Three Phases

The three phases of Santa belief:
(1) Santa is real.
(2) Santa is not real.
(3) Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

My Gig as an Asus Santa

The people at Asus recently cast me in a promotional video for the Asus Fonepad. You can view the video here.

The promotional video features two Santas. One is Mister Santa of the Year: Together Santa, Incredible Santa, the guy who always gets it right. I don’t play that Santa.

I play Nick, the Santa who is running late because he has relied on substandard products that fail him when he needs them most. Imagination on my part was hardly necessary, as memories of my last mobile device remained fresh. Here is how that relationship ended:

Drivemaster hammers. Quality product.

So. Back to the 
on-set photos. The picture at the top of this post shows the beard and age makeup done. Below is a shot of the makeup team preparing that look.

As you see, the makeup artists on our team were professional and thorough. Among them were graduates of Taiwan’s Tainan University of Technology and Fu Jen University. We enjoyed meeting, as I was familiar with both campuses.

I appreciated the help getting into the costume. The beard, made of wool, costs around NT$20,000 (US$600). Once applied, we wanted to be careful with it. I had to take care anyway, as I couldn’t see past it!

Here are three proof-of-concept shots that we made three days earlier. The eyebrow and age details were omitted at this stage. The idea was just to see how the main elements worked, get a sense of how expressions read, and make any necessary adjustments. I found that the beard took away some expressive tools. Eyes and overall posture would have to carry more freight than usual in conveying a character.

The photo below shows me on set. I step onto a slanted roof covered with powder that stands two stories above a bare concrete floor. The technicians prepare the lights as I concentrate on non-dying.

This one shows the arrangement: the stage manager watching on the left, the camera and boom, and behind us the green screen backdrop that will be replaced with scenery in processing.

My part of the shoot started in very wee hours. Makeup started going on around 3:00 and I stepped onto the set after 4:00. By then these lighting technicians had entered their 17th straight hour on set.

In the scene, Nick is scrambling to finish an all-night gig in the wee hours of the morning. So, in a way, the scene was shot in real time.

Here I see the photographer lifting her camera and give her a Taiwan-style pose.

In the photo below the stage manager talks me through each step as I climb down. We’re done with the shoot. My bit only took two hours. I’m proud of that, as I wanted to use everyone’s time well.

Many thanks to Jo Hung for the photos and for the gig. Here again is the resulting video.

I do encourage you to give Asus products a look next time you shop for electronics. They make some clever gadgets.

Joyous Noel!

Magic in the Learning

Celebrate your winter festivity of choice with The Christians and the Pagans, a story in song by Dar Williams. Season’s greetings!




Courtesy of the Baltimore Consort.


Whence Saint Nicholas?

Enjoy this informative and fun article about the evolution of Santa Claus, courtesy of National Geographic.


Yodel with Santa

Enjoy this Yule video for the Asus Fonepad. Nick, the Santa deputy who is running late on Christmas Eve, is played by yours truly.

I had a lot of fun doing this. Thanks to my agent Jo Hung and to Asus for the gig!

What do we really know about Stonehenge?

Plenty, actually.  And what we are learning is fascinating.

Laura Miller brings us up to date in  ‘Romancing the Stones’, a recent article for The New Yorker.



La Vie en Rose

Édith Piaf was born on 1915 December 19. Hear her sing ‘La Vie en Rose’ on a French television show in 1954.

Thanks again to Open Culture for the find!

Wake-Up Call for Journalism

Thanks to Amanda Bennett, author of a very necessary essay today in the Washington Post.

The essay’s immediate purpose is to call for the resignation of an editor at Rolling Stone in the wake of the recent journalistic disaster there. More importantly, though, it urges journalists everywhere to remember who they are and where their priorities lie.

Ms Bennett reminds her colleagues that their first loyalty is to facts. Not narrative. Always.

The urge to tell readers what to think, rather than to present facts from which readers may draw their own conclusions, increasingly indulged today even at outlets like New York Times and Guardian (not to mention Rolling Stone) from which everyone expects better. Ms Bennett observes that the urge to go the full unprofessional is especially strong when journalists are convinced they have right on their side. Stories are seen as useful or not first; their ability to convey what really happens becomes a secondary concern behind the need for a narrative. Against the demand of standards there is no happier excuse, it appears, than the righteous cause.

Ms Bennett warns her colleagues of the dangers of operating this way. I refer readers to her essay. Let us hope the profession takes note.

Facts first.



Water Walk

Enjoy watching John Cage perform his Water Walk for a studio audience on an American game show in 1960.

Thanks to Open Culture for the find!