stan lee cameos

Two days ago, on 28 December 2012, Stan Lee celebrated his 90th birthday:

In collaboration with several artists, most notably Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, he co-created Spider-Man, the Hulk, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Thor, and many other fictional characters, introducing complex, naturalistic characters and a thoroughly shared universe into superhero comic books.

Above is a montage of his cameo appearances in Marvel superhero movies. A belated happy birthday to Stan Lee and many more cameo appearances to him!

via entry at slashdot

who is diving?

zeph’s pop culture quiz #54
Who is diving?
Who is diving down into the big blue?
    Simply leave a comment with your educated guess—you can ask for additional hints, too. [Leaving a comment is easy; just click the ‘Leave a comment’ at the end of the post and fill in the form. If it’s the first time you post a comment, it will be held for moderation. But I am constantly checking, and once I’ve approved a comment, your next ones won’t be held, but published immediately by the system.]

UPDATE 1 (02 January 2013):
On board.
We had some fine guesses until now, but no direct hit yet. The above screencap, showing our hero before diving into the sea, hopefully helps. What we know so far: The character in the diving suit is played by an actor of maximum stardom. It’s a 1960s movie, neither a French nor Italian production, so the odds are good that it is American. Notwithstanding there is a touch of Italy in it. The diver is searching for something beneath the sea. He doesn’t find it, but something entirely different. This gives him and his posse, seen in the new screencap, an extraordinary idea …

UPDATE 2 and solution (07 January 2013):
Frank Sinatra in 'Assault on a Queen' (Donohue 1966)
And again Mona did it—congratulations! It’s Frank Sinatra in Assault on a Queen (Donohue 1966). My hint towards ‘something Italian in the movie’ was twofold: First Sinatra himself was the child of Italian immigrants, second the female lead was played by Italian beauty Virna Lisi, maybe best known for her role alongside Jack Lemmon in the comedy How To Murder Your Wife (Quine 1965).
    When diving as pictured Sinatra as Mark Brittain searches for Spanish galleons, supposedly containing a treasure. Instead he finds a sunken German U-boat stemming from World War II. This gives his gang the idea to reactivate the old submarine and use it to pull a heist on the ocean liner Queen Mary

DONOHUE, JACK. 1966. Assault on a Queen [motion picture]. Hollywood: Paramount Pictures.
QUINE, RICHARD. 1965. How to murder your wife [motion picture]. Los Angeles: United Artists.

morgan freeman hoax

‘Write something insightful. Say Morgan Freeman said it. Win at Internet.’ Just found that quote, attributed to actor Morgan Freeman, on Facebook. I do not know if Freeman did say this or if he did not. But I know that the quote comes in the wake of another quote attributed to him. This latter quote currently runs through the social media like wildfire, but Freeman definitely never stated its contents. Here is a snippet:

You want to know why. This may sound cynical, but here’s why.
    It’s because of the way the media reports it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single victim of Columbine? Disturbed people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he’ll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody […]

Compare this to what the planet’s most prominent film critic, Roger Ebert, wrote back in 2003:

Let me tell you a story. The day after Columbine, I was interviewed for the Tom Brokaw news program. The reporter had been assigned a theory and was seeking sound bites to support it. “Wouldn’t you say,” she asked, “that killings like this are influenced by violent movies?” No, I said, I wouldn’t say that. “But what about ‘Basketball Diaries’?” she asked. “Doesn’t that have a scene of a boy walking into a school with a machine gun?” The obscure 1995 Leonardo Di Caprio movie did indeed have a brief fantasy scene of that nature, I said, but the movie failed at the box office (it grossed only $2.5 million), and it’s unlikely the Columbine killers saw it.
    The reporter looked disappointed, so I offered her my theory. “Events like this,” I said, “if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids around the country: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. The kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn’t have messed with me. I’ll go out in a blaze of glory.”
    In short, I said, events like Columbine are influenced far less by violent movies than by CNN, the NBC Nightly News and all the other news media, who glorify the killers in the guise of “explaining” them. I commended the policy at the Sun-Times, where our editor said the paper would no longer feature school killings on Page 1. The reporter thanked me and turned off the camera. Of course the interview was never used. They found plenty of talking heads to condemn violent movies, and everybody was happy.


what is cited?

zeph’s pop culture quiz #53
What is cited?
Which movie is payed homage to by the scene about to commence in the screencap? Bonus question: Which other movies are cited in the movie the screencap stems from?
    Simply leave a comment with your educated guess—you can ask for additional hints, too. [Leaving a comment is easy; just click the ‘Leave a comment’ at the end of the post and fill in the form. If it’s the first time you post a comment, it will be held for moderation. But I am constantly checking, and once I’ve approved a comment, your next ones won’t be held, but published immediately by the system.]

UPDATE 1 (16 December 2012):
From the attempts so far we know that it’s Telly Savalas, again as Kojak, and that the screencap does not stem from a series episode, but from a feature-length film. Here is another hint: A serious step towards the solution lies in the fact that the butler takes Kojak’s coat, shawl, and hat.

UPDATE 2 (17 December 2012):
In the conservatory
All right, as the riddle seems to be so hard, here is a screencap of how the scene continues …

UPDATE 3 (18 December 2012):
Well, Alexander Rabitsch meanwhile has correctly deduced that the screencaps stem from ‘Kojak: None so Blind’ (Metzger 1990). But he is at a loss in respect to which movie is cited by the scene depicted. The only thing on his mind is ‘Brideshead Revisited’—the movie (Jarrold 2008), the TV serial (Sturrid & Lindsay-Hogg 1981), the novel (Waugh 1945), or all three of them.
    Now, come on … a detective visits the luxurious mansion of an elderly, rich, and influential man. The butler advises him to take off hat, shawl, and coat, because the master of the house wants to meet the detective in the conservatory or sunroom [as we are in the US of A], which is superheated. Surrounded by exotic plants the detective then has a conversation with the tycoon. The latter is not only sitting in a wheelchair, but, in spite of the heat, is wrapped up in blankets. From which movie does this scene stem?
    In the solution to #52 I told all of you that I definitely take the post-series Kojak-movies to be neo-noir. So it wouldn’t be too far-fetched that here a film noir classic is cited. And as Theo Kojak undisputably is a hardboiled character, the detective in said classic may well be iconically hardboiled, too …

UPDATE 4 and solution (20 December 2012):
The butler Norris (Charles D. Brown), General Sternwood (Charles Waldron), and Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart) in 'The Big Sleep' (Hawks 1946)

General Sternwood (Charles Waldron) just asked: ‘How would you like your brandy, Sir?’ to which Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart) replies: ‘In a glass,’ which leaves Norris the butler (Charles D. Brown) somewhat consternated.

The second screencap with the description and additional hints finally did it and Alhambra solved the riddle—congratulations! Alexander Rabitsch then quickly came up with a matching screencap. The scene cited is from the opening sequence of ‘The Big Sleep’ (Hawks 1946), based on Raymond Chandler’s debut novel of the same name (1939), starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. For more on Chandler, Bogart, hardboiled and noir see e.g. who wrote it? and the simple art of murder. Besides the conservatory scene and all the noir elements, ‘None so Blind’ has even more in common with ‘The Big Sleep’ … a wonderfully convoluted plot.
    While filming ‘The Big Sleep’ an argument unfolded between Howard Hawks, Bogart and the trio William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, and Jules Furthmann who had adapted Chandler’s novel for the screen. The question was if the chauffeur Owen Taylor (Dan Wallace) had been murdered or had commited suicide. Finally the five of them agreed to ask Chandler himself. In a letter the latter three years later recalled:

I remember, several years ago when Howard Hawks was making [‘The Big Sleep’], he and Bogart got into an argument as to whether one of the characters was murdered or committed suicide. They sent me a wire (there’s a joke about this too) asking me, and dammit I didn’t know either. Of course I got hooted at. (Chandler 2000 [1949])

Yet, there seems to be something more the matter with ‘The Big Sleep’s convoluted plot. Again speaking of ‘None so Blind’ … I’ve watched it two times in short sequence and, quite honestly, still am not so sure about some parts of the plot.
    However, all this still leaves us with the bonus question: Which other movies are cited in ‘None so Blind’? ;)

UPDATE 5 and bonus screencap (20 December 2012):
Screencap from 'Kojak: None so Blind' (Metzger 1990)
Due to public demand: Which other movie is cited here?

UPDATE 6 and bonus solution (05 January 2013):
Screencap from the shower scene in 'Psycho' (Hitchcock 1960)
Alhambra immediately recognized that in the bonus screencap of course the famous shower scene from ‘Psycho’ (Hitchcock 1960) is cited. Congratulations.
    To my eye there may several more movies being cited in ‘None So Blind,’ but I can’t show them clearly by screencaps, yet. So, I guess I’ll keep those other movies for later quizzes :)

CHANDLER, RAYMOND THORNTON. 1939. The big sleep. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
CHANDLER, RAYMOND THORNTON. 2000 [1949]. “Letter to Jamie Hamilton, 21 March 1949,” in The Raymond Chandler papers edited by Tom Hiney and Frank MacShane, p. 105. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press.
HAWKS, HOWARD WINCHESTER. 1946. The big sleep [motion picture]. Burbank: Warner Bros.
HITCHCOCK, Sir ALFRED JOSEPH. 1960. Psycho [motion picture]. Hollywood: Paramount Pictures.
JARROLD, JULIAN. 2008. Brideshead revisited [motion picture]. New York: Miramax Films.
METZGER, ALAN. 1990. Kojak: None so blind [TV movie]. New York: CBS.
STURRID, CHARLES B. G. AND Sir MICHAEL EDWARD LINDSAY-HOGG. 1981. Brideshead revisited [TV serial]. 11 episodes. London: ITV.
WAUGH, ARTHUR EVELYN ST. JOHN. 1945. Brideshead revisited: The sacred & profane memories of Captain Charles Ryder. London: Chapman & Hall.

games as art

John Maeda’s opinion piece Videogames do belong in the Museum of Modern Art has spawned a series of comments, among them this one by Dedwrekka:

Actually GTA [Grand Theft Auto] could be easily described as art.
    GTA is about the breakdown of the social contract. Given an open world that responds to their actions, but has no actual effect on them, most players tend to sit down and go on long rampages in a short amount of time.
    Part of what makes games art is the interaction between game and player. In that sense, a person playing GTA is making a powerful statement about society, psychology, and the subconscious mind.


who is dead?

zeph’s pop culture quiz #52
Who is dead?
Who is dead?
    Simply leave a comment with your educated guess—you can ask for additional hints, too. [Leaving a comment is easy; just click the ‘Leave a comment’ at the end of the post and fill in the form. If it’s the first time you post a comment, it will be held for moderation. But I am constantly checking, and once I’ve approved a comment, your next ones won’t be held, but published immediately by the system.]

UPDATE 1 (07 December 2012):
Who is meeting in front of that church?
As nobody seems fit to guess anything when Google’s image search fails, here’s another hint. I also could’ve asked: Who is meeting in front of that church? No, the painter from the first screencap doesn’t meet anyone there. He already is dead by the time. But the two people meeting there are intertwined with the story of his death.

UPDATE 2 and solution (08 December 2012):
Kojak at the Cathedral Church of St John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Ave, Manhattan, New York City in 'The Belarus File' (Markowitz 1985).

Kojak (Telly Savalas) at the Cathedral Church of St John the Divine—1047 Amsterdam Ave, Manhattan, New York City in ‘The Belarus File’ (Markowitz 1985).

Mona cleverly solved the riddle and correctly answered both questions. The first one by citing the New York Times: ‘an elderly Russian, who may or may not have been a Nazi war criminal,’ and the second one directly: ‘Kojak [Telly Savalas] meets Elissa Barak [Betsy Aidem].’
    The movie is ‘Kojak: The Belarus file’ (Markowitz 1985) which originally aired in the US on 16 February 1985. An alternate title is ‘The Return of Kojak’ [aptly chosen, as zeph’s pop culture quiz began with Kojak], because this television movie, running 95 minutes, was made seven years after the famous original TV-series had ended.
    Compared to the latter, the atmosphere of ‘The Belarus File’ is much darker, more serious, menacing even—I definitely would describe it as neo-noir. The saxophone soundtrack induces a matching mood. Engulfed by that soundscape, created by Joseph Conlan and Barry de Vorzon, you’d hardly be surprised if Mike Hammer would walk around a corner and onto the scene. An associative connection to Germany, and in consequence to the Third Reich, is accomplished by Max von Sydow impersonating Peter Barak, one of the leading characters.
    The whole cold war plus Third Reich heritage story is a bit reminiscent of ‘The Odessa File’ (Neame 1974), based on Frederick Forsyth’s novel of the same name (1972), ‘Marathon Man’ (Schlesinger 1976), based on William Goldman’s novel of the same name (1974), and ‘The Boys from Brazil’ (Schaffner 1978), based on Ira Levin’s novel of the same name (1976). But in contrast to these movies, ‘The Belarus File’ is based on a non-fiction book, John Loftus’ controversial ‘The Belarus Secret’ (1982)—the text on its cover reads:

The first full account of an extraordinary clandestine operation carried out in direct defiance of presidential orders: How certain government agencies, in the aftermath of World War II, smuggled into the United States hundreds of Nazi collaborators from Eastern Europe—and have continued to protect them from investigation and deportation

FORSYTH, FREDERICK. 1972. The Odessa file. London: Hutchinson.
GOLDMAN, WILLIAM. 1974. Marathon man. New York: Delacorte Press.
LEVIN, IRA. 1976. The boys from Brazil. New York: Random House.
LOFTUS, JOHN JOSEPH. 1982. The Belarus secret. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
MARKOWITZ, ROBERT. 1985. Kojak: The Belarus file [TV movie]. New York: CBS.
NEAME, RONALD. 1974. The Odessa file [motion picture]. Culver City: Columbia Pictures.
SCHAFFNER, FRANKLIN JAMES. 1978. The boys from Brazil [motion picture]. Century City: 20th Century Fox.
SCHLESINGER, JOHN RICHARD. 1976. Marathon man [motion picture]. Hollywood: Paramount Pictures.

war as text

Currently I am bit by bit re-reading Latour’s ‘We have never been modern’ (1993 [1991]). In one of the classes I am holding this term I am coercing the students to do this reading, and loyally I am joining in. Latour’s criticism of postmodernism induced an association inside me. Especially this paragraph:

When we are dealing with science and technology it is hard to imagine for long that we are a text that is writing itself, a discourse that is speaking all by itself, a play of signifiers without signifieds. It is hard to reduce the entire cosmos to a grand narrative, the physics of subatomic particles to a text, subway systems to rhetorical devices, all social structures to discourse. (Latour 1993 [1991]: 64)

This, and everything around, heavily reminds me of Neal Stephenson’s fulminant satire on some of postmodernism’s excrescent intellectualisms ;) embedded in his novel ‘Cryptonomicon’ (1999). It—said satire, not the novel—begins like this:

Avi’s telephone call, some eighty hours ago, arrived in the middle of a major interdisciplinary conference called “The Intermediate Phase (1939-45) of the Global Hegemony Struggle of the Twentieth Century (Common Era).” This is a bit of a mouthful and so it has been given a pithy nickname: “War as Text.” (Stephenson 1999: 50)

LATOUR, BRUNO. 1993 [1991]. We have never been modern: . Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
STEPHENSON, NEAL TOWN. 1999. Cryptonomicon. London: William Heinemann.

anthropologist of search

Daniel M. Russell works at Google and this is how he describes what he does there: ‘I study the way people search and research. I guess that makes me an anthropologist of search.’ Back in June this year he spoke at the Investigative Reporters & Editors conference in Boston. John Tedesco, an investigative reporter for the San Antonio Express-News was there, took extensive notes, and posted them at his weblog: How to solve impossible problems: Daniel Russell’s awesome Google search techniques.

via entry at boingboing

who is arriving?

zeph’s pop culture quiz #51
Who is arriving?
Who is just arriving here?
    Simply leave a comment with your educated guess—you can ask for additional hints, too. [Leaving a comment is easy; just click the ‘Leave a comment’ at the end of the post and fill in the form. If it’s the first time you post a comment, it will be held for moderation. But I am constantly checking, and once I’ve approved a comment, your next ones won’t be held, but published immediately by the system.]

UPDATE and solution (07 December 2012):
Due to a negligence of mine ryoku solved #51 immediately by dragging the picture upon Google’s image search field. Thereby he reached Fantômas Over Paris and easily could deduce that in the screencap Princess Sonia Danidoff (Jane Faber) is arriving at the Royal Palace Hotel towards the beginning of the first chapter—‘Le Vol du Royal Palace Hotel’ [‘The Theft at the Royal Palace Hotel’]—of Louis Feuillade‘s 1913 movie serial Fantômas.’ For all about Fantômas see Fantomas Lives!

FEUILLADE, LOUIS. 1913. Fantômas I: À l’ombre de la guillotine [‘Fantômas: In the shadow of the guillotine’]. Neuilly-sur-Seine: Société des Etablissements L. Gaumont.