The Blog Post About Nothing




I'm spending my evening watching the first season of Seinfeld, because what is else is there to do on a Friday night? Go out with people? See friends? I did that, sort of. Earlier today.

Anyway.


You know what's surprisingly good. As in better than I remember it? The first season of Seinfeld. (This information should have been obvious based upon previous information). It's one of those things that seem not as good as they were in hindsight - like, for me, the Tenth Doctor's episodes, Toy Story 3, and early Futurama - but actually hold up much better than I would have thought. More often than not, it's even better than when you first saw it, and you gain a newfound appreciation for them. To me, the first five, unsure fresh-off-the-boat episodes of Seinfeld have that quality. You remember the weird 80s humour, the odd sets, Kessler, and it all forms an image of a show that, if it were made today, would not have made it past its first season. It would have been axed and replaced with some midseason soon-to-be-cancelled Chuck Lorre-produced garbage (sorry, Chuck Lorre, but the only thing you've written that was any good was this song. And it included the lyrics "he's a radical rat"), and the world would be short one of the greatest sitcoms ever produced.

"Hi Kessler, how's the Soup Commie?"
"Oh hey Steinfield. He's just hanging out with Oldman"


This is especially worth thinking about when you consider the initial reviews during test screenings of the pilot were atrocious, how it even got given a full season order to begin with is beyond me. But this was 1990, when studios weren't axing shows the second they showed signs of failure (or even when they don't. Legend of Korra got moved online for no reason midway through its stellar third season), and I wonder; maybe The Crazy Ones or The Michael J Fox Show or that terrible Matthew Perry show (pick one) could become the new Seinfeld if just given the time grow. I mean, I doubt it, I seriously doubt either show would have become anything else, but it's the fact that so few shows are given a chance now, while some happily are constantly bring themselves back from the dead Solomon Grundy-style like Community.

It's the early word from critics. That's what can turn the tide of a show. People have so much online choice that if they hear this new CBS sitcom isn't very good, they'll look around online and find something more obscure and more fun. It means that small shows like Nathan for You or Key and Peele can find an audience, but it also means that many studios aren't giving other shows enough of a chance to prove themselves. All of this does make me think about those ace predictions you see floating around the internet now. Old reviews predicting the downfall of Apple, or how the internet will never take off. Maybe if you want to be big, like really be big, you have to have people predict just how unbig you'll be. But maybe that's all in the past. Now, if you're not perfect to start with, you may as well not even try. Or be Chuck Lorre I guess.

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A Bit More Direction


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Some time back, I wrote a list of my favourite directors and why they were such. It's been almost four years, so I figured it's time to update it, see how my tastes have changed.

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10. John Woo
(Hard Boiled, A Better Tomorrow, Red Cliff)

I'm not gonna lie. John Woo pretty much only just made the list, sailing, perhaps unjustifiably so, past much better directors (I'm so sorry Kubrick, Welles and Wilder), but I just straight up love watching John Woo films. At best, he delivers gut-wrenching, often quite moving festivals of action and epic visuals - seriously, how good was Red Cliff? - and at worst ... Face/Off. His style has been parodied and even made into a video game (Stranglehold, where you get loads of points for being overly stylish)  But we're here to celebrate his panache for extravagance, his farewells to subtlety and, best of all, his trademark slow motion dual-pistol dove-filled shootouts. Woo.



9. David Fincher
(Se7en, Fight Club, The Social Network)

What's my favourite David Fincher production? The music video for Straight Up, of course. But what's my favourite Fincher film? And then we hit a brick wall because pretty much all of his films are my favourite Fincher film. Fincher is, by and large, an instantly recognisable director. There’s a skill in the way Fincher shoots. It’s high quality, fine filmmaking in disguise. Anyone could make The Game, or Fight Club into the usual run-of-the-mill gritty movie, but Fincher turns it into cinema.



8. Chris Nolan
(The Dark Knight, Inception, The Prestige)

Whenever I think back to Nolan movies, I tend to remember slow-moving, hours-long melodramas about something needlessly complicated. And then I watch a Nolan film and remember how insanely wrong I am. You may not agree with his greyscale, drab approach to cinematography but he's here on this list because he never tries to talk down to his audience. It's a practice he's had since he started, way back when when he filmed Following. On top of that and his all-inclusive approach to filmmaking, he's a fantastic action director - which is a massive bonus, when you have films about people dreaming about dreams about ideas, it's good to have a few explosions here and there.



7. Hayao Miyazaki
(The Wind Rises, Princess Mononoke, Porco Rosso)

I wanted Miyazaki to share this spot with Walt Disney, and in fact let's make him an honorary winner here too, because let's face it, both of them are (were? Let's just use the present tense and pretend Walt is alive) true masters of their art, bringing animation, and the brilliant visuals, and engaging stories and characters to the mainstream. Miyazaki's trademark whimsy and ability to find beauty in all situations, and Walt's timeless fairy tales will forever remain staples of family entertainment and the standard of what animated films should aspire to be.




6. Takashi Miike
(Thirteen Assassins, Audition, Ichi the Killer)

In terms of variety, Miike ranks number one on the list. Never have I seen someone transcend genre so effortlessly as he has. With Miike, you rarely get what you expect, and it keeps you on your toes. One day he'll be directing child-friendly family adventure Ninja Kids!!! and the next he's making child-slaughter-fest Lesson of the Evil. His output has dropped somewhat in the last few years (he only made three films in 2012!) but it's given him a chance to be more focused. Long gone are the days of hit-and-miss randomness. Now the results, while not always great, are perfectly calculated and so very satisfying.





5. Edgar Wright
(Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World's End)

A director should know his influences, who it was that helped shape their visual style. Here is a director who not only knows this, but really, really wants you to know it too.  Edgar Wright is a man who does not like wasting a single frame of film. In his quest to blend comedy, pastiche and straight-up excellent filmmaking into his movies, he finds ways to make even the most mundane scenes interesting, funny and insightful. He's a man who's completely fluent in the language of film and I've never seen someone else use it so creatively or with as much love.





4. Woody Allen
(Annie Hall, Midnight in Paris, Manhattan)

I ... uh, um, well, see, Woody Allen is the kind of director who does his best work selfishly. A bit like Takeshi Kitano (except, like, not at all), his films benefit greatly when he's front and centre, when he lets the Woody Allen-ness take over. There's something altogether approachable about his characters and that bohemian charm he gives his stories. Even in his higher concept pieces, he always manages to insert some truths about the sheer awkwardness of being and I think that's something we can all relate to. And, you know, um, his stuff? It's just really funny.





3. Guillermo Del Toro
(Pacific Rim, Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth)

One of the most important things for a director to have - on top of about a thousand different things -  is a keen eye for dramatically striking visuals. A lot of the directors on this list have this, but one of the most unique comes from Mr Del Toro. His characters and designs are so interesting a lot of the time you're too fascinated you forget you're supposed to be afraid. When he's been given creative freedom - especially when working outside of Hollywood - you know immediately when you're watching a Del Toro. There's atmosphere in abundance, beautiful designs and a nagging sense that his dark fairy tales could, just could, come true.





2. Alfred Hitchcock
(Dial M For Murder, North by Northwest, Strangers on a Train)

Is there anything I could say about the Master of Suspense that hasn't been said before? Probably not. Moving on!



1. Kim Ji Woon
(A Tale of Two Sisters, The Last Stand, The Good the Bad and the Weird)

He's still my number one director and I don't see this changing any time soon. What particularly draws me to Kim is his ability to tell us any kind of story, while doing it with the skill and mastery of someone who's been in the genre for decades. He puts his own spin on established styles, making every film unique while also being very much one of his films. Without sounding like too much of a fan boy, I've not seen a film of his I've not liked (even the Schwarzenegger train wreck The Last Stand), and I look at his flexible style and artful direction as inspiration in my own work. Often the good, never the bad, but always the weird.






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Honourable mentions

The legends that are Billy Wilder, Stanley Kubrick, Orson Welles should really have been on this list, but I couldn't write anything about them that wasn't like Hitchcock's entry (and would have made for a very dull list).

Also Matthew Vaughn, who is one of the best at adapting comic book source material, and Frank Darabont, who is one the rare people on the planet to make truly excellent films out of Stephen King novels.





Well, I'm sure there are directors you all love who didn't make the list, and to be honest there are just so many out there that I like that if I went and wrote about all of them I'd be here forever




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Is The Simpsons Still a Good Show?





There is a general consensus among viewers of the later episodes of The Simpsons: it simply is not as good a show as it once was. It is a point that is very difficult to argue against, that even if the animation has become crisper and the voice cast is just as dedicated as ever, the writing, pacing and focus of the show has suffered somewhat.
            But does this mean that The Simpsons can still be seen as a good show? How many sub-par seasons can a show have before it negates the quality of its first years?






But when did it all start to go downhill? Some believe the twelfth season (the Party Posses episode New Kids on the Blecch is often considered the starting point) or thirteenth (Gump Roast), while some go as early as the seventh. The twelfth season definitely has some excellent episodes like A Tale of Two Springfields and Skinner’s Sense of Snow, but I can see where people are coming from. Either way. that makes more "bad" seasons than "good" ones. We're not off to a good start. 

           First, I guess we have to take into account what people think constitutes “good” Simpsons. A mix of satire, humour and heart (or any of the above, if they're done great alone), is pretty much all you need.
         The Simpsons has always been a show that, at its core, is a laid-back, funny satire of what it means to both be American and a citizen of the modern world. It created a world around that where the everyday problems we encounter could be made fun of and taken to silly extremes because the citizens of Springfield are just cartoon caricatures of all us. Some of the highest rated episodes of the show have been ones which directly look at our lives, and the strongest social issues at the time, taking a directly neutral stance and showing both sides of the argument. Episodes like Last Exit to Springfield, Homer’s Phobia, Duffless, Lisa the Vegetarian, among countless others do just that. And we see this in some of the better episodes of the recent series. The episode Holidays of Future Passed shows us a look at the Simpsons family in a way we hadn’t seen often, or not explored in such a strong way – how the family is when they’re all older: for example Bart and Lisa can talk as adult equals instead of as childish siblings. It’s a refreshing take on the family dynamic that added a bit of light onto an otherwise dull season.
            It is moments like that that are missing. Recently, there was a gimmicky LEGO episode that should have, by all reason, been terrible. But because it had a strong underlying piece of psychology behind it – Homer having to realise that Lisa will grow up – the silly LEGO theme didn’t matter. The fact that everyone groaned and rolled their eyes at the thought of a LEGO episode is not a strong sign for the show, but it is one it has slowly earned over the last few years.  For example, a few years ago, Homer tried committing suicide over receiving some bad news. In a few seconds, he grabs a rope, makes a noose, ties it to a tree and tries to hang himself in front of his children before the tree gives away under his weight and ha ha ha he’s so fat. Compare that to Homer’s Odyssey from season 1, where Homer thinks he might not be such a good father and thinks his death would benefit the family more. It’s a long, emotional piece that deals with a part of Homer’s psyche that has been with him as long as the show has been around (the pilot episode has him taking a job as a mall Santa to pay for the family’s Christmas), so to have the suicide joke in that later episode seems insensitive at best to the stuff the show had done before.


It's still visually silly, and not as crazy serious as I'm making out, but still

But maybe I’m taking it all a bit too seriously. The show isn’t just about that sort of stuff. Otherwise we wouldn’t have great Sideshow Bob episodes or “The Simpson go to…” episodes. Fun and great writing for the sake of fun and great writing.  And maybe that’s the problem. It still does a lot of mirrors on modern life, sure, but some of the fun of the show has gone. The writing accommodates for in-jokes and celebrity stars more than it does for the sake of enjoyment and entertainment now. Some critics say that the show should be seen as what it is, by itself instead of comparing it to older episodes, but some of the weaknesses it shows now come from that: relying on callbacks and previously established  classic characters to get laughs or evoke emotions.
These are definitely flaws, and a lot of them need to be fixed if the show is to survive in public favour, but, at least in my personal opinion, it has never really become bad (even some of the worst episodes have some laughs in them). The show has lost some of its edge, which is normal considering its vast age, and some of the writing is stale or desperately trying to be something else, but at worst it’s tolerable, and at best it shows a glimmer of what it used to be. Maybe we have had thirteen-odd seasons that have not been up to the standard of the show before, but this may be because the show at its most fresh and innovative, was something so provoking, enjoyable, funny and heartfelt. Even the worst episodes cannot take that away from it.


If anything, the show can certainly become great again – the flexibility of the characters and the entirety of Springfield means that they should be malleable enough to adapt and criticise new aspects modern life, which is constantly changing around us. Somewhere, the show may have gotten too stuck in its own in-jokes and side characters, but it can certainly make an incredible comeback. It needs a refocus, and try to make itself a show based off of its own merits, and not one that relies so heavily on previous knowledge of the characters, maybe, and at the end of the day, reflects who we are into itself. 






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Freewrite: And Gary Henderson Started Drinking

I asked for some random words on Twitter to write a story on, I was given Mellifluous, Hobbledehoy and fallopian. Also "the light that burns twice as bright burns only half as long AND less talk more rock",which was damn near impossible to put in there, so thanks Twitter dudes. 

This isn't so much a story as a collection of sentences I wrote and didn't stop writing until I finished. 


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No one saw it happen. The San Pantena Genetics Centre had been abandoned for decades and the equipment inside just churned and bubbled away, forgotten by everyone except the guards, one of whom would stop by once every blue moon to see that the site was still as deserted as was expected from it.
            Except it wasn’t. Not this night.
            Gary Henderson, the well-to-do guard, often discarded by many people simply for his normality and everydayness, heard it happen, but he never saw what exactly. He was patrolling the car park in front of the Reception Annex - the only entrance into the lab – when he heard the siren. No one had gone past him, he was sure of it. The only sight his dim eyes could afford him as he squinted into the distance at the place where, instead of the billowing heaps of smoke currently occupying the area, the Fertilisation Labs had once been, was a glaring orange light, spinning around. An alarm.
            He weighed his options. He did not have any real weaponry outside of a short range taser that frequently missed its target, but being well-to-do and blandly nondescript, the only talking point about his life was the inherent danger of walking around at night in a deserted area with a flashlight. If he bailed, then what was he?
            A part of his brain sparked. Gary Henderson, night-shift guard of the San Pantena Genetics Centre on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, ran towards the alarm.
            The smoke was clearing by the time he arrived. The laboratories, which had been designed into two tubes running parallel to one another, were all but gone. Only discoloured rubble and (probably toxic) smoke remained. And a figure.
            He was young, appeared to be only a few years out of adolescence, and he hobbled and staggered, as if both stunned by the destruction around him, and like he was learning to walk for the first time.
            He was naked. Gary Henderson blushed and tried to keep a serious disposition.
            “The lab. It shouldn’t be here,” the man said. His voice was sweet, high-pitched and almost melodious. It sounded heavenly, and Gary Henderson found it surprisingly soothing, considering everything. He walked awkward and clumsily, hitting pieces of rubble as his pale, ghostlike form slowly approached the guard.
            “It had to go…”
            Gary Henderson saw his eyes. They were a pale blue, with pupils that were almost grey. They sparkled in the mess of half-broken lights from the compound; the scene, for some bizarre reason, reminded the guard of an ice show he had once seen.
            He wanted to say something, but he kept failing in his choice of words. He noticed the holes in the man’s arms. Small, perfect, and all in a row, they looked like cable sockets or something. Gary Henderson did not know what they were, who that man was or what was happening. He probably had to call someone, but at this point, he was too entranced by it all to do anything.
            “I am One. And only One,” the man continued, in his perfect, beautiful voice. “Had to go. The light that shines”
            The guard reached for his walkie-talkie, but as he put it to his mouth, he stopped. The wind had caught the smoke and it swirled around him. Through it he could see the figure, who had walked past Gary Henderson, staring at nothing in particular in front of him.
            And soon, somewhere in the darkness, out of the sirens and the white spotlights of the abandoned complex, the man disappeared. There was nothing but silence, and rubble. A light nearby lit up, incredibly bright, before exploding into blackness.
            Gary Henderson held on to his walkie-talkie in silence, his eyes adjusting to the light, and after several minutes of stillness, called in people to assess the wreckage.







-

Say from me

I wrote a poem. A free-verse poem. How unlike me. 


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I see the face: an accurate impression, if pressed to see

unimpressive if precise dots: exact, hollow,

but less

capricious than I remember; a savagely bad attempt

to recollect something temptingly untrue

but I

try not to; recalling ghosts keeps them longer

keeps them lingering, thoughts without voice

I want

and wonder if the haunting whistles,

aggressively invisible, always stay with you,

or not

white sheets coloured rose, the dots will stay

but like all things fade, differently, and when

the white

grey sails away, leaves nothing to observe

if you come across her maybe, say hello


from me




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Gosse de Peintre

Found an article I wrote for a magazine on Takeshi Kitano when his 2012 exhibition opened. The article was never actually published, but I thought I wrote something good here. Thought I'd share:




Takeshi Kitano, also known as ‘Beat’ Takeshi, is probably best known in the Western world as a staunch, dramatic actor and an acclaimed filmmaker, whose often bleak, realistic films have won him countless awards. In the east, he’s still thought of as a quick-fire manzai comedian and presenter. There’s a natural confusion about Kitano, evidenced by his twin names and his enigmatic life as both the funniest and most austere entertainer Japan has produced, evidenced in a few of his films. Recently he has released a trilogy of surreal comedy semi-autobiographies, the first of which, aptly titled Takeshi’s, is the story of two men  - both played by Kitano – who represent these two sides of his personality. So it would be natural to assume, when he released a gallery of his paintings and sculptures in Paris both in 2010 and 2012, that we would see a clash of ideas, a complex duality within himself escaping into one of the most expressive forms of art.

Except that that is not the case, well, not really. The works on offer at Kitano’s exhibition “Gosse de peintre” are simple, but meaningful pieces of art that showcase a softer Kitano wrought with wit and irony. Among the pieces are strange sculptures – his Secret Weapons of the Japanese Army include a whale grafted onto a fighter plane, an elephant with a machine gun for a trunk – paintings of people and animals, and videos of himself. Every piece has a little gag somewhere. It’s a fun exhibition by a man whose art career originated when he began painting after a motorcycle accident almost twenty years ago.

His paintings have featured in many of his films. In Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale, his character paints to express his mistrust in the younger generation, but also his veneration for one particular student. In his own Hana-Bi, his ex-yakuza character takes up painting when he has to flee to a beach-house with his wife. In his films, the art is representative of an inner struggle. But in reality, Kitano claims they are just for fun.

”I don’t define myself as a contemporary artist. I’m just a modest idea maker. I feel very embarrassed when people define me as an artist. I want to show pieces. Easy to understand, funny pieces. I want to share with you the pleasure that I had by creating this exhibition,” he said, at the opening of his 2010 exhibition.


In a way, it’s almost a bridge between the two personalities – the Beat side, and the Kitano side – where the ascetics of his film self and the goofiness of his TV persona meet. Within the stark simplicity lies a complicated man, but one who is never above having a laugh. 



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Pitch Perfect



Sometimes the best way to make something certain is by writing about it. After all, if you read something you make it a fixed point in time, so writing it has to be the first step to doing so.

Over the next several months, Wilson and I are going to be creating, bit by bit, an entire animated world, with cast, and story, to pitch at conventions - we already have a couple we want to go to - so we have come up with a twenty-one-point plan from now until the end of October 2015. It sounds like a hell of a long time, but with the amount of work we're going to be putting into this, it doesn't even seem like nearly enough. For example, we're spending the next month and a half designing the main location, another two months on a second important location, and so on. One month per character, another month for all the side ones, and before you know it we have almost two years of developmental work in front of us. Here are some really early sketches, from before we started doing this properly:




Needless to say it doesn't look much like that anymore. But that was where it started. I'll be updating things monthly or something over at http://weirdgods.blogspot.com as things progress. As you can assume, the show will be called Weird Gods. It'll be about ... well, I'll explain the story later. The story will begin to be developed over on that site although I doubt I won't be updating on here anyway.

The last fortune cookie I opened said "Well done is better than well said" Now let's get some stuff done



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Five Years Gone

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After a month of telling myself "I should do something about the design of my blog", I'm finally doing something about the design of my blog. Updated the colour scheme to be a bit less moody and more chipper. The idea is that I came up with the colour scheme way back when I first started studying, back in the old days of  February 2009 when the site was called A Quoi and was solely a blog and was dedicated to writing. I even called it 'the writing blog' in the first entry.

But then it became about drawing, and then I added a page here for a gallery, then I put up a page on how to contact me ad so on and so forth until it became more of a website. Of course I set up a separate blog site, had my named domain redirect to that and it became like a front page for what eventually became a focale of my professional life. After all, the weekly posts of silly university things disappeared and were replaced by bi-monthly posts about ... well, still silly things like how I'm updating the look of my site, but less frequently. In a month it'll be five years that I'll have been running this site and I'm actually quite pleased by it. I've by no means made it the frequent hub of activity I'd wanted it to be, but then again I'm not a superstar writer-animator yet so there's still time.

But this is not an entry to be retrospective in. I've got that one planned for when things start happening, and so far they are not. Well, not really. I'm in London, I'm working freelance but there's still not the break I'm looking for. It's annoying, seeing everyone you graduated with get there...

But it's not that kind of blog entry either. No mopey shit here. Really this is all about how my site is blue now and not grey and has, I am happy to say, come a long way from the days of A Quoi. God what a stupid title it was (but then again, what does the Inflamed Time mean?)

I'm going to need to find a more reliable source of making a slideshow gallery through something other than Flikr because those ones keep crashing and right now they're just not working. The gallery and links needs updating. Maybe the bio, too. It's been over a year since I wrote it. It still says I'm 22 years old.

I am a file hoarder - I almost never throw away a decent document or picture or video I've made or received - but it means I have an excellent archive of crap. And it means I can do needlessly comparative and retrospective things such as this:

2010

2011


2014

But, like I said, this was not a retrospective entry. Now look how often you've gotten me to write retrospective.

Oh, what the hell. Here's a story called A Quoi. I wrote it two weeks before starting the blog. And it's best read with this playing in the background. (Now you know where I got the title).




A Quoi?


Hey, there. You remember me, right?

That time, up in the Continent, where you had no idea of what you were doing, or where you going, mainly because the language just passed right over your head despite those three years doing the course. Oh well, guess that proves how much you can really learn in a classroom, eh?

I have to admit, that wasn't the first time I saw someone argue over cotton candy, but he seemed completely adamant that you buy it, and you had no one to help you out, because your friends had thought it was a good idea to run off and make out on the Ferris wheel or whatever it was they were doing. Good job for them, or I never would have been able to have saved you from the wrath of that cotton candy man. 

After realising that there was no way you could win on that shooting gallery, despite looking really keen on getting your hands on that bear, you thought it would be a good idea to ditch that money-grabbing festival of lights and accordion music; your friends knew you could handle yourself. They wouldn't have left you to handle that cotton candy thing if they didn't know it, after all.

Shame you spent your money trying to get that oversized bear that would never have fit through the door of the house, let alone anywhere in your room. It's all right, cos my place wasn't that far away; if you didn't mind the ten-minute walk through that boulevard, you remember the one, right? It had those twisted trees and those lights that made everything look scarier than it really was as I found out the next morning that what you thought was a dead dog was only a pile of leaves.

Can't for the life of me remember what was in that bottle that I was serving up but it must have tasted something amazing or we wouldn't have gone through it in that short amount of time. Can't find the stuff anywhere else, now. Don't think I could drink it any more anyway.

There was that Scrabble you thought you were winning at but then you knocked the bottle over and the scores got soaked in red and no one could read them? And you couldn't stop laughing even though some of it had soaked into your shirt and my couch … that was hell hard to remove. You were laughing and apologising at the same time, and then knocked the bottle over a second time but it was empty then anyway, so you thought it would be a good idea to look at what else I had, and went through that small white wine I didn't even know I had.

It must've been early morning at least by the time we got to sleep, but I woke up at seven anyway the next morning. Probably out of force of habit or something, I don't know. 

And there was note from you. Your number and that apology for leaving so briskly...

I still have it. Wouldn't dare lose it anywhere.

You remember, right? Well, either way I remember you. You said these were your favourite flowers. I hope I'm not mistaken. That would be hell awful of me. Anyway, I'll leave it here for you. Maybe you'll see it later. Maybe you're looking at it now...

Don't worry. I remember. I always will.







Maybe tonight I'll stay up and write, like I used to do. Maybe I'll finally get some stuff done.









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The 59th Street Bridge Blog Entry




--
Simon and Garfunkel once sang, in unison:


I got no deeds to do and no promises to keep
I'm dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me
Life I love you, all is groovy.


I do love having a lot of projects on the go. It's nice to keep the brain busy and always thinking, and as an added bonus, if I can't think of anything for one project I will have thought of things for another and I can work on that. Finishing them becomes incredibly satisfying, too, as it's like taking a huge chunk of weight off your shoulders, and now you're only balancing maybe two or three projects.

Or maybe I should slow down and focus on just one at a time. I don't know. But like Simon and Garfunkel sang, it'd be a nice feeling to have no promises to keep. Technically most of my promises aren't to anyone, more personal projects to keep myself busy, but they're promises to myself, to keep working on things so that I don't end up in a job I hate forever. That there's a chance that one day, the work I put into the children's show I'm working on with Wilson, will be recognised when I go to pitch it to a studio. Or that a publisher will read and sell one of the many, many books I've got planned or am already writing. Or that a studio will option a script I write. Something.

Still, it'd be nice to sleep in, do nothing but play Arkham Origins all day, and then go to sleep. Dappled.

Things I'm looking forward to finishing soon:


  • This animated interview for the Bilderberg Movie
  • The first episode scripts for the kids show
  • A first draft of my Jack o' the Smoke novel (more on that at a later date!)
  • Illustrations for a self-help book I've been asked to do

Well, actually, I finished that last one months ago. There are little details and fixes I need to do, which will take all of five minutes, but I'm in no rush to finish those. Not until I get told to hurry my ass up. It's the Bilderberg animation that's the most annoying, mostly because I'm having a hard time imagining the best (and most time-effective) ways to animate parts of an interview. That's the gig: make an animated sequence of this man discussing his time trying to report on a Bilderberg meeting a few years back. It's fun, but kind of draining at the same time. I'd link part of the animated work (it's not that good. Simple 2D, done in a way heavily influenced by Don Hertzfeldt but missing any charm or style), but I can link the trailer for the whole film!

So here that is.






Looks fun.



But hey, it's not like fun and time-dropping-petals-on-me aren't happening! Our Halloween party was pretty fun! Wilson even cooked up some sweet effects to scare the world with.


Check 'em out!






With the horrors of a close-up of my face all a-ringing in your eyes. I think this is the perfect place to end the blog. Or in the words of Paul and Art (what are they called again?)

I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains [to rip a chunk of flesh off my face]
li-la-li li-la-li-li-la-li






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Draw Something, Work Somewhere




I've become a bit apprehensive when it comes to talking about current and future projects. I think it might be because so many of them have gone nowhere that I end up looking back at blog posts and regret having them dropped, or become annoyed that the work I provided someone was never used. I animated a load of badgers for a music video about the badger cull back in May, but the video came out and there were no animated badgers. It kinda sucked, so I didn't say much about it. Maybe I should have, after all the work was done.

I've started to put more of the unused work on my CV, too. God knows why I  haven't, my CV looks like I haven't done a damn thing animation-worthy since I left university.

All that said, I'm somewhat more confident about the animated work I'm providing Size 13 films in a documentary about the Bilderberg Group. It's going to be a 2D-animated visualisation of how the interviewee was treated when he tried to gain access to the meeting. It's kinda funny actually, and although I have several minutes to do by myself, all hand drawn, I'm looking forward to it and there are a few months still. I did ten seconds over the last two days and if I can carry on that speed, which shouldn't be too difficult in the style I've chosen, it could end up quite good, in the finished product, and something worth mentioning for once. (Whatever happened to that animation about lizards? Gods know)

I hesitate to write about the pitch Wilson and I are writing for a competition Amazon Studios have, as they search for some original programming to play on their site. I won't hesitate to mention our short film, the script of which I have just finished writing today, which will be a quick crime thriller the gimmick of which will be the entire thing (or rather, most of it), will be in four-way split screen. It's a tough concept to work around, especially as it'll be in real time for the most part and everyone's actions affect everyone else's. A lot of stuff to figure out, but if we can time it right and get it so it visually works and easy to follow, then it could be great.

The only reason I have so much time for this right now is because I've managed to get a week off work. After this though, the schedule resets and I never have the time for anything. Who wants to get me a proper job? I don't mind much what it is, just get me in a studio, guys.

I've probably complained enough, so here's a picture of Audrey Hepburn I drew today, between other projects. It's nice to take a break from drawing by ... well, drawing.


Regular updates will return! I promise! (He said, multiple times before)








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Motivation Proclamation

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I''ve been trying to write a blog post for about two weeks now, and have kept getting caught in the more important things in life like watching TV or doing jack shit. After work it's tough to keep in any frame of mind to do anything productive.

So it's always a bit of a miracle that I've managed to do anything, for that matter. Like for instance, I've been advancing bit by bit in this sci fi thriller I've been on-and-off writing for months (three chapters and maybe 25 pages down!), and a month or so back I drew this:


 -  a poster for one of my favourite trilogies of all time. That took a surprisingly long time to do, especially considering after Tony Leung, Andy Lau and maybe Anthony Wong's characters, references for everyone else was a nightmare to find. I'm quite happy with it, with maybe one or two characters which I don't think look amazingly like they did in the film. 

After that I started animating again (after the project about lizards fell apart - see two blog entries back), this time on something of my own creation. It's going to be a James Bond opening sequence for the book Devil May Care, by Sebastian Faulks, which was the first James Bond book written after Ian Fleming's death that follows the continuity that he had set up, so it seemed like a logical story to use. Here are the first few seconds I uploaded to youtube. There's a fair bit more now, but I still to find another minute of inspiration and I've used up most of the story's imagery in the first few seconds (there's poppies for the opium smuggling side of the story, and a bit later in the animation, not shown in the video here, planes fly overheard which represent another part of the story where Bond gets framed for crashing an airliner).

Here is the video, as of last month: (I don't want to upload it again until it's finished, but I don't know when that will be, I've been awful super busy lately)




Really want to get it finished though. Be nice to have something new to show



BUT I've been so busy moving house - I'm still living with my sister and her boyfriend Stu but this time my old collaborator and long time friend Wilson is down now too, and we're already discussing projects to work on. Most of them, to no surprise to anyone knows us at all, are about Batman.


Tomorow's my first day off work in about ten days, so I'm going to take as much advantage of it as I can, and get really creative again.



-

The Re-Productivitising


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Well, this has been a tiring few weeks. A short while ago I had a meeting with Michael Wakelam, director of a small studio called Anthem, in Ealing, where started working on a little no-budget animated short he's been working on, called The Life of Bri and Chris.


It's about these two lizards who share a flat and one of them is a bit of a goofball, a wannabe actor. The other is the straight man, who goes along with what's happening. It's a fun little project and I'm enjoying it quite a bit so, given it's a no-budget short animation, I don't mind working on it for nothing. Maybe I'm being naive, but I don't think so.


It's also the first proper Maya project I've worked on since Thick as Thieves (yeah remember that?) so I'm happy to be back with an animation-y focus. Plus I'm working on just animation, so it's a fun break from any responsibility of writing or design, or being in charge - which was probably the toughest thing about Thieves. Controlling a team (even one as small as the one I had), making sure everything was going to plan, on time and resembling even remotely the initial idea was incredibly hard. It's nice to do grunt work.

And a few days after my meeting with Michael, I met with Byron Barrett of Live Vision studio with whom I arranged a possibility of some work placement or internship. He seems keen, and I took a look around their studio and we started talking shop, that I'd like to be there during shoots to see how professionals do it, but I haven't heard from him since. So who knows, although I have a lot on my plate as it is, what with Bri &Chris and my new job.

Yeah, I started a new job, at a newsagents, to sustain myself during these moments of unpaid creative work. The shops are pretty nice places in and around Canary Wharf so it's not terrible at all, if a bit too ... stand-up-y. The shifts are long and kind of erratic in hours, so I've heard, but I've had much worse jobs before and from the first day I had today, I actually quite like it. It's not as sit-down-and-go-on-the-internet-y as my work experience at the library, but I unfortunately couldn't stay there. As is the way with work placements.

And on top of that I have to move house by April because our landlady wants to have work done on it and sell the place. So there's that I have to be thinking about too. It's a wonder I have time for anything else, and, actually, I don't. I can squeeze in a bit of drawing - for example, I've been working on a fan-poster for the Infernal Affairs trilogy lately - but other than that I'm beat.

This is the latest compiled version. As people aware of the film series might be aware, there are still a few major characters missing.



That's not how they're going to be posed in the finished poster, but more a showcase of who I've done so far, and then he were have the younger version of Andy Lau's character, played by Edison Chen which I started today.

And now, I'm beat. Going to watch more House of Cards, which is, as you have more than definitely heard from everyone else, fantastic.


Goodn-zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz




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A Man Walks Into a Bar



Hey! Let's forget about that silly make-it-up-as-you-go-along non-noir I was crapping out last month (at least for now) and enjoy this mini narrative. Based on a theme I want to explore about making short stories based on famous joke formats


Here is A Man Walks Into a Bar


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A man walks into a bar. Silence falls as everyone turns to see him. No one recognizes his face: he isn’t a regular in this bar. Probably not even a regular in town. He has a long, black coat, buttoned to the top with a black scarf tucked inside around his neck.
   He looks around with eyes unblinking at the many patrons. They are red-faced, dim-eyed and bushy-eyebrowed and they certainly don’t like the stranger. The barman – a middle-aged man with a fallen face, a permanent scowl and a prominent mole – looks a bit nervous. He runs his hands through his thinning grey hair, as if looking for something to do, but his eyes do not leave the newcomer.
   The bar has never been so quiet and the click click click of the stranger’s heavily-polished leather shoes on the floorboards as he takes a few more steps inside is the only thing to be heard.
   With grace unseen by any of the patrons he approaches the bar. Every pair of eyes inside is fixed on him, but he doesn’t seem disturbed by it. At the back, one man leans close to another and whispers in his ear.
   The stranger speaks. His voice is like a knife on stone.
   “Why the long face?” he asks of the barman. He silently chuckles to himself before ordering a gin and tonic.
   “It’s terribly cold outside, you know. I appreciate the hospitality.” There isn’t a drop of irony in his tone. “You’re not usually this welcoming to outsiders.”
   As the stranger drinks in silence, some of the regular patrons resume conversation, albeit in low voices. The tension is still there, but life returns to the bar.
   The barman is frozen on the spot, though, trying his best not to look at this new customer and doing a very bad job of it. The stranger notices this, and looks at him in the eyes.
   “Do you recognize me?” he asks.
   The barman nods, not entirely of his own free will.
   “Oh yes. The park. You did nothing that day either.” The stranger smiles his long, slow smile.
   “Don’t worry, old sport. I only stopped by for a drink. Thirsty work, all this. By the way, you might want to do something about this.”
   He reaches into his pocket and takes out something red and woolen. It’s an old, dirty tuque. He drops it onto the bar, finishes his drink and stands up.
   Gesturing to the hat the stranger says: “The rest of it is outside your establishment. You will recognize it, no doubt, underneath the snow and the jackets. It has only been a few hours since those much-famed stares of yours last drove someone out. No doubt you do not get many hats like this walking in to your public house, and you will most certainly want to remove it from the premises.”
   He turns and begins for the door, his long, pointed shoes tapping loudly on the floor. The tension in the establishment starts to drop. Stopping abruptly, the man turns to face the regulars.
   “Make sure to wear a jacket when you pick it up and dispose of it,” he says, in his cool, casual voice. “You’ll catch your death of cold out there.”
   Click click click
   A cold wind rushes into the room as the door is opened and, into the snow, the stranger vanishes

Game in the Gift: Part Two


Introduce more characters! That'll make eventual resolve easier!


---- 

If I had taken that guy’s wallet I’d have known who he was. I might have had a clue as to where to go. I hadn’t. Now I was sitting in my living room, the only light coming from the intersection my apartment overlooked. Mac was also there but I hardly noticed him, deep in thought as I was. I knew Lucy had been involved in something shady, but she never spoke of it to anyone. If she spoke to people there we didn’t know about them. Often we’d asked her why she spent time to Carling – King Carling, his loyal subjects called him – and never would we get a response. It had started sometime during our first year studying together and had carried on after we left. She’d come into class battered and swollen: black eyes, bruises, hell, sometimes even scratches. We’d ask who’d given her The Broderick but she never told us. Eventually the name Carling just sort of appeared and it all started to make sense. Still we never knew why she was there.
   It struck me then and there, as I looked into the black mirror of a television screen in front of me. An old teacher we had – an ex-Peterman and but still a well-known grifter and persistent boozehound – was notorious for being rumoured to having had ties with Carling. He was our old acting coach, back when we all thought the dream was to work in front of cameras or in front of thousands, known for having extra-curricular lessons with the young ankles he thought of as having it, if ‘it’ was an inexplicable inability to decline. Some people thought Lucy had taken to accepting lifts home from him, and those were the days she’d come back with red marks around her wrists and ankles. In those days we stayed out of it. Maybe we shouldn’t have. Maybe if we hadn’t, Mac and me wouldn’t now be looking to jump right into the Lion’s den with not so much as a chair and a whip.
   I stood up. “Gold.”
   “Our old teacher?”
   “He’ll know where to find Carling. And if not, then he’ll know someone who does. We don’t have much of a choice.”
   “Yeah. Right.”


Gold accommodated us in the main room of his squalid quarters. God only knows how much money he was earning but almost none of it went into his lodging. On a shelf at the back, barely visible, were teaching textbooks he had never once bothered to bring to class. He seemed to live on very little light – his workshops were always lit very dimly, and similarly there was one small desk lamp burning that added an orange gloom over the entire room. It took me some time to realise, hidden in the darkness, a naked girl writhing on a couch, talking to no one in particular, scratching idly at her arm.
   “Care for something to drink?” he asked. His voice was gravelly and broken, more so than how it had been some years back. His face matched his voice. Wrinkles were drawn across it like a map of substance abuse. His eyes were tiny black dots, gazing way beyond where we were sitting. His hair was long, thin and unkempt. It stuck to his face.
   “No. Thanks. We’d like to know where can find Carling.” Best to jump in at the deep end and hope to not drown. Or get eaten by sharks.
   Gold’s face stayed motionless. He looked like an old stone carving, worn away by time and weather. Eventually he licked his lips and spoke.
   “What do you care about Carling?”
   “We think he might have hurt Lucy.”
   Gold’s laugh was heavy and horse. “What’s that dumb broad gone and done now, huh? Hurt, I bet King’s just cut her down, plain and simple. Hah!”
   My blood started to boil. My fists clenched.
   Gold wiped his nose with his hands, and his hands on the stained brown tshirt that was two sizes too small. “You know, in your time, she was my star pupil! Always keen to do her homework. Yeah, she was a great one that Lucy. Carling liked her more than the others, I heard. Probably why he kept her around for so long. Seems she outlived her purpose, huh? Ha-hahaha!” He stood up and saw a young woman walk out of one door. “Hey, you, love! You know Carling right?”
   I remembered her. She was called Alela and had signed up as a freshman to Gold’s classes when we were leaving. She had been one of the newbies we had shown the ropes to. She grabbed my attention then – a shy type who didn’t say anything. She hid behind large jumpers, hair and glasses. Well, shit. Not anymore.
   Walking dreamily, a smug look on her face and wearing the torn remains of a cocktail dress, though I say wearing like a slave wears rags. It covered her waist and part of a leg. She sat down where Gold had been sitting across from me and leaned in close to me. I felt incredibly uncomfortable. I could see her lips were stained with illness. Her arms were criss-crossed with red.
   “You want to find Carling,” she said. I stared into her eyes, and found they weren’t as vacant as I thought. Mac was finding something across the room terribly interesting. “You know, he’s been operating near the students for years now. Saves time. He’s not too keen on people stopping over unannounced. Suddenly her tune changed. She leaned in further and spoke low. “I know where he is. You and I, we got the same goals.”
   “Lucy?”
   “Teresa. My sister. That asshole took her, but I don’t know where she is. But when I find her, and she’s away from Carling and Gold, I’m going to kill them both.”


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Game in the Gift: Part One


Here is part one of an Exciting Noir Thriller! I am making up as I go along. Honestly I'm just throwing random plot points and characters everywhere and seeing what happens later. I don't even know what the title means. Why am I doing this? Why not. 

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The bathroom offered some much-needed repose from the club, at least aurally. The muffled but still very audible bass lines that would have been, in any other circumstance, increasingly irritating, were now almost blissful and, despite the smell and the barely-working fluorescent lights, it was definitely a step up. Probably time to go home, too. I hadn’t had a thing to drink in hours, and the members of the party who hadn’t gone home had split up and joined other parties. Now I was alone, with only a single friend around, and wondering what I was doing still here.
   Graffiti wasn’t uncommon in this sort of place. In fact, it would have been strange to see the bathroom walls of this bargain-basement student joint clean. But as I walked to the sink to wash my hands, I noticed, several inches beneath my own eye level, some graffiti that was, decidedly, something queer. For one, it was written in lipstick on the mirror, in large letters. Secondly, the first word of the message was my name.
   Now, I consider myself quite astute and not as green as people would believe, but when someone writes a message to you in lipstick on a mirror in the men’s room, it grabs your attention hard and you tend to listen. Especially when the following part reads:


LUCY TALKED
PLAYED ROULETTE
WITH CARLING
AND LOST


Unless she was having a particularly adverse effect to alcohol, and bet on reds instead of blacks, there was something much worse up. I’d heard of Carling. He was a tough customer to those who knew him, and a shadowy nightmare to those who didn’t. I was in the latter camp, knowing of him through Lucy alone, though what kind of roulette she played and what it had to do with me I couldn’t say. Though suddenly the closed cubicle in the corner was not as innocuous as it had been a second ago. I forced a cough and shuffled around, looking to pretend I was doing something. Silently I took my phone from my pocket and took a picture of the note before taking a paper towel from the dispenser and wiping it if not completely off then enough for it to be unreadable. Whoever was in that cubicle had their sights set on me and were waiting for the tap to come on to make their entrance. And I only had some paper towels and some half empty plastic beakers to defend myself with. I gripped one the cup with the most drink, and pressed the tap on.
   Almost instantaneously the cubicle door burst open and a man dressed down in a stained hoodie, holding a Glock 30 – it’s incredible the details you pick up on in the heat of the moment – opens fire. But I’m quicker: I lunge towards him, throwing the discoloured drink at him. It’s enough to put his aim off and his shot fires miles to my left, cracking the tiles. Before he has time to react, I punch him in the gut and twice in the head and he goes down. He’s out for a few seconds. It appears my own strength surprises me. But he awakes quickly to find my foot on his throat and his gun in my hand. Boy will this look good if anyone were to come in for a quick piss.
   Well, shit, now what do I say?
   “Who are you?” I ask. “You working for Carling?”
   He laughed, but the pressure on his throat makes him choke. He doesn’t say anything. He knows I don’t have control of Jack and I sure as hell ain’t gonna kill him. He’s not afraid of me. He’s probably more afraid of the consequences if he betrays Carling than what I could do to him.
   I took my foot off his throat. He’s smart and didn’t react. He knew if he made a go for me I might knee-jerk and fire one into his skull. I legged it out of there, back into the noise and the fray and I was thankful I was impossible to see, in my dark clothes, in a sea of neon accessories and black light-glowing white shirts. Except the problem was everyone I knew was, too. Screw it. Whatever was going on was far more important. Mac, though, was waiting for me. The first thing he saw was I was wearing iron and he didn’t look too relaxed about it.
   “What is that?” he yelled above the music. I could barely hear him. I tucked the gun away into my belt and dragged him out with me.
   “You know Carling?” I asked, briskly walking down the road towards my apartment. I had no idea where Carling was and this was the only direction I could think of.
   “Not really. Lucy does though. Why?”
   I showed him the photograph.  “Something’s wrong. Someone told me she was in trouble. And then someone tried to kill me.”
   The night was cold and void of stars. I wish I had brought a coat. 



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Bookish

---


Every student in the Computer Zone of the Greenwich Community College library is sitting with big coats scarves and beanies on. I'm sitting behind the desk, idly surpervising them, with a heater blasting away in my direction. It's pretty nice. I guess a perk of working there (oh by the way I'm doing some temp work here until I get studio animation jobs) is that you don't get to freeze to death. That's nice.
   Well, except when I get up to help someone with their computer or printer issues, then it's time to face the Tundra.

Awful weather, considering it's not even November. There's even frost lying around the place, trying to look surreptitious. It's still too early to put up Christmas decorations, but yet doesn't seem it at all. Vendors of Halloween gear seem to have noticed this as more and more Halloween decorations share the same appearance as Christmas ones - pumpkin string lights, Halloween christmas crackers, hanging bat baubles, and so on. They have very Nightmare Before Christmas feel to them and if I was the sort of person to buy entire sets of things like that for what is essentially one day of the year (today, actually, for that matter), I would be all over them.

I don't even have time, though, now. Too tired to do anything when I get home at the end of every day and end up having to sleep early to get up at seven the next day. Wilson's coming over for a few days but we can't do much tonight (no Halloween party!) because I have to be at work tomorrow. But thankfully I'm off Friday so there might be some bumpin' parties happening we can go to Thursday night (All Saints Parties are a thing, right?) and Friday we're watching Skyfall, which is one of the films I've been really looking forward to this year. So far I've done a good job of not listening to Adele's theme to the film - want to wait until I see it in the film. They're always better like that anyway. Not had much time for films, though. I accomplished my one and only (easy-to-achieve) new year's resolution of watching 200 films I hadn't yet seen the other day - my 200th film being Killer Klowns from Outer Space. A classic to end it with. Now I'm 203, having seen Layer Cake and No Country for Old Men as a sort of get-hyped-for-Skyfall marathon. (Speaking of, I read a great joke the other day:

"I kicked the new Bond villain out of my bar last night"
"Javier Bardem?"
"No, he can come back when he's sober")

Yeah.

For what little time I might have when I get home, I get a hell of lot during work. As a lot of it is supervising students there's a lot of time to write or whatever so I've been getting through a lot of novel writing, which might not be amazing right now but it's still a first draft. It's being boosted by the fact I'm doing a lot of reading too (in the last month or so I've read Child of God, Carter Beats the Devil, The Thirty-Nine Steps and am working through the Hobbit and Life of Pi right now) which is always a motivational boost

And that comic I did quickly the other day, as a way of doing something in Photoshop, made it to the Hot Page of 9gag, and ended up with over 28,000 likes and 50,000 views. So that's pretty awesome, non? Though it wasn't even that fantastic.


Nothing new to report, though really soon I want some headway on a short film screenplay which I can do in my down time. I've sent business cards to be printed (finally) and am making DVDs of my work, and I'll be sending them to companies all over London. Watch this space. Eventually I'll be saying how awesome my new job is and all that.

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