Sunday, January 30, 2005

The Budget Suggests a Deficit in Leadership

This is another superb letter to the LA Times editor, from Thursday, January 27, 2005.
Where are the "moral values" of this administration in requesting $80 billion more for war ("Budget Deficit to Set Record," Jan. 26) while the people of South Asia die of disease, while Americans die from lack of healthcare and adequate food and housing, and the big scare about Social Security might leave all of us scrambling for a decent future?

It is embarrassing to be an American right now, as we are forced to listen to compassionate rhetoric in the face of merciless policy.

The values of true compassion, love, kindness and generosity are left on the page of every speech about hope and freedom.

It is hard to understand how so many good, honest, religious people can support this administration in light of the hard, sad facts facing us.

It is even harder to understand how Congress can just sit back and be walked on, like a nuisance of governance, in the path to inevitable acquiescence.

I can only wonder what that $80 billion, and the trillions over the coming years, could do to better the lives of so many suffering souls that this government is not only leaving behind but burying in the process.

Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater

Beth's Letter To Editor published in LA Times

My wife, Beth, had her letter to the LA Times editor published on Thursday.
Re "Tax Breaks Intensify State Fiscal Debate," news analysis, Jan. 24: We agree that all Californians should be asked to do their fair share, including our largest corporations and wealthiest residents, particularly those who have benefited greatly from recent federal tax cuts. Budgets are not simply financial documents; they are moral and political statements about government's priorities and choices.

The governor and our elected leaders are making the wrong choices for California's children by taking any discussion of taxes and needed reforms out of the equation in their approach to balancing the budget. We urge our governor and elected leaders to support a budget that makes better choices for California's children, helping the more than 1.7 million children who already struggle with poverty, and the more than 750,000 children who lack any type of health insurance.

Beth Osthimer
Children's Defense Fund, California
Los Angeles

Barry Hughart wrote three books?

Until today I thought that Barry Hughart, author of one of my favorite books, "Bridge of Birds," had only written one book in his career. Turns out that he wrote two others, many years ago, "The Story of the Stone" and "Eight Skilled Gentlemen", both continuing the saga of Master Li and Number Ten Ox. That really has made my day. They seem to be difficult to find, but I'm working the eBay angle.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Why Animate Human Faces?

I met Neil Krepla at a birthday party today. Neil has been a visual effects supervisor on many movies over the last n years (n > 20). We had a nice talk about the benefits of Renderman over ray tracing, interesting changes in visual effects over the last n years (n > 20), how he watches visual effect films and many other topics.

We spent a good amount of time talking about human faces, and the difficulties and failures of human face animation that make it so unconvincing. I suggested that the Final Fantasy production team did a pretty good job of animating human faces and he said that they did a good job with poses, but once they moved, they gave themselves away. He explained to me one of the big flaws of The Polar Express was that you could not see the childrens' souls in their eyes. I said, "I just don't understand why they do it. If it's unconvincing, if they can't hide the fact that a human face is a visual effect, I'd just rather not have them do it."* He said the new Lemony Snicket movie has a young child, and that they did a surprisingly effective and seamless integration of a CG representation with twin child actors which was important because, hey, you couldn't have a two-year-old performing all these dangerous stunts. Apparently this movie is actually successful in pulling it off. I'm interested in seeing for myself.

Here's an article about CG on Lemony Snicket, and Sunny in particular.

* Ok, I didn't really say that, but I'm making the story flow.

Plastic Tube Animals

This is so wonderfully cool that you should just look for yourself. Story and picture can be found here. Movies can be found here.

You're not there yet? OK, here's the six word summary: Giant Plastic Wind-powered Animals In Motion.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Best thing I heard at Squaw Valley

From my new friend:

Her: "If everyone could just pick, they would pick to be bisexual."
Us: "What?!"
Her: "Yeah. Supply and demand. Supply and demand."


Saturday, January 15, 2005

"The Freshman"

Now this is worth reading. This is a wonderful piece of work.

If you haven't read "The Raven", the wonderfully tragic classic by Edgar Allan Poe, read this first.

Then go to pages 13 and 14 of this.

If it quacks like a duck...

... it's a duck. If it lies like a liar, it's a liar.

Excellent perspective by Molly Ivins, titled A bounty of Bush blunders.

Monday, January 10, 2005

The Stanislaw Lem Cover Quiz

The Stanislaw Lem site is running a contest where you can win an autographed copy of one of his books. A series of Lem's books have just been published in Turkey. The contest is to guess the books just from the covers. I think I can do well. This is a wonderful puzzle!

I should note that I have scanned the covers of all my Lem books as submissions for Lem's site. It ain't pretty, but it wasn't built for you.