Oct 20, 2010
It's making the rounds on a lot of the blogs right now, but there's a five year old boy named Aidan who was diagnosed with leukemia a few weeks ago. He's going through rounds of chemo, and to help with the medical expenses, his family has started a blog and an Etsy profile to sell his drawings. He loves monsters and has a lot of talent drawing them (see below). Currently, the Etsy shop is sold out, and, if you read the blog, you can see why; he's a rather busy little guy right now.
So, pray for Aidan to get well soon, and check out his blog!
Oct 15, 2010
Presidents, of course, are all different, and one way their individual differences, political and personal, manifest themselves is through a change in decoration of the Oval Office. It's a tradition that has happened since the Oval Office came into being. When George W. Bush came into office in January 2001, he had the Clinton rug removed and replaced with the old Reagan rug, symbolically indicating in whose footsteps he wanted to follow. In contrast, when Barack Obama became president, he kept George W. Bush's decorations for almost two years, not to indicate a continuity of policy but to avoid a display of needless extravagance in the midst of a recession. How the decorations are treated means something, both to the president and to the American people.
Its decor is also subject to unintentional symbolism. For example, while John F. Kennedy was traveling to Dallas in November 1963, the Oval Office was redecorated with a deep scarlet rug and new furniture. He never lived to see the change (in fact, Mrs. Kennedy never saw it either; the decorations were taken down immediately after the assassination, before she returned to the White House), and Lyndon Johnson, soon after his assumption of the presidency, went back to the dull Truman-era green. The optimism to take on everything--even the traditional old Oval Office--that had seemed so bright was extinguished.
Gerald Ford, upon Nixon's resignation, had the Oval Office redecorated, not as much because he disliked the look as to indicate a severance between his administration and his predecessor's. The eagle carpet was removed, replaced with a nice pale yellow, patterned rug. Jimmy Carter kept the decorations during his administration, though he rearranged the furniture a bit.
Ronald Reagan on his last day in office
Replica of Reagan Oval Office (at Reagan Library)
Reagan was, of course, followed by the first George Bush, who changed the colors of the office to a sky-blue motif. As far as my aesthetic is concerned, it's pretty atrocious, but whatever.
George Bush Oval Office (note the Reagan couches are the same)
Then came Bill Clinton. Frankly, of the motifs I've seen, I like his the best. He used a bold blue rug and two couches with alternating red and white stripes of varying thicknesses. To me, it reflects both the power of the office by catching your eye and subconsciously reflecting the American flag.
Clinton Oval OfficeHis office was effectively recreated for the television drama The West Wing, which was written as an alternate history to the Clinton presidency. What if, it posits, the president were intelligent like Clinton but had a better moral compass? It's a great show, which, while (according to former White House staffers) not being entirely accurate on the White House layout or the way policy is done, is an excellent portrayal of the energy and the 'mood' that an administration exudes.
George W. Bush, as mentioned above, had the Reagan rug pulled out of storage very soon after he took office. During his tenure, the Oval Office floor was redone (in a beautiful light/dark alternating wood pattern), and his new decorations were put in. They were less intense than the Clinton colors, though I must admit his 'sun rays' rug was an incredible touch. He gets the silver medal in Josh's contest.
Bush meeting with advisers in 2001
The Obama Oval Office
One thing is sure: as long as there is a presidency, there will now be an Oval Office. Our nation's psyche is attached to it. Were something terrible to happen to the White House and the Oval be destroyed, it would be immediately rebuilt. It stands for the Office of the President more than any individual ever could.
Almost all pictures courtesy of the White House Museum (check them out!)
Oct 14, 2010
Oct 12, 2010
However, the focus of the article is mostly on Toy Story 3, which made tons and tons of people--including myself--sob in their seats. The author was apparently crying when the toys are about to be incinerated. Knowing that Pixar would never kill off its characters like that, I wasn't sad at that point; I was simply stuck in the intensity. The waterworks scene is at the end, when **SPOILER (if for some insane reason you haven't seen the movie yet)** Andy gives the toys to Bonnie and the two of them play together. You're saying goodbye to Andy's childhood, and, in a way, because animated characters are so easy to project ourselves onto, we're reliving the times when we had to say goodbye to our own. We all remember that moment or series of moments when we became 'grown-ups'. For all that we've gained, there's that sense of innocence and wonder that we know is gone. That's why we cry. It's not because we think Woody is going to melt.
For the other movies, we cry for different reasons: Dumbo is separated from his mother, Simba watches his father die and thinks it's his fault, Bambi loses his mother and doesn't understand, Todd and Copper can't be friends anymore because the world says so, and Wall*E forgets who EVE is because he sacrifices himself to save humankind. These are human emotions for intense moments and crises in life--love, death, and separation. How can we not cry?
h/t Pixar Blog
Oct 11, 2010
Oct 9, 2010
The film Secretariat, based on the life of the horse who made ESPN's top 100 athletes of the century list (at #35), came out this weekend. I haven't seen it yet, but I'd very much like to. Slate has a great article discussing why people are able to get so wrapped up in Secretariat's story. Why do we--even today, almost almost forty years after the events took place--love the big, lazy, champion? Unlike Seabiscuit, who was tiny and always the racing underdog against the big-boys, Secretariat was always the champion. He was like the guys on my swim team in high school who would skip practice for days on end but still win their events at the meets. You couldn't help but be impressed by their athleticism.
I first learned about Secretariat from my dad's old business partner, who used to come to our house every day to work. She'd leave Lemonheads for my brother and me and would also leave the scent of perfume wafting about our house, since she would pet the cat all day and transfer all the smell to her. She also loved horse racing. One day, she brought a huge coffee table book about Secretariat to our house. I gobbled it up and then went on to tell anyone who would listen the story of the horse. Go figure, most third graders didn't particularly care about how he won the Belmont by over 30 lengths or how his heart was twice as big as a normal thoroughbred's. Whatever. I thought it was cool.
Watching it now gave me a much better appreciation for the costuming and puppetry. The minimalism of the sets also reflects well the sparseness (but fullness--paradox!) of the Serengeti, something I wouldn't've noticed even two months ago. I'm not totally sure which parts of Africa The Lion King (movie and musical) are based on (I think the animators and directors went to Kenya to study), but there are moments where you realize how well they've captured the visual essence of the East African savanna.
Anyway, here are some great videos that I've found discussing how the costumes were made and how they are operated:
Oct 7, 2010
I love his little interview in The Pixar Story (below), where he's working on what ended up being the final completed shot of Finding Nemo. According to the director's commentary on the DVD (if I'm remembering correctly), the shot was finished around midnight, so instead of having a big studio-wide celebration like usual, Sweetland and Andrew Stanton simply high-fived, hugged, and went home to bed.
Oct 6, 2010
WALL-E, EVE, and contour drawings of attorneys and judge
Oct 4, 2010
Eventually, however, the wails of my brother and me caused my parents to screen the movie themselves and then take us, with the promise that we would turn away when they told us to. It seemed like a reasonable solution (with the one exception that I could watch the lawyer get eaten off the toilet, since my friends had constantly referenced it). As expected, the movie both enthralled and terrified me. I had nightmares for weeks about velociraptors disemboweling me. Was it worth it? Absolutely. It only took a few dozen therapy sessions for me to recover.
Anyway, I just found 'The Making of Jurassic Park' on YouTube. It's really neat to see how CGI went in the early days (and Steven Spielberg's excellent 90's wardrobe). Sometimes it seems that these were CGI's golden days. Back then computers were used sparingly by directors, both because they were nervous about them and because they were cost prohibitive. Today, CGI is all too often used as a crutch: create a digital world and then your terrible story won't be as bad. Of course, that's a lie. But directors apparently think it's true.
So, without further ado, The Making of Jurassic Park:
Such is the story of blue!
Anyone familiar with high school chemistry knows of copper ions' bluish tinge, so it makes sense that the chemical pigments would have that ion hanging about (see the 'Cu' in the formula). Mayan blue, however, was a bit more cagey. Even today scientist's aren't sure exactly what they used, though they believe it was a mixture of naturally occurring indigo plants and a clay called palygorskite. Though different in their makeup, each of the compounds has lasted for centuries: you can still see blue paint on Egyptian friezes and sculptures, ancient Chinese porcelain, and Mayan sacrificial sites. That's right: in times of drought, in order to bring the 'blue' rain, Mayans would cover someone in the blue dye and toss them into a sacrificial well. Even today, there are wells found with over ten feet of hardened blue dye on the bottom.
As an unintended side-effect of Prussian blue's discovery, by the 1800's, lapis lazuli, the blue stone that had been so precious to medieval and Renaissance aristocrats, was shunted aside. If anyone could have blue, they figured, why would they even bother?
Even today new blues are being synthesized, continuing a chain from ancient times to now.
I don't know what I think of physiotherapy, but...
Blender's open movie project, Sintel just released. Everything done open-source.