Friday, July 27, 2007 - Out the corner of my eye

I don't have anyone on the ground at Comicscom in San Diego, but from the corner of my eye I'm watching the activity on, a promo for the new Batman Movie.

An "I Want You" poster featuring Heath Ledger as the Joker appeared this morning with cooridnates of where to go for a big henchperson recruitment gathering. is steadily solving and posting clues and they do have people on the ground.

Is this viral marketing or something beyond? Any way you slice it, it's COOL!

(No rights to image implied.)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Zombie Orville Bites the Big Kernel

Advertising Age is reporting that zombie Orville Redenbacher creators Crispin Porter & Bogusky are being replaced by ConAgra Foods, holders of the Redenbacher brand.

I mentioned here a while back that the zombie Orville commercials struck me as creepy and not in a good way. Who wants their popcorn seasoned with formaldehyde after all?

I guess there are good and bad ways you can use zombies.

Zombie fighting associated with protective software = good.

Zombies associated with food = bad.

Perhaps most of all the Orville ads failed because the reanimation was off-putting. Maybe a better realized "reanimation" would have struck me as more appetizing.

But zombie Orville had an eerie pallor and a strangeness of movement we didn't get when real footage of Fred Astair or John Wayne was used in the past.

Maybe we have to wait a while for technique to catch up with idea.

Or maybe it's time to bury the dead.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Wikiquote - One of the coolest and most useful sites ever

Speaking of useful things you can find on the web, check out Wikiquote, a new Google discovery I just made trying to figure out who said what once upon a time. Pardon me while I gush.

It's prefatory notes call it "a free online compendium of quotations from notable people and creative works in every language..."

And it seems to cover everything Dante to Twin Peaks, which includes: "I like my coffee black, like midnight on a moonless night." -- Agent Dale Cooper.)

Actually a Dante quote may be more a appropriate example: Abandon every hope, ye who enter here." I did not know it was every hope, but if you dive in you will be kept busy for a while if you have remote interest in thumbnail bits of wisdom .

There's an A to Z list of literary works to browse, not to mention film. How exactly did Gerard Butler phrase that breakfast quote in 3oo? More eloquently than my memory served: "Ready your breakfast and eat hearty, for tonight we dine in Hell!"

Not to elevate 300 higher than it should be, but Wikiquote's not all high-brow. You can get the Grabthar's hammer quote from Galaxy Quest in its entirety, too:

"By Grabthar's hammer, by the sons of Worvan, you shall be avenged."

And hopefully you can also get plenty of inspiration.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Web As Central Casting

Artists commission models to gain accuracy in depictions of the human form. It struck me, that I don't know that writers do that sort of thing as often. 

More frequently writers rely on experience and memory for the strokes that paint word characters, and much of the greatness indeed comes from within the writer. Yet, the web offers some interesting tools for which I believe scribes can sometimes draw benefit. 

Don't overlook the benefits to be found at your fingertips, even though I mentioned recently on Charles' blog that I often unplug the web to remove its distractions and potential for making me hover over minute details.

Singles sites aren't just for the lovelorn. 
The notion of browsing singles sites arose at a web design convention I attended. Web and marketing strategists--just like fiction writers--seek to devise realistic imaginary characters. They're called personas and they're developed to help envision the members of a website's target audience. Susan is a 31-year-old nurse interested in buying her first home. When she comes to a mortgage site she wants to learn about...

Where do you have a lot of people of various ages telling you about themselves? Singles sites are one starting point. Sure they have plenty of people who help you feel better about how you look, but they're ripe with profiles that list hobbies and interests, professions and passtimes. 

Indeed many points are fictional to begin with in those profiles, but they're certainly interesting places to visit for tidbits about real humans. Get past "outdoor type" and "outgoing" and there are frequently elements to jog the imagination. 

Model behavior 
Need to jump start your imagination as far as physical descriptions for your characters? Stock photography sites are a great place to visit for perusing varieties of hairstyles, facial hair and fashion choices. You may find the perfect zippered hoody to break your sinister, corner lurker out of stock character confines or remember some tic or trait from someone you once knew that fits perfectly. Web browsing doesn't substitute for observing real world behavior and observing the real world in general, but it can help sometimes with highlights and shadows.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Sacking Nike

Somehow I suspect, and come on if you're awake, you suspect too that Nike® 's decision to hold off on their newest Michael Vick shoe had less to do with due process and waiting for the court to decide the Atlanta Falcons quarterback's guilt or innocence on dogfighting charges than it did with corporate profits.

Their decision came, no doubt, after the statisticians in strategic planning counted their magic beans and decided they weren't gaining as much in street-cred as they were losing in customer good will.

This is a company after all that featured a brief hint of dog fighting in a commercial a few years ago just to show how tough they are. In a terse e-mail to Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle Nike stated they pulled it only because it ran its course, not because animal welfare groups voiced dismay. Ms. Knapp noted:

"At a time when one of its star endorsers is accused of viciously abusing animals for thrills and profit, Nike probably should have hinted at some level of sensitivity on the subject. "

The response at the very least makes their statement that "we consider any cruelty to animals inhumane and abhorrent" seem disingenuous.

Regardless of what courts rule on Vick's guilt or innocence, Nike has shown just how skewed its moral center is and how reprehensible its marketing and advertising can be.

They are happy to be associated with exploitation of the most vile and inhumane kind if it's making them look like tough guys.

I bought new running shoes a while back and they weren't Nike's, though I'd had Nike cross trainers for a while. The ASICS® running shoes just felt more comfortable in the walking-around-the-athletic-store test.

Brand will play a bigger role for me in the future. I'm sacking Nike. I'm kicking Nike, that is I ain't buying them no more.

I'm not their target audience--I'm gradually aging out of just about every marketer's desirable range except maybe Metamucil's--but perhaps I'm not the only one who'll be giving my $80 to someone else the next time I'm in the market for an athletic shoe.

Michael Vick's guilt or innocence is indeed for the court's to decide, the presumption of innocence his rightful due, but Nike's trial is in the court of public opinion and it's time to bang the gavel and render the verdict.

In my mind as a consumer, they're convicted.

Addendum (7/27/07)

Los Angeles Times Nike Sacks Vick

Friday, July 20, 2007

Getting Simpsonized!

As part of the crass commercialism surrounding the release of The Simpsons Movie, there are e-mails and links circulating that tout a website that will allow you to get "Simpsonized."

Basically you upload a photo of yourself, and it will turn you into a Simpson's character.

Now while it may be fun, it's clearly a stab at selling you a movie ticket i.e. taking your money, picking your pocket. Don't be fooled by this trick. Don't let them seduce you into playing their little game.


Having trouble getting Simpsonized?
The has some pointers that might help.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

What I Ought To Be Reading Now - Joseph Finder's Power Play

Joseph Finder was nice enough to send me an ARC of his new novel Power Play, and I really should be reading it right now because it's due on the stands Aug. 7, and I really should write a thoughtful review to coincide with it. In case I don't make it:

Mr. Finder has taken the thriller in all new directions in his previous books including Paranoia, Company Man and Killer Instinct.

Power Play
appears to be a nail-biter or a grip-the-arm-of-your-chairer or generally a great page turner.

He always delivers excellent, character driven tales that are well plotted.

Here's the gist of the tale:

A group of employees from an aerospace company are on a corporate retreat sans usual means of communication when they're taken hostage by armed thugs.

Fortunately, a junior executive named Jake Landry is on hand. Landry has a darker past than anyone realizes and it's up to him to stop the bad guys.

Watch for it on the stands soon or for the audio book. Check back here for a review, if not by Aug. 7 at least shortly thereafter.

The Language of Spam

You ever open spam by mistake because it has a subject line that looks like it might conceivably be a complaint?

At the day job, we get this e-mail entitled: "How to answer the phone." Not that anyone at our place might answer in a monosyllabic grunt or anything, but I thought it was from someone who'd had the phone answered in a fashion unbefitting and was being a little sarcastic.

Instead I'm greeted with this glittering American flag animation, one of those graphics people leave in comment tags on MySpace.

Below it was this message about how business phones should be answered.

"Press '1' for English. Press '2' to disconnect until you learn to speak English."

Then it proceded to note:

Only Jesus Christ and the American soldier ever agreed to die for you.

I was mulling over the various stripes in the message when someone offered an observation over my shoulder.

"I guess Jesus would've had to press 2. He spoke Aramaic."

Monday, July 16, 2007

58 Minutes and Other Thrillers

My reading flavor-of-the-month is thrillers. I have the Die Hard movies to thank. I re-watched Die Hard 2: Die Harder and Die Hard With a Vengeance around the time I went to see Live Free or Die Hard, which I thought was a pretty good action movie.

All of that reminded me I'd picked up but never read 58 Minutes, the novel by Walter Wager that provided the plot for Die Hard 2.

Several of Wager's books became action films in the '70s including the Charles Bronson vehicle, Telefon, but 58 Minutes got a John McClane injection for the big screen.

In the novel the hero is a New York counter-terrorism cop whose daughter is on an incoming flight when terrorists jam radar and cause other havoc in order to demand the release of five political prisoners.

It reads somehow like a thriller of another era, though its from the late eighties. It's an interesting book.

It's fun to play - how'd they deal with this on the big screen while reading it, too. McClane is an outsider in the film, while Frank Malone, the novel's hero, works to marshal available resources to deal with the problem at hand.

It's still white-knuckle territory with loads of physical action and a wrap-up that makes you say: Cool!.

I cracked open Ignition by Kevin Anderson and Doug Beeson over the weekend, a thriller that might have been a McClane movie. I believe it was actually optioned before the plot for was Live Free discovered in Wired, via another screenplay.

It focuses on terrorists who take the space shuttle hostage while it's on the launch pad. A tough but downed-astronaut has to fight them and save the crew, which includes some Russians as well.

We'll see where this trend takes me after that.

Friday, July 13, 2007

In the "There Might Be Some Hope For Us Yet" Department

I had a textbook once with an excerpt from Solzhenitsyn in which he described standing under an apple tree after a rainstorm.

(Happily, the complete quote can be found here. It's the top one.)

I thought of that message of optimism as I read a report in Advertising Age's daily e-newsletter this morning.

The Cone Cause Evolution Survey for this year found: "87% of U.S. consumers would switch from one brand to another if the other brand was associated with a good cause, up 31% since 1993."

Perhaps something once lost is regained.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Christine regularly reads a blog called Walk Slowly Live Wildly, being the exploits of an off-beat family. She discovered it studying decorating photos, I believe. The blog's author, Sara, is given to small apartments yet works to make them lovely and uncluttered.

Christine can't achieve uncluttered. I, uh, own too many books and magazines.

All that's an aside though, I told you all that because I like the quote Sara has and I wanted to pass it along:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
– Margaret Mead

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Dirty Dozen

I'd probably seen television ads for it, and in one magazine or another, I'd encountered the image at left. I remember the guns pointed in all directions vividly.

So when my dad and my uncle decided to see The Dirty Dozen while we were visiting in Arkansas, I wanted to go too. It would have been 1967. Do the math on how old I must have been.

Skeptical, my uncle said I'd never sit through it, but my dad knew I'd do fine. Then he wondered what kind of movie he'd brought me to see when there was a hanging about two minutes into it. It was probably the second movie I saw in a theater, my grandmother having taken me to see Bambi sometime earlier.

It wasn't until I watched a repeat on television when I was older than the violence of the conclusion sank in. "Gasoline and hand grenades? They're doing what?!"

AMC was celebrating the 40th DD anniversary Saturday (7-7-07). Hard to believe.

We saw it in a downtown movie house, the elegant kind that's long disappeared. Later and for years they had a massive poster for Part II Walking Tall plastered across a side wall. We'd see it every time we drove into town.

When we were watching Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson pose as Nazis in remarkably well-pressed uniforms considering they'd brought them in a parachute drop and were wearing them over fatigues, it was still a different movie era.

The theater must have been in its heydey or on the outer cusp of its heydey, back when there were still lobby cards and satin drapes around the screen.

The moments that resonated with me were the funnier ones rather than the violence i.e. when Marvin shoots the bottom of a rope off as an insentive to a solider to keep climbing.

My dad liked John Cassavetes' Frakno best, I think. We talked about the show endlessly afterwards or I did. We even went to see another Lee Marvin show later, Sergeant Ryker, but it was tougher for me to follow, more courtroom drama than thriller.

Maybe it was better back then though when you saw one good movie once in a while in a great venue.

(No rights to image implied.)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Is It Hot In Here Or Am I Crazy

I've been told, though I don't have it on any official authority, that our local weather man--the guy who interrupted Lost--tells school classes he visits that global warming is a croc.

I've read Michael Crichton's State of Fear, which illustrates the "it's not really that hot" argument with a compelling thriller plot involving conspiratorial environmentalists who all drive the Toyota Prius. Plenty of people emerged to disagree with Crichton after publication, though many others are like the weather man.

Christine and I were talking over the notion as we drove back from our local farmer's market this morning with a bag of organic apples and some blackberries. It's not as hot here as it is in the West, but that's mainly because it won't stop raining.

"I think the reasons for opposing efforts to correct warming issues are mainly economic," I observed, profound chap that I am. You can read dissertations on those matters by analysts more astute than I, who note many fear dreaded NGE's, non-governmental entities looming behind Kyoto.

Christine's been reading Small is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher--one of the subversive texts to which I was introduced in college. I believe it was in a class called Contemporary Society and Human Values.

She paraphrased and observed there's far more to the universe than the economic, we just forget about that. There's spiritual, environmental, ethical. She probably rattled off some others, as she cited Schumacher's notion that economic is a "fragmented" view.

It's certainly a time to mull and ponder and review findings from places such as the Center for Inquiry, who've posted a position paper on the global warming issue after evaluation of scads of scientific data.

To boil it down ;-) - They say it's hot in here.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Doctor Who's Landing in the U.S. Again

The Doctor, you know who, returns to the Sci Fi Channel tonight in his time-traveling blue phone booth, a testament to growing popularity in the United States, I presume.

The third season of Doctor Who just concluded its run in Great Britain last week, while it took a year for the first season to make it to the U.S. If you've visited here often, you know I'm a fan, and Who fans don't just watch, they proselytize, or try to at least.

No Goof No Glory
A mixture of goofiness and hard science fiction, horror and hope, the new Doctor Who is one of the grandest science fiction television shows ever. If you couldn't take the videotaped versions from past years, the production values are on a par with Star Trek: TNG or any of the new Trek series.

The Best Period
And it's one of the best written television shows period. Amid all of the frantic action sequences and time travel that goes further than anyone's gone before, character-driven stories are the series' heart and soul.

A Show For Writers
This is a show that's great for writers--even of the very different prose medium--to observe. In the first two seasons, The Doctor (Christopher Eccleston who morphs into David Tennant) is paired with young British shop girl, Rose (Billie Piper), and their relationship is the underpinning for all of the first two seasons, culminating with an incredible two-part finale that airs as part of a marathon this afternoon (July 6) on Sci Fi. (Check local listings, what am I the TV Guide Channel?)

The new season, Series 3, begins in the evening with the 2006 Christmas special, followed by the first episode of Season 3 which introduces a new companion (Freema Agyeman) for the Doctor and promises to continue the quality of the first two seasons.

Previous seasons have drawn on the wealth of Doctor Who tie-in material including scores of novelizations, and that continues once again with a two-part story based on a novel actually featuring an earlier incarnation of The Doctor, the one played by Sylvester McCoy. When actors change, ah, just read the Wikipedia entry.

The Human Nature novelization cum tele-story is offered by the BBC in ebook form, so it's a way to get a taste of the Who universe while waiting for prime-time to roll around.

Trust me, if you're not a Whovian, you should be. If you don't like goofy. Wait a few minutes and it's poignant.

After you read or watch, check out the BBC provided online commentaries available by iTunes. Also check out the wonderful Who Podcast, Podshock.

(I know the TARDIS is not really a phone booth, by the way, that's just short hand.)

No image rights implied. Logo belongs to the BBC.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Purple Tomatoes Arrive

My first Cherokee tomato finally reached the point of plucking. It remains a little green around the very top, but it should be able to complete its costume change indoors.

I guess that's a milestone. We'll make use of this one and its now blushing brothers on the Fourth.
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