best when viewed in low light


JB Makes A Good Point

Blind acceptance is the disease of politics.

Though I've voiced my vote already, I'm willing to acknowledge a valid criticism when I see it.

JB [from earlier today] makes a good point.

Any Obama supporters seen this, and if you did, do you care?

He Said, She Said

Subject: Re: Obama Bashing
Date: September 30, 2008 11:09:01 AM EDT

You have no idea who you are talking to, do you.... [Now I do. Thanks JB!]

Since you don't know it, I'll inform you. The primaries are over and we are down to two final choices. Every American must now choose between them, like it or not. My choice is clear, isn't it?

But before the primaries ended, here are a few JB columns on McCain...

JB Williams
Oh Great! Dumb, Dumber and Spineless on Tour When I first heard former Senator Phil Gramm refer to our economic condition as a “mental crisis” and suggest that too many Americans had become “whiners,” my immediate reaction was, too bad too few Americans would comprehend the hard truth he just set before them…
Jul 12, 2008, 14:58 ET

JB Williams
Making the Best Of a Bad Election Cycle This day has been a long time coming. We’ve arrived at a time in American history when we have reached the bottom of the barrel in terms of political talent and no decent American truly qualified to lead the free world would ever even consider entering the cesspool of national politics.
Jul 10, 2008, 13:09 ET

JB Williams
Principles vs. Politics: Conservatives in the Crossfire At a time when American voters have been sold the bill of goods known as “Democratic Socialism,” the nanny states promise to solve personal problems at the expense of freedom and liberty for the 50% of Americans who pay taxes, conservatives find themselves caught in the crossfire of a centrist campaign season.
Jun 10, 2008, 16:55 ET

JB Williams
The True American Maverick When American voters think of the term “maverick,” they often think of Senator John McCain because McCain has spent decades associating himself with that term. To some degree, McCain is right to call himself a “maverick,” having independently departed the company of both his party and his constituents on many issues over the years.
May 15, 2008, 20:04 ET

JB Williams
Meet the Anti-Candidates: Nobody's FOR Them! No matter which candidates campaign speech you attend, you will hear only how they oppose the positions of the other two candidates. You will hear very little about why you should support them, only why you should not support the others. That’s because there is little reason to vote for any of them.
May 5, 2008, 10:00 ET

JB Williams
Is the RNC Getting the Message Yet? The RNC is not the GOP. It’s only a collective national action committee for the state Republican parties, a fund raising and steering committee. Yet for far too long, the RNC has assumed increasing power over the political process to the detriment of the party. Voter complacency and apathy towards the political process has left control of the party in the hands of a few centrist party elites and conservative voters have lost faith in their own party as a result.
Apr 9, 2008, 22:01 ET

JB Williams
To Be Conservative In America America’s conservative party, the Grand Ole Republican Party, is so fractured down ideological lines that it has not been able to advance a real conservative candidate in a quarter century, since Reagan won re-election twenty four years ago in 1984.
Mar 4, 2008, 19:32 ET

JB Williams
Don't Waterboard Me Bro! Remember the little college dimwit who wrongly thought he had a right to speak freely at a John Kerry event last year, screaming “don’t taze me bro! – don’t taze me bro!” as police officers proceeded to taze him to the ground and remove him from the Kerry event? Apparently, Democrats are more offended by a voice of opposition at their campaign stops than by known Islamic terrorists whom they would never allow to be “tazed” or even “waterboarded.”
Feb 21, 2008, 11:11 ET

JB Williams
McCain Works Well Across the Aisle But Can He Work With Republicans? Being best buds with the likes of Teddy Kennedy, Hillary Clinton and Barrack Hussein Obama might buy you a few Independent votes, but it won’t do much for your core conservative constituents. McCain’s buds think Joe Lieberman is a right-wing extremist and worked to defeat his re-election.
Feb 17, 2008, 17:23 ET

JB Williams
Is the RNC Trying to Destroy the GOP? Whether the RNC is trying to destroy the GOP or not, it’s clear that they couldn’t do a better job of destroying it, no matter how hard they try. Making John McCain the RNC nominee is the most certain way to lose the 2008 election. But even if McCain could actually win in November, almost a numerical impossibility by the way, many conservatives have already predicted that even a McCain victory would be the end of the GOP as we know it. What’s the RNC thinking?
Feb 12, 2008, 10:38 ET

JB Williams
Conservatives have already lost the White House. What's their next move? In his speech to CPAC moments ago, Republican nominee John McCain called himself a life-long conservative. But that’s not what life-long conservatives call him. His speech writers included all the right conservative buzz words. But most of them are at odds with his past performance. So, what now?
Feb 8, 2008, 10:29 ET

JB Williams
Clinton, McCain, Obama & the MSM Not long ago, the idea that any of these three candidates could ever be President of the United States would have seemed insane to most Americans. Even now, most American’s are scratching their heads in disbelief and asking all of their friends, “Did you vote for them? – No, did you? – No, how about you? – No… Then who in the hell is voting for these people?”
Feb 4, 2008, 10:50 ET

JB Williams
How the Republican Party Committed National Suicide Republicans no longer control the Republican Party and as a result, they can not advance a truly Republican candidate though the current liberal leaning primary process. By the time 99 percent of Republicans get a chance to vote in the primaries, all real Republicans have already been eliminated from the race. Lesser evil choices are all that remain by Super Tuesday…?
Feb 1, 2008, 16:39 ET

JB Williams
Time for some REAL Straight Talk: John McCain is an Outright Liar! Republicans had better rush to come to grips with the reality that all of our smart options for the 2008 election cycle are already off the table. Unlike past elections, Republicans actually had two very strong conservatives to unite behind in the 2008 primaries, Thompson and Hunter, and they failed to unite behind either of them.
Jan 30, 2008, 19:20 ET

Need I keep going? I challenge you to read them all and accuse me of not covering McCain again...

We all have the same choice now... a less than perfect candidate, or a far from perfect candidate/

An Obama presidency WOULD serve the Republican Party very well. It WOULD force many Americans back to the right and that WOULD be in the best interest of the Republican Party.

However, that assumes that the nation can survive four years of Obama. That's a heavily flawed assumption today.

Next time, take a few minutes to know who you are talking to and what you are talking about before making a fool of yourself.

Thanks again for writing!

JB Williams

"That's what I love about America! - We've done so many things that "can't be done" - that we have become bored with the possible!" - JB
----- Original Message -----
From: PHE
To: JB Williams
Sent: Tuesday, September 30, 2008 9:55 AM
Subject: Re: Obama Bashing

Is this an automatically generated message? Because you don't respond to anything that I said directly.

Obviously I know that McCain is the only other choice. Are you as familiar with the details of HIS policy agenda as you are with Obama's?

I would love to see a critical rundown of McCain's inconsistencies. Then I could actually tell if 1) you know what you're talking about, 2) you're interested in political discourse rather than the biased bashing of a single candidate, and 3) willing to look analytically at the candidate whom you have clearly chosen.

I dare you.

On Sep 30, 2008, at 10:42 AM, JB Williams wrote:

It appears that you are in over your head here.

Are you not aware of the very real fact that one of two men will be the next president, Obama or McCain?

At all times in history, we have faced the political choice between the less than perfect and the far from perfect. That's because there is no such thing as a perfect candidate.

Since Obama and his press corps won't tell the voters who or what he really is, someone must, so I did.

McCain is the less than perfect candidate in this race who has a chance to win. Obama is the far from perfect candidate who also has a chance to win.

No other less than perfect candidate has any chance at all of keeping the far from perfect candidate out of the most powerful office in the free world.

McCain is the ONLY viable alternative to Obama. If you don't already know this, I can't help you. You have a learning disability.

Thanks for writing!

JB Williams

"That's what I love about America! - We've done so many things that "can't be done" - that we have become bored with the possible!" - JB
----- Original Message -----
From: PHE
Sent: Monday, September 29, 2008 9:31 PM
Subject: Obama Bashing

I'm all for meticulous critique of the many unattainable everybody-gets-everything policy stances commonly taken in today's (and yesterday's and every moment of history's) political scene.

But bashing Obama only gets us so far.

What's your alternative? McCain? Because a resoundingly stagnant conservative like yourself can't see much promise there. If ever there was a socialist Republican, it's him. we go with the conservative masking as a Democrat, or vote for the total anomaly masking as an aisle-crossing conservative? (And really, the contemporary Republican party calling itself conservative is already laughable.)

Criticism like this is a waste of your time and ours. Without offering an alternative, your intellectual gesticulating is just so much hot air.

You should be ashamed. Some people might actually take you seriously.

[The original article here.]


This Much

Really, it's for your own good.

Every human being I know is afflicted with Love Deprivation Syndrome. Now where did I leave my last refill?


Another Life

At least she was the first!

Hanged and burned at the stake in Newgate prison for forgery?

Game Like A Girl

Love that gender stereotyping!

Girls are social, boys like to kill each other.

All of them - miraculously - cohabit both on Earth and in virtual worlds.

It's Not MY Job!

Listen motherfuckers. All you billionaire bankers who made the calls that brought all the cards down...


And you, YOU sniveling excuse for a capitalist government! You should be ashamed of yourselves. Seizing a bank?!


Buy In Or Buy Out

Agreement on Principles

1. Taxpayer Protection

    a. Requires Treasury Secretary to set standards to prevent excessive or inappropriate executive compensation for participating companies

    b. To minimize risk to the American taxpayer, requires that any transaction include equity sharing

    c. Requires most profits to be used to reduce the national debt

2. Oversight and Transparency

    a. Treasury Secretary is prohibited from acting in an arbitrary or capricious manner or in any way that is inconsistent with existing law

    b. Establishes strong oversight board with cease and desist authority

    c. Requires program transparency and public accountability through regular, detailed reports to Congress disclosing exercise of the Treasury Secretary’s authority

    d. Establishes an independent Inspector General to monitor the use of the Treasury Secretary’s authority

    e. Requires GAO audits to ensure proper use of funds, appropriate internal controls, and to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse

3. Homeownership Preservation

    a. Maximize and coordinate efforts to modify mortgages for homeowners at risk of foreclosure

    b. Requires loan modifications for mortgages owned or controlled by the Federal Government

    c. Directs a percentage of future profits to the Affordable Housing Fund and the Capital Magnet Fund to meet America’s housing needs

4. Funding Authority

    a. Treasury Secretary’s request for $700 billion is authorized, with $250 billion available immediately and an additional $100 billion released upon his or her certification that funds are needed

    b. final $350 billion is subject to a Congressional joint resolution of disapproval

    The "buy out", as printed in the Wall Street Journal. And an attempt to explain the numbers.

Good Girls Gone Wild

A simple, coherent statement of the power of sexual politics to undermine even the most "progressive" social movements.

In Thailand.

SunChaser Evolves

I know I announced the demo of the SunChaser game Elizabeth, TingTing and I made in the spring.

Well, now that TT's too busy, we've acquired a new team: Ashly, Ryland and Marcela.

We're improving the gameplay dramatically and advancing the artwork.

Here's some of my inspirations for the avatar.

And some prototyped play.

Videogame Sociology

Proving, yet again, that the line between play and everything else is blurry at best.

And is, in fact, a more precise mirror of the systems and thought processes that adults institutionalize in other forms. Academics, for example. Or banking.

Or politics.

Connecting People in SL

I can't attend, sadly, but I'm curious to know what Nokia is doing in SecondLife.

Go straight there! 11am EST, right now.


Economy 911

Referencing 9/11 is no accident. This is more success than a massive collusion could even dream.

There's no conspiracy here except our unwillingness to confront the real changes we need to make in our lives. This isn't about "change". This is about local and regional schedules for running fresh water. No lawn mowing. No gasoline powered vehicles. Locally grown foods because its the only kind you can get.

New un-models for education, work, play. If you think Obama, or McCain, or Hillary, or anyone else is going to make this happen, you've got another think coming.

Shocked to find this in AdAge.


World of War

Who better to craft a terrorist plot against the White House than the US government itself?
Keep up the good work!

Let The Sky Fall

Want to know what's happening in the world and why?

Follow the money.

Our culture is deeply invested in virtual value - stocks, futures, govt bonds, etc - the vast majority of these have NO REAL MATERIAL VALUE.

The global stock market may collapse, and it should. In a truly capitalist economy, that is the purging that builds innovation, evolution and motivates productivity. It is scary, and it is beautiful. When your business dies, the market lets it go happily. A newer, better, smarter business will meet the need that your business met, or it will also go the way of the dodo.

And so for the financial firms facing the failure of their houses of carefully accounted cards, let it go, y'all. Let it go.Government is not, should not be in the business of bailing you out.



Hot Air News

[SOURCE: Wall Street Journal, AUTHOR: Paul Farhi]
When Democrats turned their attention to national security themes at their
nominating convention last month, Sen. John McCain's campaign was ready. In a
withering TV commercial called "Tiny," McCain claimed that Sen. Barack Obama had
called Iran a "tiny" country that "doesn't pose a serious threat." As reporters
scrambled to vet the claims -- which, it reportedly turned out, distorted
Obama's comments -- few noticed something curious about the commercial itself:
"Tiny" appeared almost nowhere on the air except in news accounts. Since
introducing the much-discussed commercial two weeks ago, in fact, McCain's
campaign has bought airtime for it just 10 times. The McCain ad, in other words,
wasn't really much of an ad at all. In political parlance, "Tiny" was a "vapor,"
or "ghost," ad. The goal of such spots is to stir up news-media interest rather
than to reach voters directly through the purchase of expensive TV time. [64]
Comment on this Headline [65] ok...

[So, I know I'm feeding into the whole cycle intended by the McCain camp by posting this ad on my blog, but the circularity of that - my attention is (we should all note) NOT on any electoral issues as I post this - is an irresistible illustration of human circular mundanity.]

[This is today's version]

[In contrast, Drill Baby Drill is a valuable metaphor - a political cartoon of sorts. Tony, you know I already think you're a fucking genius.]


For Immediate Release

Subject: For Immediate Release: Kistler Prize Winner Dr. J. Craig Venter
Date: September 8, 2008 5:41:04 PM EDT


Foundation For the Future Names Dr. J. Craig Venter 2008 Winner of $100,000
Kistler Prize

BELLEVUE, WA, Sept. 8, 2008 - The Foundation For the Future has selected
genome research pioneer Dr. J. Craig Venter as the 2008 winner of the
Kistler Prize. The Prize is awarded annually for original work that
significantly increases knowledge and understanding of the relationship
between the human genome and society.

Dr. Venter is being honored for a body of pioneering work in genome science.
He is currently Chairman and President of J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI),
Rockville, MD, a not-for-profit research institute dedicated to the
advancement of the science of genomics; the understanding of its
implications for society; and communication of those results to the
scientific community, the public, and policymakers. Venter came to
prominence in scientific circles in 1991 for his novel technique for rapid
gene discovery and in 1995 for the first sequencing in history of a genome
of a living species, the bacteria Haemophilus influenzae. In February 2001
he and his team at Celera Genomics published the sequencing and analysis of
the human genome. Since this historic accomplishment, Venter went on to
investigate genomes found in the atmosphere and the oceans. JCVI published
in 2006 findings from ocean sampling that uncovered over six million new
genes and thousands of new protein families from organisms in seawater. In
2007 Venter's own complete individual genome was sequenced and published in
the first-ever publication of a genome sequence of an individual, covering
both chromosome pairs. At present, JCVI continues pioneering work toward the
creation of a fully synthetic organism.

"For nearly two decades, the name most commonly associated with genome
research is that of Craig Venter," said Sesh Velamoor, Deputy Director,
Programs, for the Foundation. "His work, especially the recent sequencing
and analysis of his individual genome, has laid the groundwork for the
promise of truly individualized medicine and health care, which will greatly
impact the long-term future of humanity. Venter goes fearlessly where no one
has gone before in understanding genomes in general and the human genome in

Dr. Venter's work is recounted in his book A Life Decoded: My Genome: My
Life (Penguin, 2007). His research, often considered controversial, has met
with bitter confrontations and strenuous objections. "It is this kind of
dedication to and rigorous pursuit of scientific research, with courage and
conviction despite criticism and opposition, that the Kistler Prize was
created to recognize," said Walter Kistler, originator of the Prize.

The Kistler Prize includes a cash award of US$100,000 and a 180-gram gold
medallion. It is named for Walter P. Kistler, President and benefactor of
the Foundation For the Future, who will formally present the 2008 award to
Dr. Venter in a gala banquet and ceremony in Seattle on September 11, 2008.
The black-tie, invitation-only event is expected to be attended by
scientists, social scientists, technologists, and other scholars from all
over the world.

Besides the Kistler Prize, Foundation For the Future awards the Walter P.
Kistler Book Award. Other awards are the Walter P. Kistler Science
Documentary Film Award and the Walter P. Kistler Science Teacher Award. The
Foundation convenes seminars, workshops, and symposia that focus on the
long-term future of humanity, and it is presently developing a four-program
television documentary series entitled The Next Thousand Years. It also
funds research programs, publishes scholarly works, and undertakes public
awareness and education programs concerning the long-term future of
humanity. Details on its activities are available at



Sesh Velamoor
Deputy Director, Programs
425-451-1333 x1024

Jean Gilbertson
Mgr, Public Relations
425-451-1333 x1013

Love You Too

The first twenty-first century band


Males Evolve?

The question I would pose to you, Peter Nardi, is: Where, Mr. Expert-on-Male-Friendships, is "there"?

I'll give you this, though. Hugs are good for everyone.Are we gray?

Close Tabs

We don't even know our own systems, how could we possibly make a machine that does? The singularity is a joke...projecting arrogant blindness onto robots, too. There's an evolution of the species for you.

This article was sent on the Nerdwire as evidence of the efficacy of learning in a virtual environment. But borders? Are you really teaching people about borders in a virtually infinite space? If I wasn't so hungover I would laugh really hard.

Politics is already a game.

Big up Paul and Lucas.


Pixar Can

Fuck the HBS for making it necessary for those of us not feeding into its monstrous endowment to pay for articles. Just another way for Harvard to say..."oh, it's one of the little people."
[Oh yeah, you're not that smart and all the girls are ugly. Whatcha gonna do now, Harvard?]

Illegally pilfered HBS text below:
Form the Harvard Business Review....
> How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity
> Behind Pixar's string of hit movies, says the studio's president, is
> a peer-driven process for solving problems.
> by Ed Catmull
> A few years ago, I had lunch with the head of a major motion picture
> studio, who declared that his central problem was not finding good
> people-it was finding good ideas. Since then, when giving talks, I've
> asked audiences whether they agree with him. Almost always there's a
> 50/50 split, which has astounded me because I couldn't disagree more
> with the studio executive. His belief is rooted in a misguided view
> of creativity that exaggerates the importance of the initial idea in
> creating an original product. And it reflects a profound
> misunderstanding of how to manage the large risks inherent in
> producing breakthroughs.
> When it comes to producing breakthroughs, both technological and
> artistic, Pixar's track record is unique. In the early 1990s, we were
> known as the leading technological pioneer in the field of computer
> animation. Our years of R&D culminated in the release of Toy Story in
> 1995, the world's first computer-animated feature film. In the
> following 13 years, we have released eight other films (A Bug's Life;
> Toy Story 2; Monsters, Inc.; Finding Nemo; The Incredibles; Cars;
> Ratatouille; and WALL*E), which also have been blockbusters. Unlike
> most other studios, we have never bought scripts or movie ideas from
> the outside. All of our stories, worlds, and characters were created
> internally by our community of artists. And in making these films, we
> have continued to push the technological boundaries of computer
> animation, securing dozens of patents in the process.
> While I'm not foolish enough to predict that we will never have a
> flop, I don't think our success is largely luck. Rather, I believe
> our adherence to a set of principles and practices for managing
> creative talent and risk is responsible. Pixar is a community in the
> true sense of the word. We think that lasting relationships matter,
> and we share some basic beliefs: Talent is rare. Management's job is
> not to prevent risk but to build the capability to recover when
> failures occur. It must be safe to tell the truth. We must constantly
> challenge all of our assumptions and search for the flaws that could
> destroy our culture. In the last two years, we've had a chance to
> test whether our principles and practices are transferable. After
> Pixar's 2006 merger with the Walt Disney Company, its CEO, Bob Iger,
> asked me, chief creative officer John Lasseter, and other Pixar
> senior managers to help him revive Disney Animation Studios. The
> success of our efforts prompted me to share my thinking on how to
> build a sustainable creative organization.
> What Is Creativity?
> People tend to think of creativity as a mysterious solo act, and they
> typically reduce products to a single idea: This is a movie about
> toys, or dinosaurs, or love, they'll say. However, in filmmaking and
> many other kinds of complex product development, creativity involves
> a large number of people from different disciplines working
> effectively together to solve a great many problems. The initial idea
> for the movie-what people in the movie business call "the high
> concept"-is merely one step in a long, arduous process that takes
> four to five years.
> A movie contains literally tens of thousands of ideas. They're in the
> form of every sentence; in the performance of each line; in the
> design of characters, sets, and backgrounds; in the locations of the
> camera; in the colors, the lighting, the pacing. The director and the
> other creative leaders of a production do not come up with all the
> ideas on their own; rather, every single member of the 200- to
> 250-person production group makes suggestions. Creativity must be
> present at every level of every artistic and technical part of the
> organization. The leaders sort through a mass of ideas to find the
> ones that fit into a coherent whole-that support the story-which is a
> very difficult task. It's like an archaeological dig where you don't
> know what you're looking for or whether you will even find anything.
> The process is downright scary.
> Taking Risks
> Then again, if we aren't always at least a little scared, we're not
> doing our job. We're in a business whose customers want to see
> something new every time they go to the theater. This means we have
> to put ourselves at great risk. Our most recent film, WALL*E, is a
> robot love story set in a post-apocalyptic world full of trash. And
> our previous movie, Ratatouille, is about a French rat who aspires to
> be a chef. Talk about unexpected ideas! At the outset of making these
> movies, we simply didn't know if they would work. However, since
> we're supposed to offer something that isn't obvious, we bought into
> somebody's initial vision and took a chance.
> To act in this fashion, we as executives have to resist our natural
> tendency to avoid or minimize risks, which, of course, is much easier
> said than done. In the movie business and plenty of others, this
> instinct leads executives to choose to copy successes rather than try
> to create something brand-new. That's why you see so many movies that
> are so much alike. It also explains why a lot of films aren't very
> good. If you want to be original, you have to accept the uncertainty,
> even when it's uncomfortable, and have the capability to recover when
> your organization takes a big risk and fails. What's the key to being
> able to recover? Talented people! Contrary to what the studio head
> asserted at lunch that day, such people are not so easy to find.
> What's equally tough, of course, is getting talented people to work
> effectively with one another. That takes trust and respect, which we
> as managers can't mandate; they must be earned over time. What we can
> do is construct an environment that nurtures trusting and respectful
> relationships and unleashes everyone's creativity. If we get that
> right, the result is a vibrant community where talented people are
> loyal to one another and their collective work, everyone feels that
> they are part of something extraordinary, and their passion and
> accomplishments make the community a magnet for talented people
> coming out of schools or working at other places. I know what I'm
> describing is the antithesis of the free-agency practices that
> prevail in the movie industry, but that's the point: I believe that
> community matters.
> The Roots of Our Culture
> My conviction that smart people are more important than good ideas
> probably isn't surprising. I've had the good fortune to work
> alongside amazing people in places that pioneered computer graphics.
> At the University of Utah, my fellow graduate students included Jim
> Clark, who cofounded Silicon Graphics and Netscape; John Warnock, who
> cofounded Adobe; and Alan Kay, who developed object-oriented
> programming. We had ample funding (thanks to the U.S. Defense
> Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency), the professors gave
> us free rein, and there was an exhilarating and creative exchange of
> ideas.
> At the New York Institute of Technology, where I headed a new
> computer-animation laboratory, one of my first hires was Alvy Ray
> Smith, who made breakthroughs in computer painting. That made me
> realize that it's OK to hire people who are smarter than you are.
> Then George Lucas, of Star Wars fame, hired me to head a major
> initiative at Lucasfilm to bring computer graphics and other digital
> technology into films and, later, games. It was thrilling to do
> research within a film company that was pushing the boundaries.
> George didn't try to lock up the technology for himself and allowed
> us to continue to publish and maintain strong academic contacts. This
> made it possible to attract some of the best people in the industry,
> including John Lasseter, then an animator from Disney, who was
> excited by the new possibilities of computer animation.
> Last but not least, there's Pixar, which began its life as an
> independent company in 1986, when Steve Jobs bought the computer
> division from Lucasfilm, allowing us to pursue our dream of producing
> computer-animated movies. Steve gave backbone to our desire for
> excellence and helped us form a remarkable management team. I'd like
> to think that Pixar captures what's best about all the places I've
> worked. A number of us have stuck together for decades, pursuing the
> dream of making computer-animated films, and we still have the
> pleasure of working together today.
> It was only when Pixar experienced a crisis during the production of
> Toy Story 2 that my views on how to structure and operate a creative
> organization began to crystallize. In 1996, while we were working on
> A Bug's Life, our second movie, we started to make a sequel to Toy
> Story. We had enough technical leaders to start a second production,
> but all of our proven creative leaders-the people who had made Toy
> Story, including John, who was its director; writer Andrew Stanton;
> editor Lee Unkrich; and the late Joe Ranft, the movie's head of
> story-were working on A Bug's Life. So we had to form a new creative
> team of people who had never headed a movie production. We felt this
> was OK. After all, John, Andrew, Lee, and Joe had never led a
> full-length animated film production before Toy Story.
> Disney, which at that time was distributing and cofinancing our
> films, initially encouraged us to make Toy Story 2 as a "direct to
> video"-a movie that would be sold only as home videos and not shown
> first in theaters. This was Disney's model for keeping alive the
> characters of successful films, and the expectation was that both the
> cost and quality would be lower. We realized early on, however, that
> having two different standards of quality in the same studio was bad
> for our souls, and Disney readily agreed that the sequel should be a
> theatrical release. The creative leadership, though, remained the
> same, which turned out to be a problem.
> In the early stage of making a movie, we draw storyboards (a
> comic-book version of the story) and then edit them together with
> dialogue and temporary music. These are called story reels. The first
> versions are very rough, but they give a sense of what the problems
> are, which in the beginning of all productions are many. We then
> iterate, and each version typically gets better and better. In the
> case of Toy Story 2, we had a good initial idea for a story, but the
> reels were not where they ought to have been by the time we started
> animation, and they were not improving. Making matters worse, the
> directors and producers were not pulling together to rise to the
> challenge.
> Finally A Bug's Life was finished, freeing up John, Andrew, Lee, and
> Joe to take over the creative leadership of Toy Story 2. Given where
> the production was at that point, 18 months would have been an
> aggressive schedule, but by then we had only eight left to deliver
> the film. Knowing that the company's future depended on them, crew
> members worked at an incredible rate. In the end, with the new
> leadership, they pulled it off.
> How did John and his team save the movie? The problem was not the
> original core concept, which they retained. The main character, a
> cowboy doll named Woody, is kidnapped by a toy collector who intends
> to ship him to a toy museum in Japan. At a critical point in the
> story, Woody has to decide whether to go to Japan or try to escape
> and go back to Andy, the boy who owned him. Well, since the movie is
> coming from Pixar and Disney, you know he's going to end up back with
> Andy. And if you can easily predict what's going to happen, you don't
> have any drama. So the challenge was to get the audience to believe
> that Woody might make a different choice. The first team couldn't
> figure out how to do it.
> John, Andrew, Lee, and Joe solved that problem by adding several
> elements to show the fears toys might have that people could relate
> to. One is a scene they created called "Jessie's story." Jessie is a
> cowgirl doll who is going to be shipped to Japan with Woody. She
> wants to go, and she explains why to Woody. The audience hears her
> story in the emotional song "When She Loved Me": She had been the
> darling of a little girl, but the girl grew up and discarded her. The
> reality is kids do grow up, life does change, and sometimes you have
> to move on. Since the audience members know the truth of this, they
> can see that Woody has a real choice, and this is what grabs them. It
> took our "A" team to add the elements that made the story work.
> Toy Story 2 was great and became a critical and commercial
> success-and it was the defining moment for Pixar. It taught us an
> important lesson about the primacy of people over ideas: If you give
> a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up; if you give a
> mediocre idea to a great team, they will either fix it or throw it
> away and come up with something that works.
> Toy Story 2 also taught us another important lesson: There has to be
> one quality bar for every film we produce. Everyone working at the
> studio at the time made tremendous personal sacrifices to fix Toy
> Story 2. We shut down all the other productions. We asked our crew to
> work inhumane hours, and lots of people suffered repetitive stress
> injuries. But by rejecting mediocrity at great pain and personal
> sacrifice, we made a loud statement as a community that it was
> unacceptable to produce some good films and some mediocre films. As a
> result of Toy Story 2, it became deeply ingrained in our culture that
> everything we touch needs to be excellent. This goes beyond movies to
> the DVD production and extras, and to the toys and other consumer
> products associated with our characters.
> Of course, most executives would at least pay lip service to the
> notion that they need to get good people and should set their
> standards high. But how many understand the importance of creating an
> environment that supports great people and encourages them to support
> one another so the whole is far greater than the sum of the parts?
> That's what we are striving to do. Let me share what we've learned so
> far about what works.
> Power to the Creatives
> Creative power in a film has to reside with the film's creative
> leadership. As obvious as this might seem, it's not true of many
> companies in the movie industry and, I suspect, a lot of others. We
> believe the creative vision propelling each movie comes from one or
> two people and not from either corporate executives or a development
> department. Our philosophy is: You get great creative people, you bet
> big on them, you give them enormous leeway and support, and you
> provide them with an environment in which they can get honest
> feedback from everyone.
> After Toy Story 2 we changed the mission of our development
> department. Instead of coming up with new ideas for movies (its role
> at most studios), the department's job is to assemble small
> incubation teams to help directors refine their own ideas to a point
> where they can convince John and our other senior filmmakers that
> those ideas have the potential to be great films. Each team typically
> consists of a director, a writer, some artists, and some storyboard
> people. The development department's goal is to find individuals who
> will work effectively together. During this incubation stage, you
> can't judge teams by the material they're producing because it's so
> rough-there are many problems and open questions. But you can assess
> whether the teams' social dynamics are healthy and whether the teams
> are solving problems and making progress. Both the senior management
> and the development department are responsible for seeing to it that
> the teams function well.
> To emphasize that the creative vision is what matters most, we say we
> are "filmmaker led." There are really two leaders: the director and
> the producer. They form a strong partnership. They not only strive to
> make a great movie but also operate within time, budget, and people
> constraints. (Good artists understand the value of limits.) During
> production, we leave the operating decisions to the film's leaders,
> and we don't second-guess or micromanage them.
> Indeed, even when a production runs into a problem, we do everything
> possible to provide support without undermining their authority. One
> way we do this is by making it possible for a director to solicit
> help from our "creative brain trust" of filmmakers. (This group is a
> pillar of our distinctive peer-based process for making movies-an
> important topic I'll return to in a moment.) If this advice doesn't
> suffice, we'll sometimes add reinforcements to the production-such as
> a writer or codirector-to provide specific skills or improve the
> creative dynamics of the film's creative leadership.
> What does it take for a director to be a successful leader in this
> environment? Of course, our directors have to be masters at knowing
> how to tell a story that will translate into the medium of film. This
> means that they must have a unifying vision-one that will give
> coherence to the thousands of ideas that go into a movie-and they
> must be able to turn that vision into clear directives that the staff
> can implement. They must set people up for success by giving them all
> the information they need to do the job right without telling them
> how to do it. Each person on a film should be given creative
> ownership of even the smallest task.
> Good directors not only possess strong analytical skills themselves
> but also can harness the analytical power and life experiences of
> their staff members. They are superb listeners and strive to
> understand the thinking behind every suggestion. They appreciate all
> contributions, regardless of where or from whom they originate, and
> use the best ones.
> A Peer Culture
> Of great importance-and something that sets us apart from other
> studios-is the way people at all levels support one another. Everyone
> is fully invested in helping everyone else turn out the best work.
> They really do feel that it's all for one and one for all. Nothing
> exemplifies this more than our creative brain trust and our daily
> review process.
> The brain trust.
> This group consists of John and our eight directors (Andrew Stanton,
> Brad Bird, Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Brenda Chapman, Lee Unkrich,
> Gary Rydstrom, and Brad Lewis). When a director and producer feel in
> need of assistance, they convene the group (and anyone else they
> think would be valuable) and show the current version of the work in
> progress. This is followed by a lively two-hour give-and-take
> discussion, which is all about making the movie better. There's no
> ego. Nobody pulls any punches to be polite. This works because all
> the participants have come to trust and respect one another. They
> know it's far better to learn about problems from colleagues when
> there's still time to fix them than from the audience after it's too
> late. The problem-solving powers of this group are immense and
> inspirational to watch.
> Getting Real Help
> After a session, it's up to the director of the movie and his or her
> team to decide what to do with the advice; there are no mandatory
> notes, and the brain trust has no authority. This dynamic is crucial.
> It liberates the trust members, so they can give their unvarnished
> expert opinions, and it liberates the director to seek help and fully
> consider the advice. It took us a while to learn this. When we tried
> to export the brain trust model to our technical area, we found at
> first that it didn't work. Eventually, I realized why: We had given
> these other review groups some authority. As soon as we said, "This
> is purely peers giving feedback to each other," the dynamic changed,
> and the effectiveness of the review sessions dramatically improved.
> The origin of the creative brain trust was Toy Story. During a crisis
> that occurred while making that film, a special relationship
> developed among John, Andrew, Lee, and Joe, who had remarkable and
> complementary skills. Since they trusted one another, they could have
> very intense and heated discussions; they always knew that the
> passion was about the story and wasn't personal. Over time, as other
> people from inside and outside joined our directors' ranks, the brain
> trust expanded to what it is today: a community of master filmmakers
> who come together when needed to help each other.
> The dailies.
> This practice of working together as peers is core to our culture,
> and it's not limited to our directors and producers. One example is
> our daily reviews, or "dailies," a process for giving and getting
> constant feedback in a positive way that's based on practices John
> observed at Disney and Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Lucasfilm's
> special-effects company.
> At Disney, only a small senior group would look at daily animation
> work. Dennis Muren, ILM's legendary visual-effects supervisor,
> broadened the participation to include his whole special-effects
> crew. (John, who joined my computer group at Lucasfilm after leaving
> Disney, participated in these sessions while we were creating
> computer-animated effects for Young Sherlock Holmes.)
> As we built up an animation crew for Toy Story in the early 1990s,
> John used what he had learned from Disney and ILM to develop our
> daily review process. People show work in an incomplete state to the
> whole animation crew, and although the director makes decisions,
> everyone is encouraged to comment.
> Overcoming Inhibitions
> There are several benefits. First, once people get over the
> embarrassment of showing work still in progress, they become more
> creative. Second, the director or creative leads guiding the review
> process can communicate important points to the entire crew at the
> same time. Third, people learn from and inspire each other; a highly
> creative piece of animation will spark others to raise their game.
> Finally, there are no surprises at the end: When you're done, you're
> done. People's overwhelming desire to make sure their work is "good"
> before they show it to others increases the possibility that their
> finished version won't be what the director wants. The dailies
> process avoids such wasted efforts.
> Technology + Art = Magic
> Getting people in different disciplines to treat one another as peers
> is just as important as getting people within disciplines to do so.
> But it's much harder. Barriers include the natural class structures
> that arise in organizations: There always seems to be one function
> that considers itself and is perceived by others to be the one the
> organization values the most. Then there's the different languages
> spoken by different disciplines and even the physical distance
> between offices. In a creative business like ours, these barriers are
> impediments to producing great work, and therefore we must do
> everything we can to tear them down.
> Pixar's Operating Principles
> Walt Disney understood this. He believed that when continual change,
> or reinvention, is the norm in an organization and technology and art
> are together, magical things happen. A lot of people look back at
> Disney's early days and say, "Look at the artists!" They don't pay
> attention to his technological innovations. But he did the first
> sound in animation, the first color, the first compositing of
> animation with live action, and the first applications of xerography
> in animation production. He was always excited by science and
> technology.
> At Pixar, we believe in this swirling interplay between art and
> technology and constantly try to use better technology at every stage
> of production. John coined a saying that captures this dynamic:
> "Technology inspires art, and art challenges the technology." To us,
> those aren't just words; they are a way of life that had to be
> established and still has to be constantly reinforced. Although we
> are a director- and producer-led meritocracy, which recognizes that
> talent is not spread equally among all people, we adhere to the
> following principles:
> Everyone must have the freedom to communicate with anyone.
> This means recognizing that the decision-making hierarchy and
> communication structure in organizations are two different things.
> Members of any department should be able to approach anyone in
> another department to solve problems without having to go through
> "proper" channels. It also means that managers need to learn that
> they don't always have to be the first to know about something going
> on in their realm, and it's OK to walk into a meeting and be
> surprised. The impulse to tightly control the process is
> understandable given the complex nature of moviemaking, but problems
> are almost by definition unforeseen. The most efficient way to deal
> with numerous problems is to trust people to work out the
> difficulties directly with each other without having to check for
> permission.
> It must be safe for everyone to offer ideas.
> We're constantly showing works in progress internally. We try to
> stagger who goes to which viewing to ensure that there are always
> fresh eyes, and everyone in the company, regardless of discipline or
> position, gets to go at some point. We make a concerted effort to
> make it safe to criticize by inviting everyone attending these
> showings to e-mail notes to the creative leaders that detail what
> they liked and didn't like and explain why.
> We must stay close to innovations happening in the academic community.
> We strongly encourage our technical artists to publish their research
> and participate in industry conferences. Publishing may give away
> ideas, but it keeps us connected with the academic community. This
> connection is worth far more than any ideas we may have revealed: It
> helps us attract exceptional talent and reinforces the belief
> throughout the company that people are more important than ideas.
> We try to break down the walls between disciplines in other ways, as
> well. One is a collection of in-house courses we offer, which we call
> Pixar University. It is responsible for training and cross-training
> people as they develop in their careers. But it also offers an array
> of optional classes-many of which I've taken-that give people from
> different disciplines the opportunity to mix and appreciate what
> everyone does. Some (screenplay writing, drawing, and sculpting) are
> directly related to our business; some (Pilates and yoga) are not. In
> a sculpting class will be rank novices as well as world-class
> sculptors who want to refine their skills. Pixar University helps
> reinforce the mind-set that we're all learning and it's fun to learn
> together.
> Our building, which is Steve Jobs's brainchild, is another way we try
> to get people from different departments to interact. Most buildings
> are designed for some functional purpose, but ours is structured to
> maximize inadvertent encounters. At its center is a large atrium,
> which contains the cafeteria, meeting rooms, bathrooms, and
> mailboxes. As a result, everyone has strong reasons to go there
> repeatedly during the course of the workday. It's hard to describe
> just how valuable the resulting chance encounters are.
> Staying on the Rails
> Observing the rise and fall of computer companies during my career
> has affected me deeply. Many companies put together a phenomenal
> group of people who produced great products. They had the best
> engineers, exposure to the needs of customers, access to changing
> technology, and experienced management. Yet many made decisions at
> the height of their powers that were stunningly wrongheaded, and they
> faded into irrelevance. How could really smart people completely miss
> something so crucial to their survival? I remember asking myself more
> than once: "If we are ever successful, will we be equally blind?"
> Many of the people I knew in those companies that failed were not
> very introspective. When Pixar became an independent company, I vowed
> we would be different. I realized that it's extremely difficult for
> an organization to analyze itself. It is uncomfortable and hard to be
> objective. Systematically fighting complacency and uncovering
> problems when your company is successful have got to be two of the
> toughest management challenges there are. Clear values, constant
> communication, routine postmortems, and the regular injection of
> outsiders who will challenge the status quo aren't enough. Strong
> leadership is also essential-to make sure people don't pay lip
> service to the values, tune out the communications, game the
> processes, and automatically discount newcomers' observations and
> suggestions. Here's a sampling of what we do:
> Postmortems.
> The first we performed-at the end of A Bug's Life-was successful. But
> the success of those that followed varied enormously. This caused me
> to reflect on how to get more out of them. One thing I observed was
> that although people learn from the postmortems, they don't like to
> do them. Leaders naturally want to use the occasion to give kudos to
> their team members. People in general would rather talk about what
> went right than what went wrong. And after spending years on a film,
> everybody just wants to move on. Left to their own devices, people
> will game the system to avoid confronting the unpleasant.
> There are some simple techniques for overcoming these problems. One
> is to try to vary the way you do the postmortems. By definition,
> they're supposed to be about lessons learned, so if you repeat the
> same format, you tend to find the same lessons, which isn't
> productive. Another is to ask each group to list the top five things
> they would do again and the top five things they wouldn't do. The
> balance between the positive and the negative helps make it a safer
> environment. In any event, employ lots of data in the review. Because
> we're a creative organization, people tend to assume that much of
> what we do can't be measured or analyzed. That's wrong. Most of our
> processes involve activities and deliverables that can be quantified.
> We keep track of the rates at which things happen, how often
> something has to be reworked, whether a piece of work was completely
> finished or not when it was sent to another department, and so on.
> Data can show things in a neutral way, which can stimulate discussion
> and challenge assumptions arising from personal impressions.
> Fresh blood.
> Successful organizations face two challenges when bringing in new
> people with fresh perspectives. One is well-known-the
> not-invented-here syndrome. The other-the awe-of-the-institution
> syndrome (an issue with young new hires)-is often overlooked.
> The former has not been a problem for us, thank goodness, because we
> have an open culture: Continually embracing change the way we do
> makes newcomers less threatening. Several prominent outsiders who
> have had a big impact on us (in terms of the exciting ideas they
> introduced and the strong people they attracted) were readily
> accepted. They include Brad Bird, who directed The Incredibles and
> Ratatouille; Jim Morris, who headed Industrial Light & Magic for
> years before joining Pixar as the producer of WALL*E and executive
> vice president of production; and Richard Hollander, a former
> executive of the special-effects studio Rhythm & Hues, who is leading
> an effort to improve our production processes.
> The bigger issue for us has been getting young new hires to have the
> confidence to speak up. To try to remedy this, I make it a practice
> to speak at the orientation sessions for new hires, where I talk
> about the mistakes we've made and the lessons we've learned. My
> intent is to persuade them that we haven't gotten it all figured out
> and that we want everyone to question why we're doing something that
> doesn't seem to make sense to them. We do not want people to assume
> that because we are successful, everything we do is right.
> * * *
> For 20 years, I pursued a dream of making the first computer-animated
> film. To be honest, after that goal was realized-when we finished Toy
> Story-I was a bit lost. But then I realized the most exciting thing I
> had ever done was to help create the unique environment that allowed
> that film to be made. My new goal became, with John, to build a
> studio that had the depth, robustness, and will to keep searching for
> the hard truths that preserve the confluence of forces necessary to
> create magic. In the two years since Pixar's merger with Disney,
> we've had the good fortune to expand that goal to include the revival
> of Disney Animation Studios. It has been extremely gratifying to see
> the principles and approaches we developed at Pixar transform this
> studio. But the ultimate test of whether John and I have achieved our
> goals is if Pixar and Disney are still producing animated films that
> touch world culture in a positive way long after we two, and our
> friends who founded and built Pixar with us, are gone.

Blockbuster Movie Does Not Equal

A fun virtual world!

Although, given that Titanic was terrible, and also because/despite that one of the most popular of all time, I can envision the mindless romance and futile wanderings of all those virtual humans aboard a ship they KNOW IS GOING TO FUCKING SINK.

But then, that's Western culture for you. James Cameron, you are a twisted genius (can we talk about this "Avatar" movie?)

Yet another reason why it's good that we didn't pick that engine.

In the past...