Sick Days, Childhood TV and the New Apple Cube

On Thurs­day morn­ing I noticed that I had a sore throat. By noon, I was weak, a lit­tle nau­seous and sun­light was giv­ing me a headache. At that point, it was obvi­ous that I was run­ning a tem­per­a­ture, so I went home ear­ly and went to bed. By night­fall it had turned into a pret­ty bad fever and chills, along with the usu­al cold symp­toms. This morn­ing I was still a bit fever­ish, but a bit bet­ter, and tonight I feel 100% bet­ter. Hope­ful­ly this recov­ery will con­tin­ue and I’ll be back to work on Tuesday.

Tues­day? Yes, this week­end is a three day week­end that I would not be enjoy­ing if I was still liv­ing in Boston. It’s Vic­to­ria Day, the first Mon­day before May 25th, in hon­our of Queen Vic­to­ri­a’s Birth­day and the cur­rent reign­ing Cana­di­an Sov­er­eign, Queen Eliz­a­beth II. Cel­e­brat­ing a British hol­i­day is not all that new to me; I remem­ber cel­e­brat­ing Box­ing Day and Guy Fawkes Day (and isn’t it fun­ny that Guy Fawkes has made a come­back in V for Vendet­ta ? ) but it does feel a lit­tle odd, giv­en that we fled an ‘Impe­r­i­al Pres­i­den­cy’, to be cel­e­brat­ing the birth­days of British Mon­archs. Hey, it’s only a week before Memo­r­i­al Day back in the US, so at least it makes up for that.

The Future with Strings Attached
With a day at home, I spent some time on email and phone, com­mu­ni­cat­ing with the office, but I did have a lit­tle qui­et time to myself. I indulged my inner 5‑year old. I watched some videos that I have got­ten over the Inter­net of what was prob­a­bly the first tele­vi­sion show I was ever a fan of: Fire­ball XL5.

Fireballxl5 Takeoff SequenceFire­ball XL5, cre­at­ed by Ger­ry Ander­son and his wife Sylvia, was a new genre of sci­ence fic­tion and action tele­vi­sion that used mar­i­onettes on strings, bril­liant­ly exe­cut­ed mod­els, and clever cin­e­mat­ic tech­niques, along with an inno­v­a­tive use of an audio trig­ger­ing mech­a­nism attached to the jaws of each pup­pet’s face, so that the pup­pets auto­mat­i­cal­ly syn­chro­nized their speech move­ments to spo­ken dia­logue. The show’s ini­tial run was from 1962 to 1963, which means that by the time I saw it, the series was already over and in reruns. Nev­er­the­less, I adored it, par­tic­u­lar­ly the open­ing sequence (some frame grabs shown above) where the Fire­ball space­craft took off through the means of an accel­er­a­tion ‘sled’ on rails, gain­ing speed on it’s ver­ti­cal run until the track tipped up at the end like a ski-jump and as the the rock­et leapt sky­ward. As a kid, I missed all of the goofi­ness, ignored the obvi­ous strings and wires and black and white (the TV was black and white any­way), the fact that the voice of Pro­fes­sor “Matt” Mat­ic was obvi­ous­ly an imi­ta­tion of Wal­ter Bren­nan, and the accent that Venus (Colonel Steve Zodi­ac’s side­kick and ‘roman­tic inter­est’) had was clear­ly not French, or any oth­er lan­guage, for that mat­ter. Com­man­der Zero and Lieu­tenant Nine­ty at Space City (Fire­ball XL5’s home base) were hys­ter­i­cal­ly wood­en (well, let’s not be so tough on them; they were pup­pets, after all). Robert the Robot, a trans­par­ent robot copi­lot, had a fas­ci­nat­ing com­put­er-gen­er­at­ed sound­ing voice that eeri­ly fore­shad­owed what syn­the­sized speech would sound like in the com­ing decades, albeit in that monot­o­ne that every­one assumed robots would speak. Still, it’s a won­der­ful and strange sen­sa­tion to relive some of my ear­li­est child­hood mem­o­ries of cin­e­mat­ic sto­ry­telling inside the Quick­time play­er win­dow. I put this up there along with get­ting an MP3 of the obscure col­lab­o­ra­tion between Dr. Seus and the Great Gilder­sleeve, Ger­ald McBo­ing­bo­ing, which I also loved as a child. (I’ve recent­ly learned that in ani­ma­tion his­to­ri­an Jer­ry Beck­’s 1994 poll of ani­ma­tors, film his­to­ri­ans and direc­tors, the car­toon made from this sto­ry was rat­ed the ninth great­est car­toon of all time, so maybe it isn’t entire­ly forgotten.)

Mean­while, in Manhattan
This week Apple Com­put­er opened a new store on Fifth Avenue, between 58th and 59th Street in New York City. Besides the fact that it’s one of the most exclu­sive address­es in the world, and the fact that it will be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the entrance to this sub­ter­ranean retail estab­lish­ment beneath 5th Avenue is a stun­ning 5‑story glass cube, which was appar­ent­ly designed by Steve Jobs him­self. Here’s a pho­to from a cou­ple of days ago:
Newapplestore2006I’m bett­ting that Steve Jobs nev­er saw the film ‘Thir13en Ghosts’, in which Arthur Kriti­cos (played by Tony Shal­houb of TV Show Monk fame) and his fam­i­ly are ter­ror­ized by an intri­cate mech­a­nized glass house (pow­ered by the ghosts trapped with­in it) that they are told they have inher­it­ed from their eccen­tric col­lec­tor Uncle, Cyrus Kriti­cos (played by F. Mur­ray Abraham).

Glass House 13 GhostsOK, it was more than just a cube, and much of the glass had extra­or­di­nary cal­lig­ra­phy writ­ten on it, and there were cogs and hinges and oth­er weird mech­a­nisms, but even if he had just seen one or two scenes from that movie, I’ll bet Steve J. might have been put off from hav­ing cus­tomers enter and decend from such a creation.