Even Trekkies need cars & insurance

08-May-13 10:45 AM by
Filed under Humor, Star Trek; Comments Off on Even Trekkies need cars & insurance

Star Trek celebrities have been long sought after to endorse a variety of products, from William Shatner pitching Priceline and DirectTV to Jonathan Frakes hawking enterprise software. The connection between Star Trek and the product being sold can be tenuous or non-existent, but a savvy director and clever script can nonetheless make the most of their actors' heritage.

With the release of Star Trek Into Darkness just a week away, we're seeing a new spate of advertisers timing their tangential promotions to coincide. Car insurance company esurance collaborated directly with the team at CBS and Paramount to get their hands on the 2009 film's set and shoot a short encounter on the bridge of the U.S.S. Not Enterprise:

Opting away from a Star Trek setting and instead relying on known actors, Audi has created a car commercial that pits the two Spocks in a race to the golf club:

Leonard Nimoy's the real star here, working in references not only to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan but to his singing career. He also proves that he's a far more experienced Vulcan than young upstart Zachary Quinto, who still has much to learn!

For those of us who have been avoiding spoiler-laden summer movie trailers, these commercials are fun little doses of original content bases on our favorite spacefaring franchise. Still, they're no substitute for the real thing. See you next week!

We Are the Explorers

14-Apr-13 10:46 AM by
Filed under Star Trek, Trailers; Comments Off on We Are the Explorers

Next month sees the return of several important sci-fi franchises to the silver screen: Star Trek, Superman, and Iron Man. Possibly the most important, the most relevant, of the three is Star Trek, as Gene Roddenberry's vision has long prognosticated the future, inspiring generations of scientists and explorers.

It is with that dream in mind that the Aerospace Industries Association has created a trailer promoting the past and future work of NASA, to be aired before next month's Star Trek Into Darkness. Said Dan Hendrickson, Director of Space Systems for the AIA:

When the Space Shuttle landed for the last time, we noticed that a public misconception seemed to be taking hold that the U.S. human spaceflight program was closed for good. Nothing could be further from the truth; in fact, more vehicles are being developed right now for human spaceflight than at any other point in history. Placing a trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness was the perfect opportunity to show that U.S. human spaceflight is alive and well, and that we’re making real, tangible progress toward an exciting future in space. We can leave audiences with a very simple message: NASA today, Starfleet tomorrow.

The trailer to be aired in theaters will be a 30-second version of "We Are the Explorers":

I find this spot inspirational (if a bit melodramatic) and reminiscent of both the opening sequence of Enterprise and the previous fans campaigns to save that series, which argued that Star Trek isn't just about entertainment; it's about motivating humanity to reach for the stars. Like NASA's previous PSAs, the above video has its own star power, being narrated by Peter Cullen, better known as the voice of Optimus Prime (and, less relevantly, Eeyore and Venger).

To produce a condensed trailer and buy airtime in theaters across the country, AIA went the crowdfunding route, giving fans the opportunity to participate in the evangelization of space exploration. The original goal of $33,000, which would put the commercial in fifty theaters, was reached in under a week. Their new goal is $94,000, "which would ensure that the space program trailer will play on 750 total screens and in at least one theater in every state across the U.S." according to StarTrek.com. You can contribute to the Indiegogo campaign until May 1.

After These Messages: Chiptuning the Eighties

03-Dec-10 10:33 AM by
Filed under Potpourri, Television; Comments Off on After These Messages: Chiptuning the Eighties

I'm a fan of chiptune music — the use of retrocomputing hardware to synthesize original or remixed songs — and have written about its use within both video games and the Apple II community. It doesn't seem like a topic that would have a natural intersection with Showbits, though. But Doctor Octoroc has proven me wrong.

This musician and artist has previously created 8-bit versions of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Twilight, and Jersey Shore, rending these overwrought performances into interactive adventures modeled after role-playing games of yesteryear. But his latest reimagining is solely an aural experience. The music album After These Messages is a tour-de-force of nostalgia for any fan of the Eighties, as it features nearly three dozen melodies from the era's sitcoms, cartoons, game shows, and commercials.

After These Messages

Here's the full album listing:

  1. The A-Team
  2. Thundercats
  3. My Secret Identity
  4. Diff'rent Strokes
  5. Toys "R" Us
  6. M.A.S.K.
  7. Gummibears
  8. He-Man
  9. Heathcliff!
  10. Jeopardy
  11. Doublemint Gum
  1. The Fresh Prince
  2. Beverly Hills 90210
  3. Saved by the Bell
  4. Sledge Hammer
  5. Night Court
  6. Big Red Gum
  7. The Price is Right
  8. Transformers
  9. Law & Order
  10. Hawaii Five-O
  11. Magnum, P.I.
  1. Juicy Fruit Gum
  2. Alvin and the Chipmunks
  3. G.I. Joe
  4. ALF
  5. MacGyver
  6. Sprite
  7. Fraggle Rock
  8. Cheers
  9. Tales from the Crypt
  10. Airwolf
  11. After These Messages…

Although Doctor Octoroc's previous album, 8-Bit Jesus (a timely purchase for the holiday season), is available from iTunes, After These Messages is a direct purchase from the artist himself. The price? You name it! Just make a donation to his PayPal account, and all the above songs are yours.

Although the album is less than 36 minutes long, the number of tracks prompted me to consider it no less a full-fledged effort. I bought it for $10, as I would any iTunes album, and am digging these creative interpretations of some of my favorite shows. The only issue I have is that there's no dead air or fade-out at the end of each track. If you're playing the tracks sequentially, the playlist goes from one song to the next without break, making for one long song instead of 33 shorter ones.

Here's a sample, starting with The A-Team:

Share your thoughts on this album below! Or if Doc Ock missed your favorite show or decade, let me know where you think he should focus his attention next.

The Best of the Super Bowl's IT Commercials

07-Feb-10 2:45 PM by
Filed under Television; Comments Off on The Best of the Super Bowl's IT Commercials

The Super Bowl is about to begin, and for many people, the main attraction is the commercials. Since recent studies show that a three-hour telecast of a football game has only 11 minutes of actual gameplay, this evening will be a greater bounty for advertisement viewers than for sports enthusiasts.

If history is any indication, it'll be an especially good evening for geeks. Computerworld is running a gallery of ten favorite IT commercials from Super Bowls past (and two terrible ones). Yes, Apple's iconic and much-parodied 1984 ad is there — how could it not be? — but I think my favorite of the lot is "Cat Herders", reminiscent of one of the AFI's funniest films of all-time, City Slickers:

Meanwhile, Network Associates' ad came 15 years after that seminal geek film, WarGames:

What are some of your most memorable Super Bowl ads, from either this year or ones past?

The Enterprise Enterprise

17-Sep-08 1:00 PM by
Filed under Humor, Star Trek; 3 comments.

Jerry Seinfeld's recent team-up with Bill Gates for a bizarre set of advertisements has put me in mind of other famous celebrity endorsements — especially when it comes to Star Trek. The show's futuristic setting has left Star Trek relatively immune to product placement, but that hasn't stopped the franchise from appearing elsewhere to promote services both related and otherwise. I'm not speaking of the show's actors, taken out of their galactic context, hawking wares such as the Commodore VIC-20, but actual in-character sales pitches.

The most recent and famous example may be William Shatner plugging DirecTV:

Of course, once you find the DirecTV channel you want, put down the remote and get your hands busy with some finger-lickin' goodness:


The Voice of God

10-Sep-08 2:59 PM by
Filed under Fade to Black; 1 comment.

Screen actors often lend their voices to various productions, from Morgan Freeman's narration of March of the Penguins to Orson Welles and Leonard Nimoy playing shapeshifting robots in Transformers: The Movie. Famed for their on-screen appearances, these actors often lend a voice that is difficult, if not impossible, to separate from their role; the audience hears not the animated character, but a well-known actor's voice.

More ubiquitous yet less recognized are actors who specialize in vocal media, whose tone, resonance, delivery, and diversity earn them a variety of roles. The late Richard Kiley, famous for his work with National Geographic, was written into the novel of Jurassic Park long before he took the actual role in the film adaptation. Frank Welker, though his work tends to lighter fare, has been more versatile by mimicking every sort of person, animal, and robot imaginable, often playing multiple roles in shows such as Animaniacs.

Don LaFontaine, on the other hand, almost always plays himself — and yet, after recording nearly 350,000 commercials and 5,000 film trailers, his name and face have remained generally unknown. For over four decades we have recognized and appreciated his work, including in satires such as the recent trailer for The Love Guru or this Geico commercial. Sadly, it is only post-humously that his name is now gaining widespread recognition, as Mr. LaFontaine passed away on September 1st from complications from a collapsed lung. The following video offers a glimpse into the life and times of the man behind the screen.

Shaken, Not Stirred

06-Jan-07 5:00 PM by
Filed under Potpourri; 1 comment.

With the exception of pop-ups, the Internet affords you more control over your exposure to advertising than standard television does.

Has there ever existed a better example of why you would choose to watch a commercial than this series: Will It Blend?

If you've ever wanted to see an iPod, whole oysters, a golf club, or an entire turkey dinner blended into a delicious smoothie, this site is for you. I imagine the final product may not be wholly safe for consumption (gotta watch those bone shards), but regardless, the product's efficiency cannot be overstated.

However, I encourage you to not let your daily need to blend light bulbs, hockey pucks, and Big Macs persuade you into making this doubtless worthwhile investment. The reasonable $400 price tag, does not, unfortunately, include any potential blending materials. I suggest waiting until a more popular "all-in-one" bundle is available.