Thursday, December 27, 2012


Does anyone actually know how to use Usenet/newsgroups/whatever? 'Cause no program or "free" "server" I've tried actually downloads the files I want. And heck if I'm going to buy a subscription just so I can download things that I technically shouldn't be downloading.
There are a number of things I can only find on newsgroups, but nothing I try actually works. At all.

It's like the whole thing is a massive internet prank.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The war on Christmas

Certain naysayers claim that there is no "war on Christmas" and it's all in our paranoid Christian minds. "Christmas is alive and well!" they'll say. "Look at all the TV specials and trees and fruitcake! It's crazy!"
But that's not the point. Christmas as whole is fine- it's not going anywhere. No, the war on Christmas is not a war on the entirety of Christmas, but a war on the religious aspects of Christmas. Santa Claus, lights, eggnog, yule logs, all of them are pagan or secular aspects of Christmas.

The war on Christmas is when mall employees tell you "happy holidays". When every TV commercial talks about the "holiday season". When Santa Claus himself can't even say the word "Christmas" in a Disney cartoon.
The war on Christmas is when all of the above try to be inoffensive when they obviously mean Christmas alone and none of the other holidays. You hardly ever see a menorah or a kinara among the decorations. Even if they do appear, there's only one of each, possibly a dreidel, and the rest is just more Christmas. It's a war of hypocrisy.

You're not allowed to say "Merry Christmas" in public anymore. Overzealous political-correctness advocates forbid you potentially offending non-Christians. The problem is, many people who aren't Christian at all celebrate Christmas- they just skip the Jesus part.
There's no rule that says you can't decorate a tree or hang up a stocking just because you're non-religous. Heck, I'm sure atheists and even Jews celebrate.

There's also some weird rumor that "Xmas" is an attack on Christmas.
I have absolutely no problem with Xmas. Xmas is just a contraction- it's been around for decades and no one has ever had a problem with it. The X represents a cross anyway- it comes the Greek letter "chi", which is the first letter in the Greek word for Christ, "Χριστός".

Santa will never be suppressed because he's neutral. Jesus however, has always been divisive.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Flawed art

A lot of artists overvalue "flaws" in a work of art- that difficult-to-define mark of an untrained artist that isn't always technically perfect.

But 80% of the time, the artist doesn't intend these flaws. In particular, many cartoonists prefer traditional and stop-motion animation because they think CG is "too perfect".

While the messiness of things like Rankin-Bass' Rudolph and A Charlie Brown Christmas are charming, the artists didn't want you to notice! And folks at Pixar and Dreamworks don't want to be stiff and hyperrealistic, either.

The wise artist is discerning in what "flaws" should be kept or taken out- which ones add or which ones take away from the art.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Greatest animated features by decade

Special mention should go to the earliest surviving animated feature: 1926's The Adventures of Prince Achmed.

1930s- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Duh.

1940s- It's a toss-up between Fantasia and Pinocchio. Could you decide between the two?

1950s- I haven't seen Lady and the Tramp yet, so Alice in Wonderland is on top for now.

1960s- Yellow Submarine. (Honorable Mention: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.)

1970s- Either Phantom Tollbooth, or The Mouse and His Child.

1980s- The Secret of NIMH and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?.

1990s- By this point it's hard to choose... all of Disney's films before Pocahontas are excellent, but in a way it's like apples and oranges. And so many others are worthy of mention, even some of the direct-to-video/TV ones. So who can say?

2000s- PIXAR. (Honorable Mention: Lilo & Stitch.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

IS Cheese funner?

I'm not particularly passionate about Chuck E. Cheese's, I'll admit, but recent developments certainly merit comment.
If you're reading this, you probably already know about the radical redesign that their now-iconic mascot has been given.

My personal opinion is peculiar, really, and I have to say: I do actually like him. He's cute, the animation is nice, the subtle touches that make him more mouse-like, such as the fur texture, his animal-like lips, and his translucent ears appeal to the animal-lover in me. He's bright-eyed and energetic, which more closely matches the kids he's supposed to appeal to, and making him a guitarist more accurately portrays what kids are into, as opposed to the fairly narrow world of extreme sports. Music is vastly more universal.
Pop punk, for whatever reason, seems to be a popular style for kids' music. Hiring Bowling For Soup to do the jingle makes me convinced that they're hoping it'll have the same appeal as the Phineas & Ferb theme song, to see if lightning will strike twice.

But it's a little more complicated than that.

To be honest, I never liked the design Chuck E. had the previous decade. Recently, I've come to appreciate Duncan Brannan's voice work (especially his- quite frankly- beautiful singing), but the whole skater thing seemed lame to me when it was new and it still seems lame now. The purple and green color scheme just screams '90s RADICAL DUDE even though they introduced the look in the early 2000s.
I never got much of a chance to really become intimately acquainted with the restaurants, though, due to budget limitations, so it's hard for me to get angry about it.

So while I believe the new design is an improvement on all levels, there's only one major problem: it's WAAAAYYYY too drastic and sudden.
It'd really only work 100% if you had never seen Chuck E. before in your life, or never cared or liked what he looked like before until now. Within the context of a 30-year-plus gradual evolution, it feels like we're losing something, and I'm sure there are many people who're outraged and/or saddened.
I'm particularly concerned about the kids. Let's say you were introduced to Chuck E. as a five-year-old three years ago, and you grew to love him. As an eight-year-old (a rocky age, no doubt), you now suddenly have to deal with this new-fangled CG thingumywhatter, and possibly never see the character you loved ever again. Wouldn't that make you cry? Wouldn't that make you never want to go back there ever again?

There's also the matter of updating the restaurants to incorporate the new design, something pointed out by other fans. It's gonna take thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of designing new animatronics, recording shows, replacing signs and building the animatronics and walk-around costumes. It's not as if they can just replace Chuck E.'s hat and outfit like before.
And then there's Chuck E.'s new size- he's now the size of a real mouse. Are they gonna make new animatronics this size? I seriously doubt it- the only animatronic of comparable size is the interactive Remy from Ratatouille they're using in Epcot. That wouldn't be visible from a stage, and the walk-around costumes aren't gonna be that size anyway. It's sort of like how Mickey is only three feet tall in the cartoons, but it takes a five foot person to wear the costumes- you just accept it. But I suppose if Chip and Dale can be the size of a small adult in the Disney parks, Chuck E. can do the same.

I'm reminded of a previous, notorious attempt to modernize a beloved, iconic cartoon character: in 1955, Disney attempted to update Mickey Mouse's design, and used his new look in a commercial for Nash cars:
The response was devastating for Walt- he soon received a letter from a heartbroken child, who wanted the old Mickey back again. (The kid also apparently had the absurd notion that modern art was communist, but that's besides the point.) They never tried using that design again.
When the team behind Epic Mickey attempted a thinner, taller, less-rounded Mickey decades later, they too received a negative response from test audiences- "Don't mess with the mouse," one tester said.

Why doesn't this apply to Chuck E. Cheese? Maybe it does, and maybe they'll drop the new design like New Coke. These sort of 180º changes never work. In some ways it's unfortunate, since the new look, standing on its own and out of context, is a very strong character design.
Chuck E. certainly is incredibly different from his original personality; a sleazy, deliberately hokey and cynical cigar-chomping shark-of-a-rat- and he was once a rat, mind you- who is now a friendly, playful, good-natured mouse of a much younger age, but this was a gradual change.

It's like if you jumped from Garfield circa 1985 to the live-action movies. I don't think the new Chuck E. Cheese is going to catch on, unless we're all so complacent that we'll buy pizza from any talking rodent.

UPDATE: Unless I'm missing something, I have to say- audiences certainly are apathetic.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Cartoon comparison

Cartoons in the '90s/early '00s:
Some of these shows have GUTBUSTING HILARITY but others have AWESOME EXPLOSIONS!!

Cartoons today:
"Crack open one of these cartoons and down it like it was your favorite energy drink. Feel that? That's a fleeting buzz. Ohhh yeehhhhh.
Did we mention that there's annoying noises and gross faces?"

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Robert Johnson's guitar

Just about everything's been said Robert Johnson, legendary bluesman (and you really should be listening to him), and much of it can't be confirmed. But I don't believe that this has been mentioned.

Robert Johnson is famously known for, among many other things, posing with a Gibson L-1 guitar in one of two known photos of him- the poised, dapper studio photo that graces the front of the Complete Recordings CD.

It's such that Gibson has put out a signature model of the guitar- at a high price, I might add.

But look closely at the twelfth fret- the fret with two dots, in case you can't tell- you'll see that it meets the body of the guitar.
Why do I mention this? Well, as a guitarist myself who has studied his music, I can tell you that it's very difficult to play beyond the twelfth fret if it meets the body without a cutaway. Believe me, I've tried.
But according to the extremely thorough songbook Robert Johnson: The New Transcriptions, at least one song- "Come on in My Kitchen", one of my favorites- requires that you play notes at the fifteenth fret. This is very hard to do with my dinky little Silvertone acoustic.

But look at the other known photo of him- the informal, darkly brooding photobooth portrait. Look at where the two-dotted fret is.
The twelfth fret is now above the body. This is a different guitar! Even that was a revelation to me. But the fifteenth fret is now much easier to reach.

This lead me to the conclusion that the guitar he uses in this second portrait is in fact what he used for, at the very least, the Nov. 23rd recording sessions in 1936. I find it unlikely that he had two at any given time, given his financial situation. (So perhaps the more formal portrait was taken during a later period, and he'd gotten a new one by that point. Who knows? Maybe he just borrowed it.)

So before you cough up over two thousand dollars to buy the Gibson signature model, consider whether or not it's actually suited to playing his music. At the very least you can make it easier for yourself by playing "Come on in My Kitchen" without a capo, unlike what The New Transcriptions recommends.