Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

A Bit About Legendary German Animation

Saturday, August 5th, 2017

If you talk about German films as a foreigner you might know some good ones like influential Fritz Lang movies (for Frau im Mond they’ve hired Hermann Oberth himself and as the result their depiction of space travel looks much more realistic than modern Hollywood flics) or Gojko Miti? adventure features (the Eastern Westerns). But if you’re not from Germany, what German cartoons do you know? Looks like the only German cartoons that got some widespread action are those from Dingo Pictures.

Dingo Pictures is a company located in Taunus that has produced about thirty Hess(l)ich cartoons in the second half of 1990s. Some of those were completely unique and some were ripped off by D*sney and Don Bluth earlier.

Dingo Pictures has their own unique and easily recognizable style. But before I explain it, here are the eponymous animals in one of their cartoons:

So, Dingo Pictures was a pioneer, combining computer drawn animation with 2D drawn background (watercolours no less!). Also like the anime father, Osamu Tezuka, the company had a cast of actors always appearing in every cartoon.

For example:
The Bear (he often changes scenes and complains about everything)

Goldie (named so after the Austrian book Bambi) and Wuschel (the squirrel), Ringo the Hare is not pictured here

And here’s the star of all Dingo Pictures cartoons, the one and only Wabuu:
Wabuu!

In case you didn’t know, Wabuu was so popular that he had his own original cartoon, title song (that can be heard in several other cartoons too) and even audio books! Even now the DVD with his own cartoon costs at least twenty Euro on Amazon and about ten Euro used (for comparison, you can buy almost any other used DVD with Dingo Pictures cartoon for one eurocent).

Anyway, we were talking about the style. It’s hard to express in words what makes Dingo Pictures cartoons so charming but I think phrases “record-mending animation quality”, “copy-pasting everything”, “reusing the same scenes in other cartoons”, “more padding that Star Trek The Motionless Picture” and “dull voice acting” would do.

Here are some shots from one of their longer films, King of the Animals (or Lion King for short), don’t mind the quality, I tried to be lazy:

Title card. One of the best ones, honestly.

Every animal is uniquely redrawn.

The titular king.

Nice backgrounds.

One of moles (as you can guess from its look this mole is Italian).

The story is very typical: the lion rules the jungle full with monkeys, hippos, crocodiles and vultures (and with hares, squirrels and bears—the bear picture above is from this cartoon). One day a monkey finds diamonds but they decide not to mine them in fear of humans coming. With the birth of his son, the lion king loses interest in ruling and the black panther seizes the power with cheating and false promises and exiles the king. Later, with the help of snake, vultures and bear the panther is defeated. If you think you’ve heard this story elsewhere, don’t worry—it has unexpected twists in it.

And in the end we have scenes like this:
The vultures asked for a computer with phone and modem for their help.

The Black Panther is defeated!

BTW the snake enjoys reading books and quotes Shakespeare, Goethe, Karl Marx and Gorbachov. If you find this strange how could you get past the fact the panther’s name is Bocassa?

How one can not enjoy masterpieces like this! Oh, and every time I hear sirens I remember the duck from Animal Football, that’s how much their art has touched me.

There’s a sequel to it, simply called King of the Animals The Second Part but it’s of lesser quality IMO.

The other noteworthy cartoons are Aladdin(the genie there is a famous actor who is not Robin Williams), Animals Football(there they’ve copy-pasted all their animal characters and then some), Bremen Musicians(it has live narrator filmed, not just animation), The Case for Mouse Police(it simply needs to be seen to be believed) and of course Wabuu.

P.S. For some reason DVDs are distributed by P*wer Channel GmbH and don’t mention the original creator anywhere except in the video. They are that modest.

P.P.S. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve heard about any other German cartoons. But these cartoons have reviews in BaidUTube channels of people from countries like Canada and Sweden (the latter is in Swedish of course, actually Wabuu song sounds even better in Swedish than in German).

#chemicalexperiments — Lasagne

Saturday, August 5th, 2017

Let me start with a bit of history.

Normal don’t care much how to eat their pasta—they simply cook it, add whatever they have (even mayo probably or nothing at all) and eat it. Italians are different, they select pasta sauce first and then decide what pasta will go fine with it. In case of meat sauce (or ragù as locals call it) Italians considered that wide plain pasta would go best with it for some reason. So they competed who can use the wider noodles and the guy who simply took the whole plates won. But it was a bit inconvenient to cook them and then mix with sauce so they’ve switched to oven baking the whole thing in sauce instead. And that’s how lasagne was born (probably; Italians have a completely different story to tell but they always do).

Since I’d better avoid meat entirely, I decided to cook my own version with various components (in several tries too) and here’s my short summary:

  • it’s better to use thick sauces;
  • tomato sauce is a definite must, it adds flavour;
  • cheese sauce is good mostly for the lowest layer (to lay lasagne plates on it) and for pouring on top;
  • ricotta and Quark make fine layers too, you can even mix them with some vegetables;
  • sliced boiled eggs would make a nice addition to a layer with tomato sauce;
  • mozzarella is better avoided since it will result in hard chewy chunks contrasting with the texture of the rest of the dish.

Overall, it’s nice dish, would bake again.

#chemicalexperiments — Cheese Cakes

Saturday, June 3rd, 2017

This is rather controversial topic because different countries recognize different kinds of cheese let alone what can be made out of it so what bears the name “cheese cake/pie” in one country might be not recognized as such in another.

So, cheese. Depending on country you have either one or two categories of cheese recognized: so called cottage cheese (or Quark/kvarg in Germanic language countries) and the rest of hard or semi-hard products made of milk. There’s also Italy where some cheeses (like mozzarella, provolone or scamorza) are considered to be pasta but that’s Italy and it doesn’t deserve second mention in this post.

Cottage cheese can be also divided into two categories: grainy and homogeneous mass. The first kind is more common in Eastern Europe (I’ve seen it in Ukraine, Czechia and Hungary for example; it can be also found in Germany but only in rather small packaging and runny), the second kind is more common in Germany.

The conventional hard or semi-hard cheese can be made into a pie usually by grating it, mixing with cream and eggs or sour cream and baking.

And of course there’s USA where what they call cheesecake is made (if you believe Wickedpedia) from either cream cheese (i.e. product where cheese-making process was terminated halfway) or ricotta (made from whey instead of milk, so not a cheese either).

Now, let’s look at real cheese cakes/pies I’ve encountered so far or even made myself:

  • Ukraine — there’s a traditional Ukrainian dish ??????? (if Cyrillic letters are not displayed correctly then ask Mike when he fixes it), patties made from grainy cottage cheese mixed with semolina or millet and flour and fried. Those I like and approve;
  • Germany — there are two similar variation of what is called käsekuchen(literally cheese cake). In both cases it’s mostly Quark (homogeneous cottage cheese) mixed with semolina and baked, in one case they’re also made more cake-like by mixing milk and starch and adding pieces of tangerine. This variation I bake myself time from time, it goes even better with a bit of sour cream (Schmand) or gräddfil on top;
  • Switzerland — there they have Chäschueche(essentially käsekuchen pronounced in Swiss German) which is obviously nothing like its German counterpart. Instead we have a small tart made from local chäs(semi-hard semi-sticky Swiss cheese with stinky rind) that’s rather savoury instead of sweet. I’ve tried them once, found them edible but not something spectacular;
  • Sweden — this country has ostkaka(literally cheese cake) which can be described as an interesting cheese that was too good to wait for it so it was baked instead of ripening all the way. Obviously I buy it when possible and eat with lingon jam, there’s especially good version available in Jul season;
  • Sweden — there’s not enough of it! Sweden also offers västerbottensostpaj(or simply västerbottenpaj) which is a quiche-like pie with filling made from the best cheese in the world (from Burträsk obviously) combined with eggs and cream (I should try gräddfil instead) and baked. I enjoy them both in Sweden and sometimes bake it myself (when I have The Cheese) because it’s worth it.

And an the end several fun facts:

  • German name for cottage cheese (Quark) is most likely the one that got into Finnegans Wake, from which it was borrowed later for certain physical term (though physicists playing stringed models refuse to acknowledge that concept);
  • in Czechia grainy cottage cheese (tvaroh) is sold in pressed triangles, if you wrap a cabbage leaf around it you can troll Japanophiles that it’s local onigiri (like I did once);
  • in Sweden they actually have different names for grainy cottage cheese (called “cottage cheese”) and homogeneous one (called “kvarg”);
  • and in Ukraine it’s all called simply “cheese” (maybe because hard cheese was not common in Ukraine, only hard cheese-like product sold in Soviet times).

Okay, back to doing nothing.

#chemicalexperiments

Friday, May 19th, 2017

Well, here’s yet another post nobody asked.

As a bog standard programmer I love organ music, hacking various stuff, and cooking Also it’s easier to satisfy my tastes and limitations that way too.

I’m not a skilled cook at all but I can make myself a semi-decent soup or bake something (casserole, quiche or pie). And here’s my short report on trying macaroni and cheese in three variations.

The first version was made after some recipe—cook pasta (I chose fusilli because it’s the only kind I had at hoof), make cheese sauce (essentially start with sauce thickener made from fried flour, add milk and melt a lot of cheese in it), combine together and bake in oven. Simple, filling and tasty. The only problem I found is that it thickens into a solid mass when cooled but it’s still enjoyable then.

The second version I tried was Kraft dinner. Just cook the pasta from the box and mix it with milk, butter and powder (from the packet inside the box) in still warm cooking pot. This version I found incompatible with me—not gross or allergy inducing, just after tasting one spoonful I could not bring myself to take another. Oh well, not a big loss.

And finally, käsespätzle. For this variation you take spätzle (the usual long thin variation sold in every supermarket here), mix it with cooking cream that has been boiled and with some cheese melted it, put the result into baking dish, sprinkle with more grated cheese and bake (I’ve also added chopped dried tomatoes because I had to put them somewhere). The result is tasty and more tender than the first variation. So I approve it too.

P.S. I don’t take pictures of what I cook, you want #opticalexperiments then and from a different person too.

A Short Essay on Bitstream Reading

Monday, May 15th, 2017

So, it has come to this. How does bitstream reading might work. Here I’ll try to present several ways to read bits and variable-length codes.
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A Short Guide to Julmust/Påskmust

Saturday, April 11th, 2015

Unfortunately I was not able to visit Sweden this Easter season — it was merely 6 days in Stockholm. Yet I’ve managed to try one of the reasons I come to Sweden — påskmust. For those who don’t know what it is — shame on you! For the rest here’s my incomplete and biased guide.

julmust
Some old julmust photo. Left to right: Nygårda, Eldorado (Hemköp), ICA, Coop, Wasa, Apotekarnes. Lying is the Lidl julmust.

img_7247
Some old påskmust photo (probably from 2011). Left to right: Mora, Nygårda, Apotekarnes, ICA, probably Lidl, Eldorado (Hemköp), Coop. Lying are ordinary and special Wasa påskmust. Front bottle is from Guttsta Källa.

IMG_4282
This year catch. Back row: Wasa special, ICA, Apotekarnes. Front row: Nyckelbryggeri, Zeunerts, Grebbestads bryggeri, Mora, Nygarda, Danish abomination.

So one can divide julmust/påskmust into four categories:

  1. Widespread must from large producers or supermarket chains. That includes Apotekarnes, Nygårda and must made for Coop, Hemköp, ICA and Lidl. But not for Netto, see category four for that.
  2. Must from Norrland breweries. Nyckelbryggeri, Wasa and Zeunerts are most known. And maybe Mora.
  3. Must from non-Norrland breweries. Guttsta Källa, Grebbestads, Hammars (I have to try that one yet).
  4. Abominations from people who don’t know how to make proper must. That includes Bjäre must from C*ca-cola, Harboe must from Netto (made in Denmark) and whatever Danish stuff I tried this year. Concentrate for making must at home probably belongs here too.

The taste is hard to describe but it’s really nice and makes me think of liquid bread for some reason. The main difference is Norrland/non-Norrland must. Julmust and påskmust in Norrland style is less sweet and usually has a hint of coffee. Must from large producers is usually sweeter than the rest. Wasa bryggeri produces two kinds of must — special, available only in Norrland and made after Norrland traditions, and ordinary, available in Svealand and with taste closer to the more widespread varieties.

Danish must is either bland or plainly wrong. The one I tried this year is not actually bad, it’s just completely wrong — it contains e.g. raspberry juice and cola extract. If I drink påskmust I want to be påskmust, not a weird mix of Pommac and Trocadero that probably has only water and sugar in common with the other påskmust recipes.

And now is the actual guide. If you want to try it then start with widespread påskmust you can find in any Swedish supermarket, it should be fine. If you like it that way then be happy, if you want something less sweet then try smaller breweries and especially Norrland ones (it’s hard to find it outside Norrland though). And if you are not in season then you can still try something similar — bordsdricka from Wasa or sommarmust from Nyckelbryggeri should be available (in Norrland).

P.S. You can extrapolate it to Trocadero as well except there’s less variation in taste and there’s no supermarket or Danish version.

H.265: An Alternative History

Saturday, December 6th, 2014

As you might remember, alternative history genre is modelling events based on real history but with something gone differently. Here’s what could’ve happened with H.265 but didn’t.

So, finally there’s a new standard released — ITU H.265. It promises twice as low bitrate for the same picture quality in H.264. Yet people do not care much about it since industry leaders offer their solutions:

China introduces their new standard for video coding — Hybrid Enhanced Video Standard or HEVS for short. It features quadtree representation of coding blocks, more than thirty spatial prediction modes, block transforms from 4×4 to 32×32 and has one unique feature — motion vectors that implicitly take mirror references from reference picture lists. This standard is nominated for main video coding standard on CUVRD (China ultraviolet ray disc) but gains little popularity outside China.

On2 makes a new codec named VP9 that has no open specifications. After tedious reverse engineering it turns out to employ coding scheme from VP5 times, spatial and motion prediction from H.265 with slightly altered coefficients and overall coding scheme from H.265 drafts.

Re… buffering… alNetworks releases NGV at last (fourcc RV50). Again, after long studies of binary specification, it turns out to be based on H.265 drafts with some in-house improvements: using context-specific codebooks for elements coding, ?-pel motion compensation (which is implemented as motion vectors pretended to be ?-pel but in reality several different positions are handled by the same function). The codec goes very popular in China for some reason.

Sorenson releases SVQ7. It is based on old H.265 draft and employs ?- and ?-pel motion compensation. It has some additional features like watermarking and quickly becomes the codec of choice for QuickTime.

P.S. Good thing nothing like this has really happened.

A Bit on Germany

Friday, November 21st, 2014

quote

An excerpt from a book that I have to refer sometimes (here’s the source, it really tells a lot about proper relationship. Ask a nearby German for a translation if you need it.

P.S. Next post will be about a codec technical description, I promise.

A Bit on Italy

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Italy is a good country (piecewise) — nice scenery, decent food (and pasta), nice architecture…
There’s but one thing that annoys me, I think you’ll be able to spot it on those two pictures.

Milan, a corner of via Vitruvio and via Benedetto Marcello.
Milan

Turin, largo Cassini.
Torino

I cannot say it for sure but I remember Ukrainian markets (right after closing time) being cleaner than that.

On Anime

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

I’ve finally bought a DVD with an anime I wanted to watch. And it was awesome. Here are some screenshots.

xine_snapshot-1

xine_snapshot-2

xine_snapshot-3

xine_snapshot-4

xine_snapshot-5

xine_snapshot-6

xine_snapshot-7

xine_snapshot-8

P.S. I should probably visit Småland next summer.