Oct 20, 2010

I Still Like You

I just discovered Josh 'Hat' Lieberman's blog. It's a random compendium of tips and drawings. The current head post is a tutorial on storyboarding, which is well worth the read. He also drew this little gem:

Art for Aidan

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!

Cars 2 Teaser Trailer Released!

Apparently, the Luxo Lamp has also turned into Cyclops.

Oct 15, 2010

The Oval Office

If you know me, you know that I think the American system of government, for all its foibles, is kind of awesome. Specifically, I find the presidency to be one of the most intriguing jobs ever created. For all our talk of citizen-rulers, the position still sits in the American mind somewhere between a monarch and politician, just the way that George Washington wanted. Even when the individual occupant is unpopular, we revere the office and its power. Maybe that's one reason that a president who is flailing in the polls isn't simply disliked. A sense of betrayal befalls him. The president, we feel, embodies what we aspire to be; in his hands--true or not--we place the future of the United States. It's a sacred trust and a heavy burden. No wonder presidents age at twice the rate of a normal citizen.

That said, the most iconic image of the presidency is the White House (which I love!), and the most iconic room in the White House is the Oval Office. That's where it happens. That's where the big decisions are made.

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.

LBJ also brought televisions into the Oval Office, the first and only time that has been done. He would keep four of them running on the different news networks to keep him apprised of what the American people were viewing in Vietnam. Richard Nixon didn't like the way that it looked, nor did he want to follow four different news networks. So, he removed the TV's and installed a new rug--different from any in the past--with the presidential seal emblazoned on it.

Gerald Ford, soon after taking office, with the Nixon decor

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.

Gerald Ford's Oval Office (recreation at Ford Library)

Jimmy Carter in the Oval Office, using Ford decor

Ronald Reagan, again wanting to make clear that he was the new president, had the Carter/Ford decor altered soon after arriving in office. It was replaced with a truly eighties motif: pastels and flowery patterns.

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 Office

His 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

President Obama just recently changed the Oval Office decor, reflecting a more modern outlook. For the first time, the walls have been changed from their past off-white, with a vertically striped wallpaper pattern that follows the striped wood floor. I kind of like that. He also installed two new couches, both yellowy-olive corduroy, and a new, moderny coffee table (with a bowl of apples instead of flowers, since he likes that better). I don't particularly like those changes (except the apples...that's fine).

The Obama Oval Office

It's kind of remarkable how iconic 'the Oval' has become. It didn't even exist until Franklin Roosevelt had it built during the Great Depression. Before then, the president had an oval-shaped office in a different location of the West Wing. Before that office (in the early 1900's), it was a simple rectangular one. Before that, there was no West Wing, and the president both lived and worked in the White House itself.

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

Another Cheetah

Continuing my seeming obsession with cheetahs (it's really just a story idea churning in my head...), here's another drawring.

[no title]

Mechanical Beasts

Looking for animation references, I happened upon Chase Studio, where Andrew Chase makes incredible mechanical animals. You should check out the link, because his animated GIF of a cheetah running is fascinating. He also has an elephant and a giraffe, operated by impressive pulley systems.

Oct 12, 2010

Why Do Animated Films Make Grown-Ups Cry?

Time.com has an interesting (though short) article asking why animated films--still, unfortunately, assumed to be for kids--so often make adults curl up into the fetal position and let loose. The author mentions a few specific tear-jerkers, which make sense: Dumbo, The Lion King, The Fox and The Hound, Bambi, and Wall*E. Actually, The Fox and The Hound was the first movie to make me cry.

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

Old Spice Grover

Grover gets in on the Old Spice guy's charm while teaching us about the word 'on'.

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.

The Lion King!

When I was in high school, my parents gave me tickets to see The Lion King on stage as it went through Chicago on its national tour. It was my first professional live theatre experience, and, as everyone has said, it's incredible. Two nights ago, I was lucky enough to see it again, and once again, it didn't disappoint.

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

The Familiar Presto

/Film has reported that Doug Sweetland, longtime Pixar animator, will be directing Sony Animation's The Familiars, a story that I was heretofore unaware of, about three wizards who must use their 'familiars'--animal companions including a cat, frog, and blue jay--to escape an evil queen. Sweetland had been rumored to be the future director of Monsters, Inc. 2, so it is somewhat surprising that he's left the Pixar fold. Best of luck to him, though!

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.


"Tatooine", music by Jeremy Messersmith, paper animation by Eric Power.

Oct 6, 2010

Trial Doodles!

So, a few weeks ago we had a trial. I spent much of it (especially defense counsel's never-ending cross examinations) doodling.

Lead prosecutor, a mouse

WALL-E, EVE, and contour drawings of attorneys and judge

Backs of defense attorney, prosecutor, agent

Kerfuffled defense attorney

Back of prosecutor, front of lead prosecutor, back of defense attorney, profile of defendant, kerfuffled defense attorney, back of guy's head, some lady

Lead prosecutor

Oct 4, 2010


I'm just bloggin' up a storm today!

This was too cool to pass up:

Bottle from Kirsten Lepore on Vimeo.

The Making of Jurassic Park

Remember Jurassic Park? Of course you do. I was in second grade when it came out, and I remember the buzz that it created. Everyone at school began talking about it. I, of course, was not allowed to watch it because my parents were concerned over the graphic nature of the film. It didn't matter that by that point I had watched hundreds of nature specials in which animals savagely murdered each other.

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:

The Crazy History of Blue

If you're like me, you take colors for granted. You want to draw or paint? Go to your local art store and pick up a tube of whatever color you want. You can even get strange modern colors like hot pink or fluorescent yellow.

But, as it turns out, most colors were not particularly easy to find as long-lasting, quality pigments. So each one has a long history of botched attempts, less-than-adequate results, and intrigue.

Such is the story of blue!

In its long history, the color blue has been used for decorating temples, displaying wealth, creaing the Smurfs, and offering human sacrifices. The recipes for its pigment have been discovered across cultures, lost, rediscovered, and synthetically created.

Both the ancient Egyptians and the ancient Mayans discovered blue pigments. So did the ancient Chinese. Interestingly, in Egypt and China the artisans used early chemistry, baking and and mixing and reacting compounds of quartz, a copper compound, and calcium carbonate (in the case of Egypt) and quartz, a copper compound, and a barium compound (in the case of China). The similarity of the two colors' chemical formulas (CaCuSi4O10 vs. BaCuSi4O10) has caused some to posit that Chinese blue ('Han blue') is descended from the earlier Egyptian blue. However, there is nothing conclusive to prove this.

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.

By the Middle Ages of Europe, however, the Egyptian insight to blue pigment had been lost. While Chinese blue objects made it to the West through trade, their pigments rarely did. Instead, Europeans would use the elusive lapis lazuli, an intensely blue stone found--at the time--only in modern Afghanistan. Needless to say, the distance and labor involved in the mining process made the stone incredibly valuable, more so than gold, in fact. Painters who couldn't afford the pigment would use azurite, a different stone that yielded a greenish-blue, which was clearly not what the artists desired.

It wasn't until the eighteenth century that a strong, resolute synthetic blue was created. And even then, it was an accident. A Berliner, named Diesbach, was seeking to create a red hue by using iron sulfate and potash. However, the potash was contaminated, so the more he added, the less red the pigment became. Before he knew it, the reaction he caused created a deep blue hue. Though he didn't figure it out, others eventually did: animal oil from animal blood had gotten into the mixture, causing a reaction that formed potassium ferrocyanide, today known as 'Prussian blue'. Artists began gobbling up the stuff, because it was relatively cheap and easy. Soon after, cerulean and cobalt blue were discovered. By the 1930's, phthalo blue had been added to the roll.

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.

And fun fact, ever notice that 'cyanide' has the word 'cyan' in it? Cyan is a derivative of the Greek κύανoς, meaning--go figure--blue. The resultant Prussian blue compound, made from iron, was called 'ferrocyanide', meaning 'iron-blue'. Chemists eventually determined that a molecule of bonded carbon and nitrogen had joined with iron; CN, therefore, became a 'cyano' group, and as an ion, 'cyanide'.

Random Unrelated Things!

Sometimes the Google is just too full of happy goodness to be constrained. The following have no particular order or rationale, but they all have the commonality that I didn't want to take the time to do separate posts about them.

Random Cartoon!

via: http://harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=102


When Hollywood Uses Elephants


I don't know what I think of physiotherapy, but...

Sintel Released!

Blender's open movie project, Sintel just released. Everything done open-source.