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Showing posts from February, 2010

THE REVENGE OF THE TITANIC

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The mighty Titanic ruled the seas for almost four whole days before it struck an iceberg and sank without a trace in the black waters of the northern Atlantic.


A souvenir postcard from the Titanic, found in the coat pocket of Edith Brown, a small girl lowered into a lifeboat just before the great ship sank.

The lesson of the Titanic was obvious: humans had lost perspective about their place in the universe. Their insignificant little inventions had made them vain. Ancient Greek tragedies repeatedly warned about the folly of such hubris.

The icebergs must have had a good laugh over our "unsinkable" little boat.


Yet, less than a century later, icebergs are getting their asses kicked by global warming from our inventions. Fifty percent of the glaciers have vanished from the earth. Looks like we humans have scored a TKO in the second round. Who's laughing now?

I was thinking about this recently when I beta tested a movie studio's prototype for the next generation of digital…
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Compressed charcoal on rives paper, 16"x 26".
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These are color key roughs for the animated movie Shark Tale. This approach was meant to be a fun and splashy way of quickly establishing the lighting and feel of a location in photoshop.
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HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY TO ALL!

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WILLIAM HATHERELL (1855-1928)

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William Hatherell was a Victorian era illustrator who worked for magazines such as The Graphic, Harpers, Scribner's and the Century. Today he is mostly remembered for crudely printed images such as these:





The printing technology in Hatherell's day was pretty primitive. Combined with cheap paper stock, it stripped Hatherell's work of much of its sensitivity and expressiveness. Of course, like all resourceful artists Hatherell made the best of his limitations; he emphasized strong compositions and high contrasts that could survive the publication process.

But he did more.

Hatherell might easily have used the disadvantages of his medium as an excuse for dashing off fast, limited work. Many artists did. In fact, his employers encouraged him to do so, in order to increase productivity and profits. Instead, Hatherell worked carefully and deliberately, crafting sensitive pictures with subtle features that were undetectable to his larger audience. As one contemporary noted, Hat…
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Compressed charcoal on ivory Strathmore paper.
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FIRST CONTACT

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Every once in a while we do a post on science fiction stories here. For me the genre is just endlessly interesting thanks to remarkable storytellers who break new ground with each advancement in technology, biology, evolutionary psychology, etc. If you add into the mix recent discoveries of planets potentially capable of harboring life in other solar systems, suddenly novels of "first contact" have intriguing new playgrounds. A recent novel I haven't been able to stop thinking about is Blindsightby Peter Watts. It in part explores the questions: If an extrasolar intelligence arrived, would it even be possible for us to parse a completely alien psychology? And how would we react if it seemed to refuse contact or took no notice of our attempts to do so? We have a poor track record in dealing with things we don't understand and that frighten us, and Blindsight is a frightening novel. It has a kind of Richard Dawkins fueled bleakness that makes the story compelling but …

ONE LOVELY DRAWING, part 30

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I love this sweet combination of art and science:

Henry Hexham illustration forThe Principles of the Art Militaire, 1637

For me this drawing combines the beauty of the physical world (that funky little cannon could've been drawn by R. Crumb or George Herriman) with the beauty of the mathematical principles underlying that world. The artist who drew this had to labor under two sets of laws: the laws of perspective and the laws of physics. I respect the discipline required to make such pictures.

As far as we know, Pythagoras of Samos was the first human being to recognize the connection between mathematics and the design of the world, 2500 years ago. Arthur Koestler wrote about the awesome significance of that moment:
[Pythagoras'] influence on the ideas, and thereby on the destiny of the human race was probably greater than that of any single man before or after him.... [His] was the first successful reduction of quality to quantity, the first step towards the mathematization of hu…