Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Zeitgeist, Endgame, Iran-Contras, Freedom to Fascism, What is Money

You might wonder what this weird title means. It is long and actually a short list. Somebody noted somewhere today something very interesting. The list of today's top five movies based on number of views at Google Video reads as follows.

  1. Zeitgeist (remastered) or Old Ed., alternative URL
  2. Endgame- Alex Jones - Blueprint for Global Enslavement
  3. The Secret Government: The Constitution in Crisis
  4. America: Freedom to Fascism
  5. Money as Debt by Paul Grignon

Update March 24, 2008: It's odd that less than two months after I posted this, ALL 5 videos were taken down from Google Video. Don't worry, they were uploaded again and again by other people, which is actually fine, because most of the movies were released under the creative commons license that allows free replication and public display for non commercial purposes. All links are fixed for now. Let's wait and see if it lasts this time.

This is pretty remarkable in my opinion. You might ask, why that is, if you don’t know what those videos are about. If this is the case, I would actually suggest watching them all.

I recommend watching them in a different order than they rank, start with "Money as Debt" (5), then watch 4 and 1, then 3 and last but not least 2. You won’t be able to watch them all in a row. This is another curiosity considering that Google Video is a social video sharing site where people are supposedly consuming video in only small few minutes’ long chunks. The five videos listed represent actually over 8 hours of video to watch.

I won't go into details about each of the five videos, but I will give you some hints.

The fifth video "Money as Debt" would probably be better titled as "What is money and where does it come from?"

Those questions are very nicely answered in an illustrative and entertaining way. I am sure that most of you are in for a surprise and learn that everything you thought about money is wrong. I was "enlightened" several years already, because for a reason unknown to me, did my social studies teacher in college covered this subject. I learned in the video that this is something that is carefully avoided in American schools and that most people have no idea about how things really work and honestly didn't even spend much thought on it either.

"America: Freedom to Fascism" and "Zeitgeist" are a natural progression of the subject that explain even more things beyond money about how our society works today and that things are not working the way most people belief them to work.

"The Secret Government" is the only video that is older than 2007 or 2008. It is actually over 20 years old, from 1987 and about the Iranian hostage and arms deal affair that also involves the Honduran "Contras" during the Reagan administration. You might recall, that the CIA was selling illegally weapons to the Iranian regime to get some American hostages released and was at the same time ceasing the opportunity to make some arm deals with the Contras in Honduras, something that the U.S. Senate specifically declared to be unlawful and forced to stop (officially that is).

It was interesting to learn, that the "Enterprise" which was pulling all the strings and created in secret to continue to support the "freedom fighters" in Honduras was actually not that idealistic as they would like to appear to be, they were selling arms to the Contras for profits. The "Enterprise" generated an estimated $3.5 Mio in profits from the deals with the Contras as was also holding $8.0 Mio in cash stashed away on secret Swiss bank accounts. That money consisted mostly of contributions by supportive industrialists, individuals and not corporations of course.

General Richard V. Secort (the "CEO" of the "Enterprise", was asked during a hearing before Congress:
"If the purpose of the enterprise was to help the contras why did charge collateral markup that included a profit?"

General Richard V. Secort replied
"We were in business to make a living senator … It was a commercial enterprise."

"But I thought that the purpose of the enterprise was to aid Calero's cause."

Mr. Secort asked the senator
"Can I have two purposes? … because I did."

John Poindexter, US national security advisor, was even better in his responses.
"What was the reason to withhold information from congress when they inquired about it?"

"I simply didn't want any outside interference."

"Now the outside interference you are talking about was congress and I take it the reason why they were inquiring was precisely so that they could fulfill with information their constitutional function to pass legislation, one way or the other, isn't that true?"

"Yes, I suppose that is true"
(His "Haehhh?" looks make me doubt that he believed his own answer actually.)
"And that you regarded as outside interference?"

But at least did Mr. Reagan's advisors learn from the mistakes of previous administrations. Former president Nixon just said it in 1986, a year before the hearing to the Iran-Contra affair: "Just destroy all the tapes!"

Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, who was later convicted for his crimes was actually proud of his achievements in this regard.

"Where are those memoranda?"

"Which memoranda?"

"The memoranda that you sent out for seeking the president's approval."

"I think I shredded most of that, did I get them all? I am not trying to be flipping, I am just…"

"Oh that was gonna be my next question, Colonel North, isn't it true that you shredded them?"

"I believe I did."

Can you believe that? I mean they screwed up big time, that's one thing, but what they later said about the how and why should make everybody fear for the worst when it comes to the current administration. When you watch the documentary and forget for a moment that it is from 1987, replace "Communists" with "Terrorists" and "Honduras" with "North Korea", everything seems to be quite current and not like something from 20+ years in the past.

The documentary "Endgame" talks about those kind of people and what they do, think and why. It is about the "Bilderberger" primarily and some other stuff to put things into the right historic perspective. See this article on the web for additional background information to the documentary.

Sorry, if the world you were living in until today was all peachy. I didn't mean to ruin it for you. I also don't want you to go up in arms and start a war. Just think about it and act peacefully at times when it matters. You will know when that is needed.

Carsten aka Roy/SAC

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The History of the Demoscene

I stumbled across the video recording of "The Complete History of the Demoscene", a presentation by Tamas Polgar, Author of Freax and member of the Hungarian demo group Madwizards, at the Assembly 2005 Demo party in Helsinki, Finland.

Back to ASCII Art Academy

His book was published in 2005 (it's available at the merchandising section of my site among other gems) and the presentation happened after the book came out. The video was uploaded to Scene.org in August 2006, shortly after Assembly 2006. He also gave a presentation at Assembly 2006 called "The Art of Pixels: from sprites to Photoshop". This and other presentations from Assembly 2006 are available at Alive.Assembly.Org.

The Dawn
He starts with the development of the first computers from the 1960s that were capable of displaying graphics rather than just perform mathematical calculations and return the results in text format. The first cracked software appeared on the Apple II computer at the end of the 1970s, but cracks were done by individuals who just removed the copy protection and then copied the software for friends etc. It was mostly unknown who cracked a specific program, because the cracker did not include any credits or reference that pointed to him.

The Beginnings on the Commodore 64
Cracking groups appeared on the Commodore 64, which was released in 1983. It was around 1985 that cracking groups started to add little programs to the cracked programs that were developed by the cracker groups themselves. Before that was it common to simply alter some text in the program to put their names into the cracked software. A favorite spot were the high score tables of games. The limit of three characters in those high score tables, something that was adapted from video arcade games, is the reason for the 3 letter abbreviations of oldskool cracking groups, such as TRD for Triad, DTC for Dytec or Dynamic Technologies, GCS for German Cracking Service (who created one of the very first intros), RZR for Razor 1911 or RSI for Red Sector Inc. (which later merged with Tristar to become TRSI).

It become a competition between the individual cracking groups to create the best crack intro, in addition to the existing competition of who is first to crack and release a program, who created the best trainer (cheat) and other related things. Designers, musicians and coders joined the cracking groups for the sole purpose of creating great crack intros for the group. The poor treatment of those sections within the groups, which hailed and embraced great crackers, while merely tolerating a great coder of cool intros, caused frictions between the illegal cracking parts and the legal intro creating sections within cracking groups.

Separation from the Warez Scene
It was not for long that the intro coders, artists and musicians started to split off the cracking scene to create their own scene, own parties etc. This was a process that happened over time. It was not happening over night.

Around the same time were also productions released without anything else than the intro itself. Those productions had usually multiple parts and were called demos. Specifically long demos (one floppy disk side or more) were called mega demos.

From the "Lunchbox" to the "Girlfriend"
The Commodore 64 demo scene partially made the transition to the Commodore Amiga, although the C64 and Amiga demo scene existed parallel to each other for years to come. The Amiga demoscene really grew into something big in 1991, the year when the first demo party was held that had more than 1000 attendies, "The Party" 1991 demo party, held in December 1991 in Denmark. The demo that won the competion was "Oddyssey" by Alcatraz (a 45 minutes long demo that caused single handedly the introduction of the 10 minutes limit for demos from this point on), but the most memorable demo was probably "Hardwired", a joint production by the demo groups Crionics and The Silents.

The PC Demoscene
The PC demo scene development started around 1991. Before that did a few demo groups exist who created demos, such as the legendary "Spacepigs" who wrote demos using the 16 colors EGA graphics card (not mentioned in Tamas presentation, which is a bit sad). It wasn't before the VGA graphics standard with 256 colors capabilities became the de-facto standard for modern PCs that a demo scene developed. Also the poor sound capabilities of the PC (PC Speaker, later Adlib Sound and Tandy) were not providing the right environment for a demo scene to develop. This changed with the appearance of the SoundBlaster soundcard by Creative Labs in at the end of 1990, early 1991, that the PC became really multi-media compatible.

Early productions were the 1991 mini-demo by Ultraforce Development or intros by Brain Slayer. The first real great demos that came out where Chronologia by Cascada, Triton's Crystal Dream 1 and especially Future Crew's "Unreal", which was released at the Assembly 1992 demo party in August 1992. The PC demo scene cached up with the flourishing Amiga demo scene in 1993 with demos like Future Crew's "Second Reality" and Triton's Crystal Dream 2. The top demo of the Amiga around this time was Kefrens' "Desert Dream" demo.

Commodore released in 1994 the successor to the Amiga 500 and 2000, the Amiga 1200 and 4000, which had better graphics capabilities and a faster processor, but the company Commodore was already not very healthy anymore at that time and it wasn't for long that the production of Amiga’s was halted and the company went out of business.

Around 1996-97 occurred a mass migration of oldskool Amiga demosceners over to the PC. Windows 95 was just released a few years earlier and Windows 98 was also released at the time. For the PC also started to appear graphics cards with special 3D acceleration capabilities. The first demos that made use of that special hardware appeared around 1996-97.

The PC demo scene evolved and is still alive and kicking today. The Commodore 64 and Amiga demoscenes never died completely and will probably not die before the remaining scenes of those scenes die with it.

Although large demo parties such as Assembly in Finland and The Gathering in Norway are still being held annually (Assembly even twice per year now), did they faced the problem of being polluted by gamers who come to the demo party events to play multi-player games in a gigantic LAN party straight for several days, rather than to engage in a friendly and creative competition to show of programming, musical or graphical design skills. This pollution caused the appearance of oldskool scene parties like Breakpoint in Germany, which are small in comparison to the 5000+ attendees events like the mentioned, but are true to the original nature and purpose of demo parties.

Most of the stuff I mentioned in my post is mentioned in Tamas presentation, although some of the stuff I mentioned is missing. It also contains tons of stuff, which I didn't even touch on in my post. You should check it out.

The video is about 90 minutes long.

If you cannot play the embedded video for some reason, see it directly at Google Video at this URL.

Demo History Illustrated via a Demo
The demo "Obsoleet" by Unreal Voodoo, which was released at the Assembly 2004 demo party illustrates in an entertaining way the development of the demoscene from Commodore 64 over the Commodore Amiga to the modern day Windows PC. It shows early effects using sprites, star field simmulation, worm hole effects, real plasma and continues with labert shading (flat shading), then gouraud shading to phong shading.

I uploaded the video recording of the demo to YouTube and embedded it into this post as well. I am sure that you will enjoy it. It is certainly more entertaining than listing to a guy who is talking for 90 minutes, right? :)

Here is the backup link to video at YouTube.com.

For more information about "Obsoleet" by Unreal Voodoo, the winning demo of the demo compo at the Assembly 2004 demoparty in Finland, also links to download the original demo executables for MS Windows or Linux visit this page at the demoscene releases database at Pouet.net.

Back to ASCII Art Academy

Carsten aka Roy/SAC

Friday, January 11, 2008

Special Cirque Du Soleil Videos

Because I am a fan of Cirque Du Soleil, am I spending not only a significant amount of money on show tickets, but on merchandizing as well, such as T-Shirts, Show DVDs, Music CDs and also Documentary DVDs.

I own the documentary DVDs KA Extreme, The Mystery of Mystere, Flow – A Tribute to the Artists of "O", A Thrilling Ride through Kooza and Lovesick (a behind the scenes of the show Zumanity).

I used material from three of those DVDs in combination with music from the corresponding soundtrack CDs to create special promo-videos with often unseen footage. I made those videos available on the Internet for the public to see.

22 Minutes Video of Cirque Du Soleil's "O"
This is the first video that I created this way. I was able to get an astonishing 22 minutes of show footage from the documentary DVD. By working on that video did I learn a great deal about video editing and how much of a pain and time consuming it actually is.

7 Minutes Video of Cirque Du Soleil's "Kooza"
I was a bit disappointed about the amount of actual show footage on the DVD. I was able to extract a mere seven minutes from the DVD and even those seven minutes contain about 1-2 minutes of footage from rehearsals.

21 Minutes Video of Cirque Du Soleil's "Mystere"
This is the latest video that I created so far. It contains a fair amount of actual show footage. I was thinking about adding several minutes of content that show the clowns of the show and how they make fun of and with the audience, but then decided against it. One reason why I left those pieces out was the problem with the audio, which would have required me to spend a considerable amount of time on it. I don’t believe that they would have been worth the effort.

Next one on my to-do list is the video for "KA". I have to see, when I will get around doing it. I have not looked at the details of the Lovesick documentary to create a video for Zumanity. I also don’t have the soundtrack CD for the show, which would create a problem regarding the audio for the video. I will have to see about that. Until then, enjoy the three existing Cirque Du Soleil videos. I hope that you like them.

Carsten aka Roy/SAC

What is ANSI Animation or ANSImation?

People often confuse ASCII animation or ASCIImation with ANSI Animation or ANSImation and believe them to be the same. This is actually wrong.

ASCIImations are created by using programming (code) to move text characters around in a way that makes it apear like an animation or movement. Even text-mode demos that show text characters with ANSI color coding are not really ANSI animations, because they also use programming to make the characters move to get the desired movie or animation visual effects.

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True ANSI animations are not coded, don't use any programming language to create the effect of motion and only make use of some more specific and special escape sequences provided by the ANSI.sys driver of MS DOS. ANSI animations are not executables like text-mode demos, but plain and simple .ANS text files.

Smart Cursor Control
ANSI animation takes advantage of the build-in ESC sequences of the ANSI format to re-position the cursor on the screen to rewrite individual areas in a video-like sequence. ANSI.sys, the MS DOS driver that enabled the support for ANSI codes, also supported a number of other features that were helpful for the creation of ANSI animations.

Set cursor-position; move up/down/forward/backward for a set number of characters, save current cursor position, restore cursor position and erase line are the most important of those features. For a full description of the ANSI escape sequences supported by ANSI.sys, check out this text file.

Only few editors that supported ANSI animation are available. One of those editors is TheDraw, which is also my ANSI editor of choice for most ASCII and ANSI art pieces that I created. I use it since 1993 and still use it today once in a while. You can download the editor on my website and play around with its ANSI animation features, if you’d like to.

The "Speed Issue"
ANSI animations have one significant issue. The artist has no means to control the speed at which the animation is "played back". ANSI does not support fix time delays that are linked to the internal clock of the computer to wait for a set number of milliseconds, something most third generation programming languages support. The playback speed is entirely determined by how fast the system can read and display the ANSI escape sequences of the ANSI file. The speed if you load an ANSI from your hard disk by using the "type" command for example (with ANSI.sys driver loaded), is virtually instant. Even large ANSI files will be displayed within a fraction of a second.

In order to make the ANSI animation look like an animation is it necessary to throttle down the speed with which the ANSI codes and ASCII characters are loaded and then displayed on the screen.

The natural way to throttle down the loading speed of an ANSI at that time was the transfer speed of the modems of that era. The top speed of modems around the early 1990s was 9.6KBit to 14.4KBit. An 100KB ANSI animation would take a few seconds to download and just cause the necessary delays to bring the animation to life.

To show the effects of the longer loading time on an ANSI, caused by the slower download speed of a modem from that era, see this video. It shows a long ANSI downloaded with a simulated speed of a 14.4KB modem. It's not an animation and only a very long static ANSI, but it is perfect for the illustration of how ANSI animations were only made possible, because of the existance of the combination of available and needed ANSI.sys escape sequences for cursor movement and control plus the slow download speed of modems at that time to cause the necessary delays by which ANSI animations are being loaded and displayed.

The biggest takeaway from this simple fact is that creators of ANSI animations did not only have to consider which characters to re-write, overwrite and delete etc., but also for which download speed the animation will be optimized. If the animation was optimized for a download speed of 2,400 baud and downloaded with a 14.4KB modem, the animation would play much too fast. If the animation was optimized for 14.4KB and downloaded with a 2,400 Baud modem, the animation would appear like in slow motion.

ANSI Animation Artists Tracer/ACiD and Jed/ACiD
One artist who kind of specialized in this special area of ANSI art were the famous ACiD artists Tracer and Jed. They created a number of ANSI animations and were in my opinion the best ANSI animation artists who ever existed. They worked on some pieces together.

Tracer optimized most of his ANSI animations to be downloaded and watched by a user with a 14.4KB modem or at least 9.6KB for optimum playback speed.

Here is the video recording of one ANSI animation that was created for the BBS "The Bog" by Tracer/ACiD and Jed/ACiD in 1992.

Other ACiD artists who created ANSI animation were Tank, Fusion, Cerberus and Blade Runner. They created also some remarkable pieces of ANSI animation (they called it ANSI Movies back in the old days), but fell a bit short of the quality and ingenuity of the works by their group mates Tracer and Jed (IMHO).

Although ANSI was capable of some sounds, which caused the development of a small specialized scene, which created ANSI music, am I unaware of the existence of ANSI animations that also use ANSI music for sound effects and/or background music. I am also not aware of any editor that supported both of those features to help artists with the creation of such ANSI animations.

I dug up a number of old ANSI animation pieces (over a dozen of them) and currently work on converting them to video. Watch out for the ANSI Movies/ANSI Animation gallery here at RoySAC.com.

Update! Here are 21 ANSI Animations from various ACiD Production members. I did not embed the YouTube video for all of the 21 videos, because that would screw up some browsers. I added small thumbnail images with a direct link to the video at YouTube for each of the ANSI animations instead. Enjoy the show!

ACiD Productions

The Elders Craft World


Body Count

Jed and Tracer/ACiD
The Bog

Agents of Fortune

Inn of the Last Home

Why does iCE has so many members?

Spyrits Crypt


So-Krates BBS

Midnite Oil 3

Beyond the Realm of Reality

Barter Town

Jed and Spectral Illusion/ACiD
Nuclear Wastelandz

Jed and RaD Man/ACiD
Street Spydrs


Evil Palace

Blade Runner/ACiD
The Cartel

Blade Runner/ACiD
Korova Milkbar

ANSI Toons 2

And here is another fun bonus. I provided one of the ANSI animations with a voiceover including foley FX and all that hehe. I hope you like it.

Backup link to video at YouTube.com.

Back to ASCII Art Academy

Carsten aka Roy/SAC

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Stats for Fun

I have an account at the social network and artist community deviantArt.com since March 3, 2006.

I looked at the statistics today and find it pretty interesting. Some numbers are not shown in the summary so I added them myself.

Stats Summary

  • roy-sac has 9,985 pageviews total and his 306 deviations were viewed 23,717 times. He watches 60 people, while 86 people watch him.
  • Overall, his deviations received 665 comments and were added to deviants' favourites 198 times, while he commented 1,383 times, making about 2.06 comments per day since he joined DA. This means that he gave 21 comments for every 10 that he received.
  • His deviation with the most comments is deviantART ANSI Logo with 98 comments, and it is also his most favourited, with 73 favourites. His most viewed deviation is deviantART ANSI Logo with 5,266 views.
  • 3 favourites were given for every 10 comments.
  • Every 2.1 days he uploads a new deviation, and it's usually on a Sunday, with 66 (22%) of his deviations.
  • His busiest month was July 2006 with 61 (20%) of his deviations.
  • The majority of his deviations are uploaded to the Digital Art gallery (268), while his favourite category was Text Art > ASCII with 134 deviations.

  • Comments per deviation: 2.17
  • Favourites per deviation: 0.64
  • Views per deviation: 77.5
  • Comments per day: 0.99
  • Favourites per day: 0.29
  • Views per day: 35.35
  • Pageviews per day: 14.88

Additional figures that were not provided in the summary by deviantArt.

  • Deviation Comments: 671
  • Deviant Comments: 373
  • News Comments: 31
  • Forum Posts: 16
  • Journal Entries: 48
  • Favorites: 490
  • Items in Wish List: 31
  • Scraps: 7
  • Prints available in dA Shop: 13 which had 17 sales altogether. Most of the sales were done by myself hehe.
  • I submit art to 21 categories, but the vast majority of them (306) were for the categories ASCII Text Art (134), ANSI Text Art (109) and Landscapes (15). The last one is for photographies.

The top four deviations by number of favorites.

  1. deviantART ANSI Logo (73 favs, 98 comments, 5266 views)
  2. deviantART Google Logo (24 favs, 64 comments, 2663 views)
  3. deviantART ASCII Logo (6 favs, 10 comments, 1126 views)
  4. TRSI Pixel Art VGA Logo (6 favs, 10 comments, 184 views)

My first ANSI for Melmac BBS is actually #4 by pageviews. It had 610 of them, which is three times more than the TRSI logo. However, the Melmac ANSI was never fav'ed though hehe.