Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Professional Objectivist


This essay is an indirect meditation on the very broad questions of what it is that makes a place desirable, or entertaining or pleasant.    For some people, it is the weather of S. California with its endless overly bright sunlight and extremely strong opinions about what constitutes success and failure.  For me, there are many issues but one of them, discussed here, is my eccentric sense of what is entertaining.  So, for example, the following afternoon social event which I describe here I found tremendously amusing.  It still makes me smile whenever I think of it.  But I wonder how many other people would find it as rewarding?

For many years I lived in the Upper West Side of New York City in a sublet of an incredible apartment overlooking Riverside Drive and the Hudson River (estuary). I have been fortunate to also live in other places that had high entertainment value, such as Los Angeles in the 1980s when computer animation was but a gleam in a few idealist's eyes, but none so beautiful and rewarding as the apartment on Riverside Drive.

Although my role in the Hayden Planetarium's Digital Galaxy Project was sadly over I still maintained many relationships with my friends there. One afternoon I was invited to join two of them, Anthony Braun and Gretchen Schwartz of the museum, for afternoon tea at some cafe on Columbus Avenue. It was a beautiful day and we sat outside. I am pretty sure that Steve Gano was there that day as well. (1) Gretchen had also invited her girlfriend who we will call Amy. Amy and Gretchen had both been interns for Michael Moore, the famous director of documentaries (and they both hated Mr. Moore with a passion).

Amy had invited her current boyfriend a tall, good looking young man.

So what did Amy's boyfriend do? It seems he was an “intellectual”, and that he worked as an Objectivist philosopher for the Ayn Rand Institute.


Ayn Rand being interviewed somewhere


Now, let me ask you, did you ever read Ayn Rand? Well, I was an undergraduate once, and I read Ayn Rand like everybody else, and was somewhat amused. It did not seem very practical. And I wondered, I truly wondered, who could write that 150 page rant near the end of Atlas Shrugged that went on and on and fucking on? It turns out that Ayn Rand was a Jewish refugee from Stalin's socialist paradise. So a Russian Jewish author of romantic political tracts, we now knew who could write such ummm, well, emphatic material. Ayn Rand, or whatever her real name was, could.

One more thing, to help complete the picture before I comment thereon. It was clear to me that whatever Amy's long term interest in this Objectivist was, her short term interest was, ummm, romantic, which I think puts a more respectable spin on what she wanted from this relationship. That was my impression. A nice looking, big, healthy young man. Such are the lofty motives of so many of our peers and colleagues.

Now, how many Objectivists are there in the world? Well, there are a fair number of people who might call themselves an Objectivist, I suppose. But how many of them get paid for it? Only very few, I think. In the entire world, are there ten professional Objectivists? I doubt it. In all this world are there five professional Objectivists? Perhaps there are five. Perhaps.

So this was truly a great and rare honor. I was having tea with a professional Objectivist!

Now out here in Hollywood I know many interesting and accomplished people. Writers, visual effects supervisors, academy award winners, famous computer scientists, successful entrepreneurs, actors, actresses, poets and porn stars.

But in all these years on the west coast, I never once met a professional Objectivist.


The Ayn Rand Institute

Objectivism

Atlas Shrugged

_____________________________________

1. Some of the people who read this blog will know Steve well. He is a graduate of the MIT Media Lab and a veteran of Apple / Kaleida among other ventures.



Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Improving Elementary Education with H.P. Lovecraft


Education for young people is an area that most agree should be improved but there is no consensus as to what should be done to improve it.  I am aware of one specific area which I believe that we can all unite behind and work to see that this area is better represented in our elementary curriculum.

After some study, I have concluded that our school children are not being sufficiently exposed to the genre of American horror fiction.   This is a disgrace.   Immersed in a diet of graphic novels that emphasize sexually aberrant superheroes and heroines, our children are sadly unaware and uninformed about important topics such as the hollow earth, the elder gods, the forbidden knowledge, the unspeakable horror, ancient curses, and other important topics.  Why many have never even heard of Cthulhu, let alone understand his/its importance to the traditions of American fiction.

We must take action now and correct this error in our educational process.  We must make the point to our school boards and teachers that our children would benefit from being exposed to a greater diversity of outsider fiction.  And first among them should be the autodidact and self-published author H.P. Lovecraft who is considered one of the greatest writers of horror fiction in this or any country.



H. P. Lovecraft


But it has been argued that Lovecraft is not suitable for very young audiences.  These people are wrong. What could be more appealing to a young child than The Nameless City, The Dunwich Horror, The Shadow Out of Time or The Call of Cthulhu?

If it is still believed that some of Lovecraft is a little advanced for our very youngest readers, I have a solution. I want to present to you an approach that the artist R. J. Ivankovic has created and I think that this will answer any objections, silly as they may be.

R. J. Ivankovic has pioneered a mashup of Dr. Seuss with H.P. Lovecraft and other authors of the macabre, the horrible, and the grotesque.   Here are some images from his/her “Call of Cthulhu for Beginning Readers”, a reimagining of the original Lovecraft story about Cthulhu published in Weird Tales in 1928.

I believe that we should embrace Mr/Ms Ivankovic's vision and bring it to all our young children. I feel certain that the Dr. Seuss estate would look favorably on the request to use the Seuss style in such a noble cause.







And here is a “One Fish, Two Fish...” as reinterpreted through a zombie, night of the living dead, filter.





Please join me in recommending to our various school boards and committees this important work and help improve elementary education in our country.


DrFaustusAU can be found on Deviant Art at

Find his or her The Call of Cthulhu for Beginning Readers here

_______________________________________________


Notes

Cthulhu on Wikipedia

H. P. Lovecraft on Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._P._Lovecraft

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Elitism, Privilege and Fast Attack Submarines


Over the years I have gone back and forth on the issue of whether there are “rules” that apply to all of us or not. Or are there people for whom the rules do not apply, a privileged elite for whom special accommodation is made?

It seems to me that every time I come across a rule that is supposedly applied evenhandedly, for example, taxes, that no such thing is true. That in fact, there are one set of taxes for the rich, one for the remnants of the middle class and one for the poor with most of the tax burden falling on the middle and lower classes. Or consider the laws against stealing. A poor man steals $500 from a 7-11 and goes to jail. The mortgage industry destroys the world economy, is gifted 2.5 trillion dollars by our government, and the only people who go to jail are the very poorest who defaulted on their pathetic mortgage and are imprisoned in debtors prison in Michigan while the rich go free and laugh.

But I thought that at least in the area of submarines, submarines, for goodness sake, I thought that our country had some integrity. But sadly I was mistaken.

As a student of the cold war and as a strong believer in the role of vast, expensive, over-complicated technological solutions to impose our will on the world and bring the benefits of our culture to other nations whether they want it or not, I am of course a supporter and student of submarines.

And who could not be? The dream of traveling under the water to explore the unknown lands to be found there, filled with strange and wonderful creatures which we can now eat and drive extinct, the ability to visit mysterious underwater phenomena as described by our science fiction authors, to sponsor cooperation between nations by tapping their most secret communication cables, all of these are compelling justifications of our devotion to submarines.

Surely as time passes, more and more will be revealed about the activities of our submarines during the Cold War.


Layout of Japanese WW2 Mini Submarine


For years I had been told that it was impossible to take a tour of one of our nation's active duty nuclear powered submarines.  Since one would not want to get close to a nuclear missile submarine, this would be one of the Los Angeles Class (three different types), Seawolf or Virginia class attack submarines. Tours of every other class of ship of the US Navy were possible, but not nuclear submarines, I was told, on one occasion by a former captain of an attack submarine.

So I was told.

Its all bullshit.

The rules are for the little people and do not apply to those who secretly run things.  Such as a limited number of Stanford Alumni.

See the evidence for yourself, below.




This damning document can be found at the following url:.
http://alumni.stanford.edu/get/page/events/details?event_id=8594

For those of you not up on your subs, the “Los Angeles” class is the class portrayed in the movie Hunt for Red October (1990)

I plan to be calling the San Diego Naval Station and asking for my tour soon and I encourage all of you to do the same.  Lets smash this egregious elitism and restore the right to visit nuclear submarines to all our people.

_________________________________________

Notes

Chief of Naval Operations Description of the Fast Attack Submarine
http://www.navy.mil/navydata/cno/n87/today/ssn.html

Hunt for Red October (1990) on IMDB

Friday, August 22, 2014

Is Writing A Blog a Form of Therapy?


Before we go further, I want you to know what I think about psychotherapy, sometimes called talk therapy, sometimes called psychoanalysis although not as commonly today. I think it is mostly an entertaining mistake from the early part of last century, one part scam, one part Jewish intellectual disease, one part self-deception. (1) I have friends who are the children of very successful psychoanalysts and who have been in therapy all their lives and clearly it hasn't helped.

There are many kinds of therapy of course, and the kind I am being dismissive of is the one in which the patient talks about his life and the doctor concludes that the patient is hostile because he secretly wants to have sex with his mother.

But keeping an open mind, when I was in NY and consulting for Viacom, I decided to give it a try. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Besides, I had as close as I was going to ever have to a steady income, so now was the time.


A great scene from the President's Analyst (1967) right before he confesses to killing the Albanian.


Anyway, I tried it for a year and did get some benefit out of it although I did not realize at first what was going on. What happened is that I noticed that when I saw the therapist, I leaned less on my friends. I live alone and so other than talking to myself, the only way I can release certain kinds of stress, to share as it were, is to talk to my friends. I suspect my friends find this tiresome.  But when I was in therapy I noticed that because I could spew once a week at my therapist, that I did not do it as much to my friends and in fact that I was also a bit less neurotic in the workplace.

Apparently this benefit is sometimes called “Rent a Pal” and is not unique to me.  One is still as fucked up as before, may have as many neurosis or unrealized desires to have kinky sex or whatever, but at least one is not as compelled to blab about it to your long-suffering friends.

I wonder whether I am getting a similar benefit from writing this blog? In writing many of these posts, I get my entertainment by trying to find an amusing way to beat the shit out of things, events, concepts or people that annoy me. 

 I am in touch with my feelings so there are a lot of things that annoy me.



__________________________________

1. There was a period of time, perhaps the 1950s or so, when between three apostate Jews we were able to fuck up nearly everybody in the world. The three of course were Jesus, Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud. Technically, Jesus was an apocalyptic rabbi, and not really apostate.


Administrative Notes on the Blog Fall 2014


These are notes to myself and anyone else interested in the blogging process.

We are now a month or so into the third year of writing this blog and many things have been learned but nothing too unexpected. Many intermediate goals are proceeding along very well. Its probably my single most successful project of the last 5 years or so, take that for what you will.

The two things holding it back are my normal tendency to fail to be very organized in achieving long term goals and the amount of time to do a post when one is trying to be productive in other areas. These are not new issues, but I want to go over them briefly anyway.

The advantage of the blog process is that it can tolerate a “skip around and talk about whatever pops into your head” work process. It can tolerate a “five different posts in progress but this one is the closest to finishing so lets do it and put it up”. But there are other things in life that do not respond to this devil-may-care, gotta-be-free, seat-of-the-pants life style. These things may require a “do these five things by this date and three of those things are really obnoxious and not fun at all”, or may require addressing unpleasant topics or modest amount of confrontation. But in these tasks, failure to make the deadline (which may not even be explicitly known) or failure to do one of the five tasks no matter how well you did the other four results in a total wash.  It is as if you did no work at all. 

So the blogging process must accommodate these other, less forgiving projects.

The second issue is that a decent post is a solid 4 or so hours of serious work. Again not a surprise. Not all posts take this long, this post is taking a little over an hour. But in general my best essays, the ones that contribute the most value and are the most entertaining require many hours of thinking, writing, rewriting, some research, selection of visual materials, and so forth. This is the kind of work that a good client proposal might require or making some progress on a technical project that one has ongoing.

Anyway, it won't surprise you that it can be very hard to find those 4 plus hours when trying to make progress in other things, traveling to conferences, dealing with society, etc. Some days have at best one 4 hour period of dedicated work in it. Some days don't even have that.

So when you do not see a post, or a post of substance for a while, it probably has as its subtext that whatever is going on in my life is getting in the way of applying that serious time to finish or write a post.

A minor issue for the blog is that as it gets more material, it needs to be reorganized, with better choices of tags, various subject pages and so forth.  That project will be a little nasty, like cleaning the kitchen floor, and also like cleaning the floor, becomes more annoying the longer one postpones it.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Illusionist Table at the Scitech Awards


Is it the Addams family or is it our table at the Scitech Awards?

This picture was taken so long ago that David Coons is still married to Carlye.   There is very little light in that room and I am morally opposed to flash units, so that explains the use of the candles to try and add a little illumination.




Besides David Coons and Carlye, we have Rick Sayre, Nicki Kaiser, Josh Pines in the center, Stu Moscowitz (sp) and his lovely girlfriend.  I am inquiring the names of the other people there and about when this happened.

Nikki points out that the candles and the tuxedos make it look like a meeting of illusionists, perhaps earlier last century or even before.

Jeff Kleiser and Coco Conn at the Hotel Figueroa


At a SIGGRAPH long ago, Jeff and Coco discuss something very important.   Between Jeff and Coco we have the two most important social/party organizers of the LA computer animation community in the 1980s.




Jeff is of course partner in the Kleiser/Walczak Construction Company and Coco was the force behind SIGKIDS at SIGGRAPH for many years.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Ancient Past of Early Computer Animation (draft)

This is all just going to be rewritten.

A friend of mine, Terrance Masson, hosted an event at SIGGRAPH 2014 to tell some of the stories behind the early work in computer animation.   I was invited because it is thought that I know quite a few of these stories, and I do.  But instead I wrote up some notes as to why it is very difficult for people to look at the early work in computer animation and make much sense of it or know why these projects are important, if indeed they are.

Although I am going to try and explain some of the factors behind these projects.  But it may still be very hard to understand.   

I may say that I walked through the snow five miles each day to go to school and you may believe me.  I may say that if we wanted to do computer animation we had to build our own computer and you may believe me.  I may tell you that the electronics for a 512x512 frame buffer (graphics display) without the monitor might cost you about $30K.   Or that a major production studio had about 1/2 gigabyte of disk total.

It is extremely difficult to look into the past and really understand what people were thinking and why they did what they did.  If you are going to understand history, even the history of people still living, then you are going to have to realize how recent certain things really are, how much smaller the community was, how much less money was involved, and how much of this was essentially an outsider activity.

The projects I am referring to were created and premiered, generally at SIGGRAPH, between the years 1995 - 1993 or so.   By 1995 at the latest, it was a completely different world.

So here are some things to consider when viewing an early computer animation project (in no particular order):

1. The further back you go in time, the more likely it is that they wrote their own software or someone on the team was writing software.   What!  Write one's own software!?  How technical!  Yes, thats right, to do computer animation you had to know what a computer was.

2. As far as we know, no one in authority thought this was really going to work. No mainstream entertainment organization believed that they were going to be making movies with computer, that 3D animation would take over from 2D to a large degree, that visual effects would use synthetic imagery, etc.

3. With the exception of Lucas and possibly Disney, so far as I know none of the major studios paid for any of this technology until it was all proven to work and make them money.

4. Some people were being paid to do the projects you know about, some were not.  Those who were paid were often expected to do a real job as well, or in some cases their management permitted people to work on the project you are looking at rather than their real job.

5. Computers were unbelievably slower and more expensive.  A 12 bit 512x512 frame buffer (e.g. color display) cost about $30K in 1976 dollars.  Note that is 12 bits, e.g. 4 bits each R, G and B.

6. Some of the best motion graphics was done between 1976 and 1978.

7. All of the projects that we are talking about here were labors of love.

8. Attending the "film" show was an intellectual activity, as my friend Andy Kopra has pointed out.  It was the ideas being demonstrated that made the project important.  If you did not know what those ideas were then you would not be able to understand the piece.  So for example, imho, "Luxo, Jr" by Pixar was about demonstrating that a character could be brought to life in classic Disney character animation terms using 3D graphics.  The film was about proving that such a thing was possible, and only secondarily about a lamp playing ball with another lamp.

9. Although there were people who were interested in the commercial applications to the entertainment industry, there were also many people who were interested in abstract filmmaking, electronic and video synthesis and other, completely non-commercial uses in the visual arts.

... to be continued





Rashomon (1950) on IMDB
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0042876/

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report


The recent suicide of Robin Williams has led to a flurry of articles expressing concern about "suicide contagion" or the phenomenon of people committing suicide after someone famous or someone they know commits suicide.   I have read some of these articles and it is probably a real phenomenon although it is of course mixed in with the more complicated topic of why people commit suicide in the first place and what would be involved in helping them so that they did not see the necessity to do so.

But this post is not about that.  It is about a particular newsletter that is issued weekly:  the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Its all about death on a weekly basis, but God forbid you should use that word.

http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Anti-Social and Criminal Behavior in Social Media


What to do when people attack you on the Internet?   There are many techniques possible including revenge, laughter, threats of violence (which are illegal by the way) and so forth.  

One solution is to help your enemies by telling them what has already been tried so that they do not waste your time.   That is the technique of Ms. Fitzpatrick who has written a letter to her attackers describing what has already been tried and what effect it had.  

The kind of behavior that she is responding to is amazingly bad.  We are talking juvenile, delusional, psycho-pathological, paranoid, vindictive, violent, anti-social, hateful, racist, sexist, vicious, obsessive and criminal.

Just an average day on the Internet, I suppose.

Here are the first three paragraphs of her post:

      Did you come to my blog because you saw something I wrote on an Internet forum or Twitter 
      which you didn't like?

      Are you now frantically Googling my name and trying to "come up with something on me" so 
      you can try to discredit my ideas along with me?

      Let me help. Save yourself some time, and realize that you don't have to spend hours 
      Googling and drilling needlessly on the Wayback Machine, because there's no scandal here.
      If you're trying to silence my legitimate speech and criticism by trying to "come up with 
      something" on me, give it up. Use words, if you have an argument against my blogs, and don't
      try to harass me with "doxing," vilification, smearing, etc. It's not going to work.


Ms. Fitzpatrick's advice to her enemies is very long but worth reading if you have the time.

I come from the period of early online communities. I remember programs like Talkomatic on Plato, and I have used various text based MUDS or whatever they were called.  I participated in early email lists on the ARPAnet like everyone else until I got tired of the flames and the time it took to participate.  I helped test an early version of the Warner Bros multi-person online game "The Palace".   I sponsored and helped implement one of the early versions of a networked-multiperson game, Mazewar. I screwed around with Second Life and once had a very pleasant makeout session with a beautiful virtual woman. Unfortunately my browser got caught in some sort of infinite loop while we were smooching and nothing ever came of it.

It all seemed to me to be playful, entertaining and certainly not harmful beyond the usual problems of distracting young people from their homework or household chores.

But obviously the world has changed and from the slime pits of online social networking we have real-world groups such as Wikileaks, Anonymous and the delusional and narcissistic actions of would-be freedom fighters who work to destroy their country on behalf of the most oppressive governments of the world.  (1)

In fact most of the attacks on Fitzpatrick stem from her non-politically-correct opinions about Snowden and his collaborators.

You may also wish to examine the case of the XX Committee and the actions taken to destroy the reputation and career of its author because of his very literate and compelling posts on the Snowden Operation.   The link for that is also at the end of the post.

This shit isn't funny anymore.


Advice to Google Witch Hunters
__________________________________________


1. This is just reality, kids.  You may not like it, but nothing Snowden or Greenwald has exposed was against American law.   You may disagree with the policies that led to those activities that were exposed, and if so I recommend you elect different representatives to Washington.   All of it, and I mean all of it, was under control of the President, the national security apparatus and the courts.   It was thus all under the control of your legally elected representatives.  If you believe in changing our government by illegal means,  Snowden and Greenwald may have value.   They have certainly collaborated with foreign, hostile intelligence services, independent of whether or not those services sponsored and controlled their activities from the beginning. They are certainly in the service of foreign intelligence today.    Do not think for one moment that the activities of Snowden and Greenwald was legitimate whistle blowing because it wasn't.  They are pursuing a radical political agenda of their own and using illegal means.   There is another discussion that one can have about whether illegal means are legitimate in the context of such events as the Bush coup d'etat of 2000, but that is a separate discussion and even if we decide that they are legitimate, and I do not necessarily do so, I still would not agree with or approve of the Snowden Operation.



Jon Snoddy in New York City


One of the reasons I started with photography again after many years was because I noticed I seemed to have a large number of interesting friends, and that pictures of them as time went by would be entertaining.

Perhaps one of the inspirations for this was that famous black photographer of Harlem clubs, whose name I have forgotten, who took photographs of the people who came to play at clubs he hung out at and who eventually ended up with a photographic record of the history of jazz and blues in this country.

This is Jon Snoddy visiting me in New York City.  I think we are at a cafe on Columbus Ave in the Upper West Side.  I forget if he was working for Walt Disney Imagineering at the time or if this was during one of his entrepreneurial activities, perhaps Gameworks.




Jon is now back at Imagineering and has the misfortune of being rather senior in the Imagineering R&D organization.   We all make mistakes.


Hannes Leopoldseder of the Prix Ars Electronica

Hannes was the founder of Prix Ars Electronica as I understand it and one of the people who ran it along with my friends Christina Schoepf, Gerfried Stocker and others.

The Prix Ars Electronica was and probably still is one of the leading and most prestigious prizes in the electronic arts.   There will be many more pictures from my 3 or so visits to Linz on this website.

One of his jobs was to work with the various investors in industry in Linz, Austria, as well as the civic leaders in order to develop the contributions necessary to run the prize.   Here is at work during one of the jury periods of the Prix at some very pleasant Linz restaurant.



Hannes is the one in the middle.

Prix Ars Electronica
http://www.aec.at/prix/en



Carly Archibeque Reflective


Carly Archibeque at some social event.   Formerly married to a good friend of mine, and now very distant, perhaps to create a clean beginning after their divorce.  Carly was extraordinarily courteous to me when she worked at the Academy in Rich Miller's office and I lived in New York.  I suspect that was just her being professional and courteous to everyone but still it was very nice and very appreciated.  It made me feel as though I had a friend "inside", as it were.



Monday, August 11, 2014

Judson Rosebush on the Hudson


Judson Rosebush is a pioneer of computer animation who was partner in one of the earliest computer animation production companies, Digital Effects in New York City.   In this picture, shot available light, he is navigating his boat on the Hudson river and we are passing close to the Intrepid aircraft carrier.




At one point, about a decade ago, Judson ran an office out of Carnegie hall that was doing dozens of interactive media CD-ROMs for various publishers.   I was very impressed as well with Judson's research into the history of the Manhattan project in Manhattan as well as visiting the site of the Trinity test.  He is the only person I know who has in his position a piece of Trinitite.

I need to track him down and see how he is doing.


Head of a Griffin at the Metropolitan


At the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City is this head of a Griffin sitting in a case.  I believe that they give an approximate date but very little other information.  What was its provenance.  Where on earth did this come from?  A tomb?  Was it designed to be mounted on a staff?  

I had an opportunity in New York City to hear a lecture by Adrienne Mayor, an art historian from Princeton at the time, about her theory of the origin of the Griffin.   First mentioned by Herodotus who said that the story was spread by nomads and traders on the silk road, Ms Mayor observed that on one portion of the silk road one finds large fields of fossils exposed to the air.  One of the most common would look like the skeleton of a very large, four footed beast with the head of a bird.


Griffin on Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Griffin

Adrienne Mayor on Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adrienne_Mayor

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Mystery of Tom Bombadil and Symbolics



When Craig Reynolds sent me a link to Tom Bombadil's Facebook Page I did not at first realize why he asked about this person.

Tom Bombadil is of course an enigmatic character from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series who is the only one in all middle earth who is not affected by the One Ring and seems to be indifferent to the power of Sauron in some way.

Then I looked more closely at this Tom Bombadil and saw the Symbolics 3600 component boards. The 3600 was one of the original Lisp Machines that came from the MIT AI Lab and was commercialized by two different companies, Symbolics, Inc and LMI, Inc.


Look closely at the top of the picture


Only a member of the inner elite would have access to one of these or understand its significance.

Therefore we can ask, who is Tom Bombadil?

So I sent an email to Tom and asked him about himself and what was up.   He replied immediately from Germany.




Its nice to know that we had a positive impact on someone.   Those were back in those naive and idealistic days when we thought that inventing computing and computer animation was going to help the world, not merely provide more opportunities to steal and support corrupt governments.


Tom Bombadil on Wikipedia


Friday, August 8, 2014

ACM SIGGRAPH & The Mixed Blessing of a Single World View

fifth draft

Some must toil in the slave pits of the rich and some must serve on elite committees that stand above the fray, perfect, immutable, and untouched.  But those who serve in those vile yet glamourous positions in industry can not also serve the committees that rule because they do not adhere to the One World View.  It is only this world view that permits the consensus that allows the elite to rise above the unpleasantness that is the world of computer animation.

As my readers know I have been puzzled by the failure on the part of SIGGRAPH to acknowledge certain issues and to make efforts to help their constituency.  It is as if those problems did not exist or that somehow SIGGRAPH was just completely unaware of them.   (1)

And so, since for years I have wondered who runs SIGGRAPH and how it is managed at the national level, it seemed logical that I educate myself as to the processes and people involved.  I have been an attending member of this community since 1980 and of ACM since 1976 and know many of the people in the field, so it seemed to me that it should be straightforward to figure this out.

I think I now understand most of what I set out to know and which I will describe to you below.  It is mostly benign, it is certainly well-intentioned.

The national organization of our community is not secret, but it is elite, and as always with these things they have a sense of who is "of the body of Christ" and who is not by their very nature eligible to be a member.

If one is persistent you will discover that one of the all day meetings of the Executive Committee (EC) of SIGGRAPH is open to the general membership.  This meeting is generally right before or after the national conference. What is odd is that they do not seem to tell anyone about this which is a little inexplicable but probably not intentionally evil.  I have attended SIGGRAPH since 1980 and this is the first I have ever heard of it.   Nevertheless, the minutes of these meetings are published online at a link I provide below.  Also, the annual report by the president is also published online, as well as various policies and bylaws and these altogether  bring a lot of clarity as to what the people who run SIGGRAPH think and worry about.  I am going to presume that like so many other organizations, the picture that is presented is by no means complete, but it is enough for now.

Paul Debevic, formerly of the EC, was also helpful in publishing on Facebook a picture of the EC at work.  I found this picture very entertaining and enlightening.   I don't have a copy of it, but I am emailing Paul for one and I will add it when it arrives.

It seems to me that these people are conscientious and have the well-being of SIGGRAPH at heart.   If I think that they are not aware of a variety of problems and that they have helped contribute to a disaster on the ground, they will not agree with me.  They have a very specific world view, which I will call for want of a better term, an "Educators Point of View", and are probably not aware of the issues that exist in the various production communities even as they glorify and celebrate those industries at their conference.

And that I think is the heart of the problem.  In building a culture and a group of people who can work by consensus, several important communities that are involved in SIGGRAPH are not represented on the EC.  I doubt that this is because of any evil desire to disenfranchise these groups so much as it is a desire to keep the committee centered and effective.  Be that as it may be, the result is that the EC, in my humble opinion, does not acknowledge or address many issues of great importance, at least of importance to some of us.

My first attempt to be nominated for the EC was very politely considered and declined.   Once nominated, one must then stand for election and must receive a certain number of votes from the general membership in order to be on the Executive Committee. Comparing myself to the current members of the committee,  I think I am completely qualified to be nominated and that my position statement would offer the voting membership a candidate with a clearly different point of view and that this would be well-received.

My choices now are to try again to be nominated, or run a write-in campaign to be nominated outside the normal nomination process.   I hesitate to do the latter because its a lot of work, although I think I would get the required signatures if I organized for it.  Perhaps I will do so next SIGGRAPH if I am still interested.

Because I am frankly discouraged.   I have been informed by a long term colleague and esteemed volunteer of SIGGRAPH as well as an alumni of the EC, that the judgment was made long ago that I was ineligible for participation in SIGGRAPH at some level.

I do not know what this means.  I do not understand it at all.  This has left me very troubled and I had hoped to clear this up somewhat at SIGGRAPH but unfortunately I can not attend SIGGRAPH this year because of resource conflicts.  Maybe it can be cleared up remotely.

I will write another post that clearly describes point by point the changes that SIGGRAPH should make, or at least discuss.   This will basically be a summary and restatement after reconsideration of other posts already written in light of what I have learned since then.  For example, I believe SIGGRAPH should stop glorifying the entertainment industry which they do constantly.   They should make a point of showing the dark side if they must also glorify this industry, so that people who are influenced in their career by SIGGRAPH can see other points of view.

Now that I understand, at least to some extent, how the EC works and who is on it, I understand their failure to act on these issues or even to discuss them.   That is what having a homogeneous world view is all about.  They see what they want to see and everything is beautiful.

I know someone is reading my "Issues" post from 2012 because my web site statistics went crazy there for a few days, and then settled down to its normal pace.  About 1,500 people seemed to read it on those three days, or maybe one person 1,500 times.  Although I do not know who those people are or what they think, I submit that this is evidence that some of what I write about must be of interest to people who attend SIGGRAPH, or why else would they be reading it?

I want to help, but I do not want to force myself and my ideas on people.  Its a lot of trouble, it has very little upside for me, and besides, how many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb? Only one, but the lightbulb has to sincerely want to change.


SIGGRAPH EC Meeting Minutes
http://www.siggraph.org/about/ec-meeting-minutes

_____________________________________________

1. Issues include encouraging people to go into computer animation in spite of vast unemployment, having keynote speakers who do not know what a computer is, blind endorsement of many of the worst people of the entertainment industry and so forth.   I will write a more concise description of what exactly I would have SIGGRAPH do to bring more balance to the force but until then you can get a very good idea from reading some of the posts on the right side of this blog listed under SIGGRAPH.   And please do not say that SIGGRAPH can not do this or that.  Be serious, ok?  SIGGRAPH can certainly pick keynote speakers who are from our community.   SIGGRAPH can certainly make it clear to young people what the statistics are about employment and have counter programming.   They could certainly have discussion of the state of employment in computer animation in fiction and non-fiction areas.  They can certainly have representation by non-entertainment users of computer graphics.   There is not the slightest prohibition of any of this in their charter. People need to grow up a little about what they can and can not do.



Tuesday, August 5, 2014

More About Malfeasance in Medical Care in S. California


[On swift wings revenge approaches.   They should tremble in fear to know that I am biding my time until the moment is right, then I will strike!]

As many of you know, I have a chronic medical condition that requires that I take certain medication every day.   When I can not get access to that medication a variety of things happen that are unpleasant both for me and for people around me.

Is this situation life threatening?   Well, it is certainly very inconvenient.   The way that this medication is controlled and made available to the citizens of this country means that, unless one is rich, one spends something like 1/4 to 1/2 or more of one's time securing the medication and not always succeeding.  In other words, the system is set up such that it is perfectly likely, in my experience, and even probable that one will regularly go without the medication due to the system set up by the state on several occasions during the year.

That's just tough shit.  We all have our cross to bear, nevertheless it is no fun. Not for me, not for anyone who may be working with me. It generates tremendous psychodrama, angst and general unpleasantness. I would go so far as to say that it may disqualify me from working at a real job since most real jobs have such things as deadlines, travel, and extraordinary stress that is incompatible both with how the medication works and the process of getting it.  The good news is that what I always forget is that when one has a real job, and live in a real city instead of out here in hell, one can build systems that mitigates most of this.  

At a later date I will explain all of the reasons why getting this medication is so complicated.  But one word of advice, unless you have had to do it for a couple of years at least, you do not have a clue how bad it is. You only think you know.   Trust me, it just goes on and on and on.   But in this post I will tell you a story about one little wrinkle in this many volume puddle-of-shit that is procuring this medication.   This particular fuck comes from moving from the NY area to Los Angeles as part of accepting a "job".

One deliberate back door that is supposed to allow for special events in getting this medication is that when something unexpected happens, one is supposed to be able to go to any emergency room, show the doctor your prescription bottle, explain what the current crisis is about (a snowstorm, a hurricane, a last minute affair with someone you have had a crush on all your life, whatever) and walk out with a one-time prescription to tide you over until you get back home and see your real doctor, or find and a new doctor, or whatever.  

This back door worked in NYC. Even more amazing is that it was rarely necessary.  When a doctor there goes out of town, apparently, or takes a vacation, they designate a replacement for the period of time. Not so out here in sunny S. California. Although going to an emergency room is not something you want to do very often for a variety of reasons, it is something that is considered routine back east.  So it would seem.

But when I moved to LA, to my surprise, it did not work. The doctor at Cedars Sinai in West Hollywood told me that they were prohibited by law from giving out such prescriptions. Then later, when I was dealing with a life-threatening illness in my family in San Diego, I went to the ER in the hospital where my relative was in intensive care and they also refused to help me, saying that their hands were tied by the law.   Thus I had to deal with one of the most traumatic periods of my life made much worse by their actions.   Of course, in both cases, I also received a bill for their services.

So I asked my various doctors in California about what I was told. Was there any such law? Not that they knew about. How would I find out for sure?  No one knew.  No one gave a fuck.  Not their problem.

Fast forward to this week. I am in the middle of medication hell the week before SIGGRAPH and so I decided to try one more time and go to an ER to see if they could help me out. They could, and they did. I got a stern lecture, told that they would not do it a second time, and got a prescription for a few days, which will not be enough for me to find another doctor, exactly, but it was helpful and I have been able to solve this problem in time for SIGGRAPH.  So the system did what it was supposed to do.  But that is just the beginning of the good news.

The doctor at this ER confirmed for me that those other doctors were lying to my face. What I was told was a common lie told in ERs he says when they don't want to deal with this kind of medication. You the patient are expected to believe them and go away and die or whatever.  You are garbage in their eyes.   They do not care to help. 

So lets be clear.

Twice now in S. California I went to the ER for help, a help they could have easily provided, and they chose to lie to my face and let me suffer because it was more convenient for them, for some unknown reason.  The lies were to deflect my anger from their harmful actions.  This is not just incompetence, this is malfeasance.   What are my legal remedies?

None.

What is the solution?

Become rich and the problems go away.

I do not know if this is unique to S. California or if other communities have the same problem.

I can not wait to get out of S. California.

The two 'bad' hospitals by the way were Cedars Sinai in West Hollywood and the older Palomar Hospital in Escondido, CA.  The ER that actually helped me was the *new* Palomar Hospital in Escondido and the experience was quite pleasant and efficient, as these things go.

[How then will I get my revenge on these evil scumbags who serve Satan?   I can not reveal this as yet.  But their time is coming and then they will know my wrath and they will be punished!  And all those who protect and enable them, they will be punished as well!]


Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Mysterious Readers of the SIGGRAPH "Issues" Essay from 2012


I am ashamed to admit it, but I track my blog's page hits pretty closely.  Generally the numbers of hits is dependent on the recency of a post, and whether the post is serious or not.  The number of readers on any given day is closely related to the amount of effort I have put into it in the last 24-72 hours.

But every once in a while the numbers seem to jump, they double or triple out of nowhere and then return to normal after a few days. And what are they reading?

They are reading one thing: my SIGGRAPH “Issues for Discussion” essay that I wrote two years ago when I was late for SIGGRAPH but I was so frustrated with the whole affair that I felt that I had to do something, so I wrote that essay.

Now, a week or so before SIGGRAPH, the statistics on readership on that essay have gone through the roof. I wonder who is reading this? I wonder what they think? They probably think that I am an impractical lunatic because many of the issues are outside the normal agenda of an academic conference of this type. And I guess that is right. But for us, those of us who helped found the field, SIGGRAPH was always something more than merely another academic conference. In this we may have been deluding ourselves.

The essay was written two years ago. I have a dozen other essays on related topics but they do not get read as much.

I wonder who these people are? Do they like it? Do they hate it?

I have no idea, they are silent.

The essay in question can be found here:

Friday, August 1, 2014

Politics and Friendship



So I have a great friend in NY or I used to. We have known each other for decades but just in the last 5 years or so starting talking almost daily. A talented outsider artist, IMHO, we would discuss all sorts of important matters such as the stupidity of modern computer graphics and the failure of that movement, the importance of the Hollow Earth, Lovecraft, the Illuminati's role in modern society, Keats, Blake, Bulwer-Lytton and so forth.

My friend is well known for helping other people who are down. No one can figure out how he supports himself but among other things he is very frugal (but that is not enough). He has had some adversity in life but does not seem to notice. Like all my artist friends who are successful in some sense of that word, he works extremely hard, and is very productive. He has stood by friends in need on several different occasions that I am aware of even when it was not convenient (a test of character, in Southern terminology). Since I am impoverished because of my work and commitment to computer animation he helped me find a place to stay in NYC so that I could visit, which otherwise I could not afford. He spent a billion hours with me when I visited NY and really helped to make that trip great. His daily chats and emails would often cheer me up, and since I am currently ostracized and living in abject poverty, I enjoyed hearing from him. It helped to break the near total isolation.

And he is a die hard Republican.

Loved Romney, thought he would make a great president. Hates Obama more than he would hate Hitler. Benghazi this and Hillary that. Obamacare blah blah blah. Jews controlling the media, how much the Jews are hated, etc. I would hear this stuff daily, more or less, in chats on Google mail and by email. It was occasionally annoying but I enjoyed talking to him, he had high entertainment value. I presumed he was being occasionally sincere but often just provocative.

But he kept assuming he knew what I thought and that I was a typical lefty liberal, whatever that may mean. I kept telling him that he did not know what I thought, really. He did not realize that my third generation elitist Virginian reform Jewish atheist roots and the history of Orthodox and Hasidic rabbis in my family in the Eighteenth century or so, as well as my time at the RAND Corporation left me with somewhat eccentric and non-mainstream beliefs.

So one day, after reading about an hour of rants about Democratic villainy from his point of view I told him .0001 percent of what I believe. Just one time, after hearing this stuff from him literally every other day (if not every day) for years.

I told him what I believed on just one issue just one time.

That the Supreme Court pissed on the constitution in public in November 2000 when they installed their goon, Bush Jr, as president in a classic coup d'etat. That the NY Times was just a right-wing rag when it rolled over and did not even slightly object to this gross injustice thus revealing its true colors. That everything Bush did was therefore illegal. That every decision that the Supreme Court made since that black day needed to be reevaluated in light of this crime to see which of their decisions were legal and which needed to be overturned.

And he never talked to me again.

So what is the moral of our little story? I guess the moral is that you should never tell someone what you believe unless you are perfectly ok with them never talking to you again. It doesn't have to be fair, and it doesn't have to be reciprocal, that is the way it is.   We might also conclude something about how Republicans relate to opinions outside their cult, but we already knew that.