Saturday, January 31, 2009
I've been working hard on this project, fighting mismanagement more than anything else. And I'm left wondering - why? Why am I doing it? It's not something I love. It's not something important to me. It's not even something that's going to lead to something I love or something important. So why am I doing it? To pay the bills? I don't know.
Maybe I'm afraid to do anything else.
I'm tortured by my own conflict - I have to achieve or I feel worthless, yet I need a simple, easy life. Those needs are mutually exclusive. There will always be something missing, something I don't have. And I've lived with that conflict my whole life.
You know what's worse? Me moaning about it. Oh, and a laptop that moves the cursor into the middle of a sentence as I type making it much harder than it has to be to type this. Oh, but none of that is what I meant. What's worse is that when I see someone around me doing well, I don't feel proud of them or happy for them - I feel jealous and disappointed in myself. Man, that's petty. Anyway, it's just one of those evenings. Enough of that.
Something big happened yesterday. Big for me. See, if I was ever going to buy into a church, it would be the Church of Bill Hicks. I don't know if there is one but, if there isn't, there should be. Bill Hicks' last performance on Letterman was never aired. Letterman pulled it. And it was very clear from Hicks' reaction afterwards that he was pissed off, and quite hurt by the experience. Bill Hicks tried to get the footage so at least he could show his parents. CBS never delivered. At one point I'm pretty sure they said it no longer existed.
And then he died.
Well, fourteen years later, last night, Letterman aired the footage. More than that, he brought on Bill Hicks' mother and apologised. Now I think she really should have stuck it to him but it's clear from this Letterman segment that they had given her the footage some time ago and the air was probably cleared at that point.
I knew what was in the footage, as Bill Hicks did the set on another performance after to show that there was no reason not to air the footage. And I've seen Letterman apologise about the whole thing in interviews before. So there were no surprises here. And, yet... something about it really moved me when I watched it. Like, I just had something in my eye - I was still all manly, like. There is something just terribly sad about his short life and a performance that seemed to mean a lot to him that he never saw, and the respect he lost for David Letterman. And now finally seeing it after all these years.
It meant a lot to me. I'm not even really sure why. I don't normally like cluttering up my blog with YouTube videos but, for this, I'll make an exception. In three parts, here's the segment -
Friday, January 30, 2009
I was lucky enough to get to see Sita Sings The Blues yesterday. It's getting a lot of praise. All that praise is deserved. It's funny, moving and generally entertaining.
And it was made by Nina Paley over five years, seemingly pretty much by herself. A whole 82 minutes or whatever it is animated by one person.
Not having the willpower to complete a piece of animation even just 10 seconds long, I have no concept of what it is like to be able to make a feature film on your own. I think you'd want to have no friends, no television, no games, no family, no need for food or money and possibly no need for sleep. And you'd want to be one of the most motivated, stubborn people on the face of the planet. And one of the most talented.
Okay, so I have no friends but, after that, I stop ticking those boxes.
I am in awe of what Ms. Paley has achieved here. And I really hope I get to see this in a cinema packed full of people, as it deserves to be seen.
Amazing, entertaining and guilt-inducing all rolled into one.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
I was asked by someone involved, who knew about my problems, if I'd be able to do it, what with the depression and all. Would I crumble?
I said no, of course not.
But I was really thinking yeah, I'm pretty sure I will but I need this project.
Not only did I not crumble but, once I was in the thick of it, the depression was put to one side and never became an issue. The more stressful it got, the more I'd initially be sent into panic, which isn't good, but that panic would always be followed by a feeling of action - the need to overcome challenges. In a way, I found myself thriving on the panic because it gave me very clear goals and, as it turns out, I'm not bad in a crisis.
Panic is where I'm at right now.
And it's not all that bad.
BONUS: Today's Reason To Be Angry (it's a Sky News link and you shouldn't click it if you are on the verge of depression, are already convinced human life is an abomination or, alternatively, if you are happy living in a bubble of complete delusion)
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Unfortunately, I don't have narcolepsy. So the stress around here is getting to me. I had this project pegged right from the start - budget was too low for what they were trying to achieve, not enough resources, a producer happy to exist in a state of total denial and the implementation of chaos where there should be systems.
Welcome to animation.
So we're coming close to the end of this godawful project and some people are finally beginning to realise where we're at. Shit is hitting fans all over. Or it would but we only have one fan in here and it's not needed in this weather.
Man, I'm looking forward to getting this thing finished. It's not fun.
And that kind of leads into Sephim's questions in a comment - "What would be your dream project?" and "What kind of project do you dread?". Good questions and ones I'd like to give a bit of time to so I'll save those for another day when my stress levels aren't pushing me to just buy a plane ticket and pissing off somewhere without telling anyone. Somewhere in South America I think.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Friday, January 23, 2009
I think I just needed a bit of validation with that last post. I can be so needy sometimes. It's rather embarrassing. What would be worse is if that's the wrong number of 'r's and 's's in that word. I think it's two of each. It looks right. I think.
I don't think I can express how much I hate my laptop. It really is a heap of shit. But new ones are expensive. I think I'll go Apple next time. This Vista malarky just isn't for me. But then I'd have to get Mac versions of all my programmes... more expense.
I'm having one of those odd disconnected days. I'm not even 100% certain the question mark in that image is the right way round.
Yeah, it is. Whew.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Today is the day. George W. Bush, the village idiot who would be king, finally gets his marching orders. From my little corner of the web, may I say a fond "piss off" and, of course, farewell.
First, I think it's only fair to acknowledge the positives. What about the good things that George W. Bush brought us?
I'm sure some of you are expecting me not to have any positives. To leave a big blank space under this question and then move on to the negatives. Well, I must admit that was a temptation. But there's actually something pretty great about Bush:
He looks like Bear in the Big Blue House. Seriously. Go Google and check. That's cool, is it not?
So, positives over...
It would be too easy to list some of his quotes. I mean, he has said some of the absolute dumbest things I have ever heard a man say. We all know that. We can all use what he has said to make him out to be an idiot. Just too easy. And I've heard some people say, well, if you had to speak in public, you'd get flustered and mixed up too. Actually, no. Firstly, I can string a sentence together, which is a big plus. And, secondly, he's not just getting mixed up. He's a dumbass. And nobody should let a dumbass run a country. Any country. But especially one with as much firepower as the US.
And then some people say that we underestimate him. Is there truth in that?
Perhaps. But look around your community. Your circle of friends. Out of the people you know, can you find anyone better equipped to form a sentence? A little more level-headed? Someone you would trust with a simple task?
If you can't find someone close to you better equipped to run a country, you're likely reading this from prison. Or a home for people with special needs. Or possibly a creche. Even then, look to that kid stuffing yellow crayons into his mouth - he may well be better equipped. And what are you doing reading this from a creche? It's highly inappropriate. But if there is a town out there with nobody equalling Bush's intellect, I'd love to hear about it though because I imagine it could be a great source of entertainment and the entire town should get a TV show.
No, let's be honest. George W. Bush is a dick.
Which would be absolutely hilarious if it weren't for the lives and livelihoods he has totally and utterly destroyed. Gitmo is an absolute fucking disgrace. He levelled Afghanistan on the search for some mystery man on dialysis that he never found. He created a modern Vietnam in Iraq, leaving the country in a far worse condition than it had been under the dictator the US had initially supported. And where were the fucking WMDs? Didn't matter. It didn't matter because Bush had that invasion planned pre-9/11 and I know because I heard the army broadcasts where he jumped at the opportunity to prime troops for war when those Towers went down.
George W. Bush is a dick, plain and simple.
And he did his damndest to bring his war to Iran too. In fact, had people died in that emergency landing in the Hudson (which was bloody amazing by the way), he would have been chasing those terrorist geese to Iran, I guarantee it. If he doesn't launch some sort of strike before he gets his coat to leave the White House, I'll be pleasantly surprised.
I honestly feel sorry for the man who has to attempt to clean up his shit. I can't help feeling he has a losing battle ahead of him. I mean, it's like trying to do a Rubik's Cube, except it's one that has been chewed up by a dog and several of the stickers are missing. It's a tough task. But, hey, let's wait and see I guess.
As for Bush, well, he'll go off and live on a nice healthy fat pension, plumped up by cheques from corporations he has supported over the years. Yeah, it'll be a good life for George W. Bush. But probably a simpler life, one more suited to his talents.
I can't really imagine how it is for the people of the US. It kind of looks like he did little to nothing for your country and just used his wars as a diversion so you wouldn't notice. I don't think it worked. At least, that's how it looked from the outside. Kind of like that time Clinton dropped a few bombs to take attention away from his blow job. But, for the rest of us in the world, I can't speak for everyone but, for me, the world feels like a slightly safer place. A place where I don't have to be as terrified by the words 'freedom' or 'democracy', because if someone threatened to bring either of those to your country in the last eight years, you knew you were going to be lucky to end up with limbs at the end of it.
Yeah, for us on the outside, I think the world becomes a little more hopeful.
Goodbye George. May the next shoe that comes your way make its mark.
Phew. Now, after that celebration, I think I'm going to have to drop the politics for a while. Not good for my state of mind.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Friday, January 16, 2009
But anyone who has done research knows that research, especially with children, can be as much about the researcher than the children. Sometimes more so. You can go in looking for a particular result and then just prove yourself right. Or, conversely, you can go in looking to find something you obviously never will and then throw the whole test out, ignoring what you actually could have found.
There's an interesting book on Sesame Street called 'G Is For Growing'. It's written like a school essay and, as such, is a bit of a chore. And it is entirely biased - it seems to exist to tell you how great Sesame Street is (when they got great results, they say 'wow, we were fantastic' and when they get results that seem pretty poor and don't have enough impact to be anything above random chance they say 'wow, we were fantastic'). But it is interesting.
One thing that really struck me while reading it are the differences in the research over the years. In the very first year, nobody had seen the show. The producers and researchers had a blank slate and so were like explorers, ready to take on anything they found. It seemed like exciting times.
As the book goes on, things seem to change.
Research was changed for economic reasons (doing individual interviews took too long) and then they did a study to prove that wouldn't impact on their data. They wanted to put segments in and tested to prove they would work - the Elmo's World segment, for example, seemed particularly flawed when laid out in the book. They found in their earlier research that the show was bringing in a younger audience than expected, so they shifted focus and created this Elmo's World segment to appeal to the younger audience.
Well, perhaps... but the research had already indicated that they were hooking in the younger audience at particular times in their show. Why then change what's working? Seems to me they had an audience that was taking in information beyond their years and being attentive and so they aimed lower - aimed under their audience. Counter-productive.
But the important part, and it could have been just the choice of words in the book, is that they did research to support the segment. Unlike the early years, where they went in with a blank slate, willing to take or leave anything, they were now doing research simply to prove they were right. And, of course, they could.
Another flawed decision in my mind was the reformat of the show. Sesame Street was actually inspired by ads and game shows. They saw how children were glued to the quick pacing, and picked up the clear brainwashing consumer messages of advertising. So they thought - well, can we actually use this to help children learn? And they did.
But, years later, their research told them that children were also watching longer format shows. Mostly, it seems to me, because more were now available. But their thinking was (and, again, this could come from poor wording in the book) - children now tolerate longer shows, therefore we should give them longer segments. And, yeah, children can tolerate long shows. I think children have far greater attention spans than most people give them credit for as long as what they're paying attention to isn't boring bland shite. But did this negate their original observations and thinking? I don't think so.
Very recently, they tried to drop the Elmo's World segment and lost it for four episodes as a test (this wasn't in the book - it was just last year). Apparently it didn't test well because they had children asking, "where's Elmo's World?"
Well of course they asked that. They watch the bloody show every day. If I smacked a kid in the face once a day for 200 days and then didn't on the 201st, he'd ask "where's my smack in the face?" That doesn't mean the smack in the face was a good thing.
But then I think a huge amount of what happened to Sesame Street is a result of our painfully bland mind-numbing PC society. I mean, look what happened to Bert. He looks like he's had a lobotomy. Where's the bloody edge? He was a brilliant character. And it's the differences in the characters that made them all so appealing - does anyone think children honestly want to see a whole bunch of characters who are all smiley and nice to each other all the time?
And, if they did, would it be a good thing?
Or would life then kick them in the crotch when they got older?
At least Oscar still has some of his former self intact. Some.
If you need any proof that Sesame Street has lost its way, you only have to visit their official site here. On the bottom left of the page, you may be lucky enough to catch a sponsor's logo. You may have to refresh but, if you're lucky, you'll spot the mighty Golden Arches. Yes, Sesame Street is proudly brought to you today by a big fucking scary clown and his junk food. And they were worried about balancing out Cookie Monster and his binge eating (and subsequent purging)? McDonalds. Advertising on Sesame Street. That says it all.
Still, as shows for children go, I have to say I'd still take Sesame Street over almost anything else. It is still, with all it's recent blandness and screaming Elmo domination, a show that educates children. Have you seen those spot-motion Bert and Ernie segments? I like 'em.
To end, I'll just point out that my daughter watched the Old School Sesame Street sets and loves Bert. No, doesn't just love him - she's in love with him. This is old Bert. Not post-lobotomy Bert.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Yeah, children learn from television. And they watch a hell of a lot of it so the question of what they're learning would seem to me to be pretty important. The problem is that what children take in, especially young children, is very difficult to measure.
And some people actively don't want it measured.
Why? Well, because it might rock the boat. Producers like to be in charge of what they produce. They don't want to be told what they are producing is not what they should be producing. And broadcasters need ratings. They don't want to be told that the shows that bring in the ratings are junk food for children. And creatives, well, at least most creatives actively want to entertain and, in that respect, are thinking of their audience but creative stubborness often gets in the way of actually looking at what's good for children.
Speaking of junk food, I read an article in Broadcast magazine a couple of years back. It was a round table discussion on the (at that time) potential junk food advertising ban in the UK. If I remember correctly, the people in the discussion were the head of Nick UK, someone from the Cartoon Network UK, the former head of Children's BBC and a top UK producer and... someone else, I think.
In this discussion involving top people involved in deciding what shows your children have access to, not one person - not one - actually asked what was right for the children.
Without exception, they all talked about the economic impact, the difficulty of funding programmes, the effect it would have on producers and the industry. They were all, without exception, against a ban on advertising junk food to children. And for one reason - money.
Not one even tried to defend the actual advertising itself by the way. Whether it was okay or not wasn't even an issue. If it involved less money for them, they were against it no matter what it was.
Did this happen when they abolished slavery I wonder?
The reason I bring that up is to illustrate how little a lot of top people care about what effects television have on your children. It's important to realise this because when I talk about television that is good for children, some people seem to think that means censorship, or reducing television to its most bland form. It doesn't. That's actually what we've got right now and it's not because these people care about your kids - it's mostly to do with a PC/lawsuit society. To be fair to the people in that Broadcast magazine article who would have your children gorging on Big Macs, many UK shows have high quality storytelling and aren't as bland as most equivalent shows imported from the US. Hardly educational though.
But children's television shouldn't be bland.
Red Pill Junkie brought up the example of Sesame Street. He proposed the idea "that the best children's programs educated inadvertedly because they were fun to watch to begin with—did someone ever watch Sesame Street because they had to??"
The thing about Sesame Street is that it is the most researched show in history. From day one, nobody in Sesame Street made a move without educators and researchers involvement, testing every segment on children. It was led by the desire to educate first. If a segment was supposed to teach a certain thing and failed, it would be dropped or change no matter how entertaining it was. Far from educating inadvertantly, Sesame Street was a very carefully planned educational tool.
To people in the industry who think that educators destroy shows, or that research with children is pointless, or that their creative vision would be sacrificed or that educational television has to be bland, Sesame Street is a big 'fuck you' to the lot of you. Sesame Street is an example of a show that educated millions of children. I learned to read through Sesame Street. And, bloody hell, that is one entertaining show.
Actually, I find it weird that, even though there are many localised Sesame Street spin-offs around the world, there has never been a UK and Ireland version (though there was recently a Northern Ireland-specific show). There should be. There is a serious hole in educational television over this side of the Atlantic. We're good with gentle storytelling shows. Actually, personally, I think we're feckin' brilliant at them. But educational shows? We have some but... they're lacking.
So why isn't there a UK Sesame Street? Is there room in this age for shows that have a bit of bite and yet are good for children?
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Monday, January 12, 2009
Yet, a huge amount of people in children's programming, be it producers, directors, writers, broadcasters or whoever (not animators - most animators study but they're studying a production method), not only have no study behind them, they always assume that the way they do things is right without ever taking a look at what's around them. And most of them haven't learned how to do things from anywhere. They're fudging it and hoping nobody notices. They read the likes of KidScreen magazine, which tells who bought what and what they say they want but never really gets into the meat, like the real meat of what it takes to make a children's show and, importantly, really doesn't represent children. Producers busy themselves putting together co-productions - what the show is doesn't matter, the show they'll put the effort into is the one that is closest to production. Creators, animators, writers put their whims down on paper either thinking it's great because a) they, as adults, like it or b) it's like some other show that did well. Many broadcasters are too busy going with their gut and having their asses kissed by producers to delve any deeper.
Friday, January 9, 2009
I have since realised that was a mistake.
Some years ago, I was on a project that was created by someone who I felt was exeptionally talented. During the project, every time this person got some news they didn't like, or was given some direction, notes or a suggestion, he would go away, get drunk and then write an angry email.
He would throw a cyber-tantrum.
I'm sure back in the day, he probably threw plain ol' regular tantrums. The result of this was that everybody tip-toed around him, doing their best to keep him happy to avoid being on the receiving end of one of his attacks.
You see, my mistake was trying to be reasonable. Trying to actually provoke thought. Trying to show what should be obvious. But I found I was dealing with people who simply don't know enough about what they are talking about and just don't care to learn. They hired someone who they perceived to be an expert in his field, and then proceeded to sabotage any effort he made to do his job. Not through maliciousness. Just through a lack of understanding.
But the unwillingness to learn rendered the negotiations pointless. And being reasonable must have come across as, I don't know, weak perhaps.
So I was left with little choice but to live up to the 'creative' personality, throw a hissy fit, smash up the phone and refuse point blank to deal with certain people again. I am no longer in negotiations. I am mid-tantrum.
And, so far, it seems to be working.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Me, well, I just go to work.
I may have mentioned this before (if I did, it would have been this time last year) but I really think we should hibernate. In October, we'd stock up on frozen food, drinks and treats, we'd get a huge stash of DVDs and books and games, we'd get into fluffy pyjamas and we'd hibernate. Just lock ourselves away, sleeping most of the day and just relaxing or eating when we're awake and we'd do this from November until the end of February.
Thing is, it would only work if everyone did it. Within a few years, it would become normal and life would run just swimmingly from March to October because we'd all be rested and full of energy and life.
I mean, psychologically I pretty much hibernate during that time anyway. I'm sure I'm not the only one who does. So why not go all the way?
Who's with me?
Monday, January 5, 2009
Yeah, it sounds like I'm starting the year with laziness and I can see how that might appear to be the case but it's not quite like that. I had catching up to do at home, some family time needed and a general stock-take and plan formulation time requirement. Once I get into the thick of work, it sort of sucks much of my mental ability to do that. I need more peace time.
So I took it.
And now it's the Space Year 2009. I'm back at work on a project that is due to finish up quite soon and that's a very good thing. It's a very busy project but it's not all that creatively stimulating. And, as creativity breeds more creativity, that project has had quite a negative effect overall because it has been breeding exactly nothing. So I'm looking forward to saying goodbye to that.
If the project I'm trying to get sorted right now actually happens, that will start not long after. If it doesn't happen, what the hell. Yeah, I have bills to pay and not a huge amount of money to do that with but it could actually be quite a positive kick in the pants. A forced change. Sometimes, I get far too comfortable moving from project to project. I just take what's up next. Having nothing up next and having to sit down and actually find a goal and then go get it could be a very good thing, even if it means some hard times bill-paying-wise.
So I'm not seeing a down-side right now.