Posts filed under ‘Entertainment’

Karaoke Singing Can Get You Killed in the Philippines

By Chad Upton

I’m not a great singer, and I know this. Despite that fact, I’ve done karaoke a couple times on vacation.

In some countries, karaoke is comparable to television singing competitions — part of the entertainment is the fact that some people can’t sing. In other countries, karaoke is dead serious.

karaoke-machine

In the Philippines, they’re known as “My Way Killings” since there are at least six documented incidents of someone being killed for murdering Frank Sinatra’s version of “My Way”.  Those are just the documented ones, there are more that are suspected but unconfirmed. (more…)

August 30, 2013 at 2:00 am 3 comments

Elvis Presley Carried Federal Narcotics Agent Badge

By Chad Upton | Editor

The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was formed in 1973. Prior to that, drug laws were enforced by the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD).

In 1970, the BNDD’s years were numbered. If you’re thinking it’s because the acronym was too awkward, you’re (unofficially) wrong. The CIA was called in to eradicate suspected corruption among BNDD agents. In an apparent coincidence, and although he wasn’t an agent, Elvis Presley was given a BNDD badge by president Nixon that same year. (more…)

June 26, 2013 at 2:00 am 2 comments

Shuffling Playing Cards Produces Order Never Seen Before

By Chad Upton | Editor

When you finish a game of cards, you must shuffle the deck (imperfectly) seven times before the card order is properly randomized again. Then, it’s also statistically impossible that order of cards has ever occurred before!

playing cards

Because a deck of cards has 52 unique cards, the number of different orders of those cards is astronomical and I mean that rather literally. The combinations of cards is greater than the number of observable stars in the galaxy. (more…)

December 22, 2012 at 6:00 pm 1 comment

Magazine Subscription Expiry Date is on Address Label

By Chad Upton | Editor

I love books and magazines and I mean real books and real magazines, printed on paper.

Sure, I love their digital counterparts too. They have snazzy interactive layouts, rich multimedia and they’re always in your pocket. But, sometimes less is more.

There is something powerful and irreplaceable about ink and paper. The experience is linear and there are few distractions along the way. Most importantly, there are no instant notifications, no batteries and you have to actually see one of your real friends to “share” it with them. On paper, you’re alone with your thoughts. Ten percent of that is because the medium consumes you, the remaining ninety percent is because there are no stupid comments at the bottom of each page.

That’s not to say all comments are stupid, there are plenty of useful and thought provoking comments on the internet. But when there are no comments at all, there can’t be any stupid ones either. Comments should be consumed for dessert; people should think for themselves before eating honey from the hive.

That’s where pages beat pixels.

It is why I have books and magazine subscriptions. But, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. First of all, there are at least three subscription cards in each magazine. They should do a print run for subscribers that is exempt from the inserts. That would be a significant incentive for readers to actually subscribe! In the meantime, I’ll keep shaking them over the recycling bin.

Publishers also suggest renewing your annual subscription on what seems like a bimonthly basis. So, it’s helpful to know when your subscription really expires.

Thankfully, they put the expiration date right on the address label.

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November 6, 2012 at 2:00 am 4 comments

Arcade Claw Games are Rigged

By Chad Upton | Editor

The claw game (aka “crane games” or “fairground grabbers”) are pretty straight forward in appearance: put in your money, position the crane over a prize, drop the claw and hope your aim was good enough to bring home the prize.

But, winning a prize requires a lot more than skill. These machines are like slot machines, except children are allowed to play. Just like a slot machine, the operator can dial in how often the machine should pay out.

The crane game machine reduces the claw strength when the player is supposed to lose and increases its grip strength when the player is allowed to win. In that sense, they’re worse than slots because the player still requires some skill when the odds are in their favor.

The odds of the machine giving the claw enough strength to win a prize is regulated by some states and therefore varies. In California, the claw must have enough strength to win during an average of 1 in 12 games. In Nevada, it’s 1 in 15 games. In other words, during 1 in 15 games the claw will be strong enough to pickup a prize, but you still have to aim it well. (more…)

October 12, 2012 at 2:00 am 5 comments

Movies are Corporations (Hollywood Accounting)

By Chad Upton | Editor

One of the most interesting classes I took in College was taught by a film producer. He only taught that one class, for two hours, once a week. He shared learnings from the entire film making process, from writing a script and getting funding to shooting and distribution.

From this class, I learned is that each film is incorporated as its own corporation and there are a number of reasons why they do this.

For one, it offers limited liability. If someone sues the production, the people who financed and produced the film have some legal separation between the film and their personal assets and other businesses.

It also offers financial abstraction from the people and companies who financed the film. Here’s a little math test to help explain this concept: if it costs $300 million to make a product and then you sold $1 billion worth of it, how much was your profit? $700 million right? Yes. Unless, your product was a film or TV show.

This is almost exactly what happened with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007). The studio invested just over $300 million to make the film and it grossed almost $1 billion from the box office and other distribution deals. But, instead of making $700 million, it actually lost $167 million (on paper). So, what happened to all of that money? (more…)

May 19, 2012 at 4:00 pm 4 comments

Where the Phrase “Jumped the Shark” Comes From

By Chad Upton | Editor

Someone who has always been a good friend to me is my buddy Rick. He is always good for new ideas and he happens to be a TV fanatic.

Two seasons after LOST started, Rick knew I’d love the show. He ran down the plot summary from the first two seasons over lunch and I was hooked before I even saw the show. Another time, he was telling me about a show he liked but was unhappy because it had “jumped the shark.” I wasn’t familiar with the phrase so he explained it to me.

In 1977, during the the fifth season of the TV series Happy Days, the character Fonzie was water skiing and literally jumped over a shark. You can see it in this clip:

The show had been extremely popular, but this stunt was a pivotal point which marked a steady downturn in the quality of the show. It was a grave departure from the stories in previous seasons and seemed to indicate that the writers had run out of ideas.

These days, the phrase is generally used to indicate that something is past its prime or has reached a point that is the beginning of an end.

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Photo: Bill Ward (cc)

Sources: Rick … and wikipedia (Jumping the Shark)

January 17, 2012 at 2:00 am 6 comments

The HOLLYWOOD Sign Originally Said HOLLYWOODLAND

By Chad Upton | Editor

The HOLLYWOOD sign in Los Angeles, California needs little introduction.

Although it is often associated with movies and television it was originally erected in 1923 as an advertisement for a new housing development named Hollywoodland. It originally cost $21,000 to build the 50-foot high letters on Mount Lee, including the four thousand 20 watt bulbs that illuminated them.

The letters quickly became a symbol of the movie industry. Ironically, actress Peg Entwistle became famous when she climbed a workman’s ladder to the top of the “H” and allegedly jumped to her death in 1932. She was apparently unhappy about her failure as an actress. It’s true, she was not well known — it took two days for police to identify who she was, and only then because her uncle contacted them to see if it could be her.

In 1944, the housing developers transferred ownership of some land, including the Hollywoodland sign, to the City of Los Angeles. By 1949, the sign was in grave disrepair. As the city was demolishing it, public outcry turned the demolition into a refurbishing project, during which time it was shortened to HOLLYWOOD. The letters were shortened too, now standing 45 feet tall, instead of the original 50. More residents could identify with HOLLYWOOD since that was the name of the city from 1903 to 1910 and remains the name of the district today.

The 1949 sign was built from sheet metal and wood, which fared well considering its materials, but was falling apart by 1978. At this time, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce began a campaign to replace the sign with a more permanent version. Nine generous donors including, Hugh Hefner; Warner Brothers Records and Alice Cooper, each paid $27,700 to reconstruct a letter. In 2009, Hugh Hefner saved the sign again when he donated $1 million to The Trust for Public Land, an organization formed to protect the area from further real estate development.

Decades of temporary alterations to the sign began in 1976, some authorized and some not. A few of the more famous modifications include: HOLLYWEED, HOLYWOOD, GO NAVY, CALTECH, OLLYWOOD, OIL WAR, PEROTWOOD, GO UCLA, SAVE THE PEAK, JOLLYGOOD. To prevent further unauthorized modifications, the LAPD installed a motion detector alarm system in 2000.

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Photo: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid (cc)

Sources: Wikipedia (Hollywood Sign, Peg Entwistle), Film Bug, Beachwood Canyon

December 20, 2011 at 2:00 am 6 comments

Disney Castle Based on Real Castle in Germany

By Chad Upton | Editor

Often inspired by the Disney fairytales of Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, many young girls dress as princesses for Halloween.

While they are popular fairytales, these theme-park castles are largely based on a real castle in Germany — Neuschwanstein Castle. Look at the resemblance:

Disney has also noted the inspiration from structures in France too: Notre Dame de Paris and Hospices de Beaune.

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Sources: wikipedia (Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, Cinderella CastleNeuschwanstein Castle)

Photos: Katie Rommel-Esham (cc) Jack Versloot (cc)

October 31, 2011 at 4:00 am 7 comments

Story and Plot are Not the Same Thing

By Chad Upton | Editor

Movies are extremely captivating because of their complex combination of: music, characters, dialogue, lighting, story, plot and everything else. Yes, story and plot.

These two words are often used interchangeably. I don’t have a problem with that, but I do find this little known fact interesting and heck, that’s what this site is all about.

Whether you’re talking about books, films or campfire tales, the differentiation between story and plot applies. I’ll start by oversimplifying the difference:

Story is what happens; plot is how those events are presented.

To be more specific: the story is a chronological arrangement of the events, including everything you’re presented with and also the implied or assumed events that you are not explicitly given. On the other hand, the plot includes everything that contributes to how you experience the story, including everything you see and hear, but not including the story events that are implied or assumed.

These two words are confusing because the elements they describe have some overlap — the parts of the story that you see are also part of the plot. While they do have this overlap, it is important to note that both plot and story include elements that do not overlap. Lets look at a popular film for example.

By now, I think most people have seen The Hangover (2009). If you haven’t, that’s ok, there are no spoilers beyond this point, but there is a basic description of the story and plot.

At a high level, it’s a comedy about four guys who go to Las Vegas and lose their friend, then retrace their steps to find him.

At the start of the film, the main characters are already friends; the film doesn’t show you how the core group of people met or became friends. Because we don’t see when they originally met, the formation of their friendship is part of the story, but not the plot.

The second act begins with the characters waking up from a blackout. Their hotelroom is a mess, but they can’t remember what happened the night before. The plot jumps from the night before to the morning after and skips everything in between. Because we did not see what happened, the events the plot skipped are just part of the story at this point.

The story ends by revealing something that happened the night before. Because the events in the story are rearranged (the plot), the viewer is part of the adventure, they know just as much as the characters. The plot makes the story more captivating because we want to know what happened, just as bad as the characters.

In movies, the plot also includes the music and credits because these are not generally part of the story — they’re not things the characters experience, but they do affect how viewers experience the story. This is where The Hangover does something really interesting; during the credits they show some still “pictures” from parts of the story that were skipped in the plot, bringing those elements that were once only part of the story into the plot too.

Bonus fact: music can be part of the story if, for example, there is a person/band/radio in the scene that is playing music.

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Sources: Film Art (ISBN 0073386162)

August 7, 2011 at 2:00 am 2 comments

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