Thursday, December 31, 2015

End of Year Synopsis at Global Wahrman


The new year comes and the new year goes.

The thief reminds Brian to always look on the bright side of life.

Let us embrace our negativity and be positive about it so we can have the very best negative attitude of anyone.

First, on the positive side, although the Ken Perlin project is over, it was very educational and left a little money in the bank. Working with Dr. Perlin is like some sort of therapy process: the man is astoundingly productive and high energy. As a side effect of this project, I picked up a dozen or more skills that no doubt will be useful in one way or another.

Second, this blog is coming along although I would wish to have written more on certain topics that will contribute to a book or two being planned, especially the one based on the course I taught at NYU on the history of visual effects. I am not altogether sure who reads my blog, but apparently some people do and I appreciate it.

Third, my health is stable, and all I need is money and a lot more energy to engineer my way through the corrupt and insane system the medical community and our government has put in place. Can one really manage this fucked up system and do a normal job? Probably a moot point because I am unlikely to be given a normal job anytime in the next 2 or 3 hundred thousand years.

Fourth, I think I am making a tremendous amount of progress in managing my anger. I am in touch with my feelings and I am perfectly ok with my anger and really dont care when people get upset because I express my opinion. Its cool with me.

Fifth, I have a number of friends who are doing very well in life and their career, and while it is not enough to live vicariously through them, it is certainly great to see.

On the downside we have some of the following: (a) three friends passed away and two more are struggling with serious health issues, and those are just the ones I know about, (b) I am disgusted with the hypocrisy and lies in our country, our government, and our world. (c) Given my financial status, I see absolutely no way to achieve anything like my potential in this world and this affects my ability to plan and act. I was much more productive when I was disconnected from reality.

There is some progress in the world, even if it is minor. The support given to Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren is intriguing, even if I am cynical about what effect it has. The level of corruption of our local police and government, the way it exalts the rich and enslaves the poor, our hypocrisy and our impotence to change the system, disgusts me.

It makes one wonder if people were just lying when you were growing up and told you things, or if they were lying to themselves. Probably some of both, but mostly I think the people at the top were just lying.

None of the new technology matters if you are so poor you can not work with it. None of these new fields matter if you do not have the resources to participate.

I hope that you will have a wonderful new year and enjoy yourself in the time you have left. I hope you will keep reading my blog from time to time.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Is "The Force Awakens" A Film About White People?


This film contains a very modest spoiler for The Force Awakens.

You could hardly not notice the John Boyega character in the first trailer of Star Wars. His Black skin was set against the white of storm trooper uniform, the sand and the sky. The implication was that this was the first time a Black man would be a leading character of the Star Wars films and not merely a token character chosen to appeal to a Black audience (i.e. the Billy Dee Williams and Samuel Jackson characters).

The character played by Mr. Boyega is certainly one of the main characters of the film, or so someone as naive about race relations such as myself might have thought.  But maybe not.

Hey I'm in a Star Wars movie!

In this editorial by Andre Seewood of the “Shadow and Act” blog of Indiewire, “Hyper-Tokenism: The “Force Awakens” While the Black Man Sleeps”, see here, he makes the argument that the Finn character is just a new style of token Black character and that in reality nothing has changed.

He makes the following points. First, that because Finn is knocked unconscious near the end of the movie, he does not actually participate in the climax of the film. Second, that Finn is a second class character in that he does not have the Force, does not speak Droid, and so forth. Third, that he fits the model of the “Hyper Token” Black person which amounts to giving the Black character much more screen time but depriving him or her of the dramatic potential of how the film is resolved: that ultimately the film is by White people about White people. And fourth, that he finds some sort of connection between this type of character and the final year of the Obama Administration.

He goes on to further describe how annoyed he is at the Black community for supporting a film like this that so crassly exploits Black people.  

I was a little surprised by this discussion, I had not really thought about it.  I did interpret the casting of Boyega in a cynical manner, assuming that the filmmakers had cast him as a way of marketing the film.  As a person who often passes as White it is easy for me to overlook the racial implications.  

It is implicit to Seewood's argument that nothing about such a character would be accidental and that therefore it is fair to look for motive and, being a little sensitive to the larger issues, to be looking for limitations in the range of the character, as Mr. Seewood certainly is.  

I think his editorial is worth reading and thinking about.

My knee jerk opinion is that probably, and in the absence of any other evidence, that any racism is accidental.  A fair rejoinder to that argument might be that by 2015 nothing on the topic could possibly be accidental.

Two final points that are far less interesting. I did not understand his Obama argument at all. President Obama seems about as White as a Black person could be. And second, apparently the correct way to spell Black is to capitalize it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wikipedia and the Moral Dilemma


I use Wikipedia every day, at least once a day and probably more often than that. In their latest fundraising, I sent them $10.00 and if you know how cheap I am these days, that is quite a statement on my part.

And yet....

Every once in a while I come across egregious and even gross inaccuracies and therein lies the moral dilemma. Wikipedia is created by thousands of dedicated individuals most of whom are volunteers and all of whom are committed fanatics who probably have nothing better to do with their lives. I tried just this year to fix one egregious character assassination on their part of a living person (Marc Canter), something they *claim* to take special care about, and it was a nightmare. Its all bullshit my friends, they couldn't care less about accuracy as long as they get their rocks off.

So when I come across mistakes, even gross mistakes, what am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to tilt at windmills and try to fix their misapprehensions? What good will it do? In situations like this, it is the insider who wins, the one with the most time to waste, usually the one who is most insane, and contrary to some beliefs I am not even slightly insane or at least I have no desire to waste my time trying to correct asshole beliefs.

Never try to teach a pig to sing.

If you want to read the bullshit and try to guess what the mistakes are, please see

You see, contrary to what you see in the movies, almost all black operations are legal, they are approved through a process that involves the Department of Justice, the Intelligence Committees of Congress, and of course the Executive Office of the President and various of his/her staff.   The process of approval is circumscribed in order to keep things as secret as possible, which is something that this government, as stated in the constitution and as approved by the courts, has the right to do.

You should realize that the process is not perfect, that it has changed over the decades, often in response to perceived abuses of the system by various administrations, and because the various Intelligence agencies believe that they have been used by various Administrations and then allowed to hang.   

You should also realize that almost all Intelligence activities have at their core the violation of someone's law, generally speaking, just not US law.  And yes, this is a tricky point in international relations, one that, upon examination, could make one wonder to what extent nations respect international law and to what extent they just pay lip service to it and invoke it when it is convenient to do so.

What Wikipedia should be saying here is that while black operations do not have normal Congressional oversight, they do have a process of approval that has been approved by Congress and the courts, and that these operations are therefore, in general, believed to be legal activities of the US Government, although by definition they are not ones that they would want to be publicly disclosed.

In other words, the paranoid interpretation that all secret intelligence operations by this country are illegal and not approved by the government is simply not true.

But that said, or at least that is my understanding, do I really want to try and change Wikipedia?

Saturday, December 12, 2015

CIA Digs Tunnel from Richmond Virginia to Berlin

Back when we had patriotism in this country and before we collapsed into political acrimony and paranoid hatred of our own government, we all worked together to focus our paranoia outward and against the spectre of Marxism. Marxism and its cousin-in-law Communism, if left unchecked, promised to inconvenience our rich and self-entitled elite which could only lead inevitably to the empowerment of the disenfranchised whose lives were hopelessly crushed by poverty and racism.

To fight this Socialist evil all true Americans, North and South, black and white, came together and did their part to fight the Cold War and maintain our way of life.

I am proud to report that even my adopted home city, Richmond, Virginia did its part to fight the cold war.

One of the triumphs of the Cold War was the CIA's Berlin Tunnel in which they dug a tunnel from the US Zone to the Soviet Zone in Berlin and were able to tap some telephone cables that carried military communications from Berlin to Moscow. The tunnel was in operation for 11 months and was a giant success in its time, but its real value came afterwards when, to everyone's surprise, the Russians made the discovery of the tunnel public in order to show the perfidy and lack of good faith of the West.

The tunnel

One of the great moments in “unexpected consequences” this revelation increased the status of the USA in the eyes of Europeans who did not believe that we had the sophistication to pull such espionage off. In fact, we really didnt, and relied to a significant degree on the British, but that is another story.

Many years afterwards, since the tunnel was hardly a secret, the CIA published a report on the tunnel, its genesis, execution and aftermath.

For a summary, see here.

For a discussion of actually building the tunnel, see here.

And what should I find but in that latter report the news that Richmond Virginia, where I grew up, had a role to play in this effort:

I can only hope that the people who dug this trial tunnel ate at Waffle House or at the Commonwealth Club, perhaps even at the Country Club of Virginia.

I have confidence that even today, Virginians would rally to their call and work to support the CIA in their efforts.


For another discussion of the tunnel and its discovery, see 

Friday, December 4, 2015

An Appreciation of Conan The Barbarian (1982)

In this post I am going to argue that a low-budget firm from the 1982 which has been dismissed as some sort of comical misfire is in fact a well-intentioned, and surprisingly well-executed film that captures the spirit of the genre it was derived from.  In other words, because the genre itself is somewhat goofy in a certain way, then it is perfectly acceptable for the film to be goofy as well, as long as it fits the material.  Its a difficult road to take and can be misunderstood by people outside the genre who don't know what they are looking at.

Living as we do in a very insincere time, with hypocrisy and self-aggrandizement the new integrity, and motion pictures being as false as they have ever been, with huge budgets for anti-masterpieces like Avengers: Age of Ultron, the ultimate empty movie, it was a shock to more-or-less accidentally see a low-budget film from 1982 that I had often heard dismissed and criticized, and discover an integrity that no one had ever mentioned to me in the context of this film.

This film, of course, is Conan the Barbarian (1982) directed by John Milius and written by Milius and Oliver Stone.

Conan studies acting with great diligence and you can see his acting improve as the movie proceeds.

Before I go any further, let us return briefly to the time in the 1970s and 1980s when there were ghettoized forms of what the publishing industry dismissed as "children's literature" before these subgenres were recognized as being vastly important sources of revenue for infinitely cynical media corporations.  And in those more innocent days, authors of these subgenres eked out a living, barely, and were unknown except to their publisher, their literary agent, and a few thousand readers and hardcore fans, many of whom would attend science fiction or fantasy conferences.   And those fans and authors, mostly ignored by the mainstream, would occasionally see a terrible movie adaptation of their beloved subgenre or occasionally, very rarely, an excellent effort that really delivered, especially when seen in light of the filmmakers limited resources.

Two examples of low-budget films that were excellent efforts even with very low budgets include Highlander (1986) and The Wicker Man (1973) both of which were well-received by the community of readers of their respective genre..  

Of course now that we live in a time when Hollywood desperately pillages these subgenres as a way of making money, having failed completely to create any creative areas of their own, we must wonder if it was not better to be left in our ghetto rather than be ruthlessly exploited by these scum both on the screen and at the circus that has become Comic Con.

One of these dismissed literary ghettos was the subgenre of “sword and sorcery” and, within that subgenre, was a series of stories by Robert E Howard first published in Weird Tales in 1932 about a barbarian named Conan who worshiped a god named Crom. Conan evolved in many ways over the decades, sometimes going by the name Conan the Barbarian, sometimes by the name Conan the Cimmerarian, and sometimes jokingly called Gonad the Barbarian. There were a billion books and comic books written about this character and somehow I managed to read none of them. But certainly they were a valid property of the sf and fantasy subgenres and a beloved child of the community.

So when I heard that Dino and Raffaela de Laurentis were planning a production of Conan I had no particular expectation that they had anything very authentic in mind.  And when it came out, I heard a lot of criticism from reviewers.  But that was a mistake on my part, because how could mainstream reviewers hope to understand a movie based on Robert Howard's work?

And there are many superficial corny elements in this movie.  But this is Conan, he beats people over the head with a sword and defeats exotic and beautiful witches after sleeping with them, and when appropriate he burns down temples and yet he never forgets where he came from and that he swore vengeance.

But there were clues all through this movie that something more than average was going on. Perhaps the biggest single clue was that the film was written by John Milius and Oliver Stone.  Both of these gentlemen are actually pretty good writers.  

At various times during the film I felt the pure vision of Howard's oeuvre and laughed almost in astonishment.  Yes a little goofy when you look at it as a jaded adult but it is necessary to find the child in you, the child that read Howard's work, and there it was, miraculously, somehow on the screen.

Arnold looks great as Conan

The film was shot in Spain with mostly unknown actors with the exception of James Earl Jones as the major bad guy, and Max von Sydow in a cameo as a distressed King and father.  Arnold is in his first movie here, and he starts out a little stiff but he gets better as the film goes along.  You can see him improve.   And it works.

One might even wonder if, in another life, or parallel universe, if James Earl Jones would not have received a best supporting actor nomination for his role as Doom.

Doom smiles at Conan as he is being tortured.

I felt that the film had integrity, delivered on its promises and deserves to be on the list of notable films Hollywood has made in the science fiction and fantasy genres.  Maybe not great art, but better than expected.

Good job, guys and gals.   I hope the film helped your careers back then and led to the artistic destinies you deserved and desired.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A Prayer to Climate Change

This is a not altogether successful attempt to write a prayer with a little of that great Old Testament, prophet of doom, feeling.  It is from the heart.  I am sincerely tired of waiting for Global Climate Change to arrive, and I think it is a great opportunity to wash away some of the evil in this world.   So, bear with me as I let loose with a little venom.

(Raising my hands to heaven)

1. Invocation

Come, climate change, come now.

Bring forth the rising tide of the oceans of Your vengeance. Wash away the cities filled with the deniers of Truth. Bring down upon the world Your wrath at the biped mammals filled with greed and sin and corruption.

2. Justification

They deserve to personally experience the results of their actions and their failure to act.  It is the people who are living today who deserve this punishment.

They knew what was right and wrong and they denied the evidence of their eyes out of greed. They used their power to defeat sane discussion of the issues and defeated efforts to solve the problems before it was too late.

3. Punishment

They deserve to see the oceans rise and their cities washed away.  They deserve to see the continent wide movement of refugees who flee drought and the tragic wars that result.

El Nino, my Brother, wash away the tears of the mothers of the student-teachers, all who were killed by their politicians who serve Mammon.

Fire from the heavens, burn away the corrupt flesh from the cities of Santa Ana and Los Angeles who have violated their oaths to imprison the innocent.  Destroy these corrupt politicians in whatever city or country they exist.

Release the carbon from the oceans.  Crush the glaciers into ice cubes and allow the fresh water to change the ocean currents.  Outgas the methane hydrate from Siberia and release new greenhouse gasses into the biosphere.

4. Conclusion

Now is the time.

We pray for the catastrophes to cleanse the world not 100 years from now or even 100 months from now but now.

Forgive us for our impatience but look with favor on our plea.

Every day we hope for the tsunami of shit that is your vengeance to wipe away these scum and leave the world pure as it once was.


For those of you who are not up on your biblical curses, Mammon has a variety of meanings, but is considered to be one of the angels serving Lucifer.  


Zoltar and I

Taken by David Yost after the Stock Gaines Memorial Sercice.  We went from the service to the Santa Monica Pier to check on the current status of Playland.  Playland was in good shape.

I think this is a pretty good picture that Dave has captured because (a) Zoltar seems to be making eye contact, and (b) he captures my mood perfectly.

The Los Angeles Car Show in 2015 ... Future? What Future?

Sometimes we are called to look into the heart of Hell, the Devil's home, the place of Sin, where Righteousness is relegated to the gutter and vile Evil is outlined in chrome and worshiped.

For Los Angeles, the city of the Angels, what could symbolize Satan more than the automobile? This one invention has caused the corruption of the civic body, the destruction of neighborhood after neighborhood, the contamination of the very air with the fumes of Sulphur and other chemicals from the Infernal Regions, the people daily subjected to the insanity of traffic that sucks away their life and their hope, the parade of elite vehicles on the pothole filled streets that  provide some of the worst examples of the rich demonstrating their greed and indifference in the face of obscene poverty.

In Los Angeles we have the second largest automobile show in the world, second only to Detroit. Surely in light of the gross corruption and degradation of Los Angeles through the institution of the automobile  the annual car show must be the very Citadel of Mammon!

What will we see? The best? The worst? The future? The past?

I have always wanted to attend this show but through sheer Sloth I have never made it. But on this Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, it was easy for me to tag along with others who were going and I did.

It also provided an opportunity to drive in my first Tesla and I was impressed.

My friend, the owner of this Tesla made the point that Tesla had proven that the barriers to entry to the automobile industry in this country were no longer the gating factor. For decades it has been said that no new brands could come into existence without an enormous amount of money and maybe not even then.  But Tesla has proven otherwise.

My friend and I both believe that we are on the cusp of a tsunami of change that will whack the automotive industry the way it has deserved to be whacked for decades.  Self-parking, autonomy, and semi-autonomy, new drive trains hybrid and electric, new manufacturers in the People's Republic of China and India, we should expect that the dinosaurs of the past will be swept into the gutter where they belong and replaced by a new people and a new legion of car manufacturers.

Too bad America, you had your chance and you completely fucked it up.   This time the government wont save you.

This is the second largest car show in the country, possibly the world. I would expect the existing manufacturers to take their head out of their ass (the tragedy of rectal-cranial inversion) and present their ideas about the future to their loyal base. That is pretty much who comes to car shows I think, the loyal base of customers who care enough to spend the day and $15.00 checking out the polished and mechanical visions of the automobile manufacturers.

This is a short list of what I might expect at least from some of the exhibitors:

I would expect there to be demonstrations of some of this new technology, even if it was not ready to be deployed to the consumer. So I would expect demonstrations of self-parking cars, cars which were autonomous for long distance driving, cars that were autonomous for city driving. These demonstrations might not be using real, full-size cars. They might be short films on a large display, mini-documentaries if you will, or they might be radio controlled model cars, or even films of radio controlled model cars. I think that would have been very entertaining and would have the result of helping to associate that brand with innovation in the eyes and minds of their hard-core customer base.

I might expect expect to see a time line of the future of these technologies at the brand. What is often called a “road map”. I would expect a company that published such a road map to hedge their bets in numerous ways, but it might indicate when they thought a new drive train (e.g. hybrid, electric, solar) might be available, or when a new brand for a new technology might come into existence. Public companies have to be very careful about what they say about the future and I do not know all the rules, but still I would expect some of this road map to ba available, however hedged.

I might expect to see live demonstrations of such things as new displays for car control, or eye/head tracking so that they knew where the driver was looking.

I might expect that the different power trains already in production might be clearly marked out: what was a traditional gasoline engine, a rotary engine, a hybrid engine, an electric one, and so forth.

I might expect that the insurance industry would have some sort of presence to explain how they are working with industry and government to evolve this incredibly important aspect of driving.

I might expect some sort of discussion of the gross violation of trust that Volkswagon was guilty of, and how that is being handled for the future both by Volkswagon and other brands.

Since it is an open secret that people are reprogramming their cars to change engine and other parameters of a vehicle away from those set by the manufacturer, I might expect some sort of statement about where the car companies stood on this practice.

Since I knew that some of the car companies are performing trials with new technologies, I might expect some description of these trials and what is expected to come out of them and when.

And finally here is one more.  We are in the midst of the Paris Climate Talks. What positions are the various car companies taking with the respective governments on climate change?  Well this is a critical thing to know.  How can they not know?  How could they not tell us?  Are these the same old lying pieces of garbage car companies like the ones that destroyed mass transit in LA?   (Yes they did.  The counter rumors are just lies, they really, really did destroy mass transit in LA all those years ago).

But none of the above was visible at the car show. It was as if they expected nothing to change, no information needed to be communicated. All was well in the garden.

Total zip.

Not quite. There were, if you knew where to look, completely without any description, some cool vehicles that I happened to know were a part of tests. You had to know what they were, and what they represented and make your own guess about whether this might really ever become available but there were a few there.

There were many examples on the floor of innovative technologies, but essentially none of them were active and you had to know enough to even realize they were there. For many years now, apparently, certain high end cars have had a display that allows you to see your odometer, etc, without refocus from far to near distance. There were several, possibly even many, examples of this technology on the floor, but none of them were on, and you had to know they were there.

My friend pointed out in their defense that the show was as popular as ever, that people were buying more cars than ever before, that in some sense of the word, this show was serving the purpose that it was meant to serve, and I had to agree with him.

But for those of us who went because we thought in light of all these new technologies, changes, and violation of trust, that this car show would also present some vision of the future, we left disappointed. Perhaps we were wrong to expect such a theme at the car show.

But it seems to me in light of the tsunami of change that is coming down the road for these companies, that a vision of the future would have been a very smart thing to have on display for the attendees of this show, who were self-selected to be the most interested in the automobile in this city, the most car oriented city of the Union.

But I am happy to say that there was one redeeming exhibit: a magnificent statue of Satan, Lucifer himself, the fallen one, in the middle of all the car exhibitors laughing, laughing at the impending disaster that will wipe them off the face of the earth and straight to the hell that they so deserve.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Uses of History at the LA Car Show

For the first time ever I attended the Los Angeles Car Show, a show I will discuss in a later post in more detail.

The car show provided me a useful example of why I believe that history is so important and why I think we make a mistake when we, specifically Los Angeles, pay so little attention to our own history. Many people tell me that this lack of history is what they like about Los Angeles, and of course I do not agree. One of these people happened to be my host at the car show, and was the most knowledgeable about what we were seeing.

Pretty much all exhibits at the Car Show, not every one but most of them, also had some sort of interesting example from the history of that manufacturer. If the exhibit had 20 new cars and models, it might have one car off on the side from the 1960s or some other period. One manufacturer might have several such cars, some might have none. Those who had such cars might not always explain its context enough for me, were I alone, but I was with someone who knew his cars and car history and so could explain the context.

This show was an excellent example of what I mean about how History can be used to help us understand our present and where we might go in the future. It is a homage to the successes of the past and where we came from. It helps us to remember who we are and why this company came into existence. It does not have to dominate the present or the future, but it can add color and reinforce loyalty. Its fun. I think its useful.

Off the top of my head, and without proper photographic documentation, I recall that we had a Mazda Cosmo, a very cute little sports car, we had several examples from Alfa Romeo in their classic period, we had a completely bizarre multiengine race car from that brief time period where apparently adding engines was the thing to do. And of course, in honor of the new James Bond movie we had a classic Aston Martin DB6 and I had my one moment of car history glory by explaining that one subtext of the performance cars of that period was that they were so damn hard to drive, you had to be James Bond or someone of that skill to be able to drive it at all.

So there it is, nothing too complicated.

History adds color. History memorializes where we came from and some of our better moments. It does not need to be a straight jacket on the present or the future, but I think it makes our present and our future all the more interesting because we remember who we are.

For me, it was the historical part of the show that was the most worthwhile.