Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives

December 2005 Archives

Live from Mansfield, Pennsylvania.

Right now I'm in a Comfort Inn in Mansfield, Pennsylvania, high up in the mountains and about halfway home. I find it hysterical that it takes less time to fly from Japan to the states than it does to drive from Boston to Wooster. Jeez!

But, yes. I could have soldiered on a ways further, but I didn't get much sleep last night as I was making Christmas cards (send me your addresses, people!) and I was still burning off the end-of-semester adrenaline. Now, though, I'm seriously crashing... Still trying to knock one last project off the list before passing out, so I can ride back to the old home country tomorrow in relative relaxation.

The last uberproject was an annotated bibliography for my thesis, so I now have a long, long list of things to read – but the beauty of it is that they're almost all things I want to read. Who would've guessed that I would so totally geek out on media economics?

Anywho. I can feel my eyelids growing heavy, and I've already turned out all the lights in the room except for my laptop and the myriad of little lights from my various charging electronics (iPod, phone, Canon Digital Rebel) that I plan to use on the rest of the way home tomorrow. I love road trips, and I actually love staying in hotels, and I love love love driving through the mountains. Tomorrow is going to be amazing – and Nick and Laura (and maybe Andy) are already in Wooster! Yay, homecomings! (And a big fat boo to Jess and Talon, who no longer have reasons to return to the old homestead. I miss you guys!)

I'll try and post some photos from tomorrow morning's trek to Flickr sometime in the next couple of days. Onward and upward!


The ten million dollar question.

Audiences are eroding. 'Must-see TV' doesn't exist anymore. The future of entertainment is narrowcasting and providing portable access-anytime, access-anywhere experiences – but how do you produce those properties on a low enough budget to register success further down the long tail?

I've been blowing my mind on average once a day for the last week-and-some-change, when I've been hitting my thesis area hard. It's amazing stuff, but there are huge holes in it that I'm not entirely sure how to fill. I've got to finish up this one last uberproject and then Christmas vacation can begin, which I need to clear out my brain a little bit and get back on top of this stuff.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

Well, it feels like that was either food poisoning or a nasty 24-hour bug, but I just woke up at 2AM with the fever broken and the stomachache gone. Saints be praised! I now have some absolute miracles to work in order to get these papers turned in on time, but at least I can think straight again.

Right. Onward!


I got ran over by a reindeer.

Oh, this is bad. This is very, very bad. I have papers due on Monday and Tuesday – big, ugly, whopping final papers – and this morning I woke up at 4AM sick as a dog. Intense stomachache, vomiting, you name it. I spent the next three hours trying to nurse myself back to health enough to get some more sleep, and finally took some Tylenol PM and tried to pass out again. The stomachache had been intense enough to keep me awake, and even after I took the magic pills I could only sleep for about thirty minutes at a stretch, but I slept in this off-and-on, herky-jerky manner until five PM.

I'm sure this is what my body needed, but my schoolwork definitely did not.


Mind officially blown.

I've spent the day doing thesis research, and let me tell you something: the stuff we're doing here in CMS is HUGE for where the industry's headed. Oh. My. God.

I'm going to go play Dragon Quest VIII for a little while to let my brain digest this tsunami, and then I'll go hit all this again. Good lord.


Kong is king!

Wednesday was our last official day of classes, which brought with it two final presentations and a holiday party that evening at our house. A great day, but a long day – so on Thursday night Ivan, Alec, Alec's friend Hannah, Sam and Sam's wife Amanda all headed down to the Loews on Boston Common to see King Kong.

The movie was incredible. Over-the-top, beautiful, terrifying, and... Well, Jason Kottke sums it up pretty well in his blogged review:

The other thing I was thinking of while watching the film was how easy it is to be cynical about this film. At its core, Kong is a love story between an ape and a can you not make fun of that? Some of the special effects sequences are probably over-long and implausible. The 30s-style moviemaking is ripe for snark. But judging from the reaction of the NYC audience I saw it with, Jackson made it work. Just before Kong runs amok at the end of the film, a character remarks that Carl Denham (Jack Black) destroys the things he loves. There are many possible lessons contained in that statement, but perhaps the one Peter Jackson had most in mind was its application to the cynicsm of Hollywood filmmaking. His last four films have been hugely merchandised, expensive to make, and made him rich, but when you watch them it's clear that Jackson really really loves 30s movies, fantasy, filmmaking, Tolkien's books, and King Kong...and he celebrates the things he loves. As long as Jackson stays true to what he loves, I'm willing to cut him some slack and resist the contemporary urge to be cynical about everything and let him entertain me.

On our way out of the theater, as we were gushing to each other over it like the gleeful little fanboys we are, Ivan turned to me and asked, "So, did you like it better than Lord of the Rings?"

To this I answered, immediately and truthfully, "No way." But then I had to think about why that was my knee-jerk reaction.

To me, King Kong feels like an encore after Lord of the Rings. It's as if a Shakespearean actor turned in a virtuoso performance of Macbeth and were then allowed to return to the stage for an encore and perform pretty much anything he wanted. This in itself is a tricky thing; if Jackson had decided to do a sequel to Meet the Feebles this wouldn't have gone over so well, but his King Kong is far and away the best remake I've ever seen. Is it better than Lord of the Rings? No, but then it can't be. This is only one movie, it's not based on a story with anywhere near Tolkienesque scope, and it's pretty explicitly a comic action film.

In short, I loved it (and as soon as we got home I watched a few production diaries, ordered a shirt and bought the soundtrack – and the soundtrack is amazing given the short turnaround time that the composer had to work with) and I'm now on a crusade to get Peter Jackson to come visit MIT. It's a fantastic popcorn movie, and I can't wait to go see it again with Nick and/or Laura over Christmas break.

Why is the big monkey called 'King' Kong? Because Kong rules!


The Adult Swim Channel?
Another notable post from TVSquad: the Adult Swim channel? It's a throwaway line in a holiday wishlist (and a hearty amen to his wish for complete seasons of Mystery Science Theater 3000), but it raises an interesting question. Would it make sense to create a full-fledged Adult Swim network? On the one hand, I bellow a resounding yes because I myself would love to see it happen. There just aren't enough wee hours in a week to provide homes for all the great programming that Adult Swim has trotted out over the years – Space Ghost Coast to Coast, The Venture Brothers, Harvey Birdman, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, etc. – and a full-fledged network would open up a bunch more space to pursue development of even better shows. On the other hand, the creation of such a channel would be excruciatingly expensive, something that goes almost completely against the standard business model. The core revenue stream of Cartoon Network, like TBS, Turner Classic Movies and Boomerang, comes from rereleasing old content with an established viewer base in a perfect case study for the success of the long tail. This then enables these channels to redirect a percentage of that revenue to the development of original IP like The Venture Brothers. A much more likely scenario would be either an online Adult Swim IPTV 'channel' or the transformation of Boomerang into the Adult Swim channel. I'm reluctant to pony up subscription fees just to watch old Yogi Bear cartoons, but if Turner were to couple them with an expanded Adult Swim lineup to cash in on the nostalgia side market instead of as a core market, then I might go for it. Couple that stable with the increasing backlog of existing Adult Swim IP and this just might work. What do you think?
The TV Learning Curve
So here's an interesting little post from my morning's readings: TYSquad's top five shows that got much better after the first season. Their list:
  1. Seinfeld
  2. Friends
  3. The Odd Couple
  4. Star Trek: The Next Generation
  5. The Simpsons
The list is insightful (swing by for their reasons), but this makes me think even fruther about reversing the current IPTV model. Instead of sending a handful of shows out to pasture online, why not finance a whole bunch of shows on an extremely tight budget, distribute them via the iTunes store, and then bring the "winners" to broadcast TV? Let the shows get their first season's worth of kinks worked out online and then bring them out to play – kind of like drafting from a farm team?


Movie sign!

The end of the semester can't come soon enough. There are no less than 20 films that have either been released recently or will be out by the end of the year that I really want to see. I'm well aware that some of these were said to have sucked (like God of War and Elizabethtown) but I don't care. I've seen Julie Taymor's Titus twice in the last four days and I want some awesome films now!

My current in-theater (or by the end of the year) top 20:

  1. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

  2. Memoirs of a Geisha

  3. Wallace and Gromit

  4. King Kong

  5. Aeon Flux

  6. The Ice Harvest

  7. Syriana

  8. Capote

  9. Everything is Illuminated

  10. Good Night, and Good Luck

  11. Shopgirl

  12. The Family Stone

  13. The Producers

  14. The New World

  15. Munich

  16. Casanova

  17. Elizabethtown

  18. Jarhead

  19. God of War

  20. Proof

Not to mention the new Muppet Wizard of Oz, which is out on DVD, or the fourth season of Batman: The Animated Series... And the complete collected Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and Friends boxed sets...

Mmmmm, yes. Remarkable how I've been studying this stuff all semester and the first thing I want to do once I'm freed from all of this paperage is consume more media.


IPTV not yet a viable business model? has an interesting piece on independent online-only TV production: Aspiring TV writers get their chops together online. The piece profiles J.D. Rynzar's "Yacht Rock", an offbeat show found online at Channel 101, an IPTV outlet for LA comedy writers. However, the disturbing part of the article is as follows:
Despite their growing popularity, Channel 101 and other online video offerings don't pose a threat to established TV networks that employ phalanxes of middlemen between creator and audience, said Jupiter Research analyst Todd Chanko. "There are some distinct advantages to being big--it's money for marketing, and it's programming resources and distribution resources, and those simply cannot be ignored," he said. "You're talking about a household name that goes back to the 1920s." Ironically, for all their frustrations with the TV industry, Schrab and Ryznar said their main goal is still to find success within the mainstream. Channel 101 has helped them gain visibility, they say. Several Channel 101 alums have been hired as writers with "Saturday Night Live." Schrab said the project has helped him get work on comic Sarah Silverman's planned new TV show. As for Ryznar, he's landed an agent and partied with the cast of "The Simpsons," though VH1 turned down an opportunity to develop Yacht Rock into a full-blown TV show. "The fact of the matter is you cannot make a living doing Internet TV shows at this point, and you may not ever be able to," Ryznar said. "But God, it's such a great medium for making things that don't matter."
This isn't really surprising, but it does raise the question: can IPTV ever become profitable enough to stand on its own as an independent medium, or is doomed to become the video equivalent of zines or self-published novels?
Graphic novel of The Fountain v.1, film of The Fountain v.2
Well, this is a form of transmedia I hadn't considered before. We film geeks have been following Darren Arnofsky's latest project The Fountain ever since his last film wrapped. The story sounds amazing, following explorers pursuing the Fountain of Youth, only cycling through three iterations: first in conquistador-era Spain, second in the modern day, and third in the far-flung future. It's exactly the kind of bizarre dark art you'd expect from the man behind Pi and Requiem for a Dream – the only trouble is, the poor film's been stuck in developmental hell almost as long as Terry Gilliam's Don Quixote. (Okay, maybe not that long, but you get the idea.) First Brad Pitt was supposed to star, but then he dropped out and had to be replaced with Hugh Jackman. Then the project lost its funding, and the script had to be hauled in for a major cost-saving rewrite. Now the principal photography has finally wrapped but they're still in post-production, which has the studio heads tearing their hair out because they'd hoped to get it out in time for this year's Oscar noms. Oy. For more ugly details (and a bizarre exchange about infant children and Steve Gaghan's Syriana, check out this recent AICN interview. Anyway, all is not lost for us fans. Arnofsky has partnered with DC's Vertigo comics to release an oversized hardcover graphic novel of the original story. Illustrated by Kent Williams, who some folks may know for his Destiny: A Chronicle of Deaths Foretold which was based on Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, this monster clocks in at 176 pages with a $40 price tag, which is made all the more winceworthy by its being shipped in shrinkwrap, preventing potential buyers from flipping through and evaluating its quality in the shops. Luckily, DC has answered this criticism with a 14-page preview PDF available for free download on their site. DC describes the story and edition as follows:
...The Fountain crisscrosses through three distinct time periods: 1535, during an ancient Mayan war; the present day, following one doctor's desperate search for the cure for cancer; and the far future through the vast exotic reaches of space. Interweaving these three periods, The Fountain follows Tomas -- warrior, doctor, explorer -- as he feverishly tries to beat death and prolong the life of the woman he loves. A story so grand, one medium couldn't contain it, Aronofsky's feature film version of The Fountain will be released by Warner Bros. Pictures and Regency Enterprises, starring Tony-award winning actor Hugh Jackman (X-Men, Van Helsing, The Boy from Oz) and acclaimed actress Rachel Weisz (Constantine, The Mummy, the upcoming The Constant Gardener). But before he did, the filmmaker wanted The Fountain to be realized in the unique storytelling power and artistic beauty of the graphic novel. Together, Aronofsky and Williams deliver what might be considered the ultimate director's cut. This volume also features an afterword by Aronofsky.
So this makes me wonder: is this transmedia storytelling, adaptation, or something between the two? Further, and perhaps more interesting, which edition is the primary narrative component? If one assumes that the primary media component of any property is its original intended product (the films in Star Wars, for example; all the 'extended universe' books would be classified as secondary media components), but the comic is based on Arnofsky's original, uncompromised story and the actual film is an amended version, then we start getting into battles of intent, of import (is the story more important than the director's celluloid composition?) and all kinds of other sticky wickets. Fascinating stuff.
The rise of indie CGI animation
Straight from the "clippings-I'm-saving-for-my-thesis" file: The Hollywood Reporter examines one early Weinstein Company project, Hoodwinked, as an example of CGI indie films. The budget for Hoodwinked? About US$35M. Not a small pile of cash, to be sure, but when you consider that, according to Wikipedia, Pixar's latest film The Incredibles had a budget of $US92M and brought in a box office take of $US259M domestic and US$366M abroad, for a whopping total of $US625M (I repeat – US$625,000,000), then Hoodwinked only has to make just under six percent of that take to break even. (Alec, you want to check my math on this?) (Postscript: cool! Post #100!)
Prototype of the 21st century studio: The Weinstein Company
Cinematical reports that the Weinstein brothers just struck a deal to handle their own DVD distribution. The brothers' new post-Miramax venture, The Weinstein Company, is emerging as a case study in 21st-century convergence filmmaking. First they unveiled a US$490M round of private equity from investors (including a hefty chunk of change from Mark Cuban), then they announced a US$25M partnership with the advertising giant WPP Group not just for product placement but "as an integral part of the actual film", then they announced the first-ever major partnership between a studio and a major cosmetics company in the form of a two-year marketing and placement deal with L'Oreal Paris. I can't wait to see what they'll do with online video.
Amazing Race bonus round an online exclusive
TV Squad turns in another interesting report with the news that Amazing Race will post an exclusive 'bonus round' episode on after the end of the 'official' season on Dec. 13. From the official press release:
For the first time ever, the teams who finish in second and third place during the two hour season finale of THE AMAZING RACE 8 on Tuesday, Dec. 13 (9:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) will have one final chance to win a very special prize, a brand new 2006 GMC Yukon XL. Video footage of the entire bonus mini-race will be streamed exclusively on, the official website of the CBS Television Network, immediately following the West coast broadcast of the finale (11:00 PM, PT). In the exclusive bonus challenge, the second and third place winners of THE AMAZING RACE 8 will compete in a mini-race that will require teams to recall specific challenges and locations from this past season. The team who's first to complete the challenge correctly will drive away in their very own 2006 GMC Yukon XL.
I applaud CBS' initiative on this front, but I'm still waiting for online-exclusive content for shows I actually care about (*cough*West Wing*cough*).
Online exclusive episodes of Family Guy coming up
TV Squad reports that FOX will produce some original, web-only episodes of Family Guy. According to the post:
At some conference in New York, the head of interactive media at FOX said in a speech that they are planning to create some original episodes of Family Guy for the web. He's not sure of distribution plans yet, but now that FOX owns MySpace and IGN, those are likely places to place video content. It could also appear on Just like the other networks, FOX will charge (about $2) for each downloaded episode.
Commenters on the thread speculated that this might be tied into Apple's announcements of a new home media Mac in January – scuttlebutt has it that they'll be launching a more intense online video initiative as well.
V for Vendetta gets bumped to 2006!?

Well, it looks like Alan Moore's gotten screwed again – the V for Vendetta site now claims the film will open on March 17th, 2006. Wasn't it supposed to open around Guy Fawkes day, November 5th?

And further, where the heck is Night Watch?!

I've posted a whole raft of stuff lately to the official C3 weblog from MIT, so if things look a little sparse around here, that's why. :)


Lifestyle Gaming + Sports Gaming = Marc Ecko's Getting Up.
Marc EckoTo take my previous post in a different direction with a real world example, MTV Films just announced plans for the movie version of fashion designer Marc Ecko's Getting Up. From the official press release at
Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure adaptation as a feature project promises to be an homage to graffiti's rich culture. Told through an alternate reality in a futuristic universe, the game represents the culmination of seven years of story and character development by fashion pioneer Marc Ecko, the visionary behind several of today's most respected youth lifestyle brands. Mr. Ecko will serve as producer on the project with MTV Films' Gregg Goldin, who brought the project to the company. Jason Weiss and David Gale will be developing on behalf of MTV Films. "Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure" will be distributed by Paramount Pictures. "When I first began working on 'Getting Up' seven years ago, I wanted to create a storyline that provided a rare look inside of one of the most influential, yet often overlooked, artistic movements in recent history. Today, graffiti is a global cultural phenomenon and few understand its impact better than MTV, pioneers in its use as a motion graphics tool nearly two decades ago. I am delighted to have the ability to bring the depth of our story to life on film and look forward to working with the great team MTV has assembled," added Marc Ecko. "Getting Up" drops in Feb. 2006 for PS2, XBOX, and PC.
The response on the web has been mixed. From Joystiq's typical snarky commentary:
We won't get into the reasons why fashion designer Marc Ecko has a videogame with his name on it in the first place, why anyone would make a movie based on a game that hasn't even come out yet, and why anyone would want to see said movie. Branding has become such a singular and overwhelming force in videogames and movies that it alone can get both made (even though some don't make any money). Expect plenty of finger pointing and scapegoating once this movie comes out. Expect people to say the game's (potentially) piss-poor story is responsible for the movie's equivalent lack of narrative. But we'll know better.
The comments thread at Joystiq is pretty interesting as well, with several people touching on Sony's previous graffiti PR problem. For my money, while there's no mention of in-game ordering or other advanced advergaming implementation, I'm still quite interested to see where this goes. The mobile version already won Best Wireless Game at the Spike TV Video Game Awards, and the game's voice talent lineup alone is enough to make the scene sit up and take notice: Sean "Diddy" Combs, George Hamilton, Giovanni Ribisi, Adam West, Andy Dick, RZA, Charlie Murphy, and Talib Kweli. Wow.


Thunder and lightning in a snowstorm?

Wow – I've never seen this happen before, but the big snowstorm currently spanking Cambridge is accompanied by thunder, lightning and near-whiteout conditions. I'm writing this from Stata Center, and now I'm heading back – they're calling for a foot of snow, and I have no great desire to spend the night in the CMS student lounge. Not until we get a couch, anyway. :)



December 6, 1977 was the first recorded appearance of yours truly (as well as one of my best friends, Aaron Downs, but that's another story). Today I turn 28. I'm not sure how I feel about that.

See, for some reason 27 was going to be the magic year. Somehow I thought that 27 was going to be the ear that I got everything together, that it was going to be pivotal and, to a lesser extent, if I couldn't get it together by 28 it was never going to happen. Another of my best friends, Talon Beeson, gives me copious amounts of crap for thinking so much about these numbers (since that's all they are, really – numbers) but it's the way my brain works. While 27 I didn't lose thirty pounds, I didn't get my first book published, and I didn't take over the world. What I did do, which I wasn't expecting to do, was get into MIT – and suddenly all the rules changed. Now I've got all kinds of crazy opportunities opening up, and I think some of these other things might happen after all, but there's this old Moxy Fruvous song that keeps going through my head:

(Jian) Soon I'll be 30, I don't want to be 30 I've got some big plans, goodwill has some big hands With each new computer screen, the world tells me I'm more green Buy a new Game Boy!

For the fun and the fashion...Just for the passion

Back in his day job this afternoon
Unlikely he'll move down to Cuba soon

Reluctant to find he's stuck in the 90's again
Reluctant to find he's stuck in the 90's again

(everyone but Jian)
White lies, rich guys, hoarding a big prize

Reluctant to find he's stuck in the 90's again
We've got work to do

Reluctant to find he's stuck in the 90's again

That pretty much sums it up right there – and given the fact that I just bought a Game Boy DS last month, it totally proves that the more things change...

Don't get me wrong. I'm having an amazing time at MIT and if I can survive the end of the semester things should get easier – several profs have referred to this first semester as alternatively "the adjustment period" and "the winnowing", which is just about right.

Note to anyone else entering MIT under similar circumstances: do not, for any reason, try to keep up a freelance consulting business. It will Kick Your Ass. Take out more loans if you have to, but you're only in school for a couple of years and you'll do much better in both the short term and the long term if you're not trying to juggle client demands and coursework. I've pretty much decided that I'm going to wrap up the last of my freelance projects over Christmas break and then shutter the consulting part of Dreamsbay until I get out of here (barring one or two occasional gigs if the price and timing are both right). There are just too many opportunities I'm missing (as well as too much sleep) by doing too much.

Triage. It's all about triage.

See, even my thinking is becoming more and more adult. Gah. I need to go buy some toys or something.

And damn, do I miss Fruvous.


Another day, another lesson.

True things learned today:

  • The Au Bon Pain on campus sucks on Suday afternoons.

  • For the same reason (campus is dead), the best place and time to do any serious studying on campus is the Stata Center on a Sunday afternoon. Big, huge tables, fascinating architecture, readily-accessible power plugs, and almost zero foot traffic.

  • Legal Sea Foods does take-out! A pint of clam chowder will set you back about six bucks, but that's enough for a really, really decent-sized meal.

  • I get a lot of email. I just spent over three hours trying to whack a ton of it – over fifty emails that deserved some degree of attention. Jeez.

What if...?

What if one were to make side-scrollers that were more exploratory than pure shoot-em-ups, then release additional chapters as playable soap operas with occasional violence?


So busy I'm bored.

I was talking to my friend Laura in Japan this morning and had something of a small epiphane. I have ten thousand things to do, but they're almost all boring. This week I spent a ton of time on the video game project because it was new and interesting and exciting, and I spent ten hours making art for it at a shot because it kept my interest. I need to produce some final projects here this week, but I need to do so in a way that's interesting, and I need to solve this problem quick. Eeeyargh.

Things should be boring and easy or interesting and hard. If they're hard and boring, that's when all the fun disappears and the stress starts to mount.


Time intensive = awesome, even when wrong.

It always amazes me just how long it takes to do something right. Last night I worked almost nonstop from 5:30PM until 3:30 AM on a project for my Workshop class today, didn't even come close to where I wanted to be, and then realized that I totally botched one of the basic parts. That's what I'm here for, to learn – but jeez. I spent all that time on it, and it still wasn't right. But it was far from a total loss, because the learning – oh, the learning!

What did I learn last night? First, that it's extremely difficult to maintain a constant perspective when freehand drawing in ink across three sheets of paper. Like, almost impossible. Tape the three sheets together (tape on the back, of course), then use a ruler to measure off the planes on each sheet so that what's straight-on in the left sheet doesn't become top-down by the right one. When the image below is reduced, the perspective gets really drunken on the right side. When I was drawing it one sheet at a time on my clipboard this wasn't apparent at all. D'OH. Hence the need for rulers. Second, don't try to draw at 2:30 AM unless you've had a good night's sleep beforehand, or have a great ruler. And third, it is entirely possible and wholly awesome to use photo texturing in Photoshop to create truly amazing effects. The piece below (click on it for a huge 350K version) took way too long, but the techniques learned were totally worth it.

Time Out Cafe