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.