“grime fighters on a mission”

Posted in days and ways with tags , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2013 by blair

Earlier this month in Pittsburgh a group of window-washers outfitted themselves as superheros to clean the windows of a local children’s hospital. Reports Mark Molloy of the UK Metro:

Stunned patients at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh were treated to the unusual sight of Spider-Man and Captain America washing their windows.

Batman and Superman also joined in the clean-up, with the grime fighters on a mission to brighten the day of children battling illnesses.

Organizer Edward Matuizek, president of Allegheny Window Cleaning, said his superhero employees received a hero’s welcome from the surprised kids.

‘All the guys had tears of joy in their eyes behind the costumes – it was very touching and overwhelming how excited the children were,’ he explained.

Children rushed to the windows to see the experienced high-rise washers abseiling across the building attached to safety harnesses.

The firm, which spent around £500 on the costumes, has made the scheme a cornerstone of their community work and has more superhero jobs planned for the future.


like a ghost

Posted in semanticals on February 23, 2013 by blair

“An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself.”

                                            -Charles Dickens

obama’s transparency problem

Posted in democracy in action with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2013 by blair

Over at Politico, Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen have penned a blistering examination of the president’s relationship to the press. You’ll recall that back in 2008, Obama famously pledged to lead one of the most transparent administrations in history, a promise that’s come under increasing scrutiny by mainstream press outlets who accuse the White House of blocking access, bullying reporters, insisting on softball coverage and, given their unprecedented web savvy, simply creating much of their own content.

The article seems connected – to some degree, at least – to this morning’s press backlash over a golf outing Obama took  over the weekend, during which access was obstructed in unorthodox ways.

The Vandehei/Allen piece is a tough but fair one, and it serves as a reminder that no elected leader, however popular, should ever control their own coverage.

the perils of “it”

Posted in days and ways with tags , , , , , , , on February 14, 2013 by blair

Afraid I’m gonna need to stamp the following link a “MUST-READ.” The attached article, which comes from Russell Adams of the Wall Street Journal, details a group of forty-something buddies who have spent the last twenty-three years locked in a game of “Tag”.

Dig it:

It started in high school when they spent their morning break darting around the campus of Gonzaga Preparatory School in Spokane, Wash. Then they moved on—to college, careers, families and new cities. But because of a reunion, a contract and someone’s unusual idea to stay in touch, tag keeps pulling them closer. Much closer.

The game they play is fundamentally the same as the schoolyard version: One player is “It” until he tags someone else. But men in their 40s can’t easily chase each other around the playground, at least not without making people nervous, so this tag has a twist. There are no geographic restrictions and the game is live for the entire month of February. The last guy tagged stays “It” for the year.

That means players get tagged at work and in bed. They form alliances and fly around the country. Wives are enlisted as spies and assistants are ordered to bar players from the office.

“You’re like a deer or elk in hunting season,” says Joe Tombari, a high-school teacher in Spokane, who sometimes locks the door of his classroom during off-periods and checks under his car before he gets near it.

One February day in the mid-1990s, Mr. Tombari and his wife, then living in California, got a knock on the door from a friend. “Hey, Joe, you’ve got to check this out. You wouldn’t believe what I just bought,” he said, as he led the two out to his car.

What they didn’t know was Sean Raftis, who was “It,” had flown in from Seattle and was folded in the trunk of the Honda Accord. When the trunk was opened he leapt out and tagged Mr. Tombari, whose wife was so startled she fell backward off the curb and tore a ligament in her knee.

“I still feel bad about it,” says Father Raftis, who is now a priest in Montana. “But I got Joe.”

The elaborate game, governed by an official contract drafted by a lawyer member of the group, is about to get the movie treatment too. Sometimes schoolyard antics pay off.

fish and frenemies

Posted in a pair of ragged claws with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2013 by blair


Here’s a Valentine’s Day set-up for ya: What do guppies have in common with horny singles of our own species? Quite a bit, it seems. Apparently the diminutive lil’ fish play their own sort of dating games.

According to the Washington Post, scientists at Britain’s Royal Society have learned that male guppies prefer to hang around with less attractive companions when females are on the scene. I realize that’s some dense and cruel guppy psychology to drop on you today of all days, but it’s apparently true. They select the ugly wingmen so that, yes, they’ll look better by comparison.

our top 5 star wars spinoff picks

Posted in patterns on a screen with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 6, 2013 by blair

Yesterday Disney CEO Bob Iger officially confirmed rumors that Lucasfilm and the Mouse are indeed cooking up a slate of standalone Star Wars films, all set to feature individual characters from the iconic series, several of which are being developed concurrently with Episodes VII, VIII and IX.

According to some outlets, the first flick in the pipeline will feature Yoda. An excellent choice he would make, of course. No doubt too we’ll see the requisite fanboy demands for that fabled Boba Fett storyline. But let’s dig deeper, shall we?

I put the question to our Star Wars-obsessed staffers here at the think tanks of A Farther Room, and asked them, which character deserves the spotlight?

Here now, our top five selections for a spin-off Star Wars flick:

5. The Rancor Keeper and his Rancor

rancor keeper

Remember this guy’s weepy emo display of heartbreak in Return of the Jedi? Remember how he tugged your heartstrings with that fleeting snapshot of friendship and loss? That five seconds of film packs more emotional wallop than the entire last half-hour of Old Yeller. Give this pair a prequel, damnit! Think of it as a sci-fi Where the Red Fern Grows. With Rancors.

4. Garindan Long Snoot


How’s about this shifty Mos Eisley spymaster from A New Hope? You know, the dude with the sinister hood and the plague doctor-looking mask who speaks in little warbles – a steampunk icon in waiting. Tell me there’s not a great espionage story there. Imagine Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy set in the most wretched hive of scum and villainy.

3. Oola


Do I even need to qualify this one with an explanation? It’s Twi’leks meet Showgirls, all against the gritty backdrop of Jabba’s palace.

2. Aurra Sing


Remember this smoky-eyed lady bounty hunter from The Phantom Menace? She enjoyed a way-too-fucking-brief cameo when we glimpsed her chilling atop a mesa, observing the pod race. Wasn’t she supposed to return in the next couple prequels as some kind’a Jedi-killing badass? This punk rocker has got like a dozen different toys based on her, and for two seconds of screen time? Someone rectify this.

1. Salacious Crumb


And of course, grabbing the number one slot, who else? Jabba’s mean, Muppet-faced sidekick. I bet you’ve long been intrigued by this sadistic bastard, who revels in the torment of others. DUDE EVEN CHEWED OUT C-3PO’S EYE IN THE HEAT OF BATTLE! He’s got anti-hero written all over him. Too compelling to ignore. Can we round up the featured extras from Labyrinth and create a star vehicle for this little fella? Look at that headshot, and try to tell me he’s not ready for his closeup.

the shortest short

Posted in patterns on a screen with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 31, 2013 by blair

Over at the NY Times’ award season blog The Carpetbagger, Melena Ryzik offers a great look at the centrality of animation at this year’s Academy Awards. Of note: a full docket of Best Animated Feature nominees – five in total, the max among the potentially variant number of films that can get the nod in any given year. And of course three of those features are stop-motion, a form I love, and one that’s experienced an exciting resurgence in recent years.

Per usual, there’s some fantastic films in the shorts category too. And speaking of stop-motion, I sort’a love this fun and whimsical piece, “Fresh Guacamole,” from an animator known as PES. It’s the shortest film ever nominated for an Oscar, and well worth a view.

Check it out below.