Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cryptic Holiday Greetings for 2011

Not sure what this means, exactly, but it appeared on the sketchbook during a broadcast of "It Happened on Fifth Avenue."  Therefore, it has a holiday theme....

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Playing with Online Translators - Hamlet

English to French, French to German, German to Italian, Italian to Greek, Greek to Japanese, Japanese to English:

Or, or him or that problem is not as follows:
If or of nobleness; Or as for that arm you take EmbĂȘtements
and of the sea where those to the guide
and the arrow of indignant good fortune suffer.
The mind for as for those un' you finish. Opposition?
Scale to more there is no death; As for that you sleep?
And as for the sleep which was said you finish -- traurigkeit;
Systematic love and as for trembling mile this meat, there is a successor:
As for tis that it becomes consumption– It is desired;
Enthusiasm. Do they die sleep? Perhaps, depending upon that to sleep,
ay and there' you look at dreams capacity for Friction:
Of which dream can come; For with this sleep of other those death quest
As for last that necessity, those you dying, this it is;
As for that It gives Discontinuance there The point of this in this way,
destroys long life. That rod and What which it supports; When being, of the mistake;
oppressor's man it entrusted? In damage;
What; Love, law and Lag; Haughty attitude Using;
Value of this patient dishonorable acceptance of office and pitch,
time quest As for last that bodkin of the knot and fargli which can be rescue?
Fardels of what kind of underfear something
How and you made knurren life become tired under the sweat;
As for part rear section will of return and perplexity of death
and national thing Bourn traveler on the other hand,
these It is discovered; n' Those of that hasten no one;
The exemption which it should support;
As for us thing It has; It flies those; The knowledge other things which are not?
Therefore, conscience Our ones in this way entirely in pitch characteristic,
the making which is removed; Decision East sicklied?
Appreciation of the hay to the model whose thought is thin
those from large time undertaking,
at this point in time to turn electricity
directly, and It loses Name; Behavior.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

About movies....

So often I watch a movie and find that it just hits me in unexpected ways. Then I wonder if anyone else could be equally affected. Occasionally I force stray family members to partake, but usually the result is the same–a wandering sets in, usually a wandering from the TV. So I’m posting these in case others may want to peer into my passion for films that I do not tire of revisiting.

Silence, Please:
OK, so silent films and the expressive use of pantomime aren’t to everyone’s taste, but when they are done well, and when they are shown correctly, they distill mood to its essence and create a universal, visual language:

Asphalt (1929) - Joe May in Germany tells the story of criminals and law enforcement and how human interaction can blur the distinction.

City Lights (1931) - Chaplin’s next-to-last silent feature, with the most heartbreaking final scene ever filmed.

The Crowd (1928) - King Vidor created this astonishingly downbeat story of a promising young man who has his entire life crushed by circumstance and missteps.

The Kid Brother (1928) - Harold Lloyd is wonderful in this sentimental rural story, beautifully photographed, with a realistic climatic fight on a derelict ship

The Last Laugh (1924) - Emil Jannings as a demoted hotel doorman must cover his shame, but does so without a single intertitle in this completely visual tour-de-force.

Laugh, Clown, Laugh! (1928) Lon Chaney cannot love Loretta Young, but does...

Lilac Time (1928) - a WWI love story for which a great song was written, and an equally fine ending where Gary Cooper and Colleen Moore find each other at a hospital - here's a clip from my youtube channel:

The Man Who Laughs (1928) - Conrad Veidt is disfigured as a child into a grotesque whose face has been carved into a permanent smile. His girlfriend, of course, must be blind. Paul Leni directed this atmospheric classic with an early recorded Movietone soundtrack.

Pandora’s Box (1929) - Louise Brooks creates Lulu in this astonishingly modern tale, a woman who floats freely through life, seemingly playing and being played by everyone, until she seems to get away with murder...

Picadilly (1929) - one of Britain’s few great non-Hitchcock silent classics, this one by E. A. Dupont, features Anna May Wong and the seamier side of exotic theatre.

Sunrise (1927) - Visual poetry, with another Movietone soundtrack, about a rural couple’s life disrupted by temptation from the city and the ultimate triumph of love. Ahhhhh.

The Wind (1928) - Lillian Gish, who defined acting in every one of her films, goes out west and somehow survives the constant onslaught of maddening wind and dust storms

Casablanca – Ingrid Bergman’s perfect complexion. Bogart’s incredible delivery. Claude Rain’s wry amusement. Damn! I’m putting this tape in right now!

Children of Paradise (1945) – I’ve actually watched this French 2-parter six times, in addition to the commentary track, and I keep pulling more from it each time.

It’s A Wonderful Life - I’m so conditioned by this I start choking up at the opening credits. Honest. People time me. I’m choking up now.

The Palm Beach Story (1942) - Preston Sturge’s loving and screwy comedy, and how can you ever listen to Rudy Vallee’s singing the same way after this (when he starts his signature song “Goodnight Sweetheart” by screwing it up...I’m off my chair)

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg - It’s French! It’s sung! It’s beautiful! It’s referenced in an episode of Futurama! What’s not to love? Multiplying time by experience can yield adventure!

Wizard of Oz (1939) - The film that defined my existence on this planet from ages 5 to 13.

More recently:
Allegro Non Troppo - the animated parody of Fantasia, in particular the part with Valse Triste...sniff   Might one generation reach to enfold another, and with renewed appreciation, embrace life’s discovery and joy.....

Chaplin - Robert Downey Jr becomes the master.
Hair - forget “The Deer Hunter” from the same year–this is how I remember the 60s!
The Lathe of Heaven - the first PBS feature, rescued from shredding and flaking magnetic tape, is an incredible dream, or is it....NOT the remake from 20 years many of the lines in this film still involuntarily pop out of my mouth
The Mask - Amid the special effects animation, there’s actually a plot twist!
Monkeybone - Rose McGowan as a kitty? Can a coma get any better than that?
Paper Moon - This film was the first time I realized how beautiful a movie could look without being made before 1939
They All Laughed - gorgeous women and John Ritter in a wonderful film where everyone keeps their clothes on except Audrey Hepburn!
What Dreams May Come - another beautiful and heartbreaking film where people just try to find each other, not realizing how the universe can actually be in your corner, cheering you on...
What’s Up, Doc? - I watch this and keep saying Cripes! It’s Madeline! Cripes! It’s the guy from Blazing Saddles! Cripes! It’s how I survived high school!
Young Frankenstein - still laugh til I cry

This is just a few of a zillion movies that come to mind, under the category, “Is it just me, or is this a pretty amazing movie?”

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

While we were reading the sports section....

...or being distracted by the media with its source over substance... this is a graph of the Canadian dollar vs the US dollar over the past month.  Notice that during bits of December, it was not only on par with the US dollar, but worth slightly more.  Didn't hear much about this during the Bring Out The Clowns debates, did we?

Data from

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

And so Albion and Marshall Don't Feel Left Out

Albion – Population 14224 (2010)

                         Stimulants  Vicodin like    Oxy-like    Methadone
totals               127774          737092           73520          134644
Per Capita         8.98              51.82              5.17               9.47

Marshall - population 14646 (2010)

totals               97505           375008             37238         69785
Per Capita       6.66               25.60                2.54              4.76

Monday, December 05, 2011

Battle Creek - You've Got A Problem!

The Michigan Automatic Prescription Service (MAPS) offers up a lot of information on controlled substance usage as reported from the state's pharmacies.  Their website even provides the raw data for the entire year of 2010, broken down by zip code.
After some research, it was possible to track down the populations for those zip code regions, then break the general use down 'per capita.'
The categories chosen for this snapshot of 2010 were 'stimulants' (meaning, all varieties of Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta, and its chemical relatives), 'hydrocodone' (for all drugs similar to Vicodin), 'oxycodone' (for those like Oxycontin), and 'methadone.'
The 49014 area corresponds to an area near Battle Creek known as "Harper Creek."  The 49015 refers to the "Lakeview" region, with 49016 being those who use a PO box as their primary address, 49017 referring to the city's northern side, and 49037 to the general region known as "Urbandale."
I recommend checking out the MAPS program and looking up your particular region and crafting a similar spreadsheet.  Battle Creek may look to be problematic, but I'm almost thinking that other regions may have a bigger problem....
Now, contemplate the causes.....

Following up on the Planetarium files

The use of mpeg format made a substantial difference.  However, using a 1320 x 1320 (vs a 1320 x 1200) working field makes a substantial difference in filling the dome.
In addition, a powerful vertigo-inducing effect can be seen by simultaneously running two layers of animation, one moving clockwise, the other counter-clockwise - the title toward the end of the 'second' set of swirling images set some profound middle ear activity into play.
Sony Vegas 9 as a video editing software does not allow for greater than 800x800 resolution, however.  For HD 1080 level of clarity, that means going with the next version of Vegas, and a Platinum one at much for budgetary constraints this quarter!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Animation Tests for the Local Planetarium

The Challenge
The intermediate animation class (ANIM235) at Kellogg Community College was given an assignment to determine whether an animation could be developed for use in a planetarium, with the result being a potential entry for the annual Grand Rapids Art Prize festival.
The planetarium in place at Battle Creek’s Kingman museum uses hardware identical to that currently in place at the Chaffee Planetarium inside of the Grand Rapids Public Museum. After making contact with the Battle Creek coordinator, the class was given its initial assignment. If the project can play in Battle Creek, it should work in Grand Rapids.
We initially did a collection of animation samples at different resolutions: (in pixels) 800x800, 1000x1000, 1200x1200. The use of a "square" shape could then be the basis for a circular design that would then fit the format of a planetarium dome.
After some research, we found that the suggested resolution from the manufacturers of the planetarium system (the Evans and Sutherland ‘Digistar 4' projection and computer device) was 1344x1200.
Ultimately, we used the three initial resolutions, then employed the fourth to complete the first test for the project.
As it was only a test, the animations created ran only 10-15 seconds, with the emphasis for the action to be in the center of the screen. The animations were completed in Flash, and then they were saved in *.fla format for archiving, and *.mov format for the projection test and for creating a DVD version.

The First Attempt - November 7, 2011
Upon arrival at the Kingman museum, we discovered that the planetarium coordinator was experienced in the specific system there, but did not have a lot of information about how the projection files were created. Nevertheless, we continued with running our test.
The *.mov files had to be loaded onto two separate computer drives, labeled GP1 and GP2. Audio for the project had to be on a third computer, labeled GP3. Audio files had to be in *.wav format only. As this was not the layout for our project, the initial test was projected in a silent version.

Initial Result
The limitation of the Macintosh network at KCC for *.mov format output from Flash quickly became apparent. The images did project, but the pixellation in the projection made for an unacceptable experience.
Upon further research with the manufacturer, the planetarium coordinator relayed to us that the *.mov files we created would not be acceptable for their hardware system, and that the files had to be in HD format for the images to be fully appreciated by the spectator.
This meant that we would have to create the movies at the KCC lab in *.fla format, then take the raw Flash files to a different system that could then convert the images into HD.

Reworking the Files - the Process
The class then created a new series of short experiments, this time only using a resolution of 1344 x 1200 pixels. The image was further restricted to a circular area based on a 1200 pixel diameter. The sound being used, a public domain recording of "Flight of the Bumblebee" from 1920, was then mastered out as a *.wav file.
Two experiments were created to devise an HD format of the test.
The first took the *.fla files, for CS4 Flash, then rendered them as an uncompressed *.mov format using the Flash software on a different platform (a PC was used for this test). The one minute experiment took approximately 32 gigabytes of hard drive memory.
The second experiment took the raw *.fla files, again for CS4 Flash, and rendered them out as a series of sequential images using the Flash software.
These sequential images were then brought into another program for video editing, Sony Vegas, Version 9. Each image was brought into the software with approximately 2 frames for each, then exported silently as an HD format for Sony, a variety of mpeg4.  Overall, using the sequential images as source material was more useful, since it eliminated the troublesome artifacts inherent in creating *.mov files from the Flash environment.

Second Experiment Result
The results for this second series of experiments is pending our being able to schedule another afternoon’s access to the Kingman museum’s planetarium. We expect this to be accomplished before the end of December, 2011. (in actuality, it will be on Monday, 5 December - watch this blog for further results)

The following DVD demonstration will show the animation sequences created for each experiment, based on the first and second attempts.  These mp4 files are from the Vegas 9 software and were generated for this example; HD files were generated for the planetarium experiment.