Category Archives: 1209

12.09 Holiday Shopping 2009

Keeping it Local

By Steph Turner

12.09 Cover

12.09 Cover

The holidays are here, and let’s face it, money will be spent ~ sometimes lots of money. In difficult economic times, although we all need to be aware of what is happening nationally and internationally, it is our own local economy ~ the well-being of Worcester County ~ over which we have the most control. The holidays, when we are each going to spend money on gifts we hope will bring smiles to the faces of family and friends, are the perfect opportunity to show support for local businesses and organizations. We should feel a sense of kinship with store and shop owners who have decided to run their businesses in the very same neighborhoods where we live and work. They provide us with excellent food, services, and products, and this holiday season, we can show our appreciation by shopping locally and helping keep Worcester County’s economy as strong as possible. And lucky for us, there are so many wonderful businesses here that no matter what is on our holiday gift list, we can find it right here.

Health

Finding Fitness

What’s that old saying? “At least you have your health?” Well, there’s no better way to show that you truly care about someone ~ a parent, sibling, friend, significant other ~ than by giving a gift that promotes health through exercise. Now, there are a lot of ways to approach exercise, but the first that usually comes to mind (since it promotes general hotness, too) is a membership to a gym. It used to be that gyms offered a few machines, some free weights, maybe a class or two. Nowadays, they offer every kind of exercise class imaginable (think Pilates, yoga, strength training, weight loss management, aerobics, martial arts, Zumba, boot camps, BOSU, aqua fitness, spinning, and everything in between), are equipped with tons of the latest exercise machines and diagnostics, offer personal trainers on-site, and can basically cover any and all of your fitness needs. It’s one-stop fitness shopping. And yes, hotties abound, so anyone who gets a gym membership this season is going to thank you ~ a LOT ~ for several reasons!

Since personal training has exploded over the past few years, you might also want to consider hiring a trainer who will make house calls to your “giftee.” That’s definitely a gift that keeps on giving, and it’s perfect for someone who might not be quite motivated enough to get to the gym on his or her own.

Got a martial arts fan in your family? Boyfriend or girlfriend ready to start taking self-defense classes? Sign him or her up for classes at one of the many martial arts studios in town: New England Karate Academy in Worcester, The MMAT Center in Worcester, Gardner Martial Arts Academy in Gardner, Kwon’s Taekwondo Inc. in Lunenburg, Mantis Kung Fu in Millbury, Seavey’s Traditional Kenpo, Jiujitsu in Worcester, and Simmler Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Worcester.

Have a significant other who prefers getting the heart rate up in the great outdoors? Winter is the perfect time to get in some outdoor exercise ~ think skiing, snowshoeing, skating. How about season passes to Wachusett Mountain? Or ski lessons AND a season pass? Put that and maybe some new equipment from Strand’s Ski Shop under the tree or menorah and you’ll see the holiday spirit in full effect. Concrete Wave also has an awesome selection of snowboards, bindings and boots (that’s right, they’re not JUST a skateboard shop by any means!) for the snow lover ~ and if you’d rather wrap up a gift that’ll be perfect for when the summer months hit, they’ve got a bunch of skateboards and surfboards, too.

Want to get a little more creative? What about getting your sweetie a membership to the Central Rock Climbing Gym? They’ve got terrain levels from beginner to expert, plus lessons, rentals, and more. Get a membership for two and by the time the holidays are over, you’ll both be ready to head outdoors and try out your skills ~ so give the gift in December and you’ll get to enjoy it year-round.

Now here’s one of those “Buy it for her and you’ll BOTH enjoy it all year long” gifts. How about getting your girlfriend a membership to DL Fitness Studios in Worcester? They’re the premiere pole dancing studio in the area and the training incorporates techniques that build total body strength and confidence ~ and you’ll reap the benefits…Enough said!

Another gift that you can buy for two (literally, this time) is a membership to a yoga studio. Now guys, don’t laugh, yoga is NOT just for females (and hasn’t been for a long time ~ just remember, yoga will help increase your stamina, not just your overall health, and that might just come in handy on those long winter nights!) ~ so think about a membership to classes or to private instruction. Our suggestion on where to start? Sunbird Yoga Studio in Worcester, Body Mind Balance Pilates Studio in Worcester, Auburn Yoga & Pilates Center in Auburn,
Flowforms Yoga in Worcester, Yoga for Health in Lunenburg, and Wellness Works in Worcester.

You’ve still got a little time ~ why not stop into a few of the gyms and get a feel for them so you know you’re choosing the one that will bring the biggest smile to someone’s face when you present the membership. Here’s a partial list of our favorites: Omega Performance Center in Shrewsbury, Ciccone Fitness in Clinton, World Gym in Worcester, Gold’s Gym in Worcester, Global Fitness in Fitchburg and Leominster, Orchard Hills Athletic in Lancaster, the YMCA and YWCA in Worcester, 117 Fitness in Leominster, Worcester Fitness in Worcester, and Eastman’s Fitness in Leominster.

Good Grub

Think you might rather go the healthy eating route? Buy a nice big basket, stop over at Living Earth, and fill ‘er up with all sorts of health food (locally grown natural, organic, macrobiotic, vegan, vegetarian, etc.) as well as natural remedies, herbs, coffees and teas, and more. Or how about heading to the Artichoke Co-op and purchasing either a membership to the co-op or a basket full of their top-quality organic and natural foods (they even have natural pet food!), available in either bulk or as pre-packaged goods? Healthy food makes a great gift for the person who is already committed to eating healthy, plus it’s a great nudge in the right direction for folks who are looking to start eating better ~ and when they do, they’ll have you to thank!
Up in North County? Fill up your basket at Roots Natural Foods in Leominster.

Giving the gift of health says that you not only purchased an actual gift, but that there was a very important sentiment behind it ~ that you care about your loved one and want him or her to pursue a healthy lifestyle!

Entertainment

Out and About

Sports, theatre, music ~ we’ve got it all right here. If you’ve got a baseball or hockey fan to buy for, support one of your local teams and pick up a season subscription to The Tornadoes or The Sharks. The Tornadoes play their home games right at Holy Cross’s Fitton Field and The Sharks are in residence at the DCU Center. And speaking of the DCU Center, they’ve got a line-up of great shows ~ from wrestling to music mega-stars to shows like Cirque du Soleil ~ so why not order tickets in advance?

Is there a music lover on your list? How about hooking him or her up with tickets to one of the killer shows at The Palladium? They’ve got a ton of death metal, rap, hardcore, even some “poppier” shows, plus tours that you can’t see anywhere else in Central MA.

The Hanover Theatre has an amazing season coming up ~ from shows for kids to classic ballets to Broadway favorites to opera to star-power comics. The Hanover is absolutely gorgeous and giving someone tickets to a performance there ensures an incredible evening out.

Making Music

Does the person you’re shopping for prefer creating his or her own entertainment, ie is he or she a musician or aspiring musician? We’ve got that covered, too ~ local music stores offer everything from lessons to instruments to gear and more. And we’ve never met a musician who doesn’t need something to add to his or her arsenal ~ home studio components, wireless set-ups, combo pedals, drum kits, amps, etc. And with almost all bands/musicians having a MySpace or FB presence, setting them up with everything they need to record their own MP3s to upload will earn you big points ~ very big points. If you’re not quite sure what the musician in your life needs, talk to the store owner ~ you’ll find that many are former/current musicians themselves, but all know their stuff when it comes to all things music.

Check out Union Music in Worcester, Kurlan Music in Worcester, City Music LLC in Leominster, Wavelengths Pro Audio, LLC in Leominster, and Gordon Music in Southbridge and Leominster.

Food and Drink

Baskets and Bottles

Gift Basket from KJ Baaron's

Going to a big holiday celebration? Sometimes bringing over a nice big arrangement of specialty foods or wines is the best way to go. The gesture of bringing something that you put together yourself will mean a lot to your host or hostess, plus the actual items will be appreciated because, well, they’re yummy (and seriously, who doesn’t look forward to some wine or fancy spirits during and after the holidays ~ it’s tradition!)! Mix it up and combine perishable and non-perishable items so that the gift lasts a little longer ~ the idea is for your host/hostess to enjoy your gift once there’s time to relax post-holidays. Places like KJ Baaron’s in Worcester, Julio’s Liquors in Westborough, Ed Hyder’s Mediterranean Market in Worcester, Romano’s Market in Fitchburg, Wyman’s Liquor Mart Inc‎ & Bonn Wine Room in Leominster, D’Errico’s Market in Worcester, Bahnan’s Marketplace in Worcester, Tom’s Marketplace in Northboro, and Patel Indian Market in Shrewsbury all have a great selection of unique items.

Even if you don’t have to worry about bringing a “thank you for inviting me” gift, bottles of wine make a great stocking stuffer for everyone (age 21+) on your gift list ~ and if there’s someone particularly special, splurge on a bottle of champagne! If you have your eye on a certain someone and want him or her to “get the hint,” make it a bottle PLUS two champagne flutes…could be the start of something that will last beyond the holidays!

Sweets and Treats

If you want to make your gift extra memorable, top it off with some decadence ~ cookies, brownies, cakes, fudge, decorative chocolates…who doesn’t love dessert! Stop by Wholly Cannoli in Worcester, Trudie’s Treats in Lunenburg, Joyce’s Pies and Bakery in Leominster, Prifti’s in Worcester, Priscilla Candy Shop in Gardener, Widoff’s Bakery in Worcester, Aunty Ellen’s Creative Confections in Leominster, the Roma Bakery Shop in Fitchburg, or Hebert Candy Mansion in Shrewsbury to pick up something totally mouthwatering (some of these shops will even personalize their creations, so make sure to ask).

One of the best reasons for shopping at these local businesses is that they all have knowledgeable staff on-hand to help you make just the right choice ~ whether you’re just buying “liquid refreshment” or pairing it with some food items ~ so make sure to take advantage of their expertise ~ and if they offer to wrap your purchases, definitely say yes!

Gift Certificates/Cards

One of the greatest things about living in Worcester County is that we have so many restaurants to choose from ~ there really IS something for everyone, from traditional American and Italian to tapas and Middle Eastern to Asian and Vegan to pub fare and Indian ~ there are casual dining spots, elegant restaurants, laid-back diners, funky cafes, and more. Gift certificates are the perfect way to let your friends or loved ones try a new place that they might not ordinarily have thought of ~ and since so many restaurants now offer extravagant brunches, entertainment, and special nights, you’ll be giving a lot more than just a “free meal” ~ you’ll be giving someone a night (or day) to remember! In these tight times, too, a lot of folks cut back on dining out ~ so being able to go out, relax, and not worry about the tab really will be a treat. Try a “combo pack” approach ~ you can get a gift card to a place you know your friends like (think of it as a “safety”), and then choose a place that you think is a little off their usual path. Or what about one nice casual place and then something fancier? And if you want to throw in an extra special touch, how about arranging for a limo to drive them to and from the restaurant? And if that’s too pricey, how about offering to be their chauffeur for the evening?

Some of the restaurants we’d recommend are:

Worcester

El Basha, Mezcal, Hamilton Bistro, The Sole Proprietor, The Jewel Box, Citizen, Bocado, Tweeds, Webster House, Last Minute Café, Red Lantern, The Kenmore Diner, 55 Pearl, Leo’s Ristorante, Nancy Chang, Via, Morocco, 111 Chophouse, Junior’s, Zipango, Beechwood Hotel, Fifth Amendment, Crowne Plaza Restaurant, Squires, and Tortilla Sam’s

North County

Il Camino Restaurant Inc in Leominster, Il Forno Brick Oven Pizza in Fitchburg, The Luxury Box in Leominster, Lidio’s Restaurant‎ in Leominster, La Pasta Mia in Leominster, Monument Grill‎ in Leominster, Border Grille & Bar‎ in Leominster, Slattery’s Restaurant‎ in Fitchburg, Gardner Ale House‎ in Gardener, Joseph’s Bistro‎ in Westminster, Paisanos Pizza in Leominster, The Devens Grill‎ in Devens, and Cornerstone Restaurant‎ in Leominster

Other

Wachusett Mountain Restaurant in Princeton, Carmella’s in Brookfield, Sonoma in Princeton, 12 Crane in Southbridge, Tailgaters in Clinton, Cedar Street Restaurant in Sturbridge, El Basha in Westboro, Point Breeze in Webster, The Manor in West Boylston, and Black Sheep Tavern‎ in Sterling

And while you’re there, why not pick yourself up a gift card, too ~ or look for special discounts, since some places will offer, for example, a $25 gift card with every $100 spent.

Bon appetite!

BLING

Ok guys, you know what I’m about to say is SO true…if you’re at a certain point in your relationship, buying jewelry is really the only way you’re going to be allowed to live ‘til the new year. But that said, jewelry can also be the perfect gift for siblings, friends, and parents ~ even the very sweet but odd co-worker who always makes you cookies during the holidays ~ she’s probably love a charm for her charm bracelet or a pin that reminds her of her beloved feline Puffernutter. There are so many kinds of jewelry for both men and women (plus the option of having something designed specifically for someone, or having an existing piece engraved with a special sentiment) that the possibilities are nearly limitless. Talk to your local jewelers ~ it’s their business to know about stones, gems, metals, etc. Know what the person you’re buying for prefers, too ~ many people simply won’t wear gold if they’ve worn silver or platinum their whole lives, and vice versa, some people hate bracelets but love necklaces…you get the idea…and make sure you know a person’s ring size before you make a purchase ~ sure, rings can be resized, but it’s a lot more fun for the person receiving the gift to be able to wear it right away. Check out Sharfman’s in Worcester, George’s Fine Jewelers in Leominster, Sach’s in Shrewsbury, Duvarney Jewelers in Fitchburg, Guaranty in Worcester, Neil Rosenblum in Worcester, Crowne Jewelers‎ in Leominster, Elliott’s Jewelers in Fitchburg, and Pucci’s‎ in West Boylston.

Body Art

Now, remember when I said there are so many kinds of jewelry out there? Well, one kind that’s definitely appropriate for your significant other ONLY (unless you have an INCREDIBLY cool mom or dad who would get a kick out of being presented with a nipple ring or small gauge plugs) is body jewelry. Get creative, have some fun, pick out pieces that add a little sparkle to his or her…whatever. It’s definitely an intimate gift ~ and you can pretty much rest assured no-one else will be getting your sweetie the same thing! And nothing goes hand in hand with body jewelry better than ink, so why not design ~ or have a professional custom design ~ a tattoo for your sig. other? Now, don’t go forcing anyone to get a tattoo if he or she isn’t into it, but if you’re calling someone your “sweetie,” you should already now if he/she is “ink-friendly.” Some great places to try for body piercing/jewelry and ink? Unholy Grail in Worcester, Flesh by Design in Fitchburg, Miraculous Creations in Worcester, Tattoo 101 in Leominster, Piercing Emporium in Worcester, Secret Society in Worcester, Main Street Tattoo Parlor in Gardner, Rogue Tattoo in Fitchburg, and Out of the Dark Tattoo in Worcester.

If you like the work or item you get at the place you choose (and we’re sure you will), grab a bumper sticker and display it proudly on your car, in your dorm room, wherever ~ it’s a great (and free) way of showing your support and giving an extra little shout-out to a local business.

HOME Décor

Money’s tight these days, and a lot of people who might have put a bunch of dough into updating their homes ~ inside and out ~ are holding off until the economy gets a little better. But we all know that it’s easy to get sick and tired of staring at the same old furniture, lamps, linens, throw pillows, etc. ~ so why not treat someone to a new piece or two that will add new life to his/her home? It’s amazing what a difference a couple of pillows or even a really unique lamp can make to a room ~ add in a couple of candles or a nice, soft throw and you’ve got a great gift for anyone who owns a home, rents an apartment, or even has a dorm room (bean bags and foofs are especially great for college living!). It’s personal and we guarantee it’ll be greatly appreciated! For décor items big and small, try The Futon Company, Light Lab, and Rotman’s, all in Worcester.

Tush Denim, Worcester

Tush Denim, Worcester

CLOTHES

Who doesn’t love getting new clothes (or even a gift certificate for new clothes)? And who doesn’t love getting new clothes especially when said clothes aren’t going to be exactly what everyone else is wearing because they all shop at the chain stores and big malls? Leave the malls to people with no imagination. Boutiques and fun, elegant shops are where it’s at, and Worcester County has a ton of them ~ for girls, guys, men, women…Local boutique and shop owners take a lot more care in helping their customers, too, making sure you find exactly what you want, even helping with suggestions on styles, sizes, everything ~ they’re a much more personal shopping experience all around (and you get to avoid the insane mall parking scene!). Read up on the latest fashions and then head over to some of the best shops around: Spoil’d in both Worcester and Shrewsbury, Rio & Co. in Worcester, Tush in Worcester, Ike’s Den in Shrewsbury, Definitely Wendy in Westboro, Armando’s in Worcester, Chelsea’s in Leominster, Shack’s in Worcester and Fitchburg, and Queen B Boutique in Leominster. Remember to ask for complimentary gift wrapping, too!

ART

Sometimes the best gift is one that, in some ways, is totally impractical ~ one that a person doesn’t need, has never asked for, and certainly doesn’t expect. And this same gift ~ art, in its many forms ~ is just as often the perfect gift because it is simply about beauty, about giving someone an item ~ be it jewelry, a print, a figurine, a book about Impressionists, a piece of decorative pottery, a professional photograph ~ just because you hope that looking at it will bring them joy. Since the definition of “art” is such a broad one, too, we’re lucky to have a wide range of shoppes and galleries that appeal to a wide range of tastes, from the classical to the avant garde and everything in between: Prints and the Potter in Worcester, Boulder Art Gallery in Fitchburg, Dzian Art Gallery in Worcester, Bhadon Gift Gallery in Worcester, the gift store at Higgins Armory Museum, Varisco Studios in Fitchburg, the many artists of stART on the Street (www.startonthestreet.org/start-street/participating-artists), Erb Photography in Worcester, and the gift shops at both the Worcester and Fitchburg Art Museums.


One of a kind ~ Vintage, thrift, and consignment

Have someone on your to-buy-for list who has that really cool sense of style, that effortless sense of chic? Someone who decorates her home with only the funkiest items that no-one else has? Someone who always has on a neat outfit that’s Boho chic, or retro, or somehow ties a whole bunch of unique pieces into one drop-dead gorgeous look? Chances are she’s a vintage or consignment store junky, more at home digging for hidden treasures than she is anywhere else (and don’t get me wrong, there are lots of guys who are thrifters, too!). No matter what you call them ~ used clothing stores, vintage boutiques, consignment shops ~ these places (some big, some small) are chock full of unique items ranging from accessories to clothes to furniture to framed pictures and everything in between ~ at prices that are usually insanely low. You can find high-end designer clothes at one end of the store and then come across an amazing set of crystal champagne glasses at the other ~ and then find a gorgeous broach for her from the 1950s for an absolute steal…and on your way out, spot the perfect leather jacket that he’ll just love. And you can be sure that you’re giving a gift that no-one else will have, and that makes it all the more special (plus I’ve never known anyone who could walk into a store like these and NOT find something for him/herself, too!). If you don’t find something in the first place you try, there are plenty of shops around, so just have fun with the search! You can find Salvation Army Thrift shops in Worcester, Fitchburg, Hudson, and Spencer, and both Savers and Goodwill have stores here in Worcester. Upscale Consignment is a great shop in Fitchburg. Also check out Worcester’s Unique Boutik, Alexis Grace, and Blackstone Vignettes and West Boylston’s Michelle’s Revived Relics/Regina’s Fabulous Finds.

Beauty and Relaxation

Oh, the many stresses of the holiday season…and for that matter, of daily life. What better gift than time at a spa, away from it all, being pampered and soothed, relaxing in a calm atmosphere with the scent of candles wafting through the air, knowing that a massage, a facial, or even a glorious hand and foot massage (aren’t those the absolute best?!) that leads into a manicure and pedicure is on its way? Used to be that escaping to a spa was something that only the ladies looked forward to ~ but nowadays, spas are for everyone ~ so you can get your parents and your main guy/girl a whole spa package, or maybe spice things up and get a package for the two of you (your b’friend/g’friend, that is!)…If you really want to make the gift extra-special, check out all the other options that local spas and salons offer ~ since many spas are combined with salons that specialize in everything from hair to make-up to the newest in coloring, lash extensions, products, and more, you can put together the perfect gift for ~ well, come to think of it ~ almost everyone on your list, from parents to friends to boyfriends/girlfriends to co-workers. And with the new year coming up, I’m sure we all know someone who has vowed to change up his or her look for 2010 ~ what better way than treating them to a make-over! We have some of the best, most all-inclusive salons and spas right here in Worcester County ~ here are some that you should definitely check out: Divine Spa in Shrewsbury, Tu Moda in Worcester, Victoria Place in Worcester, The Claw Shop in Leominster, Go Bare in Worcester, Salon 647 in Worcester, All About You in Leominster, Lord’s & Lady’s at the Auburn, Greendale, Solomon Pond, and Whitney Place malls, Devens Day Spa in Devens, Inspiration Day Spa in Fitchburg, Jeffrey Roberts in Worcester, 126 Post Salon, Head to Toe in Westminster, Chateau Cheveux in West Boylston, St. Cyr in Worcester, and Face It Day Spa in Leominster.

CAR STUFF

East Coast Custom Rides

East Coast Custom Rides

There’s one in every bunch, as the saying goes. Someone on our list who gets the biggest thrill not out of new clothes, not a make-over, not even tickets to a great show ~ someone whose face will light up if and only if he/she receives something for a car, SUV, or motorcycle. Yes, it’s the car lover (sometimes die-hard gearhead, sometimes not) in all our lives ~ whether it’s making a car prettier, faster, safer, more up-to-date, or just plain old cooler, this person digs car sh*t. Luckily, with today’s technology, there is ALWAYS something that can be wired into, installed, synched up with, accessorized, or updated in our vehicles. GPS systems, DVD players, iPod integration and accessories, Satellite radio, rims, speakers, lifts, body kits, sunroofs, heated seats, car starters, car alarms…the list goes on. As any of us who’s ever watched “Pimp My Ride” knows, if you can dream it up, someone, somewhere can install it. Try East Coast Kustmrydz in Worcester, Ahola Car Stereo Center‎ in Fitchburg, Enhanced Street Performance in Sterling, Sunroof Sound & Security‎ in Leominster, CD’s Auto Sound in Leominster, and Victory Auto Supply-Speed Shop in Fitchburg.

Well, there you have it ~ if you can’t find the perfect gift locally for everyone on your gift list, then it just doesn’t exist! And remember that even though presents are a big part of the holidays, they’re not the biggest ~ this time of year is all about being with family and friends…so from all of us here at Pulse, Happy Holidays!!!

12.09 Reuben Langdon

Motion Capture Stuntman

By Tom Godfrey

Reuben Langdon has had quite the life.  He has fought aliens, taken on hoards of zombies on several occasions, laid waste to evildoers, and will soon be fighting against a hostile race from another planet.  All in a day’s work.  Langdon is the coolest guy you have never heard of, though he has been a part of your life for ages.  Langdon is a lord amongst nerds, master of the martial arts, and the king of the art of motion capture.

First, a little on motion capture: motion capture technology has been around for a while but is almost daily becoming an increasingly significant aspect of entertainment media.  Each day, Langdon dons a tight spandex suit dotted with motion sensors that feed his movement into a computer.  Soon, like magic, the computer generated character is doing flips and defying gravity, thanks to Langdon’s skills.

About performing the leaps, twists, and thoroughly impossible-looking acrobatics that are part of the motion capture process, Landgdon says, “Usually the wire work gets pushed to after lunch so you’re getting jerked around with a stomach full of curry.”

Though he never had motion capture in mind as a youth, Langdon had a love for all things Japanese, from anime and robots to candy wrappers with Japanese writing.

That love took Landon far from home.  At the age of 19, he bought a one way ticket to Japan.  He spent a few days in the airport before necessity pushed him onto the path to success.

“To pay the bills I started taking acting and modeling gigs,” he recalls.  To this day, he says he is still recognized as the “Mentos guy” in Japan.

Langdon eventually landed a gig on a Japanese TV show much like Power Rangers.  Langdon was thrown into the world of high adrenaline action thanks to a stunt crew that saw his potential.

“I got the action bug big time,” says Langdon.

Upon his return to the States, Langdon donned a mask and took on space invaders on the actual Power Rangers.  Things were coming full circle.

“It was awesome,” says Langdon, “Power Rangers incorporates Hong Kong martial arts so it was a lot of hard work everyday.  I learned so much about everything from stunts to production.”

Langdon has since brought his prowess to shows like Martial Law and films including The Medallion, but has really found his calling in video games.  For years, he portrayed Dante in Devil May Cry 3 and 4, has done the motion capture for Chris Redfield of the Resident Evil franchise, and continues his fight against the undead in the super-hit Dead Rising.

“I’m an uber-nerd,” confesses Langdon, “my office is filled with toys and models.  To be able to portray these characters is an honor.”

An honor, yes, but not one with a slight downside.

“It’s not [my] face they are seeing,” says Langdon.  “You are doing all of this work and the audience doesn’t make the connection, ‘Oh that’s Reuben Langdon’ right away.”

Still, working in motion capture gives Langdon a creativity that he was never allowed in the  traditional acting jobs he’d had.

“I can become any character,” says Langdon.  “I can be a monster!  Motion capture is not limited to appearance.”

Langdon’s latest motion capture triumph is the upcoming James Cameron flick Avatar.  The film focuses on a former Marine whose human mind is in an alien body; he must contend with internal and external struggles with his identity and a planet’s angry indigenous population.

While Langdon’s lips are sealed on the details, he is overflowing with praise for the film.

“I worked on all of the stunts,” says Langdon.  “It was such an amazing experience.  James Cameron is a genius and I loved the crew.  We were like family. I cannot wait to see it on the big screen.”  Avatar is due to hit theaters December 18.

To learn more about Reuben Langdon, head to www.reubenlangdon.com.


SIDEBAR:

What is Motion Capture Technology?

Motion capture technology is a process by which movement is digitally recorded. In the last 25 years, motion capture has become an essential tool in the entertainment business, giving computer animators the ability to make non-human characters more life-like. It’s used in animated films, TV, and video games.

Historically, motion capture in animated movies was created using an extension of the rotoscoping technique. In this technique, an actor is filmed making certain movements or gestures while wearing markers on specific points of his or her body. Each marker in each frame of film is then manually encoded into the computer. As animation software improved, it became possible to apply an algorithm to the markers that attach them to a 3D object, creating what is now called motion capture.

There are four primary motion capture input methods: prosthetic, acoustic, magnetic, and optical. Prosthetic motion capture uses trigonometry to input the data from mechanical devices attached to the performer’s body. Because of the inhibitive nature of the machinery, it is seldom used today.
Acoustic motion capture uses audio transmitters on the actor’s body that make a clicking sound when activated by movement. Receivers measure the time it takes for the sound to reach them and triangulate the data to indicate a point on a 3D plane.

Magnetic motion capture is one of the more commonly used methods; it uses a central magnet and several receivers attached to the actor’s body. The receivers capture and record the actor’s movements and save them to the computer.

Today, optical motion capture is probably the most popular motion capture method. This approach uses at least three cameras and proper lighting to recreate the performer’s position in a 3D space. Optical motion capture allows for a larger performance area and less inhibited movement than the other methods.

Movement is the first and fastest way humans perceive visual information; therefore, motion capture provides a number of benefits to the filmmaker concerned with authenticity. It is a much faster way to film than rotoscoping, and it can provide real time results. Additionally, because the process records only movement as opposed to physical features, it allows one actor to play many roles. Perhaps most importantly in terms of realism, the accuracy of the data allows complex movements to be replicated with the correct distribution of weight and exchange of forces.

Courtesy wisegeek.com

12.09 Musicians, Bars, and Absolutely No Quadratic Formulas

The Cartoons of Deek Deidricksen

By Craig Lindberg

What do slugs, Iron Maiden, and Tiny Houses have in common? Nothing at all…Unless you live in the slightly demented world of Derek “Deek” Deidricksen.

Deek, as he prefers to be addressed, is an independent cartoonist/artist who has been doodling on notebooks since high school.

“The things I was into and drawing just seemed more important than learning the Quadratic Formula, which, I’d like stated, I have never used once in my life.”

It would appear Deek was right in pursuing his self-professed doodling rather than any mathematical theories he may or may not have retained throughout his schooling.

A carpenter by trade, Deek finds time on the side to write a little comic happily titled “Slugs not Hugs.”

“Slugs” is featured on Deeks’ website www.purerockfury.com, a website which also features indie rock of all types.

“’Slugs’ is just something I’ve always done.” says Deek, “It’s basically just random things that come to my mind, that’s how most of my stuff comes about.”

Focusing mostly on the trials and tribulations of the local music scene, of which Deek has been a part for many years, “Slugs” puts a humorous twist on what can be some pretty frustrating issues for musicians of all levels ~ Booking shows, moving equipment, annoying bar patrons. While musicians everywhere read “Slugs,” relate and smile (or wince) knowingly, those not familiar with the music scene can still appreciate the clever anecdotes and drawings and get a chuckle (and maybe a little insight into the scene) too.

Preferring to use pen and paper from first mark to last for his sketches rather than go the traditional pencil route, Deek creates from impulse and emotion rather than from overly thought-out storyboard ideas. This approach gives Deek’s creations an old school, almost childlike feel.

“Sometimes I’ll be drawing and make a mistake, which leads the cartoon in a different direction due to my having to cover up. It often works out much better than I anticipated. I like the challenge of pen, I feel it’s a little more real, more honest.”

While cartooning is not exactly a fiscally stable line of work, it has landed Deek some small endorsement deals. Crooked jaw clothing in NYC (www.crookedjaw.net) has used Deek’s artwork for their clothing lines, and what drummer (yet another hat Deek wears “on the side”) wouldn’t love and appreciate a stick endorsement! Devinstater Drumstick Co. in New Brunswick, Canada keeps Deek in fresh lumber for his contributions to their company.

So what’s next for this cartoonist, carpenter, musician, web-master?

He’s glad we asked.

Deek’s putting the finishing touches on a book of sketches and definitely revealing both his quirky and carpentry sides in the working title: “Humble Homes, Simple Shacks, Cozy Cottages, Ramshackle Retreats, Funky Forts, and anything else we could squeeze in here.”

“It’s basically a book about different types of low cost, small footprint, functional homes and different ideas on how they can actually work.”  Deek explains. “Tree houses, Junkyard forts, Fold-up homes. I want to show people some of these ideas are actually possible, it just takes a little ingenuity….and some trash.”

Photos by Elizabeth Diedricksen

12.09 Dave Mustaine on Megadeth’s New Album Endgame

By Patrick Douglas

If you want to start a conversation about Megadeth, the first words out of your mouth inevitably will be “Dave Mustaine.” That’s because the red-haired mad scientist has always been the foundation holding the band up. This is and always will be Mustaine’s special brew ~ with a few different flavors thrown in on each album.

Always hovering around controversy, Mustaine has gone through more musicians than the Arizona State marching band, he’s outspoken through his oftentimes politically charged music, and has a tumultuous relationship with the media and his fans.

Megadeth’s latest effort, Endgame, finds a Mustaine who’s secure in the knowledge that he and his band have done good.  They hope the fans feel the same way, but no longer base their own sense of accomplishment on what their listeners think: “The problem is, whenever an artist puts out a record, they wanna believe that the latest offering is their best and sometimes it’s not and you’re convincing yourself that it’s your best,” he says. “I went through that with a couple of records, hoping against hope that the fans would embrace certain records. This record, I know for a fact in my heart that this is a good record. I don’t have to defend it.”

This isn’t one of those bands where one guy puts together all the music and forms a touring band on the side. Mustaine always surrounds himself with outstanding musicians to play with both in the studio and on the road. The latest line-up, perhaps the best in the band’s illustrious history, features former Nevermore shredder Chris Broderick, arguably one of the best wingman guitarists ever.

“Chris is by far the best of any of the players that we’ve had before. He’s a rugged guy, he’s good looking, he plays his ass off [and] he’s not a back talker although he’s his own man. We have a great working relationship,” said Mustaine. “He came to my house and I watched him play and I knew as soon as I watched him play that I wanted him in the band. I just wanted to see if he was real.”

On “Endgame,” you’ll find solos by both Mustaine and Broderick peppered throughout each song. There aren’t many metal musicians who can produce records in 2009 that stand shoulder to shoulder with the music they produced twenty five years ago, but Mustaine is certainly one of them ~ thanks to his relentless pursuit of speed. Like an exhausted athlete after a big game, Mustaine has to feel that he’s left everything on the field and didn’t hold back at all ~ and that mindset is obvious on the latest record.  “As far as my three bandmates are concerned, we have done everything we can for this record. Everything. At this point, it’s up to the record label,” Mustaine said.

A living guitar hero (he referred to playing “Guitar Hero” as being “like faking an orgasm”), Mustaine has overcome substance abuse, an injury that knocked him out of music for a couple of years, and the collapse of the record industry. In the liner notes of “Endgame,” Mustaine holds his guitar in the air like a warrior who has conquered his last enemy ~ and fans young and old are responding to his call to arms.

“There’s been a huge groundswell of young people who are embracing older bands,” he says. “Maybe they just got sick of the bands that are out right now. I’m benefiting from that because I’m one of those bands. It’s cool for me, at the end of the day, to watch all of these changes happen.”

www.megadeth.com
www.myspace.com/megadeth

12.09 PulseBooks – Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol

By Annette Cinelli

 

 

December is here, so it’s time to deck the halls and start in on your holiday gift list! While you are out shopping for presents, swing by your local bookstore and pick up Dan Brown’s newest novel, The Lost Symbol. It’s the perfect book to read in a coffee shop while sipping a peppermint latte or snuggled up at home watching the snow. If you are one of the couple of million people who has already bought (and raved about!) the book, then buy it for a friend!

Dan Brown’s latest novel features Robert Langdon, a Harvard symbologist, who, having struggled with the mysterious and ancient Illuminati in Rome during a tumultuous papal conclave (in Angles & Demons) and investigated the murder of a prominent Louvre museum curator by following a series of clues and riddles (in The da Vinci Code), is now in Washington, DC racing yet again to save…someone. This time it is his friend and mentor Peter Solomon, a Mason of the highest order who has been kidnapped by a madman.

The madman is Mal’akh, a man who has “feet tattooed with the scales and talons of a hawk…muscular legs…tattooed as carved pillars…[and a chest] emblazoned with the double-headed phoenix.” The rest of him is covered with other symbols and he disguises these markings with make-up when ventures out in public, as he does to leave the severed hand of Peter Solomon as a signal to Robert about, no pun intended, his task at hand.

Robert, thinking he has been called to DC to give a speech, discovers that the invitation is really a ploy to get him to Washington to unlock an ancient portal which contains hidden Masonic knowledge.

Also affected by Peter’s disappearance is his sister, Katherine Solomon, a scientist blurring the line between myth and science with her studies in the field of Noetic science. In the book, Noetic science is described as having the belief that humans have “barely scratched the surface of our mental and spiritual capabilities.” The results of her studies promise to usher in a new Renaissance and period of enlightenment.

Katherine also serves somewhat as Robert’s love interest, though I use that term loosely. While Brown does mystery and suspense well, sex and romance are clearly not his forte and, as in his other Langdon books, there is only mild flirtation between the two.  Another thing lacking in his book is character development; many of the characters, most notably Mal’akh, are somewhat one-dimensional.

What Brown is good at is riddles, suspense, and unexpected twists and turns. The Lost Symbol is a book you’ll want to read in one sitting, though you may throw it down as one of my friends did during an intense scene she couldn’t believe had just happened. The Lost Symbol has all the elements that were favorites in The Da Vinci Code ~ convoluted clues, a mysterious society, interesting and funny flashbacks to symbology lessons Langdon has taught, and chapter endings that leave you without any choice but to keep reading, even if it is pushing midnight!

Another cool aspect of the book is that it takes place in Washington, DC, so if you are left at the end wanting to discover the mysteries of DC for yourself, make it your New Year’s resolution to take a trip out there ~ it’s only a day’s drive and a few hours by plane. Unlike for the The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons tours offered overseas, you won’t even have to leave the country.

So whether it’s an early holiday present for yourself or a gift for a friend, be sure to pick up Dan Brown’s latest, The Lost Symbol.