29 July 2007

I'm posting this a bit late, but I need to give props where props are due.

I think the world of my wife. She's the coolest person I know, and she has certainly had a positive influence on me. Finding her all those years ago was like locating something I didn't know I had lost.

On Saturday the 21st of July, 2007 Pamela made her onstage debut in a burlesque show. The show was the culmination of a full day spent in San Bernardino, California. Pamela enrolled in burlesque workshops during the day (while I read Harry Potter) and performed that evening.

This was also my first time to see live Burlesque performed in the traditional fashion (ala Gypsy Rose Lee, Sally Rand, etc.) We have been to the El Cid to watch the Hollywood Pin-up Girls in their Super Sexy Show, but that's more of an homage to Bob Fosse.

Pamela's new found interest in this field, plus a play I'm working on has resulted in much research. We've watched quite a bit of burlesque on video, from the overly Hollywood-ized (Gypsy) to old stag reels (The "Something Weird" series.)

Nothing compares to the real thing, live. Burlesque is a perfect theatrical artform; really pay attention to a well done burlesque routine, and you'll learn everything you need to know about how to stage a play.

Okay, back to Pamela. I know the girl's got moves. She's been a dancer as long as I've known her, and I've seen her dance. Heck, I danced with her for a ballroom dance infomercial! Well she completely surpassed my expectations when she took the stage (along with her workshop mates) Saturday before last.

She's awesome!

25 July 2007

J. J. Abrams is teh bomb!

This is a bit stale now, but there's a great article about all that "Cloverfield" hooplah at SlashFilm.

If you're not following the story (and I can't imagine the fourteen of you who read this blog aren't following the story. Well, maybe my mom isn't.) "Cloverfield" is the codename for the "Untitled J. J. Abrams Project" that is set to hit movie screens on 1/18/07. I prefer calling it "J. J. Abrams' Birthday Present to Andrew." Little is known, but the movie is said to be a $30 million monster pic consisting of footage shot by civilians witnessing an attack on New York. Sort of a bigger budget Blair Witch Project.

You can see the mysterious trailer here or here. There are two "viral" websites up, http://www.1-18-08.com/ and http://www.slusho.jp/. And best of all, here is the Wikipedia entry on this whole mad thing.

So the latest article on SlashFilm reveals that in all likelyhood, J. J. Abrams himself cut the teaser trailer. And this is why Abrams is so damn cool. He's just producing this thing and will probably get a "story by" credit; yet he cares enough about his pet project to cut the trailer himself (on his Mac laptop, no doubt.) He gives it his own touch, and thus sets the tone.

This is something to aspire to.

23 July 2007

Pamela convinced me to go to Borders Friday night to pick up my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It was an easy sale. I'd have a few hours of downtime the next day in San Bernardino, California. Trust me, there's nothing much else to do in San Bernardino, California on a Saturday morning. Unless you're Pamela.

I wasn't worried (well not much) about not getting a copy. I figured that Scholastic Press must have made history with the number of books in a first printing; Harry Potter Book Seven has to be the most widely anticipated novel in history! So I left the house at 11:00 pm, already a bit tired from a full day's work.

"My" Borders is in West Hollywood, just down the road a pace from where Pamela studies dance and takes pilates class. I've done quite a bit of writing and re-writing of plays and screenplays at the Seattle's Best coffee shop on the second floor. It feels like home.

Los Angeles is a weird town. I always think of metropolitan cities as "never sleeping." I guess that's just New York, but it still astonishes me how dead Los Angeles is after ten p.m. Borders looked cozy and inviting in the muggy dark. No sign of a line stretching out the front door: fantastic!

Inside the store is a different matter entirely. Gobs of people were milling about, excited yet sleepy-eyed, awaiting the big moment!

I quickly found out where to go first, and soon found myself in line number one: the line to check in. This line extended out the back door and into the parking lot, but only because the check-in table was just inside the door. Borders had an interesting system worked out, and I suppose it was as good a system as any.

The lady at the check-in table asked if I had a copy reserved. I didn't, so she gave me a slip of paper good for one copy of the book, and a little wrist band with the number "270" written upon it. At first I though it may be the lost wristband of Godric Gryffindor, and a likely horcrux for the Dark Master. Alas, it merely established my place in the "first come, first served" order.

I'm making an assumption here, because I don't know for sure. I believe that the folks with reservations had all the low numbers.

Now, armed with my wristband (and a cup of coffee from home) I milled about just a bit, and tried to locate line number two.

The idea was for us to all get into numeric order. It was just after 11:30, and arranging us all (I'd say about four-hundred people. I really wish I was overestimating) took only twenty minutes or so.

My part of the line wound through the magazine section, and I got to read up on house remodeling for half an hour.


Even after they brought the books out (I couldn't get a clear picture) we didn't move for half an hour. I'm not sure why. But we did eventually move, and it wasn't too long before I could see the registers! How exciting!

The line really started to pick up speed. We wound our way through the stacks, and I perused the many different titles around me, in all different genres. I'm a bookstore browser, but I usually have a good idea of what I'm after when I cross the threshold. This time, I had the opportunity to really let it all kind of sink in; the sheer number of titles is staggering!

There are the books I've grown to love, books I should love but haven't gotten around to reading yet, books whose titles I know but never plan on reading, and yet untapped treasures I have never even thought to pick up! Such a vast treasure trove!

Finally, the home stretch. The Borders clerks were becoming hoarse with every cry of "Next customer, please!" I could see the books, orange and green, in pretty little rows. I figured early on that they wouldn't give out wristbands if they didn't have the books to cover them. Imagine the riot that would ensue! Still, there was the fear that somehow they would run out before I got to the counter. Seeing the ample supply of books gave me my second wind! I sprinted to the lady who called out for me:

"Next customer, please!"

And I got this lady. The only one of the Border's crew to bother with anything resembling a costume. I forked over my dough (well ... my debit card,) got my Border's card discount, and at long last put my hands on the last book in the Harry Potter series.

I left the store, elated! It was only 1:00 am, and I was on my way home.

The next morning, Pamela and I drove an hour out to San Bernardino for Stiletto 2.5, a burlesque workshop and showcase. For the four hours or so she was learning how to make pasties and strip, I was submerged in the book. I read on it when we got home that evening, read on it Sunday morning, took a break to make a ridiculous yet relevant episode of Disembodied Animal Head Theatre, and finally finished off the book that evening.

All I can say is, this is the best of the bunch by far. Rowling has set a new bar for this kind of expansive, "big universe" fiction. Yeah, yeah ... I'm sure Tolkien's work is much bigger and badass-er. Rowling's universe is more approachable, and that makes all the difference to me.

She ties everything up in this one. As my friend Garrick Pass put it so well, "
She tied up strings I didn't even realize existed until the knot was complete." Simply masterful storytelling.

Most importantly -- and this cannot be emphasized enough-- Jo Rowling got people reading. And what's more, she got people excited about reading.


18 July 2007

A recent argument (some may say "flame war") with a former friend got me to thinking about fat suits, and the ethics thereof.

In short, is it okay for a svelte actor to don a fat suit when there are so many out-of-work fat actors out there?

The actor in question is Travolta, who will shortly be shaking his padded ass in Hairspray. To me, it is fairly obvious that Travolta is a bankable asset in a movie musical. Studios deal in bankable assets -- this is Industry 101. When a studio fronts the money for a big production, they want certain "guarantees" that it is a wise investment. No one can promise a big box office take, but one can put certain elements together that will make a big box office take more likely.

It is no stretch of the imagination to say that Travolta -- whose big screen break was Grease, the highest grossing movie musical of all time -- will make more box office for Hairspray than would be made without him. And if the advance reviews hold true, Edna Turnblad may just be the best work he's done to date.

Is it wrong to put an actor in a fat suit? Maybe. Maybe Nathan Lane or Harvey Firestein (who played the character on Broadway) or even the highly controversial (and John Waters-esque) Chuck Knipp should have been cast.

To me, a fat suit is just another tool in Hollywood's storytelling tool shed. It's make-up; prosthetics. No different from putting a "pregnant belly" on a non-pregnant actress or pointy ears on Mr. Spock. No one expected Guy Pierce to really tattoo himself for Memento, and no one seemed terribly upset by Mel Gibson's facial prosthetic in The Man Without a Face or Kevin Spacey's in Pay it Forward.

You see, Hollywood isn't about reality; it's about creating illusions. The question is not "is this real?" The question is "does it sell?" All that matters is effective storytelling. The tools -- all of them, from how you frame the shot to digital effects added in post -- are there to serve the story. By all accounts, Hairspray is a good story. It sells.

(This is not to say that obese thespians are incapable of carrying a story. What springs to mind is the performance of newcomer Darlene Cates in What's Eating Gilbert Grape. A stand-out performance from a newbie. She moved me to tears. But let's see . . . wasn't Leonardo DiCaprio in that movie as well? Yes, that's right. Playing a mentally handicapped boy in an Oscar-nominated performance. Pity they couldn't have cast an out-of-work mentally handicapped actor, huh?)

Oh well. I expect my former friend to decry the evilness of Paul Giamatti any day now.

17 July 2007


This is exciting! As you no doubt know, I've been posting stupid little puppet videos to the web for some time now. Content intended to be seen many, many times. Disembodied Animal Head Theatre, episode 3 has been viewed the most (427 times.) It was posted on April 11, 2006.

Well, I posted this video on May 8, 2007 and it has been viewed 949 times:

Yes, it's my lovely wife pole dancing to John Mayer's "I'm Gonna Find Another You." Only 51 views away from breaking out of three figures! Wow!

(I think it's fairly obvious why this video would be more popular than my talking rubber chicken!)

08 July 2007

John Travolta as Edna Turnblad:

There is something so very right about this.

I absolutely love the original film, and what music I've heard from the musical is hysterical ("Momma I'm a Big Girl Now" for instance.) I've been a fan of Travolta's since about age four (his "sweathog" days. The days of "Greased Lightning" and Saturday Night Fever.)

And now, in a mere week and a half, Travolta returns to the big screen in a movie musical! Geez ... it's been almost thirty years since Grease!

The advance reviews on "Ain't it Cool News" have been very positive, And "Ain't it Cool" isn't known for pulling punches. A friend who attended a test screening had an absolute blast. And of course the entire ensemble is an awesome assortment of talent, with Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Queen Latifah ... the list goes on and on. I hear that John Waters himself makes an appearance (as the town flasher, naturally.)

05 July 2007

Maybe I'm behind the times on this one. I don't know ...

Wasting some time on YouTube today, I ran across this video:

Hysterical! So I checked out the website, and found a number of other hysterical videos.

What I like about "How It Should Have Ended" is threefold: 1) The website is very slick and professional, 2) The animation is very well-done and easy to view, and 3) The videos are very thoughtfully scripted and rely on actual satire and parody for laughs.

I recommend the Blair Witch, Se7en, and It's a Wonderful Life videos.


01 July 2007

Vintage Jim Henson on YouTube:

Jim Henson is best known for his wacky, far-out puppetry. Some have falsely asserted that Jim was little more than an over grown hippie. What few people realize is just how shrewd a business man he was. His professionalism and serious-mindedness is perhaps his best kept secret:

(I really like the new use the puppeteers found for their puppets at about 1:54. Yes, those are Schlitz cans.)

It is no wonder that Jim, or "Mr. Henson" as he preferred, was so successful in the commercial field. Although the end product most Americans saw on their television sets was full of vim and vigor (not to mention bright colors and explosions), Mr. Henson took great care in pitching his small group of well=groomed puppeteers to prospective employers. If you didn't know better, you might think that the following video was made by a studious engineer of farm tractors and combines, rather than a man who learned how to stitch from his grandmother:

(The "number of hilarious acts" starting at 2:05 is particularly conservative and business-like.)

Videos courtesy of Batman1971.