30 November 2006

Friends, I would like to take a moment here to address something that may seem non sequitur. But believe me when I tell you it is of the utmost importance that you read these words and truly take the time to weigh their meaning.

Wired is currently taking nominations for the sexiest geeks of 2006. It is imperative that you consider putting your support behind Garrick T. Pass.

But don't just do this because I asked you to. Get to know the man, the legend the geek himself.

See, I know what you are saying now, what makes Garrick so f--king good? I don't f--kin' know, and I don't like it! I stay up going F--K! Why can't everybody f--kin' have it?

Cause this is the thing... Some people learn it on the streets. Some people learn it in the schools. Garrick was f--king born with it, homes... Check it out.

This is a man who put his life and kidneys in desperate peril only to snag a free Playstation 2. Did he stop drinking Diet Coke once he had accumulated enough points? No sir. He stayed on the path. This is a man who plays a werewolf/underwear model in Werewolf: The Forsaken!

But he's no poser. No sir ... he got the goods. He's a tech extraordinaire, dispensing useful hacks on his blog, as well as cutting diatribes about the state of I.T. The man debugged a Windows issue via e-mail from two thousand miles away! He is indeed a tech ninja ... nay, a tech Jedi.

All those smarts, and he's got a great wife and kid.

You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on Earth, or we will sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.

We will keep in mind and remember that Garrick Pass has faith in us. He has faith that you and I have the ability and the dignity and the right to make our own decisions and determine our own destiny.

Thank you very much.

-- Andrew Moore

[Please note that this blog entry contains passages from "Cosmic Shame" by Tenacious D and Ronald Reagan's 1964 speech to endorse the candidacy of Barry Goldwater.]

28 November 2006

Why I Love Living in Los Angeles

I remember watching the above video on YouTube. I was sort of randomly searching around to see what puppet videos I could find. This really stopped me in my tracks because 1) I love and respect street performers, 2) I used to live right around the corner from where this was taped, and 3) it's an absolutely stunning performance.

So imagine my delight when I saw this performer over the holiday! Pamela and I went to see Tenacious D in "The Pick of Destiny" (very funny, and directed by Liam Lynch of Sifl and Olly fame) at the Los Feliz 3 cinema. Approaching the long line for the box office, I heard the mournful sound of "St. James Infirmary." The crowd shifted slightly, and I saw the puppeteer.

This very talented performer is Eli. What I find most fascinating about his work is that it doesn't have a narrative! It's an improvised character study -- and it's absolutely riveting.

If you see him, tip him well. He earns it.

(Thanks to Pam for snapping the picture!)

UPDATE: Eli has a YouTube account and a posted video. Check it out!

25 November 2006

DAHT - Season Two Beckoneth
pt. 2 of 2

look kids! it's a new background!

I painted up a couple of new backgrounds over the holiday. If you kind of squint, the above looks like red drapes. My painting 'style' is very gross and theatrical. Fortunately, "gross and theatrical" works with DAHT.

the ensemble is hanging out, ready to perform!

Pamela and I visited the Los Angeles Zoo for our wedding anniversary (zoo trips are our tradition.) I was in Disembodied Animal Head Heaven! I blogged about this earlier, but I finally increased the ensemble from two heads to seven!

this is Jones, a totally new ensemble member courtesy of my good friends Pete and Sierra.

Then my good friend Pete chipped in four additional heads! The Wolf you see above, and three dinosaurs, including Von Boneyface:

Von Boneyface, also a gift from Pete and Sierra. Check out his performance on The 5 Minute Show!

I am currently rebuilding Tex to have practical wings. It's not the Tex 2.0 I once boasted about, more like Tex 1.5, but he looks dashing with a new pant job. The only trouble is, his rubber is starting to degrade, and I haven't been able to find an exact duplicate! The rubber chickens I have found don't look as nice as Tex. The beaks don't look like chicken beaks, the rubber is thinner, the chickens are floppier, etc. Tex is conducting a poll over at www.daht.blogspot.com. Should he keep the trademark bow-tie or change into a smart ascot?

The new season will see the first introduction of built-up set props! Tex will be hosting the show from the comfort of a 'leather' side chair. The set prop in question is on my back porch, awaiting painting.

The first episode of the new season will most certainly cover "The Taming of the Shrew." Episode two will be a "The Tempest/Lost" parody.

24 November 2006

DAHT - Season Two Beckoneth

pt. 1 of 2

So at this time I would like to review why in god's name I first started this thing. ("This thing" referring to Disembodied Animal Head Theatre.)

I think it's best summed up in a post from 3/2/06: "It's easy for me to comment on what I have planned with The Felties. Carving out the time to do the things that result in an actual product is a bit more difficult."

Sometime at the beginning of this year, it occurred to me that I had be in "pre-production" on The Felties for almost a year. The puppets hadn't even been finished! I was depressed.

Meanwhile, there were some really good puppet shorts popping up online, and it occurred to me that I really didn't know much about doing a "video podcast."

So it was I found myself searching around the house for something vaguely puppetlike to put in front of a camera. I had a two "animal snapper" heads, a flamingo and a giraffe. Cool. A title materialized from the creative ether, carried on gossamer wings by the muse: "Disembodied Animal Head Theatre." What would I do on this show? Something in the public domain that I can easily make fun of ... Ah, Shakspeare! All I needed was a host.

Elsewhere I've explained why the rubber chicken. In short, he amuses me. And thus I come to the point of this blog entry.

Doing this series is fun. And it's educational. Sort of like Bill Nye the Science Guy, or looking at nudie pictures. Going all "Robert Rodriguez" and wearing every hat simultaneously is difficult. The quality suffers, to be sure. I don't have an extra pair of eyes to tell me the top of my head keeps popping up, or that my puppet keeps slipping down out of frame. (I have a monitor now, so expect that to change for the better!)

For season two of this humble little experiment, I will continue to improve the quality of the show and keep pushing out the boundaries of my own understanding. Oh yes, and have fun. I intend to keep having fun.

(And I encourage anyone and everyone to join the party! It doesn't matter if you're using an archaic camera, or posting everything as .wmv files. The important thing is to do something!)

08 November 2006

NaNoWriMo, Plays, and Writing in general (myriad project update)

You know, I'm not all that great at narrative fiction. I have no patience for writing it. I'm behind in my word count (based on where I should be according to the NaNoWriMo book No Plot? No Problem!) and I feel as if I'm running out of book to write! 'Point A' and 'Point B' are about to meet up in my book ... and then what? I have no idea. I guess they start heading out toward a 'Point C' together.

I know, I know. More adjectives, more description. Yadda yadda. This is why I prefer dramatic literature (i.e. 'plays.') I hate having to describe everything.

Speaking of plays, I have a play in 'drydock' right now (Sonny) and a couple of plays in the 'research' stage. You think I don't update this blog enough as it is? Just you wait. I'm planning on writing much more dramatic literature in the next year, with a goal of winning as many national playwriting contests as possible. It's all part of my plan to eventually publish a modest "how to" book on the subject of 'hack' playwriting. I've been blogging about the stupid little writer tricks I have learned/developed over the last decade at Mad Theatrics. I hope to pull a Seth Godin with this. Part of my evil plan is to use my own playwriting advice and win at least eight national playwriting contests in one year. (I may wind up defining "year" very liberally.) I'm off to a good start.

Finally, because I don't feel really alive unless I'm biting off way more than I can chew, I'm 'scripting' some shorts for The Felties and a TOP SECRET music video project with my lovely wife. I'm going to make an attempt at doing this all John K-like and storyboard the scripts, rather than write them out. (This on the heels of my assertion that animation and puppetry are "cousins, Identical cousins all the way. One pair of matching bookends, Different as night and day." Sure, animation is done shot by shot and is unhindered by earthly physics and ugly arm rods. "Still, they're cousins, Identical cousins and you'll find, They laugh alike, they walk alike, At times they even talk alike -- You can lose your mind, When cousins are two of a kind.") I'll post some of the storyboarding here for all seven of you to pour over.

That's all.

(Okay, it's not. I can hear a couple of you out there - "whither goest Disembodied Animal Head Theatre?" I hope to pinch off a couple of episodes of SEASON TWO sometime in the next week or so. For now ... have you seen "Tex: In Studio" yet?)

03 November 2006

There's an interview with my friend (and occasional puppety co-conspirator) Ron Yavnieli over at Frederator. You should read it, and check out the graphic showing the puppets he built of Cal Arts instructors E. Michael Mitchell and Cornelius Cole. Oh hell, here it is:

Animators make excellent puppet designers, and puppetry has much in common with animation. Andrew of the PuppetVision blog and www.PuppetBuilding.com has been beating this drum for a long time, and a couple of months ago blogged about using the Preston Blair book to learn puppet design fundamentals.

Animation guru (is that an adequate description?) Eddie Fitzgerald has posted a few things about animation acting (here, here and here) that now have me interested in the book he reviews, "Acting for Animators" by Ed Hook.

Animators and puppeteers - the Patty and Cathy Lane of visual artists?

Why I Love Living in Los Angeles

Last night I watched a double feature of Amelie (my favorite movie) and The City of Lost Children at the Aero in Santa Monica. Oh yeah, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (one of my favorite directors) was there for a Q & A between screenings!

Oh yeah, and the tickets were $10.

I was all by myself (Pamela had class to go to, and they have an upcoming showcase early this December, so she couldn't take off) which sucked, and the Aero doesn't serve coffee, but those are my only complaints.

Amelie is a great movie. It's a work of art. Everything is in its proper place, every character engages. It's filled to the brim with whimsey, and tugs at the heart strings without ever becoming mind-numbingly sentimental. Visual effects abound, but they are never extraneous to the narrative. The Color palate is lush and dream-like, and the whole thing makes me want to move to Montmarte and scoot around to odd jobs on a moped while Pam waits tables at The Two Windmills. If you haven't seen this film, what the hell is your problem?

The print was fairly clean. There were only a couple of places where damaged celluloid jarred the pace of the film.

The City of Lost Children was my first Jeunet film. I remember seeing the trailer for it before ... Waiting for Guffman? It was startlingly beautiful. Pam was in the next room, and I rewound the tape and made her watch it. The film stars Ron Perlman as One, a sideshow strongman whose little brother is kidnapped by a mysterious cult. One's search for his "petit frere" is joined by the precocious Miette (Judith Vittet). The movie is not as easy to experience as is Amelie; City plays like a nightmarish children's story. You really have to stay on top of what's going on. But it is really worth the investment to experience. I've seen City a few times, but not very recently. It was a joy to discover that the film is much better than I remember! And I for the first time realized that little nine year-old Miette is absolutely in love with One. (Jeunet manages to pull performances out of his child actors that M. Night Shyamalan would envy.)

The print for City was absolutely gorgeous. It was either a new print, or the Aero has a digital projector.

The Q & A was pancaked between films. Jeunet is a very approachable, affable man. He spoke enthusiastically about his films and his up-coming projects. Here's stuff I learned:

  • His next project may be an adaptation of Life of Pi, but he indicated that it's still stuck in development.
  • He has plans to shoot a movie after Life of Pi similar in tone to Amelie, but showing another side of Paris, and featuring a male lead (maybe I should brush up on my French.)
  • When Fox signed up Jeunet to direct Life of Pi, the first requirement he had was that Dominic Pinon (who has been in all of Jeunet's films) would have a place in the movie.
  • The episode in Amelie with the suicidal goldfish is drawn directly from his own childhood.
  • He said he hates realism, and could never shoot a film where the camera is just locked down on two people having a "real" conversation.
  • He primarily writes only the visual content of his films. His writing partner handles most of the dialogue.
  • Wishes he could cut out the shot of Amelie, dressed as Zorro, carving a "z" in Collignon's door.
  • Jeunet lives in Montmarte, and frequents The Two Windmills. After Amelie, The Two Windmills became a popular photo-stop for tourists. Every now and then a tourist would ask Jeunet to step out of frame so they could take a clear photo! Sometimes he'd say "you know, I directed that movie" but they would never believe him. (I like to imagine a group of rowdy Americans unwittingly asking Jeunet to take their picture in front of the cafe, never wise to the fact that the auteur himself was framing them up!)

I almost forgot: At the very beginning of the night, we watched a short film entitled Foutaises ("Things I like, Things I Don't Like.") Shot before his first feature, Delicatessen, this black and white film is a sneak peak at some of the narrative tricks he would later employ in Amelie. Dominic Pinon addresses the camera and narrates a laundry list of things he likes and things he doesn't like, while stock footage intercut with new footage displays illustrations of each thing. Nine minutes long, and the whole house was rolling with laughter.

Did I mention tickets were only $10? If you're interested in this sort of thing and you're local, I highly recommend you check out www.americancinematheque.com and search their schedule with a fine-toothed comb for future coolness.