When I got home yesterday, I discovered that NaNi had put her snow day time to very good use.
When I got home yesterday, I discovered that NaNi had put her snow day time to very good use.
We were at Merrimack High School this morning for a meeting regarding some testing Isaac had done over the past couple of weeks. It was just after morning announcements, and as we went to our meeting, the music from Star Wars could be heard coming from every room.
I caught enough of the description playing with an apparent news report to later learn that Merrimack High School had worked with New Hampshire-based filmmaker Jeff Capone to produce a Star Wars parody entitled Star Sports, that won for the Best Parody in the Fan Movie Challenge presented by Lucasfilm and Atom at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con International.
In a typical day, I come across many fascinating things that aren’t exactly well known. This is a list of things which interest me, and probably does not reflect interest in the general population. Of course, thinking about that alone is of interest to me, so … (Ah, recursion!)
Cyborgs Are Real
Way cool neuroscience.
Gizmodo Goes to Lego
Far more here than I could summarize, including a video tour of the Lego factory.
Star Wars is Nearer than You Think
Actually, Star Wars weapons fire charges of ionized Tibanna gas, but you’ll get the idea.
Microsoft 3D Modeler
And you thought everything from Microsoft was evil.
The Large Hadron Collider Rap
Almost as good as “White and Nerdy.”
ShapeWays 3D modeling
These aren’t quite replicators, but affordable 3D “printing” is now at our disposal.
Marketing and Stop Signs
What happens when the marketing department designs a stop sign? (Software and graphics design often go this way.)
The Life of the Chinese Gold Farmer
Gamers will understand the reference. Others may learn something.
Keeper of the Star Wars Canon
Imagine having to hold the continuity of a universe together single-handedly. (Well, it helps to have some database skills.)
The Mythbusters Weren’t Allowed to Bust This.
What “the man” doesn’t want you to know about RFID.
I Have Decided to Become President
What do you think of, “Grow up, you babies!” as a campaign slogan?
Skvid = SKit on VIDeo
Last week our pastor asked me to put together a video skit to help illustrate a sermon in a series of lessons on stewardship: What happens when we overwhelm ourselves with choices and activities? Of course, it also illustrates beautifully the quirkiness of the Wilcox family.
I did the video in Windows Movie Maker, a free download for Windows XP. I had to overcome a quirk that kept locking the software up, discovering that previewing clips in the preview window wouldn’t work correctly, unless I dragged the clips to the timeline first. I can’t explain that, but wish I’d found the answer hours earlier. Movie Maker isn’t bad, but I need something that will let me treat the audio track from the video separately, as well as add more audio layers.
The film was shot entirely out of sequence, in order to meet the availability schedule of the actors (my kids), over the course of a very busy Saturday. The Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back clip was created by shooting our own HDTV, the quickest way I could think of to get the piece I needed.
Background music includes Ella Fitzgerald’s, “I’m Beginning to See the Light,” and the title theme from Back to the Future.
Overall, it’s a tad too long at just over 6 minutes (the goal was 5 minutes), and I never got around to including any video transitions. I may tweak it a bit in the next few days, especially if I try out a more advanced software package, and hope to get it down to 4 to 4.5 minutes. I recall seeing George Lucas talking about an old filmmaker adage, “Films are never finished, just abandoned,” and how he had the technology (and money) to keep going back to his films to finish them the way he wanted.
Last night, Doug mentioned that he wanted to make banana bread. Now this is major.
So, after dinner, he and Naomi headed out to the neighbors to get 1/2 cup of shortening. He tried a few homes before getting some. The only thing I had to do was put out the ingredients, and he and Naomi did the rest.
The finished product looked great and tasted great. I was very impressed. I told him, “This is just the beginning, just think of all of the things you can start making.” He wasn’t all that keen on that idea, but this morning he mentioned to Naomi that they can make more this weekend.
Doug’s teaching techniques are quite unique, too. I found him telling Naomi, “You have to let go your aggression on the bananas … feel the hate,” when they needed to be mashed. Waaaaay too much Star Wars influence here. She had a lot of fun, and Doug commented that it was fun working with her, too. Naomi also likes to help me cook, so she now gets the teaching from both of us. Which is of course helpful for her to be well rounded.
Robotics (especially for Neal Stephenson fans):
Space Slide Shows:
For years, we waited in fear while director Peter Jackson worked on The Lord of the Rings movies. Those who so loved the books were not convinced, especially given the early press, that any director could possibly bring them to screen in a manner that would please diehard fans.
But he did it. We abandoned our idolatrous worship of George Lucas, and erected a new god in his place: Peter Jackson.
Nichelle and I have just watched the trailer for the upcoming King Kong remake, directed by Jackson, and believe that he may have done the impossible again: Making a good remake, and making a good film out of the King Kong story.
There aren’t very many digital cinemas, nationwide. There were 83, if memory serves, when Star Wars Episode I opened. We were fortunate enough to live near one.
DLP is, quite frankly, an amazing improvement over film. I have heard that there are some theaters with a newer DLP projector that has even higher resolution.
Note: This article contains spoilers. If you want to read about the experience without giving away details on the film, see The Force at Midnight (The Star Wars Episode III Experience)—No Spoilers
Okay, let’s hear what you thought.
Being at the first showing of Star Wars Episdode III was really exciting in many ways.
Nichelle and I weaseled our way into attending the midnight opening at the Apple Tree Cinemas, along with our friends Mark and Shelby Sohmer, and six of their friends: Matt and Wendy Camillieri, Phil and Jennifer Wilson, Matt and Heather Graves. Their plan was to go out to eat ealier at the nearby 99 restaurant, and then head over between 9:30 and 10:00 to get into line.
I still had my Jedi costume from Episode I, and Nichelle surprised me by announcing that she would also create a costume. She found one of David’s action figures that would be possible to re-create, and hit the costume shops for makeup, thrift shops for the clothing, and a fabric store for a few dollars’ worth of material.
Nichelle and I had our Wednesday night Bible study at church, and then needed to install the baby sitter(s) at our house and change into our costumes, so dinner with the group was out for us. We got to the theater just before 11, and found the rest of our group waiting out back for the opening at 12:01 a.m.
Below are the costumes my wife Nichelle and I wore (and our son, Isaac, hamming it up). Nichelle is dressed as Jedi Master Luminara Unduli. (Disclaimer: This is a very unflattering picture of Nichelle, and not a very good idea of what my Jedi costume looked like, either.) Nichelle and I were asked to pose for pictures on our way in, and complimented on our costumes on our way out.
Star Wars fans are an interesting bunch, and the fandom was truly in Force (I couldn’t resist—sorry) that evening. The lines went out around the building in every direction. While waiting for the film, we saw dozens of costumes: Lea Organa, Darth Vader (thanks primarily to the Darth Vader Voice Changer helmet now available in toy stores everywhere), Boba Fett, an attempt at General Grievous (which I didn’t figure out until the next day), several jedi. Light sabers were in abundance, including a few very nice plasma-tube models with realistic sound effects and a very convincing (if permanently attached) blade, the plasma in which extended and retracted when it was powered up. (Of course, there is such as thing as going overboard with this.)
Most of our group was at the far back of the line, and when we got in, Nichelle and I discovered that only 8 seats had been saved instead of 10. We settled for what appeared to be the only two adjoining seats left, in the far left of the third row of the “orchestra pit” section of the theater—not really ideal viewing.
We ran into several people from our church, most of whom were guys who had left their wives at home with the children. (Personally, I hate attending anything without Nichelle, although a break from the kids is sometimes welcome.)
There was quite a bit of time to wait between opening the auditorium and starting the movie. Some fans brought laptops or portable DVD players and were watching the other Star Wars films. People were chatting, laughing, trying to make pithy (perhaps Sithy) remarks. The atmosphere was festive, yet full of anticipation.
The management held a costume contest, which we had not known about. (As a prize, in our auditorium they gave away the full-size Chewbacca cardboard stand-up which had been used for promotion before then.) About a dozen of us lined up in front of everyone, and a cheer-based voice vote was conducted. It became clear that the winner would not be the one with the best costume, but the favorite character. Nichelle and I did fairly well; ultimately, though, Boba Fett won out over Darth Vader. Vader then attacked Boba with a light saber, which generated laughter and applause.
Our friend Phil Luchon reported via cell phone that in his theater in Randolph, Massachusetts, people set off the fire alarm twice, and they had to evacuate the auditorium. A guy dressed as a stormtrooper yelled, “The first transport is away!” and everyone cheered.
Then the magic began! (Except that the left half of our screen was badly out of focus, and I found that very distracting, especially being so close to the front. The manager of Apple Tree Cinemas is sending us VIP passes—there was, indeed, a problem with the lens.)
Without revealing much in this non-spoiler article, we really loved the film. Anakin’s complete turn to the Dark Side is indeed very disturbing. Yoda is amazing in both action and dramatic expression. The integration of the prequel and sequel story lines, and some nagging questions left over from Episode I are handled wonderfully. Lucas has finally succeeded in making a prequel that works.
When we got home, we discovered Isaac had written this note, and put it in front of our bedroom door:
We took the kids to see the film on Saturday afternoon.