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Archive for October 2013

The Words & Works of Watterson

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I’ve been a busy bee this week, more so than usual, but I wanted to post… something… before I make any noteworthy announcements. So here are a couple items regarding my all-time favorite comic strip, Calvin & Hobbes.

1. The fan-based documentary “Dear Mr. Watterson” comes out November 15. I’m not holding my breath it’ll be screened at any theater within hydrogen bomb-range of the Cedar Valley, but it will also be available via VOD the same day. Perhaps I will splurge and watch it early.

2. Mental_floss magazine somehow scored an exclusive interview with famously private Bill Watterson. The full interview will be featured in the December issue; here are a few choice sample Q&As:

Years ago, you hadn’t quite dismissed the notion of animating the strip. Are you a fan of Pixar? Does their competency ever make the idea of animating your creations more palatable?
The visual sophistication of Pixar blows me away, but I have zero interest in animating Calvin and Hobbes. If you’ve ever compared a film to a novel it’s based on, you know the novel gets bludgeoned. It’s inevitable, because different media have different strengths and needs, and when you make a movie, the movie’s needs get served. As a comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes works exactly the way I intended it to. There’s no upside for me in adapting it.

According to your collection introductions, you took up painting after the strip ended. Why don’t you exhibit the work?
My first problem is that I don’t paint ambitiously. It’s all catch and release—just tiny fish that aren’t really worth the trouble to clean and cook. But yes, my second problem is that Calvin and Hobbes created a level of attention and expectation that I don’t know how to process.

Owing to spite or just a foul mood, have you ever peeled one of those stupid Calvin stickers off of a pickup truck?
I figure that, long after the strip is forgotten, those decals are my ticket to immortality.


3. The archivist/perfectionist in me is glad I gave my entire C&H collection to my sister so her kids could enjoy them, rather than buy them the 20th anniversary tome that came out several years ago, as it now appears that edition might not be entirely complete:

To celebrate the strip’s 20th anniversary in 2005, publisher Andrews McMeel issued a hernia-inducing collection of Watterson’s entire body of work—sort of. [Universal Press Syndicate editor Lee] Salem recalls a minor blow-up from readers when Watterson published two strips in the 1980s that depicted Calvin mocking the idea he might be adopted. In one strip, Calvin’s complains that “I’ll bet my biological mother would’ve bought me a comic book…” It was later changed to, “I’ll bet a good mother would’ve bought me a comic book…”

Another strip, featuring Hobbes in a washing machine, is missing from the collection entirely. Some have speculated that putting the tiger in a spin cycle might be an unwelcome hint he’s not real. No one, including Watterson, ever wanted to have that question answered.

4. [from the extensive Derkins Library] In 1992, Bill’s brother Tom Watterson had a pop/rock band called The Rels. Bill did the artwork for the band’s releases, using the pseudonym Fang Wampir. The scan is from the cassettes.



Written by camcarlson

October 22, 2013 at 9:16 PM


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[written Monday, with edits]

Viet and I saw “Gravity” on Saturday. This is the best movie I’ve seen in years. Hands down. The film’s currently pulling a whopping 98% rating on (compared to other universally acclaimed films in recent years like 96% for The Social Network, 96% for the 2010 remake of True Grit, 93% for Zero Dark Thirty and 86% for Inception). It was expected to earn $40-42 million at the box office this past weekend. It ended up raking in almost $56 million.

I won’t give a plot summary as it’s hard to say anything that won’t spoiler it. If you’ve seen the trailer, you get the idea of what the film is about. Resist the urge to learn anything more before you see it. I went in knowing next to nothing about the story, and that was a wise decision. But if you want a small taste of what to expect, go on YouTube and search for “gravity detached”. It’s a 2-minute clip that basically sets the tone, and doesn’t spoil anything if you’ve already seen a trailer or TV commercial spot for it.

The film is only 90 minutes long but it held my attention from beginning to end. Not a single scene felt superfluous or unnecessary. The opening shot is said to be 17 minutes long. A single shot, showing the entire earth and the astronauts floating above it, and what happens when disaster strikes. It’s insane. There are basically only two characters in the film, played by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Bullock carries the film. If she hadn’t already won an Oscar for The Blind Side a few years back (which I never saw, but should) I’m convinced she’s win an Oscar for this film.  Ed Harris supplies the voice of “ground control”, unseen in the film.

Visually it’s one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen. We didn’t see it in 3D but I’ve read it’s really filmed for that purpose, and doesn’t do anything gimmicky like hurl pieces of debris at the screen in a lame attempt to scare the audience. Alfonso Caurón, the director, also directed “Children of Men”, one of my favorite films of the past decade. The only unfortunate thing is that it took him almost 7 years to make another movie!

Naturally, the science behind the film has been nitpicked for its accuracy, but “Gravity” does not claim to be a documentary. It’s a fictional film, grounded in a premise of the all-too-real threat of space junk. And it’s a remarkable achievement in filmmaking, coming at a time when I was truly beginning to wonder if films could continue to pique my interest. A review from me is worth two in the bush, so heed my call when I say “see this movie!”


Written by camcarlson

October 9, 2013 at 10:08 PM

Posted in Cinema

Tagged with ,

Single-serving Apartments

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Where do I start with this video? So many intriguing ideas and concepts raised. A highlight: the statistic shared (2:07-2:25) that the percentage of the US adult population living alone in the 1940s-50s was around 10%, whereas today it’s closer to 30%, and unfortunately the housing supply hasn’t adapted for this changing demographic. So many single men and women would like to own a house, but they don’t want to own a house built with a traditional 50s nuclear family in mind — three bedrooms, two bathrooms, two-car garage, etc.  This dovetails nicely into a separate discussion on how the average annual salary in the US hasn’t kept up with the increase in home prices over the past 20 years, making mortgage more unaffordable.

I don’t like the title of the video though… living micro? If 200-400 sq ft is micro, I wonder what they think is average or normal. How about “living with a space that accommodates your actual needs”?

Anyway, fingers crossed…

Written by camcarlson

October 5, 2013 at 12:44 PM

Posted in Simplicity, video

Autumn Tiger Lamentations

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It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, but that I never find the ‘right’ time to sit down and write. Trust me when I say life is very good right now… but there’s always something to carp about. That’s what a blog is for, after all!

I lament the current state of movies, coupled with the current state of the corporate theater distribution model. Nothing good comes here. I haven’t seen anything I truly liked, as in wanted to see multiple times, since “Looper” and “Cloud Atlas” last fall. That’s sad. I liked the “Evil Dead’ remake just for its sheer disgusting-ness, and thought “Mud” and “The Way Way Back” were worth watching, but otherwise the best film I’ve seen so far this year has been “Amour”, the Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language film from *last* year. So in a nutshell, I’m still waiting for quality films to come to the Cedar Valley. What else is new?

1 year ago this week I was driving to Ames to see “Lawrence of Arabia” in 4K digital. Fantastic presentation.

9 years ago this week I saw “Lost in Translation” at the AMC Oakview in Omaha NE. The most personal, touching theater experience to date. I think I’ll try to watch it this week.


I also lament that I’ve done little exercising since Labor Day weekend, something I intend to correct this week.

I also have added a woeful number of miles to my bicycle this year, in part because Viet is the fan of long-haul treks that I am. A few times this summer we made it through George Wyth and up the river to Big Woods Lake, but then we would stop, rest, admire the scenery, he’d take a lot of pictures, and we’d head back to my apartment. I think I’ve put in maybe 300 miles on the Raleigh, tops. But, in a way, I’m okay with that. The bike is falling apart, and it was never a good fit for me anyway, so I don’t mind *not* getting sore from 1-2 hour excursions 3-4 times a week. If I can scrounge together enough funds next spring (which will depend on if we go anywhere for spring break next year) I may buy a new bicycle.

Speaking of buying, I’m inching closer to a new car purchase. The Intrepid has served me well these past 12 years. It’s approaching 205K miles. But the exterior is in rough shape and the last time I took it in for an oil change the mechanic told me he didn’t feel comfortable having it up on the lift with all the structural rust “crunching” noises he was hearing. It won’t see another winter, that’s for damn sure. So a new set of wheels are needed.

That’s all for now. It’s 11pm and I want 6 hours of sleep before getting up at 5:25am and putting in another marathon day at the office.


Written by camcarlson

October 1, 2013 at 11:05 PM