Filed under “Long”

July 8, 2015

My Letter From Oliver Sacks

I’ve just written a longform article for The Morning News about the time I got a letter from Oliver Sacks. But it’s about so much more. It’s a little bit science, a little bit personal essay, and a tiny bit biography. I’ve never fully told this story before, and it’s the first time I’ve shown anyone the letter.

Go read it!

April 23, 2012

How I Scored A Million Points In SpellTower [Guest Post]


SpellTower Champ Jerry
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.

Approaching one million points
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!

December 15, 2011


I recently discovered that a lot of people use Twitter to write brief open letters to unnamed inventors. They usually are expressing extreme love or extreme hatred for something. Occasionally they are even addressed to the imaginary inventor of something completely intangible like power naps or emotions.

The more I looked into it, the more amusing I found it. So I thought I’d share. Here is a round-up of tweets from the past week addressed to inventors, grouped roughly into categories.


[This space unintentionally left blank. There’s a bug somewhere I need to squash. Just scroll down to the content for now. Thanks.]










September 7, 2010

What you’ve missed if you don’t read

My analytics tell me that the majority of Ironic Sans readers don’t follow my side project so I thought I’d do a little roundup here of some of the articles you’re missing out on if you’re not a reader:

[Reminder: is where I reprint the most interesting articles from the New York Times Sunday Magazine from 100 years ago each weekend with some notes for historic context or commentary]

• The night Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre, there was another couple in the private box with Abe and his wife. They were young and in love, invited guests of the Lincolns. Imagine how that night affected them, and guess how their story ends. It is perhaps even more tragic and gruesome than the Lincolns’ story. Read it here.

• There was an international conference in 1910 to consider revising the calendar so that it doesn’t change from year to year. One of the proposals actually makes pretty good sense to me. Read it here.

• A look at 1910s state-of-the-art motion picture special effects and how they were done. Read it here.

• A fascinating description, complete with illustrations, of how to fly an airplane. Read it here.

• The details of a murder that was overshadowed by a more prominent murder. To this day, the case remains unsolved. Read it here.

• An anecdote about a case of mistaken identity at the theater that tells us something about class differences in 1910. Read it here.

• Leonid Andreyev was considered Russia’s answer to Edgar Allen Poe. The Sunday Magazine serialized one of his stories, The Man Who Found The Truth over four weeks. I posted the entire story complete with illustrations as a PDF, and also linked to the free ebook edition. Read it here.

• As an aside during an otherwise slow week, I published an 1890 article about telegraph operators. They got to know each other so well that they could identify each other based on Morse code tapping style, and could even determine the gender of an operator by how he or she taps. Plus, they used abbreviations that share a lot in common with today’s text-messaging. Read it here.

• As air travel became popular, people came up with all sorts of related patents. This article is about some of the more absurd patents, including illustrations. I’m a fan of the airship powered by eagles. Read it here.

• A study sought to determine whether or not you can predict a person’s musicality based on the shape of the ear. Read it here.

• One man had a license to hunt in Central Park. In fact, it was his job. And he tried to get his work done without bothering tourists. Read it here.

• I had no idea that the first ascent of Mt. McKinley was filled with such drama. The first person to claim victory turned out to be a liar. And the first party to really reach the top had no climbing experience. So how could they have done it? Were they lying, too? Read it here.

• Circus clowns are serious people out of the ring, but nobody treats them with any humanity. This article tells a clown’s sad tale, and I follow up by describing the tragic turn his life took after the article was written. Read it here.

• A 14-year-old kid was the president of the first amateur radio club in America. When Congress was considering regulating the airwaves, he went and testified before Congress. He had a lot of smart things to say, and I saw a lot of parallels between his 1910 radio club and the computer clubs of the 1970s. Read it here.

Those are just a handful of examples. I usually put up 5 articles each week, give or take. If you like what you see, check out the archives, and subscribe to the RSS.

June 24, 2010

The Best 3-D Experience I Ever Had

I still own two film cameras. One is a Mamiya medium format camera. The other is a 1950 Stereo Realist 35mm 3-D camera. I’ve been creating and consuming 3-D content since I was young, using every technique I could learn about, including some that most people have never seen. I’m a proponent of 3-D movies in theory, but am disappointed with most of the movies I’ve seen in the format’s current resurgence. I have so many thoughts on the matter — including why I’m fascinated by 3-D, where I’d like to see it go from here, and what I think of Roger Ebert’s (and others’) anti-3-D stance — that I’ve considered purging them all in one giant post. This is not that post.

This post is just about the single best 3-D entertainment experience I ever had. I enjoyed it in the comfort of my own home, and it didn’t cost very much money. After watching the home video game console companies show off their 3-D games at last week’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, I thought I’d write about it, because my best 3-D experience was with 3-D gaming.

Ten years ago, I purchased a pair of Elsa Revelator 3-D Glasses for the PC. It cost me $34. The glasses connected to the computer with a thin wire that ran to a pass-through plug between the graphics card and the monitor. Combined with special software, it could turn any existing hardware-accelerated game into a true 3D experience using active shutter technology.

A quick definition of active shutter technology: an liquid crystal lens over each eye flickers between clear and opaque in sync with images onscreen that are rendered slightly offset for each eye. As long as the monitor refreshes quickly enough, the flicker is not noticeable, although the screen appears a bit dim. Since each eye only sees images rendered for one perspective, the brain perceives the image as 3-D.

The first game I played in 3-D was Tomb Raider (natch). The border of my monitor suddenly became a window, and I was looking into Lara Croft’s world. She became a fully rounded Barbie-sized figure running around a tiny landscape, firing at enemies. It was amazing. There were some glitches with the technology — occasional flashes of light when the glasses would lose sync with the monitor, and odd 3-D artifacts where ripples in a pond were supposed to refract light — but I could see the potential in 3-D gaming already.

The glasses came packaged with a demo version of a game I’d never heard of called “Thief 2.” This was the game that blew me away.

Unlike Tomb Raider, where you see your character on screen, Thief 2 is played in first person perspective. Your character is a thief and, unlike most other games, you don’t just run around shooting enemies as quickly as you can. The idea is to be sneaky. You hide in the shadows, avoid being seen, and creep around villages and castles to complete each level.

I sat in front of the computer with 3-D glasses on and room lights off. I wore headphones for total immersion, and the game used sound to great effect. My character’s footsteps were often the only sounds I heard as I snuck around the virtual landscape. But if I listened carefully, I could hear when a guard was coming so I could make sure I wouldn’t be caught. In 3-D, the hallways and streets had depth. Buildings had form. It really felt like I was there, sneaking around. It felt almost real.

Here’s a sample of gameplay:

I purchased the full version of the game and played it from start to finish over the next couple weeks. I’m not that much of a gamer, but I’d never had a gaming experience that made my heart race so much, that really transported me into the game world. I’ve played virtual reality games with headgear-mounted goggles and motion tracking, but this was so much better.

I still remember clearly a level late in the game where I had to walk across a rafter high above the ground. When I looked down, I could actually see the distance I would fall to the floor below if I slipped. In 2-D, the thin beam of wood I was standing on would have been on the same plane as everything else on the screen. But this felt like a real beam of wood high above a real floor. I’d never been so nervous playing a game as I was in that moment.

I wanted to tell everyone to get these glasses. Why on Earth would anyone play games the old flat way? This is how games should be played! This should be mainstream! Why weren’t the video game consoles of the time making games that would work with the same technology?

The answer, in part, is that standard televisions didn’t have a high enough refresh rate to make the experience worthwhile. A slower refresh rate makes the flickering of active shutter glasses noticeable, which is very unpleasant. So 3-D games in home consoles would have to wait.

And now they’re coming. New TVs have high refresh rates, and console makers are taking advantage of that. The 3-D glasses no longer need to be tethered by a thin wire. They stay in sync wirelessly. But now that the technology has caught up, I’m not so sure everyone else will have the same amazing experience I had.

When I played Thief 2, I was a bachelor living by myself. I could turn out the lights, sit a couple feet from the screen, and totally immerse myself in the game without anyone caring. I think that’s a big reason why I was so sucked in. With a game console, the TV often sits on the other side of the living room, rather than right in front of your face. At that distance, the depth is a cool effect, but not an all-encompassing experience (unless it’s a very large TV).

I predict that people will respond to 3-D games in a segmented way depending on their circumstances. People who play alone without worrying about being antisocial will become immersed in first person shooters; they will be transported into the world of the game. People who play more socially or further from the screen will benefit from 3-D in a more subtle way; their experience will be similar to getting a new game console that can render graphics more realistically. It will be a cool special effect, but not a whole new way of experiencing a game. With the high cost of today’s wireless 3-D glasses, and the reluctance people may have to sit around wearing dark glasses indoors, I’m not optimistic that 3-D games will be huge any time soon outside the “bachelor” demographic.

Ten years after my experience with Thief 2, I still think of it as a benchmark for what 3-D gaming can be. But perhaps someone will come up with some new and unexpected use of 3-D in video games that will make me realize that Thief 2 was just a beginning, and that my experience ten years ago was the tip of the iceberg.

(I’m excited to see what’s offered for Nintendo’s upcoming 3-D glasses-free handheld console. I suspect that the 3-D screen is too small to really immerse you like I was with Thief 2, but is small enough that it could be used as an effective window into another world. The device is only experienced by one person at a time by design, and I think all these factors could inspire some very creative game experiences.)

Incidentally, while the Elsa Revelator glasses are no longer available, nVidia does sell a similar product (although it’s unfortunately more expensive). But if you’re a PC gamer, I highly recommend you give them a try.

February 23, 2010

They Don’t Make Computer Manuals Like They Used To

My family’s first computer was a Franklin Ace 1000. I think we got it in 1983. Franklin Ace computers were clones of Apple II computers, which eventually prompted a lawsuit from Apple and a court ruling that operating systems can be protected by copyright. The computers may have been clones, but the Franklin manuals were definitely original.

I recently found copies of manuals for the Franklin Ace 1000 and its predecessor the Ace 100. They were similar computers, so the manuals share a lot of content in common. Both are pretty incredible.

For example, the manual for the Franklin Ace 100 begins with about 40 pages of computer basics (What are they? What can they do? etc). And then, on page 40, two thirds of the way down the page, there is a chapter heading called “The Ancestral Territorial Imperatives of the Trumpeter Swan.” Here’s how the chapter begins:

I like how low-tech the manual is. The whole thing is done in a Courier typeface, with chapter headings in all-caps. Here’s how the same chapter heading appeared in the manual for the later Franklin Ace 1000:

You can see that this manual is more designed. There are friendlier fonts. There are cute cartoons of Benjamin Franklin throughout. But some of the written humor is lost. Gone is the reference to a “disgustingly cute phrase.” The chapter heading is cushioned with “A good title for this section might be…” This version of the joke is a bit too on-the-nose for me.

But the Ace 1000 manual isn’t just a watered down version of the Ace 100 manual. It has its own jokes, including several humorous glossary entries. For example, the first chapter of the manual lists things you can do with a computer, including “get a list of recommendations for wines to serve with Terrine Maison.” In the glossary, you’ll find Terrine Maison helpfully defined between entries for source and utility program:

Reading through the Ace 100 manual, I came across a section so shocking that I can’t imagine a modern computer company even considering putting it in a manual. In this section, you are advised to circumvent copy protection to make personal backups of programs you lawfully purchased:

And it still hasn’t happened.

The Ace 100 manual goes on to describe three categories of crooks in the computer world. The first category is “Them,” the computer salespeople who overhype their products with advertising gimmicks. The second category is “You.” Franklin isn’t actually calling you a crook, but they say that software manufacturers will treat you like one:

The last category of crooks is “US”:

Well they weren’t, technically, until the court ruling.

Most of the “Crooks” section is omitted from the Ace 1000 manual. A condensed version still appears in the section about copy protection.

Both manuals make 80s pop culture references, explaining the concept of computer programs by comparing them to TV programs like Hill Street Blues, The Dukes of Hazzard, or Live at the Met with Itzhak Perlman (who the glossary helpfully defines as “a violinist”). Former Good Morning America host David Hartman is described as “nothing but reconfigured electronic signals [you watch] over coffee in the morning.”

In both manuals, the author tries to explain what kinds of programs are useful and which to stay away from. He states that “the sole purpose of many of these wonders in programming is to separate you from your money.” And then he gives this warning:

This strikes me as a reference to Damon Runyon, whose stories of 1930s New York hustlers were the basis for the Broadway musical Guys and Dolls. Damon Runyon wrote, “One of these days in your travels, a guy is going to come up to you and show you a nice brand-new deck of cards on which the seal is not yet broken, and this guy is going to offer to bet you that he can make the Jack of Spades jump out of the deck and squirt cider in your ear. But, son, do not bet this man, for as sure as you are standing there, you are going to end up with an earful of cider.”

I wondered what other inside jokes the manual has that I wouldn’t know about. The manuals are uncredited, but I figured out that they were written by a guy named Sal Manetta, who later went on to work for Unisys and Intel. He is now retired. I couldn’t reach him, but I did get hold of Bob Applegate, a programmer who was at Franklin at the time.

Bob wrote:

We hired this tech writer guy who knew nothing about personal computers named Sal Manetta. He was the manager of the Publication group. Sal hired a funky artist [Frank someone-or-other] who did most of the drawings of Ben Franklin in the user manual. Sal was supposed to learn about computers like an average person back then, such as reading magazines, talking to salesmen at stores, etc. Sometimes Dave and I would head over to a local place where I used to work (where Franklin discovered me), would “introduce” ourselves to Sal and give him advice on buying his first computer, much to the annoyance of the sales staff there. Sal would get back to the office and tell us what the sales folks said about us once Dave and I left :)

Bob mentioned that many of the cartoons are based on real events and people Sal encountered at Franklin. Here are some of the cartoons along with Bob’s comments:

“Engineering was in a long, narrow building with no windows, nicknamed ‘the cave’. Sal was never exposed to engineers before Franklin, and we sometimes overwhelmed him. He often said ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter’ to people on their first visit to our building.”

“Look for the one of the boy soldering with an evil looking computer… that’s me… I wore Converse sneakers to work back then; look at the star on the side of his sneaker.”

“The computer salesman speaking BASIC code was my old boss at a local computer store.”

“The guy smoking a cigarette and dumping ashes onto the computer is a repair guy from the same local store.”

And where did the trumpeter swans come from?

“The ‘Territorial Imperatives of the Trumpeter Swan’ was also real. Resumes came pouring into Franklin, and we’d all look through them. One guy had written a research paper with that crazy title, and we all thought it was pretty interesting. So, Sal worked it into the manual as a chapter title.”

After Franklin lost their lawsuit with Apple, they continued to sell computers that were similar to Apple’s, but without any infringing code. I found the manual for one of those computers, the Franklin Ace 500. Sadly, there is nothing creative to be found within. It reads like stereo instructions. I was disappointed to see there’s even a chapter with the disgustingly cute name “Getting Started.”

Want to read the manuals in full? Here they are:

Franklin Ace 100 (PDF) - via
Franklin Ace 1000 (PDF) - via
Franklin Ace 500 (PDF) - via

That last “via” link also has the original Apple II manuals, for comparison.

Update 3/21/10: Sal has weighed in, leaving a lengthy comment here

August 20, 2009

Migraine Typing

I type pretty well, and I sometimes get migraine headaches. They seem unrelated, but they weren’t a few weeks ago when I had a neurological event I’d never experienced before. I’ve been thinking about it a lot since then, and since I’m a fan of science writing about neurology, I thought I’d make a contribution to the genre. But I’m not a scientist, so it’s more of a personal anecdote than a science essay. This case study is more case than study.

migraine typing

I can go for years without a migraine, and then get one out of the blue. Sometimes I get a cluster of migraines spread out over a few weeks, and then nothing for several years. I have yet to figure out what triggers my migraines. None of the common triggers — caffeine, stress, cheese, etc — seem to affect me. When the headaches come, they last about 6 to 8 hours. From what I hear about other migraine sufferers, I’m lucky they only last that long.

My migraines are almost always preceded by about 30 minutes of visual phenomena that neurologists call “auras.” I’ve never liked the word because saying that I see auras is too loaded with supernatural suggestions. But I know it’s the accepted medical term, so I’ve taken to using it.

Auras are not atypical for migraine sufferers. In fact, migraines with auras are referred to as “classic” migraines. For me, an aura usually starts out as a tiny shimmering spot in the center of my vision. It looks a bit like the after-image you see when someone takes a flash photo of you. Instead of fading like the after-image from a flash would, the spot slowly grows. As it gets bigger, I can see that it has details: it is a colorful shimmering crescent wrapped around a white circle. Gradually, over the course of 20 minutes or so, it grows until the white center fills my entire field of vision. I’m temporarily blind. And then, over the next few minutes it slowly fades away until my vision is back to normal.

I try to consider these auras as early warning systems. If I take medicine as soon as they begin (in my case Excedrin Migraine can do the trick) the headache might be mild or even abort altogether. But if it doesn’t work, then awful pain and sensory hyper-sensitivity kick in for the next 6 to 8 hours.

Before the particular migraine episode that this story is about, I don’t think I’d had a migraine in about five years. Sometimes I would accidentally glance at a bright light and confuse the after-image for the beginning of a migraine, but happily those incidents all turned out to be false alarms. So I certainly wasn’t expecting a migraine on this particular morning when I was sitting in the living room typing a business e-mail on the laptop computer.

I’ve been touch typing for the past 20 years in a manner that would please Mavis Beacon, with my fingers resting on the home row and my eyes on the screen. I don’t think about what my fingers are doing. They move quickly across the keys on their own, tapping out words like it’s second nature as I merely think about what I want to write. When I mistype something, I can feel it in my fingers before I notice it on screen, and sometimes I instinctively backspace to correct it before I even realize I’ve made the mistake.

On the morning in question, I was a few words into a sentence several paragraphs into the email when I realized that nothing I intended to type in that sentence actually made it to the screen. Instead there was just a stream of gibberish. Sometimes this can happen when my fingers accidentally start out in the wrong position; I might type a few words before realizing that my fingers are positioned one key to the right. So I erased the sentence, repositioned my fingers, and started over.

Again, my fingers were typing nonsense. Could I have made the same mistake twice? No, I was definitely starting out in the correct position. I watched my fingers move as I typed. Nothing looked wrong. The sensation was just as familiar as any other time I typed. My fingers moved with the same confidence, as though they knew exactly where they were going to reach the letters they needed to hit. And yet: gibberish on the screen.

I concentrated on typing just one word correctly. Nope. Gibberish.

In the space of a few seconds, I wondered several things. It seemed to me that something neurological was happening. Was it a stroke? I began to see the beginning of a visual aura, and concluded with relief that a migraine was affecting my typing. But I’d never had any early warning other than the visual auras before. Why was I having this now? Is it possible that I would have experienced this if I had been typing during the onset of previous migraines, or was this migraine just manifesting itself differently?

If my fingers were just typing gibberish, how did they know what particular gibberish to type? For example, why did my left middle finger, which only types the letters e, d, and c, know that it was its turn to type the wrong letter instead of another finger’s turn? Were the correct signals still being sent, but to the wrong finger? In retrospect I wonder, if I had kept the gibberish instead of erasing it, would it turn out to be a simple substitution cipher for whatever I meant to type, or was it truly complete gibberish?

The famous neurologist Oliver Sacks, himself a migraineur, wrote a book called Migraine in which he describes a variety of interesting symptoms of migraine sufferers. It’s not unheard of for some people to experience language disorders during their auras, a condition known as aphasia.. They may be unable to speak even though they understand people clearly. Or they may have trouble understanding what people are saying, as though they are hearing a foreign language. I wonder if this extends to written language. Is it possible that I was actually typing correctly all along, but the words were simply unrecognizable to my brain?

I had planned on writing about this last week, but I didn’t get a chance. Life intervened in the form of another neurological event totally new to me and with which I’m now equally fascinated: amnesia. On Tuesday afternoon, I was lying on the couch in my living room, surfing the web with my iPhone. That’s the last memory I have before waking up in the bathtub, dry and clothed, with my glasses broken and my head bleeding, and no idea how I got there.

Don’t worry. I’m fine now. But that’s a story for another time.

Further reading:
An article by Oliver Sacks about migraine auras in the New York Times.
A slideshow of migraine art that accompanied the article.’s web page about migraine aphasia.
The Daily Headache, the blog of a migraine sufferer who has headaches much worse than I do, and links to other migraineurs who blog about their symptoms.

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 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.


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.

It’s the Official Netters’ MUST-SEE MOVIES Checklist!!!
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.


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.


No table of contents. I always thought they were a waste of space. Just keep reading…


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

January 22, 2007

Every ad in Times Square

[Update: All the photos are now available in larger sizes on flickr.]

Times Square AdsSometimes I get dangerous thoughts in my head, like “I wonder what it would look like to see every ad in Times Square all on one page.” So when I knew I’d be passing through Times Square this weekend, I made sure I had my camera. For the purposes of this nearly purposeless project, I considered storefront signs the same as ads if they were flashy and glitzy like Times Square ads tend to be.

I’m sure I missed a few, and there may be some I got more than once. I do know that some appear to be duplicates, but are actually similar billboards in different spots. Also, if an ad took up more than one billboard, I usually shot each billboard separately, unless it was a wraparound billboard on a corner, in which case I tried to get it in one shot.

So without further ado, here is every ad in Times Square. More or less.

Times Square Ads

Times Square Ads
Times Square Ads
Times Square Ads
Times Square Ads
Times Square Ads
Times Square Ads
Times Square Ads
Times Square Ads
Times Square Ads
Times Square Ads
Times Square Ads
Times Square Ads
Times Square Ads
Times Square Ads

Right now, you’re probably thinking one of two things. Either you’re thinking, “Does that ad really say that there’s a musical version of Legally Blonde coming to Broadway?” or you’re thinking, “Someone has too much time on his hands.” Well, I can tell you, it took about 20 minutes to take the photos, and about 2 or 3 hours to crop the images while I was listening to the pundits on Sunday morning TV. It wasn’t as bad as I feared.

And yes, there is a Legally Blonde musical coming to Broadway. I don’t know what they’re thinking, either.

January 17, 2007

The Astoria Notes

[Update: Be sure to read the surreal follow-up in which a high-school class in Florida gets involved.]

The Astoria NotesMy first year in New York, I lived on the top floor of an old building in Astoria, Queens, with rotted wood floors that creaked every time I took a step. I didn’t mind so much, because my schedule was so hectic I was rarely home. I got up early every day to get to my job by 9:00 a.m. I was happy to work in a photo studio, but it didn’t pay enough to survive in this town. So at 5:30 p.m. each day I left the studio and went to a bookstore across town, where I worked until 12:15 a.m. in order to make ends meet (and another 8 hours on Sundays). By the time I got back to Queens every night, hopefully before 1:30 a.m., I was beat. I’d take an hour to wind down before finally going to bed, getting a few hours sleep, and starting over.

One night, I came home to find the first in a series of notes slipped under my door. Small writing filled both sides of a sheet of loose leaf paper. I didn’t know what to make of it. The note began, “Dear Neighbor. When you arrive late every night, you are probably concentrating on your chores and don’t realize that this building, this street, the traffic, the people are all very still, very quiet.” The care and craftsmanship that went into writing this note was beyond anything I’d ever heard of from an angry neighbor. I continued reading.

Click the images below to see them larger for easier reading:

The Astoria Notes

The Astoria Notes

Wow. I had no idea I was keeping them up. But what could I do? I had to come home at that hour, and it wasn’t my fault the floor was squeaky. More importantly, who bothers to write such a long and detailed letter just to say “Keep it down up there?” It seemed like every word was carefully chosen, written, re-read, and reconsidered. I tested the floor in different areas, trying to find the creakiest spots so I could avoid them when I walk, and made an effort to be quieter when I came home from work.

Months passed. Then one night, I found a greeting card slipped under my door. A greeting card. They took the time to shop for the appropriate card to say exactly what they wanted to say.

The Astoria Notes

I opened it. Inside it read:

The Astoria Notes

Wow, that’s touching. They picked out the card, and even went through the trouble of using White Out to make it more relevant to the situation. Who does that? Who were these people? How did they know my name? After all this time, I’d still neither met them nor seen them. Well, I was sorry to hear that I was still keeping them awake, but I was honestly doing everything I could possibly do within reason to minimize my noise.

Several more months passed with no notes about the noise. I guess all my extra efforts to be quiet were paying off. Then this arrived, slipped under my door:

The Astoria Notes

A leak? That’s much more serious than just some noise. I called the number on the note and left a message, explaining that I’d been having no plumbing problems, and no water was pooling in my bathroom or kitchen, so the water must be coming from somewhere else. I don’t recall exactly what I said, but I must have put forth some specific theory about water condensation and the shower, because later this note was slipped under my door:

The Astoria Notes

Woah. Not only was I still too noisy for them, but they were taking advantage of my noise to entice an unwanted guest to leave. And that was so sweet of them to comment on my health. I guess they could hear that I was hacking up a lung when I had that cold. Well, at least the leaks had stopped. Or so I thought. A few weeks later, there was another note:

The Astoria Notes

The Astoria Notes

A waterfall? Coming from my apartment? Please! I’d had enough of this. No more notes. No more phone calls. It was time to march downstairs, knock on Apartment 5, and have a real conversation with these people face to face. I went downstairs and knocked. The door opened about 2 inches, and an eyeball stared at me. We had a brief conversation that way, through the crack in the door. I confess that I couldn’t pay attention to the conversation very much because I suddenly found myself wondering what it was that this woman didn’t want me to see. I remember she said something about her privacy and her beliefs being nobody’s business, and she didn’t want me to see what her apartment looked like. Okay. I told her I had no idea what the cause of these leaks were, and suggested she bring it up with the building manager to see if they can figure it out. I went back upstairs to my apartment.

It wasn’t long before I received another note:

The Astoria Notes

That was the last note I ever received from Apartment 5. A few weeks later, I moved.

Update: This story now has a very interesting and surreal follow-up, which you can read here.

January 16, 2007

Have your own millionaire Picasso experience

This is the story of a Picasso painting, an art auction, celebrity multimillionaires, and a disastrous blunder that put a hole in the most expensive Picasso ever sold. If you keep up with news of the art world, you may have heard it already. But this is also the untold story of an original poster connected with the original auction, why I have it, how you can get it, and how you can make your own experience similar to those celebrity multimillionaires.

Le Reve The Dream Auction Poster
The poster of the auction of the painting
The story begins in New York City in 1941, when Victor and Sally Ganz spent $7,000 to buy a painting called “Le Reve” (also known as “The Dream”) by Pablo Picasso, depicting his lover Marie-Therese Walter. This purchase began a lifetime passion of collecting works by just their five favorite artists: Picasso, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, and Eva Hesse. Over 50 years, the Ganzes spent around $2 million building their entire collection. Victor Ganz died in 1987, and Sally died 10 years later.

In late 1997, their art collection went up for sale at Christie’s auction house in New York. Le Reve sold for a record-setting $48.4 million to an anonymous buyer — the most ever spent on a Picasso, and the second highest amount paid for any painting ever (the record was held by Vincent Van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet, which sold at Christie’s for $82.5 million in 1990 and has since gone missing, an interesting story itself). The entire 58-lot collection sold for $206.5 million, setting a record for the sale of a private collection.

At the time of the Ganz sale, I worked at Christie’s in the photo studio, where I photographed fine art and other collectibles for the auction catalogs. I’ll get back to that in a minute.

The anonymous buyer who purchased Le Reve sold it to casino magnate Steve Wynn in 2001. He in turn sold it to hedge fund mogul Steven Cohen for $139 million, setting a new record for the most money spent on a painting. All the formalities of the deal were finished, but the handover of the painting had yet to take place when a terrible event occurred. Just a few months ago, before turning the painting over, Wynn had several famous friends over to show it off. Among the guests were Barbara Walters, Nicholas Pileggi, and Nora Ephron, who described on Ariana Huffington’s blog what happened next:

The Ganz collection went up for auction in 1997, Wynn was saying — he was standing in front of the painting at this point, facing us. He raised his hand to show us something about the painting — and at that moment, his elbow crashed backwards right through the canvas.

There was a terrible noise.

Wynn stepped away from the painting, and there, smack in the middle of Marie-Therese Walter’s plump and allegedly-erotic forearm, was a black hole the size of a silver dollar - or, to be more exactly, the size of the tip of Steve Wynn’s elbow — with two three-inch long rips coming off it in either direction. Steve Wynn has retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease that damages peripheral vision, but he could see quite clearly what had happened.

“Oh shit,” he said.

Oh shit, indeed. As recently as last week, the story remained unsettled, as Wynn sued Lloyd’s of London in dispute over how much insurance is required to cover the damage.

As I mentioned, I worked as a photographer at Christie’s auction house from 1997 to 2000. It was pretty cool photographing priceless collectibles for every department at one of the most prestigious auction houses in the world. I photographed thousands of paintings and sculptures, including many by Picasso, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Alexander Calder, and hundreds of other artists. I photographed documents hand-written by Presidents as far back as George Washington. I shot movie memorabilia including Edward Scissorhands’ gloves, the amulet from Raiders of the Lost Ark, and one of the Robocop costumes. I got to see the Archimedes Palimpsest first hand. And I shot photos of Neil Armstrong’s space suit. Okay, it wasn’t the one he walked on the moon in, it was just the one he did his training in, but still it’s pretty cool.

And I was there to see Le Reve sell for $48.4 million.

Working at Christie’s, I occasionally kept mementos of high profile auctions. I have a bookshelf overflowing with catalogs I photographed, but I only kept posters from one auction, the first high profile auction to happen during my time there. I kept the poster for the auction of the Collection of Victor and Sally Ganz, featuring Le Reve.

And now, history repeats itself on a much smaller scale as I am putting one of these original posters up for auction on eBay. I guarantee that as of right now, Steve Wynn has not punched a hole in it, and I will do my best to make sure that he does not punch any holes in it before the auction ends.

If you are the winning bidder, the poster will be sent to you in the same cardboard tube in which it has sat rolled up since I took it home nearly ten years ago. This poster has not been hanging on my wall, and is in excellent condition. It has no folds. There may be slight wear and tear on the edges, as might be expected of a poster rolled up in a tube for ten years. But you’d hardly notice unless you look closely.

Once the poster is yours, you are free to do with it as you please. Sell it to an investment banker at great profit. Hang it up. Invite your celebrity friends over to view it. Recreate a historic moment by shoving your elbow through it. I’m not sure whether or not you’ll be able to get Lloyd’s of London to insure it, but you’re welcome to try.

The auction can be found here.

July 18, 2006

How one man sent one e-mail and took down my entire website. And he didn’t even know it.

[Note: In the following bit-too-long rant, some information has been changed to protect identities. But the name of my no-good, awful, deceitful former web host Doteasy has been left completely intact. Avoid them at all costs.]

On June 23, I spent the day flying back to New York from a business trip in Los Angeles. Adam Sandler’s movie Click opened that day, and lots of websites were linking to an article I wrote about the movie’s overused plot device. It was a higher than usual traffic day for Ironic Sans. When I boarded my plane, web traffic was high.

I arrived home after midnight. I was exhausted. I just wanted to follow up on a few e-mails, see where my traffic plateaued for the day, and go to bed. So you can imagine my state of mind when I checked my e-mail and found this from my web host:

Hello David,

We have received spam complaints regarding your website. Please note that the use of spam, sent from our email servers or to promote a website hosted on our service, is prohibited by our service policy and we strictly enforce a zero tolerance for spam.

Our Service Terms and Conditions document may be viewed at the following URL:

Due to the proliferation of SPAM abuse, we have no choice but to suspend your account from the Doteasy service due to a violation of the terms and conditions of the service. If your domain is registered through Doteasy, you may login to the Member Zone control panel to change your web host once you have found a new service provider.


Doteasy Customer Service

[ Offending message ]
From: “TD”
To: [x]
Subject: Latest must-have fashion statement
Date: Thu, 15 Jun 2006 20:47:04 -0400
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain;
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
X-Mailer: Microsoft Office Outlook, Build 11.0.5510

I was shocked. I hate spam. I wouldn’t send spam. I find spammers to be among the lowest forms of life. I have never sent a single mass e-mail about anything related to this website or pretty much anything else for that matter. No chain letters, no jokes, no urban legends, nothing. This did not come from me. This was some sort of misunderstanding. Looking at the “Offending Message” I could clearly see that it was not an e-mail I ever sent to anyone. For one thing, the header information says it was sent with Outlook. I don’t use Outlook. I do sell t-shirts on my site, but that’s meant to be funny more than anything else. It’s not the purpose of my site. If it makes a few dollars, that’s great, but this site isn’t a money making enterprise. I don’t sell Viagra, or Rolex replicas, or have any Nigerian money to offer. Even a glance at my site should have made that obvious.

There was a misunderstanding here somewhere. But their e-mail suggests they’ve already shut me down! Was it too late to do something?

I immediately sent the following reply:

I just received notice from you guys saying that I was reported for sending spam, and that this will affect my hosting service. The message I received quoted an e-mail supposedly sent by me. It has the subject “Latest must-have fashion statement” and links to one of my pages where I do indeed sell a t-shirt.

I have NEVER sent that e-mail, nor authorized anybody to send it on my behalf, nor ever asked anyone to do any such thing. And I will swear to that in whatever court you want. This is the first time I’ve heard or seen it. I’m as interested in you are in finding out where it came from, and will cooperate in whatever way you want. Is there header information that indicates anything useful? I normally use Time Warner Cable in NYC as my outgoing email host, and I have a gmail account I use also.

How many complaints have you received? I hope this is an overzealous fan of my site who sent an e-mail to a few friends, and not a widespread problem.

I will immediately post a message on my blog asking people not to do this. What more can I do?

I request that you not terminate my account, as I have most definitely NOT violated any terms and conditions.

What more can I do? Please advise.

I know, I know. That’s exactly what a spammer would say. “It wasn’t my IP address! It wasn’t my e-mail account!” Whatever I could say, a spammer would say, too. I was being screwed by a zero-tolerance spam policy for something I had nothing to do with, and had no knowledge of.

I then posted a quick message on my blog that said something to the effect of, “PLEASE DO NOT SEND SPAM ON MY BEHALF!” and explained why. But it was already too late. I could still access my site via http, but couldn’t get through on the ftp server. And when I checked the rest of my e-mail, I noticed someone had written to me complaining that they couldn’t reach my site anymore. The shutdown was already underway. Propagation had begun.

Around now you’re wondering why I didn’t just pick up the phone and call my web host’s 24-hour customer service line to explain everything. Well, they don’t have one. And they take at least 24 hours to reply to e-mails. Why was I with them to begin with?

I already knew that Doteasy wasn’t the best web host around. But I started using them years and years ago to host my photography website when I thought they were a pretty good deal. They’re free for the most basic hosting package, which was all I needed at the time. So when I needed a better hosting package, I just stayed with them out of habit and comfort, upgrading instead of switching to a better web host. I didn’t think I needed the immediacy of phone support. Until now.

Exhausted, I spent the next hour making sure I had everything backed up in case I lost my site forever. Once I was sure it was all safe, I finally went to bed. I woke up the next morning, and the website was gone. No Ironic Sans. No nothing. Just a generic Doteasy placeholder page.

So I took their advice and found myself a new web host. A few other photographers I know are using Media Temple as their web host, and while I’m sure other people can offer other suggestions, the 24/7 phone support of Media Temple was a good enough selling point for me. I immediately signed up (very quick and easy) and spent the rest of the day reinstalling Movable Type and restoring everything as best as I could. And at one point when I hit a stumbling block, I picked up the phone and called Media Temple. In less than two minutes I was talking to a real live person who was very friendly and helpful.

Then I logged back in to Doteasy, where my domain was still registered, and switched the Domain Name Server information to my new web host, making a mental note to move my domain registration away from Doteasy as soon as possible. By the end of the day, Ironic Sans was back on-line. The new DNS information was beginning to propagate. All I could do now was wait.

In the meantime, I took another look at that “Offending message.” It didn’t make sense. Why would someone send spam on my behalf? What benefit would there be? I examined the e-mail header. The “To:” information had been blocked out, but the “From:” address was still there. Since Doteasy thought I sent it, there was no need to hide it from me. So I did a Google search on the e-mail address and found a name to go with it: Tom Dalton (not his real name). Even better, I found a phone number. I called it. I got his voicemail. It was his office number, and he would be away until Tuesday. I’d have to call him back. Is it possible that this was just one person who sent one e-mail to a friend, and that person thought it came from me? Could it really be that simple?

By now my Saturday was gone. It wasn’t how I wanted to spend my first day back in town, but Doteasy made it a necessity. Whatever. Screw them. I was done with Doteasy. Or so I thought.

On Monday, I received the following e-mail:

Hello David,

Thank you for your response.

As an internet service provide [sic], we have the obligation to respond and take action on such reports. If we do not respond to such reports, our mail server IP address can get Blacklisted. This will affect everyone on that server plus servers on the same IP Sub-Block.

It is clearly stated that we strictly enforces a zero-spam tolerance policy:

Normally the account will stay suspended but since we have received a positive reply that this will not happen again, we offer you the opportunity to re-activate your account. We have re-activated your account, please allow 24 hours for your account to be fully functional.

Once your account is fully functional, please do as you have said about posting a message in your forum.


Doteasy Customer Service

Too little, too late, Miguel. I replied:

Because of the extreme unhappiness I have with Doteasy’s handling of this situation, compounded by the fact that there is no phone support and therefore no way for my to even discuss this situation with Doteasy, I am leaving Doteasy as a customer, and have already transferred my web hosting to another company. So there is no need to reinstate my account… [T]his would amount to a total of four days of downtime for nothing I did, and with no way to reach you in a timely manner. That is completely unacceptable.

I would appreciate a cancellation of my web hosting at and refund for the remainder of my prepaid year of hosting with Doteasy. I am not at all at fault in this situation, so a refund is the only appropriate way to make it up to me.

Please advise when I can expect a refund for the remainder of my prepaid hosting. Thank you.

On Tuesday, I left town again on business, but had some time to make a phone call while I was at the airport. I dialed Tom Dalton’s phone number. The conversation went something like this:

“Tom Dalton?”


“Hi. My name’s David. You don’t know me, and I’m sorry for bothering you at work, but I think you may be able to help me solve a mystery.”


“Did you visit a website called Ironic Sans in the last few weeks?”


“That’s my site. Did you see the post about the pixelated t-shirts?”


“Did you happen to e-mail anyone about them?”

“Well yes, actually. I did.”

“I thought you might have. You’ll never believe what happened.”

I told him the story. He confirmed that he sent the e-mail to 7 or 8 people. One of them must have thought it was spam and reported it to Doteasy, thinking they were doing the right thing. I fell victim to Doteasy’s zero tolerance policy because someone thought they were doing the right thing. Tom was friendly and apologetic. He couldn’t guess which person might have reported me. I asked him to inquire, as I’d be interested in talking to whoever it was. How could they not notice the “From” address? What’s it like to actually report spam and have a successful outcome (from their perspective anyway)? Are they in the habit of reporting spammers? I wasn’t angry as much as I was curious. I haven’t heard from Tom, or whichever of his friends reported the “spam,” since then.

Unfortunately, the story didn’t end there.

Days went by. I couldn’t give this any more attention because I was busy with work projects. As soon as I could, I transferred my other sites away from Doteasy. But I still had to switch Ironic Sans to a new registrar. I know a lot of people don’t like Network Solutions, but since my photography domain is already registered with them, I decided to move over there, too. Maybe I’ll move it somewhere else eventually. But for now I just wanted to be away from Doteasy.

So I logged into my Network Solutions account and began the process of transferring from Doteasy. I received this reply from Network Solutions:

**IMPORTANT: One or more of the domain name registration(s) is in lock-status with your current Registrar. Please contact your current Registrar to unlock the domain. Once this domain is off of “lock-status,” please follow the instructions in the authorization e-mail to ensure our ability to process this transfer request.

Lock status? Doteasy offers lock-status protection, but they charge extra money for that. I never paid for that, never wanted that, and I just want to get my damn domain away from them! Why is it in lock status? Did those bastards lock my domain so I can’t escape them? I logged into their Control Panel, where a person who pays for the service is able to lock or unlock the domain at will, but the only option available is to lock the domain. So how the hell do I unlock it?

Meanwhile, it’s been more than a week since I last wrote to Doteasy. Then this shows up:

Hello David,

Because this account was suspended due to a violation of our terms and conditions, a refund on the unused portion of our hosting services will not be issued.


Doteasy Customer Service

Miguel doesn’t get it. I never violated their terms and conditions. I hate Miguel.

I wrote back:

I have contacted the person whose e-mail address appeared on the supposed SPAM that you think I sent. He said he sent that e-mail to EIGHT of his friends recommending my website. One of them must have thought it was SPAM and reported it to you. I did NOTHING in violation of your terms and conditions. This overreaction on your part is very frustrating.

But whatever. At this point I want as little to do with Doteasy as possible, so I’d like to transfer my domain to another registrar. But I see you have made unauthorized changes to my registrant information, and put my domain in “Locked” mode…

I understand why you have a strict SPAM policy. I also understand that I am screwed because of it… I now want to take my business elsewhere.

Please stop holding my domain name hostage, and allow me to transfer to a new host.

Thank you.

To this date, I haven’t heard back from Miguel.

So I started over. I opened a new customer request ticket:

I’m trying to transfer my domain away from doteasy, but the registrar I want to move to tells me my domain is in “lock” status with you guys. I don’t want to be in lock status, and never signed up for domain locking. I don’t see a way to turn off lock status myself (just plenty of places telling me that I can turn lock status ON for a fee).

Please tell me why I am in lock status, and remove the feature so I can transfer my domain away from doteasy. Thank you.

Please don’t let Miguel get it. Let it go to anybody in Customer Service but Miguel. Please not Miguel.

Finally, I heard back from “Steve.”

Hello David,

I have submitted a request on your behalf to have your domain unlocked and it should be completed shortly. Please note that if you transfer your domain name registration away from Doteasy, you may no longer be eligible for our hosting services free of charge.

Due to changes in registry transfer rules, we use domain registrar-lock to prevent unauthorized transfers and domain hijacking from occurring. This is a safety precaution we have implemented as a domain registration service provider.

Please refrain from making any DNS changes or updating any contact information as doing so will cause your domain to relock.

If you have any other questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us.


Doteasy Customer Service

That’s right. They automatically lock every domain. This is a feature that they advertise all over their site as available for purchase for almost $10 per year. But if you don’t buy it, they give it to you for free anyway. That’s deceitful. If you know anyone on Doteasy that’s paying for the feature, tell them to stop.

Now, after all is said and done, I finally have moved everything away from Doteasy. They are not my host, and they are not my registrar. They have my money, and they better not charge me any hosting-renewal fees for anything they think I may have opted into when I signed up (I can see that argument coming). But the lessons I’ve learned are clear:

1) Doteasy asks you to pay for things they give you for free.

2) Doteasy has terrible customer service

3) Anyone can have any website taken down just by sending an e-mail, if it’s hosted by Doteasy

4) If you have a website hosted at Doteasy, you should leave them as soon as possible

5) Spam sucks, but zero-tolerance policies can screw the innocent

6) If you write a really long blog entry, you shouldn’t be surprised if people don’t read all the way to the end. If you made it this far, thanks for reading my rant.

Update: Having gotten strong responses from readers recommending various recourses I could take, I thought I’d try asking Doteasy for a refund one last time before I complain to the credit card company or Better Business Bureau. I sent Doteasy one last e-mail, pointing them to this blog entry, and letting them know about the thousands of people who have read it so far. I didn’t have high hopes, but I didn’t expect this, either:

Hello David,

Thank you for your email.

As per the Terms and Conditions, we strictly enforce the Zero-Spam regulation. As the reply sent to you previously on July 04, we will not be able to refund the remainder paid hosting service. We have already offerred you the exception to re-activate your account without the Spam Re-activation fee of US$25.00.


Doteasy Customer Service
“Join the hosting revolution!”

So now I’m lucky they didn’t charge me an extra $25 on top of everything else for their own screw-up? I hate these people more and more. Grr.

I’ll update again if anything further comes of this.