March 22, 2011

Fansite Spotlight: Richard Chaves Fans

I was a fan of Richard Chaves (or more accurately, Lt. Col. Paul Ironhorse, since I'd only seen him as that character at that point) when watching War of the Worlds as a little kid, back during the show's original run. I never joined any fanclubs or mailing lists at the time (though I see now that there were tons, with plenty of fans too), but I'm making up for lost time now, at a great little corner of the 'Net devoted to enthusing about and admiring Richard and his wonderful acting.

There's the fansite, Richard Chaves Fans, that's been fully updated and is ever-growing with new content as it's discovered or donated. And there's the Fan Forum, where I've been enjoying getting to know other RC fans, all of whom I've found to be friendly, interested, and highly creative (the STG we have running there has kept me thrilled :) ). And then there's a Fanlisting too, which is basically like a directory of fans of RC. All three are created by and run by a consummate RC fan, and real fun gal, Lynda Vazquez.

If anyone needs a refresher course or introduction to Richard and how talented (and AWESOME!) he is, I made a video for that express purpose:


Overcoming the Stalker Issue

I feel it's necessary to bring this up, cos a fellow RC fan voiced her concerns to me that one reason why we haven't been getting very many members at the forum may be: the fact that RC had to drop out of the public eye, due to dealing with a stalker back in the late 90's, might be making some fans too uncertain about showing their fan-ness for him.

I have to admit that I was a little wary myself of joining, cos I tend to have a very over-enthusiastic personality, and I didn't want that to be mistaken for the sort of unkind type of celeb-obsessed attitude. But let it be said right here: even though fans and stalkers do share a somewhat similar mindset, they do NOT act the same - fans admire and enthuse, and yes, enjoy coming to an actor's public appearances, but stalkers stalk - big difference. So I figured that as long as I was always respectful and kind in my adoration, then I wouldn't have to worry about getting confused for something I'm not - and never ever would be!

We can assume that Richard himself has gotten past whatever misery the stalker caused, since he's been to a convention since then, and he didn't look like he was in any way trying to avoid fan attention. :D So let's put the incident behind us too. I want to get to know the other RC fans out there, and I don't want some jerk's stupid actions to ruin a fandom that's precious to me. And after all, what would Richard think if he decided to google his name so he could see what his fandom was up to, and saw us being all nervous and guarded instead of rambunctiously squeeing about everything we love about him? So c'mon: RC fans unite! Come join the fun!

March 20, 2011

Funnycaps 2.0: 'War of the Worlds' & 'Misfits of Science'

I've always enjoyed funnycaps (aka: screencaps with intentionally funny captions), both reading them and making them. I tried making some multi-panel ones off of two of my fave shows, War of the Worlds and Misfits of Science. It was fun :) (Yeah, I know, I probably broke one of the cardinal rules of funnycapping by photoshopping a frame or two in some of them - but since I was just having fun with these, I figured it didn't matter.) I've never seen any multi-panel funnycaps before (hence why I'm calling them '2.0'), but I'd like to see more if anybody knows of any or has any themselves. I do have some ideas for others kicking around in my head, I may get around to putting those up sometime too, but for now here are the ones I made:

Read 'em here

Read 'em here

March 19, 2011

Fierce Blue Ascot / Dominic Keating

Yaknow, it totally sucks to fall in love with a rock star - that doesn't even exist!!

Back in 2007 Sprint created the mascot character of Ian Westbury (and his rock band, Fierce Blue Ascot) to promote their new music store. Okay, so probably every Dominic Keating fan already knows about this, but I only found out this month. As soon as I heard the words 'Dominic Keating plays a rock star' in a row, that was my very next Google search!

I love everything about this little gimmick - the music video, the behind-the-scenes and launch party vids, the pretend interviews and Myspace page, the graphics and mp3's - it's all genius! I'm quite impressed that they went to as much trouble as they did to make the content, and it all feels so authentic too.

DK is delicious as Ian, he plays him perfectly! The hair, the moves, the lovable ego... And it's cool cos you get to see more than if he'd just played a bit scene as a rock star in some movie or other, you get the sort of content you'd get from a real 80's one-hit wonder. A bit disappointing that it isn't his voice, but Dale Martindale sounds AWESOME, so I'm not complaining, and if they couldn't have gotten that type of vocal performance (that the Westbury character needs) out of Dominic, then I'm glad they chose to have him dubbed.

The music video looks straight out of the 80's (if I didn't know DK wasn't that age in the 80's you could very well convince me that this was just some unearthed lost gem from that era) - from the slow pauses, to the pink telephone, to the hair and fashions, to the glass crashing to the ground - it's so hilariously, perfectly an 80's hit video! (Note that they knew better than to use anything other than a 555 number, lol - don't want a repeat of the 'Jenny 867-5309' fiasco ;P)

And the song sounds straight out of the 80's too - I'm quite happy to know that even twenty years after that era (one of my fave music eras *heart*), someone can make a song with the identical production, sensibilities, danceable-ness, and simplistic heart that music had then. Yeah, suffice it to say, I'm over the moon for 'Under the Moon'...


A thought did cross my mind: If he's a pretend rock star, then couldn't we be pretend fans? With pretend memories of meeting him or seeing him in concert? I liked this thought too much to pass it up, so...

The Luckiest Gig - a fan account by Joanna Magnolia

Just by sheer luck, I got to see FBA live, when they played a brief gig one night in our town. It was during the height of their fame, and they wouldn't have otherwise been playing in such a small town, if it hadn't been for a miscalculation - as Ian *swoon* told us in his opening banter as the other two members got set up on their instruments behind him on the stage. He was wearing a magnificent outfit with black lacy cuffs and a blue satin coat, and spoke to us in his oh-so-dreamy Leicester accent:

"Hi, luvs. Everybody ready to have a good time with us tonight?" We all cheered a big "Yes!" (the 200 or so people all gathered in the small auditorium were each as much a fan of them as I was). "Right well, count yourselves lucky, we don't usually play the small venues nowadays. I mean, not since we've gotten big enough to reach a wider audience, ya know, spread our music to as many fans as possible at any one time, right? That's what I say anyway. But our manager loused up our schedule, so we've got this extra little bit of time to fill. We'd otherwise be starting our gig at the Rose Bowl at this moment and you'd have to watch us via satellite." He said it 'vy-uh' with a slight R at the end in that accent of his *melt*

So then the band proceeded to play their big hit "Under the Moon" and those of us who knew the lyrics all sang along and I waved my FBA cassette over my head in time to the music. It was great!

But all of a sudden the power died. What a time for that to happen! Ian made a joke about "this is why we skip the small places" with, I assume, that dashing smile of his, but it was too dark to see anything, let alone his face. Their roadies and concert people came in while Ian was apologizing to us fans:

"Sorry, luvs. Maybe another time... These things happen... Karma will straighten things out though, ya know, it always does in the end."

Talk about disappointment! There we were with FBA having only gotten half the song played and now they were being helped off the stage and over to the exit. Why didn't the auditorium have a generator?! But then, as Ian was framed in the doorway with moonlight from outside spilling in, he turned back toward the room and said:

"Hey, I've got a cracking idea if anyone's up for it. If you want, the girls and I can finish the song out here--" he waved his hand lazily at the parking lot out back "--under the moon."

Hell, we were all outside before you could say 'fierce blue fedora'! So we got treated to an amazing a cappella version of their song - man, do I wish I'd had my Casio tape recorder that night! Susie thumped out the rhythm with her hands, Pauline did some lovely soft backing vocals, and Ian did some dance steps and even mimed some moves from the video. It was spellbinding and his vocals were like liquid, melding perfectly with the moonbeams...

All too soon the song was over, and before any of us had a chance to ask for an autograph, the band was being whisked into a limo (with Ian saying "Thank you. Goodnight. Love ya." and blowing a kiss in the general direction of the crowd) and being driven away to the airport. I still have my cassette of their single, that I held up that night, and I still listen to it on occasion, but I'll never forget that moonlit performance! Thank you, Ian, Susie, and Pauline!

(Please note that the above account is FICTICIOUS, and the cassette sleeve is a mock-up, intended only to play along with the Ian Westbury mythos.)

I'd love to hear any other fans' accounts of their Ian Westbury or FBA memories. If you have any, pass them along, please :)

March 17, 2011

"The Television Guru"

Short-lived shows... the television landscape abounds with them. And sadly, they are sometimes looked down on as though, if you haven't had as many episodes as things like Sopranos or Star Trek, then you can't possibly be of as much quality. Not true. Heck, most of my fave series have fewer than 20 episodes to their name. One place where short-lived shows are not belittled, but instead showcased, is Friday@8/7Central - a wonderful blog written by a very TV-knowledgeable and very friendly bloke, Tim Rose.

I've been hooked on reading his oh-so-informative articles on TV shows (both long-past and almost-present), ever since he told me he was doing one on Misfits of Science (now that's 'lite, huh?).

The articles do more than just give you trivia bits, they capture the essence of a particular series, and for those couple thousand words it's like you're re-watching an episode or two. And when the article is to a series I've never seen, or sometimes never even heard of before, then it's a nice nutshell introduction to it.

In Tim's own words:
"There’s a saying in acting about there being no small parts, only small actors. My version, at least as far as this endeavor is concerned, is that there are no short shows, only short memories… and my goal has always been to make sure that the memories aren’t always that short."

March 15, 2011

Wallpaper & Waxing Nostalgic: 'Short Circuit'


"Need inpuuuuuut!"

These two movies, Short Circuit (1986) and Short Circuit 2 (1988), have a number of good qualities, too many to list them all, but I'll list some that help to make them movies that I love to watch and re-watch:

  • The physical, beautifully-designed, robot models used for the FX.
  • The nifty 80's score/soundtrack.
  • The humor and the way they don't take themselves too seriously.
  • The colorful and detailed cinematography.
  • The easy quotability of the dialog and the one-liners.
  • The simple storytelling.
  • The naive malapropisms from Ben.
  • The heart of the underlying messages.
  • And of course their star - the inimitable Johnny 5 himself!

I'm a sucker for robots, androids, even computers. There's something so intriguing (and sometimes humbling) about equating our sentience and humanity with that of a constructed being. We are, after all, merely organic computers ourselves, are we not? Viewing the world the way a non-human might is always a good source of food for thought. And the way that concept is explored in both 'Short Circuit' and 'Short Circuit 2' is very compelling.

When watching them over, I had it brought to my attention the difference between how these movies portray their robot protagonist and how it is commonly handled. Johnny 5 is alive the entire time (once he is initially brought to life at the beginning) - the story isn't about him 'coming alive'. He starts out already having his personality and his quirky outlook on things and his joy of living every moment to the fullest. This is in contrast to how, often, the main drive for a robot or android character is to yearn for being human, or to wonder about what it means to love, or to feel limited in some way because they are synthetic and programmed.

Because of this difference, Johnny 5 is a fun character (for a child who just wants to see a robot be cool and have fun adventures), and also a very thought-provoking character (for someone older who watches the movies and thinks about the philosophical angle). He can be more human than the human characters know how to be. Such as when, in the first movie, Stephanie feels betrayed and is getting angry at her situation, even threatening bodily harm to her betrayer (Newton Crosby). Johnny is mortified at the thought and tells Stephanie "No disassemble...!" with such a nuance to his voice (kudos to Tim Blaney on his vocal performance of Johnny - it's perfect all around!) that it makes us reflect on how we act as human beings and our anger and how we could take an example, from a machine of all things, and be kinder, happier people. It's a nice touch to have the human be learning from the robot. It makes a good full circle to have her change inside from having met Johnny, since Johnny was helped in his life philosophy by Stephanie and her kindness to him when they first met.

It'll be really interesting to have the first fully artificially-intelligent being one day, and see just how they do behave. I, for one, am really looking forward to finding out. As 'machine thinking' gets more and more advanced, we start to see little glimpses into how human and artificial thinking differs, and what sort of things need to change in how we programme computer 'thought' at the moment. An example of the advancements and also the stumbling blocks, was when IBM designed a computer to compete on 'Jeopardy!' - that was far out, and so informative. It's still a long way from having AI, but the glimpses it gives us are too cool :D

Today Tomorrow?

I just adore these movies, and am a proud fan of little Johnny 5 for all his uniqueness and special qualities. There's a good webpage here about his robot model and a fan who liked it enough to track it down. And, unfortunately, there're attempts to make a remake. Now, I know, I should be more openminded about this, but I can think of 1001 ways in which it could be RUINED, so I'm founded in my concerns. I just can't picture a non-80's, CGI, boy-finds-pet-robot version... Oh well, maybe they'll prove me wrong and make a third 'great movie to last for all time', I certainly wouldn't mind that! :)