Let's Have A Partita!

Get the respite you deserve another time.

Location: Cantonment, Florida, United States

Well, uh, hmm...

Thursday, May 31, 2007


I just got home from seeing the "film" Spider-man 3. In case you don't know, I put "film" in quotes like that because quotes indicate sarcasm in writing. Yes, Spider-man 3 was indeed on cellulose (or whatever movie makers use these days) but that doesn't mean it deserves the prestige of being referred to as a film. I've had a run of bad luck lately with movies, going from bad to worse: Children of Men, 40 Year Old Virgin, Borat, Pan's Labyrinth, several minutes of How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (just like being in black hole, this movie will make its viewer feel as though seconds are years), and just now, Spider-man 3. "But," you'll say, "you titled today's post, 'Steamboy.' What gives?"

What gives, as they say, is that Steamboy has been the only home run of any of the movies I've seen in the past week. Indeed, it is the most visually stunning animated film I've ever seen, other than maybe Akira. A fitting comparison because both were created by the same writer/director, Katsuhiro Otomo. His first feature film, the masterful Akira, was then the most expensive animated film ever made and was a perfect example of the Cyberpunk genre. It has remained at the top of the list for my favorite animated movies due to its scope, its epicness, its dystopian yet technologically advanced future Tokyo, and the afformentioned animation quality. It had its disturbing moments, but I was so taken with the story and the atmosphere that I couldn't help but get drawn into the animated world (forgive the pun). Steamboy retained the breathtaking visuals, the imaginative technology, the intricate detail, but it dispensed with the depressing and "punk" elements that drag down most Cyberpunk and Steampunk stories. Steamboy, of course, was a Steampunk story, so it did have the ever prevalent "science will save us" attitude at the forefront. To be fair, there were moments in the movie when that was called into question by some of the characters, but in the end, they decided science alone will save fallen mankind.

But, I digress.

I don't expect any Japanese cartoons I see, especially ones from a predominantly Cyberpunk writer, to take a Christian worldview, but the "man is its own savior" philosophy has been failing us for hundreds and thousands of years.

But, I digress more.

Steamboy captured me the way no film has in a long time. I miss hand drawn films, so this was a breath of fresh air. Yes, there were bits of CGI thrown in, but it was still mostly traditional animation. Akira was completely drawn by hand, which is why I still feel that it edges out Steamboy ever so slightly. Akira achieved its incredible visuals through ink and cel, no computers in sight. That said, Steamboy is a marvel of moving art, and I'd be hard pressed to think of a film I'd rather sit and stare at.

For some, incredibly realistic animation is pointless. John Kricfalusi, for example, decries animation that copies reality because it removes inherent strengths from the medium. He points the finger at Disney, claiming that since animators started copying his style, animation has been reduced to mimickry. Well, I for one love animation but have difficulty watching overly cartoony motions accompanied by silly sound effects. I adore Bob Clampett, but I would have great difficulty watching Sleeping Beauty in the Clampett style. I see no reason why both styles can't coexist. To me, watching a Disney film is watching moving paintings. Imagine watching a Rembrandt in motion. Besides, animation still affords those working in the medium plenty of opportunities to make things that are impossible in real life. Steamboy or Akira would probably have reached $300 million if they were live action. In fact, the effects in those movies would have been nearly impossible 20 years ago. The epic and the grandiose is a huge strength to animation because there are virtually no limits to what the medium can portray. If I wanted to feature a mile high room in my movie, there would be no way to build that. Call up any architect or set designer and he'll hang up. However, if my movie is animated, it's a matter of including said room in the storyboard and telling the animators what the room looks like. In animation, a character can be 200 feet tall or an inch tall. In animation, the characters can throw lightning bolts from their hands. No expensive special effects, no make up, just ink and imagination.

Steamboy features advanced Victorian era technology (hence the Steampunk designation) that meets all expectations for fans of Katsuhiro Otomo's reputation for detail and gigantism. I put it to you that if you are a fan of the Steampunk genre and good animation, you will not find a more satisfying example. So, please do yourself a favor; stop going to see "Knocked Up" and "Disturbia." Treat yourself to a visual feast.

Monday, May 28, 2007


Yarrr! When I be out looting passing ships for their booty, sometimes I get bored. Making scurvy dogs walk the plank can be tedious business! Thank goodness Apple introduced their new iPatch music listening doohicky. When I'm sailing the seven seas, I can jam out to all my favorite tunes, like "Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum." And, I don't have to hear my tone deaf, idiot crew singing it anymore! So, do yourself a favor and steal a wee shipment of Apple's iPatch. Or you'll be sorry!
P.S. I used this pic from the Wikipedia. I'm not sure as to the picture use policies, and considering all the trouble I've had with them, I'd really like to not get sued. So, if you are from the Wikipedia and the use of this picture is not allowed, let me know before you send the cops to my doorstep.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Have you ever noticed that there are times when two people just can't find the right thing to say? You don't mean to offend the other person and they don't mean to offend you, but you both end up offended anyway. Why does that happen? Why can't two people just stop and try to get to the heart of what the other person is saying? We as humans seem to want to take things out of context and try to find the worst meaning for things. We push and push to make the other person upset because we think we'll feel justified, but when it happens, we just feel worse. At some point, we apologize, but we're not really apologizing. We're really just trying to make ourselves seem like the better person. We long to have the other person to come back and seek reconciliation so we don't have to try it ourselves. In those times when the other person does come back, often we respond bitterly anyway. Do we do that because we think that's how we're expected to react?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Interview with a Gecko

Recently, I had the pleasure of introducing myself to the hottest new cartoon character since Kwicky Koala. You've probably seen his face on the billbaords near your home, or along your highway. Yes, I'm talking about Glenn Gatsby the Gecko. He's the hippest of the hip, all the way from his sagging pants with the tail-hole to his studded tongue, which makes it difficult for him to lick his eyes.

I had been leaving messages with his agency for months, trying to get an interview, but my good friend, Roger Rabbit, warned me not to get my hopes up. "P-bbbbbblease, Paul. He's probably busy with that new Scarlett Johansson vehicle. The little punk, thinks it's the first time any cartoon characters have starred in a live action movie. I mean, hello?"

I didn't let myself become dejected, however, and began contacting some of his high profile costars, including one Timmy Turner, of Fairly Odd Parents fame. I sat down with him at length to try to garner any information I could about the elusive gecko. As I asked Turner what it was like working with Gary, he furrowed his brow, put his hand to his chin and remained silent for a moment. "Well," he said, "I don't think anyone knows the 'real' Gary. I mean, I've tried wishing for Gary to open up to me, but he still remains an enigma wrapped in a mystery. I'm quite taken with him." A pretty mature response for a boy who dresses in pink.

My break came when I spotted Gatsby at a clothing store on Rodeo Drive. His entourage was very protective, though the head bodyguard was an old friend, Peg-Leg Pete of Mickey Mouse fame. I begged him to let me have an interview as Gary's suit was being tailored. "Anything for you, old chum," Pete told me. "And by 'anything,' I mean give me fifty bucks."

One Ulysses S. Grant later, and I was in like Flynn. I sat down with Gary in a pair of posh leather chairs as Scully from Bloo's Gang brought us a pair of Rochefort Trappist Ales. Gary seemed relaxed, though his head did dart around quite a bit. He looked at me straight on with his left eye and checked out the store with his right. It was somewhat disconcerting, but that's to be expected. What did suprise me was his voice. Since all the roles he's had in the various television shows have been non-speaking, I didn't realize how much his tongue stud affected his speach. Let's just say his saliva glands worked overtime.

Paul: Gary, it's a pleasure to finally meet you.

Gary: It'sh a pleashure that ish all yoursh. (Slurps up his Rochefort by sticking his tongue through the mouth of the bottle, which is difficult because of his piercings.)

P: I understand that you don't like to give interviews, so I'd like to thank you for taking this time to talk to me.

G: Yesh. Don't let it happen again.

P: (polite chuckle) Of course, of course. I'd like to talk about your line of men's fashion, if I could. You were on the cover of the latest GQ magazine in a wonderful suit made of faux lizard skin.

G: It wash real.

P: I'm sorry?

G: The shuit, it wash real shkin.

P: And where did you get this skin?

G: It'sh mine. (Slurps more beer and licks both his eyes) Collected over three yearsh.

P: Fascinating. So, how is it that such suits can be made for mass production? You obviously don't shed enough skin to...

G: I'd like to anshwer that by changing the shubject.

P: Alright. Let's talk about your latest movie. I understand you're working with Scarlett Johansson. Tell us, what is she like?

G: She'sh the only pershon who truly undershtandsh me. Jusht like my lasht eight girlfriendsh.

P: I see.

G: Yesh, I think we could really be a great couple for the nexsht few monthsh. (Snatches a fly from the air with his tongue, though the fly gets stuck in his tongue stud.)

P: I've read that you have some lines in the movie. I know all your previous roles were non-speaking. Were you worried about talking on camera?

G: No, not really. I've been dubbed over by a fabuloush voishe actor.

P: Oh, really? Who?

G: Ernesht Borgnine.

P: Aren't you worried that his voice won't quite suit your character?

G: Baby, when you're ash hot ash me, you don't worry about anything. Beshidesh, we didn't have to pay him.

P: Interesting. So, what made you get into show biz in the first place?

G: My parentsh were in the moviesh, and I figured it would make shenshe to capitalishe on that.

P: Really? What roles have they played?

G: Handbagsh.

P: Ah, I see. Was it difficult living in the shadow of your parents?

G: No, it'sh hard to be upshtaged by clothing.

P: Disturbing. Now that you've established yourself as an actor and a fashion guru, what is your next major step?

G: I'm working really hard on animal rightsh. I feel, ash a gecko, that I have an obligation to help out my animal brethren. Plush, I get to act all shelf righteoush around people who don't give ash much ash I do. It'sh shomething I learned from my good friendsh Cameron Diash and Julia Robertsh.

P: I'm glad you give so much to a worthy cause, but you do realize you aren't actually related to real geckos, right? You're animated.

G: It'sh Hollywood, I have the money and the ideology that allow me to do and be whatever I want. Reality ishn't an isshue.

P: True. Well, I'd like to thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to talk to me.

G: I'd like to thank you for interviewing me, but I won't.

And with that, I was promptly thrown out of the building. Still, I am fascinated by Gary Gatsby the Gecko, there really isn't anyone like him. I've known a lot of cartoon characters over the years; Ren and Stimpy, Raphael from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Batman, Don Coyote, both Ignoramooses, and even an elderly Elmer Fudd. None of them had the sheer charisma of Gatsby.

So, with that, I hope you enjoyed reading my interview. If you see Gary when walking down the streets of L.A., run. Run away as fast as you can.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Mythbuster Science Theater 3000

After leaving his hit show, Mythbusters, 10 months ago, Adam Savage visited the offices of Legend Films in hopes of talking to former Mystery Science Theater 3000 host, Mike Nelson. "I've always been a fan of MST3K," the enthused Savage said, "and meeting Mike is like a dream come true for me." After being routed through several offices, Savage finally got to shake hands with the former MST3K host. As luck would have it, Kevin Murphy, who was the voice and wrangler for the puppet, Tom Servo, was in the office at the time. "Adam came in and shook our hands," Murphy remembered. "He was so excited. As soon as we sat down he started pitching an idea to Mike for resurrecting MST, but with his own personal twist."

As Savage expounded on his idea, Murphy and Nelson became more and more intrigued. Yes, the show would still be called MST3K, but the M would now stand for "Mythbuster." "I had the idea one night as I was with my sons, watching a video of some horribley performed experiment on Youtube," said Savage, "I mean, these guys were doing everything wrong you could imagine, and when it blew up in their faces, they were shocked. I was making fun of the video beginning to end, pointing out what they were doing wrong, and cracking jokes the whole time. My sons were laughing their heads off, so I began to put two and two together." And so the seeds were sown for Savage's Mythbuster Science Theater 3000.

After the pitch to Nelson and Murphy, the trio went in search of networks so they could pitch the idea. "The goal of the thing, as I've gathered from Adam," Nelson said, "is to have a show where we point out the flaws in other peoples' experiments, in a funny way, of course. In the process, we are teaching the audience how to properly conduct the experiments they see. The host segments we used to have on the show will be replaced by scientific experiments." Bill Corbett, voice and puppeteer of Crow during the last few seasons of the original MST3K, came on board at the last minute. "Mike, Kevin, and I were already doing the Film Crew thing, and then they told me about this. I'm such a huge fan of Mythbusters, I just asked them, 'where do I sign?'" The quartet had a meeting with Discovery Network president, Billy Campbell, who quickly became intrigued by the idea. "I was actually pretty tired that day, having just flown back from Australia," recalled Campbell, "and I actually wasn't to thrilled with having to sit through a pitch. Adam is a pretty energetic guy, and I just wanted to sit in my office and sleep. As soon as Adam, Mike, Kevin, and Bill got through with their pitch, however, I was as excited as they were. I told them we should definitely go for it."

Two months later, they were busy shooting the pilot episode. Jamie Hyneman, Adam Savage's former co-star on Mythbusters, helped out with the production. "We're used to doing things fast around here," Jamie said, mustache blowing in the breeze, "so when Adam asked if the old Mythbusters crew would help out with making a new set and a bunch of puppets for the show, I couldn't say no. We worked round the clock for the better part of five days making a new Satellite of Love, and we turned M5 into a new Deep 13." In the pilot, Hyneman and Savage play a new set of evil captors for the trio on the SOL, Mary Jo Pehl having turned down the opportunity to reprise her role as the maniacal Pearl Forrester. "My MST days are behind me," said Pehl, "I was sad the show ended, but I've moved on, I'm doing other things. I wish these guys the best, but I think it will actually be a stronger show with those Mythbuster fellahs."

When the show aired for the first time on December 16th, 2008, it received rave reviews. "Everybody thought it was hilarious and informative," said Savage, a huge smile covering his face, "which is exactly what I wanted." The first episode centered around explaining the new premise, as well as how Mike, Servo, and Crow ended up back on the Satellite of Love. After coming back to earth in the final episode of Myster Science Theater, #1013 Danger: Diabolik, the crew was subsequently hijacked by an evil pair of scientists looking to get an unwitting temp worker to perform their experiments for them. "My character receives all this scientific training, and he's supposed to fix what's wrong with other peoples' experiments," Mike Nelson comments about his role on the show, "and I'm also supposed to come up with my own experiments. It's really a lot of fun."

When asked about the future and longevity of the show, creator Adam Savage is optimistic. "I think the show should last a long time," Savage said with a smile, "There's a never ending series of people who make fools of themselves performing experiments and Mike, Kevin, and Bill are never short of jokes. I think it could last eleven years, just like the original MST3k."

Here's hoping he's right.

Writing Exercise

Here's a writing exercise I did recently. It was part of a series of exercises designed to improve dialogue writing. This particular assignment was to write a story, but from the perspective of one person to another. There must be interruptions, questions, responses, etc. from the person who is listening to the story. Here it is...

Avery and Philip sat across from each other at a picnic table in Central Park. They had a ratty chessboard made of solid wood between them. Avery was deep in thought, and was winning. Philip hunched over the board, his poker face studying his few remaining pieces. Avery took the opportunity to tell his opponent a story.

"You know, last week, my daughter came to visit me." Avery said.

"Do tell." Philip did not look up as he said this, but remained focused on the game.

"Yeah, I was so glad to see her. I thought she was going to ask me for money, that's all college students ever want."

"Mmmhmm." Philip reached for his last rook, but put his hand to his chin, instead.

"So she showed up with this guy. He looked like he was maybe ten years older than her."

"She." Philip still didn't look up.

"What?" Avery was annoyed at the interruption

"Grammatically, that sentence should end in 'she.'" Philip moved his rook two spaces. Avery took it with his queen.

"Anyway, she's talking about how great he is, and I'm getting this feeling like there's something going on between them that shouldn't. When he left the room, Angie starts telling me that she wants to spend the rest of her life with him." Philip looked up for the first time as Avery said this.

"Wait, Angie said that? But she's always been so shy," Philip said, "what happened?"

"Yeah, it was weird. So I asked her what she meant by that. I noticed her eyes were doing that thing, you know, where she can't keep eye contact?"

"I know what you mean. She did that when she wrecked your car." Philip reached for a pawn, but reconsidered as Avery went for a bishop.

"Exactly. So I knew something was going on. So I said to her, 'you want to marry this guy or something?' And she started crying. That's when the guy, whatshisface, comes back in. He's looking at me like I'm a monster or something, and starts talking about how he's going to rescue her from my 'oppression.'" As Avery talked, Philip lost two more pieces, a bishop and his queen. He was down to a knight, two pawns, and his king.

"What did you do?" Philip said.

"I was about to say something to the guy when Angie stands up and starts tearing this guy a new one. It was bizarre. A minute before she's telling me how wonderful he is, and then she lays into him. She's saying how she hates his drinking, how he's lazy, and how she hates him pressuring her into marriage and all this stuff."

"That's incredible."

"Yeah, so I'm just sitting with my chin on the floor as she tells him off, and then he starts crying."

"No kidding?"


"What did you do?"

"After she was finished shouting at him, he starts shouting. While he's crying, no less. So I've got two people in my living room, crying and shouting. I tell 'em both to can it and just calmly explain to me what's going on."

"What did they say?" Philip moved his king one space, trying to buy time. Avery took one of his pawns.

"He's been telling her that they need to get married so they can get tax write offs and such, and how it would be great for them. He's just a bum with no job, still living with his parents and she's easily manipulated which is why he's been going with her."

"That's a sticky situation. How did you resolve it?"

"I told him to get the hell out of my house and never talk to my daughter again. He doesn't want to leave, so then I throw him out. He's swearing up a storm and," Avery laughed a little, "has the nerve to ask Angie for a ride home."

"Really?" Philip looked shocked.

"Yeah, really. I told him to take a hike before I call the cops on him and he cheeses it. So Angie spent the night at my house. We had a good long conversation about guys and how she should wait and get more experience in the world before she commits like that."

"Bravo." Philip gave a polite clap.

"Yeah. Then she asked me for money." Avery cackled, and Philip let a noble bellow.

"That's good. Sounds like you did the right thing." Philip moved his knight to face Avery's bishop. Avery moved his queen four spaces left and smiled.

"Checkmate. See you tomorrow?"

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

More Birch related email

I have recently been corresponding with a fellow named George Waller. He was a frequenter of the John Birch custom shop back in its heyday, and even ordered what just may be the only 10 string/5 string doubleneck bass in the world. He's given me lots of very valuable information, and I am going to post it here so that the Wiki allows me to post the information.

Email with George Waller
April 22, 2007

Hi Paul,

To answer your questions;
I think it is possibly the only 5/10 string duo in the world at that time, in fact I can't recall seeing another one at any time. I paid £600 cash for it -- a lot of money at the time. It was built in 1975 if I remember correctly. I moved to London in 1976 and sold it in P/X for a 1961 Precision bass. I did some local recordings with it, but they have long since been lost.
The bass was originally WHITE, but the colour started to "yellow" after a very short time so they did the "greenburst" colour for me free. I was the original owner of course, and I think the guy who sold it to Songbird music bought in London when I sold it, and he moved to Toronto many years ago, so 3 owners at most (including Songbird). Andrew no doubt has the name and address of the other guy! Everyone just stood and stared at it on stage--it was a real showstopper!
Why did I sell it-----well, I'm a short guy of 5ft 6" and that thing weighs over 17 pounds-----------get my drift?? It was huge!!----I now play a 1976 Alembic Series 1 bass and that is huge as well, but I can cope with this one . www.Jaydeesupernatural@ukonline.co.uk is the address of John Diggins who worked with JB at the time. He is the guy who designed the electronics and most of the stuff for JB guitars and is a real genius. He now has his own company with just himself and his son, and they make top quality instruments. You can contact him as well if you like! He remembers both me and the bass very well-although I had hair then!

Keep in touch


Email with George Waller
April 23, 2007

Hi Paul

Yes I know them all personally! I used to go down to the shop/factory (it was like a converted suburban house) in Rubery just outside Birmingham. Arthur was even shorter than me, and must have been about 60 at the time, so I assume that he has gone to the happy guitar factory in the sky. I don't know if JB is still alive, as he was no youngster at the time either!!
I think Alembic inspired Johnny Diggins!--they inspire EVERYONE.
If you need anymore help-------just ask------------but keep in touch anyway

Take care


Email with George Waller
April 24, 2007


When I visited the shop on several occasions, I met Black Sabbath-they were having guitars made as well. I also saw and played the "shamrock" bass that they built for Barry Devlin of Horselips. I saw and played the "spade" that they made for Roy Wood, and also saw the heart with the arrow through it that they built for MUD.
The shop was just a house in suburbia. The kitchen was changed to the Spray room, another room was for woodworking (Arthur's domain). Upstairs was for electrical work and set ups etc and offices. It was literally a 3 bed house with the upstairs rooms looking out on to the main street!
I've enclosed a pic of John Diggins (as I remember him) at the start of the JayDee guitar period. I'll try and get more pics if possible for you, but Diggins told me that all the old catalogues etc had been lost in a fire.


Email with George Waller
April 24, 2007


I do remember going down to Rubery to collect the guitar because JB had called me to say it was ready. When I got there, there was still a problem with the 10 string bridge. He offered to put me up in a hotel, but I just drove the 320 miles back home to my own bed and picked her up a week later.


Email with George Waller
April 25, 2007


I remember Arthur's voice----he had this typical soft yet full Birmingham accent(which is quite unique). I remember the door to the upstairs set up room was always wedged open -by a Gibson EB3 front bass pickup!!! Arthur (and indeed the 3 of them started to call me Mr. Waller at the start, but I soon changed that, and we were all on first name terms. Arthur even used to make me tea and coffee or go to the local shop for some beers for me. These were REAL nice guys.


Email with George Waller
May 1, 2007
Forwarded response from John Diggins to the following questions:
1. When did you leave the John Birch shop?
2. When Birch stopped building guitars in the eighties, did people come to you for Birch style guitars? Were you seen as a surrogate John Birch?
3. What did Arthur Baker do when Birch quit luthery?

Hi Paul,

Here is the reply to your questions from My Friend---John Diggins:

Hi George

Here are the answers to the questions:

1. I left the John Birch shop in November 1977
2. People did not come to me for Birch style guitars
3. Arthur Baker came to work for me as production manager.

I hope these help

All the best

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

New Post!

I didn't know where to post this, so I'll post it here. This is incredibly rare, as this is now serving as a forum for the email correspondence with various John Birch people. Hope you enjoy.

When I'm out traveling the world, many people ask me, "Would you like fries with that?" And I always have to answer the same way, "That is the eternal question, isn't it? We are always seeking more in life, over-indulging if we get half the chance. Where is the line? Can we expect that 'a little bit more' will really satiate us? Why are we never satisfied with what we have? It's true that we're never sure exactly how much we'll need in life, and taking that little bit extra may give us just enough energy to sustain us until we find sustenance again. Still, in this modern age, is that ever really a worry? When we do find ourselves in a situation of extreme lack, where we are so removed from society that we can't feed ourselves if we wanted to, isn't it usually self-induced? I think so. So, at the risk of sounding pretentious and self aggrandizing, I must say no, I don't need it. I am nourished by the knowledge that I don't let my 'eyes outweigh my stomach,' as it were."

The one who asked me the question always responds, "That'll be $6.39. Pull around to the first window." But, the underlying tone of their words always grants me access to their true feelings. "Bravo," I hear them thinking to themselves, "A slap in the face of rampant consumerism. I applaud you sir." Beneath their blank stares as they hand me my coinage, which is always carefully placed in the half broken coin tray of my 1979 Chrysler Cordoba (and yes, the Corinthian leather is rich), I can tell that they respect me. They look at me as if to say, "Why do drive that old piece of crap?" But I know what their words imply, "A true sacrifice you perform, sir, driving a vintage automobile when you could have funded the capitalist machine by purchasing a new car. You surround yourself in aged opulence, and passive safety thanks to your conveyance's sheer girth. Also, since you have the V-6 instead of the V-8, and not all cylinders are firing anyway, your fuel mileage is not Brobdinagian, and you can continue to sneer at SUV drivers as you fill your 25 gallon tank with 87 octane. I would tear up, but I must maintain my reputation with my coworkers as someone with a gruff exterior, but with a heart of gold."

As I pull away, a plume of smoke and a slipping fan belt announce my departure, and I think to myself as I drive 3 mph under the speed limit that I've met a kindred spirit in the form of an underpaid, acne ridden 15 year old who has rashes in unspeakable places. I then weep as I enjoy my single patty Whataburger with extra onions.