Monthly Archives: January 2017

‘Loving Vincent’ van Gogh

Via art-site ThisIsColossal.com, here is the trailer for ‘Loving Vincent,’ a film animated by 62,450 oil paintings:

There’s a second video at the link that shows how they did it: First, using actors, then CGI for the background, and then 115 painters to actually put each frame on canvas.

The movie itself is about Vincent van Gogh, who I imagine would have appreciated this effort. They used 94 of his paintings to write the story.

They have a website here.

Axanar is Go

But it’s in pieces. Little pieces.

As I explained last year, Star Trek’s powers-that-be had decided that the fan film Axanar needed to be axed after more than a few warp-factors too many. Several unwritten lines had been crossed, forcing Paramount to write it all down in ink. As Engadget reports:

Although the full list of changes hasn’t been made public yet, it has been announced that the film will need to abide by at least some of the official fan film guidelines. Specifically, the production can only be 30 minutes long in total, and even then it has to be split into two parts. The Axanar film also can’t have “Star Trek” in the title, cannot use public crowd-funding and may not compensate any of the professional talent for their work.

The 30-minute length is a big loss for what was intended to be a feature-length movie. The only big break I see is that they’re allowing Gary Graham to appear as Soval the Vulcan, seen in this teaser:

My first post on Axanar is here. It links to the original promo, which was already longer than each section is to be permitted.

I always understood the reasons for these positions. Still, this is a major loss for the production, and for us fans. But it’s better than nothing.

Ike’s speech and the military-industrial complex


This is the chart for 2013 proposed discretionary spending. I found it on a third-party politician’s Twitter feed with some idle thought about how society could advance if we didn’t spend so much on the military. It shows defense spending at a whopping 57%.

Notice that Health, Housing & Community are only 5 and 6%. It sounds like General Jack D. Ripper (of Doctor Strangelove) was running the government.

The trouble is, it’s obviously deceptive. The chart lists discretionary spending, which is not the entire budget.


Here is actual federal spending for 2015 (different years, but the numbers are close enough). It puts defense spending at only 16%.

Use of the first chart is actually more deceptive than you’d think. These are federal budget numbers. The states and cities have their own budgets and taxes. That’s where most of the education spending is at, which distorts comparisons to the defense budget. The state healthcare budgets are massive as well.

That brings me to President Eisenhower’s 1961 speech on the military-industrial complex: Does this mean he was making a mountain out of a molehill? No, and here’s where it gets interesting:

For historical numbers, you need to compare to GDP for comparisons to mean anything. You can get the historical tables here. In particular, look at: Table 3.1—Outlays by Superfunction and Function: 1940–2021. (Note: This is an .XLS file.) National defense was a mere 1.7% of GDP in 1940.

It went to 5.5% of GDP in 1941 (when Woody Guthrie wrote the song, “C for Conscription“ before changing his tune), then 17.4, 36.1, 37.0 to 36.6% in 1945. It dropped back down to around 5% after the war, but then rose to 12.9% of GDP in 1952.

Defense spending was still at 9.1% in 1961, but dropping, when President Eisenhower left office. That’s the context of his famous speech on the military-industrial complex on this day in 1961. He wasn’t worried about a military take-over. It was about the focus of our money, resources and power becoming an end in and of itself. You could run into the same issues when another part of the government gets too much attention.

The numbers went down again as the Vietnam War came to its end. They were as low as 4.5% in 1979, then rising and peaking at 6.0 during the Reagan years, and then finally subsiding as the Cold War ended. Defense spending never saw those numbers again. Not even the War on Terror, Afghanistan and Iraq, brought them back. They didn’t rise above 4% until 2008. They were at 3.3% in 2015.

Along those lines, people fretted about bringing back the draft during the war in Iraq. But that was plainly fearmongering. We had a larger military during the Reagan years, and that was without a draft. I wouldn’t be surprised if that politician pushing the above discretionary spending chart had been among those trying to scare people about a draft.

Space launch trends

Robert Zimmerman posts stats and commentary on launch industry trends going back to 1998. I’m not going to swipe his chart but it is interesting. He breaks U.S. launches down to government, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Launch Alliance, Orbital ATK, SpaceX, and then leaves blanks for forthcoming Virgin Galactic, Rocket Lab and Neptune. Then he lists other countries’ steadily increasing numbers of launches.

(Note: United Launch Alliance (ULA) is Lockheed Martin’s and Boeing’s combined effort. Orbital ATK does the aircraft-launched satellites mentioned last month.)

The initial impression you get from the chart is that U.S. launches have dropped, but not just us. Even the Russians have had their issues lately, although theirs are temporary. Here, Zimmerman adds context:

Had there not been launch failures for both SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Russia’s Proton in 2016 we easily could have seen another two dozen launches, bringing the total above 100 for the year, the first time that would have happened since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Then, after a few caveats, he says:

And most important, the shift in the U.S. from a government-controlled space program to a wildly competitive and chaotic private sector launch industry is fueling this boom. There is now money to be made in space, and there is freedom to pursue those profits without waiting for NASA and the government to lay out a program.

Space could be a bit like the Kindle book-writing revolution, but for billionaires.