Entries for April 2006

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 EckJohnny 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.

FuturamaOn 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.

Futurama Futurama Futurama Futurama

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.

FuturamaIn 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.

Futurama Futurama

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.

Futurama Futurama

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.


IMDb Rating: N/A
BCDb Rating: N/A
My Rating: 8/10

(My rating is for the series’ depiction of NYC only)

April 24, 2006

Idea: Another commercial I’d like to see

Remember the last commercial idea I had? Well I like this one even better. Okay, picture this:

The commercial begins with a shot of a bedside alarm clock. There’s a cell phone next to it. The alarm clock turns from 6:59 to 7:00 and the alarm goes off. A woman’s hand turns off the alarm, and the cell phone immediately rings. The hand grabs the phone. We hear her sleepy voice. “Yes.” Pause. “Yes.” Pause. “Yes.” Pause. Cut to…

The woman brushing her teeth, still holding the phone to her face while she brushes. As she brushes, she’s talking into the phone. “Yes.” Pause. “Yes.” Pause. Cut to…

Cell Phone GirlThe woman goes about her day. She’s making breakfast while she talks. “Yes.” Pause. “Yes.” Pause.

She’s shopping for groceries. Still talking. “Yes.” Pause. “Yes.” Pause.

She drops some letters in a mailbox. “Yes.” Pause. “Yes.” Pause.

She does various other daily routine activities, all while talking on the phone. “Yes.” Pause. “Yes.” Pause.

Her day comes to an end. She’s back at home. It’s evening. She sits down on her living room couch to watch TV. She still has the phone to her ear. “Yes.” Pause. “Yes.” Pause.

We can see a big window behind her over her shoulder. It looks out onto her front yard. “Yes.” Pause. “Yes.” Pause.

Outside her window, the Verizon Wireless Guy steps into view. We hear him ask into his phone, “Can you hear me now?”

The woman answers into her phone, “Yes.”

Verizon Wireless Guy takes a step. “Good. Can you hear me now?”

She turns and waves at him through her window. “Yes.”

Verizon Wireless Guy waves back, takes a step. “Good. Can you hear me now?”


Tagline: “Verizon Wireless. Keeping calls clear for both sides of the conversation.”

Or something like that. You can thank me at the Clio Awards, Verizon!

April 23, 2006

100,000 hits

Today, Ironic Sans had its 100,000th visit, to be commemorated in this post, reflecting a long-standing tradition of posting about your 100,000th hit.

I consider the site as having gone live on March 11, 2006, even though the archive has a few earlier posts, which I needed to have so I could figure out the site’s design. But March 11 was the first day I considered the site finished and posted something that I thought might attract people to my site. The next day, March 12, I started using SiteMeter to keep track of my visits. And according to SiteMeter, I had my 100,000th visit at 4:29:17 PM today.

So that’s 100,000 visits in 43 days. Not bad!

The top three pages in the first 100,000 hits:

1) Pre-pixelated clothes for Reality TV Shows

2) The Google Maps Guide to Ghostbusters

3) 60 Seconds in the Life of Landing Gear

Thanks for helping me hit this milestone, everyone!

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
11. Glamordisiac
12. Whoopity Doo
13. The House of Rapp
14. Grim Skunk
15. Dr. Know
16. Dr. Sanity
17. Generation K
18. Metafizzics
19. Joust the Facts
20. Stolen Ogre
21. Subway to Sally
22. 702
23. The Third Decade
24. Clea
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!

Click to launch map in new window
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.

Click to launch map in new window
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.

Fantasia 2k Fantasia 2k

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.

Fantasia 2k Fantasia 2k

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.

Fantasia 2k Fantasia 2k

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.

Fantasia 2k Fantasia 2k

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.

IMDb Rating: 7.2/10
BCDb Rating: 6/10
My Rating: 9/10

(My rating is for the film’s depiction of NYC only)

60 Seconds in the Life of a Wild Tail Pet Toy

Part 10 in an ongoing series of (approximately) 60 second films.

April 14, 2006

60 Seconds in the Life of a Bear and Sea Captain

Part 9 in an ongoing series of (approximately) 60 second films.

April 12, 2006

Museum store shop for is open inspiration!

Museum BannerI saw this banner outside a museum last week, and I had to take a picture. I haven’t seen such a confusing use of type is a long time.

First I thought it said “museum store shop for is open inspiration!” but of course that makes no sense.

I tried again, separating the small 2D letters from the big 3D letters. This time I ended up with two sentences, “store is open” and “museum shop for inspiration!” I’m pretty sure the first sentence makes sense, but I don’t know about the second one.

Trying again, I attached “museum” to “store is open” to get “museum store is open” which makes sense. But that left me with “shop for inspiration!” which I guess makes sense grammatically but seems overly exuberant for a gift shop.

In the end, I guess I may have figured out what the designers meant, or I may not have figured it out. I’m sure there are other equally-likely ways to parse the sentences that I haven’t even tried. I have no idea. But if it takes more than a couple seconds to figure it out, that can’t really be a sign of a well-designed banner, can it?


One of these is a medicine:


The other is the logo from a bottle of Zephyrhills water that I bought recently. That’s right. It’s a brand of bottled water. But I can’t look at it without thinking it looks like a medicine logo. This label needs a redesign.

Was “Zephyr Hills” too difficult to keep as two words? It looks like someone ran the formula Zyrtec + Syphillis and came up with Zephyrhills. I’ve come to call it Zephyrillin.

April 11, 2006

Boris Vallejo’s palette

Vallejo paintingIf you’ve ever walked through the science fiction and fantasy section of a bookstore, you’ve seen the artwork of Boris Vallejo. This weekend, I got to watch him create one of his paintings, a rather detailed picture of a dragon that he completed in only four hours.

I attended an event called Art Out Loud at the Society of Illustrators where Vallejo, Julie Bell, Jon Foster, Dan Dos Santos, Gregory Manchess, and Adam Rex demonstrated their techniques to aspiring illustrators, and answered lots of questions. I think proceeds from the event go to the Society’s student scholarship fund, so it’s great that the artists were all so gracious.

When Vallejo finished his painting, and everyone gathered around to admire the finished product, I noticed his palette sitting there. I realized that while millions are familiar with his work, few have probably seen his palette. So I took a picture of it. Perhaps it will provide insight or inspiration for those who were unable to attend the event this weekend.

Boris Vallejo palette

I’m told that his use of disposable palettes is significant, as the romantic notion of an artist would have him using a permanent wooden palette. Take note, students.

Artist links: Boris Vallejo, Julie Bell, Jon Foster, Dan Dos Santos, Gregory Manchess, and Adam Rex.

Bonus: Here are the palettes of Dan Dos Santos and Julie Bell:

Flaky Advertising

I saw this ad in a subway station yesterday:

Truly healthy hair

Um… isn’t that where all hair starts?

April 10, 2006

How Google Book Search saved the day

In late 2004, Google announced its Google Book Search feature, which allows internet users to “search the full text of books (and discover new ones),” according to the site’s main page. It’s a feature with enormous potential, but it immediately became controversial. As Wikipedia explains:

While many hail the initiative for its potential to offer unprecedented access to what may become the largest online corpus of human knowledge, the publishing industry and writers’ groups decry the project as a wholesale rights-grab. The Authors Guild of America and Association of American Publishers have individually sued Google, citing ‘massive copyright infringement’.

Being a person who creates intellectual property for a living, I clearly don’t support massive copyright infringement. But copyright law is tricky, and there’s a very good argument to be made that Google Book Search is not infringing on copyright because it falls within the “fair use” doctrine of the copyright law. Stanford Law School professor Lawrence Lessig has on his blog an excellent argument for why Google Book Search is fair use.

Which brings me to my story about how Google Book Search saved the day.

My friend Rachel is writing her dissertation. At 150 pages, she estimates she’s almost halfway finished. It’s called “Negotiating the Creative Sector: Understanding the Role and Impact of an Artistic Union in an Industry.” She has used hundreds of books so far as resources, and as you can imagine she will end up with a lengthy bibliography. So imagine her horror when she realized that, for one of the books which she has already cited more than a dozen times, she completely forgot to indicate the page numbers from which she took the citations.

Enter Google Book Search.

Using Google Book Search, Rachel was able to enter the quotes that she took from the book, and the search engine showed her an excerpt from which the quote was lifted, including the all-important page number. Instead of pouring over her notes and searching through the book, she just kept entering the quotes, and Google Books supplied the pages.

The fair use provision of the copyright law says that reproduction for purposes of scholarship or research is not an infringement of copyright. It further says that the amount of the portion used in relation to the work as a whole should be considered in deciding whether or not infringement has taken place. In this instance, the purpose is clearly scholarship and research. And Google Book Search only showed Rachel an excerpt in which her quote is found — a small portion in relation to the work as a whole.

Furthermore, as Rachel told me, “I purchased the book. I own the book. So it’s not like these people have lost my money.”

It’s up to the courts to decide whether or not Google Book Search does in fact infringe on any copyrights. But in the midst of so much controversy, Rachel’s story immediately jumped out at me as a perfect example of how Google Book Search can be used as a valuable tool, apparently well within the scope of fair use.

April 9, 2006

Animated Manhattan: Family Guy

Part 6 in an ongoing series looking at New York City in animation.

Family GuyIt 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.

Family GuyFor 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.

Family GuyThey 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.

Family GuyIn 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.

Family GuyOf 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.

Family GuyTwo 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:

Family Guy Family Guy Family Guy Family Guy

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.

Family Guy

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.

IMDb Rating: N/A
BCDb Rating: N/A
My Rating: 8/10

(My rating is for the episode’s depiction of NYC only)

April 7, 2006

Flat footed art

I’ve seen these around the city for years in various boroughs. I assume this riff on the old-shoes-on-a-wire trend is supposed to make some sort of artistic statement. But what is it?

Flat feet

60 Seconds in the Life of Sea Lions

Part 8 in an ongoing series of (approximately) 60 second films.

April 6, 2006

It’s like an Amazing Window that let’s you See Through a Wall!

Spy Vision GogglesI saw this in a toy store the other day. I was just there to buy something for, um… Okay, sometimes I just like to go to the toy store. Anyway, I saw this toy. Spy Vision Goggles. Pretty cool, right? It says right there on the box: “See in the Dark 25 Feet!” How awesome is that? Man, we never had anything that cool when I was a kid. I can’t believe the technology for this stuff has gotten so cheap that they can — Hey, wait a minute.

Spy Vision Goggles“Night vision goggles with lights?” What does that mean? Here’s the fine print: “The Spy Vision Goggles can see in the dark up to 25 feet away with two powerful beams of light!” So basically they just have little flashlights on the sides. If you’re in the dark, you can turn on the light. Wow. That’s a far cry from seeing in the dark. In fact, that’s pretty much the opposite of seeing in the dark.

When I was a kid, I had a pretty good imagination. But not that good.

April 5, 2006

The Chevy Bandwagon

TahoeChevrolet has decided to let people design their own commercials for the Chevy Tahoe. The site features a simple interface that lets you pick some sexy film clips featuring the SUV, select an audio track, overlay some text, and share it with your friends. As you can imagine, not everyone is taking it seriously.

This commercial is an example of what lots of people are doing — using the technology to make a statement about gas guzzling vehicles and the environment. But it seems Chevy doesn’t like these sorts of shenanigans and keeps taking them down. So if that link doesn’t work, here’s a whole list of other Chevy ads with environmental anti-SUV statements. Some are better than others.

Well, I’ve been inspired to join the Home-Brew Chevy Commercial Bandwagon. But I’ve decided to use the technology to make my own statement. It’s a bit different than all the others. You can check it out here while the link lasts.

April 4, 2006

60 Seconds in the Life of Landing Gear

Part 7 in an ongoing series of (approximately) 60 second films.

If you only see one 60-second movie this year, see this one. Seriously. I think it’s my favorite. It actually gets my heart racing every time I watch it.

April 3, 2006

Idea: The Pacifist Chess Set

Pacifist Chess

Chess is a game of war. So for those who disapprove of war, I’ve come up with the Pacifist Chess Set. The concept is illustrated above.

At first glance, it looks like you could play a legitimate game of chess with this set. But once you start playing you realize that you can’t play for very long — at least not very easily. As you play, and your pieces get closer to your opponent’s pieces, it becomes apparent that one side’s pieces are indistinguishable from the other side’s pieces. They are all the same color.

It’s not really a functional chess set. It’s more of an art or conversation piece. It makes the statement that, no matter what side of the battle we’re on, we have in common that we are all human.

[I got this idea while wandering through the Imagery of Chess Revisited exhibit at the Noguchi Museum in Queens. The exhibit is only around for two more weeks, but if you get a chance I highly recommend a visit. It features works by Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Alexander Calder, and others. A book is also available, in case you miss the show.]

April 2, 2006

Animated Manhattan: Tom & Jerry - Mouse in Manhattan

Part 5 in an ongoing series looking at New York City in animation.

TomJerryUsually, 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!

TomJerryThe 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.

TomJerry TomJerry TomJerry TomJerry

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.

IMDb Rating: 8/10
BCDb Rating: 8/10
My Rating: 5/10

(My rating is for the episode’s depiction of NYC only)