Tag Archive | video

Meet Boudicca in new youtube videos.

Since 2014 Boudicca, Britain’s Queen of the Iceni has informed and inspired you in digital, paperback, and audio editions.  First in English, then in Chinese, and this spring in Italian, Spanish, Welsh, and Welsh-English editions with French and German language editions releasing on or about Labour Day weekend.

Just for fun here are three brand new videos (all of them created in May 2016) celebrating this new global approach to biographical history.  Can you name what language each of these videos is in?

 

 

 

More videos coming this summer exploring more lives from the Legendary Women of World History biography series. Stay tuned!

On Air: The Speculative Fiction Cantina (10th April 2015)

Complete Series 3DFriday 10th April 2015 at 600pm eastern daylight time is very special.  At that time I will be LIVE ON AIR with the Speculative Fiction Cantina hosted by S. Evan Townsend.  This is a call-in radio programme for both guests and listeners.  Join in by calling 347 945 7246 (New York City area).  Take a listen at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/writestream/2015/04/10/the-speculative-fiction-cantina-with-laurel-a-rockefeller-and-k-a-laity both live and after the one hour broadcast.

During the programme both K.A. Laity will be reading from our books for about five to eight minutes each.  Expect singing from me as I read to you from chapter eight of “The Ghosts of the Past.”

In preparation for the show and simply because I cannot sing all the Peers of Beinan Series songs in the time allotted, I recently made youtube video recordings of the songs.  These are music videos and not book trailers; not one of the videos include any marketing messages nor any links to buy any of my books.  These exist purely for their entertainment value and for the satisfaction of making them and sharing my music.

Here they are in order presented in the series:

This is from chapter three of The Great Succession Crisis.  It was added to the book when I released the extended edition in January 2013 and does not appear in the rare first edition (1st edition is a major collector’s item if you have one).

This song is “I Shall Always Find You” from chapter seven of “The Ghosts of the Past.  It is a song about love, hope, and reincarnation and is sung by Lady Mind Healer Feawen.  This song reprises as a duet between Lord Knight Elendir and Princess Anyu at the very end of the book.

This is the entire scene featuring “Here Lays My Father and My Lord” and is most likely the section I will read on air.  The song tells the story of King Kendric’s reign which is otherwise skipped over in the book.

The Coronation Hymn is the final song in the Peers of Beinan.  I wanted to perform this scene in full on Friday, but it contains way too many spoilers.

Music is very important to my life.  I hope you enjoy these songs and will share them with others.

Not so innocent: Israel, genocide, and the myth of the “chosen people”

Growing up in Lincoln, Nebraska and attending Temple Baptist Church, I grew up with the same beliefs that many Evangelical Christians hold towards Israel:  Israel is the promised land of the descendants of Abraham.  When I read in the books of Joshua and Judges about the legendary conquest of Palestine by the Hebrews after their 40 years wandering in the wilderness, no one seemed to even notice that these military campaigns of conquest amounted to GENOCIDE where civilians, including and especially women and children, were put to the sword so the Hebrews could come in and take their land.  This was GOD’S WILL and therefore it was okay.  If God wants it, the killing is moral and just, right?

In my 20 years in the Church, no one ever questioned this doctrine.  No one ever said “hey, wait, these are war crimes.”  Instead since it was divinely mandated, it must be right — and historically true, of course.

This sentiment is echoed in temples, both reform and orthodox, especially at Hanukkah and Passover.  Israel belongs to the Jews as a right forged in an ancient covenant with God.  Jews are the Chosen People.

Being the “Chosen People” of God carries a lot of weight.  Being chosen means you are granted a measure of special grace from God, the right to do certain things without consequences.  You can kill as you please because God wants you to.

Now before anyone gets in a huff and calls me anti-Jewish, let me be very clear:  I love Jewish culture, food, tradition, and especially my many Jewish friends and acquaintances.  I lived for over four years in a orthodox Jewish neighbourhood in Brooklyn, New York as not only a gentile, but one of the Old Religion of Britain and Ireland who strives to honour and embrace the British-Irish part of my heritage in my day-t0-day life.

As a historian who often favours being the outsider because of the objectivity this offers me for learning and study, I was able to listen, learn, and observe without the social-psychological chains that often blurs most people’s perspective.  I have no agenda except discovering the truth.  This is why my writing is so powerful and my books are to be believed.  I’m not a slick politician or sales person trying to sell something to you; just an honest researcher looking for truth.

The Bible of course covers ancient history — legendary or literal is a matter of debate.  Yet in Christian churches and in many Jewish congregations as well this doctrine that Israel is the God-given promised land of the Hebrews/Jews persists.

This Zionist idea that Israel rightfully belongs to Jews transcends denominational differences and enters the realm of politics.  Israel has certain rights to behave in whatever is perceived as its own interests.  To gainsay Israel’s decisions is to be anti-Jewish.  I am here to say that nothing could be further from the truth.

Last week I found the above video in a facebook feed exploring the modern state of Israel’s history.  In it and you discover that Israel is hardly this innocent and moral God-blessed nation who can do no wrong.  Far from it.  Objectively speaking, the Israelis are guilty of genocide and war crimes such as the West typically condemns when done by any other nation — except Israel.

Indeed anyone from any country who even remotely questions what Israel does is quickly labelled as anti-Jewish, especially politicians.  It would seem that to be pro-Jewish means not noticing Israel’s faults — or its war crimes.

 

I stand here asking you to now question that dogma.  Take a step back towards objectivity. When Iraqis do this to its peoples, when Syrians do this in its civil war, when Russia treats a minority group this way, DO WE NOT CALL THEM WAR CRIMES and CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY?

 

Perhaps it is time to abolish this whole “chosen people” propaganda and instead look at all human beings as humans.  No one is expendable.  Life is life!  Every single human in this world deserves a decent and safe home, clean and nourishing food and water, the best possible education, decent clothing, safety from harm, and the chance to live a satisfying life.  Anyone who steals any of these things from anyone else needs to be sanctioned and dealt with.  Everyone has the right to live.  Everyone.

Reblog: The Reality of an Unreal Career — part one

Over the weekend, I joined a new social networking site for creative professionals called STAGE 32 which has numerous industry useful resources and blog posts.

 

I really like today’s blog post called “The Reality of an Unreal Career, part one” and have to share it.  Read it on the Stage 32 website on the title link.

 

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Today’s blog comes from Beau Janzen, a visual effects artist based in Los Angeles with over 23 years experience in digital animation production. Beau has served on a wide variety of projects ranging from feature films, television series, commercials, and stereoscopic ride films. Most of his career has been spent working at medium to smaller-sized studios of films such at Life of Pi, X-Men, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Yes Man, and television shows such as Game of Thrones, Arrested Development, Bones, Black Box and many, many more.

In this entertaining 2-part series, Beau will take you through his two decade plus journey in the entertainment industry and impart some great advice for all creatives along the way.

From animating a vegetable conga line to learning how to reverse engineer an 8 ft tall phallus-shaped green screen character, I think you’ll enjoy the ride!

RB

Despite the fact that my job as a visual effects artist is anything but glamorous, I was asked to write about my experience of building a career that has lasted over two decades. I’ll work to avoid being self-indulgent and try and extrapolate out some bits of wisdom relevant to anyone working to sustain a career through a creative endeavor.

As is the case for essentially all visual effects artists of my generation, I spent my childhood constantly drawing, building models, obsessing over Star Wars, and being generally geeky. I often set up my bedroom as a makeshift stop motion studio where I would make goofy little Claymation movies with an 8mm movie camera. The main thing about me that was notably different was that I never had any dreams of making movies; I was always motivated to work in education in some capacity.

While pursuing a master’s degree in education, I was able to land my first job as an animator with a PBS affiliate for a series of six, nationwide daily live broadcast classes (a broadcast precursor to on-line classes).  I was plopped down right in the hot seat as the sole animator to coordinate, design and generate graphics for six hours of classes every day.  In taking on this new job, I quickly realized how shockingly unprepared I was.  I had never created animation with a computer and knew nothing about all the technical issues of broadcast graphics, and the technical director of the classes was not in the least bit shy about making my ignorance abundantly clear.  He was a Vietnam veteran who was initially skeptical of the new graphics I was introducing to the classes.  Part of my initial training involved running repeated wind sprints up from my workstation to his control booth so I could see on the scopes exactly how my graphics were in violation of FCC broadcast standards.  After this initial boot camp, I sponged up as much knowledge as I could and did ease into the job quite well. There was an experimental nature to the classes, and I was able to push the boundaries of how I could use my animation as a communication tool.  The fact that my boss hired me for this job which, at least on paper, I was so clearly unqualified for leads me to my fist chunk of wisdom:

For entry-level jobs, people are rarely hired due to their current skills, but because they are a good investment

With my own experience as a primary example, I have seen so many people hired for entry level jobs not from their resume lines, but from an affable personality and an obvious desire to work, listen and learn.

While I was working with the classes, I took it upon myself to learn every piece of animation software they had in the building which included the old Wavefront software, my first foray into 3D animation.

Never pass up an opportunity to learn

While the Wavefront software was cutting edge for its time, by today’s standards, I might as well have been using a diesel-powered abacus to create my graphics.  But, I feel grateful that I went through this initial learning curve on a more rugged tool since it forced me to find creative technical solutions.  With the amazing capacity of the tools available today, I’ve seen a tendency in some newbies to sit back and be more of a passive software driver. At the risk of sounding like a crotchety old-timer, I’m glad that in order to create what would now be considered rudimentary effects, I had to MacGyver together some clever trick to get the job done.  Going about my work with this more “MacGyvering” approach I feel has made me more fearless and creative with my software.

Drive the software – don’t let the software drive you.

At work, my responsibilities expanded beyond the classes to include show openings, interstitials, and the like.  I also took on my first outside freelance job for a commercial.  This proud moment in my career was a commercial for a local taco restaurant which featured 3D animated peppers, onions, and a tomato all wearing sombreros, dancing and shaking maracas. Although the taco restaurant did go out of business a month or so after the commercial aired, my animated conga line of vegetables was never proven to be the direct cause of their economic downturn.

For the pre-calculus class I worked with, I created an animation depicting how the Greek mathematician Eratosthenes was able to measure the size of the earth in the 3rd century BC with only basic geometry.  I was quite proud of the video and felt it was a great example of how I could use my medium to communicate abstract concepts, but never thought that anyone outside of the classes would give it much attention.  A colleague encouraged me to submit this animation to the SIGGRAPH conference.  Every year, the SIGGRAPH conference is a mecca for computer artists from around the world, and their Electronic Theater is the holy grail of computer animation festivals featuring the most beautiful and cutting edge work in the CG world.  I honestly thought it was rather stupid to think I my work belonged anywhere near the conference, but after some coercion, I figured all I had to lose was some postage and a sliver of pride.  A few months later, I remember reading and rereading in disbelief the letter from the conference saying that my animation was accepted into the Electronic Theater.  Compared to the other entries in the festival, my animation was very low-tech, but the story was good and it had a compelling message.

A strong idea, even when presented a humble way, is still compelling.

Getting my work in such an international venue did draw a good deal of attention, and, long story short, I was eventually offered a job at a major visual effects studio. I did have a demo reel I had pieced together, and interestingly enough, the part of it that seemed to impress the studio the most was the clip that was the most “low-tech”.  In my work, I had felt that I was often fighting a certain inertia in terms of the look the software could deliver.  For this one piece, I decided to go in a completely opposite direction in terms of look, and hacked together a clever little low-tech cheat to create something that looked completely different.  The resulting novelty of the look impressed them, and they were even more impressed when I told them how simply I had accomplished it.

This studio where I was hired was a place I had worshiped from afar for many years, and getting a job there was an odd mix of exhilaration and “oh crap, what have I gotten myself into”.  Again, I see that I was hired on as an investment probably more than for the current quality of my work.  The job took me and my wife to Los Angeles, and to compound to the surreal nature of the move, the LA branch of the studio was in a small place up in the Hollywood Hills immediately under the Hollywood sign.  The studio was actually the closest structure to the sign, and if the second O in Hollywood were to become dislodged and fall over, it would have crushed my workstation.

The first feature film I worked on was probably one of the most fruitful learning experiences of my life.  This was due not only to the fact that I was still new to the visual effects industry, but also because nearly everything that could happen wrong in production did, and I had a plethora of lessons in “try to make sure this never happens again”.  For this feature, I was given a sequence to create in which a CG creature was to fight two actors and eventually be beaten into submission.  My first “try to make sure this never happens again” lesson was that the whole sequence had already been shot before anyone knew what the creature was supposed to look like.  In the footage I was given, the actors were essentially beating the hell out of what looked like an 8-foot phallus covered in greenscreen material, and I had to figure out what to put in there in place of the giant phallus.  I was able to reverse-engineer a design for the creature and figure out what actions I could make it perform in order to have the fight make sense.  I think what I came up with was pretty effective, although it resulted in my creature being an abysmal fighter.  The creature had to make many unwise moves which always seemed to place some part of his body in the path of a punch every 20 frames or so.

Tomorrow we continue with Part 2 of The Reality of an Unreal Career.


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