I’ve been collaborating with Alex Gleason on a new social media website, and he proposed a background of the animated fish from Seder-Masochism:
But how to scale it up for a full background? The gif above is 1.6 MB, it can’t be any larger without significantly slowing loading times (and eating up data on mobile devices). I thought I could maybe make a tessellating animated gif tile, and so did Alex, but it turned out to be much trickier than I’d anticipated.
In a way, a looping gif is a tessellation of time: it seamlessly begins where it ends. That isn’t so hard:
But it doesn’t tessellate in space. If you tile the fish above, you’ll see “seams” at regular intervals. Making the fish line up seamlessly, while moving, required going “under the hood” of the original animation, re-sizing and retiming everything, and carefully positioning and scaling by eyeball. I won’t go into all the details and mistakes, but after some hours I eventually got something that works almost perfectly:
Now get this: it’s under 160 KB. That’s right, less than one-tenth the filesize of the gif at the top of this post; smaller than most jpegs of similar dimensions (360 x 360 pixels). But it covers an entire browser window, no matter how large. Here’s a screenshot showing it tessellating in space:
Update: I made a smoother version. Above is 12 frames per second, below is 24 frames per second. This makes it smoother and less headache-inducing, but doubles the number of frames and therefore file size, and the seams are more visible.
First I wanted it to be 1.25″ tall, and a cut-out shape:
But this would snag on clothes, and bend. So I came up with this:
But it looks like a bottle opener. Plus the Chinese pin-making company emailed me back that a cut-out like this would have to be at least 2″ long. So instead of cut-out details I designed for 1.5″ hard enamel:
But then I thought to make the details shiny metal, and the main area color, with a thicker outline that would make the pin more stable:
But then I thought, why not make the details another color, with gold outlines:
But then I thought, hey why not put a sun in there, since the Great Mother gives birth to the Sun:
Then I made a bunch of different Sun designs, finally settling on this one:
Except the sun shape needed just a little bit of softening, so I exported it as a PNG, re-imported it to Moho (where I’ve been doing all this designing), and auto-traced it. Et voila:
And that’s what I hope to have made in China, until I change my mind again.
ONE DAY LATER: I changed my mind again. Now She’s a little stouter and has crescent instead of full moons. I made so many slight modifications to the shape I started to go crazy trying to decide, because each had its strengths and weaknesses. Eventually I had to just commit to one, so here’s what I just ordered 200 pins of:
Jordan Peterson interviewed me last year (Seder-Masochism was not yet finished when we spoke) and finally the video is up. We talk about the Old Testament, religion, art, inspiration, and copyright, among other subjects.
My two goals for 2017 were to bicycle 5,000 miles, and to finish Seder-Masochism. I have 30 miles to go on the first goal, slowed down by mysterious health problems (for which I’m about to undergo a series of invasive tests). But the second goal keeps getting farther away.
I have all the pieces made, and they’re pretty good. The musical numbers are entertaining, and the “Our Father” scenes, based on recordings of my own father shortly before his death in 2012, worked remarkably well.
But the overall story isn’t holding together. In fact, it’s hard to tell what the overall story is. I set out to retell “The Passover Story,” but what is that? It’s Exodus. But it’s also more than Exodus, and far less. I tried structuring the film around the Passover Seder, and the result is incoherent. Perhaps because as a story, the Passover Seder is itself incoherent, its popularity and persistence due to early indoctrination and strict rules rather than narrative quality.
So now I’m looking for the story again, at this rather late stage. The narrative quality of the Book of Exodus itself is dubious, but it does contain at least one strong story: the going out, the leaving, the separation, the exit, the Exodus itself. I thought a lot about the meaning of Exodus a few years ago when I animated Death of the Firstborn Egyptians (the solo clip of which has become rather popular, at over a million views on YouTube alone).
Even as the mythological Hebrews exited mythological Egypt, the mythological Firstborn Egyptians exited Life, led by the profound power of Death – who is the Abrahamic God Himself, according to many Haggadot. According to the ancient Egyptian conception of Death and the afterlife, this was not necessarily a tragedy; in fact it would have meant something entirely different to the mythological Egyptians than it does to us. Still an Exodus, but from another point of view.
And that’s where I’m returning to seek my story. To Abrahamics, the Exodus is the story of going forth from the “narrow place,” from cruel slavery to freedom. But what were they exiting, really? According to them it was slavery, oppression, and, worst of all, the worship of false idols. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” commands Yahweh in Exodus 20. How does this story look from the point of view of “other gods”? Specifically, goddesses?
Patriarchy celebrates Exodus as a triumph of civilization. But these days I question the value of civilization, since it’s (we’re) killing the planet and perhaps our souls and minds as well. The popular myth, amongst anxious environmentalists like myself, is that Once Upon a Time humans lived in harmony with nature, gathering and hunting, attuned to the natural world through animism and reverence for the Great Mother. There followed a Great Fall: Agriculture, and its attendant sins of property, hierarchy, and slavery. With the plow we were expelled from the Garden, and things have gotten worse ever since. Genesis in a nutshell.
Exodus is a different angle. This time the Great Mother isn’t a nurturing Garden, but a suffocating oppressor. Man isn’t expelled; he escapes. All those (formerly) animistic spirits are now ridiculous and evil idols. The sacred snake becomes the demonic serpent. Nature and fertility become disgusting things to be controlled. Yeast – spores of Life in the very air – is loathed and mastered through the fetishized Unleavened Bread. This loathing and mastering continues today, as we continually kill Life in the soil with fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. (My 4,970 miles of cycling mostly took place in Central Illinois, the heart of the agri-desert, where yesterday I rode past tanks of ammonia being dragged through denuded fields.)
What does Exodus look like from the point of view of the Goddess? She was in Egypt as Hathor, Hekket, Wadjet, Nut, Maat, Isis, and others portrayed already in Moses Goes Down. She was elsewhere in Mesopotamia as Ishtar, Astarte, the “Queen of Heaven” and other mis-named or un-named “idols.” She was in Europe. She was everywhere – all humans conceived the divine as female, long before the invention of the male God.
Watching Man walk out on Her, going forth from revering Nature to enslaving and killing it – would she even want Him back?
So I’m currently trying to articulate the Exodus from the Goddesses’ point of view. I hope it works. I’ve put a lot of effort into Seder-Masochism so far, I’d hate for it to be a BIG FAILURE WITH NO COHERENT STORY. Then again, I may end up with a coherent story that is despised. If my current storytelling angle succeeds, even more people will hate it, especially men. But that I could live with. Releasing a weak, incoherent film would be harder.
But this late in the game, that may be its fate – it’s up to the Goddess.