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Fantastic Beasts (and Where to Find Them)

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I am not ashamed of saying that I was, and am, a Harry Potter fan. Not much a fan of the latest books, to be quite honest, but still I have always been a fan of that universe and I think J.K. Rowling delivered us some graceful pieces of writing when she was focused. If you don’t believe me, I’ll just save you the troubles of reading through the whole stuff and point you right to the Prisoner of Azkaban, which I still believe to be her masterpiece.

But I digress.
As usual.

The point here is that being a Harry Potter fan I do understand all the hype around Fantastic Beasts. It’s one more chance to take a pick through a universe we are fond of and whose exploration seemed to be lost after the Deathly Hallows. I do understand it. Truly.
The trouble is that, being a Harry Potter fan, I do own the book. And by book I mean the 41 pages booklet of funny and yet irrelevant list of fantastic creatures, supposedly written by Newt Scamander.
Having read that, I was rather skeptical when I heard that it was going to turn into a 4 movies set. That’s about 10 pages for each movie. You get my point. I feared that there simply wasn’t enough material in there to support a fully developed narrative.
Was I right?
Just bear with me and find out.

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Well, almost inevitably, the plot is thin.
There are some clever ideas in it, sure, like tapping into all that pre-Voldemort material briefly outlined during the Deathly Hallows. And here lies, as I see it, the very first problem: all that material didn’t fit into Harry Potter, as if Rowling helself just came up with something new towards the end of her old narrative and couldn’t resist in sqeezing it right through it. Which is pretty much what I think happened there.
Now you would imagine that, giving a blank canvas and the opportunity of actually telling that story, she would go back in being her focused true storyteller self. Then why isn’t this called The Rise of Grindelwald, or something? The truth is something I do not own, of course, but I do believe it to be a sad story and this story is about how little Rowling is and has been focused lately.
The story told in Fantastic Beasts seems to have the very same problems you could read into every Harry Potter novel from The Order of the Phoenix onwards. Or worst.

Ideas are good, and setting is great. The whole beauty of the movie seems to be about two concept keys: one of them is of course the grand displya of fantastic creatures; the other is the setting. New York during the late 20s, with charleston and glamour, contradictions and prohibition, can conquer anyone, with or without magic. Take the movie as it is, shift it towards in time and set it nowadays and what will be left of it? Very little, I’m afraid.

Then, aside from setting and ideas, Harry Potter had plot twists.
Not that many, I will grant that, but still you have some serious plot twists during the Harry Potter saga and what I like about them is that almost all of them were well constructed, not preposterous and actually made sense.
Do we have this in Fantastic Beasts?
Well, I’m afraid not.
Spoilers are in white, as usual, and you can read them by highlighting the text. My feed-reading friends choose not to see any formatting, so they can drop this right now.
Ready?
Ok, let’s go.
The only decent plot twist in Fantastic Beasts is that Scamander and Kowalski do not exchange briefcases the first time they jump into each other. Everything else is so obvious it’s rather insulting. Percival Graves is Gellert Grindelwald? Oh, you don’t say? The obscurus is actually Credence? Oh, I’m really shocked!
But that wouldn’t be so bad if it was the only insulting thing.

What I really really really did not enjoy was the way characters were built.
And it leaves me with the doubt of what Rowling would have done if she was given full control of the movies.
Because I know, characters from the Harry Potter novels were groctesque as well. See Umbridge, or Luna Lovegood, or Snape himself. The trouble with books is that while you are reading you can use your imagination to stress and underline what strikes you the most, so if a groctesque character does something particularly dramatic the comic factor instantly fades away leaving you with the impression of what cought your mind the most. On the other hand, movies have a greater power: as they say, a picture is worth a 1000 words. Why is that a trouble? Because if you present a character with groctesque features in a movie, it’s more than likely that we will be unable to take him seriously no matter how heroic his deeds will be.
Was Snape groctesque? Well, yes. But he was Alan Fucking Rickman. Was Dumbledore a parody of Merlin? Well, yes. But he was Richard Fucking Harris. And I could go on and on with Bellatrix, Lupin and Voldemort himself.
In this movie, we are sort of lacking this kind of stature for characters. Even if Colin Farrell is trying, and doing a decent job at it, you have some really really bad pieces of acting.
I mean, after you get everything sorted out, and you see Gellert Grindelwald’s true face, even Scamander doesn’t manage to come through as that odd. Everyone is odd. Odd beyond recognition. Odd beyond credibility. And nothing, not even a death potion, is able to be perceived as a threat. The my-God-he’s-going-to-kill-us-all monster is an emo kid. Pure Disney in its latest and less amusing form.

So was I right or was I wrong in fearing that this movie was going to be inconsistent?
Well, I was right, but for the wrong reasons.
The trouble is not Fantastic Beasts (the booklet). The trouble is the broader story underneath.
Harry Potter started with a very dark, very twisted setting: killings, orphanage, war, prophecies, secrets stirring.
Fantastic Beasts starts with a Niffler.
And though I am very fond of the little guy, I don’t believe this is what narratives should be about.
Science Fiction and Fantasy both have a great power and a great responsibility: they tell stories that are out of our world in order to make us understand ours a little more. The art though is not being able to do this: everyone can do this with a couple of metaphores and a niffler. The art is doing this without being obvious. It’s a test that this first Fantastic Beasts is tragically failing at.

We’re back!

Yeah, it has been intense.
Yeah, it has been tough.
But me and my BIM manager made through it succesfully, we didn’t get married with Elvis and we even managed not to gamble anything, except my liver.

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Registration of one of our classes is out and you can find it here: it’s called “BIM for Hotels: Revit Automation for Rule-Based Spaces”. You can also find the slides (here) and the handout (here): the latter is a 21 pages article and we are quite fond of it. Give it a look.

Also, you can download the handout of our other class, “The Day Revit Came into Our Lives—Implementation of Best Practices for Small Offices”. You can find it here: it’s 25 pages, we’re proud of it too, it contains pirates and a quiz.

If more material will come out, we’ll let you know. Meanwhile, I highly suggest you watch at least the closing keynote (here). It’s quite hilarious.

Stay tuned!

It’s time

We’re ready.

BIM for Hotels: Revit Automation for Rule-Based Spaces – read the handout
The Day Revit Came into Our Lives: Implementation of Best Practices for Small Offices – read the handout

See you in Vegas at Autodesk University.

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The sexiest thing is trust

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At the technology store

“Good morning, I’d like the explosive one”.

*he stares at me*

“The phone, the one that blows up”.

*he looks puzzled*

“It’s a gift – I explain.

Nothing, I had to settle for the s6.

30.09.2016 – BIM @ Lucca (1)

Ringraziando ancora tutti coloro che sono venuti a vederci lo scorso sabato a Lucca, qui potete visionare la presentazione completa, in versione “animata”.

Se avete dei problemi a visualizzarla, probabilmente il vostro firewall non gradisce i siti indiani. Potete rivolgervi a una versione “statica” della presentazione, su Slideshare.

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Per i più pigri, ho selezionato alcune slide qui sotto.

000 001a 001b 002 003 004 005 005b 005c 006 007 008 010 011 012 013 014 015 016 017 018 019 020 021 022 023 024 025 026 027 028 029 030 031 032 033 034 035 036 037

 

Everybody Swings Both Ways

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Happy B-day, everybody.

Quando l’esaminatore non conosce Seneca (o il BIM)

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Tanto tempo fa, prima di darmi al BIM, tra le varie cose mi è anche capitato di insegnare. E, insegnando, mi è capitato di assistere a quel girone infernale che si chiamano esami.
Ricordo tanto tempo fa, durante un esame di maturità, quando il presidente di commissione attribuì a Seneca il Carmen de moribus (che invece è di Catone, altro gran simpaticone).
Ricordo la rabbia e lo smarrimento di fronte a chi avrebbe dovuto certificare le conoscenze di quei ragazzi, e che invece avrebbe dovuto essere rimandato a scuola, senza passare dal via e, soprattutto, senza le 20000 lire.

Orbene, la recente certificazione per esperti BIM promossa da ICMQ mi ha risvegliato un sentimento simile.
Prova scritta a crocette? Validità di tre anni? Prova pratica? In che diamine consiste una prova pratica da BIM coordinator? Coordina una diga e stai sotto a guardarla mentre la riempiamo? E una da BIM manager? Implementa uno studio in tre mesi senza che i professionisti ti brucino casa? E, dulcis in fundo, un test orale. Su cui non farò nessun commento, perché sono una signora.

Non volevo parlarne, per non pubblicizzare un’iniziativa che ritengo essere profondamente dannosa per lo sviluppo del Paese.
Poi ho visto tanti illustri colleghi, anche stranieri, misurarsi con la stessa problematica, primo fra tutti Casey Rutland che vince la palma d’oro con il suo paragone tra la certificazione BIM e l’esame di nuoto.
Poi ho incontrato i colleghi del BIM user group (ricordate? BIM night e tanta birra) e ho scoperto di non essere l’unico professionista indignato.
Ne è nata una discussione.
E dalla discussione è nato un pamphlet.
Potete scaricarlo qui.
E, come sempre, formarvi la vostra opinione in merito.

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How to Get your City into Revit (via Flux Site Extractor)

Did you ever find yourself in the position where you badly needed the surroundings of your project but didn’t have any? That’s right. My heart goes to our fellow surveyors, but sadly enough you rarely ind yourself in a position where clients are willing to pay handsome money merely to give you what you need in order to work on your project. Life ain’t easy.
Therefore, usually you find yourself cursing horrible curses while you model randomly with less than scientific data taken from Google Earth.

You might as well hit your computer with a club, for the good you’re doing.

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Well, you always had alternatives. A couple of them have already been illustrated by my BIM manager here and here. One of them involves Dynamo. The other one… well, the other one involves a lot of lateral thinking. Should those n0t be enough, our buddies at Flux recently provided us with yet another way and it’s called Flux Site Extractor. If you don’t remember how Flux works, I gave you a brief yet painful example of application here and I’m not going to do it again.


– What does Site Extractor do? –

What you always dreamed of while looking at Google Maps: it gives you access to all that beautiful data, in terms of terrain, buildings and streets.
I’m not kidding.

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– How does that work? –

Well, first of all I suggest you register on Flux (not explaining again, as I said). Then, go straight unto the Site Extractor and pick your area of interesti by searching in the tab on the right. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll do my experiment with an area nearby the office. If you allow Flux to look at your current location, you’ll get your office too as default. And nobody cares where you work, trust me.

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In the right tab, you can also turn on and off the different set of datas you want to export.
Building Footprints will export just the… well, the building footprints, in 2d;
Building Models will export the accurate and surveyed shape of buildings;
– Topography takes care of terrain, where available;
Contour Lines is for topography, of course;
Roads, Parks and Water features export, on different layers, elements pertaining to landscape.

When no data is available, you’ll be able to generate buildings at random heights (just for the LULz, I guess) between a given customizable range. That’s what the Generate Other Buildings is for, and we’ll have a couple of laughs about that later.

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Anyways, once you have made your choices you’ll be asked to which Flux project you want to send data to, and I picked an uncleverly-named “Flux Site Project”. Once you do that, Flux will be very happy indeed.

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– What do I do next? –

Well, you open it in Flux, of course.

The data keys you’ll find there are corresponding to the set of datas you chose to export from the Site Extractor and that’s easy enough, right?

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In the Data tab you’ll be able to get a preview of what you actually exported, and let me show what I got.

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Roads

Building Profiles

Building Profiles

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Water (like for real)

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Parks

Aside from the water thing, which is like a hundread years old, everything seems rather accurate.
Well, almost everything.

Buildings: randomized heights (I'll get to it, I promise)

Buildings: randomized heights (I’ll get to it, I promise)

If you drag one set of data on top of the other, you’ll also be able to get a superposition of the different sets.

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Pretty, right?

It’s a blast. You couldn’t do anything like this before, or at least you couldn’t with such a small effort and the same degree of accuracy. I might actually cry.


 

– How do I get it into Revit? –

Well, this is where it gets less pretty.
The Site Extractor is still a Demo and they are doing a wonderful job in developing it, but still the preferred channel of implementation is SketchUp. We Revit guys and gals are very much loved and considered but still have to play a little around in order to get our buildings into our preferred software. In this case I did almost everything via Dynamo and I’m sure there’s a better way, so I’m open to each and every remark.

1. I created a new project, ’cause I find that existing conditions are always best if modeled in a linked file.
2. I opened Dynamo.

And that’s easy enough.

Now, you might remember how the Flux Dynamo nodes work. If you don’t, I’ll do a brief recap.

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1. log-in into Flux;
2. drop a “Flux Projects” node;
3. connect it to a “Select from List” node (and select your project);
4. drop a “Data Keys” node and connect to the previous one;
5. connect it to another “Select from List” node (and select the daya key”).

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Now, I choose the “Buildings (accurate heights)” data set. You might not have anything in it, therefore you might be forced to go for the “randomized heights” data set. You do remember, don’t you? It’s the one that generated buildings at random between a height of 10 and 20 meters.
Anyway, lucky or not, what you’ll get is a mesh.

Use a Watch node to verify it, if you don’t believe me.

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Therefore, I used the DirectShape.ByMesh node to throw elements from the Geometry Array into Revit.
Not that I’m a particular fan of the Direct Shape set of functions: it just was the fastest way. Still, pressing the “Run” botton might take a while.

Should you want a step-by-step walkthrough, I suggest you read this. It features an expensive car.

Now, this is where things get less pretty.
First of all, meshes in Revit suck. Like a lot.

Should you wish to use the Building Profiles data set and extrude from those your own masses, I have another bad news for you.

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Yeah, that’s right.

 


– What do I do now? –

Well, you have a couple of options.
The easier one is to use the data you just got as a basis and remodel your stuff.
There’s also a couple of very nerdy alternatives. Hold on: it’s going to get bumpy.

1. Via SketchUp.
Yeah, you heard me right.
If you use Flux to throw those lines into SketchUp, you can export a dwg and BAM, you can explode everything, transform lines into closed polycurves, then surfaces and easy peasy extrude your buildings.

2. Via a more complicated Dynamo
You have your meshes, right? Right. You can extract meshes vertexes by coordinates, right? Right. Well, you should be able to use them, and their z value, in order to recreate a more polished native geometry for your context.
If you have troubles with meshes I suggest you read this. It features a bunny.


 

– What was that about random and accurate heights? –

Oh, you remembered. This is going to be fun.
Have you noticed it mention heights, but not shapes?
I didn’t notice it at first, but then I did when I saw Milan’s cathedral looking like this, when I got into the “accurate heights” set of data.

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Should you not know, Milan’s cathedral looks like this.

Milan cathedral dome

I wasn’t sure it totally depended on the system, so I did a small test.

I went here and extracted data from that site.

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This is what I got.

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Therefore the morale is: keep calm, trust nobody and, as usual, always rely on your BIM coordinator.

 

Suicide Squad was truthful to its name (and committed suicide)

As usual, spoilers are in white.
As usual, feed readers ya be warned.

Suicide-Squad-locandina

I know it’s wrong and I know I shouldn’t have, but I actually had expectations.
Not that I have ever been a DC fan, at all: the only in-depth knowledge I have about those comics is the one needed to look smart(er) in a discussion about comics in general and since this might turn out to be a discussion about comics I’ll do my best to look smart but trust me: my disappointment doesn’t have anything to do with comics.

Suicide Squad was presented, in a certain way, as DC’s response to Marvel’s Deadpool and for that I couldn’t be more happy.
Still.

Still we have to remember the basic difference between a Marvel movie and a DC movie, before I continue, and in order to do that I’m going to have to resort to Leo.

I don't think I need to translate this, right?

 

You see where the problem is, right?
Still.

Still there was enough suffering, in the basic materials showcased about Suicide Squad: there was El Diablo, with his whole “I killed my wife and children, like for real” thing; there was Deadshot, with his whole “They have my daughter and mysteriously I’m not going to shoot everybody in the face for this”; there was Captain Boomerang, with his… his… ok, I can’t think of anything tragic about Captain Boomerang aside from the fact that he has a pink stuffed unicorn but still you get my drift. And then there was them.

alex ross_joker Harley

Merely by watching the trailers and listening to the soundtrack you could get this feeling that a lot of Suicide Squad was going to be about them. And, to reverse-quote Deadpool, this would have made Suicide Squad so much not a love story movie.
If done right, the Joker and Harley’s story is a story of twisted love, of domestic violence, of how things can go horribly wrong when two twisted souls meet. And the colourful graphics, the whole marketing campaign of Suicide Squad was screaming “Harley” from its every orifice.

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You see what I mean, right?

Still, something went wrong. And I don’t mean to start a rampage about how things in the movie are different from comics: that’s not the point. The point is that this movie seems to have been edited by a drunkyard to whom somebody gave a chainsaw. It has explosions, alright, and shootings, and things going boom. It also has unforgivably useless flashbacks, and plot twists that make no sense.
The best plot surprise in the movie (the fact that El Diablo is an Aztec god as much as the Empress) is actually taken from the comics, and more accurately from the second Diablo. Aside from that, the movie is rather free from emotions of any kind.
Which is rather unforgivable, for a movie that was supposed to be filled with disturbances.
I would like to know what got them so scared.