill)
_Cabaret* (1972, Bob Fosse)
_Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The (1919, Robert Wiene)
_Caligula* (1980, Tinto Brass)
_Candidate, The (1972, Michael Ritchie)
_Cannery Row (1982, David S. Ward)
_Cape Fear (1962, J. Lee Thompson)
_Cape Fear (1992, Martin Scorsese)
_Captain Blood (1935, Michael Curtiz)
_Carefree (1938, Mark Sondrich)
_Carrie (1976, Brian De Palma)
_Casablanca (1943, Michael Curtiz)
_Cat On a Hot Tin Roof (1958, Richard Brooks)
_Chariots of Fire (1981, Hugh Hudson)
_Chinatown (1974, Roman Polanski)
_Christmas Story, A (1983, Bob Clark)
_Cinema Paradiso (1989, Giuseppe Tornatore)
_Citizen Kane (1941, Orson Welles)
_City Lights (1932, Charles Chaplin)
_Clockwork Orange, A (1971, Stanley Kubrick)
_Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977, Steven Spielberg)
_Color Purple, The* (1985, Steven Spielberg)
_Coma* (1978, Michael Crichton)
_Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1990, Peter Greenaway)
_Cool Hand Luke (1967, Stuart Rosenberg)
_Conversation, The (1974, Francis Ford Coppola)
_Cotton Club, The* (1984, Francis Ford Coppola)
_Creature from the Black Lagoon, The* (1954, Jack Arnold)
_Creepshow* (1982, George A. Romero)
_Cries and Whispers (1972, Ingmar Bergman)
_Crying Game, The (1992, Neil Jordan)
_Cyrano de Bergerac (1950, Michael Gordon)
_Cyrano de Bergerac (1990, Jean Paul Rappeneau)
_Dances with Wolves (1990, Kevin Costner)
_Dangerous Liaisons (1989, Stephen Frears)
_Danton (1982, Andrzej Wajda)
_Darkman (1990, Sam Raimi)
_Das Boot (1981, Wolfgang Petersen)
_Dave (1993, Ivan Reitman)
_Day of the Triffids, The* (1963, Steve Sekely)
_Day the Earth Stood Still, The (1951, Robert Wise)
_Dazed and Confused (1993, Richard Linklater)
_Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982, Carl Reiner)
_Dead Poets Society, The* (1989, Peter Weir)
_Dead Ringers* (1988, David Cronenberg)
_Death of a Salesman* (1985, Volker Schlondorff)
_Decline of Western Civilization, The* (1981, Penelope Spheeris)
_Deep Throat (1972, ????????)
_Deer Hunter, The (1978, Michael Cimino)
_Delicatessen (1991, Marc Caro & Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
_Devil and Daniel Webster, The (1941, William Dieterie)
_Dial M for Murder (1954, Alfred Hitchcock)
_Die Hard (1988, John McTiernan)
_Diner (1982, Barry Levinson)
_Diva (1982, Jean-Jacques Beineix)
_Dirty Dozen, The (1967, Robert Aldrich)
_Do the Right Thing (1989, Spike Lee)
_Dr. No (1962, Terence Young)
_Dr. Strangelove (1964, Stanley Kubrick)
_Doctor Zhivago (1965, David Lean)
_Dog Day Afternoon (1975, Sidney Lumet)
_Dominique and Eugene* (1988, Robert M. Young)
_Don’t Look Now* (1973, Nicholas Roeg)
_Double Indemnity* (1944, Billy Wilder)
_Double Life of Veronique, The (1989, Krystof Kieslowski)
_Down by Law (1986, Jim Jarmusch)
_Dracula* (1931, Tod Browning)
_Dracula (1979, John Badham)
_Dream a Little Dream (1989, Marc Rocco)
_Driving Miss Daisy (1989, Bruce Beresford)
_Drugstore Cowboy (1989, Gus Van Sant, Jr.)
_Duck Soup (1933, Leo McCarey)
_Duel* (1971, Steven Spielberg)
_E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (1982, Steven Spielberg)
_Easy Rider (1969, Dennis Hopper)
_East of Eden (1955, Elia Kazan)
_Eating (1991, Henry Jaglom)
_Elephant Man, The (1980, David Lynch)
_Emerald Forest, The (1985, John Boorman)
_Empire Strikes Back, The* (1980, Irvin Kershner)
_Eraserhead (1978, David Lynch)
_Evil Dead, The (1982, Sam Raimi)
_Excalibur (1981, John Boorman)
_Exorcist, The (1973, William Friedkin)
_Face to Face (1975, Ingmar Bergman)
_Fail-Safe (1964, Sidney Lumet)
_Fantasia (1940, Ben Sharpsteen)
_Fahrenheit 451* (1967, Francois Truffaut)
_Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982, Amy Heckerling)
_Fatal Attraction (1987, Adrian Lyne)
_Father of the Bride (1950, Vincente Minelli)
_Father of the Bride (1992, Charles Shyer)
_Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986, John Hughes)
_Fiddler on the Roof* (1971, Norman Jewison)
_Field of Dreams (1989, Phil Alden Robinson)
_First Nudie Musical, The* (1979, Mark Haggard)
_Fish Called Wanda, A (1988, Charles Crichton)
_Fisher King, The (1991, Terry Gilliam)
_Five Easy Pieces (1970, Bob Rafelson)
_5,000 Fingers of Dr. T., The (1952, Roy Rowland)
_Fly, The (1958, Kurt Neumann)
_Fly, The (1986, David Cronenberg)
_Forbidden Planet (1956, Fred McLeod Wilcox)
_Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994, Mike Newell)
_400 Blows, The (1959, Francois Truffaut)
_Frankenstein (1931, James Whale)
_Freaks (1932, Tod Browning)
_French Connection, The (1971, William Friedkin)
_Frenzy* (1972, Alfred Hitchcock)
_From Here to Eternity (1953, Fred Zinneman)
_From Russia with Love* (1963, Terence Young)
_Full Metal Jacket (1987, Stanley Kubrick)
_F/X (1986, Robert Mandel)
_Gallipoli (1981, Peter Weir)
_Gandhi* (1982, Richard Attenborough)
_Gaslight* (1944, George Cukor)
_Gay Divorcee, The (1934, Mark Sandrich)
_General, The (1927, Buster Keaton)
_Ghostbusters (1984, Ivan Reitman)
_Giant (1956, George Stevens)
_Glass Key, The* (1942, Stuart Heisler)
_Godfather, The (1972, Francis Ford Coppola)
_Godfather, Part II, The (1974, Francis Ford Coppola)
_Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1956, Inoshiro Honda & Terry Morse)
_Goldfinger (1964, Guy Hamilton)
_Gold Rush, The (1923, Charles Chaplin)
_Gone with the Wind (1939, Victor Fleming)
_Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, The (1966, Sergio Leone)
_GoodFellas (1990, Martin Scorsese)
_Graduate, The (1967, Mike Nichols)
_Grand Canyon (1991, Lawrence Kasdan)
_Grand Hotel (1932, Edmund Goulding)
_Grand Illusion (1937, Jean Renoir)
_Grapes of Wrath, The (1940, John Ford)
_Grease* (1978, Randal Kleiser)
_Great Dictator, The (1940, Charles Chaplin)
_Great Escape, The (1963, John Sturgis)
_Great Expectations (1946, David Lean)
_Greed (1924, Erich Von Stroheim)
_Green Card (1990, Peter Weir)
_Groundhog Day (1993, Harold Ramis)
_Guide for the Married Man, A* (1967, Gene Kelly)
_Gunfight at the O.K. Corral* (1957, John Sturges)
_Gunfighter, The (1950, Henry King)
_Gunga Din (1939, George Stevens)
_Guns of Navarone, The (1961, J. Lee Thompson)
_Hair (1979, Milos Forman)
_Hamlet (1948, Laurence Olivier)
_Handmaid’s Tale, The (1990, Volker Schlnodorff)
_Harakiri (1963, Masaki Kobayashi)
_Hard Day’s Night, A (1964, Richard Lester)
_Harold and Maude (1972, Hal Ashby)
_Head (1968, Rob Rafelson)
_Heathers (1989, Michael Lehmann)
_Heavy Metal (1981, Gerald Potterton)
_Hellraiser* (1987, Clive Barker)
_Henry & June* (1990, Phil Kaufman)
_Henry V* (1944, Laurence Olivier)
_Henry V (1989, Kenneth Branagh)
_Hidden, The (1987, Jack Sholder)
_Hidden Fortress, The (1961, Akira Kurosawa)
_High and Low (1962, Akira Kurosawa)
_Highlander (1986, Russell Mulcahy)
_High Noon (1952, Fred Zinnemann)
_His Girl Friday (1939, Howard Hawks)
_Hope and Glory (1987, John Boorman)
_Howards End (1992, James Ivory)
_Hudsucker Proxy, The (1994, Joel Coen)
_Hunchback of Notre Dame, The (1923, Wallace Worsley)
_Hunchback of Notre Dame, The (1939, William Dieterie)
_Impromptu (1991, James Lapine)
_Intolerance (1917, D. W. Griffith)
_Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956, Don Siegel)
_Irma la Douce* (1963, Billy Wilder)
_It Happened One Night (1933, Frank Capra)
_It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963, Stanley Kramer)
_It’s a Wonderful Life (1946, Frank Capra)
_Jacob’s Ladder (1990, Adrian Lyne)
_Jason and the Argonauts (1963, John Chaffey)
_Jaws (1975, Steven Spielberg)
_Jazz Singer, The (1927, Alan Crosland)
_Jean de Florette (1987, Claude Berri)
_Jerk, The (1979, Carl Reiner)
_Johnny Suede (1992, Tom DiCillo)
_Jungle Book, The (1967, Wolfgang Reitherman)
_Kentucky Fried Movie, The* (1977, John Landis)
_King Kong (1933, Cooper and Schoedsack)
_Klute (1971, Alan Pakula)
_La Dolce Vita (1960, Federico Fellini)
_La Femme Nikita (1991, Luc Besson)
_La Strada (1954, Federico Fellini)
_Lady Eve, The (1941, Preston Sturges)
_Lady From Shanghai, The (1948, Orson Welles)
_Last Emperor, The* (1987, Bernardo Bertolucci)
_Last House on the Left* (1979, Wes Craven)
_Last Picture Show, The (1971, Peter Bogdanovich)
_Last Tango in Paris (1972, Bernardo Bertolucci)
_Laura (1944, Otto Preminger)
_Lawrence of Arabia (1962, David Lean)
_Lenny* (1974, Bob Fosse)
_Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948, Max Ophuls)
_Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, The* (1972, John Huston)
_Life of Brian (1979, Terry Jones)
_Liquid Sky* (1983, Slave Tsukerman)
_Little Big Man (1970, Arthur Penn)
_Little Caesar (1930, Marvin LeRoy)
_Local Hero (1983, Bill Forsyth)
_Lolita (1962, Stanley Kubrick)
_Longest Day, The* (1963, Annakin, Marton and Wicki)
_Lost Horizon (1937, Frank Capra)
_M (1931, Fritz Lang)
_M*A*S*H (1970, Robert Altman)
_Mad Max (1979, George Miller)
_Magnificent Ambersons, The (1944, Orson Welles)
_Maltese Falcon, The (1940, John Huston)
_Man Who Knew Too Much, The (1934, Alfred Hitchcock)
_Man Who Knew Too Much, The (1955, Alfred Hitchcock)
_Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The (1962, John Ford)
_Man Who Would Be King, The (1975, John Huston)
_Man With Two Brains, The (1983, Carl Reiner)
_Manchurian Candidate, The (1962, John Frankenheimer)
_Manhattan (1979, Woody Allen)
_Manon of the Spring (1987, Claude Berri)
_Marathon Man* (1976, John Schlesinger)
_Marriage of Maria Braun, The (1979, Rainer Werner Fassbinder)
_Masque of the Red Death, The* (1964, Roger Corman)
_Matador (1988, Pedro Almodovar)
_Mean Streets (1973, Martin Scorsese)
_Meet John Doe (1942, Frank Capra)
_Metropolis (1926, Fritz Lang)
_Midnight Cowboy (1969, John Schlesinger)
_Midnight Run (1988, Martin Brest)
_Mildred Pierce (1947, Michael Curtiz)
_Miller’s Crossing (1990, Joel Coen)
_Misfits, The (1916, John Huston)
_Mr. Mom (1983, Stan Dragoti)
_Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939, Frank Capra)
_Modern Times (1936, Charles Chaplin)
_Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1974, Terry Gilliam)
_Moonstruck (1987, Norman Jewison)
_Much Ado About Nothing (1993, Kenneth Branagh)
_Muppet Movie, The (1979, James Frawley)
_Music Box (1933, Raoul Walsh)
_My Brother’s Keeper (1949, Alfred Roome)
_My Cousin Vinny (1992, Johathan Lynn)
_My Fair Lady (1964, George Cukor)
_My Left Foot (1989, Jim Sheridan)
_My Life as a Dog (1987, Lasse Hallstrom)
_Naked Lunch* (1992, David Cronenberg)
_Name of the Rose, The (1986, Jean-Jacques Annaud)
_Nashville (1975, Robert Altman)
_National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978, John Landis)
_Natural, The (1984, Barry Levinson)
_Network (1976, Sidney Lumet)
_Night at the Opera, A (1935, Sam Wood)
_Night of the Hunter, The (1955, Charles Laughton)
_Night of the Living Dead (1968, George A. Romero)
_Night on Earth* (1993, Jim Jarmusch)
_Nightmare Before Christmas, The* (1993, Henry Selick)
_1984* (1984, Michael Radford)
_North by Northwest (1959, Alfred Hitchcock)
_Nosferatu (1922, F. W. Murnau)
_Notorious (1946, Alfred Hitchcock)
_Now, Voyager (1942, Irving Rapper)
_Nun’s Story, The (1959, Fred Zinnemann)
_Odd Couple, The (1968, Gene Saks)
_Odd Man Out (1946, Carol Reed)
_Officer and a Gentleman, An (1982, Taylor Hackford)
_Oliver Twist (1948, David Lean)
_Omen, The* (1976, Richard Donner)
_Once Upon a Time in America (1984, Sergio Leone)
_Once Upon a Time in the West (1969, Sergio Leone)
_One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975, Milos Foreman)
_On Dangerous Ground (1950, Nicholas Ray)
_On Golden Pond* (1981, Mark Rydell)
_On the Beach (1959, Stanley Kramer)
_On the Town (1949, Gene Kelly & Stanely Donen)
_On the Waterfront (1954, Ella Kazan)
_Orphee (1948, Jean Cocteau)
_Othello* (1952, Orson Welles)
_Out of the Past (1947, Jacques Tourneur)
_Parent Trap, The* (1961, David Swift)
_Passage to India, A (1983, David Lean)
_Passion of Joan of Arc, The (1928, Carl Dreyer)
_Patch of Blue, A (1965, Guy Green)
_Paths of Glory (1957, Stanley Kubrick)
_Patton (1970, Franklin Schaffner)
_Pawnbroker, The (1965, Sidney Lumet)
_People Under the Stairs, The (1992, Wes Craven)
_Persona (1966, Ingmar Bergman)
_Peter Pan (1953, Luske & Geronimi & Jackson)
_Phantom of the Opera, The (1925, Rupert Julian)
_Philadelphia Story, The (1942, George Cukor)
_Piano, The (1993, Jane Campion)
_Pink Floyd - The Wall (1982, Alan Parker)
_Pink Panther, The (1964, Blake Edwards)
_Plain Clothes (1988, Martha Coolidge)
_Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959, Edward D. Wood)
_Planet of the Apes (1968, Franklin J. Schaffner)
_Platoon (1986, Oliver Stone)
_Player, The (1992, Robert Altman)
_Poltergeist (1982, Tobe Hooper)
_Pope of Greenwich Village, The* (1984, Stuart Rosenberg)
_Popeye (1980, Robert Altman)
_Postman Always Rings Twice, The* (1946, Tay Garnett)
_Power of One, The (1992, John G. Avildsen)
_Pride of the Yankees, The (1942, Sam Wood)
_Prince of the City (1981, Sidney Lumet)
_Princess Bride, The (1987, Rob Reiner)
_Producers, The (1968, Mel Brooks)
_Proof (199?, Jocelyn Morehouse)
_Psycho (1960, Alfred Hitchcock)
_Public Enemy, The (1933, Raoul Walsh)
_Purple Rose of Cairo, The* (1985, Woody Allen)
_Queen of Hearts* (1989, John Amiel)
_Quiet Man, The (1952, John Ford)
_Rachel, Rachel (1968, Paul Newman)
_Raging Bull (1980, Martin Scorsese)
_Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981, Steven Spielberg)
_Rain Man (1988, Barry Levinson)
_Raising Arizona (1987, Joel Coen)
_Ran (1985, Akira Kurosawa)
_Rashomon (1951, Akira Kurosawa)
_Rear Window (1954, Alfred Hitchcock)
_Re-Animator (1985, Stuart Gordon)
_Rebecca* (1940, Alfred Hitchcock)
_Rebel Without a Cause (1954, Nicholas Ray)
_Remains of the Day, The (1993, James Ivory)
_Repo Man* (1984, Alex Cox)
_Reservoir Dogs (1992, Quentin Tarantino)
_Restless Natives (1986, Michael Hoffman)
_Return of the Jedi* (1983, Richard Marquand)
_Ride the High Country (1962, Sam Peckinpah)
_Right Stuff, The (1983, Phil Kaufman)
_Risky Business (1983, Paul Brickman)
_River’s Edge (1987, Tim Hunter)
_Road to Utopia (1945, Hal Walker)
_Robocop (1987, Paul Verhoeven)
_Rocky* (1976, John G. Avildsen)
_Rocky Horror Picture Show, The (1975, Jim Sharman)
_Roger & Me (1989, Michael Moore)
_Roma* (1972, Federico Fellini)
_Romancing the Stone (1984, Robert Zemeckis)
_Room with a View, A (1986, James Ivory)
_Rosemary’s Baby (1968, Roman Polanski)
_Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1991, Tom Stoppard)
_Rules of the Game, The (1939, Jean Renoir)
_Running on Empty* (1988, Sydney Lumet)
_Sadie Thompson (1928, Raoul Walsh)
_Samurai Trilogy, The (1954, Hiroshi Inagaki)
_Saturday Night Fever (1977, John Badham)
_Say Anything… (1989, Cameron Crowe)
_Scanners* (1981, David Cronenberg)
_Scarface (1983, Brian De Palma)
_Scenes from a Marriage (1973, Ingmar Bergman)
_School Daze* (1988, Spike Lee)
_Schindler’s List (1993, Steven Spielberg)
_Sea Hawk, The (1940, Michael Curtiz)
_Searchers, The (1956, John Ford)
_Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The* (1947, Norman Z. McLeod)
_Serpico* (1973, Sidney Lumet)
_Servant, The (1963, Joseph Losey)
_Seven Samurai, The (1954, Akira Kurosawa)
_Seven Year Itch, The* (1957, Billy Wilder)
_Seventh Seal, The (1956, Ingmar Bergman)
_sex, lies, and videotape (1989, Steven Soderbergh)
_Shane (1955, George Stevens)
_Shining, The (1980, Stanley Kubrick)
_Shootist, The (1976, Don Siegel)
_Shot in the Dark, A* (1964, Blake Edwards)
_Sid and Nancy (1986, Alex Cox)
_Silence of the Lambs, The (1991, Jonathon Demme)
_Silent Running (1971, Douglas Trumbell)
_Singin’ in the Rain (1952, Stanley Donen)
_Slacker (199?, Richard Linklater)
_Sleeping Beauty (1959, Clyde Geronimi)
_Sleuth (1972, Joseph Mankiewicz)
_Spellbound (1945, Alfred Hitchcock)
_Some Like It Hot (1959, Billy Wilder)
_Something Wild (1986, Jonathon Demme)
_Sound of Music, The (1965, Robert Wise)
_Spartacus (1960, Stanley Kubrick)
_Splash (1984, Ron Howard)
_Splendor in the Grass (1960, Ella Kazan)
_Stagecoach (1939, John Ford)
_Stalag 17 (1953, Billy Wilder)
_Stand by Me (1986, Rob Reiner)
_Starman (1984, John Carpenter)
_Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan* (1982, Nicholas Meyer)
_Star Trek III: The Search for Spock* (1984, Leonard Nimoy)
_Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home* (1986, Leonard Nimoy)
_Star Wars* (1977, George Lucas)
_Sterile Cuckoo, The (1969, Alan Pakula)
_Sting, The (1973, George Roy Hill)
_Strangers on a Train* (1951, Alfred Hitchcock)
_Student Bodies (1981, Mickey Rose)
_Stunt Man, The (1980, Richard Rush)
_Sullivan’s Travels (1942, Preston Sturges)
_Sunrise (1929, F. W. Murnau)
_Sunset Boulevard (1950, Billy Wilder)
_Super Fly (1972, Gordon Parks, Jr.)
_Tall Guy, The (1990, Mel Smith)
_Taming of the Shrew, The* (1966, Franco Zeffirelli)
_Taras Bulba (1962, J. Lee Thompson)
_Taxi Driver (1976, Martin Scorsese)
_Tea and Sympathy (1959, Vincente Minelli)
_Ten Commandments, The (1956, Cecil B. De Mille)
_Terminator, The (1984, James Cameron)
_Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The (1974, Tobe Hooper)
_Thief* (1981, Michael Mann)
_Thing (From Another World), The* (1951, Christian Nyby)
_Thing, The (1982, John Carpenter)
_Third Man, The (1949, Carol Reed)
_This Is Spinal Tap (1984, Rob Reiner)
_Three Men and a Cradle (1985, Coline Serreau)
_Through a Glass Darkly (1962, Ingmar Bergman)
_THX 1138 (1971, George Lucas)
_Time After Time (1979, Nicholas Meyer)
_Time Bandits (1981, Terry Gilliam)
_Time Machine, The (1960, George Pal)
_Tin Men (1987, Barry Levinson)
_To Have and Have Not (1951, Howard Hawks)
_To Kill a Mockingbird (1962, Robert Mulligan)
_Tokyo Story (1953, Yasujiro Ozu)
_Tommy (1975, Ken Russell)
_Tom Jones (1963, Tony Richardson)
_Tootsie (1982, Sydney Pollack)
_Top Hat (1935, Mark Sandrich)
_Touch of Evil (1958, Orson Welles)
_Trading Places (1983, John Landis)
_Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The* (1948, John Huston)
_True Grit (1969, Henry Hathaway)
_True Romance (1993, Tony Scott)
_12 Angry Men (1957, Sidney Lumet)
_Twelve O’Clock High (1949, Henry King)
_Two for the Road (1967, Staney Donen)
_2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, Stanley Kubrick)
_Ugetsu (1952, Kenji Mizoguchi)
_Unforgiven (1992, Clint Eastwood)
_Untouchables, The (1987, Brian De Palma)
_Valley of the Dolls* (1967, Mark Robson)
_Vertigo (1958, Alfred Hitchcock)
_Videodrome (1983, David Cronenberg)
_View from the Bridge, A (1963, Sidney Lumet)
_Vikings, The* (1958, Richard Fleischer)
_Village of the Damned* (1960, Wolf Rilla)
_Watership Down (1978, Martin Rosen)
_Way We Were, The* (1973, Sydney Pollack)
_West Side Story (1961, Robert Wise & Jerome Robbins)
_Westworld (1973, Michael Crichton)
_When Harry Met Sally… (1989, Rob Reiner)
_Who’ll Stop the Rain (1978, Karel Reisz)
_Wild Geese, The (1978, Andrew V. McLaglen)
_Wild Strawberries (1957, Ingmar Bergman)
_Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory* (1971, Mel Stuart)
_Wings of Desire (1989, Wim Wenders)
_Witches of Eastwick, The* (1987, George Miller)
_Withnail and I* (1987, Bruce Robinson)
_Witness (1985, Peter Weir)
_Wizard of Oz, The* (1939, Victor Fleming)
_Woman in the Dunes (1964, Hiroshi Teshigahara)
_Woman Under the Influence, A* (1974, John Cassavetes)
_Women in Love (1970, Ken Russell)
_Woodstock* (1970, Michael Wadleigh)
_World According to Garp, The (1982, George Ray Hill)
_Wuthering Heights (1939, William Wyler)
_Yankee Doodle Dandy (1941, Michael Curtiz)
_Young Frankenstein (1974, Mel Brooks)
_Z (1969, Constantin Costa-Gavras)
_Zulu (1964, Cy Endfield)
-Total of 535 movies (I think)
* Denotes Additions Since Last Version
September 19, 2007
Book Trend: A Novel
Sure, I’ve seen book covers that identify the book as “A Novel.” But I never realized just how ubiquitous it is until a recent visit to my local brick and mortar bookstore. It’s on practically every novel! All of the below images are details from the covers of books currently on the New York Times Bestseller Lists for hardcover or trade paperback fiction. You can click on each image to see what book it’s from:
I guess just being a work of fiction isn’t enough anymore. You have to emblazen your book with a category on the cover so the book superstore employees know where it belongs. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha wind up in the religion section.
September 17, 2007
Adam Rex Contest: The Winner
Congratulations to “Jon the Geek” for winning the Adam Rex “Character in Search of a Story” contest. Jon’s suggestion for a character was “AMBIGUGUS, The Remarkably Unmemorable Man.” Wow, you people really took the notion of abusing the artist seriously. How Adam is going to draw a remarkably unmemorable man in an interesting way, but without any features that make him memorable, is beyond me. That’s quite a challenge!
But Adam says he’s up to the task and he’ll have the character posted on his blog in the next day or so. Congratulations, Jon!
September 13, 2007
Adam Rex Contest: Vote for the winner
Wow, there was a great response to the contest! Lots of entries are really funny. Some of you took the notion of abusing the artist pretty seriously!
Now you get to pick the winner. Vote for whichever one of the following is your favorite, the one you would most like to see Adam Rex draw. (The voting will close at Midnight EST Friday night).
[Note: If you read this blog through an RSS reader and you don’t see the vote above, come to the site to make your opinion count.]
September 10, 2007
Contest: Win original Adam Rex artwork
CONTEST ENDS WEDNESDAY 9/12 AT MIDNIGHT
A Contest in Search of a Winner
I’m excited to announce that author and illustrator Adam Rex has joined with Ironic Sans to hold a contest where the prize is an original custom drawing by Adam. If you’re not familiar with Adam’s work by now, he is a children’s book author whose books are marketed for kids, but contain humor and details that are definitely of a level aimed at grown-ups. His 2006 book Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich became a New York Times best seller, and is well on its way to becoming a Halloween classic. This fall, Adam has two new books out:
The second book, called The True Meaning of Smekday, is Adam’s first illustrated novel for kids. It tells the story of Earth’s takeover by an alien race called Boov, and one girl’s journey to Florida — the only place the Boov have left for Americans. The True Meaning of Smekday comes out October 2. More information, in the form of a puppet show, a guide to Boovish uniforms, an excerpt from the book, and more can be found at the book’s website Smekday.com.
Now on to the contest!
Adam has a recurring series on his new blog Editpus Rex called Characters in Search of a Story. He’s been sketching some great characters, like “G.I. (tract) JOE, The Cuddliest Tapeworm,” and “MR. BABY, The Boy With No Birthday” (seen at right). The winner of this contest gets to invent a new Character in Search of a Story for Adam to draw, and that person will also receive the original artwork!
How to enter:
Step One: Visit Adam’s blog Editpus Rex. Look at the other Characters in Search of Stories to get an idea of what the series is like, and get inspiration for your entry.
Step Two: Come back here, and suggest your own Character in the comments. You have until Midnight EST on Wednesday night to make your suggestion. You must make your submission with a valid e-mail address to be able to win. Limit one suggestion per e-mail address. Anything profane will not be considered.
Step Three: On Thursday, I’ll round up all the suggestions and put up a poll where you can all vote on your favorite. Voting will continue until midnight Friday night, and a winner will be announced on Monday. In the event of a tie, my vote will decide the winner.
Step Four: Adam will post a drawing of the winning entry on his own site, and he will send the original artwork to the winner.
Adam says, “I kind of like the idea that I wouldn’t be involved in the selection process at all, so that I don’t end up just picking something I like drawing already, or that’s easy to draw. So that if, God forbid, the winning entry is PICKLEHEAD, THE MAN WHOSE HEAD IS ONE THOUSAND AND ONE PICKLES or something, there would be a fun ‘abuse the artist’ aspect to it.”
So if you’ve ever wanted to abuse an artist, here is your opportunity. The contest is open to entries now!
Previously: Interview with Adam Rex
September 3, 2007
Idea: Celebrity middle finger coat hooks
I think a kitchy home accessories designer should license historic photos of celebrities giving the middle finger and turn them into 3-dimensional coat hooks. At right is an artist’s rendition of how such a coat hook might look using a famous photo of Johnny Cash.
A coat hook like this would be the perfect thing to put in your rebellious high school son’s bedroom. He’ll enjoy it so much you can be sure he won’t come home from school and just drop his jacket on the floor any more!
August 30, 2007
The Beetlejuice House
EXT. THE MAITLAND HOUSE - DAY
The Tim Burton movie Beetlejuice takes place mostly in one location — a house in Connecticut where Adam and Barbara Maitland lived, and which the Deetz family moved into after the Maitlands died in a horrible car accident. The house is also featured prominently on the poster. But a story that takes place in one location doesn’t present very many options for establishing shots throughout the film. How many ways are there to shoot the same house?
It turns out, there are at least ten ways, including the opening shot of the Maitland House as a miniature. A subplot in the movie about a hideous remodeling of the Maitland home by its new residents lends variety to the shots of the house as construction progresses throughout the film.
Here are the 10 different establishing shots, in chronological order:
The movie takes place in Connecticut, but was filmed in East Corinth, Vermont. The house shown in these shots is not a real house; it’s just a facade built for the movie.
August 22, 2007
Dog Day Anniversary
Update 9/23/09: Google just made a large collection of old LIFE Magazine issues available for viewing on-line. You can now read the original article that inspired Dog Day Afternoon in its entirety on-line.
35 years ago today, a couple guys named John Wojtowicz and Sal Naturile held up a Chase Manhattan bank in Brooklyn at the corner of Avenue P and East 3rd Street. At the time, New York City was experiencing one or two bank robberies per day. But before it was over, this one became the hottest thing on TV. The police were alerted, hostages were taken, and 12 hours later the ordeal finally came to an end after several strange turns.
I don’t want to go too much further into what happened, because the story was turned into the excellent 1975 movie Dog Day Afternoon, starring Al Pacino and directed by Sidney Lumet, and some of you may not have seen it before. I don’t want to spoil it. I highly recommend it as a great movie to watch during these dog days of summer.
The movie was based on a Life Magazine article about the holdup called “The Boys in the Bank.” I dug up the original article, by PF Kluge and Thomas Moore, and was amazed to discover that the photos of the event looked surprisingly similar to stills from the movie. I knew that Lumet had strived to achieve a realistic look to his film, but there were many details that were nearly identical to the real events.
Here are some side-by-side comparisons. On the left, we have photos from the actual crime scene. On the right, we have images from the movie.
John (called “Sonny” in the movie, played by Al Pacino) talks to cops outside the bank:
Ernest (called “Leon” in the movie, played by Chris Sarandan) arrives at the scene:
Sal (called “Sal” in the movie, played by John Cazale) was actually 18 when the events took place. I think Cazale looks quite a bit older. But I can forgive them. Because it’s John Cazale.
Cops (called “cops” in the movie, played in part by James Broderick) huddle behind a car across the street with reporters, watching events unfold:
I should have an original copy of the magazine coming my way soon, and when it does I’ll try to add a couple more side-by-side comparisons using more photos from the story. In the meantime, as further encouragement for you to watch this movie, here’s a famous scene (that’s relatively spoiler free) to tease you. Enjoy.
August 14, 2007
Idea: Breed a “Mickey” Mouse
Walt Disney should add a new division of scientists (biological imagineers) to its company with the goal of breeding “Mickey” mice — real mice, selectively bred for their big round ears and black facial coloring which makes them resemble a certain famous cartoon mouse. Then they can sell them as pets in pet stores.
If they start now, this could be the next big craze come Christmas.
May 14, 2007
Idea: “12” — a spinoff of “24” for kids
FOX should make a spinoff of “24” for kids. They should call it “12” and the main character should be twelve years old. Each of the 24 half-hour episodes covers 30 minutes in the life of Brad Bauer (or whoever). The first season could start at 7:00 a.m. on his twelfth birthday as he prepares to head to school, and end at 7:00 PM when he gets home. In between, Brad gets wound up in some crazy adventure and manages to save the day, while he tries to keep up with his classes, celebrate his birthday, and impress that girl he likes in algebra class.
Previously: What George Bush and Jack Bauer have in common
May 4, 2007
Interview: Morgan Taylor, creator of Gustafer Yellowgold
(The fifth in a series of occasional interviews with people I find interesting or who work on interesting projects.)
Morgan Taylor is a singer-songwriter who just released a DVD and CD set full of sing-along songs about a mellow yellow character named Gustafer Yellowgold. While the DVD is supposedly for kids, the songs have a definite grown-up appeal, a fact that hasn’t escaped the attention of bands like Wilco and the Polyphonic Spree, both of whom have had Morgan perform Gustafer’s songs as their opening act.
Morgan answered a few questions about Gustafer’s growing appeal, but before we get to those let’s take a look at one of the songs from the DVD:
Who is Gustafer Yellowgold?
Gustafer Yellowgold is a friendly creature who immigrated from the Sun to Earth and now lives in a cottage in a woods-y area of Minnesota with a pet eel and dragon.
The Gustafer Yellowgold DVD seems to be targeted towards kids, and you regularly perform the songs in live kids shows. But you’ve also taken Gustafer Yellowgold on tour opening for bands like Wilco and the Polyphonic Spree, performing to an older crowd. Who do you consider your target audience, and what do you think explains Gustafer’s crossover appeal?
My target audience is anybody who gets into it. There are many levels of humor in it and the music wasn’t written with any specific demographic in mind. I’ve always had a more whimsical side to some of my writing, so it seems that’s why it fits in with kid’s stuff quite naturally, but it isn’t kid-music-whacky, so the adults go for it too.
What was your creative and technical process for putting this together? Did you start with the songs? The characters? The art? What medium do you use for illustration, and what software was used in putting it all together?
For the music on the current DVD, it all started with the music. I had accumulated over the course of probably five years of writing since moving to New York City, about a dozen or so songs that were unusually “cartoony” compared to my other songs. It was those songs that I started to illustrate out into a picture book. We ended up crossing paths with an animator who used Adobe After Effects and we started making what would become our first DVD. To draw I use pencil on bleed-proof marker paper, then ink it with Sharpies and fine-tip black ink pens. Then most of the coloring is Prismacolor colored pencil, with some larger areas done in Crayola crayon. Then I scan into Photoshop and set up layered files for the animator with eyelids for blinking and small elements for movement. Ultimately we’re going for the “moving book” type feel. It’s what gives the work it’s mellowness.
Some of the songs on the Gustafer DVD already appeared on your earlier albums. When you wrote them originally, were you writing with Gustafer in mind as a future project? Or did you realize retrospectively that you had several good songs that would fit in Gustafer’s world?
Yeah, I had recorded some of this material with my old band a while back without any real foresight into using them for anything else later. It wasn’t until I started drawing stuff that I went back and pillaged my back-catalogue.
What is your background? Do you have formal training in music and/or art?
More like I ended up studying it because I had a natural knack for art and music. Nothing I ever learned in any class compares to just doing it. I constantly wrote, recorded and performed over the years, trial and error with various projects and bands. (mostly error unfortunately) I used to obsessively draw all the time when I was younger, making comics and taking life-drawing classes outside of school too. I took a break from serious drawing for a few years, and I this has been kind of a re-launching of my cartooning. So I’m really glad I found an application for it finally.
The New York Times called Gustafer Yellowgold “a cross between Yellow Submarine and Dr. Seuss.” Others have compared your music to the Beatles, and there’s definitely a surreal element to your style. So who are your musical and artistic influences?
I grew up listening to 70’s pop radio. I was the youngest of three kids, so there was a record collection waiting for me already when I was born. A lot of soft-rock. I’m a huge Beatles fan and I’m obsessed with KISS. I went through an 80’s cheese-metal phase until I discovered R.E.M. in 1985. I loved Marvel comics and still do collect a little bit. There are some great creators working in the comics field today that are really inspiring.
Take a look at this image. On the left, we see Gustafer engaged in one of his favorite hobbies, jumping on cake. On the right, we see a tile mosaic from a New York City subway station. Every time I see the mosaic, it reminds me of Gustafer. Coincidence?
Yes! That is an amazing coincidence! That kinda freaks me out a little actually.
What’s next for Gustafer? Is a sequel in the works? A series? Feature film? Toys? And what’s next for Morgan? Any non-Gustafer projects coming up?
The 2nd DVD/CD set is near completion, and hopefully will see a release later this year. And we just received our first shipment of our Gustafer Yellowgold plush-toys. I’m sitting here among all the crates right now. We may have to get rid of some of our furniture to make room. All this time, as I’ve said “we”, I’m talking about me and my wife Rachel Loshak. She’s my partner in this and if it weren’t for her, Gustafer would still be a stack of drawings on our kitchen table. She’s the reason we’ve made it this far already, so I’d be remiss to not tip my hat to her in all this too.
Gustafer Yellowgold’s Wide Wild World is available as a DVD/CD set exclusively through Barnes and Noble. To get more of a glimpse into Gustafer’s world, check out Gustafer’s website where you can tour his home, meet his friends, play some games, and see more of the videos from the DVD.
April 9, 2007
Idea: The Digital Jewel Box
I love having my music on my hard drive or iPod, but one reason I still buy CDs and then rip them is that I enjoy holding the jewel box in my hand and reading the liner notes while the music plays. I just hate how much space all those jewel boxes and liner note inserts take up.
So how about making a Digital Jewel Box? Here’s how it would work: The DJB sits next to your stereo or computer in its charging dock. Similar to a digital picture frame, it syncs wirelessly to your home network via WiFi, syncing itself with iTunes or whatever digital player you use. When a new song comes on, the DJB’s screen shows the album cover art for that song.
At any time, you can take the DJB out of its dock, sit on the couch with it, and use the controls on its side to flip through the rest of the liner notes, including track listings, lyrics, song credits, acknowledgments, and whatever else is included in the paper version. The pleasure of flipping through liner notes doesn’t need to go away just because CDs do.
You can also use the DJB as a remote control, as long as your media player supports it. The DJB has an infrared transmitter, and the charging dock has an IR receiver. So if you’re sitting on your couch flipping through your favorite album’s liner notes and you decide you’d rather be listening to a different track, you can skip forward or back by pressing buttons on the DJB itself. If you want to hear a different album entirely, use the DJB’s menu to flip through your music. The songs themselves aren’t stored on the DJB, but the track listings are.
When you’re not playing music, you can set your DJB to turn off completely, or double as a digital picture frame, displaying your personal pictures.
Here’s another mock-up of what the DJB might look like, but probably with fancier transitions than these:
April 4, 2007
Animated Manhattan: Shortbus
Part 16 in an ongoing series looking at New York City in animation.
There’s a lot of explicit sex in the movie Shortbus. There’s straight sex, gay sex, solo sex, oral sex, and group sex. But in between all the sex scenes, there are lovely animated sequences depicting New York City.
The movie, which is more artsy than pornographic, is primarily about a relationship-and-sex counselor who has never had an orgasm. She and the other characters live in New York, and when the narrative shifts from one part of the city to another, the camera flies through a virtual version of the city, over bridges and through the park, finally landing on a street or building where the next scene takes place.
The virtual city is really wonderful. It looks like a handmade and hand painted model. If not for the way the camera moves between and around the buildings, it would be easy to mistake the computer generated model for a real tangible highly detailed replica. Most of the city’s recognizable landmarks are faithfully recreated. The city is depicted by day and by night, and even during a blackout, to wonderful effect.
The animation is done by John Bair, whose company Edgeworx has done visual effects for TV, movies, and commercials that you’ve almost definitely seen. Here are more images from his work on Shortbus:
(My rating is for the depiction of NYC only)
April 1, 2007
New species of falcon named after Millennium Falcon
As a Star Wars fan, I was excited to read this e-mail from my friend Hugh who’s doing an apprenticeship studying birds in Madagascar. The lab he’s working at recently discovered a new species of falcon, and they’ve decided to name it the “Millennium Falcon.” From his e-mail:
The scientific name is falco milleannus which means Millenium Falcon. How cool is that! The “official” explanation has nothing to do with Star Wars, but we’re all getting a good laugh out of it here because of the double meaning. My boss came up with the name. Check out the press release, they even quoted me at the end!
You can read the whole press release here. Very cool.
March 26, 2007
Idea: The Kotter Family Tree
Nearly every episode of the 1970s sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter began or ended (sometimes both) with the main character Gabe Kotter telling a really corny joke about a family member. It usually started with him and his wife sitting around, and he asks, “Did I ever tell you about my Uncle So-and-so?” When I was a kid, I loved this show. I found it hilarious. Now, not so much. But I’d still like to see a definitive list of Kotter family members and the situations they found themselves in. I think there’s a Wikipedia article somewhere waiting to be written. I’ve done a little bit of research, and here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
Uncle Carl was a hunter out hunting game. One day, he shot a beautiful girl in the woods because she told him that she’s game. (Season 2, Episode 11)
Uncle Max was a barber. He once hired a private investigator to follow a man who kept coming in the barber shop, asking how long the wait was until the next haircut, and leaving. The investigator followed the man and reported back to Max that the man was going to Max’s house every day. (Season 2, Episode 11)
Aunt Brenda believed in reincarnation. After Uncle Sidney died Brenda went to a seance where Sidney’s ghost revealed that in the afterlife he has a lot of sex before and after every meal. He explained that he is not in heaven — he has been reincarnated as a bull in Montana. (Season 3, Episode 5)
Uncle Eddie was a thief. He used bricks to break windows of stores so he could steal precious items for his girlfriend. When she got too annoying about all the things she wanted, Eddie asked her if she thinks he’s made of bricks. (Season 3, Episode 5)
Uncle Julian was raised by wild dogs. Eventually he was brought to civilization and became a mailman. He was fired for biting himself on the leg. (Season 3, Episode 24)
Uncle William was a pharmacist. He was fired for trying to fit bottles into a typewriter in order to type information on the labels. (Season 3, Episode 24)
Uncle Milton was a famous spiritualist who held seances every Friday night. One night Milton felt the presence of a spirit named Max who in life made a living as a waiter. Milton asked Max’s spirit to come closer to the table. Max refused, as Milton was not at one of Max’s tables. (Season 3, Episode 25)
An un-named uncle went to an Italian restaurant where he noticed a Chinese waiter who speaks perfect Italian. He asked the restaurant owner why. The owner explained that the waiter has only been in the country for two months and is under the impression that the owner is teaching him English. (Season 3, Episode 25)
Uncle Melzer was a navigator. He once removed a thorn from an elephant’s foot in Africa. The elephant was so grateful that he picked Melzer up in his trunk and placed him in his second floor hotel room. A year later, at the circus in Pittsburgh, the elephant picked up Melzer in its trunk and flung him into the balcony, breaking his legs. It was a different elephant. (Season 4, Episode 3)
Uncle Nezbit had no friends, but he brought his dog everywhere, including to the movie theater. The dog enjoyed a particular movie, which surprised Nezbit, because it hated the book. (Season 4, Episode 4)
When Gabe was young, his father told him that the local bully Tommy O’Shaughnessy was a coward. So Gabe told Tommy that, prompting Tommy to beat up Gabe’s father. (Season 1, Episode 2)
Young Gabe’s mother told him to ignore kids who made fun of his big head. But when she sent him on an errand to the supermarket, she suggested he could carry all the groceries home in his hat. (Season 1, Episode 2)
Anyone have more to add?
March 18, 2007
Joost Invitation Contest - Part II
Congratulations! The winner of the first Joost invitation contest — the person who came up with the best idea for a second Joost contest — is “Bill”, who suggested a rebus competition. In Bill’s entry, he suggests that entries must contain the word “Joost,” but I’ll be a little more lenient and just say that the second contest is as follows:
To win a Joost invitation, come up with the best rebus for a TV show or movie title. For example, an entry might look like this:
Eye = I
Clover - C - R = Love
Lou + Seahorse - Horse = Lucy
The answer to this rebus, then, is “I Love Lucy.”
To enter, use the “Contact” link in the sidebar to e-mail me your rebus, or put it on-line somewhere (flickr or elsewhere) and link to your entry in the comments. Make your entry creative, but solvable. I’ll accept entries until midnight Monday (tomorrow) and announce a winner on Tuesday, and I’ll post the best entries. Have fun!
Update: We have a winner! RichM submitted my favorite Rebus entry:
I like it because he could have made it much easier by putting a picture of a Beetle plus a picture of Juice. But he took the long way and had fun with it, and even included Nico. Good job. Congratulations, RichM!
March 6, 2007
Idea: Joost’s missing feature
I’ve been participating in the beta test of a hotly anticipated new program called Joost. It’s essentially a video-on-demand service from the people who brought you Kazaa and Skype, which uses proprietary technology to make high quality video over the internet as instant as your TV. Unlike video sharing sites such as YouTube, you won’t get to upload your own videos to Joost. They will provide the content through contracts with various TV and movie companies, and show the programs in appropriate Channels. For example, they might have an NBC Channel where you can catch up on episodes of Heroes. Or you might go to the Warner Brothers Movie Channel to watch the movie Batman.
While still in beta, the content is pretty limited. I can watch some National Geographic documentaries, a few episodes of the World’s Strongest Man competition, some Canadian music video programming, and that’s about it. But while Joost is working on adding new content and improving the video technology, I’m still left wondering where the feature is that will make me want to watch video on demand with Joost instead of with, say, my local cable company or other on-demand service. Is it enough that the video starts in 5 seconds instead of 5 minutes like with other high-quality streaming video services? Maybe. But my cable box is even more instant than that. There’s a real opportunity here to make Joost something different and better than television, instead of something that’s as close to TV as possible. That’s where my idea comes in.
I imagine a feature that combines all the best elements of social websites like Digg, the humorous style of Mystery Science Theater 3000, the educational aspect of DVD commentary tracks, the user-contributed spirit of a Wiki, the format of Pop-Up Video, and integrates it all with Joost. It could make even the dullest content interesting and fun to watch, and make the best programming even better. Here’s how it works:
HOW IT WORKS
If I have the yet-to-be-named feature turned on, I can choose to use Joost in one of three modes: Writer Mode, Voter Mode, or Viewer Mode.
In Writer Mode, whenever I pause the program I’m watching, a window pops up that I can type in. Joost uses a time stamp to remember where I was in the program when I wrote this comment, and also remembers where on the screen I’ve put the window. Then I can type in any comment I want. Preferably, it’s either informative about the particular scene (e.g. “This scene was filmed at Maine North High School in Chicago”), or it’s a funny comment on the scene. I can tag it appropriately as “funny” or “informative” so Joost knows how it’s intended.
In Voter Mode, I watch the movie with a window overlaid in which all the comments people left scroll up automatically. I get to vote every comment up or down based on whether I agree that it’s funny or informative or neither of the above. In my illustration, all the comments are white, but perhaps they would be different colors to specify funny or informative. If there are too many comments to reasonably vote on so quickly, I can tell Joost to not show me every comment so that it’s more manageable. I can set the pace myself. Or I can just vote on the ones that jump out at me, ignoring the others.
In Viewer Mode, I can watch a program or movie with comments turned on. They will show up where and when the commenter specified, and then disappear after a few seconds. Because people read at different paces, I can control how many pop-ups I want per minute. If I say I want 12 per minute, only the 12 highest rated pop-ups will be shown in each minute of the program. I can specify if I want to see just the funny comments, or just the informative comments, or both. I can choose to read the highest-rated comments of all time, or just of the last month or week or day. I could watch the same program week after week and experience it with a whole new set of commentary. And at any time, I can switch to a different mode if I think of a new comment to add or if I want to vote down a lame comment I just read.
It’s possible that someone might have written a highly-rated comment that only makes sense if you’ve read a particular earlier comment that isn’t as highly rated and may not be shown. To make sure this doesn’t happen, the writer can indicate his comment is a “reply” to a specific earlier comment. In this way, a “reply” comment with enough votes to be shown automatically bumps up the earlier comment so it’s also shown.
This could be a lot of fun. Imagine watching a show like Heroes once, and then watching it again with comments turned on to see what other people caught that you missed. Also, this has potential to make programs appealing that people wouldn’t otherwise watch. Joost could worry less about making deals with content providers, because even free content like old copyright-expired movies become entertaining in a whole new way. So much of what makes Web 2.0 great is the community-generated content, and right now Joost offers no new way for the community to interact with its product except passively.
Sure, it does have an integrated chat window, but that’s nothing new that I can’t already do with any of a dozen IM programs. And because Joost offers video on demand (as opposed to live broadcasts), it’s unlikely that I’d be watching in sync with anyone else in a chat room anyway, which limits the usefulness of channel-specific chat. This idea could solve the problem of commenting in real time, and makes sure all the best comments rise to the top.
March 5, 2007
“Binder clip. Yip. Binder clip. Yip yip yip yip.”
February 20, 2007
George Bush and Jack Bauer
The current issue of the New Yorker magazine has an interesting article about Joel Surnow, the man behind the TV show “24” and how his personal politics are closely aligned with those of the Bush administration in ways that may manifest themselves on the show.
With that in mind, I found a similarity between George W. Bush and Jack Bauer that isn’t mentioned in the article. I put together a little video to demonstrate:
February 14, 2007
I see the Death Star
Whenever I walk through the Union Square subway station, I have to navigate through all these vertical I-Beams that are all over the place. It always reminds me of something, but I couldn’t figure out what. Finally it dawned on me. It’s the first stage of the Death Star level in the Star Wars arcade game. Watch this comparison video to see what I mean:
(Nothing is wrong with your speakers. The video is intentionally without sound)
February 12, 2007
Okay, imagine this. You go to a movie with your friend Pete. It’s an alien invasion movie about some lizard creatures from another planet who kill and oppress Earthlings. For the sake of our example, let’s just say it’s a remake of the 1988 movie They Live, and that it stars former wrestler The Rock. When you pick up your ticket at the box office, you’re asked if you sympathize with the aliens or the humans. You decide to sympathize with the humans, and you’re given a special pair of sunglasses. Pete picks the aliens, and he’s given a different pair of sunglasses.
You sit down and watch the movie, each of you with your glasses on. A few minutes into the movie, there’s a scene with a couple sitting on their couch watching TV. As you watch, you hear the sounds of the TV show they’re watching. It’s a nature program. They make some comments to each other about the show. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, two aliens jump in and attack, killing the humans.
Meanwhile, Pete has been sitting next to you with his pair of glasses, watching the same screen. But he’s seeing a very different visual. He’s seeing the scene from the aliens’ perspective. He still hears what you hear — the TV on, the couple’s comments to each other — but he sees the aliens climb in through the window, sneak up on the couple, and finally jump in and attack, killing the humans.
Later on in the movie, the aliens begin putting subliminal messages on billboards that only their fellow aliens can plainly see. You, with your human-sympathizing sunglasses on, see billboards advertising computers and such. But Pete, sitting next to you and watching the same scenes, sees the word “OBEY” on the billboard. He sympathizes with the aliens, so he gets to see what they see.
As The Rock wanders through the film, passing average citizens of his fair city, little does he know that some of them are actually aliens. You of course have no idea, either. But Pete, sitting next to you with his special glasses, is able to see which people are really aliens because they have hideous alien faces.
At some point in the film, The Rock gets his very own pair of Alien Sunglasses, and he’s able to see for himself who the aliens are and who the humans are. Action ensues, and The Rock saves the day.
How does it work? Rather simply. It uses the same technology as 3-D movies, but in a different way. In a traditional 3-D movie, two slightly different images — each representing what your right or left eye would see — are projected onto one screen through different filters. To avoid being too technical, we’ll just call them filter A and filter B. To get the 3-D effect, your right eye needs to see only what’s projected through filter A, and your left eye needs to see only what’s projected through filter B. So you wear special sunglasses with different lenses over each eye which filter the corresponding images. Filter A over your right eye makes sure it only sees what’s projected through a “A” filter. Filter B over your left eye makes sure it only sees what’s projected through an “B” filter.
In Simultain-O-Vision (that’s what I call it), there are two different images projected on the screen, only this time they are not representing what each eye sees. They are representing what each Sympathizer sees. Human Sympathizers get sunglasses with two “A” filters and no “B” filters. So they will only see the image projected through an “A” filter. Alien Sympathizers get sunglasses with just “B” filters. So they will only see the images projected through a “B” filter.
In practice, the “A” and “B” filters are actually polarized lenses set at certain angles. This means that if an audience member tilts his head even a little bit — or if the glasses aren’t made to an exacting standard — the angle of the lenses isn’t quite right, and he will see both visuals simultaneously and probably get a nasty headache. But some people will have more problems than others.
As a bonus, the “Sympathizer” aspect of the movie can be retained when the movie comes out on DVD. It can take advantage of the rarely-used “angle” button on your remote control so you can switch back and forth between Human and Alien perspectives while you’re watching the movie.
February 5, 2007
Idea: An Orange Clockwork
Hi hi hi there, droogs. This weekend, oh my brothers, I, your humble blogger and narrator, had a thought in my rasoodock to create this orange clockwork. Viddy well this malenky clock which you can hang in your domy for just a little pretty polly. Perhaps your pee and em, or some other veck or soomka you know would find this clock real horrorshow.
Now available in the Ironic Sans store.
January 11, 2007
Idea: Fun with facial recognition
A few years ago at Superbowl XXXV in Tampa Bay, police set up digital cameras at strategic points in the stadium, and used computers to compare everybody’s faces to a database of known criminals on the loose. The city of Tampa used the same system to scan faces on the city streets for the same purpose. The system was unsuccessful and no arrests were ever made, according to an ACLU press release, but a controversy arose over whether or not it was an invasion of privacy to subject everyone to a virtual police lineup.
Between a poor success rate and the controversy over privacy, facial recognition software got a bad rap.
But maybe that could have been ameliorated if the technology had been used for entertainment purposes. What if the cameras scanned the crowds at the Superbowl and built a new database as it went, instead of using a database of known criminals, to find the two people in the audience who looked the most alike? It would be interesting to see, in a crowd of 100,000 people, how close a match can be found among strangers. Then, at halftime or during breaks in the action, the Jumbotron could showcase the closest matches in a series of “Separated at Birth?” moments.
How cool would that be to find your dopplegänger sitting just a few sections away at the Superbowl?
January 4, 2007
Last month, Google introduced its new Patent Search feature (in beta), allowing users to dig through 7 million US patents from 1790 to mid-1996. On-line patent searching has already been possible through the US Patent and Trademark Office website, but Google makes it fast and easy using their already familiar interface.
So, inspired by Google’s new easy-to-use patent search, I decided to dig up some of the celebrity patents that have been issued over the years. The following
18 20 patents are all by celebrities not usually known for being inventors. You can follow the links to the actual patents to learn more about each one.
1. Eddie Van Halen, Musician.
Patent #4,656,917 — Musical instrument support
2. Zeppo Marx, Actor/Comedian.
Patent #3,473,526 — Cardiac pulse rate monitor
3. Harry Connick, Jr., Musician/Actor.
Patent #6,348,648 — System and method for coordinating music display among players in an orchestra
4. Penn Jillette, Magician.
Patent #5,920,923 — Hydro-therapeutic stimulator (for, um, sexual stimulation)
5. Michael Jackson, Singer.
Patent #5,255,452 — Method and means for creating anti-gravity illusion
6. Abraham Lincoln, President.
Patent #6,469 — [Method of] Buoying vessels over shoals
7. Julie Newmar, Actress (“Batman” TV Show).
Patent #3,914,799 — Pantyhose with shaping band for cheeky derriere relief
8. Marlon Brando, Actor.
Patent #6,812,392 — Drumhead tensioning device and method
9. Lawrence Welk, Musician/Bandleader.
Patent #D170,898 — Welk ash tray (design)
10. Jamie Lee Curtis, Actress.
Patent #4,753,647 — Infant garment
11. Gary Burghoff, Actor (Radar on “M*A*S*H” TV Show).
Patent #5,235,774 — Enhanced fish attractor device
12. Mark Twain, Author.
Patent #140,245 — Improvement in scrap-books
13. Hedy Lamarr, Actress.
Patent #2,292,387 — Secret communication system
14. Walt Disney, Animation Innovator.
Patent #2,201,689 — Art of animation (method of filming animation cells with a shadow on the background)
15. Harry Houdini, Magician.
Patent #1,370,316 — Diver’s suit
16. Danny Kaye, Actor/Singer/Entertainer.
Patent #D166,807 — Blowout toy or the like (design)
17. George Lucas, Director.
Patent #D265,754 — Toy figure (design)
18. Charles Fleischer, Actor (voice of Roger Rabbit).
Patent #4,219,959 — Toy egg
UPDATE: Here are two more celebrity patents, courtesy of comments on this blog and others:
19. Prince, Musician/Singer.
Patent #D349,127 — Portable electronic keyboard musical instrument (design)
20. Paul Winchell, Ventriloquist.
Patent #3,097,366 — Artificial Heart
January 1, 2007
I see R2-D2
I saw this garbage can the other day. It reminded me of R2-D2.
Previously: I see storm troopers.
December 11, 2006
Animated Manhattan: Late Night With Conan O’Brien (Opening Credits)
Part 14 in an ongoing series looking at New York City in animation.
It’s hard to depict New York City in all its glory in just 30 seconds, but for the opening sequence of Late Night with Conan O’Brien, a company called Ultrabland has done a pretty good job.
They created Late Night’s opening sequence in 2003, and then retooled it when the show went to High Definition, adding extra details for those who have nice big HDTVs. The segment begins with a pan across several recognizable Manhattan buildings, which overlap with various opacities. The buildings include landmarks like the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building, as well as less famous buildings such as architect Philip Johnson’s Lipstick Building and AT&T Building. If you blink while watching the show, you may miss them. Here they are:
Given the simple palette and style, it’s amazing how much detail the animators keep in the buildings while they manage to create a definite style for the sequence. The pan continues, with more buildings popping up to the beat of Late Night band leader Max Weinberg’s music, before zooming out to show the sun setting behind Manhattan.
With the sun down and the city lights up, we quickly find ourselves in the heart of the city, looking around at the tall buildings like tourists would, driving along the streets of New York like tourists wouldn’t. Among the towering skyscrapers, we see the names of tonight’s guests. Jessica Alba and Mike Binder have never looked better than when their names were superimposed on this animated city. Well, okay, maybe Jessica Alba has.
Finally, our ride comes to an end at Rockefeller Center. Presumably, because we’re staring at the statue of Prometheus, we must be standing in the Rockefeller Plaza skating rink. But before we have a chance to catch our breath, we pan up to the highest floors of 30 Rockefeller Center, where Late Night is taped. The sequence fades out as we fade in to Conan’s entrance and opening monologue.
Short and sweet, with more style in 30 seconds than most of the animated depictions I’ve examined for this series have in an entire feature length film. You can watch the entire sequence on Ultrabland’s website, where you can read their description of what went into retooling the sequence for HDTV.
(My rating is for the depiction of NYC only)
December 8, 2006
The Burt Reynolds Museum
No, it’s not another one of my crazy ideas. This place actually exists. And I went there yesterday.
I find myself in Jupiter, Florida this week on business. When I visit a new town, I always try to get a taste of the local culture. Lo and behold, it turns out Jupiter is home to the Burt Reynolds & Friends Museum. I had to go.
It’s every bit as narcissistic and wonderful as it sounds. When I opened the front door, I entered a world full of so much Burt Reynolds memorabilia I could hardly believe my eyes. It was like I’d won the Burt Reynolds Golden Ticket and I didn’t even have to purchase multiple copies of Striptease to get it. All I had to do was make a three dollar donation to get in.
This place is crammed with everything anyone has ever given Burt Reynolds. Every award. Every photo. Every key to every city. Every honorary Sheriff’s badge. Every poster. Every movie script. A horse-drawn carriage (minus the horses) given as a gift by Dolly Parton. The canoe from Deliverance. And creepily detailed paintings made by Burt Reynolds fans. One shows Burt riding shirtless on a horse, with a big furry dog in his arms. I can’t imagine why Burt wouldn’t want that one hanging up in his home.
A screening area shows non-stop footage of Burt’s late night TV talk show (from the 80s? 70s?). According to Pat and Kate, the nice volunteers who work at the museum, they would be showing a montage from Deliverance instead, but they can’t get into the back room where they keep that tape. They were very nice, and they shared this little bit of trivia which they encouraged me to share with my friends: When the Coors logo appeared on the poster for Smokey and the Bandit, it boosted Coors’ sales enormously, especially on the East Coast. When Smokey II was coming out, the producers offered Coors a product placement deal on that poster, but Coors turned it town, feeling that they got enough of a boost the first time around. But Budweiser stepped in when Coors didn’t, and that’s why Burt is holding a can of Budweiser on the poster for Smokey and the Bandit II.
Sadly, the museum is in danger of being closed down. The Jupiter City Council, which owns the building, is considering kicking them out in favor of turning the building into a scientific research institute. So plan your trips now, while you still can. And consider purchasing one of the Burt Reynolds coffee mugs or t-shirts in the gift shop, to support the museum. One more thing to know before going: It’s kind of hard to find the museum, but if you can manage to get to Burt Reynolds Park, it’s practically right across the street.
Bonus: If you can’t make it in person, do yourself a favor and head over to the museum’s website and click on “video clip” for a montage of Burt’s greatest scenes set to Don Williams’ classic song “If Hollywood Don’t Need You (Honey, I Still Do).” It’s the next best thing.
December 4, 2006
Idea: A building shaped like Godzilla
The people of Tokyo should construct a giant building shaped like Godzilla. Imagine what it would do to the city’s skyline, and to the tourism industry. People would come from all over to take pictures. His eyes could flash red so airplanes don’t hit him. There could be an observatory in his mouth so people could look out over Tokyo. One of his arms could house a bar, and the other arm a restaurant. They could serve drinks called Mothra Martinis and dishes like Grilled Gamera Steaks, with a side of Mashed Potatoes.
Conversations could take place like this one (translated from Japanese):
“Hey, I just got a new job!”
“Oh, really? Where do you work?”
“You know the Godzilla Building? I’m just a couple blocks South of there.”
Or maybe it could be partially residential. And then people could talk about that famous artist who used to live in the Godzilla Building in the apartment right above Godzilla’s left nipple. And then they could argue over whether or not Godzilla even has nipples.
Monster Movie conventions could be held in the building’s grand ballroom. A concert hall could be built between his legs. The Tokyo Philharmonic could call it their home. Season Ticket holders could get discounts at the Godzilla Gift Shop. There could even be a park at the bottom of the building, with Godzilla’s tail circling around it. They would call it Godzilla Park, naturally. And it could have a fountain in the shape of his footprint.
November 20, 2006
By nobody who brought you Jurassic Park
I know, I’m not supposed to judge a book by its cover. But that’s why the cover is there, right? It’s supposed to give me some sense of what the inside will be like. So when I found myself needing something to read on a recent flight, I picked up a book that jumped out at me in the airport terminal bookstore: Tyrannosaur Canyon by Douglas Preston. I remember being terrified by his brother Richard Preston’s non-fiction book The Hot Zone back in 1994, and I was passingly familiar with Douglas’ work with his writing partner Lincoln Childs. I’d read a few of the books they wrote together, and while they weren’t very memorable I don’t think I hated them. So how bad could this be?
It was awful. I would have just left it on the plane, but then someone else might have picked it up thinking it looked good. The worst part is that I should have known better. As it turns out, all the warning signs I needed were right there on the cover the whole time. Had I paid them more attention, I would have realized that this book wants to be Jurassic Park more than any book has ever wanted to be another book. And a book that can’t stand on its own merits is probably not worth the time.
Let’s start with the cover, designed by Howard Grossman of 12E Design. Right away, I noticed that it looks astonishingly like the cover of Michael Crichton’s book Jurassic Park, designed by Chip Kidd. That’s step one in the multi-part plan to appeal to Michael Crichton fans.
Then, right there on the cover, comes step two, in the form of this praise by noted author Stephen Coonts: “If John Grisham had written Jurassic Park, he couldn’t do better than Tyrannosaur Canyon.” I’m not even sure what that’s supposed to mean.
Turn the book over. There’s step three: “The stunning new masterwork from the acclaimed bestselling author, recently hailed by Publishers Weekly as ‘better than Crichton.’”
And right below that, step four: “Michael Crichton wishes he could write half as well. -Library Journal”
Can you guess what all the blurbs inside the front cover say?
Publisher’s Weekly calls it “Crichton-worthy.”
“He has combined the cutting-edge science of Michael Crichton and the thrills and chills of Stephen King…” say authors W. Michael and Kathleen O’Neal Gear.
But this one’s my favorite: “I would put Tyrannosaur Canyon up with the best of Michael Crichton’s novels. This is the book Douglas Preston was born to write: a thriller that irresistibly combines cutting-edge science with night adventure. Whatever you do, don’t miss it!” - Lincoln Child, New York Times bestselling coauthor of Brimstone.
They break up the quote’s credit so it looks like the quote comes from “Lincoln Child, New York Times.” The rest of the credit (“bestselling coauthor of Brimstone”) is on the next line.
Can you guess who Lincoln Child coauthored Brimstone with? His frequent collaborator Douglas Preston! Isn’t your writing partner giving you that sort of praise sort of like your mom saying that she likes your new book?
November 14, 2006
Louise Brooks’ 100th Birthday
Today is the 100th birthday of silent film star Louise Brooks. She was a Ziegfeld Girl, a movie star, a recluse, a salesgirl at Saks Fifth Avenue, an author, and a rediscovered legend. In that order, more or less. She has been written about in hundreds of books, websites, and magazines since her heyday in the roaring twenties. If you’ve never heard of her, I recommend taking a look at the Louise Brooks Society website, which will lead you on a long path of books, articles, and movies you’ll rush out and read or watch. Check out their blog, too, for the most up-to-date information.
There are Louise Brooks events happening all over this week, so check out your area to see what’s happening near you. The San Francisco Public Library seems to have a great exhibit going on. And wherever you are you might be able to find a screening of her most well-known film, Pandora’s Box, which is showing in a newly restored edition. It’s also being released this month in a special Criterion Edition DVD.
Previously: Lou Costello’s 100th Birthday
November 13, 2006
Interview: Louis Klein, audience member of nearly every episode of Saturday Night Live
(The fourth in a series of occasional interviews with people I find interesting or who work on interesting projects.)
Fifteen years ago, I spent a Friday night camped out on the mezzanine level of 30 Rockefeller Center, hoping to get one of the standby tickets to Saturday Night Live that are handed out on Saturday mornings. The line forms at around 8:00 Friday night. That’s when I met Louis Klein, the SNL fan who had seen almost every episode of Saturday Night Live in person, going back to the very first episode.
Last Friday, I decided to go back to the SNL Standby Line and see if Louis was still waiting in line to get his ticket. In the years since I camped out there, the line had moved from the warmth of the indoor mezzanine to the chill of 49th street, but Louis was still there, right behind a group of teenagers who beat him to the first spot (one of the teens asked about my website, “Ironic Sans? Does it have anything to do with Horatio Sanz?”). When Louis stands in line these days, he is accompanied by his wife Jamie, whom he met on-line around six years ago. And by “on-line” I mean on the internet, not the standby line.
I spoke with Louis about his SNL Standby hobby.
When Saturday Night Live started, nobody knew it was going to be a big hit. Why did you go to the first episode of a new show that nobody really knew?
Prior to SNL, I was going to a lot of game shows. Like, I watched the game show called Jackpot, which was done in Studio 8H prior to SNL. It ended its run in the summer of ‘75, hosted by Geoff Edwards. I was also going to the Pyramid — any one of them, whether it was 10, 20, 25, 100 thousand, 2 cents, you know, whatever it was. I went to all of them over at TV-15 which doesn’t exist anymore. Any game shows that were done here, if any, I went to them also. So I was notorious as far as NBC was concerned. They knew who I was because I went to all the shows.
Then in April of ‘75 I found out that the show SNL was coming up, so I went to the Guest Relations department and said I hear you’re doing this show. They said, Well, they want 500 people in 8H. They want to do a show that’s going to be a run through for sound purposes. We’re going to have an audience for that, and you can float around the building and find somebody who’s going to give out standby tickets. So I come over here right after work, and I found the standby ticket and I got it and I went inside and I stood in line.
I got upstairs. I saw a full fledged comedy routine by George Carlin. I saw a full fledged comedy routine by Billy Crystal. I saw performances by Janis Ian and Billy Preston. I saw comedy by the Not Ready for Prime Time Players including Jon Belushi and Gilda Radner among others. Now that’s three and a quarter hours of pure entertainment for free. And I could come back tomorrow night. And I did. And I got in a second time. I came back the following week and I didn’t get into the second show but I wasn’t going to give up at this point. This is a great thing to do on a Saturday night. I went to the third show, I got in, and in the first 5 years I’ve seen 59 out of 106 [episodes].
At what point did you realize it was turning into something you were making a regular routine?
I never really thought of it that way at that particular time. It was just something to do on a Saturday night. I just came over. If I got in, I got in. If I didn’t, I went home.
My memory from meeting you 15 years ago was that you had seen every episode live except for a few. But I guess you’ve missed more than that.
In the first 5 years I’d seen 59 out of 106. So I missed 47 shows then. To date I’ve missed I think 83. That means in the last 27 years I’ve missed 36 shows.
How many have you seen?
This is my 528th show.
The original producer, Lorne Michaels, is still with SNL. But he left the show for a few years in the middle. So is there anyone who outnumbers you in the number of shows attended?
Don Pardo. He only missed one year. It was the ‘81 season.
How come after all this time you still have to wait in the Standby Line? Why don’t they just give you season tickets?
They do. I’ve had season tickets since 1990.
But you just enjoy the Standby?
When they gave that to me, they asked me to do Standby anyway, just in case the tickets didn’t come through. So I have the standby tickets to back it up. However I never needed them, and now I just walk in. But I still do standby because I’m helping NBC out watching this, make sure people don’t jump and things like that. It helps them out. If something goes wrong they know that I’ll take care of it. And then I give the details to them later in the evening. If they have to do something about it they’ll do something.
What’s the worst thing you’ve seen go wrong while on standby?
Jumping the line, and having people join the line. That’s a no-no, because basically the people who are joining are jumping the line. Once somebody tried to get me off the line. This was for the Soundgarden and Jim Carrey episode. We were all standing inside because there was nobody out here, and then all of a sudden somebody let me know that somebody was out here and so I came out, and he was standing over by the pole over here, two guys, and I said all the standbys are inside. He said, Oh, I’m sorry. This is where the line is and I’m going to be number one and two. Well I said, No, I’m number one. He says no, we’re going to be number one. And he argued with me all night at this pole. And I was a little perturbed about it because they weren’t really nice about the whole thing. Well when they didn’t take any standbys for the dress rehearsal, these two guys nearly blew their top to NBC. They said, A standby got upstairs! So NBC checked to see if any standby tickets were upstairs, but I went up on my regular ticket. Little did they realize, I went to the party that night!
Do you get to go the after-party often?
Only the season finale, if they ask. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.
When I was here 15 years ago, the line was inside. When did they move it outside?
‘93. Letterman was still here at the time, and according to what I’ve heard, somebody did damage to the building inside in the mezzanine. So Rockefeller Center said no you can’t be up here anymore, because they have to protect their tenants. And as a result all the lines were put outside. The line started at that time on this side of the building. And then NBC put it on the 50th street side because the Rainbow Room was complaining that we look like homeless people. Now we’re back on this side. We’d love to be inside the building again. They’ve got plenty of room on hand. But that’s not going to happen.
I seem to remember that 15 years ago you told me Tim Kazurinsky mentioned your name during a Weekend Update segment.
No, no. Not Weekend Update. It was in a sketch that he did. The Guru sketch. His name was Havnagootiim Vishnuuerheer [pronounced “havin’-a-good-time wish-you-were-here”]. What he was doing was he was answering Unanswered Questions of the universe. So he invited everybody in the country to write in unanswered questions that they had, and he picked one of mine, and all of a sudden I’m at dress rehearsal and he says, “Louis Klein from Ridgewood New York wants to know, does God wear Pajamas when he sleeps?”
And what was the answer?
The Guru says, “No he doesn’t. All he wears is a t-shirt. and on the t-shirt it says I created the universe and all I got out of it was this lousy t-shirt.” That was a Flip Wilson show in December ‘83.
Did they mention your name on any other episodes?
Yes, they did. And Jamie too. This was in April of 2004. Will Ferrel was the host. And he was doing the Pepper Sketch, where Will was putting pepper on Will Forte’s salad. And the character’s name was Dr. Louis something, and his wife Jamie. In honor of my 500th show.
Who was the writer that wrote you into the script?
Have you seen “Studio 60” and Tina Fey’s new show “30 Rock”?
What do you think?
They’re both great.
Which do you like better?
Oh I don’t know. I love Tina. I love Tracy [Morgan], too. And I relate more to 30 Rock than I do Studio 60 because of that. But I definitely like both shows.
Do you get to know the SNL cast members?
They all know me. They all come and say Hi. I’ve met most everybody. I was invited to the 25th anniversary show, and I went to that. I had to ask for a ticket, and they said that they already have a ticket for me. I was fairly shocked.
Do you have a favorite season of SNL? Or a least favorite season?
That’s a hard question. A favorite season? You know, I don’t remember what all the hosts and musical guests are, and it’s hard. I love them all. I mean, yes, you’re going to have somebody that doesn’t do too well, especially sports figures. I mean, if you want a show that I thought the host was terrible, okay, um… uh… there was… uh… I can’t even say that. I mean, I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings.
Thanks, Louis! As I packed up my notes and my recorder, Louis pointed out that he would be there for several more hours if I had any further questions. And if you have any questions, I’m sure you can find Louis exactly where I did, near the front of the Standby Line outside Rockefeller Center on Friday nights.
[The preceding transcript has been edited for space and clarity].
October 23, 2006
Animated Manhattan: Red Garden
Part 13 in an ongoing series looking at New York City in animation.
A few weeks ago, a new animated TV series was launched called Red Garden. It’s about a group of girls who go to school together on Roosevelt Island, and they have all sorts of supernatural misadventures that begin when their friend’s dead body is found in Central Park.
At least, I think that’s what it’s about. It’s kind of hard to tell exactly because it’s a Japanese cartoon, airing in Japan, and I don’t understand a word of Japanese. But it’s interesting seeing their take on New York City. The cartoon’s rendition of Central Park looks nothing like Central Park. It looks like a dense thick forest, and not like a landscaped park. Trees like this don’t even exist in the ramble, the most densly wooded part of the park. Roosevelt Island, on the other hand, is depicted fairly nicely, with lovely views of midtown Manhattan and the Queensboro Bridge.
The show’s opening credits and a few clips can be found on YouTube. Here’s a small gallery of New York City as depicted in the pilot episode:
Maybe if the show gets released in the states with subtitles, I can see what their take of the rest of the city is like, assuming they don’t spend all their time on Roosevelt Island. Maybe they’ll head East for an episode in Long Island City.
(My rating is for the pilot episode’s depiction of NYC only)
October 17, 2006
Running on Empty, Stopping at Studio 60
Last week I noticed that the new Aaron Sorkin show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip featured in supporting roles two of the lead actors from one of my favorite movies, Running on Empty (which is overdue for a good DVD release, incidentally). Judd Hirsch was in the pilot episode, and Christine Lahti looks like she’ll be in several episodes this season. Will anyone else show up? Of course, River Phoenix has passed away, so there’s no chance he’ll make an appearance. And I don’t see “Studio 60” among any of Martha Plimpton’s credits on the IMDb. But tonight I noticed that Christine Lahti’s character is named Martha. Coincidence? Or tip of the hat to a great film?
Whether or not it’s a coincidence, it’s almost as good as last season of 24, which featured three actors from another of my favorite movies, Robocop. Peter Weller — Robocop himself — played Christopher Henderson, of course. But Ray Wise, who played the Vice President in “24,” was also in Robocop as one of the bad guys, and so was Paul McCrane, who played the weird guy pulling the President’s strings on “24.” Did we ever find out what that storyline was all about? Anyway, he was the bad guy in Robocop that ended up covered with toxic waste at the end of the movie before being splattered by a car. Ah, great movie. Someone at “24” must be a fan.
So I’ll keep watching Studio 60 and see if anyone else from Running on Empty appears. I hear the guy that played River Phoenix’s younger brother is looking for work.
October 16, 2006
Idea: The Mr. T Virtual Playset
I saw a poster the other day advertising Mr. T’s new talk show on TV Land called I Pity The Fool. It got me thinking. Mr. T has had basically the same look for the entire time he’s been in the public spotlight. What if he shaved his mohawk? What if he shaved his beard? What would he look like?
After having trouble imagining it, I decided I might as well use Photoshop to help. A little cutting and pasting and — Wow. He sure looks different without the beard. Of course, once I had Mr. T without any facial hair, I found myself wondering what he would look like with different kinds of hair.
What would he look like with a pompadour? Or a handlebar mustache? Or a John Bolton mustache? What if Mr. T was wearing a hardhat and big goofy sunglasses? And so, with apologies to Mr. T, the Mr. T Virtual Playset was born.
October 10, 2006
The art in this airport food court reminded me of Super Mario Brothers:
Idea: College Admissions reality show
I think there could be a very interesting reality show based around college admissions. I don’t mean a reality show where people are voted off or put in contrived situations. I mean a show like “The Hill” or “Tabloid Wars” on Bravo, which were each just a few episodes long, and shot like a documentary. This program would ideally be aired during the time of year when kids are applying to college.
It would follow half a dozen high school students all applying to the same high-end (Ivy League perhaps) college. Maybe theres a kid with Straight As who seems like a sure thing to be accepted, but may not be able to afford it if she gets in. Then there’s the really smart kid who seems like he could be a straight A student, but he was so bored by high school that he didn’t get very good grades, which puts him in danger of not being accepted to college. Maybe there’s the kid who really wants to go to this school specifically, and the kid for whom this is his third choice. A good cross section of kinds of students, and kinds of people, would be best.
The series would also show the admissions board. We’d follow them as they consider each student. What do they consider? Do they weigh certain issues more than others when it comes to certain students? Do they have disagreements about any of the students? How much do those low SAT scores matter for a kid who got good grades? Just how much do those extra-curricular activities come into play? What exactly do they consider most?
Seeing inside the process would be fascinating, and learning about these kids would give viewers a more vested interest in finding out who gets in and who doesn’t.
I think I would find the show really interesting. But when I mentioned it to someone who actually works in the Reality TV industry, he said that without putting people in contrived situations, the college admission process might end up just being really boring.
Perhaps I need to re-tool the idea, then. Maybe it should be a reality show about admission to clown college. Hmm…
September 23, 2006
Six Feet Dahlia
I haven’t seen the new movie Black Dahlia, but I’ve seen the poster all over town. It finally dawned on me why it looks so familiar.
September 14, 2006
Idea: Dunder Mifflin branded paper
I was recently shopping for paper at Staples when I had this thought: NBC should really license the “Dunder Mifflin” name to some paper company, and put it on real reams of paper. I don’t have brand loyalty when it comes to 8.5” x 11” paper, so it’s not like I can’t be persuaded to buy one ream over another. If I were buying paper at Staples and I saw the Dunder Mifflin brand name on a ream of paper, I’d totally get it. Just because it’s funny. Even if it cost a few cents more than the other brands.
They could even co-brand, for those people who haven’t heard of Dunder Mifflin or are afraid to try new things. The reams could say, “Staples [or some reputable paper company] presents Dunder Mifflin Paper” or something like that. And they could put a one-sheet ad for “The Office” in the packaging.
(Dunder Mifflin, for those who don’t know, is the fictional paper company whose day-to-day goings on are documented in the TV show The Office)
September 12, 2006
Amp’d Mobile’s “Li’l Bush” seems strangely familiar
Back in the winter of 2002, while I was cocooning in my home after 9/11 like so many Americans, I conceived of a cartoon series all about grade-school versions of the various Clinton Administration characters. I called it “The Adventures of Li’l Bill & Hill and Friends.” There was Li’l Bill, and Li’l Hill, and Messy Monica, and Al, and Ken, and George, and Linda, and Janet, and Socks the Flying Cat (because every cartoon needs an anthropomorphic animal). I built a website for it that was partly a parody of Saturday Morning Cartoons, and partly a send up of the Clinton administration, and partly a parody of obsessive fan websites.
It was a big hit. Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing said, “This. Is. Amazing” (emphasis original). The Detroit Free Press called it “The work of a genius, albeit a warped one.” I got so much positive feedback that I even pitched it as a TV series to Comedy Central. But they didn’t bite. I guess the Clintons weren’t timely any more.
So of course I considered doing a version with Bush. But it was too early in the Bush administration to really know who the players would be that would make good characters, and what their personalities would be like.
Well, this morning, as I drank my coffee from my Li’l Bill & Hill Coffee Mug (seriously), I read an e-mail from a friend pointing me to this New York Times Article about a comedy writer named Donick Cary who recieved an offer from Amp’d Mobile to develop his own video project for wireless phones:
The result is a raunchy cartoon called “Lil’ Bush,” concerning the adventures of a grade-school version of President Bush and his pals, a heartsick Lil’ Condi, a raging Lil’ Rummy and a Lil’ Cheney reminiscent of the Frankenstein monster.
Yes, that’s right. Amp’d Mobile customers can watch the animated adventures of Lil’ Bush on their cellphones (and anyone can watch on-line). It’s essentially the same idea I had five years ago. But with George Bush. I had recently revisted this idea, even drawing some preliminary sketches of my version of “Li’l Bush” as a naive kid ready for adventure in his flight suit. But I didn’t have the time to develop it further.
Well it’s bittersweet to see that someone else has done it. Did Donick Cary see my Li’l Bill website? It’s possible. It got a fair amount of publicity, mentions on talk radio, that sort of thing. And it’s linked to on the right side of the main page on this site, which has also gotten enough publicity that it’s concievable he’s seen it. But it’s probably not such a novel idea that I could prove he stole it from me. I think the law would say that he could have come up with it on his own. Which he may have. And you can’t copyright an idea, anyway, just the execution of the idea, and I guess his execution is different enough from mine except for in the obvious ways (setting it at the White House, etc). But still, I can’t help but feel like I’ve been ripped off a little bit, even though it’s nice to see Cary’s version has come to fruition. Great minds and all that.
September 10, 2006
Animated Manhattan: Oliver & Company
Part 12 in an ongoing series looking at New York City in animation.
In 1988, Walt Disney put out its first movie musical in 11 years, called Oliver & Company. Based on Charles Dickens’ book Oliver Twist, it told the story of an orphan kitten’s adventures in New York City.
It begins with dawn breaking over New York City, and I quite like the way the sun lights up the tallest skyscrapers before spreading out across the island:
Oliver was left in a cardboard box for anyone to take, but nobody wanted him. So he wandered the streets of New York and eventually made friends with a dog named Dodger.
Dodger is a pickpocket who works for a crook named Fagin, and they take Oliver under their wing. Eventually Oliver is found by a girl who lives in a fancy mansion on Fifth Avenue, and she takes him home. When Fagin’s boss hears about this, he has the girl and Oliver both kidnapped, but a rescue ensues and everyone ends up safe in the end. (Oh, crap. I forgot to say “Spoiler Alert.”)
Here are some more scenes of New York City from Oliver and Company:
It’s not a great movie by any means. But I do like the movie’s depiction of New York. The scenes in the park — and just around town — do a good job of capturing the general feel of the neighborhoods, even when they don’t depict actual locations.
(My rating is for the movie’s depiction of NYC only)
September 7, 2006
Idea: The iZod
It’s the iZod: an Izod branded series of bendy-style stands for your iPod, in preppy poses, wearing Izod shirts. There could be a Golfer iZod, and a Tennis iZod, and a Country Club iZod, and an iZod for, well, whatever else preppy people do.
September 5, 2006
Interview with Adam Rex, illustrator and author of “Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich”
I’m beginning a new series here at Ironic Sans: occasional interviews with interesting individuals, or people working on interesting projects. I’m kicking it off by interviewing Adam Rex, illustrator and author and friend of Ironic Sans, whose new book Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich has just been published by Harcourt.
The beautifully illustrated and quite hilarious book includes poems like “The Mummy Won’t Go To His Eternal Rest Without a Story and Some Cookies,” “Godzilla Pooped on My Honda,” and “Count Dracula Doesn’t Know He’s Been Walking Around All Night With Spinach In His Teeth.” Blending Norman Rockwell-like talent, Shel Silverstein-esque poetry, and starring a few Universal Horror monsters, Adam has created a book perfect for children and adults that makes a great Halloween gift.
How would you describe “Frankenstein Makes A Sandwich” to someone unfamiliar with your work?
Just because you might be a monster, that doesn’t mean life is going to be all terrified villagers and biting. There’s a down side—monsters have problems, too. Bigfoot and the Yeti are always being mistaken for one another. Frankenstein has trouble meeting new people. Witches, on the other hand, are constantly being scrutinized by hag enthusiasts. They have clubs for that sort of thing.
What medium do you work in?
Mostly oils, but I used a lot of things for this book—gouache, brush and ink, scratchboard, modeling clay, and a little digital as well.
What kind of training do you have?
I have a BFA from the University of Arizona—I was lucky to study under David Christiana. I also have an Associate’s Degree from the School of Life. It’s a vocational school.
What was the last sandwich you made for yourself?
Is a burrito a sandwich? I made a breakfast burrito in a flour tortilla with eggs, fake bacon, cheese, and homemade tomatillo salsa. If a burrito isn’t a sandwich, then peanut butter.
How long did you work on “Frankenstein…”?
Off and on for five years. I first started writing poems in 2000, mostly to occupy my mind while driving. In 2005 I put what I had together and sold it to Harcourt. After that the art probably took three or four months.
What piece of advice did someone give you that you would pass along to aspiring illustrators?
If you find you’re spending a lot of time defending your draftsmanship or the choices you made in illustrations because that’s your “style”, then you probably have a problem to address. There’s nothing wrong with exaggeration, distortion, intentionally drawing “incorrectly”, and so forth, as long as you do it boldly and with a solid foundation of drawing skills to back you up. But good style never gets mistaken for bad drawing.
What advice would you pass along that you only wish someone had given you?
Save your receipts. Marry someone with health insurance. And don’t move to a city that charges you a business privilege tax just because you’re self-employed.
Do you have a favorite poem from “Frankenstein…”? A particular illustration of which you’re most proud? And why?
I don’t think it’ll be the one others cite, but I’m especially proud of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Henderson.” It’s the longest, I think, and the story just came together exactly like I wanted it to, despite an obstacle course of internal rhyme that I laid out for myself. I guess I’d say it’s the biggest achievement—the one I can’t believe I actually finished. I also happen to think it’s funny.
My favorite illustrations come from “The Dentist”—the characters are an homage to Charles Schulz and Peanuts. But I’m pretty proud of the ink work on “Zombie Zombie” and the aforementioned Jekyll poem, just because it’s a medium with which I’m not totally comfortable yet. The Jekyll illustrations were inspired by the early twentieth century work of Charles Dana Gibson—mine fall far short of that ideal, but it was fun to try.
What do you tell people who point out that Frankenstein was the scientist, not the monster?
After another little piece of me dies inside, I assure them that I know this already. I tell them that the tomato is a fruit, that it’s a berry, even, but that doesn’t stop anyone from calling it a vegetable. I may tell them that Pluto is still a planet if they want it to be. And, while I would never think of calling Mary Shelley’s monster Frankenstein, I would tell them that a big dumb green guy with ill-fitting clothes and a flattop is Frankenstein. They’re totally different things.
Oh. And I would thank them for their interest and ask them to please buy my book.
RELATED: I took the above photo of Adam Rex at an event in New York last April where I photographed several artists’ paint palettes and published them in an entry called Boris Vallejo’s Palette.
September 4, 2006
60 Seconds in the Life of Rafa Nadal’s Shadow
Part 17 in an ongoing series of (approximately) 60 second films.
Yesterday at the US Open: Rafa Nadal vs. Wesley Moodie.
August 29, 2006
Agassi vs. Pavel vs. Agassi vs. Pavel…
August 23, 2006
Idea: The “O Fortuna” Short Film Festival
In 1981, the movie Excalibur used an exciting piece of music from Carl Orff’s 1937 cantata Carmina Burana called “O Fortuna”. Even if you’ve never seen the movie, you’ve heard the music, because it has since become a cliché wherever exciting music is needed. Movies including The Doors and Natural Born Killers used it. HBO Boxing Specials used it. Those Capital One commercials with the vikings used it. I think I even heard it used on an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond once. The dramatic piece of music has become so pervasive that it almost parodies itself at this point.
So I thought it would be fun to have an on-line O Fortuna Short Film Festival, and invite people to set that song to whatever visuals they wanted, and for whatever effect they wanted — comedy, drama, action, etc — with a few simple rules: 1) The film may be about absolutely anything. 2) You don’t have to use the entire song, if you want to edit it to a shorter version, but keep in mind rule 3 which is: 3) Your movie may only be 20 seconds longer than the song. For example, if you use 3 minutes of O Fortuna, your movie may be up to 3 minutes and 20 seconds long (not including credits). This way, most of your movie is set to the music, but if you need a little bit of set up or something, you can do it.
I began planning a short film of my own for this blog entry, to introduce the idea of an O Fortuna Short Film Festival, but when I began searching on-line for a public domain recording of the music to use in my film, I realized that O Fortuna is not yet in the public domain and won’t be for some time. And apparently, the rights owners are sticklers about who they’ll license the music to. It seems Capital One and Ray Romano are worthwhile, but marching bands aren’t. I’m sure that’s what Orff had in mind when his will stipulated creation of a foundation to “preserve the artistic estate of Carl Orff and to maintain the legacy of his spirit.”
So we’ll have to wait. The copyright of works created in 1937 should expire in 2032. So check back then and we’ll get that film festival going.
[Note: This isn’t a call to arms to violate anyone’s copyright. Please respect the rights owners. But if you can get them to grant you a license for an on-line short film, let us know.]
August 14, 2006
Idea: “CSI: Drive Time”
These days, everyone wants your ear. You’ve got Sirius, XM, terrestrial radio, podcasts, CDs, MP3s, and your cell phone all competing for your attention while you’re in your car. For advertisers, “drive time” is the most important time of day. That’s when most people are listening to their radios, and it’s when advertisers spend the most money hoping you’ll hear their ads. But if you’re listening to anything other than terrestrial radio, the major advertisers are losing out.
But who’s listening to terrestrial radio anymore? According to Bridge Ratings, the company that measures radio audiences, people are listening to terrestrial radio less and less in favor of their MP3 players and podcasts. So how can terrestrial radio get those listeners back? They’ve tried new music formats and talk formats, flipping stations from one to the other and back, but they’re still losing listeners.
So I suggest a new format. Well, an old one, really. Why not revisit the golden age of radio, when the airwaves were filled with comedy and drama, and people were captivated by their radios?
CBS owns lots of radio stations. They also own one of the most popular TV franchises running, CSI. So how about producing a radio-only version of the show? Call it “CSI: Drive Time.” If it’s compelling, people will sit through commercial breaks to hear the resolution. Detective shows were big on radio back in the day. They could be again today.
Sure, you run the risk of people trading episodes on-line with the commercials cut out, like they do today with TV shows. But old time radio had entire shows sponsored by particular products, and so can modern radio. “Johnson’s Wax Presents CSI: Drive Time” isn’t too long a name, is it? And commercial breaks can be done by the radio program stars, just like they used to, integrating the commercial into the program.
“CSI: Drive Time” could be followed by last night’s Late Show with David Letterman. It’s already been recorded. Why not replay it for people who missed it? The production cost there is pretty much zero.
ABC Radio could have special radio-only episodes of LOST, which is owned by ABC. These episodes could feature characters on the island that we don’t see on the TV program, but whose stories would intertwine with that week’s episode. LOST has so many fans, they would surely stay tuned in through the commercial to hear what happens next.
And then there’s the old standby, the Sitcom. Radio-only sitcoms would be great. They could even be performed live in front of an audience, just like in the old days. If it’s a big hit, you could probably even make the leap from radio to television, having a built-in audience of fans who listened to the radio show.
As someone who grew up listening to recordings of old time radio, wishing I had been around at a time when I could have listened to them as they were broadcast, I would absolutely tune in to a station like this.
August 6, 2006
Plane in a Snake
Recently announced in partnership with CafePress.com, New Line Cinema is encouraging anyone and everyone to become an official licensee of merchandise for the upcoming movie Snakes on a Plane (which, if you haven’t heard by now, promises to be exactly the sort of movie you think it will be based on that title). Most of the movie’s buzz has already come from movie fans on the internet resulting in a flurry of free publicity for the film, and there are tons of unofficial products already out there. So it makes sense that New Line continues to take advantage of the hype with this promotion that lets you say you’re an “official” licensee.
Well, this weekend I had some blank paper and some art supplies and a little free time, so news of the CafePress deal inspired me to join the bandwagon and come up with my own Snakes on a Plane inspired design. I call the resulting picture “Plane in a Snake.”
I wasn’t sure I would actually do anything with it — I’m not generally a “join the hype” type — but as it turns out I like how it looks on the shirts. I think my favorite product might be the baby bib featuring the Plane in a Snake. But even if you don’t have a baby in need of a bib, check out the store anway, where you can find the drawing on a variety of stylish shirts and other fine products like these:
August 4, 2006
The Day Lorenzo Music Died
Five years ago today, a man named Lorenzo Music died. He was 64 years old. I never met Mr. Music, but six months before his death I wrote him a letter. I’ll get to that in a minute. First, you need to know who this man was.
In the 1970s, Mr. Music was a writer and producer on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda, and The Bob Newhart Show. He wrote the theme song for The Bob Newhart Show, but most people at the time came to know him as the voice of Rhoda’s never-seen doorman Carlton on Rhoda.
In 1982, Lorenzo Music was cast as the voice of Garfield the cat. That’s when I came to know his work. His soothing and mellow voice was just right for that fat cat, which I confess I found funny in 1982.
As I grew up, Mr. Music’s voice seemed to follow me. I was a big fan of the movie Ghostbusters, and watched The Real Ghostbusters cartoon series a few years later. I immediately recognized Mr. Music’s voice as Peter Venkman, the character played by Bill Murray in the movie. When Mr. Music was replaced by Dave Coulier (of “Full House” fame) in later seasons, the character just wasn’t the same. Dave Coulier was a poor replacement for Lorenzo Music. Many people also recognized his voice on the Gummi Bears cartoon, where he played Tummi Gummi. By then I was already a fan of his, but I admit I couldn’t stand this show.
As the years passed, I kept hearing Lorenzo Music’s voice. He did several TV commercials, playing one of the Crash Test Dummies for the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. He did radio commercials for Pizza Hut and Chick-Fil-A. As I grew out of Saturday Morning Cartoons, his voice followed me through high school and college, at the most unexpected times. Hanging out with friends, listening to the radio, I’d randomly hear Lorenzo Music during commercial breaks. His voice was so soothing and familiar. He was one ever-present constant in the background of a life full of so many variables.
Early in 2001, I realized that I hadn’t been hearing his voice as much. Was he still working? I looked him up on-line and found a mailing address through his agent. I decided I would write him a letter. I don’t really write fan mail, but I figured that most voiceover actors probably don’t get that much, and he should know that he still has fans. So I sent him a letter, thanking him for being a talented and soothing voice in so much of my life as I grew up.
I can only assume he received it, as I never heard back. Around six months later, I heard that he died after months of illness. It’s strange being sad for the death of someone I never met; but he was so present in the background of my life until then, and it was sad to know he wouldn’t be there anymore.
In 2004, Garfield was released as a major motion picture. When I first heard about it, I thought, “How could they do a Garfield movie without Lorenzo Music to lend his voice?” I was afraid they would cast Dave Coulier, which would be an ultimate insult. Instead, I was pleased to see that Bill Murray, whose Ghostbusters character was later voiced by Lorenzo Music in the animated Ghostbusters series, was cast as the voice of Garfield. Whether or not the producers intended it as such, I found that to be a fitting tribute.
Previously: The Google Maps Guide to Ghostbusters
Even more previously: I hid a little tribute to Lorenzo Music in my 2002 website about the best saturday morning cartoon series that never was, The Adventures of Li’l Bill & Hill.
And a question: In 1980, one episode of a proposed animated series Carlton Your Doorman was produced, based on Lorenzo Music’s character from Rhoda. While it didn’t get picked up as a series, it did air as a special on CBS and earned an Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program. Does anybody have a copy or know where I can get one? I’d love to see it. Please e-mail me if you know how I can get it. Thanks.
July 25, 2006
Animated Manhattan: An American Tail
Part 11 in an ongoing series looking at New York City in animation.
Don Bluth’s 1986 movie An American Tail tells the story of the Mousekewitz family’s immigration to America through New York City in 1886. Along the way, their son Fievel gets separated from the rest of the family. He spends the rest of the movie wandering through 1886 New York trying to find them. Oh, and did I mention that this is a family of mice?
When the family comes to America, they go through Castle Garden, pictured at right, which was the immigrant processing station at the time. Ellis Island wouldn’t open for a few more years. Today, Castle Garden is known as Castle Clinton, and it still stands in Battery Park on the southern tip of Manhattan.
But while Fievel’s family go through Castle Garden, Fievel lands at the still-under-construction Statue of Liberty. That’s where he meets Henri the pigeon, who designed the statue and hopes to finish building it before the movie ends.
Feivel spends the next hour wandering around the lower east side. He hangs out on Hester Street, gets conned by a rat (you gotta watch out for those rats), makes friends with some other mice, almost gets run over by the 2nd Avenue El, and participates in an attempt to rid New York City of cats. All while searching for his family.
Most of New York City in the background is kind of generic. There’s not much by way of recognizable landmarks. Of course, so much of Manhattan has changed that it would be hard to find anything recognizable anyway. But I did find this one nice detail. The full frame is on the left, with a close up on the right:
That’s a menu from Delmonico’s in the background. Delmonico’s was the first restaurant in the United States, where Eggs Benedict and Chicken à la King were invented.
If you don’t already know, you won’t be surprised to learn that Fievel does indeed find his family at the end of the movie. This happens to coincide with Henri’s completion of the Statue of Liberty. So he picks up Fievel and his sister and flies them around for an aerial view.
That last shot of the Statue could never happen in real life, because the Statue faces East in reality. In the picture, she faces South.
The closing credits of An American Tail have orange-tinted pictures of old New York City in the background, with the credits over them. I was immediately reminded of Fritz the Cat, the first movie I viewed in this series, which also utilized orange-tinted views of old New York City in the closing credits.
This sickly-sweet movie wasn’t nearly as good as I thought it was when I was a kid. But it’s nice to see a historic version of New York City depicted in animation.
(My rating is for the series’ depiction of NYC only)
July 24, 2006
Turn of the century racist jokebooks
My friend and fellow photographer Brian Berman has been working on a series of portraits at off-beat conventions around the country. He recently came back from the Vent Haven Ventriloquists Convention where he purchased this book from 1902, Callahan’s Easy Method for Learning Ventriloquism Quickly.
I wasn’t really too surprised by the racist depiction of the ventriloquist’s dummy on the cover, but I was surprised when I turned the book over and saw the advertisements on the back cover. The publisher, Wehman Brothers, featured a selection of racist joke books, available from their store in lower Manhattan. Some of the books are tame titles like Choice Riddles but then there are titles like Coon Jokes and Hebrew Jokes that would never fly today.
Big Boggle box bears best board
I’m really into Boggle these days. And I don’t mean that wussy 4x4 Boggle. No, I’m talkin’ about 5x5 Big Boggle. I know there are several on-line versions available, but nothing beats the fun of playing real people face-to-face, and the shake-shake sound of the cubes in the Boggle board. So I’ve been playing the real world game, and that’s when I noticed the Big Boggle game in progress on the Big Boggle box.
I think that must be the best Big Boggle tray ever. How carefully did they have to plan it? It’s hard to believe such a great tray is even possible by chance alone. There must be tons of great words on that tray. Take a look and see how many you can find. Remember: This isn’t the wussy edition, so to make things extra tough we’re not only disallowing 3 letter words, but 4 letter words as well.
So how many 5-letter or longer words can you find? For an added challenge, limit yourself to just 3 minutes.
I’ll start things off: PREDATING, STEAMERS, BEIGNETS…
And no fair using a computer program to figure it out. Just use your brain.
July 23, 2006
Green means stop. Red means go.
Maybe I’m alone in this, but I find the website Rotten Tomatoes to be counterintuitive. Now don’t get me wrong, I find the site quite useful. I’m not highly critical of it in general. But this one thing throws me off every time.
At Rotten Tomatoes, they collect movie reviews from across the internet, and use them to give movies a rating of either “fresh” or “rotten.” But every time I visit the site, I have to retrain my brain to use it properly.
If a reviewer likes a particular movie, you see a brief quote from the review along with a picture of a fresh tomato. That’s right, there’s a big red circle, like say a stop sign or stop light, next to reviews that like the movie.
If a reviewer doesn’t like a movie, you see a small quote from the review along with a picture of a splattered rotten tomato. So there is a big green asterisk-like star next to reviews that didn’t like the movie.
So red circle means “Good movie” and green star means “Bad movie.”
Okay, it’s not that big a deal, true. But every time I visit, I get thrown off by this.
June 30, 2006
Uma Thurman’s Severed Head
When I saw the poster on the left for Uma Thurman’s upcoming movie My Super Ex-Girlfriend, I immediately thought, “Oh my God. Poor Uma. Someone did an awful job grafting her head on a totally different body.” Then I saw the poster on the right, and I did a double take. Someone grafted the exact same head onto this poster, too. If they weren’t going to do a good job, couldn’t they at least make it less obvious that it’s the exact same head? And I think her (body double’s?) breasts are bigger in one shot than in the other.
If you want to see just how exactly matched the heads are, click here to watch a little animation.
Hmm. “Uma Thurman’s Severed Head” would make a great band name.
June 26, 2006
Animated Manhattan: Madagascar
Part 10 in an ongoing series looking at New York City in animation.
Madagascar tells the story of a bunch of animals at the Central Park Zoo who break out hoping to live a better life on the outside. So, naturally enough, the story starts at the Central Park Zoo. It’s rendered fine enough, I guess, but it doesn’t really have much character. Nearby buildings — the Plaza Hotel, Essex House, etc — are recognizable in the background. And I guess it looks like the Central Park Zoo. But it’s so sterile and just kind of bland.
You won’t be surprised to learn that the animals escape the zoo and have an adventure in New York City. There are a couple cute moments, like the one where the zebra sees the woman wearing zebra stripes outside Saks. But for the most part, I felt the renderings of the city were a little too real-world-photogenic. I mean, this is a cartoon where all the characters have definite style. So why doesn’t the city get any style?
Look at Rockefeller Plaza, for example. It looks… more or less just like Rockefeller Plaza. I guess I would complain if it didn’t, but it’s just a little too clean and sterile to look good this way. It just bothers me. It’s like they’ve found the uncanny valley of architecture.
The more I think about it, the more I think the uncanny valley metaphor is exactly what’s wrong here. They created a version of New York City that’s photo-realistic and accurate in most details. But they missed the mark in so many subtle ways that it ends up being disturbing more than anything else.
And they put benches in Grand Central Terminal. There are no benches in the main concourse of Grand Central Terminal in real life. But in the movie there are. But here’s one detail they did get right: They accurately depict the sign on the building as showing the words “Grand Central Terminal” and also accurately depict everyone in the movie referring to it as “Grand Central Station” instead.
Only the first 20 minutes or so of the movie actually take place in New York. After the animals have their little adventure, they get captured and sent off to… well, I don’t know where because I found the movie so boring I didn’t watch any more than that. I assume they went to Madagascar, but I don’t know. I fast forwarded (fasted forward?) and saw that they went somewhere with a lot more color and style than this bland and sterile version of New York. Here are some more shots of the sterile city:
(My rating is for the series’ depiction of NYC only)
June 21, 2006
Idea: A new TV show gimmick
The TV industry is worried about people swapping their TV shows on-line. So they’re trying to preempt the pirates by making several popular TV shows legitimately available, either for pay or ad-supported. Meanwhile, programs like LOST are experimenting with on-line puzzles which take people deeper into the world of the show by making you visit different websites, etc.
What if a TV show embraced both concepts, and did something like this:
A TV show where the East Coast and West Coast see slightly different versions of the same episodes. Just a few key scenes would be different. Some clues would appear on the East Coast version, and different clues would appear on the West Coast version. You could watch just the version for your part of the country and follow the program just fine, but in order to get the complete picture, you’d have to go on-line and swap files (or watch legitimately) to see what the other coast saw.
Or at TV show where the East Coast and West Coast see entirely different versions. Maybe a show like 24 could have an integrated spin-off. Imagine if CTU Los Angeles had to stop a terrorist attack, but they can’t do it all themselves, so they work in conjunction with CTU New York. First, the East Coast would watch CTU New York, and then in real-time the West Coast would see the next hour at CTU Los Angeles. They would each have their own stand-alone storyline, but also have a crossover story. If written correctly, the programs could then swap at the end of the season — the East Coast could air CTU Los Angeles, and the West Coast could air CTU New York.
I’m sure there are a dozen reasons why this isn’t real practical. But I like the idea.
Related: Idea: A new movie gimmick
Idea: A new movie gimmick
I’ve had this idea for a while. I imagine it’s not practical, but I like the concept.
Imagine a movie campaign that doesn’t show you any scenes from the movie. It doesn’t even tell you the genre. It just features respected people from the world of entertainment telling you that, while they can’t tell you much about the film, they can highly recommend it. But they’re afraid to give anything away, so you’ll just have to trust them.
So you go see it. It’s about a bank heist gone wrong (or whatever). And it’s intense and scary and suspenseful. And then you mention it to your friend. She saw it also, but she didn’t find it scary at all. To the contrary, she thought it was hilarious.
“What do you mean hilarious? That scene where he holds his own mother hostage while the snipers are about to shoot him had me on the edge of my seat!”
“The edge of your seat? No way. That was one of the funniest scenes in the whole film!”
Turns out that there are actually two separate movies made with the same cast, same sets, and same basic plot and key scenes. But one is written for suspense, and one is written for comedy. Which version you see depends entirely on what movie theater you ended up in. The fun comes once people realize this. Then hopefully they’ll go out to see the version they missed.
Of course, the success relies on a lot of unlikely circumstances: Will people see a movie they know nothing about? Will both versions of the movie be good? Will the secret stay a secret long enough for people to be surprised? Can the logistics and cost of making two movies simultaneously be justified? Like I said, it’s probably not real practical. But I like the idea.
Related: Idea: A new TV show gimmick
June 19, 2006
Idea: A five dollar “skip” button on jukeboxes
I’ve heard “Margaritaville” about 500 times too many on jukeboxes in bars. It might be worth five bucks to me to be able to skip that song the next time someone plays it. Someone should make a jukebox that features a big “SKIP” button and charge five bucks to use it. I think five dollars is just the right amount. It’s high enough that someone won’t keep skipping songs just to be a jerk, but low enough that I can afford to skip that one song that I really just can’t stand to hear one more time.
What’s that song for you? Brown Eyed Girl? Sweet Home Alabama? Paradise by the Dashboard Lights? Hotel California? You know there’s a song out there that would get you to use this feature. It further monetizes the jukebox for the bartender, and makes the bar a much better place in which to hang out. At least for me, anyway.
May 29, 2006
The poster for Adam Sandler’s new movie Click asks the question, “What if you had a universal remote… that controlled your universe?”
Well, that’s an intriguing question. For the answer, maybe he should have just asked one of these people:
- The main character from the 1985 episode of Steven Spielberg’s TV show Amazing Stories called “Remote Control Man.” The plot: “An unhappy and frustrated husband with a nagging wife and an incorrigible son, finally finds solace in his new TV set that comes alive with the use of a magic remote control.”
- Pete from the
BritishAustralian kids’ show Round the Twist. Here’s the plot of a 1990 episode called “Spaghetti Pig Out”: “Chaos reigns after a bolt of lightning hits the video remote control - it works on people! Pause, rewind and fast-forward have amusing consequences.”
- Benny Hill. His Golden Classics DVD contains a skit called “Henry’s Remote Control” in which “Benny discovers he can control the real world with his remote control and sets off on his journey, leaving his nagging wife in ‘freeze-frame’ mode.”
- George Jetson. In a 1985 episode of The Jetsons, “George Jetson happens to sit next to a brilliant, but unrecognized genius. This genius has invented the one-of-a kind Re-Play-Ola. The genius decides to give it to George because the genius can always make another one. The Re-Play-Ola has the ability to rewind time, allowing the person who possesses it, the ability to rewind, modify, erase, and the unusable stop button.”
- The main character from Rewind, a 1999 Spanish movie about a man who has a party that “doesn’t go terribly well — food gets burned, things get broken, Pablo makes a scene — and later in the evening, Andres nearly finds himself regretting that he videotaped the entire evening. However, when he rewinds the tape, much to his surprise he finds he can rewind real life as well, giving him a chance to salvage the party after all.”
- Bart Simpson, from the Simpsons episode “Treehouse of Horror IX”, where a plutonium-charged remote control has the power to send him and Lisa into episodes of their favorite — and least favorite — TV shows.
- The kids from the movie Pleasantville where a fight over a magic remote control sends them into the world of their favorite old black and white TV show.
- Ned from the 90s Fox Kids cartoon Ned’s Newt. In a third season episode called “Remote Possibility,” Ned recieves help from “a magical remote that doesn’t work on televisions but does seem to work on everything else.”
- The kids from Eerie, Indiana. In an episode called “Scariest Home Videos,” a magical remote control sends them into an old black and white mummy movie.
- R.L. Stine. He wrote a short story called “Click” for his Goosebumps books that was eventually adapted into an episode of the Goosebumps TV series. From tv.com: “Seth Gold is sick of being ordered around by his sister, his mother, and his father. His hobby is channel-surfing, so he orders a remote from a company in a magazine… Seth notices it can also be used to change the radio station… As a joke, Seth presses the Pause button while aiming the remote at his sister. His sister actually pauses! Seth now realizes this new remote can control more than just the TV.”
I guess there just aren’t any original movie ideas anymore. Maybe something good is on TV. Now what did I do with my remote…?
May 22, 2006
Animated Manhattan: The Critic
Part 9 in an ongoing series looking at New York City in animation.
The Critic aired on ABC in 1994 before moving to Fox in 1995 and eventually being cancelled. But in the meantime, I enjoyed watching the adventures of Jay Sherman, movie critic and single father.
The show took place in New York, and the program made wonderful use of the city. In every episode, Manhattan is visible in the view out a window, or in the background as Jay goes about his life, meets women, tries to be a good dad, and tries (sometimes in vain) to be an appreciated son.
Jay frequently spends time in the park, at restaurants, and around town in general. The attention to detail is incredible, even where it’s not necessary. In some general scenes when no specific real world location is intended, it’s amazing how the artists have captured the look and feel of the city with their brushes.
Since it’s easier to talk about this series’ depiction of New York City in general terms than it is to address specific episodes that highlight New York particularly well, here is a simple gallery of New York City as depicted in various episodes of The Critic. More information about the show can be found in its Wikipedia entry or by picking up the entire series on DVD. Enjoy:
IMDb Rating: 7.9/10
BCDb Rating: N/A
My Rating: 9/10
(My rating is for the series’ depiction of NYC only)
May 8, 2006
CONS T ANT I NE
The movie Constantine was on TV this weekend. I tried to watch it but it was so bad I couldn’t make it past the first 15 minutes. But that was long enough to see this in the opening credits:
It looks like someone forgot about kerning. The letters seem to all be monospaced, leaving far too much room around some letters, particularly the “I”. Do I expect too much from multi-million dollar productions? Or do the producers accept too little?
May 2, 2006
I see storm troopers.
What ever it is I think I see, becomes an imperial storm trooper to me.
At least, that’s the first thing I thought when I saw this car yesterday. Maybe I’m reaching. Or maybe it’s just a slow blog day.
May 1, 2006
Idea: A remake of “Fred Ott’s Sneeze”
It seems these days that Hollywood scrapes the bottom of the barrel for movie material. Of the movies opening this summer, 7 are sequels and 17 are remakes or adaptations.
Well I’ve decided to do Hollywood one better. I’ve gone back further than anybody ever has before to remake a movie. I’ve remade one of the earliest known movies, an 1894 film called Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze, also known as Fred Ott’s Sneeze, starring Thomas Edison’s assistant Fred Ott. You can view the original film here, courtesy of the Library of Congress.
My remake is more of a re-imagining, really, than a remake. I’ve decided not to make a period piece, but instead to modernize the story of one man’s struggle to remove an irritant from his nostril, setting it in the present day in a small apartment in New York City.
Here is my film, simply called Ott. Enjoy.
Bonus: Watch the extended Director’s Cut of Ott.
April 27, 2006
Freaks stay at Marriott?
Am I the only person who can’t look at this Marriott advertisement without thinking of Johnny Eck?
Johnny Eck, of course, was the talented performer billed in circus sideshows as “The Only Living Half Boy.” An actor, magician, painter, and photographer, Eck is famously featured in the Tod Browning movie Freaks.
More information about Johnny Eck can be found at the excellent Johnny Eck Museum, an on-line tribute complete with biography, photos, answers to the usual questions, and more.
April 26, 2006
Animated Manhattan: Futurama
Part 8 in an ongoing series looking at New York City in animation.
On December 31, 1999, pizza delivery guy Philip J. Fry delivers a pizza to a cryogenics lab in Manhattan and through a series of unfortunate events is accidentally frozen for 1000 years. While he’s in deep freeze, we can see time passing visibly outside the window. We see New York City completely destroyed by aliens (except, for some reason, the building the cryogenics lab is in) and eventually rebuilt as New New York City, where Fry wakes up on New Year’s Eve, 2999.
That’s the premise of Futurama, the cancelled animated series by Simpsons creator Matt Groening which aired on FOX for four seasons and can now be seen in syndication and on DVD.
In New New York, the subway system has been replaced with the New New York Tube System, which whisks people across town. In Fry’s first experience with the tube system, we see it snaking through the city. It goes underwater, passing a sunken Circle Line Cruise boat. It winds past the Statue of Liberty (was it recreated? or is it still standing?), which supports the tube where the torch used to be.
In the pilot episode, Fry takes a tour of underground New New York, where the remnants of New York City can be found. The Chrysler Building’s once shiny spire lies on its side. Rockefeller Center’s skating rink has become the swamp-like home of an alien creature.
Some of old New York City has been recreated a bit differently in New New York. Luna Park, for example, is no longer an amusement park in Brooklyn. Luna Park is now an amusement park on, well, the moon.
And in memory of Madison Square Garden, a new sports arena has been erected: Madison Cube Garden.
Thankfully, a good slice of pizza can still be found in New New York. Original Cosmic Ray’s Pizza serves its customers a steaming slice as only an Original Rays Pizzeria can.
(My rating is for the series’ depiction of NYC only)
April 20, 2006
Blog Name or Band Name?
Get out your #2 pencils, everyone. It’s time for a quiz.
Each of the following is either a Blog name or Band name. Which is which?
1. River Tyde
2. An Emotional Fish
3. Small Ball Paul
4. Greedy Kristian
5. Trout Fishing in America
6. The Factory Floor
7. Albany Injury Lawyers
8. Early Edison
9. Sidearm Delivery
10. Coffin Break
12. Whoopity Doo
13. The House of Rapp
14. Grim Skunk
15. Dr. Know
16. Dr. Sanity
17. Generation K
19. Joust the Facts
20. Stolen Ogre
21. Subway to Sally
23. The Third Decade
25. Mother Pus Bucket
Okay, time’s up. Pencils down. Pass your answer sheets to the front of the class. Here are the answers:
1. Blog 2. Band 3. Band 4. Blog 5. Band 6. Blog 7. Blog 8. Band 9. Blog 10. Band 11. Blog 12. Blog 13. Blog 14. Band 15. Band 16. Blog 17. Band 18. Blog 19. Blog 20. Band 21. Band 22. Band 23. Blog 24. Blog 25. Neither. I can’t believe motherpusbucket.com is still available.
April 18, 2006
The Google Maps Guide to Ghostbusters
NOTE: After two years working just fine, the map is having problems. I’m trying to fix it. Sorry for the inconvenience. Should be fixed now. Let me know if you have any problems!
Hey! There’s a Ghostbusters symbol in my Google logo! What’s going on? One’s a movie, and one’s a search engine. Next thing you know, fish will be flying, trees will be swimming, cats and dogs living together — mass hysteria!
Welcome to the Interactive Google Maps Guide to Ghostbusters. You can click the Google logo above or the map image below at any time to launch the map in a new window, or read on for more info.
I’ve created a mashup of Google Maps and every New York City location used in filming the movie Ghostbusters and its sequel Ghostbusters 2 that a person might be likely to visit on a trip to Manhattan. It’s my first time using the Google Maps API, but I think I’ve come up with a slick way to use it. But still, let me know if anything doesn’t work right.
Also, if you’d like to link to the map, please link to this entry’s permalink instead of the map itself. Thanks.
Ready? Check it out! The map will open in a new window.
April 17, 2006
Animated Manhattan: Fantasia 2000: “Rhapsody in Blue”
Part 7 in an ongoing series looking at New York City in animation.
George Gershwin’s 1924 composition “Rhapsody in Blue” is strongly associated with New York City, partly due to its use in Woody Allen’s film Manhattan. Similarly, the illustrator Al Hirschfeld’s amazing drawings of Manhattan night life, Broadway stars, and other celebrities appeared in the New York Times for so long that his association with this city even prompted the Museum of the City of New York to put together an exhibit and book called Hirschfeld’s New York.
So it was a good bet by the producers of Fantasia 2000 that combining Hirschfeld’s images with Gershwin’s music would create an amazing sequence in their movie of animation set to music.
Using an animation style evocative of Hirschfeld’s drawings, the film tells the stories of several New York characters during the great depression. We meet the construction worker who dreams of playing drums in a jazz band in Harlem, and we meet the down-on-his-luck unemployed gentleman who can barely pay for a cup of coffee.
We also meet well-to-do characters. We meet a little girl whose mother forces her into every hobby imaginable — dance, piano, swimming, etc. — and we meet the husband of an overbearing wife who lavishly spends money on her pooch.
It’s really amazing the way the animators have managed to capture Hirschfeld’s style, and the feel of the city, synchronized expertly with the excellent music.
Any fan of animation, music, and New York should rent this movie just for this sequence alone. There are pleasant surprises in the rest of the film, but this is where the movie really shines. Scaling down the images for this website doesn’t really do the artwork justice. On the big screen, each frame looks like it could be a Hirschfeld drawing. It must have been wonderful to see this sequence when it was originally released in IMAX.
Note: The below IMDb and BCDb ratings are for the entire movie, not just the “Rhapsody in Blue” segment.
(My rating is for the film’s depiction of NYC only)
April 9, 2006
Animated Manhattan: Family Guy
Part 6 in an ongoing series looking at New York City in animation.
It took the Simpsons nine seasons to get to New York (as chronicled in a previous edition of Animated Manhattan), but the Griffins of Family Guy managed to make it during their second season. In that season’s 11th episode, titled “A Picture is Worth 1,000 Dollars,” Peter, Lois, Meg, Chris, Brian, and Stewie Griffin take Manhattan.
For Peter’s birthday, his son Chris gives him a painting. It’s not an especially good painting (it’s supposed to depict a “moo cow”), so Peter sticks it in the back of his car to replace a broken window. That’s where a gallery owner from SoHo in New York City spots it, and insists he can make Chris into an art star. So the Griffins pack their bags and head to New York.
They stay at the renowned Plaza Hotel in midtown. While Chris is in the able hands of his art dealer — a rather controlling fellow named Antonio Monatti — and on the road to fame and fortune, the rest of the family goes sight-seeing on to road to, uh, downtown by way of the east side.
As you can imagine, hilarity ensues.
In this establishing shot of the United Nations (left), I’m not sure why the animators chose to eliminate one of the UN building’s most recognizable features — the line of flags of member nations — but the omission is forgivable as they still captured the overall look and feel of the UN, one of the Griffin’s stops on their New York City tour. I’m guessing all those flags would just be too tough to animate.
Of course the Griffin family makes a stop at one of the city’s most famous sites, the observation deck at the Empire State Building, where Peter chooses not to go agsinst his wife’s advice and drops a penny from the top. Come on, you know you’d love to do it and see what happens. Well, whatever happens in real life is surely different than what happens in the show, which is just odd enough that if I told you I’d probably be accused of making it up. So rent the DVD or wait for the rerun in syndication to find out.
Two thirds of the way through the episode, Peter and Meg have a talk about talent. Sure, Chris is the art star, but surely there must be something Meg can do (eventually they realize that Meg’s hidden talent is her ability to do convincing bird calls). Peter sings a Broadway-worthy song to Meg about how mediocre she is, set to a montage of the two of them in a variety of New York City settings. So in honor of that song, here’s a mini-montage of other New York images from the episode:
And what about little baby Stewie this whole time? Well, Stewie is discovered by Calvin Klein as a great model for his new line of CK diapers. So his butt get plastered all over Times Square, just like so many other models before him.
I enjoyed this episode, and its use of New York City culture as a plot device. It was fun, funny, and makes a good addition to the Animated Manhattan archive.
(My rating is for the episode’s depiction of NYC only)
April 2, 2006
Animated Manhattan: Tom & Jerry - Mouse in Manhattan
Part 5 in an ongoing series looking at New York City in animation.
Usually, the Tom & Jerry cartoons pit cat against mouse in an animated game of, well, cat and mouse. But in the 1945 short film “Mouse in Manhattan,” Jerry has his first and only solo adventure. He goes to the city where so many others have gone on solo adventures — New York!
The film opens with Jerry leaving a note under a sleeping Tom’s paw, explaining that he’s leaving their boring country life for the exciting bright lights of the big city. He’s heading to New York on what’s sure to be an excellent adventure.
Jerry arrives in the city at Grand Central Terminal. He is practically thrown from his train and skids across the floor, where he promptly gets stuck on a piece of gum. It’s not a very good start to his visit.
And to make matters worse, a shoeshine boy mistakes Jerry (a little furry thing) for a shoe shine rag (another little furry thing?) and dunks him in shoe polish. He shines someone’s shoe with Jerry’s head. When Jerry recovers from the ordeal, his face is covered with black polish and… um… well… I’m not sure I should show you this, but… Okay, here you go:
But Jerry recovers, cleans himself off, and sets out on his sightseeing adventure.
Of course, once night falls, Jerry heads out on the town like any New York visitor would do. He checks out the nightlife, the lights, and the ladies.
He even finds himself at a penthouse gala, where he enjoys the beverages, the music, and even dances with a mouse-sized doll. There are certainly enough rodents in Manhattan that he should have been able to find himself a real mouse to dance with. But, alas, the city can be a lonely place.
Unfortunately, things are about to take a turn for the worse for Jerry. Maybe he enjoyed the beverages a little too much. He loses his balance, and finds himself dangling over the city on a broken candle precariously balanced over the penthouse balcony.
It reminds me of the famous photo of Harold Lloyd in his movie Safety Last.
Jerry falls to the ground, lands in an alley, lucky to be alive, but surrounded by alley cats. He runs away, gets chased by a subway train, and somehow ends up falling through the glass window of a jewelry store, where he’s mistaken for a jewel thief.
He manages to escape the cops, and decides he just can’t take the Big City any longer. So he runs home across the George Washington Bridge.
He manages to get home before Tom wakes up, retrieves the note, and tears it up before Tom has a chance to read it.
So what’s the lesson here? That Jerry’s a New Jersey bumpkin who can’t cut it in Manhattan? That Bridge-and-Tunnelers should just stay put where they belong? That New York City is such a big scary place that it’s not even worth visiting? That the country mouse will always be a country mouse? Or that you should give up on a new venture if at first you meet some hardships?
If Jerry doesn’t appreciate that he’s just had an adventure in one day that’s more exciting than being chased by that cat for the rest of his life, he fails to appreciate the wonders of this city. New York’s not about visiting, trying to be successful, and leaving when you hit some rough spots. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere, but you’ll never make it anywhere if you give up so quickly.
This cartoon may have some lovely animation, and it might capture the look of this town, but it fails to capture the spirit of this city.
(My rating is for the episode’s depiction of NYC only)
March 24, 2006
Lost in translation
I’ve finally had time to watch the most recent episode of “Lost.” I was shocked to see this in a subtitled scene:
“You’re husband… he works for your father.”
Um… I know that the writers sneak all sorts of subtle clues about the show into the dialogue, the scenery, and elsewhere, but I assume this one was a legitimate mistake.
March 23, 2006
Animated Manhattan: The Simpsons
Part 4 in an ongoing series looking at New York City in animation.
During their ninth season, The Simpsons came to New York. And many of you will never see that episode again.
The episode, titled “The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson,” featured the Simpson family taking a trip to Manhattan to retrieve the family car. Barney had borrowed it, and left it illegally parked in front of the World Trade Center. While Homer goes to the WTC to straighten matters out, the rest of the family goes sightseeing.
This episode first aired in 1997. At that time, the twin towers were still standing. Much of the episode takes place at the base of the towers, with some funny moments inside, also. But after the attacks of September 11, 2001, would anybody want to see this episode ever again?
Now that several years have passed, some stations are beginning to show the episode again. A San Francisco station only showed it last year for the first time since 9/11. And according to a Wikipedia article about this episode, some stations are airing a version with all references to the WTC removed.
It’s too bad, too, because there are some truly funny moments in this episode. I loved Homer dancing in a field of toilets, his imagination’s depiction of what Flushing Meadows (a neighborhood in Queens) must be like. Sure, there are some neighborhoods in this town that smell like a toilet, but it’s not that bad.
Sometimes when tourists come to New York, they avoid the subway at all costs, even when taking a taxi is the slower, more expensive way of getting around. They’re afraid they won’t be able to manage it, or they’ve heard bad things about it. But not the Simpsons. Bart even tries his hand at panhandling, before realizing that it’s best left to the experts.
The Simpsons even manage to fit in a horse-drawn carriage ride in Central Park. I would have recommended against the carriage ride, as an overrated and overpriced experience, but I’m glad the episode manages to get the Park in there somehow.
And I love this shot of the
Chrysler Building Empire State Building (d’oh!). Of all the depictions of New York in the episode, this image has the most architectural detail. It’s one of the city’s most beloved buildings, so it’s fitting that it was given the extra attention.
(My rating is for the episode’s depiction of NYC only)
March 22, 2006
Idea: An album of Misirlou covers
(This entry’s alternate title: What do a surfer, a belly dancer, and a Rabbi all have in common?)
In January, I heard an incredible story on NPR about the song “Misirlou.” You know the one. You heard it during the opening credits of Pulp Fiction. It’s the surf-guitar song by Dick Dale. It goes “Dow di-di-dow-dow dow di-di-dow-dow di-dowwwwww…” Yeah, that one.
Well if you didn’t already know (I sure didn’t) Misirlou is actually even older than Dick Dale (no offense, Dick). It’s been recorded in different manners, with different instruments, and different tempos, by dozens of people over the years. It’s a Rabbinical chant, an old Greek tune, a belly-dancer’s song, and eventually a surfer hit.
You owe it to yourself to listen to the Weekend Edition story and hear snippets of different versions. And you can even hear Dick Dale explain how and why he turned that song into the surfer classic it’s become.
I wanted to hear more. So I put together an iMix in iTunes with every version that wasn’t just like the one before it. So here, for your listening pleasure, an album of Misirslou covers (iTunes required).
March 20, 2006
Idea: Pre-pixelated clothes for Reality TV shows
I don’t watch much Reality TV, but I’ve seen enough of it to notice an on-going phenomenon: Someone wears a garment with a trademarked logo or artwork on it, and the producers have to pixelate it beyond recognition in post-production. Of course no Reality TV star wants their shirt, which displays their well-chosen article of self-expression, senselessly pixelated so nobody can see it. But no Reality TV producer wants to deal with the headache of removing said article of self-expression to avoid trademark violations. The pixelation process seems like an awful lot of trouble to go through for something that could have been avoided with a little pre-planning.
So I’d like to introduce my new line of pre-pixelated clothing for Reality TV shows. If you’re going to be on a Reality TV show, you can buy one of these fine products and save someone a lot of headaches later. In fact, if you live in an area where a reality TV show is taping, you should think about getting one of these shirts in case you get caught in the background of a shot. And if you’re heading to audition for a Reality TV show, maybe you should wear one of these shirts to the audition so they know that you’re really serious about Reality TV.
Available here in these and other fine styles:
Update: Hey, this little post has become popular! So now I get to say, “As seen on: TVGasm, MSNBC, USA Today, Wired, Entertainment Weekly, Defamer, Fark, Digg, Kottke, Consumerist, the Morning News, Boston.com, C|Net, and about a hundred other blogs.” Thanks!
Update: And now I’ve made the New York Magazine Approval Matrix!
March 16, 2006
Animated Manhattan: Sundae in New York
Part 3 in an ongoing series looking at New York City in animation.
The 1983 Academy Award winner for Best Animated Short was a stop-motion claymation film called Sundae in New York directed by Jimmy Picker. It featured a then-mayor Ed Koch character singing “New York, New York” as he makes his way from scenario to scenario throughout the city meeting different people like Frank Sinatra, Rodney Dangerfield, Alfred E. Neuman, Woody Allen, the Statue of Liberty, and more.
Starting with a view of the Manhattan skyline, it’s easy to see that there’s not a lot of detail. But it was 1983, and Jimmy Picker didn’t have a huge set to work with. In fact, each shot shows barely anything wider than would be possible to fit on a small tabletop set. The opening, which pans down from the skyline to Central Park, shows more background than in any other scene. In terms of scope, this is clearly no Wallace and Gromit.
But the limited set doesn’t detract at all from the short film’s charm. The song is familiar so it hooks you right in. Even someone who isn’t familiar with New York politics will find the Ed Koch character entertaining. And the caricatures of various celebrities and personalities are usually spot on. The scenarios depict different stereotypes from New York life, so while the settings may not be expansive, the characterizations make up for it.
I remember back in 1983, Jimmy Picker was on a TV show (I think it might have been the Leonard Nimoy-hosted “Standby… Lights! Camera! Action!” on Nickelodeon, but I may be wrong) and he showed off the various clay characters which he stored in a normal kitchen refrigerator to keep from melting. The fact that it has stuck in my head this long shows how entertained I was by it that I remember it after all these years, diminished only by the fact that I have a sneaking suspicion my memories may have made the whole episode up.
So by now you must be wondering how on Earth you can get to see this short film. Well, it was put out on a DVD called The World’s Greatest Animation several years ago, but it’s now out of print. According to Amazon.com, you can purchase a used copy starting at $149.99. And of course you can always try eBay.
Or, you can just head over to YouTube, where it looks like someone has put the movie up for your viewing pleasure.
(My rating is for the film’s depiction of NYC only)
Watch “V” on-line for free!
So yesterday AOL launched its new free TV On-Demand service called In2TV where you can watch old TV shows from the WB archives on-line. I figured it would be pretty lame. I was imagining episodes of “Friends” or something. But I went and checked it out. Guess what’s there! V! You can watch V for free! 10 episodes!
The show’s description: “A race of aliens called Visitors comes to Earth and announces their peaceful intentions. But what do they really want with us?”
Those of you who remember the show probably have fond memories of Donovan leading the resistance against the alien leader Diana. Those of you who don’t remember the show will wonder what all the fuss was about. For the rest of us, though… pure nostalgia.
March 15, 2006
Balabananza, the Convention for Bob Balaban Fans.
There should be a convention for Bob Balaban fans called Balabananza. Imagine:
People show up dressed as their favorite Bob Balaban character. “Look, I’m dressed like Enid’s Dad from Ghost World!” “Hey, check out that guy who’s dressed like Bob’s character Ted Marcus from that episode of The West Wing that he guest starred in during the 2000 season.” “Woah, that guy has every detail perfect from Bob’s costume in Gosford Park!”
There could be panel discussions with topics like:
- Warren Littlefield vs. Russell Dalrymple - An examination of how one actor plays two NBC executives
- The Wallace Shawn Controversy - Was it right for Bob to play William Shawn in Capote, when his own son Wallace Shawn is such an accomplished character actor?
- My Boyfriend’s Back - What went wrong?
Celebrity guests on the panels could include people Bob’s worked with, like Brian Sawyer, director of Tex the Passive-Aggressive Gunslinger and that guy who played Guffman in Waiting for Guffman who I can’t picture for some reason right now (not Paul Benedict).
And there could be a whole area for vendors. You know, companies that sell Bob Balaban merchandise. Vendors like Balabanana Republic — the finest purveyor of octagonal-framed glasses — and Elmerson Entertainment, the video game company whose long-awaited terrorist-hunting game “Balaban vs. Taliban” is scheduled to finally hit stores.
It would be great. I can’t wait to go.
March 14, 2006
Original Wallace and Gromit only worth £6,000. Total.
Remember back in October when a fire destroyed the warehouse where all those Wallace & Gromit props and sets were stored? Well, now the insurance company has paid up. And the value they put on the destroyed Wallace & Gromit characters is surprisingly low. As The Sun reports:
Insurers Norwich Union put a combined price of only £6,000 on the heads of the plasticine duo, who have just scooped their FOURTH Academy Award. They ruled Wallace was worth £4,000 and his hound £2,000.
Apparently Wallace is worth more because he has more moving parts and clothes, and is therefore tougher to recreate.
Animated Manhattan: Antz
Part 2 in an ongoing series looking at New York City in animation.
This time, we look at Antz, the computer-animated Dreamworks film about an ant named Z-4165 (called simply “Z” by the other characters) voiced by Woody Allen. Typical of Woody Allen characters, Z is depressed, in therapy, and feels pretty insignificant. This isn’t surprising, considering he’s one in a billion ants living together in a giant ant colony. It’s easy to get lost in the crowd.
The film starts out reminiscent of Woody Allen’s movie “Manhattan,” with a big silhouetted view of the Manhattan skyline:
But a lighting change quickly reveals that we aren’t looking at Manhattan at all, but an extremely close-up view of some blades of grass:
The camera then pans down, through the ground, and we meet our character Z for the first time, talking with his therapist. This begins the story of how one little insignificant ant can rise up, find love, save his colony from destruction, and save the day becoming a big hero.
At the film’s conclusion, Z is surrounded by his new love, and his whole colony, in the aftermath of the great battle that ended the film.
The camera pulls back, showing the size of the crowd…
…and we see again how insignificantly small all those ants are…
…and that they’re even smaller compared to their anthill…
…which, it turns out, is in the middle of a park…
…with trees, grass, a water fountain, and garbage…
…it’s probably Central Park, by the looks of it…
…and finally the camera reveals that the story has been taking place in the middle of Manhattan, showing the skyline in all its glory.
While the movie wasn’t as good as many other cartoons, I loved the conclusion. I thought it was a great way to reinforce the notion that all those little ants are, after all, pretty insignificant compared to the scale of the big city. And living in Manhattan it’s easy to feel like an ant toiling away, and that Manhattan is one giant ant farm.
Of course, the final shot is an impossible depiction of the Manhattan skyline. Looking South from Central Park, the Plaza Hotel is in the right place, and both the Chrysler Building and Empire State Building are in approximately the right places, too. But the former AT&T Building (now called Sony Plaza) is rotated 90 degrees so we can see its Chippendale-style top. And the former Pan Am building (now called the MetLife building) has been transplanted to a front-and-center location where it doesn’t belong. And of course the World Trade Center is really so far downtown that it should not be looming so high above Central Park. But while the details are wrong, the overall feeling is right.
(My rating is for the film’s depiction of NYC only)
March 6, 2006
Lou Costello’s 100th Birthday
Today is the 100th birthday of Lou Costello, the shorter, funnier half of the comedy duo Abbott & Costello. As far as I can tell, there isn’t much attention being paid in the media, but I think Lou Costello’s centennial is worth celebrating. As a kid, I used to wake up on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons, and then I’d change the channel to our local non-network-affiliated station for “Abbott & Costello Theater.” They would show a classic movie or TV special, usually featuring an Abbott & Costello routine like their famous “Who’s on First?” or “Susquehanna Hat Company” bits.
I assume most people have at least heard of them. But if you’ve never actually heard an Abbott & Costello routine, do yourself a favor and give it a listen.
If you have more time, I also recommend these full episodes of their classic radio show, and a visit to the Official Abbott & Costello Website hosted by their families and featuring extensive audio clips in the “media” section. You can also watch a couple of their full-length films on-line for free: Africa Screams and Jack and the Beanstalk. Finally, visit the official fan club for the latest news and info.
March 1, 2006
Animated Manhattan: Fritz the Cat
This is the first entry in a continuing series examining New York City as depicted in animation. I have a long list of animated films — features, shorts, hand-drawn, made with clay, made with computers, popular, and obscure — that take place at least partly in Manhattan. I’ll be sharing some images and examining how New York City is portrayed in each film.
Kicking things off: 1972’s “Fritz the Cat,” directed by Ralph Bakshi and based on the comic books by Robert Crumb.
This movie, the first x-rated cartoon, follows Fritz the Cat on his drug-filled sex romp in search of love in Manhattan. The movie begins with a gloomy view of Times Square, and eventually takes our hero from his NYU haunts downtown, all the way up to Harlem on his adventures. Here is how the movie is described in the Fritz the Cat entry in Wikipedia:
The animated film is a satire on college life of the 1960s: while Fritz doesn’t attend any classes during the movie, he participates in major social upheavals based around the popular college protest movement of the time. Fritz invites several girls to his “pad” for an orgy, does a lot of drugs, escapes when the place is raided by the police, takes part in organizing an angry, violent mob that riots against “authority” (without actually figuring out what the target of its anger is), is briefly associated with a protest group similar to the Black Panthers, and apparently “dies” at the film’s climax (before coming back for one final roll in the hay with his nubile girlfriends).
Crumb has famously stated that he detested Bakshi’s film — so much so that he killed off the character in his comics, by having an ostrich-woman stab him in the head with an ice pick.
Most of the movie takes place in lower Manhattan in the 1960s, in and around Greenwich Village. When we first meet Fritz, he’s hanging out with a hip crowd in Washington Square Park.
Even today, Washington Square is home to folk singers and other musicians. In the 1960s, it was especially so. As a college student in Greenwich Village in the 60s, it’s not surprising to find Fritz hanging out with musicians in the park.
Occasionally the movie gives us broad, sweeping views of Manhattan as establishing shots for upcoming scenes. This overview of lower Manhattan shows off the gloomy monochromatic pallette with which much of the film is painted:
Under the closing credits, actual photographs of locations around Manhattan are shown, real-life versions of the neighborhoods Fritz hung out in. The last photo depicts the same view of Times Square that we see as the opening shot. Here is a side-by-side comparison:
I have to say, I didn’t love this movie. But its depiction of New York City was okay. Manhattan can be shown sparkly clean or dingy and dirty. It can be colorful or gray, cheerful or gloomy. Fritz’s life in this movie consists of just a lot of meaningless sex and drugs. The mostly subdued colors and monochromatic depiction of Manhattan presents an adequate background for his adventure.