Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 round-up? Let's try a whole life

I was going to attempt a 2008 round-up but my memory is so poor it seemed like too great a challenge. When I tried it, well, this happened. My whole life story was pieced together in several seconds. Only one memory really belonged to 2008.

It's kind of sad when you can condense your entire life into one small blog image. But I guess, now that I've done it, it might serve as an introduction to anyone who happens to pass by my blog over the next few days.

I lost control in 2008. I also lost touch with a lot of the world. Didn't return calls, texts, emails. Not that I get a huge amount but I went a little underground, especially towards the end of the year. I started living with my only goal being day to day survival. That's not enough. Not for me.

Hey, perhaps this round-up is going to happen after all...

Okay, I'll go for it. Here's some stuff I liked and hated in 2008. See if you agree.

Best World Event: McCain Losing The US Election. I don't know if Obama is going to be fantastic, hence the negative slant on the event itself. But I can be pretty damn sure that an old guy who has been psychologically damaged by years of torture, backed up by a woman who makes the current US President seem smart was not going to be great for those of us in the rest of the world.

Favourite Film: The Dark Knight. I saw very few films in 2008 (part of the going underground thing) but this one exceeded my expectations. A great crime movie. A little removed from Batman, however. I almost think this film could have been even better without a guy in a rubber bat suit and just some hard-ass cops instead.

Favourite Television Show: King Of Queens reruns. Hey, I make my own rules with this round-up. I love sitcoms. Like, adore them. I think they are much more clever than most people give them credit for and they are like the perfect form of television - short bouts of light, easy viewing and perfect escapism. King Of Queens is one of those that gets better with each viewing. Kevin James and Jerry Stiller are fantastic comic actors and just make me laugh. John K often compares cartoon acting to live-action acting. I think he'd get a lot from those two.

Favourite Album: The Dears, Missiles. Yeah, I mentioned this before. I love it.

Most Used Item Of 2008: iPod Touch. This thing is the future. I mean, look at those bulky tricorders on Star Trek. With an item much smaller, I can hold a whole crate of LPs, a bunch of colour television shows and (wi-fi permitting) I can access information on anything all over the world, contact just about anyone, debate serious issues with other concerned citizens (mostly about animation and games), find out the weather and more. It hasn't left my pocket since the end of 2007.

Best Game: Gears Of War 2. There may well be better than this but I played it fairly recently and my memory doesn't allow more than a few experiences to stay there at any one time.

Worst Game: Metal Gear Solid 4. Okay so it may not be the worst experience out there but it's barely a game! Barely a game! And it's certainly not a great movie. So what is it?

Game That I Thought Initially Was Stunning But Then Grew To Dislike: Little Big Planet. Love the presentation, the music, the VO by Stephen Fry. Adored it early on. But the dodgy physics-based gameplay and weird plane auto-selection killed it for me and I realised the game just wasn't anywhere near as good as I thought. The level creation is a huge part of it but, if I don't like the main play system, why would I spend time on that?

Favourite Animal Of 2008: Zebra. Okay, I'm running out of categories here, aren't I? It's that failing memory. But, hey, zebra... they're cool, right? Like horses, only with stripes. Fantastic.

Worst Pain In My Ass Of 2008: Those Negotiations. Yeah, those negotiations I referred to a while back are ongoing. Basically, they're about my involvement in a project that could be great but people above me are determined to destroy. When I'm ready to throw in the towel on what could be one of the best projects of my life, especially in a time of recession, that must mean I'm really pissed off. It also means I care. More than they do.

I can't even remember the other things that pissed me off this year. That's not a good sign.

Anyway, almost over now. A fairly arbitrary calendar date is going to allow me the illusion of a fresh start. And I'm going to take the chance. A new approach for 2009. I don't quite know what it is yet but I know one major part of it and I'll tell you right now what it is -

I am no longer in animation. I am in children's programming.

I'll go into this in more detail at some point but, where the industry and the world is now, animation as a craft is dying. There are some great people learning and holding on to the skills, and I admire them, but it's like learning Latin. It may help you once or twice in your life but, really, it's a long time learning a dead language. It's unlikely that I'll get the time or budget to put my animation skills to good use and produce a piece of really amazing animation.

But, that doesn't mean I can't make a great show for children. There is much more to making a show or film than simply the medium it is produced in. That's only a small part of it. In the current climate, there is still no reason whatsoever why I can't be part of some fantastic children's programming.

So the difference at first is merely a label change. But I think it will be a move in a more postive direction. A move from beating my head against a wall (trying to produce quality animation in a world that doesn't allow for it) to positively contributing to the lives of children by helping create fun, good and enriching television. If they're going to sit in front of that thing, it may as well be something good, right?


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

It's the one thing I always wanted

I have a void in my life. No, it's not dignity. Fuck dignity, who needs it? No, it's the Big Trak. The "six-wheeled tank with a front-mounted blue photon beam headlamp, and a keypad on top", as wikipedia describes it. It was the tank that could do everything. Everything.

Each year, I asked Santa for it. Each year, I was disappointed.

Did you see the Big Trak ads when you were a kid? It could bring you stuff! Like, say you wanted an apple, you could programme it to go get it. A tank that would bring you an apple. Wow. And that was a long time ago. Probably almost 30 years. Back then, a child's toy could bring you an apple.

And now at the very end of the Space Year 2008, we don't have robot butlers?! What the hell?

I'm not sure what I was thinking with the picture. I mean, waking up on the street with a Santa suit on and a bottle in my hand would be a sign that I broke out of the day to day rut and went and did something. That could only be positive. I suspect the part of my brain that draws the images is a whole different beast to the part that writes these words. Otherwise, I would have known that when drawing it and the whole idea would have been very different.

Almost 2009... I almost feel I should do an end of year round-up but then that's what the archive is for. Maybe tomorrow I'll do a little one. Are you all evaluating your year? I have some serious evaluation to do, I'll hopefully be approaching 2009 more positively by looking at the negative of 2008, as demonstrated in the book I'll never write - Life Stinks. Now Fix It!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Trying to find a moment

I'm sitting trying to figure out how I can post to my blog using my iPod Touch. I got an application called BlogPress but for images and formatting it seems to want me to work in HTML. What am I? A programmer all of a sudden?

No. No I am not. Though I used to be able to mess about with BASIC back in the day. I made a text adventure game once about a doll that comes to life and murders people. It had multiple endings and everything. Even a graphic title page. Pretty fancy for its time.

But, no, I'm not a programmer.

So this won't have the image I wanted to post and may well just be a wall of text with no formatting. I'll post that pic later or tomorrow. It was about an important Christmas wish.

Hope you all had or are still having good holidays. Mine have been tiring. Soooo sleeeepy. But they haven't been too bad.

I'm having a real productivity crisis though. That's something I touched on before and it's really building to a crescendo. I need time. Time to achieve. Time to do more than just survive the day. Something is going to have to change.

Anyone seen that Sita Sings The Blues? I really want to see it. You guys know I'm not Flash's biggest fan but the fact that one person can make an animated feature with it is amazing.

Man, I hope this doesn't turn out to be one huge wall of text. That's my real Christmas wish.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I saw the cutest little puppy today. He was tiny, scruffy and full of fun and life. For a moment, I thought he might be my Christmas present. He wasn't but that's okay - it would have been a slightly crazy gift. But still, there's nothing like a puppy to put a smile on my face.

When it comes down to it, it turns out I'm easily pleased.

It hasn't been a great couple of weeks. Partly, that's just because I love Christmas. I love the lights, the atmosphere, the same old Christmas songs, Jingle Bells and mince pies. But, this year, I haven't had a chance to enjoy the run up to it.

But it's Christmas now.

I can enjoy it. I can eat those mince pies. Stare at Christmas trees. Yeah, I really miss old friends and my life feels very different to where I was this time last year, not all in good ways, but I'm here and, as it turns out, I have people who like me. Or at the very least, don't actively dislike me.

It is a good time of year.

If you pass by my blog and read this, well, firstly I'd like to thank you for stopping by. It means a lot that some people can relate to some of the things that seem to fill my head. It really does - it means I'm not alone and, as I'm sure you know, sometimes it's very easy to feel alone in a crowded city, even a crowded room full of people who know you. But, here, I often don't feel alone.

And, secondly, I'd like to wish you all a very happy Christmas, or any event or rituals or just plain ol' generic holidays that you're having. Even the Xenu people (do you guys have a Christmas equivalent?). I hope you spend time with people you love and who love you and have a peaceful and fun time (sometimes those are mutually exclusive so it might just be one or the other).

You guys rock. All of you.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

All I want...

I've barely noticed Christmas coming this year. I think that's why I left the Christmas shopping so late. Work has been really busy, leading to the attempts at cancelling the holidays (my response took the form of a middle finger extension) and home life has been tiring and overwhelming and that plague I contracted didn't help matters.

With Christmas coming and, with it, the end of the year, all I find myself thinking about are the things I haven't done. The never-ending list of failed or, more usually, unattempted goals. And then I think I have to let myself off the hook and give myself a break but it's doing that that led to so many of them being left undone in the first place.

I am my own worst enemy. I should bomb myself from a great height in the name of freedom or something.

Next year, I'd like to hate myself less. I think for that to happen, I need to achieve something. Anything. This year, I achieved nothing. Yes, I need to get something done and make some progress next year.

If I don't, I'll just find myself wishing the world into oblivion for yet another Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2008

It's the first time I've ever won anything

So I'm a recipient of one of what I think is the first batch of A Hoy awards. Susan from the 'If You're Going Through Hell' blog awarded it to me, which is really very nice of her. At first I thought it might be an insult. I mean, A... Hoy... I thought it sounded a little like A-Hole. But, no, it seems to be a compliment and, looking at the other blogs on the list, I'm in great company.

So huge thanks for that! Almost makes me feel like I have a real blog.

I managed to get my Christmas shopping done, which is great. It's going to be a lean Christmas this year though. I'm broke and, well, it's recession time. It's odd that some people, mainly economists, advocate spending like there's no tomorrow to keep the economy healthy and turn around this recession.

Doing that is like risking being the last guy in a pyramid scheme. You see, there is a tomorrow. And you could have lost your job by then. You want to be the guy who just spent his latest paycheque on a pair of fancy shiny Italian shoes? Will the boost you gave to the economy be any comfort when you can't pay your rent or mortgage?

And I call it 'recession' because that seems to be the accepted term for what's happening but that's not the reality where I am. It's simply that things are returning to more realistic levels. The economy over here was completely false. It was unsustainable. Built entirely on fantasy. The cost of living went sky high, house prices went utterly ridiculous and people got themselves up to their ass in debt all the while shouting about this great time of boom. When reality kicks in, it looks like a recession but it's simply the world returning to a state of normality.

But the thing about the economy is that it is a man-made system. And people get rich simply by manipulating these arbitrary made-up rules. But economists are full of shit. They're like cult members. They spend years in college being conditioned that the world is a certain way and they totally believe it because they have to - if they didn't, their world would mean nothing. And so they have a massive vested interest in making a reality out of their teachings, just like cult members I guess.

Thing is, a good economist can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that their systems work.

Because they prove it by enforcing their own set of conditions.

I think one thing is important to bear in mind: the world we are born into is one that we, humans, created. Our cities are not built to a divine plan. Our economic systems, our political systems, our societies were not set in stone at the moment of the Universe's conception. We made the world this way. We created it.

And, if we created it, we can always tear it down and start again.

So, yes, for me it's a more lean Christmas this year. It has to be. That doesn't mean it can't be a fun, warm Christmas spent with family and, if I had them, friends.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Things are just shutting down everywhere

In spite of my earlier bravado, things are actually looking quite scary around here. This recession is kind of like the Nothing from that Never Ending Story film. It's just sweeping through the streets. I don't really think I've seen anything like it in my lifetime.

Every day, I see another empty office, another set of 'To Let' signs, another shuttered shop or restaurant. The buildings around the studio are vacant. The car parking spaces empty.

It's getting eerily quiet. You know, as opposed to peacefully quiet, which would be a good thing.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Still hanging in there

Yeah... it feels like that sometimes.

When I was off earlier in the week, I noticed while stuck in front of old episodes of MASH that funny things seemed much funnier. And sad things more sad. It was like the illness had stripped away part of my emotional defenses.

MASH really is one of the best shows ever made. Even the ones that weren't as good as the earlier ones were still really great in their own way. A truly great show.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

So I'm back at work. That's nice, eh?

I hate being sick.
I hate that I'm in the place the sickness came from.
I hate that people are 'encouraged' to come in and infect others.
I hate that I wanted to get in here as quick as possible this morning.
I hate that I can't get a straight night's sleep at home.
I hate that I don't have a peaceful place to go to.
I hate that crap going down from my nose into the back of my throat.
I hate that I can't stand up without feeling dizzy.
I hate bagpipes.
I hate that I no longer feel in control of my life.
I hate that, if I made a list of things I don't hate, it would be a much smaller list.
I hate that I take a grand total of about three sick days in an entire year and yet they have the balls to email me work stuff while I'm out.
I hate that I still haven't got any Christmas shopping done.
I hate that my life feels like absolute hell right now.
And I hate that it's not going to get better any time soon.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

This is the best thing I'm capable of right now. I have been cursed with the ultimate lurgy. I believe it may be sweating sickness. Or some sort of rather large animal flu. I've got a full-on chest infection and, even after several days, have a fever.
I'm ill.

It does think the studio's policy of encouraging people to come in when they're sick needs revisiting. Staying healthy in there is like trying to... well, it's like... something to do with a leper colony. I don't even have the energy to string a decent sentence together.

My apologies. There was something I meant to post this week too. In my head, it was important. At least it was last week when I thought of it.

I haven't done any Christmas shopping either. I'm so screwed.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I'm still alive

I made it through the night, lucky to see the morning. From here on in, every moment is a gift.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Me, that's who.

Or at least, this was how it was supposed to play out. But the truth it, I left myself unprotected. Vulnerable. And now I have contracted some hideous disease from my co-workers/plague rats.

I'm dyyyyyyyyyiiiiiiiing.

Is it me or is the common cold a hell of a lot more common? Is that just here where I am? I get several colds a year. I figured that's because I'm getting older but it's not just me. It's everyone. All through the year, people around the studio have colds. I can't think of the last time there wasn't at least one person snivelling through their day.

In ten years time, will everyone have colds all year round? Will it be our default state of being? Are there scientists working to cure the cold or is it more likely that there are scientists being paid large sums of money to make sure that our colds get worse and far more frequent?

Paranoia? Well, how much do you think the cold/flu remedy business is worth, with their Lemsips and Panadols and decongestants and all? It's like the computer virus protection business. It can only function if there are viruses out there. And the business can only grow if the viruses get more frequent and more dangerous.

And it's worth a bloody fortune to a lot of people.

But this thing I've got now... this isn't just a cold. It's an attack. The beginning of a war. I'll be lucky to survive. This could be the start of something like that film Outbreak, only I'm the monkey. Or someone in the studio is. There's definitely a monkey involved.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

If they give you what you want, is it a bad thing?

It's a question I asked but didn't really give an opinion on in this thread - many people who promise a better outlook or say they can give you happiness or success are just trying to take your money. Money-based cults (or religions if you want to call them that for tax purposes) are a more extreme end but it could be true for people giving seminars or writing books, audio cds or whatever.

If they give you the results you want, does it matter?

Does it matter if they're just getting rich out of it if you walk away happy and successful? Actually I've probably partly answered something there because that question presumes you can walk away. That you're not then paying more and more until you're broke or dead. One of these groups that, to me, seem like a money-hungry cult I wouldn't be so sure about when it comes to walking away. Okay, so someone could throw out the bullshit overused mantra of people who live to shaft other people and say they aren't holding a gun to your head. I don't know that they aren't but, even without that, mental reprogramming, threats of lawsuits and whatever don't amount to free choice.

Does it speak volumes that I'm actually not mentioning them by name? They scare me. And they scare me because I've spoken to them. For hours. And they can be very straight up about the lawsuit tactics, telling me that the idea isn't actually to win a lawsuit. It's to keep it going long enough that they bleed their subject dry and destroy them. For me, that would be about six minutes (I know what lawyers charge).

But, hey, even that particular group seems to deliver on its promises. It does seem to make its people happy. And we know many are hugely successful so it's not just turning them into lifeless sheep. So, in a way, you could say people are getting exactly what they're paying for. Is that wrong?

I knew someone that was in a different group, one that seems to be more of a self-development group (yet calls their top people 'wizards' for some reason and I think is possibly still classes as a cult in Germany - I'd look it up if I could remember their name). I asked about the amount of cash they were taking, because it was pretty damn expensive. I was told that unless people pay for the help, they won't put any value on it and it will mean little to them.

Well that's convenient.

I'd also call it bullshit, personally. If you've got real gems that can help people, give it away. Help even more people.

And then there's the self-help gurus. The Anthony Robbinses and even the nice Dr.Phils. There are varying degrees of these people and some promise to make you a millionaire which sometimes reeks of bullshit too but I have far more respect for these people because they seem far more honest about what they're doing. They aren't classing themselves as religions. They aren't trying to 'convert' people. They're gathering clients. Is that just a difference in terminology? Possibly but I think it's a bloody big difference.

They're running a business. They're making a living and when you go to one of those guys (or girls) or buy one of their books, you do so in the full knowledge of what transaction is occurring. They aren't making up some stupid-ass excuses as to why they aren't giving away their tips, they aren't making out like they have all the secrets to the Universe (well, most of them aren't) and they aren't based on the machinations of a science fiction writer with a documented interest in mind control hiding their dumb-ass alien shit until you're conditioned enough not to laugh your ass off when it's brought up.

What I find kind of weird about the aforementioned group/cult/whatever is that when they take you in and try to suck you in, much of what they show you in the videos or whatever are a bunch of people running a business, using all-business terms in business departments. I can't help feeling if they just came out and said, "okay guys, it's not a religion, it's a business and we're making a fucking fortune but we can actually deliver this, that and whatever", they wouldn't come across as scary bastards.

Or not as much.

For me, I have spent a large amount of money on animation books, a grand on a Cintiq, who knows what on computers, Flash and stuff like that, and stupid amounts on cartoon DVDs.

Paying money to make more of my life. I'm not sure that it is really any different.

But even I'm not going to allow myself to get sucked into the depths of paying a million pounds (or whatever it is) for that 16-DVD Richard Williams set. That's one step too far. That's for the people who have demounced their family and have pledged their allegiance to the Almighty Roger Rabbit or the Great Gazoo or some other crazy deity.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Oliver Postgate 1925-2008

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, December 8, 2008

Why Buddhism isn't sitting quite right with me

Mr. Trombley has been educating me in the ways of Buddhism and it sparked me to have a look around to see what else I can find. It does seem like a branch of the whole self-help thing pulls a lot from Buddhism and I'm beginning to think that it's those elements that just aren't sitting quite right with me.

Attachment leads to suffering. Or so the enlightened might tell me.

But what the hell is the point if you aren't attached to anything? Or anyone? Remove all attachments and you're just waiting for death (as well as being a Billy-No-Mates). That won't be long too if you remove your attachment to food and water.

Or is it okay to be attached to those things?

Let's have a look at the Four Noble Truths according to Buddhism from the Big View site. There are many other places you can find these but they seem to amount to the same thing.

1. Life means suffering.

And I thought I was negative.

2. The origin of suffering is attachment.

Okay, well there's a bit of sense here. If you are attached to something, not having it or losing it will lead to suffering. But... then having it will lead to pleasure. Satisfaction. So this is being a bit 'glass half empty' about it. A bit negative.

3. The cessation of suffering is attainable.

Well that's more like it! A bit of positivity. Let's move forward and see what we can do to end suffering. Oh, you end suffering by "attaining dispassion". Yeah, dispassion. Apparently that gives you "freedom from all worries, troubles, complexes, fabrications and ideas". Well, I like ideas for one thing but it also gives you freedom from fun, love, creativity and, by definition, passion. You know, like slipping into a coma. Coma patients have achieved this third point. Should those of us still awake, still alive, strive for "dispassion"?

4. The path to the cessation of suffering.

This point just seems to be a more long-winded version of point 3. Could have really wrapped it up in 3 points. The Three Noble Truths - that doesn't sound too bad, does it? But, in this, we have the word "progress", like striving for the coma-patient ideal is a positive move forward. Having evolved from single cell beings who seem to me to have achieved all of this already, I can't help thinking of it as a bit of a step backwards.

Yeah, this Buddhism thing just isn't for me.

It really sounds like somebody just got really down one day and wallowed in their misery for a bit too long. Like a teenager sitting in a dark room. Nobody loves me, so I'm going to shut myself away from the world and listen to Morrissey, as it would have been in my day. If I feel nothing, nobody can hurt me.

I would call that being ruled by fear. And those four (well, three) Noble Truths seem to be motivated by fear too: fear of suffering.

So I think my response to the Four Noble Truths has to be -

Cheer up, mate. It might never happen, eh?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The inevitable end to the story

Red Pill Junkie left a comment on the last post. You should read it. I like the attitude of "The Tiger" he mentions in the comment: "If people want shit, I give them shit". I met a guy years ago who had a multi-millionaire friend. I asked him how he got so rich. Apparently, one day, he just decided to get rich and, to do so, he would put aside all morals. He started in porn imports and went from there.

I've done that in the past. Not imported porn, but given people the shit they asked for in the knowledge that I was being paid and I was keeping a client happy.

But I can only do it with projects I don't care about. And it's on the projects I do care about that I do my best work, not just for me but for the clients, and especially for the audiences. And, in this business, you're really only as good as your last job. If I give people shit, I'll be the guy who does shit.

And that has to negatively affect my career.

I don't do shit. I haven't done for some time and don't plan on doing so again any time soon. As Red Pill Junkie asks, what point do you walk away?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Now I need help

Here's one area where 'Life Stinks. Now Fix It!' won't help me. It's the 'a' category of self-development - people skills, or how to persuade your fellow man to get what you want.

I have a problem. An all too familiar problem. The, eh, 'client' (not really a client, more of a minority partner in the venture but for the purposes of business, client will do) wanted one thing. I wanted another.

Client wouldn't budge but actually seemed to have some clue as to what they were doing and why they wanted what they wanted so... I agreed to give them what they wanted. Somewhat reluctantly but I made peace with the decision and actually grew to like what it was... that thing they wanted.

You can see what's coming next, right?

Anyone who has been in this business or probably even any business has to know what's coming next.

They changed their mind. Yeah, what they wanted wasn't what they wanted any more. What they wanted became something that was a bit of what they previously wanted and a bit of something entirely different. Like asking for a fine wine, then chucking in half a pint of beer into it in an attempt to hook the beer drinkers. A recipe for success? Or something entirely undrinkable.

And I can't in all good conscience give them what they want. Because what they want is a poxy piece of crap. It's a job I really wanted to do but I have to now talk them round to either what I originally wanted or what they originally wanted or I have to walk away and let it go.

Ah, yes, stuck in the 'giving what they want until they change their minds on what they want' trap. It's all too familiar. This is where I need one of those self-development 'how to shaft your fellow man' books.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Rough morning

I like me. I am wonderful. I am a great human being. I have boundless energy.

Okay, these affirmations are bullshit. It would take a lot more than a little self-delusion to make me feel energised on a Monday morning.

I have this idea for a CD actually. Or mp3s, whatever. I'm actually reluctant to post it because I think it's such a bloody good idea that it could make my fortune and, if I post it here, I'm going to lose out. But you see...

I am a man of action.

That's a total lie so it's not like I'm ever going to do anything with this idea so I may as well post it here. It relates to my proposed self-help book, sort of. It's a CD of affirmations. Okay, so that's nothing new. But these affirmations wouldn't be either sleazy salesmen affirmations or New Age hippie affirmations. These affirmations... would rock.

And (and this is the genius, the thing that would make my fortune) they would be set to loud 80s Journey guitar solos. Screaming guitars and kick ass affirmations:

I rock! I rock so goddam hard! I'm a badass motherfucker!

And so on.

I'd call it Journey's Affirmations For Kick-Assery of the Soul. If anyone from Journey happens to pass by my blog, get in touch and we'll totally do this. We'll be millionaires! Well, you probably are anyway, but I'll be one too, hopefully.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Coming soon...

Just breaking from the self-development topic for a moment, this is something I planned to mention a while ago. But I was kind of hoping it would turn up somewhere else on the internet first because it's about something I don't think I'm really supposed to know about. But I do. And it didn't turn up anywhere else. So if this amounts to anything, it will be a Medicated Cartoon Life exclusive. That sounds exciting, eh?

No, probably not.

Animators get asked a lot of stupid questions. Someone actually asked me once if I had to draw the backs of characters when they were facing forward. But, with computers, the common misconception is that the computers themselves do all the animating. It's the idea of an 'Animate' button.

But it's not so far fetched. 3D and Flash (and equivalents) do inbetweens that would once have been defined by actual humans. Other programmes are now doing automatic lip sync. I was once present at a Toonboom presentation that basically told me that animators are shit and here's why their system can do it better.

The full-on 'Animate' button is only a matter of time.

Or perhaps the time has already come. Here's what came to my attention, what I was hoping would be revealed somewhere else: a funding body in Ireland has been asking around studio heads about their interest in some thing, a programme, that is exactly that. This isn't something that is yet out there in the public so the only link I have verifying its existence is here. You can see it's a college project from some place and they are calling this software the "Character Animation Authoring Tool". It "uses speech analysis data as the basis of character animation, with movements and gestures being triggered relative to prominent speech events in the audio signal".

According to the people pimping the project to the studios, it produces animated body movements for characters which then allows animators to concentrate on the little details. Like expression.

Nice to see we still play a part.

So, someone wants to introduce an 'Animate' button. Press that button, get your animation. Man, can you imagine how good it will be? I can only speculate that the quality must be superb... no, I can't keep that up. You know they say sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.

What do you think? A great thing for the entertainment world?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Being told how to be better

So my last post resulted in someone getting slapped by strangers (sorry!) and may well have seemed very judgemental to those into self-development and self-help. Okay, so it's not that it seemed judgemental. It was. Or at least it was asking if the case was there for such a judgement.

Although Deepak Chopra would probably tell me that judging is a problem in itself. I don't buy that at all but, in this case, I may have been a little harsh. You know, calling for slappage and all. Truth is, this is an area I'm interested in because I think it could help me. The problem, and the reason for posting about it, is reconciling the idea with my own sketicism and world views.

But my goals don't seem to match the two main areas of self-development.

I've often thought about writing a self-help book myself. A book on life. But I suspect many people looking to these books are looking for a fairly quick fix and it's about personal gain, whether it's how to make loads of money or how to make you're happy. I don't think I could do anything other than tell it like I see it. And that would achieve neither. Or at least, not in the short term.

My book would be about the importance of seeing the negative.

I'd call it - Life Stinks. Now Fix It!

Or: The Power of Negative Thinking.

That's not bad actually. I could see that in bright red letters on a blinding yellow cover. In my simple 6 step programme, you'll learn just how shit your life is and how most of us are in the same crappy boat. You'll learn to let your anger eat away at you until you're ready to release it in one huge life-changing outburst. If you don't end up in prison, you'll be making a better life for others. And when others have a better life, you do too. Life stinks. Now fix it!

What do you think?

I'd also include a bonus chapter -

Learn To Judge Harshly And Recognise Gobshites So That You Don't Become One.

Yes, judging. I think it's important. I don't buy into the idea that we're all divine in the eyes of some creator/God/collective consciousness/whatever because, like the idea of being completely happy as an individual, I just can't help feeling it's a really dangerous idea. It's an idea that seems to go against self-improvement to me, and by 'self' I mean both as individuals and as a whole race. For me, it's important to recognise mistakes or atrocities (the importance of thinking negative) so that we don't repeat them ourselves.

If you tell someone that the 'researchers' of Unit 731 are as divine and beautiful beings as the thousands of victims, what kind of message are you spreading? There is no right or wrong. I can oppress, torture, kill my fellow man and it doesn't matter. Because I am divine and loved no matter what.

No. That's got to be wrong. In fact, I'll include another chapter: Stuff You Do That Makes You A Fuckwit. Just a big list of things that mean you are far from divine, from chucking a cigarette butt on the ground to gassing six million people. I'll cover the whole spectrum. It will be a long chapter but an important one.

I'll go one further with the next chapter - Why The Guy Next To You Might Be A Dick. The importance of being able to say, "Man, that's a shitty thing to do", to the guy who chucks a cigarette butt on the ground or gasses six million people. It's not all negative of course, because then you can offer, "Here's a nicer way you could have done that", like putting the butt in a bin or just not smoking and not, like, gassing people much. Yeah, it's important to see some people as assholes. If you didn't, you might have a disgusting atrocity like 731 occur and then all the guys get off completely free because you want their research. If they had read my book (Life Stinks. Now Fix It!), someone would have thought - hang on, aren't these guys assholes? Shouldn't we, you know, maybe put them on trial or at least give them a stern disapproving look or something?

And it's wrong to think, well that was then, we're all civilised now. We're all searching for our inner peace. Right now, as you read this, there are atrocities being carried out. There are people suffering for the gain, greed or simply amusement of others. Wouldn't it be better if people there said - hang on, you guys are assholes? We'd begin on a smaller scale of course (people who spit, people who are always late, people who call me up trying to sell me crap) but we'd work up to the larger assholes.

I kind of got sidetracked there from self-development to calling out assholes. It's a natural progression I guess. Many of our issues are about relationships. Possibly all of our issues are about relationships. It's not just about ourselves, it's about how we fit with everyone else. So a huge part of it would have to be about - How To Recognise Your Inner Gobshite - so you can help others too.

See, I think if I were to approach the idea of self-development, the 'self' would have to include all of humanity. Each and every one of us. How could I leave anyone out? My approach wouldn't be - you have a problem so here's how to train yourself not to see it as a problem. It would be - you, we, have a problem so let's fix it. But for that to happen, you have to allow yourself to be aware of the problem. Be aware that there is a problem.

And there are problems.

Life Stinks. Now Fix It!

Am I on to something?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Just where is the path to a better life?

I'm very curious about self-help and self-development. With two very different goals - firstly, to advance my career and, secondly, to help manage my depression. Many successful people even in the creative arty world have good things to say about this book or that book. And I've had a few people pass through the various studios trying to get me into this or that and I've always been a little resistant to it all. I have many reservations, questions, opinions on the subject, positive as well as negative and would love to talk them through. But there's too much for one post and too many scattered thoughts for a series of posts so I'll just touch on some stuff here while it's on my mind.

There seem to be two main types of self-development books/seminars/cults/scams etc.:

a) How to achieve your goals by persuading people to do what you want (ie. how to shaft your fellow man).

b) How to achieve inner peace and happiness (ie. how to make you think you're happy).

For this post, I'm just talking about the latter... mostly. One of the biggest self-help and self-development ideas that runs across both types but is key to the latter seems to be that we create our own reality based on perception and how we communicate ideas to ourselves. This is called many different things and there seem to be many different ways to get there but, basically, there is a big push on the idea that you can make yourself happy. There are thousands of books on the subject. There are groups, cults and whatever all based around that idea.

Many of them are trying to take your money (to make themselves happy I guess - living by example) but, if they get results and you get what you pay for, is that really a bad thing? That's a whole other subject I guess.

But the idea of altering your perception to make yourself happy, to me, seems so unbelievably selfish. It requires pretending that the shit in the world doesn't exist. It requires not acknowledging any of that bad stuff. It requires voluntary and practised blindness.

Now there is a view that happiness works with the trickle-down effect. Someone once made this argument to me who was part of a self-help group (kind of like scientology-lite). Well, the trickle down effect in economics is utter bullshit because there are people at the top trying their damndest to make sure nothing trickles anywhere. And it's bullshit when applied to happiness too. Because it requires voluntary and practised blindness.

You can't help make others happy when you are blind to what it is that makes them unhappy. You can't help heal society when you are blind to what is making it ill. You can't stand against injustice when you are blind to all negativity.

Not only that, but while you're totally blind and practising 'b' (making yourself happy), you are leaving yourself completely open to being manipulated and exploited by the people practising the 'a' of self-development: how to shaft your fellow man.

Far from trickling down, the day you find your own inner peace and become truly happy, is the day you become a danger to society. Because you will fall in line with whatever is happening around you regardless of consequences. Because, whatever is happening on the outside, inside you're completely deluded.

No, as far as I can see, the only time that someone can be truly happy and for it to be a good thing is when not one single person on this planet is suffering. Not one child is hungry. Not one person oppressed. Am I wrong? Is it right to be happy when others are suffering?

I don't know. I don't think so.

If you see someone who really looks at peace today, do me a favour and give them a slap and tell them to wake the hell up.

Monday, November 24, 2008

What happened while I was waiting for the bus...

No, nobody died, though that would likely make a good story. No, I just couldn't think of a suitable image to go with this post so drew me on a bus smiling and the caption just sort of came to me. Not really much to do with the actual story though.

I found myself waiting for a bus yesterday. I had been waiting for some time. It's November, icy cold, and it was a Sunday so there were many places I'd rather be, not least of which was my living room sofa.

Cold and fed up.

One by one, cars passed but no sign of the bus. Then a blue car approached, just like all the rest. As the car passed by, the driver gestured behind him. I thought - is he gesturing to me? Did he have something in the back seat? Something behind the car?

Ah... the bus is behind him.

And it was. Several seconds later, the bus appeared from around the corner.

A stranger, with one gesture, was telling me 'Don't worry mate, your wait is over'. A simple gesture. A simple message. But one of reassurance. Of hope even. To a stranger standing at a bus stop.

It meant a lot to me. I smiled for that whole bus journey.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Well anyone could have seen this coming

I knew this would come back to bite him in the ass when the lack of any common sense in the scheduling became apparent.

There was almost a mutiny in here this week.

And the reason for the mutiny was quite simply that the producer did not take Christmas or holidays in general into account when making up the schedule. I guess it's hard to blame him. I mean, who could have seen Christmas coming? But the reaction was obvious - it was going to piss some people off.

And pissed off workers are not good workers.

They never are. Ever.

When the reaction became apparent (unlike the image above, the producer chose not to deliver the news himself), the scheduler in question went on the defensive. Went on to prove he was right about the schedule and that everybody should have known about the Christmas plans and then was afraid to budge in case it was seen as a sign of weakness.

Like the animators are the enemy.

I wonder if there are any management books anywhere that recommend you should view your staff like they are your enemy? I'd be surprised but who knows... maybe there's one out there somewhere. But I'd be pretty damn sure that there are many more that would advocate treating your staff well, recommend not using 'I'm right and I'll prove it' as a tactic for dealing with people who feel antagonised, point out that the cost of having angry workers steaming and bitching together is far greater than working a few more days into the schedule.

It all just seems like common sense to me.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

That's one fantastic album

Anyone remember the old Dizzy games? One of them had a walkman as an object you could pick up and, when you had it, notes would come out of your head. A nice effect.

Anyway... the last few days I've been listening to an album called Missiles by Canadian band, The Dears.

I first found The Dears back when they had their No Cities Left album out. It's a pretty good album that suffers just slightly from the singer trying to do a Morrissey impression. As a result, it sort of loses its own identity. A good album. Not a great one. But I enjoyed it.

The one after that, however, just didn't grab me at all. It seemed utterly bland. Some people called it accessible. I'm not sure how bland equals accessible but that's what some people called it. I figured at that point that they didn't have much to offer beyond that initial Morrissey impression.

But I was wrong.

This new album, Missiles, is entirely different. It's understated, very quiet in parts, buried in minor chords and, in parts, rather brave. Certainly the use of the synth bass and the distortion in the track, Demons, turns it into something much greater than it would have been otherwise. It's the first album this year (and possibly in a couple of years) that I have just had to listen to over and over and over and over again. I just need to hear it.

If I were Dizzy, the notes coming out of my head would be from this album.

Check it out if you're into, like, music and stuff.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Chilling out

I love games.

They're complete escapism for me. Probably not good for the planet in that they're serving to distract me from the shit until I eventually die. But they're fun.

I'm playing Gears Of War 2 right now and I'm loving it. I enjoy violent games. BOOM! There goes a head. Bzzzzzzzz! Take my chainsaw, bitch. And so on. They relieve stress, provide an outlet for that daily anger and yet are free from any actual harm and, to a large extent, morality. That's a good thing.

I wonder what my life would be like if I didn't have an outlet for that anger?

Would I be more productive?

Or would I have gone postal a long time ago?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Living with Anger

The world is a shithole, yes. But I think the rage will help some of us survive it.

I often think that my depression is like an allergic reaction to the shit in the world. The world is a hideous place - full of greed, pain, suffering, war, violence, lies, domination, manipulation and worse. While these things are going on, while there are people out there suffering, of course we should expect a reaction. It makes total, complete and undeniable sense.

Those who go about their lives in ignorant bliss, they've got to be living in denial. Or plain out and out insanity.

But they are the people better equipped to go about their lives. Far better equipped than I am.

The solution, society's solution, is like taking paracetemol to mask a headache caused by a brain hemorrhage: medicate those displaying the symptoms.

I remember after the bombings in London several years back, people in government saying that the best thing is to go about your normal lives. Otherwise the terrorists have won. But who really wins by us burying our heads and not looking up? Who wins by keeping us asleep? Keeping us ignoarant? Supressing that anger, that disgust?

There are people afraid that society will wake up.

Afraid that society will go off their meds. Their televisions. Their drugs. Their beer. Their sport. That we'll wake up. And that, when we do, we're going to be angry. Really angry. Because we have every reason to be.

But here's the thing - those things that make us angry? We'll be able to do something about them. We'll be able to look at something, think that pisses me off, I'm going to make it better and then actually act on it. Make a difference. You can't act on anything while going about your 'normal life' because that living that life means shutting out all of that crap in the world. Pretending it doesn't exist.

Which is better - living a happy life pretending that everything is fine when it's not, or realising the world is full of shit, being angry about it and working to change it? If more people took the time to get angry, perhaps there would be less to be angry about.

Or maybe we'd just piss each other off. Nothing worse than a room full of angry people.

I'm wishing for a better world.

Friday, November 14, 2008

My Medicated Cartoon Life T-shirts!

Ah, the humble t-shirt... the walking billboard that people pay to wear.

There was talk of My Medicated Cartoon Life t-shirts a while back. I was iffy simply because I didn't know what I'd put on them. But Jeaux Janovsky recommended Zazzle, so I thought I'd give it a go.

So, some time ago, I put some designs up but I didn't link to them because I needed to try them out myself. I wouldn't recommend something that I didn't actually like myself. So this is sort of a review of my own t-shirts.

In short, they're okay.

I chose two normal panel cartoons (the one that pissed off some people with the lazy animators and the one with my naked ass) and two Astro Andy designs. The panels were put on relatively small and I thought they'd look pretty smart on a black t-shirt. And, as it turns out, they do.

They work rather well as t-shirts. My only issue with them is that there's a slight bit of overprinting on the black, leaving the images feeling slightly darker then the originals are and the text, while still fine I guess, is not as sharp as it is on the original images. I notice the difference. Someone who had never seen the originals may not notice a thing but I'd be docking marks for that.
I tried two different things with the Astro Andy images. With one, I took the image of Astro finding a giant alien beast and just plastered it on the t-shirt nice and big.

In terms of printing, this one turned out the nicest actually. The colours are not correct and it's gone much more vibrant than the original, but that actually works for it. And I, personally, like the image. The only thing is that it looks like exactly what it is - a big rectangular image on a shirt. It doesn't seem all that integrated if you know what I mean. Not as much as the smaller cartoon panels do.

With the other one, I tried to get a little fancy. I took the image of Andy floating in space and removes the background, leaving the stars. I thought if I could get this on a dark blue shirt, it would integrate nicely. As a t-shirt, I'd say this one turned out the best of the bunch.

The design just seems to really work on a shirt. But even this one can't get a glowing review. Where the alpha channel would have been used to define the print edge, it seems to have gained a slight halo around the image. It's not much and wouldn't be seen on a light t-shirt but it's noticable on the dark t-shirt. It's unfortunate as it's the only negative mark on an otherwise pretty nice shirt.

So there you have it. My review of the My Medicated Cartoon Life shirts. It doesn't cost me a thing to have them listed there, which is nice, so don't buy one unless you really, really want one. And if anyone would like anything else specific on a shirt, let me know and I'll see if I can arrange it.

If I get a chance, I'll put a little t-shirt pic link thing over there on the right at some point, if I can get it to work. Not sure how long it will be there - advertising, even my own, just bugs me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Getting cramped in here anyway

Yeah, I can be an arrogant ass sometimes.

As you would have gathered from my last post, I (we) am (are) tired. In ways, I feel defeated. I just want to go live in a warm cave with some beer and play Gears of War or Little Big Planet for a while. Yeah, a little defeated. In some aspects of my life.

But not all.

When I started in animation college, things were looking rosy. There were loads of huge 2D studios producing features, loads more doing TV and video features. I was pretty much guaranteed a good job that would be a great training ground.

By the time I finished college, things were very different. Some studios were gone. Others downsized and relocated. Others still thought they were giants and yet were going down the crapper and wouldn't last much longer. And they didn't.

Simply put, my job prospects were buggered.

I saw a lot of people suffer major career hits at that time. Some people had spent years training in effects departments in large 2D studios, producing amazing work. These people had no place when the large studios fell. They became obsolete. Nobody could pay someone just to do the odd bit of water or fire. People who had perfected clean-up, waiting for their chance to move into animation, ended up competing for clean-up scraps with hundreds of others and most of their skills went to waste. Many moved out of the business. Even the animators were hit. The marketplace was flooded with animators looking for work, and there wasn't a huge amount of it to go round.

In my first few years in the business, I saw a lot of people forced out of it.

My timing seemed kind of crappy but it wasn't. Because it taught me very quickly to adapt. That I couldn't afford to specialise. And that I had to be pretty good at what I do because there will always be people looking for the same jobs I want.

I think this is more true now than ever. But when things go to shit there will still be work. People still want to be entertained. There's still work. There's just less of it. But if you're adaptable and good at what you do, that's not a problem, right?

Bring it on.

Monday, November 10, 2008

We are so tired

I say 'we' because 'I' just wouldn't get across how tired we are. It's not just me as in my consciousness that I think of as 'me'.

Every limb is tired. Every muscle. Every organ. Every cell. Every molecule. Every atom. Every quark and whatever goes beyond that.

Every part of me is tired. We... are tired.

That wouldn't be as much of a big deal if I could just stay in a dark room and wrap myself up in a blanket. But, like most people who are likely also tired, I have to go out into the world and pretend I am okay. Pretend I'm in control. Pretend that I care about so many petty little pointless things. Just so I can earn a living.

Well, I say earn a living but that would be as misleading as saying just 'I' am tired. I made the mistake of opening a bank statement at the weekend. I don't earn money. I lose money. At a rather ferocious rate. I'm likely to find myself up to my ass in debt very quickly.

Quicker actually, now that I have assumed the foetal position and my ass is so close to the ground.

Friday, November 7, 2008

It's such a strong word

I need a better way of doing speech balloons.

I am currently being driven insane. It's a direct psychological attack and is quite deliberate. They way it works is that I am told something is in a certain place... and then it's not. Sounds harmless enough but when it happens 62-68 times a day, it causes severe mental trauma. Word is, it's a CIA tactic and it's currently being used in Gitmo (great how we can joke about the illegal imprisonment and torture of people, eh? What a world we live in).

I often hear about systems in animation production. I know there must be places out there that don't exist in a constant state of chaos. I just haven't ever worked in one of them.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead!

Congrats to the USAers out there! I hope your vote brings about change for you guys and us in the rest of the world. Sure, it's just baby steps and I don't think for a moment that the world will suddenly become a better place but it's a step in the right direction in my opinion.

I remember seeing that meteor film years ago (no, not Armageddon, the other one) and thinking - okay, a giant meteor hitting Earth, I can buy, but a black President? Not a chance.

And you might think, bloody hell is it all about race? Do people even know what he stands for or anything? Can we let the black/white thing go? I'd understand that feeling but US has appeared to have been ruled by (and I mean ruled, not represented by) a rich old white boys club. And even those in the club who weren't white or men seemed to just be serving the interests of those rich old white men. So to have a man who isn't white or old in the forefront is a big deal. I honestly thought it wouldn't happen in my lifetime.

But there's the cronies, the corporate interests, paying off promises made for those campaign donations and so much will have been set in motion by Bush already that there is only so much that can change (you know, unless you guys want to tear down that system and create a better world for yourselves). So it's baby steps. But baby steps in the right direction.

You USAers are some of the most positive, warm and welcoming people on the planet. You deserve the best and deserve to be represented (not ruled) by the best. I wish you all good luck and congratulations on your election!

I hope it's too late for Fox to orchestrate election theft again.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Work is work

Animating in Flash is not something I bounce out of bed with a smile for. Not even close. This particular project was comprimised from day one by a severe lack of budget. That doesn't help.

But even if people are doing exactly what they say they want to do for a living, does anyone actually get up looking forward to go to work? Clowns perhaps? Ice-cream tasters? Pro-wrestlers?

I doubt it.

The whole idea of getting up and working for a living really stinks. I see it as a huge flaw in modern society. You see, by the Space Year Twenty Zero-Eight, we shouldn't have to work. We should have computers and robots doing all our work for us while we live in silver cities in the clouds, free to explore art, philosophy and so on. That's what's supposed to happen.

Of course, that can't happen until we completely tear this piece o' crap system down completely first. Because now, if you are replaced by a computer or robot, you're out on the street like a worthless bum, some rich sleazebag getting richer while you and your family rot in starvation. When that greed society is destroyed, someone who is replaced would be considered 'liberated' with our goal being to liberate every last person on the planet. Yeah, that's my dream - silver cities in the clouds.

Until that happens, I'll resist the introduction of an 'Animate Button', which some people seem to think already exists but it's only a matter of time before they are right, and resume staring at my screen, hoping for some divine intervention from an animation deity. Or fairy. I'm not fussy.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

This year, I have dressed up as an angry old animator-beast. Rargh! Fear me! And so on.

Have there ever been any horror movies about psycho old animators? I think there should be. Maybe a variation on that one with the hand that came from a serial killer - animator loses his hand, gets transplant and the hand then draws the deaths of people. Before long, those drawings turn to reality as one-by-one, people die. Under anvils. Or pianos.

Death By Doodle

When cartoonist Manny Pantera lampooned his subjects, people would die laughing. Until the day the laughter stopped.

Screaming Sketch

He'll sketch... until you scream!

2B Terror

Pray you're not 2 B next.

Scrawl From Beyond The Grave

Reknowned cartoonist Lance Doomsmith wants to shake your hand. With his hand. What was once on a serial killer. Who killed people.

So which would you go to see?

Hope you all have a happy halloween! Anyone see Saw V yet? The missus won't let me bring the kids so I haven't seen it yet (so no spoilers!).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It's like that R.E.M. song

Things are going to be a little slow here for the next week. I'm just getting adjusted to the new change in my life and, well, it's all a little nuts. Even posting this is tricky because number 1 is sitting on my lap insisting on hammering on the keyboard while number 2 sleeps. So I'll be lucky if the rest of the post doesn't turn out like this - bniakdnnnxnbhshsmxmxmmsmamjka.

Actually that looks rather similar to my file naming system at work. All it needs to complete it is a "FINAL1a" at the end. And then "FINAL1b". And so on until "FINAL17Xa4" or something.

There were a few more comments on my "bleak future of animation" posts that I thought were good discussion points but I'll get to those another time I guess.

Halloween is in a few days time. This year, I'm going to be dressing up as a haggard and frazzled old father. What are you dressing up as?

Friday, October 24, 2008

The bleak future of animation - part 4

This could be a long post as I'm going to try to wrap up my current thought process in this one - I need to spend more time figuring out how life is going to work with this new addition!

So what happens when the current generation of traditional animators retire or die? When we lose those people who drew every single day for longer than they did pretty much anything else in their lives? Those people who lived 'practice makes perfect'?

Well, Andy said - the death of animation happens.

In so many ways, yes, yes, yes. Decay sets in, those skills and training die over time and there is a massive decline in animation ability. It's that simple and seems blindingly obvious. You can only learn so much in college - most animators will tell you they learned more in three months (or even three weeks) in a studio than they did in three years in college. Theory only gets you to the starting point. Practice does make perfect. Influence and teachings from people who have put in years of that practice guides that practice. Take that away, and a generation later you'll see that decay set in.

Aaron over at Cold Hard Flash did make some good points however when Brad Bird made those comments. Firstly, Flash has brought animation production back to the US, UK, Ireland, Canada and other countries that otherwise wouldn't have any. This is very true, though I would be skeptical about how long that will last. Aaron also mentions the amount of independent animation that is now being produced, some of which is excellent. He goes so far as to call it a new "golden age". And you know what? He's right. He's absolutely right. Flash has opened up possibilities like nothing else before it. Have an idea? You can make a film in Flash about it.

But is that a golden age for animation as in the actual animation itself? Or a golden age of animated realisations of ideas?

The latter is important and its impact and the opportunities it opens up should definitely be recognised and even celebrated. But, even though Flash and 3D offer their own sets of skills, it is not a golden age for the craft.

If you have any doubts as to the importance that drawing plays in either of those, ask yourself why the best people sketch what they want before they actually make it move in Flash or 3D. Consider what can be explored in a good, finished drawing. And what can be learned by creating one.

And what you lose if you're not doing 7,000 a year for every day you work.

But Aaron from CHF also put me up to it, as does Humphrey in the comments - what do I suggest?

A damn good question.

What do I suggest? I have no idea. Every way I look at it, it seems to me that with the way things have gone, things right now, with many of us getting work in Flash or 3D, it's actually as good as it can be in the current climate. I can think of no way to rescue the craft. I don't come with a solution. I come empty-handed.

And that is why the future is so bleak.

This decay will happen. And this is as good as it gets.

Of course, there's always nostalgia and people will come and try to mimic what was done in the past. But, having lost those traditional animators, not having put in that intense practice, those studies that come from simply doing your job in even cheap traditional animation, people will start from scratch not by trying to relearn the process, but by just looking at what they grew up with as a child and trying to mimic what they see on the surface.

That already happens now. Imagine what that will be like in 30 years time. 40 years. 50.

If my zombie corpse rose up to see Disney's Tai-Chi Platypus, I'd be weeping. But with joy? No. Of course not. I'd weep a single dramatic tear and then shuffle off to eat somebody's brains.

And, compared with animation, I think that's a pretty bright future to look forward to.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The bleak future of animation - part 3

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?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The bleak future of animation - part 2

So what's the difference between the way an animator used to work their way through their craft and the way it happens now? A difference that could matter so much?

Well, what you guys said in the comments is all relevant (and some of it I'll come back to) but Limbclock got where I was going. It's the drawing. He says "when the person learning animation the pen and paper way, he is able to learn all the important fundamentals, such as timing and spacing between frames, and how to actually create simple stuff like walks and so on". I believe this to be very true.

But people who end up in Flash animation likely did loads of drawing in college, or their own personal sketches and same with many people in 3D. The difference is the drawing but that's just the start of my thought process. Just take a look at how it works -

With the way it used to work, no matter which end you came in on, you would be drawing constantly every single day. Drawing after drawing. For 8-10 or more hours. How many drawings you would get done in a day depends on where you come in and what type of production you are on but let's say as an example that you're doing 4 drawings an hour. On an 8-hour day, that's 32 drawings a day. On a 5-day week, that's 160 drawings a week. 640 drawings a month. 7,680 drawings a year. That's rough of course. It could be less, it could be more, especially as I was conservative on my studio hours (we've all worked much longer hours than that).

But that's around 7,000 drawings a year during work hours. Finished approved drawings. All having to conform to certain structures, so they can't just be self-indugent. All having to be approved by animation directors, animation checkers, directors and producers. All having to work within the animation of other people. And that doesn't begin to count your own personal drawings.

They say practice makes perfect. How is 7,000 drawings for practice? Five years in the business? 35,000 drawings worth of practice. 70,ooo in ten years. Each drawing in just about any traditional animation studio (yes, even the crap ones) teaches structure, adherence to rules, flow, posing, acting, expression, control and even time management - principals and techniques that can be applied to all styles and methods of animation.

So what's the difference between the way it used to work and the way it works now?

About 7,000 drawings a year.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The bleak future of animation - part 1

As many of you know, I started in this business animating traditionally and have since moved into Flash because that is the way the idustry would have me go. I blogged about why I thought Flash both rocked and sucked before, here, and here and here. Oh and here too. And here and here. That series of posts seemed to strike a chord with people who had been working with Flash far longer than I have so I reckon my initial feelings were on the right track.

That's probably not a good thing because some of my feelings on where it could lead the industry were pretty bleak - especially regarding the devaluing of the craft and outsourcing of even cheaper Flash animation. But that's not what this post is about (or series of posts actually, because I'm realising this will be too long for one post).

It is, however, about the demise of animation. But not from a financial/production end. From an artistic end.

I was discussing animation recently with an animator who has some really good traditional skills in terms of movement and timing and is now working in 3D. We were just talking references and stuff and then something hit me. Hit me hard. I realised that this animator was now at a disadvantage. And then, the next day, I was looking around the studio and I saw it - the beginning of the end. The decay of animation. Not just old fashioned bitter 'animation ain't what it used to be when I were a lad' stuff.

No. I'm talking proper end is nigh stuff.

The first thing you have to consider to know where I'm going to go with this is that Flash (or Flash-equivalents) and 3D are dominating the markets. Flash is cheap, can be produced with small crews in high volume and it makes perfect sense for television production. 3D is shiny, works for games (which employs a huge number of animator and shouldn't be discounted), and right now dominates the larger budget productions. Flash and 3D dominate.

Traditionally-made frame at a time 2D is slow and is reserved for very rare features (which industry-wide don't employ a significant percentage of animators) and still some television production (which is shipped to Korea etc. and will likely be replaced by Flash in the very near future).

The next thing to consider is - what leads to a good animator actually getting good?

Here's the way it used to work - a person with decent drawing skills would study animation in college, then they'd get employed inbetweening or cleaning-up or, if they had a serious amount of raw talent and were going into a tv studio, they may even get to start directly as an animator. And off they'd go, moving up the ladder and getting better.

Here's the way it seems to work now - a person with decent drawing skills would study animation in college, then they'd get employed as a junior or trainee animator in a Flash studio or games company or whatever. And off they'd go, moving up the ladder and getting better.

So what's the difference?

Well, the difference, as it turns out, is pretty damn huge. Feel free to let me know what you think it is. I'll let you know my take on it in the next post.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The weekend rambling

What, the same post? Nah, I just had coloured it after I posted it the other day, meant to replace it in the post and then lost track of the day so didn't do it. Here it is now though. Late. And pretty pointless.

Any games players here? Well, I know we have at least one and that one in particular (Mr.Trombley) will be interested in this piece of news. So, you know Earthbound, right? It was a SNES RPG about aliens and was just about one of the most charming games ever made. Well, Earthbound fans outside of Japan got kind of shafted. The original game, Mother, (Eartbound was Mother 2) was never released in English. Then, years later, they made another game in the series, Mother 3, for the GBA. No English release either.

Well, after a long wait, some frustrated yet talented and hardworking fans have done a complete fan translation. The whole game, now in English. That's nice of them, eh?

I finished reading Joe Murray's 'Crafting a Cartoon' ebook. He's the man behind Rocko's Modern Life and Camp Lazlo. If anyone is curious about what it takes to get a cartoon made, that's the book to read. Well, in the US anyway. It actually works quite differently for the most part over here in terms of selling it and financing. The book is a good read with a great attitude behind it. It's positive, not bitter (I find that refreshing) and yet also entirely based in reality. Who would have thought the realities of animation these days could be viewed without bitterness? Really? Certainly an eye-opener for me.

So the plug has been pulled on the Masters Of The Universe movie that was due to be made. Good thing? Bad thing?

Yeah, rambling... always the same at the weekend. I think my brain goes into shutdown. Or something. Still in a Star Trek mood so I'll leave you with the clip below and the brag that I once met Mr.Sulu.

Friday, October 17, 2008

If I were Captain...

Yeah... that's what I'd do. If I were Captain. Make Spock perform his duties in nothing but a thong. You all know you'd want to see that. Picture it. Picture it now - his Vulcan butt crack. Yeah, get a good picture of it in your mind.

Or picture the women in their shortest possible skirts. Your choice.

I think I'd make a good Captain. I'm no Shatner obviously (who is?) but I can rip my shirt and start a fight with the best of them. And I'm a devil with the ladies. In my mind.

Back to those new Trek images yesterday, notice how the uniforms have that chainmail/scale pattern on them. That seems to define modern costume design - Spiderman was given them. Superman too. And... probably others. And now the Star Trek crew. Just take the existing design, add scales and, BAM, you've got a modern 'reimagining'. It's very now. To steal from Harry Shearer in A Mighty Wind, it turns retro... to nowtro.

Among the costume design community (a small but militant group I've heard), I think it's going to be something they look back on and wonder what the hell they were thinking. And in a few years time, some poor new costume designer is going to throw scales on to their latest creation and be laughed out of it - scales are so over. Did Iron Man have scales? I don't think so but I can't quite remember. If not, I bet that movie doesn't date as badly as Spiderman among the costume design community.

But, as Sephim pointed out in the comments of yesterday's post, it should have been velour.

Always velour.

Yes, even Iron Man.