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.
Fireball 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:
I’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).
OK, 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.