Thursday, April 28, 2005

Please Mr. Postman

After a trial run last year, the Postal Service is resuming its PhotoStamps program which allows you to make personalized "vanity stamps" from your own digital photos. Last year's run might have been considered a success if it weren't for those meddling kids at The Smoking Gun, who proceeded to print stamps containing such less-than-patriotic images as the Lewinski dress and the Unabomber. This time around, the fine print specifically forbids images of international leaders, convicted criminals, or any other objectionable stuff. Plus, they'll charge you $10 for each violation, and they'll hold you liable for damages if you dare to publicize how you fooled them. What fun is that?

Party On, Darth

Darth Vader has a blog. It's reassuring to discover that even the Empire's most ruthless despot faces the same day-to-day frustrations as the rest of us: a demanding boss, incompetent co-workers, occasional health problems, the rebellion.... It's nice that he has a little online space where he can vent . "Reach out with your feelings", as Obi-Wan would say. Also check out a funny interview that everyone's favorite Sith Lord gave to fellow blogger Anne Arkham.

The serious geeks should check out Star Wars: Revelations, a 40-minute movie that was produced completely by a group of fans. (Well, the serious geeks probably downloaded it the first day). As fan films go, it's got pretty sophisticated production values -- good CGI, editing, set design, and even a decent story. Still, a pity about the acting.

You may have heard the news that a Star Wars live-action TV series is in the works. Here's a nightmare vision of the show, courtesy of Penny Arcade.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Paul Shirley's Road Ramblings

The NBA is boring, yes. But even non-fans might get a kick out of the ramblings of Phoenix Suns benchwarmer Paul Shirley. It's a decent blog by any measure. I found it after reading his take on the typical NBA music. Good stuff.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Little Giants

When it comes to They Might Be Giants, dude I was there. I think I saw their first seven shows in Kansas City, most of which were in their original (and very charming) "two guys and a backing cassette tape" configuration. I thought Lincoln was a work of sheer genius, and my first band covered "Lie Still, Little Bottle" in our first/only show. When they came to town for a Halloween show, my girlfriend and I dressed up as TMBG, wearing mock-ups of their giant fezzes, toy instruments, and other little details that I was proud to say we got exactly right. (Yikes, I really was that geeky.) We lost the costume contest that night (to Coneheads, how lame), but we did get to hang out with the band for a while, making for a great memory.

Probably like a lot of those early fans, I gradually lost track of TMBG. If I had to say why, I might come up with some impressive-sounding theory about how their music speaks directly to and validates your inner nerd/child, and eventually you don't need that validation so much anymore. (Impressive, no?) But now that I'm proudly raising two potential nerds of my own, I'm happy to catch up with the two Johns in their new role as makers of kids' music. This incarnation officially began a few years ago with their No! CD, but really they've made tons of kid-friendly songs throughout their career. ("Why Does The Sun Shine?", "Istanbul Not Constantinople" and "Particle Man" come immediately to mind). Now they're just slightly increasing their focus on that demographic.

My daughter Ruby is currently hooked on their latest project, a Disney(!)-produced DVD called Here Come The ABCs. It both teaches the alphabet and explores it in typical Giant fashion, with subjects like the friendship between Q and U, how LMNO sounds like it could be a word ("elemeno"), how D seems like a sad letter while W seems like an extrovert, and a song that makes sentences out of letters (like "i c tv, n i c u"). John Linnell's melodies are as strong as ever ("Can You Find It?"), while John Flansburgh can be as surreal as ever ("Pictures of Pandas Painting"). I'm loving the fact that my daughter can enjoy them as silly kids' songs, and I can enjoy it as just another great TMBG record. Sorry "Lincoln", but I've got a new favorite now.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Comic relief?

Here's an odd but ultimately wonderful combination: a comic strip about cancer. The autobiographical webcomic Mom's Cancer was just nominated for an Eisner Award, apparently the big award among comic strip artists. It's incredibly insightful, moving, clever, and yes even funny at times. Read it from beginning to end, and do it soon -- it's going to be removed from the web soon because it'll be published in book form next year.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Little "Lifestyle Center" of Horrors

When is a mall not a mall? When it disguises itself as a neighborhood, complete with sidewalks, "streets", individually designed storefronts, and sometimes even loft apartments. Kansas City got one of these new "lifestyle centers" last year, called Zona Rosa. Despite the more attractive appearance though, it's the still same old chain stores, restaurants, and throngs of mallrat teenagers. I hadn't realized it was part of a national trend, but I wasn't overly impressed with it when I visited during the holiday shopping season.

Favorite quote from the Slate article: "The irony is almost too perfect: Malls are now being designed to resemble the downtown commercial districts they replaced. What sweet vindication for urban sophisticates!"