Entries for August 2006

August 29, 2006

Agassi vs. Pavel vs. Agassi vs. Pavel…

Last night at the US Open…


Click for larger version. Details here and here.

Update: Lots of people have asked me how I did this, so I’ve agreed to put together a little tutorial for Photojojo in the next few weeks. I’ll announce it on this site when it’s done, so keep an eye out.

August 28, 2006

Thumbing through the dictionary

I recently noticed how many body parts have made the leap from noun to verb. Here are a few things you can do with your body parts as verbs:

Body PartsShoulder the burden.
Face the music.
Arm yourselves!
Foot the bill.
Stomach an awful movie.
Finger the suspect.
Elbow a pushy jerk on the subway.
Neck with your girlfriend.
Tongue her if she’ll let you.
Bone her once your parents go to sleep.
Mouth along with the music.
Head out of here.
Skin a cat.
Scalp the cat’s owner.
Back out on your commitment.
Eyeball the hot girl at the club.
Hand over your cash.
Knee a mugger in the nuts.
Thumb your nose at the President.
Heart New York.
Butt out.

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 21, 2006

60 Seconds in the Life of a Fly

Part 16 in an ongoing series of (approximately) 60 second films.

Lying on my bed staring up at the ceiling one day (I’ll just let you imagine what kind of day it must have been), I noticed this fly. And I knew I’d found the star of another 60 Second film.

August 17, 2006

Norbert Wiener slept here

I’m spending this week in New Hampshire, getting some much needed R&R. The house I’m staying in is fairly remote but it’s quite nice. And it was once owned by Norbert Wiener, the brilliant mathematician who coined the term “cybernetics.”

Not much remains from when Wiener lived here, but the bookshelves are filled with his old books. So I’ve gone through some of the shelves and picked out a few of the more interesting titles. Here’s a selection of what Mr. Wiener read:

Lots of dictionaries: Appleton’s New Spanish Dictionary; Cassell’s German Dictionary; Cassell’s French Dictionary; Dutch (A “Teach Yourself Book”); Nuevo Diccionario Enciclopedico Ilustrado de la Lengua Catellana; Graglia’s Italian-English and English-Italian Dictionary;

Various songbooks including: A booklet called “Patriotic Songs of America” with lyrics and music to The Star Spangled Banner, Hail! Columbia, Yankee Doodle, Battle Hymn of the Republic, Dixie Land, America the Beautiful, Tenting on the Old Camp Ground, etc.; “A Book of Songs - Words and Melodies Only - For Unison & Part Singing For Grades IV, V and VI (Student’s Edition)”; “The Golden Treasury of Songs and Lyrics”; and “An Elizabethan Songbook - Lute Songs: Madrigals & Rounds; Sing!”

A German Historical Atlas; The Bartholomew World Pocket Atlas

Lots of math books, obviously. They mainly have titles that suggest they would be far over my head, including: “Mathematical Tables from Handbook of Chemistry & Physics”; “Four Place Tables - Unabridged Edition”; “Plane and Spherical Trigonometry” by Ashton and Marsh; “Wentworth’s Plane and Solid Geometry”; “A Survey of Modern Algebra”; “Geometry in Three Dimensions”

“An Essay on Man” by Ernst Cassirer

“The Science of Health”

“Basic Course in Botany”

“An Outline of General Zoology”

“Comparative Anatomy of Vertebrates”

“Beyond Hypnosis” by Hugh Lacy in 1952, including a chapter called “Dianetics” which criticizes L. Ron Hubbard but only with regards to his thoughts on hypnosis.

“Emily Post’s Etiquette - The Blue Book of Social Usage”

“The Standard Book of British and American Verse”

“Hotel Berlin ‘43” by Vicki Baum

“The Mutineers” by Charles Boardman Hawes with a lovely illustrated cover

“Scaramouche” by Rafael Sabatini

“The City of Open Air and Other Verse” by Charles Poole Cleaves

“This I Believe: The personal philosophies of one hundred thoughtful men and women in all walks of life — twenty of whom are immortals in the history of ideas, eighty of whom are our contemporaries of today — written for Edward R. Murrow.” This is the second volume, and is inscribed “To Professor Norbert Wiener” and I can’t read the signature. It looks like “Ward Wheeler” or something like that. I figured out what the inscription says. It reads, “With great thanks for your outstanding contribution” and is signed “Ward Wheelock.” Mr. Wheelock was a friend of Edward R. Murrow’s and was the one to come up with the idea for a “This I Believe” series. Norbert Weiner is one of the people who contributed an essay for this book.

“Posthistoric Man - An Inquiry” by Roderick Seidenberg

“Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo. In five volumes.

“Departmental Ditties” by Rudyard Kipling.

“Praha Guidebook”

“The Black Arrow” by Robert Louis Stevenson

“The Hunting of the Snark and Other Poems”

“New Arabian Nights” by R.L. Stevenson

The College Entrance Examination Board’s “Comprehensive Examination Questions” for June and September 1918, including sections on Chemistry, English, French, German, Greek, History, Latin, Mathematics, Physics, and Spanish.

A beautiful 1921 leather-bound copy of “The Astronomer-Poet of Persia” that’s sadly falling apart.

“History of European Morals” Third Edition, Revised, in two volumes.

“The France of Today” from 1916

“The Pleasures of an Absentee Landlord and Other Essays”

“The Mechanics of Writing” which has the very long subtitle “A compendium of rules regarding manuscript-arrangement, spelling, the compounding of words, abbreviations, the representation of numbers, syllabication, the use of capitals, the use of italics, punctuation, and paragraphing.”

And many, many more. How many have you read?

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 9, 2006

Idea: Take “jowlers” to the next level

JowlersHave you seen Jowlers.com? It’s a website featuring pictures of people captured while shaking their heads back and forth really fast. It makes me laugh out loud every time I see it. They encourage people to shoot their own “jowler” photos using point-and-shoot cameras and send them in. I love it.

So I was thinking, what if I took jowler photos with more just a point-and-shoot camera? What if I set up lighting and a backdrop and treat them like more formal photos? Do they work just as well when they’re this stylized, or does the spontaneous look of a point-and-shoot camera work best? Well, it turns out that I can’t stop laughing when I shoot them, and I think they look absurdly great when they’re done.

Jowlers Jowlers
Jowlers Jowlers

But I need more volunteers. So naturally, I turned to Craig’s List in my search. But for the first time ever, Craig’s List let me down. I once used Craig’s List to get rid of a used bag of dirt (someone came to get it in less than an hour), but I couldn’t find anybody willing to pose for a Jowler photo. So I now turn to the blogosphere. If you are in New York City, and are willing to stop by my place for 10 or 15 minutes for an extremely silly project, drop me a line and we’ll set up some time for one of these weekends. I’ve got ideas for more elaborate jowler setups if you have even more time. You’ll find my e-mail address on the right side of this page.

August 7, 2006

Idea: The Ant Desk

The Ant Desk

What do you get for the eccentric executive who has everything? How about the Ant Desk? It’s part desk, and part Ant Farm. How creepy is it to work at your desk while hundreds of ants scurry all around you? Is it distracting? Fascinating? Did some of them get out? Do you think you feel them crawling on your legs? It’s the ultimate desk for nature lovers, bug lovers, and, well, other people who want a weird desk.

The Ant DeskHow does it work? It begins with a thick layer of glass or clear plastic. This protects you from the ants, and protects the ants from you. Below the glass is an open space with a thick layer of dirt, allowing the ants to crawl in, out, and around their tunnels, caves, and hills. This all rests on top of a sturdy base layer, which doubles as the bottom of the desktop. Small holes around the sides of the desk provide air, while being too small for the ants to escape.

Hundreds of ants will live happily for months, with just a little food and water periodically inserted through the feeding portals. For cleaning, the base layer can be built to slide out on casters like a large drawer, or the glass top may be hinged to open. I haven’t worked that out yet.

And when you get home, you can cuddle up with your loved one in front of the TV and rest your wine glasses on your Ant Coffee Table. The perfect oddity for any living room.

August 6, 2006

Plane in a Snake

Plane in a SnakeRecently 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:

Plane in a Snake

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.

Lorenzo Music RIPIn 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.