August 2007 - Chris Ullrich dot net
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August 2007

Family Business

At the moment, I am dealing with some rather dire family issues so I won’t be back for a bit. I hope everything ends up getting worked out.

But in the meantime, here’s a pretty interesting video from Mr. GTD himself Merlin Mann about how to handle your hopelessly clogged email inbox. Give it a look and I’ll be back later.


‘Planet of the Apes’ and LA Locations Fun

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For some reason I’m up late watching Conquest of the Planet of the Apes on Sci-Fi Channel. I don’t know the exact reason for watching it other than it happens to be on and I like Planet of the Apes movies. This is the one where the apes revolt against their human oppressors and take over the planet in futuristic 1991. The movie was actually released in 1972 and was partially filmed in the then very futuristic-looking Century City Mall — now known as Westfield Century City.

A great deal of the film was also shot at the very nice UC Irvine Campus as well. The college’s buildings have also seen quite a bit of film production over the years, including this Apes film and sequences from other films like Ocean’s Eleven, Poltergeist and TVs Arrested Development.

If you ever get to Irvine, or better yet, LA you can go to the mall and see the actual locations used in the film. They are still there and in most cases look pretty much the same. Century City is a pretty popular area where other films like Die Hard and Liar Liar (starring Jim Carrey) were filmed — which makes sense, especially in the case of Die Hard, as the entire area used to be part of the giant backlot of 20th Century Fox Studios. In fact, the infamous Nakatomi building in the film is actually the Fox Tower.

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But really, you can’t go very many places in LA without seeing a place where something was filmed for some movie or TV show. In fact, its hard to drive through the city sometimes without running into some actual filming taking place on the streets, in the buildings or at the swimming pool of your favorite hotel.

You can always tell when you see old and obviouly retired motocycle cops sitting on their motorcycles on the side of the road that you’re getting near to some film or TV production. Orange cones are many times a telltale sign as well. Also, look for the big trucks filled with all sorts of equipment and a whole bunch of people mostly standing around waiting to spring into action at a moments notice.

Really, that’s what a lot of film and TV production is — standing around. Well, sometimes, if you’re smart and/or important, you actually get to sit. Either way, you end up waiting for the opportunity to do something much of the time. Not that people who work in production don’t work very, very, very hard. They do, believe me. I’ve been there. Its just that you have a lot of downtime and waiting around and then a period of intense activity. Then, its back to waiting again. That’s just the nature of the business. Hurry up and wait.

Changes and Some Good Kristen Bell and ‘Heroes’ News

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As you can see, there’s been some changes around here. Long story short, I had some trouble with my previous hosting provider (big shock, right?) and have had to move this here blog yet again. Currently, I’m back at good old WordPress dot com and will remain here for the time being. Sorry about all the moving around but I just can’t seem to get a blog to work the way I want it to work and also have it be available when people want to read it.

There was so much downtime at my last host (I won’t mention the name) that I just had to move again. You get what you pay for I guess. Anyway, I will attempt to update frequently here and hopefully this will conclude the moving around portion of our program. Believe me, I don’t like it any more than you do. Actually, I probably like it much less.

Amidst the chaos of moving and getting things to work right again, there was at least one bit of good news today (at least if you’re a fan of Veronica Mars as I am). It looks like Kristen Bell will be joining the cast of Heroes next season. According to Variety, Bell will play Elle “a character described as a sexy, mysterious young lady who has ties to the supposed death of Peter, H.R.G.’s past and the future of Claire. Elle will kick off her arc by committing a serious crime, though it’s unclear whether she’s good or bad.”

Whatever the reason, character or arc, I’m in. As if I really needed another reason to watch Heroes. Its a great show made even better with the inclusion of Bell. This news isn’t quite as good as an announcement of a new season of Veronica Mars, but it’ll do.

New Apple Stuff and Other Updates

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Apple honcho Steve Jobs announced a bunch of new stuff today. Among the items were new, improved iMacs complete with shiny anodized aluminum keyboards, iLife ’08, increased storage and other improvements to .Mac (finally) and a new iWork suite of applications — including an “Excel killer” called Numbers. All in all, some pretty interesting new stuff that I can’t wait to try out.

I’ve already ordered iLife ’08 and will probably get iWork ’08 too — any chance to use something besides Word is ok with me. I might also go for a new iMac, but probably not right away. They do look cool, though, so it will be hard to hold off for too long. Also, it might be fun to get a new Mac Mini as well, seeing as how his Steveness saw fit to update those today as well. With the recent release of the iPhone and now this stuff, its great to be an Apple user these days.

Also, if you like Apple and you like Podcasts then you’re in luck because over at TUAW we’re doing another live Talkcast/Podcast about all-things Apple. Its this Thursday, 9:30PM Eastern and I’ll be on it along with my esteemed TUAW colleagues Scott McNulty, David Chartier and Mike Rose. We also did one last week as well so check that one out too.

For all the details on how to listen to this week’s Talkcast and even call in live with your comments and questions, head on over here. We like doing these Talkcasts that become Podcasts and they will probably become a regular thing. So, if you have the time, tune in. Finally, I wrote a bit of an editorial on my feelings and the state of Comic-Con over at Cinematical.

It should be up tomorrow barring any unforeseen issues like they decide I’ve written it way too long and gone off on a tirade or something. Me on a tirade or writing something way too long? Not possible.

Portland – The New Hollywood?

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I recently did a piece for CBR about Portland, its creativity and its thriving comic book scene. I found Portland to be inspirational for many reasons, chief of which is the fact that it just feels like a great place to “get things done.” It has many of the big city virtues but still manages to maintain some of the small-town feel and, dare I say it, innocence, so often lacking in other places — like Los Angeles.

When I was there talking to a great many of the people responsible for putting Portland on the map as a creative town and a town where there are lots of talented people producing some great stuff, I also got a sense that something else was just around the corner. That we hadn’t seen everything that was going to happen in Portland and that comics were just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Well, if you take a look at this article in Variety, I guess we now have an idea what that something else might be: Hollywood. Hollywood, it seems, is in love with comic books and wants to make as many comic books into movies as possible. In many ways that’s a good thing. It gives people who work in comics a chance to see their work on the big screen and potentially puts a lot more money in their pockets. It also opens up these stories to a much greater potential audience who may, after discovering the movie they just enjoyed was based on a graphic novel or comic book, go to their local comic book store to check out a few more. They might even end up purchasing some too.

But I wonder if, in the end, this attention will really be good for comics and Portland. My first clue that all may not be perfect in this new relationship is the title of the Variety article. It’s pretty openly condescending to comic book creators, calling them “wannabes.” Of course, that may not be an insult to Hollywood people. After all, doesn’t everyone want to work in the movies?

From experience I know that Hollywood often has a tendency to find that “next big thing,” use it until there’s no more left and then move on to the next thing. Unfortunately, that often leaves quite a bit of destruction in its wake. As someone who likes comics, comic book creators, publishers and Portland, I just hope Hollywood doesn’t do the same to them when its finished squeezing every penny it can.

I hope Hollywood, in its desperation to save a dying business model, bring people into the theaters and sell lots of DVDs, doesn’t end up ruining comics for the rest of us and crushing that last bit of innocence in Portland and comics we could all use a little more of now and again. That would be a shame indeed.