Sunday, October 13, 2013

It's about character (pun intended)

I fell in love with puppet theatre when I was a kid, and the fascination about it has never stopped entrancing me. There is something magical about the transference that occurs from puppeteer to puppet and vice versa, as the puppet character takes not only a life of it's own but starts controlling the life of the puppeteer!

As Ricky Syers, creator of Stix says in this video "I'm not really sure where Stix is going...but I am willing to go along for the ride".  This experience holds true for all of us who work in this or other forms of storytelling. We see our characters take a life of their own and have to be very careful not to intervene but simply clear the way to let them express themselves.

Like Gustave Baumann, a maker of marionettes and creator of The Puppet Wranglers said in his comment about the work of master Bill Dwiggins; "These animated pieces of wood, properly jointed, take on a life of their own, move about in ways you never dreamed of, and rewrite your script without bothering to ask permission."

William Addison Dwiggins (1880-1956) by the way, was a type designer (characters, get it?), calligrapher, typographer, illustrator and writer, one of the foremost contributors to the printing arts, but my admiration for him comes from the world he created through his Experimental Theatre, where some truly extraordinary characters came to life, in a meticulous carved environment where every element of design, wether visible to the audience or not, was made with the exacting precision of his great font designs, widely used in the book publishing industry, and carried today in digital form by Linotype.

Dwiggins is also credited with coining the term 'graphic designer' in 1922*

*Livingston, Alan and Isabella., 'Dictionary of graphic design and designers'. London: Thames and Hudson, 1992

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Alaska's bad Genes

When two of the most horrible, unethical and irresponsible specimens the human race can produce appear at the top of the food chain we can easily deduce that gene disease is spreading in Alaska. Were Sara Paling and Lisa Murkowski separated at birth? Or is total disregard for the future (and present) of the human species a typical Alaskan trait? Eskimos have had time to adapt to subzero temperatures through thousands of years, but apparently more recent opportunistic invasive species like Palinians and Markowsians have suffered a serious brain freeze that has only left their greed organs intact.

This arrogant woman (take your pick, they are interchangeable) is using the power entrusted to her by her "constituents" (read oil companies, dirty power plants and other offending industries) and supported by her "fellow republicans" to prevent any measure that might protect the environment, our health and that of our children, not to mention the rest of the animal kingdom and every other species from certain destruction were she to prevail.

Maybe the very dim witted Pat Robertson has a point. God is punishing the human race for having given birth to defective specimens like him and the above mentioned abominations which are of course loudly and openly applauded by a "broad swath of industry, agriculture and energy lobbies" which are afraid any E.P.A regulation might cut into their obscene profits, GOD FORBID!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Supreme Puppet Judges of America

It won't cease to amaze me the stupidity of a system that allows a bunch of decrepit right-wing fanatics, so called "judges", to destroy one of the greatest countries in the world by letting themselves be, very profitably swayed, by the profiteers that rape and ravage our land for the benefit of their bank accounts, their "stakeholders" benefits and the will of politicians intent on grabbing the power to curtail what we so arrogantly tout to the rest of the world, freedom and democracy.

Disguising their vomitive decision as "freedom of speech", they, with their supine ignorant vote, have managed to enthrone what is simply hate speech, hate for the future of children for generations to come, hate for the land, hate for the health of our planet, who in the hands of greedy corporations will simply be depleted and destroyed in record time, if they get their wish, since they in turn will be able to pick and choose their limp representative puppets to govern us.

I say if they get their wish, because, if we were in almost any other country, people would be in the streets by the millions, putting their lives on the line to bring down these arrogant fools who have already shown their utmost lack of respect for the human species.

Theirs is not just another legal decision, but a deadly blow to a democracy already failing, corroded as it is by the powerful interest of banks, religious right wing fanatics whose media empires mush and blend in thoughtless pulp the minds of the ignorant and hapless masses under their spell.

Am I mad? no, I am furious, mostly with myself, for having believed in the possibility of a better world, and having brought children to this world with the hope for a better life. Unfortunately, moving to a better, more respectful country, with a better, more open and most importantly, more intelligent dialogue is not a solution, but certainly to be considered, why? because the decision of these blind idiots affect not only this land but the globe as a whole.

They have, with their stamp of approval to rape, given permission fo the polluters, destroyers and economic terrorists of our world, carte blanche to do as they wish, since obviously we won't be able to exert any more influence abroad after this, the most deleterious decision, taken by public officials, elected by the power of money, since Bush's imbecile and well orchestrated decision to do, whatever it took to shape our world for ever. I am sure, dim wits like his or the likes of the Palins, the Limbaughs or the Pat Robertsons of this country must be very proud of their accomplishments.

It shames me to be part of this limp and weak society that allows itself to be abused in such obscene and unjust way, without even making a stand.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Help is in our Hands

From the book: Solidarity Will Transform the World by Jeffrey Korgen

There are some points in life when every other thing is secondary. This is one of those moments, when millions of people are terrified and with a very grim future ahead.

We are all connected. Our group is like a family, we will work together for months, in some cases we will make friends forever. Our fellow student Christine Irvika, is from Haiti, let's hope that her family is well and let's keep her in our thoughts. She is part of this family.

In two days more than 4.5 million dollars have been texted to aid in this disaster. We can help right from where we are.

Call 90999 on your cell phone and text "HAITI." You will be charged $10.00 on your phone bill, the money of which will go to the Red Cross.

If you want to send goods instead, this is one suggestion, since it goes directly to the closest point of contact (their neighbors in Santo Domingo), "official aid" always takes too much time at a time when hours make a difference:

The Centers of the Company of Jesus in Dominican Rep. (Santo Domingo: Bono and Alberto Hurtado Center; Santiago: Center Bellarmino and CEFASA; Dajabón: Border solidarity) has established an aid network to help the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. They are accepting the following :

- Can Kidney beans
- Can sausages - Can Sardines - Can Tuna - Saltine crackers
- non-perishable Milk - Fruit juices in non-perishable containers - Nonperishable Foods.

- Oral rehydration serum - Gauzes - Cotton - Analgesic (acetaminophen, ibuprophen) - - Elastic Bandages - Antitetanic Toxoide - Human antitetanic Ganmaglobulina - Antibiotic (amoxicifilina, in suspension and/or tablets) - Antiseptic (type yodopovidona, or type soap of clorhexidina) - sanitary Towels

Please send no clothing
You can send your contributions to the following addresses:

- Bonó, c. Josefa Brea N. 65, Mejoramiento Social, Santo Domingo.
Tel.: 809-682-4448.
(You need to activate Javascript to see this web.)


- Centro Alberto Hurtado, Av. Jiménez Moya N. 37, (al lado de
Inazúcar), Santo Domingo

Monday, December 14, 2009

In Search of the Lost Time

Charon and Psyche

I know well that many will disagree about the use of the time of our lives. Who am I to talk about this? There are many ways of visualizing the passage across the Styx, that well respected scenic river that takes us to shores beyond the everlasting fog.

I find this visualization by EA (yes, Electronic Arts, my old employee) rather amusing and interesting. For those of you who are interested in the most popular sport in the world, (no, not baseball nor your mis-called football, the one you play throwing the blimp with your HAND?) but yes, fútbol, football or soccer it is. According to FIFA football is actually played by more than 240 million people in about 200 countries.

Just to set the record straight I would like to mention that when I proposed to design the very first football computer game (for the Commodore 64) at Electronic Arts, they dismissed it as not very commercial. In fact one producer, who shall remain nameless asked me in his infinite cubiculed ignorance, if I could design some more "action" into the game, such as killing or at least maiming other comment.

Well, fast forward to 2010 and here we have the game called FIFA 10 and the visualization I was talking about, called FIFA EARTH. It shows, arguably in real-time how many games are being played and have been played since its release a little over a month ago. So far, as I write this, the counter reads 136, 826, XXX (to fast to pin down, so by the time you check it I am sure it will be a very large number.) That makes for more than 2,000,000 soccer video games played every day! Do you understand my Proustian title now?

This visualizations is quite complex and immense, using streams of data not only from played games but also geo-located Tweets about them, real or virtual, and everything else related to the sport or of interest to fans. Consider for example that last year about 2 billion video game matches were played. How is that for a not very commercial game? LOL! that remark is up there with "I predict only a handful of computers will satisfy the requirements of the world" or something to that effect.

A Tetra Drachma from Athens, 450 B.C.

Not that I had become rich if I had done that first football game (which was completely designed with AI and all), but I think at least I would have one or two silver pieces to pay the price of traversing the by now, very polluted waters of the mythical river.

The Eye Writer


We live in interesting times, no question about that. Plague, famine, kids killing people in remote villages from their drone playstations in Las Vegas, sipping RedBull. It is quite difficult to know how we can provide an ounce of balance to a ton of misery, so that ounce must be something really special to rescue our impossibly damaged spirit.

The influx of very damaged very young humans, the broken byproduct of that biggest business which is war, ends up in the landfills of society, the eternal superfund from which some people pick up the pieces and try to put things back together, albeit in a very different way. A leg here, an arm there, an eye or two, perhaps a brain? Can we pull us back together?
I will call him Luis

While searching for an appropriate picture to help me cut through the fog I had trouble finding one of the millions of miserable children which survive doing such a thing, because Corbis Corporation, the photo "service" owns most of them. I wonder, do those children get a percentage directly deposited to their pig accounts?

I guess you get the point. What triggered all this diatribe was me thinking about what we do on a daily basis, our "job" in other words. Do we really do something useful, something that tips the balance and creates a positive change? I think one of the reasons that the Open Source movement is so important is that it is a sort of groundswell, difficult to perceive because it is so pervasive and widespread.

But this movement, so dangerous to the monopolists of the world will tumble the most arrogant of them. There is no corporation, not even the most technically sophisticated that can evolve as rapidly as thousands or millions of people working together for a common cause.

As a little sample, I offer this movie about such an endeavour, one that ends with a call to hackers all over the world to collaborate, in this and any other way that might become the glue that binds us together again, into our cyborgian future.

The Eyewriter from Evan Roth on Vimeo.

Open Frameworks, F.A.T., Graffiti Research Lab, graffiti legend Tempt1 and of course EyeWriter got together to produce that ounce of energy for each and everyone of us...

Here is the how to and all the good monopoly-breaking stuff for those DIY's among us. Keep on DIYing...!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ευγένιος Σπαθάρης και Σωτήρης Σπαθάρης

Angel Who Recites Poems for the Death of Heroes

I intended to write a note about Eugenios Spatharis (Ευγένιος Σπαθάρης), since it is him that revived an ancient art for a new generation, including those who only saw the shadows projected on the television cave. But I though better to step back a few years, to understand where all this comes from and have perhaps a better idea of where it is going.

In his Memoirs, Sotiris Sphataris (Σωτήρης Σπαθάρης ) Eugenios's father, relates, with painful honesty, the events in his life and time that made him, what I consider, a master of one of the most important expressions of visual storytelling, since our beginnings as cave dwellers until this time of new media, convergence and interactivity, words and phrases which lose meaning as rapidly as a passing shadow.

Behind the White Screen is a perfect title for his memoirs. A screen which not only represents the canvas of the artist, but the medium through which art and life truly interact with those lucky enough to be entranced by its magic.

Sotiráki, as his mother called him, had a life worthy of a Greek tragedy or a Charles Dickens novel, of extreme poverty, abuse and misfortune, of daily beatings by a drunken father who used him as a beggar since he was 5 years old.

But then one day a white screen went up in town. Some oil lamps were lit behind and as the shadows danced and played and fought, a door opened in Sotíris heart that never closed again. And through it a whole spirit of a people came alive and multiplied in thousands of other hearts and minds.

In Plato's dialogue between Sócrates and Glaucon, the allegory of the cave represents a world devoid of ideas where fiction reigns supreme in lieu of reality, a perfect allegory for today, where virtual reality or VR is touted as the new world, where we, as the chained people of the cave, even farther away from the exit, are to spend the rest of our lives, our cones and rods tickled by the bits and bytes that illuminate our fool's paradise.

But from its royal beginnings in ancient China (Han Dynasty), shadow puppets brought stories to life, reflecting the wants and needs, the hopes and fears of people, from emperors to beggars. The shadows liberated people from the chains giving voice to the silent, joy to the sad and fear to the mighty. The cave was opened for the common people and like a virus spread all over the world.

They came to Greece during the Ottoman Empire and as is common with all theater arts, involvement with it was considered a disreputable profession, akin to prostitution whose practitioners were regarded as the lowest of the low, even though on the other side of the screen, people of all walks of life and fortune would enjoy their characters played and mocked, disrobed and challenged.

As a young kid in love with shadow puppets and its Karagiozis character, Sotiris had to suffer many a beating, simply for being them. In a time when a mother proclaimed that she would rather see her son dead and buried than becoming a puppeteer, Sotiris love for the art surmounted every obstacle in his way, in a truly odyssean fashion. And so a living legend was born.

His art did not die with his passing in 1972, it lived in his son, Eugenios Spatharis which carried the tradition until a few days ago, when he also traveled on, May 10, 2009.

The light still burns behind the white screen, waiting for the shadows to appear and the show to begin.