Monday, May 24, 2010

Why Angelenos Don't Like Hockey

It's NHL playoff time again. And no one in southern California knows what the heck is going on. There was a CA team playing in the semi-finals (granted, they lost...badly) but it seems like most people in L.A. have never even heard of the San Jose Sharks. They've heard of their L.A. Kings, but since Gretzky left, I don't think the average person on the street could name a single player from the team. Now, they could tell you Kobe's life story and what kind of candy Lamar Odom ate for dinner two nights ago, but they couldn't even name a King. When the Anaheim Ducks were in the Stanley Cup Finals a few years back, people up here complained that hockey was on TV when they went to the bars. They wanted to watch beach volleyball or something like that. The bartender, a fellow Pennsylvanian, politely informed them that they were going to watch the Stanley Cup and that they were going to like it. They had no idea who this Stanley guy was, or what he had to do with hockey, but they had no interest in finding out. So, I've been thinking about L.A.'s irrational hatred -- it's actually more like a fear, really -- L.A.'s irrational fear of hockey. I'll be discussing some thoughts and making some valid points which I hope you'll consider.

First of all, when a guy as white as me tries to promote hockey, I have to qualify myself as a non-racist. No really, I'm very white. But I totally love black people and other minorities. No, seriously. The reason hockey is my favorite sport has nothing to do with the predominance of really, really white people in the sport. Honestly though, nobody in my family was ever a Nazi -- I'm actually like 1/128th German Jew. I had an Asian pastor and a black pastor marry me to my Latina wife 8 months ago. Both sides of my family are from the North. They fought for the Union.

But I must say, I think Angelenos don't like hockey because it's too white. The players are white, the rink is white...the ice and snow that fall in the cities where people actually do like white. And out here, it's all about hip-hop culture. It's really not that cool to be a white guy in L.A. It's like that song Pretty Fly...for a White Guy by the Offspring. The girls have to specify that he's ok...considering he's Caucasian. And those guys are from southern California. They know what it's like. I married a Latina -- well, because I love her -- but also because my kids will have at least a little bit of street cred.

But did you know there are a good many black guys in the NHL? Right now, our very own Kings have Wayne Simmonds. A couple years back, we had Anson Carter. Elsewhere in the NHL, Don Brashear, Mike Grier, and Jarome Iginla are all great hockey players of African descent...and there's a bunch more. Check this out.

But besides the whiteness, I think Angelenos are scared of the cold. This is a city where people complain as soon as the thermometer hits 59 degrees outside. They post tweets about "frigid arctic winds" at temperatures where most cities are wearing shorts and sun dresses. We can't expect them to go into a room cold enough to keep a giant floor made of ice completely frozen and have a fun time.

Also, Angelenos don't like hockey because they perceive it as an "east coast thing." The east coast threatens people from L.A. because cities like Boston, New York, and Washington get a lot of attention. Everyone who lives here thinks L.A. is the be-all and end-all of civilization, and they don't want any rival cities to steal the Southland's thunder. Enjoying hockey would almost validate the existence of all those east coast guys that annoy them so much.

And if you're wondering why the Staples Center is so full at Kings games if Angelenos don't like hockey, it's because most of those people are transplants from the northeast or northern Europe, a few of them thought they were actually headed to a Lakers game and just got the date mixed up, and the others are gangsters that fell in love with those old black Kings jerseys, and going to a game was the best excuse they could come up with to wear them again.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Example of a Press Release

Of interest to editors and journalists covering:
lifestyles, retail, commerce, tech news, and pop culture

New Furniture Company Makes Traditional Furniture Stores Take the Back Seat
From bedroom sets to kitchenettes, Magic Dingleberry Furnishings can match your style, and they promise you'll like theirs. This new store uses a breakthrough computer program to enhance your living space.
ANAHEIM, CA - April 27, 2010 - Magic Dingleberry Furnishings, an innovative new furniture and decor company, announced its official launch this week. Georg Holzenkopf, founder of MDF, has teamed up with the same programming wizards that brought us Dunkelblau, the super-program that defeated the World Parcheesi Champion, Barry Kasparitus, in 2002. The Carnegie Mellon-based computer gurus worked with Holzenkopf to develop TasteUrSpace, a brilliant system that can select an item of furniture to perfectly fit any decor.

Furniture-shoppers simply provide TasteUrSpace with digital photographs of each room they're shopping for. Then, they tell the program what particular items they need, and TasteUrSpace instantly provides a list of recommended furnishings. The super-program calculates the ideal matches based on 1) the color of existing furnishings, walls, and floors 2) the size and shape of the room 3) the size and shape of existing furnishings, and 4) the style of existing furnishings. TasteUrSpace was designed to extract this information directly from photographs, with no additional input required.

After the list of furnishings is generated, shoppers make their selections, and they can either take home their new purchases immediately, or for a small fee, have Magic Dingleberry deliver it directly to their door within 24 hours. Says Holzenkopf, "I think our customers will be very impressed with how intuitive TasteUrSpace really is. It's truly revolutionary. And, you can expect the same great customer service you'd get from a mom and pop's furniture business."

About Magic Dingleberry Furnishings:

This company is the brainchild of entrepreneur Georg Holzenkopf. Originally a furniture designer for a local home furnishings outfit, he saw such great success, he wound up buying the furniture store he had worked at for over 3 decades. After spending 2 years developing and co-programming the TasteUrSpace software, he equipped his sales model with the new technology, and thus, Magic Dingleberry was born. Funded by monies from Holzenkopf's personal empire and private investors, you can follow Magic Dingleberry on the stock market under the abbreviation MADF.

Georg Holzenkopf, CEO

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Note to Morning Commuters on Sunset Boulevard

Dear Sunset Blvd. commuters:

I must respectfully request your cooperation on the matter of allowing pedestrians to cross the crosswalk on Sunset Blvd. at Las Palmas Ave. As a pedestrian, I must daily walk across Sunset Blvd. at that very intersection. Unfortunately, local pedestrians and walking tourists have not been blessed with a stoplight at that particular junction, as there is one nearby at Sunset and Cherokee. The civil engineers that laid out this part of Los Angeles, as diligent and detail-oriented as they are, didn't even see it fit to throw us a bone and give us one of those sets of blinking yellow lights that drivers have been programmed to ignore. At least with those, drivers hesitate for a moment, buying us pedestrians precious time to scurry beyond the path of the oncoming vehicles. However, it has become clear to me over the past year that the enormous yellow signs on either side of the street indicating that the very thick, unmissable white lines painted across the street are in fact a crosswalk, are not enough of a warning for the average L.A. driver to yield the right of way to a pedestrian, or even to slow down. Now, I'm not a jaywalker, nor have I ever been -- but I feel I must remind you that the pedestrian has the right of way in this scenario.

Now, I'm not making this appeal to you with the foolish assumption that human life is valuable to you. Of course I wouldn't ask you to slow down or yield to me just because I want to live or go about my life without being crippled. I mean, what's in it for you?

I'm making this appeal to you on the basis that a collision with a pedestrian will damage your vehicle. Yes, your masterfully crafted, German engineered luxury automobile will withstand a lot more than my feeble human body -- however, I might at least break up one of your headlights, maybe put a dent on your hood -- depending on the color of your vehicle, you might have to worry about a trip to the carwash to get rid of the nasty bloodstains. Who wants that? And though your insurance will afford you the bodywork needed to hammer out the dents in your auto, and your lawyer will find some way to put me at fault -- think of all the red tape. Really. It would take hours to go through all that trouble...versus just a few seconds to slow down for a pedestrian. I usually even wait for the light at Sunset and Cherokee to turn red, so that you'll only have to slow down at a time when you should be slowing down anyway -- I know it's really important you get right up to the light as quickly as possible so you can beat that guy in the souped up Honda off the line -- just wait until the light at Seward. You'll get 'im.

And when you're explaining to your boss why you arrived at 9:05am and 33 seconds instead of 9:05am and 29 seconds, just tell him some a-hole stepped out in front of your car at Sunset and Las Palmas, and you were worried about having to scrape flesh out of the grill of your car -- which would have made you even later...

Thanks for your time and cooperation.


Nathan M. Rodgers, pedestrian

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Oh-So Deep and Philosophical Meaning Behind the Title of My Blog

"Nate-dog, the title of your blog is weird. What does it mean?"

Well, I'm glad you asked...It's an allusion to "bog mummies," of course. Bog mummies are preserved human remains found in swampy marshes mostly in the U.K., Ireland, and other parts of northern Europe. It's just like that sequence in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers when Gollum, Sam, and Frodo are trudging through the Dead Marshes. They see the bodies of soldiers long dead, well-preserved just below the surface of the water. It seems that certain bogs have a particular pH level and mineral content perfect for the preservation of organic matter. It's kind of like natural formaldehyde.

Similarly, my blog is a place for random thoughts and rants to fall out of my head and be preserved electronically by the good folks at Perhaps, many years in the future, some web-surfers will stumble upon my blogs with their 10th generation iPads and stop for a moment to learn what life was like in early 21st century L.A.

Since many of the posts deal specifically with life in the Los Angeles area or the entertainment industry, I thought it appropriate to include the word "Hollywoodland."

Did you know the "Hollywood" sign used to say "Hollywoodland"? Yeah. Then like the last four letters fell over in an earthquake or some gang tagged them all with graffiti or some rich fool tried to build a house there or some such calamity befell them...and they just left it "Hollywood" after that. "Hollywoodland" sounds more...mythical...a good place for blog mummies to pause for rest, and be crystallized in time for posterity.

I originally titled this blog "The Father of Modern Bloggetry." It was an homage to Robert Goddard, "The Father of Modern Rocketry," who was instrumental in developing the technologies we now use to launch spacecraft and satellites into orbit. He was a fellow sci-fi geek, and he really did a lot to make what was once science fiction a reality. I changed the name of the blog because "Father of Modern Bloggetry" sounds even more pretentious than "Blog Mummies."

Monday, May 3, 2010

Why Are There Black Bars on My TV When I Watch Movies?

"Why are there black bars on my TV screen when I watch movies?" I've heard this question a million times. It was even more common a few years ago when we all still had the old style tube TVs, but even now, you'll occasionally see black across the top and bottom of your HD set. And now, there's black on the left and right sometimes! What's up with that?

After earning a Bachelor of Arts in film and video in college, working in the home entertainment department of a major retailer for a year, then at a video store for a year, and then at a major camera rental house in Hollywood for over 6 years, I've learned a little bit about those black bars on your TV set, and I'll attempt to explain them in layman's terms:

First of all, every TV show and movie you watch is shot for a particular aspect ratio. The aspect ratio is the length of the top or bottom of the frame divided by the length of the side of the frame. For example, old school tube TVs are a 4:3 aspect ratio ("Four by Three"). The frame is 4 units wide and 3 units high. Another way to express this is "1.33," since 4 divided by 3 equals approximately 1.33 (Folks in the industry say "One-Three-Three"). It doesn't matter if you had a big screen or just a little 13" set in your dorm room, it's all the same aspect ratio, and it has nothing to do with the size of the screen. It's really all about the shape of the screen.

All TV shows prior to the advent of HDTV were presented in a 1.33 aspect ratio. So, everything from I Love Lucy to Full House was 1.33, or 4:3.

Now, if you've upgraded to an HDTV set, you'll notice that the screen is significantly wider than your old TV. This new aspect ratio is 16:9 ("Sixteen by Nine"). Or, if you divide 16 by 9, you get "1.78" ("One-Seven-Eight").

Take a popular modern show, say, Lost, for example: If you're watching it on an HDTV set, not only do you get a better quality picture, but you get the wider 1.78 aspect ratio. People watching on the old style televisions can watch the same show, but they are viewing it in the old 1.33 aspect ratio.

So, when the camera guys shooting Lost start filming, they have to keep in mind two separate formats; all of the vital information must be contained within the 1.33 frame (for the people watching on old tube TVs), but the 1.78 frame can't pick up anything that shouldn't be in the shot, such as lighting equipment or the boom operator. The end result is that people watching on HDTV will get a more cinematic experience, and will actually see more information on the extreme left and right of the shot, usually just more beach or ocean or jungle; nothing crucial to the telling of the story.

Now, there are two common aspect ratios for cinema: 1.85 and 2.40. As you might have guessed, 1.85 ("One-Eight-Five") means that the top or bottom of the frame is 1.85 times longer than the side of the frame, and with 2.40 ("Two-Four-Oh"), the top or bottom is 2.4 times longer than the side. You may also hear people talk about 2.35 or 2.39 aspect ratios, which are, for all intents and purposes, the same thing as 2.40, or "anamorphic widescreen." Some of these movies were shot with true anamorphic lenses, and others were shot 2.40 with regular spherical lenses...but we'll talk about that in another blog. Movies like The Big Lebowski and The Truman Show were shot in 1.85. Movies like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings were shot in 2.40.

When either of the cinematic aspect ratios is viewed on an old tube TV, the frame must be "letterboxed."

That means that black bars are added to the top and bottom of the frame in order to preserve the original aspect ratio.

They used to offer "Full Screen" versions of movies for people who preferred to have the image fill their entire screen. However, viewing a film in this manner meant losing up to a third of the original cinematic image.

Now, with 1.78 televisions, the 1.85 films have an aspect ratio so close to that of the TV screen, that they can be stretched to fill the entire screen with no noticeable distortion, although to perfectly preserve the original image, there would need to be very thin bars at the top and bottom of the screen.

2.40 films are still too wide to match up perfectly to an HDTV screen, so when viewing a film of that aspect ratio, there will still be black bars at the top and bottom of the screen.

And, unfortunately, viewing any old TV shows on an HDTV means having black on the left and right of the screen.

Of course, most new TVs have a "fit to screen" option that will stretch an old 1.33 image to fill a 1.78 screen, but not without noticeable distortion to the image.

I've encountered a number of other scenarios since I've owned my HDTV. For example, I've noticed that very old DVD discs that have letterboxed 1.85 versions of films, when viewed on an HDTV, will have the correct aspect ratio, but will refuse to fill the entire screen. The image will be surrounded by black on all sides. Any attempt to force the image to fit to the screen will cause it to stretch to a 2.40 AR, filling the screen from left to right, but leaving black on the top and bottom, and causing significant distortion to the image.

If anyone else has encountered any other weird aspect ratio scenarios, please leave me a comment below, and I'll try to check it out! Thanks for reading.