For several years I taught storyboard at the Cal Arts Character Animation Department in Valencia Ca. While there I met a lot of wonderful and talented teachers as well as students. At the center of that wildly exclectic three ring circus was dept chair Frank Terry and Adminstrator Martha Baxton. For untold years Martha was always on hand to clear up adminstrative problems, arbitrate and advise. For the teachers as well, if there was a glitch in the system, just let Martha know and it was fixed. But Martha was much more than a capable adminstrator. She was the bedrock of the Cal Arts Character animation department, the den mother of a bunch of wildly talented people. Ever providing a ready smile, a nosewipe and a shoulder to cry on. She never asked anything for herself, but tragedy has struck her, and now she needs us. I just found out there is going to be a big charity art auction to help Martha Baxton of Cal Arts. on Sept 9th. They need help and donations. For the complete story Here is the link http://baxton.mrkurtnielsen.com/
I can't begin to list all the top animators, filmmakers, producers, studio heads and Academy Award winners who at one time in their Cal Arts years relied upon Martha. Well, now Martha needs to rely upon us. Let's show what we are made of. Please support and donate for Martha's sake.

Birthdays: Guy de Maupassant, Neil Armstrong, film director John Huston, film star and HUAC fink Robert Taylor, Conrad Aiken, Roman Gabriel, Selma Diamond, Patrick Ewing, John Merrick the Elephant Man, Loni Anderson, Bill Scott -the voice of Bullwinkle Moose, John Saxon, Tawney Kitaen, Jonathan Silverman

1924 Arf, Arf ! the first Little Orphan Annie comic strip drawn by Harold Gray.

1926 – Magician Harry Houdini stays in a coffin under water for one hour.

1927- Victrola Record producer Ralph Peer realized there might be a market for “Hillbilly Music” so he set up a makeshift recording studio above a furniture store in Bristol Tennessee and put an ad in the local papers for talent. In this one session he recorded future stars Jimmy Rogers the Singing Brakeman, The Carter Family, The Tennessee Mountaineers and Ernest Pop Stoneman. This session has been called the “ Big Bang of Country Music.”

1953- The film “From Here to Eternity” opened , starring Deborah Kerr, Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift. But the big story was Frank Sinatra’s Oscar winning performance as Maggio that signaled the turnaround in his slumping career.

1955- The Screen Actor’s Guild strikes Hollywood for television residuals. Between 1955 and 2000 SAG will hit the bricks at around seven times. Their president was Walter Pidgeon who had played Dr. Morbius in Forbidden Planet.

1957- American Bandstand featuring the eternally teenage Dick Clark debuts on television.

1962- GOODBYE NORMA JEAN. Marilyn Monroe found nude in bed, dead of barbiturate overdose. She was 36. Whether you think the starlet committed accidental suicide, or was done in by the Mafia, the Kennedys, a Svengali like personal physician, lesbian physical therapist or space aliens is still a mystery. She made a call to Attorney General Bobby Kennedy’s office in Washington several hours earlier but was rebuffed. Her last call was to her hairdresser Mr. Guilaroff. She left the bulk of her belongings to her drama teacher Lee Strassberg and her funeral was organized by ex-husband Joe Dimaggio. Her cottage suite had a tile over the doorway which read :"All my troubles end Here."

1964 - Actress Anne Bancroft & Comedian Mel Brooks wed.

1966- Caesar’s Palace Hotel & Casino first opened to the public. This was the first of the super-resort casinos, with a total theme park design and three times the space and accommodations of anything yet seen on the Vegas Strip. It’s success ushered in an accelerated era of building for Las Vegas casinos.

1966 –It a moment of youthful indiscretion Beatle John Lennon says his band the Beatles are now more popular than Jesus. This flippant comment provoked a firestorm of nationwide protest among conservative elements in the US and Beatles albums were publically burned in the streets. Lennon apologized and suggested that they were being crucified over the comment. McCartney rush up to the mike to insist that that wasn't the choice of words they preferred.

1984- Welsh actor Richard Burton died of cerebral hemorrhage at 64. With a tumultuous career and sometime marriages to Elizabeth Taylor the hard drinking Burton was the most famous English thespian since Lord Lawrence Olivier and Sir John Gielgud. But unlike them he was never knighted by Queen Elizabeth. As I recall the monarchy objected to their portrayal when Burton starred in a miniseries bio of Winston Churchill.

1986 - It's revealed painter Andrew Wyeth had secretly created 240 drawings &
paintings of his neighbor Helga Testorf, in Chadds Ford, Pa


August 4, 2006
August 4th, 2006

I'm taking a flight tonight to Hong Kong, on the tail of a taiphoon. If my plane comes down in Shangrila like the film Lost Horizon, I'll say hello to Sam Jaffee for you. ( Sam Jaffee was the all-purpose ethnic actor of the 1930s. he played Gunga Din in that title film, mad Czar Peter III in Von Sternbergs Scarlett Empress and in Capras Lost Horizons was the High Llama.
courtesy movieactors.org
Yes, I did read all the stuff about that LaSalle guys jejune comments about animation in his review of Monster House in the San Francisco Examiner. I think the web blogs like Cartoon Brew, The Blackwing Diaries and the Digital Animator covered that ground very nicely. Suffice it to say last year the Motion Picture Academy's Science and Technology division in two shows made the definitive connection between rotoscope and motion capture. So anyone saying this is an amazing new technology never before seen, is engaging in baloney throwing P.R.. Performance Capture, Motion Capture or whatever has it's roots in the device invented by Max Fleischer in 1917. Check out the humans in Gullivers Travels (1939) the FLeischer Superman shorts(1941) and even some of Disney's Snow White and you'll see the same technique, only the type of finished color is different. And I like Grim Natwicks handling of Snow White better than the roto anyway.

Debuting at Siggraph right now are new mo-cap inventions that will make the look of human facial structure even more natural. But that is if you want to just do human figures. Ollie Johnston taught us " Good Animation is not about copying life, it is caricature of life. It is life- plus."
courtesy scifilm.org
History for 8/4/2006
Birthdays: Nicholas Conte'1777-inventor of the modern pencil and the conte'-crayon, Louis Satchmo Armstrong, Richard Belzer, baseball pitcher Roger Clemens, Billy-Bob Thornton.


1693 Come quickly Martin, I am tasting stars! monk Dom Perignon invented the
Method Champagnoise to create champagne.

1821 - 1st edition of Saturday Evening Post -published until 1969.

1855 - John Bartlett publishes his first book of "Familiar Quotations"

1892-" Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her mother forty whacks, when he saw
what she had done, gave her father forty-one.", etc. In Fall River Mass, Andrew
and Abbie Borden were found brutally murdered and their daughter Elisabeth was accused.
Ms. Borden pleaded innocence and cited a long history of abuse from her parents
.She was acquitted but the murderer was never found. When Lizzie died peacefully
in 1927 she left $30,000 to the ASPCA.

1918- Young corporal Adolf Hitler was awarded the Iron Cross, First Class for bravery.
He was quite proud of it and wore it on his uniform for the rest of his life. The
German officer who recommended Hitler and pinned his medal on was Captain Hugo Gutmann,
a Jew.

1921 The Motion Picture Fund created.

1922- In honor of the passing of Alexander Graham Bell, all 13 million telephones
in the United States observed three minutes of silence.

1925- Conrad Hilton opened the first Hilton Hotel in Dallas Texas.

1942- The Bing Crosby-Fred Astaire-Marjorie Reynolds film the Holiday Inn released.
The film featured Irving Berlin hit songs like White Christmas and Easter Parade
but is hardly ever shown anymore because the Lincoln's Birthday skit featured the
cast in embarrassing minstrel blackface, singing 'bout Massa Lincoln.

1956- Elvis Presley released his version of the Big Mama Mabel Thornton song "
You Ain't Nothin but a Hound Dog".

1964- Rand Corporation analyst Daniel Ellsberg's first day working at the Pentagon.
Ellsberg would be the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers.

1984- Actor Johnny Depp opened his own club on the Sunset Strip called the Viper
Room. The original club on that site had once been owned by mobster Bugsy Sigel.


August 3, 2006
August 3rd, 2006

QUIZ: What do actors Gene Kelly, Zero Mostel and Jimmy Stewart have in common? Hint: it involves animation. answer below

birthdays: British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, Elisha Otis inventor of the Elevator, John T. Scopes- the teacher accused in the Monkey Trial, Habib Bourghiba, Ernie Pyle, Gene Kelly, Lenny Bruce, Tony Bennett, John Landis, Jay North, Dolores Del Rio, Leon Uris, Ann Klein, Martin Sheen

1963 –Unemployed television producer Alan Sherman released an album of comedy songs at the request of his friends. Called “My Son the Folksinger” it contained the hit “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh, Here I am at, Camp Granada” and became an overnight sensation.

1966- Comedian Lenny Bruce died of a morphine overdose at 39. The groundbreaking comedian who coined the term “T & A” was arrested in 1964 and charged with obscenity for using the "F" word in his act. President Johnson and his opponent Senator Barry Goldwater could swear enough to make a sailor blush, but comedians are only supposed to make mother-in-law jokes. Bruce served six months, was broken physically and financially and no club would hire him. Yet today he is the model for all modern stand-up comedy. Phil Spector said: Lenny died of an overdose of cops” Today no one is arrested for telling off-color jokes. Whether he leapt to his death from a window yelling “ I’m Super Jew! ” is a matter of legend.

1981- U.S. Air traffic controllers (PATCO) go on strike despite Pres. Reagan's warning they would be fired. Reagan was once president of the Screen Actor’s Guild. Ironically the only U.S. President who has ever been a labor leader was one of the most union-busting presidents of our time.

1996- TEN YEARS AGO -The dance the Macarena by Los Del Rio becomes the #1 hit worldwide. FEEL OLD?

QUIZ: What do actors Gene Kelly, Zero Mostel and James Stuart have in common? Hint: it involves animation.
Answer: Their last films were animated features: Gene Kelly was a dance advisor on Turners Cats Don't Dance, Zero Mostel voiced a seagull in Watership Down(1977) and Jimmy Stewart was in Goof Troop the movie 1992.


Never mind it being a year of overabundance for animated features, 2006 is seeing a plethora of new published works.. Beside my own two I'm endlessly tooting my horn about two other books I contributed to just made their debut in the stacks near you. Dave Brain asked me to write a forward for his GARDNERS GUIDE TO DRAWING FOR ANIMATION. I also contributed to the new book by Angie Jones and Jaimie Oliff, THINKING ANIMATION: BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN 2D AND CG. All are available on Amazon.com.

While you are there and you still have some money left check out Tom Bancrofts' CREATING CHARACTER WITH PERSONALITY, and London animator Tony White's ANIMATION FROM PENCILS TO PIXELS: CLASSICAL TECHNIQUES FOR THE DIGITAL ANIMATOR.

When the going gets tough, the tough write books about it!
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History for 8/2/2006
Birthdays: Pierre L’Enfant the architect –designer of Washington DC, Myrna Loy, Sir Arthur Bliss, James Baldwin, Carrol O'Connor- Archie Bunker, Peter O'Toole, Joanna Cassidy- Dolores in Who Framed Roger Rabbitt? and the exotic dancer in Blade Runner, Pete Sampras, Butch Patrick (Eddie Munster, Saving Private Ryan ), Jack Warner most famous of the Warner Bros, Bob Beamon, Wes Craven, Apollonia, Edward Furlong, Kevin Smith is 36

1589- French King Henri III de Valois is stabbed in the guts by a demented Dominican, Brother Jacques Clement. He thought the King wasn't doing enough to stamp out Protestantism. The kings last words were: "That little bastard has killed me. Kill him!" Henry IV de Bourbon becomes one of Frances most well beloved kings. The children's song "Frere' Jacques, Dorme Vous?" is about this assassin "Brother Jacques, Why are you sleeping?" another King needs stabbing, in other words.

1824- The first commercial store Altmans, opened on New York’s Fifth Avenue, at that time all residential.

1876- In Deadwood South Dakota at Nuttall & Manns No.10 Saloon gunfighter Wild Bill Hickock was shot in the back while playing cards. He was 48 years old. Bill was holding the "Deadman's Hand" aces & eights all black and a jack of hearts. His assailant 'Crooked Nose" Jack McCall was found hiding in a butchers shop and hanged for the murder. An eyewitness said :" It was very sad. Bill had won the hand too."

1909- The US issues the first Lincoln head pennies.

1961 - Beatles 1st gig as house band of Liverpool's Cavern Club.

1962- If you are a “Marylin Monroe was done in by the Kennedys” Conspiracy fan a recently unearthed CIA document dated this day mentioned that Marylin’s bungalow was under electronic surveillance and that she kept a “red book” diary. The diary disappeared after her death in two nights from now.


Siggraph 2006
August 1st, 2006

courtesy the Laurel& Hardy Museum.com
I hear the celebrations at Siggraph are under way. A hardy wish to all my friends out there in Boston. One year they invited me to give a serious life drawing class with model poses, newsprint and charcoal. All these digerati flexing drawing muscles they hadn't used in awhile. At one point I had to smile when one CG person went to the Siggraph Chapter coordninator and said:" Ya know, I love learning things from Mr. Sito and all, but CAN'T WE JUST GO GET SOME COMPUTERS AND DRAW?"


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