kottke.org posts about Cars (movie)
What do saw dust, cow manure, car prices, chainsaw art, and alternative energy have in common?
1. It seems that the slow housing market means that fewer scraps of wood are being reduced down to dust, which is used in the manufacture of certain interior components, like steering wheels.
2. Apparently, there are a few substitutes to sawdust in the farming industry, like cow manure.
3. Sawdust swirled as Paul Jones worked his chainsaw magic in Howard Amon Park, converting a dying tree into a work of art.
4. “Imagine a vat of liquid cow manure covering the area of five football fields and 33 feet deep,” Reuters tells us. “Meet California’s most alternative new energy.”
Hilariously bad knockoffs of Pixar’s Ratatouille and Cars called Ratatoing and The Little Cars. (via waxy)
Here are some updates on some of the topics, links, ideas, posts, people, etc. that have appeared on kottke.org recently (previous installment is here):
The Celluloid Skyline exhibition at Grand Central is well worth checking out…I was up there this past weekend. Pentagram collaborated with Saunders on the exhibit and wrote up a brief piece on how it came together.
My short post on Nina Planck’s reaction to the recent “death by veganism”, as she calls it, of a baby boy is a good reminder that I don’t always agree with the things I link to. My only criteria for posting a link is that it’s interesting, whether I think it’s right or wrong or am still trying to form an opinion about it. Anyway, I got lots of mail about this one, much of it that said that the parents’ veganism was beside the point — which the prosecutors and jury in the subsequent criminal case agreed with (thx, matt) — and that a headline like “Death By Stupidity” was probably more appropriate. After all, you don’t see “Death by Omnivorism” headlines every time a baby with a more traditional diet dies of starvation.
Debra from Culiblog pointed out that contrary to Planck’s assertion that “there are no vegan societies”, the Jainists practice vegetarianism and veganism. On the other side of the aisle, meat fan Michael Ruhlman chastised Planck for going too easy on vegans, saying that “Veganism is a colossal arrogance, a refusal to admit to our own nature, a denial of our humanity. Sometimes it kills people. And it’s not very much fun, besides.” You can imagine the discussion that generated…although it was nothing like the 300+ comment thread on MetaFilter.
My opinion of Cars improved with a second viewing.
Discover’s chat bot conversation reminded a reader of this old interview with the Ask Jeeves search engine (thx david). Back in 2002, I interviewed ELLEGirl magazine’s AIMbot:
jkottke: Do you do anything to celebrate or recognize the changing of seasons?
ELLEgirlBuddy: do you do anything to celebrate or recognize the changing of seasons? that’s a tough choice.
jkottke: yes, to celebrate or merely recognize. that is a toughie.
ELLEgirlBuddy: yes to celebrate or merely recognize that is a toughie? i dunno.
jkottke: you seem like an actual 13 year old girl.
ELLEgirlBuddy: i haven’t really made a decision ‘bout that.
jkottke: growing up is tough, isn’t it?
ELLEgirlBuddy: i dunno.
And whoever posted the chat bot story to Digg (5696 Diggs and counting!) used the exact wording from my original post. You’re welcome!
Prime, David Burke’s quarter-million-dollar Black Angus bull, has his own web site. (thx, brian)
Regarding Alex Reisner’s excellent baseball statistics web site and, in particular, the pennant race graphs, here’s another interesting visualization of the pennant races…you can see the teams race to the end of the year like horses. (thx, scott)
Re: my post on better living through self-deception, I’ve heard that pregnant women tend to forget the pain of childbirth, perhaps because “endorphins reduce the amount of information trauma victims can store”. Also related tangetially is this article on research into lying and laughing, which includes this simple test to see if you’re a good liar:
Are you a good liar? Most people think that they are, but in reality there are big differences in how well we can pull the wool over the eyes of others. There is a very simple test that can help determine your ability to lie. Using the first finger of your dominant hand, draw a capital letter Q on your forehead.
Some people draw the letter Q in such a way that they themselves can read it. That is, they place the tail of the Q on the right-hand side of their forehead. Other people draw the letter in a way that can be read by someone facing them, with the tail of the Q on the left side of their forehead. This quick test provides a rough measure of a concept known as “self-monitoring”. High self-monitors tend to draw the letter Q in a way in which it could be seen by someone facing them. Low self-monitors tend to draw the letter Q in a way in which it could be read by themselves.
High self-monitors tend to be concerned with how other people see them. They are happy being the centre of attention, can easily adapt their behaviour to suit the situation in which they find themselves, and are skilled at manipulating the way in which others see them. As a result, they tend to be good at lying. In contrast, low self-monitors come across as being the “same person” in different situations. Their behaviour is guided more by their inner feelings and values, and they are less aware of their impact on those around them. They also tend to lie less in life, and so not be so skilled at deceit.
The skyscraper with one floor isn’t exactly a new idea. Rem Koolhaas won a competition to build two libraries in France with one spiraling floor in 1992 (thx, mike). Of course, there’s the Guggenheim in NYC and many parking garages.
After posting a brief piece on Baltimore last week, I discovered that several of my readers are current or former residents of Charm City…or at least have an interest in it. Armin sent along the Renaming Baltimore project…possible names are Domino, Maryland and Lessismore. A Baltimore Sun article on the Baltimore Youth Lacrosse League published shortly after my post also referenced the idea of “Two Baltimores. Two cities in one.” The Wire’s many juxtapositions of the “old” and “new” Baltimore are evident to viewers of the series. Meanwhile, Mobtown Shank took a look at the crime statistics for Baltimore and noted that crime has actually decreased more than 40% from 1999 to 2005. (thx, fred)
Cognitive Daily took an informal poll and found that fewer than half the respondants worked a standard 8-5 Mon-Fri schedule. Maybe that’s why the streets and coffeeshops aren’t empty during the workday.
[Warning, might be some spoilers.] Cars was perfect. The problem is that it was a little too perfect. After seeing the movie on Friday, Meg and I came up with three reasons why Cars missed.
1. Perfection. Some people don’t like Wes Anderson’s movies because of his emphasis on creating set-driven movies instead of plot- or character-driven movies (ditto George Lucas). With Cars, Lasseter has made himself a perfect world of cars — the petulant young racer, the lawyer Porsche, the Hispanic lowrider, the hick tow truck — but it’s a world without soul, without surprise. Everything was a little too obvious.
2. Inanimate characters talking. This was the first Pixar movie in which non-human-like or non-animal characters talked. In Toy Story, Buzz, Woody, and even the T. Rex talked, but the TV didn’t, nor did the Etch-a-Sketch. In A Bug’s Life, only the insects talked. In Cars, you’ve got these inanimate objects talking to each other, and while they did a great job making them seem human, I just couldn’t get into the characters; it felt fake and inauthentic.
3. Unlikable main character. For the first half of the movie, Lightning McQueen is a flat-out jerk with zero redeeming qualities. I remember reading an interview with John Lasseter recently where he was talking about one of the first rough cuts they did of Toy Story in which Woody was too sarcastic. After seeing it, they realized this and tempered Woody’s sarcasm with some like-ability, so that the audience would be pulling for him to change his ways, a deep-down good guy that needs to see the light. Lightning didn’t deserve redemption…he was just an asshole.
Cars is a fine movie with a lot to recommend it, but it’s just not up to Pixar’s normal standards. I was disappointed.
First trailer for Ratatouille, by Pixar and Brad Bird (who did The Incredibles and The Iron Giant). ps. Cars opens today! Zoom!
Headline writers everywhere are rejoicing the impending release of Pixar’s new movie, Cars. As with Apple’s release of their Tiger operating system, Cars comes loaded with so many opportunities for puns and metaphors that the media just can’t help themselves. A sampling of puntacular fun so far:
With ‘Cars,’ Pixar Revs Up to Outpace Walt Disney Himself (NY Times)
NASCAR, Hollywood share the fast lane (USA Today)
‘Cars’ Voices Toot Their Horns (Zap2it.com)
A toon-up for Petty (Orlando Sentinel)
With ‘Cars’, Paul Newman stays in the race (Malaysia Star)
Newman’s need for speed (Toronto Sun)
Cars: Cruising along in Weirdsville, Cartoonland (NY Times)
Cars’ Riding on Flat Tires (OhMyNews International)
Shifting gear (The Age)
Pixar’s Cars stalls with reviewers (Guardian Unlimited)
“Cars” is one sweet ride (Hollywood Reporter)
Cars rolls along like an animated version of Doc Hollywood (Canada.com)
‘Cars’ an auto-matic hit (Tucson Citizen)
Great-looking ‘Cars’ stuck in cruise control (goTriad.com)
‘Cars’ revs up marketing campaign (Inside Bay Area)
Disney/Pixar revvs up its latest cash cow (Monterey Herald)
Finely drawn characters drive ‘Cars’ and its director (St. Paul Pioneer Press)
‘Cars’ wins the race hands down for summer’s best film (Press & Sun Bulletin)
Kickin’ the Tires (East Bay Express)
Star vehicle veers a bit (St. Petersburg Times)
Pixar’s ‘Cars’ falls a little short of winner’s circle (SouthCoastToday.com)
‘Cars’ just can’t get it out of first (Statesman Journal)
‘Cars’ will take you straight to the dump (Scripps Howard)
Running on Fumes (Village Voice)
Headlines courtesy of Google News. If the movie were getting mostly bad reviews, one could imagine headlines like “Cars a lemon”, “New Disney movie is the pits”, and “Reviewers to Pixar: Your new film is car-rappy”.
An extensive listing of all the promotional merchandise from Pixar/Disney’s Cars. Over 70 licensees will be offering themed merchandise like toy cars, cross stitch kits, books, staplers, shower curtains, sippy cups, and a boatload of Kellogg’s cereals. Holy overload.
A history of the lowrider. “But the ultimate discovery was the realization that a heavy hydro system could launch the entire front end off the ground.”
Mark Simonson notes the decline in license plate design. They’ve become increasingly bad at their primary use…quick and easy identification of the car.
Early review of Pixar’s Cars. The author caught the first public showing of the film in Las Vegas.
Video of a BMW that parallel parks itself. No word on if this was influenced by Knight Rider, starring David Hasselholf, who is big in Germany.
Unknown (relatively speaking) indie rock bands are turning down large sums of money from GM for licensing their music for Hummer ads. “It had to be the worst product you could give a song to. It was a really easy decision. How could we go on after soundtracking Hummer? It’s just so evil.” (via rw)
MoMA just opened their show about Pixar last week and on Friday, we went to a presentation by John Lasseter, head creative guy at the company. Interesting talk, although I’d heard some of it in various places before, most notably in this interview with him on WNYC. Two quick highlights:
- Lasseter showed colorscripts from Pixar’s films (which can be viewed in the exhibition). A colorscript is a storyboarding technique that Pixar developed to “visually describe the emotional content of an entire story through color and lighting”. They are compact enough that the entire story fits on a single sheet and if you’re familar enough with the films, you can follow along with the story pretty well. But mostly it’s just for illustrating the mood of the film. Very cool technique (that could certainly be adopted for web design and branding projects).
- Near the end of the talk he showed a 2-3 minute clip of Cars, prefacing it with an announcement that it had never before been shown outside of Pixar. Some of the CGI wasn’t completely finished, but it was certainly enough to get the gist. When the first preview trailer for Cars was released, I was skeptical; it just didn’t look like it was going to be that good. Based on the clip Lasseter showed and some of his other comments, I’m happy to report that I was wrong to be so skeptical and am very much looking forward to its release in 2006.
At 15 minutes long, the Q&A session at the end of his talk was too short. The MoMA audience is sufficiently interesting and Lasseter was so quick on his feet and willing to share his views that 30 to 40 minutes of Q&A would have been great.
 For you Pixar completists and AICN folks out there, the clip showed Lightning McQueen leaving a race track on the back of a flat-bed truck, bound for a big race in California. As the truck drives across the US, you see the criss-crossing expressways of the city stretch out into the long straight freeways of the American west, the roads literally cutting into the beautiful scenery. A cover of Tom Cochran’s Life is a Highway plays as the truck drives. The world of the movie features only cars, no humans…the cars are driving themselves.
Table of the odds of dying from various injuries. Looking at statistics like these, I’m always amazed at how worried people are about things that don’t often result in death (fireworks, sharks) and how relatively dangerous automobiles are (see, for example, this list of people on MySpace who have died…many of the deaths on the first two pages involve cars).
September sales of SUVs were down sharply from last year. “Sales of F-Series pickup trucks plunged 30 percent. Sales of Ford’s large SUVs, including the Ford Explorer and Expedition and the Lincoln Navigator, sank by more than 55 percent each. At GM, overall sales of trucks, minivans and SUVs dropped 30 percent.” Most blame the $1/gal difference in gas prices from a year ago, but auto execs blame poor inventory after summer sales. Perhaps everyone went to the movies instead of car shopping.
NYC taxi agency approves the use of hybrid cars as taxis. Downside: the hybrids have less leg room than the vast Crown Vic.
Clever Infiniti newspaper ad looks like a blank weather report. Punchline is “With intelligent all-wheel drive, the weather doesn’t matter”.