Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Cover Me

Cross-posted from Outpost Mâvarin:

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Take a picture of something you've made. Pottery, cookies, a drawing or painting, a poem or a pipe cleaner stick man -- it's all good, it just has to have been made by you. Show off your creativity.

First of all, John Scalzi, Carly, Steven, Pat and I want you to know you've put us in a bit of a pickle with this one. Compare your topic with the one announced this past Thursday for the next Round Robin Photo Challenge, entries to be posted on Wednesday, November 1st:

Pat (Deslily) author of the journal, "Here There And Everywhere 2nd Edition," has chosen "The Creative Side Of You" as our theme for the challenge.... Show off your creative side, by posting photos of anything you have created from scratch.

See? Pretty much the same thing, isn't it? You've kinda stolen our thunder here.

Of course we'll forgive you if you plug the Round Robin Photo Challenges. We've being doing these for a year and a half, and you haven't mentioned them yet, perhaps because we didn't ask! Well, we're asking now - nicely, even. Pretty please, beloved Blogfather? Hey, you can even be a Robin yourself if you want to!

While our favorite Campbell Award winner is mulling that over, let's get on with posting a few pictures of things I made. These are three issues of The Observer, the Quantum Leap fanzine / newsletter I used to edit. I designed all of these covers (and many others), wrote much of the stuff inside and edited the rest.

This first cover doesn't look like much, but it's from the first issue of the zine, back around Christmas 1990. It's also an almost exact replica of the cover of a report issued to members of a Senate Committee deciding the fate of Project Quantum Leap in the second season premiere episode, "Honeymoon Express."

This cover is from the fourth issue. I didn't take the photo, and I certainly didn't create or design one of the premiere news magazines of all time. But I did design this parody of their distinctive covers. It refers to a line of dialogue in the pilot episode, in which Al tells amnesiac Sam Beckett that "Time Magazine even called you 'the next Einstein.'" I sent a framed copy of this to the show's production office, back in the day.

Now we come to the best cover I ever did, certainly the most ambitious and labor-intensive. Back in 1993 I did have access to PhotoShop, unlike now, and worked on a Mac. On the other hand, it was 1993, a long time ago in terms of technology. I replaced every face, every object on the cover of The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band with someone or something Leapish. I had trouble photographing the glossy cover well, but you get the idea. Click on the photos for much larger versions of the Observer 9 (Number nine, number nine) cover.

The four Beatles in the center are QL creator Donald P. Bellisario, stars Dean Stockwell and Scott Bakula, and writer/co-executive producer Deborah Pratt. The four waxwork Beatles to the left have been replaced by the four founders of Project Quantum Leap the club. The rest of the cover has guest stars, writers, producers, fans, a crew T-shirt, Dean Stockell's Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a Panasonic camera. And Look! Teresa Murray's holding a copy of Observer 4 in her waxwork hand!

If you'd like to join in on the Round Robin topic, we'll be delighted to have you! Please see the Round Robin blog for details. The posting date for entries about "The Creative Side Of You" is Wednesday, November 1st.


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Friday, October 20, 2006

Classic Spooky Music!

Cross-posted, as usual, from Outpost Mâvarin (except the pictures here are bigger)....

Weekend Assignment: We're making a Halloween Music Mix! Suggest a song. The song can be scary, spooky or silly, but it should fit into Halloween somehow. All genres are acceptable; indeed, I'd be very interested to know of a country or samba song that would work.

Extra Credit: Are you spooked easily?

You know, I could swear I've written about this before, complete with posted photos of my Haunted Mansion and Buffy Once More With Feeling CDs. But Google says no. AOL Journals search says no. Actually reading titles on the Musings archive pages for 10/05 and 10/04, and looking at any entries that sound as though they might contain what I remember, I still can't find it.

Yes, well, okay, I did find my "Haunted by the Mansion" entry, but that wasn't so much about the music. I don't care. I remember writing about party music involving Disney attraction music and Buffy and Quantum Leap...oh. Okay, that's the problem. It was party music in general, or sf and fantasy party music, not specifically Disney or Halloween. Even if I still haven't found the entry. It was probably on the Outpost, anyway.

So, for the record, I'll just recap the Halloween standards around here before moving on to some other selections:

The Haunted Mansion 30th Anniversary CD. Features the entire Disneyland attraction narration and music and effects, outtakes by Paul Frees and others, a clip from the Florida one, a Vincent Price narration for Phantom Manor, and even a Japanese Ghose Host. But the main drawing card is still that great song, "Grim Grinning Ghosts," with Thurl Ravenscroft as one of the singers.

Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House
. I don't actually have this on CD, but I used to play the sound effects side of this Disneyland record every year when I was a teenager.

Pirates of the Caribbean CD. Same kind of deal as the Haunted Mansion one. It's not as overtly Halloween, but you gotta love Paul Frees intoning "Dead men tell no tales!" On the CD, several dead men proceed to tell tales in outtakes.

But, as I say, I've already expressed by appreciation for these recordings. Let's change the channel - literally.

The new Frigidaire

This afternoon, as I waited for the refrigerator to arrive, I turned our digital cable on to the music channel labeled "Sounds of the Season," and immediately got to hear "Werewolves of London" by Warren Zevon. 11 hours later, that channel is still on, on its second run through its surprisingly large Halloween playlist. I've heard three different songs by Bobby "Boris" Pickett (two of which of boringly derivative of his one real hit), soundtrack music by John Carpenter, Elvira sounding a little like Julie Brown, "Bewitched" (the tv theme) by Peggy Lee(!), a parody song called "Drac the Knife," two songs from Rocky Horror Picture Show, songs by the Ramones, the Cramps, Bing Crosby, Andrew Gold, Michael Jackson ("Thriller," of course) and whatever unknowns someone called Drew recorded on surprisingly decent cover versions of songs for Halloween party CDs. Good stuff, some of it, plus a lot of forgettable stuff, and a few clunkers, such as "Dracula's Theme from Swan Lake," in which a silly, badly acted spoken word scenario in a graveyard is combined with Tchaikovsky.

Still, classical music does deserve its rightful place on the Halloween playlist. On the Fantasia soundtrack alone (which I bought on LP back in college, and had to exchange several times due to a bad pressing) has Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, the quintessential spooky organ music, plus Modest Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain. (Actually, I was reading today that the Fantasia version of Night on Bald Mountain I know was heavily revised by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Leopold Stokowski.)

But my favorite spooky classical piece (albeit less so now than when I was a kid) has always been Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns. (Listen to it here.) It's based on a medieval allegory about dancing skeletal figures from all walks of life - the rich and the poor, the powerful and the peasants - all called by Death. (Hey, these people were dealing with the Plague at the time.) I remember being exposed to this musical masterpiece back in elementary school, and even seeing a cartoon that went with it. But like that blog entry about spooky music, I can't prove that what Iremember ever existed. Yes, there's a great Disney cartoon called The Skeleton Dance, the first Silly Symphony ever made. I've even read claims that the music for that was the Danse Macabre, or, at least, that brilliant cartoon composer-arranger Carl Stalling adapted the Saint-Saens for it. But it just doesn't sound like it to me. Ah, well. Next you'll tell me there is no wooden bridge in Lucerne, Switzerland that depicts the Dance of Death on its wooden panels. But there is. I photographed it when I was 15 years old. And no, I don't have the pictures.

Extra Credit: well, I am a little spooked that I can't prove what I remember, and also that it's past 2:30 AM already!


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

MPS: Wonderful Worlds of Color

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Turn something an unexpected color. Most photo editing software will let you fiddle with the hue of your photos: Use that feature to make your photos subject a color it would be impossible (or at least, very unlikely) for it to be in real life.

Okay. I can do that!

a canal near YumaA canal outside Yuma.

Sand dunes near Yuma - or perhaps an alien planet
Sand dunes near Yuma. Or is it another planet?

Purple pumpkin eaters rejoiceAny purple pumpkin eaters around? Disneyland.

Oddly enough, I've had color on my mind today. I did some work on a Wikipedia article called "The Spectrum Song," the lyrics of which begin,

Red, yellow, green, red,
Blue, blue blue,

Pink, green, brown, yellow, orange,
Red, red.

It was sung by Paul Frees as Ludwig Von Drake, in the first-ever episode of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color. It was part of the first Von Drake cartoon, An Adventure in Color. The first half of the episode was all color this, color that, and it was all in aid of promoting the show's new name, new color format, and its move to NBC. But that's okay. It's a cute song by the Sherman Brothers. John had it on a recond as a kid. And Wonderful World of Color was my era of watching that show, back when Uncle Walt was still alive to host it.

Boo!This last shot is an experiment and a teaser for the Round Robin Photo Challenge, "Very Scary." More scary pictures tomorrow night!


Originally posted on Outpost Mâvarin, 10/17/2006 01:01:00 AM (more or less)

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Statistical People

the people ahead of us at Disneyland, October 8, 2006

The people ahead of us at Disneyland, October 8, 2006

John Scalzi mentioned today the heavily-reported fact that the U.S. population officially just hit 300 million. I wrote such a long comment about this that I've decided to post it here:

When this subject comes up it always reminds me of a population counter display I saw at the 1964 New York World's Fair. Back then the count was a little over 200 million, and for years afterward that was my rule of thumb - 210 million, 214 million, 220 million...after that I lost track. I was fascinated at the time by the ticker (I was seven years old), and wanted to know how they knew that someone had been born, someone had died, someone had immigrated, someone had emigrated. The display covered all four of those factors. I think it was my brother Steve (age 14 at the time) who explained about statistics and estimates and the census.

But ever since then I've never quite believed the official count - in general, perhaps, but not specifically. Having gone door to door as an enumerator for R.L. Polk in 1977, I know that people don't always want to be counted. How do they know exactly how many people are evading the census takers? How do they know the degree of fluctuation in the birth and death rates between actual counts? So okay, yes, MAYBE the 300 millionth current American arrived today by birth, boat, plane or on foot. But more likely it's a statistical convention, and only vaguely correct. In terms of real living breathing people, the milestone may have been reached last week or last mont, or could be yet to come - and we'll never know it.

Is this milestone, such as it is, a good thing or a bad thing? Some of each, I expect. There are economic facters involved, and political ones, and sociological ones, and environmental ones. Economically, the country needs an influx of taxpayers to pay for the social security benefits of aging baby boomers. Legal immigration seems likely to fit the bill there. But sociologically, we are still fighting that same old human tendency to label people outside our own tribe as Them, and view Them with suspicion and disdain. 75 years ago it was the Irish and the Italians and the Poles who got such treatment. Now it's Mexicans and Muslims and people from India and Africa (yes, I know those categories aren't mutually exclusive). It was wrong then. It's wrong now. Being "white" is a social construct rather than a genetic one, anyway. We need to get over all these subdivisions, and deal with people as people.

the people behind us at Disneyland, October 8,2006

The people behind us at Disneyland, October 8, 2006

Environmentally, we probably don't want to overdo things with a new population boom, but we can probably handle things if we do it right, with strict standards to curb pollution and global warming, and efficient use of land for food and well as living space. There are a number of countries with more people per square acre than we have. It's not pleasant (ask my husband, who just suffered through huge Disneyland crowds), but it can be done.

Hmm. Clearly I needed to blog this. And now I have.

I'll have my Round Robin post after midnight tonight, on the other blog.



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Friday, October 13, 2006

E Plebneesta and the Dangerous Writers

Weekend Assignment #133: Share with us a person or person who you think is a model for free speech in the United States. It can be one of the Founding Fathers, another historical personage, or someone who is living right now. Yes, this is slightly more work than the usual Weekend Assignment, but, you know. Free speech is worth it. For those of you in the UK or Canada, you can nominate someone who represent free speech in your own country, or pick someone from the US.

Extra Credit: A favorite controversial book (it doesn't have to be from an American).

I'm not up for the full-blown rant on this subject, at least not tonight. Tonight I'm just going to toss out some names and a few anecdotes, and call it a night. Maybe over the weekend I'll take the subject and run with it.

When I was in high school, the U.S. Constitution always reminded me of a silly bit in a Gene Roddenberry-penned episode of Star Trek, "The Omega Glory." It still does, really. In the episode, the Yangs would trot out a tattered American flag as their leader chanted a garbled version of the Preamble to the Constitution. "We the People of the United States" became, at least to my ears, "E Plebneesta."

And if you break it down, "E plebneesta" makes a surprising amount of sense. "E" also begins the Latin motto "E pluribus unum": "from many, one." "Plebn" could refer to plebians, or ordinary people. And "eesta" could be "ista," a (usually)plural suffix found in words like "Sandinista" or "fashionista." So "E plebneesta" becomes "From the ordinary people and their proponents." And that's pretty much what the Constitution is, the ordinary people (as represented by wealthy landowners) ceding certain rights to various branches of government, while retaining others for themselves.

Yes, I know the Preamble and the Bill of Rights are two different parts of the Constitution. I'm mentioning the E Plebneesta anyway, because to me the whole Constitution is important and sacred, its priniciples worthy of a lot more respect than certain politicians give it. So there. That's my preamble to this entry.

Thinking about the actual Bill of Rights, though, leads me to an entirely different memory, from a Weekend Assignment two years ago. The actual assignment was about which Founding Father we'd each like to hang out with. It provoked in me an account of
a fictional 21st century picnic, to be attended by John and Abigail Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James and Dolley Madison. In my first entry, I merely mentioned the guest list and the two destinations, but the follow-up entry was a vignette in which time traveler Karen invited the Madisons to the 2004 picnic, and mentioned the Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights, image enhanced slightly for visibility

So, now that I've fictionally partied with Tom Jefferson (left), who believed that "half a loaf" of rights secured to the people was better than none, and James Madison, who wrote the Bill of Rights (partly cribbed from the Virginia Declaration of Rights and the writings of John Locke), what proponents of that all-important first amendment right of free speech do I especially admire? Well, those two guys for sure, and Samuel Adams, for starters. I really should learn more about Madison; he didn't say much during that picnic. He did mention, however, that he mostly put the Bill of Rights together to keep the newly-formed Constitutional government from collapsing in the wrangle between Federalists and Anti-Federalists.

More contemporary outspoken people who made a difference in my lifetime: Martin Luther King, Jr. is probably the most important one. If you're going to say things that people don't want to hear, it's helpful to have a thirst for justice, a substantive message backed up by action, and a gift for oratory. Some of those old speeches still blow me away. At a more personal level, I used to admire the heck out of George Carlin, with his infamous Seven Words. It wasn't that I actually liked or used every one of those words myself, although I did use the two biggies in those days. What I admired was Carlin's ability to satirize the folly of thinking those words, of all the words in the language, were so dangerous and harmful that they must never be broadcast.

I was going to work in a riff about Harlan Ellison here, but let's skip it.

Most of my Wrinkle collection.

Favorite controversial book? That's got to be A Wrinkle in Time, of course. This classic about love and faith, friendship and family, and individuals fighting evil (including enforced, mindless conformity) rates high (#22 in the 1990s) on banned book lists. It's been slipping down the charts with the advent of new targets for self-appointed censors, but it's still an important and misunderstood book. But I've already ranted that rant, at least once.


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Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Minor Exhibits at the Museum of the Weird

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Someone in your house you probably have one (or more) bobble-head figurines. Immortalize them in photo. For this, any bobbly toy will do -- bobbly hula girls, toy animals with bobbly tails, it's all good. They just have to be bobbly somewhere along the line.

I wanted to show you our collection of 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks bobbleheads, but they're in a box somewhere. The best I can do on that front is show you this picture from a couple of years ago. Third shelf down on the left, you can just about make out a boxless Gonzo (Luis Gonzales, who just played his last game for he Diamondbacks) in front of some red and white boxes. Those boxes contain boxes of Gonzo, Schilling, Randy Johnson, Craig Counsell and others - even manager Bob Brenly.

But okay, let's try to do better with a new photo or three or four. Here are some shelves on John's side of the bed. Can you tell which of these exhibits in our personal Museum of the Weird is a bobblehead? Do you know exactly what it's supposed to be?

On the right: P-Chan from Ranma 1/2. Not a bobblehead. Neither is the vintage, politically incorrect china figurine in the middle. There it is on the left: Rat Fink! Rat Fink was a character from the 1950s and 1960s, associated with flamboyant hot rod car customizer Ed "Big Daddy" Roth. Frankly, that's about all I know on the subject. This is on John's side of the room, after all!

One more bobblehead. This is a Happy Meal toy of Stitch in his Elvis outfit. Lilo is in my cubicle at work.

Here's Stitch in his usual habitat among some other M.o.W. exhibits: Liddle Kiddles and Kiddle Kolognes, DAM trolls and Wishniks, Remco's Heidi, Jan and Spunky "pocketbook dolls," Britain's Ltd. Knight and Turk. a china poodle from the 1960s, and a china dragon bank (called Dino for obvious reasons) that I've had since seventh grade. Enough. I had less than five hours of sleep last night, and less than three hours the night before. Good night!


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