Superfluous Matter Matthew Lausch's Blog http://matter.sawkmonkey.com 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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January 14, 2017 Wed, 31 December 1969 16:00:00 PST NIKON D90 -- f/3.5 -- 1/30s -- 18mm

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Books - The Illegal, by Lawrence Hill Sun, 01 January 2017 16:31:00 PST I enjoyed Hill's acclaimed "The Book of Negroes" and so when my mom gave me his latest novel as a gift I was excited to read it. "The Illegal" weaves together multiple character arcs touching on marathon running, illegal immigration, policing, government corruption and journalism all set in two fictional island states located in the Indian Ocean.

The book moves along at a good pace while still providing a ton of interesting detail and back story for the characters and the fictional countries they inhabit. Hill clearly did a lot of research and the book does a good job of introducing a person to the extreme hardships that come with being "illegal." Definitely a topical story.

I enjoyed the book, but the threads of the narrative were tied up a bit too neatly for me. Everything fit together perfectly at the end giving it the feel of something that was too meticulously planned out.

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Books - The Terror, by Dan Simmons Sun, 11 December 2016 22:13:00 PST I loved visiting Canada's arctic and I thoroughly enjoyed reading two of Pierre Berton's books about early exploration of the area. So when my friend Lee told me about a fictionalized version of Sir John Franklin's final, fatal expedition for the northwest passage I knew I had to check it out.

Simmons did a ton of research, citing Berton's "Prisoners of the North" as one of his main sources. Unfortunately the novel was published before the recent discoveries of the HMS Erebus and HMS Terror (2014 and 2016) but the lack of extra information on the final resting place of the ships does not diminish the story. Simmons also researched Inuit traditions and mythology to bring a supernatural element into the tale.

I enjoyed reading about the various ways the British were thoroughly unprepared for the realities of living in the far North and thoroughly unwilling to learn from the native peoples. I also enjoyed the descriptions of the ways in which Inuit thrive in the same environment. The supernatural element was strange, but grew on me towards the end of the book.

The book is long but I read it quickly, reveling in familiarity with the places, people, and situations I remembered from other readings. I'm not sure how good the book is objectively, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.

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