Entries for June 2006

June 30, 2006

Uma Thurman’s Severed Head

SuperEx SuperEx

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.

SuperEx SuperEx

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 28, 2006

60 Seconds in the Life of Snow

Part 14 in an ongoing series of (approximately) 60 second films.

Summer is here and the heat is in full force. Cool off with this footage of our last big snowfall.

Hmm. It was so much prettier before all the YouTube compression. I switched to Revver, and it looks a million times better.

June 26, 2006

Animated Manhattan: Madagascar

Part 10 in an ongoing series looking at New York City in animation.

MadagascarMadagascar 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.

Madagascar Madagascar

MadagascarYou 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?

MadagascarLook 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.

MadagascarThe 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.

MadagascarAnd 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.

Madagascar Madagascar

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:

Madagascar Madagascar
Madagascar Madagascar

IMDb Rating: 6.6/10
BCDb Rating: N/A
My Rating: 6/10

(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

Jukebox SkipI’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.

June 14, 2006

Idea: Under-the-seat carry-on boarding first

A recent entry at the website 43 Folders highlights some tips on packing light when you travel, suggesting among other things that you pack only one carry-on item when you fly. It reminds me of an idea I had after reading a recent article in Wired about how airlines use computer models to figure out the fastest way to get people on airplanes. From the Wired article:

[Scientists] looked at interference resulting from passengers obstructing the aisle, as well as that caused by seated passengers blocking a window or middle seat. They applied the equation to eight different boarding scenarios, looking at both front-to-back and outside-in systems. “Ultimately, the issue America West needed to address was time… We figured a system that reduced interference between passengers would also cut boarding time.”

So I’ve been thinking. It seems to me that a lot of passenger interference is caused by people blocking aisles to put things in the overhead bins. So why didn’t they run computer models which factored in boarding people by whether or not they have anything for the overhead bin?

What if the check-in kiosk, which already asks you how many bags you have to check, also asks, “Do you have anything to go in the overhead bin, such as a bag or jacket?” and considers your answer when assigning you a boarding group?

I don’t know where in the order these people should go for fastest boarding (first? last? interspersed?) but the computer can figure that out. I expect that people with nothing for the overhead bin will get in their seats faster than people with large carry-ons, and the plane can get off the ground much sooner.

Related: Idea: Advertisements on the Overhead Bins

June 12, 2006

You got your picture in my logo

I’ve been noticing logos lately that have replaced letters with pictures. I think it’s fascinating how the brain just fills in the blanks, whether or not the pictures actually resemble the letters they replace. Various studies have shown that we don’t look at the letters which make up words as much as we look at the shapes of the words as a whole. In fact, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The brain just takes care of the rest.

Here are examples where the letter isn’t completely gone, but a picture is formed by stylizing and embellishing a letter:

PictureLogo PictureLogo


And here are examples where the letter is totally gone, completely replaced by a picture that resembles the missing letter:

Sopranos Signs
Tarzan Empire
SeaWorld SouperBowl

It probably helps that the picture in the word is often a representation of the word itself. Something like the Stroop Effect may be going on here (or maybe the opposite of the Stroop Effect, whatever that would be called. The Poorts Effect?). Take this example, for instance:


The strawberry doesn’t look anything like the letter “a” but we know what letter is supposed to go there because we recognize the rest of the word, and after all, it is a picture of a strawberry.

This is one of my favorites:


We know it’s supposed to say “CIGARS” even though the picture neither looks like the letter “C” nor depicts a cigar! Perhaps the association with some tobacco product is enough.

And then there are the movie logos that replace letters with numbers:

PictureLogo PictureLogo

And of course movie logos that replace numbers with pictures:

PictureLogo PictureLogo

But Google takes the cake. They frequently swap out their traditional logo with one paying to tribute to a holiday or celebrity birthday. Their substitute logos often replace letters with picture, relying on our familiarity with the Google name and logo. They use color to remind us of the original logo, too.


And the granddaddy of all is this Google logo celebrating the Persian New Year. Only one letter remains as a reminder of the original logo:


June 8, 2006

60 Seconds in the Life of an Aquarium

Part 13 in an ongoing series of (approximately) 60 second films.

June 7, 2006

Idea: Two functions in one button

Okay, this one’s so simple that I shouldn’t even have to say it. It should have been done already.

The new Macbook still has just one button for clicking. A right-click is simulated by holding down control while you click. Or you can use the convoluted right-click shortcut where you put two fingers on the Trackpad while you click the Trackpad button with another finger. Yikes.

So to Apple I suggest the following solution. It merges the functionality of two buttons with the look and feel of one button:


Yes, it’s that simple. One button that you can click on either side of. And for people who don’t like this new style of button pushing, let them go to their Preferences and turn off two-button functionality, restoring their computer to the old fashioned single-button style they’d gotten used to. This way, instead of debating over what method of right-clicking works best, people can have all the options available and decide for themselves.

Apple can make music players that know where they’re being touched. They make a mouse that knows where it’s being touched. They can make a Trackpad that knows where it’s being touched. Why can’t they make a single button that knows where it’s being touched?

June 6, 2006

Georgia O’Kleenex

Georgia O'Kleenex

This is what I saw when I reached for the last tissue in the box.

June 5, 2006

Idea: A new mental disorder diagnosis

scream.gifMany people are already familiar with the disorder known as Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. This is a form of mistreatment where a caregiver, usually a mother, pretends that a child has an illness, and the child is subjected to all sorts of unnecessary testing and treatments, just so the mother can get some attention.

But what about a child who pretends that his mother has Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, just so he can get some attention? I submit that this child shall be diagnosed as having Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy by Proxy.

Look for it in the DSM-V.