Friday, November 30, 2007

Evel Knievil 1938-2007

Dang. Legendary daredevil Evel Knievil died today at the age of 69. He had been in failing health in recent years, suffering from diabetes and pulmonary fibrosis, an incurable condition that scarred his lungs. To say he was an icon to my generation would be an understatement. Pretty much every kid in the 70's watched his exploits on "ABC's Wild World of Sports," and many (like myself) had a t-shirt bearing his unmistakable Clint Eastwood-meets-Elvis image or the rubbery Evel action figure with wind-up motorcycle that was made to bounce around, tumble and then always right itself. In fact, a recent story stated that Evel Knievel toys accounted for more than $300 million in sales for Ideal and other companies in the 1970s and '80s. Not too shabby.

He is, of course, most famous for attempting to jump his motorcycle over increasingly outlandish obstacles, as well as crashing much of the time. Sure, he completed some jumps, but later, when he became super-popular, he mostly crashed in spectacular fashion. It seems he would always clear the obstacle but fail to stick the landing, and big trouble would ensue. He was fearless in every sense of the word, and he was paid handsomely for it.

Which led me to develop the following thought: Evel Knievil was the
most / least successful big name personality ever. That is, his level of fame was nearly peerless ( arguably only Muhammad Ali was bigger at the time) and he made a ton of money, yet he often failed to do what he set out to do. He really wasn't paid to accomplish his ballsy feats; he was paid to attempt them. And attempt them he did, and for this due credit must be given.

His first really big media event was on New Year's Day 1968, when he was nearly killed when he jumped 151 feet across the fountains in front of Caesar's Palace. He cleared the fountains, but bounced on the ramp, fell off the bike and ended up looking like Beetle Bailey after Sarge beat him up. The crash landing put him in the hospital in a coma for a month. Behold, the famous slow-mo footage of the crash, second only to the 1967 Patterson/Gimlin Bigfoot film in terms of memorability to dudes my age:

In the years after the Caesar's crash, the fee for Evel's performances soared. In accordance with my theory, once he failed spectacularly, he got more successful. He was paid $1 million to jump over 13 buses at Wembley Stadium in London (the crash landing broke his pelvis). In the early to mid 70's, $1 million was a huge sum. I mean, it still, is but it represented a massive payday back then, considering professional football players made like $60k a year around then.

Then came the biggie, and event I clearly remember watching live: Evel was paid more than $6 million (!) for the Sept. 8, 1974, attempt to clear the Snake River Canyon in Idaho in a rocket-powered "Skycycle." The money came from ticket sales, paid sponsors and ABC's "Wide World of Sports." In particular, I remember that there was an endless amount of pre-jump coverage (2 hours?) that my 6 year-old mind could barely tolerate. Then, after what seemed to be an eternity, the moment of take-off arrived. And then 13 or so seconds later, the failed event was over. The Skycycle parachute malfunctioned and deployed after takeoff, and strong winds then blew the cycle into the canyon, landing him close to the swirling river below.

On Oct. 25, 1975, he successfully jumped 14 Greyhound buses at Kings Island in Ohio. But Evel decided to retire after he suffered a concussion and broke both arms in an attempt to jump a tank full of live sharks in the Chicago Amphitheater in the winter of 1976 (this was just after "Jaws" and everyone was shark-crazy - Fonzie was water-skiing over sharks, Evel was jumping them, etc). I remember watching this one live too, probably clutching my Evel action-figure as I did so.

I saw an "E True Hollywood Story" episode about Evel a couple of years ago, where he told of a comeback stunt he had dreamed up that no one would dare sponsor: he wanted to jump out of an airplane with no parachute and attempt to safely land in a large bale of hay. Shades of Wile E. Coyote, no?

In 2006 he was quoted thusly: "No king or prince has lived a better life." What he probably meant was "No king or prince has been more famous, broken more bones, popped more painkillers, drank more booze, snorted more coke, banged more chicks, sold more merchandise or made as many people cheer." And he'd be right.

I can't wait to see what they do for the torch-lighting ceremony

The the mascots for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver were unveiled yesterday. And, awesomely enough, one of them is a Sasquatch:

"Quatchi." All tatted up and sporting earmuffs and booties. This makes me happy. The world would be a infinitely better place if children were exposed to more Bigfoot and less Elmo, so this is a nice start.

More details, including the identity of the other beasties, can be found
here, courtesy of the folks behind the fine Drawn! cartooning and illustration blog.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Klaus Kinski in action

I've blogged before about my fascination with the force of nature known as Klaus Kinski. A maniacal German actor who appeared in many Werner Herzog films, Klaus was a powerful performer who was completely mesmerizing on film, but more importantly, acted like a Tazmanian devil in real life. Here is a clip of his 1971 wedding to the second of his three wives. All is blissful and wedding-like...the happiest day of their lives...a celebration of love. Until the 00:16 mark, that is.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The other side of the coin

After forcing you all to taste the bitter fruit of the "Old School" DVD cover, I thought I'd offer up a palette cleanser, as it were. Thus, I present the DVD cover of the recent documentary "Helvetica", a film which examines the origins and subsequent mass useage (think NYC subway signs, etc) of the ubiqitous sans-serif typeface developed by Swiss graphic designer Max Miedinger back in the 50's. Anyway, here's the cover:

A nice, simple concept. It's about a typeface, therefore it stars the alphabet. The concept and execution serves the subject and the medium in one fell swoop. Well done.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A skillfull use of photoshop

I don't know about you, but I genuinely believe that all of these actors were present in the same room at the same time for this photo used on the cover of new HD-DVD release of "Old School." Vince Vaughn looks especially grounded in the moment. My compliments to the dedicated artisan who used an x-acto knife and glue stick to put this baby to bed (click to slightly embiggen if so inclined).

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Warmth. Rugged styling. Natural materials. All at a wallet-emptying price.

I saw this today on Boing Boing, linked via a website called doobybrain. It's called a beard cap, and it's brought to you by a place in Brooklyn called Scandinavian Grace.

The beard cap is made of wool, comes in different colors and lengths, and makes you look like (depending on the length or color you choose) a psychology professor, a Viking, a gnome, or Fidel Castro. I would happily wear one of these as I walked my dog or shoveled my driveway during the cold-weather months.

You can get the nifty head-coverings here, although when I tried I was told that their bandwidth was exceeded.

UPDATE: Perhaps it's just as well. I see that these hats cost a whopping $135.00. Fuggit...I'll just grow my own beard instead.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The art of being a subtle geek

The New York Times magazine ran a one-page article yesterday about a British designer who has a website called "Last Exit To Nowhere" that sells t-shirt designs with various and sundry logos on them. But what this limey cat has done is create or use logos from sci-fi, horror and genre films of the past, so that you can get a shirt with the Camp Crystal Lake logo from the "Friday the 13th" films, or a nicely touristy-looking shirt from Amity Island, the town besieged by the marauding shark in "Jaws." Others in the series include:

America Research Station Outpost #31 (from John Carpenter's "The Thing")

Polymer Records (the fictional record label of "Spinal tap")

The Hotel Earle (from the Coen Brother's "Barton Fink")

USCSS Nostromo ( the giant freighter/spaceship from 'Alien")

There's many more, and you can check out the entire line here.

I was unable to resist and bought a couple myself. my selections were:

"Brodsky & Branom Ludovico Technique": the company that perfected the behavior-modification regiment used on Mr. Alexander DeLarge in "A Clockwork Orange." Awesome.

"The Tyrell Corporation": The giant monolithic enterprise in "Blade Runner" that created the replicants, including the new Nexus-6 line. This was the actual logo and "more human than human" slogan used in the movie as well. Note the owl image in the logo, and remember that when Deckard first arrives at the company headquarters early in the movie to interview Rachael, a large owl swoops by. The following exchange then takes place:

Rachael: Do you like our owl?

Deckard: It's artificial?

Rachael: Of course it is.

Deckard: Must be expensive.

Rachael: Very.

One suggestion, British-designer dude: how about a t-shirt for the Monroeville Mall in Pennsylvania? For the uninitiated out there, that's the mall where the four people in 1978's "Dawn of the Dead" were holed up.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The pace of the drum is quickening

Sorry about the glacial pace of postings this week. If you're thinking that it might have something to do with the Draconian workload I'm currently laboring under, then congratulations, you win a no-prize. Here's a picture of my office:

If you're wondering, I'm the guy with the beard.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Howard F., eater of steaks

Now, normally I don't like to "work blue" as the comedians say, and try and keep the blog somewhat clean. But in this case I have to make an exception.

This past weekend 3 buddies and I traveled to historic Lambeau Field in Green Bay to watch our beloved Packers thoroughly and systematically dismantle the Minnesota Vikings. We weren't able to get a hotel room in Green Bay, so we stayed in Wausau the night before. Right next to our hotel was a giant steakhouse, the Hereford & Hops Steakhouse and Brewpub. It's one of those places where you can select and grill your own steak. On the menu was "The Butcher's Challenge", a 50-ounce cut of beefiness. If you finished it in under 1 hour and 15 minutes, you received a $20 gift certificate and got your polaroid put on the wall next to previous victors.

You also had to eat a baked potato, a salad and a piece of texas toast. Quite the eating assingment. Anyway, I failed to do it, but a friend succeeded. Normally I'm up the challenge of these things, as I'm an eater to be reckoned with, but I wasn't warned beforehand and had just devoured a bag of taco-flavored Doritos during the car ride, which threw off my game.

Anyway, we were looking at the wall of fame polaroids of other people who had done it, when a friend spotted the below person, who decided to get cute and give himself a nom de plume (click to embiggen).

Nice work, Howard. Rest assured you brought a smile to all our faces. Also note that Howard ate 50 ounces of meat in 16 minutes. Two victories in one fell swoop.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The world's greatest birthday cake

I'm sure that any married blogfoot readers have wonderful wives. But I ask you: did your wife have a birthday cake made for you with the famous image (frame #352, btw) of the 1967 Patterson/Gimlin Bigfoot film on it? I think not. But mine did. Which is why she rules.

Amazing what they can do with food dye inks nowadays, isn't it?

Monday, November 05, 2007

Bigfoot on TV

The History Channel has fine new show called "Monsterquest", which they describe thusly:

"From Bigfoot to the Swamp Beast, Monsterquest reveals the truth of legendary monster sightings around the world. Deploying the latest in hi-tech equipment, each episode scientifically examines the best evidence available, from pictures and video, to hair and bones, as well as the eyewitness accounts themselves. From pilots to policemen to ship captains, a number of seemingly credible people have seen things they can't explain. One part history, one part science and one part monsters, MonsterQuest discovers the truth behind these legendary monsters."

I caught the re-run of the "American Lake Monsters" episode the other night and it was pretty good. And this Wednesday they're taking things up a notch with a episode titled (brilliantly, I might add) "Sasquatch Attack." I can assure you that only some sort of catastrophe, act of god or my premature death will prevent me from watching this episode in rapt attention. Set those DVR's, kids.

On 11/28 they have another Bigfoot episode title, elegantly enough. "Bigfoot" with digital-microscope examination the famous Patterson film. Plus, there's a Skunk Ape-themed episode on 12/26 (the Skunk Ape is Bigfoots' smelly, 3-toed cousin from the South. They may also be Baptists).

But the best title of all goes to the January 2nd episode, awesomely titled "Stalin's Ape Man." My god, what images that conjures up. Here's the episode description, which has me salivating:

"In 2006, the NY times revealed a devilish plan by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin to create monsters by crossing humans with apes. But was it real? And how far did he get? This MonsterQuest scientific journey will travel to Russia to find out."

If that doesn't make you want to tune in, I weep for your shriveled husk of a soul.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Good stuff

From our pals at McSweeney's (OK, we're not really pals...I enjoy the stuff they put out, they don't know I exist) comes this nice little feature called "Punching Up The Script" where writer Dan Kennedy makes script changes to a well-known movie. Without further ado, here is:

Punching Up The Script: "Car Wash" (1976)

My changes on page 21:

DUANE is dancing around a customer's car acting like he's styling his afro in the newly cleaned and polished car's reflection. The owner, SULLY, frustrated by DUANE's clowning around on the job, comes out of the office and yells at him. Instead of responding with his characteristic hangdog pouting and shrugging, DUANE starts to perform an elaborate Haitian ritual believed to "stain" the soul of any man indicted in the ceremony—in this case, SULLY. As DUANE's playful dancing turns into a foreboding kinetic storm of channeled spiritual bloodlust punctuated with violently mimed self-sacrifice, SULLY's expression of grumpiness fades. In SULLY we now see the eyes of a man facing his mortality head on, facing his fate as a man marked by an island culture's darkest forces. He starts to react to an apparent pain or physical force in and around his neck and face.

SULLY: (Choking.) You ... have ... summoned Loa. The next world awaits. Dark ...ness ...

DUANE: I come in many forms. You have created me. You have called this unto yourself. I am playful and content until someone insists upon his own demise. That is when I appear. Your fear was your wish all along.

MUSIC CUE: "I Wanna Get Next to You" by Rose Royce

Bravo, sir. More here.

Hiroshima bomb pilot dies

Paul Warfield Tibbets Jr, the commander of the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, died in Columbus, Ohio yesterday the age of 92. The bomb killed about 140,000 Japanese citizens, forcing their country's surrender and effectively ending World War II. Tibbets lived a full, bomb-dropping life.