Monday, December 31, 2007

2007: THE TOP NOTCH

once again, its the close of a year and the birth of a crisp new calendar.
what lies below is cliche, i know. another typical summary of the year just passed. more best of lists. blah, blah, blah, right? honestly, i was hesitant to throw in my two cents. i'm hardly an expert or any sort of professional critic. that said, here's my personal top lists for 2007, in case you missed anything or just want recommendations for your next trip to Blockbuster or Best Buy.

TOP 7 BEST FILMS
  1. Ratatouille - it was a toss up for the top two slots. in the end, it came down to the fact that i can't really find any flaws with this movie. the skill of the artist is a spectacle (as is with all Pixar's work to date) that sucks you into an imagined Paris. Brad Bird (writer/director of this and two of my other favorite animated movies of all time, The Incredibles and The Iron Giant), possibly the best writer and director for animated feature in the business, does it again. i reviewed it here shortly after seeing it in theaters.
  2. No Country For Old Men - finally, the Coen brothers made a film that lives up to their potential after a couple of lack luster movies. it cleverly tells the story of an aging sheriff yet makes him a secondary character to a story about the evolution of evil personified. its a movie that sticks with you and makes you think about it's layer upon layer of subtle themes, it's sparse soundtrack, it's beautiful cinematography (Roger Deakins, D.O.P.) and perfect casting choices.
  3. Superbad - the best of the low brow comedies this year from Judd Apatow and company. its not only laugh out loud funny throughout (every scene with McLovin and the cops was gold), but the best and most accurate portrayal of high school kids i've ever seen in a mainstream teen comedy.
  4. The Darjeeling Limited - not Wes Anderson's best film, but still worthy of its place in the top list. its less of a story than it is a character analysis. his work leans more in that direction with each subsequent movie. still, it pulls you in with all its quirkiness and Anderson's beautiful cinematography and almost religious attention to detail.
  5. 300 - as varied as the reviews for this movie were, it was a bold display of the capabilities of computer generated imagery in a live action movie. beautifully stylized and as visually jaw dropping as anything since the first Matrix movie (and The Matrix even had the benefit of getting credit for their bullet time special effect, which they stole from Michel Gondry and passed off as their own innovation) or the other Arthur Miller project, Sin City.
  6. Into The Wild - i was eager to see this movie as it was adapted from one of my favorite books. its sort of an On The Road for generation x. the beauty, majesty and freedom of abandoning the material world and reconnected with nature strikes a cord within me and Sean Penn's treatment did the book justice, both aesthetically and thematically.
  7. American Gangster - primarily here for the acting performance of Denzel and the gritty, based-on-true-events vibe that Ridley Scott brings to the table.
VERY HONORABLE MENTIONS: there's a handful of movies worthy of mentioning, but i'll limit it to two films that have just been released to theaters but I haven't had the chance to see yet. trust that i will, a.s.a.p. Juno is the second movie from director Jason Reitman, who's debut film ('Thank You For Smoking') was both refreshingly original and artfully done. There Will Be Blood is the newest film from director P.T. Anderson, one of my favorite director. its only in limited release and already being heralded as a big contender for the all the major awards. additionally, it stars the always magnificent Daniel Day-Lewis and a soundtrack by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, which segues perfectly to...
TOP 7 BEST ALBUMS
  1. Radiohead's "In Rainbows" - my favorite band made big news this year. out of nowhere, they announce that their next album is done and will be release in approximately a week for download. their asking price? whatever you want to pay. and the best part is that its turned out to be the best studio recording since OK Computer, finally marrying their electronic manipulations with their rock music songwriting sensibilities in a perfect balance. then, when you thought it couldn't get any better, 8 bonus tracks came out earlier this month, just to sweeten the pot.
  2. Menomena's "Friend & Foe" - i've listened to these 12 tracks more than any other this past year. if you're a regular visitor to the combustible engineer, this should come as no surprise. if not, check out my album review here and my thoughts on seeing them live (for the second time) here.
  3. Bjork's "Volta" - the amazing thing about my little icelandic princess is her ability to continually be new and unique. she harbors no fear for the experimental. though i wouldn't call this her best, its the fastest and most aggressive since Post. big fat heavy beats a plenty and a voice comparable to none.
  4. Elliott Smith's "New Moon" - the saddest and arguably most talented indie singer songwriter for nearly a decade. his mysterious suicide brought an end, but he left behind a vault of unreleased material and unused b-sides. New Moon compiled most of these from '94-'97, and though they are primarily b-sides, the emotions and songwriting that he put out is evident and sorely missed.
  5. The Shins' "Wincing The Night Away" - James Mercer writes some of the most poetic lyrics in indie music today. "Wincing..." shows the boys developing much fuller arrangements and even straying a bit from their polished folk-rock ways. every time you hear it, you'll like it more, plus, its an album you can recommend to your mother.
  6. Battles' "Mirrored" - Battles' instrumental debut LP is the soundtrack of an art party. groove heavy with lots of computer assistance. it took a few listens to grow on me, especially for me to get over a semi irritating synthesized vocal trick, but it pays off in the end.
  7. Amy Winehouse's "Back To Black" - they say you need the right life experiences to truly sing the blues or to belt out true soul and i have no doubts that Amy has lived through some of the worst of it. her open drug use and 70's biker chick image make that pretty clear.
VERY HONORABLE MENTIONS: Caribou's "Andorra" - a modern and melodic ode to the psychedelic 60's. The National's "Boxer" - not as rockin' as their last album, "Alligator", but it makes me imagine a cross breed of The Shins and Joy Division. The Good, The Bad & The Queen's "The Good, The Bad & The Queen" - while i love this album and have been known to keep it on my iPod for long stretches at a time, there's a handful of so-so songs keeping it out of the top 7. The White Stripes' "Icky Thump" - jack and meg put forth another great effort. Bloc Party's "A Weekend In The City" - if it lacks anything, its the catchiness of their debut. Arcade Fire's "Neon Bible" - a strong sophomore album that needs to be heard as whole to appreciate it. Liars' "Liars" - there most accessible album to date from a band who keep defying all expectation. Explosions In The Sky's "All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone" - another great post-rock disc from one of the best in the genre. Wu Tang Clan's "8 Diagrams" - Rza's production is less grimey and the album is bit more musical and melodic overall.
TOP 7 BEST SCIENTIFIC ACHIEVEMENTS:
  1. Global Warming Research - a team of climate researching scientists and Al Gore shared the Nobel peace prize this year for their work in studying and raising popular awareness to the imprint of mankind on the environment. this finally forced the U.N., many world powers and a lot of skeptics to finally take this issue seriously and consider what changes need to be implemented to reverse, or at least slow down the damage we're doing.
  2. Stem Cells - bogged down and held back for years by religious zealots, a team of Japanese geneticist have successfully been able to bypass all the controversy. they've reverted skin cells into their unlimited state, so they act as foundation building stem cells. this had just recently been announced so the true aftermath of their work isn't yet evident, but hopefully, work into the research of stem cells can continue again at full steam.
  3. New Animals - call it evidence of widespread ADD among biologists, evolutionary mutation or just some creatures highly skilled at hide and seek. this year many new species were discovered. the Mangabay is a tree swinging monkey in Africa. there's a new clouded leopard in Borneo. a toad with black and purple rings. a new giant squid with fins like elephant ears and giant rats in New Guinea that get as big as small dogs.
  4. Giant Bird Dinosaur - a prehistoric bid bird finally explains a little more about the mysterious Snuffalupagus. archaeologists found the largest bird dinosaur in Mongolia. its theorized that many dinosaurs evolved from reptiles into birds and these fossils help bridge some evolutionary gaps. the largest bird dinosaur before this discovery was about the size of a horse. this new/old beast, called the Gigantoraptor, is almost 16 feet tall (equal to the tyranosaurus rex) and looks like a cross between the velosiraptors from Jurassic Park and an ostrich.
  5. Earth II - a planetoid has been discovered approximately 20 light years away near Gliese. Its believed to have water in its liquid state and temperatures similar to our own planet. in other words, it seems to possess the same building blocks that made life possible here.
  6. The Chimpanzee Stone Age - researchers observed wild chimps making tools and weapons and using them for hunting for the first time. remember when we made the wheel?
  7. Pluto Demoted - Pluto was discovered to be much less massive than previously thought, knocking it's stauts from hefty planet to mere planetoid.
...look for my worst of 2007 list, coming very soon!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A HALLOWEEN GAMEPLAN

halloween was one of my favorite holidays. not for the costumes and charlie brown specials. not for the late night scream flicks or pumpkin carving. it was all about the sugar. the treats. candy could possibly be my first love.

as i developed into a seasoned trick or treater, it became apparent to me that my rounds lacked efficiency. i realized that its not a matter of how many houses you hit, but which houses. fortunately, i lived in town, so i was under no parental time constraints. my limits were only the supply of candy being offered. when i was 11 or 12 years old, i decided i needed to formulate a plan of attack. the results were so fruitful, i thought i'd share my knowledge with the sugar junkies of tomorrow.

first of all, its imperative that you wear a mask. it makes a clever, double costume a possibility. i had a cape that was red on one side and black on the other. if a house was exceptionally generous, i'd hit it twice. first, as a wolfman in a black cape, then as a superhero in a red cape and eye mask. just covertly mesh into another group of kids on the second approach to avoid detection.

its also important to start as early as you can get away with. when i grew up, there was a halloween parade. all the kids would get dressed up and march through town so all the adults could gape at them, "ohh"-ing and "aww"-ing. trick or treating officially opened following the parade. i bypassed the parade and used the time to venture to the far west side of town. there was a substantial section of wealthier, younger families. lawyers, politicians, and doctors mostly. three houses in particular were famous for there goodies. if you got there while supplies held out (which wasn't long as lots of kids knew these to be hot spots), you were assured 3 full size candy bars. usually, an Oh Henry, a Whatchamacallit and a Hershey Bar.

a map can be incredibly helpful. it will keep you on pace. residential areas tend to have congregations of similar people. sketch out a drawing of your locality. just the main streets will suffice. its not to keep you from getting lost. more of an itinerary. think of the neighborhoods. once you've generalized your vicinity, you'll quickly see the high priority locations, and the areas not worth your time. i made a rough version of what mine may have looked like:



areas you want to hit for the goods:
  • any grouping of large, expensive houses. usually on the edge of town, so make this one of your first stops, then work your way inward. they don't stock up since they're out of the way, but their treats are usually high quality.
  • near hospitals. lots of doctors and nurses live nearby hospitals. doctors have lots of money to spend on candy and in small towns, they're well known in their community. their guilt will buy more candy then they need. this means that they usually dump it all in a bowl and let you take what you want. great for a double hit. first, cherry pick the best candy. then go back for a potluck handful.
  • older parents with kids too old for trick or treating are eager for visitors. they miss the old days of halloween excitement and reminisce over their once adorable children. exploit that nostalgia. there was a lady who started making home-made caramel popcorn balls after her kids moved out. i don't recommend taking things like that from strangers though, unless you have a taste for razor blades and strychnine.
  • smaller neighborhoods are perfect to connect two sections. the smaller the better. they get less traffic so they tend to keep their lights on the longest. they're also eager for the attention and with a little chit chat, you may be able to finagle a bonus Bit-O-Honey for your cuteness and conversational skills.
  • know your old folks homes! i can't stress this enough. the elderly are probably the most ecstatic to see you and they're all congregated in one building. my town had 2 that were both conveniently located near my house. The Green Home had a table set up in the lobby covered in candy dishes. the residents sit around as you come in and stock up on your pick of the litter. park hill manor gathers its occupants in a circle in the game room. you had to make a lap, but nearly each wrinkled hand offered a fistful of candy. you may get a few cheek pinches or a box of raisins here or there, but its well worth the sacrifice.
stay away from businesses and schools. some stores may have a small dish of penny candy, but they tend to be few and far between. also, schools and their surrounding areas tend to attract younger families. they would happily dispense candy if they were home, but they're not. steer clear.

use the buddy system. having a friend with a double costume is a great benefit for both time management and making your double hits less suspect. if you and a friend each take one side a side of a street, you can point out the best houses at the corner or team up for a second attempt.

finally, plan your route. do not start from home and work your way out. you'll find yourself crossing the same ground twice, wasting precious time. if possible, start at one end and move your way across. try to hit your neighborhood somewhere in the middle. this not only allows you the chance to get your neighbors' candy (let them know its you. they might give you extra), but to empty your bounty. i kept a pillowcase in my tree house as a drop point. carrying an empty pumpkin pail late in the evening can often win you some sympathy sweets. plus, having a hidden treasure can help alleviate the stresses caused by parents who insist on a candy rationing system.

keep in mind, the best treats require a few tricks.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

FEAR ON FILM

at times, i wonder whether anyone makes real scary movies any more. most of the newer flicks are outlandish ghost stories and monster movies or, worst of all, remakes of classic horror movies. they just go for the cheap reaction. an onslaught of blood and guts. a dark figure jumping out of the bushes. some sort of beast springing suddenly into frame. its not scary, its startling. real scary movies should actually scare you. leave you nervous and weary well after the credits roll. leave you awake at night wondering about every creak and shadow.

terror to me is reality. its hard for me to have any lasting after effects over the supernatural. Frankenstein and Dracula, though great books, fail for me in that they don't cross over to a real world possibility. the same goes for Freddy and Jason. the scariest thing for me is the human mind. not just the character's, but the viewer's own imagination.

i was about 10 when i first attempted to watch The Shining. i was staying over at my friend's house. his dad had rented it and sent us to bed early because it was "too scary for us". that's like telling a kid he can't have the candy on the table because its just too delicious. we went upstairs and laid on the floor at the top, poking our heads down just low enough to see the TV through the top railing posts. i could only make it about half way through. i wasn't even sure what i was scared of. the monster wasn't tangible. really, it was just a damaged psyche mixed with isolation. there's nothing really supernatural, which makes it all the more terrifying. its all much easier to accept as reality. i tried watching it a few more times as i got older. it wasn't until my junior year of college before i could watch it by myself.

a young woman on the run seeking shelter stops at the bates motel. so begins Psycho. Hitchcock really is a master when it comes to thrillers and storytelling. again, the monster isn't some science fiction, but the madness of a man. a man in a disguise, hiding in a silhouette, who stabs his victims to death when they're most vulnerable. insanity can't be reasoned with and it can't be dealt with logically. its the unknown and unexpected personified.

about the only ghost story that every really frightened me was The Amityville Horror. mainly because it was a true story, or based off of one. again, though this add a bit of a poltergeist twist, its the possession of the fathers mind amidst his helpless family that's the most chilling. there are ghost and demons, but they're never seen. they're presences. that's why they're scary. there's nowhere to direct the terror.

the first Alien movie was pretty scary when i first saw it. this one has a legit monster, but the danger of it is in the viewer's own mind. its minimal and quiet and secluded in the emptiness of space. you never really see the alien until the end. that's what makes it scary. you create a monster in your mind that's specific to your fears. when the slick, reptilian alien finally gets some camera time, its not a disappointment.

the Twin Peaks series. two season of television that is as chilling as it is addictive. i've watched the them all twice. the first time, i watched every episode over the course of a week (29 45-minute episodes). its mysterious and creepy and intriguing. mainly creepy. possible the best drama on television, ever.

what do you think?
what flicks scare you?
do they still make scary movies?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

THE PHANTOM RING

i've had a cell phone for about 5 years. most of the time i keep it in my front pants pocket. its always set to both vibrate and ring. the vibrating starts a few seconds before the ring so i have slightly more time to answer the call. more often then not, if i'm available to talk, i'm engaged in a conversation before the ringtone ever kicks in. i feel the call before hearing it, improving my response time

as a result of this behavior, i've been getting phantom rings. for about 2 years, give or take. little bursts of a vibrations on my upper thigh. right in the pocket region (blessing or curse - you make the call). i instinctively pull my phone out to find no one is calling.

its similar to phantom limb. the medical phenomenon, not the Shins song. when a person loses a part of their body, they sometimes experience a recurring sensation or pain felt coming from a part of them that no longer exists. like an aching in their left ankle after their entire left leg has been amputated. its odd. some sort of glitch between nerve endings and the synapses of a nostalgic brain .

i'm beginning to think that this "phantom" feeling isn't confined to limbs.

i've tried to formulate possible explanations behind this "phantom ring", but as per usual, my train of logical thought quickly derails into a fiery mess of imaginative unlikelihood. while this offers me no real answers, it does make for better blog posts and amusing campfire story times.

my theory:
cell phones emit and receive radio waves. my phone is kept in close proximity to my right leg. more specifically, my right femur. these radio waves probably travel through my flesh to the bone, then travel down through my fibula to the titanium plate and screws i had medically added for bone stability in high school. the radio waves excite the metal. it creates an attraction to ambient electrical charges, turning my ankle into a powerful electromagnet. the charged metal acts as a generator once its stimulated by the radio waves, thus turning my whole leg into an low pitch antenna. the phone in my pocket acts as a make-shift satellite dish. this lightning rod of nearby radiation pulls information of my surroundings in faster, allowing a for a slightly precognitive thigh. therefore, the vibration i feel is a 'spidey-sense', warning me of pending danger.

seems reasonable.
here's an artistic rendition:


...or it could be that i've just fallen into some psychosomatic habit from following a patterned routine .

i like the spidey-sense one better.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

OPERATION LACTOSE TOLERANCE

i'm a dairy fan. actually, i was a dairy fan, once upon a time. i loved milk. with loads of vitamins for strong bones and healthy skin and a scrumptious refreshment beyond comparison, can you really blame me?

approximately 6 or 7 years ago, after countless mysterious belly aches, i discovered i'd become lactose intolerant. hypolactasia for all the smart pants. i think i over dosed on the stuff. i had broken my leg near the ankle during my senior year of high school just before a two week trip to Spain. far be it from me and my hobbled state to hold up any walking tours of foreign lands. after only a few days, i left my crutches behind and walked on my cast. i returned to a very displeased doctor who informed me that my bones weren't healing. i got the same news a month later. then a month later. nervous that my bones were lacking in some vital minerals, i turned to the bottle. the jug actually. i binge drank milk. gallons. the bone began to mend slowly and after 6 months, i was in two shoes again. not days after the liberation, i broke it again in a roller blading mishap. with nowhere else to turn, i found the jug. it was calling me. comforting my pain with its creamy goodness.

of course this is all speculation, but i believe that my body's production of the lactase enzyme, the enzyme which breaks down lactose sugar found in milk, had shut down from the stress of my demands.

i have since been forced to change my diet. no more ice cream or milkshakes. no skim, 2% or whole. if i want milk, i pay the price, if not physically, monetarily. special Lactaid milk (with the lactase enzyme added) is nearly twice the price. cheese is out too, unless its aged. i have to take special pills along whenever i go out to eat.

i've spent close to a decade cowering to my own intestines. no more.no longer will i sit idly by while my guts hold the rest of me hostage. i'm drawing a line in the sand. i'm fighting back.

they say that humans are the only animals that continue to consume milk beyond infancy. they say that it's against evolution. against evolution? i say its the next step in evolution. by becoming my own guinea pig, i may just open the door to the next era of mankind. i'm approaching it like an addiction in reverse. i've begun slowly weaning milk back into my life. for the past couple months, i've been using half & half in my coffee. then this week, i bought regular milk. i'm drinking a cup of the blue cap each night.

my digestive system controls my intestinal tract, but i control my digestive system. i'm the boss. do you hear that, small intestines? who's yo daddy? i've got the brain and the muscles. what have you got? step out of line? fail to comply? i'll punch you. i'll eat indian food every night. i'll get that bypass surgery if i have to. i don't care. i'll do it. you WILL shape up or i WILL ship you out. digest milk or you're haggis.

that's not a threat, intestines. its a promise.

INTOLERANTS UNITE!

Friday, October 5, 2007

POLITICALLY CORRECT CANDY

about a week ago, i was watching a late night re-run of Seinfeld. George and Jerry were sitting in the coffee shop trying to figure out what the deal is with something or other. i wasn't really paying attention because on the counter in the background was a box of Cherry Clans.

i haven't seen Cherry Clans since i was a boy. back when i used to shop at the 5 & 10 for penny candy, pop rocks and candy cigarettes. on occasion, i'd splurge on a box of Cherry Clans to satisfy my sugar fix. sweet and sour, hard and soft, all in one. little round cherry flavored deliciousness to aid in ridding my mouth of all the unwanted baby teeth, once and for all.

in those days, i had no idea how offensive it was. in reality, i failed to understand the meaning behind the confusing name, the derogatory cartoons on the box or the asian inspired font of choice. i never thought twice about the confusing name. things didn't have to make sense when i was 8. it wasn't until seeing them in the distant set design of a sitcom did it suddenly occur to me that it was a play on Charlie Chan. i immediately sent my team of top notch researchers to investigate.

it turns out Cherry Clans were made by the Ferrara-Pan Confection Co.. Ferrara being the founder, pan being his preferred cooking utensil. the same Ferrara-Pan Confections Co. who brought you the Lemonhead, the Jawbreaker and the Atomic Fireball. originally, Cherry Clans were in fact called Cherry Chans. no beating around the bush.

i don't know if threats of anti-defamation litigation got the ball of change rolling, but the name was altered from "chan" to "clan". not too long afterward, the cartoons changed to less enthnically specific caricatures. then, finally, maybe sometime in the mid to late 1990's, the company did a total overhaul of its branding. virtually all of their fruit flavored candies hopped onto Lemonhead's back, freeloading on his (yes, Lemonheads have a gender) success. Cherry Clans are now Cherryheads.
i guess ancient greek warriors found the Alexander The Grape candy equally distasteful. they're sensitive about their humongous feet and indigo complexions, i suppose. i, for one, will miss the mohawk helmet with build in sideburn shields.

it seems good 'ole Johnny Appletreat has hung up his sauce pan hat and closeted his neon green coveralls for keeps. apple growers of america really must have caused a ruckus over Ferrara's insinuation of their misuse of cookware and the slandering of agricultural heroes.

while i understand the need to change the Cherry Clans, did the rest of the treats need equal reprimand. seriously. there were definitely a few times when i bought Alexander The Grapes over Lemonheads purely because i thought i'd look cooler with them in my shirt pocket. he was a conqueror after all. a legendary king, an american pioneer, and a crime solving detective. now they're just generic, bow tied bubble headed nerds. the unique intrigue of yesteryear has turned to unbridled confectionary conformity.

a side note to concerned parents looking out for the welfare of their offspring: the candy's image has changed. they are all now virtually indistinguishable to the color blind. no one's feeling will be hurt... but the candy now comes in almost twice the size with almost twice the candy. while your outrage has successfully shielded your children from the harsh atrocities of human nature, its of little defense against their future diabetes.

touché, Mr. Ferrara.
touché.

Monday, October 1, 2007

WAR MADE EASY

i came across this full documentary of the film "War Made Easy". it's well made with great archival footage that can't help but make you think about the world we live in. take the time to watch this. its only a little over an hour and its narrated by Spicoli.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

CHOOSING A LAUNDRY DETERGENT

face it.

when it comes to comparing laundry detergents, no particular brand is really any better than the other. they're all just soap. some have fancy pants scents and flashy colors, but the contents all produce the same results.

so how is one to choose?

i suggest approaching it like so. as you peruse the cleaning supplies aisle at the supermarket, judge your current emotional state. based on that, choose accordingly. chances are good that you'll find a perfect match for your state of mind. for your particular lifestyle. for your message to the laundering world. let your detergent be a reflection of you, like a mood ring. here's some suggestions.

GAIN
the motivatio
nal soap.
let the world know that you're on your way to the top. nothing will stand in the way of your achievement. tell them with a lilac scent if you must. the box even offers some great tips on writing a resume. its especially good at cleaning ring around the collar and sweaty socks for all of you out there on the move.

TIDE
the transitional soap.

its like Gain but without the positive spin. maybe its for the good, maybe its for the bad. Tide says you just don't know. its change beyond your control. if you've recently broken up with your significant other, if you've noticed a new mole on your arm, or if you've decided you want to try authentic asian cuisine, look no further. its particularly formulated for washing new clothes, hand me downs, and thrift store acquisitions. sometimes, for no reason at all, it will shrink all your clothes two sizes or disintegrate one sock out of every pair. roll with it. that just means its working!

CHEER
the happiness soap.

the beauty of cheer is that it spans the whole spectrum. beaming with joy? snag some regular Cheer with a springtime fragrance and skip as you relocate your threads from the washer to the dryer. wallowing in an abysmal depression? Cheer Free is for you. no cheer here. in fact, the bottle is mostly empty since you'll be too bummed out to wash up. the former makes your yellows yellower, the latter makes all your clothes blue.

ALL
the insatiable soap.

over indulgent? living a life of excess? is nothing ever quite good enough? you need All. its incredibly concentrated so you can wash every single piece of fabric in your possession at one time. and if its power you crave, you need All Mighty - with robe whitening power!

ARM & HAMMER
the tough guy soap.

it flaunts a ripple bicep, a rolled up t-shirt sleeve and a sledge hammer right on the label. it exudes machismo and brute strength. the jug itself is lined with steel if you happen to get into a gang fight in the laundromat. the detergent is also specially formulated for the efficient removal of blood stains.

FAB
the too cool for school soap.

Fab is perfect for all the retro hipster living in the past. it even contains 10 of the 12 ingredients found in the soft drink, Tab. bring some carbonated water and sugar along and you can entertain in between the spin cycles. it also rapidly speeds up the fraying and fading process on all your tight, ripped jeans and ironic t-shirts.

SNUGGLE
the love soap.

you're just a soft teddy bear on the inside. no sense in hiding it. maybe that cute gal spending too much time folding her underwear will take notice. show your true colors to the world... and keep your true colors as well. works great on sheets!

Friday, August 31, 2007

WENDY'S

i stopped at Wendy's tonight on my way home from work. i had a craving for soft serve vanilla ice cream all day. now, mind you, i'm not much of a fast food connoisseur. in fact, i've been actively avoiding it for years now. after reading Fast Food Nation, seeing Supersize Me, and hearing all the fun facts from my vegetarian friends, i've become pretty disgusted by the whole scene. maybe my lack of frequent visits attributes to why so many things seemed odd to me.

first of all, the line for the drive through was a least 20 cars long. the beginning of the line almost met the end, circling the entire building. seeing hardly anyone inside, i parked and went in. the line was only about 5 or 6 people deep.

i looked over the menu as i waited for my turn. curiously, it was ridiculously simplified. the sign on the wall was broken into 6 sections. 5 displayed pictures of the combo meals and frosty desserts. 1 was the value menu. it was practically text free.

also, there's almost no individual items listed. the sandwiches in the meals aren't priced without the accompanying fries and soda.

frostys have diversified. you can get the standard chocolate or vanilla variety, a frosty float (half frosty, half root beer) or a twisted frosty (frosty mixed with a little crushed candy). what is weird is the pricing. a frosty is 99 cents for 12 oz., $1.49 for 16 oz., and $1.99 for 20 oz.. the twisted frosty is $2.89. that means that when you subtract the 99 cents worth of ice cream, you're paying almost $2 for about a tablespoon of crumbled oreos. the frosty float is $2.49 for 16 oz. (8 oz. of frosty, 8 oz. of root beer). subtract the 66 cents worth of ice cream and the 61 cents for the soda, and you realize you're paying as much for the cup as you are for the beverage. still, the two people in front of me got floats. the guy in front of them bought a twisted frosty.

i ordered and still had to wait about 5 minutes. i tried to figure out why but could come to no conclusion. the girl who took my order just stood there.

while patiently tapping my foot, i took notice of an "employees of the month" plaque. nothing fancy. just your run of the mill piece of wood with little brass plates for engraved names. it was proudly hung on the front wall. every brass plate was blank.

so what have i learned?
  • people would rather waste a half an hour on a friday evening than walk 20 feet.
  • fries and a soda automatically comes with anything you order
  • Wendy's views its customers as illiterate and devoid of basic math skills
  • cashiers do not perform functions that require more than the use of an index fingertip
  • no Wendy's employees have ever done a good job
i guess i just have a hard time understanding why these places are so successful. everyone is aware of how horribly unhealthy the food is. its not even that fresh or that tasty. its barely even biodegradable. i used to think the hook was the low cost, but most of the combo meals were over $5. the corporations apparently view their patrons as complete idiots. is it simply a matter of effective saturation advertising and "convenience"? i just don't get it.

am i the only person who thinks this is all bazaar?

Monday, August 27, 2007

MISS SOUTH CAROLINA EXPLAINS IT ALL



this is a clip from the 2007 Miss Teen USA pageant. Miss South Carolina was asked why 20% of people in the United States could not point out the United States on a map. this is her response. enjoy basking in the intellect of our youth.


here's a transcript (because its even funnier to read it):
THE HONORABLE JUDGE TEEGARDEN: "Recent polls have shown 1/5 of Americans can't locate the U.S. on a world map. Why do you think this is?

MISS SOUTH CAROLINA: "I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, some, uh, people out there in our nation don't have maps, and that I believe, that our, I, uh, education like such as South Africa, and the Iraq, everywhere, like such as, and. I believe that they should, our education over here! in the U.S. should help the U.S., or, er, should help South Africa. It should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future for our children."

A.C. SLATER: "Thank you very much. Miss South Carolina."


UPDATE: i just found out that Miss South Carolina actually finished in 4th place (3rd runner-up).

Sunday, August 26, 2007

THOUGHTS ON REALISM

realism, in regards to the fine arts style of painting, is defined as "the depiction of subjects as they appear in life, without embellishment or interpretation." its simply the recreation of an image by the hand as seen by the eye. like photography, but with a pencil or paintbrush instead of a lens and film.

back in the day, before cameras were commonplace, realist painters got most of the work. as art has historically been a luxury commodity for the wealthy, paintings allowed those who could afford it the opportunity to have their image imprinted in history. at the time, it was the most accessible option for visually capturing a moment for posterity.

i've had a little beef with realism since i came into my own as an artist. the casual art appreciators tend to flock towards realism. in my experience, the more realistic a painting, the more these people feel its beyond their own capacity, and thus, the more they are impressed with the artist's mastery of his tools. they're more impacted by the skill it required to produce the piece than by the piece itself or its competence in expressing something less tangible. the actual painting comes secondary, or not at all, as its the ability that is revered. its an admiration for the "how" and not the "what". a respect for the production that overshadows the produced.

the technical skill needed to reproduce something accurately has its value. i think its quite important for every artist to learn perspective and proportion and color mixing. its imperative for building foundations. learning how to see things as they are lets you see how you can change them as well, fitting them to your ideas. a professor told me something that i'll never forget:

"You have to learn all the rules so that you can learn how to break them."

while i think some are more inclined to excelling at it than others, i think that just about anyone can learn realism. that said, i think a truly gifted artist has something more than what can be taught. its an ability to express something through art. for art to have an effect on the viewer, a deep and profound meaning, it needs to go beyond mere photo-realistic representation. that's what makes fine art original. i look at it like this: if you sit a model in a chair and ask 10 realists to paint her, you'll get 10 paintings that all look virtually the same, more or less. if you were to have 10 non-realists paint her, you'll get 10 unique painting. one may convey the loneliness of the woman. one may convey the artists own issues with sexuality. one may convey the harmony and juxtaposition of color and form. while all 10 paintings are of the same subject matter, they would all express something more, something additional, something personal or emotional or symbolic. the subject for the realists is a woman sitting in a chair. for the non-realist, that's only part of it. maybe even nothing more than an inspiration.

i think a lot of folks get hung up on the "i could've done that" idea. Pollack or Mondrian come to mind. they see abstraction as something within their own grasp. the fact is, in many cases, there's a lot of stones that need to be stepped on before an artist can really express one's self in the manner he or she envisions. look at some of Picasso's early work and his drawings. he's got the realistic chops, and yet he veered so far off that path. he consciously chose to do so.

its a style with huge limitations. its easy and straight forward. its a style of face value, and personally, i need more from my artwork. both in what i admire and honor, and in what i create.

in the end, this is all just a statement of opinion. art is something different to everyone. any appreciation at all gets a thumbs up from me. i'm not bitter or angry and i don't mean to offend anyone or play myself off as some pretentious art snob. honestly, to each their own. i do actually respect realist paintings. i just think that there's a lot more that can be gained from art beyond the arrangement of a composition and the ability required to execute it. i just think some people close that window without ever looking through it.

Friday, August 24, 2007

ARTIFICIAL LIFE

here's an excerpt of an interesting article i read yesterday. its amazing what this research could potentially produce, and by the sounds of it, within the very near future. i was aware of the miller-urey experiments and some other biochemical research on amino acids and their part in the foundations of early organic molecules, but this is gargantuan leaps and bounds ahead of that. the greatest unknown still on this planet is on the verge of discovery.

Artificial Life Likely in 3 to 10 Years
Aug 19 11:52 PM US/Eastern
"Around the world, a handful of scientists are trying to create life from scratch and they're getting closer. Experts expect an announcement within three to 10 years from someone in the now little-known field of "wet artificial life." "It's going to be a big deal and everybody's going to know about it," said Mark Bedau, chief operating officer of ProtoLife of Venice, Italy, one of those in the race. "We're talking about a technology that could change our world in pretty fundamental ways—in fact, in ways that are impossible to predict."
That first cell of synthetic life—made from the basic chemicals in DNA—may not seem like much to non-scientists. For one thing, you'll have to look in a microscope to see it. "Creating protocells has the potential to shed new light on our place in the universe," Bedau said. "This will remove one of the few fundamental mysteries about creation in the universe and our role."
And several scientists believe man-made life forms will one day offer the potential for solving a variety of problems, from fighting diseases to locking up greenhouse gases to eating toxic waste..."
SETH BORENSTEIN
WASHINGTON (AP)

quite frankly, i'm pretty shocked to only be hearing about this now. i would have thought this would've been huge news. even more surprising is that i've learned about it from an unbiased article interviewing some of the leading scientific researchers and not from any one of the major religions who have got to be sweating it out about all of this. i'd have thought that they'd have tried to make a preemptive strike against these advances like they did with stem cell research or with cloning.

...just something to ponder...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

PROBLEMS & STATISTICS

something i always try to do when i'm outside of the country is ask people about their opinion of america and its inhabitants. it's interesting to me to see how we're viewed from the outside. it also shines a light on how skewed our perception of ourselves really is.


we are often seen as bullies. as greedy consumerers. as cocky elitists.

whatever.

we ARE the greatest country in the world...right?

USA Ranking on Adult Literacy: #9
USA Ranking on Healthcare Quality: #37
USA Ranking of Student Reading Ability: #12
USA Ranking of Student Problem Solving Ability: #26
USA Ranking on Student Mathematics Ability: # 24
USA Ranking of Student Science Ability: #19
USA Ranking on Women's Rights Scale: #17
USA Position on Gay Rights Progress: # 6
USA Ranking on Life Expectancy: #29
USA Ranking on Journalistic Freedom: #32
USA Ranking on Quality of Life: #13
USA Ranking on Environmental Sustainability: #45
USA Ranking on Overall Currency Strength: #3
USA Ranking on Infant Mortality Rate: #32

so if we're not the best at anything, why does everyone think we are?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

THE CAFFEINATED GENERATION

when i was growing up, i was one of the few regular coffee drinkers i knew. my habit began in high school. i was mainly in it for the caffeine. i had alway been a night person. the quiet solitude gave me plenty of uninterrupted time to draw and write and paint, but left me sluggish for school in the morning. i'd make a stop at dunkin donuts (it was 'mister donut' then) almost every day.

when i was growing up, kids were prevented from drinking coffee. adults had a handful of reasons ready if the need arose.

"kids have enough energy already".
"it'll make your teeth yellow."
"coffee makes your breath smell."
"it'll stunt your growth."

kids all drink coffee now. with the explosion of coffeehouses and the starbucks franchise, its become the thing to do. its trendy. its hip. they even sell CD's and have live music. they're always full of kids. the grumpy old lady cashiers are gone, too. even the employees are kids.

where are all the grown ups who gave me so much slack 10 years ago?
are we heading towards a future race of jittery, yellow toothed, foul breathed midgets?


i can only hope.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

MANNEQUIN NIPPLES

for years now, i've noticed a change in the molded plastic bodies that flaunt the fashions in store front windows. at some point, someone, somewhere, decided mannequins needed more anatomical accuracy. enter the hardened nipples.

clothing retailers want you to know that no matter what you wear, you're going to be chilly. halter top. baby tee. mohair sweater. any way you look at it, you're nipples are going to be freezing. there's no way around it. hiding this fact with nipple less mannequins is unfair to the me, its unfair to you, and honestly, its unfair to our nation's children.

they must have also realized that people, especially slender, well proportioned women with extremely even complexions, are perpetually sexually aroused. "...but how will my nipples look in this shirt?" is a question that need never be awkwardly asked again.

these mannequins also alter the tops for comfort. nothing is worse than buying a new shirt that fits perfectly with soft nipples, only to tighten unbearably once the temperature drops. fortunately, that embarrassing predicament is a thing of the past. fashions have all been pre-stretched in the whole areola region. this provides both added nipple support and a comfy, worn in feel. like an old pair of shoes with that horrible "breaking in" period.

now if only male mannequins were more anatomically correct, i could cut the time i spend purchasing pants in half.

Friday, August 17, 2007

OUR RECORD BREAKING PRESIDENT


get ready!

a milestone in U.S. history is about to happen!

as of today, president Bush has taken 426 vacation days. about 14.2 months. an average of 9.5 weeks a year. just shy of a quarter of his presidency.

Reagan holds the record, for now, with 436 days (Jimmy Carter has the least with 79). with 17 months still remaining in Bush's term and being as he is currently on vacation at his ranch in Crawford, he's poised to take home the "most absent president" trophy very soon. in fact, he's probably going to crush the record when all has been told, stomping it into the ground under his spurred cowboy boots somewhere in Texas.

some said it couldn't be done. most think it shouldn't be done. no president could possibly take more time off then Reagan, right? after all, Ronny was our oldest president. he's got that record, too. plus, let's not forget he was shot within months of taking office.

George will prove them wrong. he surpassed Clinton more than 270 vacation days ago, and he's not about to let an attempted assassination survivor 25 years his senior hold the title if he can help it. it doesn't look like Bush will let anything stand in his way. not economic crisis. not executive decision making. not disaster relief. not even wars he waged. he's got his eye on the prize now.

its the final countdown.

Monday, August 13, 2007

THE FACE OF VITAMIN WATER


a couple months ago, i helped out with a Vitamin Water advertisement. its shot as a mock movie trailer. Donovan Mcnabb stars in it as a football player. While working out one day, some strange old man appears and trains him to face off against ghosts of football heroes from yesteryear to secure his place in history. i played one of the ghosts.

surprisingly, my transformation from a healthy young man into an undead athletic superstar required only a retro uniform and make-up. a few layers of gauze, latex rubber and make-up covered my entire face and neck. after we were each properly zombie-fied, we climbed into our shoulder pads, leather padded pants, leather helmets, knee high wool socks and long sleeve wool jerseys. by that time, the temperature had risen to 96 degrees. for about 3 hours, i was in all wool and leather with a quarter inch of rubber on my face and neck in the midst of a heatwave. jealous?

it was during this time that i had the most interaction with Donovan. he seemed like a pretty cool guy and fortunately, he also seemed to have a good sense of humor. for instance, i introduced myself with something like, "hi. i'm Tyler, the pinnacle of athletic skill which you'll have to better if you want to be a great football player." he picked up on my sarcasm pretty quickly, laughing at me, not with me.

the website launched today!
grab a vitamin water and take a gander.
(I'M THE GHOST ON THE RIGHT)
www.mcnabbisback.com

Thursday, August 9, 2007

THE FOREBODING CALM

"the foreboding calm"

the blaring sound of silenced birds

perched still atop the swaying limbs
of trees that rock in violent wind
and moan like sunday hymns

the clouds have swept across the sky
and stamped light short of its goal
the summer heat has turned a chill
which stutters through my soul

people's words come out as whispers
as static passers pass on by
from underneath a poplar tree
where all the view is sky

wind comes in from all directions
brushing grass across my feet
the storm that hails from everywhere
can offer no retreat

Friday, August 3, 2007

PLYMPTOONS

some lovely animated shorts by
Bill Plympton

YOUR FACE

THE KISS


25 WAYS TO QUIT SMOKING

Mr. Plympton has been one of my favorite animators since i first saw his "plymptoons" on Liquid Television, a showcase for new animators that aired late, late, late night on MTV. remarkably, he single handedly draws every cell by hand himself (one of the first animators to tackle such a feat). two of his shorts fetched him oscar nominations (1987's "Your Face" was one of them). i met him years ago while i was in art school. he came and spoke candidly about his life and work as an animator. he's a really nice guy with an imagination i envy.

here is his website if you want to know more:
The Official Bill Plympton Website

Thursday, August 2, 2007

HEAT STROKE

today was a hot day.

i left the cozy, air conditioned, biosphere of my workplace for lunch and emerged into the sunshine like walking into a wet blanket. i popped the lock on my car door and flopped onto the scorching hot leather seat. i shut the door and labored to take in a few breaths of the heat inside, magnified by the convex windows and sealed in the closed quarters. it was so hot, my brain stalled. it just stopped from temperature shock.

i felt like just lying down. there was an instant temptation to surrender and just drift off into a deep sleep, sucked dry off all the energy i had. then i thought that passing out might not be the best course of action (or inaction). a squad of ambulances would likely arrive not long after someone noticed me. they'd sit me up, check my vital signs, wipe the sweat from my brow, and place a thermometer in my mouth. the moment the glass tip would touch my tongue, my core temperature would superheat the mercury inside, shattering the glass tube. fragments would shoot into the face of the medic, knocking him back into the open doors of the ambulance. his flailing arms would collide with their portable x-ray machine and defibrillator paddles, coincidentally switching the paddles to "on" mode when it jarred against the asphalt. milliseconds later, i'd hear a series of beeps, the cue for the defibrillator paddles reaching their full charge. the electric current would burst forth, jumping several inches to the x-ray machine, activating wild radiation emissions. half of the thermometer would still hang from my mouth. my heat would continue to agitate the remaining mercury, sending the atoms into a frenzy. the collision of the electrons would happen at such a high speed that the liquid metal would reverse its charge on an atomic level, converting the metal from matter to antimatter. eventually, i'd be too weak to continue holding the fractured thermometer in my mouth, and it would roll out and shatter on the parking lot. the antimatter would reach annihilation the moment it made contact with matter of the earth, then boom - nuclear explosion with radioactive fall out.

maybe catching some zzz's wouldn't be the best of ideas.

i reconsidered. instead of taking a nap in the front seat, i just rolled down the windows and went to buy an Icee. when weighing the options, the scales tipped towards frozen refreshment. i don't want a massive dirty bomb detonation on my conscience. my parents wouldn't be too happy with me.

long story short,
summer sucks.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

1984

George Orwell was ahead of his time. he'd written Nineteen Eighty-Four in 1949. his dystopic story was the advent of "Big Brother" and a continuation of a style which later became the dictionary entry of "orwellian". at the time, he imagined a future England in which a totalitarian regime had risen to power and controlled every aspect of the lives of the citizens. the book was a 300 page nightmare of power gone wrong. the absolute corruption of absolute power .

after war breaks out, revolution overthrows the existing government. the newly instituted government, or Inner Party as they're called, takes over and reigns for nearly 40 years. they've established 3 classes of people. themselves being the Inner Party. the outer party, which carried out the orders of the inner party. and the proles, or the lower, uneducated working class. the outer and inner party were under constant surveillance by big brother. language is being rewritten to utter simplicity, to rid the world of emotion and expression. no one was ever permitted to speak against or even think ill towards the government, represented by the imaginary figurehead of "Big Brother". the children are raised as obedient spies, turning their own parents over to their deaths if they sway from the straight and narrow. doing so would lead to their certain abduction by the thought police, followed by torture, an inevitable confession and their eventual public execution. every home was fitted with a telescreen that watched and listened to its inhabitants at all times. the government figured out that the best system of control was a perpetual state of war. it ensured a need for constant labor, producing materials of war which were forever in demand yet had no benefit to the people quality of life, and forced a sense of patriotism.

our protagonist is Winston Smith, an outer party drone. he works each day changing history, correcting newspapers and books to reflect the views of Big Brother. without history, the people lose their memories. Winston, though, remembers some things differently. things that can't be which Big Brother claims as absolute truth. he begins posing questions in his own mind, thinking for himself, doubting his programmed hatred, and even begins writing in a journal he's acquired from an antique shop in a part of town he had no business being in. an act punishable by death. he's slowly waking up to the reality that's been hiding behind a mask.

amazingly, nearly 60 years ago, this book was viewed as a nightmarish fantasy novel. an impossible future but with its roots buried in the events of the time. Orwell was a socialist but condemned Stalin's totalitarian authority in Russia. much of his work, most famously in Animal Farm, dealt with that topic. a revolt to rise above the muck created by the leadership, only to create a more oppressive quagmire in the disguise of freedom. the scariest thing is how relevant this book is presently. the perpetuation of ignorance, political spin, big brother around every corner. using war as a means of distraction, fear and patriotic fervor.

its a pretty astounding book and a really quick read. its fairly terrifying and quite capable of opening an eye or two to the parallels happening in our own world's current state. there was a film made of it in 1984 in England, though its pretty difficult to track down. if you can find it, its worth your time. John Hurt gives a great performance and Roger Deakins' cinematography (known best for his camera work on some of the best Coen brothers' films) is breath taking. its also the most accurate book to film translation i've ever seen.

its most definitely a nightmarish novel, but i'm beginning to question the "fantasy" label attached to it.

Monday, July 30, 2007

CAGE MATCH: ICEE VS. SLURPEE

in this corner, in the blue and red cup, weighing in at 22 oz. and hailing from the Wawa convenience store chain and superstores such as K-Mart and Walmart. the polar bear with flair. ICEE!

...and in this corner, sporting the enormous transparent cup and weighing in at hefty 32 oz. coming all the way from your local 7-11. the brain freezer. SLURPEE!

let's get readyyy to ruuuumble!

the main event tonight is scheduled for 3 rounds. by the looks of these two opponents, this should truly be a brutal brawl. each fighter tonight is using the cherry fighting style. Icee is supported ringside by his manager Coca-Cola, and his sparring partner and former champion, Blue Raspberry. he's smaller than his adversary at a tight 22 oz. but boasts much more experience in the ring as a consistent flavor. Slurpee has assembled an enormous entourage on his side. i'm counting about 82 flavors, over there. the Slurpee team is notorious for debuting new fighters and it looks like its assembled the whole squad for tonight's main event.

and there's the bell!

ROUND 1:
Slurpee explodes out his corner. we've witnessed how the Slurpee management team treats all its flavors with equal attention so it really has been quite a while since Cherry Slurpee has shown us his moves in the ring. Icee, on the other end, saunters out with focus. he's been their star fighter for nearly 40 years and the Icee crew obviously knows when they've got a champion in their mitts. let's see if all that experience pays of against his rivals more sporadic record.

Icee is choosing his shots wisely. he bobs and weaves like the veteran he is, waiting for the opportunity to slip in some nice jabs. he's connecting with some regularity but Slurpee is taking it. he's dancing all over the ring and though his punches meet with a lot of Icee's blocks, when he's able to get his trademark brain freeze uppercut to connect, you can see Icee reel back. without a doubt, he's feeling it. and that'll bring round 1 to an end. i'm giving it Slurpee.

ROUND 2:
Icee took some punishment in that round. he's a bit wobbly as he makes it to his feet and Slurpee seems to have lost some of that speed he had earlier. both contenders have depleted a little over 1/3 of their contents. Icee still looks red and vibrant, but Slurpee's getting flush around the top. from here at the announcers' table, it looks like much of his flavor has seeped to his feet.

Icee stays with his traditional attack strategy. Slurpee's stamina has definitely dropped considerably. he taking a lot of shots out there. i haven't seen a fighter abandon his defense like this since the last Rocky movie. he's trying to turn it around with his devastating brain freeze, but with mostly super sweet juices and little to no ice behind it, its having a minimal effect. he's having some trouble finding the mark as well. Icee keeps backing Slurpee into the corner where he delivers body blow after body blow. this could be it for Slurpee. he's got a deep gash in his spoon straw. whoa. saved by the bell. the referee separates the two just in time. the crowd is going crazy out here. i'm clearly giving that round to Icee.

ROUND 3:
here we are. the deciding round. Icee still has nearly half of his contents reserved and a healthy pink color. Slurpee isn't fairing as well. his coach tried to mix him up but the effect won't last long. all his flavor has dropped to the bottom of his cup. he's hurt and all that ice is proving to be a heavy load of dead weight. Icee is brushing off Slurpee's blows. the syrup has lost all the icy force. it seems like more of a nuisance to Icee than a threat. he's really unleashing out there. a beautiful combination from Icee! Slurpee pulls his straw out a few times and stabs it into his own ice, trying to find some overlooked strength. he literally grasping at straws in a real desperation attempt. he somehow maneuvers an uppercut that forces Icee back onto his heels but he's too dazed to follow it up with an effective offense. Icee pauses, makes a quick stir himself, and charges in. a pair of jabs. a hard left hook! Slurpee is against the ropes! he appears to be out of flavor, unable to muster anything out of the glob of white ice still inside his cup. he takes an overhand pummeling from Icee's vicious right, sending Slurpee's domed lid into the crowd...and he's down!

Icee is teetering over him with only a couple sips left. if Slurpee can make it to his feet, i'm not sure Icee can keep up with his pace. Slurpee looks to be getting, wait, no, it's over!

Icee wins!
Icee wins!
Icee wins!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

RATATOUILLE


about 6 months ago, my excitement was birthed over the news of the new Pixar animated movie, Ratatouille. there wasn't a release date at the time. i didn't even know what the story was about. the lure for me was the name of the man at the helm - Brad Bird.

i saw it tonight. its the story of Remy. a simple, French, country rat with a culinary gift. his talents go overlooked by his garbage consuming family, but he finds opportunity at Gusteau's Restaurant in the bustling city of Paris. it was once the greatest restaurant around but has been struggling lately under the new overbearing, uninspired chef. its here that Linguine, the garbage boy, spills the soup pot. he attempts to fix it with his own touches, but only makes matters worse. its Remy who saves the day, not only fixing the soup, but making it a crowd pleasing favorite. Gusteau's begins to buzz with customers demanding the soup, and Linguine, who was credited with the recipe, is forced to repeat it. to keep his job, he teams up with Remy, who plays him like a puppet throughout the kitchen from beneath his toque. under Remy's manipulation, Linguine quickly rises to be a great chef.

that's just the gist. there's much more going on, and some great subplots.

the movie succeeds thanks to the writer/director, Brad Bird. he makes it what it is. his direction garners some of the most amazing sequences in animation and his craft in storytelling and visual style are truly superlative.


the appearance of this film is unique, as is the look of all Brad Bird's films (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles). 3-D computer animation has grown to a fine art. photo realism is attainable. we've seen the amazing capabilities of CGI in the Lord of the Rings, 300, Spider Man, King Kong. etc. Pixar, in this case, keeps the characters as caricatures. their faces and proportions are stylized and cartoony, yet they are animated with brilliant accuracy. the rodent fur is perfect. the movements of scurrying rats and lanky old men are executed perfectly. each character carries themselves in a different fashion, adding a subtle boost of life into these artistic imaginations. he designed The Incredibles similarly. i think this is a great approach. everything moves and behaves in a reasonable manner so the audience can relate to them, but the exaggeration of their appearances allows the artist to tell a lot of the story simply through expressions and mood.

i'm starting to see themes emerging in Bird's work as well. all of his stories tend to focus on a character realizing that he can be whatever he chooses. be that a friendly, child-like robot. be that an earth-saving superhero. be that a talented rat chef. his tales all bear embedded morals. the fulfillment of potential. following your heart and your dreams. they do so with inventive plot lines that never seem trite. they have social, political and historical undertones with seeming patronizing or confusing for kids. each your has heart that stirs emotion. the scene when the dreaded critic first tastes Remy's dish will make you smile.

i can't wait to get excited over the next Brad Bird project. hopefully, the gears on it are already turning.

...and if you haven't seen The Iron Giant (Bird's first feature as writer and director), see it tonight. seriously. go rent it now. better yet, buy it. its about a giant robot that crash lands in a small new england town and befriends a small boy in the midst of 1950's cold war paranoia. it's like E.T. meets Terminator with all the heart and action of each, and then some. it went under the radar when it was released but it is, in my opinion, one of, if not the best animated movie ever.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

JUST CALL ME SHAMELESS

i made a few little changes to The Combustible Engineer lately and i wanted to keep you all informed.

i created an account with feedburner which provides me with consolidated feeds and stats. to you, that means next to nothing, but they do offer some nice little widgets and banners that make subscribing to my blog a little easier.
so...
SUBSCRIBE!
its never been more simple. in the side bar to the right are two ways to do so. click the little orange button to subscribe directly to the feed. you can also enter your email address into the box. whenever i publish new posts, you'll get a notification right in your inbox. i think you'll also receive the full content as well. easy as pie. go for it. you can do it. i believe in you.

as always, leave comments if you're so inspired. they let me know that people are actually reading what i'm rambling. plus, it's great to get feedback, good or bad. maybe a comment will spawn a conversation or new topics to discuss in future posts. maybe it'll encourage more frequent blog entries. maybe i'll make new friends. maybe i'll invite you over for chinese take-out and a heated game of Risk.

thanks for stopping by.

SIDE NOTE: i recently wasted an hour googling random things. my name. my town. www.paperstreetstudio.com (my artwork website). when i googled my blog, i found that some entrepreneurial site had copied one of my posts, The Ink Diet. the website was all about get-rich-quick schemes and ways to make millions while working at home. there in the midst of it was my mock-infomercial post about losing weight by getting ugly tattoos. hilarious. i'm finally making it big.