Sunday, August 28, 2016

Design of the Modern Home: Human Sacrifice


I have several friends who are designing their new home and even one friend who has started a business to create affordable, stylish and sustainable housing.

Although I have not been asked to contribute, I am so jealous of these friends of mine that I can not help but think of what I might build if I had the funds, in other words, if I had not made the tragic decision to go into Computer Animation, a decision which clearly destroyed my life, and deprived me of the material success necessary to create one's own home.

This “thought experiment” about design and living has led to many productive questions and issues, including but not limited to the issues of whether one should provide living quarters for the slaves or whether or not it makes sense to prepare now for the inevitable Zombie Apocalypse and build defensive structures into our homes.

And from time to time I come across good visual support material to help stimulate ideas and contribute perhaps to the design process.

Along those lines, here is an image from the film Sherlock Holmes (2009) near the beginning of the film in which Holmes and Watson thwart a human sacrifice in London.




I think this room gives a good impression of a venue for ancient evil and provides an appropriate place for the sacrifice of an unspoiled maiden, the first fruits of the harvest as it were, to the ancient Gods.  You don't want to be cavalier about human sacrifice, that would show disrespect. You would not want to just cut someone's throat by the pool or on a patio, but should prepare a special place for this purpose. There are some details here of course which will guide the design as, for example, if one is recreating ancient Aztec practices and plan to rip the still beating heart out of the victim, then one would need to provide for better blood drainage, presumably.  

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Sherlock Holmes (2009) on IMDB
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0988045/


Administrative Note: The "Conclusions" Category on Global Wahrman


We announce here a new category, or tag, for Global Wahrman, the so-called “conclusions” category.

One purpose of Global Wahrman is to explore a variety of ideas and beliefs about such things as the role of the Illuminated Masters in determining algorithms for Google, the failure of the cultural myth, the role of corruption in our civic governance and whether our politicians are motivated directly by Satan or merely *appear* to be motivated by Satan. These are just a few examples of the ideas that we discuss here on Global Wahrman.  

But from time to time, I think it is fair to say that we reach conclusions, or proximate conclusions, about these weighty and complex issues, and want to mark these posts as being of particular interest. Such posts will be marked with the “Conclusions” tag. Eventually these posts will also be collected and put in some category on the right hand side of the blog to also make them easier to find.

As an example of this, consider Globalization and Its Discontents which discusses the role of our government in the collapse of the American economy.  Although perhaps not the final statement on the culpability of our government in this collapse, it is certainly a partial statement on this topic. Did our government know full well that their policies would impoverish millions of Americans in order to increase the profits of the rich?  Of course they did.

So while the term "Conclusions" is a little overblown, it is fair I think to identify these posts as being a little less speculative and of greater interest to those who want some of the ideas of this blog boiled down, distilled as it were, into a relatively few posts.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Drug Companies Have Nothing to Worry About


In the following article in USA Today about Mylan, the exploitative company behind the notorious EpiPen, the authors make the point that Mylan is not the only guilty party, but that many drug manufacturers use their market position to extract monopolistic fees from their victims.  See the article here.

In particular, they have a fabulous quote by a market analyst about why investors have nothing to worry about from government legislation.
Some think the fears about government attention on high drug profit margins are overblown. "We believe that this effort (efforts against Mylan's price hikes) likely will follow the same playbook that lawmakers used to shame Gilead, Valeant (VRX), and others," according to Spencer Perlman, analyst at Height Securities. "Congressional hearings and a press onslaught, but no substantive legislative action."

In other words, our politicians, corrupt to the very core, pay lip service to the problem but take no action. As always. As long as they get their money from the corporations, they don't really care about anything else.

The problem with this “business as usual”, is that we are expected to be patient with the process, to trust these people, our representatives, to have our interests at heart, and very clearly they do not. Being patient, and trusting them is in fact part of their game. Therefore it is a reasonable response to demand substantive legislation immediately, or take direct action through the proposition system, and then, of course, to expel these corrupt miscreants, our elected representatives, from office.

Of course, anyone who knows the history here knows there is very little chance of anything good happening. The pharmaceuticals industry is spending over $100 million in the state of California to defeat a proposition designed to allow Medicare to get the same prices as the VA department.

That would be horrible, wouldnt it, to help poor people get their medication?  Why, that violates everything that America and our political system stands for.  You can be sure that our politicians will not allow this to happen.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The 1980s in Los Angeles: Choose Me (1984) By Alan Rudolph


The early 1980s was a particularly good period for independent films. Notable from this period is Chan is Missing (1982), Repo Man (1984), Buckaroo Banzai (1984) and Alan Rudolph's Choose Me (1984).

If you have not seen the latter, its a low-key, ensemble, actor-oriented romantic comedy. It makes excellent use of the environment of Los Angeles and its art scene.

A complete version of the film with good sound but low resolution and no commercial interruption can be found on Youtube here   Or you can order it from Netflix as a DVD.




The movie has no special effects, and nothing large explodes. Nevertheless, it is entertaining for many reasons not least of which is the performance by Genevieve Bujold. If you want to see what can be done without digital visual effects and a low budget and some talented friends, this is a good place to start.

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Choose Me (1984) on IMDB]


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

SIGGRAPH 2016 Report


This is the first report on the SIGGRAPH 2016 conference. I might or might not add a later, more detailed, report. If you have any specific questions, please send me email or comment here and I will try to answer them.

Thanks

Special thanks to Michael Deering, Terrence Massan, Tom Duff and Ken Perlin for their material contributions to my ability to attend SIGGRAPH at all. Special thanks also to Jon Snoddy for enabling the Disney R&D participation, Wendy Wirthlin of Pixar for enabling my entry into the Pixar reception and to Jerry Weil for a tour of the exhibit floor.

Summary

SIGGRAPH this year was about the same as it has been for the last several years.

A. It is very pleasant on a social level.  B.  It is moderately interesting on a technical level, but nothing outstanding.  C. The tradeshow floor was very useful as a way of keeping up with what is happening in production technology.  D. SIGGRAPH has been essentially useless for me for a decade for economic or employment purposes.  E. The job fair was completely useless.  F. The people who run SIGGRAPH seem completely unaware of anything going on outside their very narrow interests, but it is not clear to me that this is the wrong thing.

Community

The idea that SIGGRAPH formed a community of people who were inventing a new field is long, long gone. And thats the way the people who run SIGGRAPH want it to be.  Too bad.  They fucked it up.

AR and VR

AR and VR is now in the "spend money to show how creative we are", or not creative, as you please. Everyone agrees that there is some AR and VR in our future, and most people seems to think that AR will totally dominate over VR, or so it seems from my casual conversations with a few dozen Siggraph participants. Beyond that, there is a lot of skepticism that the hardware available today is definitive, but general agreement that the hardware available soon will be. And that AR in particular will make it easier to deploy this technology vs VR because of the ability to see and not bump into things and the lack of nausea in most AR situations.

I personally had a strong negative reaction to the hype-based "vanity" projects at SIGGRAPH based on AR/VR.  But this might be a little hypocritical of me since, after all, I had benefited so directly from such projects in the early days of computer animation.

Fast Forward

As always, the Fast Forward was the best part of SIGGRAPH. It allowed one to quickly and efficiently get a feel for whether or not a paper was of interest. There were quite a few papers of minor interest to me, but none of compelling (that is, I had to see it) interest.  There should be guidelines about humor for the participants so they do not humiliate themselves.

Keynote Speech

One more time we have a keynote speaker who has nothing to do with the field (an executive from JPL) and who was very nice about thanking us for “our” work maybe 20 years ago. What she forgot to say is that there is absolutely no financing for visualization in space science, that maybe 5 people are employed in that area in the entire United States, and one more time the Keynote Speech was useless, even contemptuous, of all of the thousands of people who devoted their lives to computer animation but have no way to make a living at it. Thanks a lot, SIGGRAPH, I really appreciate it.

Pioneer Reception

The speech by Alvy Ray Smith was interesting but all too short. I was intrigued to see that he was wearing the moral equivalent of a Nehru jacket and that he acknowledged that in general evil geniuses tend to wear them.

Anaheim as a Venue

Remember that this is peak summer and that Anaheim is across the street from Disneyland. Anaheim has in two years become much more expensive, and thus has become less suitable for a SIGGRAPH location. There were no rooms in any hotel for about 50 miles, unless you wanted a $300 a night suite.

The Exhibit Floor

Walked the trade show floor with Jerry Weil and saw numerous interesting things. In particular an Israeli handheld scanner thing that was spectacular.

HDR / Technicolor

Josh Pines and colleague gave an informative discussion of high dynamic range imagery in the glamourous and rewarding motion picture industry.

Pixar Reception

Pixar, it would seem, has completely changed out their old software suite for a completely new one. Which of these are available to the public and which are internal only is not clear to me.

Disney R&D Mixer

I knew almost no one there, but had a very nice chat with Christophe Hery of Pixar and Scott Watson of Disney R&D.

I think that this event could benefit from more structure and I humbly propose one here. Since I presume that most of the attendees were there to push their agendas within the larger Disney financing pool, this could be assisted perhaps by a large Disney org chart positioned somewhere near the entrance, or perhaps also in the food or drink line, that color codes their executives in helpful ways.  It might report the amount of currently budgeted discretionary financing.  Then the Disney executives could wear special color coded hats or other easily visible apparel that could be checked against this chart.

Alternatively, one might consider a handout at the entrance with a picture of each executive or project leader and a brief description.  "Stanley Berriview will entertain concepts based on the real time use of surveillance technology to create a more meaningful guest experience."   And so forth.

Another Point of View

One attendee, Lance Williams, who looks remarkably like an old school Russian revolutionary these days, points out that his employer, NVIDIA, had a foveal display of some sort. This is certainly an idea worth looking at more closely.

Sightings and Social Activities

Richard Chuang, founder of PDI, announced that he was on some committee to help SIGGRAPH figure out what its future is.

John Hughes, founder of Rhythm and Hues, and now of Tao Studios in Beijing, was sighted at SIGGRAPH, perhaps the first time in decades.

Jim Hillin was informative about the failure of the crafts to sue to force the US Government to enforce the trade laws regarding subsidies.

Kawaguchi Sake Party had a video of an inflatable Kawaguchi style critter that I thought was very appealing.

Finally met Gene Miller and Garland Stern.

Had a nice chat with Richard Edlund, Ray Feeney, Andrew Glassner, Dave Leavitt, Debbie Deas and Richard Cray.

Finally got to to talk to Aung Min after all these years.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Implications of the 270 Riverside Drive Experience


As readers of this blog know well, no event is random, and no situation should be assumed to be without consequence but all of them should be analyzed and re-analyzed for their deeper meaning and for clues to our mysterious future and probable doom.

In this search for meaning in our pointless lives, sometimes the use of the Esoteric Knowledge is necessary but sometimes it is not. In this case, no esoteric knowledge is required to see our stark choices. The future is only too clear.

First review my little post about my former living conditions at 270 Riverside Drive to understand the situation. Now lets ask some questions about what living there might have meant.

At the time I was living there, I was vaguely aware of how lucky I was and that this was a situation that would be hard to recreate were it to ever go away, which inevitably it must. In part that was mixed in with my conclusion that living there also allowed me to live in Manhattan which was itself quite a blessing. But beyond that, what did it mean?

What was really going on, I conclude in retrospect, is that through an artifact of the ancient rent control laws of Manhattan, themselves left over from a more Socialist period when, briefly, the living conditions of the poor and disenfranchised were a concern, however modest, of our political elite. Through a series of lucky breaks, I had been permitted to live in a situation that I could otherwise never afford. But even more important, this was a living situation that I also did not deserve.


This is where the lower animals deserve to live


You see, in America, it is only the rich who are permitted to live in a way that their life is enhanced and ennobled. The rest of the population, by the very definition of being not-rich, are a lower animal form who are unworthy of any of this. They should live in dreary poverty, stupid stucco dingbats, or endlessly similar suburban housing, where they can pay inflated rents and mortgages, buy from chain supermarkets, and live out what is left of their so-called lives as servants of the rich.

The kind of lifestyle I had when at 270 RSD was thus completely anomalous and should not be allowed to occur and in general it does not. My choices now are to live in poverty and despair or in some way prove myself by making in excess of many tens of millions of dollars, no doubt through entrepreneurial activity or, to judge from the history of great fortunes in America, through various types of theft, crime or amoral and sociopathic behavior.

This does not seem like such a hard lesson to learn, but somehow it is.

Friday, August 12, 2016

270 Riverside Drive Apt 12A New York City


When I lived in NYC in the 1990s I was lucky enough to live in some spectacular apartments.This is all due to friends who welcomed me to New York and made it possible for me to stay there when by rights I should have had to leave. One of these apartments was on Central Park West in the upper west side.  The other was on Riverside Drive at 99 and Riverside.

This apartment was on the top floor of the building with a view of the Hudson from almost every room. It was, they tell me a classic eight (or seven?) with four bedrooms, three baths, a formal dining room, a living room, a study and my office (the former maid's room). One of the bedrooms was allocated for our guests, something that is quite rare in Manhattan where space is at a premium.

This apartment had been rent controlled for decades and the person who had the lease was very generous with those he sublet rooms to and I only had to pay my share of the total reduced rent. Ultimately he became a victim of his own pride in a dispute with the landlord and lost his lease so we all had to leave.  The place needed to be fixed up (it is an artifact of the rent control laws that such apartments are allowed to grow more decrepit) and I always wondered what it would rent for (or sell for if in a coop situation).

Thanks to the power of the bold, new Internet paradigm, we can easily find out. The apartment is listed on Zillow at about $6.8 million (see here for the Zillow listing).

If you look at the pictures in this listing, you would have no idea how completely wonderful this apartment is and what it was like to live there. Part of the reason for this is that they did not photograph the place to show you its environment and they made other mistakes as well.  Here are some photographs that may correct this impression and give a hint of the grace conferred on those who lived there.


View out one of the windows


On the street where you live


At night


Snow


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Harry Dean Stanton in the Marvel Cinematic Universe


[Thanks to Ken Perlin for noticing that I had incorrectly attributed Emilio Estevez's role in Repo Man to his brother, Charlie Sheen.]

I was recently reviewing the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) body of work and in particular the problematic issue of The Avengers series of films when I came across a scene between a security guard and Mark Ruffalo who plays The Hulk in this movie.

The security guard is played by one of my favorite actors, Harry Dean Stanton, and suddenly the entire movie was seen in a new light.

I was introduced to Stanton's work in Alex Cox's Repo Man (1984), where he played the role of the experienced car repossession mentor, Bud. In particular the sequence where Stanton explains to Emilio Estevez (oldest son of Martin Sheen and brother of Charlie Sheen) the “Repo Code” is memorable.




BUD: Never broke into a car, never hot wired a car. Never broke into a trunk. “I shall not cause harm to any vehicle or the personal contents thereof, or through inaction allow the vehicle or the personal contents thereof come to harm. “ Thats what I call the “repo code”, kid. Don't forget it. Etch it into your brain. Not many people have a code to live by anymore. Hey look at them, look at those assholes over there. Ordinary fucking people, I hate em.
OTTO: Me too. 
BUD: What do you know? You see, an ordinary person spends his life avoiding tense situations. A repo man spends his life getting into tense situations. Assholes. Lets go get a drink.

The sequence can be seen here.


Mr Stanton has a cinematic term of art named in part for him. As defined by Roger Ebert, the “Stanton-Walsh Rule” states that
No movie featuring either Harry Dean Stanton or M. Emmet Walsh in a supporting role can be altogether bad. An exception was CHATTAHOOCHEE (1990), starring Walsh. Stanton's record is still intact.



Returning now to The Avengers (2012) we have a sequence in which the Hulk has fallen from the sky, landed in an abandoned factory and transformed back into his human form as played by Mark Ruffalo. He is greeted by a security guard who reassures Ruffalo that he did not hurt anyone when he landed and has brought him some clothes. 




GUARD: Are you an alien?
BANNER: What?
GUARD: From outer space.... an alien?
BANNER: Nah.
GUARD: Well then, son, you've got a condition.
BANNER: (nods in agreement)




At the time that this scene was shot, Harry Dean Stanton must have been 81 or 82 years old.

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Notes

The Avengers (2012) on IMDB

Repo Man (1984) at IMDB

Biography of Harry Dean Stanton by Roger Ebert

Harry Dean Stanton in Interview Magazine

M. Emmet Walsh in Wikipedia


Monday, August 8, 2016

Its Always So Depressing When the Russians Leave


I have mentioned this before, but it happened again. Every few months or so, maybe every 4-6 months, the Russians seem to come to my blog. I love them because my view count goes through the roof and I feel appreciated and loved even if it is fake, which it is. Or at least, almost certainly is. I suppose it could be possible that some Russian English class is using my blog as a way of learning eccentric English.

But probably, it is just some bot on a regular circuit based on some criteria that I could only guess at which hits my blog, extracts all the content as juice, and then goes away.

But I miss them, and I hate it when the blog goes back to its normal daily view count.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Why is Helena Bonham-Carter Always Falling Out of Bed?


This post is rated X due to comments about the "rubber/latex glove".

I just saw for the first time that epic tome on weird psychology, Fight Club (1999) by David Fincher. There are many theories about what it means, what happened, and so forth and so on. But none of these discussions of theories of masculinity or the lack thereof addressed the issue most important to me. Ms. Bonham-Carter appears to play a character that is always falling off the bed.

Ok, so she isn't always falling out of bed, but she is at least twice, and twice is enough to convince me that it means something.

First we have....





And then we have ...







If we add the great, even famous line, “That was the best sex I have had since grade school”, I think we have some sort of implication that falling out of bed indicates, well, a fallen woman, a woman who gives herself over to sex, or sexual pleasure.  Note for example the subtle use of a latex or rubber glove being worn by Brad Pitt.  Fisting perhaps?  Anal sex? 

Is this the role of women in Fight Club? Is this all that women are good for? Going to 12 step therapy sessions and hopping into (and off of) bed?

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Biography of Helena Bonham-Carter on IMDB