Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A possible clue to solving the great denim-wearing robot mystery

OK, so I was doing some more polling / thinking about this whole jean-wearing robot ad campaign from the mid-70's I wrote about a couple of days ago. And before I go any further, I just want to say that for the record, I'm pretty disappointed in my readership's response to solving this puzzle. I know a lot of you, and a lot of you are known by reputation and minor degrees of separation, and a bigger group of geeks harboring worthless knowledge you'd be hard-pressed to find. No emails, no feedbacks, no comments...nothing. A pox upon you all!

Mrs. Blogfoot remembered the ads though, so I know I'm not crazy. This also confirmed that I married the right woman. I mean, come on...she remembers 30 year-old commercials with robots wearing jeans and can quote "Wrath of Khan" at will. Truly a rare cut of stone, as they say.

Anyhoo, when queried about this, a friend mentioned a brand of jeans from the 70's that I had forgotten about: "Toughskins." Yes, Toughskins, the low-cost, in-house brand foisted upon the children of the non-rich by the fiends at Sears. Toughskins debuted as a new blend of materials, including Dacron Type 59 polyester, DuPont 420 nylon, and cotton. They touted the line of Toughskins children's pants as "The toughest of Sears tough jeans...lab tests prove it!"

"Lab tests", hey? Is it such a stretch to think that a company that talked of "lab tests" would also belch forth a jean-wearing robot as a pitchman? No, it is not a stretch at all. But sadly, all I could find a record of was another campaign they did in which they constructed a trampoline out of the Toughskin material. I've pasted a blurry clip of this ad below, and you can read the truncated history of the toughskins brand here.

Toughskins also featured re-inforced knees as a selling point, which would dovetail nicely into my memory of the robot doing knee bends in the jeans to illustrate their resiliency. And the fact that they were dirt-cheap would dovetail nicely with the memory of my brother and I being forced to wear them. Although once they trotted out the robot, I'm sure I was begging for them.

Why is there no record of this? WTF? Is no one with me? What's the matter with all of you? Doesn't the thought of a jean-wearing robot interest you? I think it does! Hop to it!

Crap...mine's at the cleaners

Today is National Gorilla Suit Day! So, put on that gorilla suit that's been in mothballs in your attic and get out there and spread goodwill and cheer. This holiday was invented by MAD magazine artist Don Martin, which is about as impeccable a reference as you can get. Time was, gorilla suits roamed the streets by the thousands, delivering flowers and birthday balloons, frequenting Halloween parties, and more. Now they seem poised on the brink of extinction. But we have the collective power to change all that. It takes a village, people.

Read more about this fine tradition here. There's background info, banner ads you can send to your friends, and...well, that's about it. But what more do you need?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Am I imagining things?

I've scoured the internet and polled co-workers. And thus far, my efforts have bore no fruit. I have found no record of the following, nor does anyone else remember it. But I know it existed.

Sometime around the mid 1970's, a major denim company ( not sure if it was Levi's, Lee or Wrangler) came out with a line of jeans that were built to withstand the punishment that kids dole out. It was called Super Denim, I believe. And to promote it, they had a robot character named "Super Dennis." Super Dennis was a robot that wore jeans. The TV commercials showed Super Dennis demonstrating how tough the jeans were by doing various calisthenics like deep-knee bends and squat thrusts, while also climbing rock formations, running, etc. I also remember stores like Sears and J.C. Pennys having life-size standup displays of the Super Dennis character.

Am I out of my freaking mind, or does anyone else remember this?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

That ain't right

From the wilds of the Pacific Northwest comes the sad tale of the brazen theft of a large wooden Bigfoot scuplture from a local chiropractor's office (I don't know about you, but I would patronize just about any business that had a giant Bigfoot statue in front of it. Accountant, lawyer, bank-doesn't matter. I would go there.). The heartless thieves made off with the local landmark in the middle of the night, leaving only tire tracks and stunning owner Tim Payne, who's had the carving for more than 5 years in front of his office in the bustling metropolis of Federal Way, somewhere near Tacoma, WA.

The 8-foot tall carving had served as signpost as sorts over the years, and even police had used it as a marker for giving directions and finding stranded motorists. That means people were constantly saying things like "just go three blocks and take a right at the Bigfoot", which is awesome.

Is nothing sacred? Steal all the diamonds, cash and copper-wiring out of houses that you can carry, vile gangsters and meth-heads. But leave Bigfoot alone.

You can read more about this tragic story here.

Greetings from Arapahoe Acres

On a recent trip to Denver, Colorado over the holidays (in which the the wimpy city was paralyzed by snow), I took the opportunity to seek out a little suburban tract just on the outside of the city limits called Arapahoe Acres. I had read about this somewhat historic subdivision in various architecture and design mags over the years and always wanted to see it.

Simply put, Arapahoe Acres is a subdivision in Englewood, Colorado of 124 modern homes built between 1949-1957. The houses are all flat-roofed, horizontal structures in the Wright-derived Usonian (the basis of the popular 'ranch' style in the U.S.) style, constructed of brick, block, wood and glass, with some lower-slung A-frame styles present, too. It's a look prevalent in many areas of California that was driven by famed modernist Joseph Eichler, among others.

Envisioned by developer & builder Edward B. Hawkins, the initial homes were designed by architect Eugene Sternberg. The two split due to disagreements over pricing, as Sternberg intended the homes to be low cost ($11k!), but Hawkins sold them for around $20k. With Sternberg gone, Hawkins indulged his inner architect and designed the rest, which causes some debate about whether some of the houses are truly historic, as Hawkins was not a formally-trained / degreed architect.

This affordability issue is nothing new to the field of modern design, be it furniture or housing. The movement was originally intended to use modern materials and methods of the time to bring design to a wider audience, the 'masses' as it were, but in the decades since has become almost exclusively high-end.

It was pretty interesting to drive around the subdivisions wide, winding streets and see modern house after modern house. Usually if you see a modern house (or mid-century), the other ones around it are more traditional or plain. Here, you look around and all you see are these. Some were pretty small (around 1,100 sq feet), and the outer rims felt pretty crowded, with small yards and another house literally an arms reach away, but there are still some nice domiciles in here.

I spoke to an high-end mid-century antiques dealer while I was there, and he said living there is kind of a pain in the ass. You practically have to have a public meeting to change a wall color, neighbors watch you like a hawk to see if you're carrying in home improvement items from the car, etc. In the first picture below you can see a "notice of hearing" sign on the one of the windows. The poor guy probably just wanted to hang his kid's drawing on his refrigerator or something. I can see the point of this, though; lots of modern homes of the years have been messed up by owners ill-advised modifications.

Anyway, without further ado, here are some of the homes in Arapahoe Acres.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

"Yawn...what else ya got?"

Below is a clip I found on youtube yesterday of Apple CEO Steve Jobs introducing the first ipod in a MacWorld keynote address back in 2001.

You've no doubt seen this years keynote, where Jobs unveiled the much-ballyhooed iphone to a worshipful, rabid throng that was cheering with the unblinking faithfulness previously enjoyed by only a few people on the planet (The Rev. Jim Jones, Hitler, etc). If not, you can see it on Apple's website.

What's funny about this clip from 2001 is that no one in the room seems impressed by the ipod. They barely seem to give a shit. I kept waiting for the dark outlines of people to get up and leave, or rotten produce to start raining upon him. It's quite apparent that the crowd of 37 people in attendance were completely nonplussed with Steve's first efforts at pushing Apple Computer towards the media/content driven company he is wisely molding it to be.

100 million ipods sold later, it's a different story. Watch this year's keynote / iphone unveiling, and I swear you can see people feverishly jerking off to Jobs' every word in the crowd shots. He could passed around a church collection plate with an Apple logo on it and people would have tossed their wallets in it. Hell, he could have had a guy with an apple shop vac just sucking the money right out of people's pockets. And this year's seems to take place in a stadium, akin to a Billy Graham revival, unlike the ipod keynote, which looks like Conference Room B of a Ramada Inn.

What a difference six years makes. Except for clothing, that is. Because Jobs is still wearing the same outfit.

Last night in "Gears of War:"

I found a weapon called "The Hammer of Dawn." When I picked it up, the game said (via onscreen instructions) that it would only work outside with a clear signal. Interesting. So I took it outside and aimed it at a large, writhing creature that was a couple of blocks away. A thin red laser came out of the rifle. After a couple of seconds of keeping the red laser trained on the creature, I heard a beeping. Then, a satellite in the sky honed in on my target signal, and sent down a large beam that obliterated said writhing mass.

It was awesome.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Color me impressed

Every couple of years or so, you see, use or experience something that you know is a quantum leap forward within its genre. You know, like audiences in 1977 felt (including my 10 year-old self) when the first Star Destroyer crept onto the screen in the opening scene of "Star Wars." That kind of feeling.

I felt that last night when I played "Gears of War" on the Xbox 360 for the first time. It's amazing. Really. You know how most video games have detailed intros with great graphics, and then you wait for that moment when the gameplay actually starts, knowing that the camera/POV is going to pull back and the figures will get blocky and cheaper looking? That doesn't happen here. The detail and fluidity of movement is astonishing.

I also like that you aren't superhuman. You can die, and quickly, and you are advised to duck and seek cover in the ruins as often as possible to re-group and plot your attack. It feels like you're in a real firefight, under seige from some monstrous insect-like enemy that has figured out how to use firearms.

I also played "Dead Rising", a zombies-loose-in-a-shopping-mall-game ala' "Dawn of the Dead." It was cool and all...a very nice game, and I look forward to continuing it. But it was no "Gears of War."

I've only played a couple of hours, so who knows what could unfold. The gameplay could get repetitive, or maybe it will give me seizures. We'll see. But for now, I must say that it's the most amazing-looking game I've ever played on a home console.

A few months ago I saw the below commercial for the game aired as a trailer before a movie. I normally loathe commericials before movies, but this one had some artistry to it. I liked the lack of sound effects except for the cover of Tears For Fears "Mad World" from "Donnie Darko."

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

This has piqued my interest, to say the least

I've always said that the only way you could possibly improve "Moby Dick" is to toss the Frankestein Monster into the mix.

I've got to find this old comic. I wonder what the title of story is? "Frankendick"? "Mobystein"? "Dickenstein"? The mind reels.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

"Pump your schlong!"

Ah, yes...that, my friends, is the poetic subject line of a spam email I was just sent by a helpful soul named "Bondiek Marco." In his evocative yet fractured English, Mr Marco goes on to say:

Yo dude

Don't tell me why your one-eyed monster is so small,
I will better help you to make it really Bigger!

Why bigger? Because over 82% of all women need a longer
ramrod to satisfy their desire!

Go there and get your solution:

It'll really help you!

We will ship it worldwide within 24 hours, and if
you find our product useless - we'll refund all your money!

But that's not all, dear readers. In order to claw his way past my emails spam filters (which are about as resilient as the proverbial wet paper bag), Mr. Marco was kind enough to include the following section of gripping prose:

treasurer replaced the receiver and glanced round to the window behind his back. Through the sparse leaves of a sycamore tree he saw the moon flying through a translucent cloud. He seemed to be mesmerised by the branches of the tree and the longer Rimsky stared at them the more strongly he felt the grip of fear.

Pulling himself together the treasurer finally turned away from the moonlit window and stood up. There was now no longer any question of telephoning and Rimsky could only think of one thing--how to get out of the theatre as quickly as possible. He listened : the building was silent. He realised that for some time

And that's where it ends! Nooo! How cruel! I was just getting into it! So many burning questions are left unanswered! Why was the moon flying? Did Rimsky get out of the theatre? I can't take the suspense!

I have no choice: I must email Bondiek Marco and insist that he send me the rest of the story. If he refuses to do that, I guess I would be willing to accept some of his miracle dick creme instead.

Some things you might not know about space travel

For instance: man does not need a pressurized suit to survive the rigors of space. No, in fact, an un-buttoned shirt will do just fine. And a guitar is not only an instrument that can produce catchy riffs, it also makes a fine spaceship. And a stage. And the solar winds really make your hair blow in a cool rock-star way. All of which this 1981 video from Triumph will prove.

If you're not familiar with Triumph, they were a Canadian rock trio that was popular in the late 70's / early 80's, I know what you're thinking: wasn't that Rush? Well, Triumph was for people who maybe had trouble understanding Rush. Rush was for the smarter, more discerning burnout who might have an interest in Tolkien and Dungeons & Dragons. Triumph was for burnouts who drank cheap beer and worked on cars that were always the color of primer. Got it? Good.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

"Children of Men" is super-good

Some of you may have seen this movie already. I saw it a couple of weeks ago and kept forgetting to extol it's virtues here. But it's really good. It's a cautionary sc-fi tale set in the year 2027, when society is caught in a downward spiral due to the fact that women can no longer have babies. A generation has gone by, and since people can't reproduce anymore, many have just given up and ceased to care about getting along, art, commerce, or any of the things that currently occupy us. There's no future, so what's the point, right? Clive Owen stars as a former radical, since numbed by the world's situation, who is caught up in an event that could have a significant impact on things and slowly finds hope in this hopeless world.

Director Alfonso Cuaron has done a great job with this movie. Many of the action sequences in the film are composed of very long shots, which really places you in the situation in a way that multiple rapid cuts could never do. Keen observers will see where digital trickery has been used to link cuts, but that doesn't lessen the impact. And the look of the film is entirely appropriate-not too futuristic, not too run down, people aren't ruuning around in jumpsuits, etc. The backgrounds are layered with detail that tell the story of society's decay, without being too showy.

Michael Caine is great in it, and the filmakers wisely resist the urge to have Owen (an actor I really like the more I see him) turn into an action hero throughout the course of the film. He remains almost clumsy and slow throughout, escaping situations merely by luck instead of suddenly becoming a crack shot or a physical superman.

I really dug it. Check it out instead of seeing the joyless romp known as "Night at the Museum."

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Nicely done

I don't want this to turn into a snarky celebrity news blog (as I prefer to save my snark for more worthwhile topics), but I couldn't resist posting this picture of P. Diddy and Jessica Biel at the Golden Globe Awards. I'm assuming Diddy thinks that 'golden globes' refers to something other than the trophies they hand out.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Trapped in Texas

I'm stuck in Austin, Texas, due to a assault of freezing rain that refuses to go away. I came down on Saturday for work, filmed outside for 2 days in miserable conditions, and now can't return. Flights are being cancelled left and right. The only carrier that's been flying is Southwest, and they don't fly to Minneapolis, and all their few flights going to connecting cities are booked. Hopefully we can get out late tomorrow.

In the meantime, the city is straight-up paralyzed. We walked around earlier today and found ONE place open: a McCormick & Schmick's seafood restarant, which we have in Minneapolis. Awesome. We've been eating pratically every meal in "Champions", the hotel sports bar (I do recommend the Frito Pie, but not as much as my buddy Mark, who is practically living on the stuff). Derek Jeter is trapped here too...we've seen him in Champions twice with his two strumpets, and bore witness to him making a waffel at the Champions breakfast buffet. Good times.

Austin has not endeared itself to me. I know it's a cool city and this shit weather is not it's fault, but I'm a grudge holder.
Damn you, Texas! First George Bush, now this!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Brief Haitus 2: this time it's personal

Actually, it's work-driven. I'll be out of the office and then out of town for the next 5 days shooting a bunch of footage ( think epic battle scenes with over 2,000 extras ) for my latest commercial opus, then I go straight into edit. Thus, Blogfoot will be incommunicado until this time next week. Until then, quit reading / thinking about the iphone and get back to work.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Mystery solved!

Hold onto your hats, people! The tireless investigative efforts of the Blogfoot staff have blown the lid off the mystery of the lunar outhouse previously discussed in the story below. And although I appreciate the comments and emails regarding this, no readers managed to crack the case.

Turns out the lunar outhouse is actually....a portable observatory.

Let me set the scene for you. I took my dog for a walk Saturday morning, and grabbed my camera on the way out, as I wanted to get some more pics of the object. As I walked in front of the house, the garage door started to raise up! My pulse quickened. Would this be a chance to solve the mystery?

A car backed out with an old lady in it. My dog played his role perfectly, randomly sniffing around so that I wouldn't appear conspicuous. The lady waved at me, and I seized the opportunity, raising my index finger in the universal gesture that says "Hold on a minute, lady." She rolled down her window, I asked her what is was, and she told me.

She was quite pleasant, and indeed seemed very happy to talk about it. Turns out her husband was an engineer, and actually built this thing (two of them, actually) as prototypes for the government. They were designed for "the comfortable observation of specific celestial bodies under adverse conditions." It has a seat inside and is fully insulated, and yes, it was actually used at the South Pole at a research facility, most likely the one destroyed by a malevolent, shape-shifting alien in John Carepenter's 1982 horror/sci-fi classic "The Thing." I took another picture of the side, and here you can plainly see the bulk of the telescope apparatus. She said that you would just pop a lens in the top and Bob's your uncle.

Unfortunately, she was all bundled up in her car, otherwise I would have asked to go inside and sit down (and yes, I would have resisted the urge to crap in it). But now that I've broken the ice with the nice old lady, I will get in there at some point and gaze at the stars. Stay tuned for further tales of the portable observatory.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Does anybody know what this thing is?

Pictured above is something that sits in the driveway of some old people that live about a block away from me. It has sat there for the 2 years that I have lived in the neighborhood. I have never seen the inhabitants outside the house or I would ask them what this thing is. I only know that old people live there because when I took these pictures I saw an old lady looking out the window and giving me the stink eye.
I imagine she called the cops soon after.

I originally postulated that it was some sort of lunar outhouse, perhaps purchased from a Worlds Fair. Then my wife noticed that the logo on the side had a map of Antartica. So who knows. All I know is that I'm dying to going in it and take a crap.

Any theories / info would be appreciated and will earn the contributor a coveted Marvel Comics No-Prize.