The Howard

I don’t have many family heirlooms. Last summer, my great uncle gave my a peacoat that belonged to one of my mom’s relatives. He wore it when serving aboard the U.S.S. Nevada, a ship that survived two world wars, kamikaze attacks, and two nuclear bombs. The coat seems just as indestructible.

My sister, Greta, has a bunch of costume jewelry from nearly all sides of our family. She acquired most of it rummaging through junk drawers and dusty attics. At least that’s what I’m told. I never joined her on her jewelry hunts.

The summer after graduating high school, I spent a long weekend visiting my Dad and Stepmom in Pennsylvania. Most of the details of that particular trip escape me, though I’m sure it was filled with jokes, home cooking, and possibly a tennis match or two. When I was getting ready to head back to New Jersey that Sunday evening, my Dad handed me a little something: a simple wooden handled bottle opener with a steel mouth. Or as I like to call it, The Howard.

The Howard

They don't make them like they used to.

The Howard belonged to his father, my grandfather, Howard Ackerman. I knew him as Pop.

Apart from surname, you wouldn’t be able to draw many links between Pop and me. He grew up a farmer, joined the army at 17, was a boxing champ by 18, fought five years in the Pacific, then returned home to support a family of seven by working in the Pennsylvania coal mines. It was a life straight out of a John Steinbeck novel, whereas I worked at Banana Republic and owe all of my military experience to Xbox Live. Actually, about the only similarity is our fondness for plaid. And when I say fondness, I mean love affair. I wear little else.

To put it plainly, it’s a sweet bottle opener. There’s something almost elegant about it’s simple design. The wooden handle has a hand made quality that makes it look more fit for the tool shed than the utensil drawer. And it’s about as unbreakable as the Nevada. Surviving four years of college living is more than enough proof.

I don’t use The Howard much any more, at least not for opening bottles. It sits on my nightstand next to some old photographs and letters from Nikkie. It’s instead become more of a healthy reminder that I like to wake up to every morning. A reminder that I’m here because of the back breaking efforts of people that love me. That sacrificing yourself for family is never really sacrifice. That miraculous things can come from the humblest beginnings. And that I have a lot of living to do before I can pass along this little piece of wood.

Pop passed away some thirteen years ago. With luck, there are plaid clouds in heaven.

le petit prince 2.0

One of my dad’s favorite stories is Le Petit Prince, a philosophical reinterpretation of author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s personal experiences guised as a children’s book. It’s a wonderfully fantastic story filled with adventure and mysticism and quite a bit of useful commentary on our daily lives. Definitely check it out.

Equally as adventurous is industrial designer Martin Miklica’s invention of the same name. Pictured below, his Little Prince is a finalist in Electrolux Design Lab’s 2009 competition. Miklica’s goal? Make it easy to grow plants on Mars.

The eye's a little creepy...

The eye's a little creepy...

Actually, it kind of reminds me of my entry for a ConceptArt.org industrial design competition from a few years ago.

Oohh.. blue lights!

Oohh.. blue lights!

Now, anyone that knows me well knows that I get excited when it comes to Mars. The thought of a human being setting foot on another planet blows my mind.  My dad’s generation had the moon landing. I’m looking forward to the Mars landing.

Oh, and here’s a video of the little bugger:

Thanks to TreeHugger for shedding light on this design. And good luck, Martin. If your design doesn’t win, I may still want one for my living room.

avatar = space jam.

Just a quick observation of mine after watching the trailer for James Cameron’s Avatar.

This guy:

The Avatar Alien

The Avatar Alien

Looks an awful lot like this guy:

On the right - the blue guy from Space Jam

On the right - the blue guy from Space Jam

Other than that, the trailer looks cool.

i might see district 9 twice.

This may come as a shock to you, but I’m a geek. Actually, I probably qualify as a supergeek though I’ve never seen a single episode of Battlestar Galactica. I promise.

Even so, it’s extremely rare that I’ll shell out the cash to see a movie in theaters more than once. Even if the movie’s amazing, I just can’t always bring myself to pony up the second round of $10 tickets and $70 snacks. In the last 23 years, I’ve only double-headered the following: Starship Troopers, Star Wars Episode III, Rush Hour 2 (I walked out the second time), and Transformers. Like I said. Supergeek.

But I’m not really surprised that I find myself itching to double up on District 9.

aliens + oppression + energy weapons = win

aliens + oppression + energy weapons = win

First off, this film was made on a $30 million dollar budget. That’s pretty modest, when you consider the fact that Spiderman 3 spent more than triple that on one CGI sequence. I’m happy to reward ambitious film making with frugal budgets. They can have another $10 from me.

Secondly, it’s awesome. Blomkamp’s direction holds up well throughout the whole film, maintaining the same mysterious qualities of the short Alive in Joburg. Sharlto Copley does a wonderful job as the protagonist – I found myself loving and hating him at various points in the story. And holy hell were the action scenes epic. Don’t get me wrong, I love a solid Coppola or Anderson film as much as anyone, but I’m a sucker for well executed action. And D-9 delivers. It’s violent, yes, but appropriately so, much in the way Saving Private Ryan can be difficult to stomach. The few skirmishes feel hurried and panicked – the way it should feel to be trading bullets and lasers with your life on the line.

Its marketing campaign left a little something to be desired. Oh well. We all know how I feel about that anyway.

And then I suddenly remembered that Inglorious Basterds opens this weekend. Maybe I won’t be seeing District 9 again  after all…

escalator ads also need to die.

I’m all for pioneering new forms of communication. 3d projection bombing, for example, is really bad ass. But why people think slapping ads on escalators is creative is beyond me. Do you really think putting razor blade stickers on the steps is going to sell disposable razors? Come on.

Toxel.com just added a blogpost showcasing “what happens when companies use escalators to promote their products.” I’ll tell you what happens. They get stepped on, scuffed up, ripped, torn, dirty and, oh yeah, exist beneath the feet of people who otherwise don’t give a damn. Escalator riders aren’t a captive audience, especially when there are so many on board that you can’t see the god damn ads! Here’s a few of the choice pictures from that entry:

Oh look, it runs on batteries! That's clearly not a sticker!

Oh look, it runs on batteries! That's clearly not a sticker!

Thank god I saw this at the mall! I'll go buy an SUV now!

Thank god I saw this at the mall! I'll go buy an SUV now!

Nothing makes a massage more enticing than a backful of dirty footprints.

Nothing makes a massage more enticing than a backful of dirty footprints.

I wonder what other yet-to-be-exploited means of conveyance can be used as ad space…

The sky's the limit.

The sky's the limit.

Darktooth.

Neither can live while the other survives!

Neither can live while the other survives!

flash mobs need to die.

What’s the deal with flash mobs? If you’re not familiar with what I’m talking about, the well respected Wikipedia offers this definition:

A flash mob (or flashmob)[1] is a large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual action for a brief time, then quickly disperse.

You see them in Grand Central. You seem them in downtown London. And they almost always involve some sort of dance ritual. Sure, they’re funny. Some of them are downright hilarious. I cracked up the first time I saw Hammer Pants.

But these all need to go away. I think the novelty of a bunch of seemingly innocent people spontaneously breaking out into performance has worn off. And it’s poisoned the business to the point where “flash mobs” are a default option in the concepting process. They’re the new “viral video.” Well, I guess they are viral videos…

That’s also the nature of the beast, though. As soon as an idea takes off, we’re bombarded with dozens of copycats.  Still, I think we should responsibly euthanize this trend before it gets out of hand. We don’t need any Tampax flash mobs anytime soon.