Disney live action remakes you probably won’t see

Disney has been cranking out remakes of their classic animated films in zany live action form. Why? To make buckets of money, of course. There is no other reason. Artistry is a byproduct of this, not part of the design. Cynical? Yes! True? Pretty much.

And so far the buckets of money part has been pretty good for them. The only real disappointment so far has been the live action version of Dumbo, which suffered from a couple of things:

  • too old to benefit much from nostalgia
  • being old, it was also never a mega-success in its original, which is what Disney wants these days–there was not enough to build on
  • Tim Burton. He’s also flitted between brilliant and pedestrian as a director, and of late he’s done a lot of walking, if you know what I mean
  • flying elephants are kind of dumb

The Lion King is next and will probably be a huge hit, but to me the photo-realistic animals kind of kills the point of the whole thing. Photo-realistic animals can’t emote like humans, so they just kind of stand there and look like they’re part of as nature documentary. Also you get a weird animal version of uncanny valley when they start talking.

Nevertheless, The Lion King is beloved by modern audiences in a way Dumbo isn’t, so creepy animals shouldn’t keep it from making hundreds of millions of dollars.

On the other hand, even Disney might hesitate before committing to live action versions of the following:

  • Song of the South. Okay, this is a mix of live action and animated, but yeah, not gonna happen. Would be very interesting to see how they’d handle it, though. Very interesting.

Actually, Song of the South is the only one I think Disney would never touch. I mean, they won’t do a live action version of their WWII animated documentary Victory Through Air Power because it’s obscure and not something people think of when they think of Disney. People don’t think of Disney as being hilariously racist, either, hence Song of the South remaining firmly a thing of the past.

Songs that got stuck in my head today

In no order:

  • “Puppy Love” by Donny Osmond. This evolved from a conversation about Barry Manilow coming out in his 70s. The song is kind of creepy in retrospect, and could easily be captured in video as such just by framing the vocalist in specific ways, changing nothing else about the song.
  • “Jesus Christ Superstar.” I have no explanation for this.
  • “Echo Beach” by Martha and the Muffins. Probably because I walked by a lot of beaches today. I can remember about ten words from the song, but fully remember the tune.
  • “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by The Beach Boys. After describing the stellar quality of the film stock used to record a documentary about making the song back in 1966. How I came to describe the footage to begin with evolved from the observation of how pictures from digital cameras from only ten years ago look pretty bad today. Also, I had seen clips from the documentary this morning on YouTube so it was fresh in my mind. Bonus observation: The music and vocals on this song are pretty incredible for what would seem to be a simple pop tune.

This concludes my random sampling of music running through my head, and also concludes my posts for the month of June.

See you tomorrow on The Blog Hardly Anyone Knows Even Exists.

I stared at myself while eating gelato today

At the conclusion of our afternoon of walking a whole lot, Nic became quietly obsessed with having some gelato for dessert. After fruitlessly searching along Davie Street, he turned to technology (Google) to save us and we made our way to a place near Robson and Bute. They have a row of seats along a counter and on the wall in front of the counter is a large mirror. This means you get to stare at yourself while eating your gelato. I found it mildly unnerving. Then I took a picture of myself in the mirror, with my eyebrows slightly raised, because this is apparently a thing I do nearly every time I take a picture of myself. I don’t know why.

It’s gelato, not poo, I swear.

The perspective is kind of weird in the shot, because my right hand looks to be about the same size as my head, which it is not.Also, I am not a goth despite all the black I’m wearing. Not to my knowledge, anyway (I do own three albums by The Cure.)

Important Michael Jackson update: Still dead

It’s been 10 years since Michael Jackson died (June 25, 2009, to be precise). His estate still rakes in loads of cash. An HBO documentary with two alleged abuse victims of his released this year and is HBO’s third most-watched documentary of all time.

Some radio stations in Canada will not play his music, but Cirque du Soleil still does a Jackson-themed show in Vegas. The Simpsons no longer airs the episode where he voices a character, but his music still generates income in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Real dollars, too–the U.S. kind.

So his post-life is seeing great commercial success, though the creepy days of yore–with fresh new lurid stories–present the classic dilemma of separating the art from the artist. Can you enjoy “Beat It” knowing he almost certainly abused young children? Also, “Beat It”, is that a totally coded message or what? (It’s probably a coincidence.) For myself, I can appreciate his musical legacy, but no longer seek out or listen to his music. There’s just no way to separate it from the creepy kinda guy he was. People can probably do this in a hundred years when they are listening to his songs with their $500/month Apple Music subscription, but for now and for me, Michael Jackson is simply still dead.

Touch a tree

When was the last time you touched a tree? I know, it seems weird. Why would you touch a tree? What if you put your finger smack in the middle of some sap? You can’t just wipe that stuff off on your pants. You’ll need to find somewhere to wash your hands. A bother.

But you should touch a tree anyway. Why? Because if you are touching a tree, you are in a tiny way communing with nature and more importantly, unlikely to be staring into the screen of your smartphone, because staring at that risks finger-in-sap.

Plus, touching a tree means you are outside, where most trees are, and enjoying the outdoors and maybe on the way to or from the tree you will see and experience other outdoor things that are pleasant or inspiring.

There are worse things you could do.

Touch a cactus, for example. If you are touching a cactus, you are likely in the desert and it’s hot and dry and cacti are very prickly, so why are you touching one, anyway?

Trees, though—find one, touch it. You won’t be sorry.

I sat beside Mitchell on the SkyTrain today

I don’t know Mitchell, but I do know he was sitting next to me on the SkyTrain this morning. I know this without having spoken to him and without interacting with him in any way at all.

How did I know his name? Was he wearing a name tag? Did someone nearby shout out to him, “Yo Mitchell dawg, what’s up?”

The answer to these questions is no.

I found out his name because I was writing a blog post on my phone. Yes, it was the magic (and menace) of technology.

The Ulysses app allows me to compose WordPress posts and send them magically to my blog to be published. On the iPhone this is done through the export function. But the first time you use it, the default is to open the share sheet. One of the options that appears here is AirDrop, Apple’s way of allowing iPhone users to easily share files.

And lo, there was Mitchell’s iPhone. He was indeed using his iPhone. I thought about sharing my blog post just to see how he’d react, but opted not to. But it also made me think how people could use AirDrop to creep on others.

Scenario: Unrelated man and woman sit beside each other on train, both have AirDrop enabled. Man opens up Photos app and goes to the share sheet after selecting a particularly appalling example of his manhood. He then opts to AirDrop it to the woman sitting next to him. She puts his phone in a place one might have considered physically impossible.

She could just choose not to accept, but you still get a preview of the image, so Unwitting Commuter is still going to see something grossbuckets before declining. I should test this sometime to see just how it works with someone you theoretically don’t know. With a picture of a kitten, you pervs.

Anyway, now I’m kind of wondering how Mitchell’s day is going.

300 is a magic number

The Rolling Stones have started a summer tour, promising to play classic hits.

Their collective age is 300. Keith Richards alone is 200. He learned to play on a coal-fired guitar. Just kidding. He learned on a Stratocaster.

And he’s only 75.

I have to admire The Stones for heading out when they clearly don’t need the money—though they will make truckloads of it. Jagger just had heart surgery three months ago and yet there he was on opening night, prancing about the stage like he was only 50. Which is the new 30, I think.

He’s also 75.

I hope to be prancing about on a stage or at least somewhere that isn’t a retirement home when I’m 75.

Truckloads of money would be nice, too, though optional.

For two days the internet ignored me :(

It may be partly my fault.

Awhile back I was having some issues with the site and it turned out the fancy newer version of PHP was causing some problems. I’m still not sure why, because WordPress supports the latest version. But whatever, I’m not a webologist. It was rolled back to version 5 and the issue went away.

Then a plugin update became available and said it couldn’t update because it needed PHP 7. Well. I investigated and found out I can switch the site from versions 5 and 7 through the control panel. I did this, updated the plugin (the real impetus was to clear that update notification badge) and all is well.

But not quite!

Because now the site is acting up (or down) again. This means that sometimes you’ll hit the site and see this:

When you see the above appears to be arbitrary. You may never see it. You may see it every time. It’s like my own site’s version of a lootbox, the costs measured in how many times you need to refresh the page (which fixes the issue).

Because most people/bots are just going to move on rather than refresh to see what happens, I suspect the trickle of visitors to the site basically stopped for June 21 and 22. (For added fun, I sometimes see similar errors when loading the admin dashboard. Fortunately a refresh fixes this, too.)

I am too lazy to put a lot of time into further investigation into fixing this and suspect my hosting service wouldn’t have much to offer, either, so I’ll just live with it until it either goes away on its own or I get fed up and rollback to version 5 of PHP.

Anyway, that’s my theory for why my site got two days of absolutely no visits, proving such a thing can happen on today’s internet. I will never become a social media influencer if this keeps happening. :(

Bonus annoyance: I went to choose the category and tags for this post, but sometimes these fail to load, too. Maybe I will roll back after all…

UPDATE: I rolled back to PHP 5. At least now people should be able to reliably see my carefully curated selection of amusing cat images.

High definition video, low definition lyrics

Recently YouTube announced that it was updating a lot of classic or alleged classic music videos to HD versions. Better picture, better sound! What’s not to like?

I am an unapologetic fan of Lady Gaga’s video for the song “Bad Romance” (this is not exactly an exclusive club, the video has over one billion views). I think the director, Francis Lawrence, and Gaga did a fantastic job in fusing the music and imagery together, something so seemingly fundamental for a music video, yet so often eludes others. The action and camera move sleekly to the music and vocals, and somehow the abrupt shifts in style work. The choreography is quirky, fluid and occasionally a bit predictable (Gaga is fond of the “jack off” gesture).

The lyrics are not spectacular, though a lot of people probably miss the three Hitchcock references tucked into one verse, but there is a verse that goes like this:

Walk, walk fashion baby, work it move that bitch crazy
Walk-walk fashion baby, work it move that bitch crazy
Walk-walk fashion baby, work it move that bitch crazy
Walk-walk passion baby, work it I'm a free bitch baby

As you can see, the word “bitch” is used four times. Edgy! But that was 2011. In 2019 the word is not used in polite company anymore. It seems even ironic, self-claimed usage has fallen from favor. Gay men cannot say, “Bitch, please.” Women can not call each other by this term. It is, as a word, passe.

The HD version of the video has removed “bitch.” Or to be more accurate, it’s removed the last two letters. That’s right, the video now has Gaga very clearly saying “bit”:

Walk, walk fashion baby, work it move that bit crazy
Walk-walk fashion baby, work it move that bit crazy
Walk-walk fashion baby, work it move that bit crazy
Walk-walk passion baby, work it I'm a free bit baby

What does “I’m a free bit baby” even mean? Is Gaga now saying we are all machine-made designs, composed of nothing but bits and bytes, living our seemingly real lives in a perpetual virtual reality? And that she has, Neo-like, broken from the virtual chains, claiming her independence as a free bit?

Or could they just not come up with something that rhymed with “bitch”, still worked and decided “bit” was close enough. It is an exercise left to the viewer.

It’s also kind of silly, like Spielberg changing the guns the government agents had to walkie talkies in the 20th anniversary release of E.T. (this version of the film has been dropped in subsequent releases, with Spielberg regretting the change). I can see the argument to improve the visual presentation of a piece of work, whether it’s a film or a music video. For example, some of the special effects and exterior shots of the Enterprise and planets were either redone or made from scratch for a new version of the original Star Trek series, for a 2006 re-release. The effects were deliberately toned down, to keep them in line with the aesthetic of the original show. There are purists who would object to any changes, but in general most would see these changes as refinements on the original. The artists were not adding or removing content, nor were they changing it other than to simply improve the look of the admittedly cheaply-made visual effects of the time.

The Gaga lyrics change is a lot more like Spielberg’s walkie talkies, trying to take back an artistic choice and to that I say, just live with it and move on. Altering the video won’t change–or remove–the original. Either make a statement on the remastered HD version (“I would not use the same language today and regret the wording”) or provide two versions, the original and the altered (which Spielberg did in 2002 with E.T. before dropping the altered version entirely).

It’s a small thing and I mostly call it out because “bit” is a nonsensical substitution. Yet it calls to me, somehow, and so I claim that I am also a free bit, baby.

The last day of spring, 2019 edition

It is currently 16C, a little cooler than would be seasonal. It’s partly cloudy, but no serious threat of precipitation yet–that is saved for the weekend, according to the forecast.

The last few months have been a time of certain small triumphs and a lot of ennui. My writing has withered and I’m trying to decide how much I care. I’m not taking part in July’s Camp NaNoWriMo because part of the month I will be on vacation, when my writing is meant to wither. As I type this, the sun is angling to poke through the clouds and I think of how spring has been pretty decent overall, weather-wise. So that’s good, if you ignore the thawing permafrost up north and the steady march onward of climate doom. It doesn’t help that Canadians keep electing not only conservative governments, but breathtakingly ignorant ones in particular.

Anyway, here’s to summer–officially starting tomorrow–being better. It’s my favorite season and I look forward to soaking up some rays and reveling in the warm days ahead. Which are currently not in the long range forecast. But still.