Sunday, December 20, 2009


In need of a last-minute gift? Well, look no farther! Thanks to commenter Stephen Rodgers we have the web site of a terrific mapmaker, with an inexpensive product that's bound to please. The site is called "Atlas of True Names"

If I had to buy only one of these true name maps, it might be this one (above) of old Europe.

Here's (above) a detail showing Italy.

The world map's (above) pretty good, too! I wish they'd had a map devoted entirely to the Asian sub-continent. The names are fascinating!

Here's England (above), specifically the area around London. Gee, London wasn't much of a town when some of these names were generated.

Anyway, the site provides the contact info. Prices are in Euros. If I remember right, the price of a large folded map is something like $6, and for an unfolded poster, maybe twice that. I suppose postage is extra. It probably won't arrive by Christmas, but I imagine that it can be mailed directly to the gift recipient, so that'll save some time.

BTW: Here's a link to Bob Dylan's video version of "Must Be Santa." I like this a lot.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


I witnessed two generation gaps in my lifetime: the famous one that made a mess of the 60s, and the computer generation gap that rendered half of the skilled oldsters unemployable. These were traumatic events and I never expected to see their like again in my lifetime, but now I'm not so sure. I look into the turbulent mist of my crystal ball, and I see the glimmer of one more gap: the gap between babies being born now, and their Gen Y/Millennial Generation parents. Let me explain.

People now in their twenties grew up with computers. They're not strong on traditional knowledge, but they do know the current programs, and these days that's the key to getting jobs. You've gotta give it to them, they spent the time and effort necessary to learn some pretty esoteric stuff.

And I do mean esoteric. My how-to-learn Photoshop book is 776 pages long, and most of it is dry as moth wings. I grant you that nobody's expected to know everything that's in the book, but you have to know the relevant parts of several programs, and it all adds up.

For an artist in the animation industry, you should know parts of Photoshop, Flash, Illustrator, After Effects and Toon Boom or Maya, and it wouldn't hurt to know a bit of Final Cut, Painter and a host of plug-ins. That's a big investment of time, especially when you consider that you're also expected to know how to draw, color, animate, tell stories, act characters and make cinematic cuts as well.

And that's not all. If you want to get a feel for the intuitive work-arounds that make programs usable then you better spend a certain amount of time playing online games, doing Facebook, file-sharing, resume and web site creation, iTunes, iPhone, Garageband, Word, office networking, digital camera stuff, et al. Whew! I get tired just thinking about it!

The point I'm trying to make is that if you're 20 something then spending a LOT of time with programs is mandatory. If you're a student there's no time for English lit, economics, history, culture, story telling, cartooning and all that. Culture for you is watching The Comedy Channel, if you can find time for it.

Now comes the part about the generation gap. The Millennials and Gen y'ers who are so steeped in program manipulation are going to be in for a big surprise because their kids won't have any desire to learn programs at all. Babies being born now won't need to learn programs. They'll simply tell the computer what they want in vernacular English and the computer will do it. Do you doubt it? Think about it....

Think about the Wulfram (spelled right?) vernacular browser that's on the drawing table now, or all the language recognition and fuzzy logic improvements you've been hearing about. Think about the nano processors people are working on. THAT'S the world your kid is going to grow up in! People will still generate and manipulate programs, but that'll be a niche activity, something only specialists do.

I envision an artist in 2025 making a picture (maybe holographic or virtual) like this: "Computer, give me a cottage like the one in Disney's 'Snow White, ' only give it more of an old master look. Yeah, something like what you just put up only with more contemporary color...and change the shutters to something more flamboyant. No, not that...try a few skewered old Swiss designs. And how 'bout a thatched roof? No, a thicker one. The thatch should look like it was just put on..." It'll all work something like HAL worked in the Kubrick movie. You won't need to know the programs, that's what the computer'll be for.

For your kids generation the content of media will be the big deal, not the process. Where will their parents fit in? Well.....they won't. They really won't. Parents will have spent their entire youth learning programs, and that way of thinking will be completely obsolete, at the consumer level anyway. Unlike their parents, kids will be romantic and literary. They'll ransack history for ideas and inspiration. They'll regard their parents as stupid. God help us, they'll have more in common with their hippie grandparents, if any are still around.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Boy, the taxpayers certainly got their money's worth from the Hubble Space Telescope! A site on the net declares that the pictures on this page are among the 25 greatest pictures ever taken by Hubble, but the site failed to say what the pictures were. There were no captions! I have no idea what most of these images are!

Star formation (above)? Click to enlarge.

A nebula (above), maybe the aftermath of a nova.

Could this (above) be two galaxies that nearly collided? What is the jet stream that's emanating from the one on the right? Is it a gamma ray jet or just the arm of the galaxy seen edge-on?

I'm guessing that this (above) is an explosion in progress. It seems to have created shock waves in the disk of debris that may have been ejected before the explosion.

For comparison, here's (above) the expanding fireball from an American nuclear detonation in the 60s.

More colliding galaxies (above)?

Star formation?

This barbell shape (above) is a common explosive pattern, I don't know why. And what are the nipples on either end?

I'll hazard a guess and speculate that these (above) are stars from the middle of our own galaxy where stars are densely packed, and move rapidly.

What the heck!!!????

Sorry if I've posted this one before (above). It's an optical light picture of the first planet outside our own solar system ever to be photographed: Fomalhaut B.

Maybe the remnants of multiple novas in the same area? I've read that clustered stars get to a certain age then go off like fireworks in a chain, one after the other.

I couldn't resist adding a final picture from a different source, a blog called "Astronomy Picture of the Day" (link on the sidebar). That's (above) the North Pole of Saturn as recently revealed by Cassini and, believe it or not, that's a giant hexagon in the clouds. It's been there for years, nobody knows why. Every once in a while straight, dark spokes emanate from it, and no one knows where they come from either. The dots are cyclones. The center is dark because JPL couldn't get good resolution on it.

Many thanks to Buzz who sent me the link in a comment.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I remember how shocked everybody was when Pat Boone, the world's most wholesome and clean-cut singer, tried to recast his image as a bad dude homeboy. Meg Ryan did the same thing. Both were tired of being typecast. Maybe it's a sign of the times.

I'm amazed how many people would answer the question, "Should you go with the look that's right for you?" with a "No." Lots of people deliberately dress in a way they know doesn't match their physique or their personalities.

It's all about image and lifestyle. People dress to conform to a lifestyle or to express their rebellion against a lifestyle. People want to look good, but are willing to accept just plain okay, or even positively bad, if it means they can lead "The Life."

The girl above is a case in point. With her physical type she should probably dress neat and casual like a 70s airline stewardess. It's not a bad look, but instead she goes for an awkward dominatrix feel. Now there's nothing wrong with looking like a dominatrix if you have the face and body for it... but does she? I don't read her as being particularly edgy. She strikes me as someone who'd just doesn't like to be thought of as old-fashioned.

One of the reasons people dress against type is because they're afraid that looking like the detested type will actually cause them to act that way. Maybe they're right. I always act a little like the way I dress. I guess that's why schools insist on uniforms (above). The idea is that if you look neat and studious, then you'll behave that way.

But there's a counter-argument that says you should dress for physical type. There's an intuitive rightness about it. People who do it are often charismatic and envied by other people. Take the girl above: the mod Peter Sellers look isn't right for everybody, but if fits her like a glove. No doubt her personality's had to deform a bit in the Peter Sellers direction, but she looks confident and happy, and you get the feeling that the trade off was worthwhile.

Did this girl (above) change her personality to fit her hair? Who knows? In her case it doesn't matter because she's a perfect physical fit for the Barbi look and when a fit is that perfect, the wearer has no choice but to go with it. Her parents, her friends, other women, kids, people on the street...everyone would have conspired to push her in one direction. People instinctively want you to play the cards you're dealt.

For my part, I truly believe that if you're lucky enough to have a physical type that fits a certain look, then you should commit to that look 100%. If you don't, you'll come off as a person who's not comfortable in his own skin.

If you're a conservative but you look good as a goth or a hip hopper then you should go for it. If you're a liberal but you look good in golf shirts, then that's the look for you. It'll change you a little bit, but you'll be happier, and I don't think really deep convictions are easily changed by the way you dress.


Sorry! Site is under construction til lunch time tomorrow (Sunday)!

Friday, December 11, 2009


There it is (above)...Paris Hilton's $320,000 dog house. My impression when I first saw it was, "Is that all there is? $320,000 only buys you that!?" But what the heck, it's a nice little house, it fits the alcove perfectly, and the iron fence sets it off nicely.

I imagine the door is so big because these pricey doghouses are actually meant for heavy use by human beings. They're kind of playhouses for humans where the owner gets to hang out with his dog on it's own turf. Maybe they watch TV together.

Here's (above) the interior of the house. It has a second floor mezzanine which I doubt will be used often, except by visiting kids.

I used to think that expensive doghouses were outrageous given that so many real people all over the world sleep in alleyways and sidewalks. Now I'm not so sure. It's too much money to spend on a dog -- no doubt about that -- but as a clubhouse for adults and kids who want to play with their dog...well, mmmmm, I can see it, if you have money to burn.

As I said, most luxury doghouses deliberately resemble human houses, but there are exceptions, like the dog house above. Ugly, isn't it? Well. at least the owner tried to see things from the dog's point of view.

What really interests me about these dog-centered houses is the opportunity they afford for thinking about habitation in the abstract. Dogs are other-wordly, alien creatures. To build for dogs you have to think like a dog. It's a chance to think of the idea of housing without pre-conceptions or cultural assumptions. Who knows? Maybe some of the ideas we come up with would work for humans, too.

Try free-associating on the subject of a money-is-no-object, dog-centered house and see what you come up with. Don't attempt to be logical, and don't censor yourself. Just see what happens.

Me, I like the idea that dogs love to stick their heads out of the windows of moving cars. Maybe the ideal chair for a dog would be one that moved on tracks all over the property interiors and exteriors whenever it was sat on. Naw, that's dumb. Well then how about a doggie window where the dog can watch you take a shower or cook a meal? My dogs used to love that. Naw, that's dumb, too. Well how about a glass tunnel where cats can run through the dog house? Naw...well, anyway, you see what I mean about conceptual blockbusting on the subject of habitats.

I can't resist showing this upscale-doghouse (above). This time the door is low.

Look what the inside (above) looks like! What's in that green urn?

It's hard to imagine that animals (above) who've been coddled in expensive digs will ever be able to survive on their own if they have to.

Could these goldfish ever survive in a real river?

And what about birds who've lived in high-end birdhouses (above)?

Can a bird who's lived in digs like this (above)...

...ever feel comfortable in the company of a bird who's lived in a house like this (above)? Maybe we're introducing human notions of class into the avian world.

Will worms raised in luxury worm high-rises (above) ever feel at ease in plain old dirt? Are we creating a worm aristocracy? You see the magnitude of the problem.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


A few years ago a writer at a well known animation studio sent this memo to his boss. It asked the question, "If Jack and the Beanstalk were written today, at this studio, would it get approved?" The writer imagines that yes, it would be, but only if the following changes were made (below, click to enlarge):

Nifty, huh? My copy of this memo cuts off the name of the writer, but I'll gladly give him an author's credit if he writes in and identifies himself.

Saturday, December 05, 2009



JOOR-EL (VO): "Wake up, kid! Wake up!"


JOOR-EL (VO): "You've gotta wake up! We have to hurry!"

SFX: Tap! Tap!...TAP! TAP! TAP!

JOOR-EL: "C'mon, little baby. Open your eyes!"

JOOR-EL: "It's your dad, Joor-el!"

JOOR-EL: "Listen, we gotta talk! We don't have much time! If you're hearing this, it means you're almost at your destination!"

BABY: Wakes, then (happy cooing).

JOOR-EL: "There you are, ya cute little thing, ya! Okay, brace yourself, this isn't going to be pretty! What you're seeing is a video. By the time you see this, the real me'll be hamburger."

JOOR-EL: "While you were asleep, Kryptoon began to break apart. In a minute or two the whole planet's going to explode, killing everybody."

JOOR-EL: "The worst thing is, people are blaming me for it!"

JOOR-EL: "Okay, I invented the planet burster with a big lever that stuck out the window...but I put a big note on it that said 'Don't Touch!' How was I supposed to know that someone who couldn't read would come along!?

JOOR-EL: "Anyway, I just put you in a rocket ship that'll take you to a place called Earth. Don't worry, you'll like Earth. The people there look just like us!

JOOR-EL: "Well, ahem!....not JUST like us....we are an exceptionally handsome race...."

SFX/EFX: (Loud rumbling and big shakes as the planet breaks apart).

JOOR-EL: "I've gotta talk fast! Listen! Earth's gravity is weaker than Kryptoon's! You'll have super powers there!"

JOOR-EL (VO): "Believe me, nobody's gonna take your lunch money if you don't want them to!"

JOOR-EL (VO): "And I threw in your dog. He'll have super powers, too! Remember to walk him every day, and don't ever get him mad!"

JOOR-EL (VO): "And a secret identity...You'll need to disguise yourself most of the time, otherwise pests'll always be begging favors!"

JOOR-EL: "Yeah, it's a gonna be a bit of a hassle..."

JOOR-EL: "....but, hey, there's a sunny side...."

JOOR-EL: "....heh, heh....think of all the GIRLS you're gonna get!" Muscles and a foreign accent...they'll eat it up!"

JOOR-EL (VO): "And X-Ray vision! Wait'll you see how handy THAT is!!!"

JOOR-EL: "One day it's not out of the question that you'll meet an Earth girl and have a family of your own."

JOOR-EL (VO): "Maybe she'll be somebody with muscles just like yours!"

BABY: (Cries)

SFX/EFX: (More rumbling and quakes: we're only seconds away from the end)

JOOR-EL: "Uh-Oh!"

JOOR-EL: "This is it! Kryptoon is breaking up! It's the final act! The Big Burrito! The Enchilada Grande!

JOOR-EL: "See ya kid! I planned it so you'll land soft as a feather in a park across the street from a nice old couple! They'll raise you up right! You'll get a good start!"

SFX/EFX (Ceiling collapses, then big explosion).

JOOR-EL: (A cry of anguish as he's buried under the rubble).

ON THE EARTH AS SEEN FROM SPACE: The baby's rocket rotates and retro fires.

The ship speeds through the atmosphere.


MA KANT: "Do you hear that, Pa!? You're going to think I'm silly, but I desperately hope it's an aircraft bearing the son we've always wanted...a son we could bring up to be a decent and responsible citizen."

PA KANT: "You're not silly at all, Ma. That's my dream, too. If only it would land gently and safely in that park across the street."


SHOCKED PASSER-BY: "Holy Mackerel! What happened!?"

RESCUER: "Something fell out of the sky right on top of that nice old couple! Wait a minute! I hear a baby!"