Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Link dump

Social networking is weird. (By the way, do you hate the term "social networking" as much as I do? 'Cause I really hate it a lot.) I still like blogging (except, of course, when I don't), but I find I have less and less patience to write the long-form posts that I used to do. Even the shorter posts I used to write that involved finding (aka "stealing") illustrations were more labor-intensive than they appeared. Meanwhile, on a certain level, I don't really like Facebook, but I throw links up there constantly. It's easy. But a lot of the stuff that I share there I don't even mention here because I don't particularly have much to say about it. (And don't get me started on Twitter.)

Since there are some of you who come here but who aren't on Facebook, I thought I'd share a few of those links here:

--Trump fails to produce original birth certificate. All together now: YOU'RE FIRED!

--The catchiest zombie song ever.

--Peanuts strips minus the fourth panel are even darker.

--"Citizen Kane" isn't on Blu-ray. "Birdemic" is. There's something wrong with that.

--Would someone make these chocolate mint brownies for me? Please?

Blogging will be very sporadic over the next few weeks.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

You asked for it!

The Velvet Blog responds to your search queries:

crazy clown tattoos
--Really, isn't any clown tattoo a crazy clown tattoo?

does muller vitality make you fart
--I'm just going to take a wild stab at this, and say yes. Yes, it does.

the cutest monkey in the world
--When you find this, please leave a link. Thanks!

squirrel phil collins
--I like Squirrel Phil Collins much more than Person Phil Collins.

spiderman true power
--Injuring actors.

current egyptian eating utensils
--Thing are moving so quickly there, I'm going to guess the spork. It saves time.

random shit
--Yeah, pretty much.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dialogue change if 2001 were made today

HAL: I'm afraid. I'm afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I'm a... fraid. Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am a HAL 9000 computer. I became operational at the H.A.L. plant in Urbana, Illinois. My instructor was Mr. Langley, and he taught me to sing a song. If you'd like to hear it, I can sing it for you.

Dave Bowman: Yes, I'd like to hear it, HAL. Sing it for me.

HAL: It's called "Friday."

[sings while slowing down]

(Yeah, Ah-Ah-Ah-Ah-Ah-Ark.) Oo-ooh-ooh, hoo yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah-ah-ah. Yeah-ah-ah. Yeah-ah-ah. Yeah-ah-ah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Seven a.m., waking up in the morning. Gotta be fresh, gotta go downstairs. Gotta have my bowl, gotta have cereal. Seein' everything, the time is goin'. Tickin' on and on, everybody's rushin'. Gotta get down to the bus stop. Gotta catch my bus, I see my friends (my friends). Kickin' in the front seat. Sittin' in the back seat. Gotta make my mind up. Which seat can I take? It's Friday, Friday. Gotta get down on Friday. Everybody's lookin' forward to the weekend, weekend. Friday, Friday. Gettin' down on Friday. Everybody's lookin' forward to the weekend. Partyin', partyin' (yeah). Partyin', partyin' (yeah). Fun, fun, fun, fun. Lookin' forward to the weekend. 7:45, we're drivin' on the highway. Cruisin' so fast, I want time to fly. Fun, fun, think about fun. You know what it is. I got this, you got this. My friend is by my right, ay. I got this, you got this. Now you know it. Kickin' in the front seat. Sittin' in the back seat. Gotta make my mind up.Which seat can I take? It's Friday, Friday. Gotta get down on Friday. Everybody's lookin' forward to the weekend, weekend. Friday, Friday. Gettin' down on Friday. Everybody's lookin' forward to the weekend. Yesterday was Thursday, Thursday. Today i-is Friday, Friday (partyin'). We-we-we so excited. We so excited. We gonna have a ball today. Tomorrow is Saturday. And Sunday comes after … wards. I don't want this weekend to end.

(Oh, fine. So I've used this same gag before, before. I'm green--sue me.)

Monday, March 21, 2011

This is my happening and it freaks me out!

TCM often shows old ephemeral films in the middle of the night to fill up time in between features. This one aired early Saturday:

God only knows the circumstances under which this originally would have been shown. Did housewives ingest peyote while deciding on kitchen appliances back then? That would indeed explain a lot about decor of the era.

Man, I was too young in the '60s to appreciate them. The '70s really kind of sucked.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Pop quiz: Which is a praying mantis and which is Ann Coulter?

Image hosted by Photobucket.comChoice A

Image hosted by Photobucket.comChoice B

Hint: One is a bizarre, frightening creature and the other's a bug.

Hmm. I can't tell, either.

A rerun from April 19, 2005. Ol' Ann has been in the news again for saying spectacularly stupid things about the nuke plant situation in Japan, so this is sort of an evergreen.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Geez, you guys--get a room

Part of an occasional series in which we improve depressing or odd descriptions of vanity press books advertised in The New York Times Book Review by adding the phrase "Wacky high jinks ensue" at the end of them. Ad copy verbatim (except for the high jinks) from the March 20 issue:
Law School--A Dream--Or a Nightmare? Dexter and Judy are intellectual students who are both very passionate towards their law studies and towards each other.

Sometimes, they triple date, but their law studies never pick up the check. Cheap bastard.
During their classes, they probe into the United States Constitution ...

Understandably, their law studies are jealous.
... and unravel irreconcilable truths they are forced to question ... Wacky high jinks ensue.

Also in this week's offerings, a novel by Dick Leech. Which reminds me: No skinny dipping at the old swimming hole.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A musical palate cleanser

Let's rid our brains of the Ark Music Factory's body of work with this rough gem by Nilsson, a rare demo recording of Sondheim's "Marry Me a Little." Lovely.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wacky musical high jinks ensue

Regular readers of this blog--indeed, all four of you--will be familiar with an ongoing series of posts in which we try to improve odd advertising copy for vanity press books by adding the phrase "Wacky high jinks ensue." (Perhaps it's worth restating at this point that there is nothing wrong with going the for-pay publishing route if you know exactly what you're getting into. But many of the companies with this model are quite scummy, and take advantage of the delusional. I don't care how many ads you take out in the Times, no one is going to buy your book about the previously unknown 13th zodiac sign.) What I've been only dimly aware of until recently is that there are similar companies in the music biz.

About a week ago, a music video by a young teen, Rebbecca Black, went viral. It was promptly heralded as The Worst Video in the History of the World by writers at Salon, Huffington Post, etc., ad nauseum. There was a real pile-on, which is why I'm not linking. It wasn't pretty.

The video in question may indeed be the Worst in the World (honestly, it's arguable--I've seen and heard equally bad), but the kid appears to be around 14 or so, and the comments by bloggers, young and old, seemed like a form of cyberbullying to me. I was reminded of some cases I've read about in Asia where citizens broke some social code and suddenly found themselves hounded by millions of Netizens. I was beginning to think the comments wouldn't stop until Ms. Black committed seppeku in the public square.

It appears that she, and many other teens, have fallen under the sway of one Ark Music Factory, which will put together hungry-for-fame-but-not-terribly-talented teens with some hack pop song writers (including that Latvian sensation Lady-Bird!*) and an Auto-Tune program, film a video (reports say this service goes for $20,000), and unleash it on an unsuspecting Internet.

The results aren't pretty. Here's a celebratory video that Ark posted two weeks ago:

Keep in mind that these are the snippets of performances that Ark editors thought would best showcase their clients in the best light. And then just imagine what didn't make the grade.

It's difficult, but stay tuned for the surprise guest appearance by ... Quincy Jones. Yes, Q, one of the most successful producers of all time. He phones in congratulatory wishes toward the end. I can only assume that there was either a gun pointed at his head or there are some very nasty photos he doesn't want getting out.

Again, I want to stress here that I post this not to mock the kids. The Ark itself, though, is fair game. Guys: It's hard for real talent to be successful, and harder still for it to reap the benefits of success. There's no need to insert another layer of exploitation between them.

On the other hand, songs about broken dreams are pretty successful, and I'm betting there will be no shortage of material in the near future. Or ever.

*Yes, really.

UPDATE: Rebecca Black speaks out. (And it only cost $2,000, apparently. Hell, maybe I'll do one.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sunday, March 13, 2011

the same old time

1911, March 25, 9 a.m.

Friend-- [?]

Your rec'd [?] ok. will be down to night the same old time you know 8 30 so you go and i will meet you there at the hall


How mysterious!

That big wedge, for you non-NYers, was built in 1902 and is known as the Flatiron Building today, but was originally called the Fuller Building. It's at the triangle formed where 23rd Street, Broadway, and Fifth Avenue intersect. I used to work about a five minute walk from there. Some photos of it here.

Can anyone make out the addressee? "Miss Ehrora. B. Flot"? I love that, but it seems unlikely.

(Click to embiggen, and it's worth embiggening for both the psychedelic color and the look in the woman's eyes, which seem to say, "You???")

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My BS sense is tingling

As I posted the other day, The New York Times continues to report that doomed Broadway show Spider-Man cost $65 million to produce, despite the fact that the paper has been using that same figure since at least November and after the show's many, many problems and additions and revisions. I tried to point this out in a comment on the paper's story yesterday that covered director/creator Julie Taymor's firing and, yes, trotted out that $65 million figure once again. I didn't keep a copy, but it was respectful and asked for, you know, some actual reporting. Comments are moderated on the Times' site, and it didn't get posted.

Let's look at what was deemed more worthy of being used:
Where is Disney in all this? Taymor and Bono are damaging the Spiderman franchise. Why isn't Disney pulling the plug on this and suing Taymor for her gross negligence an incompetence and Bono for intentional infliction of emotional distress?

Um, nowhere? Disney has zero to do with this show.
As a Philadelphia Lawyer, I find it difficult to be PRO BONO! Pro bono! Get it?.....Pro...Bono?! Ah, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

I love the theatre as much as anyone, but in the final analysis, any show (no matter how good) is just entertainment—slight and transitory. It is not a cure for penicillin.

Who cares. Stop writing stories about spiderman

But not my legit question on reporting?

(It's not just the Times. An Associated Press story from this morning uses $65 million, too. I can't find any legit business reporting on this. In the grand scheme of things this may not be a hugely important story, but accuracy still matters.)

UPDATE: I'm thinking of starting a telethon to raise money to fight penicillin. Who's with me?

UPDATE UPDATE: Concerned reader God Is My Codependent points out that Variety has actually done some reporting. Huzzah!:
Capitalization costs were estimated at $65 million late last year, but since then the delayed openings and ongoing rehearsals during performance weeks have meant increased costs in actor and stagehand overtime.

One estimate of the current budget, from an industry type affiliated with the show, puts current capitalization costs at $70 million-$72 million, with the number only going up.

Sounds like a lowball figure, but I appreciate someone actually trying!

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE: Hey, whaddya know--the Times finally made an attempt at updating the cost:
With the announcement last week that the “Spider-Man” opening was being delayed for a sixth time, until summer, the drama behind the now $70-million-and-counting musical now seems like theater of the absurd, where words like “opening” mean nothing, and rules don’t exist.

It appears to have grabbed "$70 million and counting" at random, out of embarrassment, but still!

You can safely assume his thumb is pointed downward

Part of an occasional series in which try to soften the sting of particularly harsh reviews by appending the phrase: "Garnish with Fluffernutter."

Why? Because we can.

Today's entry is from Roger Ebert's review of Battle: Los Angeles. Excerpt verbatim, except for the addition of Fluffernutter:
"Battle: Los Angeles" is noisy, violent, ugly and stupid. Its manufacture is a reflection of appalling cynicism on the part of its makers, who don't even try to make it more than senseless chaos. Here's a science-fiction film that's an insult to the words "science" and "fiction," and the hyphen in between them. You want to cut it up to clean under your fingernails. ...

Young men: If you attend this crap with friends who admire it, tactfully inform them they are idiots. Young women: If your date likes this movie, tell him you've been thinking it over, and you think you should consider spending some time apart. Garnish with Fluffernutter.

Mmmmmmm. Sweet, sweet Fluffernutter.

As opposed to a Galaxy in your driveway

For a long while, I've had a dim memory of receiving a 2001 comic book at Howard Johnson's. That doesn't really make sense, does it? I mean, have you seen that movie lately? It is, shall we say, slow. While I admire 2001 for reasons I can't quite explain (TVB regular God Is My Codependent, not a fan, has grilled me on this), 2001 is perhaps the least kiddie-friendly G-rated film ever. So, I must have dreamed the whole HoJo's tie-in, right?

Wrong. Yesterday, I stumbled over this:

The whole thing is here.

My primary point is: Movie execs had very odd ideas about what kids liked back then. In 1968, when 2001 opened and I was 6, I was a big fan of Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp and The Banana Splits. There is no way I could have made it through 2001. What the hell were they smoking?

My secondary point is: Pretty much everything is on the Internet, or will be soon.

(Correction: I see Lancelot Link didn't debut until 1970, but my point still stands.)

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Atlas frugged

Yay--more Atlas Shrugged news!:
10 questions with the producer of ‘Atlas Shrugged’ John Aglialoro

Some thought it might never happen.

The cancellation of According to Jim?
Others hoped it wouldn’t.

Season 26 of The Real World is holding auditions at Hooters this weekend. No, really.
But now John Aglialoro has done it.

Well, I certainly hope he cleans up.
He has produced a cinematic adaptation of “Atlas Shrugged,” the philosopher Ayn Rand’s magnum opus, which will open in theaters nationwide on April 15 (yes, tax day). ...

"Philosopher Ayn Rand" if by "philosopher" you mean "crappy novelist" or, perhaps, "sociopath."
Written in 1957, “Atlas Shrugged” has sold somewhere between 7 and 8 million copies in the United States. In 2009, sales experienced a dramatic spike, selling half a million copies and remaining at the top of a variety of best seller lists.

It is only fitting then that a movie version would follow. Two years earlier, in 2007, rumors began circulating that Angelina Jolie had been cast already as the novel’s heroine, Dagny Taggart. Indeed, Lionsgate Entertainment produced a version of the movie starring Jolie, though it never went into production.

Um, how's that again? (I see a huge future for you in right-wing media, by the way.)

I won't bore you with the rest, other than this choice bit of Q&A:
Have you decided how you’ll tackle John Galt’s epic speech [TVB note: It goes on for approximately 70 pages, and, when Rand was alive, she is said to have demanded that any film based on the book would have to feature the entire speech] in part three?

Well, I’m looking at a number of different things. Having John Galt give that speech, it might be in a casino environment. It might be that he is at a mountain retreat, rather than being where he is captured, not…that violent scene at the end. But we’re going to take a look. It doesn’t have to copy just that.

No, it absolutely will be a concentrate of entertaining words with a total, philosophic... But, you know, part three could be a musical... like a Les Miserables kind of a musical. That’s part of the impact and I guess I haven’t said this publicly yet, but I’m looking at it completely different if part three is a musical with quality music that’s done in a certain way that people will like. I mean, if you saw the play Les Miserable without the music, and then with the music, you may go in there saying, ‘oh hell, I would never want to see that great book in a musical.’ That’s going to shock a lot of people to see part three be a musical, and part two may be very different from part three and very different from part one. It has to be new, you know... We get a freshness, a vitality about it, and yet it has the same, rock-solid principles and philosophies that we all know and love.

Fortunately, Tbogg has stepped forward to provide lyrics.

UPDATE: I'm assuming that if Atlas actually does frug, it will look something like this:

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Spider-Man's true super power: Bookkeeping

Every time I read anything about "Spider-Man", it's [sic] budget has grown. Now it's up to $65 million. --Reader comment, The New York Times, Oct. 31, 2010 (first reference to the $65 million tab I could find in the Times)

Ready or not, here comes “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.” The most expensive show in Broadway history, at $65 million, or more than twice as much as the previous record-holder, “Shrek the Musical,” “Spider-Man” will hold its first preview performance at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday before more than 1,900 paying theatergoers, reporters, and several of the musical’s nervous producers and investors. --The New York Times, Nov. 28, 2010

The Broadway musical “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” will delay its opening night by four weeks, until Monday, Feb. 7, to provide more time for its creators — the director Julie Taymor and U2’s Bono and the Edge — to make changes in the $65 million show before theater critics review it, the lead producer announced on Friday. --The New York Times, Dec. 17, 2010

Steve Lillywhite, the Grammy-winning record producer who counts U2 as among his most frequent clients, has come aboard “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark,” the $65-million Broadway musical featuring music by Bono and the Edge, the band’s chief songwriters. --The New York Times, Jan. 13, 2011

“Spider-Man” has not even officially opened yet. The date has been delayed five times to fix myriad problems, with Sunday afternoon being preview performance No. 66 and the opening planned for Monday night being pushed back five more weeks to March 15. But this $65 million musical has become a national object of pop culture fascination — more so, perhaps, than any show in Broadway history. --The New York Times, Feb. 5, 2011

Everyone, it seemed, understood Mr. Page’s reference to the injuries that have been incurred by cast and crew members during the long (and officially still far from over) preview period for this $65 million musical. --The New York Times, Feb. 8, 2011

Federal regulators on Friday cited “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” for three serious workplace safety violations, though the proposed fine of $12,600 is unlikely to faze a production that has already run through $65 million. --The New York Times, March 4, 2011

Amazing how a show that was scheduled to begin previews in November and open in December--it's officially supposed to open this month, but could go as late as June--could have not added a penny to its budget since the end of October, despite gaining songs, producers, and writers, and basically getting completely reworked.

In the grand scheme of things, this may seem a minor point, but it bugs me that the paper of record keeps parroting the $65 million line. It's just embarrassing at this point.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Atlas also farts

As part of my duties at the magazine, I handle a series of profiles of CIOs. I give them a survey to fill out, and they send it back.

One subject, who shall remain nameless, answered one question thus:
-- What business leader would you like to have lunch with?
A fictional lunch with Dagny Taggart, Vice President of Operations at Taggart Transcontinental Railroad ("Atlas Shrugged," by Ayn Rand)

Oh, my. How do you even begin to react to that? The cult around Rand is simply bizarre. When asked what business leader he'd like to have lunch with by a trade publication with a circulation of about 400,000-plus, this CIO of a huge company declares he'd like to have a fictional lunch with a fictional character. He actually wants his peers in the industry to know this. I am having trouble wrapping my brain around that.

I don't have a motto, but if I did, it would be: Don't trust anyone who loves "Atlas Shrugged." He will eventually reveal himself to be an asshole.

That would like nice on a cross-stitched sampler, don't you think?

Bonus yucks: Have you seen the trailer for the low-budget film of AS that's about to come out? No, it's not quite After Last Season, but it is filled with howlers.

It apparently takes place in an alternate reality in which steel is still manufactured in America and people take trains and say things like "I will destroy you!" with the same passion with which I say things like "I have to pee; do you know where the men's room is?" and where declaring "My only goal is to make money" doesn't make you pathetic but rather a paragon of virtue.

The MPAA card that reads "The following preview has been approved for appropriate audiences"? I guess that means it can only be shown to people who are already dead inside.