The Road to Area 51

The Los Angeles Times ran a great piece on April 5 on Area 51, interviewing three men who took part in the testing for the A-12 OXCART, the precursor to the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane. A fascinating read.

The Road to Area 51 – Los Angeles Times.

Back story for Star Wars: The Old Republic MMORPG

Joystiq has posted a video setting up the historical period of the Star Wars universe that will be occupied by BioWare’s upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic massively multi-player on-line roleplaying game.

It’s interesting, in that it sets up the game while using zero actual in-game footage. Even if you’re not interested in the game, it’s worth checking out for the brief “history lesson” on that particular era of the Star Wars timeline.

Movie Extravaganza

This week has been a busy week for films in Casa del Bartlett. Mel and I hit up the theaters on Saturday to catch the remake of “Last House on the Left,” and have had piles of DVDs in the house all week. Here’s a brief recap of what I’ve seen the last few days and what’s to come:

• Last House on the Left (theater)
A remake of Wes Craven’s horror classic from the ’70s. I’d seen the original a few times, and expected something campy and silly out of the remake, something in the same vein as the remake of another Craven classic from that era, “The Hills Have Eyes,” from a few years back. The rape scene bothered me to the point that I literally almost had to leave the theater, which was bizarre — I’ve never had a reaction like that to a movie before. It was just intense and brutal and not what I was expecting. Hard movie to watch; would have difficulty recommending anybody else go see it.

• Dark City (DVD)
My first viewing in awhile of one of my favorite movies of all time. I always laugh at how campy Keifer Sutherland is and how distracting his accent is in the movie; but it does little to take away from a truly excellent movie.

• Team America: World Police (DVD)
Was on sale for six bucks at Target, and I had to buy it.  Only the second time I’d seen it – I never did rent the DVD after Mel and I saw it in the theaters. Fun, awful, stupid movie. I’ll be watching it again a few more times, for sure.

• Role Models (DVD)
Great, great movie. Just a steady parade of stupid one-liners and things Mel and I will be repeating to each other for years. A straight-up fun movie; definitely worth a rental. Paul Rudd is his typically awesome self, and I’ve always liked Seann William Scott. Good movie.

• Scanners (DVD)
Mel wanted to get a pile of horror movies from Blockbuster since they’re doing their five catalog titles for $5 promo again, and I picked this David Cronenberg classic from 1980 which I somehow had never seen before. It was pretty much what I had expected – awful acting, an interesting but poorly-assembled plot, and some pretty fun gore effects for a 28-year-old movie. Lived up to its cult classic status; I’m really glad I finally got around to seeing it. The ending is trippy and awesome. After it was over, I found myself amazed that it hasn’t been subjected to a remake yet, since everything else is getting a reboot these days. It’s got to be coming eventually…

• Deadbirds (DVD)
A supposed horror film that Mel and I quit on after 30 minutes. After an amazingly campy and poorly-filmed bank heist in the film’s opening minutes, the movie literally becomes 20-some minutes of a half-dozen people lounging around in a house. By the time we got the slightest inkling of what they had in store for them, we’d already checked out of the movie. I’m sure it improved after that first half hour, when things hopefully started actually taking place, but we’ll never know.

• The Fog (DVD)
Another movie we only got about a half hour into, but only because Mel fell asleep. 🙂 We’ll finish it later; I thought it had potential to be entertaining.

• Twilight (DVD)
This movie was terrible. Just terrible. The villain was poorly developed; he just showed up two-thirds of the way through the movie and was like “bad guy here; let’s get down to business.” The music didn’t fit the setting in a lot of instances, most notably in some of the scenes after Bella finds out Edward is a vampire (from Google, because nothing on the Internet is wrong…). The producers worked like hell to keep the PG-13 rating; it’s a damn vampire movie, and there’s barely any blood. Edward was kindof a douchebag, and I never for one minute bought into this “chemistry” that he supposedly had with Kristin Stewart. Seriously, it was like in Star Wars: Episode 2 where Padme just declares that she truly, deeply loves Anakin – for basically no reason whatsoever. Bella just has this “oh, he’s so mysterious” moment out of a Kids in the Hall sketch, and decides she has to be with him forever. I didn’t buy it for a second.

And no, I will not read the book so I can “get it.” Terrible movie.

Still on deck:
• The Fog (will finish this one)
• The Relic (a super-cool movie that I’m excited to watch again)
• Children of the Corn: The Resurrection (or some crap like that)

Home One built with 30,000 Legos

From Geekologie – some completely insane genius constructed Home One – the Mon Calamari capital ship from “Return of the Jedi” – as a seven-foot-long structure comprised of 30,500 Legos.

I’ve long been envious of Lego engineers – but this thing is just miles beyond amazing. It’s even got a light system.

Epic 30,500 Piece LEGO Star Wars Ship – Geekologie.

I like it better than the Lego version of General Greivous’ ship that Geekologie posted about in January of ’08:

But they’re both pretty amazing.

Update: Coraline popup construction

Popup house planning - 3/7/09 updateHey, first post for awhile… I was out of town for the first three days of this week at a training conference (which was actually really good), but during some of the spare time I have had I’ve been doing a little more work on the “Coraline” pop-up diorama project I started last month.

Most notably, I think I’ve basically completed the planning for the house; that’s a big step, because it should prove to be the most time-consuming layer to complete (although I’m still tossing around some ideas in my head on how, exactly, I’m going to do the sky…). You can take a look at where that stands here.

I also did a construction mockup for one of the “lids” to the pop-up; the 65-pound cardstock I’m going to use for a lot of the primary construction would be too flimsy to support the weight of the diorama layers, so the two outer layers are going to be backed with foamcore for stability and strength.

However, I didn’t want to just slap a piece of foamcore onto the back side of each lid of the popup and call it done; that would’ve looked incredibly sloppy. So I decided to wrap the foamcore in paper so it would have a nice, consistent edge.

I wanted to build a mockup of one of the backer boards, just to test out the concept and see how it would turn out before being in position to do a live run on the final project. I initially cut two 8.5×11 pieces of foamcore, intending to wrap them and end up with a standard letter-sized final product. But the paper I wanted to use for the wrap was also 8.5×11 – and that obviously wouldn’t work. So I decided on a final size of 7 9/16 x 10 1/16 inches; it allows for a standard letter-sized page to be cut and scored so it can cover the 3/8-inch edges of the foamcore and leave a quarter inch flap to glue to the back of the foamcore and secure the edge.

The mockup I built is blue; the final product will be black, but I didn’t see myself using this particular pattern of paper very often, so I used it instead. I didn’t think to take any pictures of the build process; I’ll do that when I’m assembling the final product.

I think it turned out really well; it was good practice using a bone scorer, which I’ve only used a few times now (and yes, I learned you can tear through paper if you push too hard with the scorer – valuable lesson for the final product), and I learned that the Elmer’s glue stick I raided from Helen’s art box dries *way* too fast to be useful for a precision project. And I’ll want to be a bit more careful with the corners, although the ones on the mockup turned out pretty well.

I attached a piece of cardstock to the mockup just to see how it would fit; the cardstock is a 16th of an inch narrower than the backer board, because I wanted to leave some room for the hinge attaching the final pieces together. On the final product, I think I’ll make it an additional 1/16th of an inch narrower and an eighth of an inch narrower on the long side, too – to leave a 1/16th-inch border around the entire area. That’ll look really nice.

So – final dimensions for the actual popup are going to be 9-15/16 inches wide by 7-7/8 inches deep.

This is really starting to come together, especially considering I really haven’t done anything quite like this before. Hopefully the final product measures up, but so far I’m excited about the progress.

Book-nerd freak out: Madrid 2016

Somebody posted a variety of pictures from Madrid’s bid book for the 2016 Olympic games. It’s beautiful; I want one, just to look at.

I miss designing publications. 🙁

ADDITION: killer – the Madrid bid committee has the three volumes of the bid book available in their entirety in PDF format on its web site, here. Furiously downloading as I type this…

ADDITION 2: OK, now I have go to get the bid books for the other host finalists Chicago; Rio de Janiero; and Tokyo.

“Watchmen” prep work completed

Who watches the Watchmen?

Who watches the Watchmen?

We’re a little over a week out from the opening of “Watchmen,” a movie I’m more excited to see than any other in a long, long time. I didn’t even have this level of anticipation for “The Dark Knight.” I finished my pre-screening homework tonight, completing my first read of my 20-year-old trade paperback collection of the 12-issue limited series that spawned the film.

I hadn’t read “Watchmen” in I’m  honestly not sure how long; it’s been 15 years at the absolute least, and likely closer to 20 at this point. There were things I recalled – vague recollections and bits-and-pieces flashes triggered by the various trailers for the film playing everywhere you look – but I had forgotten even more, to the point that this latest read was all but new material.

Moreso than the details of the story, I had forgotten just how absolutely brilliant “Watchmen” is. After I finished it tonight, I wondered if I had even realized what a masterpiece it was when I first read it. I know I enjoyed it; I’m just not sure I was at a place in my life to actually get it. I think I get it now. And it’ll certainly be less than 15 years before I read it again to test whether I am correct.

Setting aside the source material — material which, as time goes on, seems increasingly regarded as one of the 20th centuriy’s finest literary works — the advance material for the film makes it seem as if its creators have crafted a movie that should be tremendously entertaining to watch. Reading the source material again, and you realize quickly the enormity of the task they’ve taken upon themselves in rendering this story to film.

I find that it’s necessary to always keep expectations in check for movies, because at some step in the evolutionary food chain of films, there always seems to be someone intent on screwing things up to please a focus group or appease an investor. Some broken cog in the machine not allowing movies to be what they could be, out of fear or ignorance or a simple grab for a bigger piece of the box office pie. Whatever the cause, disappointment and letdown seem far more frequent reactions than having that thought enter your mind that this time, by jove, they’ve done it.

If they should fail, or succeed even on some marginal level, “Watchmen” will still probably turn out to be a, pardon the pun, watchable and perhaps even enjoyable movie.

But what if Zach Snyder, the director of “Watchmen,” pulls this off? What if he has legitimately succeeded in translating this work to the big screen in such a way that the film reflects the greatness of the comic book series?What if it really is the film adaptation of this comic book that we’ve all played through in our minds while reading the story?

What if he’s done it?

My homework is done… Now I just need a ticket so I can see for myself.

Tapping the Vein, two weeks early

Earlier this afternoon, I received an e-mail from an indy record store in Philadelphia called IsoTank (visit them here) letting me know that the new CD “Another Day Down” by Tapping the Vein was in stock and ready to ship.

The cool thing about this? The release date for “Another Day Down” was supposed to be March 10 – hopefully IsoTank, from which I’ve purchased each of the other three TTV CDs I own, really did get it early, because the last CD from this band came out in the distant past of 2002. I’ve been waiting for new stuff from them for a long time.

While I patiently camp my mailbox waiting for this CD to arrive; it would be a pleasant surprise to have it show up earlier than I had been planning.

In the meantime, if you haven’t heard of Tapping the Vein, you can check out some of their music – including a couple of tracks from “Another Day Down” – on their MySpace page.