Saturday, February 27, 2010

Super-Awsome Find of the Week, installment 9

Faithful followers of NU14 will remember a story I told a few weeks ago. It was a true rags-to-riches tale in which a woman found an original NES and a few games in her attic, posted them on eBay, and soon discovered that one of her games was among the list of Video Game Holy Grails which sold for over $13,000.

You remember this, right?
Now that we have that super-awesome story fresh in our minds, allow me, if you will, to tell you an even superer, even awesomer story.

Like the last story, I am going to ask you to put yourself in someone else's shoes. This time around, you are an eBayer who goes by the handle vals2girlz. You have a decent eBay score and repertoire—usually selling things that can only be described as "chickish"—but are by no means a power seller. Oh, and you hail from the sprawling metropolis of Olathe, Kansas.

A GoogleImage search of "Olathe Kansas" brought up this picture.
One day you read a story about a woman finding a game in her attic and selling it for a cool chunk of change. This sparks a memory in your mind that your children used to play video games and you have them all in a box in the basement. You go downstairs and start searching through the box, not expecting to find much. Imagine your surprise, then, when you almost-but-not-quite literally strike gold: your very own copy of Stadium Events—the same game you had just read about.

pay dirt
But what is this? You quickly notice that not only do you have a CIB—complete in box, for those who don't speak eBaynics—copy of the game, but yours still has the factory seal on it. That's right: you have the only confirmed factory-sealed Stadium Events in the entire world. Imagine the level your surprise would jump to upon discovering that.

At this point, you are probably as surprised as you will ever be, right? I would have thought so as well—until I looked at the price the auction closed at: forty-one thousand three hundred dollars.

That's right—$41,300... for something you didn't even know existed a week ago.

Hey: at least you offered free shipping.
Yeah. That's super-awesome.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Utah - H*ck Yeah!, part 1

It's probably a safe assumption on my part to think that most (if not all) readers and fans of NU14 are, were—or at the very least hope to one day be—Utahns. (Incidentally, it could also be spelled "Utahans" if you prefer, but I think that's putting too many vowels in an already-confusingly-and-convolutedly-spelled word). Aside from my two-year stint in South Africa, I have lived in the state my whole life and am proud to identify myself as a Utah Man—though I didn't go to the University of Utah, so I guess I'm not a "Utah Man" Utah Man, but still.

For those who don't call the Beehive State home, you may be asking yourselves the following question: "But Adam, why? Why would a [relatively] sharp and [fairly] level-headed [not to mention extremely good looking] individual such as yourself be drawn to a state that I hear all sorts of rumors about?" (That's right... you ended your sentence in a preposition. And Winston "The Lion" Churchill supposedly said that ending a sentence in a preposition is "the sort of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put". But don't feel bad; few people will ever live who were as cool as that guy.)

In concrete answer to your theoretical question, I am preparing an objective presentation on Utah and why it is awesome, which I will present to you next Tuesday. In the meantime, however, allow me to present to you a few bigwigs who, perhaps unbeknownst to you, presently call (or once called) Utah home.

Roseanne Barr, comedienne
born in Salt Lake City
Cytherea, adult film star
born in Salt Lake City
Faye Dunaway, Academy Award-winning actress
attended Dugway High School
Patrick Fugit, actor
born in Salt Lake City
Jewel, singer
born in Payson
Maddox, author
current Utah resident
Amanda Righetti, actress
born in St. George
Picabo Street, Olympic gold medalist
current Park City resident
Mary Elizabeth Winstead, actress
grew up in Sandy
James Woods, Academy Award-nominated actor
born in Vernal

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Heteronyms: They'll Get You Every Time

While the brevity of this entry would normally rank it among other super-awesome finds of the week, I simply could not wait to share it.

No doubt most of you read that word as:
  "peer (n.): one that is of equal standing with another".
The first thing I read, however, was:
  "peer (n.): one who pees".

That being the case, I would complain too.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Super-Awsome Find of the Week, installment 8

While the Olympics are super-awesome in their own right, leave it up to Stephen Colbert to make them super-awesomer.

**February 23rd Edit**
As could be expected, NBC doesn't know the meaning of "free advertising" and has asked that the previously-attached video—Bob Costas' interview with Stephen Colbert—be taken down.

Le sigh.

In its stead, let me present you with something almost as super-awesome from another Costas-Colbert encounter:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bathroom Humor

There is a certain atmosphere that exists in public restrooms that is unlike anywhere I've ever seen. Sure, there is the nature of what goes on there; but more importantly, people change when they go into a public restroom. And not just in the "If you're American when you go in the bathroom and Asian when you come out of the bathroom, what are you when you're in the bathroom?"* sort of way.

It seems that whenever anybody enters a public restroom, they feel the need to become hyper-introverted, even if they encounter someone they know. Take a meeting between associates Tom and Bob. If they met on the street, the meeting might go as follows:
  Tom: "Bob? Is that you?"
  Bob: "Tom! As I live and breathe. How are you, old man?"
  Tom: "Oh, I'm good! And you?"
  Bob: "Great. The Mrs. and I just closed on our first house."
  Tom: "That's amazing. Way to be, my friend."
  Bob: "Yeah, we'll have to have you over for dinner sometime."

Now let's examine that same meeting, but this time they meet as Tom has just walked into a restroom as Bob is walking out.
  Tom: "...hey."
  Bob: *nods

Gone is the frivolity. Gone is the small talk. Gone is Tom's dinner invite. And why? Because of the locale of their encounter. And that's on a good day. Heaven knows had the meeting happened when there were other men in the restroom, Tom and Bob would have done all they could to avoid even making eye contact with one another. In fact, it's a good bet that had Tom and Bob been friends who were walking and talking on their way to use the facilities at the same time, their conversation would have stopped the second they stepped foot in the door.

"So two guys walk into a bath—"
I'm sure we all have funny stories of bathroom encounters. There's the instance when we hear ringing coming from the stall next to us, followed by the person answering and having an entire conversation. There's also the times when something (sink, paper towels, etc.) doesn't work, and the person who has just discovered it seems compelled to make a (often lame) joke about the situation.

"No towels? Looks like I'll just have to come up with another way to dry my hands!"
Despite the aforementioned stories—and any left in comments, for everyone's pleasure—I believe I stumbled across the mother of all restroom tales. The following conversation took place between two young boys at a recent sporting event, and was overheard by me whilst I was in a stall. For organization's sake, I'm going to give each boy a name; but other than that, everything that follows is a direct quotation, told in the manner in which it was heard:

-Tommy enters the bathroom and walks up to a urinal. He is joined shortly thereafter by Bobby.-
  Bobby: "No, you don't do it like that."
  Tommy: "Like what?"
  Bobby: "You don't pull them both down. You pull this part down without pulling this part down."
  Tommy: "Huh?"
  Bobby: "That way, people don't get to see your bum. You do it like this. Look at this."
  Bobby: "No, don't look at THAT part!"
  Tommy: *giggles
  Bobby: "See? This is how it works. My friend does it your way, except with his underwear. I saw my friend's underwear once. But it was at church, so I didn't tell anybody."
  Bobby: "He had SpongeBob underpants."

Tommy and Bobby, artist's depiction
And that is why those boys are the coolest kids ever.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Where Have All The Ideas Gone?, part 4

For the past few entries, we've noticed the escalation in convolutedness (though convolutocity sounds so much better) as to where Hollywood's inspiration comes from. From prequels to reboots to video games, it seems that Hollywood is having a hard time coming up with original ideas—and when the original ideas do come up, they usually leave a lot to be desired.

case in point
But what about the times when having an idea from a source just isn't enough? When those times roll around—all too often, I might add—it makes for some interesting scenarios.

The Producers
The year is 1968. The man is a relatively unknown writer by the name of Melvin Kaminsky. The movie is The Producers, a comedy about two men who try (unsuccessfully) to make a Broadway flop so they can rake in extra cash. The movie garnered plenty of controversy and plenty of money; it also catapulted Melvin Kaminsky into the limelight as a household name: Mel Brooks.

Springtime for Hitler and Germany...
33 years later, a musical was released on Broadway titled The Producers, and was a comedy about two men who try (unsuccessfully) to make a Broadway flop so they can rake in extra cash. The play won a dozen Tony awards and eventually had a US and European tour. Four years after that, a movie was released called The Producers. As you might have guessed, it was a comedy about two men who try (unsuccessfully) to make a Broadway flop so they can rake in extra cash.

In case you didn't catch it, we have the original film (The Producers). We then have a musical inspired by the original (The Producers). We then have a movie based off the musical inspired by the original (The Producers).

Confused yet?
In 1979, John Carpenter released a film; as I recall, it was a horror film. The film was called Halloween and involved a deranged homicidal maniac named Michael Myers* running around, murdering young babysitters. The original film did so well that it spawned a sequel (and, later, about 50 other -quels), appropriately called Halloween II.

*No, not this Michael Myers.
In 2007, somebody decided that giving Rob Zombie reign over another movie would be a good idea, and the viewing public was given Halloween, a remake of the original. Though the film did nowhere near as well as the original, a sequel was greenlit. Two years later, we were given a sequel, appropriately called Halloween II.

For those keeping score, we have Halloween, an original film. We then have Halloween II, a sequel to the original. We then have Halloween, a remake of the original. And lastly, we have Halloween II, a sequel to the remake of the original, which has nothing in common with the other Halloween II.

How about now?
In 1963, an Italian director by the name of Federico Fellini wrote and directed a semi-autobiographical film called Otto e Mezzo, known better by its English title: 8 1/2. The film was a huge success and served as an inspiration for numerous works, including a 1974 play called Six Passionate Women, written by Mario Fratti. Fratti then adapted his own work into English, which was first shown in 1998.

Too many numbers... what is this, LOST?
Meanwhile, in 1973 work began on a play inspired by Fellini's 8 1/2. The producers of the play originally hired Fratti to write the play—which he did, mostly by adapting his own Six Passionate Women—but later decided to go with another writer. This play was released in 1982 as Nine. 27 years later, a film adaptation of the play was released in theaters, also under the title Nine.

So we have a movie (Nine) based off a play (Nine), which was itself partially inspired by another play (Six Passionate Women) and by another film (8 1/2).

Sewiouswy, Stwong Bad...
Die Hard 2
The story of Die Hard 2: Die Harder begins back in 1966 with a man named Roderick Thorp. That year, Thorp wrote a book called The Detective about a renegade cop who plays by his own rules. The Detective was later adapted into a 1986 film of the same name starring Frank Sinatra. 13 years later, Thorp wrote a sequel called Nothing Lasts Forever about the same renegade cop playing by the same rules. Nothing Lasts Forever was later adapted into a film called Die Hard starring Bruce Willis, released in 1988.

Which makes these guys the same character...
Die Hard did so well in the box office that a sequel was immediately greenlit. As Thorp hadn't written a threequel, the studio scrambled for ideas. They eventually came across a book written by Walter Wager with the name of 58 Minutes, which was written in 1987. 58 Minutes dealt largely with a renegade cop playing by his own rules. As this matched the model, a pair of screenwriters were instantly tasked with an adaptation, and in 1990, Die Hard 2 was released.

This one might be a bit tricky to keep orderly. We have a movie (Die Hard 2) based on a book (58 Minutes) acting as a sequel to another movie (Die Hard) based on another book (Nothing Lasts Forever), which itself was a sequel to another book (The Detective), which incidentally was adapted into a separate film (The Detective).

A movie based on a book being a sequel to a movie based on a book which was a sequel to a book? Don't let's be silly!
And if you think the cycle of idea-theft is only a thing of the past, allow me to show you what we have to look forward to in the next few years:

The Warriors (2010) — A movie based on a movie based on a book based on a Greek tale.
The Little Shop of Horror (2011) — A movie based on a movie based on a play based on a movie.
Wicked (2012) — A movie based on a musical based on a novel based on a novel.

After discussing the various places Hollywood gets (read: steals/regurgitates) its ideas from, I personally am all the more grateful for those few-and-far-between times when an original movie does come out. But what is to be done with the Hollywood executives who can't seem to get any new ideas into their heads? I have just one thing to say to them. And yes, to follow their example, I'm going to steal it: cut it out.

Thanks, Uncle Joey.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Super-Awsome Find of the Week, installment 7

This week's super-awesome find comes in the form of an almost-unbelievable-but-totally-true-and-rad news story.

Imagine you are an average mother who sells things on eBay—under the handle of lace_thongs35—in her spare time. From troll dolls to Disney pictures, you specialize in retro merchandise. Imagine you then find your children's old Nintendo Entertainment System with a few games in the attic and decide to put the whole lot up for auction. Nothing out of the ordinary thus far.

Just an NES and some games...
If you have thus far placed yourself in lace_thongs35's shoes, you can certainly imagine her—and, by proxy, your—surprise when the bidding jumped from $9.99 to $6,500 in the first three hours of the auction. If that was the case, perhaps you would instantly jump to Google and see if perhaps, not entirely unlike the Michael-Bay-ruined franchise, there was more than meets the eye to your items.

Surely something must be amiss...
At this point, a quick Google search later would reveal that one of the games you were selling in its complete form was the rarest licensed NES game available for purchase in North America. In fact, your copy of Stadium Events—or more importantly, the box the game came with—ranks number 6 on the 20 Holy Grails of Console Gaming list, and is one of less than 10 thought to be in existence.

Taking this new knowledge under your belt, you probably wouldn't be as surprised—though you would be ecstatic, no doubt—when your little NES lot went from being something meager you hoped to get a couple of bucks from to having a final selling price of over $13,000.

Yeah. That's super-awesome.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Where Have All The Ideas Gone?, part 3

Over the past week, we've discussed Hollywood's general apathy towards original ideas, and how they like to take existing films and basically rip them to shreds. Today, I would like to point out some of the other mediums—other than history, news, and other "true stories"—that have been hurt due to this philosophy. (As with previous installments, the purpose of this post is not to say that every movie taken from another medium is bad. Just most of them.) Among other things there have been (bad) movies based on...



...television shows...

...plays... games...

...comic books...

...board games...

...amusement park rides...


...and even social networking sites.

Though this list is by no means extensive or exhaustive, I think we can all agree that if there is something/anything out there, there has been/will be a movie based on it.

You know it's only a matter of time...
But wrapping it up Tuesday: when it gets REALLY bad...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Where Have All The Ideas Gone?, part 2

Last Thursday, I proposed the idea that perhaps Hollywood needs to be a bit more original when coming up with ideas for movies. Today, I will explore further why that is the case.

The Remake
Remakes are often started by the following conversation:

  Studio Executive 1: "You know, _______ did extraordinarily well at the box office."
  Studio Executive 2: "Then what are we waiting for? Let's greenlight _______ 2!"
  Studio Executive 1: "_______ 2? But [the main character [or bad guy] died/ there is no more conflict/ the world has been saved]!
  Studio Executive 2: "Hmmm... Well, let's get a new actor in there and tell the story again!"

The concept behind a remake is pretty cut-and-dry. They are often used on movies that are old (that they want to introduce to a new audience), low-budget (that they want to make with more money), or good (that they want to completely mess up). Oft-times they will change the name of the film slightly, in an attempt to either admit that what they're doing is wrong, or to trick people into seeing a film with a name that will strike a eerily-familiar cord with viewers.

I'm betting it's the latter.
Remakes are usually made to be a flash-in-the-pan; that is, make a lot of money the first few opening weekends, then be quickly forgotten. Gone is any caring for the original or any hopes to make an actually good film, and present are the hopes of making truckloads of cash before word gets out that it's not a good movie.

I mean, come on!
  Most grievous offenses—
Psycho, Alfie, The Pink Panther, The Italian Job
  Ones I'm glad they haven't made... yet—
Once Upon a Time in the West, To Kill a Mockingbird, It Happened One Night

This summer, Peter and Ellie's lives will change in one night.
The Reboot
The reboot is a fairly new invention, emerging in the past decade or so. The idea behind a reboot stems in its terminology: to take something already in existence and restart it.

Because calling it a "ctrl + alt + del" wasn't as catchy.
By doing this, studios have the freedom of choosing new actors, settings, storylines, themes, and pretty much anything else they want for their movies, but also have the luxury of the populace already knowing the gist of and liking the series. A reboot differs from a remake in that remakes often stick to original ideas that are just revamped, whereas a reboot is a complete mulligan of an entire series. In a reboot, all bets are off regarding anything from previous installments (usually referred to as the "canon"). For an example, take the following conversation:

  Studio Executive 1: "You know, _______ did extraordinarily well at the box office."
  Studio Executive 2: "Then what are we waiting for? Let's greenlight _______ 2!"
  Studio Executive 1: "_______ 2? But [the main character [or bad guy] died/ there is no more conflict/ the world has been saved]!
  Studio Executive 2: "Hmmm... Well, let's get a new actor in there and tell the story again! But this time, we'll make it edgy!"

When dealing with reboots, one often hears the word "gritty". This (I guess) stems from the frat-boy inspired philosophy that as long as you are redoing something, you might as well make it more hardcore this time around. While gritty reboots can work—making Batman dark and serious is one of the best moves the franchise ever made—it really makes me wonder at what point they will stop.

See how the man became the legend.
Reboots are usually not explained in the context of the movie itself. Why are we seeing James Bond acquiring his 007 title after 20 films of him already having it? Because we're starting over, that's why. In the most recent Star Trek installment, they actually did attempt to explain it—and did a rather nice job. (Granted, they had to use the "time warp" theory, which only works in something like Star Trek, but still.)

  Most grievous offenses—
Superman Returns, Hulk, Halloween
  Ones I'm glad they haven't made... yet—
Adventures in Babysitting, Song of the South, Spider-man 4

Oh, wait.
Coming up Thursday: when ideas are still copied, but not from movies...