Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Behind the Scenes: HBO "Starship" intro from 1982

The HBO "Starship" intro used to give me chills. I probably saw it five hundred times. So much so that I was bothered when they tweaked the end music, and when they dropped the first scene featuring that super white couple perched uncomfortably on the couch.

Here's an HBO Behind the Scenes special from 1982 featuring the making of this damn near perfect intro. I remember watching this special about a million times. It's still fascinating. The craftsmanship that went into the project was incredible. Today they'd make the whole thing with computer effects. And it wouldn't be as good.

The only thing I seem to have forgotten about this special is the stunningly cheesy song that plays throughout. It's called "Illusion," by this guy, and it has the sound of a segment from the Great Space Coaster. Oh, that and the awesome early 80's haircuts and beards. Which were still really late 70s styles.

There were a lot of different HBO intros from the late 70s through early 80s. Some I remember, others not so much. But we probably all remember the adolescent male strategy of trying to hide the fact that we were watching an R rated movie by deftly turning the channel after the intro but before the ratings bump, with its stentorian recitation of the nudity, violence, graphic language, adult situations and (the motherload) Strong Sexual Content that were about to further stiffen the unyielding zipper folds of our Toughskins.

If my mom overheard the R rasting (And she always did), she'd be halfway down the basement stairs in moments. "Oh, no, no, no."

So I had the timing of that ratings warning down to the second. As soon as the "R" appeared I'd click over to see what, say, Kate and Alley were up to. I'd camp it out on network TV for a couple of family approved jokes, then flick back to the super-soft porn goodness of "Class," "The Last American Virgin," or "She's 19 and Ready."

There were a few strategies for flying under the parental radar when you were 13 and lived in a suburban home.

The first tactic was the simplest, but also the least effective: Simply turning down the volume to watch the action without the grunts, shrieks and "oh gods" parents are trained to detect right through the kitchen linoleum from a floor up. Unfortunately silence is it's own warning bell. Shenanigans thrive in quiet spaces, maybe even flowering into perversions. Why's he so quiet? What's he doing down there? Smoking? Sniffing glue? Petting the dog strangely? Maybe we should check...

There were two other strategies available.

One was that you simply found the filth you wanted and mentally mapped it on the switchbox as a flyby area, meant to be dive-bombed for momentary glimpse, and then -- before anybody within earshot could possibly make sense of the animal grunts and teen titters -- you clicked off the channel for more age-appropriate viewing. War Games was good, because Mom could believe you'd watch it. Brain Games held slightly less credibility, as did Fraggle Rock. Bob Ross was basically a confession.

So you'd get an impression of the nudity, then flip to Matthew Broderick talking to Dabney Coleman. You'd wait a few moments for a segment of whiny dialog from Matthew Broderick, (Mom upstairs heard and thought: Ah, Matthew Broderick. Nice boy.") then you'd jab that evil channel button -- BAM! -- back to the porn, get an impression, leave. Get an impression, leave.

There were complex moves, predicated on two sets of criteria. A) How to convincingly you sell the idea that you're watching a wholesome movie on HBO downstairs to your parents who might be listening from the upstairs kitchen. B) How to time the crucial moments spent AWAY from the porn channel to ensure you'll coming back in time to full nudity. It was an optimization strategy: Maximize nudity viewed while minimizing risk.

So you'd build a time line of the movie action in your head, working out the logistics of how long it takes to fill the hot tub, how many buttons on her blouse and how long he's going to sped "comically" fumbling with her bra. These were 70/80s soft porn rejects. Everything worked up to total nakedness inexorably and very, very slowly. So it was critical that you balanced your channel surfing strategy perfectly, flicking back and forth so you could reassess the nudity schedule.

The other method, employed for pay channels you didn't get, was more complex and took a bit of skill and a bit more luck.

You'd try to jam the cable box by pressing buttons around the porn station button. This would create a third "meta-channel," composed of blobby video images and confused sound -- sometimes surprisingly from an entirely different channel. There was not much meaning to be seen at first glance. BUT, there was a fine tuning wheel. And if you worked that wheel of fortune just right...A boob! Two boobs! I saw an ass maybe. She was in a tub! It would hold for a brief, wonderful moment. In color. In black and white. The image assembled into flesh, and then contorting into a fun mirror shape and returning to nothing.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Animated Wall Painting

This is amazing work. Imaginative, sprawling, funny and incredibly ambitious. What did you create today?

Watch a higher-res version here

They meet

And it's perfectly crazy.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Whatever, it's FUNNY

I know posting YouTube crazes is a little lazy, but this is really funny. Really well edited.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

E.A. Robinson wrote the best endings in all of poetdom

Three examples:

Eros Turannos
Meanwhile, we do no harm, for they
that with a god have striven,
Not hearing much of what we say,
take what the god has given;
Though like waves breaking it may be,
Or like a changed familiar tree,
Or like a stairway to the sea
where down the blind are driven.

Richard Cory
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

Miniver Cheevy
Miniver Cheevy, born too late,
Scratched his head and kept on thinking;
Miniver coughed, and called it fate,
And kept on drinking.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Wallace Stevens on explaining a poem

...things that have their origin in the imagination or in the emotions very often take on a form that is ambiguous or uncertain. It is not possible to attach a single, rational meaning to such things without destroying the imaginative or emotional ambiguity or uncertainty that is inherent in them and that is why poets do not like to explain. That the meanings given by others are sometimes meanings not intended by the poet or that were never present in his mind does not impair them as meanings.

Thursday, May 01, 2008