Monday, December 21, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
It's on tonight and, this year, Peter Kay launched a charity single that brings together most of the UK animation industry. Or at least a hell of a lot of it. And it brings together characters from over 30 years of UK children's television.
Old classics like the amazing Paddington Bear, the Wombles, Bagpuss, going back as far as Muffin the Mule. More recent characters like Postman Pat, Pingu, Bob the Builder and even more recent characters like Fifi and the Flowertots, Peppa Pig and many, many more. Apparently, it has something like 120 characters in there.
It was put together by Chapman Entertainment and directed wonderfully by a man named Tim Harper and it's a lot of fun.
Apparently, the DVD single goes on sale on Monday in the UK. If you're reading this and you're in the UK, please go and buy it. It's for a bloody good cause and deserves to do well.
If you're not in the UK, well, go dig it up on YouTube and have a look but prod anyone in the UK to buy it.
Monday, November 16, 2009
I actually think that's probably a good thing. But not so good when you've got a blog based around one particular part of your persona. Hence the lack of updates in a whole week - my longest post drought I think.
Part of it is being busy of course. My life is full. But I do think more of it is just not being the Bitter Animator for a while. That part of me just doesn't need expression right now. He has gone quiet. Is that weird?
Right now, I almost feel like starting a blog on pretty things. Like flowers and colours I like.
That is weird.
Monday, November 9, 2009
I want to crawl into a cave and hide. The urge is so strong. I'm having a real hard time resisting it. It's something deep in my gut.
Which backs up my theory that we should be hibernating. Or at least I should be hibernating.
Everyone is welcome to join me in my cave, although it's quiet time so there's no talking and certainly no getting up and doing stuff. There's nothing as upsetting to someone trying to relax than seeing busy people around them. It's borderline offensive. But please do bring food and some warm blankets. And a hot water bottle as long as the kettle you use to fill them with is quiet. Paper plates are recommended as dishwashers are noisy and washing them yourself breaks the rule about doing stuff.
Thanks to Andy for recommending Flipnote for the DSi. I'm looking forward to trying it. Check out what Andy has done with it here and have a look at these from Aardman. Fantastic stuff. When I get a free moment (sometime between retirement and death), I'm going to get it and see what I can do with it.
By the way, Andy has an excellent animation blog here. If you're into animation, especially just getting started, you'll likely find something useful there.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Some do. But most seem like they are still floating around like they're in their early twenties. Changing careers or working ridiculously hard at some worthless one, having been seeing someone for a year or so, look how drunk I got at some party, and that sort of thing. As a generation, we just don't seem to be able to settle. By my age, we're meant to be completely settled. We're the older generation. Sad but true. At least for me. And yet, we're really lagging behind.
Does it matter?
Yeah, I think it does. Because you only have to look at older people to know that old age creeps up very, very slow and then strikes fast. And one day we're going to wake up and we'll be old. We'll have trouble getting out of bed. It will take several hours to walk to the shops. We'll bitch about just about everything we see on television. We'll tell the young just how dangerous the world is and maybe even collect newspaper cuttings of horrendous stories to prove our point.
And we'll realise we're old.
And we skipped a whole stage of life. Probably a very good stage.
I wonder why that is? Why it's like that now?
I think I blame the corporate world, advertising and chick flicks. Yeah, that's a long topic in itself but I think we're focusing too much on this career thing for stuff we're constantly told we should have. A life we all deserve that is little more than a materialistic fantasy. And, on the relationship side (and this is where chick flicks come in), we're taught to expect some stupidly romantic happy ending that only occurs because you can end a movie at a very fixed point. Cut six months later from the end of any chick flick and you'll find something a little more like real life. Our stories don't end at that moment of connection. And it's rarely perfect.
But, whatever the reason, this generation, my generation, is very slow to grow up. And, even coming from someone who lives in a world of cartoons, games, toys and complete fantasy, I don't actually think that's a good thing.
Monday, November 2, 2009
In a way, every moment of every day, I am fighting for my life.
But I live unaware of that fight. No, that's not true. I'm aware of it but I try to ignore it. Avoid it. Because, really, I just want an easy life. A simple life. But doing that, I'm losing the battle. Throwing the whole war.
It's November already.
All around, I'm seeing things listed for 2010. Release dates and so on. And every time I see 2010 written down, even here, I think it's a date from some fictional future. It's science fiction. The Space Year 2010. It's not a real year in my lifetime. It's the year some sci-fi story is set in. Where some guy has to escape some oppressive Big Brother society, running from robots with laser guns.
But, aside from the robots with laser guns, that's where we're at. That's now. Or almost.
And I can do things right now to change my future. A real future, not some robots with laser guns future (though that should be the real future). But keeping up that realisation, actually acting on it... well that's a lot of pressure and a hell of a lot of hard work.
And I'm so tired.
Friday, October 30, 2009
No, not a zombie this year. Zombies are easy - I just go as I am. No, I need a different attitude. So how about some ass-kicking demon thing?
From the bowels of Hell itself... well, maybe not the bowels. Bowels aren't somewhere you want to spend much time in, although I guess that gives me a good reason to leave Hell. I mean, coming from bowels makes just about everywhere a step up. Okay, so I'll go with bowels.
From the bowels of Hell itself, the dreaded demon Bittoriad rises to wreak havoc upon the world. Destroying the very values that hold society together, the evil Bittoriad spreads such insidious notions as the idea that children's shows should actually be pretty good for children and entertain and work with parents rather than serving as toy advertisments. The nefarious Bittoriad can't even get through a blog post without preaching his twisted views. That's just how evil he is.
Oh yes, that is evil.
And then, once he has preached his way out of a job by refusing to work on crap, he sits in front of the television watching Dr.Phil and drinking beer...
Hang on, somewhere in here, Bittoriad lost his way. He was supposed to kick ass. Gah, even huge devil wings and an angry look can't alter my destiny - towards the television with a beer.
Well, I'll kick ass next year.
Hope everyone has a very happy Halloween! If you're dressing up, make it something horrific. No fairies or princesses - that's cheating! Make it scary! Whatever you do, I hope you have fun...
...or the evil Bittoriad will eat your brains while you sleep.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
And then a show is made from start to finish in total chaos.
Right now, I'm feeling that. I'm actually feeling rather unsupported. Like I'm a one-man army trying to pull a whole show together. And pulling an entire show together is too big for any one person. So I can only prioritise what I can and hope that everything else falls into place.
Just like I hope someone comes to my door and delivers a whole truck of money. Actually, that's probably more likely.
I do wonder - is it like this on all shows? Is a state of utter chaos totally normal? Do all shows run this fine line where they're in danger of completely falling apart at any moment?
Does anyone know?
On an unrelated note, John K made his blog private for a while. It's public again now but it sounds like he may not be continuing it or may consider other plans for his blog. That would be a massive loss to the animation world. We're in a place now where skills are being lost, mostly due to the massive changes in the animation systems. John K's blog is in incredible resource for animators and should be regular reading, especially for newer, younger animators being born into a world of Flash studios. Mr.K would be the first to say that his way is just one way of doing things (I certainly don't always agree with some things, though I never doubt the man's talent) and he encourages people to find their own 'voice' in their artwork but his lessons, stories and (usually pretty funny) rants are really important for people to have access to. He has a point of view that is uniquely his. So I hope he keeps his blog open.
But, just in case, it would be an idea to read all you can from his blog and take something away from it. And maybe show him a little support too - he has earned it.
From me personally, I'd like to say a big 'thank you' to Mr.K for everything he has contributed to animation.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
So why does my alarm clock go off when it's still night?
It's just not right.
It's around this time of year that I propose my hibernation plan. Every human on the nothern hemisphere should hibernate from the months of October to March. Or perhaps beginning in November, just to give time for people to get things ready.
We'd stock up on food, DVDs, games and so on and then just lock ourselves away for those months. Nobody would go anywhere. Nobody would do any work. And then, in the spring time, we'd all get back to it totally refreshed and ready for anything.
Don't worry about the world during those unproductive months. We'd adjust. In fact, it may turn out we never needed them at all. In animation, it is the norm to work stupid hours and have no life coming up to deadlines. When I first got into a position where I could call the shots, I put an end to that where I was. I actively forced people out of the building to go home. And, once people realised that they only had a certain amount of hours to get their work done, they adjusted, worked harder and smarter and got the same amount of work done in fewer hours.
I suspect that could work on a far larger scale.
And we'd always have the southern hemispherers to keep things going, just like we northerners would when they get their hibernation.
If I ever run for Ruler Of The Known Universe, that will be one of my core policies.
Monday, October 19, 2009
So I'm back to my tired weary self, which is nice.
I'm totally out of touch with the world, and have a ridiculous backlog of work to do. What's going on in the world (bearing in mind I only want to hear nice things)?
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Monday, October 5, 2009
Because, for the most part, our work is worth nothing. Not a thing.
Short films don't make money. $50 can at least buy a few beers to make up for that year of hard labour. People say they bring exposure, and that can be true, but then what?
One major thing people don't seem to realise is just how little broadcast television makes. Let's say you got a show off the ground and made it entirely yourself. What is the value of your work?
Or, quite possibly, somewhere in the negative.
It's different for every channel of course. I've seen some broadcasters in the world pay around $500 for a 26+ episode series. Sometimes, it may go into 4-figures. That's pretty cool, eh? You could sell it to almost every territory on the planet at that price and not make back the production costs. But that's at least some value.
Some channels pay nothing.
If I remember correctly, Treehouse usually pay nothing for show and expect to share in merchandise rights. Recently some UK satellite dedicated children's channels have been offered money to air shows. I don't know yet if any have been aired on that basis but I imagine it's not an uncommon scenario.
So the distributors of the show actually pay the broadcasters, who are swimming in ad revenue. It's a win-win situation for the broadcaster.
But is it a win for anyone else?
It puts the value of series work in the negative.
It also reinforces, as you can see from that Treehouse deal, that the only way to actually make money from broadcast children's shows is in the merchandising. Which means that the shows are, in effect, advertisements. Just like advertisements, broadcasters are paid to air them and they are designed with a single purpose in mind - to sell products. To you and your children.
This is nothing new, of course. We grew up with glorified ads like He-Man and the like. It wasn't so bad in the preschool end back then. Now, the youngest of children, right down to babies, are being targeted. Oh, and it's worth a mention that every study on the planet shows that television viewing under the age of two has a detrimental effect on the child's development. Nevertheless, there are dedicated producers of content for babies. Trying to sell product, like everyone else.
I've just started David B. Levy's book, Animation Development, From Pitch to Production. So far, it seems really good. But it seems to take 193 pages, whereas I can give you the best pitch advice in one sentence - create toys and give the broadcasters your merchandising rights.
That's what it comes down to.
So the value of actual show creation? Providing entertainment that is good for children? Well, that's worth nothing. Sometimes less than nothing. But create a good toy line and extended ads? That's where the money the is.
Something doesn't quite sit right with me about that. I think it comes down to what I said a long time ago on this blog and it seems appropriate once more -
If you do not have the best interests of children at heart, you should not be in this business.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Yes, featuring a child with a disability as a main character can be a brave move. And quite admirable. It has been done before if I remember correctly, though the name of the show I'm thinking of escapes me.
But cartoons, by their very nature, are caricatures.
And, when you go about caricaturing people with disabilities and then throw in a whole lack of understanding on top of that because not one person involved even knows someone with a disability, well, that's just asking for trouble.
I do remember one guy I worked for, many years ago (not the producer depicted above), telling me that he envied people in wheelchairs. Yes, envied them, because their disability gave them a keen mind. That's why Stephen Hawking is so smart, according to him. Man, what he would give to be run over by a bus...
I integrated that into the panel above of course. My producer isn't actually that insensitive. Not by a long shot actually - he is cursed with a heart of gold, bless his little cotton socks. But he sometimes doesn't quite see how some things that sound like a good idea might actually not be, even though he has the best of intentions. And I just play that up because the pic (and the words with it) is a caricature, see?
Just like making a cartoon show.
Cartoons are caricatures and, while many can argue a good case against pre-emtive self-censorship, some things just don't seem like a good idea to me.
Monday, September 28, 2009
So I locked myself away at the weekend to attempt to get some momentum going. It took my at least a day before I got back into it and knew who my characters were. It doesn't surprise me how difficult I was finding it. It's not something you can just jump into.
It almost requires a journey even to begin. Me, in my own world, walking slowly step by step into the world of the story. There's no train. No quicker route. It just takes time.
But I got there eventually and have finally managed to make a start. That's good.
I don't have this difficulty with children's shows. I can just jump in and, withing an hour, I'm there. Characters and stories are living for me. The mind of a child comes more naturally to me.
But to pretend I ever really made it to adulthood and try to get inside the heads of adults? Well, that's just hard work.
Being an adult must be rough.
Friday, September 25, 2009
This will be the last of the reposts. I declare Blogday Week officially over.
I think it was Scanners at least. No, not the head exploding bit (though that's very cool). No, I'm just talking about the bits early on where he can hear everyones thoughts and it's too much for him. Bombarded by thoughts, feelings, fears, insecurities - sensory overload. It's too much for a person to handle.
And that's the world we live in today. We are bombarded with information, news, advertisments, opinions and fears, much of it misinformation. Too many choices. Too many decisions. Our heads are full, like the guy who hears everyones thoughts at once.
Much of it is a diversionary tactic. It suits certain groups of people for this to be the way the world is. Governments love it - a simple diversion and people move on and forget what the problem was to begin with. The trick to hiding the shit they get up to is not to hide information - it's to give too much information, each piece contradicting the last, and end up with nothing but confusion and doubt. It works a treat. Governments love conspiracy theorists. The more the merrier because each new theory muddies the water further. Most of us just try to block it out.
And it works with our consumer society too. Preying and building on self-doubt, companies tell us that we deserve to have everything we want and need. Then they show us just how broken our lives are, how incomplete we are, how utterly inadequate we are without the shit they are selling us. Then nicely bombard us with 'choice'. So many choices every day that we simply don't have time to stop and think about any of them. Then when they get caught doing shit they shouldn't, the consumer accountability card comes out - you make the choice and vaildate them by buying their stuff. People call it 'voting with your wallet'. Can you really make any kind of informed decision when there are thousands to make each and every day? And when, instead of clear information, we're fed propaganda, half-truths and often straight-out lies?
That's bullshit. So we have to try to block it out.
On top of that, we have atrocities going on each and every day. British soldiers forcing 14 year-old Iraqi boys into sex, soldiers beating civilians to death and much more. Much worse. Children walking over landmines in countries we have long forgotten about. Too much for people to think about. If we thought about each daily atrocity as we go about our lives, we would be metally crippled. We have to block it out.
We're bombarded with sound bites about 'weapons of mass destruction', 'freedom', 'threats' and all kinds of other bullshit and many find comfort in latching on to one of these as a justification so that they don't have to think about it any deeper. Because the rest? We have to block it out.
And yet, even with the hideous things going on in the world, the media loves to hype up this local culture of fear. Every young person will stab you. Every guy out with his kids is a pedophile. Everyone is your enemy. We're led to a 'pre-emptive strike' culture. Why the hell wouldn't kids have knives when they are told all the time that all the other kids have knives and are about to stab them? We are coiled springs, feeding on paranoia. But we couldn't go about our lives like that. We have to block it out.
Then, on just a basic day to day life level, we have bills, rent or mortgages, a fragile economy, fears of job losses, just trying to survive. And companies have been very good at making people dependent. Careers become our lives because they have to. And some companies are great - full of perks, great working conditions and so on - but they are traps, locking us into that dependency. So much of our energy goes to just paying those bills and feeding those traps. So of course we have to block out all that other crap. We don't have time or energy for it.
We are too busy.
Luckily we provide for that - we can fill our brains with action films, reality tv, sport (that's just reality tv too), games and so on. We end up like those aliens with big brain-heads. Full of information. Only, it's mostly misinformation and useless crap. It weighs us down. All the while, we try to block it out. Just to get on with our lives. We're just trying to live.
An older person asked me recently where the hell all the young people were protesting about the illegal invasion of Iraq. He said that their generation ended the Vietnam war. Asked what had this generation done? Well, people did protest. I was at one - a really big one. Didn't matter because the government knew all it would take was a little distraction and people would move on. Their lives would get busy. They'd have to worry about the next bill, their careers, what they would buy next, what the next media paranoia frenzy is, what's the next popular troubled area in the world. Simple basic distraction.
To survive we just have to block so much stuff out.
Where this post came from was a post over at Uncle Eddie's Theory Corner on animation acting. I was thinking, how can we know acting when we are withdrawing from the world? Because that's what I see happening. We're getting so much more comfortable in our own heads. On text messaging. Email. Yes, you can contact millions of people online - hard to think of that as anything other than social. But it's not real contact. The world is just too difficult now. We are withdrawing.
But every now and again, someone snaps. Shoots up a school or something. I think we're going to see much more of that sort of thing. I think people are going to feel more and more isolated, separate from society. And I think that, given time, there will be more people ready to snap than actually able to function in society. The solution isn't to get a gun to shoot those crazies first. It's to look at society. We're people. It should be our society. We should be taking it back.
But, right now, we're living in the Age of Distraction. And we're blocking it all out.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
But the realisation that life continues for the living comes at unexpected times.
I've been pretty down lately. Losing my dog hit hard. The dog people among you will know what I mean. Those of you who aren't dog people, well, take my word for it that it's hard. 17 years is a long time. And I had to just get on with it at work and be professional and all that, and in everyday life too, so I was just burying how hard this is inside and it has been kind of eating away at me.
And I've had tough weeks and tough weekends around all that. Things, generally, have been pretty crappy. Then there's the thought of this godawful company outing.
Well yesterday I had managed to track down some of that Indy Lego I was looking for. I went out to get it at lunchtime and got absolutely soaked on the way back - how did everyone else know they'd need coats and umbrellas? And on the way back I was thinking about this company outing. I've been dreading it from the moment it was brought up. I can think of about a thousand different things I'd rather be doing and most of those involve sitting on my couch not being out with people I work with.
But then I thought, okay, I'm going. Accept it. Who knows, it might not even be awful. Maybe, just maybe, I'll find something to enjoy. Maybe not.
Suddenly, one little weight was lifted. It's still a crappy company outing and it's just one little part of my life but I think what it did was signify a willingness to just get on with things. Some forward momentum. I've still got some life to live and I'm going to just go do it.
A small change but a change nonetheless.
Then I was rained on again on the way home and I realised I was just being delusional.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Last year, I did a whole big post with a nice little birthday image but, this year, for some reason, making a big deal out of it doesn't seem quite right. Although I am enjoying browsing through some of the old posts to see what I'd like to post again. I haven't done that before. There will be a couple more reposts over the next few days of posts I like and then it's back to regular service. Hey, if there's a post you remember that you like, let me know.
A lot has changed this year and I think that's what I tried to reflect in the image above. The future is far less certain and recession is hitting pretty hard in some places. Like where I am. It's funny that a huge amount of people are still in complete denial about that so I think that's going to start to hit even harder in the near future.
For me, I don't know where I'll be this time next year. Quite possibly, I'll end up on the streets looking for animation work. I don't know if it's a skill that really translates to the streets but it's worth a shot. "Animate you a character, sir? No? No? God bless you, sir," and so on.
But it has actually been a really good 12 months since my last bloggiversary. I've been working hard on a project I love and it's something I think will contribute to the rest of my career. Possibly the rest of my life. That's a rare thing and I'm really thankful for it.
It has been a good year.
Well, here's to another year. Thanks as always for dropping by my little blog. Who knew when I started writing about depression two years ago and ranting about my crappy animation job that I'd find a little blog community of people I would call friends? If I'd known that, I probably would have tried to make those early drawings a little better. Look back, they're unbelievably crap. Well, not to worry, they served a purpose at the time. Helped me get stuff out.
If you're reading this, I hope you're doing well and thanks again.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
He did it to put smiles on the faces of children.
That's what's important. That's what counts. Since this post, we also lost John Ryan, of Captain Pugwash fame, another fantastic artist and creator.
Oliver Postgate died aged 83.
Oliver Postgate created Bagpuss, the Clangers, Ivor the Engine, Noggin the Nog, Pingwings and more. He was one of the top figures, if not the top figure, in a Golden Age of UK children's programming. It was a time of creativity, a love of fun and all things silly. It was a time when the sole aim was to put smiles on the faces of children. To make them laugh.
And that's exactly what Oliver Postgate did. Over and over again.
His importance, for several generations of smiling children, can't be overstated. Even now, thirty and forty years on, mentioning one of his shows will bring people right back to their childhood. The Clangers has become a common language for fun, for carefree times. Mention Bagpuss and a room can fill with warmth. For those of you outside the UK and Ireland, this effect is truly amazing. Look inside to the playful innocent child inside someone who grew up in Britain or Ireland from the 60s on and, somewhere in there, you'll find some or all of Oliver Postgate's characters.
He inspired a generation of artists, creators, animators, illustrators, writers, dreamers and free thinkers. Anyone with an ounce of imagination.
We may have lost a legend but his influence will be felt for decades, possibly much longer.
Goodbye Bagpuss. Goodbye Clangers. Goodbye everybody. I'll miss you all.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Over at John K's blog recently, he made a post asking will traditional cartoon principals survive? Well, I had given my answer to that close to a year ago in my 4-part post - the bleak future of animation. My answer was no.
Here is Part 1.
And this is Part 2.
And Part 4.
But, for my repost, I've gone for Part 3. Firstly, I just like the doodle that goes with it. I can really see this scenario playing out in a couple of generations time. And, secondly, it marks the birth of my child. One of them.
Here it is -
I meant to get to this post yesterday but ended up having to attend the birth of my child. Live blogging would have been seen as bad form. So where was I?
7,000 drawings a year. Possibly a little less. Possibly much more. That's how much a traditional animator or would-be animator could rack up in just the normal course of their day. That doesn't include personal studies or sketches or little thumbnails that they would do along with those drawings. That's 7,000 finished approved drawings.
You don't get this from Flash animation.
Nope, really. You just don't.
In Flash, with most working methods, it is about manipulation of libraries, often totally flat and completely predefined. Drawing within Flash is for two things - to rough out a piece on the timeline so you have an idea of what you're doing (and some animators skip this, at their peril), or to make a missing symbol or hide a join, and some studios discourage or completely disallow this for fear of loss of control. The good Flash animators will likely (hopefully) have doodles of poses and expressions around their desk from the scenes they are working on. But that's not the same or even close to what is expected from a traditional inbetween, clean-up or animation drawing. And certainly doesn't approach the same numbers in volume.
But Flash animation isn't the same thing, is it? So does it matter?
You also don't get this from 3D. In 3D animation you are manipulating marionettes effectively. It's about posing them. It's an art in itself of course so not really all that directly comparible to traditional. But, like Flash, good animators will often have poses roughed out in pencil first. Again, not close to what is expected from a traditional finished drawing.
3D animation is a whole different form though, more like stop-motion. So does it matter?
Some of the best Flash animators learned traditionally and then were trained in Flash. Some of the best 3D animators learned traditionally and then were trained in 3D. In both methods, traditional animators have a massive advantage, are often the people directors seek out first and can have a great positive influence in studios.
Those are the 7,000-a-year drawing people.
Could it happen the other way around? Could someone spend five years animating on a Flash show and then produce a great piece of 2D animation? Or even 3D?
Not the way the 7,000-a-year people could.
Yes, I'd say it matters.
The most-excellent Cold Hard Flash reported on something Brad Bird said about a Marky Maypo spot. He said "I sometimes worry that people whose knowledge is limited to Flash tricks will never be able to reach the level of skill demonstrated in these little demonstrations of genius." Personally, I think he's right. How could he be wrong? We're comparing with the 7,000-a-year people.
But what happens when those animators retire or die? What happens when their influence is gone? What happens when you take away the people who were practicing to the tune of 7,000 drawings a year?
Thursday, September 17, 2009
The actual script wasn't about Christmas but was about an annual event so it seemed like an obvious comparison. How can writers possibly get away with writing more than one Christmas episode? In fact, how do they get away with even one? Stories about Christmas have been done before. How derivative. Broadcasters expect new storylines. Not repeats.
And I didn't really finish the end of the notes in that pic. They usually go something like this -
Please don't proceed with the changes without consulting me. I'll be on holiday until July 2012 but you can reach me in the office any time after that for a chat.
Oh to have the holidays of one of these people. It would be just lovely.
Monday, September 14, 2009
He's found a friend.
No catch. A little friend. That's nice, isn't it? Astro Andy deserves it after all this time. And it's Monday, so I thought we could do with a bit of good news.
Mr.Trombley postes in the comments of my last post that he's back blogging. He has interesting things to say so, if you've got a few minutes, check out his blog.
While I'm mentioning sites, have you checked out the Daily Grail for some interesting articles on things you probably don't know about but certainly should? No? Well check it out here.
Also, check out some zombies. If you like that sort of thing. I do. I like zombies. Why? I'm not quite sure. Any theories?
Anyone impressed with Apple's announcements last week? The iPod Nano seemed to get all the good new features while the rest sort of got nothing. And to do it on the same day as the big Beatles release and not to get them on to iTunes? Well, I guess people are better off getting them on CD but still, it just doesn't look good. And Apple know by now - image is everything. Still, I'd love a fancy MacBook.
I left my heart in Tokyo down by the river, don't you know? I didn't really. It's a song that's on right now. Oh yes... it's one of those days...
...one of those days.
Friday, September 11, 2009
I remember when I was first diagnosed with depression, one of the things I felt was that I wasn't living my life - I was watching myself living my life. Like I was out of my own body or looking through a television or something. Turns out this feeling is quite common with depression.
Monday, September 7, 2009
Unless somebody moved them...?
Thursday, September 3, 2009
I feel like Han Solo when he saw Lando take out the Millennium Falcon.
For some reason, on this project, my thoughts always come back to this - I may never get to make something like this ever again. I hope I'm wrong, of course. But the result of that is that I don't want one frame to make it to air that I'm not 100% happy with.
Even to the point of throwing out whole episodes.
Because, once the show is finished, it has a life of its own and can never be redone. And I may never get to do it again. There may never be more.
But there are realities to the business end - budget and time. People can't afford just to throw out whole finished episodes. Well, maybe they can. Maybe things can be shifted, budgets juggled and producers can get a little bit creative. After all, we all want a great product, don't we?
The idea of a last chance changes everything.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Seems to be general worldwide policy now to blame the young'uns in checking their Facebooks. Oh, it's all about the Facebooks these days. You kids and your Facebooks.
But where's my audio, eh? Where, Premiere?! Where?!!
Thursday, August 27, 2009
This documents how my physical form feels.
It's actually not far off how I look, except you can't see things like the sore knee or neck just by looking. The old, exhausted eyes, on the other hand, are obvious for all to see.
How would your image look?
Monday, August 24, 2009
The journey into work is setting the tone for my whole day.
Now some days I wake up exhausted and, on those days, things are tough anyway but a good journey in can make all the difference and goes a long way towards improving how that day will play out. I do notice that the person who gets on my little bike can be quite a dramatically different person to the one who gets off it on the other end.
Those of you who have been reading the blog a long time might remember my posts about waiting at bus stops. Well, those days are over. Man, those were soul-destroying times. Waiting for buses that never turned up or went by full can absolutely destroy a day. Of course it wasn't all bad - I miss the time just sitting listening to music. But, overall, going to work on my little bike is a thousand times better.
I wonder if there are any other early morning changes I could make that would contribute towards a better day?
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
Thursday, August 13, 2009
It's a huge double standard.
Another double standard comes in the expectation that, for a counter theory or even just question to be taken seriously, it must come from a quiet objective professor or someone. A film like Zeitgeist can be dismissed as alarmist, sensational and one-sided. Michael Moore of course gets the same thing - he's twisting it because he's one-sided. Not objective.
And that's often true.
But the other side is blasting out of Fox News and plastered all over papers in alarmist news stories, scaremongering and distraction techniques. It is in no way one-sided or objective. The 'official' sources won't present you with alternative views and all sides of the picture.
So why is it expected from those presenting a counter view? Just a double standard.
And the use of the term 'conspiracy theory' is used to dismiss any questioning, any actual thought process. But that's a term I reject. The official story, by every definition of the term, is a conspiracy theory: a shadowy unseen enemy, led by a madman in a cave, infiltrates the country and plots to tear down the thing they hate most - freedom.
One of the problem with the sheer amount of ideas and questions posed by something like Zeitgeist (and if you move beyond that and out into other sources, it gets worse) is that effect that I mentioned of tearing the whole thing down with just one crappy idea. Anyone know Alex Jones? Alex Jones comes out with theory after theory. And then more theories.
Much of them, I just don't buy. They just don't ring true. And yet others, well, maybe he's on to something.
But because he comes out with so much that can be dismissed, it damages his credibility across the board and yet I think he has at times asked some really relevant questions. But will they be heard?
I saw some guy on television several weeks ago with photos of the moon saying he could see moon bases in them. I couldn't see them. And I was able to dismiss him.
With so many views and a massive grey area between the ideas that ring true and the complete off the wall or simply incorrect or misguided or unresearched theories, I can't help feeling that these play into the hands of those with something to hide. They can put the truth out there in plain sight because people are so crowding the world with their own untruths that nobody anywhere will be able to sift through it.
Again, 9/11 is a good example. There are so many things that just don't quite seem right about that. Really obvious things. But sifting through the untruths would take a lifetime and by the time you got there people would have piled on so many more, you'd be back to square one.
I expect people with something to hide love the idea of 'conspiracy theories'.
Of course, I'm showing that I buy into the idea that people have something to hide. Of course they do. To think anything else is utterly naive and is not backed up by history. Where power and money are concerned, people override morality and do shit they shouldn't. That is seen throughout all modern history.
To see it, you simply need to take a glance at the history of finanicial powers like GE, the actions of the pharmaceuticals companies, Watergate, the actions behind many of the conflicts around the world since WW2 (William Blum's 'Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II' makes for depressing yet somewhat obvious reading), the history of military testing and, well, actually you can look just about everywhere to see it.
And you'll only be able to see those times where things got out into the open. The actions of the large companies (again GE is a good example) make me sure of one thing - being caught in a criminal act does not in any shape or form mean they will stop doing it.
You only have to look at Operation Northwoods to know what people are capable of scheming. That is no conspiracy theory. It is, however, very much a conspiracy.
I told the story already on this blog but I'll tell it briefly again now. I was at the Cartoon Forum in 2001 in Germany, just after the 9/11 attacks. The only radio station I could find in English was the radio of a US Army base close by. On it, I heard that they had found conclusive proof that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the attacks. I got home and there was no news of this. Not even a mention that it was a proposed theory. Weird...
It was only years later when Iraq was invaded that it clicked with me - they were priming their troops for that attack back then. It was well-planned. The weapons of mass destruction thing was bullshit (as we found out). That was simply their reason for justifying the attack that they had planned well in advance. And 9/11 was being used to get the troops pumped for that attack.
So, where am I with Zeitgeist? I honestly don't know but I'll tell you this - much of what we are told stinks of bullshit. The reasons (power and money) are obvious and history backs up that those two things will cause people to do horrendous stuff and try to hide it. I don't know the truth. I can't know the truth.
But I know something stinks of bullshit and I think it's time people, like everyone, started thinking about that.
Monday, August 10, 2009
I see affirmations as a potential way of pushing for some balance. Shouting some positive in an attempt to drown out the negative.
Zarathustra wrote in the comments, "Anyone who can be lifted out of their problems simply by repeating a feelgood proverb from a greetings card probably doesn't have that bad a set of problems." I agree. But that's not to say they can't help or be part of a process.
And Alex wrote, "Affirmations are about taking control of what you will concentrate on, because what you think about all the time is what you will get." For me, I believe this is true to a large extent. Certainly, our thoughts can become very limiting and self-defeating. They can hold us back becoming a kind of self-fulfilling prophesy based on where we perceive our place in life is or what has happened to us in the past or in an attempt to retain an identity. Making conscious efforts to adjust that thought process or even simply to interrupt the negative voices seems to make a huge amount of sense to me and I guess affirmations can be a tool useful for some to achieve that.
But I believe for that to really work, there have to be a couple of conditions.
Firstly, it has to be potentially true. By 'potentially' true, I mean something that isn't easily shown to be a lie. For example, if my brain is telling me, 'I am a loser', that is so vague that it can't be shown to be a lie. No matter what I have in my life, I could find ways of proving it. That's one of the reasons a message like that is so powerful. Saying 'I am powerful', while our negative voice can provide example after example why it isn't true, it can't completely be shown to be a lie. But even that may be a bit of a stretch in our lives and, if we can't believe it, we will reject it.
Saying 'I have rippling muscles and all the girls love me' is right out.
And, secondly (and where it applies to the example in the last post), it can't be more limiting than the negative messages. That would be totally self-defeating. For example, if I'm in a job shovelling pig shit and my negative message is, 'I will never be better than a shit-shoveller', I will live to prove that true and likely be very unhappy as a result. But if I repeat the affirmation in the last post to myself over and over, which amounts to 'I am happy in my workplace', the result is the exact same - I'll never be any better than a shit-shoveller because I'll be spending all my mental energies trying to convince myself to stay there.
What use is that?
That's a self-limiting affirmation. No better than 'I am a loser'. And probably worse because there'll be a bit of a Tell-Tale Heart scenario going on. The lie contained within that affirmation will eat away at us until it becomes too much to bear.
Life is hard enough without wasting our mental energies trying to convince ourselves that a really crap life situation is actually wonderful. Isn't it better that we put those energies into making a better life situation for ourselves?
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Or a dangerous delusion?
I was browsing through Apple's App Store the other day when I saw something that was labelled something like 'affirmations for creativity'. It was 79 cents and I thought, that's cheap and I'm creative, let's see what this is.
It's a series of cards from a lady called Louise L. Hay with the idea being that you look at one at the start of the day and it will help with creativity.
It downloaded. I opened it up.
And this is what I saw - "My job allows me to express my talents and abilities and I rejoice in this employment".
Hang on, I thought, there's a problem here. What if my job is a soul-destroying hell? Like, for example, back when I worked in advertising. Or what if I worked in a burger joint while my talent for sculpture went untapped? What is to be gained by telling myself that my job allows me to express my talents?
Louise L. Hay, I have to call you out on this. Personally, I think this does far more harm than good. Having people try convince themselves that they are happy in the status quo when in fact a life change could do them the world of good is positively dangerous. So let's say your affirmation works and they stay put, in Burger King, taking on your message each day to get through it. And, each day, they lose a piece of their soul, they get a day closer to death and a day further away from their dreams.
I'm all for affirmations that can express our potential. Remind ourselves just what we are capable of. But an affirmation that could very well be a flat-out lie? How many people on this Earth do you think are genuinely in a job that can allow them to express their talents?
What you are saying to people is this - you are no better than where you are right now.
And I think that's utter bollocks.
On an unrelated note, I got an absolutely lovely mention over at the excellent Healing Philosophy blog. Thanks, Alex!
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
It's like drawing. Okay so some of you artists out there blow me away and I can't possibly compare. But I bet you have some drawing habits, that probably started in your teens, that became your default way of drawing certain things. And you can improve and move past them. Learn better ways of doing things. But if you do 100 drawings in a row, you'll see those habits creep back and, by drawing 100, there'll be quite a bit of your teenage drawing in there.
I'm right, aren't I?
We learn and we get better. But those ways we learned, those patterns, they are still there somewhere. And it's by consciously overcoming them and by learning new patterns (in drawing, by repetition) that we can be better artists.
Well, you good artists anyway.
I think it goes far beyond drawing. It is simply how we live. We fall back on patterns. And those patterns, while often easier (even though it may not seem that way, we have to be getting something out of them on some level), are not always good for us.
But, with drawing, I think you have to see your patterns - that my hands always look like big gloves, for example - before you can really catch them and make them better.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Pain in the ass really. It was a good phone and was part of an upgrade package so that one failed moment is going to cost me a lot.
Somewhere very early in childhood, I convinced myself that real life was too hard for me. And I've been living to that idea ever since. I don't know where it came from, how that happened.
So I live in my head and pretty much always have.
But here's the thing that has just occurred to me today - my head is an absolute bastard. I have close to no memories of my childhood. But what I remember vividly are the nightmares. I remember nightmares as far back as when I was three years old and remember them like they are happening right now and yet no real memories at all.
My head was a dark, scary place. Not some pleasant escape. I would retreat in there and end up tormented. Why? Like some sort of battered wife syndrome?
Even now, my life on paper is pretty good. The times when I feel wrong, tormented, unable to cope, it's entirely from within. And yet that is where I spend most of my time.
Those who have read my blog for a while know that my particular interest in animation and my work is in shows for young children, usually very young children. Sweet, innocent, happy work. I love it. More than that, I'm good at it. Even right now, while I'm having a hard time with the mundane in life, I'm involved in a project that is going to absolutely rock and I'm pulling the whole thing together and doing it damn well, even if I say so myself.
I've often told myself (and others) that it's because I work for the child I once was. I still think that's true.
But where I think I may have got it wrong is here - I thought that I was creating work that the child in me loved and thrived on. And now, I'm beginning to wonder if it's actually that I am creating work that may have gone some way to repairing that child. To, in some way, balance the dark thoughts. Maybe even overpower them.
I don't know.
I do know, as far as work goes, it's a strength. It's odd that it matters little what the state of my life is like or even my psyche - if I am doing the right work (being on the creative end of a show I believe to be good for children) - I can do a really good job. I am a success. And I love it.
But, as for the rest of my life, that is where I fail. I wonder if it's possible to fix that while not losing the strength in my work? I hope so.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Isn't it odd how the saxophone fell out of favour?
And it's not like it was replaced with another obvious instrument. We didn't get rock bands going around with clarinets or bassoons. The death of the saxophone in music heralded the death for all woodwind instruments.
Yeah, I know it's not made of wood but apparently the saxophone counts. I think.
And I wonder if a whole generation of saxophone players thought they were going to hit big in rock bands only to be laughed out of their Nirvana audition?
That must have been a right kick in the crotch.
Monday, July 27, 2009
It's Monday again? What? How did that happen?
Thing is, the higher up you get in just about any work situation, the more you have to appear energised. Positive. Oh, sure, there are many people in charge who storm around being angry and shouty but those people are dicks and it never works for long. A pissed-off worker has never been a good worker.
Far better that you can inspire people.
In fact, that works in both directions. You can do better by inspiring those above you too. Radiating positive energy, without just being one of those goofy grinning types who look like they have lost all sense of reality. It's an important skill. In normal times, a skill that can help you rise. In recession times, a skill that can help you just survive.
But I'm finding it hard right now. Of course, sitting here listeing to Pink Floyd's 'The Final Cut' isn't going to help. That has got to be one of the most depressing albums ever. Have you noticed that the amount of positive uplifting albums pale in comparison with the amount of miserable depressing albums?
"It's the only connection they feel."
Friday, July 24, 2009
I have just been trying out another drawing app on my iPod Touch. I have been using Brushes a lot and I find I'm only just getting the hang of it. I think if I were a painter, I'd get much more out of these because I'd have the know-how and experience to apply. As it is, I'm not a painter so I'm sort of just stumbling along.
But I was beginning to get somewhere with Brushes.
Now there's a new one - Layers.
Layers offers, obviously, layers. So what I do on one layer doesn't blend in with everything else. So, with this doodle, I could do a definite line over it all. I could do that in Brushes, but it would be a little messy and would require more advance planning. So Layers gives me more control to treat it like a drawing rather than a painting.
I'm more used to that.
But already I'm wondering if that extra tool becomes a crutch. The more tools I have, the less I have to work at it and I think somehow that shows in the results. I see that with animators. It's why I have rejected programmes like Toonboom. The more tools an animator gets, the greater the distance between them and the final result. The less actual control they have.
I wonder if I should buy some paints and try the real thing. Rid myself of the undo button...
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
I would do well as a zombie.
But everything else I've got covered.
Monday, July 20, 2009
In it, they predict that there could well be a moon landing within something like 20 years (it took far less time than that) but, more importantly, in all seriousness, they predict that life will be found on the dark side of the moon and they could well be greeted by inhabitants when they arrive.
I have often wondered if any reputable scientists or astronomers actually believed that, or even believed that there was a slim chance it could be the case.
Still, would have been cool, eh? Moon men. Yeah, I'd love that.
There's a lot of crap in this world I don't buy. A lot of stuff fed to the masses that stinks of bullshit and just doesn't add up. And there are too many people with too much to lose and so much to gain to make it worth deceiving the world.
But I can also see just how attractive it is to just want to see more in this world than is actually there.
And I want moon men.
Friday, July 17, 2009
I've often thought that sleep provides a shutdown so you won't notice the switch.
You know, the switch.
Truth is, our bodies are only designed to last around 16 hours. Anything after that and we start to deteriorate rapidly, go out of warranty and could find ourselves clapping out at any moment. So our bodies need constant replacement.
We go to sleep. Shut down.
Someone creeps in to our room during the night and removes our body. They replace it with a replica. The next day's model. As our memories are transferred, so it can be done quickly, they go in all at once and it's pretty jumbled. Sometimes we remember little snippets of that process. We call those memories dreams.
Of course, this process is pretty cool during childhood because they add tweaks and improvements to each new model. But, eventually, the growth must stop.
And that's where the problems start.
You see, at that point, their job becomes simply to supply the same model. They make a copy. But it's like tracing a picture. There are very subtle differences. Barely noticable. But if you trace the newly traced drawing, then trace that and so on, the drawing moves further and further away from the original.
We know that as ageing.
But with broken sleep, the copy is either rushed to get in place before you wake up, or the switch is abandoned altogether and you end up spending another day in a body that just wasn't designed to last that long.
And that's what happens when you sleep.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
I need sleep. A lot of it. All at once.
The lack of sleep is now inhibiting my ability to conduct everyday life. One way or another, that can't continue.
On the plus side, I can now do an excellent zombie impression with little to no effort. Not the rubbish fast zombies. Proper zombies. Those fast zombies aren't even zombies and totally miss the point. I've heard people justify them by saying - well, they're like zombies only more scary because they're fast and that makes them more dangerous.
Following that logic, they should be given guns. Then they'd be even more dangerous. Or nukes. Think how much more scary that would be. Hard to get more dangerous than that. Or even a death ray, like Godzilla. Actually, they could be bigger than skyscrapers too. Then, even their footsteps would be dangerous.
Totally misses the point.
It's the slow, shambling creeping death that defines them. Their strength in numbers, not the individual. A huge part of the suspense of a good zombie movie comes precisely from people being lulled into a false sense of security because they are slow. Mocking them. Letting their guard down.
That's why they work. That's what makes them creepy.
And when the zombie apocalypse comes (and it will), you people who think they're only scary if they can run or have death rays will be the first to fall.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
An excellent and sad movie.
Some of it was very cliched - the aging stripper romance, the estranged daughter - and some of it very much reminded me of the opening of Commando in terms of giving us a checklist of reasons to care for the character. Remember the opening of Commando? He's feeding a deer - that shows he's close to nature. Oh, look, he's teaching his daughter how to fish. That shows they are resourceful. And so on.
I got that same feeling from bits in The Wrestler. Like when he comes out of his van and messes with the kids. Ah, he has a heart of gold.
But Mickey Rourke's performance really elevated the film far beyond what I think was written there. At times, it could have been entirely real. It was nice to see Aronofsky make, you know, an actual movie. A very good movie at that.
And, of course, the appeal is obvious.
A man, beaten down by life, fights to the end. Even in the crappiest of jobs and, actually, even if we're not doing too badly at all but we feel we could be doing better, most of us feel that way through large portions of our life. Stripper - object of desire just out of reach. Who doesn't have that? Estranged daughter - we all have damaged relationships somewhere in the past that still affect who we are now. We want Randy the Ram to do better. Because we want to do better.
Pretty bloody obvious really. But far easier said than done to capture that in a movie. And they did it.
The one thing that separates Randy the Ram from most people is that he's always got fight left in him.
Whereas most of us, society as a whole, seems to have lost that fight. There's shit going on all around us and we take it. We don't punch a meat slicer and quit. We stay at the deli counter and tell ourselves we're doing a good job because we've got bills to pay.
I want to punch a meat slicer.
Friday, July 10, 2009
The same thing.
I have bitten off more than I can chew. And whatever it is that I've eaten is now stuck to the insides of my mouth and I can't spit it out. I believe there is peanut butter involved.
I have many things on the go.
I shouldn't have.
What comes with juggling projects is juggling people. And I just realised today that I told one person that nothing has been happening with another project. A project that, next week, will be published as part of a list of projects going ahead. A list with my name all over it. Pox.
A simple mistake. A hopeful ommission more than a lie. To stick with the juggling analogy, I was simply trying to separate my balls. Ahem. That didn't come out quite right but you know what I mean.
Next week, my balls will collide.
And all I can do is wait.
For my balls...