Wednesday, December 31, 2008


As 2008 draws to a close, I just want to thank everyone who has been reading over the past few years. I enjoy writing this blog, but what's even more gratifying is knowing that there are actually people checking in to read what I'm writing! I've never lost sight of the fact that it is a privilege to have a readership at all, and I'm tremendously thankful to everyone who has enjoyed what I've written here -- especially those who have left comments and participated in discussions around my posts.

Using the power of Google Analytics, I've found that over the past year (as far back as the data goes, anyway), this site has had visitors from no less than 29 individual countries and territories around the globe -- ranging from the United States to the United Arab Emirates, from Germany to Guam. This is, needless to say, tremendously exciting, especially since I've only really been back to writing on this site for the past two months.

I'm excited to see what 2009 brings, and I hope you are, too. Thank you again for reading, and I hope you all have a wonderful start to the new year!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Oh snap

Judge Gary A. Feess has ruled in favor of 20th Century Fox in its case against Warner Bros. to assert its legal rights to a film adaptation of Watchmen. While the issue is far from settled, the ruling seems to have taken many by surprise, and Judge Feess is encouraging both sides to find a way to settle the case or appeal it, as it now will not be going to trial in January as originally intended.

So what does this mean? The excitement around Zack Snyder's upcoming film adaptation of the acclaimed graphic novel has only been building over the past year in particular, and there is a lot of concern from fans who anticipate this case delaying the release of the film, if not changing its content or cancelling it altogether. As of right now, there has been no official word on the tangible impact this ruling will have on the film or its release, but I'm confident that WB is going to do everything it can to protect the investment it's already made in the film's production, and the payoff they're expecting to receive from the hype it's generating around the world.

Indeed, while the judge's ruling shows that Fox does have legal claim to the property and the distribution of its motion picture adaptations, the timing of their case seems unfair to say the least. Why did they wait until the film was in post-production to push their legal rights? If they were sincerely concerned about preserving their claim to a film adaptation, it seems disingenuous to wait until the film was almost finished before opposing it. After all, the hype around the film has been building for the past two years -- it's not like its production was a secret.

In any case, it will be interesting to see where the case goes from here, and specifically, how it will impact the film. I, for one, hope the integrity of its content isn't touched by this lawsuit, and that the release date isn't significantly compromised -- the wait has been too long already!

Monday, December 22, 2008

This is weird . . . but there is an explanation

Fans of ABC's LOST will find this both intriguing and very strange:

Some (of the many) questions in response to this might be:
  1. What is happening to Sayid?!
  2. Where is he?
  3. What are those numbers?
  4. What season is this from?
  5. Is that a pink smoke monster?
Luckily (or not, depending how badly you're craving answers to the show's many actual unanswered questions), there is an easy explanation for all this, albeit a strange one. As commenters on the YouTube video have pointed out, along with several other sites, the three clips contained in the video are actually special promotions for Britain's Sky1, Sky2, and Sky3 television networks (which, it would appear, are or will be broadcasting LOST).

So while it may not help solve any mysteries or burning questions raised by the show, at least we can feel like we had a LOST-related mystery to solve, and we found a solution. Well, maybe. Or maybe I'm just trying to compensate for how badly I want the show to return . . . January 21, 2008 can't come soon enough!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Phonetic Punctuation

Victor Borge, the great one-of-a-kind musician-comedian, has been a favorite of mine for many years. With the anniversary of his passing coming up next week, it seems fitting to share one of his most popular -- and one of my favorite -- bits: "Phonetic Punctuation". This video of it seems to have been edited slightly in the beginning, but jumpiness aside, the good stuff is all still there. Enjoy!

Borge had also adapted this routine for music, with Dean Martin. You can watch that here.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Flight of the Conchords: The Second Season

It's official -- there will indeed be a second season of the HBO musical comedy series. There had been all sorts of rumors, after the season didn't premiere as expected during the summer of 2008, that the series had been cancelled. A trip to the official site, however, shows the above banner announcing the show's triumphant return on Sunday, January 18, 2009.

Since the first twelve episodes were nowhere near enough to satisfy my craving for more Conchords, I'm delighted to hear of their return. I wonder what amazing new music we're going to hear this season, since they used up most of their pre-existing material in the first season . . . maybe we'll finally see a studio-produced version of Jenny?

UPDATE: Readers have brought to my attention the fact that the first episode of the second season is currently available for free viewing, both through the FotC podcast on iTunes, and streaming via Funny Or Die. Thanks for the tips!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Duel of the Fates, animated

Something fun for today: this is a great little bit of computer animation, covering all of the climactic Darth Maul/Qui-Gon Jinn/Obi-Wan Kenobi lightsaber duel from the end of The Phantom Menace. It's amazingly accurate to the film and the duel's choreography -- which I (sadly?) know from having watched the original so many times.

Of course, now a new adjective can be attributed to this epic duel: adorable. (Just look at those cute little hands and feet, without any arms or legs! Awwwwww.)

Sunday, December 07, 2008


I found this after someone posted about it on a forum I frequent; the basic idea is to redirect a stream of particles to flow through sound meters to create music. That sounds a whole lot less simple and elegant than this game actually is -- it is a great concept, beautifully executed and enjoyable to experience.

You can play the game (for free!) on its website. It's easy to dive right in and try, so go ahead and do it -- and bring along headphones or some speakers, because you'll want to be able to hear this game as you play it.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

New "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" Trailer

A new trailer for the sixth Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, has been released. I like this one a lot more than the first -- everything from the presentation of the story, to the humor (the interactions between Ron and Harry, and Hermione and Harry, are hilarious and well-done), to the effects (the smokiness of the memories is beautifully done, and looks even better in motion than it does in the frame below), to the almost-triumphant and engaging new rendition of the main theme at the end. I'm looking forward to this film a lot more after this trailer than I was before.

As has been the progression with the series, this film looks even darker (both in content and in color palette) than the its predecessors.

-- Mild SPOILER ALERT for those who haven't read the books --

There are a number of scenes included in the trailer, some of them short enough that one has to go frame-by-frame to really appreciate them. Especially of note (for awesomeness) is the Inferi scene:

And . . . could this be . . . ?

On a side note, does anyone know what these smokey things are? It's been a year and a half since I last read the book, so I may just be forgetting, but they're pictured a number of times throughout the trailer:

I'd love to hear your thoughts, so leave them in the comments!

The Unrepentant Terrorist speaks

The New York Times has had some great editorial contributors in the past, and yesterday was no exception.

William Ayers, the individual originally brought up by Hillary Clinton during the Democratic primary campaign, and later used to damn Obama in the general election by the McCain campaign (sparking great debate after Gov. Palin's "pal around with terrorists" remark), used the Times as a platform to tell his side of the great Obama-the-terrorist debacle. Included is his explanation of why he didn't comment during the campaign, the nature of his notorious work in the 60s and 70s, and his relationship with Obama. He goes on to comment on the nature of politics today.

The dishonesty of the narrative about Mr. Obama during the campaign went a step further with its assumption that if you can place two people in the same room at the same time, or if you can show that they held a conversation, shared a cup of coffee, took the bus downtown together or had any of a thousand other associations, then you have demonstrated that they share ideas, policies, outlook, influences and, especially, responsibility for each other’s behavior. There is a long and sad history of guilt by association in our political culture, and at crucial times we’ve been unable to rise above it.

His piece can be read here, where hearing the story from his perspective, in his own words, is gripping.

TDK Re-release

I had heard whispers of this earlier in the fall, but it looks now like it's actually happening -- Christopher Nolan's excellent film, The Dark Knight, is being re-released in both regular and IMAX theaters on January 23, 2009. This is significant not only because it will give people the chance to see it again on the big screen, but also because it will give them that chance after the DVD has been released (which is happening this Tuesday, December 9, 2008).

This is fantastic, and not just because it is The Dark Knight. I'm hoping that this will encourage other studios to re-release films that are meant to be seen on the big screen -- maybe someday, we'll get to re-watch Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, The Matrix, and other films like them in the theaters once again. Who's down for a Lord of the Rings: Extended Edition run in the theaters (I should note that when Return of the King was released, I heard of some special marathon showings at its premiere, of the Extended Editions of the first two leading up to the midnight release of the third -- which I thought was a great idea)?

Also -- if you haven't seen The Dark Knight yet in IMAX, I highly recommend seeing it when it's re-released. It's an amazing experience, between the power of the sound and the expanded resolution of the special IMAX-shot scenes. It's the only way I've seen the film thusfar (and I saw it three times), and I can attest that it was worth every penny (though with the prices of general admission at regular theaters, the IMAX tickets are often only a dollar more, for an exponentially better experience).

Friday, December 05, 2008

Al Gore's Plan

It was published almost a month ago, but Al Gore's recent
editorial in the New York Times, "The Climate For Change", is an interesting read that, in a short piece, clearly outlines where we are at this point with regards to the climate crisis, and some direct steps we can take now to deal not only with the present, but with the future.

Al Gore is so cool. Give this a read -- it's not very long, but is packed full of good ideas.

Monday, November 17, 2008


I'll be the first to admit that I'm not too well-versed in the ways of Star Trek (Star Wars is another matter, however). Despite this (or perhaps because of it), I'm intrigued by the new Trek film coming out next year, which is serving as a reboot of the franchise. It looks pretty cool, and it's also directed and produced by J.J. Abrams, who tends to turn everything he touches to gold.

The film's second trailer is causing quite a buzz, as it's the first to show more than just a bit of teaser footage to the drooling masses of Trek fans eagerly awaiting May 8, 2009. A lot of it is looking pretty neat even to me, someone relatively unfamiliar with the franchise. However, I couldn't help but notice (especially as a digital video editor and special effects artist) that there were a lot of flares in the footage shown, that were, at least for me, a little distracting. Now, I love lens flares. It's one of things I loved about Batman Begins and The Dark Knight -- the fact that there were so many flares, so beautifully and consistently shot. The thing about the flares in this Star Trek trailer is that they look less like lens flares from an on-screen light source, and more like light reflecting and refracting on/through a glass or plastic sheet in front of the camera.

You get the idea.

Is this a nod back to the original series? Is it a unique stylistic choice? Is it something else entirely? Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments -- I'm curious as to what you all think.

Watchmen Trailer #2

I missed this when it was released a few days ago, due to my recent relative absence from the interwobs, but in case you haven't seen this yet -- check it out. This film is looking extremely promising, and while there are a few things that make me wonder about the look of the film (like the Silk Spectre's slow-motion spin from the explosion -- is this going to be Watchmen edited like 300?), even those things look pretty cool, and I can't wait to see what the film turns out to be like.

You can get the links to the trailer in all different sizes (including both .mov and .wmv high definition files) here. And don't forget to look at the newly-redesigned official site here.


Remember what I was saying about momentum?

It's been a busy week on my end, and I've been away from my computer for a while. The next few days will likely be similarly busy, but I'll try and squeeze out a few posts along the way.

I hope you've all had a good week, and as always, thanks for reading!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

How he did it

According to the New York Times, anyway.

I really enjoyed reading this article about how the Obama team ran his campaign, all the way back from his race in the Democratic primaries, through the general election campaign against McCain. From the article:
“It was perfectly run; it made few mistakes,” Mr. Schmidt, Mr. McCain’s strategist, said of the Obama campaign.
This is the beginning of the piece:
It was the third week of September, and Senator John McCain was speaking to a nearly empty convention center in Jacksonville, Fla. Lehman Brothers had collapsed that day, a harrowing indicator of the coming financial crisis and a reminder that the presidential campaign was turning into a referendum on which candidate could best address the nation’s economic challenges.

On stage, Mr. McCain, of Arizona, was trying to show concern for the prospect of hardship but also optimism about the country’s resilience.

“The fundamentals of the economy are strong,” he said.

A thousand miles away, at Senator Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters in Chicago, the aides who monitored Mr. McCain’s every utterance knew immediately that they had just heard a potential turning point in a race that seemed to be tightening. They rushed out to tell Dan Pfeiffer, Mr. Obama’s communications director, what Mr. McCain, the Republican candidate, had just said, knowing that his words could be used to portray him as out of touch.

“Shut up!” Mr. Pfeiffer said incredulously. “He said what?” Mr. Obama, who had just arrived at a rally in Colorado, hastily inserted the comments into his speech. And by nightfall, the Obama campaign had produced an advertisement that included video of Mr. McCain making the statement that would shadow him for the rest of the campaign.

At the McCain campaign headquarters in Arlington, Va., at almost the same moment that morning, Mr. McCain’s chief strategist, Steve Schmidt, looked stricken when his war room alerted him to the comment. Within 30 minutes, he was headed for a flight to Florida to join Mr. McCain as they began a frantic and ultimately unsuccessful effort to recover.
It's a really interesting story, and brings back not only a lot of memories (remember the grueling race against Clinton? The days before Palin?), but also provides a lot of insight into the inner workings of the campaign, along with how Obama ran things. These sections are particularly telling, especially as Obama once said, "How you campaign shows how you will govern" (or something like that -- I'm paraphrasing something he said when questioned over whether McCain's negativity and lurching messages on the campaign trail were just part of the politics of campaigning, and not indicative of McCain's governing style).

I recommend you give it a read; it's a bit long, but engaging.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Iran welcomes Obama while Israel cautions him against Iran

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad issued a statement congratulating Obama on his election as President, saying that he was looking forward to the change he anticipates Obama will bring to America's relationships with the rest of the world. From the CNN story, an excerpt from his statement:

The Americans who have spiritual tendencies expect the government to spend all its power in line with serving the people, rectify the critical situation facing the U.S., restore lost reputation as well as their hope and spirit, fully respect human rights and strengthen family foundations.

Other nations also expect war-oriented policies, occupation, bullying, contempt of nations and imposing discriminatory policies on them to be replaced by the ones advocating justice, respect for human rights, friendship and non-interference in other countries' internal affairs.
At the same time, Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni expressed apprehension over Obama's stated willingness to engage in diplomatic measures and direct talks with Iran. From the Reuters story:

"We live in a neighborhood in which sometimes dialogue -- in a situation where you have brought sanctions, and you then shift to dialogue -- is liable to be interpreted as weakness," Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said, asked on Israel Radio about policy change toward Tehran in an Obama administration.


Asked if she supported any U.S. dialogue with Iran, Livni replied: "The answer is no."

I've always been a fan of Obama's approach to this issue. As he put it in a debate, "The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them -- which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration -- is ridiculous." And while I'm no domestic policy expert, engaging nations (including and especially potentially hostile ones) in dialogue seems to me to be both a mature approach, and one that will help to ease the impression of American blustery arrogance around the world. If even such an outspoken critic of the United States as Ahmadinejad is seeing this as an opportunity for more peaceful relations, then I'm looking forward to seeing where we can go from here.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Michael Crichton

I just read that Michael Crichton, author of such bestsellers and modern science-fiction/thriller classics as The Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park, The Lost World, and Timeline, and creator of the long-standing television show ER, passed away yesterday of cancer. As a long-time reader of his books, I am saddened to hear of his death.

His final book is currently scheduled to be published posthumously, most likely next year.

What about Warren Buffett?

During the second debate, both Obama and McCain said that they though Warren Buffett would be a good candidate for the position of Secretary of the Treasury, and since Buffett has been a vocal supporter of Obama, last night's election results seemed to make that a more likely possibility. However, his name is not on the short list of contenders making its way around the media outlets. According to ABC News:

Timothy Geithner, president of New York's Federal Reserve Bank, and Larry Summers, the former treasury secretary in the Clinton administration, are believed to be the leading contenders.

I'm just wondering why Buffett's name isn't currently on the media's list anymore, especially since he was specifically mentioned by both the candidates (McCain, as he mentioned him, even pointed out that Buffett is an Obama supporter, but that he still thought he would be a good choice). Thoughts?

California passes Proposition 8

No matter what one's own thoughts on the issue are, I think the results of this vote are interesting, especially since it reversed a decision made just earlier this year.

Here are a few excerpts from an LATimes story about the vote:

"I think the voters were thinking, well, if it makes them happy, why shouldn't we let gay couples get married. And I think we made them realize that there are broader implications to society and particularly the children when you make that fundamental change that's at the core of how society is organized, which is marriage," he said.

Opponents of Proposition 8 faced a difficult challenge. Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies, said California voters "very, very rarely reverse themselves" especially in such a short time.

Research and polling showed that many voters were against gay marriage, but afraid that saying so would make them seem "discriminatory" or "not cool," said Flint, so proponents hoped to show them they were not alone.

Perhaps more powerfully, the Proposition 8 campaign also seized on the issue of education, arguing in a series of advertisements and mailers that children would be subjected to a pro-gay curriculum if the measure was not approved.

"Mom, guess what I learned in school today?" a little girl said in one spot. "I learned how a prince married a prince."

As the girl's mother made a horrified face, a voice-over said: "Think it can't happen? It's already happened. . . . Teaching about gay marriage will happen unless we pass Proposition 8."

Many voters said they had been swayed by that message.

The role the media campaign had to play, as well as the sheer number of people campaigning on both sides (100,000 people went out for just one side yesterday), shows not only how important this vote was to people, but also how many resources (both financial and human) were used during the campaign for this issue -- striking especially given how many resources were already being tapped for just the presidential campaigns.

Florida and Arizona passed similar bans, by even greater margins, and Arkansas passed a measure keeping unmarried couples from adopting children or serving as foster parents.

Thoughts? Leave them (as long as they're civil) in the comments.

Barack Obama wins the Presidency

The results are still coming in, but all the networks have called the election for the 44th Presidency of the United States of America for Barack Obama, who has just finished his victory speech. No matter where your opinions lie in this election, I think we can all agree that this is a tremendously historic and pivotal moment for the United States, and for the world.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


If it's important enough for Stephen Colbert to put into his opening titles, then it's important enough for you to do.

Get information on voting (where to vote, how to vote, what voting is):

U.S. Government

And from the candidates:

Obama: Voting information, more voting information, and reporting voting problems/voter protection.
McCain: Voting information.

Make sure to leave lots of time -- while your boss may have given you an hour (which is pretty awesome of them), you might need more time -- lines for just early voting have already gotten as long as eight hours. And while this probably will not be the case everywhere, you don't want to lose your chance to vote because you didn't give yourself enough time to do so. Also, remember that if you get in line by the time the polls officially close, you have the legal right to vote (officials will keep the polls open so that everyone already in line can vote).

All the best! Feel free to leave any questions or voting stories in the comments.

The results are in

. . . well, the very first ones are, anyway.

The very first town in the United States to vote, Dixville Notch, NH, opened its polls at midnight, and has had 100% voter turnout already; according to CNN, the 21 registered voters (out of a population of approximately 75)
voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama, 15 to 6.

We'll see where the results go from here. Though my question is -- shouldn't they be waiting until all the polls in the state close before reporting the results?

Indecision 2008 Election Night Special

Right on the heels of last night's SNL Presidential Bash, Comedy Central is producing what for many (myself included) will be some of tonight's most-anticipated election night coverage -- a Stewart-Colbert joint live show! The coast-to-coast airing starts at 10 PM EST/9 PM CST/7 PM PST.

Here's a preview:

Monday, November 03, 2008

Voting = Free Stuff on November 4th

Tomorrow, both Starbucks and Ben & Jerry's are giving free coffee and ice cream, respectively, to people who voted earlier in the day, joining other companies in providing additional encouragement to vote. Very cool stuff.

If you know of any other offers like these, make sure to let everyone know! Send me an e-mail or leave it in the comments, and I'll add it to this post.

UPDATED 11.04.2008: DailyNews posts a list of all sorts of free things you can get for voting (depending where you live), including tacos, donuts, cheesecake, and sex toys (not kidding).

Saturday, November 01, 2008


Carl Phillips returns.

Twitter was abuzz tonight with reports of an alien invasion à la Orson Welles's famous October 30, 1938 radio broadcast that, in a groundbreakingly creative adaptation of H.G. Wells's
The War of the Worlds, caused a nationwide panic and solidified Welles's media career. Tonight's Twitter version, to save the masses from a similar reaction, tagged posts with #wotw2.

I write about it here because I think that this was a really clever and fun idea. In particular, as someone who has worked heavily in various forms of new media, as well as being a long-time fan of the dramatic radio of the 30s, 40s, and 50s, I was struck by the ingenuity of how Welles's idea was updated for the age in which we now live; to me, this seemed like a natural evolution of the concept, though I hadn't thought about it before I first read about this. TIME has an interesting piece looking at the original broadcast in retrospect, and drawing further parallels between the public reaction it inspired and present-day politics.

Finding new ways to utilize existing forms of media -- and keeping it simultaneously fun and safe.* I think Orson Welles would have been proud.

Download the .mp3 of the original October 30, 1938 radio broadcast here, along with a number of other Mercury Theater programs from the time.

* The 1938 radio broadcast did include a disclaimer at the beginning (not unlike the "#wotw2" tags here), though many people either forgot about it once it got underway due to the seeming verisimilitude of the news reports, or had tuned in late and missed the notice.

Thanks to these sites as the sources for the various parts of this post's graphic.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Your boss (and Borat!) want you to vote

Well, at least these bosses do.

I've been really pleased to see some of the voter outreach Google's been doing over the past few months -- from this celebrity-supported voter registration video, to their handy voting map (and other fancy gadgets), to their interviews with candidates during the primary season, to this video
showing people that even big bad corporate CEOs want you to vote:

And that celebrity voter registration video? Well, there's a sequel (uploaded yesterday):

And this one has Harrison Ford and Borat in it! A more powerful duo has never graced the small (small) screen.

Just make sure that you leave enough time when you go to vote -- with long waits even at the early voting locations, there's sure to be quite a rush on November 4th itself. Questions are already being raised over whether the system will even be able to handle the incredible turnout expected on Election Day -- so make sure to plan in advance. The groundbreaking voter registration efforts taking place across the country are showing and ensuring that every vote is going to matter.

You might want to give (and make your boss give) yourself more than that hour, just to be safe.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Return

I've found that writing, like many things, is deeply affected by momentum. It's a whole lot easier to write if you have a routine, if you have been writing somewhat regularly, than if you haven't done so for a long time.

As such, I'm writing this post to try and segue back in to writing here; there have been a number of times over the past two years that I've wanted to, but haven't -- either because I couldn't find the time or the focus to coherently organize my thoughts in a way that seemed interesting or beneficial for others to read, or because I couldn't find a proper way to reboot the blog and return to posting. Often, it was both.

In the end, though, I realized there's just too much to write about; I may sometime come back and write a proper "returning" post; in the meantime, it's time to look to the future, and kick-start the posting momentum again. I'm hoping, for both our sakes, that it will keep going for a while this time.

As always, thanks for reading, and for those of you returning readers, thanks for waiting! I'm looking forward to seeing where this all goes, and I hope you are, too.