June 30, 2003

Project Greenlight

I love this show, but more as a reality show than as a behind-the-scenes documentary. Because the Greenlight folks seem to set the folks up to fail from the beginning. Even with my scant production experience I can tell you that six weeks for ALL preproduction - including casting and rewrites - is INSANE. I know they probably have a target release date, and that dictates everything, but it seems that they are truly more interested in the show being good than the resultant movie.

They also seem to spend time complaining that the directors are not giving their opinion -but when they do, they are quickly reminded that they have no experience.

I am siding with producer Chris Moore so far, which was not the case in the first show. He can come across as a Negative Nelly, but he's exactly who I'd want as a producer. Now it is the two directing goons that bug the hell out of me.

Here's how I'd do things differently as a Project Greenlight director:

1) Put that Casting Queen in his place IMMEDIATELY. My first meeting with him would consist of me saying hello and then placing the list of casting choices in his hand. "Make it happen or give me some options with a miminum of your 'This-is-how-it's-done-in-Hollywood' talk," I would say as I walked into my office and closed the door.

2) Make sure that I am the first to speak at every production meeting, if not running them myself. Come up with an overall vision statement for the project and specific ones for each department. EVEN IF THEY'RE BULLSHIT. At least make them THINK you have a vision. Print it on a banner and put it over the office door, they love that crap.

3) Pick some movies to emulate - and make sure every knows them and knows what about them you want to emulate. It sounds unoriginal, but there's nothing wrong with it when you have six damn weeks only to prepare. No need to reinvent the movies here. Be on the same page.

4) Would I be asking for a CAR in my first week in Hollywood? No. Come ON. Be thankful, dork. I'd have my ass in there drawing storyboards every minute of the day.

5) You may not know exactly what a "production designer" does, and that's fine since you've been doing every single job yourself for so long on your movies back home. But don't question why they want one on this movie.

6) Did I mention not to ASK FOR A CAR?

7) If you don't know what to ask an actress at the "meeting," even a famous one, then make HER do all the talking. Ask what she reponds to in the material, for Christ's sake. Ask how she sees the character being played, for God's sake.

I love this show, and no matter where the careers of Damon, Affleck and Moore go after this, they deserve credit for this.

However: I don't need to see any more footage of the CGI dog getting hit by the car. What came across as a cool shock value effect in the first episode is already now sick and unfunny.

Posted by Chris on 06/30/03

Ant Farm Runtime Error - Would you like to Debug?

No, I did NOT intend to de-bug my ant farm. Really. But friends, that is exactly what I have done. What a bitter crop I have reaped from that farm.

For the sad news is: my Mark III ants, less than two weeks after their introduction to the habitat, have fallen. Each of them. TO THE ANT, THE MARK III ANTS ARE DEAD. The last observed activity within was the last remaining ant, digging himself a grave. I'm not kidding.

Look upon the dry and empty husk of my ant farm, future farmers, and know: apparently a starter tunnel and some wet sand is REALLY IMPORTANT.

I'm sending my order off for the Mark IV ants today.

By the way...

I haven't forgotten / gotten bored of Movable Type, I just got busy. More on it later.

I forgot to mention that I went sailing last week. To forget to mention something so out of the ordinary is weird, specifically in the context of this site, which exists solely so that I can mention things, but there it is.

Some friends of my wife were kind enough to invite me out - SIGHT UNSEEN - to their boat for the Wednesday race around the building way out in the lake that apparently purifies our water here in Chicago. It's called the "beer regatta," (the race, not the building) and yes I had some beer. Mostly I just got in the way, but I DID get to pull some ropes (called "lanyards" in one context, "sheets" in another)

Nothing like it! After a day of dealing with the totally arbitrary world of Active Directories, Domains, and backup server remote agents that do not work, it is VERY stimulating to suddenly be dealing with ropes, wind and pulleys. I was very anxious about it - not because I know very little about boats - but because I am always, ALWAYS loathe to come into a situation with total strangers where no one knows me and I don't know what I'm doing and it has the potential to be intense. This is why I've never done very well in professional film settings. I don't like having to go through someone's personal idea of a Hazing Initiation just because I'm trying something new.

There was none of that. I was totally amazed when these folks were totally open and happy to have me and ready to answer questions. It WAS an intense activity, but I felt prepared and adequate to the task, and they were great.

I was invited back this Wednesday too, and I think Wife Ami gets to join!

Posted by Chris on 06/30/03

June 27, 2003

Who's big?

A minor victory! I remembered that I had modified the httpd.conf file (The Apache web server's configuration file) to point to my own personal sites directory to look for its pages. I changed it back to the default, and VOILA! Pictures showing up on the main config screen now.

Although... it's not actually creating a local MT site yet, as such. There is still no config option to point MT to a specific directory, and when I click "View site," it just brings up the same page in another window.

How many time using VI until I remember all the commands?

Posted by Chris on 06/27/03

MT on OS X

Look at me! I'm starting to coverse only in strings of letters! I must be a real IT guy!

So I decided to try Moveable Type on OS X. I'm not giving up on understanding CGIs on IIS but it's not going to happen PDQ. As usual OS X makes everything easier. But there was a great page at http://lawver.net/geek/geeked/002212.php that had a nifty step by step tutorial.

At least over here I've gotten the CGI to work. But the Moveable Type interface has a bunch of broken image links, and everything breaks down at Step 29. There is no "config" setting. Sigh.

Posted by Chris on 06/27/03

June 26, 2003


Seems weird to me that IIS doesn't really let you set permissions for folders the way... er, EVERY OTHER SERVER PLATFORM DOES. Right now LITERALLY everything I want to do in any part of the tech world points back to the fact that my "permissions " knowledge is a bit wonky. Which logon account is running this process? Does that account have the permissions? Not only to the file but EVERY DIRECTORY it is in?

Also, shouldn't CGI stand for Computer-Generated Interface and not Common Gateway Interface? It would be cooler.

I have once again done my part in China's war against the Orange Chicken.

Posted by Chris on 06/26/03

The Paleo-Reilly Threshold

Sigh. So as to be more like my counterparts at FattyFat and INYF, I have downloaded the Movable Type files and am trying to make them work. Blogger is great - I have nothing against it! (Although their "update" basically means I have to click through a bunch of Debug Pop-Ups now) But I would like to have comments enabled, and trying to do this "in house" will be a good learning experience.

In the meantime, I feel like a caveman poking at a spaceship with a stick.

Handeye.net is hosted by a company (different than my ISP), not on a box under my desk at home. And I am fairly sure that to try to get answers out of this vendor about all the myriad compatibility / platform issues will be a mind-numbing process that will move at glacier-like speeds. Therefore, I've installed IIS on my work PC and am trying to work it out there first. I can get IIS to "host" some pages from my work computer - at least TO my work computer - so that's to the good. I can make a webpage that only I can see. yay! Nothing like a small initial victory to get things going.

Like every tech topic I try to expand my knowledge to cover, every question I have leads to 40 more. The queries multiply and loop back on themselves like some alien worms. And they all lead inexorably back to a stack of unread O'Reilly books behind me.

Generally I get to page 20 in an O'Reilly book and then my Inner Caveman starts hooting and throwing rocks at it. Let's coin a term for this page limit - I'm going to call it The Paleo-Reilly Threshold: the page at which I begin to wonder if I can perhaps use the book to club a small animal - maybe the one on the cover!!!

So - I'd expected SOME backtracking to figure out how to get the Common Gateway Interflarn up and running, with the Perl and the whatnot. I download ActivePerl and get it settled on my PC. But then I literally got confused at Movable Type's "Download" instructions. It seems that one needs to set up the directories beforehand, and before that one must know if the files will be in the CGI-Bin directory, and you must also know what sort of database support you'll be using - MySQL, PostgreSQL, or SQLite.

These questions alone branch out into a whole tangled tree of knowledge I don't have. Clearly I'm not going to be playing around with the MT interface today. I make some weak attempts at configuring the files, but when I call up the CGI files in IE, it helpfully displays the contents of the file instead of executing the magic words inside.

Hoot! Hoot! Fire! Want fire! Fire good! Fire good to roast llama on front of book!

The MT troubleshooting page says - and this is the VERY first question listed, which is heartening - that seeing the insides of the file means that CGI scripting is not enabled on my web server. A trip to MS's support site - and oh, the many journeys I've taken that have tracked and backtracked through the impenetrable jungle of the "Knowledge Base" - indicates how to do this in the Management tool.

The Management Tool seems to be the Medulla Oblongata of a Windows machine these days. I guess the Registry is then the spinal column. I find the tiny checkboxes and associations one has to make in the Tool rather out of the way for something which seems fairly central to working web pages.

I load the "HelloWorld" test MS suggests, wincing as I do. How many self-learning expeditions have begun so promisingly with Hello World, only to end with Hoot! Hoot! Hoot! Chris SMASH! But the test works.

But browser still doesn't know what a CGI file is. Does this have to do with permissions? Should I be trying this on the Apache web server on my OS X box?

Posted by Chris on 06/26/03

June 25, 2003

The Mark III Ants are DOOMED

I have grave news: it seems that more than half of the ants have fallen. I have been following the food and water schedule TO THE LETTER. I won't be blamed for this.

But I think I have made a mistake in preparing their home. I remember now that when first adding the sand to the ant farm, I had to pour in some water so that the sand would have a little weight to it, and it could be easily dug and shaped by them. My idea this time was that they could just come on in and live in the existing tunnels, and expand as they desired.

I see now that my Legacy Tunnel plan was wrong-headed and stupid. I believe the sand had dried out to the point that it was unsafe for digging. I never added any extra water (besides their drinking drops! And those were added ON SCHEDULE.) and I also... ahem... never created a "starter" tunnel for them.

So they've just been grading and re-grading the surface for two weeks. They could never seem to get the landscaping the way they wanted. They made a hill over on the left side, then moved it to the right. But never any tunnels.

I realized this the other day so I made a belated "starter tunnel" in the center by shoving the stick down in the center. They immediately investigated. I could see that it would still be difficult digging, because one almost died in a tunnel collapse right then. And the next day, they had totally filled this new tunnel, and created a little slope along the left! Still no tunnels! As soon as they all gather on one side, away from harm's way, I'll wet down the sand good and well on the other side to make it suitable for starter tunnel and digging. This is for the six ants remaining.

Posted by Chris on 06/25/03

June 24, 2003

Look Into the Eye

I saw "The Eye" last night. The movie fails and falters a bit in the last reel*, but it provides three solid scares and some great atmosphere up to that point. So I'm going with: I enjoyed it.

*I'm not sure actually how much time is on "a reel." Let's assume a half hour.

Posted by Chris on 06/24/03

June 23, 2003

More from the hippy

FattyFat says he does not pollute, but I remind him that there is such a thing as traffic pollution as well. He pollutes the very roadways by making them unsafe. And still he does not take responsibility for his own driving!

Get out of here, hippy, you're making the whole place stink of patchoulie.

Posted by Chris on 06/23/03

Don't make me confused - you wouldn't like me when I'm confused

I saw "Hulk" this weekend - I think I liked Ang Lee's multiple camera angles inside moving comic frames - but I wouldn't argue very hard with anyone that found them distracting. Speaking of distracting, CONNELLY. Lee is clearly just as smitten with her as I am, because he lets his camera LINGER and LINGER on her. I'll have to see it a few times (on cable - I probably wouldn't pay matinee prices again) before I can decide.

I think that the addition of the David Banner part really muddled things. Perhaps it was just too simple to let this be a Jekyll / Hyde story centered on Bruce alone, but I'm not sure the idea of the father meddling with the son's DNA resonates as well as Bruce having to control his OWN self. It's also complicated by the fact that Lee instructed or allowed Nolte to play him just like his homeless character from "Down and Out in Beverly Hills," or perhaps just like himself in real life. I don't think I need Nick Nolte stomping through this superhero movie with his hair flying everywhere and delivering loud, impassioned political speeches.

What was up with the frog on Banner's hat at the end, too?

Posted by Chris on 06/23/03

Monsieur GrossyGrosGrosGros

I see that Monsieur GrossyGrosGrosGros totally buys into my logic - he AGREES with me that I am responsible not only for myself but him on the road when he is biking.

Meanwhile HIS only responsibility is to get himself there.

It is almost enough to make me turn... green... WITH... RAGE!

Posted by Chris on 06/23/03

Puerto Rican Day!

It's Puerto Rican Day! Let us celebrate by taking to Western Avenue in our cars! Let us show support by flying the colors of our homeland! (Remove the smaller flag used for "everyday" driving around, and replace with the larger, full-sized flag.) Let us sound our pride with the laying of hands on car horn!

Posted by Chris on 06/23/03

June 20, 2003

Former W.H. Aide

From a former White House aide:


Clearly under the influence of some sort of terrorist mind-control ray.

Posted by Chris on 06/20/03

Free rides for someone

I am now in mourning for the loss of my recently-filled CTA card. I must have lost it on the bus in my sleep-deprived state. That thing had $16 on it! DAMN! I'm determined to get over it, but... DAMN! Well, good luck to someone if they find it.

I use these things for bookmarks when they get empty and now I will suspect every bookmark of secretly having $16 worth of rides on it.

Posted by Chris on 06/20/03

That's OK, I'll drive for both of us

So FattyFat had much to say about my comments. Poor bicyclists - maligned by me from the sanctity of my sagging couch, probably while stuffing my fat face with cheese doodles. Salacious Crumb cackles from his place on the floor. I don't bike on the lakeshore, so therefore I am the Comic Book Guy.

I have no doubt that there are plenty of annoying peds xinging down on the bike path. Can I suggest, though, that perhaps it's not the best place, even if it is a Designated Bike Path complete with pictures of helmetted bicylists, to bike at top speed? At least not in the northern sections heavily-populated by the boggled and botched non-bike riding Abba-listening Republicans?

Also, let's stop to savor the irony for a moment. I'm sure it's tough for a bicyclist along the lakeshore path. Those peds and skaters not staying in their lane. But now let's turn our attention to virtually any bicyclist at all on the busy roadways of our city. Friends, the day you see someone on a bicycle obeying the laws of traffic in this context, is a day you should mark on your calendar. Not staying in their lane? Zipping down the center line? Going the wrong way? I believe I saw a bicyclist stop at a red light once, although it may have been a mirage.

Every morning that I drive to work I save a bicyclists' life - we ALL do. They should thank us for driving for them AND you.

Posted by Chris on 06/20/03

Stayed up way too late...

last night. I'm not even sure you could properly say I went to sleep. Wife Ami had her social function last night, and I had mine. Got together with some fellow filmmakers and BOY are we all hot to get some movies made. It was great. We talked way long, and I didn't get home until about midnight, later than I thought but I'd let her know I might be late.

She wasn't there. It's always disconcerting to come in, tiptoeing so as not to wake her up - and I slowly realize that everything is just like I left it. All the same lights are still on, not set to her "welcome the late arrival" mode at all. Hey - she's not here! A call on her cell goes to voice mail, and then she calls back - she's still at her party. She'd expected to be home by nine, but I can hear that sound in her voice that says she started having unexpected fun. I sigh theatrically, then chide her gently for not letting me know. She chides back, we make kiss sounds and hang up. Foolishly, I start a game of Galactic Battlegrounds while I wait for her.

This was a mistake - because starting that game is the same as signing away the next two hours of my life. When I look up next (I'd routed three of the five enemies, a fourth self-destructed [you can always count on that], and the fifth was all the way across the big, central lake, just waiting for me to enforce my Policy of Containment with my air cruisers), it was almost two. No sign of Wife yet.

OK, I thought she'd be home soon but she didn't specify and I didn't ask. That means I'm going to bed and I'll half-sleep until she gets home. I already have that sort of low buzz of a headache that means tomorrow I'm going to be groggy all day long. Nice going, Still, the Empire had to be defeated.

I half sleep until around 3:30, at which point I fall into actual sleep. Pretty much at that moment: the phone rings. I bolt out of bed, I am sure, on the first ring. Nothing like being home alone early in the morning waiting for someone who hasn't given you their plans to be RIGHT ON THE EDGE. Like many people, I live in terror of the late-night phone call. Only the police or hospitals call at that time of night.

It's her - she'd promised to take someone home, and where did I park the car? The buzzing of a headache is now three times as bad, because now not only am I going on very little sleep, but being jolted out of bed at 3:30 is like getting an electric shock, and I'm also trying to remember what the street two blocks up is called, which I can never do. She apologizes twice for the lateness of the call, and I ignore it - A, because to parse more words in this state will only make the buzzing worse, and B, I hate it when she not only wakes me up but then forces me to make it OK for her. I give the approximate location of the car (not really thinking that I should question her driving state), and hang up.

Slip into fevered half-sleep for a few hours. Cat occasionally wakes me up with its howling. Not sure what I did to deserve that cat. At some point some idea occurred to me that seemed good for a movie, and I jotted it down. Can't wait to see what it is.

Cat then wakes me up good and well at 5:30, and Wife is still not there. Now it's bad. I've got the buzzing and the certainty that she's been killed. I lay there and process disaster scenarios.

The key fumbles in the lock at 6AM, and I immediately get the relieved / mad feeling. She'd better not make ANY NOISE when she gets in here. I'm not talking to her. She's fairly silent, although she starts the cat a-howlin'. I determine to leave for work in an hour without farewell or kiss, and do.

Posted by Chris on 06/20/03

June 19, 2003


Fattyfattyfatfat's comments about how dumb ol' people always ruin the lakefront for him pretty much sum up why the lakefront is ruined for me - whether I'm on foot, skates, or a bike.




Posted by Chris on 06/19/03

Thursday's Ant Farm Has Learned to Tie Its Bootlace

Not really. They're still smoothing out - grading? - the Lower Level. Unhappy with the slant of things, and the way there was no easy access from Farm Level to Lower Level, they've made themselves one long access ramp.

Posted by Chris on 06/19/03

June 18, 2003

Get the ASS on that race car driver!

Another hilarious ad at the movies I forgot to talk about - the one where the race car drivers (All drinking Coke! But you don't have to Find The Bottles of Coke in this ad - they're placed right where your retina can most easily access them from the screen) all walk out in "Right Stuff" slow-motion. And the women go WILD. Ladies ranging from the flag-waving supermodel to the frumpy housewife snatch away their husbands' binoculars to check them out - because they are race-car drivers! They're so damn hot!

But of course, they're not. The hilarity for me - and I can't determine if the ad is ironically aware of this or not - comes in the fact that these guys are hardly athletes. They're in their 30s and 40s and how much iron do you have to pump to handle that car? Answer: Not much. And the best part is how utterly absurd a grown man looks in a flight suit covered in product logos. How sexy can you be when you have a big CHEERIOS logo across your chest?*

Answer: I guess pretty sexy indeed - if you're into racing.

The ad also has a bit of a thing for men's asses. Most of the admiring the women do of the racecar drivers is done in GET THAT ASS form. One housewife lets her hand trail down a little far during a picture, then a group of women checks out a driver as he turns around to do something.

*Another thing - isn't there some sort of Planetary Roche limit for logos that could be observed when clumping a bunch of corporate logos together? If you're shoving that many logos into that small of a space, don't you run the risk that the mind is going to stop registering individual sponsors and just go with "THIS EVENT / PERSON / RACE CAR DRIVER IS WELL-CONNECTED?"

Posted by Chris on 06/18/03

Ant Farm Update

Not only did I collapse all existing ant tunnels in my vigorous tapping of the Mark III ants' container into the farm, but I also failed to give them a "starter tunnel." So basically they've been working on landscaping the lower level - just smoothing it out, and it looks like they're surveying where to start the first Big Dig.

One looks to be dead already - buried up to his neck. Perhaps he suggested to the others that they cooperate with their new Lord and Master rather than trying to escape every time the eye dropper came down with water. The community made their opinion known.

One thing with ant farms is you have to wonder if they're maybe doing all the good digging on the other side of the farm, the one away from your view. But you want to minimize any handling of the farm.

Posted by Chris on 06/18/03

June 17, 2003

A bit of an apology

All right, I'll admit - I am jealous of John's CLI skills. I'll be honest - I had trouble with the "find" command. I was a little harsh in the post below. In the post-apocalyptic world, when radiation has rendered our mice useless somehow, and we are forced to use the keyboard alone to interface with our machines, John will be King.

Although I will still make fun of him for it.

Posted by Chris on 06/17/03

Ant Farm Mark III

It's here. Or rather, the latest shipment of ants is here.

A little background: One of the props I needed for my recent movie was an empty ant farm. That is to say, I needed an ant farm that had all the tunnels that ants would make, but SANS ANTS. Yes, I could have just made some tunnels myself with a pencil somehow, but since I had time, I ordered the ant farm and ants. My plan was to move them in, they build a bunch of tunnels, get the place into ant-shape, and then I let them go. I'm happy, they're happy. They get their freedom, plus an acknowledgment in the credits, I get my prop.

So much for the plan.

Because unfortunately, TO AN ANT, they all died before I could release them into the wild of Chicago's neighborhoods.

I did my best with them to keep them alive. But before you go tarring me with the wide brush of ANT KILLER, know that Uncle Milton, that bastard, for legal reasons, does not ship the ants with a queen. That means they only have so long to live anyway. Also, although the instructions warn REPEATEDLY AND IN BOLD TYPE about the dangers of overfeeding, they do not specirfy explicitly how much to feed them. "Just a pinch" they say. Right.

So it's possible that the first wave of ants died of overfeasting.

Wave II of the ants was barely a wave at all. I decided to go it on my own, with regional ants. Meaning, I would capture some ants outside, stun them for the appropriate time to make them pliable for the introduction into their new home, then let them clean up the ant farm. Step 1: I lured a big pile of ants into a small tupperware container with a sugary, irresistable gummi lifesaver. My God, that thing looked good in there. I almost got into the tuperware myself.

Gummi Lifesaver! Gummi Lifesaver! So soft, so sweet! Give me! Give me! Mine! MINE! MINE!

OK, sorry. I'm back. The ants were not quick enough to take the bait, so I scraped I'd say about thirty into the plastic box. Now, step 2: the stunning.

When Uncle Milton sends you ants, they are the nice big kind. No small ants, these: you could identify their phylum from across the room. They come in a small translucent tube. You can look in the tube and see these guys crawling around in there all of each other, about thirty of them. You can tell they're not happy to be there. They want out. And they're going to attack AND EAT the hand that releases them. Therefore, you are meant to put the tube in your freezer for five minutes, which will "stun" them, and make them sluggish enough that you can gently tap them out of the tube into your farm, where they will wake up minutes later and get to a-farmin'.

The problem with the Mark II ants was that they were much smaller than Uncle Milton ants. They were barely specks. Five minutes in the freezer... was too much. They expired. So sorry. My mistake.

So, I sent away for ANOTHER batch, and MANY weeks later, good Lord, if I'd been some child this would have been an eternity, they arrived. I gave them ONE MINUTE in the freezer, afraid to overcome them with a sudden frosty winter. As it turned out, that wasn't enough - they immediately put an escape plan into effect when I opened the stopper in the tube. After some trouble (including dropping the lid of the farm into the farm itself - EEEK!) they all got in there.

Look for updates in this space.

Posted by Chris on 06/17/03

One Man's Descent Into Madness

Oh my. My friend John has descended into some sort of madness. He shuns the simplicity of the GUI for pages and pages of arcane commands that achieve the same thing. Look at his pathetic attempt to justify himself in his first paragraph. Why does he shun the GUI? John, do you not realize that the drag and drop interface is the very thing that separates us from the animals? Do you want to be crawling along the ground on all fours, rooting out nuts and berries and using a command line interface?

I also point out to you that both John and McFall have completely eschewn checking their page's appearance on a PC browser, so much so that John's logo is completely obscured, and McFall's page is... well, AWOL.

Also - I'm not sure of the etiquette of linking to other peoples' blogs - which is why I give you the link to John's article not on his front page, but its permanent home in the archives.

Posted by Chris on 06/17/03

June 16, 2003

Find the bottles of Coke in this post!

I've found that the advertising / quasi-trivia slideshow that precedes the movies these days is so bad it makes me grimace. Find the bottles of coke in this poorly-illustrated drawing which uses themes from a recent-hit! Or, Which bottle of Coke will win the race! And then we see two or three more slides where various Coke-owned flavors make progress along a race course.

I find it to be STUNNINGLY poor. Who is this aimed at?!? (Or, at whom is this aimed?!? Nope - sorry, doesn't feel right.) Who comes up with it?!? Are the people from Highlights magazine doing the pre-show ads now? Will Goofus and Gallant be offering countering opinions on which Coke product tastes best?

The ads are so UTTERLY BEYOND LAME, so utterly UBER-CORNY that I have come to the conclusion that it's not even meant to function on an advertising level. Instead, it HAS to be some secret code. It must be insider trading information that Coke executives are trying to pass to investors. Something about recent market tests of the various flavors? A comparison of profit levels of the various brands? Look, Cherry Coke is pulling ahead of Classic! But then... SPRITE WINS! Translation: Sell all your Cherry Coke stock, that division will be having lay-offs.

Could there be any other answer? I'm aware that a theory of advertising is not so much "make the commercials amusing and hip" as "get the brand name out there X number of times." I KNOW that. But these slides represent a complete LACK OF EFFORT to do ANYTHING but get the name out there.

"Find the bottles of Coke" is like something a CEO might foist on a horrified marketing department because his four-year old daughter just LOVES finding those hidden stockings and bottles and kitties in Highlights, so do something with that, fellas!

The same goes for the Official AMC tagline: There IS a difference! Note this at the bottom of their in-between promos. Welcome to AMC! Don't forget to visit the concession stand! There IS a difference! This is probably what's emblazoned on their letterhead, their email signatures, their business cards. They probably had an executive offsite or twelve, where they flew ALL their VPs off to the Caymans for an EMERGENCY brainstorming session. The topic: Ways your division can make a Difference (And increase market share). This is their current Mission Statement. Their driving force. Let us do nothing at AMC, except that which contributes to the Difference! LET THE DIFFERENCE INFORM EVERYTHING YOU DO, scream the signs posted in the bathrooms.

Look at us! We're Different than the other theatre chains in town! There IS a Difference! Not in our hiring practices, or our employee training programs, or our salary levels, I mean, sure, THOSE are pretty much the same as other theatre chains, I mean what the HELL, we ain't running a community service program here, this is a movie theatre, it ain't no charity ward, but in all other matters, THERE IS A DIFFERENCE!

Now amuse yourself by finding the bottles of Coke in this ad!

Go to the movies more often, folks - we've got to help AMC pay off the millions in consultant fees that tagline cost.

It is EXACTLY the sort of thing an Executive would come up with to earn his daily thousand. Look, there goes Bob Phillips! He came up with the "Difference" campaign. (low whistle) It got him a corner office! By the way, Bob's the one that writes the trivia questions for the pre-show slides. Yep, he's a real movie buff! Imagine that, an executive! Actually handling such a task personally!

These theatre chain promo films (Welcome to the show, visit the concession stand, here are the coming attractions, here's the main attraction) must also be low-hanging fruit for 3D animation firms as well. I think that I, even with my scant knowledge of 3D software, could probably fund a start-up by getting a demo reel to a theatre chain. Because their in-between films are always completely given over to some cute little 3D mascot with a John Williams-knock off score (In one AMC promo, the mascot, which is composed entirely of film - ha! get it?!? - conducts the score himself. The title of the piece? "There IS a Difference!") and lots of 3D swooshing concession items and reels of film and so forth.

What's amazing to me is how the chains VERY RARELY if ever choose to use clips or scenes FROM THE ACTUAL MOVIES in their promos. It's so rarely done that when I DID see it it came across as a novelty. A THEATRE using MOVIE CLIPS as promo?!? Now I've seen EVERYTHING!

P.S. There were 18 bottles of Coke in this post. Mmmm. Delicious, refreshing, ice-cold Coke. Wouldn't one go good right about now?

Posted by Chris on 06/16/03

No Rocket Science, This

Why is everyone else but me such a slow-poke at the ATM? What are they doing, perusing the features? Are these people taking the time to scan over the list of options to make sure they're doing the right thing? Do they not have a general idea of what the transaction amount will be beforehand?

I get in, get out, I'm done! I don't transfer funds between accounts when there's a line behind me, I don't have to get out a ruler to trace the arrow on the screen to the corresponding button!

Posted by Chris on 06/16/03

A Pauper for Two Weeks

I recently have made the switch to doing all my banking and bill-paying completely online, and somehow in the transition, I let my bill-paying date shift about seven or eight days later than normal.

Something about having to physically write out checks really marks this process for me in a way that doing it all online doesn't. One day I woke up and an imperative sentence in all-caps was waiting in my mental In-Box: WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU PAID YOUR BILLS? I couldn't honestly say! And a quick nervous check of my records (kept in an Excel file - I'm basically all digital with the bill thing except for the single anachronism of a manual, analog-generated paper check to my landlady. It just seems lazy to have my bank generate a check when the lady lives one floor up) showed me that I wasn't really sure. I hadn't been keeping careful records for a bit! What a frightening thought - how could I let something like this slip? I realized suddenly that I had reverted into my true form, that of the Careless Spendthrift!

Bottom line, I'd waited about a week later than normal. OK, everyone calm down. We're going to be OK. This meant that, since the bank has their own built-in delay before issuing checks, that things were going to be late this month*. Not a huge disaster, but it ended up jolting me into a state of financial alertness again. The worst part was that I'd been continuing to make periodic ATM withdrawals during this period.

What happened to all my mental safeguards? I DO keep all my ATM receipts, but don't exactly rush home to enter them into the register and recalculate my balance. Usually I just keep a little stack in my wallet and they are reconciled all at once. And normally I have a little red light that comes on with each ATM withdrawal, which is the sign that on some level my subconscious is checking the withdrawal against my actual balance. I'm pretty good at staying in a reasonable margin of safety. Usually.

But somehow many systems went kaput at once this last month. Not only did I fail to pay bills until a week later, I also kept spending as if I'd landed on Free Parking. Good lord, where is the pile of pirate's booty to show for all this? What happened? DID I LOSE TIME AGAIN?

The bottom line is, when it's all added up this month, more like subtracted, I've gone over by something like $1.75. That's right - if I were to pay all my bills at once this time, I'd have an account balance of -1.75.

Everything will be fine, but I NEED TO SPEND NO MONEY FOR TWO WEEKS. This basically means: don't go out to eat AT ALL for two weeks. Further: I'm in for a world of baloney lunches. I've also weakened a bit over the weekend. But Wife Ami had had a monster of a day and needed her favorite takeout. Check back for periodic updates from Debtor's Jail.

*One good thing to come out of it: The most evil of my credit cards wrote me a note the moment I went over time, cutting back on my credit limit. Since this was galling, irritating, and I just happened to be at the point where they were not needed anymore, I responded with an instant message that I was sorry to have fallen from their good graces, and why didn't we just end our relationship right then?

Posted by Chris on 06/16/03

June 13, 2003


Stikfas, Stikfas, everybody loves Stikfas*. If you'd told me when I was ten that I'd still be playing with action figures when I was 32, I'd have relaxed.

*The link is to BigBadToyStore, where I got it cheaper, but the image is from KidRobot, where they also have them and a lot of other neat stuff, but sometimes for a few dollars more.

Posted by Chris on 06/13/03

June 12, 2003

I am a human "Favorites Folder"

There's an exec here who treats me as her own personal IE Favorites folder. I've given her this one particular link to a folder no less than seven times. Any time she needs it, she emails me for it. If anyone else needs it, she emails me and has them send it.

Posted by Chris on 06/12/03

Quicktime Where Art Thou?


Posted by Chris on 06/12/03

Message to the Future

I know that you people in the future are making fun of our cell phones. You probably have skits on your future comedy shows where you mock we in the olden times with our constant refrain of "Can you hear me now? I'm sorry, you're cutting out! I missed that last bit. Can you hear me? I can't hear you! OK, I'm calling back. You there?"

"Ha ha ha!" you'll laugh in that superior, futuristic way of yours. "They didn't even know how bad they had it! Phones that only worked some of the time! And look at the size of them! As if making them smaller and smaller was the answer!"

Let me clue you in on something - WE DO KNOW HOW BAD WE HAVE IT. Every time my phone doesn't give me the actual phone call, only the indication that I missed a call; every time the voicemail takes nine days to give up the information that I have a message waiting; every time I get a phone call but the signal isn't QUITE good enough to actually hear it - which is basically every time - I realize that the promise is there, but it just ain't working so far.

I'm not asking that I be able to hit the com-link on my chest and have instant voice clarity to the spaceship in standard orbit. But I would like a phone that would work as... a phone. My land-line has basically been taken over by telemarketers, so it's out. Four out of every five calls are salespeople. It is nothing more than an audio billboard right now, although I unfortunately have to keep it around for my DSL to work.

I cannot receive phone calls 1) in my apartment (without rising up to what my friend McFall calls "periscope depth" - which means outside of the garden-level apartment.) 2) Anywhere in my neighborhood, because it's one of those "dead-zones" ("Ha, ha, ha," you're laughing in the future. "'Dead-zones!' Remember 'dead-zones'? Ha ha ha!") or 3) most places in the building I work in. That leaves the commute to and fro as a perfect time to get calls, BUT! Oh, wait. I take the subway so that's 4) Anytime I'm on the subway.

I know you're also laughing about the size of our computer monitors, too. I'd be laughing as well if I didn't have to lift them as a part of my job.

Posted by Chris on 06/12/03

June 11, 2003

BBEDIT so far

OK, I'm enjoying it. But $175 for it? Come on.

Posted by Chris on 06/11/03

June 10, 2003

Nomination for New Metaphor

Some strange woman pointed at me as she drove by the bus stop where I was waiting yesterday. I thought, "how odd," then realized it was my friend HOPE ROSS!

Hope, I don't have enough Hope in my life. Email me with your contact info!

The bus I was waiting for was #66, the Chicago bus. This is the most horrible of buses. There was nowhere I could stand that I was not IN THE WAY. And it's ALWAYS this way. NOTE TO SELF: Invent some sort of epoxy that I can apply to my hands and clothes, so that I can just affix myself to the ceiling like a bug. That's the only place I'll be able to be OUT OF THE WAY.

This bus line is so horrible, I'd like to nominate it as a metaphor for having to take the annoying, crowded, smelly way to get to your destination. "I'll be ridin' the 66 on this one," people will say, when they mean that for some reason all other avenues of ease are closed to them.

Posted by Chris on 06/10/03

More Fun With Mac Keyboards

Hi! I had to retype the post below because I'm writing this on a Mac and I hit the "clear" button on my keyboard when typing it the first time! And the whole thing went away!

You see, in some contexts, the "clear" button on a Mac acts as the "delete" button on a PC keyboard does! But not in the context of "Blogger!" There, it pretty much does what it says, and "clears" everything! No undo available! Meanwhile, the Mac "delete" key acts as the "backspace" key on a PC keyboard! See how that works out! It's neat!

But the design sure is pretty!

Posted by Chris on 06/10/03

The Couric Woman

How do I feel about Katie Couric's interview of the Peterson family last night?

Well! Since you didn't ask, much like my wife last night who was trying to watch the interview didn't ask, I'll tell you.

Shameless. It went beyond just tacky and lame to be terribly wrong on at least two levels.

Why do we need to know "how they felt when they heard?" What else could the answer possibly be from grief-stricken parents, and how does that help them or us to have to relate it? Is this news? Is it even "soft" news? What other reason would someone have to ask this, except to 1) exploit this family's terrible situation and 2) play to that audience that tends to gawk and stare at the scene of an accident?

Couric is a master at turning real-life tragedy into melodrama for the public. Listen, I know enough not to go to the Today Show for my news. They're a digest show or something for housewives. Fine, I can ignore it. But does it not bother anyone else that these people have practically TRADEMARKED THE SKILL OF ASKING GRIEVING PARENTS HOW THEY FELT WHEN THEY HEARD? I wonder, too: when was the Laci Peterson Theme composed? Is it just pulled from the Mournful Strings section of their stock library?

And I realize that the family agreed to the interview. But NBC - and Couric in particular - specialize in this sort of thing. God praise the Petersons' for refusing to answer Couric's REPEATED questions of whether they thought their son-in-law had killed their daughter. Why would you even ask this? What does it accomplish? WHO CARES?

Here's the second reason this is VERY wrong: THE TRIAL IS NOT EVEN UNDERWAY YET. Hey, it sure looks to me like this man is as guilty as the day is long. I'll grant you. But it's not up to me, it's not up to the Petersons, it's not up to the public, it's up to a trial by jury, and thank God for it! And interviews like this one encourage people to go with their first emotion and with appearances on who's guilty. And if you don't think public attention affects the outcome of a trial, please see O.J., the Trial of.

And she had the gall to ask them how they were dealing with the media frenzy. THE MEDIA FRENZY. Christ, woman, you're at the damn APEX of the frenzy! You ARE the frenzy!

Posted by Chris on 06/10/03

June 6, 2003

Domestic Status

Outlook for the next two days:

Posted by Chris on 06/ 6/03

June 5, 2003

Premium Content

Heading over to Salon for a few articles, so I need to get their day pass. I like this trade-off they have. Watch their ad, get to their "premium" content. Of course, the ads are getting fancier and noisier each time. Today's XP ad is a little video clip, and I note the default setting when you start it is SOUND ON. It's also interesting that when it's over, you get a link to continue with your day pass, which takes you to a page explaining that you now have a day pass and please hit this button to continue.

I smirk at the Windows XP MS Messenger ad. The guy is a Romantic that is playing a song on the guitar for his girl over some sort of video link. The connection is flawless for them, I guess. Everything in Girl's world is in black and white except for XP. It's nothing more than one of these Advertising Alternate Universes where the product in question is great and works perfectly and the people that use it are beautiful.

But why smirk? What's so wrong with MS touting their new doo-dad? They're a business, it's what they do. It's a new way to communicate, or rather a fancy new packaging of existing ways, so who cares? Well, I smirk because it's the monolith Microsoft, so by definition everything they do is fraught with the knowledge that their practices are insidious and their products buggy.

I use Windows, and I like XP. I actually BOUGHT my home copy in a flurry of needing to legitimize myself. With my home PC I wanted to install some software from a box; even if it was from the evil empire. I didn't want to study for months and join the Free Software Open Source GNU Torvalds group and give over a lobe of my brain to install the OS, even though it would be free and it would be good for me to learn do it and open source is cool and I'd be able to troubleshoot 300% better.

I guess I think of Windows as like a political party. I could scoff at someone who proudly raises their party banner because parties are big and dumb and slow, but I also see that it's a way to get things done. Sure, you can be Ralph Nader and stand up proudly and make your point, but I can also see that not being the best way to get anything done.

Posted by Chris on 06/ 5/03

The Malice of Getting Married

I'm going to have to cancel a committment to go to a wedding to help make a movie. I'd prefer to do the movie. But I sense much domestic discord coming soon.

It's incredible - wedding dates are attracted like ANTS TO A PICNIC to dates with conflicts. When I was making my movie I think we endured something like five.

Posted by Chris on 06/ 5/03


Hey! APPLE! Can I go to the damn bathroom or leave my Mac for 15 minutes without you guys coming up with a new Quicktime update?!? I don't need to be on the absolute cutting edge every second, do I?

Posted by Chris on 06/ 5/03

76 Checked Bats Led the Big Parade

76 bats? They checked 76 of Sammy Sosa's bats? Baseball players have their own special bats? And he has 76 of them?!? Where do you keep 76 bats?!?

Posted by Chris on 06/ 5/03

Stylish Sheets

God help me, I'm downloading BBEdit now. Where goest the steam from my rant so quickly? My friend John has re-intrigued me in the art of XML and cascading stylesheets*, and I have this idea that I might redo the main site to be... er, COMPLIANT. To wipe away all my degrading FONT tags and such.

I'd tried using a stylesheet originally - I had my stack of O'Reilly books and pored over them - and it worked BEAUTIFULLY. On my home PC running the latest IE. But over on my Mac, it looked like something Harry Knowles would think was acceptable. The browser over on the Mac just wasn't speaking to the stylesheets. So I buckled and ran back to the safety of nested tables.

So since I'm giving it another effort to work on Macs, I figure, why not go for it and do the HTML-ly part there too? And that means...BBEdit.

*When I first heard this name, I got this image of a pile of papers describing a web page's style somehow falling, or "cascading" off of their pile onto the rest of the desk. In fact I still get that image.

Posted by Chris on 06/ 5/03

Ford, Daley, & Meigs

Harrison Ford is "furious" over Mayor Daley's stealth attack on Meigs Field. Sigh.

He's my favorite movie star. And I agree it was sneaky and underhanded of Daley. But it's hard to be enraged about this. All the people "affected" have been really rich doctors and movie stars that like to fly themselves places in their personal planes. And the substance of their complaint is always something like "I always wanted to fly into Meigs."

Ford says Meigs was "created to allow for the most spectacular arrival to an architectural masterpiece, which is Chicago." Yeah, I agree with him - but who can enjoy this spectacular arrival besides him, John Travolta, and the oncology doctors?

I think I feel about this the way I might feel if Daley had passed a really sneaky underhanded unfair tax on luxury yachts over 500 feet. Yeah, it's unfair. Really - it is.

Posted by Chris on 06/ 5/03

June 4, 2003

New Word: WHO(M)

This thing about not ending your sentence with a preposition! Can we agree to ignore that one, I JUST CAN'T MAKE IT WORK SOMETIMES! Also, I propose the word who(m) be added to the English language, for those of us who don't know when "whom" should be used and don't care.

Posted by Chris on 06/ 4/03

June 3, 2003


OK, I promise I'm not obsessed or anything, but:


(Editor's note: The link is old and broken now. It referred to the ongoing saga of good ol' regular folks calling the Dixie Chicks traitors and commies and such for expressing shame about Bush. One of those good ol' boys was country star Toby Keith, and Natalie Maines wore a shirt with these letters on them to an award show.)

I say one thing to Chick Natalie: GO BABY GO!

Posted by Chris on 06/ 3/03

How Pixar Does It

By the way - check out the cool "How We Do It" page at Pixar.

Posted by Chris on 06/ 3/03

Big rounds of laughter

Big rounds of laughter and applause for Lasseter and his team. We saw "Finding Nemo" this weekend. Pixar is just consistently good! Wow!

Not that there HAS to be something negative in this, but their movies just have something Shrek didn't. Shrek felt a little half-baked to me, even though it has some really funny parts. Pixar movies always just feel really really well-developed.

I also think it's great how this is three movies in a row now for Pixar where children are depicted as sort of these little ogres to be feared. Great!

Posted by Chris on 06/ 3/03

Nothing yesterday

Nothing yesterday because it was a very busy Monday. But the movie? She is done. Not totally! Music still has to be added, lines looped, artwork created, and while all that is going on. I'll continue to fine tune - but I finished the main edit. It is now a complete thing that I can watch from beginning to end in 1:40.

Posted by Chris on 06/ 3/03