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Archive for June, 2012

The lovely, sharp, and creative folk at WordPress unveiled their theme for their Weekly Photo Challenge and it is right up the alley of all blog writers as the theme is create.

In November of 2010, our family was fortunate enough to be able to go on a cruise (previous scribblings about this trip can be read by pointing your browser of choice to here and here and here).

In addition to winning one of the coveted “Ship-On-A-Stick”, Jared participated in an activity that taught him how to make a few of the iconic towel animals that Carnival Cruises is famous for.

Here is Jared working on an elephant using two towels.

Towel making class

Pachydermical Construction

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This is not the first time I have fished in these waters writing about this subject, which is quite appropriate since the topic I wanted to touch on was how the movie industry appears to have a problem with looking forward and instead seems to go back into its past and recycle things over and over.

I’ve touched on this theme here and here, but here we go again.

At first, this snippet of writing was going to be about how frustrating it is to me to discover that Hollywood – instead of coming up with new and fresh takes on the art of storytelling – have dived back into the 1980s and 90s and are remaking movies from that era.

Did the world truly need another version of Red Dawn and Total Recall?

At first, this posting was to going to be a comment about how remakes rarely live up to the original. Cases in point include the cultural failures of the remakes of Psycho (1998) (which won 2 Razzie Awards) and The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008). These movies may have made money, but few people assert that these remakes were as good or better than the originals.

But then, upon further review, I decided I had something more to say about these remakes other than to shake my fist towards the heavens and shout, “Find some originality, Hollywood!”

Kudos go to the program On The Media for pointing this out to me, but it appears that the original invading army in the new version of Red Dawn were going to be Chinese. However, since there is a potential audience of over one billion Chinese who may want to spend their money and see this movie and the producers don’t want to alienate that many folk…the villians of this flick were changed to North Koreans.

Okay…one thing to recycle, but quite another to kowtow. Well, it is a capitalist system we live in so who am I to gripe?

Okay, okay…how do those plucky (and somewhat) impoverished North Koreans manage to cross that large body of salt water known as the Pacific Ocean? Rafts?

Moving on to Total Recall, I must give kudos to my middle child, Jared, for calling it.

Before we saw Men in Black 3 (my review here), my boys and I saw the trailer for this sci-fi remake. In this preview, there is a moment when the Colin Farrell is in the recall machine and the technician suggest something to Farrell about being a spy. The machine turns on and then all heck-in-a-handbasket breaks out.

It is right before the door is broken down and the guns come out that Jared leans over to me and says, “So the whole movie after this point is his dream, right?”

My middle child, Jared, the film industry expert, nailed it. Granted, the 1990 version of this movie starring the former governor of California ended ambiguously, but it’s interested to note that my eleven-year-old – after only watching one minute of the trailer – grokked a twisted plot device that might flummox older folk.

However, if this entire post has been about films looking backward, why is the title of this here rambling called “Film Forward”? Because I wanted to give kudos (Wow! A three-kudos post!) to the folks of Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted.

Near the end of the movie, there is a shot of the skyline of New York City. What I noticed instantly – mainly because I am quite observant when it comes to the silver screen – was that the animators had included the completed version of One World Trade Center (previously known as Freedom Tower).

Kudos to them for looking forward to what the skyline of Gotham will look like. This also guarantees that when this movie is seen after 2013 on DVD, Blu-Ray, tablet, or whatever format is invented later, that the skyline shot will look authentic.

Now, Hollywood, can we have some more original material (i.e., Bridesmaids, Tree of Life, The King’s Speech, Comic Con Episode IV) and less movies that have a number after them (i.e., Cars 2, Scream 4, Final Destination 5, Happy Feet Two)?

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The challenge from WordPress this week – and I am late to this party, but here goes anyway – is “close“.

My offering is what happens when something becomes too close.

My wife travels for her job around the globe and every once in a while she is gifted with the opportunity to experience things not available to most folks from the United States.

In 2010, she travelled to Tanzania and – after doing the consulting thing that earns her her paycheck – she was invited to go on a safari. She saw elephants, giraffes, and even a hyena or two.

She also saw what happens when a water buffalo wanders too close to a pride of lions.

Lions eating a water buffalo

Savannah Buffet

NOTE: My apologies if I mis-identified the animal serving as lunch for the lions. I used to be a software tester, not a zoologist.

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I really have no idea how long I’m going to latch on to this nutty idea of mine, but I like it and that’s all that counts in my private little slice of Reality.

Ladies and gentlemen, I once again give you my creation of BardShark uttering his take on those most famous lines from Hamlet

BardShark quote from Hamlet

Act III, Scene i

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Photo Friday has unveiled their weekly theme and it is clothing.

Rather than regale y’all with my extensive fashion collection or the winning looks of my fabulous children (excuse me while I remove my tongue from my cheek now), I offer you this look that was all the rage back in the ’60s…

Actor in Colonial Willamsburg

…every lady’s crazy ’bout a sharp dressed gentleman…

…the 1760s that is.

This picture is from an April 2011 trip the family took to Colonial Williamsburg, that place in Virgina where you can go and see how people lived their lives back before we were a country.

During our visit, several of the reenactors gave performances out in th street that told of the country’s drive and struggle for independence. The man you see in the photo above in the monochromatic duds (but really cool buckle shoes) was just such a performer.

Not only do clothes make the man, but they also help an actor get into the role.

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It has been a looooong time since I posted any of my Cavland creations.

For a quick refresher on what a Cavland is and to see four of my previous drawing using this style, you can jump here.

For the United States observation of Flag Day (which was June 14), I offer the following:

Cavland - Flag

Cavland

Long may she wave!

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Flag Day

My apologies for being a day late with the hook for this post.

Yesterday, in the United States, was Flag Day, a holiday designed to honor Old Glory and the Stars and Stripes.

In that vein, I offer you this story from last year of a member of the French Parliament offering an amendment that would prohibit the flying of foreign flags in public places. That was probably not the best time for the proposed ban by MP Guy Teissier as the French city of Annecy was bidding to win the right to host the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Pyeongchang, South Korea, will host those Games.

So my follow-up question is this: What is more worthy of a forehead-slap…

a) Living in a country where the legislature debates prohibiting foreign flags (which is almost as absurd as taxing all foreigners living abroad)

or

b) Living in a country where wearing (or not wearing) a flag pin is considered to be a worthy topic for debate (see here and here and here and here)?

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I am not an observant person.

My wife comes home from the salon after having a haircut and I don’t notice anything different. Our car has a new set of dings and dents that apparently have been there for a few weeks and I was blind to them.

Metaphorically, I must have a perpetual perception field around me that prevents me from noticing many things around my life. On the up-side to this blindness is the fact that I do not stress over what has changed and not changed in my world.

However, there is one area of my experience where I notice things that few others do. That lone aspect of singular laser-like vision is in the world of entertainment.

I can catch a reference in a movie, TV show, or book like nobody’s business. Examples from the cinematic attic of my mind include…

In the 1984 movie Gremlins, there is a panoramic shot of the small city where the action takes place. In this shot, there is a movie theater. The marquee on the theater is advertising the movie A Boy’s Life…which was the working title for E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.

In the 1988 movie A Fish Called Wanda, John Cleese’s characters is named Archibald Leach, which is the real name of actor Cary Grant.

In the 2005 animated movie Madagascar, I was the only person in the theater laughing when, during a chaotic scene, one of the characters holds up a book screaming “It’s a cookbook!” which is a reference to a classic story from The Twilight Zone television show entitled “To Serve Man”.

In Paul (2011), there are several references to the movies of director Steven Spielberg. One of my favorites is a quick shout-out to Mr. Spielberg as two characters are walking in a small town and the movie marquee is advertising Duel a 1971 TV movie directed by Spielberg.

With the above in mind, I have been rolling in mirth at the references being thrown around by my latest hobby. My children starting playing this game first and now I am hooked.

I am talking about the online role-playing game entitled Wizard101.

After watching my trio of progeny play this game, I finally went to the keyboard and took the game’s initial test to determine what magical school my personality said I belonged to. Like Hogwarts’ Sorting Cap, the answers to this personality test sort you into one of the seven schools at Ravenwood.

I took the exam and landed myself in the Myth school – which means, I guess, I’m good at telling stories (go figure).

However, back to the theme of the day and references and I have to tip my wizard hat to KingsIsle – the makers of Wizard101 – for their musical references. In the various worlds that comprise the Wizard101 Universe (aka The Spiral), there is a common quest that the user needs to do. This quest involves running around the world and finding seven to a dozen similar items. It took me until the fourth world until it dawned on me that the names of the items were all musical bands. Take a look for yourself…

In Wizard City, you look for The Smiths.
In Krokatopia, you look for The Beetles (Beatles).
In Grizzleheim, you look for The Yardbirds.
In Pigswick Academy, you look The Wallflowers.
In Marleybone, you look for The Stray Cats.

I look forward to see what the other worlds (e.g., MooShu, Dragonspyre) have to offer.

Just to put a cherry on this referential sundae, Wizard101 has an area called the Pet Place where wizards can power up their pet sidekicks. In this area, there are two stores. One is run by twin shopkeepers called The Pet Shop Boys. The other is run by two females called…wait for it…

…the West End Girls.

It’s the little details like that that make this game fun for a 43-year-old balding fella like myself.

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WordPress has delivered their weekly photo challenge and the theme is “friendship“.

My selection comes from my eldest child, Christopher, and one of his friends.

Pet hamster

I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille

This is Cumin, Christopher’s pet hamster.

Cumin was Christopher’s first sole pet. All other pets that made their residence in the Mannski abode were shared between our three children. Christopher bought Cumin – and all of his accompanying gear (e.g., cage, food, plastic ball) – with his own money. Cumin stayed in Christopher’s room and our eldest son learned responsibility (mainly be feeding Cumin and cleaning his cage on a regular basis). He also had Cumin star in several of his videos where Cumin terrorizes a hapless Lego village. Christopher and Cumin had a wonderful three years together.

The timing of this challenge is quite apropos as this month marks one year since Cumin’s passing.

Christopher learned many a great lesson about how to take care of pets and how to befriend little critters. Sadly, he also had to learn how to handle grief and loss.

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Today is Friday – which means Photo Friday and their unveiling of their theme for a photographic subject. That theme is geometric.

A little bit of science, math, and geometry here, but when I like to fly my geek flag, I think about the names of geometric shapes. (I really don’t, but I couldn’t think of a better introduction…).

A shape with three equal sides = triangle
A shape with four equal sides = square
A shape with five equal sides = pentagon
A shape with six equal sides = hexagon
A shape with seven equal sides = heptagon
A shape with eight equal sides = octagon
A shape with nine equal sides = nonagon
A shape with ten equal sides = decagon
A shape with eleven equal sides = hedecagon
A shape with twelve equal sides = dodecagon

For all that information above, it should not surprise you that there is a name for a geometric shape with sixteen equal sides. That name is hexadecagon.

Have you ever seen a building with sixteen sides?

The Nott Memorial at Union College

Trust me…there all 11 other sides.

Now you have.

This is a picture of the Nott Memorial, the centerpiece of the campus of Union College in Schenectady, New York.

Union College – alma mater of the 21st President of the United States, Chester Arthur.

Why was I at Union College that allowed me the opportunity to take this picture?

As of now, Nott gonna tell ya’.

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