The Sixth Plague: Boils (rough)

This one’s only 10 seconds long! Shortest plague ever.

“10 And they took ashes of the furnace, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses sprinkled it up toward heaven; and it became a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast.

11 And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils; for the boil was upon the magicians, and upon all the Egyptians.” –Exodus 9, King James Version

Music by the Beatles.


The Fifth Plague: Murrain (rough)

“3 Behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thy cattle which is in the field….there shall be a very grievous murrain.” –Exodus 9, King James Version

The fabulous music here is “Dead Animals” by Mental Decay.  You should really hear the whole song. I have no idea why this band isn’t more famous.

A Very Grievous Murrain


The Plague of Murrain comes after the Plague of Flies, which is good because I have animated flies on hand already.
I love making endless loops in Flash, especially when they involve “perspective.”

The Fourth Plague: Flies (rough)

Shofar, sho good:

“21 Else, if thou wilt not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies upon thee, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thy houses: and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of flies, and also the ground whereon they are.” –Exodus 8, King James Version

Like Lice before it (and Locusts to follow) this Plague has Oingo Boingo’s “Insects” (1982) as a soundtrack. Lyrics:
Flying insects everywhere!
Flying insects buzzing, buzzing, buzzing through the air
Just like little diamonds in the sky
Insects buzzing in my eye!
Buzzing insects make me want to dance!
(Dance, dance, etc.)

This is still rough. Things will change before it goes into the final Seder-Masochism movie, not least by the addition of sound effects. Notice Aharon is in this scene, blowing a shofar with Moses. I might retroactively stick him in a few other scenes too, since he seems OK.



There’s gonna be a whole plague of these.

The Second Plague (Frogs) – rough

Music is from “Frogs” by DJ Zeph featuring Azeem, from the album “Sunset Scavenger.” It’s from 2004, making it the most contemporary song in the film. I almost used Taylor Swift’s 2014 “Bad Blood” for Blood, but I ended up deciding Josh White’s 1933 “Blood Red River Blues” was simply a better song. It wasn’t due to fear of lawsuits; I decided long ago not to allow copyright to determine my artistic choices. If you don’t know my stance on Intellectual Disobedience, you can learn about it here:
and here:

I’m curious what frogs DJ Zeph and Azeem were originally referring to. Here, of course, the frogs are these:

“3 And the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into thine house, and into thy bedchamber, and upon thy bed, and into the house of thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thine ovens, and into thy kneadingtroughs:

“4 And the frogs shall come up both on thee, and upon thy people, and upon all thy servants.” -Exodus 8, King James Version

The closest I come to “storyboards”


The First Plague (Blood) – rough

“17 Thus saith the Lord, In this thou shalt know that I am the Lord: behold, I will smite with the rod that is in mine hand upon the waters which are in the river, and they shall be turned to blood.

“18 And the fish that is in the river shall die, and the river shall stink; and the Egyptians shall lothe to drink of the water of the river.

“19 And the Lord spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt, upon their streams, upon their rivers, and upon their ponds, and upon all their pools of water, that they may become blood; and that there may be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood, and in vessels of stone.” — Exodus 7, King James Version

Like many storytellers, I use Moses alone to represent both Moses and Aharon. When I deviate from the texts, it’s on purpose.

Music: “Blood Red River Blues” by Josh White (1933), severely edited by me. With great effort I bought a CD with this song, but the quality was terrible – it sounded like a tape player under a mattress – so I ended up copying audio from this YouTube video.

The second stanza depicts Anuket, goddess of the Nile.  I hope there are no Ancient Egyptian Religious fundamentalists out there, because they might not like the implication She’s menstruating. Then again, the whole Book of Exodus is anti-Ancient-Egypt propaganda. If there were an Ancient-Egyptian-Anti-Defamation League, Exodus would be banned.

The Third Plague (Lice) – rough

The Third Plague (Lice) – rough from Nina Paley on Vimeo.

“16 And the Lord said unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch out thy rod, and smite the dust of the land, that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt.

“17 And they did so; for Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod, and smote the dust of the earth, and it became lice in man, and in beast; all the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt.”
–Exodus 8, King James Version

Like many filmmakers, I use Moses to represent both Moses and Aharon.

The music is “Insects” by Oingo Boingo (1982). The lyrics, which are hard to understand here (but will get a bit easier when we get to flies and locusts) are:
Tiny insects in my hair
Tiny insects everywhere
Tiny insects in my pants
Watching insects make romance
Insects make you make me want to dance
Dance (dance)
They make me want to dance
Dance (dance)
Those insects make me want to dance!



Having found suitable song snippets for all Ten Plagues, I am now animating them. This frog is adapted from one in Sita Sings the Blues, where it appeared in “Am I Blue.” In Seder-Masochism it stars in the Second Plague, “Frogs.” Above, a nice messy mass o’ frogs (on a beat of 13.5 frames – the song itself is 13.3 frames per beat, but close enough). Below: same frogs marching in a 27-frame lock-hop.


The Ninth Plague – ROUGH

This is a ROUGH. It will probably change before the final film. I’m just happy I found the perfect song for the Ninth Plague (Darkness): “Who Turned The Light Out In My Life” by Daniel Boone, from the early 1970’s. There aren’t a lot of songs about lice, flies, and locusts (other than Death Metal, which I can’t use because the words are indecipherable) but I managed to find one, plus songs for murrain, boils, and the rest. All will be used well out of their original context.

Moses is shown way bigger than Pharaoh here because he’s about to win. In an earlier scene (which I’m working on right now) Moses is much smaller than Pharaoh, a la planar Egyptian wall art which scales characters according to their power.

From Exodus 10:
21 And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt.

22 And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days:

23 They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days: but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.

24 And Pharaoh called unto Moses, and said, Go ye, serve the Lord; only let your flocks and your herds be stayed: let your little ones also go with you.

25 And Moses said, Thou must give us also sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice unto the Lord our God.

26 Our cattle also shall go with us; there shall not an hoof be left behind; for thereof must we take to serve the Lord our God; and we know not with what we must serve the Lord, until we come thither.

27 But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go.

28 And Pharaoh said unto him, Get thee from me, take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in that day thou seest my face thou shalt die.

29 And Moses said, Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face again no more.


Crossposted from Theo’s new stitchblog. We’re rearranging and will hopefully have a functioning blog there soon. –Nina

Welcome to my new Stitching Blog. It’s like my regular blog except all about quilting and embroidery. I’ve separated the two, because I get the feeling that people interesting in my science writing and app-making activities may find all the stitching a bit tedious, and vise-versa. Also, I have taken the liberty of using the same list of subscribers to my stitchcam as the list to be notified (via rss feed) when there’s a new post on this blog. I figure if you’re interested enough in stitching to get real-time notifications of a quilting machine running, you’re probably interested enough to hear about an occasional blog post.

So without further ado, my first new stitching-related blog post. I’m afraid it’s a rather technical one….

One of the big problems with fabrics and quilting is that fabric is not a proper engineering material. It’s stretchy and sloppy and never goes exactly where you want it to. The situation only gets worse when you add batting to the equation.

We’ve been experimenting with extra-thick batting, as much as two inches thick, and have had a problem with the resulting “quilts” not lying flat, because some parts of the pattern shrink the dimensions of the fabric more than other parts, resulting in a sheet that is internally stressed.

You might think it’s a simple case of more stitches equals more shrinkage (as it more or less is with embroidery), but this is not the case.

To see why, consider a cross section of a quilt with different spacings between the quilting lines. When there are no lines, the fabric on the top and bottom are flat, and the piece overall will be just as long as the fabric originally was. As you add more lines, the fabric is forced to go up and down, so even if the fabric isn’t physically compressed, the piece overall will get shorter.

Here is a schematic illustrating this fairly obvious fact. Clearly if the lines (the top and bottom fabric) stay the same length, the overall length of the quilt must get shorter.

But what if you keep going? There is a fallacy in this drawing: The thickness of the quilt is staying the same. Clearly the following is NOT what happens if you add even more lines:

These diagrams get more and more absurd, because of course what actually happens is that the batting gets hammered down, the piece gets thinner overall, and the fabric goes back to being flatter. And that means the overall piece should start getting LONGER again, at a certain point. That’s what I wanted to confirm and quantity, so I had Behemoth stitch twelve different test strips like these, each about a meter long:

Here is the diagram again, except this time the widths shown are real, measured widths from my experiment. (In the diagram below, the number of humps is real and the relative lengths are real, but the thicknesses are schematic, because I didn’t measure the actual thicknesses):

As you can see, there is a minimum length around 30 humps, and by the time you get to 200 humps (0.5cm line spacing) the thing is well on its way back to its original length.

Here is a plot of the lengths as a function of line spacing (the right-most data point represents infinite line spacing, in other words the original fabric length):

The interesting fact about this is that, because there’s a minimum, there are going to be two ways to get any given amount of shrinkage, a large-spacing way and a small-spacing way, one on either side of the valley. In order to get a quilt that lays flat, you don’t have to keep all the spacings the same, you can have zones of stitching width spacings on either side of the minimum.

These tests were all with lines in only one direction, but what if you add crossed lines in the other direction? I did a second set of twelve test strips with lines going in both directions, like these:

The following graph is a bit harder to read. The horizontal axis represents the line spacing in the direction of shrinkage (just like in the graph above). The vertical scale is again overall length of the piece. The lines connecting data points represent sets of similar spacing in the lines going the other direction. The bottom set has no cross-lines (i.e. it’s the same data points as the graph above, except a smaller number of them shown). As you go up, each line represents more and more closely spaced cross-lines. The data points are labeled with the line spacing in the shrinkage and crossed directions respectively.

The result is as expected: The more closely spaced the crossed lines are, the less shrinkage there is, regardless of how closely spaced the lines are in the shrinkage direction.

Now all we need to do is actually use this information to make something pretty that doesn’t warp…. In the mean time, we’ve been experimenting with the other solution: Stretching on a frame.

This quilt is “double-quilted”, using the term Nina invented for a thing I decided to try because why not. It’s basically a quilt on top of a quilt, so we can have a secondary level of relief that isn’t hammer down overall. I’ll write a full blog post about this technique later, but here’s a closeup that gives an idea of what it looks like:

Was all the quantitative measuring useful? Maybe…. So far I’ve used it only to create an interpolating function that I have used in some calculations involving how wide to make flaps that wrap around the wooden frame holding up stretched quilts like this. Hm, that’s probably another blog post too.

God Calls Moses to Mt. Horeb


“3 Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.
“2 And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.
“3 And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.
“4 And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.”
–Exodus 3 King James Version (KJV)

Written Designed Directed Animated Produced etc. by Nina Paley.
Music: excerpted from “Moses Supposes” (music by Roger Edens, lyrics by Comden and Green, vocals by Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor) from the motion picture Singin’ In The Rain.
Many sound effects from the wonderful

Director’s note:
Obviously I took a few liberties here.
This is a work-in-progress and may be modified for the final film, Seder-Masochism. Stay tuned for the immediate next scene, where the burning bush gives instructions to Moses!

More Single Line Art

I am a better line processor than any algorithm we currently have access to. Behold what I turned into a SINGLE LINE by hand:

Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair!

Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair!

Many people think we’re using Mathematica to do the drawings of our Quilt Money. We’re not! I am drawing all this stuff by hand. Theo uses Mathematica to route my drawings that contain T-intersections, but I’m learning to make my drawings single lines without T-intersections by hand, because they route much better that way. Everything below was drawn by me, by hand:


Only a few bits (the seals and part of the border) need to be routed in Mathematica. Everything else I drew as single paths. Which is quite a brain-hurter, lemme tell ya. Here’s a screen capture of me working on this same project last week:

I could do this much more efficiently now, using what I’ve learned since then. Which is good, because the better I get at this, the more I can help someone else create algorithms to automate this kind of work.

And yes, at some point we hope to offer an affordable $100 Quilt. But first I have to get the design right, and then our potential partner has to be able actually produce it without losing money. We’re working on it.

Our quilted money is one of the few things I don’t share source (in this case, vector) files for, because currency isn’t exactly like other culture, as I explain here.

Working in Macromedia Flash 8

Here’s a time-lapse screen-capture of me working in Macromedia Flash 8. This little bit of animation is unlikely to make it into the finished movie, as I later decided on a different approach here. This just shows one aspect of how I use Flash; other work videos to come. Thanks to the Blender Institute for posting this and thinking about maybe possibly developing FLOSS vector animation tools.