Tuesday, February 27, 2007

How did I miss this movie?

Terry Gilliam is one of my favorite directors, so how come I totally missed his last movie "Tideland"? According to an interview with Mr. Gilliam on NPR this morning, it might have to do with the bad reviews it got resulting in a short run. Or with the fact that the portrayal of the relation between the little girl and her heroin addict father in this movie is not as cute as "Little Miss Sunshine". Now that is released on DVD, I will put "Tideland" high on my "to see" list!

And now I should finally remember how to pronounce his name properly

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Truck Dumps

Yesterday Google Video had the Hickups and I seemed to be unable to upload this video. Today I found that I actually uploaded it twice. Anyway, here's the Truck dumping it's load.

I'm thinking about adding some particles to suggest dust falling off. I will have to find a way to render these particles that will match the cross hatch style. Since we're only talking about a couple of frames, I can also add them by hand, draw them in using Photoshop.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Another childhood icon falls.

As a kid I loved science fiction movies like Star Wars and ET. And the music by John Williams that accompanied it. Later, listening to Prokoviews "Romeo and Julliet, I realised he owed a lot to the Russian ballet music of the early twentieth century. But what I heard today...

The presenter on WNYC-2, the classical station of our local public radio that is having a special week of film music in honor of the upcoming Oscars, gave due warning. "The music you are about to hear will sound eerily familiar". What followed was "Kings Row" by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, from 1941. Never knew plagiarism could get one an Oscar.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Ok, I'm cheating a wee bit on the progress of my animation here. I built this truck last week. I spent this afternoon texturing it. My animation software (XSI 4.2) crashed three times (rendering while messing with shaders: not a good idea) but I didn't loose too much work. And my friend Bart tells me it's always better the second time.

And I did our taxes!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Animation Progress

An article in the New York Times reports on how some people are using their blog as a way to eliminate debt. It works like a support group, a sort of spenders anonymous: every time the bloggers see something they want but do not need, the thought of having to confess to the shame of compulsive buying works as a deterrent to the needless purchase

I wonder if the same idea will work as a motivator to keep doing some of tedious work of creating an animation. I will start posting progress reports on this blog, maybe that will be an extra motivation to keep on animating

The animation I'm working on now (well, one of them... ) is "Seeing Red". The image that accompanies this post shows a testrender. A truck will be dumping stuff, so I did a test to see how I will make a pile drop. It is a one-off, so just using shape animation seems like a good idea.

Here's the test. Bit too jittery and looks like a dough ball. But it's a start.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Thought Crime

In last weeks issue of The New Yorker (Feb. 12 2007) I read an interesting and at one point scary article about philosophy and neuriscience: 'Two Heads" by Larissa MacFarquhar. It is a portrait of Paul and Patricia Churchland, both philosophers at the University of California, San Diego. Their view on the influence of neural processes on philosophy used to be really controversial in a field focussed on language.

Where it gets scary is when they start talking about abnormalities in the brains of people on death row. Even though they acknowledge that the cause for the deviations might be the very fact that the brain's owner is on death row, they seem to be open to preventive incarceration of people with a brain condition that predisposes them to commit violent acts. That's even worse than than what happens in a Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, where a convicted felon is conditioned to get physically sick when he as much as thinks about violence. In that case free will is taken away from someone who has actually committed crimes. Locking people up for having a specific brain condition is denying them free will in the first place. Do weird brains not often have the potential for greatness as well?

There was a time when peoples skulls were measured to determine if one was apt to being a crook. A practice long abandoned I though.

Reading the last paragraph of the article I started to doubt if the writer fully understood the philosophical subject matter. On the issue of a human can experience what it is like to be a bat, the writer concludes ".. a philosopher might after all come to know what it is like to be a bat, although, since bat's can't speak, perhaps he would be able only to sense its batness without being able to derscribe it." thus equating thought once again to language, the very thing the Churchlands seem to have been rebelling against!


In reaction to my post "Wooden Laptop", my brother sent me a nice picture of a commodore 64 laptop. And yes, I also do not see where the compact casette can be inserted :) .

I found that it's almost the size of a PDA, and has connections for a diskdrive, PS2 keyboard, external video... and a SD-card slot! Where do people find the time to build stuff like this?

Kader revisited

A week ago I blogged about this book I read, and the cover featuring a dike with a whole in it, which I found rather peculiar. According to my mother this dike can actually be closed, there's some kind of door in it. So it is extremely Dutch: an engineering solution to keep the water out. Yes, it's been a while since the Dutch used their finger for that. The funny thing about the story of the boy with his finger in the dike is that here in the States everybody knows it, while I can't even remember the boys name ("boy dike finger" in Google gave me 144,000 results and the name Hans Brinker)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I thought I'd never have to program again

When I first encountered a computer in highschool (okay, this dates me: it was a commodore PET computer) the one thing you could do with it was writing code in basic (or assembler) and run it to see the magic it produced.

When I got my first Commdore Amiga computer, and discovered great programs like Dpaint, I thought I'd never have to program again: there was software that could do it all! How wrong I was...

I have been searching for a tool to convert audio into keyframe values for animation (one average of the audio level per frame of animation) but gave up. I know I can do it in After Effects, but I do not have that on my laptop and it is kind of cumbersome to start the application just for that. So I wrote a script in Python to do it.

Why I need that utility? Tinkering with having music drive an animation. And I bet tomorrow I'll find something way more sophisticated than the crude hack I threw together.

I'm all for open source and GPL. So I should put useful hacks I create on-line. But then I would have to make it usable for others, tidy it up. Maybe I should...

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Wooden Laptop

The radio program Marketplace from American Public Media had a story on custom computers with a retro look. Their website has links to images on flickr, like the one on the right.

And I though I had a nice laptop! Though I bet mine doesn't weigh half as much.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Hasta la Vista, says Apple

The BBC is reporting that "Apple has told iTunes users to 'wait' before upgrading their computers to Microsoft Windows Vista, saying its music software may not work properly." (Apple to Vista upgraders: 'Wait')

How convenient! Should not think anything of it I guess, Microsoft seems to be working with Apple to fix it. Still, raised my eybrow.

Friday, February 2, 2007


Finished reading the book my parents gave me when they visited here last autumn. An insiders view on the recent history of Iran, the story of an extended family of which a slightly unrealistic number of members happen to be at key places at key times at the turbulent events surrounding the Islamic revolution. It is called "Het huis van de Moskee" ("The house of the Mosque"), by Kader Abdollah, an emigrant (or refugee) from Iran living in The Netherlands (he wrote the book in Dutch). Somehow far more interesting than the books I read from other Dutch writers lately, because of his personal history he definately has a story to tell.

I find the choice of image for the cover somewhat peculiar. It shows something that is extremely Dutch: a dike. But one with a whole in it and a road running through. The suggestion of secrets hidden behind the dike, hinting this book may reveal some of them. Intriguing choice for a book about Iran. The author has written the book for a Dutch audience. He must feel we have more in common with the people in Iran than we think.

The silly drawings that accompany this post? Last Wednesday, during the ACM NYC SIGGRAPH Board of Directors meetings, I couldn't help myself and doodled a bit. Somehow it helps me to listen. Wasn't the only one, by the way. It is a graphics organization after all.