# Expansive

In 1996, artists Jeff St. Pierre and Philip Antoniades released A Rubber Band Christmas, a collection of Christmas songs played on rubber bands.

Kyle Brown of Rubber and Plastic News wrote that “The snaps and twangs aren’t always pitch-perfect, but a lot of spirit comes through.”

# Lessons Learned

Excerpts from the Evil Overlord List, compiled in 1990 by the FidoNet Science Fiction and Fandom email echo:

If I were the Evil Overlord …

• If I have several diabolical schemes to destroy the hero, I will launch them all at once rather than singly, thereby saving myself the aggravation of watching them fail in succession.
• If I decide to hold the double execution of the hero and an underling who betrayed me, the hero will be scheduled to go first.
• Shooting is not “too good” for my enemies.
• My force field generators will be located inside the force field they generate.
• My Legions of Terror will have helmets with clear, space-age-plastic faceplates that allow the troopers to see clearly, and allow others to identify the trooper by sight with ease.
• Despite the delicious irony, I will not force two heroes to fight each other in the arena.
• I will be secure in my superiority. Therefore, I will feel no need to prove it by leaving clues to my Master Plan in the form of riddles for my enemies to find.
• No matter how much I desire vengeance, I will never issue the order, “Leave him! He’s mine!”
• My noble half-brother, whose throne I usurped to come into power, will not be secretly kept imprisoned anonymously in a cell in my dungeon. He will be killed as soon as my coronation is over.

The full list is here.

# Vice Compression

Paramount photographer A.L. Schafer set up this shot in 1940 to simultaneously flout 10 provisions of the Hays Code, Hollywood’s guideline for self-censorship between 1934 and 1968.

When Schafer entered the photo in an industry competition and organizers threatened him with a fine, he pointed out that the judges were hoarding all 18 prints he’d submitted.

(Via Open Culture.)

03/07/2021 UPDATE: Artist Bruce Timm made a similar image combining nine themes barred from Batman: The Animated Series: guns, drugs, breaking glass, alcohol, smoking, nudity, child endangerment, religion, and strangulation:

# Dedication

In the climactic scene that Ray Harryhausen animated for Jason and the Argonauts (1963), “I had three men fighting seven skeletons, and each skeleton had five appendages to move in each separate frame of film. This meant at least thirty-five animation movements, each synchronized to the actor’s movements. Some days I was producing just 13 or 14 frames a day, or to put it another way, less than one second of screen time per day, and in the end the whole sequence took a record four and a half months to capture on film.”

An interesting philosophical question: “So how do you kill skeletons? We puzzled over this conundrum for some time and in the end we opted for simplicity by having Jason jump off the cliff into the sea, followed by the skeletons. It was the only way to kill off something that was already dead, and besides, we assumed that they couldn’t swim. After filming a stuntman jump into the sea, the prop men threw seven plaster skeletons off the cliff, which had to be done correctly on the first take as we couldn’t retrieve them for a second. To this day there are, somewhere in the sea near that hotel on the cliff edge, the plaster bones of seven skeletons.”

(Ray Harryhausen: An Animated Life, 2010.)

# Tribute

Every species of spider in the genus Predatoroonops takes its name from an element in John McTiernan’s 1987 film Predator:

Predatoroonops anna: For the character Anna Gonsalves, played by Elpidia Carrillo
Predatoroonops billy: For the character Billy Sole, played by Sonny Landham
Predatoroonops blain: For the character Blain Cooper, played by Jesse Ventura
Predatoroonops dillon: For the character George Dillon, played by Carl Weathers
Predatoroonops dutch: For the character “Dutch” Schaeffer, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger
Predatoroonops maceliot: For the character “Mac” Elliot, played by Bill Duke
Predatoroonops poncho: For the character “Poncho” Ramirez, played by Richard Chaves
Predatoroonops rickhawkins: For the character Richard Hawkins, played by Shane Black
Predatoroonops schwarzeneggeri: For Schwarzenegger
Predatoroonops vallarta: For Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, a filming location
Predatoroonops valverde: For Val Verde, the fictional country where the film takes place
Predatoroonops chicano: An alternate nickname for Poncho
Predatoroonops mctiernani: For McTiernan
Predatoroonops olddemon: In Anna’s village the Predator is known as a “demon who makes trophies of men”
Predatoroonops peterhalli: For Kevin Peter Hall, the actor who played the creature
Predatoroonops phillips: For the character Homer Phillips, played by R.G. Armstrong
Predatoroonops yautja: The name of the Predator species in the expanded universe

Also: In Predator 2, the Predator’s trophy case contains the head of an alien from the Alien franchise:

# Exchange

One day Stan Laurel visited a stationery store.

The clerk seemed to recognize him.

“Say,” he said. “Aren’t you –”

Laurel said, “Oliver Hardy.”

“Right,” said the clerk. “Say, whatever happened to Laurel?”

Laurel said, “He went balmy.”

# A Near Miss

For a moment in the 1998 Simpsons episode “The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace,” it appears that Homer has found a solution to Fermat’s last theorem:

398712 + 436512 = 447212

If you check this on a calculator with a 10-digit display, it seems to work: Raise 3987 and 4365 each to the 12th power, take the 12th root of the sum, and you get 4472.

But that’s the fault of the display. The actual value for the third term is closer to 4472.000000007057617187512.

Simpsons writer David S. Cohen, who had studied physics at Harvard and contrived the ruse, told Simon Singh he was pleased at the consternation it caused online. “I feel great about it. It’s very easy working in television to not feel good about what you do on the grounds that you’re causing the collapse of society. So, when we get the opportunity to raise the level of discussion — particularly to glorify mathematics — it cancels out those days when I’ve been writing those bodily function jokes.”

(From Simon Singh, The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets, 2013.)

# Hex

Invented independently by Piet Hein and John Nash, the game of Hex is both simple and deep. Each player is assigned two opposite sides of the board and tries to connect them with an unbroken chain of stones. Draws are impossible, and in principle it can be shown that the first player has a winning strategy (if the second player had such a strategy, the first player could “steal” it with a move in hand). But succeeding in practical play requires careful, subtle thought.

You can try it here.

# Misc

• Peter Davison, who played the fifth Doctor in Doctor Who, is the father-in-law of David Tennant, who played the 10th.
• Sharks are older than trees.
• ABHORS, ALMOST, BEGINS, BIOPSY, and CHINTZ are alphabetical.
• $\displaystyle \sqrt{7! + 1} = 71$
• “The punishment can be remitted; the crime is everlasting.” — Ovid

“Whoopee! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but that’s a long one for me!” — Pete Conrad, after becoming the third human to set foot on the moon