May 30, 2006

Three Years A-Bloggin'

Looking back at the archives, it looks like I let the three-year birthday of this blog pass without comment a few weeks ago. Who'd've thought I could continue rambling almost in solitude for that long? Probably only me, and everyone who's ever been in earshot for more than five minutes.

May 13th, 2003 was the first day on the air, and the very first thing I had to bitch about was "The Matrix." Those were heady, innocent times, when I was still compiling Requirements for the Future. It took another week or so after the first post to get caught in the mire of the political complaints.

I guess if I had to pick one post which sums up everything I've had to say for three years it would be this one.

Posted by Chris on 05/30/06

Happy 3 year birthday, Handeye. Hey, what's that over there? Is that delicious, argument-inducing cheese? CHEESE!

Posted by: fattyfat at June 1, 2006 5:03 AM

May 26, 2006

What's the etiquette...

... when you're waiting for the bus, and you see this guy walking towards you on the sidewalk, and he's idly tearing off pieces of paper from a pad and dropping them on the ground behind him? Then you note a trail of little bits of paper stretching way behind him for God knows how many blocks.

So I'm staring at this guy as he gets closer, ready to make with some tart remark, but as he gets closer... he's got that Special look about him. The glasses, the slightly strange walk, the clothes - oh and also the fact that he's shredding a notepad onto the ground. This guy is Special. I hold off on saying anything.

This is the SECOND time I've witnessed a little Trail of Trash being made by this Special gentleman. The first time I watched, mouth open, as he passed. Today I did the same but I felt a comment on the rise that desperately wanted to be set free.

But I hold my tongue because I don't want to trigger an episode of Hitting Oneself In The Head or Running Out Into Traffic. BUT! I also don't want any sass from Special.

Do you say nothing, and just know this guy is probably only able to function outdoors if he creates a little trail to find his way home? There's no chaperone in sight to query if perhaps he's only recently earned a Day Pass from the home. But oddly the sight of such wanton litterbugging activates a little Outraged Citizen section of my brain.

What do you say? What's the etiquette?

Posted by Chris on 05/26/06

Elwood and I saw a guy littering the other day. We both had something to say, even though it was clear the guy was either drunk, or a little "special", or perhaps both. It was an empty soda can; I believe. I said to him, "Do you want to pick that up?" While Elwood said, "You dropped something." I'm not sure what happened after that, cuz he hit me with a baseball bat.

Posted by: klugula at May 28, 2006 6:49 AM

I find that the "Point and Laugh" method works best for me in such situations. If that doesn't work for you, try the "Pointy Stick" method. A few pokes in soft fleshy areas should do it. Last resort is the "Show Your Butt" method to be used in only extreme situations.

God speed!

Posted by: Big Fat Brian at May 30, 2006 7:55 AM

May 25, 2006

Disney LIES... when it CRIES

We went to Disneyland last weekend for the day to revel in themed nostalgia and walking around a lot,

QUICK NOTE TO MY FIVE YEAR OLD SELF: In the future there won't be personal jetpacks, but you WILL live 45 minutes from Disneyland and you can go ANYTIME YOU WANT. Also, staying up late? Not a problem.

and one of the first rides we went to was the Haunted Mansion.

This has always been my favorite Disney spot (in the two times I've gone including this last weekend). I love the low-techery of the effects and the fact that I still can't figure some of them out. The ghosts sitting in the moving car with you as you exit are still a thrill, even if I noticed they didn't line up quite as perfectly as my thirty-year-old memory recalled. I love the mixture of jolly and spooky in the songs.

For years and years I believed and perpetuated the idea that the dancing ghosts in the ballroom were holograms, which of course isn't true. Afterwards I wanted to find out more about how that effect was done, and I knew it would be possible through the miracle of... the "Internets." Knowing such things doesn't spoil it for me, nor am I the sort who is compelled to ruin it for others by blurting out the "answer."

The ghostly effect is called "Pepper's Ghost" and there's no surprise that Wikipedia lays it all out for you. In looking for this information I also came across the granddaddy of all explainer sites for the Haunted Mansion, put together by people who also have a lot of affection for it: The Haunted Mansion Secrets.

But in my search I also came across this hilarious site which is bent on exposing Disney's LIES.

The title of the site made me expect someone who might be out to expose the corporate malfeasance of today's Disney Corp. In that sense I'm sure Disney's lies are legion, but no - this website seems to be intent not on cataloging the crimes of the corporation, but those of the Haunted Mansion itself.

The "walk through" of the various LIES perpetuated by the Mansion yields quite a trove of information. Firstly, every page seems to mention another death or coma attributed to the sheer horror of the ride.

I learn from the site that the Corridor of Doors was inspired not only by Shirley Jackson's "Haunting of Hill House" but... the music of the Doors. And also that the hanging skeleton in the opening room is real. Oh, and apparently one of the levitation effects in the house is accomplished through liquid-nitrogen-cooled super-conducting magnets and some string.

And here is a scathing notation that shouldn't be missed:

At the end of the corridor is a grandfather clock striking the hour as the shadow of a clawed hand moves across its face. Look carefully at the clock and you will see that it is striking 13, even though clocks traditionally only go up to 12 (unless they are displaying military time in which case they normally have both 12 and 24 at the top)! This subtle breakdown in Disneyland's quality assurance is unfortunate, but it does remind us that, as much as we may like the park, it isn't perfect.

A-HAH! Nice going, Disney! I'd expect a showman like yourself to at LEAST know that clocks traditionally only go to 12, but it looks like Quality Assurance truly broke down in this case!

Posted by Chris on 05/25/06

As always, you and your blog are a bright spot in my cubical day. It's 13 o'clock all the time here.

Posted by: Vickery at May 25, 2006 1:36 PM

May 24, 2006


"Mirrormask" had a great trailer, and great production associations (The Henson Company) but was fraught with the possibility of disaster: this was a Neil Gaiman project, the dark holy man of fantasy, the one the fans genuflect over when uttering his name - but whose works have yet to move me.

I certainly did not want to see his movie in the theatres and later on it did not quite seem worth the two seconds of Netflix browsing and sheer physical exhaustion of inserting a disk into my DVD player. (And let's not even get into the effort of re-inserting the cumbersome disk into the awkward provided mailer to send it back.) So I was prepared to give it a complete miss.

But then it was made available to me by Adelphia through their welcome, futuristic Video On Demand technology, which requires no effort at all besides the pressing of one single button. It seemed the film was practically being thrust into my hands. So I thought... why not?

Well. Let me start with the positive. I'm sure there is a wonderful companion book for this film that shows the conceptual art. I bet that's fun to page through. I bet Gaiman even included his hand-written notes on the symbolic underpinnings of the designs, written in a spidery, eldritch script in the margins.

And that's all I got.

What a surprise, that the man who delighted millions of fans by turning Robert Smith of the Cure into a brooding mythological superhero, has a little androgynous teenage Goth girl as the heroine of his Alice-in-Wonderland tale. And what a shock to discover that his story draws heavily from "Legend" and "Labyrinth" (also grabbing a thread from Stephen King / Peter Straub's "Talisman").

In the story, Goth girl, whose name escapes me but let's just call her "Atreyu," has to do something involving saving a White Queen from a Dark Queen, and along the way there are many amazing creatures and a magic key. And - Surprise! - we spend more time with the Gothy Dark Queen, including a scene blatantly ripped off from "Legend" when heroine Atreyu is "converted' to the Goth Side by the ritual adornment of all the appropriate goth attire, including black fingernail polish and black half-gloves.

I am not sure what really happened with it all, though. I vividly remember some Sphinx cats that were fabulous and menacing. I remember a lot of people wearing Mummenschantz masks, and lots of deeply symbolic talk about masks in general. But the story eludes me.

No, let me be more specific. I know what the story was, but it was so poorly told I did not care about it in the slightest. This is a genre I am interested in and even that handicap was not enough to make the movie worthwhile.

Gaiman's chief strength has always seemed to be that he has superb taste in source materials to reference. He loves to mix and match mythologies. But his consistent weakness has always been drawing all that together into an interesting tale.

You know, if you're going to create a "story," then no matter how fantastic the setting, no matter how deliciously gothy the props, no matter how brilliant the references to other mythologies, you're still dealing with things like "characters," from which springs the "drama." Or maybe it's the reverse. Either way, that's the foundation of the whole thing, and if you don't have that, then - sadly - it's all for naught.

If the "Mirrormask" story was anything but the weakest thread it would have been a monumental achievement. It all looked fantastic and would be a really intriguing thing to see as a part of someone's CGI reel, or perhaps playing in a store window.

Gaiman paired with designer / director Dave McKean to make this in the same way Tim Burton paired with Henry Selick and others to make "Nightmare Before Christmas" and "James and the Giant Peach." To watch "Mirrormask" is to truly, TRULY appreciate Tim Burton.

You know, on some level, God bless Neil Gaiman. But I always wonder how fantastic his work could be if he would hire a writer.

Posted by Chris on 05/24/06

I think the movie contained a deeper truth that is only apparent to people who wear masks. As you do not consistently wear masks, much of the content sadly fell on deaf ears. Similar to the phenomenon of playing Bach to a sea slug. I'm sorry to be the one to draw this comparison, my freakish unmasked friend, but it is the bitter truth.

Okay, more seriously, I'd have to agree. I watched this movie with a fairly high set of hopes -- as a fan of the genre and some of Gaiman's works. I got bored pretty early on and really could have cared less about Goth Girl's journey to thwart the Goblin King, I mean Dark Queen. It looked pretty cool, though.

Posted by: Masked Olmy at May 25, 2006 11:31 AM

May 22, 2006

Overheard at the Bar

DRUNK PATRON: You know guys, there hasn't been an attack on U.S. soil during this president. Think about it. The U.S. Cole? That's considered American soil.

HIS FRIEND: What about 9/11?

DRUNK PATRON: All Clinton. That was all Clinton, folks.

Posted by Chris on 05/22/06

All glory and prais be to Bush! Savior of all! Protector of the free world!

Reminds me of a joke I heard the other day. Here it is...
While suturing a cut on the hand of a 75-year old Texas rancher, whose hand was caught in a gate while working cattle, the doctor struck up a conversation with the old man. Eventually the topic got around to former Texas Governor, George W. Bush and his elevation to the White House. The old Texan said, "Well, ya know, Bush is a 'post turtle.'" Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a 'post turtle' was. The old rancher said, "When you're driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that's a post turtle." The old man saw a puzzled look on the doctor's face, so he continued to explain, "You know he didn't get there by himself, he doesn't belong there, he doesn't know what to do while he's up there, and you just want to help the dumb shit get down."

Posted by: Big Fat Brian at May 22, 2006 11:14 AM

May 19, 2006

Not Ready To Let Go

According to new lines of thinking in the mad scientist world, the cosmic entities known as Black Holes... may not actually exist.

Dark energy and dark matter, two of the greatest mysteries confronting physicists, may be two sides of the same coin. A new and as yet undiscovered kind of star could explain both phenomena and, in turn, remove black holes from the lexicon of cosmology.

This comes as quite a disappointment to me, as a "black hole" is the conceptual punchline to about four of the five science fiction scripts I have on the burner. And what of my plans to remake Disney's The Black Hole? Was that considered in this stampede towards "dark matter?"

Posted by Chris on 05/19/06

May 18, 2006

This Blog is Not a Blog of Honor

How will I let future generations know that this blog is not a place of honor, and that they should avoid it? Here's how:

Posted by Chris on 05/18/06

May 16, 2006

American Dreamz

I think the poster for this movie deliberately evoked the poster for the Altman film M*A*S*H, and the tagline also gave me high expectations - "Can you imagine a country where more people voted for American idol than the President?" You don't get a "M*A*S*H" or a "Network" every time someone evokes it because those are hard acts to follow, but still, expectations were high.

The movie ends up being half-baked, and I mean that precisely. There are some truly great elements in there but they have not been fully processed and refined yet. The scenes showing the awakening of President Bush's curiousity are beyond ham-fisted. Only Willem Dafoe as Dick Cheney manages to get a few laughs, and I feel that might be by default. Maybe anyone dressing up so precisely as someone we all know and love to loathe would get a laugh.

And I mention these parts not by character name but by who they lampoon because they AREN'T characters: they're caricatures. I actually felt sorry for the Bushes during this movie.

I am impressed with Mandy Moore mainly for having a sense of humor that draws her to these kinds of roles (Also check her out in "Saved"), but her subplot was the most unfortunate and undone. I'm just not sure what there is to lampoon about "American Idol." Is it that people will do anything to be on T.V.? That people in show business are fake and manipulative? That politics are not far off from entertainment? Those are old, old points to make.

I wish we'd gotten some time to spend with the final three contestants before we went to the inevitable montage. Adam Busch as Sholem Glickstein was too good to waste.

The best part of the movie was Sam Golzari as Omer the showtunes-infatuated terrorist. There were also bright spots any time his American cousin or the terror-cell handler were onscreen. The movie was really treading a line with this character's story, a line I wish they'd crossed more, after having thoroughly earned it. He's a reluctant terrorist whose mother was killed by an American bomb. He rips off his explosive vest in a moment of conscience backstage. This story could have been the whole movie. Maybe a different movie, but a really good one. And yes, it still could have been a comedy.

Posted by Chris on 05/16/06

May 11, 2006

Frogs in Slow-Boiling Water

From Peter Daou on the Huffington Post:

Here we go again: a story that could bring down any administration, especially considering the fabrications we've heard about the scope of the NSA's activities and the legalities thereof. But part of me suspects we'll be seeing the same old thing, a scattershot effort from Dem leaders, no genuine crisis coverage from the press, and an eventual yawn as this fades into the Bush memory hole.

Ouch. I'm ashamed to say this, but for the last several months my personal outrage reservoir has just been tapped with these guys. I think I reached Peak Outrage. I no longer feel the same anger every time something heinous is revealed - and it happens with regularity - about the government. I just feel sort of numb.

Daou's post makes me want to drill in the Arctic National Refuge of my outrage to find some more.

(What) do you personally believe Al-Qaeda's goal was on 9/11? Plainly put, I believe Al-Qaeda wanted our nation to suffer. They wanted us to lose our comfortable lives and the government that made those lives possible. We have been their greatest ally in the achievement of that goal.
. . .

All Americans are now suspected terrorists. The only thing separating us from being considered a full "Al-Qaeda" operative, is a terrorist dialing the wrong phone number. Al-Qaeda has won. Somewhere in a cave, Osama Bin Laden must be jumping up and down in joy, for he has caused the downfall of the most admirable and powerful example of liberty in human history, America.

Posted by Chris on 05/11/06

I totally agree. I always thought that the saying "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention" was very powerful, but I *am* paying attention, and I cannot be *more* outraged. I'm not so appalled by Bush and The Deciders as I am disgusted by those people who support him. Like those people who continue to drive around with "W" stickers on their cars. I want to ask them, "Really? Still?" I have resisted the urge to put an "F The President" bumper sticker on my car because I don't want to trivialize the horror I feel about this gov't. But now I want a bumper sticker that simply says "Uncle!"

Posted by: Leigh at May 11, 2006 10:55 AM

I can't be completely disgusted anymore either. This latest b.s. just falls into the next predictable progression of their failures and lies. I can't say I'm shocked. I agree w/ you Chris. I'm basically just numb. Perhaps that's just the diabetes. I can't tell anymore.

Posted by: klugula at May 11, 2006 2:04 PM

Same here, I feel I've long since passed into outrage fatigue. My responses today are more along the "I'm not surprised" wavelength. Did you hear Bush referred to the Constitution as just a "goddamned piece of paper" when it was pointed out his lust for greater powers might be unconstitutional. Typical.

Posted by: simon at May 15, 2006 7:16 AM

By the by, the frogs in water thing is a myth.

Posted by: friend jessica at May 20, 2006 7:25 PM

May 9, 2006

A Job for the Pigeons

We joined a beach clean-up day at Playa Del Rey this weekend. I pictured scrubbing behind an oil-soaked sea otter's ears or helping some poor bedraggled seagull step out of a six pack ring, but what it ended up being was picking up very very tiny pieces of shredded plastic bits, about a million cigarette butts, lots of coffee stirrers, several handfuls of ragged styrofoam, and a few unmentionable items of the biohazard variety out of the sand.

We were asked to carry around a "score card" and to note the amount of each type of refuse we picked up, although I'm not sure what use such data will be, and stopping to count also broke our stride quite a bit. I found that after such an activity, for the next few days I couldn't stop classifying every little speck I saw on the road.

I present this as an open-source idea for business because, in the midst of picking up the 109th tiny piece of shell that looked like plastic but wasn't, so back in the sand it went, I had an idea: why can't we train pigeons to do this sort of thing?

If there was ever an animal that needed a job, pigeons are it. They'd be perfect for beach clean-up. They could descend on a tangle of kelp, a mass of filthy feathers all picking out the plastic cigar tips and ketchup packets, and then they'd go make a trash nest out of it all back in the garbage can.

Then, as they sleep, we slam the lid on the garbage can and take the whole thing to the dump. Bingo - two birds with one stone, so to speak.

Posted by Chris on 05/ 9/06

I've presented your idea to the scientists at CalTech. They expect a full proposal on their desk by Monday. It's brilliant!

Hey, does anyone know exactly what the inside, not the outside paper part, of a cigarette is made of?! I'm certain some of the butts I picked up were from 1972.

Posted by: Wife Ami at May 9, 2006 9:19 PM

As usual, the internets provide:

"Most cigarette filters are composed of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic. The white fibers you see in a cigarette filter are NOT cotton, but a plastic that can persist in the environment as long as other forms of plastic."


Posted by: Chris at May 10, 2006 11:08 AM

May 4, 2006


A little rock star hilarity today. "Godsmack" front man Sully Erna was interviewed by Arthur Magazine recently. And Arthur was more interested in why Godsmack licenses their music to the military than they were in the great new album.


Well, they actually came to us, believe it or not. Somebody in the Navy loves this band, because they used ĎAwakeí for three years and then they came to us and re-upped the contract for another three years for ĎSick of Life.í So, I donít know. They just feel like that music, [laughs] someone in that place thinks that the music is very motivating for recruit commercials I guess. And hey, Iím an American boy so itís notÖ Iím proud of it.


Well, no. [laughs, then jokingly] Donít be turning my fucking words around, you!


I guessÖ I donít know what their recruit age is. I know itís at least 18.


My thing isÖ Listen, hereís my thing with the military. Iím not saying our government is perfect. Because I know that we make some mistakes and we do shitty things BUT, BUT. You wouldnít have your job, and we wouldnít have our lives, if we werenít out there protecting this country so we could lead a free life. So thereís kind of a ying and a yang to that. Sometimes itís not always the best choices that we make, or we stick our noses in other peopleís shit, but at the same time, we protect this place enough that weíre able to like pursue careers and do what a lot of people in other countries arenít able to do. Theyíre kind of picked and theyíre chosen to be whatever they becomeÖ Iím, Iím, Iím proud to be an American, Iíll tell you that.

It continues on in an even more hilarious vein from there. It's practically Spinal Tap. (Also check out the notice on Firedoglake.)

So Godsmack just wants to ROCK. They don't want to THINK about things, man. And they think America is NUMBER!!! ONE!!! but don't press them on it. Sure, OK.

You know, I don't really know much about their music, (although I bet I could still do a pretty good impression of it and how their faces look as they perform it) but I don't think there are any big scoops here. So the Godsmack guy is a tool. Stop the presses.

I don't really consider licensing your songs to the military to be a very rock and roll thing to do, but you know what's even less rock and roll? Not having a stock line or two prepared to back up the decision in an interview. Come on, guys. Did you think it wouldn't come up? No one on your management team or your label thought you might have to answer some questions about how the military recruits young fans to your pounding beats?

I have a bit of sympathy, though. I had to learn the phone interview lesson that Erna hasn't once, although thankfully in a vastly smaller forum. In college I was the programmer of the film series, and once when I brought some unusual movie to campus, the school paper (The Crimson White!) wanted to interview me about it.

So nice lady reporter calls me at home and we chat about the movie for a while, but I was waiting for her to say something like OK, enough chat, let's get to the ACTUAL INTERVIEW. Instead, right before she hung up she said oh, I was recording this, is that OK? And I said uh... OK.

And the next day the interview appeared in the school paper and nice lady student reporter had taken great pains to transcribe, in meticulous detail and exactitude, every uh.... and um... I'd uttered, every "like" and "sort of," every time I'd back-tracked or contradicted myself, every muddled half-sentence I'd formed because I didn't think we were "interviewing" yet. I was just kicking around in IDLE CHAT mode, not realizing the RECORD button was on and this thing was LIVE, baby!

It was not her job to translate my inarticulate mumblings into Smooth Press Release form. But she had CLEARLY delighted in reproducing my every exact syllable for the sake of embarrassment. No question.

I hope to be lucky enough one day to do something so interesting that someone will want to interview me, and at that point I will remember the lesson I learned when I read the Crimson White that next day, horrified: the press is not your enemy. But neither are they your friend.

To Godsmack I say, it's fine if you just want to ROCK!!! and not think about things. It's even fine if you want to be a stooge for the Man, or a mindless war-monger. But have some canned responses ready, guys.

Posted by Chris on 05/ 4/06

May 3, 2006

Streamlining Online Commerce as a Selfless Act of Charity

This free idea that I am throwing out there for the world of business - because I am a friend of commerce and I love to see innovation, even if I am not personally profiting by it, and let's face it, I never do - is so brilliant in its simplicity I assume that such a thing is already out there.

So perhaps this is more of a simple request to anyone reading this to let me know if you have heard of such a thing, perhaps in browser plug-in form? Maybe a different browser entirely? Whatever. Let me know about it, even if in doing so you must first mock me for my ignorance.

The idea is for online businesses that require you to fill out a form on a web page.

I HATE filling out forms online. There's always this thought that once I hit enter, something will be wrong or something didn't go through and it will erase everything - even the correct things. Most sites are smart about it, but some aren't.

Yes, there is a handy "autocomplete" on some browsers but on mine it still requires clicking in EACH field. My idea is thusly: I come to the page with the form on it, I hit the button... and it fills out all recognizable fields automatically and instantly. First and last name, address, credit card info if I so desire, the works. Is that so hard?

I like to think that such a thing is already out there, but if it is not, to the coding guru who may be reading this, the idea is YOURS FREE AND CLEAR. It's free. I offer it to you without reservation or qualification - only make it WORK.

Special Citizen's Termination Notice: If you are the maker of a web page that asks for my address and then only gives me twenty characters to do it, a pox on you. I'm afraid I need you to turn in your access cards and get out of the building.

Posted by Chris on 05/ 3/06

May 2, 2006

I blame Hillary


Rush Limbaugh must submit to random drug tests under an agreement filed Monday that will dismiss a prescription fraud charge against the conservative commentator after 18 months if he complies with the terms.

He also must continue treatment for his acknowledged addiction to painkillers and he cannot own a gun.

Posted by Chris on 05/ 2/06

If he can't own a gun, what's the point of living?

Posted by: Big Fat Brian at May 2, 2006 11:41 AM

He should be allowed to keep the gun if he uses it on his own head in the next 18 months. I wonder if he still has unkind words for the evil ACLU and their defense of his civil rights.

Posted by: simon at May 2, 2006 4:14 PM

May 1, 2006

Colbert Surpasses Stewart

Stephen Colbert has mightily surpassed Jon Stewart's infamous turn on Crossfire by giving what is probably the most pointed satirical speech at a White House Correspondent's Dinner ever.

It's hard to believe he was doing this right in front of the President. It's so pointed at first I assumed it was an extended bit for his own show. I can't imagine any real satirist will ever be invited back - leaving future Correspondent's Dinners wide open for Dennis Miller or Jeff Foxworthy.

If you've somehow missed this news, (and that might not be a surprise since it is NOT being widely reported - hmmm, do you think anyone in the media felt a little abashed after Colbert's trouncing?) treat yourself to the video clip. It's long, but VERY worth it:

Posted by Chris on 05/ 1/06