March 25, 2014

World Atlas Of Disney Feature Animations

So now that I'm (finally) getting back into art, I've decided to get "more" active on my deviantart page. And browse the website, of course. While doing that, I found this really, really cool map!

It looks like the US is the big winner, followed by England! I know the next one Disney's working on right now is another one set on the wonderful islands of Hawaii... I wonder which it will be after that?

March 18, 2014

On Negative Criticism

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. 
We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. 
But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the "new." 
The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends."
Anton Ego, Ratatouille

In other words, dare to be yourself, even if yourself is strange and different!

March 11, 2014

Now I Am Become Death, The Destroyer Of Worlds

Three years ago, a horrible disaster hit the coast of beautiful Japan, the worst nuclear catastrophe since Chernobyl (which took place in 1986).

What some may not know, however, is that the Fukushima plant was not the closest plant to the epicenter of the earthquake.  No, that title goes to the plant at Onagawa which, like its fallen brethren, had to endure the brunt of the Tohoku earthquake and following tsunami, but is a much more populous city to boot.

The hero behind the Onagawa plant is Yanosuke Hirai.  In 1968, Hirai retired from his position as VP at
Tohoku Electric Power and joined a committee for the construction of the company's plant in Onagawa.
 The man wanted the plant to be built 50 ft above sea level, that it should have a cooling system that would provide water even if a tsunami's receding waters temporarily left the plant dry, and should be protected by a 49 ft seawall (other had planned for this wall to be a mere 10 ft tall).

Despite the critiques he received from the company's bureaucrats who wanted to save money, Hirai held firm (incidentally, he believed bureaucrats to be "like human trash...who never take final responsibility.").  The company's then president finally agreed to Hirai's design, and the wall ended up being 46 ft high (since the tsunami, the wall's been raised another 10 ft).

So what about the Fukushima plant?  That plant also had a seawall, but it didn't go over 19 feet high, so that the 43-ft tsunami that had traveled 112 miles to get there had no trouble getting over it, knocking power out, creating meltdowns, explosions, and ensuing release of radioactive matter in the ocean.

Corporate compliance is different from compliance.  Just being 'not guilty' is not enough. ~Tatsuji Oshima

But without counting all the deaths brought on by the tsunami, here's another scary aspect of this terrible incident:  the radioactive pollution that will affect/is affecting the rest of the world.

I really hope that, after all the disasters we've had in recent years (Gulf of Mexico Oil spill for instance), we've finally learned that cutting corners for a little bit of extra profit is just not worth it.  But I'm afraid history does have a tendency to repeat itself... Sigh.

Full Article:
How tenacity, a wall saved a Japanese nuclear plant from meltdown after tsunami, by Richard Read

The title is a quote from the Bhagavad Gita which was brought to J. Robert Oppenheimer's mind after he witnessed the results of the first atomic bomb detonation.

March 5, 2014

The #1 Grammar Foe For An English Learner – Prepositions!

I know I’m a bit late, but yesterday was National Grammar Day and I was given the opportunity to check out this new website that’s been gaining popularity around the English-speaking world: Grammarly.

I don’t know if any of you know, but I’m not a native English speaker. Nope, English is my second language and, for a while, it was my third (until my father made me change schools to learn English as a second language because he didn’t like my Dutch accent when trying to speak his mother tongue). Granted, when I did get to take English classes, it was rather easy for me. Except for one thing: prepositions!

Prepositions are those pesky little words that link other words or pieces of sentences together while qualifying the relationship between the two (the “where, when, how” basically).

Here are a few, along with some examples, to give you an idea:
  •   Above – The birds are flying above the house.
  •  Beyond – The evil witch lives beyond the lake.
  • During – He tried to grab her hand during the movie but she kept moving it away. (Incidentally, “but” is also a preposition).
  •  Of – The main character of this book is an annoying little brat!
  • Onto – Dead tired, he plopped onto the couch and lay there for the rest of the day.
  •  Without – He decided right then and there that he couldn’t live without her.
These are tiny words that can drastically change the meaning of a sentence, and often, as a non-native speaker, in ways you may not even realize.

So I decided to test this program out with the following text and see how Grammarly would react:

Yeah, I cringed just writing
this piece!
     I stared to the policewoman questioning me. “I arrived to my house on 9:07 that night, after having been at the bar down the street for a few hours,” I tell her. “I should have known something was wrong since my dog who always barks to anyone approaching the house was quiet. But after drinking a tubful worth from gin, I was happy of simply be able to open the door. “
     “How did you know what time it was?” she asks me.
     “The bar closed at nine that night, because the owners had to go to the hospital for check about their son.”
     “This wouldn’t happen to be Mr. Barnaby, would it?” the cop asks me, taking notes into her pad.
    I shake my head and immediately regret it since the movement blinds me with pain. “The one which was shot, yes,” I say. “Could I have some ice? And perhaps some aspirin too…”

As you can see, I made a very conscious—and excruciatingly painful—effort to pick as many wrong prepositions as possible, since that is the topic of this post. Here are the results of my Grammarly test:

1. The program is very simple to use—you can either upload or copy and paste your text into their website, then pick what type of review you want: 

2. You can also check for plagiarism.

As you can see, it picks up on even very mundane sentences, by doing a check on the web, and gives you an estimate of how much of your text may be “borrowed” and would perhaps require the naming of sources (in this case, I scored 15%).

3. Grammarly also picked up on a few things that I hadn’t done on purpose.

Indeed, in this case Grammarly was correct, and I could have done without the comma. On a side note, I’m also very impressed with the level of detail in terms of explanations that comes with the suggestion (and if you’re a native speaker and use this program to double check your writing, then you can choose the “Short explanations” button instead).

4. Sadly, it didn’t pick up any of the “mis-prepositions” I’d sprinkled throughout the text. Granted, this is something that’s a lot more subtle (hence why I’ve always had a hard time with them). So I decided to see if any of the other Review Styles would work.

(a) General and Academic Reviews:
This review picked up on four other things that the Creative Review dismissed, such as beginning a sentence with a conjunction (“But” or “And”), as well as the use of the passive voice (“was shot”) and the use of contraction (“wouldn’t”).
I like that this review picked up on the passive voice, because that can be an issue as a writer where, generally speaking, the more active the better. However, once again, it didn’t pick up on the wrong prepositions.

(b) Business and Technical Reviews:
Only three issues found, all of which had been found in the General Review.

(c) Casual Review:
Only picked up on my wrong comma.

OK, so it appears I totally wrote a text with the one type of mistake Grammarly doesn’t pick up on (serves me right for not reading what the program does and doesn’t do), but it appears Grammarly does check for a lot of things your regular spell check might not catch onto, including:

  •  Use of subjunctive.
  • Faulty parallelism.
  • Dangling modifiers.
  • Comma splices.
  • Incomplete comparisons.
  • Use of articles.
  • Double negatives.
  • Pronoun case agreement.

And, what I find great since it is a pet peeve of mine, it also checks the quantifiers used (another mistake I made quite often growing up).

In short, though it doesn’t seem to catch preposition errors (they are subtle mistakes to catch, after all, especially for an automated editor, and worthy of their number one spot on the Most Dangerous Grammar Mistakes list), Grammarly allows you to make much less mistakes!

For those of you curious what the text would look like with more appropriate prepositions, here it is:

     I stared at the policewoman questioning me. “I arrived at my house at 9:07 that night, after having been at the bar down the street for a few hours,” I tell her. “I should have known something was wrong since my dog who always barks at anyone approaching the house was quiet. But after drinking a tubful worth of gin, I was happy to simply be able to open the door. “
     “How did you know what time it was?” she asks me.
     “The bar closed at nine that night, because the owners had to go to the hospital to check on their son.”
     “This wouldn’t happen to be Mr. Barnaby, would it?” the cop asks me, taking notes on her pad.
    I shake my head and immediately regret it as the movement blinds me with pain. “The one who was shot, yes,” I say. “Could I have some ice? And perhaps some aspirin too…”

Note: “who” is actually a pronoun, not a preposition, but I figured I’d slip that one in as well…

March 4, 2014

How To Create A Successful Business According To Walt Disney

"I knew if this business was ever to get anywhere, if this business was to ever grow, it could never do it by having to answer to someone unsympathetic to its possibilities, by having to answer to someone with only one thought or interest, namely profits.
For my idea of how to make profits has differed greatly from those who generally control businesses such as ours. I have blind faith in the policy that quality, tempered with good judgment and showmanship, will win against all odds."
~Walt Disney

Incidentally, I believe that the slump Disney felt after its "Second Golden Age" (the era starting from The Little Mermaid though The Lion King) may be linked to a loss of this particular vision, and trying to go for speed and the search for ever greater returns over the one for greater storytelling and art (which also led to many disgruntled artists). 

I believe that since around the time of Tangled, Disney has been trying to get back to its previous standards
by focusing on the story as opposed to immediate profits, and its bottom line has subsequently increased (with their latest, Frozen, having been an amazing hit with over $300 million grossed, beating the record that had been held by The Lion King 20 years ago!).

March 2, 2014

National Read Across America (And The Whole World) Day

This day (which has been geographically expanded thanks to yours truly) is in remembrance of Dr. Seuss (pronounced Zoice) whose goal in life was to write books that made children want to read. And I believe he's succeeded quite well (especially here in America, as I must admit I'd never heard of him or his books growing up in Belgium).

Reading is such a great gift! I still remember my parents teaching me my letters, then my father sitting me on top of the dining room table, during one of our summer vacation trips, to show me how to string those letters together into words with a couple of books he'd just bought me. That was my first step into whole new worlds filled with myriads of adventures waiting to be lived!

And on that note, here's something for you, whether you be big or small, who may be daunted by a new adventure, whatever it may be...


Congratulations! Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places! You're off and away!

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.

You'll look up and down streets. Look 'em over with care.
About some you will say, "I don' choose to go there."
With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet,
You're too smart to go down any not-so-good street.

And you may not find any you'll want to go down.
In that case, of course, you'll head straight out of town.
It's opener there
In the wide open air.

Out there things can happen and frequently do
To people as brainy and footsy as you.
And when things start to happen, don't worry. Don't stew.
Just go right along. You'll be happening too.


You'll be on your way up! You'll be seeing great sights!
You'll join high fliers who soar to high heights.

You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.
You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you'll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don't
Because sometimes, you won't.
I'm sorry to say so, but sadly it's true
And Hang-ups can happen to you.

You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on. You'll be left in a Lurch.
You'll come down from the Lurch with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then, that you'll be in a Slump.

And when you're in a Slump, you're not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they're darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And IF you go in, should you turn left or right...
Or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?
Or go around back and sneak in from behind?
Simple it's not, I'm afraid you will find,
For a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind.

You can get so confused that you'll start in to race
Down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
And grind on for miles across weirdish wild space, 
Headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place...

...for people just waiting. Waiting for a train to go
Or a bus to come, or a plane to go
Or the mail to come, or the rain to go
Or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
Or waiting around for a Yes or a No
Or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
Or waiting for the wind to fly a kite
Or waiting around for Friday night
Or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
Or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
Or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
Or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.

That's not for you!

Somehow you'll escape all that waiting and staying.
You'll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing.
With banner flip-flapping, once more you'll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky! Ready because you're that kind of a guy!

Oh, the places you'll go! There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.
And the magical things you can do with that ball
Will make you the winning-est winner of all.
Fame! You'll be famous as famous can be,
With the whole wide world watching you win on TV.

Except when they don't.
Because, sometimes, they won't.
I'm afraid that sometimes you'll play lonely games too.
Games you can't win 'cause you'll play against you.

All Alone! Whether you like it or not,
Alone will be something you'll be quite a lot.

And when you're alone, there's a very good chance
You'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
That can scare you so much you won't want to go on.

But on you will go though the weather be foul
On you will go though your enemies prowl
On you will go though the Hacken-Kraks howl
Onward up many a frightening creek,
Though your arms may get sore and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike and I know you'll hike far
And face up to your problems whatever they are.

You'll get mixed up, of course, as you already know.
You'll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step, step with care and great tact
And remember that Life's a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)


So... be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
Or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea
You're off to Great Places! Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting. So...get on your way!

~Dr. Seuss