Talkin Toons with Rob Paulsen Episode 80 Q&A: Animaniacs



Summary: Rob Paulsen answers questions about Animaniacs.

Thoughts: Having grown up on a very healthy dose of Animaniacs  and Pinky and the Brain, I always enjoy this podcast.  At 14:20, we get the famous song from Animaniacs, Yakko’s World.  Afterwards, Paulsen says:

Randy Rogel has written a new verse that includes all the new countries of the world since that song was written … and one day you’ll hear it.  Randy and I are still working with the folks at Warner Bros. theatrical and Steven Spielberg to find a way to get he and I out and doing live appearances with Animaniacs music.

Though I’m sure I’d probably never be able to attend one, I would definitely love to hear the new verse as sung by Yakko.

Here’s the original Yakko’s World from the show:

Colin Trevorrow to direct Jurassic Park 4

According to this article from Deadline:

Colin Trevorrow, who made his feature directorial debut on the no-budget Sundance pic Safety Not Guaranteed, is about to make a Tyrannosaurus rex-sized leap in scale for his next film. He has been set by Universal Pictures to helm Jurassic Park 4, the third sequel to the dinosaur franchise hatched from Michael Crichton’s novel.

Sounds good to me.   Safety Not Guaranteed was an overall good movie, especially for its budget, though it’s dirty humor side-story was pointless.  But I’m sure we’ll not see that brand of humor in Jurassic Park 4 with screenwriters Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver.  This installment, planned for a 3D release in 2014, is sure to be better than Jurassic Park 3.  I’m looking forward to it.  In the meantime, the 3D re-release of the original Jurassic Park is coming next month.

Alex Cross (2012)

Link: Alex Cross

Summary: A man solves a crime. It’s that exciting.

Thoughts: This film provides a great example of atrocious characterization. Right from the beginning, we are given no reason to empathize with the main character. Two big characterization problems: 1. He is portrayed as being just about perfect. He’s happy with everything and everyone is happy with him. There’s no reason to empathize with him because he’s never struggles with anything. Which leads us to: 2. He has no real goal. He just wants to stop the bad because that’s his job. That’s hardly a captivating motivation. Things change half-way through the movie when a tragedy makes things personal, but by then it’s too late, by then we really don’t care. And even then the stakes and the character’s motivations remain bland. He just wants revenge because the villain is just so evil! Add to this a convoluted backstory to explain the crimes and a shaky camera (why are shaky cameras still in style?) and we have a truly terrible film experience.

The only good thing I can think of is a clever bit of suspense in one scene. A man is driving a car and we know another car will crash into it at any moment. We know its coming, but we have to wait for it. Fun little bit.

Shield of Sea and Space cover


Author Erin Hoffman recently unveiled the cover art for her upcoming novel, Shield of Sea and Space which is the final book in The Chaos Knight trilogy.  I bought the first book in the trilogy last year and still haven’t read it; it’s on my long to-read list, and I am a sad slow reader.  Still, I wanted to post this because of the beautiful cover art.  I love the dynamic vivid colors, the flow of the flames in the firebird, the clouds of nebulas in the background, how the architecture of the columns frame the edges of sky.  It’s just wonderfully dynamic and full of life.

Hoffman writes:

It is, of course, by the marvelous Dehong He, upon whom I can never seem to shower enough praise. If you can believe it, the Chaos Knight is the first book cover series he’s done, and each volume has been more stunning than the last. When this one trickled out via a Pyr catalog earlier this year … it was amazing to see book bloggers pick it out to gawk over the art.

I suppose I’m joining in the gawking.  I’ll definitely be looking for this in the bookstore to complete my trilogy, though who knows how long it will take me to get around to reading them.

Skyrim – The Man Who Cried Wolf completed

Link: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

I completed another older short side quest called “The Man Who Cried Wolf”, given to me by some guy in the Blue Palace in Solitude.  This quest was rather boring; it only involved venturing into a cavern and killing a bunch of people.  Oh, what madness!  I probably should’ve taken the opportunity to practice more magic; I’ve been mostly using only flames lately.

Short Peace trailer


I came across this trailer on a post on Cartoon Brew.  It’s for an upcoming Japanese animated film called Short Peace, a collection of four animated shorts.  I can’t understand Japanese, so I have no idea what the trailer is saying, and I have no idea what any of these stories are about.  But I love the animation style, and so I’ll be very interested in looking out for this, when it ever makes it to the US.

Skyrim – The Blessings of Nature completed


Link: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Finished Skyrim’s quest called “The Horn of Jurgen Windcaller” to get the “Dah” of “Fus Ro Dah”.  Then I went on to finish a much older side quest from Whiterun called “The Blessings of Nature”.  Along the way, I ran into a frost dragon, who I lost patience with and succumbed to the lure of god mode.  But I don’t mind cheating; the point is to have fun, and I have plenty of fun not having to worry about my health.

Spy (2011 TV series)


Wikipedia Link

Summary: A bumbling British guy is accidentally recruited to be a spy.  Hilarity ensues.

Thoughts: Here in the US, this series was only available on hulu, where I stumbled on it after a friend had mentioned it on Facebook.  The humor is very direct, over-the-top, and ultra-cheesy, and not in an awful Disney Channel way.  I found it to be hilarious, and enjoyed the many film references and parodies throughout.

Unfortunately it seems the British version is now dead, but ABC plans on bringing an American remake to TV sometime later this year.  I suppose I’ll watch out for it and give it a chance, but my instincts tell me that Americans will ruin it.  I haven’t been impressed by any modern American comedies.

Skyrim – Alduin’s Wall completed


Link: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Completed the quest “A Cornered Rat” which involved leading the elderly Esbern out of the Ratway in Riften, but I didn’t record it.  The videos below feature me finishing the quest “Alduin’s Wall”.  There were two stupid frost dragons to defeat on the way, and one of them killed me a few times before I finally bested him.  Then Esbern, Delphine (who really annoys me), and I had to defeat some pesky Forsworns before uncovering Sky Haven Temple and studying Alduin’s Wall.  I am loving these quest patterns of action followed by revelation (story exposition and creation of new goals).

In an effort to make the main quest last longer, I will probably venture off to some other quest lines before continuing with “The Throat of the World” quest.

The Logic of Scientific Discovery: Chapter 1, part 1


Link: The Logic of Scientific Discovery

I have started reading Karl Popper’s The Logic of Scientific Discovery.  As I mentioned on my other blog and in my short AI research journal, I seek to create Strong AI, and I think Popper’s work may have some useful insights.  (For the moment, I seek to create a system that can teach itself to play any rule-based game, such as chess.  Humans can do it, so there must be a way to program a computer to do it.)  I have already gained useful insights by reading the first 90 pages of Popper’s book Objective Knowledge, and certainly there is some overlap between that book and this.  But I have, for the moment, halted my reading of Objective Knowledge in favor of this volume.

Interestingly, when I Google information on Karl Popper, he seems to have some atheist followers, which I find strange.  From the what I’ve read so far (which admittedly isn’t much), he never says anything that should cast doubt on theism in and of itself.  Popper would very much disagree with Ayn Rand’s atheist epistemology, for example, or at least her attempt at forming one.  Perhaps this is part of the larger blindness among certain atheists who cannot understand how logic and science are not only compatible with belief in a deity, but dependent on it.  “If it has to do with science, then it must support my atheism, because science and God are incompatible ideas!” one might claim.  But I don’t have much else to say on this subject because it is boring, like arguing with a child who refuses to believe letters mean anything just because he can’t read, and so develops no system with which to recognize them.

What follows are just summaries of my understandings and thoughts on various sections.  I don’t claim to be an expert, so feel free to correct me if you think I understand Popper wrongly. I certainly admit I am not always sure what the man is trying to say. I am not a well-read philosophy student by any means, so many times his writings are a bit complicated for me.

Chapter 1: A survey of some problems

Section 1: The problem of induction

Popper gives a solution to the “problem” of induction.  (He discusses it in more depth in Objective Knowledge.)  A classic example of the problem of induction goes like this: I see a bunch of white swans.  I therefore think, “All swans are white!”  Later, I see a black swan.  My theory that all swans are white is obviously shown to be false.  So if I am creating knowledge from observations, how can I really know anything? (See the Wikipedia article on the subject for more detail.)  Popper’s solution (from what I can understand): When I say, “All swans are white!” I am creating a theory, based not only on my observations (certainly the observations have to fit my theory), but also on the belief that there is a grander truth to what I am observing.  I cannot say that I know all swans are white; I cannot generalize the color of all swans based only on those I have seen.  “All swans are white” was never really knowledge to begin with, so there is no problem when the theory is refuted.

Popper makes a distinction between “psychology of knowledge” and “logic of knowledge.”

From page 7:

I must first make a clear distinction between the psychology of knowledge which deals with empirical facts, and the logic of knowledge which is concerned only with logical relations.  For the belief in inductive logic is largely due to a confusion of psychological problems with epistemological ones.

Section 2: Elimination of psychologism

As Popper says on page 7:

The question of how it happens that a new idea occurs to a man … may be of great interest to empirical psychology; but it is irrelevant to the logical analysis of scientific knowledge.

That is, the question of how one creates a theory and how one corrects a refuted theory (which I attempted to answer in my aforementioned journal) are two different subjects, and how one creates a theory is of far less interest here.

On page 8, Popper writes:

… my view on the matter … is that there is no such thing as a logical method of having new ideas, or a logical reconstruction of this process.

I both agree and disagree with Popper here, and I wish he were alive so I could ask him to elaborate on what exactly he means here.  (Though if he were alive, I’m sure I’d be too intimidated to ask, and too much of a nobody to get an answer if I wasn’t.)  There must be some logic to how a new idea is formed, though it may not be logical in the sense that every new idea is formed with the same logic.  There is probably something personal about the logic we’re using, and it may change as often as the ideas themselves.

This is important because if I want to create a computer program that teaches itself to play chess, for instance, I must obviously create a system in which chess knowledge can be created.  This should not be taken for granted just because we humans can do it without understanding how we do it.

Section 3: Deduction testing of theories

Popper mentions four “lines” of deductive testing:

1. Is the theory internally consistent?  Seems obvious, but complicated theories may imply paradoxes based on internal inconsistencies.

2. What does the theory claim that can be refuted?

3. How does the theory compare with other theories?  Does one explain more than the other?  Is one more refutable than the other?

4. What are the results of our testing of the implications (or predictions) of the theory?  Do they refute our theory?

I think these are all sort of sides of the same coin.  The point is that our theory only gets closer to the truth when it is refuted and corrected.

Section 4: The problem of demarcation

Popper writes on page 11:

The problem of finding a criterion which would enable us to distinguish between the empirical sciences on the one hand, and mathematics and logic as well as ‘metaphysical’ systems on the other, I call the problem of demarcation.

This section was kind of over my head, perhaps because I don’t see how it could be useful for my purposes.  My guess is that he’s trying to ask how we can know whether a theory predicts something that can be tested and refuted, or whether its implications can only ever be intangible.

I was intrigued by what he writes on page 16:

For it cannot be denied that along with metaphysical ideas which have obstructed the advance of science there have been others—such as speculative atomism—which have aided it.  And looking at the matter from the psychological angle, I am inclined to think that scientific discovery is impossible without faith in ideas which are of a purely speculative kind, and sometimes even quite hazy; a faith which is completely unwarranted from the point of view of science, and which, to that extent, is ‘metaphysical’.

I, again, both agree and disagree with Popper here, because he’s not being very specific.  What is “speculative”?  What is “unwarranted”?  I think all ideas a man can have are warranted somehow, even if based on a mistake, a decision to have faith in one thing rather than another.

I would say that scientific discovery is impossible without desire, a person with a goal to understand or achieve some specific thing, which cannot come from the logic of science itself, but contains it and works with it and through it.  That is, logic and science are a means to an end, and do not provide a system with which to create a means to an end.  (Science does not create itself.)

Section 5: Experience as a method

I’m not quite sure what Popper is saying in this section.  My guess is that he’s simply establishing that an experience is what we use as a method to test a theory.


Obviously, I’m not very far into the book yet.  I am very intrigued by it, though quite a bit of it is over my head.  Granted, I’m not trying to understand it for its own sake, but looking for ideas that I can use in my own AI research.  I think Popper tends to go too deeply into subjects I am not as interested in as he discusses the ideas of other philosophers, whereas I am trying to apply all this philosophy to something very concrete: a computer program.

Anyway, I’ll keep reading.

Taken 2 (2012)


Link: Taken 2

Summary: From director Olivier Megaton.  A man and his wife are kidnapped by a ruthless villain obsessed with avenging the death of his son.  The man must escape and save his family by being an action hero.

Thoughts: Though the film tries to ride on the success of its predecessor, it fails pretty miserable, becoming a parody of the first.  The villains do not seem nearly as dangerous or sinister; instead they become mindless enemies to kill as if from a video game.  The story is all over the place with way too much setup and slow pacing.

Filmmaking wise, the editing is rapid and disorienting enough to give someone a seizure while obscuring any real action.  Even when there’s no action, it seems the camera man is purposefully trying to annoy you as much as possible by wobbling the camera slightly and doing these stupid little zooms, as if this will somehow make everything seem cool and edgy.

Sansho the Bailiff (1954)


Link: Sansho the Bailiff

Summary: This Japanese film from director Kenji Mizoguchi is based on an adaptation of a Japanese folk tale.  It tells the story of a boy who is separated from his parents and sold into slavery under the ruthless Sansho the Bailiff.  But he grows up, escapes, becomes powerful, and sets out to bring Sansho to justice and find his parents.

Thoughts: Honestly, I thought the story was rather boring.  The premise is certainly ripe with material, but the characters hardly make any interesting decisions themselves, save for a few near the end when Zushio arrests Sansho.  I imagine if Kurosawa was working with the same material, he’d make it much more dramatic.

Filmmaking wise, Mizoguchi makes very effective use of action-oriented long shots, fluidly moving the camera for emotional impact to the point where you wouldn’t guess that you had watched a long shot without paying attention.  But he avoids close-ups and POV shots as much as possible.  I suppose he thought this would raise the emotional impact of the two-character interaction sequences, but I think close-ups would’ve helped a great deal; staying away from close-ups changes the emotional impact to a more observational sort, which I don’t think serves this story as well, because the emotional impact of this story comes from the characters’ reactions to circumstances more than the circumstances themselves.

The SF Signal Podcast 182: Interview with Author Emma Newman



Summary: An interview with author Emma Newman, whose book Between Two Thorns was recently released.

Thoughts: Ah, what a lovely accent, the best sort of British accent there is, yes?  I love Emma’s idea of writing a bunch of flash fiction that relates to the world of her novel.  It gives the author an opportunity to further flesh out the world and the characters, and it helps get readers excited.  I will probably steal the idea at some point.  I’m currently editing my novel and having to cut some material that I enjoy but that only slows down the overall story.  I could probably rework some of the things I’m cutting into flash fiction pieces.  There are also a lot of little asides that would be fun to explore.

Also, “I liked that book, but I wouldn’t lick it.” A short but hilarious conversation about licking books at 40:00.

Skyrim – Diplomatic Immunity completed


Link: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

I found a more convenient way to upload gameplay videos to YouTube.  I first installed the free Xvid video codec.  I then downloaded the free VirtualDub video editing software.  Then I simply batch-encoded all the uncompressed AVI files that Fraps spits out while recording gameplay.  The re-encoded AVI videos look beautiful and take up far less disk space (4 GB to 200 MB). Re-encoding and uploading to YouTube still takes plenty of time, but very little attention.  I can set those jobs to work, and walk away.

So I recorded something like an hour and a half of gameplay yesterday, playing through the “Diplomatic Immunity” quest in Skyrim.  There’s a lot of wondering around the Thalmor estates, as I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking for or what exactly I needed to do.  Turns out I needed to talk to a character to finish the quest, which was annoying.  And I forgot to bring my lockpicks into the Thalmor estates, so I couldn’t unlock any doors without their keys.  At the very end, I accidentally killed my accomplice as I tried to defend him against Thalmor soldiers.  Oops.  Sorry.

Of Monsters and Men: Your Bones

I’m usually listening to orchestral music, but this song has been stuck in my head a lot lately. The melody is almost pentatonic (think Fiona’s theme from Shrek), but then it dips down to the subdominant, adding an additional note for a hexatonic melody, a basic major scale that just avoids the subtonic. But I think what makes it catchy is that it sounds like it shifts between two pentatonic scales, one based on the tonic, the other on the subdominant. And the chords emphasize these shifts; they sound like just vi-I-IV progressions (submediant, tonic, subdominant). Very simple. (I’m not sure how accurate all that music theory is; I haven’t closely analyzed it, and I’m not a brilliant music theorist anyway. But that’s what it sounds like.)

The band’s song “Little Talks” subconsciously dug it’s way into my head after hearing it repeatedly on the radio. So I explored more of their songs on Spotify, and found most of them to be just as catchy. The lyrics are also more imaginative. They seem to have a spirit of Scandinavian mythology about them, what with bones and mountains and forests and animals with spiritual connotations.

Maybe I’ll pick up the album on which the song appears, My Head Is an Animal, when I buy the deluxe edition of the Les Miserables soundtrack when it comes out later this month.