About webnerbob

A Cleveland and Ohio State sports fan who lives in Columbus, Ohio

Mascot Madness

In Philadelphia, police are investigating a complaint that “Gritty” — the mascot of the Flyers hockey team — punched a 13-year-old kid after a photo shoot last year.

hi-res-999ed1323129c7ca5ddd46c81d3a67c4_crop_northThe kid’s father claims that after the kid patted “Gritty” on top of his furry orange head, the bug-eyed creature took a running start and punched the kid in the back, leaving a bruise.  The Flyers say that they conducted an investigation and concluded that “Gritty” did nothing wrong and there was no evidence to support the assault claim.

I suppose one could argue that the combination of circumstances — the fact that the incident allegedly happened in Philadelphia, where sports fans are notorious, involved a goggle-eyed mascot named “Gritty” for a team playing a sport where dropping the gloves and taking a few swings is an accepted part of the game, and a franchise that recently unveiled a “rage room” to allow frustrated fans, and “Gritty,” blow off steam by wrecking various household items — should be factored into the investigation, but clearly we need to let normal police investigative techniques take their course.

The more important lesson here is that all anthropomorphic mascots should be given as wide a berth as possible, whether they are found at a hockey game, a ballpark, or an amusement park.  Unless you’re a “furrie” — that is, somebody who gets his or her jollies wearing a fuzzy or hairy costume depicting some kind of character — being a mascot would be one of the worst jobs imaginable.  You’re stuck in a hot, probably smelly costume with inadequate breathing capabilities, you’ve got the heavy burden of engaging in “zany” behavior at all times, and the fans around you undoubtedly aren’t respecting your personal space in any way.  Pats on the head, and for that matter kicks in the behind, are probably a regular occurrence.

I’m guessing that, in the professional mascot world, “Gritty” isn’t alone in wanting to use a “rage room” now and then.

Deploying The Digital Undead

Hollywood has made tremendous strides in marrying technology and film.  First it was in deploying high-end “special effects,” using miniatures and models, such as were found in 2001 and Star Wars, then it was in having computers generate images and entire scenes.  More recently, technology has been focused on the human actors, who’ve either been digitally recreated or, as in the recent film The Irishman, de-aged.

james-deanNow we’ve apparently reached a new frontier, where filmmakers believe they can literally raise an actor from the dead and, thanks to the miracle of modern computer, give the actor an entirely new career with new roles.  And the first actor to be targeted is one of Hollywood’s icons:  James Dean.

The moviemakers, acting with the full permission of the Dean family and estate, plan to feed TV footage and still photos of Dean into a computer to create a digital James Dean.  (The real James Dean died in 1955 at age 24, after making only three movies, and immediately rose to legend status, including being the subject of an Eagles song.)  The digital creation will then be moved from the computer to the movie screen with the help of stand-in actors moving through scenes using the motion-capture technology commonly used in CGI filmmaking, and another actor will supply the voice of the digital “James Dean.”

Digital JD is supposed to make his debut in a Vietnam War drama called “Finding Jack” — which seems like a very weird choice, given how closely the real James Dean is associated with the pre-Vietnam War, leather-jacketed bad boy ’50s.  The filmmakers say that they’re not aiming at a one-movie curiosity, but instead hope to give their digital creation an entirely new career that will revive interest in an actor who has been dead for more than 60 years.

Some people are rightly reacting with horror to this effort, which seems desperate and ghoulish.  But it may be the wave of the future in increasingly cash-conscious Hollywood.  Some studios may think:  why worry about developing and casting new acting talent if you can revive Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne, Lucille Ball, and other stars of the past, draw upon their established personas, and avoid dealing with real-life actors’ huge salaries and huge egos?

I’m not a fan of this effort, but I’m also not sure it will work.  James Dean may have been an iconic figure for a particular generation, but how many people under, say, 60 even know about him or have any interest in the films he actually made?  Fame is pretty fleeting in today’s Netflix world, and I’m not sure that the ghosts of stars of the past are going to fit in.

Working Too Hard

Recently I was on the road and arrived at my hotel at about 8 p.m.  I hadn’t eaten, so after dropping off my bag in my room I visited the hotel restaurant, had a cheeseburger for dinner, and then was tempted by an apple crumble for dessert.  I asked if I could get it with ice cream, and the waiter said that would be fine.  The combination above is what arrived.

In case you’re wondering, on the plate that’s closest to the camera, that’s a kind of crumble pie, with no apple pieces, at the far left, two little green apple spheres with faux stems in the middle, and an apple slice dipped in dark chocolate in a mold made out of a cheesecake-like substance on the right, all set against the backdrop of Aztec-like lines inscribed in dark chocolate that was hardened on the plate.  The bowl at the far side of the plate contains my scoop of vanilla ice cream.

I’m sure I was supposed to admire the artistry of the presentation of the dessert, and the delicate nature of the plating. Mostly, though, I wondered how I was supposed to eat the various elements. I spooned the scoop of ice cream onto the crumble pie to let it melt, grabbed one of the little green apples by its faux stem and ate it, and then was stumped.  Was the molded cheesecake-chocolate option on one side of the plate supposed to be eaten in conjunction with the crumble pie at the other end?  If so, how?  And what was I expected to do with the chocolate markings –scrape them off and chow them down with the crumble pie, or the apples, or the cheesecake chocolate mold, or all three?  I ended up alternating between bites of the crumble pie and the molded object, ate the second little green apple at some point in between, and left the dark chocolate stripes alone.  It was fine,  I guess, but it would have been even better if I’d just gotten what I expected in the first place — a single dish that contained warm spiced apple slices, crumble, and ice cream on top that you could eat in the normal way.

I admire haute cuisine, and the efforts of chefs to bring creativity to the art of cooking and to reimagine some time-honored dishes.  But there’s a time and a place for it — and a late dinner at a hotel restaurant isn’t it.  It was clear that the kitchen had worked hard on the dish, but it really was making me work too hard in order to enjoy it.  Call me a philistine if you will, but I wasn’t ordering dessert to get a work of art.  I just wanted a traditional fruit dessert served in the traditional way.  Maybe the artistry can be reserved for the souffle.

Car Colors

The other day I walked past this brightly painted car in a nearby parking lot.  I was struck by its color, which I thought made this 2020 Hyundai Kona look like a colossal insect, ready to skitter across the asphalt and disappear into the foliage.

Car manufacturers have come a long way since the days of Henry Ford — who supposedly said that car buyers “can have any color they want, so long as it is black.”  Now, the different makes and models always offer an interesting palette of color options to new car buyers, and usually the colors have very evocative names.  From a review of the Hyundai website, it looks like this particular hue is “lime twist,” and it is available only on certain Kona models.  Other options in the Kona rainbow include “chalk white,” “sonic silver,” “thunder gray,” “surf blue,” “sunset orange,” “pulse red,” and “ultra black.”  I guess you’d pick “lime twist” if you want to be reminded of the sultry tropics every time you get into your car, or perhaps because you work as an entomologist.  In any case, one obvious advantage of the color is that there’s not much chance that you’re going to struggle finding your car in a crowded parking lot.

I’ve always been leery about buying a brightly colored car.  I’ve always subscribed to the notion that yellows and oranges and reds are going to be magnets for police officers eager to hand out speeding tickets and are tough to keep clean, especially during the dreary, road salt-encrusted winter months.  The only new car I’ve ever bought with any kind of color was a 1988 Honda Accord that was “harvest gold,” which I figured wouldn’t show dirt too much.  Since then, I’ve stuck with basic black on every car I’ve purchased.  My brother-in-law in the car business thinks black is the most beautiful color for a car, so long as it is kept clean, and I tend to agree with him.  At this point, I’m not realty interested in attracting attention with my ride, whether from the highway patrol or otherwise.

Maybe Henry Ford was on to something.

 

Megxit

The latest dust-up in the British royal family has been getting a lot of attention.  So much attention, in fact, that it’s got its own cute name:  “Megxit.”  Get it?  It’s a play on the first name of Meghan Markle, who along with “Prince Harry” has decided to leave the royals for a life of their own, and the British exit from the European Union, which has been shorted to the clunky name “Brexit.”  There’s some of that famous British wit for you!

skynews-harry-meghan-royal-family_4886673Those of us who don’t follow the comings and goings of the Windsor clan can honestly wonder at all the hoo-ha.  So one of the royals and his wife want to break off.  So what?  The royals have seemed like a dysfunctional clan for a long time now.  Once you get beyond Queen Elizabeth, with her respectful cloth coats and her frumpy hats and head scarves and her clear sense of regal obligation, you’ve got a pretty strange family, with its share of scandals and crackpots and weird uncles hanging out with Jeffrey Epstein.  Why in the world do people pay attention to them?

What’s interesting to me is whether the current controversy might actually cause the British people to jettison the royal family, once and for all.  Consider this:  in the deal that’s been worked out, “Harry and Meghan” will give up their titles, stop being supported by taxpayer dollars, and will repay $3 million in taxpayer funding for renovations to their home.  $3 million for home remodeling?  That’s living pretty high on the hog by any measure.  How many British taxpayers are wondering whether that was money well spent in the first place, even if it is repaid?

And then there’s this:  Harry and Megs apparently want to leave so that they can go off on their own, get rich, and serve as spokespeople for their favorite causes.  How are they going to get rich?  After all, Harry may look dashing in those different military uniforms he wears from time to time, and Meghan Markle was an actress who achieved some small measure of notoriety before she took up with a royal, but they aren’t exactly well positioned to rake in huge amounts of cash thanks to their skill sets and intrinsic capabilities.  No, if they make money, it will be because they’ll be trading on their celebrity and residue royalty, from people who will pay to rub elbows with them on corporate boards and at fundraisers.  The fact that Harry was born into an anachronism will let them become filthy rich without having to worry about those depressing and pesky royal duties weighing them down.

I don’t know why Americans pay attention to this stuff, but we can certainly be grateful to the Founding Fathers for throwing off the yoke of the British monarchy and ensuring that we aren’t saddled with supporting “royals” with our tax dollars so they can spend millions on home remodeling.  The question is, when are the British people going to wake up and do the same?

Back To 2001

Every once in a while I read about a museum exhibition that sounds so tantalizing it motivates a desire to take a trip just to see it.  So it is with an exhibit that is opening this weekend at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York called Envisioning 2001:  Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey.

2001 - A Space Odyssey - 1968Of course, the exhibit is about 2001:  A Space Odyssey — a masterpiece that is now generally considered one of the greatest films ever made.  (The British Film Institute’s critics poll, for example, ranks the film as number 6 on the top 100 list of the greatest films of all time.)  Anyone who’s watched the movie — and if you haven’t, you really should — has been mesmerized by the story, the soundtrack, and the many memorable scenes.   From the early ape-like human ancestors stroking the colossal object and learning how to use bones as weapons, to the discovery of the object on the moon, to the docking of the shuttle and the space station set to the strains of The Blue Danube waltz, to the exploits of the murderous HAL computer on the voyage to Jupiter, to the final mystifying scenes with the Starchild and the Stargate, 2001 is a mind-blowing adventure and feast for the senses.  And as you watch, you wonder:  what in the world (or, more appropriately, beyond the world) is happening here?  It’s hard to believe that many critics at the time of its release panned the movie and didn’t recognize its epic scale and greatness — but often the influential scope of books, movies, artistic movements, music, and other creative endeavors aren’t fully appreciated until years later.

The new exhibit offers a peek at the models used in the film’s ground-breaking special effects, the ape costumes worn by actors, and the spacesuits designed for the Jupiter voyage, but the real focus is on digging into what Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke were trying to convey — and how they got there.  When you get a chance to look at how a classic was created, how can you resist?

Indoor Day

Today will be a quintessential indoor day. It’s 33 degrees outside, freezing rain has coated the steps and trees and bushes in the backyard, like the one shown above, in a coat of wet, dripping ice, and a hard rain is still pelting down under flat gray skies — and is supposed to continue all day. It’s the kind of day when walking on frozen brick is especially treacherous, when an umbrella will quickly become heavy with ice, and you’re likely to find yourself taking an unwelcome pratfall that leaves you bruised and soaked.

So why risk the elements? Why not accept nature’s wintry verdict, do a few chores inside, and find a good book to read or a TV show to binge watch? Sometimes surviving the bleakness of winter requires acceptance — and savvy avoidance.