All the References: Goodbye at the End of the World

We recently gave away a pair of autographed CDs over at the all-purpose geek-themed site Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together to people who correctly identified the most sci-fi and film references hidden in the animated video for our song Goodbye at the End of the World. But nobody was particularly close to getting all of them. There were a lot.

Now that the contest is over, it seemed like a good time to put together all the references in one place for those who might be interested. Let us know in the comments, on Facebook, or Twitter if one of your favorites made it into the background.

Robby the Robot, Forbidden Planet

Robby actually makes two appearances, one in small scale in the couple’s kitchen, and one in large scale in the museum. You can spot him in the background of each of these shots.

Robby at Home Robby in Museum

And for what it’s worth, in the museum shot you can also see the band’s old logo (itself an homage to the old RKO Studios logo) and the album cover against the wall.

Arthur Dent, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Although only the one shown above made it into the final video, the museum set has two exhibit halls, both named after characters from Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Arthur Dent, and Ford Prefect.

Vampira

Vampira, the iconic late-night horror TV show host from the 1950s who was the model for Disney’s Maleficent and was immortalized in one of my favorite movies, Ed Wood, was a persona created by the Norwegian model Maila Nurmi. The “V.” on the character’s museum ID card is for “Vampira.” I have a distant personal connection to Maila Nurmi, in that when she passed away in 2008 I helped buy her a headstone.

ID Card

CRM-114, Dr. Strangelove and Others

Maila’s employee ID number is “CRM-114,” which is a designation that began life as the code device in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Kubrick himself went on to reference this number in several other films, including 2001: A Space Odyssey, and since then many, many filmmakers have hidden nods to it in their movies. Like, for instance, Doc Brown’s giant amplifier rig in Back to the Future.

CRM114

Speaking of…

The Time Machine, Back to the Future

Maila, or possibly her boyfriend Roger, drives the time machine, which is parked in the driveway.

Delorean

Tiptree Science Musuem, Alice Bradley Sheldon

Alice Bradley Sheldon was a gifted science fiction writer who had to work under a male pen name in the 1950s because of awful gender stereotypes, and that pen name was James Tiptree, Jr. I thought a sci-fi video with a kick-ass female hero should work at a place named after a real-life sci-fi female hero. You can listen to a great radio story about Alice Sheldon here.

Museum Sign

Gort’s, The Day the Earth Stood Still

In part, this video began with the idea “I wonder if I can make a giant robot step on a gas station?” Seemed a very 50s sci-fi thing to do. Like Robby the Robot, Gort is one of the signature robots of 1950s science fiction films, and appears in maybe the best genre movie of the era.

Gort

Bester Library, Alfred Bester

Alfred Bester wrote The Stars My Destination, which had a tremendous impact on me. As a matter of fact, as soon as I finished it, I put it down, picked up a guitar, and wrote the song “Gulliver Foyle,” the first track on the first Sci-Fi Romance album.

Bester Library

The library sits at the corner of…

Wm. Castle Blvd. and Harryhausen Drive

William Castle produced a number of great, schlocky B-movies, notably those with Vincent Price like The House on Haunted Hill, and maybe surprisingly, Rosemary’s Baby. Ray Harryhausen was a stop-motion animation master who brought hundreds of creatures to life and gave them personalities and soul you wouldn’t expect in films like 20 Million Miles to Earth.

Intersection

Karloff’s at Le Moulin, Frankenstein

At the end of Frankenstein, which inspired the Sci-Fi Romance song “Frankenstein’s Lament,” also from the first album, Boris Karloff’s monster gets torched inside a windmill. Like Le Moulin Rouge, which was a restaurant and named after a windmill, I went for a little obvious symbolism.

Karloffs

Karloff’s performance is particularly meaningful to me, and it also inspired our song “The Bride of Frankenstein, 1935” from our October EP.

Crane Shot, Citizen Kane

These last two are probably the most pretentious, but when am I ever going to get the chance to tip my cap to these films ever again in quite the same way? So when the camera swoops through the domed ceiling of the museum, this is where that came from.

Citizen Kane Shot

Final Shot, The Third Man

Like the stereotypical film school graduate I am, I love Orson Welles. But probably my favorite movie with him is one he didn’t direct, Carol Reed’s masterpiece The Third Man. I love it, and its final shot is, for me, one the most indelible ever.

third man

Third Man Shot

Since I animated this thing myself, I had nobody to tell me I couldn’t be as self-indulgent as I pleased.

Regina Spektor, Orson Welles, and Fear in Creativity

My little boy wants to marry Regina Spektor. He’s five. I had to make a poster of Regina to hang on his wall so he could gaze at her as he falls asleep. It’s adorable, and I cannot tell you how pleased I am it’s not Taylor Swift he’s in love with. So the upcoming release of Regina’s new album, What We Saw From The Cheap Seats, has been big news at our house. I checked out a pre-release stream of the new record, where she yelps, breathes quite frighteningly, does a few silly accents, and sings a drunken trumpet fanfare. On previous records, she barked like a seal, sang in at least three languages, and used lip-smacking sounds as percussion. So she’s not afraid to experiment.

And then I found out from this NPR interview that she doesn’t write songs down, content to remember what she remembers, letting the rest flutter back out into the ether. In 2005, she wrote the song “Fidelity” at 3:30 in the morning, then played it a few hours later in her first ever NPR interview, not sure when she started playing it if she would remember it all.

These things are stunning to me because of their utter fearlessness.


I share a feeling common among many songwriters — that each song I write will be my last. Or, at least my last good one. The thought, then, of letting a good song flutter away is terrifying. Hell, if I bang out a drumbeat I really like on the steering wheel, I grab for a digital recorder.

This all got me thinking about art in general, and how important fearlessness is to it. And more specifically, being unafraid to experiment and fail. When I started playing music, I was introduced to the idea of “the woodshed.” You go out to the woodshed, metaphorically, to practice.  No one can hear you, it doesn’t matter if you screw up, and you do the work. As a writer, I love the similar concept of “the drawer.” The drawer is where you put the stuff you write that sucks. It’s ok you wrote it, it’s ok it sucks, and it’s ok to put it in the drawer so nobody can ever see it. I’ve got a bunch of stuff in the drawer.

There’s a big push right now to “Make Good Art.” The only way I know how to make good art is to make a lot of art. The more you make and the more things you try, the better you get and the less precious each subsequent thing becomes. The less precious something is, the easier it is to stick it in the drawer if that’s where it belongs or beat it and bang on it and change it until it qualifies as “good.” It doesn’t matter if it’s good, though, really. It matters that you do it. You think it might be a good idea to bark like a seal on your accessible, mainstream record? Try it. Maybe it’ll sell 50,000 copies in its first week. Or maybe it will hardly sell at all.

Orson Welles made a lot of radio in the 1930s. A lot. And today, we remember one hour of it. But it was a great hour. There are lots of fears that stand in our way as people who want to make things that don’t strictly need to exist.  Hell with it.  Orson Welles also said this, in his outstanding documentary F for Fake:

Our songs will all be silenced, but what of it? Go on singing.

Go on singing.

(And Regina, next time you’re in LA, drop me a line. I was told to let you know you have a standing invitation to come to a picnic in our backyard.)