By Dickens, A Christmas Carol Means Big Money For American Theaters – Forbes

December 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. ...When you think of the arts at Christmas, two things come to mind: The Nutcracker, a mainstay for ballets large and small around the world, and A Christmas Carol, which has become its equivalent in the theater world. The Charles Dickens classic is not only sentimental, it’s a centerpiece of many American theater company budgets well beyond the holidays.

That’s especially true for the Goodman Theater in Chicago, where A Christmas Carol has been on the annual bill for the last 35 years. Performances of A Christmas Carol, by far its biggest production of the year, often sell out at the Goodman’s theater center in the Loop. And, for the past six years, a celebrity performer has joined the cast one night to trod the boards for charity.

This year, the moment comes on Friday night, when former Chicago Bulls forward Scottie Pippen will don a Victorian costume to take part in select scenes of the show. He’ll be joined by seven-year-old La’Ren Kimble, whose participation is being made possible through Make A Wish Chicago.

Pippen joins a lineup of Chicago sports and television figures who’ve taken part in A Christmas Carol, including Chicago White Sox Manager Robin Ventura and Blackhawks star Bobby Hull. Meanwhile, actors who’ve performed in it include ER’s Laura Innes, Elizabeth Perkins of Big fame, and respected Broadway performer Raul Esparza.

via By Dickens, A Christmas Carol Means Big Money For American Theaters – Forbes.

The Hobbit: Video Technology You Can Do at Home – Businessweek

December 22, 2012 Leave a comment

Gollum from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobb...

Filmmaker Peter Jackson’s new installment from Middle Earth has so much sexy technology you’d think reviewers would swoon: 3D; high def; 48 frames per second. Instead, we’re hearing a big yawn. Where did The Hobbit go wrong?

Welcome to the Q Curve. Consumer technology has gotten so good that the professionals we once paid to produce something startling now have difficulty staying ahead. I call this phenomenon the Quality Curve, where the rising quality of what you can produce with the iPhone (AAPL) or Samsung (005930) in your hand, if drawn as an upward line, now often surpasses the quality of professional producers. If the excellence of what you or I create rivals that of pros, our demand for their wizardry starts to slip.

Bilbo Baggins is a case in point. Jackson, whose brilliant The Lord of the Rings series won 17 Academy Awards, decided to solve one of film’s biggest flaws with this new preinstallment about the One Ring to Rule Them All—the flickering effect we get from a film speed set 90 years ago. When movies were first produced, film stock was expensive, so the standard rate of celluloid rolling through a camera was set at 24 frames per second. This means, for every second of a movie, 24 images flash rapidly on the screen to create the illusion of motion. The pace was set not for visual smoothness, but rather to conserve film—24 frames per second was the minimally viable option that gave users an acceptable moving image while holding down film costs.

via The Hobbit: Video Technology You Can Do at Home – Businessweek.

5 Mayan Apocalypse Myths Debunked – Yahoo! News

December 21, 2012 Leave a comment

2012 ApocalypseOn Friday, Dec. 21, some say, the Mayan apocalypse will arrive and the world will end. Fortunately, it won’t.

A bold claim, we know, but if it’s good enough for NASA, it’s good enough for us. The space agency has already issued a press release dated Dec. 22 entitled “Why the World Didn’t End Yesterday.”

The Mayan apocalypse predictions arise from a misunderstanding of the ancient Maya Long Count Calendar, which wraps up a 400-year cycle called a b’ak’tun on Dec. 21, 2012, the day of the winter solstice. This just so happens to be the 13th b’ak’tun in the calendar, a benchmark the Maya would have seen as a full cycle of creation.

Did you catch that? Cycle. In other words, the Maya had a cyclical view of time and would not have seen the end of their calendar cycle as the end of the world. It wasn’t until Westerners began reinterpreting the calendar in the past couple decades that it got its apocalyptic overtones.

Mayan apocalypse rumors have proliferated on the Internet, running the gamut from beliefs that Dec. 21 will bring a new era of peace and universal understanding to predictions of a devastating astronomical event. We’re all in favor of world peace, but we’re here to put your fears to rest about the likelihood of planetary annihilation. Read on for five common Mayan apocalypse fears and why they won’t come true.

via 5 Mayan Apocalypse Myths Debunked – Yahoo! News.

How Walt Disney’s women have grown up – Features – Films – The Independent

December 20, 2012 Leave a comment

There are a number of things that, until recently, no Disney heroine could be without: a handsome prince, a tiny waist, a pearly white smile and an urgent need to be rescued.

This Friday marks 75 years since Disney released Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – the first feature-length animated film. Since the simpering Snow White, to whose beauty even birds were not immune, a lot has changed.

Disney’s latest heroine, Princess Merida, the wild-haired Scottish princess from Brave, marks something of a watershed for cartoon films. Helen Nabarro, head of animation at the National Film and Television School, said: “I think Brave is a departure for the Disney heroine. There is a genuine hardship that Merida has to get out of, and she’s a proper heroine rather than a foil for some bloke. Girls have been shown in cartoons as the weaker sex, but she sorts things out for herself. The film shows the cartoon heroine catching up with real-life women.”

Jim Korkis, a columnist for the online fanzine Mouse Planet and a Disney historian, said: “Disney animated heroines have always reflected their times. Snow White was the model of the women at that time who felt that their life would only be complete with a prince and waited for him to come along.

“After the Second World War, women had experienced the workplace and were more proactive. Cinderella did not just sit around waiting for the prince to come, she went right out to the palace to get him. With the Eighties, Disney heroines became more headstrong. Belle, from Beauty and the Beast, never needed a prince. She was independent and self-sufficient and rather than a prince rescuing her, she was the one who rescued the prince.”

To celebrate 75 years of the Disney heroine, The Independent on Sunday revisits 20 of the animator’s leading ladies.

via How Walt Disney’s women have grown up – Features – Films – The Independent.

‘Casablanca’ piano auctioned for $600,000, less than expected – UPI.com

December 19, 2012 Leave a comment

This screenshot shows Sydney Greenstreet and H...

NEW YORK, Dec. 15 (UPI) — A piano briefly seen in 1942′s “Casablanca” sold at auction for $602,500, about half of the highest estimates for the item, New York’s Sotheby’s said.

The winning bidder, whose name was not reported, bid $500,000 on the item Friday, though commissions added $102,000 to the total, The New York Times reported. Sotheby’s had estimated the piano would sell for between $800,000 and $1.2 million.

The piano was one of two used in “Casablanca,” and was small, with 58 keys, 30 fewer than a conventional piano.

It was used in a flashback scene at a Paris cafe named “La Belle Aurore.” The piano was on camera for 1 minute and 10 seconds, and actor Dooley Wilson, who played Sam in the classic film, mimicked playing it while singing in the film, the Times reported.

Sotheby’s last auctioned the piano in 1988 for $155,000, the second-highest price for Hollywood memorabilia at the time, the newspaper said.

via ‘Casablanca’ piano auctioned for $600,000, less than expected – UPI.com.

Homeless tours show visitors dark side of Prague | Reuters

December 18, 2012 Leave a comment

55-year-old homeless Honza B. smokes a used cigarette butt as he escorts his tour group in Prague(Reuters) – With his gravelly voice, bushy hair, an old suitcase in one hand and a pinched cigarette butt in the other, Honza Badalec is not your typical tour guide.

On his walks through Prague, Badalec steers clear of the picturesque ancient castle. Nor does he stop on the centuries-old Charles Bridge, a bustling attraction for the average visitor.

Instead, the 55-year-old veers off the well-worn cobblestones and into the rougher edges of the Czech capital, a side of one of Europe‘s most visited cities that many would rather avoid.

“I didn’t choose to be homeless,” he said after completing an evening tour.

“But I’m trying to do the best I can. I don’t steal, I don’t cheat people, I don’t abuse welfare benefits. The tours are great. They are a chance for me to explain myself better.”

Since August, about 430 people have paid 200 crowns ($10.31) to visit the places where some of Prague’s homeless gather.

Half of the proceeds go to the guide and the rest to student-run agency Pragulic, set up after it won a 1,500-euro social entrepreneurship award.

SAFETY NET DISAPPEARING

Prague’s homeless population, estimated at around 4,500, has not changed significantly in the last three years despite two recessions in the Czech Republic during that period.

Yet a common sight for tourists arriving at the city’s main railway station is groups of homeless people sharing cartons of wine.

There are around 600,000 homeless people in Europe, with about a tenth living “rough” on the streets, according to estimates cited by the U.N. Human Settlements Programme.

via Homeless tours show visitors dark side of Prague | Reuters.

Quieter TV commercials bring loud praise – Life Inc.

December 17, 2012 Leave a comment

The CommercialsWhen it comes to commercials, Life Inc. readers seem to prefer the sound of silence.

A post this week on a new law mandating that commercials have to be close to the same volume as the show that goes on around them brought sighs of relief from many readers.

“Thank You!!! I HATE loud commercials-I ALWAYS mute (but sometimes not fast enough),” one reader wrote.

Under the law, the commercial volume has to be within a range of 2 decibels (db) of the programming around them. That’s in contrast to the often jarring increases in sound that sometimes happens when the commercial break hits.

Even without the legislation, many viewers said they are already taking things into their own hands, or remotes.

About 36 percent of the nearly 23,000 people who took our poll said that they hit the mute button when the commercials come on, while another 34 percent said they change the channel.

About 29 percent said they use the DVR to fast-forward through the commercials, avoiding the whole problem altogether.

via Quieter TV commercials bring loud praise – Life Inc..

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