Superfluous Matter Matthew Lausch's Blog http://matter.sawkmonkey.com Books - Shift, by Hugh Howey Fri, 14 April 2017 20:31:00 PDT I read and enjoyed the first book of the Silo Trilogy almost two years ago. Now I've finally read the second book (Shift) and I'm about to start the third (Dust). The most I can say about "Shift" without spoiling the story is that it is a prequel explaining how the world came to destruction and how the major characters of "Wool" reached the positions they have in that book. Again I was impressed with the careful planning and construction that Howey has put into the story and I'm eager to polish off the series.

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Books - Wolverine: Old Man Logan, by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven Sun, 02 April 2017 18:08:00 PDT I saw Logan, possibly the best X-Men movie to date, on opening night. Later I picked up a used copy of the graphic novel on which it was (loosely) based and read it in an evening. It was also good, but almost nothing like the movie.

Instead of mysteriously disappearing like in the movie, almost all of the mutants were wiped out by the coordinated effort of all of the super-villains. Those villains then divided up America for themselves, resulting in a post-apocalyptic wasteland in which Wolverine (Logan) is simply trying to live with his family in peace. The Hulk family rules the part of the world he lives in, and when Logan can't make the rent he's forced accompany a very old and very blind Hawkeye as a mercenary on a quest across the country to make a quick buck.

The journey is mostly an excuse to show off the fate of all the characters in the Marvel universe in this alternate, dystopian timeline. It's bonkers and a lot of fun.

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Books - Purity, by Jonathan Franzen Sun, 02 April 2017 17:58:00 PDT Some people find Franzen's writing intolerable and hacky, others call him one of the best contemporary American writers. I'm not sure I can pass judgment either way, but I enjoy his stories.

I can't quite say what Purity, his latest novel, is about but it definitely entertained me. The characters are interesting and provide convenient excuses to explore a variety of times and places: cold-war-era East Berlin and Pennsylvania; the rain forests of Bolivia; present-day Oakland, Denver, and the Santa Cruz Mountains. One of the major themes is the ability of the Internet to increase the transparency of governments and corporations via Wikileaks-like organizations, and how that compares to "legitimate journalism." But more important is the book's slow reveal of the connections between a disparate collection of people and how it affects them.

If you're interested in Franzen check out his best, "The Corrections," first and if you like it then come back to this one.

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Books - Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, by Alison Bechdel Sat, 25 March 2017 09:46:00 PDT Sarah and Michal recently attended the San Francisco version of the Tony-award winning Broadway musical Fun Home and they enjoyed it quite a bit. So when one of our friends offered to loan us the graphic novel that forms the basis for the musical I was very interested. The story documents the author's childhood in rural Pennsylvania; her realization of being, and coming out as, a lesbian; her father's closeted homosexuality, dalliances with his male students and his eventual, apparent suicide; and the strangeness attendant with growing up in a Funeral Home (i.e. "Fun Home").

The art is great (the author took photos of herself as each character in each pose to use as reference for drawing) and the text is dense and cerebral (as an English teacher, Bechdel's father instilled a love of literature into her so the story is full of allusion). The book itself has won extensive critical praise and better yet has inspired a few campaigns to get it banned from schools and public libraries (always a good sign).

Although I did not spend a lot of time trying to understand every literary reference I still thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Books - The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner Tue, 21 February 2017 21:43:00 PST This book is regularly ranked in the top ten of English-language novels of the 20th century so I picked it up at a used book store last year. Unfortunately I found it to be way less accessible and enjoyable than Of Human Bondage, the other "high quality" book I picked up at the same time.

It's not that "The Sound and the Fury" is a bad book, but it is a rather challenging read. Much of it is written in the "stream-of-consciousness" style and other sections jump back and forth between two perspectives, sometimes in mid-sentence. Additionally the entire book suffers from an extreme lack of chronology.

I'm sure under analysis and dissection the novel has incredible merit, but I don't think it is great for a casual read.

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Northern California Road Trip Tue, 21 February 2017 21:26:00 PST For Sarah's 32nd birthday we took a road trip to far Northern California to see the Redwood State and National Parks. We stayed in an Airbnb and did lots of epic hiking through truly enormous and beautiful forests. Read more in my trip journal.

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Photos! Sat, 04 February 2017 22:04:00 PST I've been lax in adding content to my photos page, but now I'm caught up: I just added 43 new pictures from the last two years! Enjoy!

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Books - Inside VFX, by Pierre Grage Sun, 22 January 2017 15:09:00 PST A former co-worker recommended this book to me and now that I'm directly part of the industry as an employee of ILM I figured it would behoove me to read it. The book shuns the flashy spectacle of the art and technology behind blockbuster movies and instead dives into the business side of the film industry in general and the Visual Effects (VFX) industry specifically. Although less glamorous, I still found the topic to be quite engaging and relevant as I ponder the future of my career.

It is widely acknowledged that the VFX industry is severely dysfunctional. Race-to-the-bottom bidding wars, endlessly varying government subsidies, intransigent film studios, ego-driven directors, and many other factors all contribute to enormous instability and uncertainty for VFX companies and their employees (especially the artists). Grage outlines all of these factors in the book, providing history and context by examining real world examples of famous effects-driven movies.

Although interesting and engaging the book is far from perfect. The writing is poor, the editing is poor, and as an insider I noticed multiple inaccuracies with respect to ILM and Autodesk (I can only assume that some details for other companies examined in the book were wrong too). I also took some issue with his treatment of inflation (CPI is widely accepted to underestimate inflation, but his alternative measure from SGS is generally considered to be even worse in its overestimation, and he gives it greater standing than CPI). Finally, as a book about a tech-heavy and volatile industry, it already suffers from feeling out of date despite being published in 2014.

Despite all this, I think the general picture Grage paints is still valid. The industry is severely troubled and a major shakeup is both likely and urgently needed. I also think the book finished strong, with a high-level summary of the major problems and very reasonable predictions and suggestions for the future. In particular, the emergence of "experiential" entertainment through virtual and augmented reality systems suggests pathways to diversification for VFX companies.

For anyone in the industry "Inside VFX" is definitely a worthwhile read, simply for the historical context alone. People interested in film might enjoy it too, but I can't imagine anyone else reading it to the end.

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January 16, 2017 Wed, 31 December 1969 16:00:00 PST NIKON D90 -- f/3.5 -- 1/15s -- 18mm

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January 15, 2017 Wed, 31 December 1969 16:00:00 PST NIKON D90 -- f/4.5 -- 1/10s -- 48mm

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