Chris Carter’s Green Set for X Files Sequel

First of all, I’m posting this from a BUS! Yes, indeed, I have finally tried out Bolt Bus, and the wireless internet is nothing short of a Christmas miracle.

Image from Eleven Eights Photostream
Image from Eleven Eight's Photostream

In honor of Jewish tradition this week, I rented a bunch of movies that I missed in theaters, including the long-awaited X Files follow-up, I Want To Believe. The movie itself is much like a big long X Files episode, except that Mulder has a beard and Scully has really long hair.

However, I really like the extras on the DVD.  The blooper reel is outstanding (as, by the way, are all of the blooper reels from the original show).  In addition, X Files creator Chris Carter gives some insight into how he made his set more ecologically friendly.

Ford donated hybrid cars to transport cast and crew to and from airports, the crew limited the number of scripts and sides photocopied each day, and biodiesel generators powered equipment.  The crew had a no-idling policy for all vehicles, and used sand instead of salt on their snowy location shoots.  All food was produced less than 100 miles from the set.  It’s actually not that different from the suggestions I made in a previous post about green production and the potential for “slow film.”

Carter says that he had “lost some interest in what I do, because of the waste. . . and the mentality was spend a lot of money, make a lot of money, and don’t think about the product of your process.”

The X Files often dealt thematically with how humans encroach on the natural world, and I think it’s great to hear that Carter takes his own message so seriously.

CodeKindness Pairs Nonprofits with Technology Volunteers

CodeKindness Logo
CodeKindness: Mobilizing Technology Volunteers for Social Good

CodeKindness is designed to help technologically skilled volunteers support nonprofits by working on projects of a variety of flavors including social networking, web design and development, hardware, and databases.

Nonprofits can create an account and post a request, which is then approved by CK. Word then goes out by RSS, email, and social networks, as well as on the website itself, about the opportunity, and volunteers can sign up to show interest in the project.

Once the nonprofit’s project manager picks a volunteer, CK helps them keep track of progress and encourages the project manager to check in with their volunteer once a week until the project is completed. After completion, the project manager is encouraged to thank the volunteer by sending them a CodeKindess t-shirt, whose purchase supports CK.

The nonprofit then rates the volunteer and statistics are shown on the site. Currently there is a relatively small amount of activity, with 2 projects completed and 4 more in progress. There are 20 open projects and 24 technology volunteers, so the balance seems to be working out well so far.

I like CK’s approach to social entrepreneurship and I encourage you to head over there and browse the projects if you are technically inclined, or register if your nonprofit needs technical assistance. Time will tell whether this model will be successful, but I applaud the effort and I imagine that both the developers and the nonprofits that get involved will realize substantial returns.

RIAA Strong-arms ISPs Instead of Customers

Image by chazlarson
Image by chazlarson

TechCrunch today reports that the RIAA is changing tactics:

Instead of dragging music downloaders and file-sharers into court, it has somehow convinced ISPs to take on the role of digital policeman (and jury and judge).

The original story in the Wall Street Journal has full details, but the gist is that the RIAA will provide ISPs with IP addresses of file sharing offenders.  Those offenders (or accused offenders) will be warned and, after three strikes, have their internet service disconnected.

It beats sueing “several single mothers, a dead person and a 13-year-old girl,” but details are unclear as to the appeals process.  At least the court system is set up to handle disputes like this.

Video for Inspiration: I Met The Walrus

It’s amazing what someone can do with a tape recorder and some pen sketches.  

I Met The Walrus

Ok, so maybe an exclusive interview with a famous celebrity 38 years ago doesn’t hurt, but the point is, you don’t need much to tell a story. You can start any time, so don’t let yourself make excuses. Just start somewhere. Then keep going.

Battlestar Galactica’s Face of the Enemy: Evidently Quite Kissable

I’ve been waiting, quite nervously, for the return of Battlestar Galactica in January.  It’s been so gosh darn long since the end of the first half of season 4 – what if I don’t remember what happened?  Lucky for me I can still Catch the Frak Up.

We’ve also got webisodes to help us get through the holidays, this time penned by Jane Espenson.  The first two webisodes are already up. (Warning: this webisode contains spoilers for the last 4 seasons, so don’t watch if you don’t want to know):

At around the two-minute mark, I had to pause, take a few deep breaths, and restart the video.  Two men just kissed – in SPACE!  Hoshi and Gaeta are not particularly surprising choices as gay characters (Lt. Gaeta had a rather puppyish attachment to Gaius Baltar early in the series). My first reaction, after decades of waiting in vain for a gay relationship on Star Trek, or really anywhere in American spacefaring drama (I hear Torchwood is very progressive, but it’s still British), was pure joy.  Two actual male characters, one of whom has been integral to the storyline, kiss in a non-sensationalized moment on screen.  Can anyone think of another show that has done that?  I can’t even think of another male-male kiss in space, let alone one that uses existing characters.

But as with so many great gay moments in pop culture – there’s a little bit of disappointment mixed in with that joy.  The gay kiss isn’t happening on the show proper, but on a webisode that regular viewers can watch or not watch as they choose.  If the relationship had been a part of the intricate plot of the main show, it would be impossible to ignore, since it is nearly impossible to skip an episode of Battlestar Galactica and still get what’s going on.  It seems that from Jane Espenson’s commentary, the webisodes were some of the last scenes filmed on the BSG set, which leads me to believe that the relationship will not be portrayed at all in the final ten episodes.

So what do you think?  Historic moment in science fiction or a cop-out?

If Star Trek was on the air today, might they have unrolled a character arc much like this one on the web, and thus had the opportunity to test their viewers’ reaction before moving it onto the regular show?  Can webisodes, extended scenes, and other out-of-show content play in creating a more inclusive narrative – or do they make it too easy for producers to bury anything that might not sit well with audiences?

Bargain Hunting on Craigslist

What do you still buy on Craigslist?  I find it useful for finding apartments and jobs (or gigs), but since Craigslist became a household name, shopping for cheap stuff has been replaced with avoiding the people trying to rip you off.

Now you find things posted above list price rather than below.  I wonder if there are people who actually overpay for these things or if the sellers are just hoping to find someone to haggle with.  Occasionally, a good deal will crop up, but is sifting through the overpriced ones to find it still worth the virtual trip?

Personally, I use keyword RSS feeds.  I check my Google Reader almost daily (or several times depending on the day), so it makes sense for me to check there instead of going to Craigslist to browse the deals. To set up a feed for the camera flash I’ve had my eye on, a Canon 430EX, I did my search on Craigslist and clicked the RSS icon in the lower right of the page to get that feed and add it to my reader.

Most days there are no entries, but whenever someone posts a 430EX for sale, I see it in Google Reader. Most of these deals don’t even beat Amazon’s price for a brand new 430EX, but yesterday I noticed one listed for a good 15% below the best price I’d seen anywhere else.

I immediately emailed the poster, and shortly received the reply: already sold.  Even with my custom keyword RSS feed and frequent visits to my reader, I still wasn’t fast enough to take advantage of none-too-common bargain.  Maybe I should set up SMS alerts to my phone.  Has anyone had success with a similar setup?  What deals have you found on CL?

Podcasting for Nonprofits

Adam Weiss, Podcast Consultant, recently posted a roundup of his resources from the Podcasting for Nonprofits workshop he presented at Brown University last week.  There is a plethora of good, introductory information there for podcasters on a budget.  Make sure to take a look at his video on proper microphone placement.  Just a little bit of knowledge will go a long way towards improving the quality of your audio.

In a bit of a ‘small world’ moment, Anna also saw Adam give a short demo of the Manfrotto Modosteady at the Boston Media Makers meeting on Sunday.  Someone’s been busy.

Joss Whedon Gets Crafty

Image from elasticcamels photostream
Image from elasticcamel's photostream

Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly and this summer’s web-based hit, Dr. Horrible, was just interviewed by Kim Werker of CrochetMe (transcript found here).  What does Whedon have to say about crafting?  Aside from setting us straight on whether Captain Hammer’s sweater vests are knitted or crocheted, Whedon speculates on the parallels between the DIY craft community and the DIY media community:

KW: I read a quote recently, in an article about the resurging DIY movement, that we’re “crafting to claim identity, to save the world from soulless junk.” Do you see any parallels in people’s approach to internet-based video productions versus the big-media productions for television and movies and how people are really taking those media into their own hands right now?

JW: Absolutely. I mean, let’s face it, in the media there are now eight companies. In any mall you walk into, there are now eight stores: there’s gonna be a Gap, there’s gonna be a Banana Republic. Everything is becoming consolidated, so where there used to be lots of variety, there are now, like, ten giants and tons of tiny little villagers. And yeah, the villagers are going to start making their own stuff because the materials will be available to all of them, and we can’t all just do things the way the giants want, because it does seep something out of your soul. I think it’s absolutely true on every level of art that this is the worst of times and, like some guy might have said once, the best of times.

I find this to be profoundly true.  Everywhere I turn, I see that massive consolidation.  Whether it’s NBC putting Jay Leno in a spot typically reserved for innovative dramas, or the CW potentially creating a Gossip Girl spinoff because it is less risky than shooting a pilot for a new show.  Then again, I also see people figuring out how to entertain themselves with projects like Odd Noggin Land – in which the creators actually made giant heads shaped like ketchup and fries.  DIY projects are inefficient, they are often messy, and they probably appeal to a small number of people.  But the result often has a depth of character and breadth of experimentation that’s absent from a product brought into being by a corporation.  That’s true whether you’re knitting a hat or making a movie in your backyard.

Like the man said:  “You have to remember that if the thing isn’t slightly out of control, it ain’t art.”