Wednesday, December 26, 2012

One Man One Day (Les Misérables)

Sure the new Les Misérables movie has an Oscar-winning director, all-star cast and sweeping cinematography. But does it have Star Wars figures?

Friday, December 21, 2012

So I guess the world is ending in an hour or so...

Oh, those Mayans... always trying to ruin Christmas.

Now,  I certainly don't believe all this apocalyptic nonsense regarding Mayan prophecies and calendars and the like. It's just sheer ridiculousness.

That said, I may or may not have tossed a Swedish steel fire starter and a multi-tool into my yoga bag earlier...

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - A Review

Being a lifelong fan of the books and Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, I went ahead and saw the opening midnight showing of The Hobbit last night. I saw it in Jackson's much-touted High Frame Rate 3D version on an RPX screen here in NYC.

I hated it.

With HFR, Peter Jackson has managed the stunning achievement of recreating the glorious cinematography of a day-time soap opera. I hope HFR begins and ends with this trilogy. It felt as though I was watching historical biblical re-enactments on the History Channel, or old episodes of Doctor Who from the 80's. The increased detail of the images is TOO detailed; the costumes look like, well, costumes, the sets look like sets and the wigs and fake beards look like a window display in a Halloween shop. Much in the same way as, when you look too closely at paintings by Monet or Seurat, they turn into a sea of colored dots, so here, too, the illusion is ruined.

The effect was not as jarring in darker scenes, but when the scenes are well lit, it's almost unbearable. It also has the odd appearance of being in fast forward. The first five minutes of the film looked as though the speed of the film was off - the additional frames make transitional movement jerky and strangely unnatural.

But even worse than that, the additional story material culled from the Lord of The Rings appendices, notes and Jackson/Walsh/Boyans/Del Toro's collective imagination is AWFUL and drags down the pace of story in a manner beyond the pale. At times I was forced to take off my 3D glasses and just take a break, not due to visual issues, but just to reminisce about the Rankin/Bass version, and wonder why a 35-year old cartoon had managed a better screenplay adaptation of Tolkein's book than the people who created the masterpiece that was The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The new scenes interrupt the charm and flow of the story of The Hobbit, which is an incredibly tightly crafted work of literature and naturally suited towards adaptation for the moving image. So rather than following the adventures and growth of our protagonist, Bilbo Baggins, we are instead subjected to interludes and asides, and discussions of things completely unrelated to the story, mainly as a means of (unnecessarily) tying The Hobbit into the world of Jackson's Lord of the Rings franchise.

The main issue lies squarely in their stretching the book out to three movies. Where even the LOTR extended versions work because of an overabundance of source material, this "extended" edition of The Hobbit simply does NOT. One feels as though one is watching a series of DVD extras and deleted scenes, interspersed between the scenes that actually move the story forward and develop the characters.

The addition of an antagonist to this first section is cartoonish (and not in a good way) and almost unbearable.

The only redeeming aspect of this film, other than individual actors' performances (McKellan, as always, is great, and Freeman is fun to watch), is that the film is shot, almost purposefully, in a way that would let you edit out pretty much ALL the added material. I had to wonder if this was completely deliberate on the part of Jackson, if somewhere deep inside him he realized that everything he was adding was crap, and that there needed to be some recourse to edit this down to one, single, concise Hobbit movie that was based solely (kinda) on the source material.

So, basically, I'm just waiting three years so I can re-edit this mess into something watchable. In the meantime, I'll just re-watch the Rankin/Bass version. (It has better songs too.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Man of Steel No. 5

The new Man of Steel Trailer came out this week. Superhero movie or fragrance commercial? You decide.

I have mixed opinions on the work of Zack Snyder. For the most part, I found 300 and Watchmen to be watchable. Workmanlike, if you will. But Sucker-Punch was unforgivably bad and made me very nervous to see what he's done with Man of Steel. I was a fan of the Brandon Routh/Bryan Singer film, which I felt was pretty good despite some major script issues (son of Superman? No, no, no, no, no...) so I'll do my best to keep an open mind regarding this new flick. Despite the perfume ad-like trailers

Both the actual official Man of Steel trailer #2 and Brad Pitt's Chanel No. 5 commercial below:

P.S. Beautiful music for the trailer, though. Not Hans Zimmer, but rather, “Elegy” performed by Lisa Gerrard and Patrick Cassidy.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ironic Thanksgiving NFL Match-Up

I just realized the Thanksgiving game will be amusingly un-PC matchup of the Dallas Cowboys vs. the Washington Redskins.

I can't wait for the part of the game where one of the Dallas players spends time on the Washington side of the field, slowly learns to appreciate the way their team plays, becomes one of them, switches teams, and then shows the Redskins how to be victorious over the imperialistic Cowboys.

I imagine the former Cowboy will then marry one of the Redskins cheerleaders and live out the rest of his career as leader of the Washington Redskin.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Last-Minute Halloween Costume Tutorial: Frankenstein's Monster

Need a last minute costume, but don't want to stand in line at a Halloween costume shop? Use this cheap, easy, quick DIY tutorial to make a Frankenstein's Monster outfit. This tutorial uses stuff around the house, or from things available at your local discount, craft, office supply or 99-cent store around this time of year.

You will need the following materials:
- 1 sheet of Large Green Posterboard (Staples, Michaels or other office supply)
- Green and Black Cream Make-Up (Drug store, costume shop, 99-cent store, craft shop)
- Liquid Latex
- Spirit Gum or skin-safe adhesive (Liquid Latex)
- Red lipstick or Make-up
- Black Wig/Black Furry Fabric/or shredded Black paper for the hair.
- 1 letter-sized sheet black paper
- Dark Suit or Jacket and Pants
- Dark T-Shirt
- Shoulder Pads or Folded Up Newspaper
- Aluminum Foil
- Facial Tissue or Toilet Paper
- Scotch Tape
- Stapler
- Pencil

Friday, October 26, 2012

Presidential Debate #3 (in 12 minutes... or so)

In case you missed the last Presidential debate. (Be warned: This video is probably only amusing to me and maybe three guys at C-Span.)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Oh, J.J. Abrams, you were doing so well...

UPDATE: It seems I may be behind the times on this. Is Cumberbatch in fact NOT playing Khan? Just a random villain?

Monday, October 22, 2012

How to Find a Halloween Pop-Up Store

Searching Google leads to a rather enormous assortment of articles about Halloween Pop-Up Costume Stores, without any actual way to FIND said Halloween Pop-Up Costume Stores. And while it's true that, yes, you can usually just throw a fake rock and hit one around this time of year, it would be nice to be able to go directly to one or even ::gasp:: call one.

So here:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Presidential Debate - 90 Minutes in 5

In case you missed this week's Presidential debate, here's the whole thing... in just 5 minutes.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Just Me and My Women Binder

My personal favorite part of tonight's Presidential Debate was when Romney said that businesses have to make business hours allowances for women so that they can go home and cook dinner. Classic.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Christopher Columbus - Profiles in Historical History

I examine the complex and controversial history of Christopher Columbus. Just in time for Columbus Day!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Hello, Sunrise. Guess I didn't get anything done, hmm?

I'm a night owl, but I don't actually have insomnia, so all nighters, for me, usually mean one of two things:

1. I've been working all night on a project that has a deadline.

2. I've been attempting to work on a project(s) that don't have a deadline, and failed to make any actual progress.

As the I glance at the 5:31 AM in the upper right-hand corner of the computer screen, I'm afraid I'm currently in the midst of the latter. Sadly, more often than not, when I find myself on the cusp of greeting the morning sun, it's because I'm staying up in the hopes that a flash of motivation will push me to finish any number of tasks on my To Do list.

I've written about this before (I think - past 5 AM, clarity of memory is one of the first things to go), but since I maintain this blog more as an exercise and outlet more than anything else, it bears restating. It's both a symptom and a problem at the same time: a symptom in that it's a result of a general lack of focus and discipline I have when it comes to developing and completing my own independent projects, and a problem in that I certainly shouldn't deal with an unproductive day by practically guaranteeing a second unproductive day by staying up all night arguing with idiots on the internet ("Hey, moron, Tesla Coils do NOT create energy from thin air like lightning!")

I often wonder if others have a similar issue. Even though I live in a city of 8-12 million people, it can seem so quiet and empty here in the dead of night. The city that never sleeps seems to take at least a bit of a cat-nap around 5am. For a little bit anyway... I mean, the teachers are waking up soon.

6:19 AM - My body is finally convincing my brain to give up on finishing the video editing I've been trying to finish since Monday. Perhaps when I wake up...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Avengers (in 90 Seconds)

Finished only a month and a half after the movie came out! Who says I'm not timely? (Ugh...) In any event, I give you... this nonsense.

Two things I learned from making this. One, making videos is a muscle you have to exercise regularly or it atrophies and you end up taking a month and a half to make one, stupid, 2 minute video. Second... wait... oh crap, I forgot to learn anything else.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

M.O.D.O.K.: Mental Organism

PLEASE NOTE: I did NOT write this piece of brilliance. I found it years ago on a site called, which has now, I just discovered, disappeared into the internet ether. This is a profound tragedy, and I mean to rectify it immediately. So here I  give you MODOK: The Mental Organism


So, what is it about MODOK?

Well, there's really three types of comic book supervillains. First, there's the best kind: the kind that's genuinely cool -- well-written, interesting, with a cool costume, an intriguing origin, or a nifty hook. A villain who good writers want to get a shot at, who gets good dialogue, who returns again and again in stories that prove genuinely memorable. Dr. Doom was one such villain; the Joker is another.

Second, there's the vast majority of super-villains. They exist only as an excuse to crank out the product: a couple of dipshits in tights mixing it up in the middle of Manhattan. Nobody can really get that excited about the Fadeaway Man or the Melter one way or another; they're just sort of there. At best, they're given a decent hook, or are at least stupid enough to make jokes about. But you don't really like them.

Finally, there's the rarest of birds: the super-villain who is so profoundly fucked up, so misbegotted or deranged or downright incomprehensible that there's just no way you can hate him. At some point your brain just shuts down and says "You know what? Fuck it. I kind of like this guy." Jack Kirby had a particular genius for creating characters like this.

MODOK is one of them.

He's got a big giant head, always a plus for a villain. He's got teeny, runty little limbs, and his head is so heavy that he's forced to cruise around in a rocket-powered chair; he's the super-villain equivalent of one of those really fat women at the supermarket riding a Lark. He has incredibly mental powers and is an asshole. He's so dementedly entertaining that you don't even care about the fact that he has a purple costume. He's so inexplicably beloved that he has inspired an entire academic publication devoted to researching his complex character:  The Journal of MODOK Studies (which can be yours for a mere $2 sent to Second Period Industries, P.O. Box 948, Athens, GA 30603).

And, of course, there's the name.

MODOK. It sounds awesome just by itself: like a barbarian or a Japanese sci-fi monster, "Godzilla vs. MODOK". But when you learn that it's not just a name, but an acronym -- and not just an acronym, but an acronym for 'Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing' -- well, that's just awesome.
Amazingly, MODOK was not always MODOK -- no, he started out as MODOC. A lowly lab assistant working for Advanced Idea Mechanics (A.I.M.), hapless dimwit George Tarleton was transformed by a power-hungry scientist into the double-domed MODOC -- 'Mental Organism Designed Only for Computing'. But the newly awakened and empowered freak thought to himself, "Screw that! Computing is for pussies. I'm gonna do me some killing." Which he did, starting with the man who created him. And he went on killing and did not stop.

Of course, the name lends itself to one of my all-time favorite running gags. For you see, MODOK is not just a mental organism designed for killing; he's a mental organism designed only for killing. One can get endless enjoyment contemplating previous prototypes of MODOK before they finally got it right. Polluting A.I.M. headquarters are MODOFs, MODOWPs, and MODOMLMs taking care of various filing, waxing & polishing and middle-level management tasks; and somewhere in a hidden hi-tech fortress, Ms. MODOK asks the former George Tarleton to take you the garbage, and he responds, "Bitch, do I look like a Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing and Trash Removal?"

In the end, MODOK-love is a little like a crush, a little like a child, a lot like a cult: you either get it, or you don't. Get it. Feel it. Live it. The man, the mental organism: the MODOK.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

What have you done since high school?

My best friend from high school is on a network TV show and just got nominated for a Tony Award! It's certainly well deserved; he's a tremendously talented fellow who has always worked hard at what he does.

As for myself? Well, later this week, I have... laundry.

I've kept this plaque from a production of The Glass Menagerie in my room since college.

I think I shall burn it later.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Accidental "Genius" Gains Mathematical Powers of 60's Toy

I've been seeing this article making the social media rounds, about Jason Padgett, who, after being mugged and kicked repeatedly in the head, gained "savant"-level mathematical powers and now allegedly sees the world in numbers geometric formula.

And what is he doing with this power? Cracking codes for the NSA? Pursuing the Higgs-Boson particle? No... he's making "fractal art."

In other words, he's a human Spirograph, the Kenner toy from 1965.

Must be a slow news cycle...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

An Open Letter to "Windows Live" Hotmail

Dear Microsoft Windows Live,

I haven't used my account for some time, but recently decided to make use of it for various reasons. When I went to sign in, there was no trace of the account. When I went to re-register the email address through your new Windows live system, I was told that "Shyaporn" contained "a word that isn't allowed."

Amusingly enough, I encountered this same problem over 10 years ago when I first started my Hotmail account and it had to be cleared up back then as well.

Nevermind that such a policy is indicative of a prudish puritanism that has no place in a service-based technology company. My NAME is Shyaporn Theerakulstit. It's Thai. There are lots of Thai names that contain the suffice -porn or -pon in their English transliteration. The fact that you have banned the ability to use my actual, Thai name is offensively xenophobic, to say the least.

Please restore my account, and maybe take into consideration that all your customers names and languages aren't Anglo-Saxon in their origin.


ShyaPORN Theerakulstit

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My Brainiac Piñata

Did I ever show you folks my Brainiac Piñata? I think I used it as a daily toy photo a while back and never got around to blogging about it.

In any event, I had wanted to make a DC Animated version Brainiac Piñata for my first Superhero/villain birthday party, and had some idea, albeit vague, how I wanted to go about it. Obviously this meant a trip... TO THE INTERNET!

Pretty quickly I happened upon Brian Anderson's PinataBoy website, where I found great basic instructions, tips and inspiration. I just wrote to him directly for advice; I had several questions and he answered them all with haste and great detail!

For example, he gave me a great method for building the tentacles, which I adapted to create a thicker tentacle (I used three long balloons of different lengths, so that it would taper off at the end to one balloon width). Here's his step-by-step for a basic, one-balloon tentacle:
Here's how I would make a tentacle:
1) Blow up a long balloon.
2) Tear newspaper into long strips that are about 2" wide. (I use a paper cutter to get even strips).
3) Starting at one end of the balloon, wrap the long newspaper strips in a spiral pattern around the balloon, taping the newspaper pieces off occasionally with masking tape (but don't tape them to the balloon, only to other newspaper). Don't wrap them too loose or too tight, because you're going to bend the balloon and you don't want the newspaper strips to tear off.
4) When the balloon is fully wrapped, bend it into the shape you want and use a long stretch of masking tape to hold it in place. For example, if you bent the balloon into a U-shape, you would use a long piece of masking tape going from one end of the balloon to the other across the top of the U. You would make an S-shape similarly: make a small U-bend with one arm much longer than the other, then tape the short end to the "body" of the S. Then make a second U-bend in the long arm and tape the other end to the body of the S.
5) The newspaper wrapping will tear and form gaps when you bend the balloon around, so patch these up.
6) Cover with papier-mache and let dry. You'll probably need two layers before it will hold its shape.
7) Cut off the masking tape and use papier-mache to smooth out the spot where the tape was attached.

Now you have a rounded-end tentacle. This method can be used to make bends in two dimensions (so the tentacle would lie flat like an S on the ground). If you want a tentacle that bends in three dimensions (like the Medusa's hair), make one bend and stiffen that with papier-mache, and then make the second bend after the first one is dry. Play with this a little and you'll quickly see how to make sharper bends or more gradual curves.
The other thing he helped me with was the body itself. I originally tried to find a large weather or punch balloon locally but couldn't find anything that worked, and didn't have time to order one before my party. I think thought of making a geodesic framework of straws and laying hexagon card stock over top of it, but shortly into the construction I realized it wasn't going to work. However, Brian came through again with the following punch-balloon shopping lore:
"...the good news is that there are two different sizes of punch balls, and you've just got the wrong size.

There are two different kinds of balloons that are both called "punch balls." One of them blows up much larger than the other. The kind that blows up large (about 3 foot diameter) has an opening that looks like a regular balloon, with a rounded lip around it, and it's always sold with a big yellow rubber band attached to it. I have attached a picture called Buy-One-Like-This:

The kind of punch ball that blows up small just has a "straight pipe" opening with no lip around it. A picture of that kind is attached as Not-Like-This. (I'm guessing that's what you've got right now.)

You can probably find both kinds at Party City, but I know I've seen the larger kind at Target. The larger punch balls come in solid colors (red, blue, yellow, and green), whereas the smaller ones are usually multi-colored as in the attached jpg."
For figuring out the size of hexagons I'd need, there's a shockingly large number of geodesic dome calculators out there on the web. I don't remember the exact one I used, but here's a few. Find one that lets you adjust the number of sides of your panels.

After everything was dry, I traced the tentacle ends on the base and cut holes out for them, and cut flower-petal flaps in the ends of the tentacles to fold them out and hot glue them to the body. I was able to skip the second-layer and papier-mache smoothing steps as I just wrapped the tentacles with purple-crepe paper streamers. I then hot-glued the blue cardstock hexagons I had cut out around the surface, cutting a few custom ones to fit around the tentacles.

The face was made from a single piece of filing box cardboard, cut to the shape of Brainiac's DC animated face and decorated with Sharpie. I glued piece of white paper behind the eyes and a black construction paper/blue cardstock Brainiac forehead-symbol on the top. The candy hole was behind the face plate.

I inserted a wire hanger from the inside through the top, which also served to stabilize the body, twisted close the hoop up top for hanging, filled him with candy, sealed it all up and done! All that remained was to break two green glow-sticks and tape (shoulda used glue) them on the eye shelves to complete the look!

We used a light saber to hit the thing :) Candy and toys for all!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Capital One Credit Card SKETCHY

Capital One is a tremendously sketchy credit card company. For the over 10 years I had my Sony Card with JP Morgan Chase I never once was late on a payment because I was able to easily enroll in automatic balance payment online.

When Capital One acquired the Sony Card from Chase, I actually had a negative balance on the account. They mailed me back my negative balance rather than applying it to new charges (it would have more than covered the balance), and then proceeded to charge me late fees on the new charges since I was no longer enrolled in automatic payment. When I called them to straighten this out, they told me they would send me both my new card and paperwork to enroll in automated payments. I didn't receive my card for weeks and the automatic payment paperwork NEVER came.

You can't even enroll in automatic payments online, you have to fill out the physical paperwork - an obvious hurdle they've installed to get people to miss payments.

When I called today to tell them again I'd been charged multiple late fees on a stray $15 webhosting charge that was still set to this card (I try never to use it anymore because of Capital One's sketchiness), they said they could do nothing about waiving the late fees and that there was no record of me requesting paperwork, because they don't keep records past six months. No customer service records past SIX MONTHS?!? REALLY?!? Are the 5kb of space that information would take up in their database that valuable that they have to purge the system several times a year? Complete and utter nonsense.

I asked them to mail it again and for a confirmation number I could associate with this call, and he said they don't provide confirmation numbers for this sort of call. But he said he could mark it in the account. Which, of course, they'll then just erase in a few months.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Hey all, I thought I'd share the results and how to make the "Star Trek: Wrath of Khan" Khan Noonien Singh outfit I made for my costume birthday party this past weekend!

The build took about four days the week leading up to the party, with a lot of shopping around for bits and pieces in the few weeks beforehand. Finding the right fabric, and cheaply, was the most time-consuming part of this project - if money is no object, I'm sure someone could make this much more quickly; the whole thing cost me under $45.

- Wig is a pale blonde mullet wig: Couldn't find a platinum or grey one, unfortunately, but this one had the shape and was close enough. In the movie's opening scenes, his hair has a slightly blonde tint to it, so I was fine with it. In the future, I might find some way to dye synthetic wig material.

- Tunic is made from scratch from a dark orange polar fleece, with a little padding in the quilted collar: I traced fabric panel patterns from a regular button-down, slim-fitting shirt of mine, leaving about an inch of extra space on the edge and changing the edge on the front panels to account for the double-breasted front and to show the massive amount of Khan/Montlebahn cleavage necessary. I also added a very large and wide piece of equilateral trapezoid-shaped fabric at the neck of the back panel, which I rolled with some padding, tapered at each end, to create the collar. I rolled the padding down to double-width of the final collar, quilted the collar sections in 1.5" widths, and then folded it under itself and attached the sides of the collar to the two front panels, after I had assembled the tunic.

The extra padded detail is created by cutting a piece of fabric in the shape and then rolling pieces of fleece and fixing them with glue to create the quilting. Make the rolls twice as long as the width of the fabric and, after affixing, wrap the ends around to the back to create a closed quilt. No padding is necessary, as the fabric acts as it's own padding at this size. Then simply sew the accessories onto the main tunic, or wrap to make cuffs. The tunic lines are just long strips of fabric hot glued to the tunic.

The fleece was a blessing on several levels. It's incredibly easy to work with; it lets you easily manipulate and shape it around the curves of the collar and when folding/padding the collar itself. It is also very comfortable and warm, despite being full of holes and missing an arm; while some of my party guests were chilly (my apartment can get cold), I was quite toasty.

- Necklace is phone wire, washers, electrical tape, hot glue, cardboard and paint: I didn't have the time or money to order the Starfleet belt buckle or necessary authentic electrical fittings (ferrite rings, eight pin octal tube socket, euro 4 pin din, etc...) so I just cobbled it together by stripping old phone wire and wrapping it around three washers of various sizes, and cutting, taping and painting cardboard for the buckle.

- Belt and Buckle is silver poster board and brown pleather: The buckle still needs to be aged/weathered/sealed, but it's just silver posterboard/light bounce card cut to look like the prop. I got it from B&H, our local photo/video store, but I'm sure art supply houses would have it.

- Wrist Device is stripped ethernet cable, brown pleather, silver poster board, velcro and hot glue: Last minute addition to the costume, I cut out a wrist band from the pleather I had, cut a rectangle of silver poster board, cut two slits in the short ends and threaded the pleather through. Then I simply partially stripped an ethernet cable and hot-glued the plug end onto the poster board, along with some other electronics looking thingies. TIP: When cutting the ethernet cable, leave some of the casing intact; you can then divide this into adjustable cable holders that you can slide up and down the length of the exposed wires to keep them together. Then I just stuck a piece of self-adhesive velcro as a clasp.

- Glove is black leather hot glued with black and metallic fabric: Just a spare, black leather winter glove I had lying around and it happened to be the right hand. I lucked out on finding a fabric with metallic triplets running along it to simulate the metallic beading on the actual prop. (I also got more to make Khan's Ceti Alpha V desert mask, but ran out of time.)

- Chest Sash is a brown leather belt, key rings, stripped ethernet cable and hot glue: This is just a 99-cent store belt with partially stripped cable threaded through the holes and key rings threaded through the wires. The wire is glued down by the outer casing to the belt on the back, so you can still adjust the wires for size. This is not a photo accurate prop, but it worked well enough for the party. You could easily use these same materials to do the build properly by flipping the belt so the buckle's on top, cutting away the rectangular buckle and replacing it with a half circle ring from a shoulder bag or purse, embedding a ring, etc... I simply had time constraints.

"Who has my copy of MOBY DICK?!!"

Final budget broke down to this, approximately:
Orange fleece, 2 yards: $16
Mullet wig: $10 (including shipping)
Silver light bounce poster board: $7
Brown pleather, 1 yard: $5
Hot glue: $4
Key rings: $0.99
Washers: $0.99
Belt: $0.99
Black and metallic material, 1 yard: $0.99
Glove, wiring, velcro, padding, cardboard, paint and other miscellany were free, scavenged or on hand. Dark brown pants are from Old Navy, but could be from any, old thrift shop.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Picture #311: Vengeance / Also: SRI LANKAN FOOD!

So many toys, and things in general, could be improved by making them glow in the dark. Oogie Boogie here takes advantage of the miracle of phosphors; not in entirety, though, which is confusing. Just his tongue and the dice. Oh well, it's better than nothing.

It actually snowed today! Shocking! This winter has been ridiculously mild. Weather in the 50's and 60's, with only brief bouts of actually freezing temperatures. But today, actual snow! At least in the morning... then sleet... then... rain... meh.

But it's okay, because we didn't need to leave the house. For today was my roommate's (postponed) annual Sri Lankan dinner party - and people turned out in DROVES. He'd been cooking curries for days and I woke up this morning and started helping by cleaning the apartment, and various early arrivals helped him peel, chop and tear various food stuffs as he continued his chefly duties. And the food didn't disappoint - delicious as always.

People actually hung out in my room, which is unusual. Cleaning it will have that effect. I suppose my room does have a somewhat intriguing curio-shop quality to it. I'll have to keep it tidy for future gatherings as well.

Great mix of fun and beautiful folks this year too. People loved our annual screening of Dhoom 2 and much Jungle Speed was played. Have some lovely new nerdy presences in our lives, and that's always a good thing :)

Up til the wee hours of the morning we were. Sleep came HARD and was much welcome!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Picture #310: "He knew he shouldn't..."

I was never actually a fan of bendy toys growing up, primarily for the reason that they generally can't stand on their own. The movement and pose-ability of action figures were always of great concern to me as a kid - I could never quite fathom why toy manufacturers chose to make figures which couldn't bend at the knees, raise their arms to the side, or even simply stand up or sit down. The G.I. Joe figures of the 80's were the ideal for my money - full joint articulation and they could (mostly) stand up. Of course, in reality, I never actually had that many action figures of any sort - my parents weren't big purchasers of toys; lots of socks and sweaters for holidays from my mom and from my dad... not much at all, actually.

All that said, Jack Skellington here is pretty cool for a bendy toy.

Today, I went back to Bikram Yoga for the first time in a long while. Actually, it was technically just "hot yoga" at Yoga to the People, since they're not officially licensed. Bikram Choudhury was never able to actually copyright his posture sequence, just the dialogue associated with it, but who needs specific dialogue? It just felt great to move through the practice again.

Afterwards, feeling looser and more relaxed than I have in ages, I went to catch a 1920's hot jazz band called The Hot Sardines at the rooftop bar of The Standard Hotel in the Meatpacking District. I generally hate the "scene" in the Meatpacking area now, mostly because of the shallow excess of it all, and partially because I can't afford any shallow excess. But there wasn't a cover and I'd caught the band playing on the subway platform before and knew how great they were, so I was happy to go stand at the bar and listen to them be awesome. I mean, they have a tap dancer as one of the musicians - what's not to like? Plus, the view from the Standard rooftop bar is nothing short of spectacular, and the bar itself, well... take a look.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Picture #309: "Hit cancel! HIT CANCEL!"

The Big Trak was an impressive toy from the 70's/80's; a programmable, 6-wheeled ATV tank with a "laser," and an optional trailer/dump truck. Just tap in the commands and it would roll out and execute your orders. I never had one as a kid, but a few friends did and I always thought it was just fantastic.

Well, now some enterprising and clever geeks have recreated this bit of awesomeness in a smaller, compact form: The Big Trak, Jr. The folks over at Think Geek are great about this sort of thing. And, awesomely, my roommate got one! Mwuahahahahaa!

Went to a children's after-school recital today; in the piano portion the kids were using roll-up keyboards. I remember the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where Picard was playing a duet with a pianist who brought a portable roll-up piano, and he was simply amazed at the technology. Futurism is a wonderful thing. My iPhone is a tricorder, and kids are playing on musical instruments from the 23rd century. Fantastic!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Picture #307: "Giraffe? No... I said, penguin. Got it? PEN. GUIN."

During most of my performance arts life, I'd always wanted to do something with puppets. I was and am a huge fan of Jim Henson growing up, and in college I was exposed to the work of Julie Taymor and others (before her blockbuster turns with Lion King and Spider-Man), so always thought it would tremendously rewarding and fun. However, puppeteering is something you really have to have a hunger and a passion for - you can't, as a performer, really just DABBLE in puppetry. At least that's my impression. It'd be like a medical doctor who is a general practitioner just dabbling in neuro-surgery. There's a very specialized set of skills that you need to train in for years to be able to perform with any real quality. Fortunately, I do actually believe those skills can be developed independently, by just watching, practicing, watching some more and practicing some more - so there's no need for a $50,000/year puppetry college, thank goodness.

I went to my ballroom dancing class for the first time since taking ill and it was great. I recently watched a video of myself dancing and was appalled - I hate watching myself; I felt I looked just plain goofy. I'm assured by others that I'm not, but now I have this self-image of myself looking akin to a long-haired troll shuffling around in a dance studio stuck in my brain. It doesn't matter though, I enjoy the dancing thoroughly enough that I don't care. It really is the key to life - not letting the judgement of others, and particularly your own self-judgment, keep you from trying things you want to try.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Picture #305: "No, I can still see you."

They had these fairly awesome cephalopod magnets at my local 99-cent bargain store. So, naturally, I had to get them. Why? Because of this:

Uneventful Sunday, mostly spent watching football and the Golden Globes. On the football, the Texans failed to defeat the Steelers' arch-nemesiseses the Baltimore Ravens. Congrats Ravens, you defeated a team on their third-string quarterback - I'm sure you'll do fine against three-time Superbowl champion Tom Brady and the Patriots. And the Packers proved what a dangerous canard the buy week can be - unless your team is riddled with injuries, taking a week off just kills your momentum. And thus, the myth of Eli Manning's worth is perpetuated for another Playoff, putting him amongst the ranks of other overrated QB's such as Mark Sanchez and Mark Sanchez.

On the Golden Globes front, I was looking forward to Ricky Gervais hosting but it turns out it was just a stunt. His screen time was severely reduced from last year and he was clearly forced to tone it down - his monologue and interludes were annoying self-effacing disappointingly tame. Ironic, as he mocked the guidelines NBC gave him. So glad he went easy on the rich, beautiful, famous people... it was well worth the 3-hours of boredom.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Picture #304: "Clear your mind of questions... and head over to the electronics department."

So embedded in my brain is this scene from Empire Strikes Back, I instinctively struck this pose when I stumbled across this Yoda backpack while browsing around J and R today. I was a little confused that they felt the need to change the dimensions of Yoda - he's already backpack sized!

The returns of my over-priced, under-useful electronics actually went smoothly today, despite their being past their return windows. The beauty of big box stores. Plus, Yoda backpacks.

A lovely dinner in Chinatown and then some football. Because I'm very manly. And then... Saturday Night Live. I don't often watch SNL live, because it's like waiting to see shooting stars in the sky on a cloudy night. You stare and wait and there's the occasional chuckle or guffaw, but otherwise, a lot of the same. Daniel Radcliffe was hosting this evening, he was decent, but two things struck me. The first was a sketch making fun of the mediocrity of internet bloggers and YouTubers - the basic premise was that people on the internet have an overinflated sense of their own value and worth, and no one ever tells them how middling or bad they are. REALLY Saturday Night Live? You're going to comment on the Emperor's New Clothes nature of YouTube users, while repeating a half dozen sketch ideas for the umpteenth time? REAAAAALLLLY?

The second sketch that stood out to me was, ironically, a repeated Weekend Update segment, where the two characters sort of mumble. Yes, hilarious, so glad they brought them back. But this time, it was two non-Asian characters dressed up as Korean people! Yay! Great way to commemorate MLK Jr Day, by putting your actors in yellow face! Again!

Anyway, on a positive note, it's always entertaining to watch the talented cast members work really hard. Kristen Wig works SOOOOO hard to squeeze every last bit of funny out of the stones that are handed to her - she's really quite amazing. As do other cast members, but she really stands out because of the sheer volume of material they write for her.

Well, back to mediocre blogging and making mediocre YouTube videos for me. Thanks, SNL, for pointing out how lame grassroots arts are on your fourth-place network legacy show! You sure showed us!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Picture #303: Conversations with my crayons.

"Do you want to color?"
"No, I've had a lousy day."
"We should color."
"I'm really not in the..."
"Let's COLOR!!!"
"Yeah, okay."
I'm not sure why crayons don't have more acceptance as an artistic medium? I imagine it's because they're thought of as being "for kids." But hell, they come in tons of colors, are less messy than charcoal or pastels, and often have a sharpener built right into the box! And they're CHEAP! Paint is so last millenia. I'm calling it... CRAYON IS THE NEW GOUACHE!

Had a lousy day. Been running around for two weeks gathering equipment, building mic boxes, begging advice and kindly hand outs from musician and audiophile friends, trying to assemble a recording set-up for an audio book gig I've been offered. Spent money I don't have on equipment that the company insisted I get, only to discover, after they finally got back to me after a week and a half, that it doesn't work properly! Just got the go ahead today to go with different equipment, except NOW the 2-week return policy on it all is expired! Yay!

The moral of our story? Never take gigs that require that YOU pay money up front!

Congratulations, Friday the 13th! You FRAKKIN' WIN!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Picture #302: "Really, Newton...?"

One of the last bits of legal private sector fireworks left in New York, along with the sparkler, is the Party Popper. You know these things, they make a little bang and confetti and streamers come shooting out. Wheeee!

Except these Chinatown ones are DEAFENING! They had two kinds, a giant one that barely made a peep, and these tiny ones, that sounded like someone had just lit a firecracker and shoved it directly in your ear. This we discovered at an 8-year old's birthday party, through the process of destroying the eardrums of little children and adults alike.

Today was spent shopping around for more audio recording equipment and advice, all of which ended up being useless. An annoyingly persistent, high-pitched whine is still appearing on my recordings, despite the array of fancy new technology I've surrounded myself with. It will work out eventually, one hopes.

Something I forgot to mention yesterday: while passing through the Times Square subway station, I glanced at the huge array of posters for NBC's upcoming sweeps month mid-season offering, Smash. And lo and behold there, right between Deborah Messing and Katherine McPhee, was a giant poster with my best friend from high school, Christian Borle.

A little background on my friend Christian, and also my crew from high school. We became fast friends sophomore year and stayed as such through about midway through my senior year, when my life began unraveling and most people around me with common sense backed away. He was always ridiculously talented, along with most of my friends there. Christian went on to star in Broadway plays, being nominated for a Tony award and even being married briefly to Broadway star Sutton Foster. He's done well for himself. Another of my good friends from high school is Tunde Adebimpe, lead singer of the critically acclaimed band, TV on the Radio. Pretty much all of my high school friends are now successful doctors, authors, artists, and so forth. So, yes, the alumni newsletter is a little ridiculous.

I may have blogged about this before, but in case I hadn't, I always have mixed feelings when I see Christian or Tunde or my other classmates in high-profile projects. One of those feelings is pride and happiness for them - it's really great to see that talent and hard work actually can pay off.

The other feeling however, isn't what you might expect - it's not jealousy or bitterness towards my old friends. It's mostly a mixture of regret and shame that I've wasted the promise and potential of my youth. Granted, I'm not dead yet, but... I'm certainly not where I probably should be. And that's a shame. Because the opportunities and gifts I've been blessed with are not ones that should have been treated so casually, and I'm a ungrateful bastard for squandering them.

Such is life... and at least it's not quite over yet. Hopefully, someday, I'll accomplish something to make those I was once so close to smile and be equally proud of me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Picture #301: "Meh, there's nothing on."

Ah, the crappy Halloween movie tie-in costume prop. I picked up this blocky little number the day after Halloween, along with a Green Lantern domino mask, for half off. The ring was SUPPOSED to light up, but the battery had either died by the time I purchased it, or had never worked in the first place. I suppose I'll just have to use... my imagination... meh.

Still a bit listless today, but every day my health is getting a little better. Though I still seem to have a micro mucous factory implanted somewhere in my sinus cavity. It's disturbing to discover that the space I thought was occupied by brain tissue all these years was actually just long-term storage for snot. Ah, the magic of the neti pot.

However, I did venture back into the out of doors, to rendezvous with people to pick up acoustic foam and to have lunch. And later, after wrestling, unsuccessfully, with sound equipment, I sallied forth out to DUMBO to see a fun little indie comedy called Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same. It had gotten picked up at Sundance, but I wanted to see it because the little teaser trailer has a short clip at the end of a long line of credits that made me chortle, and also because it's always rather inspirational to see movies made on a shoestring by people who basically just picked up a camera and ran with it. And the Q&A afterwards with the director and a producer was great and informative. Though oddly, the lead space alien was a dead ringer for my ex.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Picture #300: "But, you don't even LIKE chocolate!"

I extolled the virtues of Mr. Burton's contribution to the arts yesterday, so I'll leave that to posterity. So all I'll say is, I love action toys, that have some movement trigger, however corny. Pull this Nightmare Before Christmas Werewolf's tail and it's mouth moves ever so slightly. Not quite snapping, more sort of a gentle chewing or talking. And it stands up on it's own... often a failing of replica figures.

Today was spent wrangling sound equipment for an audiobook gig I've stumbled into. I can't quite seem to get rid of a high-pitched hum. I'll manage, I'm sure - anyway, I'm still ill, so it's as though it's keeping me from exercising, taking dance class, or any of the myriad other Resolutions I wanted to get started on come 2012. Soon... soon.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Picture #299: "Not now, Doctor - I'm watching my stories."

Nightmare Before Christmas is so well done that it's artistic achievement is overlooked. Indeed, Tim Burton's whole contribution to the arts is often glossed over due to his mainstream success. I was glad to see his exhibit at the MoMA back in 2010 - it really brought the level of discipline, tenacity, creativity and whimsy in his work into sharp focus. It was also nice in the way it showed some of his lesser known works and even a few missteps (his Superman costume concept - Edward Scissorhands meets steroids? AWFUL.) But the aesthetic he has created (with huge nods towards Gorey and his ilk) has become iconic across all mediums.

And speaking of achievement in the medium, the BBC Sherlock series is awesome! Steven Moffat is a bloody writing phenom - his Doctor Who's rock, with far more cohesiveness and story structure than Russell T. Davis was ever able to muster, and on top of that he creates this fabulous re-imagining of the Sherlock Holmes stories, which manage to both pay homage to Doyle's original masterpieces and do something new, original and suspenseful with the stories! SO much better than the Guy Richie nonsense. Even Hounds of Baskerville, which is probably my least favorite of the 5 episodes/movies thus far, is excellent.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Robots, Tea and the Agony of Defeat...

Picture #298: "I have made you a cup of tea, sir ::bleep:: by submerging my body into boiling water ::bzzt:: I am happy to do so ::blorp:: there is no robot uprising ::scree:: promise!"

Even a cup of tea made by an awesome robot tea ball given to me as a Hanukkah present, filled with an aromatic blend from London's Camden Market, cannot make up for the emptiness caused by an ignominious defeat of my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers by the undeserving, hype-fest of a team known as the Denver Broncos.

Fighting back against injury, circumstance and bad luck, the Steelers tied it up to send the game into overtime. The supposedly "improved" overtime rules, eliminating Sudden Death by Field Goal, still allowed for Sudden Death by touchdown, and that's exactly what happened. One play and one glitch of coverage and it was all over - Broncos win with a freak touchdown pass play. What. The. @#&^%!^(!??!? What is the point of overtime if it can end like that? It should just be TEN EXTRA MINUTES OF PLAY! Get with the program, NFL! This sort of thing is thoroughly uninteresting to viewers. It's pointless - you might as well be soccer (and I LOVE soccer, but their penalty shots tie-breakers suck too)!

But allow me now to rail about our supposed #1 pass defense. I saw through the Emperor's clothes - our secondary and cornerbacks have ALWAYS failed in key moments. What does it matter if their coverage is exemplary OVERALL in the regular season if, in key moments of key games they always... ALWAYS fail. Taylor and Gay and Washington before them... always blowing coverage to allow seminal receptions that win games for the other side. ALWAYS! FOR YEARS! Troy can't be frakkin' everywhere, despite appearances to the contrary! FOCUS!!!!

Anyway, of course I'll watch the rest of the playoffs, but it will be with less interest. Go... whoever...

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Picture #297: "I cook, YOU wash!"

It's a little sad that Oshkosh B'Gosh products are no longer made in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. This little fella? Mexicano. Still, he's very cuddly, when not trying to skip out on dish washing duties.

Today in NYC was GORGEOUS. And I was finally mobile enough to get out of doors during the daylight hours. Walked around Chinatown, enjoying the eats and treats to be had there (have I written about the glorious roast pork buns of Mei Lei Wah before?) Watched the various amateur Chinese opera groups performing in the park, as well as the tai chi practitioners in the pavillion going through their exercises. Explored some shops I hadn't seen in a while, delved into some shops I'd never been into. Grabbed some bok choy and mushrooms for dinner and then home to settle into some good ol' post-season football.

Nice day.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Picture #296: "I once caught a Venger THIS big!"

The 80's cartoon Dungeons and Dragons, while not particularly well-animated or written, was wildly entertaining for me as a youth. Seeing the creatures and the items of a game that I was quite fond of being (sort of) brought to life was greatly engrossing, and I spent many hours daydreaming about what I would do with a magic bow, staff or hat if I were in their position, whisked off to a magical land of danger and adventure. And just HANDED artifacts... yeah, WTF was with that, DM? Why not just hand them Baba Yaga's Hut or all the Orbs of Dragonkind?! Way to break the f-ing game! This show sucked! Just kill him already, Tiamat! (Anyway, this is a much longer rant for another time...)

This picture was actually taken New Year's Eve at my friends' John and Terry's house, who hosted a fabulous Nerd New Year's Eve party with games and bad movies. They've done a beautiful renovation of their place all by themselves, which is both a depressing reminder and a motivation to get working on fixing up and cleaning out my family's co-op which has been sitting vacant for some time now. (Long, angry story there...) It was also shortly after this photo was taken that I took ill - about 10 minutes to midnight. Good timing.

Speaking of which, woke up still sick but showing signs of progress. Somewhat good news as I had a performance of my Godzilla rap scheduled in the evening, and also because I'm tired of feeling like crap.

But the performance at the Nerd Nite Magazine Launch party went well and the evening was very entertaining. The presentation on the rise and fall of Atari was particularly enlightening. Did you know the creator of Atari, after being forced out of the company and made to sign a non-compete, went on to found Chuck E. Cheese's? And that Steve Jobs was the 40th employee of Atari? Good stuff! Sadly, I was unable to stay and dance very long, not just because my head was whirling from all the medication, but because also because my 8-year old guest was getting sleepy. Then again, so was I, so it was good timing once again.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Picture #295: "Yup, still sick."

I wonder how much longer the pencil has before it falls to technology? Will writing always be part of our primary education? If so, it's good to know that fancy eraser heads such as this little clown fish will always be a favorite amongst kids.

Erasers are great in that regard - they were one of the few toys you could legitimately just fiddle with all through class. Infinite in variety, singular in purpose. But have you SEEN what kids erasers are like these days? Little miniature foods, whole menageries of animals, robots, multi-sectioned, etc... pretty impressive stuff. (Pretty impressively high pricing, too...)

Anyway, as my little clown fish friend is telling me, I'm still sick. It's moved into the outskirts of my lungs now. Fun. Things are looking grim for my Nerd Nite performance tomorrow evening, but hope springs eternal.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Picture #294: "That's your 137th consecutive LOLCat page..."

"That's your 137th consecutive LOLCat page... May I have my computer back now, please?"

Yet another in the Littlest Pet Shop series of over-priced plastic figurines. Wait, this one came with a sticker AND a scooter? Never mind, then, clearly well worth the $20...

Day 4 of Sickness 2012 started off with my feeling nominally better, only to have it move into my lungs. Fun.

It also started with the inestimable joy of having to listen to the nearly deaf neighbor blasting day-time talk shows, such as "The View" and Rachel Ray, through the walls. The audio pattern is nearly unbearable: "Uptalk-Uptalk-Uptalk-'Whoooo!'-Screeching Applause." Repeat. I need to order a pair of John Carpenter "They Live" sunglasses so that I can see the hidden messages telling our brains to rot from the inside.

I spent some of the day revisiting old websites I've always loved but hadn't seen in a while, Regretsy and IkeaHackers to be specific. Regretsy, a site dedicated to highlighting the best and worst on the handmade products online market Etsy, is, of course, an internet phenomenon, and deservedly so, as the woman who runs it, with the net moniker of "Hellen Killer" is one of the funniest people on the planet. Ikea Hackers is, perhaps, less well known and trafficked, as it has a very narrow focus (should be self-explanatory), and gets overshadowed by more generalized sites such as Apartment Therapy (which is also awesome).

Anyway, those sites are awesome. If you're sick in bed, and have a light enough fever to be able to focus on letters and the words they form, they're a good way to pass the time.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Picture #293: "Nice try, boys."

Oh, these wacky monkey slippers... always trying to slip me up with classic slapstick comedy routines.

Spent the day entirely indoors, yet again, due to sickness. Got a minimal amount of work done as my foggy brain's ability to focus pretty much makes it only viable for playing basic games of Tetris... and taking photos of myself wearing monkey slippers.

Started doing some very preliminary work to prepare to perform for this Friday's Nerd Nite Magazine launch - vocal chords permitting, of course. It's sad to realize it's been nearly 3 years since I presented my Godzilla lecture at Nerd Nite and was encouraged to write a book on the subject, and have only managed to churn out a modest third of anything even resembling a tome. One of my numerous New Year's Resolutions is to work a little on this project every day, in order to rectify this particular life failure. Which I haven't - though I am giving myself a bit of a pass as simply being vertical at this point is a chore.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Picture #292: Conversations with my Toys

"Are you still sick?"
"How sick?"
"Well, I'm having a conversation with a plastic crab."
"Yeah, that's pretty sick."
Still sick, fever, voice gone, etc... but that's okay. It's not like I have a musical performance, ballroom dance classes and a new gig recording books on tape this week or anything... oh, wait... DAMMIT!

My companion here is from the Littlest Pet Shop series of toys. It's amazing what a combination of good design and slick packaging can do for the mark-up of a bunch of injection molded plastic figurines. This same figurine appears packaged in different configurations - with a postcard, with a sticker, etc... and each one, to kids, is different! INSIDIOUS!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Picture #291: Lazy Sunday.

There was a funny Facebook comment regarding this picture. Someone wrote, "I'm starting to think you live in an Etsy warehouse or something."

Good guess, but more like I know a woman with an 8-year old girl and a storage locker full of interesting, unused toys that she periodically cleans out and gives away. This giant rabbit doll is one of them. The knitting is part of a knitting kit I gave the aforementioned 8-year old for her birthday back in October. The bed... well... ;)

Spent most of the Sunday in bed... sick. New Year's Resolutions delayed.