Category Archives: geek

handbell samples

This is for all my homeboys who are gearing up for another year of Christmas miracles.

Know what the hardest instrument sample to find is? Handbells. Well, here ya go. FMJ has a very decent set, for the low price of free (for the lo-fi version, fine for arranging) or $5 (for the hi-fi version). Check out the linky link, and go get yourself some piercing ringy dingy xmas tingly in a can.

Problem Solver

I just came up with a brilliant solution to a nagging problem!

I’m trying to record vocal demos of an acapella choral piece. In order to get all of the parts to line up with each other, I had been relying on one of two methods. First, I can just map out a click for the entire song, and chase it on each of the parts. This method pays a pretty hefty cost in musicality, though, especially for a piece that is going to rely heavily on a conductor’s sense of phrasing. The second option is to record one part, free of click, and then stack the rest of the parts on top of that trying to listen to and remember the timing of that first part. This works OK if the choral parts are all roughly the same, but is disastrous if you’re doing counterpoint, or any sort of aggressive part writing.

What I really need is a conductor who is capable of conducting exactly the same thing every time I go back and lay in a new track.

The solution? I shot video of me conducting through the song, loaded the video into logic, and now I’m stacking all of the other parts to the video of me conducting! The video tracks with the timeline of the song, so that I’m always following the same phrasing, same timing, but I don’t have to create a complex click map to get there.

The added bonus is that can package this whole thing up, send the project to another singer to do the high tenor parts, and they can track to the same conducting, deliver the same phrasing, same timing. I think that’s a pretty cool solution!

iPhone Apps I’d Like To See

I love the new iPhone Apps store – another coup for Apple in their ongoing campaign to change how we use technology. The release of the WordPress app got to me thinking about other iPhone apps that I’d like to see. Hopefully some of these software makers will take up the charge and release these apps!

Terminal

I realize this one is a geek-out, but I’d love to have a command line interface that will allow me to login to remote servers via SSH, and do basic maintenance tasks (like deleting Zack’s bootleg collection of vintage pinup girls that he keeps uploading to the server). This shouldn’t be too hard, should it?

Tivo Command Center


Find programs, record them, manage season passes, order video rentals from Amazon’s UnBox, all remotely. And by remotely, I mean from the kitchen table. Tivo already allows http access to your home box, through both Yahoo’s TV listings and amazon’s website, so the code infrastructure should be in place.

Remember The Milk


Remember the Milk is my favorite task-list software, and it already has a very nice iphone web interface. So what would they add by building an iPhone app? The ability to import and export tasks from the iPhone calendar, the ability to add contacts to a task, and the ability to push alarms for incomplete tasks. Basically, the ability to take away every excuse for my total lack of personal organization.

HULU


I know. iTunes video downloads rock, hulu.com sucks. I said as much myself, some while back. You know what? I was wrong. Hulu is fast, high quality, has a very broad catalog (including great older shows), and the ads are less obtrusive than on broadcast TV. I realize that this will never happen, because 1) Hulu videos are flash-based, so far an iPhone no-no, and 2) Apple maintains tight control over apps that are released in the store, and there is zero chance that they are going to allow access to an app that directly competes with one of their primary profit models. Still, a girl can dream.

Armagetron


If you don’t yet know the awesomeness that is armagetron, here’s the recap – you race the light cycles from the movie Tron. Now, picture the same thing, but with the motion sensor in the iPhone controlling your cycle turns. Awesome.

Well, that’s me. What about ya’ll? Anything you’d like to see someone build for the iPhone?

15 Future Conversations

Brief quotes from conversations I fully expect to have before I die:

  1. “Of course we wanted that house, but you have to understand honey, back then a million dollars was a lot of money!”
  2. “I don’t care if it is the ‘casual’ service, you’re not wearing ass-less chaps to church!”
  3. “I just don’t enjoy listening to music on beam-o-wave. I prefer the vintage sound of mp3s.”
  4. “Yeah, we were planning to go up to Santa Cruz for the 4th of July, but Gretchen got placed on the Homeland Security ‘No-Drive’ list, so we’re not allowed on any Interstate Highways.”
  5. “You damn kids, get off my astro-turf!”
  6. “So he’s just bricked? Totally comatose until the next upgrade? See, that’s why I’m waiting for the 2nd generation iControl neural implants.”
  7. “Well, yeah, we used to have salad at almost every meal, but since we deployed the Death-Ray Border-Bots, nobody can afford to grow lettuce commercially.”
  8. “If you read the course description, it still says Logic Pro and ProTools, but these days we spend most of the semester on Guitar Hero.”
  9. “So even though the company went bankrupt and was sold off piecemeal in the mid 30′s, we still use ‘google’ as a verb.”
  10. “There is no plug, it runs on gasoline.”
  11. “This is disgusting. We should just spend the extra money and get the name-brand protein cartridges for the food replicator. I’m tired of the sludge these refills put out.”
  12. “Welcome to the 11:45 Karaoke Service. If you’d like to lead a worship song, just hand your slip of paper and offering envelope to the nearest usher.”
  13. “We would love to put some trees in the backyard, but we can’t afford the mandatory carbon-onset credits to reduce global cooling.”
  14. “Now it’s mostly used as a skate park, but back when it was first opened the Large Hadron Collider was a very sophisticated piece of scientific equipment.”
  15. “Heard of them? I played keyboards on their first two records!”

You kids can take it from here.

Studio Days

Chris had a few days free at Eldorado, so he called me to come hang out and track weird, bizarre, science-experiment like music, as an excuse to try out playing and mic’ing techniques that we would never, ever suggest in front of actual clients.

Like what, you might ask? We wanted the sound of a pencil scratch while writing on paper, so we auditioned two different vintage mics, an API vs. a Neve preamp, used a $12,000 Fairchild compressor, and did an A/B test between a full-sized pad and a little 1/4 sized pad with only 10 sheets of paper on it.

If anyone wants to know the ideal way to capture the sound of a pencil writing on paper, I know of two very geeky experts in Burbank that you can call.

Inevitable Imperfection – My Absurdly Long Wall*E Review

First, a word.  

If you have not seen Wall*E, feel free to spend some time reading my little meditation on why Pixar is the greatest thing ever, but be warned: the actual review of Wall*E, the movie, is spoiler-tastic, filled not only with key plot points, but my opinions on the aesthetic choices of those plot points.  If you have even the vaguest intention of seeing this movie, please stop when I get to Wall*E, go see it, and return there when you’re done.  I have no interest in ruining your movie-going experience.  This is the virtual version of the “Post Movie Dissection over Coffee at Jerry’s Deli”  You shouldn’t be here if you didn’t just plant your butt in the seats.

This review is painful for me to write, and joyous at the same time.  Wall*E is Pixar’s first flawed film.  The Flaw is brief, about five total minutes of film, and should in now way stop you from enjoying the other 92 minutes of sheer, sublime perfection.  

What is perfection, especially when talking about something so subjective as a film?  Well, let’s have a look at perfection, shall we?

Toy Story.  Toy Story got everything right, from the first frame to the final.  An ingenious, multilayered, hilarious, thrilling, touching moral fable about children, greed, pride, joy, acceptance, love and heartbreak, hubris and devotion.  Indulge me for a moment, for I just watched Toy Story again this past week, on a 4 inch tour bus screen with 30 High School Students, and yet its genius still shone through.  Remember with me…

The outrageously entertaining action sequence, featuring R. Lee Ermy’s band of green, plastic army men assaulting a child’s birthday party, at the behest of a small civilization of toys, sending the military in to assuage their security fears in a changing world.  

The instantly recognizable humanity of Tom Hanks’ Woody the Sheriff, facing unexpected displacement as the chosen leader of his tribe.  The tribe of toys themselves, both looking to Woody for leadership and resentful of his role as Chosen One.  

Buzz Lightyear.  My stars, what a joyous creation.  All piss and vinegar, lasers and lights.  Unable to see, even for an instant, past what he believes to be true, in the face of painfully obvious reality.  Woody is justifiably enraged at his insanity and astonished to see his friends shellacked by this impostor.  

The entire middle act, where Woody and Buzz, protagonists and antagonists both, find themselves relying on and using one another in their attempts to survive and return home, or in Buzz’s case, save the galaxy.  

The descent into Sid’s lair.  A place devoid of love or peace, save a little girl who gets constantly harassed by a villain.  Where are mom and dad?  Ah… asleep or shouting.  Sid is no simplistic caricature.  Oh, he’s a villain, make no mistake, but the filmmaker’s aren’t content to stop there.  They are storytellers, they want you to understand why he is who he is, and their command over their craft tells the viewer all they need to know in short order, that the action may continue.  

The unfolding of the final 15 minutes.  A breakneck action extravaganza.  Dogs, mutant toys, a rocket strapped to a spaceman’s back, minivans, near misses, mid-air collisions, old friends reunited, relationships restored, the kids cheer, the conflict’s resolved.  

Oh, and also, some madperson had the idea that the little sentient toy aliens inside an arcade game at a pizza joint would become a mad bunch of cultists who worship, “The Claw,” might be the most wonderfully absurd comedic idea of the mid 1990′s.  

For a second, think about the first time you say Toy Story, in 1995 or so.  We now take for granted the fact that there was media created before CGI implanted itself into our sense of visual possibility.  You had never, ever seen anything like Toy Story.  It was a visual wonder.  The camera was everywhere and unbound.  Visual and sonic information was woven into technologically secured sacred marriage of old-school writing chops, great voice acting, a killer Randy Newman score, and a bunch of animators who were in love with the idea of telling us a story we’d never forget.  

Don’t worry, most of them won’t be this long.

A Bug’s Life.  This was #2.  A Bug’s Life was the one that taught us that perfection could happen twice, and that there are shades of perfection.  I have fewer memories of this one, off the top of my head.  I remember thinking it was whip smart, again.  It was astonishing to look at, again.  Denis Leary as a ladybug.  Yes, please.  The insane, dazzling complexity of the Bug’s world.  The one wide shot of a trailer with one moth frantically yelling at the other, “Don’t go into the light…”  ”But it’s soo prettttyyy  ZZAP!”  FUNNY!

Was A Bug’s LIfe as perfect as Toy Story?  I dunno.  Shades of perfection.  A Bug’s Life was perfect for what it was.  I am getting the giggles as I search my memory banks for the great lines.  I’m gonna have to watch this one again.     

Toy Story 2  Uh oh.  A sequel already?  You’ve only made 2 movies.  Against all odds, Toy Story 2 was as good as the first.  A wild adventure that expanded the world that was so elegantly created in the first one.  

An existential drama… with children’s playthings dealing with their own mortality.  The poignancy of Woody’s discovery that the only way to stay needed forever was to surrender his ability to play, or be played with.  The bitterness of Joan Cusack’s Jessie, never wanting to love again, ready to surrender true love for something that will last, but is profoundly sadder.

Oh yeah, but it’s a comedy, too.  How great is Buzz Lightyear’s toy store encounter with his nemesis, Emporer Zurg, leading to a great confrontation between the formerly deluded hero pitted against the only toy in the galaxy more devoted to his perspective?  It’s great right?  

Toy Story 2 is one of the great sequels, in company like The Empire Strikes Back, Aliens, Terminator 2, even Godfather Part 2.  I mean that in all sincerity.  Cartoons are art, at least to my family.

Monsters, Inc.  This was my least favorite of the perfect Pixar canon.  A lesser degree of perfection.  Still, it did exactly what it was supposed to do, and even though I didn’t find the emotional connection in this one as with the others, it’s still as entertaining a movie as any other I can remember from that year.  It made a zillion dollars and had several charms, like John Goodman’s Sully as he falls in love with little Boo, and the astonishing creativity of the final chase scene through a mechanized maze through a matrix of bedroom doors that can open to anywhere.  This is a buddy action comedy with a heart, it’s not curing cancer.   But it’s still perfect.  It doesn’t miss a step, never fails to entertain.

I remember thinking, “How long can they keep this up?”  For the first time, we had to wait two years to see, and I am not sure we were prepared for what came next.

Finding Nemo was the first of the four great Pixar movies.   This was Pixar’s Pinocchio, their Bambi.  Mom died before the opening credits, ya’ll.  So did all of Nemo’s brothers and sisters.  This was not a movie about safety.  It’s undersea environment was an ocean of wonder.  Alternately a crystalline beauty and a delight, or a murky world of danger and loss, the world of Nemo was altogether different than anything we had seen before from Pixar.

Consider these subtle changes:  Finding Nemo is a road picture, as where the first three had a definite sense of space, and place.  At 100 minutes, Nemo was longer by 10-15 minutes than most animated features before it, Pixar’s included.  It also moves in less of a traditional three act structure, instead moving episodically as a road picture should, as Marlin and Dory continue their search through the endless vastness of the sea, a father and a plucky sidekick hoping against hope to reclaim his son against all odds.  Heavens.  It’s The Searchers underwater.

But it’s funny, too.   Remember Bruce, the great white who drags Marlin and Dory to his shark infested AA meeting.  ”Fish are friends, not food.”  Funny.  Remember merry band of crazies in Nemo’s prison tank, especially the really nutty one that only shouts “BUBBLES!”  VERY funny.  Remember, oh please tell me you remember the squadron of seagulls, capable only of yelping… “Mine?!  Mine?!!?  MIIINNE?!?” as they chase our heros through Sydney harbor.  Funny. funny. funny.

Oh, and it also made you weep.  Remember the poetry of the sequence where Marlin’s story of bravery sweeps across the ocean, all the way to a dentist’s aquarium, where his despondent son is hoping against hope that his nebbish father might actually come save him?  

This was a subtle thing, but for the first time, the scoring duties were transfered to Randy’s nephew Thomas, whose scores never fail to evoke a lyrical and haunting musical texture.

Inexplicably, they decided to outdo themselves with…

The Incredibles.  Ask any fan of sci-fi, or James Bond, or comic books, or action movies, and they’ll tell you that The Incredibles just instantly implanted itself in their cerebral cortex upon the very first viewing.  This was the first movie directed by someone who wasn’t grown up in the Pixar farm team.  This was the creation of Brad Bird, the thus-far under-appreciated creator of the past forgotten gem, The Iron Giant.  He’d been brought into the Pixar fold by his old roommate John Lasseter.

Bird was brought in long after they’d started knocking it out of the park, and as evidenced by their first creation together, they gave Brad the keys to the kingdom.  I could man-crush on The Incredibles as much as I did for Toy Story (1), but I won’t.  

Let’s just say this:  The Incredibles was, for me, the first purely grown-up Pixar movie.  Sure, kids might dig it, but it was for mom and dad and we knew it.  It was PG.  It had a real bad guy.  It had a great script.  Think about all the great exchanges between Holly Hunter’s Elasti-mom and Craig T. Nelson’s Mr. Incredi-dad.  Talk about capturing the moment when you must choose between being the superhero vs. raising the next one.  When was the last time you were looking forward to hearing dialog from an animated face?   (Also – Craig T. Nelson killing it?  Whaaa?!) 

Let’s talk about the action.  Breathless.  Huge.  Beautiful.  This is Spielberg inside a computer.  This is Raiders vs. Jaws vs. Return of the Jedi.  It’s Die Hard and Goldfinger.  It’s X-Men and Father Knows Best.  It had Samuel L. Jackson AND that chick from NPR.  It was about mediocrity and jealousy.  Jason Lee’s Syndrome was Salieri with rocket boots sans religious grounding.  

Oh, and did I mention funny?   Baby Jack-Jack?  Hello?

Cars has been long derided in the blog-o-sphere and by fanboys as “My least favorite of the Pixar canon,”  Having recently concluded, courtesy of my 2 1/2 year old son, my 3,445,987th viewing of this film, I can tell you with some certainty that this is simply untrue.  

Cars is a little gentle thing, yes, but it was such a love.  No great threats here.  No barracudas eating mom.  No existential toy drama.  No movie geek homages.  Well… perhaps a few.  

Cars was about friendship, and slowing down.  It was about the dangers of going too fast.  It featured the voice talents of the late George Carlin, and Cheech Marin.  R. Lee. Ermy again, and those two guys from Car Talk on NPR.  Old voices, gravelly and worn, with a wink and a smile and a good natured sense of humor and drama.  Good Lord, even Larry the Cable Guy managed to be endearing.  I don’t think we’ve accurately stood in wonder of that present reality.  ”Larry the Cable Guy, in the right role, can be…. endearing.”  Seriously, try and say that three times.  It’s not easy to do.  

Then there’s Bonnie Hunt, who could warm up the frozen north with the sound of her voice, Owen Wilson playing a lonely hot-shot with a perfect mix of bravado and relational retardation, and the great Paul Newman, in what may end up being his final role.  Tony Shaloub, Michael Keaton, and the ever present and ever wonderful Pixar mascot, John Ratzenburger are all put to use as the great tapestry of characters unfold.  

Cars is a gentle thing, it moves slow.  When it revs, it revs hard, but at its heart is a little James Taylor tune.  If someone asked me to show them ten movies that portray the best of what it means to be an American, Cars would be on that list.

Oh, and forgive me for forgetting… it’s also zingy and funny and loopy and wise.  It’s a movie with a sound moral compass.  How often can one say such a thing?  

Ratatouille was a total and complete surprise.  It came out when I was out of town for a week, and then one thing lead to another and another, and Erica and I didn’t get around to seeing it until a couple of weeks after it had opened.  Perhaps it was also because it was a movie about… a rat.  A chef rat.  In Paris.  It didn’t feature any big stars.  The trailer was somewhat… lackluster.  I dunno… by the time we got to it, it had been relegated to one of the smaller theaters in the multiplex.  I had low expectations.

I was wrong.  

Ratatouille is, I think, my favorite Pixar movie.  It’s a movie about art, and artists.  It’s about genius, and those who can appreciate genius, and how those who truly appreciate genius are somehow themselves wrapped up in that genius, creating the natural circle of artist, art, and patron.  One feeds and nourishes the other.  They are symbiotic.  

Oh, and it’s funny.  It’s gut-bustingly funny.  It’s grab the chair and gasp for breath funny.  It’s Bugs Bunny vs. Monty Python funny.  It’s slapstick, but elegantly and intellectually so, which is the rarest and purest and only truly joyful brand of slapstick.  

Ratatouille reminded me that it’s great when filmmakers have something up their sleeve that you do NOT see coming.  

So, there it is: perfection.  Eight movies, all perfect in their own ways.  Eight different shades of greatness.  The box office and accolades and fanboy lore have intertwined into a success story that was earned the old fashioned way.  As Pixar guru John Lasseter is regularly quoted as saying, “Quality product is just always a great business plan.”   

Which brings us to Wall*E.  Yes, this is still a movie review, not merely a geekasm.   

Wall*E is not perfect.  Wall*E is magical, yes.  Visually stunning, yes.  Romantic and evocative, yes.  Thought provoking and timely, yes?  

Perfect?  No.  It’s imperfection might go over the public’s head, and as evidenced by it’s glowing reviews and strong opening box office, it’s going to take an artistically minded, formerly Evangelical Christian to point it out, and that’s me.  For the record, I am still an evangelical Christian, but I could write an equally long essay about the difference between Evangelical, and evangelical.  That’s another blog.  

I think that one of the problems, in retrospect, that I will have with Wall*E is that it was so effectively marketed as The Greatest Thing Pixar Has Ever Done.  From the first preview, with the Lords of Pixar reminiscing about a pitch meeting Way Back When where they batted around the ideas for A Bug’s Life, Monster’s Inc., Finding Nemo, and Wall*E.  

The setup is brilliant.  What happens if, after the human race abandons a used, battered, hopelessly polluted earth, they forget to turn off the last clean-up robot?  Well, it turns out that he develops a life all his own.  Wall*E is a beautiful character.  Childlike, but not childish.  Curious, but not greedy.  Sacrificial, but he takes care of himself, (see the great bit early on where daddy gets himself a new pair of shoes.)  

Much has been said about the nearly wordless opening act, but not yet enough.  It’s simply one of the most beautiful, tragic, depressing and uplifting sequences I’ve ever seen on film.  Wall*E lives in a rusted, lifeless, abandoned world devoid of life, or love.  He is alone, save his friend the cockroach, who can take a laser beam to the face and keep scurrying about.  Pixar can make you chuckle even in a post-apocalyptic dystopia.  

Pixar?  Post-apocalyptic dystopia?  Yup.  What makes the opening sequence of Wall*E so astonishing is how much joy it finds in the little things, amidst an unassailable mountain of debris and despair.  Wall*E collects little wonders in his plastic igloo cooler as he goes about his day(s).  A bra,  A Rubic’s Cube, a VHS player (amusingly attached to what appears to be an iPod.)  All of these things he discovers as he sifts through endless mountains of our trash.  

At night, Wall*E studies his treasures and watches old movies.   He obsess over Hello Dolly, of all things, learning how to hold hands, wanting to dance, wanting to… live.  

No reason is given for Wall*E’s development of a personality, and none is needed.  He’s so rich a character, so immediately accessible, that some sort of ham-fisted forced explanation would just be a distraction.  More on that in a moment, ham-fisted explanation, that is.  

Wall*E’s world is turned upside down by Eve.  Eve is an exploratory probe, searching for signs of organic life.  After a terrifying and spectacular arrival in a sleek, monstrous ship, she is set free to flit about and search for her prize.  The ship disappears, and they are left to themselves. 

Wall*E falls goggles over treads in love with Eve.  He follows her at a distance.  Old music swells in the background, and Pixar again performs a miracle.  Wall*E reminded me of every adolescent crush I ever had.  Remember when the mere sight of the object of your obsession made you dizzy?  Remember when lust wasn’t about sex?  Remember when you could just sit there, stare, and lose focus on everything else in the world?  Wall*E captures something so inherently human, and transported my mind back to a season of my life that I thought I wanted to forget.  I was wrong.  Hormone enabled obsessions are strangely beautiful.  They seem so real, and can, IMO, lead to things that are real.

So, Wall*E loves Eve.  In a great genre and gender-bending little plot twist, it turns out that Eve is violent, rash, and dangerous.  One false move, and she starts shooting.  Wall*E survives due to his resourcefulness and kindness, and Eve (ever the teenage girl) allows him to tag along.  

When Eve finds what she’s looking for, a programming code inside her takes the plant into her body, and shuts her down and locks her up tight.  She is but a tool in someone else’s hands a mechanical slave who is serving a purpose.  

Wall*E does something wonderful here.  He continues his devotion to a inanimate object that is now not only capable of loving him back, but unable to do anything.  Wall*E serves this comatose Eve like the way a spouse would care for her.  He sacrifices and endures for love, love that is not (at least in this moment) returned in any measurable quantity.  

Now.  Up until this point, I was convinced that Pixar had indeed outdone themselves.  The visuals are… just magnificent.  Sound design, brilliant.  Storytelling, otherworldly.  Emotional content, rich.  But then, the ship returns, and Eve is callously whisked away with Wall*E in hot pursuit.  He hitches a ride to their destination, and Wall*E (the movie and the character) takes a strange turn.  

See, it turns out that the human race has been living on a space luxury liner for all these 700 years, waiting for their fleet of handy-dandy cleanup robots to clean up the mess they left behind.  They have grown horrifically fat, and bored.  They float around in their hoverchairs, attended by a sub-class of robots, talking past one another on a 3D internet apparatus, and are fundamentally disgusting, the worst of what complacent humanity can be.  

Now, here’s a problem that really messes with the 2nd half of the movie.  I think the filmmakers thought that they would need to up the comedy factor in the 2nd half, as to not alienate their audiences after the darkness of the opening.  They were right, but the comedy becomes a cartoon… a kid’s movie in the worst sense of the phrase.  The humor is obvious, and cheap, far below the standard pop and zing of Pixar’s impossible standards.  The human characters are too sad to be lovable, but too annoying to be pitied.   I sincerely wish that the ENTIRE story had been told visually, with the humans all mumbling in some Charlie Brown-esque language that the robots cannot understand.  

Ok, back to the plot. 

Wall*E cleverly shadows Eve all the way up to the bridge, where she is awakened and opened up to discover, the plant is MISSING!  The plot thickens!  She is assumed to be faulty and sent down to the repair bay for reprogramming, and, as can be imagined, escapes and madcap adventures ensue as they try and track down the missing plant and discover who (or what) stole the evidence from them that the Earth is returning to a livable status.  

While they’re on the bridge, we meet the character of The Captain.  He is momentarily excited when it’s revealed that Eve is carrying a sign of organic life from earth, but also terrified.  No one knows how to actually do anything outside of their slothful routine, so the idea of actually having to, you know… lead, is daunting, but also a bit exciting.  After they leave, there’s a short bit where the captain starts to investigate life on earth, via his computer.  He goes all through the night, and has something of a transformation process as he starts getting a picture of how far the human race has slid into apathy and boredom.

Now, The Captain is the only human character with anything resembling a story arc.  He’s sort of the stand-in amalgamation for the entirety of the blubbery mess below.  Herein lies Wall*E’s fundamental flaw.  (Spoiler Alert)  It’s revealed that The Autopilot, a robot cleverly designed as a futuristic ship’s steering wheel on a telescoping arm with a malevolent red eye, is trying to stop the humans from returning to earth, as his usefulness will be rendered null and void… or something.  

Anyways, The Captain sinks the ship of Wall*E with some really low budget dialog as he argues with Autopilot as to the future of their vessel.  ”In the past we’ve been powerless, but now life is SUSTAINABLE again…”  etc.  It’s like dialog that’s a vessel for environmental buzz words, not real dialog.  I was watching a CGI fatso read the brochure for Greenpeace.    

Pixar has been undone by a great old truth: If you’re more concerned with getting your message across than you are concerned about telling a great story, you’re screwed.  I mentioned that I grew up an Evangelical Christian.  I also grew up a movie nerd.    These two realities were interesting bedfellows.  

Every once in awhile, some group of Christians would pool some money and make a movie.  

Christian movies suck.  Know why?  If you’re more concerned with getting your message across than you are concerned about telling a great story, you’re screwed.  Ironically, this is why I believe Jesus was successful as a preacher.  He told stories with hidden meanings, allowing his listeners to make the connections themselves.  

I seriously don’t know if anyone other then Formerly Evangelical Movie Nerds will make this connection, but I did, and it forces me to disqualify Wall*E as another perfect addition to the Pixar canon, much to my dismay.  

How would I have fixed it?  Are you listening Pixar?  If so, you have any job openings for story editors?  Here are my two suggestions on how you guys could have fixed it.  Any of them would have done the trick. 

Make the movie longer.  It clocked in at 97 minutes, 15-20 minutes shorter than Ratatouille, Cars, or The Incredibles.  Give us more time with The Captain.  Let us care about him.  Let that sequence where he’s discovering all the things we used to do as a race be as poetic and beautiful   For heaven’s sake, smarten up his dialog.  Al Gore had better dramatic timing.  You guys know better!  Did you want to make sure that every kid in America heard the word “Sustainable?”  It’s just not a good word for this.  It leaped at me like a green tinged freight train.  I winced.  You guys know better!

I’m all for going green and conservation and accountability.  I’m all for stories about sacrifice, and hard work, and love and hope, not to mention the consequences of sloth, ease, laziness, selfishness, and quick fixes.  You guys had a killer, killer opportunity to underplay it, and let the viewer make the connections between these themes and the VERY political issue of global climate change.  We would have made the connections, I promise.  We’re quite bright.  

Oh, also… guys… seriously… At the end of the movie, you have what could have been a fantastically emotionally charged moment as the Captain leads the children back to their home planet, and puts the first living thing back in the Earth’s soil in hundreds of years.  This could have been a thrilling, hopeful moment.  Instead, we’re barraged with this idiot telling the kids something like.. “You guys are going to do sooo much farming… you’re going to grow vegetables, and blah blah blah.”  In another decade, it would have been Goofy delivering this bit of dialog. 

Ok, my other suggestion, I already mentioned.  Make the whole thing a silent movie.  How astonishing and haunting would it have been to deprive us of human language through that 2nd half as in the first?  How amazing would it have been to force us to reconcile a human future so utterly alien that we can’t even decipher what they’re saying?  

Have your people call my people.  I can begin work for you immediately.  I have opinions.  

Ok, so 15 years ago when I started this article, mentioned that Pixar’s imperfection has caused me joy, and it’s still true.  Here’s why:  Now, I can go and enjoy the next one without impossible expectations.  Now that I’ve been disappointed, even slightly, I can go back to simply enjoying the work of master storytellers.  I swear I’m not an Anton Ego, guys.  

I still really enjoyed Wall*E.  I actually plan on seeing it again in the theaters, now that my impossible expectations have been deflated, to attempt to catch all of the hundred of thousands of choices that the filmmakers got so right, and just appreciate their craftsmanship.  

Forgive me Pixar, for holding you to an impossible perfect standard.  In all fairness, it was your own fault.  

 

Apple Fan Boy Thread

Today, Jobs will ascend the holy mountain, and deliver unto us the wonder of his majestic design, sparking desires in us that went hitherto unknown. Yes, friends, the Jobs Keynote Address at the Worldwide Developer Conference is today at 10am (Standard Cupertino Time Zone).

I put the over / under odds on a new faster iphone at 80%, and I’m almost certain we’ll see the developer release of the next iteration of OSX. Aside from that … who knows! You?

Let’s go See a Movie!

So, Indiana Jones and the It’s Fun to do Bad Things opens next weekend, perhaps you’ve heard.  

I want to invite all roadies who live in the greater Los Angeles area, to partake in a long standing tradition, the Opening Weekend Line Squat in Westwood.  Here’s what you do:  go to Movietickets.com, or Fandango, or whatever, and buy a ticket to the Friday, May 23rd 7:15pm show at Mann’s Village in Westwood, CA. It will sell out, I suspect, so don’t delay.   

When you arrive, and you should arrive by 6:00 at the latest, look for us planted in chairs near the front of the line, near BJ’s Pizza.  If you can’t recognize us, start shouting “Throw me the idol, I’ll throw you the whip!” as loud as you can, and then start acting out the face melting sequence from Raiders.  We’ll know it’s you.  We’ll let you go on a little while, but then, eventually, we’ll give you a wave and end your suffering.  

From there, you will enjoy the ceremonial rituals of The Opening Weekend Summer Line Squat, which include:

The mad dash to get seats. (we split into 2 teams, entering doors 2 and 3.  whoever has a better bead on a bunch of seats in the middle makes a run for it and shouts their comrades over)

The post mad dash smugness.  (this goes on for 25 minutes or so as latecomers look at you with envy and anger as they make their way to the balcony or the extreme left or right of the 1300 seat room.)

Cheering and Jeering previews.  (there is nothing like the unfettered delight or disdain of preview material at a Westwood show.  there’s a reason stars and directors will sneak in.  we let them know how bad they suck or rock.)

Cheering the THX logo.  At The Village, achieving THX certification means driving enough wattage through the subs to power an evil, impenetrable fortress.  There’s thx, and then there’s THeffingX.  

Oh yeah… then there’s the movie itself, and there is no room in town where it will look or sound better.  If the script sucks, they actually re-edit on the fly.  Ok, that’s not true.  

So, come one, come all!  The great thing about an experience like this is that it makes the quality of the movie almost irrelevant.  Almost.  

While I’m on the topic of movies, I’d like to point out that Prince Caspian opened below expectations this weekend, despite the reviews telling us that it’s better than the first film.  I have, many times, urged Christian people who complain about the lack of good content produced by major media outlets to speak with their wallets.  

This would be one of those opportunities.  

The Dailies Rock The Valley

We’re getting the band back together.

The Dailies are heading into the studio tomorrow. If you see storm clouds gathering and a column of fire rising up from The Valley, don’t be alarmed. It’s just the power of our awesomeness changing the forces of nature.

For the duration of the studio session, I’m turning Addison Road into a microblog – if you are registered as an author, the posting interface will show up on the main page, and you’ll be able to enter quick updates right from the front page of the blog. That way, those of use in the studio can give you obnoxious volumes of drivel, direct from the control room. It’ll look something like this:

Those of you looking to post more meaningful content can still use the same login as always, and the back end of the blog will look the same.

Welcome Back!

So, apparently our RSS feed has been down for, well, nobody knows quite how long. A while, anyway. It just kept showing no new posts, and then finally, nothing at all. It’s back up and running now, thanks to some fancy codin’ by an unnamed hero of the masses (named me). To all of our rabid fan (hey Bobby!) who thought we had folded up shop and moved the blog offline to Aly and Ash’s backyard, let me be the first to say …

… Welcome back!

google suggest

Google has a “suggest” feature that lets you type a few words, and see what the most common google searches are that begin with those words. Here’s is a huge screen capture of whole bunch of common sentence beginnings, and how your fellow human beings use the Googlemonster. Enjoy!

(clicky for biggy)

Google Suggest

It’s a Surreal World Out There

Just when I thought the world couldn’t get any stranger… well… let’s just say that there always seems to be something weirder just around the bend.

I mean, yeah, there’s the Asian shot for shot remake of the tithing video, but then there’s this, and this falls into an altogether new category. I’m just… stunned at the internet.

Check out this video… just… amazing.

Fundamentalist Christian Talk Show Host Confronts Bono at Milwaukee Airport

Updated to 2.5

I know, I know. It looks awful. It will look awful for a little while. I’ll add the pretty later.

We just upgraded to version 2.5 of WordPress, which means everything broke. If you want to see why, check out the new admin section of the blog, if you’re an author. It’s simply fabulous, kiddos. GORGEOUS! And, since I spend most of my time on the backend (heh heh), I decided to do the upgrade right away.

Enjoy, or, mock and deride. Either way.

Simple Pitches

I’m listening to a song online, and I want to know what key it’s in, but I don’t have a piano nearby. I’m sight-singing a chart, and just need a starting pitch. I’m doing a mental take-down of a song on my way to a rehearsal, and don’t know the key of the song.

Sometimes, you just need a simple pitch, without wanting to run to the piano, or fire up GarageBand, or hunt around your iTunes library until you find a song that you know the key of, and then figure out the interval between that and the new key you want.

You just need a simple pitch.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you:

SimplePitches.com

simplepitches

It does exactly one thing. You click on a note, it gives you a pitch. It’ll work on your browser, on your phone, on your iPhone, on anything that can recognize html and playback mp3s. It’ll get a bit more elegant as time goes on, but for now, use it, enjoy it, share it with those you love.

WordPress 2.5 TestBlog

Our blogging software, WordPress, has a major upgrade coming in the next week or two. In order to prepare, I setup a testing website so that those of you who are contributors to this site can get a sense of the look and feel of the new version.To access it, follow this link:

http://addisonrd.com/testblog/wp-admin

username: test
password: test

Wordpress 2.5

Feel free to mess around a bit, check things out. Let me know what you think.