Boxing Day

In 2002, Melbourne friends Hoss Siegel and Ross Koger were battling with pool noodles and imagined a war fought in the same style. Months later they witnessed two kids beating each other up with cardboard boxes, and they married the two ideas.

The result is Box Wars, an annual free-for-all among combatants bearing weapons and armor made of cardboard. The pastime is now international, with extensions in Japan, the United States, Scotland, the Netherlands, Russia, and Canada.

“The suits,” says Koger, “have gotten more elaborate, as have the crowds, and it’s funny that something which spawned from a stupid idea at a party has become so big.”

Cause and Effect

In his 1986 book Narration in Light, philosopher George Wilson points out an odd moment in Orson Welles’ 1947 film The Lady From Shanghai. Two men are driving hurriedly toward an important destination when a woman elsewhere learns of their journey and reacts angrily (50:55 above):

The following three-shot progression concludes the intercut series: (1) a shot from within the men’s car reveals that a truck has abruptly pulled out onto the road ahead of them; (2) the woman’s hand is shown reaching out and pressing [a] button; and (3) the men’s car collides violently with the truck.

“Viewing these shots, it appears as if the pressing of the button has mysteriously caused the accident, but, at the same time, this impression of causality is difficult to reconcile with common sense and difficult also to integrate into our immediate sense of the film’s narrative development at that juncture.” Most films settle these questions for us, but in every film our knowledge of the events is limited; “the potentiality for considerable epistemic complication always remains, and it is actually realized in some of the most interesting films ever made.”

Rendezvous

How does an outfielder know where to run in order to catch a fly ball? Previously it had been thought that the fielder estimates the ball’s arc, acceleration, and distance; predicts where it will land; and runs straight to that spot.

“That was a really elegant solution,” Kent State psychologist Michael McBeath told the New York Times in 1995. “The only problem is that keeping track of acceleration like that is something that people are very bad at.”

McBeath and his colleagues analyzed fly balls and catches visually, mathematically, and subjectively from the players’ perspective, using a video camera. They found that fielders learn to run so that the ball follows a straight line in their visual field. “If you are faster than the critter you are trying to catch, if you can keep the prey on a simple path in your vision — hold it as if it’s moving in a straight line in your eye — then you’ll catch it.”

Among other things, this explains why fielders sometimes collide with walls when chasing uncatchable home runs. They haven’t calculated in advance where the ball will come down; instead they’re following an algorithm that’s directing them, accurately, to a landing point that’s not on the field.

(Michael K. McBeath, Dennis M. Shaffer, and Mary K. Kaiser, “How Baseball Outfielders Determine Where to Run to Catch Fly Balls,” Science 268:5210 [1995], 569-573.) (See Shortcuts.)

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.
  • I will occasionally listen to and follow my advisor’s advice.
  • 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

https://books.google.com/books?id=iU0EAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA79

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: