Saturday, June 30, 2007

Things To Win, Look At, Photograph, Or Buy

Over on TiP-run parenting site Z Recommends we're having a little contest to give away some amazing box rivets invented to make cardboard fort-building easier. Three people who submit the best idea for a fort plan not already designed by the inventor will win a box of rivets and a rivet remover, shipped free to their home. My best non-parent pitch for the contest is on Geekdad. The contest ends today.

We also started a Flickr pool, Couch Fort Confidential. You're probably a Flickr member and you probably want to go build a couch or blanket fort right now. You should take a picture of it and submit it to the pool.

I also found out recently that Mitch Altman is willing to accept the THINKPICS coupon code for 20% off any TV-B-GONE, where previously it had been limited to the latest model. That means if you're interested in the discounted second-generation edition instead of the third-generation release (the earlier one doesn't have some of the latest big-screen codes) you can get one for around $8 after our 20% discount, which is really a steal. Today is the last day of the promotion - as of tomorrow, the coupon won't work and we'll take down all our advertising for it. You can buy one here.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Soviet Squeeze Animation By Ivan Maximov

Information about the animator here.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Robotarium X: A Zoo For Artificial Life

More information at the link.

Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe

And does much more. This is a roughly six-minute excerpt from Les Blank's film of the same name, and in it Herzog discusses television (against which he advocates "real war"), the uneasy role of the filmmaker as "clown," and the lack of an "adequate language of images" in Western civilization.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Color Palettes from Famous Paintings

A good idea, very well-executed.

Registered users can vote on palettes in the post. Palettes can also be downloaded in a variety of formats.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Blog Belt

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Fox and CBS: Condoms Safe, But Not Fun

Fox and CBS have both rejected a new Trojan ad because they say that ads for contraceptives "must stress health-related uses rather than the prevention of pregnancy."

Supporters of the condom company were not surprised. The New York Times article has two standout quotes:

Mark Crispin Miller, media critic at New York University: "Let’s get real here. Fox and CBS and all of them are in the business of nonstop soft porn, but God forbid we should use a condom in the pursuit of sexual pleasure."

Carol Carrozza, VP of Marketing for Ansell Healthcare (LifeStyles condoms): "We always find it funny that you can use sex to sell jewelry and cars, but you can’t use sex to sell condoms."

You can watch the ad online here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Advice for A Young Animator from Ward Kimball

Animator Will Finn posted a great letter he got from Ward Kimball back in the early '70s in response to a probing fan letter. Kimball had already created some of the most memorable characters in Disney films - he created the crows in Dumbo, and had a field day with Alice in Wonderland, animating Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the Mad Hatter, and the Cheshire Cat - and Finn was a 15-year-old high school student at the time and he got some great advice.

Kimball's style of animating was truly transformative. In Alice, for example, he took characters that had already been illustrated in book form and made them very much his own.

I have transcribed the letter below for those of us fond of ASCII text, which can be copied, pasted, printed, and discovered better than a letter-sized JPEG. I have corrected a couple of misspellings but otherwise this is the letter as it was written. You can read from a scan of the actual typed letter on Finn's blog.

Dear Will Finn:

Good Christ! When you write a letter, you really write a letter! When I was in my second year high school I could hardly get through a sentence. From the gist of your essay I take it that you are shot in the ass to become an animator. Well, that's just fine. It helps to know just what you would like to do this early in the game. However, take caution. Don't try to rush it or force it. First off, you gotta finish high school. Then you have to take the first important step: ART TRAINING! This means at least three years in a reputable art school or art college. And be ready for that jungle out there you gotta be a jack-of-all-trades. By this I mean, you gotta know all the insides and outs of film making. And with animation in mind this means: BASIC DRAWING, LIFE DRAWING, DESIGN, LETTERING, ARCHITECTURE, COLOR THEORY, MATERIALS AND THEIR USE, PAINTING, MODELING, ART HISTORY, WORLD HISTORY, ANATOMY, HUMANITIES, FILM EDITING, SOUND CUTTING, RECORDING, STORY SKETCH,---You name it, you gotta be with it. What I am trying to say is that becoming an animator is a growth process that involves basic curiosities for all things, because man, animation is just not making things move, it is THINKING, THINKING, THINKING! You can't know enough about everything. Curiosity is the key word. See everything! Do everything! Find out what makes everything tick. How does it work? What motivated this---What motivated that. Learn from others, BUT DON'T COPY THEM! Try to retain your individualism while learning the basic rules. Don't be docmatic because you're going to change your mind about what you like and what you dislike hundreds of times before you're thirty! This will happen if you develop your imagination along with your curiosity. You gotta be able to draw a grand piano from any angle as well as a pretty girl looking over her shoulder. Learn a musical instrument. Any goddamned instrument. Play it to have FUN. This will help you if you become an animation freak. Remember this: You really can't animate a person dancing a boogie, a Charleston, a frug, a twist, a ballet, unless you can do 'em yourself, or at least analyze clearly the basis for each step. You can read all the animation books in the world but learning the art has to be done while doing. You notice that I have ignored some of your topics of discussion, but this is done to stress the point that you should be thinking of first things first and this means finishing your education as required and then going on to specialize in additional training, all the facets required of a truly, well-rounded animation. Go see the "Yellow Submarine" if you have not already done so. Go see "Fritz the Cat" and if it requires parental guidance, then bring your old man! See everything, as I said above. Go to film festivals. Be a Laurel and Hardy fan. Study Buster Keaton. Study their timing and how they stage a gag or a comedy situation.

Of course, Hanna Barbera are pretty crude compared to Disney's. But this is a problem of economics. H&B are filling a need and it is a business just like selling washing machines. We all can't be part of an organization such as Disney's with almost untold capital to underwrite full animation. Lots of Cartoon Co.'s would like to indulge in full animation, but the economic realities of the jungle prevent it. It's o.k. to have an idol and a goal but a realistic assessment of what's going on in the world of animation and the reasons behind it all are very important. Blah! Blah! Blah! If you find that you don't at first like this reply to your seemingly knowledgeable letter, put it aside and read it again at a later date, and you will see that hidden between the lines is a lot of good advice, even though the writing is crude, to say the least!

Ward Kimball

Burry's Corn Muffin Mix Stalker Lies In Wait for Newlyweds

Burry's has a posse, and he looks like Howdy Doody. Eeek, biscuits!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Mona Marzouk

"Queen," by Mona Marzouk, acrylic on canvas, 150x90 cm

Many related works at the link.


Monday, June 18, 2007

Masquerade: Graffiti Knitters Get Organized

Masquerade is a group of graffiti knitters based in Stockholm, Sweden. Their work basically embraces the same cozy Dadaism as Seattle's Knitta group, but these people have some serious organizational skills. They have produced a tourist map of their creations. If you click the image below, you can download it in PDF format.

That's not all. Masquerade has a blog, folks, and that blog has a Platial MapKit.

Knitta doesn't have a blog. Knitta is on MySpace, which has a "blog." MySpace blogs are basically like LiveJournal blogs without the random acts of censorship but with a lot of features that are unfriendly to linking in or communicating via. But I mean no disrespect, and here's why: Late last year, when Knitta started getting some serious press, other knitters started talking about contributing to Knitta's work in other cities. Here's what someone at Knitta wrote in the first of the three MySpace blog posts the group has ever posted:

There's no monopoly on knitting or graffiti. Anyone, anywhere, can do these things. We've only elevated a new trend of combining those two activities and given ourselves street names. This is definitely open to the public. We'd love to see other people tagging with knitted items! We think that'd be great!

Here's the sticky part though... We'd like for you to tag under your own unique crew name and individual tags. We'd rather reserve the name "Knitta" and the phrase "Knitta, Please" for ourselves. That's our crew and our motto. Just like graffiti crews everywhere, they all paint, but they all have different names. I think it would be amazing to see different "crews" popping up all over the world, installing little knitted hugs across their cities. Now, when you get "discovered" and start getting press, it'd be great if you threw a wink and a nod in our direction for the inspiration. I think that's fair. We'll nod right back, in the form of posting tag photos and letters you send to us on our website (as soon as we actually go live!). We can even have a list of crew names and locations, complete with photos, on a page - just like graffiti sites.
Two weeks later, Masquerade put up their first blog post.


Note: Hello to this post's many visitors. I have some updated information, some of the details you have just read are wrong, and I will be taking myself to the mat next week, so tune in then!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Diagram of Musical Influences

Designer Marian Bantjes created this diagram of Jerry Garcia's "influences, contemporaries, and influenced" for The Fader magazine. [Link]

Friday, June 15, 2007

The State of the Art: Technorati's "Authority"

Technorati has bumped up the importance of "authority" in ranking blogs, and Technorati users want to know what it's all about. So where do they turn? Technorati, naturally. Look at this afternoon's top searches:

Unfortunately, "authority" is a word people use all the time in other contexts, so it's impossible to find posts that actually discuss the concept.

So consider this an experiment in search engineering. This post is actually about that concept of authority which Technorati users want to know about. I'll be watching it to see if it surfaces, and if so, how.

Here's what you need to know about Technorati's "authority" rankings:

On Fri. May 4th, we updated to include the Technorati Authority for blogs listed on the Blog page and in search results. This update changed the earlier references of "N blogs link here" and "X links from Y blogs" with the single Technorati Authority number. On the blog page, we also show the Technorati Rank.

Technorati Authority is the number of blogs linking to a website in the last six months. The higher the number, the more Technorati Authority the blog has.

It is important to note that we measure the number of blogs, rather than the number of links. So, if a blog links to your blog many times, it still only count as +1 toward your authority. Of course, new links mean the +1 will last another 180 days.

Technorati Rank is calculated based on how far you are from the top. The blog with the hightest Technorati Authority is the #1 ranked blog. The smaller your Technorati Rank, the closer you are to the top.

Since at the lower end of the scale many blogs will have the same Technorati Authority, they will share the same Technorati Rank.

The Technorati Top 100 shows the most popular 100 blogs based on Technorati Authority. The #1 ranked blog is the blog with the most other distinct blogs linking to it in the last 6 months. If your blog's rank is, say 305,316, this indicates that there are 305,315 blog ranks separating your blog from the #1 position.

The best way to increase your Technorati Authority is to write things that are interesting to other bloggers so they'll link to you. Linking to source material when you blog is also a great way to engage in conversation and help others find what you find interesting.

This is why getting linked from another blog's home page is so much better than being linked from within a post. The post expires in Technorati's 180-day calendar; the home page link is perpetually fresh.

Many bloggers who should be attending to their blogs spend as much time checking on their Technorati as on site statistics that deal in harder forms of data like hits, unique visitors, or bounce rates, and which are far more useful guides to readership. And that's the genius of Technorati's ranking system. Since there is no way of knowing how many blogs share your blog's authority level, there is no way of knowing how many blogs share your numerical rank. A blog ranked at 50,000 could actually be 1,000 or 1,000,000 blogs away from being ranked 49,999; likewise, there could be 5,000,000 or 50,000,000 blogs more popular. There's no way to tell.

Would we accept this sort of fuzzy math in any other area of our lives?


Range of Freedom

I love this map accompanying a story in the Daily Mail about the psychological effects on kids of having no room to roam freely. Click to enlarge.

I hate that the generational labels in the map are not labeled numerically or stacked in a way that suggests a reading order - either from the present generation back, or trickier, the opposite. A good portion of the impact is lost by requiring viewers to navigate the time-sequence with no narrative build. The ideal would be a time-lapse (Flash) produced from partial renderings of the original newspaper graphic. Most newsrooms don't think about enhancing content for an online audience, but here it would have made a big impact and would have been easy to do.

Classic Irish Children's Television Shows

Click to enlarge:

Shared by 1541 on Flickr, and heavily annotated there. [Link]

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Graphic Art of An International Sketchbook

"book" is a four-artist project in which a sketchbook was shipped back and forth between Brooklyn, New York and Belfast, Northern Ireland. The four participating artists were Duke Riley, and Mac Premo, Rory Jeffers, and Oliver Jeffers.

The thirty-six spreads offer a wealth of inspiration and of great design and art. A few of my favorites are below.

Rory Jeffers

Duke Riley

Oliver Jeffers

The sketchbook has been reprinted in a signed, limited edition and sells for about $90. Prints have also been made of each artwork and are being sold in limited editions of 50, with individual 25" x 16.5" prints selling for $175. [Link]

Monday, June 11, 2007

New Animated Shorts By Rebecca Whipple (Interview)

Rebecca Whipple, who I interviewed last year about her amazing "Language of War" watercolors, has begun working in animation. She produces individual drawings or paintings and then scans and stitches them together into animated sequences, and has so far been creating shorts which recreate short scenes from films. The first series she's showing is a pair of related film sequences, one from George Lucas' Star Wars and one from Akira Kurosawa's 1958 The Hidden Fortress, each showing the film's respective hero on the attack. Her process echoes that of Jeff Scher, but the end result is in a visual language and rhythm that is uniquely her own.

TiP: How long did these films take you to produce? What is the frame rate?

Rebecca: The Hidden Fortress animation took me about a month, but only because it was the first animation I did, so I had to learn the program. I could do the same piece now in about two weeks. The Star Wars sequence took longer because the drawings were more exact, about a month and a half or two (once again I was still learning the programs.) The frame rate is 15 fps, the same as the original film.

TiP: How did you select the films and scenes you used? What is the relationship between the two?

Rebecca: George Lucas admittedly took inspiration from the characters and story of Hidden Fortress for Star Wars. I picked the two scenes because the movements were parallel, the hero running in pursuit of the enemy; I wanted to compare the motion.

TiP: Any more in the works?

Rebecca: This project is in collaboration with Mark Bartlett, theorist and critical analyst, who is going to write an essay about the same material, i.e. the film scenes. There will be a few more film scene pairs, based on related kinds on motion, comic, action, dance, etc. This is a side project for me, and therefore, as I am working on it between other projects, it will take a while to complete. I would also like to stress that the version available of this work online is low resolution. I wish I could put a full resolution version online, but questions of ownership prevent me.

A note on another animation work: I have just finished a five-minute animation of a very different sort; it is a dream animation starring Steve Martin. It has taken up all of my energy over the last 5 months and is quite exciting. The music is not finished, so I can't show it yet. Benito Meza, a breathtaking clarinetist who plays with the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, is writing and producing the score.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Soviet Video Games

Wired has posted a gallery of Soviet-era video games, both screen views and hardware. The billiards game above features balls that come alive when hit.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Fletcher Martin

Fletcher Martin's life is as fascinating as his work. Read all about him on Today's Inspiration.

Bread Wrappers

More at the link.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Google Street View Censoring Microsoft Ads?

Nick West says,
I was cruising Google Maps' new Street View in San Francisco...and saw this billboard for competitor Microsoft's Virtual Earth. There's also a "black hole" in the same shape as the billboard right next to it -- it even obscures an edge. Maybe Google intended to delete the entire billboard for "privacy", but missed by a few feet?
Anyone disturbed?

[Via|View the map]

Animated Disney Characters Discuss Fair Use


Billboard Drawings

Friday, June 01, 2007

TV-B-Gone Discount Extended!

The TV-B-Gone 20% discount offered through TiP has gone over well and inventor Mitch has agreed to extend the offer through the end of June. The code has made it onto some coupon-code sites, which seems to be driving additional sales beyond the ones coming through this blog.

If you've been wanting to get your hands on a TV-B-Gone, the new model is the one that works with the most (and the vast majority) of televisions on the market today. We love ours (we were early adopters, buying one when the TV-B-Gone first came out and recently upgrading), and the discount you'll get using our coupon code, THINKPICS, is double what you'll see anywhere else, and better still than places which buy at wholesale and then sell at higher prices than the manufacturer. Final price through TiP is $15.99 plus tax.
Thus ends a brief and rare Think in Pictures sales pitch. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

New RealPlayer Downloads Streaming Video

From NewTeeVee:

The idea is to enable convenient video collecting for enjoyment offline, in the living room, or anywhere else at the user’s convenience. What is lost is the context of a video on a page with the comments and links surrounding it. What’s gained is the opportunity to build a permanent web video library.

The product is free, and Real plans to make money by charging people to burn videos to DVDs (CDs are free). Beyond the RealVideo format, playback works for Windows Media, QuickTime, and most importantly Flash.
Read more at the link, or just watch this:

How to Ride a Square-Wheeled Tricycle

A catenary is the curve defined by a rope or chain hanging loosely from two supports, like a "U"with a detachable jaw.

A row of inverted catenaries is the kind of surface on which you ride a bicycle vehicle with square wheels.

You can also ride on wheels like this:

on a surface like this:



and don't forget:


Stan Wagon, who developed the wheel variations and is riding it in the photograph above, has several mathematical publications available for purchase; you can also read the Mathematics Magazine article that introduced his catenary wheel (several of the diagrams in this post are taken from that article). Ivars Peterson, who wrote the article for Science News which introduced me to this concept, has also published several mathematical books, which look to be written for curious laypersons.