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Ocotber 14, 2007 sun
October 14th, 2007

Voyager II and Neptune

I am in Seattle where I spent a nice day with my friend Dr. Jim Blinn. For those who don't know their CGI history, in 1979-1980 Jim Blinn at the Jet Propulsion Lab created the beautifully dramatic recreations of how the Voyager I and II space probes were then touring the outer planets of our Solar System. He also did the CG work for Carl Sagan's breakthrough TV series COSMOS. Before this CG was viewed by most of mainstream Hollywood as just a lot of expense to get weak wireframes with simple movements for a ficticious computer readout or something.

Of course, there were other pioneers creating new advances in visual textures and movement, but you had to go to a specialized festival or conference to see them. Jim Blinn's animation of the Voyager ziping through the rings of Neptune and around the Jovian moon system came into millions of homes via their major news shows on free network TV. For the first time millions were thrilled and inspired by CGI animation. They just assumed the images were real. The COSMOS show on PBS back then was a major event like a Ken Burns documentary today- Blinn's work- like Carl Sagan walking through a virtual recreation of the long destroyed ancient Library of Alexandria, demonstrated the potential of the computer created image. I think his work extended the range of the digital image by a quantum leap. CG pioneer Dr. Ivan Sutherland had said back then, " Of the top ten computer animators in the world, Jim Blinn is seven."

Check out Jim's fun and informative website

Correction: Yesterday I wrote that actor Clarence Muse played Sam the piano player in the Humphrey Bogart film Casablanca. It was actually Dooley Wilson. Thanks to all who wrote in to bust me on that one. Mea Culpa!

B-Days: William Penn-1644, King James II Stuart, Joseph Plateau, Samurai sword master Masoaka Shiki 1867, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lillian Gish, Ralph Lauren, Eamon De Valera, e.e.cummings, Mobutu Sese Seko, C. Everet Koop, John Dean III, Cliff Richards, Roger Moore is 80, Jack Arnold -the director of the Creature from the Black Lagoon

1066-WHEN WILLIAM ROSE AND HAROLD FELL- BATTLE OF HASTINGS- The Norman army of William the Bastard defeats and kills King Harold Godwinson of the Anglo-Saxons. The occupation and settlement of Norman French into England had a dramatic effect on the language ensuring the language you are now reading would become English, instead of something between Dutch and Danish. The Normans also introduced the English to the concept of surnames- Wulf the Tailor yielding to Robert Beauceant and William Longchamps. Duke William, who was never fond of the title 'Bastard", became instead King William the Conquerer.

1492- Columbus and his men left San Salvador to continue west and look for Cipango- their name for Japan.

1529- WESTERN EUROPE DISCOVERS COFFEE- The first Turkish Siege of Vienna ends. Despite the oath of Sultan Sulieman the Magnificent, who told his troops that if they didn't win he would fill the Danube with their genitals, the Turkish army lifts the siege and retreats back into Hungary. As the Viennese went through the Turkish camp they found large quantities of black beans that tasted awful. the ancient Egyptians mashed coffee beans into cakes and ate them. A Polish mercenary named Adam Kolschitsky had lived in Turkey and knew what to do with the bitter beans. He opened the first Viennese coffeehouse, the KolschitskyDom. He is also credited with inventing the coffee filter, which made the strong Turkish java palatable to Europeans. The Viennese commemorated their victory with a pastry shaped like the Turkish battle ensign, the crescent, or the Croissant. History however is silent about who first uttered the awesome command DOUBLE-DOUBLE-ICE-MOCHA-NON-FAT-LATTE !

1670-At a performance before King Louis XIV the Sun King at the Chateau of Chambord Moliere’s satire “Le Bourgeouis Gentilhomme” premiered. Lully wrote the music.

1873-MY NAME IS MUYBRIDGE. One night a carriage drove up from San Francisco to the Yellow Jacket Mine near Calistoga in the north Napa Valley. A man asked for the foreman Major Harry Larkyns. When Larkyns answered the door the man quietly said to him:”Good Evening, Major. My name is Muybridge. Here is the answer to the message you sent my wife earlier. “ He drew a pistol and shot Larkyns through the heart, killing him instantly. The killer was the famous photographer and Motion Picture pioneer Edweard Muybridge. It seems that while he was working on his Motion Studies Series in Palo Alto, Muybridges’ young wife Flora had been having an affair with Major Larkyns. Muybridge found out from the maid. Even the son Flora bore him was not his. They called the child Little Harry behind his back. The jury that convened in Napa did not hang the artist-inventor. In the Code of the Old West, proven adultery was considered a justifiable homicide. Muybridge was acquitted. Mrs. Flora Muybridge divorced him in 1875. After her early death two years later Muybridge gave Little Harry to the San Francisco Orphans Asylum and refused to pay for his upkeep.

1908- The Chicago Cubs defeated the Detroit Lions for their first, and so far only, World Series championship. The next time they got to the series was 1945.

1912- While going to give a political speech in Milwaukee, a lunatic named William Shrenck shot Teddy Roosevelt in the chest. The bullet was slowed down tearing through his clothes, speech notes and eyeglasses case and just missed any important organs. Bleeding from his side Teddy spat in his hand to see if there was blood in his spittle, which would mean internal damage. Seeing there was none he went ahead and gave his 90 minute speech before going to a hospital. -Bully!

1926- Happy Birthday Winnie the Pooh! A.A. Milne’s first book of Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet and Christopher Robin debuted this day.

1934- The Lux Radio Theater premiered.

1947- Chuck Yeager in the X-1 “Glamorous Glennis” first breaks the Sound Barrier.

1954- First day of shooting on Cecil B. DeMille’s remake of the Ten Commandments staring Charlton Heston out in the Egyptian desert. This was the film where heat exhausted star Anne Baxter complained to Vincent Price ” And who do I have to sleep with to get OFF this movie?”

1959- Errol Flynn died of a heart attack in Vancouver. Exhausted by overindulgence in his favorite vices, doctors said the 50 year old movie star had the body of a 70 year old. A descendant of one of the Bounty mutineers, the Tasmanian born actor's last film was ' Cuban Rebel Girls'.

1962- THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS BEGAN- President John F. Kennedy was shown top secret U-2 photos of Russian nuclear missile pads being constructed 90 miles away in Cuba. This meant instead of a 30 minute warning time a Soviet H-Bomb could hit New York or Washington in 7-10 minutes. Attorney General Robert Kennedy asked CIA operative Richard Helms: “Dick, is it true there are Russian missiles in Cuba?” When Helms replied there were, the usually erudite RFK reacted: “ OH, SH*T!!” For the next 14 days the world came close to nuclear armageddon.

1964- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr won the Nobel Peace Prize.

1978- Scott Thorsten “outs” Liberace by filing a palimony suit against him. Even after Liberace died of AIDS my mother refused to believe the outrageous pianist was gay. She thought “he just never found the right girl..”