Leafblowers suck

Posted Wednesday, April 30, 2008, 12:04 PM

Okay, leafblowers blow, but they also suck. And it's not because they don't do a fine job of blowing leaves, because as far as I can see they do. But why do you want to blow leaves? To ostensibly clean your footpath. And how long does a footpath stay clear of dust and leaves? About 10 minutes. Because then the wind blows and it's right back where it was.

Leafblowers are excessively noisy, are excessively pollutant, and achieve almost nothing. Fuck off and die!!!

A couple of weeks ago, in the middle of a seriously windy day, during what was in fact the outer ranges of a hurricane, the lawn maintenance guys actually used the leafblower - while half the trees in the garden were actively bending 30 degrees, losing leaves by the hundreds right above them. When they'd "finished" and left, the area was 1000 times worse than when they first arrived, but they still doggedly used the leafblower, and destroyed the environment that much more with their ugly noise and disgusting exhaust fumes and smoke.

Fucking morons.

Doctor Who: The Sontaran Stratagem

Posted Sunday, April 27, 2008, 10:12 PM

They've tried to bring back a few of the classic monsters in the new series of Doctor Who, and though they've overdone the Daleks somewhat, they've otherwise been quite successful in their attempt. My hope for the next classic monster was the Sontarans, and when they had the Rhino-like Judoon, who were similarly militaristic and heavily helmeted and armoured, I thought that would be the closest we'd get. But huzzah! Here they are. Christopher Ryan, who most of us geeks know as Mike TheCoolPerson and Dave Hedgehog, plays the head Sontaran, under a big layer of make-up, and does it brilliantly. Great job, Chris!

It was a good episode, too. Martha Jones returns, as a high-up in UNIT. And of course that also means UNIT returns! What used to be known as the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce are now the Unified Intelligence Taskforce, but basically they're the British Army with red berets on. No references to Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart at all, but that's okay, they did hint at the Doctor's past involvement with them, and they were still good to see properly. They'd made minor background appearances before, but here they're front and centre.

We also revisit Donna's family, and they're put in some peril at the cliffhanger, and there's a good level of humour in the episode too. Brilliant stuff! I look forward to the conclusion next week, eagerly.

The Dark Knight Returns

Posted Saturday, April 26, 2008, 8:08 PM

A new Batman film, by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale, a sequel to their triumphant debut Batman Begins, is nearly here - The Dark Knight - and this is their latest poster for it. I am writing this post just because that poster is so cool!

This is the famous film that represents Heath Ledger's penultimate adventure before his death. It's going to get some amount of publicity just for that, but I think it would've been marked as a great performance even if he had not died, if the trailers are anything to judge.

I am very much looking forward to it - it's a good year for fantasy movies, but like last year the majority of them are sequels. The list of "I can't wait to see them so bad I'll even see them in a cinema" for me include:

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
The Dark Knight
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Hellboy 2
Prince Caspian

Iron Man is out next week, but unlike the rest of the world I really don't see what's so exciting about this film - it looks pretty regular to me. So I will most likely wait for DVD for this one. Along with:

Spiderwick Chronicles
Lovely Bones
Get Smart
Quantum of Solace (Bond 22)

I'm sure there are more that I'll want on DVD, I usually buy about 50 a year, though many of those are TV shows and older productions that are finally getting a release.


Posted Friday, April 25, 2008, 4:41 PM

I clean forgot it was ANZAC Day today. That's what happens when you aren't working and every day is a day off. I went to the supermarket and noticed some of the shops were shut and there were young kids everywhere out of school, and I couldn't figure out why. Then I remembered! That would explain the no mail, and the no response from the help email I sent out this morning.

ANZAC Day, for the uninitiated, is the War Remembrance-type Day for the antipodes, the date being the commemoration of when, on April 25th 1915, the ANZAC troops (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) were sent on a suicide mission at Gallipoli in Turkey. A poorly thought out attack, the troops had no shelter from the onslaught of Turkish enemy fire; they were completely exposed on a beachhead while the Turks were safely above them on the tops of cliffs and steep hills, able to pick off the ANZACs with ease. Over the extent of the Gallipoli campaign, tens of thousands of allied and enemy soldiers were slaughtered.

Now, this all took place over 90 years ago. Anybody who had fought in that campaign, or any part of WWI, have since died. The fear is that because of this we will forget what War means. But I have a problem with the way people, especially the Media, deals with war veterans and how we're supposed to react.

Firstly, do we remember pre-WWI wars? The Boer War? The Maori Wars? The American War of Independence? No. Why not? Because they're history, not the present. Don't forget the wars happened, study them and learn from them. But we can't "remember" people and events we never had anything to do with.

We've had tons of wars since then, the most significant being WWII, and there are still thousands of living survivors of that conflict. Korea, Vietnam, the first Gulf War, and the recent Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts, are all plenty enough to be respectful (and angry) towards.

War, being the stupid meaningless slaughter of millions that it is, is not really what we should be respecting, anyway. It's the disgusting way that innocent lives are lost in their midsts.

So, Media, and others: Stop asking me to "remember those who fought in the wars" when I have never known anyone who did. Stop being sad when a soldier who survived a war of nearly 100 years past dies, because he lived a long and fruitful life beyond the war itself, and that's a good thing, something to admire. And stop telling me how I should feel about the madness that is killing other people for governmental gain.

Old Friends

Posted Wednesday, April 23, 2008, 11:03 PM

I ran into a couple of old friends today. Well, ex-work colleagues, actually; Sarah and Hayley. The former has asked me to re-design the website of her boyfriend's company (that I had originally designed for them about three years ago when they first started out), so I went out to their warehouse, and had a brief meeting about it. It was great to see her again, catch up a little, and also to go over the website and update it.

And as it was just across the road from where I (and Sarah) used to work, I ran into Hayley, who still works there, and was visiting Sarah to escape her workload for a few minutes (a tactic I've employed a lot myself). She's off to France next week, for a fun holiday! How cool is that?

Far be it from me to spread gossip, but apparently things aren't all rainbows and lollipops at my old workplace. Of course, I don't think it's a miserable dungeon there either, but it's not quite what they had all been hoping for when they drew up their big plans. Shame, as I certainly don't wish them any ill will, and had hoped that things would go against my misgivings and succeed after all. Still, things may yet turn around.

Anyway, I've started on the new website design for Sarah already, just experimenting with some CSS ideas to see if they'll work, and it's looking good so far. I'm not sure if she'll like my initial design, it does stray from the brief a little bit, but I think it's a good place to start from.

Visions of the Future

Posted Monday, April 21, 2008, 6:50 PM

Stumbled across a great blog that collects predictions of the future made throughout the last 120 years. It's fascinating to see what they inevitably got wrong, but, more surprisingly, what they got right! Ranging from 1880 through to 1990, you can see amazing imagery and articles that try to guess what life will be like "in the future" (a popular choice of this mysterious period is the year 2000, which of course is now long past so we can legitimately see how wrong they were - though some of their ideas may yet come to pass in some distant time).

What amazed me was that predictions as recent as 1995 were still pessimistically under-estimated. The mind boggles that we can still not see something as basic as predicting growth and expansion properly. What they didn't seem to do is understand that if something seems like a bad idea, it doesn't mean it can't or won't happen - people can be persistent, or foolishly stubborn, about something that is presented to them that promises much (even if it delivers little). More importantly, if it seems unworkable now, it doesn't mean that a solution may not be found for it eventually that will then make it a profitable and useful idea.

Here's my prediction for the future: "Some very intelligent people will continue to make foolishly inaccurate predictions for the future." I think I'm safe with that one.

Doctor Who: Planet of the Ood

Posted Sunday, April 20, 2008, 4:10 PM

We've visited the race of the Ood before, where they were a collective race of servants that shared a hive mind. Now the Doctor and Donna visit their home planet, and discover they are being enslaved by humans. To the rescue!

It was a heavyhanded moral point being made this time - slavery is bad! Servants should have freedom! But it was handled in the usual SF superficial way, though not badly. It is meant to seed a thought into young minds, like most childrens' TV and literature, I suppose.

Last week's episode the traditional story arc we all know is coming was touched upon when the Pompeii soothsayers predicted "She is returning" which we all know was a reference to Rose. They also said to Donna "There is something on your back." That's a good mysterious omen to conjure with.

Well, this week the Ood said something similarly prophetic: Click for spoilers

"I think your song must end soon".

Is this a suggestion that David Tennant is leaving at the end of season 4 after all? Or is it another reference to Rose's return, that he will change in another way when that occurs? Perhaps his "song" is pining for Rose.

A good episode for character development, though. It cemented my thoughts on what Donna's role is - to keep the Doctor grounded. She's more confrontational, but clumsily human, which serves to be a closer representation of how humans would really handle the wonders the Doctor shows us. Blundering in and saying the wrong thing, but meant in a caring and empathetic way.

I like this season so far. No duds yet.

Recipe for continuing success for a one hit wonder

Posted Saturday, April 19, 2008, 4:06 PM

1) A boppy bouncy tune with a catchy beat and bridge.
2) Choose the subject carefully - a subject that's suitably broad. Constantly refer to it in the chorus.
3) Wait for it to be used in movie trailers and commercials centering around said subject matter.


  • Walking on Sunshine
  • Ice Ice Baby
  • Vienna
  • Hot Hot Hot
  • Safety Dance
  • One Night In Bangkok
  • Our House

Toy Nostalgia

Posted Friday, April 18, 2008, 12:30 PM

I was thinking about, um... something that I now can't recall... and it somehow brought back an obscure memory of a toy I used to have. A push-along train set that had a set of tracks and roadways, and points and signposts and all that kind of funky stuff. It was hours of fun from my very early youth.

And then suddenly another memory flashed up of a separate piece that I had, something special that I think I only got to have very briefly before it was lost forever in the housefire we experienced in 1976. What I remember was the whole family going to a toy warehouse one day, to find a missing piece from the train set, and while there we also bought a really cool train turntable; it sat there tantalisingly on their shelves, begging for us to get it. And, hurrah, my Dad decided to get it for me!

But then the housefire was a few months after and it was gone forever.

At least, that's my memory. It's possible it wasn't bought at all, and what I am actually recalling is my desperation at wanting it. It was so long ago, and so brief a period of time that I would've possessed it, that I'm not sure my memory of the situation is accurate.

Anyway, I went searching for pics of it, to try and jog some more memory free, but couldn't find it anywhere. Unfortunately, I couldn't remember the manufacturer brand name; I thought it may have been Toltoys, but after much searching that didn't bear much fruit - it was a very local company that's now defunct, so they don't have an online presence. Their history only reveals them to be a distribution company of international toys that they re-brand with their own name, so finding details of specific toys under their brand is an exercise fraught with dead ends.

So I emailed my Mum; she still has the train set toy that was bought after the fire (but without a turntable), and she brings it out for all her appropriately aged grandkids that visit. She had a look for me, but couldn't help with the brand name. Though she did take a pic of the set for me (see above).

But she had a brilliant suggestion: Because it's likely a localised Toy (Aus and NZ) she suggested I look at Trademe.co.nz, an online auction site. So I searched the toys section and Huzzah! Success! The exact turntable toy I was looking for! I was right, it was Toltoys, and someone was selling it on Trademe!

Look how cool it is! Bright colours, moving parts, a funky design, a completely unique accessory!

Ah, nostalgia...

Sam and Max

Posted Thursday, April 17, 2008, 3:41 PM

I love Sam and Max. I was first introduced to them when I was hanging around a friend of mine's comic collection, and in one of them they had a small article about Sam and Max comics. I loved what I saw, and sought out the trade paperback collection "Surfin' The Highway" which had me in stitches!

Then the Lucasarts game came out, and I knew I had to have it. I was a big fan of Lucasarts adventure games, having been a fan of Monkey Island and Zak McKracken already (and later games like Full Throttle and Day of the Tentacle). I grabbed it as soon as I could, and it was possibly the most fun game ever made (with the possible exception of Monkey Island). Completely silly. I remember my friend Simon and I played it together and were rolling on the floor with laughter.

There was a cartoon of Sam and Max on TV in the late 90s, but it passed me by - it must've been at an obscure time of day that caused me to miss it (I was working then, so that was probably why) but I had hopes that Sam and Max would return at a later date in another new form. Steve Purcell, the creator of the characters, worked for Lucasarts, but then he moved to Pixar, where he still works, and yet I heard that Lucasarts were planning on making an all new Sam and Max adventure game. I emailed Steve Purcell himself, and asked him if he was still involved, and he actually replied! He said he was. But soon after that, Lucasarts made one of the stupidest decisions (in a long line of recently stupid decisions) and pulled the game from completion (along with a Full Throttle sequel) because they thought adventures wouldn't make them money, and now stick almost exclusively to Star Wars and Indiana Jones licenses. They've sucked that well dry, in my opinion, but anyways...

Telltale Games then said they had the license to Sam and Max. Having never heard of these guys, I wasn't sure about them, but as it turned out most of the team there were ex-Lucasarts, and more importantly they worked on the Sam and Max game that was stopped, so really what they were creating was essentially the same kind of game as Lucasarts would've made anyway (even though it was a different storyline this time). I haven't played this game yet, I haven't found the time to download it, but I do plan to do so soon.

Telltale do have merchandise available on their site related to the game, which I have grabbed. I have a t-shirt, cap, and book of sketches, all of Sam and Max. It's also where I was introduced to Bone, another game they make, and which came from an associated comic book series. I have the complete black-and-white trade paperback of that, and it's an astonishing work. I am looking forward to the movie that Warner Brothers are making of it.

But the reason I brought this up is that the aforementioned TV series of Sam and Max is now out on DVD, and I have bought that. It's just as surreal and manic as all its other incarnations, and is a delight! It even comes with some extra features, though I haven't watched them yet. I heartily recommend that you rush out and buy it now! Now, I tells ya, now! No, put that down, I said go out and get it right now! What is ya, deaf?

Numb3rs: Graphic

Posted Wednesday, April 16, 2008, 10:50 PM

I'm not a huge fan of Numb3rs, it gets a bit too flashy zappy blinky at times that can really annoy me. CSI does that too, and I hate CSI with a passion because of it (and its patronising tone). But I watch Numb3rs anyway, because the character dynamics are usually very well written, and it is an entertaining way to spend an hour.

I just watched the episode called 'Graphic', set around a comic book convention. It was quite well handled, it felt like a realistic portrayal of the comic book geek world - I think they had some great advisors. Though their computers still do blinky beepy impossible un-computery things.

But what made it interesting was the array of guest actors they had for this episode, and the six degrees of separation they bring up. First, Wil Wheaton, aka Wesley Crusher (now a full-time writer, and only a part-time actor), played the arrogant dickhead geek who was in it for the money. Wandering around him in the background of the convention were many people dressed in Trek costumes, though there was never any direct *nudge nudge wink wink* implied. I like that kind of subtle in-joke.

Next was Christopher Lloyd, an SF genre actor of long standing repute (Back to the Future, Addams Family, Roger Rabbit, etc.) who played the retired comic book artist whose work was central to the plot. He used to be on Taxi, with Judd Hirsch (and they make a reference to that - "I can't imagine you as a hippy." "*mugs like Jim Ignatowski* Uuh?" "Oh, yeah, I can see it now." heehee!) and he was in Addams Family Values alongside both David Krumholtz and Peter MacNicol (actually he's worked with Peter MacNicol several times). Oh, and he was also in Star Trek III (though not with Wil Wheaton). His character's name was Ross Moore - my guess is that's a combination of Alex Ross and Alan Moore.

And lastly there was a subplot with a magazine columnist played by Joe Morton. He's not a terribly well known actor, but he did play Miles Dyson in Terminator 2, which gives him geek cred out the wazoo.

Added to that, apparently several of the background extras were played by genuine comic book creators, which added to the authenticity - they'd soon point out anything that wasn't true to life. So it was a great geek-filled geek-fest of an episode. Good job all round to the creators of Numb3rs, say I.

Lightwave 3D

Posted Tuesday, April 15, 2008, 2:45 PM

My application of choice for my 3D work is Newtek's Lightwave, one of the oldest 3D packages available. It's been around since it was called The Video Toaster for the Commodore Amiga, back in the early 90s (which is only 18 years or so ago, but in computer terms that's ancient).

I've used it partly because I find it easy to use and quite comprehensive. But it's also because it just happened to be the one I heard about the most when I was slavering after 3D graphics software, so I actively sought it out when I had the opportunity. I was given a not-exactly-legal copy of it many years ago, and basically had that for a long time as I slowly, and clumsily, found my way around it. At first I had no idea what I was doing, but eventually I managed to figure out some of the features and render out a few simple images using simple techniques.

As time went on, and I got better at figuring things out, and after I bought the full version, I created more advanced models, and sometimes was asked to add images and animation to short films that my friends made. Usually these were Star Wars oriented, but that's developed since then to original ideas, and some effects require elements that aren't even 3D, so I've learned 2D compositing too.

But there's a problem with Lightwave, several problems really, and they stem from the fact that it's not considered the "Industry Standard". Other 3D apps have that place. The most commonly used 3D application in movie effects work is called Maya, and if I wanted a career in this field that is the one that would be most advantageous to learn. There's another called Softimage that is an alternative professional level product. Those are very expensive, however, and apparently can be quite challenging to learn to use. Another common one, used amongst amateurs, is called 3D Studio Max which is most popularly used in designing and modelling video game characters. Whereas Lightwave is usually only used by the movie industry for simple things like Previsualisation, which is pre-production design and animated storyboards, though the Advertising and Television Industries use it a lot for TV-resolution animation and effects.

Lightwave is therefore not treated as seriously as the other applications, and for that reason its development is slow, piecemeal, incomplete, and sometimes just plain badly handled. There are some features that haven't changed in ten years, others that have a completely different GUI than the rest. It comes with plug-ins that ought to be integrated into the software properly, but remain separate, and developed only by the originator in their own time. It crashes rather a lot, and cannot handle some simple things without choking. And some things just don't work properly at all. Cloth dynamics sucks, for example.

The end result is an application that lacks finesse, is far from robust, and cries out for better interactivity and development.

I love Lightwave, and have no desire to change my allegiance, but it is a great shame that it can't compete on the world stage of 3D applications, because there's no faulting the final results. The imagery that it can create is beyond reproach - it's the mechanics behind it that makes it lacking.

Johnny and the Dead

After watching Johnny and the Bomb the other day, I thought I'd watch the previous story in the series, Johnny and the Dead. It was made about a decade before it, so the cast is all completely different. The plot involves Johnny, who can see the dead people from his local cemetery, and how he helps to keep the cemetery from being bulldozed for redevelopment, and meanwhile the dead walk around the city to have a bit of a fun time.

This one was a lot more of a literal translation of the book, many of the lines are word for word, which unfortunately causes very stiff and awkward speech from the main cast of kids at times, who weren't very good actors anyway. The Director was also trying to be a little bit surreal when dealing with some of the imagery and atmosphere, apparently it was a lot more ambitious than he was capable of achieving. All in all, it was a bit of a misfire - poor acting from the kids, a lot of the nuance lost, and no budget to speak of, most of which probably spent on getting Brian Blessed in (who was actually quite good as the Marxist, William Stickers).

It could do with a proper remake, with a better cast of kids, and a more solid grasp of what the point of the story is supposed to be (the importance of remembering the dead, despite their seeming obsolescence to the current generation). As it was, it left a fair amount to be desired.

Fuck Off

Posted Monday, April 14, 2008, 8:41 PM

Fuck Off. All of you, just fuck the hell off.

With your stupid screaming teenage girls in the audience. And your gay guys who "love everybody in the whole world" whenever they're voted off. And your flashy blinking lights. And your irritating, superficial, and superfluous judging panel. And your voting that costs a ridiculous amount of money, and is unfairly weighted, and therefore meaningless. And your fucking interminable endless shows that run over time and take up prime time space, pushing out actual entertainment.

Fucking fuck off now. NOWWWWWW!!!!

The Last Temptation of Sugar

My teeth are slowly but surely dissolving into dust. I never really took care of them when I was younger, and as I have aged I've only incrementally improved on their care. It seems to be mostly my own fault (though there is some blame to be laid on genetics), for eating too many sugary treats and then not battling the resulting effects in a very efficient and thorough manner. End result, they're breaking and falling out.

So I have visited the Dentist recently, to deal with a new broken tooth, and it was rescued, thank goodness. But I have long past broken teeth still in there that have to be excised, which will be happening in a couple of months I expect. Painful, expensive, and time consuming, I'm sure.

My Dentist did have some good news, though. If I reduce my sugar intake now, and start eating sugar-free sweets instead, such as gum, it will not just help save my remaining teeth, but actually restore health to my gums and keep my teeth relatively healthy for the rest of my life.

Well, that's something easier said than done. I don't have many vices, in the normal sense of the word. I don't smoke, drink alcohol, do drugs, drink coffee, gamble, have illicit sex that involves money, drive fast (I don't drive at all), rob banks, or abuse women and children. The worst I do is consume porn, and eat sweet sugary snacks. And now, it seems, I have to stop the sugary snacks!! Well, just great. Why live at all if that has to be taken away from me? Why not just end it all if one of my few joys in life is now out of my reach?

Sugar-free food is hard to find, and most of it is aimed at diabetics, rather than people with teeth-related problems. What that means is the sugar-substitute they use in them is often okay for insulin levels, but not really quite as healthy for your teeth as you might expect. Luckily, there are sugar-free chewing gums that are aimed directly at healthy teeth, and this particular brand is just now coming out with more varieties of sugar-free sweets alongside these. They are quite a bit more expensive, though, and the range is still very limited, but it's better than nothing, which was how it used to be.

I am still allowed to have full-on sugar snacks occasionally, but not at the level I was previously consuming them. And I also have to be careful to keep taking care of my teeth soon after eating, and at a higher level of scrutiny. If I do that, I should be okay.

Still sucks, though. The biggest problem I have now is the temptation factor. I didn't realise how many shops out there cater solely to sugary treats! They're everywhere you look! It's unbelievable how many lolly shops I pass on my way to something else, and now I have to ignore them - not by choice, but by necessity! Argh! Save me from the temptation!!

Commentaries for Doctor Who

Posted Sunday, April 13, 2008, 5:51 PM

For the last couple of seasons, the BBC website has offered downloadable mp3s of commentary tracks to listen to alongside the episodes of Doctor Who. This has been a great added extra, because these are different to the commentaries that they subsequently provide on the DVDs, so you get twice the insight from twice the number of cast and crew - and in the last DVD collection, most of the commentaries had David Tennant, who is always entertaining to listen to, and is thoroughly enthusiastic about his participation in the show.

However, the BBC website has now changed its methodology somewhat, claiming to be hampered by some sort of self-imposed rules, that mess things up for us all. We can download the full length commentaries only for a few days, then afterwards they cut the commentaries down to 29 minutes, rendering them useless for scene-specific simultaneous listening. The reason for this is because the BBC, in its infinite wisdom, imposed the rule that they can only offer downloads of audio if it has already been broadcast on BBC radio first, and they're only playing the 29 minute commentaries on the radio to fit their carefully timed format. If you're fast enough you can get the full length commentaries. Normally.

Commentaries that refer to specific scenes are useless if they aren't full length; you can't sit there stopping and starting the audio file in the hope of matching up what's said with what's being seen. Why do they think this was a good move? I can only assume that the people making these asinine decisions do not listen to commentaries to recognise their value.

But. What makes this frustrating for me is that, instead of offering the full length commentary for this week's episode, they've accidentally, or on purpose, only released the shorter edited commentary. After some complaints, they have said that they will offer the full length version too, for the fans (which is everybody, I might add - nobody wants to hear a commentary just on its own with no logical real-time reference to the visual alongside it), but only after it's also been broadcast on BBC radio, which they will be scheduling after midnight on some day through the week (so as to comply with their stupid rules they've inexplicably set up).

There's no need for this foolishness. And they then put on the pretense that they're bending over backwards in order to accommodate the demand from the fans, even though all they need to do is restore the functionality as it used to be. After all, there are no copyright issues involved here; it's all their own content.

This is just madness.

Doctor Who: The Fires of Pompeii

This week's episode, set in Pompeii the day before Vesuvius's eruption, was special, because they actually flew the crew to Rome and filmed at the sets where the TV series Rome was shot.

This episode starts out much like the other episodes from early in the season (Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Queen Victoria), and I was afraid it would actually be a clone of the Shakespeare episode, as at first glance it did appear to have similar elements. But it soon ended up quite different, and what struck me most was that it came down to a single decision, one which was a lose-lose situation; no matter what the Doctor decided on, sacrifices were unavoidable.

Donna established her character here. I think this is how she's going to be from now on. People have commented on her being annoying, but she's there to bring him up short, to point out the absurdities, to make sure the Doctor doesn't get overly sentimental, but also so he doesn't get too impersonal and distant. He has to be realistic about the big things; sometimes difficult decisions have to be made, but there can be some small salvation in every tough situation, and Donna will point him there. She has the humanity and the cynicism mixed together at the right levels to reign the Doctor in.

Good episode. It will probably be listed as one of many viewer's favourites of the season.

Doctor Who returns!

Last week Doctor Who returned to UK screens, and I managed to procure it, as I tend to do, to watch at my leisure. David Tennant returns as the Tenth Doctor, and has a new companion (well, an old one returning) in the guise of Donna Noble, played by Catherine Tate, from the "Runaway Bride" Christmas episode of 2006.

It was a great introduction to the show, but it did have a few too-familiar elements in its plot, most notably a crazed business woman who ran a company that secretly did other wacky things to humans, not unlike the 'Invasion of the Bane' episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures.

But it did have some very funny stuff, the miming scene especially, and a mention of the bees going missing, which: Click for spoilers

...may resurface in the episode with the giant wasps.

Well, I'm off to watch the next episode! Which I managed to procure in a similar fashion... (Don't tell the BBC!)


Railway Gun

Posted Saturday, April 12, 2008, 5:40 PM

Progress on my 3D train model. Here is a pic of the railway gun that it will be towing. They're enormous pieces of machinery that took a great effort to transport, but essentially they aren't very complicated - they are just cannons on a train.

Again, the photograph is real, the train part is my 3D model.


Posted Friday, April 11, 2008, 11:17 PM

I just watched Beowulf on DVD. It was very pretty, but not quite as impressive as it tried to be.

As a story, and a myth, it was wonderful. It's one of the oldest myths, apparently from the Vikings, one that JRR Tolkien was somewhat enamoured by, inspiring him to write Lord of the Rings (though the themes don't mirror it in any way).

But the movie, which employed 3D computer graphics recorded from motion capture by the (excellent) performers, was a little bit still stuck in the Uncanny Valley, which I found quite distracting. I did get used to it, but it didn't really stop happening throughout. And a lot of the animation/motion was still a little stiff and jerky - not unlike a (very impressively elaborate and detailed) cut-scene from a video game.

So we're still in an experimental mode for this art form, even this far along since Final Fantasy. Indeed, I think I preferred FF's achievements in motion capture, as its more stylised character design suited the lack of finesse in the capture/animation, while the higher production values and technological improvements applied to Beowulf was a mismatch, and should've heralded a better finished product.

Oh well. It had Angelina Jolie almost (digitally) naked, which isn't such a bad thing to see.

Johnny and the Bomb

I just watched a TV adaptation of the Terry Pratchett novel, Johnny and the Bomb, which is a story about a group of kids who travel back in time to 1941 and manage to cause an upset in the space-time continuum that they then have to go back and fix. Shades of Back to the Future, really.

It was sort of good, but sort of not. All the child actors suffered from child actor syndrome, where they seemed to be constantly looking down at their feet and reciting their lines and striding to their marks. If one or two of them did it I'd forgive them, but they all did it most of the time. BigMac was the worst, but Kirsty did it a lot too. Mind you, Frank Finlay wasn't such great shakes either.

It was also edited very slowly. It could've been directed and edited tighter to make the exciting bits more thrilling and dangerous, but it flagged somewhat, and was bogged down by the poor acting. And the weak dialogue. And the dodgy effects.

So it's not really recommended, but is good for a look in if you're so inclined.

Fashion (turn to the left)

Who dictates the current fashion trends? Who is it that decides what's going to be available to buy at my local clothing store? Why is it that I cannot find a simple medium-weight long-sleeved shirt of a single plain colour and utilitarian design that will fit? Why am I forced to choose from a selection of young people's trendy flowery stripey bollock ugly designs? Short sleeved? And in lightweight material? Argh!!!

Whoever makes these decisions will be first against the wall when the revolution comes.

Who is GuanoLad?

In the header of this page is an image of two weird looking characters I created. I have been an artist all my life, and even tried my hand at comic books for a while. One day I was asked to contribute a regular weekly comic strip to a student newspaper, and I chose a superhero parody, PigeonMan.

I really enjoyed working on those stories, they were fun and silly and got a good reaction from people. The characters stuck with me for ages, and I never really wanted to say goodbye to them. When I got to a stage in my 3D art where I felt competent enough to try, I decided to build 3D versions of the characters.

I had never tried character modelling before, I had stuck to hard-surface objects like buildings and vehicles because they seemed relatively easy to get to grips with, as they use variations on simple shapes like cubes and spheres. Character modelling requires a more organic approach, using a method known as subpatch. It was a big mystery to me how to even begin using this method, but I decided to get stuck in and see what happened. It surprised me how easy I found it, and it turned out to be more fun, and more challenging, than the hard surface modelling, and now I absolutely love it.

The first character I tried was PigeonMan, and then having learned a lot from that experience I tried GuanoLad soon after. I want to be able to animate them into a story also, but I'm finding that less enjoyable than the modelling, and a bit of a struggle to get to grips with. But I will persevere and hopefully get something done eventually. It's a career I would like to pursue, so it's pretty important I achieve something from it.

PigeonMan is a classic example of a superhero who knows the ins and outs of what it takes to be world class - rescue citizens in distress; fight evil-doers, directly, and preferably with his fists; wear a sharp-looking costume; pose a lot in front of dramatic landscapes.

GuanoLad, his sidekick, however, prefers superheroing with a more analytical and methodical approach. He thinks crime should be solved using technology and intelligence, and not all this unwholesome violence business. To him every crime is solveable from logic and evidence, and not by striding into places and shouting at people until they confess.

Steam Train

Posted Thursday, April 10, 2008, 9:22 PM

I have several friends who make movies, and I am often called upon to help out in various ways. Most of the time it's for some kind of art, like conceptual design and storyboarding, but most recently, and most fun for me, it's been for visual effects and 3D graphics.

The latest film I'm working on, for my friend Robbie, is set in WWII, and there will probably be a shot or two that involves a steam train. We can't afford to get a real train to the location, especially since it needs to have a very distinctive cargo we won't be able to source, so I volunteered to make a 3D version of the train.

Here's one of the early pics of it. It's a composite image, which means the background of the tracks and buildings is a real photograph. My only contribution is the steam locomotive.

I've worked on it since this pic, adding a tender, and then a big railway-gun trailer comes after that. It's all looking good so far, I'm very happy with my progress. The trick is to make it look believable and real, not so much to be perfectly accurate. If I can make people believe the train is really there for the brief time it's on-screen, I've done my job.

First Entry

Sometimes I've got stuff to say, and yet have nowhere to say it, and nobody to say it to. But I look around online and see thousands of blogs, and think "I wish I could've said that" or "I did say that and here is someone else saying it before I got to!" So a Blog was definitely something I needed to have.

Plans are to add all sorts of thoughts, some of my art, and progress on my projects. Maybe it will motivate me to finish some of them!

Yeah, suuuure...

Well, anyway. Here we go.