Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dear Cracked: Eat All the Crow

Part of the primary thesis of yesterday's post is that Fox, while seemingly completely in their rights to claim ownership of the distribution rights to Watchmen, should have said something much earlier. Like, when Warner Bros. first announced that they were making Watchmen, Fox should have said, "Um. No."

Well, as it turns out, they did. Not only was the lawsuit under discussion filed in February, but indications are that Fox did, in fact, speak up when WB first announced their intentions to make the Watchmen film. Essentially the conversation went like this.

WB: We're making Watchmen!

Fox: Hold on, we own that. You need to pay the buy-out price.

WB: You don't own it. Go screw.

Fox: Seriously, we'll take it to court.

WB: Try it, we dare you.

Court: Yeah, they own it.

WB: Fuck.

Fox isn't completely off the dick-eating hook here as a studio; they deserve to choke on Dick Mountain for their treatment of Firefly alone. But they're off the hook somewhat for their actions re: Watchmen, since it looks like they did what we the whingers said they should have done. WB should definitely have done their homework a little better on this one.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Dear Fox: Eat All the Dicks

So for those of you not following the Watchmen legal saga, the short version is this:

Fox optioned the rights in the 80s. DC thought that the option had lapsed, and took it elsewhere. Warner Brothers made the film, and once the film was made, Fox stood up and say "Hey, we think we still own that."

And a few days ago, the judge in the case ruled that Fox was right.

No one is arguing that they weren't in their rights to do so, but they might have said something before Warner Bros. spent hundreds of millions of dollars making and promoting the film, considering it's not like the production was shrouded in secrecy.

My thoughts on this are best expressed by Dan O'Brien's blog over at So I'll just be one of many auxiliary blogs linking to that one.

"Watchmen" Fan Cordially Invites Fox to Eat Several Dicks

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!

I don't believe in any gods or religion, and so the root of the word "holiday" ("holy day") is not particularly meaningful.

But let's be honest, the so-called holidays are mostly secularized at this point, and spending time with loved ones, eating good food, and of course exchanging tokens of affection, are all plenty meaningful, whatever particular mythology you choose (or not) to append to the season.

So happy holidays and enjoy them everyone!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Case for a Creator: Chapter Three, Part 1

It's been a while since I had the stomach for this book -- and given I only got through discussing two chapters and reading the third, that's saying something.

But with the holidays looming and the religious right braying about the imaginary "War on Christmas," and with the blog and much of what I have to do either having slowed or taking lots of render breaks, I thought I should come back to this and try to get at least another chapter out of the way before the end of the year. I do still intend to get through the whole book. Eventually.

If you missed the previous two chapters, you can find them here:

Chapter One
Chapter Two

And now we move on to Chapter Three: Doubts about Darwinism.

Like Chapter Two, the introductory pages to Chapter Three are massively tedious. Here's a taste of it, starting at the beginning and skipping a bit here and there:

There were one hundred of them -- biologists, chemists, zoologists, physicists, anthropologists, molecular and cell biologists, bio-engineers, organic chemists, geologists, astrophysicists, and other scientists. Their doctorates came from such prestigious universities as Cambridge, Stanford, Cornell, Yale, Rutgers...[He lists 8 more.]

They included professors from Yale Graduate School, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology...[he lists 20 more, and a vague "and elsewhere."]

Among them was the director of the Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry...[et cetera.] [page 31]

You see, I trust, where this is going. In a book of about 300 pages, 10% of the way in, Strobel has gone for broke with the Argument from Authority, with over a hundred scientists who wanted to...what? Present evidence that discredited evolution? Present alternative interpretations of the existing evidence?

But no, it's nothing of that sort at all. Apparently this lot of ~100 scientists "wanted the world to know one thing: they are skeptical." [ibid]

The argumentation here is so massively flawed as to be positively breathtaking. In one page, not only has Strobel managed to present an entirely invalid and overstated Argument from Authority, but he's made it a twofer and also presented an Argument from Incredulity:

Their statement was direct and defiant. "We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life," they said. "Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged." [page 32]

Setting aside Strobel's attempt to lionize the dissenters by using such descriptors as "defiant," it's astonishing that over 100 scientists should apparently have no idea how science works. Of course the evidence is given careful examination! That's what evolutionary biologists fucking do. It is given careful examination, and experimentation, and is proven reliable again, and again, and again. If it wasn't, despite what the creationist/ID proponents seem to want to believe, it would be discarded.

Am I supposed to be impressed that over 100 scientists -- many of them from areas of science that are not relevant to evolutionary theory -- are "skeptical"? The National Center for Science Education has a list of nearly 1000 scientists who are not skeptical of evolution, who accept it as a "vital, well-supported, unifying principle of the biological sciences" -- and that's only a partial list of the ones named Steve.

You want to play the numbers game, Strobel? Because we can, but you lose.

He goes on to make several claims that evolution is and has always been a controversial theory. He (partially) quotes historian Peter Bowler. When I say partially, well:

[A]ccording to historian Peter Bowler, substantive scientific critiques of natural selection started so early that by 1900 "its opponents were convinced it would never recover." [ibid]

Where to begin with the problems here. First off, as I said, this is a partial quote. The first part of the quote, the part that provides context to the second, is in Strobel's own words. It may be an accurate paraphrase, but it may be a fabrication. There's actually no way to tell, because while he does provide an endnote citation for this quote, like the Dennett quote in Chapter Two he does not directly cite the specific work of Peter Bowler in which this quote, and its context, can be found. Instead, the source he gives is:

See: Getting the Facts Straight (Seattle: Discovery Institute Press, 2001), 11. [page 309]

The Discovery Institute, if you are unfamiliar, is a religious organization masquerading as pseudo-science1. Since their whole goal is to present Intelligent Design as an alternative to evolution, it seems reasonable to assume that their pamphlet "Getting the Facts Straight" will be biased. So, once again, I find it alarming that Strobel neglects to quote Bowler directly; either he has not done his due diligence to ensure that he is accurately representing Bowler's statement, or he is intentionally obfuscating the source and context of the quote.

Since Bowler is (according to Wikipedia) a vocal critic of creationism, and proponent of evolution, it seems to me his views would be unlikely to be properly supported in such works.

Even if the quote is completely accurate to Bowler's statement, the fact is that we are 108 years beyond 1900, and the theory of evolution has not only "recovered," but it is still the only cohesive, scientific explanation for the diversity of life as it is observed.

There is no controversy, and anyone who tells you there is, is trying to sell you something. Like this book, for example.

Moving on to the first subheading, and at last, the first interview with someone who will hopefully help build the eponymous Case. This first one is Jonathan Wells, who Strobel not-so-subtly indicates is a man with not one, but two Ph.Ds. The heading is ""Interview #1: Jonathan Wells, Ph.D, Ph.D."

Right. As I said in my wrap up of Chapter Two, Strobel's obviously misleading tactics have compelled me to look into the subjects of his interviews, and the claims they make. We already knew, by Strobel's own admission, that he would only be speaking to people who he knew would say what he wanted to hear. So, what is there to know about Jonathan Wells?

Well, first off, he is a member of the Unification Church established by Sun Myung Moon -- aka, the Moonies. (Sun Myung Moon's followers believe that Moon is the second coming of Christ, fulfilling Jesus' unfinished mission.)

As Strobel points out, Wells does in fact have a Ph.D a the relevant field of biology. And while Strobel does acknowledge (in an endnote) Wells' association with the Moonies, and even goes on record as disagreeing "thoroughly" with their theology, he does not see fit to reveal that Moon in fact paid for Wells' doctorate, and that, in Wells' own words:

Father's words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism, just as many of my fellow Unificationists had already devoted their lives to destroying Marxism. When Father chose me (along with about a dozen other seminary graduates) to enter a Ph.D. program in 1978, I welcomed the opportunity to prepare myself for battle.

Oh, and one more thing: Wells is a Senior Fellow at the aforementioned Discovery Institute.

Since I keep railing on Strobel's rhetorical fallacies, I will not commit one of my own by attacking Wells the person instead of his arguments. But if this information cannot be said to undermine the credibility of Strobel's first interviewee, it certainly makes his impartiality on the subject somewhat questionable.

Not that we, the readers, could have expected impartiality when Strobel has already stated that there will be nothing of the sort. But Strobel takes this intellectual dishonesty to dizzying, previously unimaginable new heights. In the run-up to the actual text of the interview with Wells, he throws a quick little end-note on the end of the paragraph. Follow the end-note and Strobel tells us this:

Note that all interviews have been edited for conciseness, clarity, and content. [page 309]

I just about shit myself when I read that. Not only has Strobel openly admitted to selecting only those who would agree with his conclusion, but he has also -- again openly -- edited the interviews "for content," more than likely selecting only those statements that support his conclusion.

This guy was a journalist?

I should point out that we are, at this point, five pages into a thirty-seven page chapter. Given how long this entry is already, I think I'll leave off Wells' actual interview until next time. Savor the anticipation.

  1. I find it hard to imagine what kind of "science" they do, since the foregone conclusion to any mysterious or even mundane observation is "God did it." No need for any kind of research, or even intellectual curiosity. You've chosen the answer before you even bother to ask the question. Seems like it'd be a pretty short day at the office.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

What Just Happened...Redux

New RED announcements have come down the pipe, but first a brief update.

I have been incredibly busy, as usual. "Hella" busy, as I believe the kids are saying these days. NaNoWriMo didn't happen this year, again, because it seems like November is one of my busiest months.

Several projects that seemed to be languishing in development suddenly picked up new momentum, and I've been working on a new script of which I enjoy the idea and want to see how well I can execute it. Prioritizing these projects -- as well as juggling the ever-present Sandrima Rising -- is very difficult, especially for a relatively disorganized person like myself. The first thing I will do when I get money is hire an assistant. Not because I want to feel important, but because I seriously need someone else to keep track of my schedule for me. I'm hopeless with it.

Even though only two weeks have gone by since my last post, it's already been enough time for RED to announce that "everything had changed again," and gave a date to unveil these new announcements, December 3. The November 13 announcements, Jim Jannard assured us, were "insignificant" relative to the new announcements.

This declaration was greeted with more groans and rolled eyes than anything, I think. I tweeted a comment that's gotten some air-time in several podcasts, that "RED is the first company to have proven themselves legitimate only to then turn themselves into a vaporware company." It's all well and good that RED continues to innovate and add value to their product line, but if they don't BUILD anything then it's all academic.

It's only just December 3, but the announcements actually came out yesterday afternoon (it was Dec. 3 somewhere).

And did these announcements knock our socks off and render that long, impassioned blowjob I gave the modular DSMC system "insignificant"?

Well, no. Not really. They announced some updated specs to the current product line, and added a new upgrade path just for the true believers (i.e. RED ONE owners) in the crowd...but that was it. Don't get me wrong, the news was good, I like the new specs, and I like the new upgrade path, but this was not an announcement that needed its own pre-announcement.

Jannard and the RED team acted surprised when they weren't fellated anew by the worshipful throngs who had gathered to hear their new decrees. And it's because today's announcements weren't such a big deal that they warranted a week and a half's hype of the "it's coming" variety. My suggestion to RED: if you've got an announcement to make, make it. If you're not ready to make it, hold off. But unless you're going to do a live keynote a la Apple, stick a fork in the whole "announcing when you will make an announcement" thing (and even then, save that for NAB and/or IBC).

You've got people patrolling RedUser 24/7 as it is -- just announce something without forewarning, I promise you it will spread almost as fast. And the excitement and appreciation will be greater, because the hoi polloi won't have had weeks or months to get emotionally attached to what they think you're going to offer, only to be disappointed.

I think RED has made a great camera and, if they follow through on their promises, will make even greater ones. But if they continue drinking their own Kool-Aid as much as they are, there won't be much left for their fans.

As for the updated specs, the pre-DSMC Scarlet has more or less made a comeback. You can get a ready-to-shoot camera with a fixed lens, shooting 3K RAW footage, for just under $4000. Not quite the "3K for $3K" mantra from NAB (though they do offer the camera and lens combo for that, so they will still be able to use the slogan), but still not only an HVX-killer, but a market-segment killer. Pretty much every camera in the $3000-$10,000 range will be wiped out by the coming of Scarlet, which will offer higher resolution and higher quality than cameras even twice its price. It'll shoot up to 120fps and generally be pretty awesome.

The Full-Frame 35 Scarlet brain has dropped in price, from $12K to $9,750; the FF35 Epic likewise dropped from $35K to $33K. Instead of Redcode 42, the S35 and FF35 Scarlets now record Redcode 80 and 100, respectively. Still unclear what those numbers mean, but hey, there's MORE of them. That's got to be good, right?1

The new spec sheet basically delineates all of the available internal shooting modes -- resolution, aspect ratio, framerate, etc. -- of each brain. And 350fps at 2K is damned impressive, I have to say. But that's something you rent for anyway.

Of everything, most significant was the announcement of the Epic X package. Basically, the Epic X package takes an Epic S35 brain, packages it with everything you need to make it a functional camera system (CF, battery, and I/O modules), gives it a slightly higher-quality data rate (Redcode 250 instead of 225), and prices it the same as the Epic S35 brain alone -- $28,000. With the RED ONE full trade-in value, that's a springboard to the next generation for $10,000.

In the big pond, that's a steal.

Tempting though the package is, however, my next move as a RED owner will be dictated by the price of the accessories.

An Epic brain -- even an Epic X -- is more than I see myself needing as a general rule. I won't need the higher framerates since I don't generally go for slow motion, I won't need the higher data rates because frankly Redcode 36 is brilliant already, I won't need an anamorphic mode because I can't afford to shoot anamorphic. And if I CAN afford to shoot anamorphic, I can no doubt afford to rent an Epic.

It'd be NICE to have all those things at the flick of a switch and turn of a dial, but consider: if I'm already sanguine with raising another $10K to rise to the next level, then if the accessories necessary to make the "brains" into useful camera equipment cost $5K or so per-camera, we could get TWO Scarlet S35s for less than the price of ONE Epic X. Did somebody say stereoscopic?2

Like I said, it all depends on how much the accessories go for; and even given that, I inherited something of a gadget fetish from my dad, and having something that is "latest and greatest," "limited edition," AND "heavily discounted just for me" might be too much to resist if I can afford to not resist it.

It's more than six months until their target date, likely more than a year until their real date, so I'll have plenty of time to mull it over. And they'll have plenty of time to change it yet again.

  1. Though the numbers may not directly correlate to filesize anymore, I think it's a safe bet that Redcode 80, 100, and up will take up significantly more space than Redcode 36. We're just going to have to put our faith in Moore's Law on this one and hope that affordable digital storage keeps pace.

  2. I know the RED ONE full-value trade-in doesn't apply to the Scarlet brains, but I've thought of a way to make it work.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What Just Happened: The Big RED Announcement

So remember my post earlier this year about how the RED camera was an awesome digital filmmaking revolution?

And remember how their NAB announcements further "changed the game"?

RED's latest announcement just bitchslapped all previous products and announcements and told them to go make it a sandwich.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. First, a brief timeline.

How We Got Here

At NAB 08, two new cameras were announced in the RED product line. The 3K "Scarlet" -- originally touted as a "professional pocket camera" -- and the 5K "Epic," called the "flagship of the RED family." There's been a flurry of discussion about both cameras ever since on the RED community site RedUser. Scarlet discussion, in fact, was so significant that it wound up spawning off its own dedicated discussion board, ScarletUser.

On both sites, requests for features -- both "reasonable" and "unreasonable" -- were made by the community, changes and revisions made by RED, and while not everyone was thrilled by every aspect of either camera, the forums were buzzing all through the spring and summer.

Then, in September 2008, several announcements came in quick succession from Jim Jannard -- founder of RED and wacky billionaire extraordinaire -- on the RedUser forum.

The first, posted on September 8, announced a "DSLR-killer" that was tentatively called a DSMC (Digital Still & Motion Camera). Speculation as to what this could mean -- and in particular, where the DSMC sat in relation to the Scarlet, specification-wise -- immediately erupted. Scarlet had a 2/3" sensor, after all, whereas to even play in the DSLR sandbox the DSMC would have to be a 35mm sensor, to say nothing of the planned "fixed lens" on Scarlet, when the DSMC would need to be swappable. So it sounded like the DSMC would pretty much trounce Scarlet spec-wise; but if it were more expensive than Scarlet's speculated $3K price point, it would be too expensive to be much of a competitor, let alone a "killer," of the DSLR market.

I personally was already confused by what seemed to me to be significant market overlap between the Epic and the Red One -- now RED seemed to be stepping on their own toes again. It just didn't make much sense.

Three days later, on September 11, Jannard posted a message stating simply that "Epic...has changed." Eleven days after that, on ScarletUser, Jannard announced that Scarlet, similarly, was "not the same," and that everything we "knew" about Scarlet should be wiped from our memories. He later made the same "clean slate" statement regarding Epic. Renders and spec pages of both products were pulled from the RED company website, replaced with temporary images stating that they were "Currently Undergoing Change."

When it was pointed out that no mention had been made of where the DSMC sat in these plans, Jim gave the cryptic answer, "What's a DSMC?"

Based on all that, it was assumed by many in the RED-aware community, myself included, that RED had realized that Epic needed to be more distinct from Red One and were re-tooling it, and likewise had absorbed the DSMC into a revised Scarlet concept.

Finally, Jim announced that all would be made clear on November 13th. Why that date? Who knows. But the RED community -- and really, much of the digital filmmaking community -- has been looking toward the day with some degree of anticipation or other.

So now the day is here. And as of 1:41 AM, all has indeed been made clear.

What Just Happened

The most significant element of the announcement, as it turns out, is the DSMC. If the concept started life as a distinct, stand-alone product, it has since evolved into the over-arching philosophy for the foreseeable future of RED's product line.

Standard practice for electronics manufacturers is to build a full-featured device -- in this case a camera. The commonly understood drawback being that the device is obsolete nearly the moment you buy it. Technological advancement has created an improvement in the sensor, or the processing, or the monitoring, even an improvement in form factor -- whatever it is, it will require that the manufacturer create a completely new device, and you must buy it again.

This also tends to mean that updated devices come every 12-18 months, since manufacturers don't want to constantly be revising their product line. So they wait for a "backlog" of improvements to build up, enough that they can justify creating a new product and you, the buyer, can justify ponying up the dough again.

The DSMC model does things differently.

RED's plan moving forward is to produce not cameras, but components of cameras, which can be configured and re-configured almost infinitely1. You can buy one set of components and be able to make a still camera, a movie camera, a shoulder-mounted camera, and even a 3D rig. You are not locked in to the configuration that they think is most "optimized" for the most situations. You decide.

On top of that, because the camera is modular in every way, including the sensor (which I'll get to in a second), you also don't have to wait for technological advances to reach critical mass before upgrading to the latest and greatest. If a better LCD monitor comes out, you can buy that and integrate it into your configurations without losing the investment on the rest of the components. A lot of the non-electronic components -- the grips, the shoulder-pads, the mounting rods -- will rarely or never need an "upgrade," so it's senseless to buy all those bits anew when the electronics are improved. Thanks to the modular DSMC system, you no longer have to.

The concept, like all revolutionary ideas, is forehead-slappingly obvious once someone comes out and does it. And to be fair, it's not a completely new concept -- to RED. This is essentially what the Red One was intended to be, but they couldn't quite make it happen.

But hey, the camera makes pretty pictures and if it was a necessary step to take on the path to developing the DSMC system, then I am happy to forgive.

As I said, the system is totally modular, and that includes the sensor. Not only was DSMC not absorbed into Scarlet, but as it turns out, both Scarlet and Epic were absorbed into the DSMC philosophy.

One of the issues that restricted the intended modularity of the Red One was the fact that some parts were easier to upgrade than others. For example, the camera can only record 4K resolution at 30 frames per second. This is not a restriction of the sensor, which can be upgraded and swapped out relatively easily (by trained technicians), but of the camera's internal motherboard which processes the imagery, which cannot be upgraded.

So when it comes to the DSMC, rather than simply selling swappable sensors and wishing the users best of luck, RED will package the sensors with the necessary electronics to record, encode, and control the imagery from those specific sensors, and swappable lens mounts. They call these modules "Brains," and like the other elements they are fully swappable modules. So instead of Scarlet and Epic being individual cameras, they are two lines of Brain modules, and they break down like this.


Scarlet Brains are tentatively to be configured as follows:
  • 2/3" Mysterium-X Sensor,2 3K resolution, 1-120 fps recording, $2,5003
  • Super-35 Mysterium-X Sensor, 5K resolution, 1-30 fps recording, $7,000
  • Full-Frame 35 Monstro Sensor, 6K resolution, 1-30 fps recording, $12,000
  • All Scarlet Brains will record a data-rate of 42 MB/sec (compared to Red One's 36 MB/sec).


    Fair warning: if you understand even some of what I'm saying here, the specs of the Epic Brains may explode yours.

    Epic Brains are tentatively to be configured as follows:
  • Super-35 Mysterium-X Sensor, 5K resolution, 1-100 fps recording, $28,000
  • Full-Frame 35 Monstro Sensor, 6K resolution, 1-100 fps recording, $35,000
  • Medium-Format 645 (basically IMAX) Monstro Sensor, 9K resolution, 1-50 fps recording, $45,000
  • These Epic Brains will record a data-rate of 225 MB/sec -- that's a 625% increase in data rate, and hopefully therefore quality, over Red One.

    I complained last time that they shouldn't be calling a camera Epic unless it basically shoots 65mm/IMAX format -- and they've answered that. Not only that, but they threw in one more format, one that makes IMAX its bitch.
  • Technorama 617 Monstro Sensor, 28K resolution, 1-25 fps, $55,000
  • Yes, you fucking heard me right. I said 28K. And it'll record at a computer-pulverizing 500 MB/sec.

    Red One's 4K is already four times bigger than your 1080p HDTV. How big is 28K compared to that? Stu Maschwitz did a comparison on his Prolost blog.

    If that's still too abstract, lay a 14-story office building on its side in your mind. That's roughly the fucking native resolution of 28K.4

    It's basically a digital, motion-capable version of this camera. The obvious question arises: Why in the hell would you port such a camera format to the digital realm at all, much less at such blasphemous resolutions?

    The best I can figure is that this is RED's way of telling me and people like me -- folks that thought we were hot shit calling for RED to step up to the IMAX plate after getting moist at a Dark Knight screening, folks that said that we knew what was "epic," we had seen "epic," and 5K Super-35, good sir, was not "epic" -- that we may feel free to shut our goddamned sissy mouths, and mince our dainty way out of RED Epic's sight.

    So What Does All This Mean?

    I remember being taught in science class that every cell of your body eventually dies, and is replaced by a new cell. Eventually this happens to every cell in your body, so that after a certain period of time -- as I recall it was a cycle of seven years -- your body is comprised of entirely new cells. After seven years, there is no cell in your body that was there seven years ago. They have all been replaced. But "you" are still "you."

    Metaphysical implications aside, this is basically what the DSMC philosophy will mean to the RED camera, starting when it is implemented in (tentatively) Spring/Summer '09. You only have to buy "one camera," and from that point on it is only the components that change. And by the end of it you may have a completely different camera than the one you started with, but your investment and upgrading is spread out over the life of the camera, and you hardly notice.

    Even better, with rental solutions you can upgrade your camera temporarily as needed. Say you invest in a package with a 5K Scarlet Brain, as it's most cost-effective, but you decide you want to shoot slow-motion at higher frame-rates than 30 fps. Outside a DSMC model, you would have to rent an entire camera package -- whether it be a Phantom or other high-speed camera, or even an old-style Epic -- the format and image quality and resolution may not match, they may not cut together, and it may bugger the whole pipeline.

    But with swappable Brains, you can shoot with the 5K Scarlet, then if you want to shoot high-speed you rent a 5K Epic Brain for a day and swap it in for the high-speed shots. It's all REDCODE, it's all Super-35, all 5K with the same compression type (though quite a bit less on the Epic) and same lenses, and you never even have to change the accessory configuration.

    And if (when), down the line, higher framerates or data rates or resolutions become a possibility, you can just rent or buy those new modules, and keep on shooting like nothing's changed.

    The example I gave above is, basically, what I plan to do. When the DSMC system becomes available, I will sell my Red One + accessories and use the money to purchase a DSMC package with a 5K Scarlet brain -- I don't know how much those accessories will cost, but more than likely, it will probably be cheaper out the door than my current RED package. I will rent an Epic 5K brain for high-speed shooting, and otherwise be happy with a camera that completely out-specs a camera with which I am already quite happy.

    The Editblog has dubbed today "REDmas," and though it's meant to be a bit of a nudge in the ribs at the TOTAL fanboyism and anticipation leading up to this day, I think it is still somewhat appropriate. Especially since, for me, the day is still not over.

    Our friends at fxguide/Red Centre have asked me to attend a private RED event on their behalf this evening, where we will be able to talk to the RED peeps, ask some questions, and hopefully get some pictures and even maybe get our hands on some prototypes. Keep your eye on fxguide for the story, and if there's any new insight that impacts what I've said here, I'll do an update post here too.

    Finally, the obligatory disclaimer: for all the excitement and profanity this talk has brought out of me, these are currently just plans and specs and CAD renders. None of this actually exists and it's possible that none of it ever will, whether by RED not following through or just changing their minds -- as they've already done once. But they did follow through on the Red One, so they've earned some faith from me.

    1. Their marketing material claims 2,251,799,813,685,248 possible configurations based on the planned accessories; don't ask me how they got that number, they may have just made it up, but even if they did, it still makes the point pretty strongly.

    2. RED's first sensor was, and is, the Mysterium. Mysterium-X is the second generation, with improved dynamic range (11+ stops to Mysterium's 10+). Monstro is the third generation, with both improved dynamic range (13+ stops) and improved bit depth (16 bits to Mysterium and Mysterium-X's 12 bits).

    3. There is, at this time, still a plan to have a self-contained Scarlet with an included, fixed lens with this same "Brain" config, pricing TBD.

    4. Sorry if the cursing is a little more excessive than usual, but seriously. Fuck.

    Tuesday, November 04, 2008

    Yes We Did

    Congratulations to President Barack Obama.

    Congratulations America. And welcome back.

    'Nuff said.

    Saturday, November 01, 2008

    My No on 8 Video

    This is a somewhat-successful first attempt at using YouTube's "Direct Upload" feature, and it's my appeal to California voters to vote against the discriminatory Proposition 8. The audio is out of sync and it cuts off the last sentence, but the bulk of the message is there.

    The video cuts off at the end, the last bit was supposed to say "The law is meant to protect the people, not to harm them. Vote No on Prop 8."

    Also of note is this video, narrated by Samuel L. Motherfucking Jackson, and describing a little bit more the history of discrimination we should be turning our backs on, not embracing like a long-lost friend.

    Friday, October 31, 2008

    California Voters: The "Props" on the Ballot

    (This was originally an e-mail I sent around to some of my close friends. A few of them encouraged me to blog it, so what the heck, here it is.)

    One week from Tuesday, Nov. 4, is the big election -- although some of you may be voting early (and may have done so already). There are also 12 proposed laws on the California ballot. The props are long and filled with legalese, and the arguments from both sides are adamant and compelling.

    I won't tell you guys how to vote (aside from no on Prop 8 -- it seriously goes against everything America is supposed to stand for), but I can tell you how *I* plan to vote at this point, and why, and perhaps help you make your decisions as well.

    So here we go:

    Proposition 1/1A:

    A proposed bullet train system, to connect the major metropolitan areas of the state. Proponents claim that it would be a boon to the economy, alleviate CO2 emissions, and all-around bring the state into the 21st century.

    The prop allows for a nearly $10 billion bond to be taken out, and no new taxes to be levied.

    Well, here's the problem. The money's got to come from somewhere. And if new taxes aren't going to be spent, that means it has to come out of the state discretionary funds. That means that the money to pay for this train would come out of education, law enforcement, healthcare, roads, and other "discretionary" projects, and be added to the existing $7 billion state deficit we've already racked up under the Governator's watch.

    In addition, it would appear that the bullet train lacks oversight or even a cohesive plan for the actual building. You know those government workers who shut down freeways but never actually seem to be working? We'll get more of that. There is no incentive for the construction companies to actually even start the project, let alone finish it; and no way for taxpayers to take action against them.

    While I like the idea of a high-speed rail system in our state -- and really nationwide -- this proposition is not written with the citizens' best interests in mind, and can too easily be abused leaving the state saddled with a nearly $20 billion debt (the initial bond plus interest over 30 years) that we will still have to pay even if the project is not completed, or shut down entirely. A massive infrastructural project like this needs to be better planned and regulated -- and oh yeah, should probably specify exactly where the money will come from. I will be voting NO on Prop 1.

    Proposition 2:

    Provides for the "humane treatment" of animals raised for food, such as egg-laying chickens and cows raised for veal.

    The argument for is basically treating animals humanely. I personally question the logic a little bit since they will eventually be killed and eaten, and it seems to humanize the animals unnecessarily.

    The argument against claims that the measure will harm local farmers by creating additional overhead, forcing them to own more land to give more space to the animals, or cut back on their production.

    Frankly I don't know what to think about it. But I don't like the idea of creating new laws for special interests on either side of the table. I'm going to go with my default on this, which is to vote NO on Prop 2.

    Proposition 3:

    Provides a bond for just under $1 billion to fund Children's Hospitals.

    This one smells pretty fishy to me. Whenever someone claims that it's "for the children" I'm automatically suspicious, because that's an easy way to stop people from really thinking about the claims being made and just pull the lever "for the children."

    This is another bond that will not create new taxes -- but as I said with prop 1, the money's got to come from somewhere. The opponents point out that a previous bond -- prop 61 passed in 2004 -- have apparently not yet been exhausted. They talk about these children's hospitals being able to afford the latest medical technologies -- but it sounds to me like the suppliers are just holding their hands out looking for cash.

    I don't like the sound of it, and again, there's unspent money already there for this very purpose. It's not for the children, they're using the children to get more money to fill their coffers, and that's not right. I will vote NO on Prop 3.

    Proposition 4:

    Requires a waiting period and parental notification before terminating (aborting) the pregnancy of a minor.

    The fact is, I agree with the opponents pretty much flat-out on this one. This law would not prevent teen pregnancy, or safeguard young women from sexual predators. It would merely make them more likely to hide their pregnancy, and seek out illegal or out-of-state abortions instead.

    This is obviously an attempt by anti-abortion activists to create a chink in the abortion laws so that they can continue chiseling away at them.

    Without getting into opinions about abortion itself, the fact is that the answer to this is education, not legislation. I will be voting NO on Prop 4.

    Proposition 5:

    Reforms drug laws, sentencing, and rehabilitation programs for non-violent offenders.

    I am personally of the belief that drug use is a victimless crime. It can lead to crimes that victimize others, but prop 5 will not make California judges unable to sentence violent offenders. Instead, it reduces criminal penalties for non-violent offenders, as well as establishing/funding rehabilitation programs.

    I believe in the inherent goodness of people, and I believe that people can get "clean." And under California's existing three-strikes legislation, it's not like they would get to make their mistakes ad infinitum.

    I'm all for sending fewer people to jail for non-violent "crimes" and giving people a second chance. I will be voting YES on Prop 5.

    Proposition 6:

    More money to law enforcement, more things criminalized with harsher penalties (even adding new life sentences).

    This goes against what I said above in 5. The answer to the problems is not more incarceration and potential for abuse of police power. And there is no guarantee of oversight of the nearly $1 billion that will go into this program.

    Aiding in the creation of a police state is not and will never be part of my agenda. I will be voting NO on Prop 6.

    Proposition 7:

    Provision for renewable energy generation. Appears to be opposed by the major electrical utilities and the major political parties. I don't trust politicians or the folks who benefit most from keeping the status quo. They call prop 7 poorly-written, but having read it, it appears to close up current loopholes in the production of renewable energy, providing a legal mandate that these energy groups must achieve their goals and not merely try.

    It also eliminates exemptions for "electrical corporations," defining them as "retail sellers" and holding them accountable.

    We need renewable energy, in California and throughout the world. I'm no lawyer, but as far as I can tell the folks against 7 stand the most to profit if it fails, and the rest of us the most if it succeeds. I will vote YES on Prop 7.

    Proposition 8:

    Eliminates the right of same-sex couples to marry. Constitutional amendment.

    Besides my obvious stake in this, it is wrong in any and all cases to pass laws that take away existing rights from a minority group. You don't have to approve of it, but don't make it illegal when it doesn't harm anyone.

    I'll be putting out a video on this in the next day or so, but the short version is: VOTE NO ON 8.

    Proposition 9:

    Victims' rights to notification and testimony.

    My default position to constitutional amendments is no, and Prop 9 is no different. While I feel for the victims of violent crime, prop 9 is a redundant constitutional amendment, and has been judged to cost taxpayers (us) in the hundreds of millions, in the middle of a serious deficit; and again, the provisions that it would "enact" already exist, and have since 1982. I will vote NO on Prop 9.

    Proposition 10:

    Bonds to purchase alternative fuel vehicles.

    This proposition will cost $10 billion over 30 years, and fails, according to independent analysts, to provide adequate funds for its actual administration. As with the other bonds that will "not raise taxes," this money will come out of education, roads, healthcare, and other discretionary projects. It is also written in such a way as to possibly be construed to specify *certain kinds* of alternative fuel -- natural gas, ethanol, biodiesel and hydrogen -- and could be used to exclude major clean-fuel vehicle types like hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and full-electric cars.

    Prop 7 covers the state's renewable energy issue, and the idea of taking $10 billion out of our economy with no real plan where it's going to come from is a bad idea. As much as I'd like the gov't to buy me a Prius, I will be voting NO on Prop 10.

    Proposition 11:

    Redistricting, Constitutional amendment.

    Basically would allow the districts of state representatives to the federal congress to be redrawn. The weasel word that concerns me here is that it allows of the creation and maintenance of "communities of interest" -- and doesn't define what that means. This sounds to me like it would allow for redistricting based on ideological biases. This power, by the way, is given to an appointed -- not elected -- commission.

    I don't like the smell of this. It's a new bureacracy that is not elected and therefore not accountable to the will of the people. And another constitutional amendment, which are hard to undo once done. I will vote NO on Prop. 11.

    Proposition 12:

    Provides low-interest rate home loans to U.S. Veterans.

    It's understandable if folks are gun-shy of the home loan market after these last couple of harrowing weeks, which were caused in part by bad home loans. But as my roommate Brian pointed out, those were high interest rate home loans, not low interest rates. This could actually help the state economy.

    Generally speaking, a house is one of the best investments you can make. This program has apparently been in place for a long time and is merely renewed each election. And regardless of your feelings on war or the military -- I happen to be a pacifist and don't get me started on Iraq -- the fact is that the people in the military do what they do out of loyalty to this country, and if they need a little help buying their piece of the American dream when they get done, then I think that's the least we can do.

    (It's also a little telling that the opposition apparently consists of one guy. Most ballot measures get at least three people for each side, representing particular interests that want the measure to either pass or fail. He doesn't even have an organizational affiliation. He's just some guy.)

    I will vote YES on Prop 12.

    So, to recap:

    Prop 1: NO
    Prop 2: NO
    Prop 3: NO
    Prop 4: NO
    Prop 5: YES
    Prop 6: NO
    Prop 7: YES
    Prop 8: NO
    Prop 9: NO
    Prop 10: NO
    Prop 11: NO
    Prop 12: YES

    Sunday, October 26, 2008

    But what I REALLY want to do...

    Been a while since I wrote an actual blog on filmmaking, whether procedural or philosophical. This comment ties back to an earlier post I made about how some people really feel passionate about what they do in the industry. I had another experience of the sort that made me want to elaborate a bit more on the topic.

    The common "wisdom" about the movie business is that everyone, whether overtly or secretly, is angling to direct.1 Because of the pervasiveness of this idea, I think many of the more "lowly" positions on the set -- the PAs, the grips -- are treated with disdain by the higher-ups, who view them as opportunistic (and, for the more insecure artistes, as potential threats). An older hand at it, a career grip, who's been in the business 40 years for example, might be treated with a subtle pity, as though they had failed to reach what was presumably their "true" ambition.

    More experienced filmmakers who have worked with proper crews I'm sure know better than this, so I'm talking more to the up-and-comers in the crowd. When you get to the point that you get to command a set, do not under any circumstances condescend to your crew. Do not assume that you are better than them, or that you have achieved what they never could. Because that's probably not the case.

    When we were shooting Sandrima Rising, they hired a grip by the name of Popcorn.2 And he was phenomenal, I gotta say. Got the work done, kept his focus, never complained. And we would get to talking, as you do on any project, especially a long-term one. And he talked about how his father AND grandfather had both been grips in the film industry. He was a third-generation grip. and he loved what he did.

    He loved the fact that he got to be a part of the creative and technical processes, without the rather crushing burden of having to run the show. He didn't mind that no grip, even key grip, is a household name (unlike directors and, to a lesser degree, writers), nor that he was not in the part of the industry that would ever make much more than a "modest" living.3 He just loved being a part of it, and love the part of it that he was in. Had no interest or aspiration for directing, loved being the one to realize the visions of the directors, solve a different problem every day, and most importantly, work regularly.

    A director works on one project at a time, generally, and follows that through to completion, which can take a year or more. But crew can move from production to production, three or four months of shooting apiece and moving on to the next. The work is far more regular and, from a certain perspective and mindset, more rewarding. Like I said, every day a new challenge, instead of working on the same shots and sequences endlessly as you hone it into completion.

    Another story, and the one that made me think of this topic again. I've been renting the RED to a no-budget feature titled Solitary.4 The crew is small, but so is the location, and as such I pretty much just stay the hell out of the way when I'm on set as camera support -- a project which I frequently designate to Anthony, so that I can stay home and work on Sandrima. But this weekend I went out with the camera on my own for scheduling reasons, and I met a grip who is doing his only weekend on the set.

    The guy is a perfect case study in not judging a book by its cover. He's young, early to mid-twenties; good-looking, to the extent I'm surprised that he's behind the camera instead of in front. Very quiet, spends the day lugging equipment and such back and forth around the location. Easy to assume that he's a nice enough guy, but probably not very bright and therefore is best suited to manual labor.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, before working in film he took three years of engineering in college, as well as a year and a half of advanced physics studies, before putting college on hold to work in film for a while. His father was (is) a DP and he grew up on-set with crews and is comfortable with the "culture." He loves the physical labor part of it, but also -- as with Mr. Popcorn -- the synthesis of creative and technical problem-solving. He was more knowledgeable about filmmaking technology than most directors I know, and we had a brief but stimulating conversation about cameras, compositing, and shooting techniques. And still he, too, has no apparent interest in doing anything in the film business but what he's doing now.

    While the grips carry equipment around and set up the lights, it's not mindless grunt work. They have to understand electrical currents and wiring in order to run cabling and power distribution appropriately; they have to understand the physics of light in order to get the precise lighting effects the DP requests5; and they've been on so many sets and solved so many problems that they can really bring a lot of diverse experience to bear on your current project.

    If I remember to (and going back through earlier posts I discover a number of topics I've been "meaning to" talk about that haven't happened yet), I'll get into my thoughts on the "Auteur Theory" sometime. But whatever the case, when you get to make your movie, always treat the people working on the set with respect and dignity; and if they have suggestions, keep your ears and mind open.

    Because despite the fact that you're the "guy in charge," there's still a good chance they're smarter than you.

    1. A corollary to this holds that everyone in Los Angeles is working on a script. This one I think is true -- if you walked up to a random person in the supermarket and asked them how their script was going, I would wager 4 out of 5 times the response would be an astonished "How did you know?"

    2. Seriously. I also know folks who go by Bear and Dragon. And then there's the concept artist Crash McCreery. You can get away with that stuff in this business. Hell, I go by Dorkman, so it's not like I can talk.

    3. I say "modest" because, with film budgets what they are, a key grip with his own kit is gonna do alright for himself. It won't be in the millions, but a high five figures, even low six, is not out of the question

    4. Not to be confused with an in-development project of my own that is titled Solitary, a title which really suits the project too well to change it. Not that most of you know anything about that project since it's nowhere near production and may never happen at all. But if it does, you'll know not to confuse them.

    5. Some DPs are very involved with the process and will dictate what to do at a very detailed level. But some DPs prefer to invoke more of a feeling, and a general sense of where the light will come from and what the quality of the light will be, and the grips interpret that into the actual rigging of the lights.

    Saturday, October 25, 2008

    I've got a new blog

    National Novel Writing Month is around the corner (November 1), and I'm going to participate this year. I've already written up an introductory post over at the shiny new Nano blog.

    The new blog is NOT a replacement for this one; I will still be posting here whenever the urge strikes/schedules permit, about all the various subjects I wind up posting about. But I wanted to hold myself accountable by posting my speed-written novel somewhere public. Instead of choking up my "personal" blog with daily story installments, I created another blog for the purpose.

    The first post on the new blog contains all the caveats I wish to express to potential readers of the speed-story, so head on over there if you're interested, and if you're not, you won't be missing anything in terms of my "regular" blog content, which will stay right here.

    Monday, October 20, 2008

    It is Not for Lack of Bibles

    So a few months ago I got a package from I heart books, so I'm always excited to see a box with the Amazon smirk on the side of it. But I hadn't actually ordered anything, so my excitement was also tinged with curiosity. I opened the package and discovered I had been gifted with a copy of The Case for a Creator (which I will get back to deconstructing soon).

    At the time I avoided mentioning who had sent the gift, out of respect for his privacy, but since he's had no qualms involving himself in the discussion of the book I guess it's no secret that it was sent by fellow TFN'er Drew Mazanec.

    The discussion has been on hold because I've had other things occupying my time. I had to finish up the course I was doing part-time over at fxphd, and I've still got a lot of work to do full-time on Sandrima Rising.

    So imagine my surprise today when I was again greeted by a smirking Amazon shipment -- this time a gift of the Apologetics Study Bible, once again from Drew.

    Although I have a cynical view of religion and belief, I am less cynical and more willing to give a benefit of a doubt to the religious and believers. I have no doubt that Drew is sending me these tomes with the best of intentions. More than likely, out of a concern for the fate of my immortal soul. Though I consider the concern misplaced, I do not doubt that it is genuine.

    But I went to a Lutheran middle school and a Catholic high school. From those schools, I own a Lutheran Study Bible and a Roman Catholic Bible; I also have a Bible that my mother got when she graduated high school. In addition, my roommates own three Bibles between them, and if I want to get really academic about it, my brother not only also has a KJV Bible, but owns copies of the Bible in Greek, Hebrew, and Latin.

    So in printed Bibles alone I've got handy access to ten different editions in four different languages. And just about every English version of the Bible is readily available online. My favorite of which, and the one I read, is the Skeptic's Annotated Bible, which looks at the text objectively, letting it stand or fall (mostly fall) on its own merits.

    It is not a lack of Biblical availability or knowledge that causes me to not believe in Christianity. Indeed, it is the fact that I am familiar with the Bible that causes me to dismiss it. It is not for lack of Bibles, it is for lack of evidence that the Bible is reliable in the first place.

    I was a Christian for most of my life, and a devout one through the end of high school and college.1 I understand the mindset and I know the arguments presented. I am not denigrating Drew's concern, or his generosity. Clearly he believes strongly enough to put his money where his mouth is, literally; and in pursuit of what I assume, based on my personal experience as a Christian, he sees as helping me.

    But if I needed a Bible (and as I said, I really don't), I could afford one. Land of opportunity FTW. Next time you've got extra cash laying around, instead of spending $30 to send me a book, donate it to a humanitarian cause. Preferably one that provides food where it is needed.

    Obviously, the real aim is to address and/or answer some of my questions and concerns. So take out the middle man, Drew. Let's just talk about this. We both have blogs, we both have AIM, we both have e-mail. Name the medium and let's have an actual discussion about this stuff. My only condition is that we be allowed to share the discussion, in whole or in part, on our respective blogs. Clearly you believe in what these books are peddling, so you should be able to articulate it in your own words. It's not fair for me to tear an argument apart when the person making the argument has no opportunity for rebuttal. So let's have a dialogue. It'll save you money in the long run.

    My intention is not to "call Drew out" or put him on the spot. But I think it could be educational for both of us, and maybe for our respective readers, to hash this out directly rather than dashing exclusively behind various authors and authorities. Which is not to say that calling upon experts would be out of the question, but the bulk of it should be our own expression.

    Plus it'll give me more to post about.

    The invitation is open to anyone else who cares to discuss these ideas with me, as well. Just let me know.

    And if anyone feels compelled to send me free books in the future, I would much prefer something from my Amazon wish list.

    On that subject, I'm also looking for recommendations for new (to me) fiction; I've been reading a lot of non-fiction and technical stuff lately and want to "get away" a little bit.

    1. At least a few of the folks out there who are currently Christians will, I'm sure, refuse to believe that I was ever "truly" Christian, much less devout. If I truly had a relationship with God I could never turn away, goes the reasoning. I can't really begrudge that thinking, because ironically, that was my thinking when I was devout. All I can say is, believe me, I was. Anyone who knew me at the time could vouch for it.

    Tuesday, October 14, 2008

    The 305

    Okay, this is kind of old and mostly a fluff post to put something new on the front.

    I'm a fan of the movie 300. I took some convincing, all the people talking about how "badass" the trailer looked put me off a bit, and even coming out of it I felt like Sin City was a more significant stylistic achievement, but as time has gone on, I've thought often of 300 and rarely of Sin City.

    The easy assumption for my preference is the greater prevalence of muscular men in loincloths and capes in one over the other, but honestly that's not really my gauge. While both were loyal to the graphic novel, and both were shot on greenscreen, 300 was less restrictive than Sin City. 300 used the visionary work of Frank Miller as a springboard, Sin City as a straitjacket. I forgot, while watching 300, that it was shot on greenscreen. I never really lost that sense of confined space with Sin City.

    Anyway, a discussion of the relative merits of the two films might have been more relevant a year and a half ago when 300 was actually released in theatres, so I'll skip it. The point in bringing up 300 is to bring up this parody film, 305, which combines the story of 300 with the sensibility (and to an extent, character "archetypes") of "The Office" (American version).

    It becomes obvious pretty quickly who's who, especially in the cases of Darryl and Testicleese, who are direct duplicates in both appearance and manner of Dwight and Jim, respectively.

    More than likely you've already seen this video, but for those who haven't:

    But there's more to it than just a YouTube video. I think this deserves a distinction for being a YouTube video that actually led to a feature film. That's right, there's a full-length 305 movie out there for your viewing pleasure.

    For the record, I don't think you should run out and buy the film, but if you see it at Blockbuster, and you're a fan of 300/The Office/both, I think it's worth your time.

    My concern was how they would extend the "Office meets Sparta" conceit beyond the five minutes of the original short. Even in the short itself, it threatens to overstay its welcome, but thankfully never does. I thought the full feature would be tired repetition of the same -- not even "joke," per se, but "premise."

    "What if the story of 300 was told like the Office?" "What if cavemen sold car insurance?" You get what I'm talking about.

    Thankfully, the writers (and I don't have to put it in quotation marks like I would with certain "parodies" out there) actually bothered to come up with a story.

    The movie starts off with the short -- and why not, you've already got five minutes of your feature in the can. Although they did bother to improve the composites -- but then immediately leaves the "guys guarding the goat path" conceit and has the characters embarking on their own misadventures. It's campy, it's occasionally cliche, but it's fun. There's some genuine amusing jokes in there, and while it's not really much more than some college guys having fun with a camera -- well, what's wrong with that, anyway?

    Plus you gotta show some respect. These are young guys working with almost no money with nothing but a green tarp in a small room, and they managed to make a genuinely entertaining and enjoyable feature film. Frankly I'm surprised this hasn't gotten more attention just based on the "biography" of the project, but I guess somebody making a feature for no money isn't really "news" anymore.

    Oh, and also the fight scenes, while not ones for the books, were still pretty decent, especially when you factor in the limitations of the shooting environment.

    Anyway, I picked up the flick with apprehension and it surpassed my expectations. Not one to go out of your way for, but if you can't think of anything else to rent on a Saturday night, see if they've got this on the shelf.

    Friday, October 03, 2008

    Last Night's Debate

    Not really much to say, I think the pundits have it right and the country does too. Palin didn't self-destruct, Biden won the debate in terms of actually being able to do the job.

    I'm actually planning to do a YouTube video re: the election, hopefully get that done this weekend when I've got the opportunity.

    Sunday, September 28, 2008

    She's On The List

    If that episode of Friends is to be believed, everybody has a list of celebrities that, if the opportunity presents itself, they would sleep with.1 I don't know if that episode is to be believed, in the sense that I'm not sure everybody has such a list, but I certainly have one.

    Obviously that list is of male celebrities, and is pure fantasy since most of them are (apparently) straight, and no, I won't tell you who.

    I have, however, another, shorter list of female celebrities that I would hook up with. On the Kinsey Scale, I'd consider myself a pretty solid 5, even a 5.5, but not a full 6. There are a select few ladies out there who are just so goddamn amazing, even I couldn't resist.

    Tina Fey is definitely on that list.

    Tina Fey, in fact, is on a sub-list of that list. I wouldn't just hit that, I would get down on my knee and propose and raise a family with her. Seriously, I love this woman. And I hope, if I ever actually get to meet her, that this admission doesn't make it awkward.

    And, that her husband isn't around.


    It's not like she's a new addition to the list, however she's come back to the fore with her spot-on impersonations of Sarah Palin2 on Saturday Night Live. Everyone saw the first Palin-Hillary sketch a week or two ago, but last night she appeared again, this time in a satire of Palin's trainwreck of an interview with Katie Couric:

    Funny shit, but also a little scary. Why do I say scary? Because here's the relevant excerpt from the real interview with Couric:


    You see what I mean by scary? The SNL sketch practically doesn't count as satire because it's almost fucking verbatim to Palin's actual answer.

    Seriously, here's the transcript of what Palin says. Now play the SNL sketch and read along:

    That's why I say I, like every American I'm speaking with, we're ill about this position that we have been put in. Where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy. Um, helping, oh, it's got to be about job creation, too. Shoring up our economy, and putting it back on the right track. So health care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions, and tax relief for Americans, and trade -- we have got to see trade as opportunity, not as, uh, competitive, um, scary thing, but one in five jobs created in the trade sector today. We've got to look at that as more opportunity. All of those things under the umbrella of job creation.

    The way they sync up is almost like playing Dark Side of the Moon while watching Wizard of Oz, except instead of freaking out because that's totally trippy, man, you're freaking out because there's a very real chance she will end up President of the United States if John McCain wins and then dies. And the odds of each one are, at this point, pretty much 50-50.

    Even just reading it on its own, it's impossible to parse. As Ed Brayton over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars put it:

    She literally babbles incoherently, just stringing together a bunch of totally unrelated talking points that couldn't make a coherent sentence at gunpoint. It's gibberish. It's word salad. It sounds like she's playing one of those refrigerator magnet games with a bunch of words and phrases and trying to tie them all together.

    And yet the campaigns are still neck-and-neck.

    Sorry to cock-knock my male readers, luring them in with dirty Tina Fey talk and then abruptly seguing into politics again. But the Palin sketch just got me thinking. So much depends on Thursday's debate.

    1. Ironically, it's in the season 3 episode "The One With Frank Jr.," and not the season 2 episode "The One With The List."

    2. Who I would also totally hit -- WITH MY FIST! AMIRITE?! HIGH FIVE!!

    Saturday, September 27, 2008

    Election 2008: Presidential Debate #1

    Political post. If you don't want to hear it, go read Dr. McNinja instead.1

    Last night was the first of three Presidential debates for the 2008 election, between Democratic nominee Barack Obama, and Republican nominee John McCain. If you haven't seen it, it is available in its entirety on

    The first question that's asked is who won. I'm not sure that's the right question to ask, but I'll bite. There are two answers here. On the one hand, from as objective a standpoint as I could figure, it seemed more or less like a draw. McCain was out of his league when it came to the economic discussion that dominated the first half hour of the debate, but he came back strong when they started talking about Iraq, and managed to get the upper hand a bit with "the Surge worked nanner-nanner," to which the ever graceful Obama could only reply "Yes, it did." I think they were about evenly matched in terms of Russia/Pakistan talks. So like I say, a draw.

    But a draw, in this case, can also be seen as a win for Obama. John McCain is and has been behind in the polls as the afterglow of Sarah Palin's nomination began to wear off (which, as is often the case, occurred when she opened her mouth and spoke); his "suspend the campaign/debate" bluff got called and he wound up losing the skirmish and appearing at the debate after all. McCain needed a home run, and he was most likely to get it from this debate, as it was (supposed to be) about foreign policy, which is (supposed to be) his specialty. He needed to show that Obama was in over his head when it came to foreign policy, and that he, John McCain, had what it took.

    And while perhaps J McC did show -- at least to those already inclined to think so -- that he "has what it takes," so did Obama. No major gaffes on Obama's part. He remained cool, collected, and for every question, he had an answer.2

    As I said, McCain needed a home run, this was his best chance to hit one -- and he didn't. Policy-wise, they tied. "Not a game-changer either way," the pundits are saying. That means the game remains as it was: Obama started ahead in the polls, and remained ahead in the polls, and so the tie was, in a sense, a victory for Obama.

    Of course, the debates aren't really for staunch Republicans or Democrats, who have already made up their minds and are just watching the way one might watch a football match, a gladiatorial match, or an episode of Destroyed in Seconds. They're not really weighing the two candidates' stances on the issues, they just don't want to miss the very real possibility of political carnage.3

    No, the debates are for those beautiful bastards, the undecideds -- who, ironically, are the ultimate deciders. They are the third-or-so of the population that one of the candidates needs to win over. And according to the polls, Obama convinced more of them that he could handle the gig than McCain did last night.

    Nonetheless, McCain is clearly of the Orwellian belief that you can control make something true merely by saying that it is true. For example, his campaign ran online ads declaring him the winner not only before yesterday's debate, but before he'd even confirmed that he would attend the debate.

    So it's no surprise that, post-debate, the McCain campaign ran the following advertisement:

    I think, however, that this ad backfires in a number of ways.

    First off, we'll address the obvious elephant in the room: these statements are taken out of context. All three of them were followed by "but." Obama agreed with McCain's sentiments, but not the conclusions he drew or the actions he intended to take. But I suppose that kind of quote-mining is just par for the political course, so we won't belabor that. Let's talk about some of the other problems with it.

    As one YouTube commenter pointed out:

    By attacking Obama for agreeing with McCain, isn't his own campaign affirming the idea that McCain's policies are WRONG?

    Well said, random internet person. Well said.

    It also shows a fundamental (the politicians and pundits like that word) flaw in McCain's thinking. Specifically, that being willing to concede that someone else is right, and/or that you have occasionally been wrong, is some kind of weakness. That's exactly the bullshit pigheaded arrogance that has made Dubya the worst President, certainly in the recent history if not in the entire history of our nation.

    It's okay to admit that you were wrong. In fact, to me, that shows more leadership potential and a better understanding of the nuances of human interaction than Bush or McCain seem to display.

    On top of that, this ad, at least in concept, is plagiarized directly from this ad that VP nominee Joe Biden put together during the primary elections:

    Let's stand back and think about this for a second. John McCain puts out an ad stating flat-out that Barack Obama is not ready to lead. And yet:

    - John McCain chooses Sarah Palin as his running mate in a blatant attempt to cash in on Hillary's popularity.
    - John McCain abandons his "experience" platform and adopts a "change" platform identical to the one that Obama has been using since the beginning.
    - John McCain uses the "[blank] we can believe in" structure, recognizing its effectiveness in Obama's campaign
    -Even last night, he appropriated Obama's rhetorical "Main Street/Wall Street" dichotomy, recognizing it as an effective sound bite, as well as another of Obama's frequently-repeated phrases, "Let me be clear."
    - His "victory ad" is copied from his opponent's running mate.

    In other words, McCain has spent his campaign following the other side's lead. If Obama isn't ready to lead, then why is McCain following right behind him at every move?

    Also, it's a non-sequitur. The "punchline" of the ad has nothing to do with the preceding content. How does "I agree with Sen. McCain" automatically lead to "No"? It doesn't. They're two separate ads.

    Here's my theory as to what happened: As a visual effects and graphics guy, I know that those graphics would have taken some time. So the fact is that they were already planning that ad, and had made the graphics and recorded the narration before the debate even happened, otherwise they wouldn't have been able to get the ad up so instantaneously.

    They had already planned to release an ad stating that Obama was not ready to lead, already created the beginning and end bits, and were just waiting for Barack to put his foot in his mouth at the debate, so they could use that clip in the ad as their proof.

    And the best they got out of him was his occasional concession that McCain had the right idea, but not the right approach, and just left the latter part out.

    This is exactly the problem with their thinking -- the thinking that we already have in the White House. They make a plan and they refuse to deviate from it, even when it is clearly no longer the best strategy. "Stay the course." Fuck's sake.

    Last comment on the debate: body language. Watch the debate with the sound off and just judge each one based on body cues. Obama was cool, relaxed -- hate to be trite, but "Presidential." He looked right at McCain, both while speaking to McCain and while McCain was speaking. He stood up straight and proud, and came across as someone I would be proud to have representing our country abroad.

    McCain, on the other hand, was small, hunched over, tense, and looked more pissed-off as the night went on. He blinked a LOT, especially at the beginning -- generally a sign of either uncertainty or outright deceit -- and refused to look at or even directly address Obama. There are several ways to read that, none of them particularly good:

    - On a purely primal level, social inferiors will not look their superiors in the eyes. You see this in wolves, lions, dogs, and apes. Subordinate males will not look at the dominant male. So just coming from the animal instinct level, John McCain recognized Obama as the alpha male on the stage.

    - McCain is known to have a fiery temper, and despite his death's head rictus of a smile, he was all but vibrating with rage as Obama positively refused to be ignorant of the issues. It may be that he avoided looking at Obama because he would have utterly lost his composure if he had done so.4

    - McCain was showing a total lack of respect, even contempt, for a formidable and worthy opponent. You don't have to like someone to respect them, and we don't need another 4 years of global petulance and disrespect from our Commander-in-Chief.5

    I'm trying not to present a false dichotomy here, but I really can't think of any positive reason that McCain should have totally avoided eye contact, or even addressing Obama directly, especially when the format of the debate was that the two candidates would take five minutes in each topic to address each other directly. If any of you can put a positive spin on McCain's attitude, I'd be glad to hear it.

    I was not myself undecided and this debate has not swung my vote. It's only made me more baffled -- and terrified -- that the race could be as close as it is.

    As has been said by others, I don't believe that Obama is the pure-souled superpolitician who will finally bring back the unicorns. But I believe that this country needs a drastic change in direction, and Barack Obama represents that in far more ways than John McCain.

    And if Obama really does bring back the unicorns, to boot -- well, I will be happy to admit I was wrong.

    In the meantime, I'm very much looking forward to Thursday's debate.

    1. And even if you do want to hear it, go read Dr. McNinja afterwards, because that's some funny shit. Make sure you read the alt-text!

    2. Well, not quite every question. I was annoyed at the way both of them dodged the very direct question "What specific programs will you have to cut [read: what specific campaign promises will you be breaking] as a result of the economic crisis?" But both of them did it, so that one's a draw too.

    3. For this reason, I'm inclined to think that the Biden-Palin debate will be the highest rated of all the debates this election season. One internet wit predicted it will end with Palin curled up and sobbing in a corner, while Biden dons parachute pants and does the Hammer Dance across the stage.

    4. McCain also apparently didn't realize that his tactic of "make up lies about the opponent's positions and declare them as truth" wouldn't work if his opponent was standing right there to contradict him, which Obama did on multiple occasions, finally neutralizing many of the false talking points McCain has been spreading around the last few months.

    5. The more cynical or knee-jerk among us would probably say McCain was exhibiting racism, but I think, all else being equal (no pun intended), McCain would have behaved the same way with a white man.

    Friday, September 26, 2008

    More GB3 News

    Haven't posted lately, as I've been busy with Sandrima (just locked a 3D track of what I think will be one of the stand-out shots of the project) and there's not much to post about.

    Well, I take that back. There's actually been a LOT to post about, if we're going to talk politics, hasn't there? But the baffling actions of the McCain campaign have moved so fast that it really felt more appropriate to address them via Twitter than try to write up a meaningful blog about it, especially since I am having trouble understand what it all actually means besides "McCain is losing his marbles" and I don't want to stoop to that unnecessarily. Also, the mainstream media is FINALLY pulling their heads out and noticing that this is ridiculous, no longer forcing the Daily Show to be the sole source of sanity and accountability in this race, so I felt like the MSM had it covered.

    So I've been out, although I probably will write a blog re: tonight's debate -- which, despite McCain's confidence, is anyone's game.

    But I thought I'd follow-up on the Ghostbusters 3 story from my last blog with some new and exciting information.

    One of the biggest stumbling points to another Ghostbusters film has always been Bill Murray. My understanding is this: like Indiana Jones, for which a sequel could only move forward with unanimous approval from Lucas, Spielberg, and Ford, Ghostbusters is split among the controlling interests of Reitman, Aykroyd, Ramis, and Murray. A third Ghostbusters film could only be made if all four of the principals approved of it, and for the last 20 years, Bill Murray wasn't having it.

    When Ghostbusters 2 was produced, he was openly unhappy with the process of the production, as well as the final product, and declared that he was done with Ghostbusters. When the subject of the sequel came up, Murray either said no flat-out, or yes on the provision that Venkman be killed near the beginning of the film and return as a ghost.1

    Things got more promising when Aykroyd, high off a viewing of TMNT, proposed that GB3 be made as a CGI feature. Though I'm on record around the web as hating that idea -- I would rather not have GB3 at all in that case -- Murray said that he would be willing to provide the voice for Venkman in that case. This opened the door to his willing reprisal of the role of Peter Venkman in the upcoming Ghostbusters video game, and apparently re-awakened his enthusiasm for the franchise, as he talks about in this video from Fantastic Fest (the GB talk starts at about the 5:00 mark):

    It's funny, I always assumed that Murray was just kind of a crotchety guy and moved on from GB because of diva-esque "artistic differences," not getting enough screen time, whatever. But the interview here is so frank and open that I'm realizing that's wrong. It seems that the fact is that Bill Murray loves Ghostbusters, and he loves the Venkman character, and he was hurt and angry by the way the characters he so enjoyed, and the strength of the story possibilities, were marginalized and disrespected in favor of the effects and a lazy re-hash of the original.

    Now, don't get me wrong, I personally like GB2, but based more on the mere fact of its existence than its relative merits. Objectively I can see where he is coming from. It was more slime than substance, and a clearly inferior sequel. And he didn't trust, for the last few decades, that a GB3 would be anything more than another hollow exercise in visual effects (and given the direction Hollywood movies have steadily taken, who can blame him?).

    But it sounds like he's willing to give it another shot, and that he's in the same place I'm at with the talk of Office writers taking a crack at it -- new blood might be exactly what the franchise needs, not to re-invent itself, but to stage a triumphant return that more people would love to see than I think even the studio realizes.

    If Bill Murray is on board, then this is the best news imaginable for the franchise.

    1. Considering that his problem with GB2 was what he saw as the overuse of visual effects, this seems like an odd request. I've long thought that this notion of killing off the most popular character was just a bluff that he knew they would never call, thereby saying "no" without having to say it.

    Sunday, September 14, 2008

    Another Ghostbusters Post

    So I never posted about this, got distracted by other things. Tweeted about it, but never put up a blog post. It may not even be blog-worthy at this point, but that McCain video is really depressing me and I want to put something else up for a bit.

    Ghostbusters 3 might actually happen.

    The comedy pedigrees here are interesting. You have two writers from the American version of "The Office," and according to a number of sources, Judd Apatow is at this point orbiting the project in some capacity, which means that if they go in an "old guys hand the reins to new guys" direction with the flick, we can probably expect Seth Rogen to suit up as one of the new Ghostbusters. According to Aykroyd, that would be "a dream," as he says in a recent interview with E!

    The weird thing, of course, is that all the people who you would expect to be at the core of a GB revival are just shrugging and saying "Yeah, I hear someone's working on that." I think all of them have long since let the dream go, but it sounds like they'd do it if it came to fruition.

    I won't go into what I think of Ghostbusters as a whole because I already did that, and I would venture a guess that I was correct in thinking that the anticipation and excitement for the video game is, at least in part, what made the studio realize that there is still an audience, and push the languishing project forward. Though anyone who observes the pattern of studio greenlighting probably would have guessed the same. Instead I'll comment on the direction things appear to be taking right now.

    In short, I think it's very promising and exciting. Apatow and his crew display a strong understanding of what made 80s comedies "80s comedies," and that sensibility comes through in movies like Superbad and Pineapple Express, which manage to be both throwbacks and something new and fresh at the same time. I would much rather see the Apatow crew suit up than any other superstar "Dream Team" that's been rumored over the years (Will Smith, Ben Stiller, Chris Farley and Janine Garafolo were all purportedly going to be the new GBs at some point, and while I loved Mystery Men, it wouldn't have been right for Ghostbusters).

    Ghostbusters is not about arbitrary all-star teams, it's about funny people in scary situations. You need comedians -- not just stand-up comedians but comic actors -- and particularly comedians who can riff off each other. The Apatow stable is the perfect fit for that. I would say they're this decade's answer to the comic collaborations of the 80s, and I think writers from "The Office" are the perfect choice to create fertile ground for that kind of riffing.

    As to that, I find the choice to go with new writers rather than Aykroyd and Ramis to be, honestly, a risky proposition but one that could be tremendously rewarding. We've seen what happens when certain filmmakers return to a beloved franchise, and make the movie that shows what the franchise is in their mind, and it turns out that the franchise is a very different thing in the mind of the audience. Aykroyd has had a GB3 in mind for nearly 20 years, and that might make it stale. He might want to make the movie he's always wanted to make, and not the movie he ought to make in the here and now.

    New writers could bring a fresh perspective to it, while ideally maintaining what made Ghostbusters so iconic and lasting -- strong characterization and comedy. Writers who grew up with Ghostbusters as a phenomenon would understand that phenomenon from an audience perspective, and potentially have more success at upholding it than the original creators (particularly Aykroyd), who may still not have been able to shake of the vestiges of the original intent.

    With fans writing for a franchise, you of course run the risk of it being no better than fan fiction, bringing in or referencing every joke, character, and breakfast cereal ever related in any way to the franchise (and believe me, I know how fanwanky a GB3 script could get). But that's where the writers being from "The Office" bolsters my confidence. They've already shown that they can respect the spirit of a property while breathing their own life into it and creating something new, and I will be paying very close attention to this project as it progresses.

    If this does happen, totally going to a midnight show, and totally going in costume. I guess I'll have to build another proton pack.

    Wednesday, September 10, 2008

    Why McCain must not be elected...

    If it's not obvious, my blog is likely to get more politically-oriented in the next couple months leading up to the election. Because the fact of it is, folks, this one matters.

    For my non-American readers, I apologize since I'm sure our politics bore your pants clean off. I'll try to intersperse lighter fare. But the fact is that if McCain wins, we are literally going to be in a world of shit.

    You may not trust Obama. He's a politician and as the saying goes, if someone or something seems to good to be true, it probably is.

    But we have had great Presidents in the past. We've had Lincoln, and Kennedy -- both of whom, incidentally, had less experience than Obama -- and I believe that leaders like that still exist. I believe that someone like Obama can be genuine, and I would rather take a chance on him, even given the slim possibility that he's lying about his goodness, than throw the future away on a man who is almost certainly telling the truth about his evil.

    You may not want Obama -- but do you really want the alternative?

    Think about it.