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Back in 2014 I said I was finishing my collection of short stories (Robo Divine), which is where The Perfect Round came from originally. Well, I got that done and it is available as an eBook as well as a Print-on-Demand edition from Amazon. I said I would go back to blogging again, but now I am working on a 3D computer animated short film . . . so that's just not going to happen. The writing and blogging will have to stay on hold for a while longer.
August 2, 2016
> JULY 2: Organic Creativity
> JUNE 16: Dishwasher Syndrome
> JUNE 9: Alien Anniversary
> MAY 30: Free Will and Food Courts
> MAY 16: Musical Peptide Hormones
> MAY 9: Big Project Ambitions
> APRIL 29: Adding Value to Your Home
> APRIL 22: Preferences & Principles
> APRIL 17: Comparative Accelerated Chronology
> APRIL 4: Reading States
> MARCH 11: Vintage Voice Talent
> MARCH 4: Vintage TV Excellence
> FEBRUARY 28: Job Fair Paradigms
> FEBRUARY 11: Supplementary Credits
> JANUARY 28: Dimensional Transitions
> JANUARY 3: Illustration Relevance
July 7, 2014: Robotic Precision
When it comes to robotics, it is ALL about precision. In my illustrated childrens book The Perfect Round, Kele is a "black ops synth" (synthetic biped robot) who possesses incredibly precise instrumentation and capabilities. This enables him to play the truly perfect round of golf - 18 strokes for 18 holes - as only a robot can.
Due to his extremely delicate sensors, it's absolutely forbidden for Kele to make contact with any organic surface, any living person or any unknown external electronic device. His advanced technology must never to be exposed, corrupted, contaminated or revealed to anyone outside the lab. In terms of monetary value, Kele is truly priceless. Worth billions of dollars in research and unique micro-ware, he possesses an unparalleled array of custom integrated, electronic chips, circuits and processors. Kele's suit is a combination of carbon fibre, diamond particles and titanium thread to form a single, seamless surface for detecting micro-measurements in air pressure, air temperature, wind velocity, water vapour and molecular suspension density. Around his head is an array of microdish antennae to scan and record data in 360 degrees. Combined with his suit and goggles, he represents the most accurate measuring technology ever created by human science. The goggles are capable of displaying thousands of data representations while also performing a visual point of view to give Kele a sense of sight.
There is almost no limit to his processing power. His potential, however, is still unproven, virtually untested and mostly theoretical. That's because Kele is a character in a story. For an awe-inspiring, actual look inside at how robotics works, here is an absolutely amazing video featuring extreme rapid packaging, material handling (including hazardous), precise assembly, heavy load capacity and my favourite - precise robotic welding. You can also visit material-robotics.com if you are interested in talking to an engineer or investigating the world of robotic material handling.
It is so incredible to witness this vision of the future of manufacturing. Robots can do it ALL better and faster. Here is also a link to a story in Wired about the Tesla Robotic Factory. Watching the seats get placed inside the car is really impressive. The same robot can also turn around and switch tools and place the windshield into the car as well. Material-Robotics has a great catchphrase, "a lot changes when you take the 'man' out of manufacturing." They bring perfection to precision.
. . . and that is precisely what Kele does on the golf course.
July 2, 2014: Organic Creativity
There are distinct and contrasting stages of development within the process of creating a story. Whether you have a lesson or an argument you want to illustrate, the initial plot should be summarized or described in a single sentence. You can call it an elevator pitch or a plotline, but it helps all the other details fall into place. It's kind of like the trunk of a tree. All the roots and branches and the bark and leaves are attached to one central core where the sap flows up and down and in and out.
Characters and events become ornaments you can add to your tree. You can attach them with a glue gun if they don't fit easily or weld them or bolt them to make sure they are permanent or you can just let them hang from a threat until they fall off. It's all up to you. Of course, sometimes it gets really difficult to prune your tree in order to keep it healthy. You have to be really ruthless and tough on your tree for it to survive. Otherwise, it might mutate into a distorted, unloved monster made up of parts that don't belong together and hunted by angry townsfolk carrying torches and pitchforks tracking it down and demanding it be destroyed.
As it's creator, you start off with a great idea you love, but as soon as it starts to get real, sometimes it goes off track or gets lost. Then that great feeling of accomplishment turns sour and you get depressed. The story cracks and splits and begins to look broken and can't be fixed. Suddenly, a rabbit jumps out of a hat and you chase it and it turns into a genie who grants your wishes and it all comes back together like magic. You start to think it's the best story you've ever come up with and you want to tell someone, but they're all watching football or listening to music. So you just keep re-writing until it reaches the point where it's going to be abandoned like your old living room furniture and ends up sitting on the back porch forlorn and forgotten.
That's a great time to plant a new tree!
June 16, 2014: Dishwasher Syndrome
There are several distinct schools of thought involved in the proper operation of dishwashers. In fact, there ought to be a degree program for the whole automatic dishwashing syndrome (ADS) and half the course would be dedicated to negotiating with those who share or have access to your particular device. People tend to take their dishwashers very personally.
Individual members of western culture can be divided into two categories - those who don't mind emptying (but don't like loading) and those who don't mind loading (but don't like emptying). Hopefully, there is at least one of each in your household. Otherwise, you'll have a lopsided burden of unwanted responsibility contributing to inevitable resentment and frustration.
That doesn't even begin to compare to the enormous and unresolved controversy of cutlery up or down. Do you put handles down first? If so, you will have to grab forks, knives and spoons by the "business" end of the cutlery - the part that delivers food into your assimilation port. Or do you put handles up? If so, it makes them easy and more hygenic to grab, but some people argue the cleaning process is hindered by the cutlery tray itself as well as the logjam of utensils making contact together. There is absolutely nothing worse than spoons on top of spoons. Who can contradict what contentious domestic disputes have not been initiated with accusations about cutlery placement?
Then there are the "sweet spots" and favoured locations for specific vessels, plates and assorted items. Would anyone disagree orientation is one of the most extreme priorities? Angles must be correct in order to avoid unforgivable lingering residual moisture. Then, of course, any points of contact must be circumvented in order to escape permanent damage. Not only does it chip and crack your favourite dishes, broken pieces of crockery or tableware can contribute to a bottleneck in the kitchen drain.
Normally, I would include a survey form here for readers to reply or post comments, but the matter is not open to discussion.
June 9, 2014: Alien Anniversary
It is truly remarkable how much the industry of cinema has changed not only since the 1890s but even as recently as the past 10 to 15 years. Today, every movie has CGI in it somewhere and they even have to have credits for programming now. Not only that, but every aspect of the business side is radically different from what it used to be. For example, the international box office often exceeds the domestic these days. The latest Tom Cruise film (Edge of Tomorrow) picked up $82 million outside of the USA including $25 million in China and $16 million in South Korea. It only grossed $28 million at home, but worldwide it is sitting at almost $140 million for its opening weekend. The worldwide gross for Godzilla, so far, is double the domestic and Captain America: The Winter Soldier has almost tripled the domestic. Frozen did triple the domestic as well ($400 vs $1200 million).
What is also remarkable is that up until the 1990s, the studios did not allow us to actually purchase copies of their films. We could only rent them. Until then, there was no way they would let us possess personal copies of their product. They wanted us to pay just to look at their stuff. It was like going to the museum. You could look, but you were not allowed to purchase a copy of the Rosetta Stone or a dinosaur skeleton or a Sumerian vase. None of it was for sale . . . and neither was Terminator 2. You could rent it, but you couldn't own it.
The attitude did eventually change, but at first we could only get VHS video versions and we all know now how crappy that was. It was like selling us cheap imitation plastic replicas Ming Dynasty china or vinyl Chanel fashion accessories. It was OK at first, but it wasn't great. By the time we got to DVDs, however, the studios we're really in being torn apart. There was so much money available for digital product, but it meant throwing away all the bars and walls of their secure vaults. If they let us buy a disc, it was almost like owning the original. In fact, the idea of "original" kind of goes away once it gets remastered into digital form. It wasn't until June 1999 that Twentieth Century Fox finally opened it's doors and let us buy Alien on DVD. That was 15 years ago this month. Happy Anniversary!
It's so funny, because it seems like we've been able to own our favourite films forever. That's simply not true. Maybe it's because we used to watch old films on late night TV and then cable, but now we have Netflix and TiVo and Blu-ray discs. Although, when you think about it, the idea of "film" itself is actually going away. Film projectors may soon be extinct too. We still have the theatres, but they are all going digital and those enormous, grand old film cameras are being replaced by ultra high definition digital devices. The 3-film camera they used to shoot The Wizard of Oz was the size of a refrigerator and weighed as much. No one will miss that monster.
If you made a relative temporal transition timeline comparison of cinema to the evolution of species on the Galápagos Islands and Darwin's Origin of Species (1859), what took amphibians and reptiles millions of years to adapt through natural selection, the current state of cinema went from silent black and white Charlie Chaplin shorts to computer genereated Disney animated 3D full length features . . . in the blink of an eye.
MAY 30, 2014: Free Will and Food Courts
You have to love how discerning the public is when it comes to advertising. Agencies spend millions on campaigns and air time to get the perfect message on TV, on the radio and in print. The audience takes half a second to decide if they will pay attention or not. You have to love the power of the low common denominator, because there is nothing low about it at all. The common denominator is a monster!
Look at everyone's favourite painting - Edvard Munch's The Scream. For some reason this is the work of art the most number of people find infatuating. You can buy the art represented on drapes, lamps, towels, lighters, stained glass windows, hand puppets, mugs, T-shirts, keychains, and even glue-on fingernails. Then there are the imitations featuring famous cartoon characters, game characters or famous people. Have you ever noticed the poster for Home Alone shows Macaulay Culkin doing the exact same pose as Munch's painting?
The list is infinite, but what it says is truly remarkable. The infatuation illustrates an incredible unanimous consensus among much of humanity. No one was told to like the painting. No one was taught how to interpret it or what it means or how they should react to it. Everyone seems to understand exactly what it is and identifies with it without being prompted.
So that means the public does indeed have a voice. They decide when a piece of music will be popular or a film (like Avatar or The Avengers) or when an electronic device like the iPhone or the iPad will dominate the market. Everyone selects clothing and cars and types of food and turns those choices into iconic emblems of mutual agreement. Am I wrong, or isn't that what elections are for? Advertising, marketing and publicity can present the choices, but the popular vote cannot be compromised. That's what I love about free will and food courts.
MAY 16, 2014: Musical Peptide Hormones
Regardless of being an amateur or a professional musician, you have to salute the people who gamble with their self-esteem by getting up in front of people and performing. Not all of us can do that. Up there, you are exposed to being judged by others who know nothing about you. There is a flip side to that, however, and that is the musician’s “rush.” Jimmy Page talked about it when he was on tour with Led Zeppelin (that would be the first time - over 40 years ago) and he didn’t sleep for weeks at a time. It wasn’t some unnatural stimulant that was lighting him up. It was a combination of his own internal biochemistry releasing peptide hormones and adrenaline which stimulated his heart and metabolism to extreme levels. Performing his music on stage in front of thousands of people put him into a physical and mental zone most of us have never experienced.
There’s also a scene about the musician’s experience in the great jazz movie Round Midnight starring Dexter Gordon, written and directed by Bertrand Tavernier. Herbie Hancock won an Oscar for the score. Loosely based on the life of Bud Powell (an expatriot American in Paris in the 1950s), the story follows Dale Turner (Gordon) who struggles with substance abuse. He goes missing one night when he can’t stop playing until his lips bleed, because he can’t get “the feeling.” He’s referring to the music hormone “high” no controlled substance can duplicate.
Science and medicine continue to study the effect of music on both physical and mental health, because audiences respond to sound and tempo too. There is a paper by Dr. Jessica Phillips-Silver on “Vestibular influence on auditory metrical interpretation” that goes into the mechanics. Dr. Phillips-Silver works at the International Laboratory for Brain, Music and Sound Research, Université de Montréal. In the study she is examining what makes us move in rhythm to sound and music.
The concept of “metrical structure” goes back to antiquity. Whether we are listening to an MP3 player in our pocket or a live performance on stage, we are all affected by it physically and emotionally. I really have to force myself to keep my emotions in check when I listen to Rhonda Fleming sing Puccini’s O Mio Babbino Caro, but I have a similar reaction to Danny Marks playing Farewell San Miguel. The genre or instrument really doesn’t matter. You have no control over it. Whether you are a barista or Alfred Brendel, music is going to influence and modify your perception and your emotional state. So please support local talent by applauding when they are done so they know you were listening. Either that, or get up on stage and feel the endorphin peptide yourself.
MAY 9, 2014: Big Project Ambitions
Big projects are very slippery critters when it comes to conceptual vision. On the one hand, it is the easiest task in the world to come up with 20 brilliant and orignal projects. Making that list can be done in just a few minutes. That's because, prior to research, the terms "brilliant" and "original" don't actually get verified. Substantiating those evaluations evokes the disappointment-elation index. This is a ratio scale based on innocence and experience (aplogies to Blake). Of course, spending too much time at either end of the scale can immobilize the faint of heart. Boundless optimism is like eating a diet of rice cakes in preparation for a marathon while hopeless despair tends to weigh down your hot air balloon with tons of granite and lead.
At some point you have to just take a leap of faith and then never look up or get caught gazing at the finish line. Just keep your head down and concentrate. It's kind of like mowing a golf course with a pair of scissors. It might take years, but believe me, it can be done. Finishing is really all that matters. You can take "finishing" to the bank, but cashing in intentions is like Monopoly money in Las Vegas - it is not accepted.
In the middle of big projects, there are also all kinds of dangerous caves and chasms. The valley of "feature creep" is infamous to software developers. Then there's negotiating the milestones, the budgets, personnel engagement (and encouragement), technical challenges and creative differences. Patience and determination will win the day. Emotional outbreaks will end it.
Listening to the advice of others, of course, is mandatory especially when it comes to the bureaucratic side of big projects. One must always appear to listen even when the advice appears to be brilliant and original. Meanwhile, not listening can appear to be annoying and vexatious especially when you implement the concepts you claim you did not hear. Either way, it might be best to avoid big projects unless you can figure out a way to build an enormous pyramid all by yourself. All you need to eliminate is gravity, money and time.
APRIL 29, 2014: Adding Value to Your Home
A long, long time ago we all started with no possessions. As a powerless child in the realm of the Middle Class, each of us possessed no means of income and no political power over anyone. The austerity of lifestyle in those early days approached desolation. Obtaining food, clothing and shelter was simply a matter of patience. It all arrived without permission, consent or authorization. That is why today, it is a matter of perceived amusement when someone asks, "Who dressed you?" because this is a reference to those early days when influence was absent.
As we age and acquire possessions, we add value to our home and improve our lifestyle. Such items include rare and valuable collectibles such as Dinky Toys, comic books (Silver Surfer), antique radios (Sparton Nocturne), artwork by nieces, nephews and grandchildren and component stereos. In the kitchen we acquire vessels to hold favourite liquids and fluids in addition to equipment for processing edible materials. The sum of all these valuable assets and properties can be perceived as truly priceless, because they represent a compilation unique to each individual.
The fact that visitors or outsiders have no appreciation for your valuables only reinforces the exclusive nature of your possessions. They may have their own ridiculous collections of absurd objects including furniture, cars, swimming pools, high ceilings, golf clubs and jewellery, but they have obviously missed the point.
How can you put a price on a favourite book? Why would you want to convince anyone that your favourite movie is better than someone else's? What is the point of arguing about a favourite beverage. Establishing a preference takes time and effort. It is no simple matter to arrive at a choice and then maintain it through loyalty, fidelity, conscientousness and faith. Such high principles are acquired through experience and maturity. Early explorers of the world understood this concept. When one of them found a "new world" it was like finding the most delicious new dish in a restaurant. I had this extraordinary experience recently and will never forget it (the restaruant - not the new world).
APRIL 22, 2014: Preferences & Principles
As I visit people and places, I’m asked sometimes where I got my boots. I’ve had dental surgeons and physicists tell me they used to wear them, but I can't imagine a reason why they would have stopped. Once you wear cowboy boots regularly, it's really hard to go back to "normal" shoes.
I've always loved horses and riding (western style). That's how pointed toe boots came about in the first place - on account of the stirrups. Meanwhile, good boots can get really expensive - costing as much as a car - but any good pair that fit properly will spoil your feet. In the past, I also got into the fancy dress stuff with yoked shirts, domed pearl snaps, carved leather belts and big shiny buckles, but I'm more conservative today.
I don't want to look like Roy Rogers although I still really admire him. He and Dale were truly wonderful people. He came to town many years ago to open one of his restaurants. It was on the north side of Dundas just west of Dixie. He was called “King of the Cowboys” and he was the best rider in the movies on his golden palomino "Trigger." I got to shake Roy's hand and he gave me an autographed picture. I'll never forget it.
There aren't very many saddle shops around anymore, but by ooincidence, there is a particularly good one right here in Cooksville, Ontario: Trdak’s Western Wilderness & Workwear Outfitters. You can find great shirts and boots there. They’re on the north side of Dundas - just down a spell, west of Hurontario (right next to the bus stop at 5 & 10). All kinds of people from miles around go to Trdak’s, because it’s the only place that stocks the specialized apparel. It’s like stepping through a time portal when you walk through that front door. I also really like visiting Joe (the owner). He has the best stories!
I never owned any Charlie Pride records or Patsy Cline, although I did like The Flying Burrito Brothers. Those guys (including Chirs Hillman and Gram Parsons) were a mixed up bunch of talented guys trying to play a rebellious kind of country, but they sure didn’t live up to Roy Rogers’ extraordinary wholesomeness.
My interest was about the down home honesty, integrity and traditional, hard-working characters associated with the western lifestyle. There are hints of it in films like The Electric Horseman (with Robert Redford) and even No Country For Old Men (with Josh Brolin). The celebration of ethics and virtue are incorporated in those films even if there are negaive aspects within the context. Well, Roy Rogers himself always said you need the valleys of sadness to appreciate the sunshine on the mountain top.
While at University, I may have looked a little out of place like Llewelyn Moss at a boat show, but what are you supposed to look like when you are studying Restoration Poetry or 18th Century novels? I certainly didn't want to dress like Dr. Samuel Johnson. That would have been crazy.
My favourite music ranges from Stravinsky to Miles Davis. My favourite artists range from Jan Van Eyck to William Holman Hunt (and a bunch of modern digital illustrators). My favourite authors include William Gaddis and Malcolm Lowry. My favourite footwear is cowboy boots. That's all.
Do your preferences indicate what sort of person you are? Perhaps. Do they influence your actions and their consequences - not so much. Such philosophy is more about what you stand for - not what you stand on.
APRIL 17, 2014: Comparative Accelerated Chronolgy
In our immediate present we have an extraordinary sense of history, particularly in this age of accelerated temporal chronology. The term “ancient” used to refer to really old stuff like prehistoric civilizations such as Mesopotamia or Sumeria where they bartered in order to procure commodities, but in these days of encrypted e-commerce, the classical period might now be considered the previous few decades of the last century.
The great watershed of computing saw the introduction of DOS in the early 1980s. Originally authored by Seattle Computer Products, it was called QDOS which stood for quick and dirty operating system. The chief architect and author was a young guy named Tim Paterson. We could call this period the Neo-Aechulean (as in "stone") age of personal computing. Computers were soldered together by nerdy high school students, programmed by college geeks who didn't attend class and bought by independently wealthy enthusiasts who could afford to pay for hardware that cost more than a car.
Back then, the "Two Steves" started Apple Computers in a garage, Atari released Asteroids, and in 1982, Disney released TRON. That film is the one John Lasseter says got him interested in computer animation. John, of course, went on to run Pixar and is now at the helm of Disney.
That year was also the time Adobe Systems was founded by John Warnock and Charles Geschke. They introduced PostScript, which basically put a printer in every home. Adobe, of course, went on to acquire and distribute popular application programs such as Photoshop. The application program that has become a verb in everyday language was created by Thomas Knoll, while he was at college along with his brother John, who worked at ILM (Industrial Light and Magic). Years later, John was nominated for Academy Awards for his special effects work on movies such as Star Wars and Star Trek. He won an Oscar for his work on Pirates of the Caribbean.
This brings us to the “temporal” equivalent of the Neo-Industrial Revolution by which we compress approximately 4,000 years into 20. That’s what I mean when I say “accelerated” chronology. In this, our fourth decade of the electronic interface, the ‘80s have become truly ancient. Contemporary generations have no idea what a rotary phone is or vector display. They have never heard of Silicon Graphics or Netscape or Mag Tape Data Storage. A lot of people don’t buy CD-ROM games anymore either. They are just a quaint storage system that has dropped out of mainstream usage.
During the CD revolution, I was at the roll-out of Spaceship Warlock in San Francisco in 1991. Two years later, MYST came out. Both games were originally authored for Apple computers only and were “ported” to the Windows platform. This produced radical compatibility problems, because the PC environment was far more open to developers and authors, which is also the reason why it is far more open to hackers, crackers and thieves who send out viruses, steal credit card information and identities. The recent "Heartbleed" security flaw for service providers is just another example.
This brings us to our contemporary age where cash is no longer preferred in commerce. Virtually untraceable, cash contributes to the underground economy. It is considered “underground,” because it is possible for transactions to go institutionally unreported.
If you try to buy a product at a high tech outlet, do not attempt to use cash. You will be relegated to the ignominious fringe of shame and humiliation. Perhaps the concept of cash should go away so we can return to bartering for commodities instead of using electronic equivalents of accumulated wealth. I would gladly pay you a 12 inch sub for a unique internet domain.
APRIL 11, 2014: Attainable Perfection
I suppose it all began at my grandmother's house when I was a small boy and asked for a pencil and a piece of paper. I guess it just wasn't that high a priority at that particular location. Relatives started going through drawers in the kitchen and branched out into the living room and down to the bedrooms. They eventually came up with a blunt stub of a pencil that required some sharpening and a crumpled piece of paper torn out of a notebook. It served my requirements, but it was the shock that my request was not as fundamental as a spoon or a slice of bread or a torque wrench. Those were easy. The paper and pencil was almost an epic challenge.
I still love pencils and graphite and erasers and quality paper. I still sketch and draw all the time, but the idea of writing and drawing over the years has expanded to include rare and exotic pens. No, I'm not a collector of Montblanc pens, although I wouldn't turn one down. Hey, I wouldn't turn down a Cartier either, but expensive or valuable is not the point. It is more about how it performs and feels than how it looks. Of course, appearance is important, but so is weight and colour and texture. There's nothing like a sleek, slim silver shaft of a pen made of cool, smooth metal with a slick "roller ball" contact point so the ink can flow like a river through a generating station. That is all about power and control.
Then there's the quill (tiny metal nib) and the technical pens with pigment ink and let's not forget sable brushes dipped into Speedball Super Black India Ink or Dr. Ph. Martin's Black Star waterproof India Ink. There's nothing more beautiful than brushing that black magic onto artboard or paper and combining it with perfect lines with great design. There's also the added thrill of anxiety and pressure from knowing how truly permanent that ink is and what it can do to an article of clothing or wall to wall carpet. Spills just add to the excitement.
Every pen has it's own unique purpose, and I'm not including the prosaic and mundane. I don't retain common stick pens or fine points that skip or globby devices that leak or ones that gush unexpectedly. I've learned how to avoid those. This is a serious passion requiring years of experience and expertise. It's kind of like being a connoisseur, but it really develops out of necessity. The pleasure of perfect control is just another part of writing along with perfect word selection and turn of phrase. It's all part of the creative process. Can you imagine a carpenter building a house with only a pen knife? Can you imagine an auto mechanic tuning a car with just a hammer? Can you imagine a plumber trying to work with just cellulose-based adhesive tape? Of course not. The pen has become an object of extreme desire, but not for mere value, but because perfection has finally become attainable. We're talking about the pen here. The trouble is, I seem to have an unquenchable thirst for the attainable.
APRIL 4, 2014: Reading States
Readers know there's different kinds of reading. There's a hierarchy of cognitive function established by location, time and task priority (LTT). It's kind of a formula that underlies all of our activity and it results in emotional states such as guilt, happiness and procrastination.
If you have the luxury of complete freedom and you are either sitting by a pool on a warm, sunny day or on vacation on a beach near the Equator, you can relax and read each page slowly and deliberately. It doesn't even have to be a good book or good prose. It doesn't matter. The pleasure of the location plus the availability of time and the absence of task priority make this the preferred state known as "Alpha" reading.
Sometimes, when the book is really, really good and you lose the sense of LTT (location, time and task), you might consider wearing a portable alarm device so you know when to get off the bus or the train. Otherwise, you might end up arriving at an unintentional destination. This also occurs on a regular basis on the last trains of the day leaving Grand Central Station after the bars have closed. I'm not saying passengers are reading. I'm just saying they are not paying attention to LTT.
The "Beta" state of reading is also a pleasure state. This often takes place when reading while anticipating the transitional mode preceding dream state. It may occur in bed, but what defines it is the variable of task priority has been taken out of the equation (Location and Time are still significant and essential). The "Beta" state does not take place in medical waiting rooms. This is a much lower state known as "Epsilon" reading - otherwise known as "killing time."
"Gamma" reading is the highly focused state when information is being recorded into mnemonic memory registers. It is information you require or really, really want to remember. It is useful for storing critical data regarding your job or for when you are contributing to conversation in restaruants or institutions of refreshment. If you don't get your facts right, you will be contradicted. Even so, you may be required to either furnish physical proof or become more concvincing in your delivery than the person who is challenging you. This should not be confused with "Delta" reading which is known as studying. In this state, the equation has a very heavy value in the Task variable while the location and time elements only add pressure and anxiety.
There is also "Kappa" reading, which is known as "speed reading," but that is only useful for getting through periodicals or books you have no intention of actually absorbing or retaining for whatever reasons. Some of the other kinds of reading have names such as Zeta, Eta, Theta, Iota and Lambda, but the LTT equation tends to grow more and more irrelevant in those progressive states. Some of them have to do with if you have your glasses with you or if you are trying to read while you are driving or if you are trying to multi-task (such as walking or eating).
One of those succeeding states known as "Theta" refers to reading "sequential art" (otherwise known as graphic novels and comic books), although one can argue, depending on the location and time and task priority equation, you might be able to enter the "Alpha" state from there - depending on your VPI (Visual Propensity Index).
MARCH 11, 2014: Vintage Voice Talent
We have to face the fact that the movie studios are not only re-making old movies and old TV shows, but they are not necessarily making them better. I don't want to go into The Day The Earth Stood Still or Planet of the Apes or RoboCop. You can make up your own mind about those. I am more concerned about how they are attempting to use the fraudulent science of alchemy to turn a cake recipe into a bicycle pump. I do admit there are amazing people out there who can make you think you are hearing Mel Blanc still performing some of the great character voices from the Warner Brothers stable, but I believe there are still unique voices from the past that will never be properly imitated, simulated or replicated.
For example, one of the most recognized wonderful voices of all time has to be Edward Everett Horton, who was the narrator of Fractured Fairy Tales on the Rocky and Bullwinkle show. Those little shorts are superb examples of the Jay Ward Productions recipe for wit, charm and humour, but it was Mr. Horton's voice that put it over the top. I wish there was a box set of just those. You can buy the complete set of Rocky and Bullwinkle, but it's a big box and a considerable investment. I highly recommend it, but it would still be nice to have the Fractured Fairy Tales all on their own just to binge on Edward Everett.
Of course, the great June Foray is another great example of a unique voice. Not only was she everyone's favourite Granny for all the Warner Brothers cartoons but she was also Natasha on Rocky and Bullwinkle. Actually, she was also Rocky (which is hilarious). Paul Frees was the voice of Boris Badenov (because he was certainly no Boris Gudunov). William Conrad was the brilliant Narrator. That brings us to the great Bill Scott. Not only was he the voice of Bullwinkle and Dudley Do-Right, but he was also the voice of Mr. Peabody (Walter Tetley was Sherman).
I can still hear Bill Scott say, "Peabody here" in that snooty, high-brow, condescending tone when he's telling Sherman to set the WayBack Machine. How can anyone duplicate his unique voice? As a purist, I have a real problem with that. I admit I am a bit wary and distrustful after that dreadful live action Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle they made back in 2000. It starred some great talent including Robert De Niro, Rene Russo, Jason Alexander, Randy Quaid, June Foray, John Goodman, Jonathan Winters, James Rebhorn, but none of them could save it. Sorry guys. It was a stinker!
Instead, I guess I will continue to watch the originals on disc when I want to visit Frostbite Falls. I shall continue to praise the late and great Jay Ward and Alex Anderson and the wonderful talent they put together for that rare moment in time. Here is a link to a web page with pictures of some of the great voice actors. Here is a link to some old Rocky and Bullwinkle trailers.
MARCH 4, 2014: Vintage TV Excellence
After a brief conversation about how the old Saturday morning cartoons concept is just a fond memory, we switched over to a sub-topic: Quality. While there really was a vast reservoir of SatCrap back in the '60s and '70s, there were some early diamonds hidden down inside. The great masters of high speed fluid timing, Hanna-Barbera, turned their genius to producing perfectly economic, but unwatchable tales of bongo-drum-spinning-feet and minimal animation. It's so ironic, because back in the 1950s their Academy Award-winning Tom and Gerry cartoons are superb. Their Friday night TV series, The Flintstones, was full of brilliant gags and excellent character development. For me, however, the TV series that pulled it all together and delivered the most was Jonny Quest. It was made at Hanna-Barbera Productions for Screen Gems and they only made one 26-episode season (September 1964 to March 1965).
Joseph and William did not actually come up with the concept and never really gave the proper credit to Doug Wildey. They said the show was "based on an idea created by" him. He brought the comic book excellence of influences like Milton Caniff and Alex Toth (he actually worked for both of them) and included futuristic technology like lasers and jet packs and hydrofoils. The stories were full of science fiction action and adventure. Even though they had to cut corners and use what they called "limited animation," it looked fantastic!
Wildey had worked previously on an even more limited show a couple of years before called "Space Angel." Believe it or not, I actually lucked out and found a couple of episodes on a DVD in a Dollar Store once and spent several weekends looking for more. I would have paid $20 or $30 anywhere else. Space Angel was actually made by a little studio called Cambria Productions and they came up with the whacky concept of "Synchro-Vox lip technique." In using it, the whole drawing didn't move except for a blurry little video spot on the character's face where the actor's mouth could be seen speaking the lines. Yeah, it's definitely on the weird side, but the rest of the Space Angel art is great. That's the job where Wildey worked for Toth and you can definitely see the progression from there to Jonny Quest.
Unfortunately, those original Quest episodes always went over budget, which probably contributed to its single season cancellation, although the show ended up making a fortune in syndicated reruns. One other superb aspect of this classy little gem has to be the musical direction of Hoyt Curtin. He and his 20 piece band recorded a jazz theme that is still absolutely marvelous to hear (there's also a remake by Reverend Horton Heat worth listening to). While I would never buy a collection of Mr. Curtin's TV themes for shows such as The Jetsons, Yogi Bear, The Flintstones, Huckleberry Hound, Top Cat, and on and on and on, I have enormous respect for the sheer volume and originality of a wonderful composer like him. He also said he had a crazy group of ace musicians who could read really fast and nail all their sound queues in one-take. Wow! They don't make 'em like than anymore.
FEBRUARY 28, 2014: Job Fair Paradigms
There is nothing quite as shocking as walking into a job fair these days and there are plenty of reasons why. It resembles the feeding frenzy of sharks or maybe a free all-you-can-eat buffet and open bar at a sales convention. It doesn't even matter what the individual dishes are or how they look or even how they taste. Expectations and minimum requirements head out the door in a hurry like Jerry Lundegaard fleeing from police at the end of Fargo.
This is a time when competition is so completely unbalanced that employers can demand requirements incluidng a hyperbaric welding certificate, pilot's license, engineering degree and object oriented programming expertise just to work the nightshift at a pizza shop. I wonder where the 13,000 people laid off at IBM yesterday are going to go. They shouldn't go to a job fair. There isn't anyone under the age of 21 there - including the recruiters.
No matter how many years you spent at a company or how much expertise you have or whether you are a moral person or have no standards whatsoever, you will receive the same level of disinterest as everyone else. I envy the Antarctic penguins who can differentiate every single penguin on the continent. That's why they don't need to carry any identification or credit cards. There's no such thing as identity theft among those guys.
A couple of generations ago, employers were so desperate to find good people they would reward them with high wages and regular salary increases. Today, however, the offers come in lower and lower and lower, because there is always someone who will say yes to them. Highly qualified experts in their fields claim each of their individual industries is being undermined by greenhorns and neophytes, but they're missing the point. The clients who accept the third rate, menial versions of work are the ones who are diminishing the standards.
Imagine Antonio Stradivari looking for work at a job fair. No one would ask him if he was good with his hands. They'd ask him what his sales were like over the last 12 months and if he remembered to put a cover sheet on his TPS reports. So if he could go ahead and try to remember to do that form now on, that would be great. By the way, can you tell us just what exactly do you do? I don't know, but he's way too old. We were looking for someone highly skilled in digital marketing and sales. I'm afraid Antonio just doesn't match up with our requiremental paradigms.
FEBRUARY 11, 2014: Supplementary Credits
On the weekend we got talking about unusual undergraduate courses that ended up not being incorporated into a university degree. Apart from early years with French philosophers (old and new), I really had a strong attraction to archaeology, anthopology and prehistory. The University of Toronto is a positive goldmine for such studies. My favourite was Mesopotamian Art and Architecture. Actually, a lot of the art and design I studied back then became incorpotated as a very heavy influence on my first CD-ROM games (Jewels of the Oracle and Jewels II). Any student of ancient history will recognize the enormous amount of artifiacts and elements of games, puzzles and pottery from the ancient world. The decor as well as the gameboards and pieces really creak with age, but I guess my University professors were not much into computer adventure games in the mid '90s. Maybe I should have submitted the project to the University for a credit, but it was too late by then.
Having such a great institution as the UofT handy is like living over top of a candy store. It has the potential for supplying an unlimited plethora of every possible scholarly indulgence imaginable. I spent a couple of years in Near Eastern Studies (Egypt), because of my childhood obsession with Pharaoh Tutankamun. When I was a kid, my folks took me to a travelling tour of Tut artifacts (they were trying to raise money for moving the temple at Abu Simbel). The Pharaoh Ramesses monumental sculpture was carved out of a mouintainside, but had to be relocated when they built the Aswan Dam. In order to raise funds, they assembled a road collection. One of the destinations was Ottawa. I still have the souvenir programme from that show.
It was inevitable, therefore, when I found out the U of T offered courses in 18th Dynasty Pharaonic writing, it completely blew me away. Naturally, I signed up and studied. My biggest thrill was getting an exam at the end of a term and finding out it was translating an actual passage from a temple. It was the most amazing experience, because it gave you a sense of the original scribe actually talking directly to you as you worked through the story. Years later, when the big Tut show came through the Art Gallery of Ontario (in the 1980s), I worked as a volunteer in the Mask room (the gold and lapis lazuli funerary mask placed over the mummy), because I could read and translate the glyphs inscribed on the back for visitors to the show (if they were interested).
I also studied art courses (history as well as practical/studio) in addition to music and film, but ended up taking my undergraduate baccalaureate in English Literature. I had more credits in that subject than any other. The rest would just have to go down as supplementary. Maybe someday I'll for a few more BAs. At least they admitted me into Graduate Studies so long as I laid off the other subjects. They wouldn't allow me to become what Buckminster Fuller called a "comprehensivist" - at least they were not offering a degree programme in such a discipline at that time - maybe someday. Too bad you can't just upload courses they way they teach marshal arts in the movie The Matrix. In a way, I wished I'd never left university. I think I could have just stayed there happily forever studying away. Of course, this also belongs in the realm of living on Mars and flying the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird.
JANUARY 28, 2014: Dimensional Transitions
The presence of music as an ambient texture is truly a magical inspiration. By underlying scenes in a film, the musical fabric sometimes may go unnoticed to the conscious mind, but it's influence is inescapable. I try to accomplish a similar phenomenon through the control of digital media manipulation. Sometimes, while trying to concentrate on a particiularly difficult bit of creative construction or complicated programming, I'll put on a track and let it repeat for hours on end, over and over, however, such appropriate music selections are rare and hard to find.
For example, they could be as short as the two and a half minutes of Robyn Miller's "Wahrk Room" from Riven (1997 CD-ROM game) or as long as the 30 minute, three movement Clarinet Concerto in A (Mozart's K 622). Some people might call it "zoning out," but I think, instead, I would call it zoning in. It's almost like a form of meditation.
I think film composers really get it too. It's all about modifying emotional response. There are these brief moments in favourite movies that I wish I could make last for hours. I don't think I'm alone when I praise James Cameron and James Horner for the glow in the dark scenes in Avatar. There are magical ambient scenes in Alien and Prometheus thanks to Ridley Scott, Gerry Goldsmith and Marc Streitenfeld. I should mention Paul Leonard Morgan for Dredd and Mychael Danna for Life of Pi, but there is also one special moment in Ghostbusters where Dan, Bill and Harold are walking around upstairs in the Sedgewick Hotel looking for the little Slimer (Spud) with music by Elmer Bernstein. I could watch and listen to that scene all night. It captures a moment like no other in the entire film.
Instead of being diverted by the constant flow of commotion and activity in action films and video games, sometimes I would just like to slow it all down and try to make time stop, if only for an illusionistic loop. I think it works. It really does. I have succeeded in making it happen. The only trouble is, at the end of the day, it is hard to climb back out of it. It's kind of like jumping between dimensions - not that I have any practical experience with that.
JANUARY 3, 2014: Illustration Relevance
A student remarked she could tell my book was drawn with Adobe Illustrator. Apart from recognizing one of the programs I have used for almost 25 years, she seemed to be making a generalization about the quality of artwork. At first, I wasn't sure if I should feel offended or appreciated. Yes, it had been an extremely difficult decision to make when it came to the final look of the book. It may have been the most difficult one of all in the process. I started with pencils and technical pens. I have nibs and quills and brushes and bottles of ink and I've used them all over the years for many different jobs and assignments. When it came to The Perfect Round, however, I decided it absolutely must have an electronic, digital look.
The main protagonist is an extraordinarily capable and highly technical robotic "synth." So the style could not be a primitive or naïve one like Sir Quentin Blake or Henri Rousseau for that matter. It also would never do to look like it was drawn by Edward Sorel, Edward Gorey or Ralph Steadman (although that could have been interesting!). Any formal sort of oil or watercolour painting would be as inappropriate for my tall tale as using a CAD program like Studio Max for Les très riches heures du Duc de Barry (currently in the Chantilly museum).
I was not re-creating a 15th Century Flemish annunciation painting, although the effect of technology on modern living has certainly had a profound, if not almost divine enhancement, due to the fact that computers turn humans into superbeings. On the other hand, the exquisite little illustrated books by John S. Goodall do capture the simple kind of story I was trying to tell. My story would be completely wrong in the hands of Jack Kirby, Wally Wood or Steve Ditko. Instead, I would have loved to emulate the work of the incredinly talented Edwin Huang, Joëlle Jones or Amy Reeder (her Rocket Girl is amazing). That would have been phenomenal! Oh rapture!
In the end, I accepted the decision and along with both left and right hemispheres connected via the corpus collosum, I began designing my own aircraft, electromagnetic reactor and a robot wearing a suit combining carbon fibre, diamond particles and titanium thread to form a seamless grid of sensors. Along with his cranium array of microdish antennae and his Ultra-Perception goggles, Kele is the ultimate synthetic being. I hope the result shows why it took years of sketching, drawing, designing, coloring, and a dozen computer application programs to create my little book (along with writing the story in the first place). Along with all the artists I've mentioned, however, their tools and techniques still remain irrelevant so long as they are, indeed, appropriate for the world they are attempting to create. To paraphrase the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz, "Remember, it is not how much you judge, but how much you are judged by others."