Archive for January, 2007

Burns Supper

January 28, 2007

haggis.jpegEvery nation has its traditional holidays. Scotland is the only country I know of with a ritual celebration of its national poet (Robert Burns). How great is that! The celebration is called a Burns Supper. It always includes drinking scotch whiskey, reciting poetry, and eating a dreadfully unappetizing traditional sausage called “haggis.”

I went to my first ever Burns Supper last night. I was nervous enough about eating haggis to consider bringing a granola bar as a backup meal. However, surprise #1: the haggis was quite edible—even good, served with mashed potatoes and rutabaga.

Surprise #2: I loved the poetry. I am not usually a big fan of poetry readings. Maybe it had something to do with the 3 different single malt scotches I tried. Anyway, my favorite poem was “To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough.” This stanza stayed with me all day today (and not just because it is the only one in English):

I’m truly sorry man’s dominion,
Has broken nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An’ fellow-mortal!

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Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

January 25, 2007

dragonslair-arcadescreenshot.jpgMany people (including this group of passionate Dragon’s Lair fans) have asked how The Act compares to the fabulous Dragon’s Lair, Space Ace, and the other animated laser disc games of the 80’s. I love being mentioned in the same breath with these legends of video game design. I like to think the artwork of The Act is similar to the artistry of Don Bluth, Gary Goldman, John Pomeroy and other ex-Disney greats who created the beautiful artwork of the Dragon’s Lair series.

However, Dragon’s Lair‘s interactivity was limited by its optical disc technology (and the high cost of RAM at the time). The Act, by contrast, allows direct control over a character—more like Donkey Kong than Dragon’s Lair.

The Act‘s biggest innovation is that the player’s direct control is not over physical actions like running, climbing and jumping. Instead, you control emotional attitude like coaxing, flirting, and bullying. The gameplay of The Act revolves around the same thing that makes the story interesting: the relationships and emotions of its characters.

In developing The Act, we experimented with many different graphical styles including CGI and machinima. We even tried video taping live actors. However, it wasn’t until we met Anthony Michaels, Broose Johnson, Barry Temple, Sasha Dorogov, and all the other awesome veterans of Walt Disney Feature Animation’s Orlando studio that we began to achieve the level of acting required to make the “emotional gameplay” work.

Boys’ Night Out

January 23, 2007

I spent Saturday night camping out with my son (and 200 other dads & lads) on the U.S.S. Massachusetts.

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What’s not to like about running free through an enourmous indoor-outdoor playground/maze, bristling with guns of all sizes? We took a knot-tying class, did Q & A with WWII vets, listened to a storyteller, and watched the classic 1964 Warner Brothers film, The Incredible Mr. Limpet.

Yes, the 16-inch guns were memorable. But what stuck with me was the movie. The Incredible Mr. Limpet stars Don Knotts as the sad loser whose dreams come true when he magically turns into a fish and helps the US Navy win World War II. I loved this movie as a child. Seeing it again, I was surprised by a certain plot element that must have been lost on my pre-adolescent mind. Limpet’s wife Bessie is clearly attracted to another man—Limpet’s best friend George. Bessie and George would much rather be out dancing together than dealing with the boring Limpet. Then, when Limpet turns into a fish, he meets the beautiful Ladyfish, who wants to go with him to the spawning grounds. Limpet resists until he has a chance to talk it over with his wife and to get her blessing. Limpet and Bessie agree that a union between a woman and a fish is not practical, and they run off happily with their more compatible mates.

Is it a child’s primer on divorce? Or is it a metaphor for another kind of identity crisis? In any case, it is beautifully nuanced—not at all the heavy-handed style you might see in a modern movie.

Play by David Schrag

January 16, 2007

David Schrag, friend and IT professional extraordinaire, has written a short play, “Life Savings,” that will be performed as part of a theater festival in Middleboro, Massachusetts, February 9. See this post on David’s blog.

Web 2.0 Enterprise Forum

January 11, 2007

catfight.gifTechcrunch, the Web 2.0 news blog (and number 3 highest ranked blog on Technorati), just announced a new forum on their site called “Company Reviews.” It is a simple concept: entrepreneurs post descriptions of their Web 2.0 startups, and everybody else rips them to shreds. Speaking as an ex-angel investor, this is high entertainment.

It reminds me a lot of the M.I.T. Enterprise Forum, only webified.

Boston Herald Article

January 11, 2007

There is a nice article about The Act by Lauren Beckham Falcone in today’s Boston Herald. Thanks, Lauren! 🙂

Terrible picture of me, though. Do I really look that old? 😦

Connecticut Gets into The Act!

January 10, 2007

cabinet-photo-med.jpgThe Act is now on location at the Se Condi truck stop in Milford, Connecticut (exit 40 off I95—halfway between New Haven and Bridgeport). We had such success at a truck stop in New Hampshire, we thought we’d try another one. 🙂

For up-to-date location listings, check the web site.

Faded Fairy Tale

January 9, 2007

cinderella.jpgContinuing in the vein of old guy romanticizing the past, I rented the 1965 TV movie Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella so that my kids could have it forever glowing in their childhood memories as I do. However, from the moment the show started, I was astounded at how inferior the production values of 1965 television appeared. The music and Leslie Ann Warren’s incredible performance as the abused child shone through for me. But the kids couldn’t get past the Carol Burnett Show sets and the horses hooves clacking improbably on the linoleum sound stage floor. I feebly suggested, “Isn’t this great?”

My daughter’s response: “It’s cheesy!”

I was forced to admit, it was shockingly so…but still great.

Much Ado About Microphones

January 7, 2007

singer21.jpgUPI reports that Andrew Lloyd Weber has warned the British government that its plan to sell off part of the wireless spectrum will spell the end of wireless microphones in theaters and therefore “the end of musicals” in the U.K.

I only bring it up because I have always hated amplified music and singing in the theater—unless it’s rock & roll. When a voice is electronically amplified, it usually doesn’t sound as if it is coming from the person on the stage. It comes from all around. It also sounds larger than life—and life is the whole point of live performance. There is magic in a live voice or violin or drum, for that matter. For heaven’s sake, why do they even stick mics right up to the drums?

Every main-stage musical is amplified nowadays. Whenever I see one, invariably I wonder what it would sound like without the mics. I took the kids to Beauty and the Beast over the holidays, and I guarantee you Deborah Lew has the pipes to be heard at the back of the rear mezzanine without a mic.

Perhaps I am romanticizing the past. Perhaps microphones make it possible for singers to save their voices and do more shows. Perhaps mics have been a boon to the hearing-impaired. But “unplugged” has been such a popular fad—even for rock & roll acts. I’m wondering if there isn’t a market for more than one measly Broadway Unplugged show per year?

Carbon Footprint

January 5, 2007

chimney203.jpgYesterday, my neighbors goaded me into calculating my household’s “carbon footprint.” This is an estimate of the carbon dioxide emissions generated directly at the household level (based on utility bills, car mileage, etc.).

First, the bad news: my household spews out an estimated 22.35 tons of CO2 per year! And this does not even take into account the odd cord or two of firewood we burn in our wood stove. It also does not take into account any emissions by my office, my business travel, or the kids’ school.

And, in the good news/bad news department: our number is the lowest of all our neighborhood!

We used a calculator supplied by a local activist group. The group is calling upon each of us to compensate for our excessive energy consumption by buying “Carbon Offsets.” In order to become “carbon-neutral” and guilt-free, my suggested donation is $670.50 annually. If only all my sins could be atoned for so simply!

For a generic carbon footprint calculator that works in all regions of the country, see http://www.carbonfootprint.com.