Author Topic: Small Animal News  (Read 48916 times)

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Offline Sindobook

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Re: Small Animal News
« Reply #30 on: June 16, 2010, 08:45:33 pm »
I got multiple requests over PMs for a guide to events so here is what I can write down.

(1)

Shoot only what you like.  Don't just walk around and shoot everything.  If it's not interesting to you, don't bother with it.

This is the principle of trusting your own judgment of what is good and what is bad.

(2)

Try to fill the gaps in active shooting with video.  By passively using video, you can capture the goofy or spontaneous things that you would otherwise miss.  Later, you can edit the video, or create stills from it.

This is the principle of being ready for anything to happen at any time.

(3)

Especially when capturing video, avoid any temptation to cross over into the scene.  Your job is to capture the scene, not to interact with it.

This is the principle of letting things develop naturally or on their own.

(4)

The commonly held beliefs are often wrong.  People often live in the past, or in their own little world.  One does not become an expert by studying the common-rhetorical methods or engaging in discussions, especially online.  

This is the principle of action before discourse or acting without thinking.

(5)

If you cannot get it out and ready in 3-5 seconds, it is barely worth bringing along with you.  Carrying around lots of elaborate gear, studio lighting equipment, reflectors, assistants, stands, etc., it only serves to slow people down with unnecessary weight.

This is the principle of avoiding unnecessary attachments.

(6)

When shooting a scheduled event, arrive on the scene 10-15 minutes early.  If it is going to be crowded, stake out a good spot.  Imagine the place full of people, plan out angles, lighting, and gear configuration.  Sometimes the best opportunities are before the event officially starts, or after it officially ends.

This is the principle of staying ahead of the pack.

(7)

Likewise, try not to think or shoot in the way others are thinking or shooting.  There are plenty of people who follow the pack and you do not want to be one of those people.  When others are shooting the whole scene, shoot a single person, or two, when others are just shooting one person, shoot the whole scene, etc.  

This is the principle of offering something unique.

Notes:

4) Too much of what I see online is just wrong or off in the modern setting.  A good example is lighting.  You are not in a studio environment, you are at an event, so why bring along all the studio gear or the studio methodology.  You have to stick with what is practical for what you do and where you are.

There are basically 4 levels of lighting, 1) direct on-camera flash or flash accessory; 2) on-camera flash accessory, bounced and/or with reflectors; 3) as level 2, only with some additional slave flashes, 4) off-camera lighting only.  And you can cover 95% of what you are going to encounter just fine with (1) and (2), with perhaps a little bit of postprocessing as necessary.  Lighting is something to be aware of, but it's not something you need to obsess over like a lot of people do online.

5) People often focus on gear and this is what I carried along with me in the past.

1) An inexpensive DSLR, two or three generations old.
2) a) normal (50mm equiv.) prime and a b) normal range zoom lens, the best you can afford.
3) An on camera flash accessory, which can rotate to bounce and then has a diffuser and a reflector shield.
4) A digital camera for video, when necessary (some of the newer DSLRs take decent video).
5) A circular polarizer filter.

But seriously do yourself a favor and don't focus or stress out over gear.  Early on I only had (1), (2a), and (4), and I still did just fine then.  

The filter and the lens takes longer than 5 seconds to change, so honestly you need to get those ready before you need them.  For instance if you are going outside to shoot under the blue sky, you need to put the circular polarizer on as you are in the process of walking outside.  

6) This goes against some of my other rules, but still makes sense.  Some places are better than others and only one person can occupy a space at a time.  Often times events start before their stated time, and end after their stated time, so it is best to plan on being there early and plan on leaving late.

7) Again this goes back to following or trusting your own judgement.  Many times people take a group shot simply because the group is there.  You don't necessarily have to forgo the group shot, just do it quickly and then focus in on one or two people that are the most interesting to you.
« Last Edit: June 17, 2010, 02:02:17 am by Sindobook »

Offline Sindobook

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Re: Small Animal News
« Reply #31 on: June 19, 2010, 10:58:39 am »
This isn't really small-animal related, but Tuan Tuan's 'friend' will be hosting two panels at AX.
See the list below -- the panels with '***' next to them.

2010/07/02 : (14:00 - 15:15) Tuan Tuan "Dark Panda Brigade" Panel
2010/07/02 : (15:15 - 16:15) Danny Choo Focus Panel (LP1) ***
2010/07/02 : (16:15 - 17:30) Tuan Tuan "Panda Comedy" Panel
2010/07/04 : (09:00 - 10:00) Danny Choo Focus Panel. ***
2010/07/04 : (10:00 - 11:30) Tuan Tuan "Wolong Conservatory Informational" Panel and benefit auction
2010/07/04 : (11:30 - 12:00) Tuan Tuan "Learn the Panda Panda Dance" Panel

I don't know much about his friend but, apparently, at one of these two panels (no idea which, please don't ask), some exclusive 10 minutes or so of footage for the upcoming B*RS anime will be shown.  The B*RS anime is now due to be available on July 24, 2010, but whether this date will be pushed back again remains to be seen.

Offline Sindobook

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Re: Small Animal News
« Reply #32 on: June 23, 2010, 01:44:41 am »
Yes, I do know of that hotel, it was last 'fixed up' when Yue-bing was the leader of the Bunny Brigade quite some time ago.  The owners contracted Yue-bing to fix it up for them.

The refurbishment was mismanaged and Yue-bing siphoned most of the money off to her own ends.  The carpets, electrical wiring, etc. were all taken out (in preperation for replacement) but the project went belly-up when they ran out of money.  So now the hotel has no carpet, no electricity going to the rooms, etc.  The only thing the bunny brigade did to completion was put in a new pool.  But due to a misunderstanding the pool is both a wierd shape and only inches deep instead of feet.  So it's basically like a wading pool for small children to get their feet wet and that's pretty much it.

The hotel does have elevators but they have gone kind of wonky since the refurb.  From time to time the elevators seem to have a mind of their own, stopping at different floors randomly or simply going up and down when unoccupied.  Certain floors that the elevators stop at, 'randomly', are completely empty and said to be haunted. 

So basically my recommendation would be to avoid this hotel like the plague. 


Offline Sindobook

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Re: Small Animal News
« Reply #33 on: June 24, 2010, 02:22:10 am »
Yes, I call it 'staged' and I generally don't do that unless I am really into something.

(1) Venue

You have to choose a good venue.  Venue is not only a place but also a time.  If it's outside, in direct sunlight, the hour after sunrise or the hour before sunset is most preferable.  The sun being directly overhead is the worst.  Other options for outside - in the shade, or in an area where you can control the lighting.  

If it's inside, it doesn't really matter, but areas with windows where the outside brightness is different from the inside brightness will require special consideration (explained later).  Inside, areas where you can control any overhead lighting and such is best.

Ultimately your venue should be based on the characters and the themes you want to portray.  Almost all the time, a place with a minimum number of people around.

(2) Lighting

For lighting, know what to avoid, ie. cross-lighting on a character is almost never used favorably. For indoor venues, turn off unnecessary lights, and learn to use existing lights, ie. use the light coming in through a window as your key light.  Your on-camera flash can be a fill light in a pinch, but you generally want to adjust it down (FEC -1EV to -2EV) because the idea of a fill light is to brighten the shadows, not remove them completely.  Don't waste too much money or weight on additional toys like umbrellas, softboxes, or goofy-looking doodads.

If you use a flash, always keep in mind the balance between ambient light and light from your flash.  It goes against what some 'pros' teach, but you can get fine results balancing the two as long as you are careful with white balance.  

(3) Photographer

Know your own movement and distance.  Avoid being 'too close', generally if you're taking a full body shot of someone 5 feet tall, you should be at least 5 feet away and preferably around 10 feet away.  Being 'too close' can result in wide-angle distortion, it can result in bounce flash off the ceiling being too vertical, and so on.  This goes back to venue, you want to choose a venue that, if possible, allows you to shoot with a 50mm focal length lens (equiv. for crop cameras) or greater.

(4) Motion

I get a lot of people asking 'how do I pose for a staged action / motion shot' and the best answer I can give is to just do it.  For instance if you want a shot of the character running, then run.  If you want a shot of the character jumping into the frame, then jump off some stairs.  

And there's a few basic techniques the photographer can use here to give the perception of motion in a still shot.  Some positions will be naturally unbalanced and
can simply be shot with a fast shutter speed.  Panning to 'smear' the background is possible if the character is instructed and able to keep their body still for the instant when the panning shot is taken.  

Trick angles, exaggerated perspective, or even post-editing can be used to make action shots look more spectacular.

(5) Contact Interaction

For action that requires contact, the challenge is to create action that looks as natural or 'not staged' as possible.

Too often I see people just 'freeze in place' for action shots.  It results in scenes that just don't look real, ie. a character that is punching another character in the face, with muscles that are loose rather than tense, and while looking in some other direction or even at the camera.

My best recommendation to avoid this is to have the characters 'slow-play' the action, ie. play it out in slow motion while trying to keep their bodies in sync as if that were actually happening.  The photographer than shoots this as one would a normal action scene, albeit a much slower one.  This will typically require some degree of force or people 'pressing into' one another, and while it can lead to exaggerated effects, it helps the characters pay attention to their own actions and act how they should be acting rather than posing.  For instance a victim character who is being punched in the cheek will first try to hold his head still as the puncher presses his fist into the victim's cheek.  But then the victim will slowly give, allowing his neck to go back as the puncher follows through with his punch.  Of course in reality both characters are using only a minimal amount of strength in the performance, enough to make the interaction look somewhat convincing but not so much that anyone risks injury.

(6) Bounce Flash

Going from the simple direct flash to bounce flash is one of the first or most basic ways to improve flash photographs.  If the flash does not already have them, some simple add-ons like a diffuser and a bounce / fill strip can be added on to allow for more versatility when bouncing.

A fill strip is a typically a small white strip that goes onto the back of the flash, to reflect a small amount of light and allow it to be both a bounce and a fill flash.

With every bounce of the flash, the ceiling typically generates some spreading or diffusion.  This means you don't necessarily have to bounce such that the first order reflection will hit the scene.  You can also do things like bounce off walls, bounce off the corner of a room, and so on.  One of the most basic things to try to avoid is bounce light coming into the scene 'too vertical', as this tends to darken the character's eyes. 
« Last Edit: June 25, 2010, 10:35:40 pm by Sindobook »

Offline Sindobook

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Re: Small Animal News
« Reply #34 on: July 06, 2010, 08:30:32 pm »
I have to reiterate, please don't send me PMs with things other than questions.  I'm getting a lot of complaints, whines, lately and these do not count as questions.

AX was definately 'something else' for the animals that were involved, whether they were small animals or otherwise.  Tuan Tuan's childhood friend, Long Shan, decided to attend unannounced and despite not having purchased a badge, was able to sneak into the dealer's hall several times and even attended several panels.  Tuan Tuan's panels were all great successes, except for the 'Learn the Panda Panda Dance' panel where a lot of the participants were either tripping over themselves or could not keep up with the pace of the music. 

For the person who wrote asking about bunnies, yes, a number of bunnies from the bunny brigade did attend, Samantha is currently debriefing them and will compile a report shortly.  I know some of Mr. Sparkles friends were also there, but I don't have any additional information about that. 

Offline Sindobook

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Re: Small Animal News
« Reply #35 on: July 09, 2010, 02:39:58 am »
Despite being rather visible and large in stature, the Giant Panda Long Shan, Tuan Tuan's friend, basically 'wrote the manual' for getting around places like that unabated. 

Long Shan was quick to identify the different types of agents at work there and noted the properties of each.  The rather hapless yellow-tailed dodo birds were loners who by and large were castaways, not known for either their intelligence or loyalty.  The larger red-tailed birds were unpredictable, had a tendency to squak loudly, and were commonly at odds with other red-tailed birds.  Next there were red-scaled diamondbacks, snakes with bits of white coloring and predatory, aggressive tendencies.  Then you had the assorted animals who led all these guys, through a variety of methods.

Long Shan knew he stood out but that did not stop him from sneaking into the dealer's hall on several occasions.  Long Shan always chose a door that was gaurded by a yellow-tailed dodo, waited for a large group to walk through, and would then join them and walk through nonchalantly.  The one time that Long Shan was stopped by a yellow-tail, it was because the yellow-tail wanted his autograph which he promptly provided and then entered.  Of course Long Shan denies he 'borrowed' any merchandise from dealers, using his famed 'panda hands' technique, or the 'two paw discount' technique, he claims to have spent most of his time in Artists' Alley with his buddies (not Pandas).

On day 2, the red-scaled diamondbacks came into play.  These aggressive snakes were more effective than the varieties of birds at scaring away most types of small animals except for the occasional mongoose or ferret.  Fortunately Long Shan understood the weaknesses of these snakes.  His most basic technique was to use rapid lateral movement to bypass the snake when it was attempting to patrol a wider area that was simply not suited as a choke point.  He would simply wait until the snake was occupied in scaring away a few small animals, and then use the technique of 'neither approach nor retreat', sidestepping rapidly and then advancing around the snake to bypass him.  This worked well against single snakes, but when multiple snakes were involved Long Shan had to outmaneuver them on a larger scale.

While some choke points that led to panels were effectively patrolled by multiple birds, other panels had no real choke points and hence could be accessed easily.  Long Shan snuck into multiple panels in this fashion and only once did a patrolling yellow-tail find him (after he sat down) and ask him to leave.  So Long Shan simply left and returned a few minutes later. 

Offline Sindobook

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Re: Small Animal News
« Reply #36 on: July 13, 2010, 01:13:38 am »
Yes I've been asked about it repeatedly and I didn't answer in the past because I was still gathering all the info.  But now I can answer, at least in a preliminary fashion.  It's not normal that I comment this much in depth on third parties, but enough people have asked and they are small animals, so it at least deserves mention.

Let me just say that, from a tactical perspective, their operations were more of a failure than a success.  This was due to numerous factors, most of which can be traced back to inexperience and poor capabilities of their bunnies.  The bunnies primarily stayed in one large group rather than fan out to cover more area or lower their visibility.  Likewise the bunnies were ill-equipped, lacking even the most basic radios or comm gear that could have given them better communication and situational awareness.  And they tended to stay in one place, waiting for the enemy to come to them, rather than run a mobile operation and try to outmaneuver their enemy. 

Compare these ragtag bunnies to the mercenary red-scaled diamondbacks commanded by the unnamed "neighborhood cat L" from his bunker.  The diamondbacks had everything that their bunnies didn't, they looked menacing to a bunny, they had comm gear and they used it effectively, and single snakes could act alone and use their mobility to their advantage.  Even the famed Long Shan respected these diamondbacks when they were being effective (which fortunately wasn't all the time).

So essentially from a tactical perspective, the bunnies weren't able to fulfill their objective.  Their main objective was to be able to operate unhindered and they couldn't do that very well.  They were stopped at every turn by snakes and the occasional aggressive red-tailed dodo. 

Strategically, the bunnies did a slightly better job.  While far short of a victory, the bunnies did manage to force "cat L" to divert some of his mercenary snakes to deal with them.  And, even after the bunnies had left, "cat L" (who most now believe is semi-psychotic) developed a high sense of paranoia and allocated additional funds in order to conduct "sweep and secure" operations in the areas the bunnies had been able to operate in.  Of course the bunnies were long gone by this time, so no bunnies were found in the multiple-day operation and his money was wasted.

Ironically it may have been these ongoing operations like the wasteful "sweep and secure" that helped the Giant Panda Long Shan and others in being able to operate largely unhindered. 

I don't know if we will see a repeat of this next year or not.  Next year one can at least expect that there will be more bunnies, and at least some veteran bunnies who learned from their failed operations this year.  The neighborhood cat L's snake army may be formidable, but they are mercenaries in the end.  Long Shan's own effectiveness against these guys should demonstrate that they are not by any means unstoppable.  The bunnies do have a year to train and increase their capabilities, recruit, etc.  They're motivated and if they can get a good tactician or some mongooses to face down the snakes they might be able to do a better job next year. 

But if nothing else, those bunnies made and will continue to make the neighborhood cat L real paranoid, and that in and of itself may be a success. 

Offline Sindobook

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Re: Small Animal News
« Reply #37 on: July 13, 2010, 10:18:18 am »
Yes, I can answer that. 

C's bunnies ended their operations after two days.  In fact all of C's forces pulled out after two days, as had been planned far in advance.

Over the next three days, the neighborhood cat L used his mercenary snake army to conduct 'sweep and secure' operations.  Mikey is pretty familiar with these things, he indicates that by small animal reckoning, the cost of these specific operations would be between 300,000 and 600,000 carrots.  The current exchange rate is roughly 4 carrots to the dollar, so go figure.

Even the low estimate of 300,000 carrots is more than significant. 

Mikey estimates that C's expenditures for the entire operation were roughly 150,000 to 300,000 carrots. 

Offline Sindobook

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Re: Small Animal News
« Reply #38 on: July 14, 2010, 11:36:00 pm »
Friday at 10:30, a one-hour panel in room 5AB.  Bobo, a gopher tortoise, will host a panel with the Giant Panda Momo from the Japan National Zoo in Tokyo.  The panel will include a Q&A session followed by a 'meet and greet' where attendees can meet Momo and shake hands, take photos, etc.

Offline Sindobook

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Re: Small Animal News
« Reply #39 on: July 20, 2010, 01:13:32 am »
K is a bit of an anomaly.  The small animals aren't quite sure what breed she is, presumably mixed.  She is a younger-to-middle-aged cat who is basically an underling of L.  On the outside she is friendly to humans and also other cats.  She doesn't like being ignored and will get very peeved if ignored by a person or cat when she wants attention.

Above:  From an earlier post.  Below:  New.

Starting to understand a little bit more about K.  K is very bad at all forms of math.  She cannot count and has a very poor perception of time.  She's cannot focus and is easily distracted.  K is an avid twitter user, but she doesn't understand the character limit for twitter posts so many of her posts end up truncated and meaningless to anyone who reads them. 

K is very friendly with L, she will often purr and rub up against him, sometimes grooming him.  But L rarely returns the affection, he constantly spurns any advances she makes.  Don't believe this behavior extends to other cats besides L.

Offline Sindobook

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Re: Small Animal News
« Reply #40 on: July 27, 2010, 12:47:01 am »
No small animal that is willing to talk about or admit it was at that panel, so not much more can be said there.  I guess you could say that, after some of his earlier work, Bobo just wasn't too popular among small animals. 

The funniest thing I saw was Tuan Tuan testing out his new camera, taking pictures of people in costumes while three other video crews who were pretending to be press were taking video.  Video, not of the friends that Tuan Tuan was taking pictures of, but of Tuan Tuan himself taking pictures of his friends.  Between the different video crews arguing, literally tripping over each other, and getting in each other's way, they might have actually gotten some video footage.  But probably not, or at least probably nothing that noteworthy.  I don't know why but it seems like Tuan Tuan has become something of a 'celebrity' lately in certain circles.

Offline Sindobook

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Re: Small Animal News
« Reply #41 on: July 28, 2010, 10:57:54 pm »
Yes, I'm told it was early this morning.  The bunny brigade and their allies timed the massive assualt to coincide with the release of the popular hit videogame 'Starcraft 2'.  The family that runs the countryside farm (a bit of a misnomer -- the farm isn't really 'in the country' or even bordering 'the country') had all passed out due to lack of sleep, due to the recent popular videogame release a day or two ago.  In the hours that followed, in a rather textbook small animal operation, an estimated 300 pigs loaded up packs with romaine lettuce, carrots, alfalfa hay, etc., while the roughly 200 bunnies in the bunny brigade ferried those packs from the farm to an undisclosed location.  At noon one of the lookouts reported that some members of the family were starting to wake up so the operation was wound down.  According to the debriefs, the pigs who were the last to depart report that only around 20% of the crop of romaine lettuce and 30% of the baby carrots remained. 

Offline Sindobook

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Re: Small Animal News
« Reply #42 on: August 02, 2010, 08:19:38 pm »
About that incedent.

This is second-hand so don't put a lot of weight on it.

According to Samantha, the current bunny de jure for the bunny brigade, one of the first-year bunnies was hit on repeatedly by a snake.  "It was almost biblical.  While she was in her full cosplay (which had horns), the snake would come up to her, do the snake thing, and say things like 'just looking at you makes me real horny' ".  She gave a stare-down and also made sure the snake saw the other two bunnies she was flanked by, which seemed to give him pause and make him back off.  

People who read this will probably think 'but oh snakes kill bunnies all the time'.  Well in the wild sure.  But you also haven't seen what 3 bunnies will do to a snake if they work together and are willing to face him down (rather than try to run away).  The snake might kill one or two, but in the process the bunnies will bite into the snake and not release, even if they die.  Faced with this form of MAD, most predators will simply back down.  As that snake in the incident did.

The bunny brigade has a rep and they it's not just a rep, it's something they live up to for the most part.
« Last Edit: August 03, 2010, 01:40:39 am by Sindobook »

Offline Sindobook

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Re: Small Animal News
« Reply #43 on: August 10, 2010, 08:03:09 pm »
In response to Mikey's comments, it is agreed that no one should really do much at this time. 

There's just no pressing reason why.  The default is going to be 'no'.  Too many unknowns. 

I can almost guarantee you small animals will be there, but I doubt they're going to pay to be there.  Long Shan has already announced his intention to return, issuing a de facto challenge to whatever snakes are going to remain next year. 

Finally there's been a lot of people asking about C's bunnies and anything else C has planned.  Frankly, I just don't know.  I know a lot of people are expecting a battle, a big battle, but sometimes when everyone expects something, it's overblown and nothing really happens. 

Offline Sindobook

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Re: Small Animal News
« Reply #44 on: August 11, 2010, 08:09:09 pm »
Recently, Long Shan gave a full debrief to Samantha, who also collected information from her own operative in the Bunny Brigade.

Of some importance was Long Shan elaborating more on the 'assorted animals who led these guys' that I noted in my July 9th post.

Long Shan details the command detail as being a number of English Springer Spaniels that seemed to operate primarily in small groups of two to five (though occasionally alone).  Mikey's comments on this breed of dog is that it is far from suited for mercenary work, the breed has devolved from a 'working' breed to a primarily a 'show' breed with several health and a few psyche problems due to inbreeding.  One of the most prevalent problems is a mental condition known as 'rage syndrome' where the dog will suddenly, for no apparent reason, become uncontrollably aggressive toward anything and everything it is aware of - attacking people, other animals, or even inanimate objects if the former is not available.  This is an unconscious action and the dog has no memory of the episode afterward, an episode can last anywhere from 30 seconds to several minutes, but most last a minute or two.

According to Long Shan, the English Springer Spaniels were largely ineffective commanders, deploying their snake underlings ineffectively.  He gave the example of a single snake being tasked to patrolling a choke point that was 30 to 40 feet wide, this continued for several hours as small animals poured through en masse.  Late in the day, a second snake was added, but this was still not enough to effectively patrol the area as small animals continued to simply bypass the snakes unabated.  Likewise, several 'side door' and 'back door' choke points were completely devoid of any patrols.  Most of the more enterprising small animals simply used these 'side' and 'back' doors for unrestricted access.

Long Shan was able to verify the reports of these dogs 'raging' on repeated occasions, trying to attack or acting aggressively toward small animals, people, or whatever else was in the vicinity.  Deedee, a member of the Bunny Brigade, commented she witnessed a most bizarre incident, she was shopping at an EGL booth when she noticed out of the corner of her eye, a lone English Springer Spaniel with its eyes glazed over.  The dog suddenly lurched and attacked a mannequin displaying a petticoat for no particular reason.  It continued to try to sink its teeth into the mannequin's leg for a minute, then started to chew up a nearby dress, after about half a minute more, the dog stopped, looked bewildered and continued on.