Wednesday, July 23, 2008



The other day, Simon woke up his mother by bringing her the camera and insisting she take pictures. You can view the set here.

Then David took a few photos, which I have added to his set.

By the way, our bedroom walls are not green, as shown here; they are "Clamshell" (or as I call it, "Honky Skin." I think Simon's deep brown eyes are throwing off the camera's white balance.


Me: David, hush, I'm trying to get Simon to sleep. Go occupy yourself, please.
Five minutes pass when I hear what sounds like the CIA working someone over in our living room.
Me: David! what are you doing?!
D: I'm downstairs.
M: What are you doing?
D: Occupying myself.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Maybe when Firefox 3 is released . . .

Jason seems to be expecting a bit much from his browser.


God help you if you use voice-over in your work, my friends. God help you. It's flaccid, sloppy writing. Any idiot can write voice-over narration to explain the thoughts of a character.--Brian Cox, "Adaptation"

While over-analyzing WALL-E with some friends last night, I suddenly hit on a heretofore unmentioned point of bold genius in its creation--it has no voice-over narration.

Since viewing "Adaptation," voice-over narratives have bugged me. I ask myself, "could I understand what is going on in this film without the voice-over?" The answer is almost always "yes." And when the answer is "no," it is because the voice-over does not make sense with what is on the screen. I think to myself, if that is what we are supposed to think is going on, then the film-maker and screenwriter need to step back and rethink some creative decisions.

"A.I." is a perfect example of unnecessary voice-over. Steven Speilberg is a master visual story teller. If you aren't following, then a narrator will not help. David is at the bottom of the ocean staring at the Blue lady, time is passing, and all the visuals are of silent, lonely, blue, reverence. On top of this a narrator is droning on and on and on and oh-my-god-will-you-shut-up-already. Of course, "Blade Runner" is the most famous example of unnecessary voice-over. On the other hand, "Perfume" is a fairly mysterious story with a mystifying ending. The narrator is telling the audience what we are viewing, but I am not convinced. I recall thinking that, if I am supposed to buy what the narrator says is happening, then we need to back up 60 minutes and add in a few more elements to lead the film's thesis to this conclusion.

Back to WALL-E.

People are speculating whether or not it could earn a "Best Picture" Oscar. Probably not, but I would give them one based simply on the decision not to use voice-over. As I said, this film has very little dialog around the central plot of WALL-E's relationship with Eve. We have to understand what is going on from the action, which is pretty easy for an adult, or even an older child. But I would bet the temptation to use voice-over narration was strong. I can hear it now, a soft baritone voice prattling on and on in soothing tones about how WALL-E wishes more than anything that he had someone to just hold his hand. Kudos to the creators for not doing it. Kudos for doing the more difficult work of giving us plot, back-story, and WALL-E's and Eve's inner life with clever and well-crafted visual elements. There are a few times when a well-place newspaper or holoscreen is obviously there just to catch me up, but these are not nearly as interfering as a narrator. I would love to know if voice-over was suggested or debated.

All of that being said, the DVD could maybe use a voiced-over option for the very young viewer. There are themes that I would like David (my son, not the "boy" from A.I.) to be a bit more aware of and the voice-over could help him along. Fortunately, he will not suffer in his life from a shortage of media extolling the pleasures of hand-holding.

later, silent film fans.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


I first saw the Pixar's animated short film, "Luxo Jr." at Liberty Hall in Lawrence as part of one of the "Animation Celebrations"--a collection of award-winning short animated films. I remember clearly how it amazed and charmed me. I was impressed by the studio's ability to evoke so much emotion from a pair of computer-animated swing-arm lamps and a ball. I was envious of the mastery of story telling this 90-second film revealed. In the 22 years, since, I have been generally impressed with the quality of Pixar's visual story telling. But the first trailer for Wall-E gave me the same thrill I initially felt after "Luxo." Wall-E is a metal box on treads, with what looks like a pair of R2-model periscopes on its head. In 30 seconds, they transformed this box into a character--a person with a story. The more trailers I saw and the more I heard about it, the more I was convinced that Wall-E was going to live up to the promise and spirit of the studio's breakthrough short film.

I was not disappointed. There is no shortage of praise on the Interblags about Wall-E and I affirm all of it. My favorite review/discussion is Crunchy-Con's Aristotalian interpretation and the comment war that follows (serious spoilers alert!). Interestingly, Frederica Matthews-Greene is a softly dissenting voice, and I think that she may have missed a couple key plot points. However, we do share one concern--I'm not sure kids are going to get this film. It is visually rich--full of detail and texture, but the plot is minimal, with some plot points turning on subtle visual clues, and there is relatively little dialog. David seemed to enjoy it enough but he has not talked much about it since seeing it--especially considering the amount he talked about it before seeing it. He got word on the day of its release and asked daily when we would be seeing it for the entire weekend until I finally took and afternoon off so we could go to the matinée.

Of course, it is not perfect. There is a great deal of back story that is left out. There are many implausible technology issues and I agree with one of Crunchy Cons detractors that humans would never let themselves be lulled into the state we find them 700 years hence. I wondered uncomfortably how the bariatric group would feel about this vision. But I was able to set those concerns aside by the end as we see what ultimately will happen to humanity. The film's creator is interviewed in "Christianity Today" and has some very nice points to make about what the film is trying to do.

I look forward to seeing it again and being able to pause occasionally just to enjoy the lush graphics. I bet you a dollar that Luxo's ball is in Wall-E's cave somewhere.

This has gotten me to thinking about how I would rank Pixar's output over the years. It would be something like this:

"Luxo Jr."
"Toy Story,"
"The Incredibles,"
"Finding Nemo,"
"Toy Story II"
"Knick Knack"
"Jack-Jack Attack"
"Geri's Game,"
"For the Birds"
"Monster's Inc."
"Tin Toy"
"Bugs Life,"
"Mike's New Car"
"One Man Band"
(hot pokers to the eyeballs)
"Mater and the Ghostlight"

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Pregancy Pact

I have been waiting for someone to articulate clearly my own response when I first heard about the Gloucester Pregnancy Pact (which was apparently a fiction).

FIRST THINGS: On the Square: "So there’s something reassuring about the idea (and perhaps reality) of the crazy Gloucester “pregnancy pact.” I find it so much brighter, so much more hopeful, than the alternative, which is the “sterility pact” of those so committed to controlling their futures that they can’t risk the uncertainties of children—or worse, the death pact of a society that seems either too self-centered or too pessimistic to venture the hope for the future that a new generation always evokes."

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

day day and jeefu

Me: day . . . .
Simon: day
M: vid
S: vid
M: day . .
S: day
M: vid
S: vid
M: day.
S: day
M: vid
S: vid
M: day . . . vid
S: day . . . vid
M: David!
S: Dayday!

* * *
Me: joe . . .
Simon: joe . . .
M: seph
S: seph
M: joe . .
S: joe
Me: seph
S: seph
Me: joe . . . seph
S: joe . . . seph
Mr: Father Joseph!
S: Fa'er Jeefu!