Friday, April 29, 2016

Motion Blur and Atypical Flare Over Syria

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The following are images taken from the boom position of a McDonnell Douglas KC-10 Extender aircraft while refueling an F-22 Raptor over Syria. The point of these pictures here is to demonstrate a good use of motion blur and a form of lens flare both “normal” and “atypical” as used by our unwitting photographer for the benefit of those interested in the arts of visual effects.

In our first picture we have the image of a stabilized F-22 underneath the KC-10 with the city in the distance. The F-22 has matched its motion to the boom and our photographer so there is no motion blur (there is actually a tiny amount) but the ground underneath the plane is moving at a steady clip as you can see by the streak of its lights. Additionally both the bright distant lights and lights/reflections on the airplane itself are demonstrating what we might call “typical flare”, e.g. a roughly circular, symmetric and Gaussian glow on top of (double exposed if you will) the base imagery. Also look for saturation blowout where the image “becomes so bright” that the color is attenuated to “a very bright” white.




In the second picture, our eyes are drawn to the green flare on the left side of the image. The conceit here is that there has been some moisture on the lens, whether from rain or condensation or other. The water distorts the otherwise circular flare (as maintained for the red light) into a idiosyncratic and atypical flare such as we might see in the so-called real world, which in fact this is.

Notice that the lights on the ground are far less noticeable as we have moved over a more rural part of Syria.




In our final image, we have a different point of view. The fighter still has matched motion to the boom and hence no noticable blur, but the lights are also seen from a different angle and more in the distance, so there is also less blur.




The funny thing about motion blur done well is that at speed the apparent blur disappears.



Wikipedia page on the KC-10






Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Is Princess Leia Channeling Hillary Clinton?

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Carrie Fisher, a sex symbol of the cinema from an earlier era, has received some mighty unpleasant criticism about how she has matured since the original film came out in 1977. Well that is 40 years with a lot of mileage for Ms. Fisher who was after all a more intellectual, spunky kind of sex object.

But I have noticed that in her role as General Leia in the latest Star Wars film, she reminded me of another senior woman of politics. Yes, Hillary Clinton.





Is this coincidence, my own fantasy, the Force, the lattice of causality that underlies the apparent coincidences of the material world, or is it just saying something about the fashion of being a woman in power in early twenty-first century America?



Globalization and Its Discontents (1/2)

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Many people in Washington and in business pretend to be surprised at the backlash against Globalization, which is sometimes presented with the code words “free trade”.  If the politicians are genuinely surprised at a backlash then they are genuinely stupid.  But I do not believe that they are that stupid, I think that one more time they are lying to steal the money.  If they are sincere then they are too stupid to have the jobs they have which require a certain amount of either intelligence or integrity and they have neither.

Globalization has a very clear historical track record at least here in the West.  What is human slavery but an economic alternative to having to pay one's fellow citizens a living wage?  One can just "requisition" labor from the "dark continent" and use them on your sugar plantations without having to pay benefits and where the labor itself can be flexibly traded like cattle.. Is it really so different today when a large corporation outsources its manufacturing or office work to a third world country where they do not have to pay health care? (1) Not for the first time did Globalization lower the costs of labor in the interests of profits, and not for the last time either.

And as the last few decades have demonstrated over and over again, corporations will violate any law, violate any ethic, violate any standard of public decency, to the point of destroying the financial system that they are a part of, if it might result in a quick buck. As the scorpion said to the frog, it is in their nature to do so, and we should not criticize them if our system permits it. We know how they are. It is up to us to regulate them, and in the future to see to it that there are criminal penalties for their grossly antisocial and morally bankrupt behavior.

Does this mean that I do not want America to be part of the “Global Economy”? No of course not. What I want is for the burden that Globalization imposes on the citizens of this country to be shared with the people who make the profits, and to see that there are legal restraints on their power.  

When a corporation outsources or offshores manufacturing or some other service to China or India, it may very well improve that corporation's bottom line. When an Indian company uses H1B visas and an American company forces its workers to train the Indians in their job, only to be laid off immediately afterwards, the American company may indeed increase profits.

But as a result of this, we have many Americans out of work, which means that they can not support their families. If they need to be retrained for another job, they are not likely to be able to afford it. The money they would have spent in the local economy, all that money that is being sent overseas, is now not spent in the local, American economy, causing other business to go out and release even more workers. And the improved profits go to the top 1 percent who already had enough money, so the average American sees none of this.  Of course the money does not just go to the 1 percent, all the money that would have gone to the American worker is now sent overseas.

When the United States won World War 2, it was in large part because they had the manufacturing power to win it.  Now that we have destroyed our manufacturing in order to increase the profits of the rich, it makes it unlikely that we will be able to win another World War, should one happen. Do I believe that the United States has a strategic economic plan to see that this does not happen.  No, of course I do not believe it. Why? Because our country would never want to interfere with the profits of the rich. 

But the worst part of this, is that our elected representatives lied through their teeth about the results of Globalization and do so to this day, but do nothing to help the disenfranchised or impoverished.  Their job is to represent the interests of the American people, and to tell them the truth about the policies that they are proposing.  And Clinton, Bush and Obama lied to the American people on an issue that is vital to their well-being.

_______________________________________________


1. And yet the American worker has to pay the full cost of the most expensive health care system in the world which is not as good as so many other countries in the world.  This increases the cost of labor for the corporation, all the more reasons to go overseas, eh?

Monday, April 25, 2016

John Hughes and Globalization

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It has been announced that John Hughes is forming an effects studio in Beijing with Chinese money. The first project will probably be one that dramatizes the support the Chinese people gave to the allied war effort in World War 2, in particular the support that the Chinese gave to the Doolittle Raid of Tokyo, and the Japanese murder and oppression that resulted.

Its an interesting choice of topic for a first project and I wonder who came up with it. My guess is that it was not the visual effects people, as we have learned that to have an opinion in such matters is not our place, and any enthusiasm or intelligence just makes the clients afraid (this is my personal experience by the way). So we must conclude and presuppose until otherwise told that it was a Chinese choice which either makes the Chinese particularly adept at politics, which they may well be, or it is just a happy coincidence.

For those who are not aware of their own history, the Doolittle Raid was an improbable surprise attack by Mitchell B 25B medium bombers on Tokyo.  They were launched by aircraft carrier which had made a surprise approach to the Japanese coast.  The bombing itself was of minimal impact. They had no way to retrieve the bombers so the plan was for the bombers to fly on to China and land (or bail out) over China and make their way back to America using support of the Chinese in occupied Japanese territory.  The raid had minimal direct military impact, but it was a giant morale builder for the American people and it completely enraged the Japanese high command.  What was perhaps not completely thought out was how the Japanese were going to respond to the Chinese support for this activity, and it was very ugly.  I will not repeat the estimated number of Chinese who were killed because the numbers are outrageous and I suspect no one really knows.


B25B Mitchell medium bombers preparing to take off from the USS Hornet


This choice of projects has several subtexts whether or not the people making the choices are aware of them, imho. The American economy has been ravaged and destroyed by the obvious ploy of Washington to increase the value of the rich at the expense of the average American and in particular the American worker. A tremendous amount of this money has gone to the industrial leadership of the People's Republic of China, although not exclusively. Some of this money has gone to enrich the wealthy of other countries as well, and of course there has been some trickle down to a nascent middle class in these countries (even as the middle class in America is destroyed as a deliberate result of policy).

So it is fair to say that a movie the celebrates the long suppressed political fact of our alliances of WW2 is to be welcomed even if it is used to justify the transfer of wealth of the people the United States to their new Communist masters. In fact, it may be that under communism, the people of the United States will do better than other the hypocrites and liars of Neoliberalism.


Wikipedia page on the Doolittle Raid
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doolittle_Raid



The Sword of Hillary


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I have decided to write a post on my blog about the abuse that is heaped on anyone in this society who would dare to question Hillary (aka HRC)'s right to be the next president. Anyone who doubts HRC's perfection have their ethics and their morality, their intelligence, and their experience attacked by what I now call “The Sword of Hillary”, soldiers whose self-appointed job is to attack and destroy anyone who does not believe in the true faith.

Well guys, it wont work, at least not with me. All it has done is to convince me that you have drunk the Hillary lemonade and made my position all the more polarized. Whereas before I had not questioned voting for the party candidate at the general election, now I *do* question it. Why should I vote for someone who clearly does not have my interests at heart (e.g. the transparent fraud that is "globalization") just to keep this country from self-destructing (e.g. electing a Republican).

If the Hillary faction wants my vote they can create a Democratic platform that I can ethically and, in the interests of the underclass that I am a member of, support.

Some of this is not Hillary's fault by the way. Obama is I think the best we can expect from a middle of the road, well-meaning, Democrat and while I appreciate his efforts, it has also convinced me that this is not enough. And I do not expect that Hillary will be as good as Obama, even. So instead of attacking me or others who doubt HRC will be the “president from heaven”, who will bring about the new Millennium, that in fact she is the second coming of The Christ or, depending on your point of view, even the first coming of the Messiah, your efforts would be better used to understand why people doubt her and work to improve both her positions and any democratic platform.

Finally a separate note to both Hillary and Bernie supporters. The primary process in this country is a wildly overcomplicated, some would say corrupt, process. Some of what we are seeing today is the outrage that comes from the non-party candidate, Bernie Sanders, being exposed to these processes. My advice to both sides is to grow up. Yes, Hillary is benefiting, and the Bernie side should expect it and the Hillary side should not reduce their own credibility by denying it. And if you need some examples just use the comments below to ask, nicely, and I will be happy to provide them.



Saturday, April 23, 2016

"America and the Global Economy" by Jack Lew

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If you go to the following link, you will be able to read an article in Foreign Affairs by Jacob J Lew entitled “America and the Global Economy”. Mr. Lew was director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in the Clinton and Obama administrations.

If you register with Foreign Affairs, you will be permitted to read one article a month. Isnt that nice of them? I think that is mighty white of them, myself.


When you read this essay you may notice some entertaining little details. Pretty much every paragraph is either a lie or a threat except in the cases where it is both. What Mr. Lew is saying is that you had better do it our way or you will be sorry.  And literally the subtext is that putting Americans out of work is always good. And paying for abominations at the UN is always good. Its our way or the highway.

This is the kind of person I would expect Hillary to put in at OMB. This is the crap that Hillary believes in.  So forgive me, but I do not expect to vote for Hillary until she has a policy and a platform that I can minimally agree with.  

It is time for Washington to understand that (a) putting Americans out of work to increase the profits of the rich does not help America and (b) supporting crap at the U.N. is not acceptable to Americans.  Do I believe that HRC (Hillary Clinton) agrees with this.  No, I do not.

________________________________________________


Wikipedia page for Jack Lew


Friday, April 22, 2016

The Old Religion and Story Structure in Superhero Movies

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As we are all aware, the modern cinema has moved beyond the giant robot to embrace a far richer and more diverse metaphor to better represent the totality of our civilization, that of comic book superheroes. I have recently taken it upon myself to review the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe of 12 films (so far) in order to prepare myself to analyze both the text and subtext of this pillar of popular culture and in so doing was surprised that there were actually some very entertaining movies in this torrent of cinematic excess in the service of art or at least commerce.

Among these 12 were numerous films that fulfilled all the best expectations of the graphic novel whether that involved destroying entire worlds or the threat to life in the galaxy and managed this intense mayhem without being overly burdened by humor, character development or any of those other old-fashioned story elements. But even in the most excessive of these there were moments that were really well done in a non-kinetic fashion, that is, well written, or well acted, or clever. There were three films in particular that had actual humor including Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and Ant-Man (2015). (1)

But the third caught me entirely by surprise and which I had completely missed when it first came out. This is the film based loosely on the pre-Christian religion of northern Europe, as documented in the Icelandic Poetic and Prose Eddas as well as other sources. In particular, the film's lead character is the eponymous Thor of Asgard who was said to wield a hammer that destroyed his enemies and would make the sound of thunder when it was used.

There are two movies in one in Thor (2011), one that takes place in Asgard which is boring and stupid and one which takes place on Earth, or Midgard, which is very entertaining. This essay discusses some of the elements, some would say sleazy tricks, that the filmmakers used to achieve their aims: a brilliant director, excellent casting especially of the lead, an appealing and classic story structure, and a story itself that incorporates humor and human values but fails to rely on digital visual effects (how could that be?!)


Thor after his shower and without his shirt....


makes quite an impression on the research assistant.


The fundamental reason that I believe that the “Midgard/Earth” portion of this movie works so well is that it is based on a classic story structure that is sometimes called “setup and payoff”. In “setup and payoff” the audience knows something early on that the other characters in the drama do not know. So as the story proceeds we know that there will be a time when the truth is revealed and that can be very entertaining. "Setup and Payoff" is used on a regular irregular basis in the West as a fundamental element of storytelling and especially of comedy.  One movie that comes to mind is Galaxyquest (1999) which makes very good use of this technique.

In this case, the setup is that we know that the homeless person who seems deranged *is* actually Thor, at least in a modified Marvel Cinematic Universe sort of way, that he is from Asgard, and that he has been banished for his irresponsible behavior. We know this, but *they*, the mere mortals of earth/Midgard, don't. When he saves the lives of his friends at the expense of his own we share in the tragedy yet we know that still all may be well, and indeed, being worthy, his mighty hammer, Mjornir, is restored to him, with his armor, and in full view of everyone he defeats evil.

This of course makes use of another important trope of storytelling one that has been called "He's Back!" and goes by other names as well.  (2) 




The elder scientist tries to convince Natalie Portman that no one will believe her theory without evidence, when Thor's friends arrive to Midgard by way of the Bifrost.  Setup and payoff.


It helps that the main characters are cast so well. In particular, Chris Hemsworth both looks the part, looks great in armor and a pair of jeans, and can play the part straight yet with a touch of humor.  It also helps that the film is directed by Kenneth Branagh slumming here for his first superhero movie. An entertaining script, good actors, well directed, and very few digital effects that do not serve the story.  No wonder Hollywood finds it difficult to make an entertaining movie.

Its a shame they did not emphasize the human sacrifice which is so a part of indigenous European religion, but this is a comic book, after all.


A classic text on the Old Religion

Marvel Cinematic Universe

Kenneth Branagh

Thor (2011) on IMDB



1. A fourth film that has some humor is the first Iron Man (2008) with an excellent humiliation scene and will be the subject of a later post.

2, There are several extensive lists of storytelling tropes on the Internet, almost all of which are aimed at popular culture, but they could also be applied, with some modification, to classical culture as well.




Sunday, April 10, 2016

The TransPacific Partnership and the Inalienable Rights of the Corporation


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When will American's wake up and realize that it is the noble corporation, the keeper of all that is right and just, that must be the focus of all our laws and institutions? By enabling and encouraging the large corporation, mere freedom and liberty is transcended by providing greater profits to the shareholders. America is based on this fundamental principle in spite of the whining of little groups of failed so-called upholders of liberty. They should realize that the only liberty that matters is the liberty of the large corporation.  It is from these corporations that all the good in our world originates.  Our entire political system is dedicated to empowering the large corporation.

As the movie, Network (1976), so presciently puts it, in putting words into the mouth of the Chairman of the Board of the eponymous network,


A lecture on Globalization


"You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won't have it! Is that clear? You think you've merely stopped a business deal. That is not the case! The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they must put it back! It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity! It is ecological balance! You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multivariate, multinational dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds, and shekels. It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today."

And so, with this so clearly expressed back in 1976, why do we have to listen to mere Noble prize winning economists like this Joseph Stiglitz who is running down the Trans Pacific Partnership? Who is he to say that this is the "worst treaty every negotiated"?  President Obama had the interests of all Americans at heart when he tried to steamroller this treaty through congress without discussion.  Sure this treaty was negotiated in secret without the input of the citizens of the various nations but so what?  Look at what Globalization has brought to all the citizens of this great nation: poverty, the destruction of organized labor, the exploitation of enslaved people around the world.  Shouldn't that be enough to establish a little trust here?



Joseph Stiglitz going on and on about economic inequity again



In America, our entire political system is dedicated to empowering the large corporation. As it has always been. As it will always be.

Its for our own good.

You can read about Dr. Stiglitz's rant here:

The IMDB page for Network (1976) is here:




Thursday, April 7, 2016

A Conspiracy Theory about the Panama Papers


What is great about conspiracy theories is that they do not have to be motivated by mere facts. After all, the point of a conspiracy is that a cabal is actively hiding the truth so all right-minded citizens are forced to speculate. Its their own damn fault for lying to us so often, right?

The art of creating a vibrant conspiracy theory is to weave events that are believed to have happened into a narrative that purports to explain why and how it happened. Sometimes events are invented or enhanced to enrich the process. Often bogus analysis and interpretation is required to make a conspiracy theory plausible, except of course it doesn't make it plausible at all, but merely exposes the credulity or borderline insanity of the audience. The best conspiracy theories do not open themselves up to magical thinking, at least not so much.

This post proposes that there is some basis for attributing a lovely conspiracy behind the Panama Papers leak that is causing such havoc in the world today.

And what havoc it is creating! We have one prime minister resigned already, and red faces in many parts of the world. That stalwart upholder of freedom and truth, the People's Republic of China, is madly trying to suppress the information that reveals so many Chinese in the government had these off-shore accounts. Russia is even saying that this is all a plot to besmirch Putin.

So without further ado, here is my take on the events, starting many years ago.

In part one of the story, various intelligence agencies of the West, possibly on their own or in cooperation with the intelligence agencies of other allied countries, run operations against aspects of the banking and legal infrastructure of off-shore accounts. They do this in order to try and identify and compromise the activities of other countries that use such accounts for their own covert activities including the financing of terrorist activities, arms purchases, and other operations. Thus, law firms such as the now famous, or infamous, Mossack Fonseca, are the target of operations by the western intelligence agencies.

As a result of analyzing this intelligence, it is of course noticed that various criminal activities, such as the illegal diversion of government funds, narcotics, and tax avoidance are also exposed. But as always, there are real barriers to using this information in domestic law enforcement as the source of the intelligence would have to be exposed.

In part two of the story, the United States and other countries are the victims of some very serious provocations, often behind the scenes but not entirely. Whatever is happening in Ukraine, and whatever happened in Crimea, there is every reason to think Russia is being proactive here behind the scenes. An even better example is the People's Republic of China who, if one can believe what one hears, has executed the largest intelligence operations in the history of the world outside of wartime in their “advanced persistent attacks” against American domestic and military targets. In other words, the PRC waged undeclared war against us, stole an incredible amount of military and other information, and then blandly denied it to our face.

In part three of our story, some part of the intelligence infrastructure, or the administration, notes that various leading members of the governments that are being so annoying have also violated their own laws by having these off-shore accounts for their own personal gain. They have thus made themselves vulnerable to attacks or blackmail of one form or another, perhaps thinking that they are protected because the “Western democracies” never inconveniences the rich of the world. And while that is true, it is possible that a special exception will be made for the leaders of some countries who have really gone out of their way to be annoying.

In part four of our story, the intelligence community of the country or countries try to come up with a way to use this information without having to admit that they have in fact spied on these law firms not to mention the various banking industries of certain nations who are guilty as hell. And it is noted that the world's fourth estate is unbelievably credulous and romantic about the so-called “individual whistle blower” who is acting out of a desire to help the world, or so the press believes.

Thus, the narrative goes, instead of releasing all the information collected from various law firms, banks, and so forth, it is proposed to leak the information of one particularly interesting law firm, and pretend that it came from an individual who, of course, must remain anonymous.  In this way, no one doubts the information the way they would if it came from our government, and even better, we don't have to pay for the analysis which no one would believe anyway. Instead we get hundreds of journalists on someone else's payroll to rake through the muck, having previously checked to see that there is nothing *too* embarrassing to us before it is released. In other words, some Americans and other westerners will be exposed here, but nothing too serious.

Thus I am proposing that one possible explanation for this unprecedented compromise of the great international industry of hiding money had nothing whatsoever with a lone whistle blower at all.

It is made all the more delicious as none other than that narcissistic keeper-of-the-truth, Ed Snowden, is acclaiming this leak and calling on various heads of state to resign.  How wonderful if it were to turn out not to be an individual leaker at all, but none other than the US Intelligence Community?

Sadly as time goes by and more and more prime ministers of the Western nations are forced to resign, this theory becomes more and more unlikely.  Which is a shame.  Perhaps, if it were true, it would merely be an example of "unintended consequences"?   Perhaps there is an intelligence agency somewhere with egg on its face?  Or perhaps it will turn out that this agency was in fact manipulated by the Bavarian Illuminati which stands behind and manipulates all such things? What is great about conspiracy theories is that you never know.


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The NSA, Nazi Gold, Watergate, Enigma and Cryptome.org


We have two documents here from the Center for Cryptological History (CCH) of the NSA. Both papers are interesting on several different levels and are highly recommended for those who wish to be informed about how the NSA works and thinks about its work. Those who are paranoid about the NSA (possibly with good reason) but don't know much about it should certainly read these reports to get a more nuanced view of what is going on.

The first paper is a report on how the NSA found itself involved in the ever-beguiling topic of Nazi Gold. In 1997, Congress began an investigation into this history requesting input from the various law enforcement and intelligence agencies, but did not ask the NSA for some reason (one reason could be that the NSA did not come into existence until years after the end of the war). The NSA read about it in the open press and did not think much about it. But coincidentally an NSA historian happened to be going through old archives for work on another topic and discovered to his surprise that the NSA had something to contribute on this subject. Apparently a predecessor organization to the NSA had in fact captured and decrypted discussions between the Swiss delegation on the topic when negotiating with the United States. This started a process whereby the NSA internally decided to bring this document to the attention of the Congressional committee even though they had not asked.




The second paper is a discussion, formerly classified Top Secret Umbra, about the impact of Watergate and the release of Enigma decryption efforts of WW 2 had on their operations. It is particularly interesting because it goes over in modest detail some of the problems that occur when intelligence collected for national security purposes is repurposed for domestic law enforcement. This is a very important problem and one that has the chance of vindicating one small part of the Snowden revelations (even though I believe that most of the Snowden revelations have nothing to do with the violation of American civil rights and were released for other purposes). It is therefore important for anyone who is concerned on these issues to become aware of some of the history of this dilemma which this report describes.

In particular the report discusses what happened when the Reagan Administration requested NSA to cooperate with FBI in using SIGINT for domestic law enforcement and what the NSA thought and did about it. Those who believe that the NSA gladly violates the Constitutional rights of Americans will be reassured to know that by no means is the NSA cavalier about these issues. Those who are concerned about whether their Constitutional rights to privacy might be compromised by a future or current Administration have every reason to be concerned.




You will note that both of these documents are archived on the internet site cryptome.org. Cryptome is a well known entity in the area of Internet privacy and government secrecy. Run by John Young and Deborah Natsios in the upper west side of NYC, they maintain an online repository of many of the government documents that have been released and those that have been leaked and include many items of relevant commentary by individuals, groups and news sources. Although the politics of Mr. Young and Ms. Natsios are far to the left and I certainly do not agree with them on many issues, I have found Cryptome to be a useful and reliable web site and worth checking out on a regular basis.

But can we really believe the content of these papers? Even now the US Government hides the facts of our use of Nazi Gold to finance the reverse engineering of the Nazi anti-gravity drive. And what about the Nazi bases at the Polar regions? Sadly, no mention. We must conclude that these papers were released to deflect attention from the truth.



NSA Paper on Cryptology and the Watergate Era

NSA Paper on Nazi Gold