Pretzel Logic

In addition to animations I like to create artistic computer-generated static images. I use a wide variety of both 2D and 3D tools in their creation and composite the various elements into the final image.

A while back my friend and creative mentor, Gary David Bouton, tossed an idea at me to see what I would come up with. All he said was, “Pretzel Logic.” Okay, I’m familiar with the excellent Steely Dan album of that name, but I wasn’t immediately ready to theme my concept based on that.

After musing on the phrase for a day or two, I came to realize where I wanted to go: to me it invoked the idea that pure logic, or “straight ahead” thinking might not be what is needed for some goals. From there I came up with a caption, “Because sometimes ‘straight thinking’ just won’t get you there.”

To conceptualize that concept I wanted to show a sort of everyday businessman breaking out of a mundane, grey existence into something magical. The “portal” through which this happens, I decided, would somewhat invoke a pretzel shape in homage to the original theme.

For the “magical” elements I drew on very common fantasy themes: unicorns, castles, and dragons.  The colors in the “mundane” world are deliberately unsaturated and dull.

Pretzel Logic

In terms of construction details the two main figures, as well as the trees, are 3D models rendered in Lightwave. The terrain and sky were created using Vue. The portal, dragon, castle and mundane world are hand drawn vector graphics created with Xara Designer Pro. Primary compositing was done in Photoshop Extended.

Please feel free to comment below. I like comments.

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Gratitude

As I begin to reflect on the past year, one holding great success for me both personal and professional, I am taken by one overarching feeling:

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 5.30.30 PM

I am grateful for my family members (especially my wonderful wife Anne) who have unfailingly supported me ever since I abandoned the “gainfully employed” life and struck out on my own as a small business owner. I am grateful for my clients who have seen what I can do for them and who have chosen me to answer their animated advertising and interactive data display needs. I am grateful for the ethics and cordial relations I have always maintained in my personal and professional dealings with past associates which have opened doors of opportunity for me which would otherwise not be there. I am grateful for my local community in the greater Utica area, a small and fiercely proud one that refuses to know “quit” and of which I am so proud to be a member.

Thank you, one and all, and here’s to an even better 2015.

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Why the correct phrase is “Happy Holidays”

A personal note about the December Holidays:

When I wish you “Happy Holidays” it’s not because of some personal “war on Christmas.” It’s because “Christmas” is ONLY ONE of many holidays people celebrate at this time of year, and presuming yours is the one that matters is rather arrogant. My extended family is a mix of Catholic, Jewish and Athiest—and I personally prefer Yule as my Holiday of choice for this Winter Solstice period.

If you’re going to try to assert there’s a “reason for the season,” the only one for which everyone can agree is the axial tilt of the Earth.

So, have a Happy Hanukah, a Blessed Yule, a Merry Christmas, a prosperous Bah Humbug, or whatever you celebrate at this time of year!

Axial tilt is the reason for the season

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Spinny’s Craziest Golfball Lie of 2014

As the 2014 golfing season winds to a close, it’s time to fondly remember some of the more fun (and/or crazy) times on the course this year. Here’s one: the craziest place a golf ball I hit ended up in 2014. The course was Crestwood Golf Club, my home course. I’m on the 18th hole, a par 5 dogleg right. My tee shot was unremarkable, which for me is good because that means I kept it in play. For my second shot I took out my #5 hybrid, aiming to send it as close to the angle of the dogleg as I could manage. Instead, I shanked it to the right in a low and fast arc. Whack! It hit the trunk of a partially-rotted tree and to my surprise and wonder stuck fast there. Yikes! On the plus side it gave us all a good laugh.

Here’s the lie, and me holding the club I used to do the damage:

Golf ball stuck in tree trunk

Play it as it lies!

It should come as no surprise I took an unplayable. Argh!

How about you? What’s the craziest place one of your golf shots has ended up?

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Spinny Goes to the 2014 Honk! Festival

Every year about this time (for the past decade or so) the Somerville district of Boston plays host to the Honk! Festival. Billed as an extravaganza of “activist” street bands, it’s an excuse to get out and shake your booty to the high energy music. Yeah, some of the bands feature folks waving signs and no, I didn’t agree with all of them. It didn’t matter, I was there for the music! My brother-in-law lives very close to Davis Square, so my wife and I journeyed to Somerville to enjoy his hospitality—and the festival—for the long weekend.

The schedule for this fest is fairly simple: on Friday night the bands trickle in and you can catch impromptu performances around Davis Square. On Saturday the festival kicks off in full gear, and the bands take turns strutting their stuff at various venues around the Davis Square area. There’s a sort of schedule so you can plan to catch your favorites, or you can just wander the Square and take it all in. Brass and drums tend to predominate, as befitting the “street band” format where you’re mainly unplugged. Some of the bands feature dancers, including some on stilts who were just amazing to see.

We had a particular band we wanted to see, called The Party Band. They’re bright, high energy, and they’re pretty tight for a street band. Here’s a short video I shot of one of their songs in the Saturday set.

As you can see, they really get the crowd worked up and involved!

On Sunday the day kicks off with a parade. The bands form up at Davis Square and then march down Massachusetts Avenue to Harvard Square, where they then spend the rest of the day performing in static venues pretty much as they did on Saturday. Harvard Square is packed with booths and spectators, as well as the musical acts, and the festival atmosphere is strong. We scored a viewing spot just in front of Diesel Cafe in Davis Square, just meters from where the parade began. Here are some shots I took of various participants.

Once the last group set off on the parade route we caught the subway to Harvard Square where we met the arrivals, mingled with the crowds, did some shopping and, of course, caught another The Party Band set before we called it a day.

We had a great time, and definitely plan to return next year!

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Today’s Musing on the Meaning of Science

Sometimes I feel this bears repeating: “science” is more than just our body of knowledge; it’s also the methodology—the so-called scientific method—for adding to that body. No, we don’t know everything, we haven’t had time enough to discover it all—yet.

In the meantime, I contend there exists no other reliable method for doing that discovering; anything else falls under the heading of “making shit up.”

I would certainly be interested in hearing about other possible reliable methods for discovery—properly sourced, of course.

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“Bendgate” Redux

Heh. Just like conspiracy nutters (you know the ones: 9/11, UFOs, the grassy knoll, chemtrails…) when you definitively refute their current talking point the “bendgate” screamers just move the goalposts. Now that Consumer Reports shows the iPhone 6 Plus is actually LESS bendy than some others, (like the HTC One M8, for example), and is sturdier than many, they’re all: “No! You have to bend it RIGHT HERE! *pointing dramatically to the Fabled Weak Spot of Antioch*

Um…have you looked at the test gear used? The force is applied centrally, and braced at the ends, and then spreads across the WHOLE DEVICE, increasing until bad things happen. If there were such a proverbial glass jaw it would have broken there, and earlier than actually found. Remember: Apple tested the dog poo out of these things, then allowed third parties into their labs to see for themselves, then the tests were independently verified. Consumer Reports has historically been no friend of Apple, and would not have hesitated to raise that as an issue if it existed. I’m still waiting for answer to the question: have any of these anecdotal bending reports ever been independently substantiated as to what actually happened?

Would you please put those goalposts back? Thinking people might need them.

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So Much for “Bendgate”

Sometimes I feel the need to reiterate some simple truths. Anecdotes are not evidence. Hearsay is not evidence, even if put into writing. Empirical data, that can be verified and reproduced by others…that is evidence. It matters not how many billions of people have been fooled into believing your claim: if you cannot provide ample evidence to back it, it has no merit.

Believe it or not (see what I did there?), this morning I’m not even talking about religious claims; rather, the recent “bendgate” bandwagon by the bleating flock of Apple haters quick to rush to judgement based on a pitiful few photographs and unsubstantiated claims. Anecdotes.

Fact: it takes x amount of force directed at specified locations on an iPhone 6 Plus in order to bend it. This cannot be denied and the numbers are there for all to see and verify (and verified they have been). Claim: that amount of force can be applied through seemingly trivial actions such as sitting down with the phone in one’s pocket. That remains to be substantiated. Which pockets, how tight were the pants, how long and how often? Was the force actually applied as claimed? All of that (and more) must be tested and verified before such claims have any merit.

I see how numerous are the “sheeple” quick to jump to conclusions and it’s easier to understand how so many people can also believe so much other unsubstantiated crap.

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Networking: The Morning After

So, a new day has dawned, and you’ve survived Yet Another Networking Experience. Your head might be spinning from all the new faces and names you encountered last night and, hopefully, you have a nice pile of business cards to fill the gap left by all the ones you handed out.

So, now what?

This, my friends, is where you practice the fine art of following up. As soon as your daily schedule permits, you need to sit down with that pile of new cards and go through them carefully. Refresh your memory of each and every person in the pile and do your best to recall what you talked about before, during, and after the exchange. Those details are about to become useful.

Now get your mind cleared, your fingers limbered up, and write a follow-up email to each and every person who gave you a card. Use a friendly and informative subject line, like “Great meeting you at the Chamber Business after Hours last night!” so they’ll know right away why they’re getting an email from someone out of the blue. Be cordial and even flattering, but don’t over-do it and sound plastic and fake. The email is more effective if you can include a brief comment or reference to something you shared while talking—this not only helps reinforce the encounter in their minds as well, it shows them you were paying attention and hence their time was valuable to you. Going back to my anecdote on my “working a room” post, I mentioned how I interested a couple of people in possibly animating their logo. In my follow-up email I mentioned that possibility again, as well as added a couple of thoughts I had on how I might approach it. If they were part of a small group, such as the two people with the logo, it’s fine to address them all with a single email.

That moment you had their attention last night was fleeting, even if you made a good impression. Now they have something tangible with your name on it, reminding them of that impression, and you’ve become a more permanent fixture in their mind. If you feel especially bold, take this opportunity to pitch something of what you do, or to suggest another meeting where you can have each other’s undivided attention. It can’t hurt!

Networking is, first and foremost, all about building professional relationships. You can’t build something like that from five minutes over a handshake and a beer. Such encounters are just planting a seed, one that needs to be nurtured and watered in order to do the proverbial sprouting thing.

Now go ye forth and reap!

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Does Networking Make You Feel Sleazy?

I know that many people have hang-ups related to networking, including fear and self-consciousness. I’m not a huge fan of putting myself out there, either, given my normally-introverted state of mind. It’s taken me years to get to the point where I feel (mostly) comfortable walking up to total strangers, sticking out my hand, and striking up a conversation that’s supposed eventually to lead to what we both do for a living.

It wasn’t until I read an article in Inc. Magazine today that I realized some people’s unease might go even deeper. Here’s the link:

It’s Official: Networking Makes People Feel Sleazy

To quote part of the piece:

“Unlike personal networking in pursuit of emotional support or friendship, and unlike social ties that emerge sxpontaneously, instrumental networking in pursuit of professional goals can impinge on an individual’s moral purity–a psychological state that results from viewing the self as clean from a moral standpoint–and thus make an individual feel dirty.”

Wow, that’s some crazy stuff. I can’t say that I’ve felt this way—at least not consciously. Nervous, feeling unworthy, stuff like that, but not actually unclean. I know there are studies and then there are studies, but this one made me think.

How about you? Do you feel “dirty” when you’re pressing the flesh and promoting yourself?

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