Thursday, May 13, 2010

Newsflash: Astronomers' Spawn Do Cool Things

If you live long enough, you're certain to rub shoulders from time to time with some pretty remarkable people. If you live even longer than that, you've got a good chance to encounter remarkable children of those remarkable people.

I'm lucky enough to work side-by-side with Karl von Ahnen, the technical director of the planetarium in which I teach my classes. Karl is worth an entire blog post all by himself... but this one won't be about him.

It will be about recent works by his son, and by mine.

Karl's son, Garth, recently graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz campus, with a major in fine arts and a minor in astronomy. He combines the two fields in animations, and one in particular will strike a chord with long-time readers of this blog. Called "Arcada Fog," it is a romp through the Copernican revolution.

(Photo from Garth's Facebook page)

The animation's central and unifying figure is Tycho's moose. The music is by a group of Garth's college buddies, "Acid Westerns," who are just now embarking on a career. I really, really like their soundtrack for Garth's trip through our most colossal paradigm shift. Turn the sound up, if you can, for the treat:

My own boy, Adam, has a career in voice acting that seems right now to be on the first stages of an exponential launch. As the economy recovers, his gigs increase -- but it's more than that. His abilities and opportunities seem to be revving up like some of us remember a Saturn V's engines did before the huge clamps on the pad let go. He has worked hard for the ignition, and that alone is worthy of my salute.

But listen to this, in the context of its delivery -- W.E. Henley's most famous work delivered in an environment he couldn't have dreamt -- and turn the sound up. Don't bother trying to maximize the video window -- it will eventually do that all by itself. And, as Adam says, you'll have to "watch it all the way through to appreciate the incredible effects."




Adam said...

I'm guessing Acid Westerns get a good deal of air time at the DeAnza Planetarium... with good reason, THEY ROCK!! An autographed CD would make a great gift for anyone who might have a birfday coming up. ;-)

The animation is awesome too. Really draws you in. Monty Python meets Heavy Metal.

Please let Garth know that if he ever decides to give a voice to any of these historical giants (or even the moose), I'll give him the friends of fambly rate.

That'd be fo free.

The other thing is amusing too. Hope SherReaders don't get too put off by such a classic poem being used to sell a blood-n-guts video game. A guy's gotta work. And the thing IS pretty dang cool.

Brian Fies said...

Garth's animation is very well done. Clever, witty and smart. There's a lot of chewy astro-goodness in there that a civilian wouldn't catch--for example, Kepler throwing the clock around the world to illustrate "equal areas in equal time" (in time with the music!) is maybe the best non-mathematical illustration of that idea I've seen. It deserves a wider audience--could be the next generation's "Powers of Ten."

Video games aren't part of my life, but that's a neat ad, and a nifty use of the poem that kind of elevates the whole thing above being a standard "shoot the alien" deal. The action breaking through the "wall" was genuinely startling. Terrific reading by Adam.

Sherwood Harrington said...

Adam, you may regret your offer. If the DeAnza Planetarium ever starts producing our own shows for distribution, we now know who is the first person to approach for the primary narration tracks.

Didn't I teach you to not be cheap? I must have missed that chapter in the parents' handbook.

Brian... man, there are so many little things in Garth's video that a "civilian" -- or most PhD Astronomers -- would miss. It's so rich that I don't think there's a single frame that doesn't have some reference to reality and history. There's even a split-second that illustrates the suspicion that Kepler poisoned Brahe (since thrown into doubt.)

Your comparison to the Eames's "Powers of Ten" made me gulp a little, though. Garth may not be up to that standard yet, but I can't say that he never will be.

And that's saying something.

Adam said...

I'd be honored, but wouldn't YOU be the better man for the gig? I know you have the chops (Tapes of the Night Sky) not to mention all the knowledge. Hell you could probably do it in your sleep at this point.

Maybe a father/son tag-team vo? That would be fun. When do we start?

Garth said...

Thanks for the kind words everyone. I'm glad to see that some people are noticing the more subtle bits in the cartoon. Brian, you are the first person to notice the equal time equal area elliptical orbit part.
I paced this video in such a way that you notice new things every time you watch. Sometimes I even see bits that I forgot I included.

And Adam, I would love to have you as a voice actor for my next Copernicus Pox cartoon. I won't be doing one any time soon, since they are so very time consuming, but I will definitely let you know when I do.

Thanks everybody. And if you have any ideas for future astronomically informative music videos, please let me know!