Monday, December 21, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

Children In Need

Every now and again, people get together to do something good. In the UK, they have this event night thing each and every year called Children In Need. Mostly, it amounts to pretty poor television but what people do during that pretty poor television is a very good thing - raise money for children who really need it.

It's on tonight and, this year, Peter Kay launched a charity single that brings together most of the UK animation industry. Or at least a hell of a lot of it. And it brings together characters from over 30 years of UK children's television.

Old classics like the amazing Paddington Bear, the Wombles, Bagpuss, going back as far as Muffin the Mule. More recent characters like Postman Pat, Pingu, Bob the Builder and even more recent characters like Fifi and the Flowertots, Peppa Pig and many, many more. Apparently, it has something like 120 characters in there.

It was put together by Chapman Entertainment and directed wonderfully by a man named Tim Harper and it's a lot of fun.

Apparently, the DVD single goes on sale on Monday in the UK. If you're reading this and you're in the UK, please go and buy it. It's for a bloody good cause and deserves to do well.

If you're not in the UK, well, go dig it up on YouTube and have a look but prod anyone in the UK to buy it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Drifting

I'm losing touch with the Bitter Animator part of who I am.

I actually think that's probably a good thing. But not so good when you've got a blog based around one particular part of your persona. Hence the lack of updates in a whole week - my longest post drought I think.

Part of it is being busy of course. My life is full. But I do think more of it is just not being the Bitter Animator for a while. That part of me just doesn't need expression right now. He has gone quiet. Is that weird?

Right now, I almost feel like starting a blog on pretty things. Like flowers and colours I like.

That is weird.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Winter. Yet again.

So... sleepy... yet... so... busy...

I want to crawl into a cave and hide. The urge is so strong. I'm having a real hard time resisting it. It's something deep in my gut.

Which backs up my theory that we should be hibernating. Or at least I should be hibernating.

Everyone is welcome to join me in my cave, although it's quiet time so there's no talking and certainly no getting up and doing stuff. There's nothing as upsetting to someone trying to relax than seeing busy people around them. It's borderline offensive. But please do bring food and some warm blankets. And a hot water bottle as long as the kettle you use to fill them with is quiet. Paper plates are recommended as dishwashers are noisy and washing them yourself breaks the rule about doing stuff.

Thanks to Andy for recommending Flipnote for the DSi. I'm looking forward to trying it. Check out what Andy has done with it here and have a look at these from Aardman. Fantastic stuff. When I get a free moment (sometime between retirement and death), I'm going to get it and see what I can do with it.

By the way, Andy has an excellent animation blog here. If you're into animation, especially just getting started, you'll likely find something useful there.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Catching up with people

Thing about this panel is that, usually, it's not like this at all. Oh yeah, somewhere in there, I'm comparing myself to others and managing to come out of it worse off but the truth is that most of the people I meet who I knew in school aren't settled and don't have that good life.

Some do. But most seem like they are still floating around like they're in their early twenties. Changing careers or working ridiculously hard at some worthless one, having been seeing someone for a year or so, look how drunk I got at some party, and that sort of thing. As a generation, we just don't seem to be able to settle. By my age, we're meant to be completely settled. We're the older generation. Sad but true. At least for me. And yet, we're really lagging behind.

Does it matter?

Yeah, I think it does. Because you only have to look at older people to know that old age creeps up very, very slow and then strikes fast. And one day we're going to wake up and we'll be old. We'll have trouble getting out of bed. It will take several hours to walk to the shops. We'll bitch about just about everything we see on television. We'll tell the young just how dangerous the world is and maybe even collect newspaper cuttings of horrendous stories to prove our point.

And we'll realise we're old.

And we skipped a whole stage of life. Probably a very good stage.

I wonder why that is? Why it's like that now?

I think I blame the corporate world, advertising and chick flicks. Yeah, that's a long topic in itself but I think we're focusing too much on this career thing for stuff we're constantly told we should have. A life we all deserve that is little more than a materialistic fantasy. And, on the relationship side (and this is where chick flicks come in), we're taught to expect some stupidly romantic happy ending that only occurs because you can end a movie at a very fixed point. Cut six months later from the end of any chick flick and you'll find something a little more like real life. Our stories don't end at that moment of connection. And it's rarely perfect.

But, whatever the reason, this generation, my generation, is very slow to grow up. And, even coming from someone who lives in a world of cartoons, games, toys and complete fantasy, I don't actually think that's a good thing.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Defining moments

Every moment I live dictates how the rest of my life will be. Every single choice or, more often, choice I don't make defines my future.

In a way, every moment of every day, I am fighting for my life.

But I live unaware of that fight. No, that's not true. I'm aware of it but I try to ignore it. Avoid it. Because, really, I just want an easy life. A simple life. But doing that, I'm losing the battle. Throwing the whole war.

It's November already.

All around, I'm seeing things listed for 2010. Release dates and so on. And every time I see 2010 written down, even here, I think it's a date from some fictional future. It's science fiction. The Space Year 2010. It's not a real year in my lifetime. It's the year some sci-fi story is set in. Where some guy has to escape some oppressive Big Brother society, running from robots with laser guns.

But, aside from the robots with laser guns, that's where we're at. That's now. Or almost.

And I can do things right now to change my future. A real future, not some robots with laser guns future (though that should be the real future). But keeping up that realisation, actually acting on it... well that's a lot of pressure and a hell of a lot of hard work.

And I'm so tired.

Friday, October 30, 2009

What I'm dressing up as for Halloween


No, not a zombie this year. Zombies are easy - I just go as I am. No, I need a different attitude. So how about some ass-kicking demon thing?

From the bowels of Hell itself... well, maybe not the bowels. Bowels aren't somewhere you want to spend much time in, although I guess that gives me a good reason to leave Hell. I mean, coming from bowels makes just about everywhere a step up. Okay, so I'll go with bowels.

From the bowels of Hell itself, the dreaded demon Bittoriad rises to wreak havoc upon the world. Destroying the very values that hold society together, the evil Bittoriad spreads such insidious notions as the idea that children's shows should actually be pretty good for children and entertain and work with parents rather than serving as toy advertisments. The nefarious Bittoriad can't even get through a blog post without preaching his twisted views. That's just how evil he is.

Oh yes, that is evil.

And then, once he has preached his way out of a job by refusing to work on crap, he sits in front of the television watching Dr.Phil and drinking beer...

Hang on, somewhere in here, Bittoriad lost his way. He was supposed to kick ass. Gah, even huge devil wings and an angry look can't alter my destiny - towards the television with a beer.

Well, I'll kick ass next year.

Hope everyone has a very happy Halloween! If you're dressing up, make it something horrific. No fairies or princesses - that's cheating! Make it scary! Whatever you do, I hope you have fun...

...or the evil Bittoriad will eat your brains while you sleep.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The realities of a production schedule

I actually know nothing of the realities of a production schedule because I have not yet come across one that had any place in the real world. Schedules are made, usually missing some keys stages, then blissfully ignored.

And then a show is made from start to finish in total chaos.

Right now, I'm feeling that. I'm actually feeling rather unsupported. Like I'm a one-man army trying to pull a whole show together. And pulling an entire show together is too big for any one person. So I can only prioritise what I can and hope that everything else falls into place.

Just like I hope someone comes to my door and delivers a whole truck of money. Actually, that's probably more likely.

I do wonder - is it like this on all shows? Is a state of utter chaos totally normal? Do all shows run this fine line where they're in danger of completely falling apart at any moment?

Does anyone know?


On an unrelated note, John K made his blog private for a while. It's public again now but it sounds like he may not be continuing it or may consider other plans for his blog. That would be a massive loss to the animation world. We're in a place now where skills are being lost, mostly due to the massive changes in the animation systems. John K's blog is in incredible resource for animators and should be regular reading, especially for newer, younger animators being born into a world of Flash studios. Mr.K would be the first to say that his way is just one way of doing things (I certainly don't always agree with some things, though I never doubt the man's talent) and he encourages people to find their own 'voice' in their artwork but his lessons, stories and (usually pretty funny) rants are really important for people to have access to. He has a point of view that is uniquely his. So I hope he keeps his blog open.

But, just in case, it would be an idea to read all you can from his blog and take something away from it. And maybe show him a little support too - he has earned it.

From me personally, I'd like to say a big 'thank you' to Mr.K for everything he has contributed to animation.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dark mornings

Getting up while it's dark is just not right. It's against all laws of nature. Well, except for nocturnal animals like owls or vampires or whatever. But, for we dayturnal creatures, night is for sleep.

So why does my alarm clock go off when it's still night?

It's just not right.

It's around this time of year that I propose my hibernation plan. Every human on the nothern hemisphere should hibernate from the months of October to March. Or perhaps beginning in November, just to give time for people to get things ready.

We'd stock up on food, DVDs, games and so on and then just lock ourselves away for those months. Nobody would go anywhere. Nobody would do any work. And then, in the spring time, we'd all get back to it totally refreshed and ready for anything.

Don't worry about the world during those unproductive months. We'd adjust. In fact, it may turn out we never needed them at all. In animation, it is the norm to work stupid hours and have no life coming up to deadlines. When I first got into a position where I could call the shots, I put an end to that where I was. I actively forced people out of the building to go home. And, once people realised that they only had a certain amount of hours to get their work done, they adjusted, worked harder and smarter and got the same amount of work done in fewer hours.

I suspect that could work on a far larger scale.

And we'd always have the southern hemispherers to keep things going, just like we northerners would when they get their hibernation.

If I ever run for Ruler Of The Known Universe, that will be one of my core policies.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Well, I'm better now

Man, that was not a fun week at all. I was really badly ill and it has taken quite a while for me to feel human again.

So I'm back to my tired weary self, which is nice.

I'm totally out of touch with the world, and have a ridiculous backlog of work to do. What's going on in the world (bearing in mind I only want to hear nice things)?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What's up?

Apologies for slow updates right now. I was inundated with work and then, if that wasn't enough of a challenge, I contracted some really nasty bug and ended up taking a trip in an ambulance. I've never been in an ambulance before so that was exciting. But I'm taking a bit of recovery time and normal services will be resumed shortly!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Are the right people in control?


I mentioned this in a comment over at John K's blog and thought it worth a mention here too.

I've been reading David B. Levy's book, 'Animation Development'. All about, well, animation development. There's a chapter on the executive side of things. All about the gatekeepers of the industry. Those who decide what makes it to pilot stage and what makes it to air.

And, in it, Linda Simensky says this - "Most do not have backgrounds in animation but have a genuine interest in storytelling or humour or other creative areas."

Is a' genuine interest' enough?

Monday, October 5, 2009

The value of your work...

Oh they love stirring the shit over at Cartoon Brew. Recently, Amid posted his thoughts on Frederator finally paying for animation videos to be shown online (or indeed anywhere else they choose, such are the terms). Kudos to both Cartoon Brew and Frederator for paying at all.

Because, for the most part, our work is worth nothing. Not a thing.

Short films don't make money. $50 can at least buy a few beers to make up for that year of hard labour. People say they bring exposure, and that can be true, but then what?

One major thing people don't seem to realise is just how little broadcast television makes. Let's say you got a show off the ground and made it entirely yourself. What is the value of your work?

Nothing.

Or, quite possibly, somewhere in the negative.

It's different for every channel of course. I've seen some broadcasters in the world pay around $500 for a 26+ episode series. Sometimes, it may go into 4-figures. That's pretty cool, eh? You could sell it to almost every territory on the planet at that price and not make back the production costs. But that's at least some value.

Some channels pay nothing.

If I remember correctly, Treehouse usually pay nothing for show and expect to share in merchandise rights. Recently some UK satellite dedicated children's channels have been offered money to air shows. I don't know yet if any have been aired on that basis but I imagine it's not an uncommon scenario.

So the distributors of the show actually pay the broadcasters, who are swimming in ad revenue. It's a win-win situation for the broadcaster.

But is it a win for anyone else?

It puts the value of series work in the negative.

It also reinforces, as you can see from that Treehouse deal, that the only way to actually make money from broadcast children's shows is in the merchandising. Which means that the shows are, in effect, advertisements. Just like advertisements, broadcasters are paid to air them and they are designed with a single purpose in mind - to sell products. To you and your children.

This is nothing new, of course. We grew up with glorified ads like He-Man and the like. It wasn't so bad in the preschool end back then. Now, the youngest of children, right down to babies, are being targeted. Oh, and it's worth a mention that every study on the planet shows that television viewing under the age of two has a detrimental effect on the child's development. Nevertheless, there are dedicated producers of content for babies. Trying to sell product, like everyone else.

I've just started David B. Levy's book, Animation Development, From Pitch to Production. So far, it seems really good. But it seems to take 193 pages, whereas I can give you the best pitch advice in one sentence - create toys and give the broadcasters your merchandising rights.

That's what it comes down to.

So the value of actual show creation? Providing entertainment that is good for children? Well, that's worth nothing. Sometimes less than nothing. But create a good toy line and extended ads? That's where the money the is.

Something doesn't quite sit right with me about that. I think it comes down to what I said a long time ago on this blog and it seems appropriate once more -

If you do not have the best interests of children at heart, you should not be in this business.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Maybe it sounded like a good idea at some point

Many called it brave. Others will likely go on to call it offensive.

Yes, featuring a child with a disability as a main character can be a brave move. And quite admirable. It has been done before if I remember correctly, though the name of the show I'm thinking of escapes me.

But cartoons, by their very nature, are caricatures.

And, when you go about caricaturing people with disabilities and then throw in a whole lack of understanding on top of that because not one person involved even knows someone with a disability, well, that's just asking for trouble.

I do remember one guy I worked for, many years ago (not the producer depicted above), telling me that he envied people in wheelchairs. Yes, envied them, because their disability gave them a keen mind. That's why Stephen Hawking is so smart, according to him. Man, what he would give to be run over by a bus...

I integrated that into the panel above of course. My producer isn't actually that insensitive. Not by a long shot actually - he is cursed with a heart of gold, bless his little cotton socks. But he sometimes doesn't quite see how some things that sound like a good idea might actually not be, even though he has the best of intentions. And I just play that up because the pic (and the words with it) is a caricature, see?

Just like making a cartoon show.

Cartoons are caricatures and, while many can argue a good case against pre-emtive self-censorship, some things just don't seem like a good idea to me.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Writing...

I have had something I needed to finish for quite some time. A draft of a screenplay that some people are waiting on. Actually, that's not quite true. It's not that I needed to finish it. I needed to start it. I'm so far away from finishing it that there's no point in worrying about that bit yet.

So I locked myself away at the weekend to attempt to get some momentum going. It took my at least a day before I got back into it and knew who my characters were. It doesn't surprise me how difficult I was finding it. It's not something you can just jump into.

It almost requires a journey even to begin. Me, in my own world, walking slowly step by step into the world of the story. There's no train. No quicker route. It just takes time.

But I got there eventually and have finally managed to make a start. That's good.

I don't have this difficulty with children's shows. I can just jump in and, withing an hour, I'm there. Characters and stories are living for me. The mind of a child comes more naturally to me.

But to pretend I ever really made it to adulthood and try to get inside the heads of adults? Well, that's just hard work.

Being an adult must be rough.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Blogday Week Favourite - Like that guy from Scanners

This comes from July '08 and I'm not even sure what prompted it beyond a post at Uncle Eddie's site. It sounds like it was brewing for a while. But it was something I had to get out at the time and, rereading it, I'm glad I'm reposting some of these because I feel the need to get it out again.

This will be the last of the reposts. I declare Blogday Week officially over.
I think it was Scanners at least. No, not the head exploding bit (though that's very cool). No, I'm just talking about the bits early on where he can hear everyones thoughts and it's too much for him. Bombarded by thoughts, feelings, fears, insecurities - sensory overload. It's too much for a person to handle.

And that's the world we live in today. We are bombarded with information, news, advertisments, opinions and fears, much of it misinformation. Too many choices. Too many decisions. Our heads are full, like the guy who hears everyones thoughts at once.

Much of it is a diversionary tactic. It suits certain groups of people for this to be the way the world is. Governments love it - a simple diversion and people move on and forget what the problem was to begin with. The trick to hiding the shit they get up to is not to hide information - it's to give too much information, each piece contradicting the last, and end up with nothing but confusion and doubt. It works a treat. Governments love conspiracy theorists. The more the merrier because each new theory muddies the water further. Most of us just try to block it out.

And it works with our consumer society too. Preying and building on self-doubt, companies tell us that we deserve to have everything we want and need. Then they show us just how broken our lives are, how incomplete we are, how utterly inadequate we are without the shit they are selling us. Then nicely bombard us with 'choice'. So many choices every day that we simply don't have time to stop and think about any of them. Then when they get caught doing shit they shouldn't, the consumer accountability card comes out - you make the choice and vaildate them by buying their stuff. People call it 'voting with your wallet'. Can you really make any kind of informed decision when there are thousands to make each and every day? And when, instead of clear information, we're fed propaganda, half-truths and often straight-out lies?

That's bullshit. So we have to try to block it out.

On top of that, we have atrocities going on each and every day. British soldiers forcing 14 year-old Iraqi boys into sex, soldiers beating civilians to death and much more. Much worse. Children walking over landmines in countries we have long forgotten about. Too much for people to think about. If we thought about each daily atrocity as we go about our lives, we would be metally crippled. We have to block it out.


We're bombarded with sound bites about 'weapons of mass destruction', 'freedom', 'threats' and all kinds of other bullshit and many find comfort in latching on to one of these as a justification so that they don't have to think about it any deeper. Because the rest? We have to block it out.

And yet, even with the hideous things going on in the world, the media loves to hype up this local culture of fear. Every young person will stab you. Every guy out with his kids is a pedophile. Everyone is your enemy. We're led to a 'pre-emptive strike' culture. Why the hell wouldn't kids have knives when they are told all the time that all the other kids have knives and are about to stab them? We are coiled springs, feeding on paranoia. But we couldn't go about our lives like that. We have to block it out.

Then, on just a basic day to day life level, we have bills, rent or mortgages, a fragile economy, fears of job losses, just trying to survive. And companies have been very good at making people dependent. Careers become our lives because they have to. And some companies are great - full of perks, great working conditions and so on - but they are traps, locking us into that dependency. So much of our energy goes to just paying those bills and feeding those traps. So of course we have to block out all that other crap. We don't have time or energy for it.

We are too busy.

Luckily we provide for that - we can fill our brains with action films, reality tv, sport (that's just reality tv too), games and so on. We end up like those aliens with big brain-heads. Full of information. Only, it's mostly misinformation and useless crap. It weighs us down. All the while, we try to block it out. Just to get on with our lives. We're just trying to live.

An older person asked me recently where the hell all the young people were protesting about the illegal invasion of Iraq. He said that their generation ended the Vietnam war. Asked what had this generation done? Well, people did protest. I was at one - a really big one. Didn't matter because the government knew all it would take was a little distraction and people would move on. Their lives would get busy. They'd have to worry about the next bill, their careers, what they would buy next, what the next media paranoia frenzy is, what's the next popular troubled area in the world. Simple basic distraction.

To survive we just have to block so much stuff out.

Where this post came from was a post over at Uncle Eddie's Theory Corner on animation acting. I was thinking, how can we know acting when we are withdrawing from the world? Because that's what I see happening. We're getting so much more comfortable in our own heads. On text messaging. Email. Yes, you can contact millions of people online - hard to think of that as anything other than social. But it's not real contact. The world is just too difficult now. We are withdrawing.

But every now and again, someone snaps. Shoots up a school or something. I think we're going to see much more of that sort of thing. I think people are going to feel more and more isolated, separate from society. And I think that, given time, there will be more people ready to snap than actually able to function in society. The solution isn't to get a gun to shoot those crazies first. It's to look at society. We're people. It should be our society. We should be taking it back.


But, right now, we're living in the Age of Distraction. And we're blocking it all out.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Blogday Week Favourite - Changes

Only choosing a few, it's hard to find the posts that really mean the most to me. But this is one of them. This repost comes from June '08 and it comes after the death of my dog, my oldest friend who had been with me for 17 years. Hard to believe that was well over a year ago now. I miss him all the time. I think I always will.

But the realisation that life continues for the living comes at unexpected times.
I've been pretty down lately. Losing my dog hit hard. The dog people among you will know what I mean. Those of you who aren't dog people, well, take my word for it that it's hard. 17 years is a long time. And I had to just get on with it at work and be professional and all that, and in everyday life too, so I was just burying how hard this is inside and it has been kind of eating away at me.

And I've had tough weeks and tough weekends around all that. Things, generally, have been pretty crappy. Then there's the thought of this godawful company outing.

Well yesterday I had managed to track down some of that Indy Lego I was looking for. I went out to get it at lunchtime and got absolutely soaked on the way back - how did everyone else know they'd need coats and umbrellas? And on the way back I was thinking about this company outing. I've been dreading it from the moment it was brought up. I can think of about a thousand different things I'd rather be doing and most of those involve sitting on my couch not being out with people I work with.

But then I thought, okay, I'm going. Accept it. Who knows, it might not even be awful. Maybe, just maybe, I'll find something to enjoy. Maybe not.

Suddenly, one little weight was lifted. It's still a crappy company outing and it's just one little part of my life but I think what it did was signify a willingness to just get on with things. Some forward momentum. I've still got some life to live and I'm going to just go do it.

A small change but a change nonetheless.

It helped.


Then I was rained on again on the way home and I realised I was just being delusional.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Happy Bloggiversary to me! (not a repost)

Well today is the day. My blog's birthday. Two years old. Man, how it has flown.

Last year, I did a whole big post with a nice little birthday image but, this year, for some reason, making a big deal out of it doesn't seem quite right. Although I am enjoying browsing through some of the old posts to see what I'd like to post again. I haven't done that before. There will be a couple more reposts over the next few days of posts I like and then it's back to regular service. Hey, if there's a post you remember that you like, let me know.

A lot has changed this year and I think that's what I tried to reflect in the image above. The future is far less certain and recession is hitting pretty hard in some places. Like where I am. It's funny that a huge amount of people are still in complete denial about that so I think that's going to start to hit even harder in the near future.

For me, I don't know where I'll be this time next year. Quite possibly, I'll end up on the streets looking for animation work. I don't know if it's a skill that really translates to the streets but it's worth a shot. "Animate you a character, sir? No? No? God bless you, sir," and so on.

But it has actually been a really good 12 months since my last bloggiversary. I've been working hard on a project I love and it's something I think will contribute to the rest of my career. Possibly the rest of my life. That's a rare thing and I'm really thankful for it.

It has been a good year.

Well, here's to another year. Thanks as always for dropping by my little blog. Who knew when I started writing about depression two years ago and ranting about my crappy animation job that I'd find a little blog community of people I would call friends? If I'd known that, I probably would have tried to make those early drawings a little better. Look back, they're unbelievably crap. Well, not to worry, they served a purpose at the time. Helped me get stuff out.

If you're reading this, I hope you're doing well and thanks again.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Blogday Week Favourite - Oliver Postgate 1925-2008

It seems a little odd to repost an obituary but, in a way, the passing of Oliver Postgate reminded me why I do what I do. Postgate, who died in December of last year, made such a massive difference to a whole generation of children. Adults think back to his shows and have such fond memories, often just feelings. Feelings of warmth and comfort. He didn't do it to sell advertising space, to sell toys or to brainwash your children.

He did it to put smiles on the faces of children.

That's what's important. That's what counts. Since this post, we also lost John Ryan, of Captain Pugwash fame, another fantastic artist and creator.




Oliver Postgate died aged 83.

Oliver Postgate created Bagpuss, the Clangers, Ivor the Engine, Noggin the Nog, Pingwings and more. He was one of the top figures, if not the top figure, in a Golden Age of UK children's programming. It was a time of creativity, a love of fun and all things silly. It was a time when the sole aim was to put smiles on the faces of children. To make them laugh.

And that's exactly what Oliver Postgate did. Over and over again.

His importance, for several generations of smiling children, can't be overstated. Even now, thirty and forty years on, mentioning one of his shows will bring people right back to their childhood. The Clangers has become a common language for fun, for carefree times. Mention Bagpuss and a room can fill with warmth. For those of you outside the UK and Ireland, this effect is truly amazing. Look inside to the playful innocent child inside someone who grew up in Britain or Ireland from the 60s on and, somewhere in there, you'll find some or all of Oliver Postgate's characters.

He inspired a generation of artists, creators, animators, illustrators, writers, dreamers and free thinkers. Anyone with an ounce of imagination.

We may have lost a legend but his influence will be felt for decades, possibly much longer.

Goodbye Bagpuss. Goodbye Clangers. Goodbye everybody. I'll miss you all.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Blogday Week Favourite - Bleak Future of Animation Part 3

On the 23rd of September, My Medicated Cartoon Life is two years old. So I thought, as I have never reposted anything so far and I have a few favourites, it might be a good excuse to repost some oldies.

Over at John K's blog recently, he made a post asking will traditional cartoon principals survive? Well, I had given my answer to that close to a year ago in my 4-part post - the bleak future of animation. My answer was no.

Here is Part 1.
And this is Part 2.
Part 3.
And Part 4.

But, for my repost, I've gone for Part 3. Firstly, I just like the doodle that goes with it. I can really see this scenario playing out in a couple of generations time. And, secondly, it marks the birth of my child. One of them.

Here it is -




I meant to get to this post yesterday but ended up having to attend the birth of my child. Live blogging would have been seen as bad form. So where was I?

7,000 drawings a year. Possibly a little less. Possibly much more. That's how much a traditional animator or would-be animator could rack up in just the normal course of their day. That doesn't include personal studies or sketches or little thumbnails that they would do along with those drawings. That's 7,000 finished approved drawings.

You don't get this from Flash animation.

Nope, really. You just don't.

Seriously.

In Flash, with most working methods, it is about manipulation of libraries, often totally flat and completely predefined. Drawing within Flash is for two things - to rough out a piece on the timeline so you have an idea of what you're doing (and some animators skip this, at their peril), or to make a missing symbol or hide a join, and some studios discourage or completely disallow this for fear of loss of control. The good Flash animators will likely (hopefully) have doodles of poses and expressions around their desk from the scenes they are working on. But that's not the same or even close to what is expected from a traditional inbetween, clean-up or animation drawing. And certainly doesn't approach the same numbers in volume.

But Flash animation isn't the same thing, is it? So does it matter?

You also don't get this from 3D. In 3D animation you are manipulating marionettes effectively. It's about posing them. It's an art in itself of course so not really all that directly comparible to traditional. But, like Flash, good animators will often have poses roughed out in pencil first. Again, not close to what is expected from a traditional finished drawing.

3D animation is a whole different form though, more like stop-motion. So does it matter?

Some of the best Flash animators learned traditionally and then were trained in Flash. Some of the best 3D animators learned traditionally and then were trained in 3D. In both methods, traditional animators have a massive advantage, are often the people directors seek out first and can have a great positive influence in studios.

Those are the 7,000-a-year drawing people.

Could it happen the other way around? Could someone spend five years animating on a Flash show and then produce a great piece of 2D animation? Or even 3D?

Not the way the 7,000-a-year people could.

Yes, I'd say it matters.

The most-excellent Cold Hard Flash reported on something Brad Bird said about a Marky Maypo spot. He said "I sometimes worry that people whose knowledge is limited to Flash tricks will never be able to reach the level of skill demonstrated in these little demonstrations of genius." Personally, I think he's right. How could he be wrong? We're comparing with the 7,000-a-year people.

But what happens when those animators retire or die? What happens when their influence is gone? What happens when you take away the people who were practicing to the tune of 7,000 drawings a year?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

That's not a storyline

Of course, this is someone clearly missing what a 'storyline' actually is. And creating a problem where there was none. You knew that, right? You got that.

The actual script wasn't about Christmas but was about an annual event so it seemed like an obvious comparison. How can writers possibly get away with writing more than one Christmas episode? In fact, how do they get away with even one? Stories about Christmas have been done before. How derivative. Broadcasters expect new storylines. Not repeats.

And I didn't really finish the end of the notes in that pic. They usually go something like this -

Please don't proceed with the changes without consulting me. I'll be on holiday until July 2012 but you can reach me in the office any time after that for a chat.

Oh to have the holidays of one of these people. It would be just lovely.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Astro Andy for a Monday

A little iPod Andy doodle for a Monday. He's not hurtling to his doom. Not oblivious to some hideous fate that awaits him. Not this time.

He's found a friend.

No catch. A little friend. That's nice, isn't it? Astro Andy deserves it after all this time. And it's Monday, so I thought we could do with a bit of good news.

Mr.Trombley postes in the comments of my last post that he's back blogging. He has interesting things to say so, if you've got a few minutes, check out his blog.

While I'm mentioning sites, have you checked out the Daily Grail for some interesting articles on things you probably don't know about but certainly should? No? Well check it out here.

Also, check out some zombies. If you like that sort of thing. I do. I like zombies. Why? I'm not quite sure. Any theories?

Anyone impressed with Apple's announcements last week? The iPod Nano seemed to get all the good new features while the rest sort of got nothing. And to do it on the same day as the big Beatles release and not to get them on to iTunes? Well, I guess people are better off getting them on CD but still, it just doesn't look good. And Apple know by now - image is everything. Still, I'd love a fancy MacBook.

I left my heart in Tokyo down by the river, don't you know? I didn't really. It's a song that's on right now. Oh yes... it's one of those days...

...one of those days.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Depersonalisation


I've often heard about these 'out of body' experiences. Where people feel themselves float out and above their body looking down at themselves.

I remember when I was first diagnosed with depression, one of the things I felt was that I wasn't living my life - I was watching myself living my life. Like I was out of my own body or looking through a television or something. Turns out this feeling is quite common with depression.

I wonder if it's connected with these out of body experiences? You know, you didn't just have a spiritual experience, you're just depressed dude. Maybe there are miserable monks everywhere. Or maybe those of us with depression are approaching enlightenment... actually, if being depressed is close to enlightenment, maybe that's not something to strive for.

That small work for hire project I mentioned in my last post is officially dead. Which leaves me with a void. An uncertainty. Actually a certainty - that I have nothing to go on to.

I'm throwing my all into the project I'm on. Everything I have is going into that, hence the infrequent updates. It's making me a little bit crazy. Nothing seems good enough right now and those few elements that do seem good enough, I'm wondering if they are too polished for the spirit of the show. I'm constantly second-guessing myself right now.

Susan informed me that it was Suicide Prevention Day yesterday. I missed it. But, if you're reading this, you prevented a suicide yesterday simply by living so well done to you. To some, that may seem flippant but, to others, that achievement doesn't come so easily.

Be good to those people.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Monday

I don't mind not having my phone with me but my iPod is an essential. As is my pants. Not sure how that happened. I leave them out so I can't miss them.

Unless somebody moved them...?

Forgot my headphones too so I can't just listen to music from my computer either. Oh well. One of those days.

It's September. I've been doing this blog almost two years now. That's flown. I have been far less prolific over the last while. Things have been busy. Is anyone still here?

But it also means we're going into Autumn and on towards Winter. And the project I'm on finishes early next year and I have no idea what will happen after that. I am faced with the prospect of having nothing to move on to and that is something I haven't had to face in a long, long time. It's a little scary. Actually it's very scary as the last times I faced this, I didn't have children to feed. Now, I do.

I'm not sure how it will all work out.

There's a small work for hire project that may happen but it's looking less and less likely. That wouldn't be an awful one to do by any means. Well within my comfort zone. Then there's another project that might happen but it's one I feel should never be made and I just don't see it in my future. If I was going to do a job I am completely against, there are probably ones that can make me more money - like dealing arms or drug running.

And then there's... nothing.

If I didn't have a family to feed, I'd live on beans for a while and write a book or something. I'd actually use a break to really put my time into something creative. But things are different now.

All part of growing up, I guess.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Well it can't all be great, can it?

Something has changed in my work. I always wanted to do good work, but this is more.

I feel like Han Solo when he saw Lando take out the Millennium Falcon.

For some reason, on this project, my thoughts always come back to this - I may never get to make something like this ever again. I hope I'm wrong, of course. But the result of that is that I don't want one frame to make it to air that I'm not 100% happy with.

Even to the point of throwing out whole episodes.

Because, once the show is finished, it has a life of its own and can never be redone. And I may never get to do it again. There may never be more.

But there are realities to the business end - budget and time. People can't afford just to throw out whole finished episodes. Well, maybe they can. Maybe things can be shifted, budgets juggled and producers can get a little bit creative. After all, we all want a great product, don't we?

The idea of a last chance changes everything.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Premiere, computers and ceilings

There are definite disadvantages to using computers. Okay so I'm not painting a ceiling but Premiere is being a dick right now.

Seems to be general worldwide policy now to blame the young'uns in checking their Facebooks. Oh, it's all about the Facebooks these days. You kids and your Facebooks.

But where's my audio, eh? Where, Premiere?! Where?!!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

If I looked how I feel...

I thought this would be interesting but had no idea when I started just how disgusting the final image would be.

This documents how my physical form feels.

It's actually not far off how I look, except you can't see things like the sore knee or neck just by looking. The old, exhausted eyes, on the other hand, are obvious for all to see.

How would your image look?

Monday, August 24, 2009

The most important part of the day

I'm beginning to notice a pattern. It's really rather simple. If I have a nice smooth journey into work, passing any traffic and having good luck with the lights, I am more likely to have a better day.

The journey into work is setting the tone for my whole day.

Now some days I wake up exhausted and, on those days, things are tough anyway but a good journey in can make all the difference and goes a long way towards improving how that day will play out. I do notice that the person who gets on my little bike can be quite a dramatically different person to the one who gets off it on the other end.

Those of you who have been reading the blog a long time might remember my posts about waiting at bus stops. Well, those days are over. Man, those were soul-destroying times. Waiting for buses that never turned up or went by full can absolutely destroy a day. Of course it wasn't all bad - I miss the time just sitting listening to music. But, overall, going to work on my little bike is a thousand times better.

I wonder if there are any other early morning changes I could make that would contribute towards a better day?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

As things speed up on the outside...

...things are slowing down on the inside. I'm busy. Busy with work that requires the use of my brain.

I think that is causing everything else to be pushed out.

"Thinking of Maud, you forget everything else."

Monday, August 17, 2009

A bit more on the culture of notes

A while back, I wrote a little on the culture of notes in television. To sum up, notes from execs usually amount to very busy people with no time to spend getting to know your show (or indeed any show) telling those who spend every waking moment on that show how it should be made.

The script-note sleep is a funny and yet infuriating phemomenon. I guess I should be grateful for those rest periods. I have found on just about every production that those people who live to cause problems in scripts rather than make them better go to sleep after a while. Sooner or later, you'll start to get some rather sparse notes. Inconsequential things. And maybe, if you're lucky, even some that say, "this is all okay."

Note, it's "okay". Would it kill them to say they actually derive some pleasure from reading a script? You know, I liked it. This will make a good show. Children would love it.

So you get a few sparse notes. This is when the beast sleeps.

And then...
...they wake.

Out of nowhere, you'll get a massive email going through a whole bunch of scripts in detail picking out any innane shite they can think of and, even more common, telling you to write different stories. The funniest thing in these mails is when you get a whole bunch of notes on a third draft script about concepts that have been present right from the very first draft.

And the only thought can be - did they sleep through those drafts?

Yes. Yes, they did. Or they were busy eating children.

But you know the most dangerous thing about this? About the culture of notes? It's when they're right. Because sometimes they are. It's when they find something that absolutely should never make it to air. Something that needs a complete rethink. Or something that could make a good episode into a far, far better one.

It can happen.

But notes are like a bad smell. Sooner or later, you become accustomed to it. You hit a point where you're not really reading them. Because the last thousand notes you have read only served to show he/she didn't read the script or hasn't understood the show.

So, when that one important note hits, it's buried in a long list of pointless ramblings.

And it's missed.

Or, by that stage, those on the creative end are in fighting form and they fight it out of instinct, not examining whether it's a good idea or not. They become stubborn. Hard. Because they have had to be in order to stay sane and save their show.

I've seen it happen. Several times actually.

Those who write good notes (and there are certainly some) generally write very few. Almost none. So, when they do, you take notice.

But, more often than not, they're just written by beasts who live in caves and eat children.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Zeitgeist


Humphrey Erm asked in the comments if I have seen Zeitgeist and, if I have, what I thought of it. Well, I have seen it and there are several subjects brought up in that movie and each one covered with much detail so it would take many posts to go through it. But I thought straight away that I could give an overview of what I thought of it and my feelings on similar views, films, theories and so on. Just the surface.

For those of you who don't know Zeitgeist, it is a documentary film described as being about conspiracies. It is divided into several sections. One questions religion, the origins of Christianity and the subject of control and the church. One is all about the attacks on the World Trade Center. And the last is one that deals with conflicts in the 20th century and the interests behind them (mainly money) and very much presents us with the idea of a conspiracy.

So what do I think of it?

I think it's very interesting. I think it's something people should see. Do I buy it? No, not all of it and this is a problem I'll go into in a moment.

But there is one very important thing about Zeitgeist and many other documents like it - it presents questions. Whether you believe their point of view or not, it asks you to actually think about what you're being told, from all sides. Make up your own mind by all means, do what research you can with what resources you have available but at the very least just think.

Whether you come away from it thinking just about everything in it is bullshit, that message is extremely important.

If there is anyone who seems to be actively dissuading you from opening up to ideas and thinking about them, they have shit to hide. Plain and simple.

George W. Bush - "Let us never tolerate outrageous conspiracy theories concerning the attacks of September the 11th; malicious lies that attempt to shift the blame awayfrom the terrorists, themselves, away from the guilty."

But there is a huge double standard here.

If you take the official story of what happened on 9/11, for example, and go from the Commission report, that is the view that many accept because, of course, it is coming from official sources. It comes with a whole bunch of ideas, theories and, importantly, holes because some of what happened doesn't seem to be known - after all, there was a lot of destruction that day.

If you take something like Zeitgeist, it also comes with a whole bunch of ideas, theories and its own holes.

But for people to dismiss the Zeitgeist view of what happened, all it takes is for someone to debunk just one little part of the whole picture. It tears everything else down with it in the minds of a massive amount of people and those pushing the official events relish that as its existence and mistakes are used as proof as to why you should not question things at all.

And yet the official story, even if you buy the basics, stinks of bullshit. Certainly the missing black boxes/found paper passports is all you need to start thinking something doesn't quite add up. But, when it comes to the official story, it's innocent until, well, forever seemingly because even poking giant holes through it (which has already happened) doesn't seem to do any damage.

It's a huge double standard.

Another double standard comes in the expectation that, for a counter theory or even just question to be taken seriously, it must come from a quiet objective professor or someone. A film like Zeitgeist can be dismissed as alarmist, sensational and one-sided. Michael Moore of course gets the same thing - he's twisting it because he's one-sided. Not objective.

And that's often true.

But the other side is blasting out of Fox News and plastered all over papers in alarmist news stories, scaremongering and distraction techniques. It is in no way one-sided or objective. The 'official' sources won't present you with alternative views and all sides of the picture.

So why is it expected from those presenting a counter view? Just a double standard.

And the use of the term 'conspiracy theory' is used to dismiss any questioning, any actual thought process. But that's a term I reject. The official story, by every definition of the term, is a conspiracy theory: a shadowy unseen enemy, led by a madman in a cave, infiltrates the country and plots to tear down the thing they hate most - freedom.


One of the problem with the sheer amount of ideas and questions posed by something like Zeitgeist (and if you move beyond that and out into other sources, it gets worse) is that effect that I mentioned of tearing the whole thing down with just one crappy idea. Anyone know Alex Jones? Alex Jones comes out with theory after theory. And then more theories.

Much of them, I just don't buy. They just don't ring true. And yet others, well, maybe he's on to something.

But because he comes out with so much that can be dismissed, it damages his credibility across the board and yet I think he has at times asked some really relevant questions. But will they be heard?

I saw some guy on television several weeks ago with photos of the moon saying he could see moon bases in them. I couldn't see them. And I was able to dismiss him.

With so many views and a massive grey area between the ideas that ring true and the complete off the wall or simply incorrect or misguided or unresearched theories, I can't help feeling that these play into the hands of those with something to hide. They can put the truth out there in plain sight because people are so crowding the world with their own untruths that nobody anywhere will be able to sift through it.


Again, 9/11 is a good example. There are so many things that just don't quite seem right about that. Really obvious things. But sifting through the untruths would take a lifetime and by the time you got there people would have piled on so many more, you'd be back to square one.

I expect people with something to hide love the idea of 'conspiracy theories'.


Of course, I'm showing that I buy into the idea that people have something to hide. Of course they do. To think anything else is utterly naive and is not backed up by history. Where power and money are concerned, people override morality and do shit they shouldn't. That is seen throughout all modern history.

To see it, you simply need to take a glance at the history of finanicial powers like GE, the actions of the pharmaceuticals companies, Watergate, the actions behind many of the conflicts around the world since WW2 (William Blum's 'Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II' makes for depressing yet somewhat obvious reading), the history of military testing and, well, actually you can look just about everywhere to see it.

And you'll only be able to see those times where things got out into the open. The actions of the large companies (again GE is a good example) make me sure of one thing - being caught in a criminal act does not in any shape or form mean they will stop doing it.

You only have to look at Operation Northwoods to know what people are capable of scheming. That is no conspiracy theory. It is, however, very much a conspiracy.


I told the story already on this blog but I'll tell it briefly again now. I was at the Cartoon Forum in 2001 in Germany, just after the 9/11 attacks. The only radio station I could find in English was the radio of a US Army base close by. On it, I heard that they had found conclusive proof that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the attacks. I got home and there was no news of this. Not even a mention that it was a proposed theory. Weird...

It was only years later when Iraq was invaded that it clicked with me - they were priming their troops for that attack back then. It was well-planned. The weapons of mass destruction thing was bullshit (as we found out). That was simply their reason for justifying the attack that they had planned well in advance. And 9/11 was being used to get the troops pumped for that attack.


So, where am I with Zeitgeist? I honestly don't know but I'll tell you this - much of what we are told stinks of bullshit. The reasons (power and money) are obvious and history backs up that those two things will cause people to do horrendous stuff and try to hide it. I don't know the truth. I can't know the truth.

But I know something stinks of bullshit and I think it's time people, like everyone, started thinking about that.

Monday, August 10, 2009

More on affirmations

Just as an add-on to my last post, I should point out that I don't think affirmations in themselves are a bad idea at all and this little pic illustrates why. We all have our little voices in the back of our minds shouting criticism, usually based on past failures, that can be much more hurtful and restricting than anything we could hear from someone else.

I see affirmations as a potential way of pushing for some balance. Shouting some positive in an attempt to drown out the negative.

Zarathustra wrote in the comments, "Anyone who can be lifted out of their problems simply by repeating a feelgood proverb from a greetings card probably doesn't have that bad a set of problems." I agree. But that's not to say they can't help or be part of a process.

And Alex wrote, "Affirmations are about taking control of what you will concentrate on, because what you think about all the time is what you will get." For me, I believe this is true to a large extent. Certainly, our thoughts can become very limiting and self-defeating. They can hold us back becoming a kind of self-fulfilling prophesy based on where we perceive our place in life is or what has happened to us in the past or in an attempt to retain an identity. Making conscious efforts to adjust that thought process or even simply to interrupt the negative voices seems to make a huge amount of sense to me and I guess affirmations can be a tool useful for some to achieve that.

But I believe for that to really work, there have to be a couple of conditions.

Firstly, it has to be potentially true. By 'potentially' true, I mean something that isn't easily shown to be a lie. For example, if my brain is telling me, 'I am a loser', that is so vague that it can't be shown to be a lie. No matter what I have in my life, I could find ways of proving it. That's one of the reasons a message like that is so powerful. Saying 'I am powerful', while our negative voice can provide example after example why it isn't true, it can't completely be shown to be a lie. But even that may be a bit of a stretch in our lives and, if we can't believe it, we will reject it.

Saying 'I have rippling muscles and all the girls love me' is right out.

And, secondly (and where it applies to the example in the last post), it can't be more limiting than the negative messages. That would be totally self-defeating. For example, if I'm in a job shovelling pig shit and my negative message is, 'I will never be better than a shit-shoveller', I will live to prove that true and likely be very unhappy as a result. But if I repeat the affirmation in the last post to myself over and over, which amounts to 'I am happy in my workplace', the result is the exact same - I'll never be any better than a shit-shoveller because I'll be spending all my mental energies trying to convince myself to stay there.

What use is that?

That's a self-limiting affirmation. No better than 'I am a loser'. And probably worse because there'll be a bit of a Tell-Tale Heart scenario going on. The lie contained within that affirmation will eat away at us until it becomes too much to bear.

Life is hard enough without wasting our mental energies trying to convince ourselves that a really crap life situation is actually wonderful. Isn't it better that we put those energies into making a better life situation for ourselves?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Affirmations

Affirmations - a positive way of changing our world from the inside out?

Or a dangerous delusion?

I was browsing through Apple's App Store the other day when I saw something that was labelled something like 'affirmations for creativity'. It was 79 cents and I thought, that's cheap and I'm creative, let's see what this is.

It's a series of cards from a lady called Louise L. Hay with the idea being that you look at one at the start of the day and it will help with creativity.

It downloaded. I opened it up.

And this is what I saw - "My job allows me to express my talents and abilities and I rejoice in this employment".

Hang on, I thought, there's a problem here. What if my job is a soul-destroying hell? Like, for example, back when I worked in advertising. Or what if I worked in a burger joint while my talent for sculpture went untapped? What is to be gained by telling myself that my job allows me to express my talents?

Louise L. Hay, I have to call you out on this. Personally, I think this does far more harm than good. Having people try convince themselves that they are happy in the status quo when in fact a life change could do them the world of good is positively dangerous. So let's say your affirmation works and they stay put, in Burger King, taking on your message each day to get through it. And, each day, they lose a piece of their soul, they get a day closer to death and a day further away from their dreams.

Who benefits?

I'm all for affirmations that can express our potential. Remind ourselves just what we are capable of. But an affirmation that could very well be a flat-out lie? How many people on this Earth do you think are genuinely in a job that can allow them to express their talents?

What you are saying to people is this - you are no better than where you are right now.

And I think that's utter bollocks.



On an unrelated note, I got an absolutely lovely mention over at the excellent Healing Philosophy blog. Thanks, Alex!
I also meant to mention the passing of John Ryan, of Captain Pugwash fame. A remarkable creative talent from a golden age of UK children's shows. Brian Sibley has put up a lovely tribute over at his blog and I left my feelings in the comments.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The climb

I'm making some conscious changes. I've made conscious changes before but then slip back. Maybe that will happen again but a temporary move forward is better than no move forward at all.

It's like drawing. Okay so some of you artists out there blow me away and I can't possibly compare. But I bet you have some drawing habits, that probably started in your teens, that became your default way of drawing certain things. And you can improve and move past them. Learn better ways of doing things. But if you do 100 drawings in a row, you'll see those habits creep back and, by drawing 100, there'll be quite a bit of your teenage drawing in there.

I'm right, aren't I?

We learn and we get better. But those ways we learned, those patterns, they are still there somewhere. And it's by consciously overcoming them and by learning new patterns (in drawing, by repetition) that we can be better artists.

Well, you good artists anyway.

I think it goes far beyond drawing. It is simply how we live. We fall back on patterns. And those patterns, while often easier (even though it may not seem that way, we have to be getting something out of them on some level), are not always good for us.

But, with drawing, I think you have to see your patterns - that my hands always look like big gloves, for example - before you can really catch them and make them better.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Failing and succeeding

I'm failing miserably at plain ol' life at the moment. The frustration and anger that came with something very simple, something for someone else that I managed to selfishly turn into my own battle (I lost), caused me to grip so hard on to my mobile phone that it bent and snapped in my hand, little pieces of glass going into my fingers. Just tiny pieces - it sounds far more dramatic than it actually was.


Pain in the ass really. It was a good phone and was part of an upgrade package so that one failed moment is going to cost me a lot.


Somewhere very early in childhood, I convinced myself that real life was too hard for me. And I've been living to that idea ever since. I don't know where it came from, how that happened.

So I live in my head and pretty much always have.



But here's the thing that has just occurred to me today - my head is an absolute bastard. I have close to no memories of my childhood. But what I remember vividly are the nightmares. I remember nightmares as far back as when I was three years old and remember them like they are happening right now and yet no real memories at all.


My head was a dark, scary place. Not some pleasant escape. I would retreat in there and end up tormented. Why? Like some sort of battered wife syndrome?

Even now, my life on paper is pretty good. The times when I feel wrong, tormented, unable to cope, it's entirely from within. And yet that is where I spend most of my time.


Those who have read my blog for a while know that my particular interest in animation and my work is in shows for young children, usually very young children. Sweet, innocent, happy work. I love it. More than that, I'm good at it. Even right now, while I'm having a hard time with the mundane in life, I'm involved in a project that is going to absolutely rock and I'm pulling the whole thing together and doing it damn well, even if I say so myself.



I've often told myself (and others) that it's because I work for the child I once was. I still think that's true.

But where I think I may have got it wrong is here - I thought that I was creating work that the child in me loved and thrived on. And now, I'm beginning to wonder if it's actually that I am creating work that may have gone some way to repairing that child. To, in some way, balance the dark thoughts. Maybe even overpower them.


I don't know.


I do know, as far as work goes, it's a strength. It's odd that it matters little what the state of my life is like or even my psyche - if I am doing the right work (being on the creative end of a show I believe to be good for children) - I can do a really good job. I am a success. And I love it.

But, as for the rest of my life, that is where I fail. I wonder if it's possible to fix that while not losing the strength in my work? I hope so.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A touch too late

I can't really play the saxophone. But I was watching a bit of The Lost Boys the other day (what an excellent movie) and saw the bit at the start with the oiled-up guy and his saxophone solo.

Isn't it odd how the saxophone fell out of favour?

And it's not like it was replaced with another obvious instrument. We didn't get rock bands going around with clarinets or bassoons. The death of the saxophone in music heralded the death for all woodwind instruments.

Yeah, I know it's not made of wood but apparently the saxophone counts. I think.

And I wonder if a whole generation of saxophone players thought they were going to hit big in rock bands only to be laughed out of their Nirvana audition?

That must have been a right kick in the crotch.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Calm under pressure

Like some sort of defense mechanism - stress-activated narcolepsy. Shame it won't kick in during the night, when I'm actually supposed to be asleep.

It's Monday again? What? How did that happen?

Thing is, the higher up you get in just about any work situation, the more you have to appear energised. Positive. Oh, sure, there are many people in charge who storm around being angry and shouty but those people are dicks and it never works for long. A pissed-off worker has never been a good worker.

Far better that you can inspire people.

In fact, that works in both directions. You can do better by inspiring those above you too. Radiating positive energy, without just being one of those goofy grinning types who look like they have lost all sense of reality. It's an important skill. In normal times, a skill that can help you rise. In recession times, a skill that can help you just survive.

But I'm finding it hard right now. Of course, sitting here listeing to Pink Floyd's 'The Final Cut' isn't going to help. That has got to be one of the most depressing albums ever. Have you noticed that the amount of positive uplifting albums pale in comparison with the amount of miserable depressing albums?

"It's the only connection they feel."

Friday, July 24, 2009

Tools


I have just been trying out another drawing app on my iPod Touch. I have been using Brushes a lot and I find I'm only just getting the hang of it. I think if I were a painter, I'd get much more out of these because I'd have the know-how and experience to apply. As it is, I'm not a painter so I'm sort of just stumbling along.

But I was beginning to get somewhere with Brushes.

Now there's a new one - Layers.

Layers offers, obviously, layers. So what I do on one layer doesn't blend in with everything else. So, with this doodle, I could do a definite line over it all. I could do that in Brushes, but it would be a little messy and would require more advance planning. So Layers gives me more control to treat it like a drawing rather than a painting.

I'm more used to that.

But already I'm wondering if that extra tool becomes a crutch. The more tools I have, the less I have to work at it and I think somehow that shows in the results. I see that with animators. It's why I have rejected programmes like Toonboom. The more tools an animator gets, the greater the distance between them and the final result. The less actual control they have.

I wonder if I should buy some paints and try the real thing. Rid myself of the undo button...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Why the zombie apocalypse would be good for me

Getting out the house. Finally getting some exercise. Spending time with lots of like-minded people. Eating out.

I would do well as a zombie.

People say exercise is good for mental health. I wouldn't know. Maybe I should try it some day. I'm not even playing my DS much these days, so even my thumbs are out of shape. When you're noticing your thumbs have love handles, maybe it's time to do something about it.

Maybe. But probably not.

Ah, who am I kidding? I'd never be a zombie. There are very few things in life I'm good at. Very few things I know about. But surviving a zombie apocalypse? I've done the research. I've got it all worked out. The only essential survival tactic I don't have ready is locating and flying a helicopter. I'm uncomfortable enough in a car and have a long way to go before I reach helicopter.

But everything else I've got covered.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The dark side of the moon

I have an old book somewhere called 'Flying Saucers On The Attack'. It's all about UFO sightings and predates the moon landing (whether alleged or otherwise) by several years.

In it, they predict that there could well be a moon landing within something like 20 years (it took far less time than that) but, more importantly, in all seriousness, they predict that life will be found on the dark side of the moon and they could well be greeted by inhabitants when they arrive.

I have often wondered if any reputable scientists or astronomers actually believed that, or even believed that there was a slim chance it could be the case.

Probably not.

Still, would have been cool, eh? Moon men. Yeah, I'd love that.

There's a lot of crap in this world I don't buy. A lot of stuff fed to the masses that stinks of bullshit and just doesn't add up. And there are too many people with too much to lose and so much to gain to make it worth deceiving the world.

But I can also see just how attractive it is to just want to see more in this world than is actually there.

And I want moon men.

Friday, July 17, 2009

What happens when you sleep

It's amazing how much difference broken sleep can make to a life. I don't even know exactly what sleep does but, whatever it is, it's important.

I've often thought that sleep provides a shutdown so you won't notice the switch.

You know, the switch.

Truth is, our bodies are only designed to last around 16 hours. Anything after that and we start to deteriorate rapidly, go out of warranty and could find ourselves clapping out at any moment. So our bodies need constant replacement.

We go to sleep. Shut down.

Someone creeps in to our room during the night and removes our body. They replace it with a replica. The next day's model. As our memories are transferred, so it can be done quickly, they go in all at once and it's pretty jumbled. Sometimes we remember little snippets of that process. We call those memories dreams.

Of course, this process is pretty cool during childhood because they add tweaks and improvements to each new model. But, eventually, the growth must stop.

And that's where the problems start.

You see, at that point, their job becomes simply to supply the same model. They make a copy. But it's like tracing a picture. There are very subtle differences. Barely noticable. But if you trace the newly traced drawing, then trace that and so on, the drawing moves further and further away from the original.

It deteriorates.

We know that as ageing.

But with broken sleep, the copy is either rushed to get in place before you wake up, or the switch is abandoned altogether and you end up spending another day in a body that just wasn't designed to last that long.

And that's what happens when you sleep.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A message from Jeremy Beagle and Studley Moore

It's Brian Sibley's birthday. Get over there and wish him a happy birthday!

The need for sleep

Today is a little better than yesterday.

I need sleep. A lot of it. All at once.

The lack of sleep is now inhibiting my ability to conduct everyday life. One way or another, that can't continue.

On the plus side, I can now do an excellent zombie impression with little to no effort. Not the rubbish fast zombies. Proper zombies. Those fast zombies aren't even zombies and totally miss the point. I've heard people justify them by saying - well, they're like zombies only more scary because they're fast and that makes them more dangerous.

Following that logic, they should be given guns. Then they'd be even more dangerous. Or nukes. Think how much more scary that would be. Hard to get more dangerous than that. Or even a death ray, like Godzilla. Actually, they could be bigger than skyscrapers too. Then, even their footsteps would be dangerous.

Totally misses the point.

It's the slow, shambling creeping death that defines them. Their strength in numbers, not the individual. A huge part of the suspense of a good zombie movie comes precisely from people being lulled into a false sense of security because they are slow. Mocking them. Letting their guard down.

That's why they work. That's what makes them creepy.

And when the zombie apocalypse comes (and it will), you people who think they're only scary if they can run or have death rays will be the first to fall.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

You see, it's a metaphor for, like, life

I watched The Wrestler last night for the first time. Or for the first time last night. Whichever sounds better to you. Probably the latter.

An excellent and sad movie.

Some of it was very cliched - the aging stripper romance, the estranged daughter - and some of it very much reminded me of the opening of Commando in terms of giving us a checklist of reasons to care for the character. Remember the opening of Commando? He's feeding a deer - that shows he's close to nature. Oh, look, he's teaching his daughter how to fish. That shows they are resourceful. And so on.

I got that same feeling from bits in The Wrestler. Like when he comes out of his van and messes with the kids. Ah, he has a heart of gold.

But Mickey Rourke's performance really elevated the film far beyond what I think was written there. At times, it could have been entirely real. It was nice to see Aronofsky make, you know, an actual movie. A very good movie at that.

And, of course, the appeal is obvious.

A man, beaten down by life, fights to the end. Even in the crappiest of jobs and, actually, even if we're not doing too badly at all but we feel we could be doing better, most of us feel that way through large portions of our life. Stripper - object of desire just out of reach. Who doesn't have that? Estranged daughter - we all have damaged relationships somewhere in the past that still affect who we are now. We want Randy the Ram to do better. Because we want to do better.

Pretty bloody obvious really. But far easier said than done to capture that in a movie. And they did it.

The one thing that separates Randy the Ram from most people is that he's always got fight left in him.

Whereas most of us, society as a whole, seems to have lost that fight. There's shit going on all around us and we take it. We don't punch a meat slicer and quit. We stay at the deli counter and tell ourselves we're doing a good job because we've got bills to pay.

I want to punch a meat slicer.

Friday, July 10, 2009

When the outcome is staring you in the face

If Blogger let me (maybe it does and I don't know), I could just sum up my issues in one post and put it on a loop, to post maybe every three days.

The same thing.

I have bitten off more than I can chew. And whatever it is that I've eaten is now stuck to the insides of my mouth and I can't spit it out. I believe there is peanut butter involved.

I have many things on the go.

I shouldn't have.

What comes with juggling projects is juggling people. And I just realised today that I told one person that nothing has been happening with another project. A project that, next week, will be published as part of a list of projects going ahead. A list with my name all over it. Pox.

A simple mistake. A hopeful ommission more than a lie. To stick with the juggling analogy, I was simply trying to separate my balls. Ahem. That didn't come out quite right but you know what I mean.

Next week, my balls will collide.

And all I can do is wait.

For my balls...

...to collide.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

It's a meme!


The image doesn't relate to the post. It's just a little iPod pic I did and thought I may as well post it.
I was tagged by the most excellent Brian Sibley for this alphabet meme. Here goes!

A – Age: This should be O as in old. Mid-thirties.


B – Bed Size: I have no idea. Could be bigger? I'm so out of touch with bed sizes. I am unknown in bed size circles.


C – Chore you hate: I think simply coming under the heading of 'chore' means it's something I hate.


D – Dog’s name: I haven't got a dog right now but, if I had, I'd call him Jeremy Beagle. He'd be a beagle obviously.


E – Essential start your day item: Coffee. Must have coffee.


F – Favorite colour: Hmmm... not sure. Orange? I like orange. It's bright.


G – Gold or Silver: Silver. To me, they're just metals. An inch away from rock. I don't really get the attraction. Or the value. But silver just looks a little better than gold in my opinion.


H – Height: 5′10″


I – Instruments you play(ed): I'm going to say synthesiser but I'm really stretching it here. I don't so much play it as I very slowly select notes one after another. I'm rubbish at it but I have a little MicroKorg and love it. I used to have a Stylophone. Retro excellence. Of course, when I had it, it wasn't retro. It was totally now.


J – Job title: Animator. Animation director. Writer. Something. I don't know. Creative something or other.


K – Kid(s): Yep. Sleep? Not a bit.


L – Living arrangements: A tiny little house. It's like a miniature. I think it's made by Fisher Price. I need somewhere bigger to live. And money to pay for it.


M – Mom’s name: Mum


N – Nicknames: Nicknames sort of require friends to give them to you. If I were to assign my own nickname, it would be 'Ripper'. Or 'Stud'. 'Studley Moore'. Something along those lines.


O – Overnight hospital stay other than birth: Nose job. Not cosmetic - a deviated septum. I always was considered a bit of a deviant so it was nice to find out what bit it was. But what they didn't tell me (or I didn't listen) was that the op is not permanent. Basically it all collapses back after a while. Which it did. I can't be bothered going through it again because it was rather unpleasant. Blood seeped constantly down into my stomach where it went all congealed and black and then I vomited it all over the walls like a Nightmare on Elm Street movie. Nice, eh?


P – Pet Peeve: Lateness. I hate people being late. It bugs the living crap out of me. I hate waiting. I see waiting as my short life trickling away and for someone to make me wait should be a criminal offense. It is theft of life.


Q – Quote from a movie: "Well hello, Mr.Fancypants!"


R – Right or left handed: Right.


S – Sports: No thanks.


T – Time you wake up: 6.40am.


U- Underwear: Boxers.


V – Vegetable you dislike: Pretty much everything except baked beans and sweetcorn.


W – Ways you run late: I don't run late. But I sometimes have to wait for people who do. Should be criminal, I tell you.


X – X-rays you’ve had: A lot. I can't really remember. I used to get panic attacks that were associated with depression long before I was diagnosed. I thought I was dying and had just about every test in the book run, including many x-rays.


Y – Yummy food you make: Beans on toast. It's about the only food I can make but that's okay. I love it!


Z – Zoo favorite: Ring-tailed lemurs. And tigers. Rarrrgh!



So there you go. A lot of answers to a whole alphabet of questions. So I guess I better tag someone else then so these guys are next: Andy, Susan and Justin (of his excellent Juz, Jax & El blog which I have only just discovered).
And anyone else who would like to have a go.