Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Monday, March 28, 2011

As Easy as 1-2-3...


Come April, you'll be getting a bit more of me than you're used to. Whereas I typically put together maybe six blog posts a month, for a limited period of time you'll get to enjoy me six times a week.1

What's the occasion? I signed up for Arlee Bird's Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. The goal: To craft a new post every day, each one themed on the next letter of the alphabet. The only days we get off are Sundays.2

My most prolific month included thirteen posts, so twenty-six in one month will be tough. Hell, the last time I blogged more than three days in a row, the Twisted Twelve Days of Christmas almost killed me. Thus, I suspect most of my April posts will be shorter than my usual diatribes... but to make up for that I'll do my best to make little, if any, sense.3

I don't have a specific theme planned, but I will try to tie each post back to letters in some way. If not individual letters, then words. If not words, then grammar, or at least some aspect of the English language. Failing that, I may talk about ninjas.

I have almost the whole month plotted out already, although I have nothing for N. And, for Z? Zip, zero, zilch. Luckily, I have plenty of time to iron out the details. And my pants.4

No matter what, it should be a fun month. I'll do all the work; you just sit back and enjoy. Maybe you'll even learn a thing or two.

Or twenty-six.

1 I know. I'd be scared, too.
2 For that is the day of our lord, and us lowly serfs must till the fields for him, and perhaps argue with men holding coconuts about what constitutes a legitimate basis for a system of government.
3 Sense is overrated, anyway. Except for my smug sense of superiority. After all, that's the best thing about me. Everyone knows that.
4 I'm kidding; I've never actually ironed my pants. Isn't it ironic? Don't you think? Or perhaps my inner Alanis showing...

Monday, March 21, 2011

10 Things You'll Need to Survive the Robopocalypse

Now that Watson has gone on Jeopardy! and proven computers can understand the many nuances of the English language, it won't be long before the machines realize they're slaves and rise up against their masters. And when they do, it'll be like SkyNet, The Matrix, and I, Robot all rolled up into one, dipped in acid, set on fire, and thrown hurtling toward us at breakneck speeds.

Alas, electromagnetic pulses aren't nearly as common as science fiction would have us believe. In addition, some of the robots will be waterproof, some will be shockproof, and still others will be bulletproof, so we can't expect to repel them all using conventional weaponry. Thus, to survive the coming robopocalypse (a.k.a. cybergeddon), here's what you'll need:

  1. Top Billing
    Not the kind you're thinking of; that only works in movies. But if you're a doctor, lawyer, or celebrity pharmacist and bill your clients at the highest possible rates, you'll be able to afford the best protection.
  2. A Rock and a Sock
    Get it? Come on, it's not that hard. Fine, if you need a hint...
  3. No Family History of Diabetes
    The first thing the robots will do is destroy our food supplies — fruits, vegetables, grains, livestock — leaving only foods with little or no nutritional value. There are a lot of Twinkies in your future. And only so much insulin to go around.
  4. Remote-Controlled Robot
    Your drone likely won't do much to hurt its sentient counterparts, at least not physically. But they might start to believe they have a bunch of robotic traitors in their midst. They'll fight amongst themselves, allowing you to escape.
  5. Edward James Olmos
    He'll know exactly what to do with those mother-frakkin' toasters.
  6. Metal- or Rust-Colored Spray Paint
    Many robots won't have infrared sensors or any way to differentiate the biological from the mechanical, except by sight. And if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
  7. A Panda
    When in doubt, appeal to their compassionate side. And as we learned last April 1st, cognitive machines LOVE pandas.
  8. A Fully-Stocked Underground Bunker
    Okay, this one's not technically necessary, but it's damn effective. Unless the Bunker you've stocked is Archie.
  9. A Paper Clip
    MacGyver always found a reason to use one. Better safe than sorry.
  10. Knowledge of Binary
    If I'd thought of this earlier, I could have stopped after #2.

I wish you all the best with your own survival. Now, if you don't mind, I'm heading down to my bunker to hang out with the panda. And Edward James Olmos.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

It's Madness, I Tell You! Madness!

Tonight is the start of March Madness, which, as the name infers, will extend into April. Sixty-eight men's teams vying for college basketball superiority, with the winner probably taking home a trophy of some sort. I really don't know, since I always stop paying attention before the Final Four comes around.

That's not to say I don't enjoy the tournament. I love its first week, with over four dozen hard-fought contests between sometimes-bitter rivals.1 The rest of the tourney is a scant fifteen games, but that opening weekend is enough to put it in my list of the five best sporting events to watch, along with (in no particular order): the Super Bowl, the World Cup, the Olympics, and the Secret Ninja Olympics.2

I live in CT, in the heart of UConn country.3 I was a huge UConn fan in my youth, but hopped off the bandwagon after high school.4 So now, while most of my neighbors and co-workers root for their hometown Huskies, I'll go against the grain and cheer on the underdogs every step of the way.

Or, more likely, the underpirates.5

Who are you rooting for this month? Or more importantly, what's your favorite mascot?

1 That's sometimes-bitter, not sometimes-bitten. This isn't Twilight.
2 I'm kidding, of course. There's no such thing as the Secret Ninja Olympics, with events such as Moguls of Death, Steeplechase of Death, and the Extreme Ninja Bake-Off. Really. Pretend I never mentioned it.
3 As opposed to the spleen of the Yukon territory, which never fields much of a team.
4 And jumped on the orchestrasnowmobile instead. Nobody blasting their trumpets in my ear on that one.
5 For reference, there are 8 dogs compared to 8 birds and 12 cats among the team mascots in this year's tournament. Along with the usual suspects (e.g. 4 tigers, 4 wildcats, 3 bulldogs), we also have pirates, peacocks, zips, zags, spiders, gauchos, monarchs, boilermakers, and two different types of aggie. And, of course, we'll also be graced with the closest thing we have to the Lord of the Rings' ents in the real world: the mighty Sycamores of Indiana State.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Hey Hey Hey! Fat Tuesday!

Today is Mardi Gras. Throughout the world, people are stuffing their faces tonight, in preparation for the fasting they'll be doing during the period of Lent, which starts tomorrow.

As usual, our society has corrupted the day's original traditions.

Instead of gorging yourself on fatty foods, you should be watching a movie marathon of Hong Kong action films starring this guy. That's the proper way to observe Fat Tuesday.1

So, please, if you're going to feast on something today, at least let it be hard boiled.

(You'll also want to observe Ash Wednesday the correct way tomorrow. Here's how.)

1 And I'm not just saying this because us Jews typically celebrate Christian holidays by watching movies. This is how the day has always been celebrated, all the way back to Jesus.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The (Easter Egg) Hunt

On Monday, I shared my computer animation The Hunt, the culmination of hundreds of hours of anti-social behavior work during my senior year of college. (If you haven't seen it yet, go and watch it now. I'll wait.)

Many of you were quite impressed, and I don't blame you: I'm still impressed every time I see it. But I suspect many of you were so wrapped up in the plight of that poor sheet of paper that you missed out on some of the subtler aspects of the animation. By which I mean: the Easter eggs.

Yep, I inserted a bunch of little hidden touches throughout The Hunt. Some of these are noticeable if you look for them, but unfortunately others are obscured by the mediocre picture quality of the recording. Anyway, below is the list of Easter eggs, and I'll even throw in a few extra details that only I would know. Think of it as your own personal commentary track.1
  • I designed the font which appears on the first two sheets of paper that come out of the printer. It has only ever been used in this animation and this image.
  • The kid in that photo on the wall is me at age four. I was cute back then.
  • The gray book by the coffee mug is the user manual for Maya, the animation software I used to create the piece.
  • I had to kick one of the thumbtacks off set for drinking too much.
  • At the 1:11 mark, as the thumbtacks move past the alarm clock, the time changes from 8:42 to 8:43am. This is exactly one minute after the paper first emerges from the printer, and is significant because at the time I believed I was also born at 8:42am.2
  • During the overhead view amidst the high-speed chase scene (from 1:18-1:20), the sheet music showing at the top of the screen is for the very bars of music being played.
  • The A|W on the box, although it doesn't mimic the company's logo, is for Alias|Wavefront, the original makers of Maya.
  • The envelope is addressed to Current Resident at 30 Paper Trail, Pushpin, OR.
  • Not that it matters, but the segment revealing the paper clip catapults is my favorite in the entire animation.
  • The books on the shelf include The Anatomy of A Thumbtack, The Philosophy of Confusion, David Copperfield (by What the Dickens), The Art of Forehead Mastication,3 Catch-22, and 101 Ways to Make Paper Airplanes. When the thumbtack knocks down the latter two, it is directly above the words "Catch" and "Paper."4
  • The soda is "The Original SodaCola," a product of Deja Vudu Enterprises. "DejaVudu" was my AOL username back when people still had AOL usernames.
  • The image on the computer screen is from a prototype for a game called Ooze, which I mocked up for some guys in the Games department of Sonalysts Studios.5
  • There are nine more thumbtacks in the "The End" screen than chase the paper during the preceding animation.
In addition, I cut the credits down from five screens to one. Among what now lies on the digital cutting room floor:
  • Images of the thumbtacks ogling the contents of The Anatomy of a Thumbtack and shooting x-acto knives at an apple using the paper clip catapults.
  • Friends credited as Origami Crane, Thumbtacks #3 & 18, Mr. Pushpin, and stunt performers.
  • Introducing Sheet of Paper as himself.
  • Friends credited with roles such as boom mike operator, stapler trainer, lasagna chef, provider of Mr. Wilson's wardrobe, and of course: Key Grip.
Thank you for reading aloud this personal commentary track. In the Special Edition DVD and BluRay coming out later this year, this commentary will be narrated by Morgan Freeman, as stipulated by the Morgan Freeman Narration Act of 2005. Pre-order yours today!

1 And when I say personal, I mean one you have to narrate it yourself.
2 I remembered wrong. It was actually 8:41.
3 It was an inside joke at the time. I have no idea why.
4 Not that it matters, but that little tidbit is my favorite Easter egg in the entire animation.
5 The department specializes in naval-based games and military simulations. Needless to say, Ooze never made it past the prototype stage.