Category Archives: toWATCH

Look at the Hands

A robot conducting an orchestra, with life-like hand gestures that will terrify and astonish.

10 Dimensions in 12 Minutes

I’ve not been much into string theory, outside of a stray episode of NOVA or something, so I can’t tell you if this video is good on the merits. But I confirm that this 12-minute animation, which takes you step by step through visualizations of all ten known dimensions, is a kick. My mind, after watching, is pleasingly boggled.

Has anyone else ever seen this video before or know much about how it jibes/doesn’t jibe with mainstream ideas about string theory?

It Puts the Lotion on Its Skin

Via Reihan at American Scene, the online intellectual/quasi-celebrity I’d most like to meet, here’s a “Silence of the Lambs”-themed mashup that I must have missed in its active viral phase

Catchy. I may have a thing for pop songs whose lyrics are based on film lines. Take, for instance, Aqueduct’s “As You Wish,” which is adapted from “The Princess Bride.” Also excellent.

Corner Patch in a Crazyquilt of Combat

This post is about an episode of The Twilight Zone called “Two.” It can be watched in full on a very nice videoplayer right here.

A young Charles Bronson encounters a woman while both are foraging through the creaky rubble of a post-apocalyptic town. They each wear tattered but unalike uniforms, and they begin wrestling fiercely over food at once. Let me state, for the record, that the star of Death Wish II had striking ethnic features as a young man. Bronson knocks the woman out cold with an awkward takedown move. Poorly staged action, sure, but also somehow realistic: if I ever knocked anyone out, it would be awkward indeed. Naturally, Bronson and the lady are last two people on earth or something like that.

Bronson, discovering his humanity, tries to establish a bond with the lovely foreign solider, a young woman with dark hair and long boots who rarely speaks. Things proceed apace – a budding romance? – until they see rifles lying in the debris while walking the town. An instinctual paranoia strikes them both and we’re back at war.

From there, nothing worthwhile happens. See for yourself here, but I’d pass. This episode is a clunker – heavy-handed script, no tension at all, and with an anti-war message that is extraordinarily broad and toothless. Hope for better luck next time.

MINUTES LATER UPDATE: Ha! Thought the hot girl solider looked eerily familiar — it’s young Elizabeth Montgomery, who would become the non-brunette star of Bewitched. Thanks, internet.

Goodnight Turned Out to Be a Lie

It doesn’t seem that anyone much cared for my archival research on Randy Newman from last week. At least, no one clicked on the links to the BBC documentary. But I think you, hypothetical reader, deserve a second chance. Here’s one of the best video series I’ve found to date: Roy Orbison in concert, Holland 1960.

This sequence has a few big factors going for it. Clearly, Roy is in top voice and at the peak of his otherworldy powers. The band, it should also be said, is fantastic. But we’ve also got some non-canonical songs that are real gems. “It’s Over,” which the Danish host describes as Roy’s first success (in Denmark?), is mini-operatic pop with bombast that’s worlds apart from the sounds of today. Sweeping melodrama in under three minutes. “Goodnight,” another slightly lesser known song, has that same structure and has become a fixation of mine lately.

  • Opening: Only the Lonely
  • It’s Over
  • Oh, Pretty Woman
  • Goodnight

Roy Orbison is the musician I listen to the most frequently. By far. Not sure how or when he superseded other iPod mainstays, but it’s been quite some time. If anyone out there has found any sources of Orbison online, please share.

War With the Hutt Clan

A leaked trailer — with Polish subtitles — for the new Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series. And here’s another non-leaked trailer from the official site. Looks… sorta promising, I think.

We May Not Be Perfect

Is Randy Newman sufficiently appreciated? I don’t think so. And neither does Jon Ronson, a British fellow whose exploits were previously known to me only through “This American Life.” The BBC sent him off to film a really wonderful 30-minute documentary on Mr. Newman. It’s a very personal and idiosyncratic profile of the songwriter, told from the perspective of an obsessive and nerdy fan. The best part, by far, is Mr. Ronson’s off-hand suggestion to Mr. Newman that “someone he knows” thinks a particular song is really about child molestation (which, given that it’s Newman, isn’t far fetched — just oddly wrong in this case). Even if you’re only passingly interested in Randy Newman, check out this very worthwhile Channel 4 documentary. Afterwards, if all goes according to plan, you will have more than a passing interest.

I find explorations of unpopularity and it’s peculiar dynamics to be vastly more interesting than explorations of popularity, which is why its such a shame that the media sphere is so taken with the identification of incipient trends and whatnot. In fairness to the insufficiency of Newman’s own public appreciation, which is the true subject of the Jon Ronson video, there is something about the production on many of his albums that makes them hard to love. It’s not just his sentiment, which is also unlovable to the max. (And, incidentally, the unpopularity of Newman’s “artistic” work is what makes the tremendous popularity of his treacly Pixar film-soundtrack work so fascinating.)

Beyond “Sail Away” and parts of his earliest records, there’s not a wealth of really endearing album material. There is a cure to this album problem. Stripped down in live performance — or on “Nilsson Sings Newman” — his songs are clearly revealed to be well crafted and brilliant. His somewhat uncomfortable physical presence behind the piano also casts a sharp spell. The polished production on many of the studio recordings somehow doesn’t serve the material as well as Newman alone.

To rectify this disparity, here’s a slew of live Randy Newman gems that I’ve hand plucked from the far reaches of YouTube. Seriously, I reviewed some 30 pages of Randy Newman results to find these. And they’re great. His concept, as should become instantly clear, is to create the most articulate songs in the voices of the most despicable people,

  • Sail Away
  • Political Science
  • Birmingham
  • I Want You to Hurt Like I Do (starts at 5:50)
  • Short People
  • My Life Is Good
  • Christmas in Capetown
  • Real Emotional Girl (with super 80s Linda Ronstadt). I had never heard this one before.
  • Red Necks