History and aesthetic of computer animation and virtual reality. Notes on Los Angeles in the 1980s and the computer animation community of that time. Miscellaneous commentary on the archaeology of the cold war, as well as notes on the esoteric knowledge as it manifests in popular culture, cinematic theory, the hollow earth, espionage, corruption in civic governance, the aesthetics of conspiracy theories, the failure of the cultural myth and other related topics.
Monday, October 15, 2012
Richard "Doc" Baily and the Lattice of Causality
This essay is on the general topic of how we perceive coincidence, and read patterns into them. Do those patterns actually exist? I doubt it, but who knows.
For those of you interested in the history of computer animation, this story involves my good friend, now deceased, Richard "Doc" Baily.
This story takes a while to get going, unfortunately. If you make it through to the end, though, I think you will agree with me that its pretty weird.
I do not believe in such
things as Synchronicity, or the apparent coincidences that underly
the material world that indicate a formal structure of cause and
effect that is not apparent to our normal senses, limited as they are
by mere matter and energy. I really wish I did believe in such
things, because if I did, then maybe I would believe in telepathy,
and if I believed in telepathy, maybe I would believe in
life-after-death and if I believed in life-after-death maybe I would
believe in happy endings and then maybe I would have some hope.
But I dont.
I wish I did, but I dont.
I suspect that when I experience
something that seemingly indicates that cosmic consciousness is
guiding our actions, or some other similar mechanism, that what is
actually going on is a series of coincidences that are assembled by a
hyperactive pattern-seeking device known as the human brain. And
that this fabulous pattern seeking and making device is, particularly
when under stress, finding patterns when none exists. In a more
extreme form, this is one proposed explanation for paranoia, that the
brain is putting patterns together and is being a little too
energetic in doing so.
But I have a few stories, and this is
one of them. What I particularly like about this story is the
extremely infinitesimal odds of it occurring, as you will see.
It involves one of my best friends, now
deceased, Richard "Doc" Baily, or Dr. Baily as we called
him. He was a graduate of Cal Arts, a technical director at Abel's
who worked on Tron among other projects, a poet, and a talented early
computer animator and abstract filmmaker. Richard was very
eccentric and not everyone enjoyed working with him in part because
of his flamboyant lifestyle choices. Eventually both he and I were
no longer at Abel's but he remained a good friend until he passed
away tragically several years ago. I met him when I first started
working at RA&A in the early 1980s. My friend Richard led a
troubled life due to some of these lifestyle choices that I referred
to. He was in and out of various substance abuse programs and in and
out of work. He did not have a good relationship with his family.
I tried to be supportive and I genuinely liked him, most of the time.
We kept in touch.
About a decade later, in the early
1990s, I am taking a break from my very depressing life and so-called
career in Los Angeles and going out west to visit some of the
national parks and chill out. My production company is out of
business, computer animation is becoming very corporate, and the
future is uncertain at best. I run into a friend, Harvie Branscomb,
and I accept an invitation to stay in his guest room for a few weeks,
about 10 miles downvalley from Aspen, Co. In Aspen, I meet a
pleasant local named Jennifer (not sure I have her name right) and as
I am preparing to drive slowly back to Los Angeles, she suggests that
I stop by Sedona and visit a friend of hers who runs a New Age
bookstore and tchotchke shop. I am not planning to go to Sedona,
but I tell her I will visit her friend if I get there.
About a week later, I am driving in
Arizona and I reach a crossroads where I either turn directly for LA
or go the other direction to Sedona. I was not planning to go to
Sedona, but at the last minute I take the turn and go there.
Just wait, this will all make sense.
I go to the New Age bookstore and meet
Jennifer's friend. She has never met me before, did not know I was
coming, but of course she does remember her friend Jennifer who has
referred me. She says without much preamble: You must go to the
river. You must go right now.
Why not, I thought. This has been a
fun trip acting on impulse, lets go to the river, lets go right now.
The river refers to a creek near some
hills that are supposed to be particularly filled with karmic good
energy fields. Sortof an epicenter of Sedona, which is itself a
center of cosmic energy, I am told. What I find there is more of a
pond, a bit muddy, with some kids playing in it, a few 20-something
women, a few picnic tables, an old guy fishing. So, why not, I
start talking to the young women who are playing in the water and we
And where are you from, they ask? I am
from LA. And what do you do? Well, its not clear, thinking to
myself, right now I am not doing anything, but I guess I do computer
animation, I say. Oh, they say, do you know our cousin Richard
Baily? Doctor Baily?, I ask. Oh no, they say, he's not a doctor,
he's a computer animator! He's our cousin and we are just coming from
a family reunion with his father and he did not show up!
Oh, I thought, thinking about what
little I knew about my friend's "relationship" with his
family and his parents.
Ok, I said, I am Richard's best friend
in LA or one of them. Why don't I buy you all dinner tonight in
Sedona and you can tell me all about it. So I did. Oddly enough, I
don't remember much about the dinner, but we discussed my friend
Richard and his relationship with his family, and I told them some
things about Richard in LA, not bad things, mostly good things I
think. But I don't remember too much about dinner.
As the years passed, I wondered if this
event had actually happened, it seemed too improbable. But when
Richard passed away, I ran into the two cousins at the memorial service and
they said yes, we had met by the river in Sedona and I had taken them
to dinner, just as I had remembered.
So consider the odds here. They are
not planning to be in Sedona more than a day. I am not planning to
be there at all. I am not planning to go to Aspen. I do not know
Jennifer. I do not know the woman who owns the bookstore. But I do
show up unexpectedly that afternoon, and she tells me to go to the
river, and I do, and I meet the cousins of my best friend who have
just come from a family reunion where their famous cousin who is
estranged from his family has not shown up.
The odds of this happening are quite
tiny, I think. I don't really know what to make of it. It does seem oddly ordained by fate. I have
other stories of this type, but this one is exemplerary because how I
came to be there was so involved and unlikely.