Writing On The WALL•E

So like millions of Americans, I went to see PIXAR & Disney’s latest animated film, WALL•E this weekend. For those of you living under a rock, the film tells the tale of a brave little robot who is left to clean up the Earth after mankind dumps so much trash that he can’t live here anymore. Adventure, romance and of course humor ensue for the tiny bot with a Johnny 5 complex.

Reviews from critics and the movie-going public have been overwhelmingly favorable, and it’s easy to see why. Behind the futuristic facade of WALL•E lies basically a love story between WALL•E himself and the angelic EVE. The story also cleverly taps into an topical issue that is sure to raise the ire of some of the more conservative audience members – environmentalism.

Back in August of 2007, I wrote a post about PIXAR’s advanced PR for the film, via the Buy n Large viral website. Buy n Large is the company responsible for the vast consumerism that ultimately makes the Earth uninhabitable to the human race in the film. The message in WALL•E is clear – if things keep going the way they’re going, we won’t have a planet left to live on. This moral imperative is one of the major plot points of the film, and I’m betting it won’t be very long until we see right-wingers railing against Disney and PIXAR for “green propaganda”.

I’m willing to bet that by no later than this Wednesday, Michelle Malkin, Bill O’Reilly, Neil Boortz or some other misguided blowhard will do their best to alter WALL•E’s portrayal as lovable protagonist to that of a mechanized propaganda bot intent on brainwashing your kids. Rest assured it will happen, and when it does, I’ll update this post with which offender was first to pull the trigger.

In the end, nothing these people can say will diminish the movie’s endearing success. WALL•E is nothing short of an animated masterpiece that has its heart and message in exactly the right place. There is plenty of emotion and humor to keep audience goers smiling and parents safely content. And if kids get interested in recycling or gardening, let’s just say it wouldn’t be the end of the world.

UPDATE: Here’s a tweet that illustrates what I’m talking about. It’s starting.

UPDATE II: DING! DING! We have a winner, or rather a big, fat ignorant loser… in the form of everybody’s favorite shill from CNN, Glenn Beck. Think Progress has more too boot. To quote Weird Al, “Man, I hate it when I’m right.”

Doing What’s Right

When news came last week that the United States Senate House passed a “compromise” version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), complete with retroactive immunity for telcos who illegally spied on law abiding Americans, I was pretty upset. Like most, it looked like the Democrats had caved once again. In the intervening time however, the majority of Americans have made their displeasure known with the provision and so Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) plan to filibuster any attempt to pass the bill:

“This is a deeply flawed bill, which does nothing more than offer retroactive immunity by another name. We strongly urge our colleagues to reject this so-called ‘compromise’ legislation and oppose any efforts to consider this bill in its current form. We will oppose efforts to end debate on this bill as long as it provides retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies that may have participated in the President’s warrantless wiretapping program, and as long as it fails to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans.”

Their efforts are backed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Presidential hopeful Barack Obama. Hopefully it will help send a clear and concise message to President Bush and the rest of those in Congress who happen to think the 4th Amendment, and indeed the Constitution itself, isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. It takes a great deal of courage to stand up against this type of pressure from the President and his administration. John Gruber calls the pair of Senators heroes. I happen to agree.

Obama Isn’t the One Playing Cards

Bringing myself to admit, and perhaps to some small degree, promote the disgusting hatred of racism turns my stomach. But media outlets, and some local bloggers have started to promote the idea that Barack Obama has finally “played the race card” in recent days by predicting that the GOP will try to use the issue against him. To all those reporters, bloggers and other misguided folks out there, I’ve got news for you: It’s too late for all that.

From the moment Obama put his hat in the ring, the “cards” started to fall. It wasn’t Obama that sold racist Curious George t-shirts with “Obama in 08″ on them. It wasn’t Obama that sold racist campaign buttons at a Republican state convention reading “If Obama is President… will we still call it The White House?”. No, that was the GOP. Let me state that again, it was the Texas state Republicans who distributed and promoted that particular brand of hate.

And now we have word from the Washington Post that interest in white supremacist groups has been sharply increasing. These Neo-Nazi and skinhead organizations (or cockroaches as blogger Oliver Willis calls them) have seen a dramatic increase in traffic to their online websites because of the prospect of an African American president in their future. So much for a color-blind society.

So don’t you dare tell me that Barack Obama is the one playing the race card on the electorate. Thanks to the scores of racists that have reared their ugly heads (both in private and public channels) these past few months, that hand was played long, long ago. For Obama to leave them sitting there without making the rest of us aware of the danger they represent is naive. Race is an integral part of his campaign, whether for good or bad, which is why a win in November would be all the more historic. Deal with it.

My Home Away From Home

It always fascinates me to see what people’s workspaces are like. I love getting an inside look at how artists, programmers and designers organize their desktops and select the tools they need to do their job. Some workspaces border on zen-like art, while others take on an air of controlled chaos. Some of us work in our homes like my friends Wolfgang Ante or Craig Hockenberry. But most of us spend the majority of our weekdays at “the office”.

And so, I thought I would throw my hat into the ring and give you a small peek at my workspace. My desk at the Iconfactory in Greensboro is where I do much of the pixel-pushing, writing, designing and illustrating that helps keep the bills paid and clients happy. Each and every day, I’m fortunate to work in a creative atmosphere surrounded by talented and dedicated people. Like many of us these days, I’ve tried working at home for extended periods, but it just doesn’t suit me. I love the bustle of the Iconfactory and the creativity our “open plan” offers the group (except when more than 3 of us are on the phone at the same time). I hope you enjoy this small behind-the-scenes look where I spend my days. Head on over to Flickr to check it out. Enjoy!

I Miss MST3K

Although Mystery Science Theatre 3000 is best known for the lampooning of various B-rated sci-fi movies and horror flicks, I always enjoyed their roasts of public service short films best. These self-righteous reels from the 40′s and 50′s, always did take themselves too seriously and made perfect fodder for Crow, Tom Servo and Joel’s witty zingers. The clip below is classic MST3K as the trio firings on all cylinders. I’ve tried to get into Michael J. Nelson’s new take on MST3K, called RiffTrax, but it just isn’t the same. Thank goodness for YouTube so we can sit back, relax and enjoy “A Date with Your Family”. Just don’t enjoy it too much, after all, the dinner table is no place for emotion!

Unlock Your Inner Spore

Unless you’ve been living under an online rock, then you probably know about Spore, the new game coming from Electronic Arts. Spore lets you play “god” and engineer living creatures and then release them into the wild, and eventually the stars. The game is due to be released in its entirety this fall, but Electronic Art recently published a small demo of the Creature Creator this past week.

There’s been tons of hype leading up to Spore’s release, and frankly I’ve become wary of getting my hopes up too high with so many people singing its praises. Mirroring my disappointing experience with “Iron Man” is not something I want to repeat, so I’ve been intentionally avoiding the Spore Kool-Aid. That is until tonight. Tonight I watched Mindy as she gave the Creature Creator demo a run through from start to finish, and if the full game is 1/4 as fun as the demo, EA has themselves a winner.

No doubt a large portion of the enjoyment of the demo comes from how easy it is to create something that feels “alive”. The demo lets you select body parts, adjust them, rotate them, scale them, and more to form your creature. You can then paint on colors and textures at will until you arrive at your final critter. The controls are intuitive, easy to manipulate and just plain fun. In many ways it reminds me of the old Kai’s Power Tools version of Bryce. KPT Bryce let you instantly get your “hands” dirty generating alien terrains, skys and oceans. It was immediate, tactile and absorbing. Spore’s Creature Creator demo is similar in many respects and for players with a flair for the creative, it has loads to offer.

Perhaps the only downside is that until the full game is released, players can’t fully judge their creatures or how they’ll fair in the virtual world. I suspect Spore’s universe will be a “dog eat dog” world, and so selecting frog hands for your varmint instead of claws might be a fatal choice come September. I’ll give EA the benefit of the doubt for the time being and hope old “Figmon” shown above, brings both his A-game and his looks. In the meantime, head on over and check out the Spore Creature Creator demo, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. After all, it isn’t every day you get to play god.

Battlestars, Betrayals & Boobs

Well, the final episode of Battlestar Galactica aired this past week on the Sci-Fi Channel and to mark the occasion, Krystyn, Dave, Jen and I have once again clunked geeky heads to bring you an all new episode of Sci-Fi Cast. This week the podcast covers all manner of topics including our favorite comic book movies, appropriate synonyms for “extravaganza” and awkward theatre experiences with your parents. If you’re caught up through episode 10 of BSG, then head on over to Sci-Fi Cast and subscribe today. Even if you’ve never heard of us before today, this would be a good time to check Sci-Fi Cast out. It’s going to be a loooong 9 months.

Embarrassing Auditory Confessions

They say confession is good for the soul, and since I’ve never had any problem with revealing my inner likes and dislikes, I jumped at the chance to join in on the fun of the latest group blog proposed by my friend Dave Caolo. This time around are songs that for one reason or another, you would be embarrassed to admit to liking in mixed company. I must say however that part of the reason I decided to throw my hat in the ring, was that it gave me the excuse to create the image you see above. What do Britney Spears and Bigfoot have in common? Well, read on my friends and find out!

• • •

Merry Go Round

The Brady Bunch

I’m not ashamed to say that I have an entire iTunes playlist devoted exclusively to the perky tunes of those crazy Brady kids from my youth. Back in the 70′s the TV network suits figured the child actors of The Brady Bunch needed to compete with The Partridge Family and the Brady Six was born. Who among us can forget classics like Time to Change or Sunshine Day? Good times. Of all the Brady tracks I have however, Merry Go Round has to be the most sugar-coated piece of hippy jerky in the entire lot, and I love it! For some reason I can listen to Eve Plumb hit off-key notes until the cows come home and I just don’t care. Take a listen, but beware, the song is a total ear worm. Once I hear it, I usually can’t get it out of my head for days.

• • •

You Drive Me Crazy

Britney Spears

Ah Britney! Back in the day, this familiar teen-pop queen commanded respect and actually worked her ass off to become successful. One day I broke down and bought You Drive Me Crazy for no apparent reason other than it was stuck in my head. To me, all of Britney’s songs sound somewhat the same (beat, rhythm, breathy lyrics), so I only own one… and this is it. I’m kinda ashamed to even have the one track in iTunes, but every time it comes up on random play, I relive a little part of 1999 and think back fondly on what Britney used to be. Ah Britney!

• • •

Wannabe

The Spice Girls

Everyone says they hate the Spice Girls, but I think secretly, everyone really loves them. I find the bulk of their songs incredibly infectious, bubbly and the perfect pick-me-up when I’m down. Their music is like watching a summer popcorn flick – a meaningless plot combined with a pulse-pounding soundtrack and dazzling special effects. It’s not academy award winning material, but it’s still a great time. I mean, how much more fun can it get than this:

“Yo, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want,
So tell me what you want, what you really really want,
I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want,
So tell me what you want, what you really really want,
I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna really
really really wanna zigazig ha.”

• • •

America

Neil Diamond

If there is a more idealistic, or emotionally manipulative song in this world, I can’t think of one. I first heard America when I was 11, right around the time the classic Saturday morning cartoon School House Rock became popular. I think the SHR connection helps explain why I find this song so darned great. After all, it was SHR that taught me to love catchy songs about history like The Great American Melting Pot and The Preamble. Diamond’s America is like a top 40 School House Rock song on steroids. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

• • •

Love Theme from Boggy Creek

Charles B. Pierce

Ask any of the guys at the Iconfactory and they’ll tell you I’m obsessed with bigfoot/sasquatch/yeti and have been ever since I was a child. This embarrassing music track is one of my own making since it was impossible to purchase the soundtrack to the movie from which it came – The Legend of Boggy Creek. The song tells the funky tale of the Fouke Monster (bigfoot) and his lonely plight among the other creatures of the swamp. The song, like the movie, is cheesy, low-budget and so bad it’s good. I bust it out every year around Halloween, much to the dismay of my patience-filled wife. And now you know what Britney Spears and Bigfoot have in common – my twisted sense of musical tastes.

• • •

Other blogger’s musical confessions:

1. Living in the Now – Get the Funk Up!
2. Sharp Corners – Sing a Song of Sixpence
3. Hardcore Geek – The songs I hate to love

The Little Blue Bird That Could

Today, at Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference in San Francisco, the computer maker unveiled its plans for the next generation of iPhones as well as a sneak peek into third party applications headed our way. Due to hit public airwaves July 11th, Apple’s new iPhone/iPod Touch “App Store” as it’s being called, will allow users to purchase third party mobile applications directly over the air. I speak for all of us at the Iconfactory when I say we were just as surprised and delighted as you probably were to find our very own application, Twitterrific, featured heavily on Apple’s website.

It seems after flying high and far, sometimes to shady destinations, the little blue bird has finally gone legit. I don’t think any of us at the factory realized just how popular Twitter, and in turn Twitterrific would become in this past year. We’ve been making various software applications for a decade now, and in all that time, none of us would have expected such an unassuming little app to become our most well recognized piece of code. Twitterrific’s success speaks volumes about the fine work of the folks over at Twitter, and the hunger for today’s users to stay in touch with friends, relatives and co-workers via new media like social networks.

We’re very pleased the Mac community took to Twitterrific so well and helped make it the success it is today. We’re looking forward to bringing the application to a whole new generation of users for the iPhone and iPod Touch, and would like to extend our thanks to Apple for giving the blue bird such a fine new home. We feel both excited and privileged to be a part of the new App Store and are committed to bringing our users the best software we can offer. We look forward to these first steps on what is sure to be, a fun journey for both users and developers alike.

Frack or Should We Say, Frell?

That’s right folks, I’m here to tell you that episode 009 of Sci-Fi Cast is now online and ready for your auditory digestion. We’re back to Battlestar Galactica with the review of this past week’s episode Sine Qua Non, so if you’re not caught up, you’ll want to hold off. Our conversation, as usual, is pretty spoiler heavy, so don’t say we didn’t warn you! Without saying too much, I can reveal that this time around we have all four of your geeky friends on the podcast and we delve into such important subjects as pets in space, what Sol does when the cameras are turned off and Krystyn’s latest (and most believable) theory on who the final cylon will turn out to be. As we approach the mid-season break, this is one installment you won’t want to miss. Be sure to head on over and check out The Sci-Fi Cast, your drive to work will never be the same again!