Thursday, June 30, 2011

Crows Never Forget

The hilariously named "Proceedings of the Royal Society B" published a study revealing that crows can remember the faces of those (humans!) who've wronged them for over five years. Because crows are social and eerily smart, their whole flock can remember a person's face even if just one crow in the flock was wronged by him or her. Of course, what's the good of remembering the person's face if you don't do anything about it? Well, they've worked that out, too. The entire flock will attack that person every time they see them in the future.

So remember - you can insult and belittle crows as much as you want to your friends, but never to a crow's face, or in a park, or outdoors at all really, or with a window open... maybe you just shouldn't insult the crows.

I'm personally set for life with crows, though. They won't harm me. When I was in 4th grade, I saved a crow who's wing was broken and gave him to a rehabilitation center. Clearly, I didn't take advantage of this situation enough, though, or else I could have been the Queen of the Crows and used their mighty memories to attack all those who have wronged me.

Hmm... I wonder if crows are insulted or feel respected by the band Counting Crows. I'd be careful about playing outdoor concerts if I were them. Just in case.

... First the squirrels, now the crows... what forest-to-urban dwelling creature will come after us next?

A Glimpse into the "Future" of Animation




Sometimes I forget that animators for companies other than Pixar also need to do research to properly bring their characters and environments to life.

That's why these desert reference photos from the show, "Futurama" (get the title now?!?) are so surprising and delightful.

First of all, it's fun to see the figurines of the characters from the show in such lively positions and exotic places. The animators have done a great job setting up these shots. It reminds me of my first film exercise - tell a story in 24 photographs. I told the story of two clay bunnies hunting for buried treasure. The treasure was Cadbury eggs. They almost got eaten by a multicolored llama. It was my best work.

Second of all, it's a solid reminder of all the hard work that goes into producing even a basic cable animated tv show. Animators are artists tasked with bringing inanimate drawings to life. That's not an easy job, and they do it very well.

You can read the full write-up with commentary from the director at the Comedy Central Insider Blog.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Splitscreen: A Love Story

Below is the winner of Nokia's cameraphone short film competition. The requirement was to make a short film using one of their cameras. The winner, JW Griffiths (doesn't that name remind you of legendary director/racist DW Griffith of "Birth of Nation"?) shot this beautifully done love story that takes place in New York, Paris, and London - three of my favorite places!

It's beautiful, short, and lovingly full of love - enjoy!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Want a Nice Animation to Watch besides Cars 2?

Here's a Pixar-style "Rocketeer." It's even got an adorable young boy like young Carl Fredrickson in "Up"!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Did Final Cut Pro Just Hit the Amateur Circuit?

It looks like Apple may be giving away its near-monopoly on quality editing software to gain more big amateur consumer bucks. /Film has an excellent write up and collection of articles on Apple's release of Final Cut Pro X, the newest and cheapest version of Final Cut Pro.

Apparently, Apple cut the quality way down in order to cut the price from thousands of dollars to hundreds. They're hoping that people like me, who use Final Cut Express, will feel like we can finally afford to move up to Final Cut Pro. But is it worth it to pay a few hundred more for something that's no higher quality?

Now film professionals are worried that their software, Final Cut Pro 7, is going to become obsolete (Apple has not confirmed that they will keep producing FCP7) without having a new version to adopt. Instead, they'll have to spend thousands on Avid or another professional-grade software and take serious time to learn them. That doesn't sound like fun.

Is Apple seriously jumping off of the professional bandwagon? Or is this some sort of weird publicity stunt? Or is it really not as bad as it sounds? Your thoughts?

I'd Take Dolphin, Would You?

If I were given the choice between Spanish, French, Chinese, and Dolphin in high school, I'd definitely take Dolphin. And it looks like this might be a possibility in the future. Scientists are working on developing a common language between humans and dolphins. They're language is immensely complex, though, because their range of frequency is much wider than ours (i.e. like elephants except on the high end of the frequency spectrum rather than the low end, they can speak without us hearing) and they can direct their voices towards other dolphins, so it can be tough to figure out who exactly is talking.

Still, it really is an amazing possibility. Some people say that if we want to be able to talk to aliens, we should learn to talk to dolphins first. Works for me. Maybe they'd tell us how we can stop destroying the ocean. They do seem smarter than us - and certainly happier.

[Article via Singularity Hub]

Sum Up Harry Potter in One Word

With July 15th creeping upon us, I thought it was time to post this great video from "Empire" of actors from the Harry Potter series attempting to sum it up in one word.

Mine is "Transformative." What's yours?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Stephen Colbert's Northwestern Graduation Speech

Stephen Colbert went to Northwestern (like my sister!), and for his 25th anniversary of his (almost) graduation, he gave this very inspiring, very funny speech.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Bridesmaids Effect: I'm In!

Love this article about 'The "Bridesmaids" Effect' over at THR. Hollywood, I'm expecting your call anytime now. Seriously, I've got some funny, female-driven scripts for you read. Also, I'm awesome.

I'm waiting!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

FINAL Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 Trailer!

What could be a better way to come back from our wonderful guest posts than with the FINAL HP7:P2 trailer? I know. Onto the squeals of joy...

OMG THIS IS SO BADAAAAAAAAASS! And FILLED with HUGE spoilers all over the place. I kind of wish that I hadn't watched it so I could be more surprised in a month but it was totally worth it because I AM SO JAZZED ABOUT THIS MOVIE!!!!!

It is going to be (better be!) amazing and incredible and incredibly awwwwwwwesome!!!!

Ok, ok, enjoy!



EEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!

PS. What is Pottermore? I don't know but we'll find out June 23, 2011 at 2am EST!

GB: Paris Day Seven: The Last Day: Photo Set 1




AS's parents got into town this morning and, though severely jetlagged, were nice enough to walk around with us and treat us to lunch and dinner.

We stopped in the taxidermy shop that had the deer in a suit that AS and I walked by on day one. Here are two photos of some of the big animals they have upstairs. Beyond these two rooms is a room filled with bugs where you can choose your own bugs to put in a little display box. We considered getting some cockroaches mounted to scare off potential roaches from infesting our apartment in New York, but eventually decided against it.

Lunch today was at a restaurant that specialized in souffles. I had a tomato souffle with anchovy paste on top and AS had a pea and onion souffle. Both were delicious, but not as good as the dessert souffles. I had a chocolate souffle and AS had a hazelnut cookie souffle.

After lunch we walked through a little square. Then here's a cool looking statue that's in the middle of a big intersection near where we ate. He has the torso of a man, the body of a horse, the legs of a man, and the hat of a traffic cone. He also had both man and horse genitalia, so that's great.

After lunch we strolled around some shops in the neighborhood and eventually meandered back to the apartment for some relaxing before dinner. She and I each had steaks with some veggies and potatoes. Very good. My second steak in as many days- a streak that will most likely end tomorrow pending whatever our airplane meal is, which I pray is not airline steak.

After dinner we strolled back to the apartment. Now we've settled in for a relaxing night of packing our suitcases and charging our iPods. We leave for the airport tomorrow at 10am (taking a cab instead of the metro) and our flight is at 1pm-ish. We land in Newark around 4pm and should be back to our apartment god-willing around 6pm. I'm very happy that we have Monday off for Memorial Day or it would make for a rough day at work. Our plans are to order in and watch all the season finales of the shows we missed last week.

A relaxing end to a wonderful vacation.

GB: Paris Day Six: The Day of No Photos: Photo Set 3




COINCIDENTALLY, the dancing poodles shop is only a few doors down from our good ice cream place, Berthillon, so we figured we might as well each get a triple scoop of chocolate noir.

Berthillon, which was closed when we went earlier in the week, was open today but when we got there they didn't have the chocolate noir flavor that we were craving. So we actually went back to the little cafe just down the street and got our cones there. The girl serving us was baffled that we wanted three scoops of the same flavor. Also, the size of a "triple scoop" in France is about the size of a single scoop in the U.S. Anywhere I've ever been in the US a triple scoop would've been the size of a softball.

Along those same lines, the girls we had lunch with yesterday told us that the portions at McDonald's in France are much smaller than the portions in America. Apparently the largest size you can order in France is the smallest size you can order in America. Fascinating/U-S-A! U-S-A!

Invigorated from our ice cream cones, we somehow found the strength to stop at the macaron bakery again on the walk home. This time we remembered to take a photo. We got chocolate, vanilla, raspberry, and coffee today. Dinner was more cheese and baguette. We should be polishing off our second brick of cheese at breakfast tomorrow.

AS managed to get a snapshot of a cloudy sunset looking out the bedroom of the apartment. It was brisk today and cloudy but it didn't rain. We've been pretty lucky with weather all week.

AS's parents are flying in tomorrow morning to start their four week stint in Paris. Not sure what's on the docket since they'll be jetlagged, but maybe a walk in a nearby garden. We'll definitely enjoy a family lunch and dinner out on the town.

Oooo, speaking of being fat, I just remembered I have half a nutella and banana crepe in the fridge that I couldn't fit in my gullet last night. It calls to me. So long, suckers!

GB: Paris Day Six: The Day of No Photos: Photo Set 2



After our museum trip, we decided to walk back over to the store with the dancing poodles so AS could get another souvenir.

We walked by Notre Dame again on the way over and crossed a footbridge behind it. We heard the bridge is called Lovers' Bridge or something like that and that young couples will write their names on a lock and fasten it to the bridge. If you look REALLY carefully at the bottom right of the closeup shot, you'll notice that AS and I didn't put a lock on the bridge because that's vandalism and all these people should be in jail.

GB: Paris Day Six: The Day of No Photos: Photo Set 1



This morning after a standard breakfast in the apartment of cheese and jam with a baguette, we lounged for a bit until heading out to lunch. We've proudly been to most of the places we wanted to visit so today was kind of a bonus day. We had a delicious lunch at a bistro near the Seine. AS had her standard roast chicken that came with green beans and I had a salmon fillet with mac and cheese. Both were delicious. Our waiter was an American ex-pat from Austin who was very excited to speak English to us even though we ordered in French.

After lunch we walked over to the Musee d'Orsay which houses lots of impressionist and post-impressionist painting and sculpture. The building itself is an old train station. You can see how cool it looks in the first photo. Also, note at the bottom of that photo the no cameras sign. Apparently all photography is prohibited in this museum so I was lucky to sneak that shot. Afterward, we were able to grab two exterior shots of the building though.

We saw a lot of Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Renoir, Cezanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Degas. They were all pretty cool, especially some of the Van Gogh's that I recognized. My favorite painting was "La Chat Blanc" by Pierre Bonnard. Since The Man wouldn't let me take a picture, here's a link to it on The Man's website.

GB: Paris Day Five: Louvre: Photo Set 5



Here's one more cool ceiling photo. I think it's safe to say we barely saw any of the Louvre even though we were walking in it for hours. It'll give us something to tackle on future trips.

After the museum, we walked to a bakery to get some macarons. We ate only 90% of them before AS remembered to take a picture. We tried the following flavors: Chocolate, Vanilla, Caramel, Raspberry, Pistachio, and Coffee. They were all delicious with chocolate of course being the best. Raspberry and Vanilla are pictured.

For dinner tonight we splurged for a fancy dinner at a cafe near the apartment. AS had a guinea hen with white truffle risotto and I had a steak with mashed potatoes. After dinner we got some dessert crepes from a cart near the restaurant. Yes, we did have dessert before and after dinner today. I regret nothing.

Tomorrow is a wildcard day for us. I might go to the catacombs in the morning and I think we have one more museum to check out, but it should be a laid back day. Maybe take a walk at night to see things lit up. Our goal is to find a good place to try french onion soup. Any recommendations?

GB: Paris Day Five: Louvre: Photo Set 4







We spent most of our time in the Egyptian section of the museum. Half because we're both interested in ancient Egypt and a slightly larger half because we couldn't find our way out of it.

In another room there were some cool statues of cat-men. Here is a shot of some sarcophagi that looked pretty cool.

There was a wall that had some weird mummies in it. You can see lots of cats in this shot. There were also birds and if you look at the bottom a mummified crocodile. The photo is a little fuzzy, but those are fish sarcophagi.

Here's another ceiling where the room had some black and brown Greek pots and the ceiling had carvings of golden armor in it. Then a cool shot looking down the arches of a long hallway at all the rooms. Note how few people are in the hallway. This is how crowded the rest of the Louvre was compared to on the way to/in front of the Mona Lisa.

GB: Paris Day Five: Louvre: Photo Set 3





Here's a nice view of the courtyard from inside the museum. It was windy out today, and you can see the wind blowing the water in the fountain.

This next picture is a snapshot of a ceiling in one of the rooms. I actually thought that the ceilings in most of the rooms were cooler than the art in them. Very three dimensional and many different styles room to room.

There was a smaller cattle herd to get to the Venus de Milo, but the crowd was small. I was disappointed that the gift shop didn't sell a gummy Venus de Milo, and also that no one at the gift shop watched The Simpsons.

We wandered around the Louvre for a while and found a cool medieval section in the basement that had a model of what the building looked like around 1100AD and had stones from the original structure. It would've been cool to learn more about all the medieval stuff, but only about half the signs in the Louvre are in English and none of the things we wanted to know more about were in that half.

GB: Paris Day Five: Louvre: Photo Set 2




We had to shove a lot of children and elderly, but we got close enough to take a few pictures of the Mona Lisa. Her eyes do follow you, but other than that it just seemed like a nice portrait.

AS liked this painting of dogs. It is literally six feet from the Mona Lisa in the same room and was a ghost town.

GB: Paris Day Five: Louvre: Photo Set 1





Today we had lunch with one of AS's old friends from summer camp who lives in the same apartment building a few floors up. She and her roommate are both French but speak English too. It marked the first time all week we had a conversation with anyone who wasn't a waiter, which was refreshing. They cooked salmon and AS was too polite to turn it down even though she doesn't like fish. It was good, though I doubt I'll ever see her eat fish again.

After lunch we walked to the Louvre. We had bought our tickets ahead of time so we were able to stroll in and avoid the line. Here's a view from under the glass pyramid. Once you're inside there are signs everywhere pointing you in the direction of the Mona Lisa, but if you can't read then you can just follow the cattle herd that slowly ambles from the front door up some steps and down a hall to get to the painting. I took three snapshots of the journey. It really felt like we were being corralled along. In the last shot you can see the Mona Lisa in the distance.

GB: Paris Day Four: Death March 2: The Re-Deathening: Photo Set 7




These massive doors are pretty cool. They've got tiny versions of all of Rodin's sculptures on them. AS found out that they're supposed to be the doors to the last circle of hell in Dante's Inferno, the ones that say Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here. Not to be confused, of course, with the sign above the audience doors at The Daily Show which reads Abandon News All Ye Who Enter Here.

AS tells me this sculpture of three men is also famous. I believe I said "Look there's the Eiffel Tower!"

Here's one more snapshot of us in the main courtyard and then a clean shot of the museum and the weird giant silver sculptures.

After a long day of walking we stopped at the cheese shop and picked up a new cheese to have with a baguette for dinner. We got a hard cheese this time that's less smelly than the cheese we bought on Sunday. I would compare it to a stronger parmesan with a hint of smelliness. Delicious.

Tomorrow we tackle the Louvre, where I understand if we don't crack at least one of DaVinci's codes we get our Euros back.

GB: Paris Day Four: Death March 2: The Re-Deathening: Photo Set 6





Here is what I assume is a self-sculpture of Rodin.

You can tell by the next photo how close the Rodin Museum is to the Hotel des Invalides. You can also see the tip of the Eiffel Tower in the background. Under the tarp at the bottom of the photo, a worker is cleaning one of the sculptures.

These three sculptures were hidden in the woods. They're all the same form: one nude, one without a head or hands, and one clothed.

There was a cool building that showed a lot of things that were half sculpted. The white stone head is the same guy (Victor Hugo oddly enough) carved several times. Behind this building is the completed statue in bronze.

GB: Paris Day Four: Death March 2: The Re-Deathening: Photo Set 5




Later in the afternoon we walked over to the Rodin Museum to take in some sculptures. There's a museum section indoors and a garden section outdoors. We stuck to the garden.

AS indulged herself in our second rose garden of the day before we saw The Thinker. What is he thinking you ask? Probably "Boy don't I look artsy all backlit by the sun?" Also, enjoy a side view.

AS taught me that there are only two authentic Rodin Thinker sculptures in the world, one here and one at Columbia in New York. Now we've finally seen both!

The garden here was also very beautiful. Some sculptures were in the open by well-kept hedges and some were hidden among trees.

GB: Paris Day Four: Death March 2: The Re-Deathening: Photo Set 4





As promised, here are another whale shot, an overhead view from the second floor. The skeleton of the Right Whale had all it's baleen in its mouth.

Floor two had a few dinosaur skeleton. AS later scoffed that the dinosaurs were mounted using the outdated tail-on-the-floor method. France is such a backwards country!

This alligator looking thing was 15 feet long and pretty ferocious looking. Almost as exciting as the Charnia Masoni from the Charnwood Forrest.

Across the street from the museum was a mosque were we sat and enjoyed some tea and pastries. It was a very relaxing courtyard and the sparrows only started swooping at our crumpets toward the end of our time there.

After tea we trekked back toward the apartment to rest our feet before heading out again. We grabbed lunch at a cafe on the way. AS had a steak and I tried the bouef bourguignon. Both meals were delicious and neither of them got photographed.

GB: Paris Day Four: Death March 2: The Re-Deathening: Photo Set 3




The first floor of the paleontology museum is wall to wall skeletons. This area seemed less about teaching you things and more about "Hey if we lose all the signs and educational information we can squeeze two more horse skeletons in here!" It was cool and creepy at the same time. Note the photo of the cabinets filled with different animals' brains. They had dozens more of these cabinets filled with different organs or sometimes animals in jars with their guts exposed. I only took a picture of the brains cabinet because things got pretty weird pretty quickly.

The back half of the room was all whale skeletons. A few more whale pics will follow this email.

GB: Paris Day Four: Death March 2: The Re-Deathening: Photo Set 2




Two cool statue pics attached here. The first one is in the garden next to where a field trip of little kids were eating lunch. It's a bear fighting a man. Note the bear cub that the man has presumably killed and the knife the man has presumably plunged into the bear.

There was a cool statue of a stegosaurus outside the paleontology museum, but I don't know why they didn't trim the ferns a little more so you could see its head. AS apes steggy with her hat.

Speaking of apes, I don't think anything at the Louvre is going to bump this last sculpture out of my favorite art slot. This is literally the first thing you see when you walk into the paleontology museum.

I'm not sure what the title of this piece is, but I'm hoping it's either "Mother Orangutan with Child (Strangling Human)" or "It was Earth!"