Category Archives: Best Of The Blog

Tales from the Fish Store

Once upon a time, I worked at a fish store.

Specifically, I was once a manager-on-duty and African cichlid expert for a shop that bred and sold pet fish. The shop wasn’t a run-of-the-mill mall-based pet shop. It was a place for aquarium super-nerds. We had about 30 employees on staff, with 6-7 working there at all times during the weekends, because the place would be elbow-to-elbow packed with customers. We worked our asses off there.

I worked there for many years.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

It was today’s post at The Oatmeal that got me thinking about the fish store today, because we got mantis shrimp in the store all the time. As noted in The Oatmeal’s strip, a mantis shrimp is a gorgeous creature that can smack the holy hell out of you. It can deliver 1,500 Newtons of force with its front legs, in a motion that causes water to boil by supercavitation. It can kill prey without even touching it. It can also easily shatter a glass tank.

We’d sometimes order the mantis shrimp deliberately from our suppliers. They’d come to the store very well packaged, and we would carefully place them in little acrylic tanks. Acrylic could withstand their abuse, as it is not prone to shatter. It might crack, but it wouldn’t shatter.

Sometimes, though, we’d accidentally get a mantis shrimp. They would hitch a ride on the organism-coated reef rock, which we would buy and sell by the pound. Every once in a while, an employee would be looking at our (glass) reef tanks and they would cry, “AAAAA MANTIS SHRIMP!”

And then we’d have to try to catch the shrimp — out of a tank full of rock-made hidey places, mind you — without pissing it off.

Continue Reading →

Censorship and Holy Motors

My friend Cole ecstatically tweeted this morning that Holy Motors has just hit Netflix Streaming. About 10 seconds later, he posted far less ecstatically that the Netflix Streaming version of the film has been censored.

There are few times when Twitter has brought me from higher highs to lower lows in under 280 characters.

I love Holy Motors. Holy Motors is one of the greatest films that crossed my weary retinas in the last year. I’ve only seen it once so far, but I’ve been itching to show it to others. It’s funny, elegant, smart, baffling, arch, sincere, and unique. There are moments in that film that are destined to be iconic, the stuff of cinema legend.

So I was thrilled when I saw “Holy Motors” and “Netflix Streaming” in the same sentence. I was hoping to leap online and post, “GO WATCH THIS NOW, YOU HEATHENS!”

But sadly, I cannot fully recommend the cut seen on Netflix Streaming. Here’s why:

Holy Motors

That’s not what I saw in the theater. In the original version of the film, Denis Lavant sports a rather impressive erect penis in that shot.

Continue Reading →

How to Survive a 24-Hour Movie Marathon

BNAT 2012

Fellow Minnesotans at Butt-Numb-a-Thon 14

Reader James C asks:

Hi Melissa, I have a question about BNAT but, not really about Butt Numb A Thon. Our local theatre here in Vancouver, BC is doing a 24 hour marathon soon and I thought maybe you could give me some tips on what you brought to get through the trip. Doubtless the seats at our theatre are not as great as the ALAMO and our theatre does not serve food (but I assume you would not just keep ordering food from them as it would be expensive) so what else can an 11-time BNAT professional guide a newbie through the 24 hours of sheer awesome? Thank you.

Hooray for the upcoming marathon at the Cinematheque! I am envious!

Yes, surviving a 24-hour marathon of movies is a unique experience that requires some special planning. Each particular event has its own personality and logistical needs depending on the organizers and the venue. (For example, the Alamo Drafthouse serves great food at the Butt-Numb-a-Thon, but you have to bring all your own food to B-Fest, which is housed in a university student union center.) However, most of the below survival tips will apply no matter what venue you are at.

Continue Reading →

A Silent Movie Primer

From The White Shadow.

Last week, news channels announced that one of Alfred Hitchcock’s long-lost silent films, The White Shadow, had been found. Only about half of the full print exists, but it is nonetheless the earliest Hitchcock work that currently exists, and you can watch it right here on the web.

Alfred Hitchock is only one amazing director that his/her start in the silent era of filmmaking. The silent era is an amazing period of film, where the language of visual, in-motion storytelling was still being created out of nothing, and where all stories had to be told on the strength of their image. Directors who were forged in that era often went on to create sound films that birthed the golden age of filmmaking.

Some of these silent era experiments in film either did not work or do not age well; some silent filmmaking is difficult to endure even for an intrepid film nerd. However, there are a great many silent films that are fascinating, even 90 or 100 years later.

After a couple conversations I had last week about Hitchcock’s very early work, I realized that even some film fans I know aren’t very familiar with silent moviemaking. Thus, I figured it might be nice to assemble a Silent Film Primer: a list of silent films that could pique the interest of casual film fans.

Please keep in mind that the list below is not a “best of” list. It should not be judged by what it omits (“You forgot my favorite one!”). It is merely meant to be a list that highlights particularly nifty silent films that I believe would be fun for people who aren’t already familiar with very early filmmaking.

Let’s go! Continue Reading →

The Grand Unified Puppy Theory of Relationships

Wilma and Joey

Wilma and Joey have all this figured out.

Over the last few years, I’ve been mulling over the nature of human interpersonal relationships. I’ve started to see relationships between people — platonic, romantic, familial, professional, etc. — as an entity separate from the people who formed them. Oddly, I think this has become a very useful working model for understanding relationships. I call my model the Grand Unified Puppy Theory of Relationships.

It goes something like this: when you meet a person for the first time, the two of you are given a Relationship Puppy. What that Puppy does after that point depends on how the two of you treat your Puppy.

With me so far? Cool. Let’s proceed to bullet points! Continue Reading →