Saturday, January 17, 2015


Above, a kilometer high cliff on Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The largest boulders at the cliff bottom are about 20 meters wide. The photo was taken a few weeks ago by the Rosetta orbiter.

Here's an interesting photo (above). It's a composite picture of our galaxy's core taken by Hubble and the Spitzer X-ray telescope. The white splotch on the lower right is a star cluster surrounding Sagittarius A, the super massive black hole at the galactic center.

In case the wide photo showing the Sagittarius A cluster is obscured by my sidebar, here's (above) an unencumbered enlargement. There's a nearby cluster on the upper left, which is puzzling. How did it escape being ripped apart by Sag. A? And what are those rake marks on the upper right?

Here's (above) an old friend, the M16 star nursery taken by Hubble. You probably saw the 20 year old photo which is considered by many to have been Hubble's greatest achievement. This latest picture benefits from a wider field and a higher res.

Above, a nebula so close that it can be seen as a small fuzzy patch with the naked eye: The Great Nebula in Orion.  It's the same nebula that contains the famous horse head, though I don't see it here. The image is a false color infrared composite taken by the Earth orbiting WISE observatory. Infrared allows us to see through dense clouds that previously obscured what we wanted to see. Boy, we sure got our money's worth with these orbiting telescopes!

Friday, January 16, 2015


Most of the directors showed here had career paths radically different from the one I discuss in this post. I include them simply because I can't think of TV animation without them coming to mind. Even so, I'll try to focus on the more typical track that readers are likely to experience, and I'll start with the observation that it's amazing that anyone has ever had an entire career in direction, no matter how talented they are. There's simply too many bases that have to be covered.

For one thing, you have to know a lot, but that's not as simple as it sounds. In order to know something you have to have had a knack, a killer work ethic, and a certain amount of experience. Acquiring experience implies that you were good at getting and keeping the jobs you needed to get started. It implies that you had people skills, a mentor or a sympathetic boss, and that you worked in a city that had sufficient jobs so that losing one job and finding another similar one was possible.

Your first chance at direction will probably occur because you're replacing somebody the management was dissatisfied with. That means you'll be working with a crew that was not of your own choosing, on a schedule that's already behind, on a show that doesn't play to your strengths, and replacing a former boss who may tell everybody who'll listen that you're disloyal and ungrateful for not walking out with him (no, this doesn't refer to the famous Spumco split which came about for entirely different reasons).

Once you have the job you have only a very short period where people will cut you slack and after that everything that goes wrong will be considered your fault. Management will conspicuously groom replacements in case you fail, and production managers will roll their eyes up at the very mention of your name.

Yes, it's a hassle but there's a very big upside if you can keep in the game, namely that for a time you'll be able to function as a fully human being, learning valuable things almost by the minute, and experiencing the exquisite pleasure of using all your faculties to the utmost.

The chances are that sooner or later you'll fall out of favor and be replaced. That goes down hard if you've become an adrenalin junky. Not only that, but hard work is a habit and you lose it if you don't stay with it.

I could go on, but this'll do for a start.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Expect nothing in this rambling Theory Corner post to make any sense. I've been fooling around with Photoshop effects and become obsessed with this picture of a girl walking (above) at an angle. I can't get over the fact that the girl is askew but the world around her is normal.

Rotate the screen as shown above and the girl becomes normal and it's the world around her that's askew. If she dropped an apple it would roll down the hill to screen left. Interesting, eh?  I envision a city built on a steep hillside where people learn from childhood how to walk the way the girl's walking here. 

No doubt the inhabitants of such a town would travel horizontally most of the time. Going up or down would require too much energy. 

Now put aside the concept of a diagonal city, and imagine a normal city where everybody danced to where they were going rather than walked.  Of course high energy dances like the Lindy Hop (above) or Hip Hop wouldn't be very practical for distance dancing. For that, you'd need something less strenuous, something like.... the Peabody or the Madison (above).

Or the "Wild and Crazy Guys" walk from Saturday Night Live.

I imagine that walkers would think of lots of variations to make the walk dances more interesting.

Haw! A good dance/walk (above) is a thing of beauty!

In such a world what would happen if a boy and girl met on the street?

Well, I guess they'd dance in place while they spoke to each other.

After speaking they'd say good-bye and take off in opposite directions (above, left)...or they'd dance together in the same direction (above, right).

If they needed to stop and talk for a minute they'd go back to dancing in place. 

Monday, January 12, 2015


The legs (above) are facing the wrong direction but what the heck.

Above, the neighborhood chick magnet. He's never without a girl in his arms.


Oops! The legs are facing the wrong direction again!

Thursday, January 08, 2015


Some good books here! I'm reading a biography of film director, Geoge Cukor (that's him, above). It's a library book but I'm considering buying a copy of my own just so I can underline's that good! The book is just brimming with practical information about how he did what he did.

With a couple of well-known exceptions Cukor got along remarkably well with his producers and writers. That's because he was only too happy to take their advice, and why not? Those guys were interested in plots, Cukor was interested in performances. He believed it was his job to maximize a good actor's charisma, to see that it got into every frame of every shot.

According to the book he was gay, but he turned that to his advantage. Being secretly that way prompted him to perceive his screen characters as outsiders like himself. He got good at making us sympathize with their attempts to fit in. If the script wasn't written that way he'd subtly add it in the handling. An interesting technique, eh?

Another book I've started is Ann Radcliffe's 1790 Gothic novel, "The Mistress of Udolpho" (above). It's full of castles and sepulchres, trap doors, sealed rooms and underground passages lit by torches. What do you think of this sample.....

"From Beaujeu the road had constantly ascended, conducting the travelers into the higher regions of the air, where immense glaciers exhibited their frozen horrors. Around on every side far as the eye could penetrate, were seen only forms of grandeur...the long perspective of mountaintops, tinged with ethereal blue, or white with snow, valleys of ice and forests of gloomy fir."

And this:

"...the waxen figure of a woman, made by her lover who had found her dead and buried upon his return...a lizard is sucking her mouth, a worm is creeping out of one of her cheeks, a mouse is gnawing one of her ears, and a huge swollen toad on her forehead is preying on one of her eyes." 

You don't have to buy it; the book is free on Project Gutenberg. I warn you though, the prose can be frustratingly dense and old-fashioned. It's strange to think that this book with all it's novelties and ghosts was popular in George Washington's time. The British soldiers who fought at Yorktown might have read similar books in their tents at night. Come to think of it, maybe the Americans did too.

The last thing I have to recommend is a Jon Favreau film called "Chef." It's about a chef who tires of working for other people and sets off on his own. It's a wonderful tribute to every small businessman who's ever rolled up his sleeves and taken the plunge.

The film is rated "R," which is too bad because it glorifies hard work. That's something every kid needs to see.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015


A cartload of thanks to Mike for turning me on to this photographer! I'd used the photo above in a previous post but I had no idea who did it. I thought some anonymous glamour photographer just got lucky. Boy, was I wrong! I should have known that only a fine artist could have made a picture like that.

Here's (above) another of Mortensen's portraits, this time of writer and mystic Manly Hall.

Above, a bust of Manly by an unknown artist. Haw! A room with that picture and that bust must have made quite an impression.

You'd expect Mortensen to have been the subject of universal acclaim but that wasn't the case. Read this excerpt from his Wikipedia entry: 

Geez, even Ansel Adams disliked him. Apparently modernists saw his return to Romantic, touched up, Steiglitz-type photography as retrograde. Even Steiglitz failed to support him.

Mortensen worked for the Hollywood studios but his real passion was for occult subjects (above).

He must have had a hard time keeping his professional and private life separate. Here's (above) a portrait for hire that must have shocked the people who commissioned it. At first glance it's a conventional portrait but stare at it for a moment and you get the creepy feeling that the picture is staring back at you. It's as if you're being watched by someone in Hell.

Mortensen was certainly flaky. He's the kind of guy who, if he were alive today, would be obsessed with Atlantis and crystals and hippie theories about levitating babies. Even so, he was capable of remarkable depth.

Mortensen's black and white portrait of the young girl reminds me of Delacroix's even more drastic "Orphan Girl" (above). Delacroix's girl is simultaneously ignorant and dignified. It seems to make a theological point, that even the most debased humans have a divine spark. Looking at this picture you can imagine the repugnance Milton's Satan felt when looking at humans. You can imagine him saying, "What kind of obscene joke is this, to give the gift of nobility and free will to creatures so horribly stupid?"

Mortensen took the old, unresolved issues of philosophy seriously and by doing so threatened to derail the whole project of modernism. I guess that's why he aroused such fury in other artists. They saw the 20th Century as sunlight streaming into a room previously dominated by mildew and shadows.

Okay, that's enough of this!

Monday, January 05, 2015


Above, that's a caricature of Al "Jazzbo" Collins the famous New York jazz DJ from the 50s. Below is an excerpt from a fairly recent Washington Post article which declares that jazz is dead. The upbeat tone of the pictures contradicts the negative tone of the article but I think I'll run them together and see what happens.

I love jazz myself. I don't see why it should be singled out for criticism when every other art form, even the best ones, have suffered the same decline over time. Even so, a site that calls itself "Theory Corner" shouldn't avoid controversy. Here's an abridgement of the article by Justin Moyer called "All That Jazz Isn't All That Great." See what you think.

Well, it goes on. Here's a link to the entire article, which is almost double the length of what you see here.

BTW, I stumbled on this jazz article from a mention on Mike Barrier's site. I went there to see if his new book is out. Apparently it's been out for a couple of weeks now, and it's on Kindle, too.