Archive for July, 2006
This weekend was Get The House Ready For Sale Weekend at Chez Holt, with lots of minor improvements to the house made to enhance its saleability and curb appeal. My father’s visiting from Florida this week just for this purpose, for helping us do all those little things we’ve never quite gotten around to doing during our two years in the house: repainting the trim on the front porch, re-screeing the front windows, replacing the rotting fascia boards on the shed, fixing the electrical outlets in the master bedroom. That kind of thing.
My job on Saturday was to have been, essentially, “Dad’s Flunky.” Whatever he needed me to do, that was what I was going to do. I was geared up for it, too — while I’m by no means the handiest guy, I’ve always liked assisting my dad with projects like this, because he is a supremely handy guy and I’m constantly amazed by his knowledge of home repair tricks and techniques. Helping my dad with projects like these makes me feel more like a Traditional By-Damn Tool-Wieldin’ Man than the computer-and-comic-book geek I really am. 
But I’m pretty sure it was that computer geek inside of me, clearly feeling threatened by any big scary Manliness forcing its way into me (so to speak), which reared up on Saturday morning and felled my Manly impulses before they could take root.
Our first task was ripping all of the old fascia boards off of the shed so we could then affix boards of the non-rotten variety. My first sub-task as delegated to me by my father: go through all of the old boards and remove any nails sticking out of them so that the kids wouldn’t come out and step on them.
No problem, thinks I, and start removing nails. I’m a nail-removing machine, stripping the rusty and corroded old nails out of those boards like a maniacal dentist pulling the teeth from the mouth of someone with horrible dental hygiene and fantastic dental insurance.
I threw down my most recently de-nailed board, eager to find another in the stack to render harmless.
I managed to find the next board with the ball of my right foot.
I yelped with pain (where “yelped” can be translated here as “cursed loudly and violently”) and pulled my foot back. The nail came with it, what with it being stuck through my sneaker and into my foot. Terry again displayed the remarkable speed she can muster when she hears my yell — she’d been somewhere inside, I think possibly even upstairs, but she was at my side before my expletives had even left the air.
We managed to get my shoe off (the nail stayed in the shoe rather than in my foot) and saw that the injury wasn’t too bad — it wound up being just severe enough for my foot to hurt like hell, but not enough to actually need medical attention. Yesterday I stuck my hand into the shoe (which still has the nail in it; can’t remove the thing until I take pictures, of course!) and determined that somewhere between a quarter and a half an inch of nail went into the ball of my foot. Ow.
Luckily for me, I’ve had a tetanus shot pretty recently — and I have a wife who’s really, really good at treating minor injuries, what with being the mother of two little children and all. So I’ve got an annoying limp for a few days and a free pass out of doing some of the work that needed to get done around the house — neither of which I wanted.
 There’s also the fact that I’m damn lucky to have this chance to work on these projects with him, since the way things looked last summer, he wasn’t going to be hangin’ around this plane of existence anymore to be able to help with such things. If my dad wanted my help, then he was going to have my help, dammit.
As I had hoped when the Disney-Pixar deal went down, Pixar’s John Lasseter is reintroducing traditional hand-drawn animated features in his new role as Chief Creative Officer at Disney. First up: The Frog Princess, to be directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, the guys who directed The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Treasure Planet (well, two outta three ain’t bad). Alan Menken will be in charge of the music for the movie, which will be a return to the Broadway-esque Disney hits of the early 90′s (think, for example, Beauty and the Beast (which Menken worked on) and The Lion King). This announcement seems to me to be something worth celebrating â€” the driving talents behind The Little Mermaid making a new cartoon feature with John Lasseter in charge of the whole thing? Oh, yeah, man, good stuff.
But according to the news brief on the IMDb, the Hollywood Reporter doesn’t think Disney’s bringing 2D animation back is such a hot idea: the traditional animation “no longer draws the crowd,” the Reporter says. Um, hello, Hollywood Reporter? Yeah, the thing is that bad hand-drawn animated flicks, movies that seem excessively lame, insult the audience’s intelligence or seem to exist only as launching pads for Happy Meal toys… those are the movies that don’t bring audiences anymore.
Let’s go back to 2002, the year the death knell for cel animation was rung, for just a moment, shall we?
In November of ’02, Treasure Planet, by most accounts a not-very-good movie, brings in a pitiful $38 million in the United States. Planet‘s monumental failure pretty much single-handedly decimates Disney’s cel-drawn animation department, resulting in thousands of layoffs and the shutdown of Disney’s Florida animation facility. It was at this point that the “hand-drawn animation is dead” movement began in earnest.
Yet only five months earlier, Lilo and Stitch, a great movie with plenty of heart designed to appeal to both adults and children, pulled in $145 million domestic, plus launched a spinoff series and several direct-to-DVD sequels. Lilo and Stitch grossed almost as much in its opening weekend ($35 million) as Treasure Planet made during its entire theatrical run. By any metric used, Lilo and Stitch was a solid hit. (For some reason, every article I’ve read of the “no one wants to watch 2D animation” variety ignores this fact â€” doing so would dispute the foregone conclusion the writers were trying to assert, I suppose.)
Even 2003′s Brother Bear, which was released with relatively little promotion as a result of the huge stinking disaster which was Treasure Planet, managed to earn a healthy $85 million at the box office. (And 2004′s lame Home on the Range, also released with almost no promotion, still managed to out-gross Treasure Planet with a $50 million haul.)
So because of one massive stinkbomb, all of a sudden no one wants to watch hand-drawn animated features anymore?
Audiences do like hand-drawn animation when done well. (Have you noticed the huge surge in popularity of anime over the last decade?) Computer animation isn’t inherently superior, and doesn’t automatically ensure that people will show up. You’ll notice that in the glut of computer-animated movies that have come out over the last few years since 2D animation went into its coma, there have been some pretty big duds in that list, too (The Wild and it’s $36 million take, anyone?). Would The Iron Giant or The Lion King have been better movies if they had been done in 3D rather than 2D? No, I don’t believe it would have. What makes these movies work are the characters, the story, the songs (where applicable), the heart and soul that comes through â€” not whether the animation is flat or three-dimensional.
If John Lasseter’s going to be overseeing these new features, I have every expectation that the new breed of 2D movies will be more Lilo-like than Planet-esque. Lasseter might be most associated with computer animation, but the man knows storytelling and character and detail, and it’s those qualities which I hope will make these new hand-drawn features every bit as excellent as the Pixar films.
I’ve been in North Carolina for four days, and I’m already beginning to think in a Southern accent again.
Yup, consider this the “Gone Fishin’” message I forgot to post last week : the family and I are on vacay in The N.C. for the week, visiting some most excellent friends and enjoying the friendliness of the people and a complete and total lack of traffic. We’ll be here in Greensboro for the rest of the week, then it’s travel on Saturday and a wedding of other most excellent friends on Sunday, and then posting will resume as normal next Monday! Enjoy the rest of your week, y’all!
 I’m not really fishing. I don’t fish.
Last night at about 10:30, I told an exhausted and bedward-bound Terry I’d be coming to join her in bed very soon. I hadn’t realized when I said it that I was lying: by “very soon,” I apparently meant “shortly after 1 a.m.” I stayed up more than two hours longer than I’d intended because I was fervently feeding my newest addiction: I think I’ve become a Wikipediholic. 
I can’t seem to stop editing articles, or looking at my watchlist of recent updates to the articles I’ve touched, or searching for poorly written or poorly organized articles to improve. I’ll fix tense, I’ll fix spelling, I’ll remove speculation, I’ll clarify, I’ll reformat. I’ve even joined my first WikiProject: it’s about comic books, which I’m sure comes as no surprise to anyone reading these words.
I’ve been using the Wikipedia as a research resource for a couple of years, but I’d done very little article editing until recently; I wasn’t sure I could consider myself enough of an authority on any subjects to feel justified in contributing. My personality is such that I always tend to doubt myself, to wonder if what I think I know is true  — and I certainly don’t want to put incorrect information on the site, both because I don’t want to disseminate falsehoods and because I don’t want someone to correct me later and think me a raging dumbass.
But I decided I could safely contribute my vast stores of knowledge when I realized that there exist a great many people who clearly don’t share my belief that one should know what one is talking about before one contributes to the Wikipedia. And then I realized that the words thrown up by those people usually need some serious editing.
This practice of editing articles ties directly into one of the things I’ve always felt was one of my strengths: I’m frequenly better at improving something that’s been done poorly than starting something from scratch. As good a writer as I feel like I am, in some ways I’m an even better editor, and that’s a skill so much of the Wikipedia dearly needs. (I’m not as good an editor as my wife, of course… but then, very few are.) There’s also the fact that I’m nearly OCD with my fussing over things like formatting and structure , and so many of the users who add text to the Wikipedia don’t seem to care about those aspects of the articles at all.
It’s proving to be something of a learning experience and an adjustment for me, this whole egalitarian concept of the Wikipedia being a truly collaborative project, one where my words count for no more than anyone else’s. While I have no problem editing the hell out of someone else’s work (for I am, but of course, far smarter than they, no matter who the “they” in question may be), I don’t like being edited myself — even when the edits results in stronger work. It’s an ego thing. As much as I’d dearly love to, I can’t lock an article and say “Now that I have touched these words, no one else need do so ever again.” I change things, people change some things back or make others more to their liking, and I have to learn to be okay with that process.
I know I’ll be fine with it, of course; subjugating my ego for the greater good has never been all that much of a problem for me, no matter how much it might rankle at first. This is the thing, though, the thing that makes swallowing my pride a little easier: I feel like I’m contributing something — and I don’t just mean contributing to the Wikipedia itself, but contributing to the greater cultural conversation, even if that something so far isn’t all that big. In some small way, I’m helping to Get Information Out There. Anything I write here on Do or Do Not gets read by, at most, seventy or so people right now; anything I add to the Wikipedia (even if it’s not directly attributed to me) has the potental to be read by millions. That’s a pretty damn good feeling.
 Silly me, I thought I’d coined that word, but of course I didn’t — it seems there’s a great many of us Wikipediholics out there.
 This same particular form of self-doubt causes me not to speak up in group conversation and almost never to engage in debate.
 I’m so bad about worrying over formatting that I’m not allowed to write using Microsoft Word anymore because I’ll spend more time tweaking the fonts and styles than I will actually, y’know, writing.