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I swear, this is just research…

30+ Cornstarch Fireballs

1080p (vertical) shot of 1 teaspoon of cornstarch blown into the air near a flame source about 30x. Filmed at 120fps, playback at 30fps. As much fun as you’ll have doing this yourself, these pyro elements are released into the public domain for any and all usage, commercial or otherwise.

These elements were created for Troy Minkowsky’s “The Garden 1910” a Rhino Crate production currently in post.

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To the extent possible under law, Matthew I. Rasmussen has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to 30+ Cornstarch Fireballs. This work is published from: United States.

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Nicholas Roeg’s “Walkabout”

A man drives his son and teenage daughter (credited only as White Girl and White Boy) into the outback, lights the car on fire, tries to shoot them, and caps himself. Young aborigine (Black Boy) finds them, helps them return to civilization. Film.

This isn’t a movie that’s seen very often anymore, which is a shame.

I actually first saw Walkabout in a film class in high school. We had a video projector on the cyclorama of the school stage jury-rigged into a quasi-cinema. Our teacher, having spent his ’60s youth (and met his Kiwi wife) hitchhiking around Australia and New Zealand (in a way very foreign to a ’90s teenager) didn’t seem to have actually sat down and watched the movie through in some time. Being reminded how risqué it becomes at times, the class could see him squirming, but we wouldn’t let him turn it off.

What a remarkable film. It has moments that’ve stayed with me ever since, through film school and beyond. Interestingly, the current rage that year for us Black Boy/White Girl-aged students had been Aussie Baz Luhrmann’s overclocked refresh of Romeo + Juliet. The two might make an interesting double feature.

Animation: “The Gremlin”

An animation loop, for your pleasure. Something to remind me both what I love and hate about doing character animation. Created in Animation:Master and Final Cut.

Does anyone else remember that old “We’re gremlins from the Kremlin” Warner Brothers cartoon?

Grammy Rasmussen

My grandmother passed away on January 14. I brought a microphone and sat down with her back in 2002, then shot some 16mm film on Friendship Long Island and edited a short. Here is that film:

Click here if your browser does not display the video properly.

Five Underused Horror Tropes

And properties that make interesting use of them.

1. Frankenstein Creations: Powerful, perhaps immortal confusions of once-dead human parts reanimated by Dr. Frankenstein’s (always) secret method. Not to be overly confused with James Whale’s 1931 film with its constricted, single-location plot, dim bolt-necked creation, and memorable use of Nicola Tesla-inspired electrical equipment as the (revealed) method of cell reanimation.

Franken Fran: A manga series about a loveable but somehow unmistakeably monsterous patchwork girl who inhabits a mansion full of equally bizarre creations, “helping” people as she sees fit, and awaiting the return of her creator.

2. Dopplegangers: Classically, a mute apparition of oneself that appears to warn against impending danger.

Arcana: Another manga, slow to start, in which a girl matching no missing person’s report is found by the police, and by her ability to see ghosts proves useful in investigating a series of brutal murders.

3. Former Tenants: Beings who inhabited the Earth long before humans, and who want their world back.

The short stories of H.P. Lovecraft: Lovecraft lived in the era when man was pushing into the final dark corners of the map. His dominant theme was a fear that the dark corners would push back. The double-switch Lovecraft plays in “At the Mountains of Madness” is particularly impressive. (Cthulhu, despite his fame, is a relatively minor player.)

4. Sirens: Beautiful female creatures, often with the aspects of seabirds, who lure men (and women?) to a watery death with an irresistable song.

There is a Japanese survival horror videogame series called “Siren,” but it appears to have very little to do with the western myth.

5. The Motif of Harmful Sensation: Related to the siren, a broader term for the idea of a piece of sensory input that can cause a physical effect on the victim. (Well explained in the finest deleted Wikipedia article I’ve ever come across.)

BLIT: David Langford’s remarkable short story revolves around the discovery of a class of images that “crash” the human brain, killing anyone who views them.

Dark Water: Thoughts on Horror

I’m beginning to wonder if Dark Water is Hideo Nakata’s masterpiece. It drills down through the cosmic terror of The Ring to something far more intimate: The fear of abandonment. We see the child’s fear of abandonment not only in the repeated scenes of one being left after the close of school, but in the adult characters eyes as, by proxy, they’re forced to re-experience its gnawing toxicity. The water, the intrusion of darkness into the rainsoaked day, and the intrusion of water into the spaces and times it’s not meant to be in all mirror that forgotten feeling. The breaking of a child’s trust in the parent, which is also the child’s trust in the world, is a trauma that even adulthood can’t banish forever. Watching an imperfect single mother struggle to hold her own crumbling world together against that invading fear is heart-wrenching. All horror is psychological horror, crystalized in the moment of realizing one has been wrong. Dark Water is Nakata’s most emotionally draining film and that, I believe, may make it his finest horror film. Hell is being alone forever.

The Man With the Pointy Hat

"In the current storyline, there's a lot that I don't agree with, and I made this very clear to everybody within shouting distance . . . As an executive producer as well as a writer, I've sometimes had to insist that my writers make changes that they did not want to make, often loudly so. They were sure I was wrong. Mostly I was right. Sometimes I was wrong. But whoever sits in the editor's chair, or the executive producer's chair, wears the pointy hat of authority, and as Dave Sim once noted, you can't argue with a pointy hat.

"So at the end of the day, all one can do is try to do the best one can with the notes one is given, and try to execute them in a professional way -- because who knows, the other guy may be right . . . ."

— J. Michael Straczynski

2:35

“And sometimes there’s no one there. And there isn’t going to be.” — Michael Ventura, Shadow-Dancing in the U.S.A.

Wall-E is the perfect expression of what it’s like to meet a modern woman. She’s sophisticated, sleek, brilliant, beautiful, focused — and something of a pyro. You’re a bit clever perhaps, but otherwise the only thing to recommend you is that you’ve somehow managed to survive this long.

“To A Skyfarer”

..-. — .-. .. .-. .- —

Morning clouds in disarray

Bright and cold, this is your day

Ten points off the rising sun

Tell me why I feel this way?

Tell me what you’ve been and done

Silhouette in solid space

Future’s half-forgotten face

Stillness grudgingly withdrawn

Far off engines mutter dawn

Slow to wake and slow to thaw

You’d become my paragon

Hope that time could not withdraw

Gone too long, returned too soon

Stowed and moored by afternoon

Scrambling spotters, busy clerks

‘Til this evening’s fireworks

Dancing through the final song

Rubbing hair and other perks

Heart ungimbaled, stomach wrong

Ship returning, fortunes won

Voyage ended, and begun

Windy City: “To A Skyfarer”

Previously posted is a poem for the third draft of my feature screenplay “Windy City.” Draft two borrows from a song by VNV Nation, but I thought it best to write something of my own as a backup. Here are the lyrics as they appear in situ:

A gust carries some equipment away and tugs at the cable. There is a loud SNAP. The workman turns his lamp away from the locks, toward the cable and finds -- a slowly lengthening CRACK.

WORKMAN

CABLEFALL! CABLEFALL!

The cable SNAPS. Half of it CRASHES across the trolley tracks, wiping them away like chalk marks. The other half SLAMS back into the building. The upper floor windows EXPLODE, raining big chunks of plastic on the old workman and his crew.

WORKMAN

DOWN! EVERYONE DOWN!

INT. HOTEL - LOBBY - EARLY MORNING

A low, distant BOOM. The power flickers. Nadine and her sister Ashur are crammed onto a cot in the dark lobby with the other refugees. The building GROANS in the wind. Ashur is too frightened to sleep. Nadine begins to stroke her hair.

NADINE

(sings)

Morning clouds in disarray/

Bright and cold, this is your day/

Ten points off the rising sun/

Tell me why I feel this way?

Tell me what you've been and done/

Silhouette in solid space/

Future's half-forgotten face/

Stillness grudgingly withdrawn/

Far off engines mutter dawn/

Slow to wake and slow to thaw/

You'd become my paragon/

Hope that time could not withdraw/

Gone too long, returned too soon/

Stowed and moored by afternoon/

Scrambling spotters, busy clerks/

'Til this evening's fireworks/

Dancing through the final song/

Rubbing hair and other perks/

Heart ungimbaled, stomach wrong/

Ship returning, fortunes won/

Voyage ended, and begun/

Ashur sleeps.

Puerto Rico and Housekeeping

Every large project, especially in computer graphics, involves certain long, tedious, repetitive tasks that would only be noticed in the finished product if absent. On Marboxian I nicknamed this type of work “housekeeping.”

In the case of the Population Map, the latest example is Puerto Rico. If given statehood, Puerto Rico would be our 27th largest state, falling between Kentucky and Oregon. It’s the only United States territory with a significant population — much less that of an average state — which is why I’ve chosen to include it — late — in the otherwise completed map.

The tedium comes from not having a .bna file for the 78 municipios of Puerto Rico, which I could use with my standard script to determine their geographic coordinates. Instead, I’ve had to manually enter each into the Open Street Map and copy their URLs to a table.

Next I’ll rewrite the script to break the URLs apart into decimal coordinates, but that’ll be brain work, comparatively.

In the meantime, there’s cookies to make.

From a Night I Couldn’t Sleep

To judge us by our television, every American lives in either New York City, Los Angeles, or an ideal, sepia-toned Midwest. No one lives in a rundown area of Tuscaloosa. No one is from August, ME. There are no Canadians. No hippies survive who haven’t sold out or gone batshit. Everyone is upper-middle-class.

Being single indicates a deep, remedial personal failing. No one is vague about their relationships. Your 20s are nothing but sex, sex, sex. Your 30s are for having babies.

Every house is decorated. Everyone shops at Ikea. Men wear layered shirts. Big hair and pornstar makeup are “in.”

All Asians are smart. No Indians are married. American Blacks are either smart, married (and upper-middle-class) or shooting at each other. There are no Blacks from other countries. No one has ever seen a Philippino. Blue collar people are honest but not very bright, and of no particular importance unless you’re in danger.

Everyone knows one gallery artist, and one architect. Faith is absolute and uncomplicated. Sexuality is binary, conscious, and fixed, even if you’re a teenager. No one has to consider health insurance. No one considers abortion. Considerate people are either doormats or substitute mothers. Everyone takes taxis.

Crime rates are rising. America is full of pedophiles. All Muslims are moral absolutes. Everyone knows exactly what to do at all times, they’re just not sure they have the courage to do it. This is America on television.

I’d like to change all of this. I hope you do too.

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