Archive for March, 2009



I Pretty Much Co-Directed Watchmen

smileyThanks to the stealthy nature of this blog, I was not captured by Warner Brothers executives for spilling the beans a week early about Watchmen. Even though I saw the movie before almost anyone else in the universe, I still went last weekend to see it again. It’s that good a movie. Completed, I would say it’s even better.

I noticed a lot of the little details you miss the first time around on a movie like this.
I really dug the Batman posters in the background of one scene that took place in the 1940s.

There were a few scenes that seemed better this time, like the little get-together between the two Nite Owls. Sadly, the second scene with the original Nite Owl was cut for this version of the film. I’m sure it will be back for the DVD. The scenes on Mars, fantastic on first viewing, were even grander with the finished special effects. How did people make comic book adaptations before computer special effects?

There were two suggestions I made after my test audience viewing that Zack Snyder apparently agreed with. The first was about the song, Hallelujah, by Leonard Cohen. In the test screening, he used a cover version that didn’t sound all that good. I said, why not just use the original? He did.

My second suggestion has to do with a major plot point; a surprise for anyone who hasn’t read the book or seen the film yet. I won’t give it away, but I will say that there is a flashback of sorts near the beginning of the film. Dr. Manhattan puts his hand to Laurie’s forehead and forces her to “see” certain events from her past. In the original cut, you saw something that is meant to be a surprise at the end of the film. It totally ruined the surprise.

I said, why not let that be a surprise? You give away too much, too soon. Zack Snyder totally agreed with me. He said, you’re right Josh, how could I have been so stupid? And I said, you’re too hard on yourself, Zack. And he said, I’m nothing without you. And then we hugged for a really long time, but not in a gay way.

In short, I should have gotten co-directing credit for Watchmen. My fingerprints are all over that movie. I’m not concerned with the money. My foremost concern is that Watchmen be the best movie it can be, and that my name is first on the credits. Not too tall an order, really.

Thanks, Mr. Snyder, for making a great comic book adaptation. I was glad to put my hard-earned money down to see it a second time. Next time you’re making a movie, I hope you remember my essential contributions and give me a ring. You know where to find me. (Right here.)

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Tycho Brahe: Master of the Universe

Brahe-nose-damagedIn these hard economic times, the first to take a hit are often the most in need. Dreamers, thinkers; these highly-skilled but undervalued members of society never get the money they deserve to pull off those feats of magic we routinely expect from them. I’m talking of course about astronomers.

It wasn’t always this way.

Back when the world was flat and God was King, a Danish astronomer worked in his underground laboratory. Tycho Brahe flaunted his noseless face and died of a urinary infection; he was an astronomer among astronomers, a man among men. He looked through a lens in the mid to late 1500’s to see what few other men saw. He made his own conclusions, he advanced scientific knowledge, he fought and he swore. Let us sing the praises of Tycho Brahe, astronomer extraordinaire.

Tycho Brahe was a metal-nosed star gazer. He lost a piece of his nose in a rapier fight. Instead of the more traditional wax nose, Brahe brazenly drew attention to it by installing an alloy of gold and silver (and probably copper). This gave him an air of superiority whenever he had to look down his nose at lesser astronomers.

Not to let his nose outshine his other eccentricities, Brahe owned a pet moose while he worked as Danish Royal Astronomer. Sadly the moose’s life was cut short when it ingested too much beer, fell down a staircase, and broke a leg. A metal leg for the poor beast was unfortunately not an option, and it died.Uraniborg_garden

The Danish King gave Brahe an island where he could study the stars in peace. Now, history has shown that no good comes when men are given islands. Dr. Moreau, John Hammond, Rupert Murdoch: men make bigger mistakes when they rule a lonely island. Brahe took his island and had a castle built upon it and named it Uraniborg, after his mother, Borg.

Brahe loved the stars, but he loved women and fighting even more. When his good eye was not glued to the end of a telescope, it was leering at the prettiest Dane, Kirsten Jörgensdatter. Kirsten could not deny the metal-nosed rebel astronomer for long, and she became his child bride. She was 80 years younger than Brahe when they married. Fortunately she aged faster than Brahe and by the time of his death they were only twelve seconds apart.Stjanrborg_400

Brahe’s goal was to purify astronomy and raise it to perfection. Astronomers of his day were often synonymous with soothsayers and moose doctors. The public perception of a man who spent his nights peeking into the cosmos was wary at best. Brahe insured his name would be inscribed in the history books by taking copious data which would later be used by his protege, Johannes Kepler, to figure out the three laws of planetary motion. Kepler’s laws have since been broadened not only for our solar system, but for all heavenly bodies that orbit other bodies.

Brahe also discovered that comets did not exist in our atmosphere but in space. This angered the Comet God, who pelted Brahe with tiny comets for the rest of his days. Many a visitor to Uraniborg noted that it appeared to be hailing all the time, even indoors.tycho+supernova+remnant

After his run-in with the Comet God, Brahe trod lightly upon matters of the Church. When he discovered stellar parallax, a phenomenon that proved the universe was larger than a dome containing the sun and a few planets, Brahe kept his mouth shut. It was one of the few times he did so.

His twenty-year tenure as Royal Astronomer ended when he was fired by the King of Denmark. His temper was the culprit, and although Brahe fought hard against losing his temper ever again, that fight was a losing battle. He and Kirsten moved to Prague, where they could keep drinking and swearing without fear of job loss.

In 1600 Brahe employed Johannes Kepler. They became fast friends. Kepler was the Robin to Brahe’s Two-Face. In fact, Kepler was by Brahe’s bed when he died, even recording his last words: “May I not seemed to have lived in vain.”

It is commonly thought that Brahe died of a bladder infection, but new evidence indicates he was poisoned by mercury. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that Brahe sat too long at a royal dinner when really he should have used the bathroom. Not to be seen as improper, the metal-nosed rebel astronomer sat in agony through an eight course meal as his bladder screamed in protest. The nobleman whose house Brahe was visiting insisted on recounting his “waterfall and white water rapids” story, complete with gushing, rushing sound effects. Brahe could have keeled over right at the table, but years of propriety forced him to sit still. If a bladder infection was not the culprit of Brahe’s premature death, then certainly manners were a leading cause.

Brahe was 54 when he died, in 1601. His name, his fake nose, and his inventive use of foul language will live on. The stars will never be the same now that they have been studied by Tycho Brahe.tychotomb




Friday Robots

You find a map buried in the yellowed pages of a long-dead mariner’s logbook. What treasure could the X mark?

You set out.friday-robots-map-3-13-9
After the months long journey, you reach the shore of a no longer inhabited island.friday-robots-shore
Though the people have long vanished, you find strange remnants of their culture.friday-robots-3-13-9-2
Finally, you reach the spot marked by the X. At first you see nothing, but soon three apparitions come into focus.friday-robots-3-13-9
They tell you the secrets of the land. They entrust you with the accumulated knowledge of their vanished culture. You walk back to your ship exhausted, wary, but confident. You will be the bearer of their wisdom from now on.

Take heed! Do not take your responsibility lightly. You are the keeper of the Friday Robots.

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the nicest thing my parents ever did for me

logoOver the years, my parents have done a few nice things for my brother and me. They raised me, they put me through school, they taught me not to snarl like a wolf at the dinner table, they support my dream of being the first cartoonist in space.

But nothing they’ve done has earned my never-dying respect and admiration as the time they let us keep Ghostbusters: The Game out one extra night.

We weren’t allowed to rent games for our Nintendo every Friday. Usually it had to be a special occasion, like the time my brother almost drowned in a river. In order to make us forget the bad times, my parents would take us to the local video monger and let us choose one game.

The rental policy was two nights. If we really liked a particular game, we’d ask to keep it longer, but this tactic rarely worked. The fees for keeping a game out must have been exorbitant; I imagine $4000 per extra night. My parents did not want us to live in the poorhouse (a distinct possibility every day), so they made sure we returned all our rentals on time.city

Before you go out searching for Ghostbusters: The Game, know this: it is not a fun game. It is kind of like a doctor’s waiting room. You drive around a city block until a ghost appears, then you get out of the Ghostmobile and capture it. This repeats endlessly. I never figured out how to progress in the game.

Somehow this endless loop was addictive. Maybe it was the sugar comas my brother and I were in after eating too much junk food. Maybe it was the comfort of knowing exactly what was going to happen next and knowing how to deal with it. Maybe it was a combination of psychological and biological cues the makers of Ghostbusters: The Game exploited to sell their product.

I can’t say why, but when it came time to return the game we were still playing it. My parents, instead of ripping the plug from the wall and the game from the console, asked us nicely if we wanted to keep playing it an extra night. Barely raising our eyes from the flickering screen, we murmered “yes.” Gloriously, mysteriously, my parents let us keep Ghostbusters: The Game for one more night.

I never asked my parents where that particular fit of generosity came from. I probably never will. Their action’s power is partly due to its surprise. What I can say for sure is I never figured out that game. When we returned it, my brother and I never wanted to rent it again, let alone buy it. Its mysteries will remain locked forever in the game’s plastic case. But my parents’ largess will live on forever in my heart.

NOTE: This does not excuse my parents from the time they hired that babysitter who knifed me. But that’s the subject of another post.

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