Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sometimes I write recaps just to remember what I've done...

Today will be largely spent packing and getting ready for the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors in New Jersey. Despite numerous emails from various Fango and Creation heads promising otherwise, neither Amy nor I were ever added to the site as guests or otherwise. But it's okay, we were thanked for our continued support. There's no reason to be bitter about it, however, at least not on Fangoria's end. Everyone over there - magazine, radio, comics and television - has been very nice to us so there's no cause to complain. People who go to the con will find us, invariably. Still, sometimes it's fun to get your shots in.

At this said Fango show, we're unveiling a brief and very rough look at some new Splatter Movie: The Director's Cut footage. No screening or big fanfare, just something we'll be showing at our table. HOWEVER, if any members of the general public reading this are planning on attending, there's a catch. You have to go to the Splatter Movie page and print out a ticket we created. Present this ticket, and we'll show you the footage. There's some good stuff in there too. We're talking double axe murder here. So print out your Happy Cloud ticket (it's just like a Wonka ticket, only you don't have to eat a slew of Wonka bars to get one. Well, you could if you wanted to...) Either print it from the blog or from the Pics page.

Also this weekend, and you won't need a ticket for this, will see the premiere of a brand new trailer for Professor Jack and the Electric Club. When I say "brand new", incidentally, I mean brand new. I literally finished it yesterday, cutting it to replicate trailers for '50s serials (just as the movie itself pays tribute to those by-gone days of yesteryear).

At the end of this cutting, however, I discovered just how much I depsise iDVD. As much as I love Final Cut Pro and most other Mac-related items, their iDVD is wretched. Regardless of the setting, I wound up with crappy compression on the finalized disc, leading me to believe that cutting on FCP, recording to tape, recapturing in Premiere, making an MPG2 from there and finalizing the DVD in Encore is not the tremendous waste of time I suspected it to be. The DVDs are coming out much nicer in Encore. And, no, DVD Studio Pro doesn't seem to be an option, thanks. Takes twice as long as Encore and I'm not thrilled with the output there, either. Yes, I'm sure there is something I'm not doing or some radio button I'm not clicking, but I'll stick to this method above. It takes a little longer, but it seems to work out quite well. Ultimately, what you're dealing with is a near-Luddite teaching himself to use a telephone. I'm usually happy when things just turn on.

But, anyway, the Professor Jack trailer should be up on Myspace and Youtube next week.

* * *

By now, everyone on Earth knows that I'm a Muppet fanatic and that Jim Henson is at the top of my list of heroes. It's not a secret. I have a freakin' Kermit the Frog tattoo on my left shoulder, for pete's sake. And don't think I haven't had to give a beatin' or two out in the yard to some skinhead who made fun of it during exercise turn-out! K to the F, baby! (God, I'm white...)

So, anyway, it should take nobody by surprise that I jumped at the chance to drive to Washington D.C. because a friend of a friend who works at the Smithsonian as a prep mold-maker was currently on the team prepping a new Muppet touring exhibit and had on hand several original Muppets from The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal, and even a couple pre-dating those (like Featherstone and the King from The Frog Prince (not, I realized later, taking a closer look at the costumes, Hey, Cinderella, where the characters originated) and Wilkins and Wontkins from the old "Wilkins Coffee" commercials!). Our new best friend Danny had arranged for Amy and I to come in about an hour before the Smithsonian heads of state arrived to start their preparations for the exhibit. Basically, we had an hour to peruse.

So, no sweat. The S.I. folks arrived at ten, we could be there by nine. To make sure, we left at four a.m. It takes a little over three hours to get to D.C. from our house. Plenty of time. Even when we got turned around and I drove in the wrong direction for fifteen miles - not a problem. Plenty of time.

Except that Washington D.C. has the worst traffic on the face of the Earth. We hit the George Washington Parkway at 7:30 and sat, crawling along, for nearly two hours. By the time we arrived and found a place to park, it was ten to ten. And that's when we realized we'd parked eight blocks away from where we should have been.

Now we're running through a particularly horrifying neighborhood, winding our way through a carpenter's strike (where Amy was hit in the back with a rock, presumably by someone who didn't think we were sympathetic enough towards the plight of D.C. area carpenters) and dying from the heat. By ten a.m., it had already hit 80+ degrees. Yay.

We finally got to the center and lo and behold, the Smithsonian higher-ups hadn't yet arrived! There was time after all! Danny quickly took us into a temperature-controlled work room, passing a jacket belonging to one of The Dark Crystal Podlings, and took us into a vault. Okay, vault/work room.

On all the tables, beneath sheets of plastic, were about a dozen original Muppets. Not camera puppets, the ones you find in calendars or posters - these were performance Muppets, used on the shows and in the movies. Danny uncovered a Rowlf first. We were inches away from something donned by Jim Henson and Frank Oz. He was a Muppet Show Rowlf - his face was a lighter color than the body fur - and he was in beautiful shape. Next to him, on a lower table, were Ernie and Bert, also covered with plastic. Beyond them, the King and Featherstone. Across from them, placards made up for various Fraggles and Dark Crystal props.

Then Danny opened a cabinet. And took out a Kermit. He'd already been mounted on a styrofoam base to hold his shape and fitted with armiture to keep his arms in place. If I wore white gloves, I could hold him.

I never put white gloves on so fast in my entire life.

Amy snapped a picture of me holding a Muppet Show performance Kermit. His eyes were yellowing slightly, but his flocking was still intact. Danny reached over and positioned his arms so Kermit would be waving at the camera. I was holding something that Jim Henson not only held, but created and was, in a large way, an extension of the man himself. Whether or not Jim actually built this Kermit, I have no way of knowing. At the time, he wasn't doing puppet fabrication, so I doubt that this particular Kermit was a by-product of his time. But he brought him to life. This Kermit in my hands had been on the show. This Kermit had been, at one time, The Kermit the Frog.

I replaced him, gently, back in the case. Then Danny handed me a Muppet Show Mahna Mahna. I was just taking in the detail in the eyes and the feathers surrounding the face when the Smithsonian folks walked through the door. With expressions on their faces as if they'd caught us using the Muppet cabinet as a urinal. It was probably the camera that freaked them out most.

Now, I've been in situations like this before. You don't pose as a journalist for ten years and not run into things you might have to talk your way out of. My biggest concern was that Danny not get into trouble. So I shook hands and smiled and dropped all the names over at the Henson Legacy I could think of. I hit a bullseye on a couple. They started to relax a little but still insisted that Amy delete the pictures that were taken, saying that Disney is very concerned about copyright violation, etc. Which isn't what they were actually worried about. We were foreigners in their territory. Rather than wait to be ushered from the room, I thanked them for their time and told them we'd get out of their way. No one was gracious enough to offer to let us hang out in the back or even appreciate the time it took us to get there - but then again, I didn't expect that kind of reaction. They wanted us out.

So we hung out with Danny for a while longer and he showed us some of the other exhibits being prepped for the various museums, including a fascinating skull for a Jamestown exhibit. To be honest, I think I asked more questions about how their computer-driven lathe worked than anything regarding the actual exhibits.

In the back of my mind, however, I was still buzzing about holding Kermit. I'd had ten minutes in a room filled with genuine Muppets. I didn't get that when we toured the Henson New York Office Building a few years back!

And as it turned out, Amy confessed as we were leaving, that she didn't delete the pictures after all. Once she realized they weren't monitoring what she was doing with the camera, she just shuffled through them and pocketed the flash card. So I have photographic proof that I did, indeed, handle a real Kermit. I will honor their wishes, however, and not post them. Besides, they're not for the public. Everything else I do is usually put out for public consumption. These pictures are for me.

We walked back to our car, discovered we'd gotten a ticket for parking on "Senate Property", though we couldn't have been farther from the Senate if we'd remianed parked in our own driveway. We couldn't find another parking space so visiting another museum or monument was out. So we drove out and opted to meet Eric Thornett for lunch. He showed me one of the new Canon HD cameras his studio had picked up, along with some footage shot and yes, it was all very nice and yes, now I really want one. Particularly if this camera, being a Canon, will fit the lenses I have for the XL2. But I couldn't really concentrate on any of that.

Because I'd held a Kermit for two minutes. We drove six hours (then back for four) for ten minutes and I would do it again in a minute.

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