Wednesday, June 21, 2006

1979 John Lasseter Student Film

YouTube does it again! Someone has posted The Lady and the Lamp, a hand-drawn animated short that John Lasseter made in 1979 while a student at CalArts. It's an impressive work, showing the strong feel for character, especially in normally inanimate objects, that marks his later work in the Toy Story movies and his current offering Cars. And it's quite funny and inventive, too -- also Lasseter hallmarks.

I first noticed Lasseter way back in 1986 (!) when I saw his now-famous Luxo Jr., which was the first really great fully digital short animation (and Pixar's first film). I had seen plenty of other computer animation prior to Luxo Jr., but nothing succeeded dramatically the way this one did. The "adult" lamp dealing with the frisky "kid" lamp was priceless; the computer pretty much got out of the way.

Lasseter received an Academy Award nomination for the film, the first CGI film to do so. How exciting to see that he was animating lamps the old fashioned way years before Luxo Jr.!


Thanks again, BoingBoing!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Black Ops and the Iraq War

Craig Unger over at Vanity Fair has written an amazing article on the successful lies and "black ops" that led to the Iraq War. The article details the labyrinthine web of connections through elements of Italy's intelligence community all the way to the White House. Sample text:

For more than two years it has been widely reported that the U.S. invaded Iraq because of intelligence failures. But in fact it is far more likely that the Iraq war started because of an extraordinary intelligence success—specifically, an astoundingly effective campaign of disinformation, or black propaganda, which led the White House, the Pentagon, Britain's M.I.6 intelligence service, and thousands of outlets in the American media to promote the falsehood that Saddam Hussein's nuclear-weapons program posed a grave risk to the United States.

The Bush administration made other false charges about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (W.M.D.)—that Iraq had acquired aluminum tubes suitable for centrifuges, that Saddam was in league with al-Qaeda, that he had mobile weapons labs, and so forth. But the Niger claim, unlike other allegations, can't be dismissed as an innocent error or blamed on ambiguous data. "This wasn't an accident," says Milt Bearden, a 30-year C.I.A. veteran who was a station chief in Pakistan, Sudan, Nigeria, and Germany, and the head of the Soviet–East European division. "This wasn't 15 monkeys in a room with typewriters."


Link via Glenn Greenwald's excellent Unclaimed Territory blog, which pointed me to journalist David Neiwert's superb post on his Orcinus blog. Neiwert sums up the Vanity Fair article better than I do; it's a good place to start.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Art of Science 2

Faithful readers will no doubt remember Princeton's "Art of Science" contest, which I posted about back in July. Well, they're at it again; the 2nd annual Art of Science contest is over, and the winners and runner-ups are available for viewing. Easter Bonnet (pictured) is a particular standout; it's a laser etching with a speck of dust and has a diameter about half that of a human hair.

Interior Vacuum Vessel NSTX is also pretty cool, depicting a magnetic fusion device at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.

And Defense to Offense is a dazzling psychedelic vision of Venezuelan butterflies.

Amazing Castle Optical Illusion

Via BoingBoing (again), here's an amazingly trippy visual illusion I've never seen before. Stare at the negative image of the castle for twenty or thirty seconds then, while staring at the black dot in the middle, move the mouse over the pic. The photo appears to be in color until you move your eyes, when it becomes clear that it's actually a black and white photo.

This one feels like a magic trick; the color literally vanishes right before your eyes! But, to paraphrase Doug Henning, "it's only an illusion."