My son the animator

My son Sam, 12, is both a huge Minecraft enthusiast and a budding animator. He’s been working on test shots to hone his craft and is awesome.

Untitled Black Ops Thriller by Sam Alcott — part 1

(Today is my son’s birthday.  He is 11.  He’s working on a novel, and asked me to post the first few chapters to get feedback.  Ideas for titles are also welcome.)















2000 hrs, Military Headquarters, California

Adrian, 31, 2/10/16

“And…Fire!” the training officer yells. I shoot at the target and hit it in the center. I’m a fairly better shot than the rest of my team. I don’t know why, it’s not like I’ve been training longer, in fact most of them have been training much longer than me. We’re specially trained black ops Marines and have been in the military most of our lives. 

“Nice shot, Adrian,” our training officer compliments me.

“Thank you sir,” I say.

“Okay Marines, report to the obstacle course station” our training officer orders us. By us, I mean my team, we’re Delta Squad, and there are seven of us. Me and Sam are the riflemen, Henry is the sniper, Alyx is the engineer, Marolyn and Jacob are the submachine gunners, and Carter is the commanding officer.

We head to the obstacle courses, which consist of tubes to climb through, barbed wire to crawl under, far jumps, and walls to vault over. When we’re done a voice speaks out of the loud speakers: “Delta Squad, report to Hanger A.”

Read more

Ceiling Katniss is watching you

















I took my son Sam (10) to see The Hunger Games.  This is the result.


Movie night with Sam

I showed my son Sam (9) Spider-Man.  The following conversation occurred at the climax of the movie.

NORMAN OSBOURNE: (to Peter Parker) Peter!  How could you?  I was like a father to you!

PETER PARKER: I had a father.  His name was Ben Parker.

SAM: Wait, his dad and his uncle had the same name?

Sam and scary movies


I blame Disney for marketing A Christmas Carol during the Halloween season. Sam (8) has gotten interested in scary movies, but he’s gotten them all mixed up in his head, which is easy enough, I guess, since he hasn’t seen any of them.

It all began with a commercial for Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights, which featured a 20-something guy walking into a deserted, decrepit theater lobby. He’s menaced by the doll from Saw, then Chucky from Child’s Play, then finally a guy in a pig mask, also from Saw. The pig-mask guy has a blade that shoots out from his sleeve and the commercial ends with the pig-mask guy (presumably) slashing the throat of the 20-something guy.

Read more

Sam on Where the Wild Things Are

Sam (8), immediately after seeing Where the Wild Things Are:

"Do you think this is the greatest movie ever made, or is that Jurassic Park?"click tracking

UPDATE: My wife Sara tells me that Sam is not, in fact, a fan of the book Where the Wild Things Are.  (This doesn’t surprise me, I wasn’t either when I was his age.)  His actual quote: "I mean, the book is one thing, but this!"  The fact that the movie now threatens to knock no less than Jurassic Park off his best-of list makes the movie’s achievement that much more impressive.

UPDATE: Sam and his friend Rahi (7) have proclaimed Where the Wild Things Are "the best movie ever made in the history of everything."

They grow up so fast

free stats

Sam (7) and I were watching the groundbreaking series Planet Earth the other day, the "Shallow Seas" episode. To give a little shape to its eye-popping array of fabulous images of animals doing things, "Shallow Seas" incorporates a little tiny "plot:" a mother humpback whale gives birth to a calf at the Equator, then hangs out with it for five months while it gets big, then swims with it to the North Pole, where the seas are rich with whatever humpback whales eat. In this arduous five-month period, the mother humpback eats nothing.

Anyway, Sam and I are watching "Shallow Seas," and they tell us about the mother humpback and her devotion to her calf, and then they tell us about coral reefs and sea-snakes and brittle stars and a whole bunch of other critters, and then they come back to the mother humpback and her calf and "check in" with them, as they’re heading north on their long trek.

And Sam says: "Wait. Did they follow this humpback and her calf all the way from the Equator to the North Pole? Why would they do that? Wouldn’t it make more sense to shoot one humpback and calf at the Equator, then go to the North Pole and find another humpback and calf that just kind of looks like the first one? I mean, it’s not like anybody could tell the difference."

Already a producer.

Sam’s Freighter

Click to enlarge.

Allow me a moment of paternal pride in the presentation of my son Sam’s "Freighter" painting and stats

They were created as part of a class project studying "the harbor." The "harbor project" involved building a room-sized harbor out of wooden blocks, which each child building his or her own model boat — ferries, freighters, tugboats, fishing boats, pleasure craft, ocean liners — and then operating that boat within the "real world" of harbor commerce — for instance, Sam would collect money from exporters to haul cargo to Hawaii, and would pay a fee to the tugboat who took him out of the harbor and into the ocean, and also to the child who operated the dock in Hawaii, and so forth. It was pretty freakin’ awesome (each child also built their own fully-functioning lighthouse), but for me his evocative, vivid, carefully rendered painting of the freighter disaster was the high point of the show. Where most of the kids were content to present their subjects in a straightforward, "documentary" way ("I am a buoy, I keep the ships from running aground," etc) Sam both placed his subject into a narrative, and further, decided to make the narrative a disaster story, in the tradition of the disaster songs of the early 20th century, such as "The Ship Titanic" ("it was sad when the great ship went down").

Sam’s ideas for Jurassic Park IV

click tracking

(Sam, 7, has been keen on Jurassic Park ever since he saw a fleeting image from it in a video store at age 3. He has now seen all three movies several times and owns the soundtrack, the themes of which he can be heard to sing incessantly around the house. His interest in Indiana Jones is more recent — he first saw Raiders of the Lost Ark less than a year ago –but is no less strong. The first name in filmmaking he learned was George Lucas, but the second was Steven Spielberg, and it is Spielberg who has had the much greater impact, as we will see.)

SAM. Dad?
DAD. Yeah?
SAM. Is there going to be a Jurassic Park IV?
DAD. I don’t know. They’ve been planning one for a long time, but I don’t know if they’ll ever make it.
SAM. What do you think it will be about?
DAD. Well, I actually know something about that.
SAM. Really?
DAD. Yeah. I’ve heard — now mind you, this is only what I’ve heard — that in Jurassic Park IV, a the government breeds raptors to carry out commando raids.
SAM. Really?
DAD. That’s what I’ve heard.
SAM. Could they do that?
DAD. Um, sure, I guess. Velociraptors are pack hunters, they must be about as smart as dogs, you could probably train them if you started from birth.
SAM. What if — oh! — What if they train velociraptors to be commandos, and then send them back in time to fight the Nazis?
DAD. Well dude, that sounds like the greatest idea in the history of movies.
SAM. (really rolling now) And, how come there haven’t been any water dinosaurs in the Jurassic Park movies?
DAD. I don’t know, they should really —
SAM. Because, it could be like, the opening of the movie, there could be the island, right, and there’s a T-Rex walking on the shore, and he’s hunting somebody, right? And he’s just about to strike and suddenly a Megalodon jumps out of the water and grabs the T-Rex off the beach and drags it into the water!
DAD. Wow!
SAM. A giant shark jumps out of the water, grabs the T-Rex, comes completely out of the water and then splashes back down into it!  How many times do you think people have seen that in a movie?
DAD. Most people? Probably never.
SAM. Do you think it’s too much to have the Megalodon and the Nazis in the same movie, or should we save one of them for Jurassic Park V?

Sam at Thebes

free stats

Both Sam (7) and Kit (5) are in their “interested in Ancient Egypt” phase. Over dinner, I asked them if they knew about the Riddle of the Sphinx. They had not, so I explained.

DAD. Okay. So. I’m a Sphinx, and you want to get into the city of Thebes. If you answer my riddle correctly, you get to go in. If not, I eat you. Ready?

SAM. Sure.

DAD. Okay. This is the riddle: In the morning I go on four legs, at mid-day on two, and in the evening upon three. What am I?

SAM. You’re a sphinx!

Next Page »