Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Have a nerdy new year

Happy New Year, peoples. As has been my trend in recent years, I will ring in the coming of 2009 at the Brave New Workshop. My lovely wife works front-of-house there, but is typically off-duty by midnight, so I've usually shown up just in time for the festivities, but had a mess of unstructured time to fill beforehand.

Last year I filled this time by watching Helvetica, a documentary about the typeface Helvetica.

Let me repeat: on New Year's Eve, 2007, I happily elected to watch, on my computer, an 80-minute movie about a font.

I had actually wanted to see the movie for some time. It came to the Walker Art Center a few years back, but I missed it and didn't really want to pay to see it. Then it became available on Netflix, crucially as a "Watch It Now!" title. That meant I could watch it without the outlay of additional monies, and without having to anticipate when I would want to watch a font flick. Which is apparently on the biggest party night of the year.

The movie was great. In addition to showcasing the development of the font and how many major public uses it has had over the years (answer: lots and lots, including Target, 3M, AT&T, NASA, Microsoft, airports, the NYC Subway...), it used the font as a through-line to follow the history of graphic design and typesetting in the past century or so. Being who I am, I ate this up like candy.

Tonight I don't know what exactly I'll be up to until 11, but I can guarantee you, it will be nerdy.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Weeklypedia Quiz #14, many fortnights later

Oh, and Merry Christmas.

It's been a long time since we did the [Weeklypedia] stroll. Lemme get back, baby where I come from. I started writing this quiz mid-summer, and since then have had to update two of the clues because of changing circumstances. Hint, hint?

But wow: as of the last Weeklypedia quiz, the presidential general election had barely started. I could've written a question about Sarah Palin, and it would've been really obscure. In fact, I think I had decided against just such a thing at some point earlier this year. Oh well, I'll have to switch to Jennifer Granholm questions instead.

1. In April 2001, American millionaire Dennis Tito became the first of this elite group, currently numbering six in the world.

2. On January 31, 1976, this Arizona native was killed in a bar fight. Ironically, the one suspect invoked his right to remain silent. The case was never solved.

3. An hairy man, this biblical character sold his birthright to his brother for a mess of pottage.

4. This large fish was thought to have gone extinct in the Cretaceous Period, until one was found alive off the coast of South Africa in 1938 (bonus points if you can spell it).

5. As a matter of protocol, this US Senator is currently (as of December, 2008) the highest among Senators on the ceremonial US order of precedence, but only under particular circumstances. Otherwise, it's President Pro Tempore Robert Byrd (D-WV).

6. She was America's first Second Lady and its second First Lady.

7. Twenty days after representatives of Spain and France met to ceremonially mark one of the property transfers from the Third Treaty of San Ildefonso, representatives of France and the US met in the same room in The Cabildo to transfer the same property as part of this agreement.

8. In 1898, in the only coup d'├ętat of a municipal government in US history, white supremacists took power over this city on the Cape Fear River, which is not, incidentally, in Delaware.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Performing this weekend!


First: Happy Birthday, Mike Fotis (pictured)! And happy Festivus: I hope you and the rest of the cast can get Caleb to the theater tonight to wrestle him as the creative head of the Brave New Workshop household.

Second, for everybody else: Mike's leaving town for a few days, and I'll be stepping in for him in the Brave New Workshop's Christmas Show, All I Want For Christmas Is 700 Billion Dollars, Our 50th Noel. So on Friday at 8PM or 10:30PM, Saturday at 7PM or 10PM, or Sunday at 7PM, come check me out. It's a great, goofy show, and I'm looking forward to playing with the cast for a few days.

Before then, if you see me glaring and muttering to myself, it's because I'm reciting Mike's rap from the show over and over and over.

That's right: I will be rapping this weekend.

Monday, December 1, 2008

"My God, it's full of stars"

I've never believed that the synchronicities between Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and the movie The Wizard of Oz were anything but a really interesting coincidence. I've watched the combination a couple of times, including one time that some coworkers and I set it up in our Hollywood Video store. There are some cool moments, to be sure, but not enough lines up for me to believe the band structured the album to work in this way.

That said, there is a synchronicity I do believe is intentional: I believe that "Echoes," the last track from (and entire second side of) Pink Floyd's Meddle, was written as an alternate soundtrack to a portion of Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

So here's the theory: in 1967 or early 1968, at the height of the band's psychedelic period, Kubrick allegedly approached them to score 2001. They refused, for some reason (Wikipedia says they'd had a bad experience scoring another film, but the first movie scored by the band, More, wasn't released until 1969, so I'm not sure I buy that), and later regretted this, after having seen the film. So later, when they were assembling Meddle for
a 1971 release, they rescored the last segment of the film.

The evidence is compelling enough that I believe it. The planetary alignment / eclipse imagery would become prevalent in the band's subsequent work, especially the afore-mentioned Dark Side of the Moon. The length of the song exactly matches the last section of the movie. And each scene within the finale matches with an equivalent, and tonally appropriate, shift in the music.

Ideally, you can set this up at home with a DVD of the movie and a CD of the album. Cue up the film to the title card reading "JUPITER AND BEYOND THE INFINITE" in that Futura font so favored by Kubrick (and in bold form by Wes Anderson). This will be a chapter stop on the DVD. Cue up the album to the beginning of "Echoes." Unpause both simultaneously. Be amazed. But if you haven't seen the movie before, prepare for spoilers, to the extent that a notorious head-scratcher of an ending can be spoiled.

If you don't have access to the movie or the album, some helpful somebody on YouTube has done the heavy lifting. Check it out below. And I suspect this version will miss some of the most excellent, split-second matches between the media, when Floyd's musical hits line up precisely with inserted freeze frames of hapless astronaut Dave Bowman (above) contorting his face in agony. Oh, and it's almost half an hour long. So watch it at home or be prepared to explain things to your boss.