Thursday, December 31, 2015

Who says 3D is new?

From King of the Mardi Gras, a 1935 Popeye cartoon. Max Fleischer was one of the great innovators of early animation. As far as I am concerned, he kicked Disney's ass. His stuff was extremely goofy and almost surreal, busting out of Disney's ultra-conventional mold. In this cartoon, the rides of the fairground are eerily realistic in the background, almost as if. . . as if they were really there

And they were.

The whole thing was done on a turntable with miniatures. I think that's brilliant. I can't explain it as well as this paragraph I found on an animation site:

The setback rig consists of a forced-perspective, miniature set mounted on a turntable, serving as background to the cel art held in a vertical glass platen, and a horizontal animation camera. The turntable is rotated incrementally behind the cels, creating the effect of a “tracking shot” — the 2D animated character, in a side-view walk cycle, traverses a realistically proportioned (but still recognizably Fleischeresque) 3D environment which moves perspectivally across the background.

Take that, Mickey bleeping Mouse.

BUT WAIT - there's more! Information on this process isn't that easy to find, as I keep getting sidetracked by people using the term "rotoscope" (including in the comments under the original YouTube video). This is another process entirely, involving painting over live-action images.

But here it is, an actual photograph of Dave Fleischer at work with his "set-back" animation method.

How 3-D Animation Was Made Seventy Years Ago

In 1941, the Fleischer Studio constructed this elaborate three-dimensional distorted perspective set for the feature Mr. Bug Goes to Town.

Built of balsa wood and plastics, it required architect-artists four months to construct. The entire set rests on a steel turntable which can both revolve and move up and down. Drawings will be photographed a full six feet in front of the set and the combination of the “set-back” photography and the “distorted perspective” of the set will provide the illusion of third dimension, according to director Dave Fleischer, who is seen moving the set.

Blogger's reflections. From what I've picked up, Mr. Bug was watered-down Fleischer that didn't do so well at the box office, having been released on Pearl Harbour Day in 1941. Americans had more pressing things on their minds than animated bugs.

When I look at this, I see someone trying to copy Disney. Maybe it was called survival. At any rate, the one-line review I found in Rotten Tomatoes kind of shocked me.

A bizarre mess that fails at every imaginable level.
Full Review… | February 4, 2011
Film Threat

Oh, and. As a P. S. to the P. S., here's a snippet of gold: from Ali Baba and his Forty Thieves, one of those "feature-length" Popeye cartoons that lasted seventeen minutes. Beautiful, they were, and very three-dimensional.

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TURNABOUT opening credits NBC sitcom

I keep running into this thing. I even found, sort-of, an episode, but it had two guys making comments on top of it, a form I find hard to take. Let the episode speak for itself, with its own special brand of cheesiness, rather than "Oh man! Lookit how cheesy this is!" "Awesome!". Yeah.

I have always liked animation at the start of TV sitcoms, and these reached a full flowering in the mid-to-late '60s (though there was lots of abstract stuff in the '50s). This show came later, in the '70s some time. Apparently the series lasted seven episodes. Sharon Gless and John Schuck do their best, but it's a soiled rag, folks. Actors can only do so much with material this weak/bizarre.

A new low in narcissism: Facebook quote of the day/year

Actual Facebook quote. Name withheld, though I don't know why:

"A complete stranger stopped me to say I looked beautiful. That hasn't happened in many years and it made my day."

To this person, I'd say: I wish that for just one time, you could stand inside my shoes. This is what you'd hear, and you'd probably find it intolerable:

"Hi, everybody. My beauty is so overwhelming, people literally stop me in the street just to tell me! Of course, this isn't the first time I've been stopped in the street. It used to happen to me all the time. So now I guess it has started up again. This makes my day, particularly since it is Facebook bait for dozens and dozens of gushing remarks about how beautiful I am. I mean, what else can they say?"

Who needs ipecac when you have stuff like this.

Turkish Delight, Part 3: The Exorcist

Turkish Delight, Part 2: Star Trek

Turkish Delight, Part 1: Superman

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Click this link if you dare

Click this if you dare! It kept me up all night.

Not the Proust questionnaire

Since we're in that dreadful  existential hole known as Crimbo Limbo (the useless week between Christmas and New Years), I'm going to take a questionnaire I just found on Facebook.

1. Are you doing what you truly want to do?

Right now? No. Right now I'd like to be riding a white Arabian horse under a pure blaze of sunlight beside dazzling turquoise waters.  In the Greek isles.  And I'm not.

2. How many promises you have made and how many of them you have fulfilled?

So this says "how many promises you have made/you have fulfilled". Let me see. Just my wedding vows, though I think they were written a little more grammatically than this.

3. Will you break the rules because of something/someone you care about?

 The rules? Not sure which ones, but yes.

4. Is there anything you can't let go of but you know you should?

I don't deal in "shoulds" because they immediately make me want to do the opposite. So, no. I can't let go of anything because I don't want to.

5. Do you remember anyone you hated 10 years ago? Does it matter now?

My sister. Yes.

6. If you'd die now, would you have any regrets?

"If you'd die now" can mean several things: "if you had die now", "if you did die now" or "if you would die now". So I have a creeping regret that I even started this. But, to answer the question , yes! I'd have all kinds of regrets. I really wish I could go right back to the beginning again, but be born into a different family and thus purge off all this genetic horror.

Then again, if I really died NOW I'd have no regrets, and you know why.

7. Are you afraid of making mistakes even though there's no punishments at all?

"There's no punishments at all"?   Let me mention a few mistakes that may or may not lead to "no punishments at all".

You cheat on your spouse.

You're the driver in a hit-and-run accident.

You embezzle money from your workplace.

You leave your kid in his car seat while the car is running, nip into the liquor store for a quick purchase, come back after (I swear) only 15 minutes or so, and the car is gone.

When talking about mistakes and how wonderful it is to make mistakes because they teach you about life, people must mean things like "forgot to give back that Bic pen I borrowed" They can't possibly be referring to things that might leave us morally compromised or full of a gnawing, secret guilt that lasts a lifetime and blights any chance at happiness.

So yes.

8. What's the difference between you and most of the other people?

Most of "the" other people? WHICH other people? Specify if you want me to answer this!

9. Are you doing what you truly want to do?

No! I'd rather be working in a salt mine. Look at my answer to Question One, you flaming idiot!

10. If today'd be the end of the world, what'd you do?

"If today'd be the end of the world", I wouldn't be doing anything because I'd be dead like everyone else (see question 6).

Note: "today'd" can mean "today did", as in "if today did be the end of the world, or "today would", as in "if today would be the end of the world" (both nonsensical). It might even mean "if today had be the end of the world," which is totally ludicrous.

"What'd" means "what did", as in "what did you do?", or "what would", as in . . . oh never mind.

CONCLUSIONS. This is not the Proust questionnaire.

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Wail: one bar that changed musical history

"The Rhapsody was performed by Whiteman's band, with an added section of string players, and George Gershwin on piano. Gershwin decided to keep his options open as to when Whiteman would bring in the orchestra and he did not write down one of the pages for solo piano, with only the words "Wait for nod" scrawled by Grofé on the band score. Gershwin improvised some of what he was playing, and he did not write out the piano part until after the performance, so it is unknown exactly how the original Rhapsody sounded.

The opening clarinet glissando came into being during rehearsal when; "... as a joke on Gershwin, [Ross] Gorman (Whiteman's virtuoso clarinettist) played the opening measure with a noticeable glissando, adding what he considered a humorous touch to the passage. Reacting favourably to Gorman's whimsy, Gershwin asked him to perform the opening measure that way at the concert and to add as much of a 'wail' as possible."

Monday, December 28, 2015

This CANNOT be true - no no no no no no NO

What is Death Cafe?

At a Death Cafe people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss death.

Our objective is 'to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives'.

A Death Cafe is a group directed discussion of death with no agenda, objectives or themes. It is a discussion group rather than a grief support or counselling session.

Our Death Cafes are always offered:

- On a not for profit basis

- In an accessible, respectful and confidential space

- With no intention of leading people to any conclusion, product or course of action

- Alongside refreshing drinks and nourishing food – and cake!

If you're interested in holding a Death Cafe please see our how-to guide.

Death Cafe is a 'social franchise'. This means that people who sign up to our guide and principles can use the name Death Cafe, post events to this website and talk to the press as an affiliate of Death Cafe.

Death Cafes have spread quickly across Europe, North America and Australasia. As of today, we have offered 2653 Death Cafes since September 2011. If 10 people came to each one that would be 26530 participants. We've established both that there are people who are keen to talk about death and that many are passionate enough to organise their own Death Cafe.

The Death Cafe model was developed by Jon Underwood and Sue Barsky Reid, based on the ideas of Bernard Crettaz.

Death Cafe has no staff and is run on a voluntary basis by Jon Underwood in Hackney, East London. Also Lizzy Miles who ran the first Death Cafe in the U.S. and Megan Mooney who runs the Death Cafe Facebook page have played a significant role in Death Cafe's development.

We remain energised by the amazing quality of the dialogue at our events and are overwhelmed by the interest we have received.

People often ask why we doing this. Everyone has their own reasons for getting involved in Death Cafe. In the video below, Death Cafe Portland organiser Kate Brassington gives hers.

Our History

In 2010 Jon Underwood decided to develop a series of projects about death one of which was to focus on talking about death. In November Jon read about the work of Bernard Crettaz in the Independent newspaper. Inspired by Bernard's work, Jon immediately decided to use similar model for his own project, and Death Cafe was born.

Bernard Crettaz

The first Death Cafe in the UK was offered in Jon's house in Hackney, East London in September 2011. It was facilitated by pychotherapist Sue Barsky Reid, Jon's mum. It was a wonderful occasion. We went on to offer Death Cafes in a range of places including funky cafes, people's houses, cemeteries, a yurt and the Royal Festival Hall.

Jon and Sue Barsky Reid produced a guide to running your own Death Cafe, based around the methodology Sue developed. This was published in Feb. 2012 and first person to pick it up outside of the UK was Lizzy Miles in Columbus, Ohio. Subsequently hundreds of people have worked with us to provide Death Cafes across the globe.

Death Cafe has received some lovely media coverage including:

- Death Be Not Decaffeinated: Over Cup, Groups Face Taboo New York Times (front page!)

- Death Cafes Breathe Life Into Conversations About Dying NPR

- The death cafe movement: Tea and mortality Independent

- 'Death cafes' normalize a difficult, not morbid, topic USA Today

We are currently working to establish a real Death Cafe in London. Read more.

Death Cafe is also:
- On Facebook:
- On Twitter: @deathcafe

Shout outs

Many thanks to:

Sean Legassick of Datamage who hosts the Death Cafe website for free

Phil Cooper of Petit Mal who designed the Death Cafe logo.

BLOGGER'S NOTE. This cannot be true! Perhaps it's an elaborate internet hoax. But here it is. My jaw literally dropped when I saw it. It's one of those, "well, hey, why not?" things, one of those "let's break the final taboo" things - I guess. But I wonder if people come covered in black skull tattoos and all-over flesh piercings, with Megadeath tshirts. Or pictures of Edgar Allan Poe. I wonder if they sit around in graveyards at night, spooking each other out or howling at the moon.

These are, of course, stereotypes. The only time we do "death trips" is at Halloween. Normally, when someone actually dies, it's pretty sanitized. We use terms like "passed away" or "passed on" or sometimes, as in grade school, "passed".

So is this bad or what? Is it "healthy" rather than "unhealthy"? I don't know, but I will admit my very first uncensored reaction to this site was to be shocked, offended, angry, a little queasy, and thinking "this is a whole new low in bad taste". 

It's not the fact that the subject is death. I believe we need to engage with the reality of it much more deeply than we do. It's the fact that this looks like a strainingly artificial attempt to be "cool" about it. I'm not sure why this is - maybe the breezy, oh-so-normal tone of the site, which made me shake my head and think it was a parody of something-or-other - but I get this strange feeling my strong personal reaction to it would be seen as uncool or even pitiable. "You obviously carry a lot of unresolved grief. Here, let me show you how to process it so that you may at last lead a healthy and productive life." 

Any group of humans contains know-it-alls, often cruel ones, and this group does not seem to have any official leadership. Thus the wounded could end up even more wounded. Then again, I am not sure emotion is encouraged in this sort of group, since the site with its skull-emblazoned china cups and black graveyard cakes seems (ironically) creepy and devoid of affect.

I find it hard to even look at this page, though I am trying to read as much of it as I can before dissing it. Maybe it's just the way the information is presented, as if they're getting together to discuss orchid species or dog breeds. This gives me the feeling that you may well have to keep grief out of it and keep the conversation on the lighter side, or at least philosophical rather than experiential. It surely does not strike me as a support group. So how do they screen out the bereaved, who may have a desperate need to talk about their feelings?

Death has swallowed some of my nearest and dearest, sucked them into the void from whence no one ever returns. Some of them have been suicides. Is this really drawing room conversation, do you think? Do these people think a combination of irony and detachment can somehow keep the horror away?

Dying is no tea party, people. It is an abyss, and no one comes back from it. It leaves a mark on one's life forever. The death of loved ones is far more brutalizing to contemplate than your own, which sometimes seems like a blessed release.

Howling with grief in a hospital ward, feeling your life has come to an end, finding no meaning in it whatsoever and hating the idiots who parrot at you "everything happens for a reason" - these grief reactions just don't fit into a tea party because they're signs that people aren't philosophical enough in their grief. They haven't processed it properly and need to get cracking. There's a right way to do this, and it doesn't involve collapsing in hysterics on a hospital floor. Doesn't fit very well with Peek Freans and china cups (even with skulls on them) balanced on your lap. 

Tea party and death, death and tea party. The best this can be is ironic, and the worst - dreadfully insensitive. It occurs to me that this emotionally neutral approach is far worse than "he is not dead, he is just away"  in dehumanizing the whole subject. At the same time, these people are dreadfully hypocritical in their claim to bring death out in the open in a "healthy" way. Healthy, I guess, so long as you aren't uncool enough to start getting all messy and emotional about it. 

Can death and grief be neatly separated? Is that what we're being asked to do here? Isn't that the whole problem in our culture - that we've forgotten how to grieve when someone dies, or are simply not allowed to? Would a grieving person ever feel welcome at one of these skull-decorated-teacup soirees? If not, what the hell is wrong with the organizers? 

Jesus! Do these guys really know what they are talking about?

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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Would you snuggle with a puggle?

Would you snuggle with a puggle?

Oct. 25, 2012 at 6:30 AM
Mish Whalen

Ben Gibson / Taronga Zoo

Is it a bald penguin? A hedgehog?

It's actually an echidna puggle — and it's really cute. Echidnas, also known as spiny anteaters, are egg-laying mammals that live in Australia and New Guinea.

This 40-day-old baby, named Beau, lives at the Taronga Wildlife Hospital in Australia, and was discovered on a path in an RV park.

Puggles are rarely seen at this age because moms stash their young in burrows. The puggle remains in the burrow for many months. The mom goes out to feed, and returns every few days to feed it milk.

Echidnas, like platypuses, have patches that excrete milk for their young to lap up. Beau's human surrogate puts milk in the palm of her hand, and Beau feeds like a mini vacuum cleaner.

Beau's gender can't be determined for a while, as baby puggles of either sex have no identifiable features. In time, Beau will develop quills (here's what a grown echidna looks like) but for now, there's only a rough layer of hair that the nurses call a "five o clock shadow."

Watch the sweetest video clip of Beau's nurse, Annabelle, feeding the little one. And learn more about Beau at the Taronga Conservation Society's blog.


Yes, there is a pattern for a crocheted mother echidna and puggle, and I'm not going to get one.

Upside-down echidna.

Puggle hatching (bring me the sick-pail).

Puggles vs. tardigrades. They're almost the same thing, but one is smaller. The smaller one is better, and I'll tell you why.


There are tardigrade stuffed animals. There are no puggle stuffed animals, 
or none worth bothering about.

Tardigrades don't have brains. Why have one if you don't need it?

Tardigrades kick ass. They take over countries and rule the world. Puggles don't.


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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Go home, George (and take Ira with you)

Margaret Gunning's photo.
Review of George Gershwin's masterpiece, Porgy and Bess, by fellow composer Virgil Thomson: "One can see, through Porgy, that Gershwin has not and never did have any power of sustained musical development. His lack of understanding of all the major problems of form, of continuity, and of serious or direct musical expression is not surprising in view of the impurity of his musical sources and his frank acceptance of the same. It is clear, by now, that Gershwin hasn't learned the business of being a serious composer, which one has always gathered to be the business he wanted to learn."

Caitlin dances to Pentatonix!

Minions 'n Mermaids: must be Christmas!

Since all four grandkids already had everything they wanted in electronics, games, etc., I was left to try to figure out what else I could give them.

But then. . . it came to me. I knew they didn't have these. . . 

MINIONS! I mean hand-knitted, personalized Minions. Four of them. I thought of this idea about ten days before Christmas, so was in Minion hell for a while, just cranking them out. These guys appeared in the toe of each kid's stocking and were probably better-received by the adults than the kids. I don't know Minions from the bottom of my shoe, and thus was working from a very chintzy photo of a knitted Minion. (Not nearly as nice as mine.) I ended up going back to the original images from the movie. "Which Minion is this?" one of the grandkids asked. Which Minion? You mean they have names?


Mermaid tails!! These were knitted like small sleeping bags and were a hit, thank God, because I wasn't at all sure that: a) they'd know what they were, or b) they'd want anything to do with them. Preteens blow hot and cold. But they took to these and soon were hopping around in them as if in a very strange mermaid sack race. Caitlin has grown so rapidly that I really could've added another 4 inches to hers. From a very petite little girl, she's suddenly (overnight, it seems) as tall as many adults and will soon be looking down on her mother. Ahem. The happy-faces may look strange, but my daughter-in-law prefers not to have her kids' faces on a blog, and I understand completely. Suffice it to say their own faces are a lot prettier. 

Caitlin surrounded by her loot, or some of it, or at least the packaging it came in.  I gave her a makeup kit this year. Yikes.

My lovely daughter Shannon with her nutcracker, Boris. Took a long time to get him to stand on her shoulder like that.


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