The Dinglehopper

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Star Wars Saturday: Disney/Pixar’s ‘X-Wings’

x-wingsIt seems like, in our combinatory culture, every few months something gets made/mashed/revised that shows up like a present with my name on the tag. Here’s the latest. Our toddler has been obsessed with Lightning McQueen, Mater, Dusty, and friends for months. Matchbox-style Cars cars, Duplo Cars and Planes sets, Cars underwear. I have long been obsessed with Star Wars: Original Flavor. My husband won my hand in marriage by winning Star Wars Trivial Pursuit (I’m simplifying…a little.) So Big Bee Studio has mashed up the two for a wonderful little parody of the overdone series of anthropomorphic vehicle films aimed at increasingly younger audiences.

The trailer is so well done, I’m afraid to show it to my toddler. What if ze can’t accept that it doesn’t exist? What then? There is only one answer: make it a reality. And there’s no conceivable reason why not. Disney now owns both Pixar and Star Wars, so there’s nothing to stand in their way. Except decency, maybe, but that always loses out to moneymaking. And I know at least one toddler who would happily line Disney’s pockets with the parents’ hard earned cash if this came to be.

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Merry Elfing Christmas

F*ck, man–It’s Christmas again.

That’s how the new parody Kanye West Christmas album Kreezus begins. Some geniuses who go by the name Local Business Comedy have Christmasfied West’s hit album Yeezus.

If two months of listening to Andy Williams has started to wear thin, check this sh*t out while passing around the spiked eggnog. Because not only is the parody pretty accurate of Kanye, it’s also blessed with the funny.

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Star Wars Bonus: ‘The Force Awakens’ Teaser Special Edition


“You know what this moment needs? A dewback. And banthas. A herd of banthas.”

I love people sometimes. I especially love snarky, skilled, creative people. People like Michael Shanks (not the one from Stargate), self-proclaimed stupid video maker on YouTube. He has re-edited The Force Awakens teaser trailer to skewer George Lucas’s needless gumming up of the original films in their Special Editions. As the best satire is, this Special Edition is both funny and sort-of deeply painful in its truth-telling.

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Book Review – Willful Child

Willful Child by Steven Erickson

Willful Child

These are the voyages of the starship A.S.F. Willful Child. Its ongoing mission: to seek out strange new worlds on which to plant the Terran flag, to subjugate and if necessary obliterate new life-forms, to boldly blow the…

And so we join the not-terribly-bright but exceedingly cock-sure Captain Hadrian Sawback and his motley crew on board the Starship Willful Child for a series of devil-may-care, near-calamitous and downright chaotic adventures through ‘the infinite vastness of interstellar space.’

The New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Malazan Book of the Fallen sequence has taken his lifelong passion for Star Trek and transformed it into a smart, inventive, and hugely entertaining spoof on the whole mankind-exploring-space-for-the-good-of-all-species-but-trashing-stuff-with-a-lot-of-high-tech-gadgets-along-the-way, overblown adventure. The result is an SF novel that deftly parodies the genre while also paying fond homage to it.

So, this is my first Steven Erickson novel.  He’s a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and the author of the bestselling ten volume Malazan Book of the Fallen, a complex and controversial epic fantasy; the kind of series that’s hard to get into at first and incomparable once you’ve finished.  When I got the opportunity to read something shorter, I figured it’d be a good barometer.

It’s probably not.  Willful Child is a tongue in cheek parody of Star Trek that shines a harsh light on the entire history of the franchise and its fandom.  The title is simultaneously the name of the ship and a description of the protagonist Hadrian Allen Sawback, cut from the same cloth as one James Tiberius Kirk.  He’s the kind of manly misogynist you’ll hate to love as his unbridled exuberance and unflagging confidence propel his ship into episodic mayhem.

I’ll admit that my affection for Trek has slipped the surly bonds of canon from time to time. Thise fanciful forays were often disappointing because they lacked any real affection for the source material. That isn’t the case here.  While skewering the photogenic bridge crew, the breathlessness of the episodic action, and the unfortunate socioeconomic political landscape of a colonial navy, Erickson finds and nurtures the beating heart beneath.

It’s not all fun and games, though.  The book, at least the beginning, is almost unbearably sexist. Given the source material, it can’t be avoided.  But readers should go in knowing what’s coming. There’s a decent amount of self aware commentary on that as the story progresses, but it never disappears entirely.

Instead, the narrative is clever enough to work the reader into the, well, show, for lack of a better word.  Just like the caricatures and melodrama of television often lull us into sympathy, so does Willful Child.  That is a pretty neat trick.

This is definitely a book for Trek fans.  There’s joy in recognizing the obvious parallels and delight in the subtler ones.  It also has something to offer folks who just want a good laugh at the expense of space opera or scifi television generally.

Recommended for Zapp Brannigan, Malcolm Reynolds, and Kathryn Janeway.



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‘Play It Again, Dick’ Ep. 6 Review

I was pleased to see that episode 6 keeps the pacing and humor going. Do give it a watch before reading on if you’d prefer not to be spoiled. And now that we’re actually into the plot of the show within the show, there are spoilers to the murder mystery Dick is investigating.

Watch episode 6 here on CWSeed.


Very little of the episode is the meta-story of creating “Private Dick,” so the whole episode flies by. I had to double check that’d I’d really just watched an 8-minute show–it felt much, much shorter.

What we do get is Ryan responding to whether it was a difficult decision to kill off Weevil. He says all the great shows do it, listing many contemporary examples but focusing on Game of Thrones. He says he was up for the part of Jon Snow but that they weren’t sure about his English accent. Then he delivers part of the vows made by the Night’s Watch initiates in a quite average British accent. This is funny for being so out of place. The brain just automatically starts imagining Ryan in the role. He tops it off by asking, “What does England have to do with Westeros?”

After this we continue the rough cut of “Private Dick” with Dick meeting Madison upstairs in one of the B&B’s rooms. The parody of detective-oriented film noir tropes are all here: obtrusive voice over, the sexy femme fatale in Madison, the snappy dialogue dripping with innuendo, the scarred detective drinking his pain away. The dialogue between Dick and Madison starts in double entendre and ends in explicitness. Of course, there’s also that big case that the detective is haunted by. Here Beaver returns as a ghost to consult on the Weevil case. He tries once again to convince Dick that he jumped from the roof of the Grand, referencing the finale of Veronica Mars season 2. Madison asks Dick where Veronica is. He explains she’s got a big open house–this is a buyer’s market. Relegating Veronica to being a real estate agent is absurd in a hilarious way. This is the best scene in the whole series thus far. More please!

By the way, the explicitness highlights a truth about Veronica Mars–it was always bordering on the sexually overt. Two brothers named Dick and Beaver? That’s not subtle.

Dick goes downstairs to find Keith Mars, via Skype, questioning witnesses. He’s been hired by a wealthy mystery woman (who has a Hugh Hefner-type husband and two dead kids). Clearly this is Celeste Kane. Why would she hire Keith to find Weevil’s murder? The dick, er, I mean, plot thickens.

Dick announces to Keith that he’s a P.I. now and this is his case. Keith attempts to get Dick to realize he’s in over his, ahem, head. Dick insinuates Keith is old. Dick attempts to make the point that the key is his stolen sunglasses. Then Keith receives a sandwich he didn’t order from room service. He takes a few bites then starts choking and foaming at the mouth, like Weevil did. His final words are to pass along a house being sold by owner for Veronica to check out.

The parody is high and the jokes land. I look forward to the continuation of Dick’s detective adventures.

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“Word Crimes” and Kinetic Typography

Weird Al’s got a new album out – and it’s #1 on iTunes. A master of the online world (he defines memes, y’all), he clearly knows how to market an album. This time around he’s releasing a video a day. Monday’s was the parody of Pharrell’s “Happy” called “Tacky.” It’s brilliant in its own right.

But on Tuesday he gifted to the world “Word Crimes,” a grammarian’s revision of “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke (and thus saving the catchy tune from misogynist hell). The song itself is clever and speaks to my high school English teacher’s very soul; however, what caused me to swoon over the video was the use of kinetic typography.

Kinetic typography is a type of animation using moving text to express the meaning of lyrics, prose, or speech. Font, size, shape, and motion are key.

As a font nut, I love kinetic typography, and I wanted to share some of my favorite examples, of which “Word Crimes” is now one.

Jonathan Coulton eviscerates the suburban middle-class life with his catchy and comedic “Shop Vac.” Jarrett Heather is the animator here – and, oh hey, he also did the animation for “Word Crimes.” (I thought it looked familiar!) “Shop Vac” is ground zero for my teenage girl crush on kinetic typography. The use of brand fonts to emphasize the role of capitalism in the failed American dream is brilliant.

Kinetic typography is perfect for any film speech of significance. Take this example by Cory Allison from David Fincher’s Fight Club, wherein Tyler Durden explains the post-modern masculine condition. Moment of brilliance: the visual pin drops when Tyler elicits silence from the men gathered to fight.

Now that I’ve got you interested, check out Thibault de Fournas’s “From Paper to Screen.” This kinetic typography video is not only beautiful and brilliantly designed, it’s actually a treatise on typography’s transformation from paper to screen. I especially loved the tribute to Saul Bass’s influence on opening credits.

And finally, Evan Seitz’s “Alphagames” which advances into more complex animations to show the A to Z of video games. Can you name them all? And if you’re more of a cinephile, see Seitz’s “ABCinema” below.


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Star Wars Saturday – Star Wars Presented Guardians of the Galaxy Style

Initially I had planned to give an overview of various re-edits of The Phantom Menace, but I soon realized I couldn’t spend the time to watch them, nor did I really want to. I don’t much care for The Phantom Menace and delving into it seemed like more torture than I wanted to endure for an unpaid job I intend to enjoy (ie. blogging). So let me just say there’s an infamous first re-edit called The Phantom Edit, it is highly regarded as fixing the bulk of the film’s problems, and you can easily watch it on YouTube but at a pretty crappy resolution (360p). You can also BitTorrent it at a much more reasonable resolution, but that’s on you to hook up. I stick by my assertion that The Phantom Menace is entirely skippable.

So instead, I offer you something awesome instead of a polished turd. Here is a trailer for the original Star Wars trilogy done in the style of The Guardians of the Galaxy trailer by Ross Thompson, aka The Unusual Suspect. Bravo, sir!