Author Archive

Saved? Polaroid

January 31, 2009

As we all know by now Polaroid stopped production on Dec. 31st, 2008. For over a year now people have been preparing themselves and mourning the loss. “Why is this happening!” we kept asking ourselves. The answer is simple. Artists, hipsters and a few of my relatives who think computers are evil (they don’t just not like computers, they really think an evil witch lives inside) were the only ones left buying Polaroid film. The rest of the world had moved on to digital. Who could blame them. Digital cameras are getting cheaper and cheaper and since nobody prints out their photos anyway you save on development costs. 

But Polaroid’s fate might not be sealed yet. Recently while checking out the Photojojo forums I saw a post that linked to this site. Could it be? Somebody bought a Polaroid factory and plans to begin production again? The page itself seemed kinda cryptic to me and for a few moments it seemed as if the news wasn’t spread that far. Of course within a day or two I started to see the news in all of the places I go for Polaroid news (polanoid.net and the flickr polaroid group). So the news looks good. The one thing that I’m tripping on a little bit is that it’s just integral film (I’m more a fan of pack film but I guess I can buy the Fuji pack film). I’m also cautiously optimistic about:

The Impossible mission is NOT to re-build Polaroid Integral film but (with the help of strategic partners) to develop a new product with new characteristics, consisting of new optimised components, produced with a streamlined modern setup. An innovative and fresh analog material, sold under a new brand name that perfectly will match the global re-positioning of Integral Films.

The idea that the project isn’t trying to recapture the past but instead move towards a future with a “Polaroid ” film that is modern is great. Of course sometimes when you mess with a good recipe the final dish sucks. But since the kitchen was closed before this chef showed up it doesn’t really matter. 

So there you have it. Polaroid may be back..soon..sort of.

Advertisements

When I Was Cool

September 12, 2008

Way back in 1993 during a blizzard I became an uncle. I was 15 and this would be the first, but not the last, time my sister would give birth. I didn’t know what to expect. Little did I know this was my chance to be cool. As I look back now this is right about the time that I began my development as a geek. This was slightly counteracted by the fact that by the time this kid would start to develop a personality and begin to look up to people I was the only immediate relative living in a big city. Definitely cool. Plus I had long hair, something which most guys in our town weren’t really into.

By the time he was able to talk I was the cool uncle trying to be an artist in the big city. A had a lock on the whole cool thing (at least as far as he was concerned). Whenever I would come to town he was a ball of energy wanting to do everything all at once. The kid would tire me out and when I would ask my sister how she keeps up with him she would tell me it’s because he’s so excited to hang out with his uncle.

I must admit it felt good to have somebody look up to me. I was the youngest in my family and never had this happen before. My reign of coolness went on unabated for years. It even continued when I gained a niece and another nephew. Even they thought I was cool. It was great. But then something began to happen with the oldest. It was so subtle that I didn’t even notice it at first. He became interested in skateboarding. No problem. I had began to skate and although I didn’t know much I knew enough to retain my coolness. Then he began to play guitar. Wonderful. Every kid should try the arts. But this kid was good. Really,  really good. The real red flag was when he started playing football. I can’t speak to the talent in my brother-in-law’s family, but nobody in my family had ever been good or even interested in sports. We were all in Little League at some point but football! That was unheard of! Plus he was good at that too! High school football coaches were calling his house to make sure he would join the team when got to high school. Things progress quickly here. Suddenly the kid is a great skateboarder, a talented athlete, and has formed a band. Before I know it he’s organizing a gig for his band to play at the local VFW (that pull a decent sized crowd) and has a girlfriend. At this point he’s probably the most successful person in my family and worse then that he is definitely cooler than me.

Meanwhile I continue to collect action figures for both my girlfriend and me. I can barely do the most basic of skateboard tricks, build model rockets,  and am starting to actually like Dr. Who. The coolness bestowed upon me by my uncle status is fading fast. What little I have may have vanished when I gave him a t-shirt I made myself with the logo for our imaginary rocket club on it. My coolness will soon be gone and then I’ll just be his uncle. I imagine he’ll still humor me when I invite him along on some geeky adventure but it won’t be the same. Rest in peace, My Coolness. It was fun while it lasted.

Seeing Wii-sults

August 19, 2008

Back in my mid 20’s, something odd happened one day. Suddenly, and seemingly without warning my pants didn’t fit. I had just bought these pants and immediately assumed I had gotten the length/width sixes mixed up. But that theory was throw in the trash when I checked the tag. I guess I really was an adult since I was finally upsizing. I knew (and was told by several slightly older co-workers) that once I gave into upsizing, there was no going back. I was going to become one of those guys whose belt looks like it was swallowed by his gut. The battle was on.

My first course of action was joining a group of co-workers in an after hours Tae Bo group. Not being the most athletic person, I was nervous. After all there was kicking involved. But it was pretty fun and despite my lackluster kicking ability, I picked it up fairly well. The group atmosphere helped and the only drawback was having to stare at Billy Blanks sweaty crotch. Soon people were telling me that it looked like I lost weight. I didn’t see any “real” results. My pants were still weren’t going on any easier and eventually the group, much like my old pants, disbanded.

I was losing the battle. I began skateboarding and got a second job that required a lot of walking. I figured these combined efforts would stem the tide. Unfortunately they didn’t. Occasionally I would try to go back to Tae Bo or use my girlfriend’s treadmill but I never did either for very long. Eventually I got used to having to go up a size each year until I cut myself off and then got use to wearing small pants.

When I heard the Wii Fit I didn’t think a lot about it at first. The concept seemed a natural fit (no pun intended) for the Wii. The whole basis of the Wii seemed to be getting people off the couch and moving while still playing fun video games.

Even the game it is packaged with, Wii Sports, can make you break a sweat. As time went on though the idea Wii Fit seemed to grow on me. After watching an interview with Shigeru Miyamoto on the Nintendo Channel, I was convinced. According to him, the point of it wasn’t just to lose weight but to actually make you aware of your body and what you are putting in it and also to create discussions about it among families. Listening to Miyamoto made me a believer and on May 21st, I woke up early and got in line at the Nintendo Store at 8 a.m.

When I got home I immediately put in the disk and got on board. After the first workout I started to think that I might actually lose weight. Just a few minutes into Hula Hoop® and I was starting to break a serious sweat. The push-up/plank exercise made my arms sore and the yoga seemed to be stretching me. I prefer to believe that this was happening because it was a good workout and not because at that point walking from the couch to the kitchen was a considerable distance for me.

The other reason I thought this would work was that I liked doing it. Thanks to a friend my step aerobics class was filled with the cast of The Office, I felt ridiculous doing Hula Hoop®, and when things aren’t goofy fun (like Strength Training) I enjoyed trying to get the high score. Soon enough the scale started saying I was weighing less. Even more amazing, the number kept going down. Here it is 3 months later and I’ve lost 10 pounds. The last time that happened I had a stomach flu. So it seems to be working. And I’m not the only one. There are countless blogs ( like this one or this article) of people tracking their results.

But there’s something else going on here. Much like the Wii console itself, Wii Fit seems to becoming a sort of pop phenomenon. It’s already being used to aid in rehabilitation (or Wiihab). It’s been at the center of controversy. Plus this video has become such a hit on YouTube that Nintendo felt the need to deny it being a marketing scheme launched by them. Playboy has even posted similar videos on their website.

Is this the future or exercise? Are gyms obsolete? Is it just a way for fat ass gamers to become a normal shape? All I know is I have to go buy a new belt.

Apollo 13 Moves Toward My Top Ten

August 12, 2008

Recently AMC showed their DVD_TV version of Apollo 13. This is one of those movies that I watch pretty much whenever it’s on. It doesn’t matter what part of the movie I come in at, I will always watch it. I’ve found Ron Howard’s movies to be enjoyable for a while. They’re not usually critical smashes they are pretty solid “hollywood” style movies. there’s sort of a warm glow that surrounds them. But there’s something different about Apollo 13. The emotional core of it is stronger than any other Howard movie. Plus there is a palpable sense of the passion the people working on this movie had for the story. If what scrolled across the bottom of my screen while watching DVD_TV is true it must have been one hell of a shoot. Dozens of rides in the vomit comet so they could film weightless segments 23 seconds at a time, slowly bobbing up and down on set to appear weightless, trying to act in a cramped duplicate of a space capsule with a camera only a foot or two away. Movie sets in general aren’t all that fun but this goes beyond waking up at odd hours and having to act to a tennis ball in front of a green screen. Heck, they even used giant air conditioners to chill the set so the actors breath could be seen. I could only imagine what it would be like to be a grip or a PA on a set where you have to wear a parka indoors. Like the space program itself, they did it not because it was easy but because it was hard. And if there is any story worth going through all that for it’s the story of the early space mission and the Apollo 13 mission in particular.

Being born in the late 70’s I grew up not realizing the accomplishments or the enormity of the space program. I took for granted that we put a man on the moon (actually we put 12 there), bounced around, played some golf and came back. Other than that all I knew was Chairface Chippendale tried to write his name on it on The Tick. I don’t think I quite “got” it for a while. I was still waiting for things to be like they were in The Jetsons; high rises in the skies, jetpacks for everyone, flying cars,robot dogs (which we do have now…sort of) and of course Orbity. It wasn’t until a few years ago while working on a video shot where I met John Glenn, who was there to be interviewed, that it started to sink in. Listening to him talk about the beginning of the space program was when I started to think about what it would be like to be one of the first astronauts. To me they were the guys who drank Tang, I never realized that at the beginning they were test pilots. Just normal guys who volunteered to be strapped to rockets and attempt to ride off the planet. Think about that for a minute. That’s a little F-ed up. The fact that so few people have died in the quest to push the limits is a bit astounding.

The thing about Apollo 13 (the movie) is that it completely captures the energy of the space program in its glory. It makes you feel like you are there watching the missions live on tv. Between that and the recent Discovery mini-series, When We Left Earth, I have a new appreciation for the space program and what it was (and is) trying to accomplish. When a movie can make me feel that way I know it’s doing its job.

Shall We Play A Game?

August 1, 2008

This year WarGames turns 25. I can’t remember how old I was when I first saw it. I pretty sure it was on tv. Considering it was released in theaters when I was 6, I doubt my parents let my brother and I go to a techno-thriller where a kid nearly starts world war 3. Whenever the blessed event finally happened, it was love at first sight. Like a lot of classic 80’s movies it had the two great fears of the decade:

1. The threat of nuclear war

and

2. The machines are taking over.

The vague notion that the US and USSR may blow each other to pieces grabbed my interest. Plus it had all this techno stuff I had never heard of before.

Computers can talk to each other! Backdoor passwords? This stuff was all new to me (as it was to many people) and I loved it. I felt so smart knowing what a modem was. The first time I heard one work (while signing onto AOL) I immediately thought of David Lightman. (Right after which I thought, “Man I wish I had Falken’s remote controlled dinosaur.”)   Plus it had Matthew Broderick. I will readily admit that as a young lad I had a man crush on him. Let’s face it, the guy was (and possibly still is) the shit. By the time I saw WarGames I had already seen him in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Project X (which how I learned to say “apple” and “help” in sign language) . He had a synth that made sneezing noises and he trained chimps to fly planes. What 10 year wouldn’t think he’s awesome.

When I realized a while ago I could get it onDemand, I watched it several times. My girlfriend thought I was being goofy or watching it for cheese factor but I wasn’t. I still enjoy it. Now I found out that not only am I not in the minority in thinking that it’s good but it’s now being called a classic! I first found out when AMC started showing it in honor of this anniversary. (It is called Amercian Movie CLASSICS.) Then I found out (to late) that it was being shown in theaters for one day only.  Then an article Wired Magazine calls it a classic! So it isn’t just me! There’s even a 25th anniversary dvd release and a crappy direct to dvd sequel! Take that Tremors!

The Wired article  also made a point that had never occured to me. David Lightman is the first real geek hero. He was hacking into government computers while getting Ally Sheedy hot and bothered. So congratulations WarGames not only are you a classic but you are sort of the Rosa Parks of geeks.

Who Will Watch the Watchmen?

July 27, 2008

It’s Comic-Con time again and so thousands of people are flocking to San Diego to trade, buy, sell, and collect comics. Oh yeah and I think they do some movie stuff there too. Comic-Con is quickly becoming Hollywood’s newest whore. Now that the studios realize that not only will geeks flock to see a good comic movie, but that they will also pony up for the merchandise, Hollywood is doing it’s best to capitalize on geek dollars. This summer’s Iron Man movie may have been the most exciting event in some geeks’ lives since the invention of the Real Doll. Since Spider-man first hit multiplexes, movie after movie has involved spandex clad men (and occasionally women). Most of these movies have made an incredible amount of money and the biggest may be yet to come. Next year Watchmen will be released.

Watchmen is one of my, and most comic fans, favorite graphic novels of all time. It’s regarded as not only a great graphic novel but also a great work of literature. It’s one of those works of art that after which nothing is ever the same again. I first read Watchmen in high school on the advice of my local comic book dealer (who never steered me wrong). The size intimidated me at first but one I got going I couldn’t stop. I became a true believer in Alan Moore and walked around preaching the virtues of Watchmen to anyone who would listen. It was a book I couldn’t keep to myself and could completely be enjoyed by a non-comic reader. Yeah it’s about costumed heroes but it’s about so much more than that.

A movie version has been in the works for a long time but for one reason or another it never seemed to materialize. Everybody except Alan Moore seem to be excited about it. Each time I’d hear about a new script or a new director I would have such conflicted feelings. The book is so cinematic it practically cries out to be made into a movie but it’s so dense there’s no way all of the nuance could be squeezed into a two hour flick. And seriously what are the odds that Hollywood would make a movie version that would live up to my beloved book. At one point several years ago there was a ray of hope. Paul Greengrass was announced as the new director. I was already a fan of Bourne Supremacy and after seeing Bloody Sunday, I knew he could handle the material. Of course eventually the walls came crashing down when Paramount put the movie into turnaround amid budget concerns and studio politics.

Ozymandias is on the far right.

Now Zach Snyder is helming the film. After making a zillion dollars with his adaption of Frank Miller’s 300, the studio believes he could be the one to do it. Aside from the fervor the MPAA stirred up, I haven’t seen (or read) a lack of confidence on the part of fans. I was being cautiously optimistic. until I saw the cover of Entertainment Weekly which made me extremely depressed. I mean come on! They look ridiculous! Especially Ozymandias, who looks like some young asshole who needs a slap. The article inside restored a little confidence but what has really been making me think it might not suck is the trailer. The only part of it that I didn’t really agree with is where it called Zach Snyder a “visionary” director. I don’t think following source material necessarily makes you a visionary. The rest of it looked so good that even my girlfriend was finally interested in reading the book. I’ve been trying for seven years to do that! I watched it on my computer and thought it was ok but when I saw it on the big screen before The Dark Knight  I thought, “Wow, that might be good.” Ozymandias still looks dumb but the rest of them don’t look to silly once you see them in action. Could Watchmen be the great film it deserves to be? I hope so. Right now I feel the ambivalence of Dr. Manhattan, the pessimism of Rorschach, and the hope of Nite Owl.

There at the Beginning

July 21, 2008

Very rarely to do people get to meet their heroes. Nine times out of ten they are a sports star, famous musician, or other such celebrity whose world you don’t have access to. If you do meet them it’s usually a short “Nice to meet you. I’m a big fan.” sort or thing. Having a real conversation almost never happens. But sometimes, just sometimes it does…

In the fall of 1997 I was in my junior year of art school. I was enjoying the experience overall but it was rough going at times. You see, I wanted to draw comic books. That wasn’t what most people at school planned on doing when they got their BFA. There were only a small group of us in the illustration department who were interested in graphic novels (high brow code for comics). In my class I think it was two. My instruction in the ways of comics was pretty much non-existent. I was learning how to be an illustrator. How to make paintings for corporate or commercial clients and how to get them done on time. While this stuff was definitely helping me become a better artist it didn’t feel like I was any closer to drawing comics. Then towards the end of the semester we were told we could sign up for a spring internship. I read through the list and immediately saw the one I wanted: Dynamic Forces – producer of limited edition and collectors comics. I was floored. Finally something to do with comics. It even called them comics!

I applied for the position just before Christmas break. The entire time I was home I was calling the teacher in charge of interships to make sure everything is going according to plan. It had been a long time since I was that excited. I remember talking to my friend, Dave, saying that this is where it would all begin.

When it actually began it wasn’t exactly glamourous. The building was an old warehouse on a strip of highway that was mostly populated by strip clubs. Shower stages seemed to be the newest stripper technology. I didn’t care. I was working in the world of comics. My assignments were mostly clerical stuff but every now and then get a cool assignment like writing copy for ad time we had bought on the Howard Stern Show. The real payoff (and reason why my supervisor there thought I would benefit from the internship) was the signings. Artists would be flown in to sign copies of whatever comics they worked on. I would work at these signings by passing the comics from one artist to the next, bagging the books, opening new boxes, and essentially hanging out and chatting it up with actual comic pros. It was awesome! Quickly I met Al Williamson (who I later had lunch with at his Honesdale studio) and Clayburn Moore. I even got to keep the slightly damaged stuff. If something wasn’tcompletely perfect it couldn’t be sold and I would have the opportunity to get it for free (which is how I got my Willow figure and started collecting Buffy figures). But the best was yet to come. My hero Alex Ross was coming to sign copies of Earth X. I was and still am a huge Alex Ross fan. I thought Kingdom Come was not only brilliantly written but drop dead gorgeous. I didn’t normally read mainstream comics but for some reason (I think it was the advice of my local comic dealer) I picked this up. It was hard to put down. Instantly Ross became an inspiration. He painted heroes with beauty and a humanity that couldn’t be matched.

When the day came I was probably the most excited I had ever been. I stood there passing comics from one member of the Earth X crew to the next. Occasionally bringing out more boxes of unsigned comics. As the day wore on I got more brave and tried to talk to the guys and even be a part of their conversations, the best of which was one between Alex and Jim Krueger. I don’t remember exactly how it started but Alex was talking about characters he liked and the two were soon plotting out a mini-series about the original Human Torch. If I’m remembering correctly it involved vampires and possibly even Namor becoming a vampire. The Human Torch was to be the hero and would be assisted by a woman (I can’t remember if she was a girlfriend, or just a female Torch) named, Toro. I remember thinking how cheesy I though the name Toro sounded so like one of the guys I said, “Toro. Alex does that sound like a bull fighter or something.” He looked at me and I could see the lightbulb go off in his head. “We’ll make her hispanic,” he said excitedly. I almost shit. I just helped Alex Ross

L to R: Alex Ross, John Paul Leon, Bill Reinhold, Jim Krueger, and Me

with a character (sorta). The two got more and more involved plotting of the whole series. It was a thing of beauty to watch. Alex even sketched out a rough cover for an issue with a sharpie and had me run it up to someone in one of the offices (I thought about photo-coping it but for some reason didn’t. I think the copier was on the fritz).  Soon all the Earth X stuff was signed and Alex wasfinishing up signing a box of Batman comics. When he was all done he sat back in his chair and let out a sigh of relief. “If you could just sign one more, Alex.” I requested. “One more box!” “No, just one more comic.” I pulled out my copy of the first issue of Kingdom Come. Everyone let out a little laugh and he was more then gracious about signing it. Of course I brought my camera and Alex had the president of Dynamic Forces take a picture of me with the Earth X crew. It was a near perfect day.

About a year later Phil, and I went to the Warner Bros. Store in NYC to see Alex and Paul Dini who were signing copies of a Batman comic they did together. Original artwork would be on display and they would be signing comics. When I got up to Alex I introduced myself and he actually remembered me. I asked about the Human Torch series and he replied that Marvel didn’t go ahead with it. They didn’t think the original Torch could carry a whole series. Phil stood next to me awkwardly starring at Paul Dini and getting uncomfortable as the line began to back up. I said my goodbyes, made some comment that we would have to work together someday, and left. On the way home Phil said watching me talk to Alex was like watching Jason Lee and Stan Lee converse in Mallrats.

This story had become one of my favorites over the years and I always wondered if Alex would ever get to do the book he wanted. A few months ago I received this email from a friend:

Remember telling me about how you met Alex Ross & he and some colleagues were brainstorming a HUGE crossover event that involved Namor, the original Human Torch, and a Hispanic girlfriend for one of the characters named “Toro?” Well, I picked up a promotional brochure for the upcoming Avengers vs Invaders limited series (for which Ross is artistic director) yesterday and I thought of you. It will feature Namor (both the Golden Age version and the contemporary version) and the original Human Torch … AND a sidekick named “Toro.” Coincidence??

I couldn’t believe it. Was it true? After a quick search on the Marvel website I found this article, which had this quote from Jim Krueger:

“Nick [Barrucci, Publisher for Dynamite Entertainment and President of Dynamic Forces], Alex and I have been talking together for a long time—about a lot of stuff,” Krueger continues. “Anyhow, this was one of those things that just sort of organically began a number of years ago when Alex and I were signing copies of EARTH X at Dynamic Forces and talking about doing something with the [Human] Torch. Anyhow, a number of years later, Alex and I are working on Justice and we each got a call from [Nick]. [Dynamite] had just pitched an idea to Marvel of an Avengers/Invaders team-up with Alex and I attached. In my mind, I went back to the Torch and Alex’s and my love for not only that character, but the entire Invaders mythology. So, we all started talking to Marvel and the ball just kept rolling.”

It was really happening and I had been there when it started.