al ma’arri, the great poet of 11th century Syria.

A favourite character from my huge ‘Continuum’ walking page, al ma’arri (973-1057):

From Brittanica:

al-Maʿarrī, (born December 973, near Aleppo, Syria—died May 1057), great Arab poet, known for his virtuosity and for the originality and pessimism of his vision.

…  A childhood disease left him virtually blind. He studied at the Syrian cities of Aleppo, Antioch, and Tripoli and soon began his literary career, supported by a small private income. His early poems were collected in Saqṭ al-zand (“The Tinder Spark”), which gained great popularity; it includes a series of poems on armour.

… In Baghdad he had been well received at first in prestigious literary salons; but when he refused to sell his panegyrics, he was unable to find a dependable patron. He renounced material wealth and retired to a secluded dwelling, living there on a restrictive diet. Al-Maʿarrī enjoyed respect and authority locally, and many students came to study with him. He also maintained an active correspondence.

… Although an advocate of social justice and action, al-Maʿarrī suggested that children should not be begotten, in order to spare future generations the pains of life. His writings are also marked by an obsession with philology.

A 1920s translation of his great poem ‘The Luzumiyat’ (posted on my personal blog, idleworm). Some sample verses – though you won’t regret reading the entire poem:

The Sultan, too, relinquishing his throne
Must wayfare through the darkening dust alone
Where neither crown nor kingdom be, and he,
Part of the Secret, here and there is blown.

To clay the mighty Sultan must return
And, chancing, help a praying slave to burn
His midnight oil before the face of Him,
Who of the Sultan makes an incense urn.

Turned to a cup, who once the sword of state
Held o’er the head of slave and potentate,
Is now held in the tippler’s trembling hand,
Or smashed upon the tavern-floor of Fate.

For this I say, Be watchful of the Cage
Of chance; it opes alike to fool and sage;
Spy on the moment, for to-morrow’ll be,
Like yesterday, an obliterated page.

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continuum: philosophers

Some details from the enormous ‘Continuum’ walking page:

The philosopher Plotinus:

And al Farabi:

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why do movie posters suck?

I’ve written a long post about the awfulness of movie posters, book covers, and magazines.
It’s posted on idleworm, as I like to keep the posts here focused more on personal work & animation.

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krita (free photoshop alternative)

I’ve been playing with this a little, and so far it seems like a very useful program – much more intuitive than GIMP, which is a real horror to use, in my opinion. Krita has some very nice brushes. I’ve only had a short time to play with it, but so far, it looks great – especially for students who want a quick photoshop alternative. Krita saves in .psd format also.

It’s available in 32 and 64 bit versions. To date, there is no mac version.

krita studio

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continuum (animated)

In the previous post, I showed page 100 of ‘Continuum’, a work in progress. It’s a comic book in which “Albert Einstein takes a young George W. Bush on a journey through space-time and philosophy.” The page illustrates 60 of the key figures in the history of philosophy, science and mysticism, with several key figures from the hard sciences included (those whose breakthroughs changed the perception of reality). I drew the figures so that each seemed to walk into the one following, using the classic ‘contact/recoil/passing/high-point’ method in traditional animation. Although they were never meant to be animated, I was curious to see what they would look like, if superimposed upon each other:

Drawing these 60 figures took between 2 and 3 months.

The figures in the list are:

Indus Valley; Sumeria and China (all ~3300 BC); Pythagoras (570–495 BC); Socrates (469–399 BC); Plato (423–348 BC); Aristotle (384–322 BC); Ptolemy (90–168 AD); Plotinus (204–270); Augustine (354–430); Aryabhata (476–550); Al Farabi (872-951); Al Hazen (965-1040); Al Ma’arri (973-1058); Avicenna (980-1037) ;Al Ghazali (1058–1111); Averroes (1126–1198); Maimonides (1135-1204); Grosseteste (1175–1253); Roger Bacon (1214–1294); Aquinas (1225–1274); Ockham (1288–1348); Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406); Copernicus (1473–1543); Francis Bacon (1561-1626); Galileo (1564–1642); Kepler (1571-1630); Descartes (1596–1650); Locke (1632–1704); Spinoza (1632–1677); Newton (1642–1727); Leibniz (1646–1716); Berkeley (1685–1753); Voltaire (1694–1778); Hume (1711–1776); Kant (1724–1804); Hegel (1770–1831); Mill (1806–1873); Darwin (1809–1882); Nietzsche (1844–1900); Freud (1856–1939); Husserl (1859–1938); Whitehead (1861–1947); Curie (1867–1934); Russell (1872–1970); Jung (1875–1961); Einstein (1879–1955); Korzybski (1879–1950); Eddington (1882–1944); Eddington (1882–1944); Bohr (1885–1962); Schrodinger (1887–1961); Wittgenstein (1889–1951); Heisenberg (1901–1976); Karl Popper (1902–1994); Von Neumann (1903–1957); Godel (1906-1978); Franklin (1920-1958); Mandelbrot (1924-2010); Sheldrake(1942-).

A quick note: several people have commented that there are only 2 women in the list – implying a bias (conscious or unconscious) on my part. I actively tried to find female figures who were not examples of mere tokenism. Please remember that I am not responsible for the condition of women’s rights in Periclean Athens, Late Antiquity, Medieval Europe – or 20th century Europe/America for that matter. I removed Watson and Crick from the lineup, replacing them with Rosalind Franklin. I’d have added Jocelyn Bell (for the discovery of the pulsar), had the line been more relevant to astronomical discoveries.

Secondly, the list specifically deals with the “infuriating dialectic” between science, religion and mysticism – there are very specific figures in this story (for example: Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Avicenna, Averroes, Al Hazen, Al Ma’arri and Al Ghazali). I’m not discriminating against women, neither am I discriminating in favour of people whose names begin with the letter “A”. This historical record is what it is, and I don’t currently possess a history reset button. But when I get that button, y’all better watch out, because where we’re going, we won’t need roads.

All that said, hope you find the animation interesting. If I had enough time, I could properly animate this, adding the inbetween poses, and smoothing out the walk poses (remember, they were never meant to be seen like this!) Sadly, time is short, so barring a viral kickstart campaign, it’s not going to happen.

My personal favourite in the list is Abul ʿAla Al-Maʿarri (973-1058), a Syrian agnostic/atheist. Here is a lovely translation of his poem ‘The Luzumiyat’.

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a continuum of thought

For the past two years I’ve been working on a comic book called ‘Continuum’.

In ‘Continuum’, Albert Einstein takes a young George W. Bush on a journey through space-time and philosophy. Some of the pages were relatively straightforward, until this one – page 100. Page 100 shows many of the key figures who shaped different aspects of the modern worldview. This page has to date taken about 2 months. Each pose animates into the one following. Hefty research was required to select the characters – and when a new figure was added, this occasionally necessitated altering the poses of the figures before and after (one reason why this page took so long to complete).

Be sure to click on the image to see the full size version. Your browser may show you a magnifying glass. Again, be sure to click on the magnifying glass to zoom in to 100%.

a continuum of thought

Some close ups of the different sections of the continuum. Again, click to see the image full size, or you’re going to miss the details.

Row 1:

a continuum of thought - row 1

The figures above represent: Indus Valley; Sumeria and China (all ~3300 BC); Pythagoras (570–495 BC); Socrates (469–399 BC); Plato (423–348 BC); Aristotle (384–322 BC); Ptolemy (90–168 AD); Plotinus (204–270); Augustine (354–430); Aryabhata (476–550); Al Farabi (872-951); Al Hazen (965-1040); Al Ma’arri (973-1058); Avicenna (980-1037).

Row 2:

a continuum of thought - row 2

The figures above represent Avicenna (980-1037); Al Ghazali (1058–1111); Averroes (1126–1198); Maimonides (1135-1204); Grosseteste (1175–1253); Roger Bacon (1214–1294); Aquinas (1225–1274); Ockham (1288–1348); Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406); Copernicus (1473–1543); Francis Bacon (1561-1626); Galileo (1564–1642); Kepler (1571-1630); Descartes (1596–1650).

Row 3:

a continuum of thought - row 3

The figures above represent Descartes (1596–1650); Locke (1632–1704); Spinoza (1632–1677); Newton (1642–1727); Leibniz (1646–1716); Berkeley (1685–1753); Voltaire (1694–1778); Hume (1711–1776); Kant (1724–1804); Hegel (1770–1831); Mill (1806–1873); Darwin (1809–1882).

a continuum of thought - row 4

The figures above represent Darwin (1809–1882); Nietzsche (1844–1900); Freud (1856–1939); Husserl (1859–1938); Whitehead (1861–1947); Curie (1867–1934); Russell (1872–1970); Jung (1875–1961); Einstein (1879–1955); Korzybski (1879–1950); Eddington (1882–1944).

a continuum of thought - row 5

The figures above represent Eddington (1882–1944); Eddington (1882–1944); Bohr (1885–1962); Schrodinger (1887–1961); Wittgenstein (1889–1951); Heisenberg (1901–1976); Karl Popper (1902–1994); Von Neumann (1903–1957);
Godel (1906-1978); Franklin (1920-1958); Mandelbrot (1924-2010); Sheldrake(1942-).

I’m very happy with about 1/4 of the figures (design and pose), there are a couple that have given me nothing but trouble. But 2-3 months on this one page is more than enough, so I’m calling this one done, and moving on to page 101.

Here’s a preview sketch for page 101. The previous figures are now seen, marching up a spiral tower, a patchwork of architecture and technology from the source cultures:

continuum tower

I expect page 101 to take approximately another 2 months of solid work.

Continuum is inspired by Chapter 4 of Carroll Quigley’s book ‘Evolution of Civilisations’, in which he describes the principle of a continuum, and how it applies to history, not just the electromagnetic spectrum. The implications of ‘Continuum’ will take the reader into areas often covered by General Semantics and Semiotics…how humans create arbitrary labels for an irrational reality, then confuse those labels with reality itself.

The potential audience for ‘Continuum’ is in the low hundreds; it’s painful to know that so much work is sunk into a project that will never find an audience of any real size. We live in a world where Kony2012, Solar roads, and other patent nonsense grabs hold of peoples’ attention; material like this won’t. Nevertheless, if you like what you see on this site, this is me asking you to share it with anyone who may be interested.

I’ll post more images from ‘Continuum’ over the next few weeks.

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to boldly grow (final cover)

In the previous post, I published the rough tie-down of the cover design. With 3 days’ extra work, here is the final version:

Be sure to click the image for the full-size version, as the thumbnail doesn’t do it justice.

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to boldly grow: energy pages

I’m 99% through the process of converting my film ‘There’s No Tomorrow’ into a comic book, with the superior title ‘To Boldly Grow’. Here are some sample pages from the second chapter, which deals with alternatives to fossil fuels, and why they fall short.

Click on the images for the larger size version.

I’m very happy with this one, which updates some of the date from the original film (the fracking boom was in full swing when TNT was released, which certainly suppressed the potential audience). Recently, the US gov downgraded one of the major fracking sites by 95%, so it seems that this particular bubble is about to burst.

People have a hard time understanding just how dependent their lifestyle is on electricity and cheap energy. Another example: a single 60w light bulb would require the effort of 6 humans pedaling dynamos around the clock.

The famous ‘cubic mile of oil’. Again, the sheer scale of oil and fossil fuel consumption challenges our powers of visualisation. This image isn’t original to me, as it was floating around the internet, but I took it and re-drew it for the film/comic.

The cubic mile of oil becomes two cubic miles of coal:

When I showed the completed first sequence of TNT to a friend, his first question was “What about Ethanol?” – at which point I knew that I had to devote an entire sequence to Whataboutery. There is no end to Whataboutery of course, as a true believer always has their favourite energy saviour, and a reason why it is special. Nevertheless, the idea that Ethanol will run the global fleet is particularly absurd:

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to boldly grow: ‘poster’ pages

I’m 60% through the process of converting my film ‘There’s No Tomorrow’ into a comic book, with the superior title ‘To Boldly Grow’. Here are some sample pages, done in a full page ‘poster’ format. At some point, I’m hoping to convert some of the comic pages into actual posters.

Click on the images for the larger size version.

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to boldly grow: oil formation

I’m 60% through the process of converting my film ‘There’s No Tomorrow’ into a comic book, with the superior title ‘To Boldly Grow’. Here are some sample pages, illustrating the formation of oil, coal, and natural gas. Click the images for the full size.

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