Thursday, May 29, 2008


"LA STELE DI BATMAN", originally uploaded by Gian-boy.

Thats right, Batman vs Anubis. For Fernando

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

An open letter to George Lucas,

WARNING: If you haven’t seen “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” stop reading right now.

I just got back from your latest return to my youth Indiana Jones and the New B-Movieish Title from the 1950s. It is difficult to write this since I may not remember all the things I wanted to tell you while the movie was going. Also, The Daily Show is on and I have already got more enjoyment from the first 10 minutes of that (which they do nightly) than I did from the entirety of your new movie.

How to best approach this. Let's do it in segments.

Please stop trying to write a story. You had something once. I don't know if it is because you were young and creative or it was because you didn't have the limitless power of CGI at your disposal to do what your heart truly desired, but you don't have it anymore. Your current situation is not working for you. This movie had some left over charm from the earlier movies. The mystery, the sets were reminiscent, and there was adventure. But adventure didnt grab me and make me believe like it did before. Every time i thought the characters might have a moment something exploded, or there was a comic relief moment, or something really cool happened like Shia driving a motorcycle down a train platform and everyone just treats it like normal becuase he looks so cool doing it with a sideways cap? Oh sorry, they probably didnt see him come out of the fucking solid cloud of smoke that he emerged from right next to the train car.

I dont know if you know this George, but just because you put a retro title on a movie, and use lots of special effects does not mean that we will believe what ever the fuck you put on screen. Which brings us of course, to believability. WARNING: Spoilers ahead.

Before I went to this, when I asked people what they thought of it that saw it before me they usually said "Eee it was an Indiana Jones movie." (p.s. Mr. Lucas no one really likes your movies anymore. We go to them because we loved the first ones and we have decided that finding out a little more of the story is worth you sucking the life out of these things that you have given to our generation. Thanks.) This was not an Indiana Jones movie. In Indy movies, you wonder if some of this might really be possible. Is that really hidden somewhere in the world? If I step out of my life could find this if I have the wherewithal and smarts like Dr. Jones to chase it?

An Indy movie shouldn't make me think "WHOA no way!. Amazing! Wait, really. No way." So within the first 30 minuts of the movie you want me to believe Indy can now use his whip to retrieve a gun and place it in the hand of a comrade ready to shoot, run on 3 inch wooden beams that are 4 feet apart 20 feet in the air, cross the desert on foot as fast as a motorcade, survive a ground zero nuclear explosion in a refrigerator (thanks for the close-up of the label telling me it is lined with lead so i wasn't drawn out of the movie thinking "Wha?" while it was hurled 30 fucking miles at who knows how many MPH, clear of the deadly radiation. Did Frigidaire have Inertial Dampening Systems in '54? Star Trek didn't get them until the 22nd century. The 50's were amazing!). Oh and while we are on the 50's stop brining us back to American Graffiti with blatant 1950s "at the Hop" scenes. You place me in a 50's diner with 20 guys in college jackets vs 20 tough looking guys (with pompadores) in leather jackets and put in a fun 50's tune to keep me into it!? Jesus man you totally pulled me out of the movie AGAIN thinking Where the fuck did that come from!? And while we are at it, your choice of music sucks. Choose a song that we havent heard 1000 times in every 50s movie. I have heard the oldies station, i know there are more songs than the ones on the Time/Life collection. I could go on with the "No way!" moments, but i would give you the whole movie. (the vine swing scene? FUCK!)

I don't remember if your plots were predictable when I saw the only ones, I was 10. But now, wait the kid is her son!? Wait, and he is YOUR son!? Wow, I did not see that coming and it really brings the whole thing together now. It is like, you are all family, this is the continuance I was looking for! And the scene where she told Indy the kid was his son? Was that really necessary? Do you remember back when you didnt have all the money in the world? Before you marketed the shit out of every franchise you own (more on that later) and you had to make choices? When most writers or directors write/film a story they have to think "Does this forward the plot?" There was NO REASON for them to make a half hearted escape attempt, have a moment in the sand trap (which at least wasnt CGI) to tell Indy the kids true identity, and get caught again. She could have told him in the tent in a subtle little scene and it would have meant so much more. Yes its possible that Speilberg would have overlit it from the back like he has done since A.I. Or that Harrison would have fucked it up since he lost his acting ability after Regarding Henry (if you want to see Harrison at his best, go rent The Frisco Kid) but at least you would have tried. Fucking choices man.

While we are talking about choices, lets talk about leaving some things to the imagination. At the end of Raiders, when we dont ever see what is in the Ark we just know that "It's Beautifuuaal", Jesus, everyone remembers that because we never saw it. At the end of this you showed us eeeverything! Don't show me your bloomers, thats not going to keep me coming back.

Special Effects.
Oh Mr. Lucas, this has been coming for a long time. Just because you can do something with computers, doesn't mean that you should. Do you remember when you did the first 3 Star Wars? People loved Yoda and Chewie. There is something about the physicality of masks and fake eyes, when done right, that people can really connect with. If someone is CG, even really good CG, your mind knows and if you arent thinking "Wow that is amazingly realistic", you still wont connect with the character I don't think. People loved Yoda and Chewie, and people remember Jaba. I didnt give a shit about the Wookies in the new Star Wars'. And although Yoda's fight scene was cool, if that was the original Yoda I wouldn't have really connected with him either. There is something about the physicality of looking into someones eyes, even when they are glass, that makes a difference. CGIChewie was not a big fuzzball. He was just a big pixelball and we all know it even though it is technically amazing to render hair with the complexity that we can now do. Good for you.

When I see that ILM is attached to a project these days, I am disappointed. I actually expect less of the movie after I see that because I know that you and all the people that work in the culture that you have created will just be blowing your virtual load all over the screen. Did you see the Fountain? The story could have been better, but the visuals were AMAZING and no CGI. If ILM had done it, there would be no meat to the scenes for me to hold on to, to hang emotions on to.

And this is where it is obvious that you let your imagination make no choices at all. I know that you can make your dreams come true because you can have someone at a computer do anything that you imagine. But a better story comes out of choices, out of limits, like exist in any medium. Except those don't exist for you, because you leased the Presido and you can do whatever you want.

Which brings me to my last point, licensing. I know that you invented modern movie licensing and product tie-ins. But you have gone too far. I have now worked at 2 companies that you license to make products and licensing tie ins for. I know that most anything that your company touches turns to gold. The Star Wars slot machines are some of the biggest money makers for IGT. And even in that weird offshoot of your trademarked vault, they find new ways to slightly tweek the brand they are licensing, make a slightly different product, your guys say OK, and you make more money. You lay down some guidlines, they follow them, and everyone comes out richer. I see how shamelessly your intellectual copyrighted materials are. People love the novelty of them. They love that something that is special in their hearts is packaged in this weird way and want to experience that too. In a slot machine, on a Cheese-It box, in a slightly different slot machine with progressive wins!, on shirts, at Disneyland, etc. But these things work because they are special to people. You are taking advantage of the smile that comes on people's faces when they see something they love that you own. I have seen how these products are created and it is ugly. But it is gold.

Late in his life Walt Disney was on tape for a moment smoking. He asked them to erase the tape. He said that even though that was part of him (he was a chronic smoker), he was not Walt Disney anymore. He understood that what he had created belonged to the people that loved it now and he had to respect that. Walt never let commercial interests drive his organization. Later after his death that is what happened. (Walt would not let McDonalds into Disneyland, the purity of the park being seperate from the normal world was more important. Today there is a McDonalds fry stand in Frontierland). You have sold out and showed people how to best sell out like no one every has.

I once saw an interview where you said you don't care what the fans think, you write for you. Well I believe you.


Saturday, May 17, 2008


So currently I work at an Internet company. Before this I was working at IGT which is also a technology company, but much older and established. They make gaming machines (slot machines) and by their own admission they are not on the cutting edge of technology. They have a product that they make well and they stick to that.

I was in a meeting there one time (about January '07), one of the bullet points that the woman running the meeting had was that she wanted us to know that Wikipedia can be changed by anyone to say anything and wanted to let us know not to use it as a factual source of info for our writings. She said she just found that out and asked if anyone else in the room knew that. All of the other people were turning to each other saying "Ohh" and "I didnt know that" and "Did you know that?" I was so stunned. My shock must have been written all over my face because the woman running the meeting actually asked me "You knew that already Zack?" I had no words. For our work I knew we shouldnt be using Wikipedia as an authoritative resource but I wanted to let them see the beauty and possibilities in Wiki's. But in the moment I was stuck in there was no way to do that without being a total asshole. "Sure that is the whole idea of a Wiki, to harness the power of the community..."

I am about to start a little personal wiki project

So I let t go and just said, "yes I knew that" and then something about how there really still is a lot of good info there. It was a very surreal moment for me. My first reaction was to think I can't beleive they didn't know that! But i realized after that they are probably in the majority and me and people in my industry are in the minority, taking for granted what we see in these new technologies. In the past if something had as much buzz and trust as wikipedia does, of course it must be trusted as authoritative. But with Wikipedia you have to be aware that there very possibly are errors but it is the power of how much information and error correction (even if not authoritative) that makes it such a wealth of info. You have to learn to trust it differently.

Anyway, I am about to start a little personal Wiki project and I was thinking about that today. If my project works out, i'll let you know ;)

Friday, May 16, 2008


Mustangs!, originally uploaded by Zack Sheppard.

Wild mustangs out in Nevada.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

New iPod!

Power Tool - Two Heads are Better than One (from the Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure soundtrack)

After my first iPod and the hard drive that all my music was backed up on also died magically at the same time about 3 years ago. I haven't bothered getting another iPod because of the pain of burning all the music again. But I got an iPod for my birthday so I saddled up a couple weekends ago and put all my music in there.

Dr. Octagon - halfsharkalligatorhalfman

Most of what I put on there are CDs that I have collected over the last 16 years. You know these, you have listened to them so many times there are some you don't really care about, there are some you still love, and there are some you bought more recently but that you still don't listen to that much.

If you are like me, there aren't as many of the later as there used to be. I just don't buy that many CDs anymore. And I was thinking when I was loading all this music up that my CDs just don't excite me like they used to. It is so much more fun to turn on Pandora, explore the Hype Machine, or turn on the Contrast Podcast and maybe find that one song every few weeks that I can't stop listening to.

Countries of the World - Animaniacs

The stuff I might find on the web is so much fresher than most of the stuff on my CDs. And not just because it's new, fresh like some little song from 20, 30, years or more that you have never heard (Vienna (live) - Billy Joel) or forgot how much you loved. (Golden Slumbers).

And Podcasts! I think it that my iPod will now be dynamic that is exciting, where before it just housed CDs. I wish it had a most recently downloaded. Or! I wish it could read RSS feeds so i could view my friends photostreams or read boing boing.

Maybe there is some way that I just dont know of yet, i'll go look.

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Genographic Project

Line up ladies!, originally uploaded by Vanita.

I accidentally woke up an hour early today so I might as well use the time (which has been precious lately) to write a post. I was at Louie's Basque Corner this weekend talking to an old basque guy who said that his son sent his DNA to the National Geographic and helped him trace his bloodline back 60,000 years! The other old basque guy we were talking to said, "Well what did you find out?" And the first guy said, "He found out we came from a couple of guys coming out of Africa!"

First, I thought it was awesome that he was willing to believe that his family came from Africa (the guy he was talking to was more skeptical). And second I thought it was amazing that there was a program like that. I had an idea what he might be talking about since i have Journey of Man at home on DVD. (here it is on Netflix) Journey of Man is a really amazing movie. I originally got it because my parents saw it and bought it for me thinking that I needed to see it and would love it. It is about how we are all related and the story of how geneticists are using markers in our blood to actually follow the migration of people over thousands of years. The host who is also one of the lead scientists working on the project is a little heavy handed but it is still amazing work. He goes around the world and finds people that have the genetic markers that help connect the story. There is something unexpectedly inspiring in the movie, not in the "we are all connected" way, but kinda. I highly recommend seeing it and finding out what I'm talking about ;)

Anyway, even after many Pecon punches and a full night of drinking, dancing, hiccups, and more fun than I should be allowed to pack into a night, the next morning I remembered what the guy said about the DNA test and found The Genographic Project. Sure enough, the project director is the same guy from Journey of Man and they are using DNA to look for markers. Just imagine, being able to trace where you came from tens of thousands of years back! Genealogy is a VERY time consuming process with dead ends and difficulties at every turn. Now as stated on the site,

this is not a genealogy study. You will not learn about your great-grandparents or other recent relatives, and your DNA trail will not necessarily lead to your present-day location. Rather, your results will reveal the anthropological story of your direct maternal or paternal ancestors—where they lived and how they migrated around the world many thousands of years ago.

Although it is much more impersonal than a genealogy with family names and the stories that you find in doing that research, this offers such a deeper look than any genealogy project could ever hope to.

But who knows. As the project grows and accrues more and more data and relationships there are numerous ways that you could use the data, ways we haven't thought of yet. Maybe more information could be associated with different lines or more specific lines. They might put the Mormon's to shame! (the leaders in genealogical data).

Anyway, stop reading this and go check out The Genographic Project website. It looks amazing.