Wednesday 21 December 2011

Darlan in Motion, Take 2

I've finished a second paper-cutout short film starring George Darlan, alien inventor and philanthropist.  It's a bit more complex than its predecessor, technically speaking, but not so different in terms of the type of humour involved.  Here, without further ado, is the clip:

Total production time on this one was more than a week, including writing up the script (which I didn't even bother doing last time as it was so short).  The parent webcomic Brothers in Shells is still at

Since I finished the film, the word 'trilogy' has presented itself to my brain, but I have no ideas whatsoever for a third story at this stage.  I won't be rushing into making a third film for the sake of it, but I'd be open to doing one if I came up with a decent gag.

- The Colclough

Tuesday 13 December 2011

One Less Light

Farewell, Scribbles - best of rodents and last of the Intergalactic Hamsters.  Thanks for everything.  Rest in peace.

~~~ Scribbles ~~~
August 2009 - 13 December 2011

- The Colclough

Saturday 3 December 2011

That Concludes That

After ten months in the making, I can finally lay Arbitrary Stopframe to rest.  Episode 13, the finale to the group of episodes which I'm calling 'Series 1', is now out on YouTube not just once, but twice.

Monster Movie was guest-written about two months ago by Root Hill veteran and Godzilla buff Sam Arthur, and I've kept it back on purpose because I thought it was one of the better stories/jokes the series has had, and I wanted to make it the closing instalment to send the show off with a bang.  The prospect of Murkum running for his life from a giant, angry DVD amused me.

For the pun to work, the DVD obviously had to be a monster movie.  I might have used my copy of Jurassic Park, but I'd loaned it to a friend, and I'm not sure it counts as a 'monster movie' anyway, in the strictest sense.  So I went on Amazon, and ended up with a copy of The Host, partly because I'd heard good things about it (including a review from Sam), and partly because at £3.99 it was the cheapest out of the ones I looked at.  Which makes Episode 13 the only one with a budget greater than zero pence, and puts the average cost per episode so far at £1.07.61538461538461538461538461538.  Or so my Windows calculator tells me.

Anyway, budget stats aside, here's the finished article:

And then, since I was in Monster Movie territory, I couldn't resist the urge to create a second version, turned monochrome and matted to 2.40:1 cinematic widescreen, as a homage to the monster films of old.  Here's the result of that little tangent:

Judging by the commentary in his latest blog post, it seems that Sam is happy with how his script has translated onto the screen.  Which is good, of course - if your writer isn't happy then you've probably got a problem!

Finally, one more video to round off the project: my sign-off blog, including a montage of some of my favourite moments from the series, and some waffly commentary on the show's future:

There you have it.  End of Series 1.

- The Colclough

Wednesday 30 November 2011

The Second Version Two

After the untimely demise of the original prototype, and my horrible pyrographic gaffe in the creation of Mark II, I'm delighted to be able to report that the Binary Advent Candle Mk II I/II is finally finished and ready for ignition.  Here's a piccy:


- The Colclough

Saturday 26 November 2011

Not Having That One Come True

I don't usually act on the content of my dreams.  I usually disregard them within minutes of waking up, and proceed with my day as if the night's imagined shenanigans had never happened - which, of course, they actually never have (except as an illusion inside my dozy head).

But today, I made an exception to this generally-hard-and-fast rule.

I had a dream last night where I found myself unexpectedly in the middle of the next Root Hill camp (this might have been brought on by the fact that a booking form for said camp turned up in the post yesterday morning).  For reasons nobody bothered to explain, the 'Root Hill' camp wasn't at Root Hill at all, but in some sprawling, very badly designed conference centre.  But the main weight on my mind was that, what with it only being the end of November at the moment, this meant the event was taking place some nine months early, and I ended up trying (somewhat awkwardly) to explain to people that I was still working on the camp video from last time.  I remember wondering what happened to all that editing time I should have had.  All those months...

And then, after briefly catching sight of someone in my peripheral vision who may or may not have been Ellie off Countryfile, I woke up.  And having woken up, I thought: no way to I want to let that happen.

So I fired up Sony Vegas after breakfast, and did some more work on the video.  I've confronted the huge blob of football footage which I'd been dreading for weeks and I've beaten it into shape (I don't know why, but it always seems to be very easy to just stand there and let the camera roll and roll and roll when there's football going on, but it's never so much fun to watch the stuff back), and I've chosen a couple of little snippets from the concert to feature in the main highlights reel (not too much of it though, as the whole concert is included on the DVD as a separate video track), and I've tidied up most if not all of the odd loose-end clips that were scattered through my raw footage bin.  Today has felt like a very definite slice of progress.

Whether or not you (the Root Hill-ers who ordered a DVD off me, that is) get to see the fruits of my labour this side of Christmas is still up in the air, but if you don't, then it'll hopefully not be too far into the new year.

- The Colclough

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Sellotape Defeated

I've been having a staring match with my sellotape dispenser, on and off, for the last two months.  Since finishing Arbitrary Stopframe 11, basically.  Thing is, I've been pretty darn sure it must be possible to do an Arbitrary Stopframe episode with sellotape, but I couldn't get the story to hold together.

But as of yesterday afternoon, I've won.  At long, long last, I worked out what to do with the tape, and I've spent a large chunk of today shooting and editing the episode.  Was it worth the wait?  Dunno.  I'll leave that for you lot to decide.  Embed follows...

I could have made a 12th episode a while back, as I've had Sam Arthur's spec script sitting on my hard disk for a few weeks now.  But I wanted to keep that back to use as the grand finale to the series, so it's been waiting around until I could sort out the sellotape.  However, now that the obstacle of Episode 12 is out of the way, I'm hoping to film Sam's script as Episode 13 next week, and put the series on an indefinite hiatus.

In case anyone's panicking, reading that stuff about 'finale' and 'hiatus', I suppose I should clarify: I don't mean I'm permenantly terminating the series.  I'm just going to take a deliberate several-month break (maybe multi-year, but I hope not), and if/when I restart the project then I'll probably make a couple of alterations, mainly moving away from my desk and finding a different location to work in - most likely the kitchen - as this would open up new possibilities for things the characters could interact with.  It's been getting harder to keep coming up with the ideas, as there are only so many items on my desk that are animatable with.

And before you all go cold turkey on me, remember there's still Episode 13 to come before the hiatus...

- The Colclough

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Gallery of the Analogue

Okay, sorry about the wait - here's the aforementioned gallery of photos of my recent drawing and painting work.

First up, two attempts at a stylised depiction of a river.  Both of these missed the stylistic mark I was aiming for, with the first veering off in one direction and the other then overcompensating.  I'm planning to do a River III sometime, but I'll need to get my grubby mitts on another canvas first.

River I (10" x 10", completed 8th September)

River II (16" x 12", completed 19th October)

This one was done in a hurry, mainly to use up some watercolour which I'd mixed for Open to Interpretation (see below), only to find out that it wouldn't work on canvas and I'd have to go back to acrylics.  Didn't want to waste all that paint though.

Yellow Morning (A2, completed 25th October)

This one is the first of multiple variations - although the only one completed so far - on the theme of the giant Sharpie doodle that forms the basis of my current wallpaper on A White Horizon.  The big differences this time are the fact that the drawing developed in a slightly less haphazard way, and I did it on an A2 sheet of relatively pricey (and rather nice) 220gsm cartridge paper, instead of leftover wallpaper backing sheet as used last time.

untitled variations no. I (A2, completed sometime in October, I think)

I painted the background for this one back in May, and then it got buried and forgotten for months before I finally rediscovered and finished it the other day.  The whole thing was more of a technical experiment than an attempt at expressing anything; in particular, I put the gold pen details in the corners to check that it would work on top of acrylics, as a precursor to using the pens on Open to Interpretation.

Coffee, Maybe? (~ 12" x 16", completed 7th November)

The big one!  Not my largest painting by surface area (only my third-biggest canvas, if you count the square inches), but by far my most ambitious and detailed painting ever, and I think one of my most accomplished pieces of visual art in any medium.  My kingfisher impression took nine days to paint, but that isn't counting the time spent sketching the composition in pencil, wandering up and down the River Blackwater absorbing the atmosphere and analysing the colours, and generally sitting around staring at the canvas and mentally plotting next moves.  Not to mention that those nine days were spread out across a period of five-and-a-half months, during which several other, smaller projects came and went.

A Dive in Blue (32" x 12", completed 7th November, after almost half a year in the making)

Details from A Dive in Blue, L-R: tree trunk, background vegetation, kingfisher, oak branch

The latest completed piece: a re-interpretation of a pen-and-watercolour-on-wallpaper-backing abstract I created circa June 2009, this time with pen and acrylics on canvas.  Possibly my smelliest work, as the gold and silver inks really pong when they're wet, but fortunately it's stopped smelling now that they're dry.  Also my largest canvas to date, at 24 inches squared.  The painting takes its name from the fact that every other person who looks at it seems to interpret it differently - is it something on fire?  Is it a flower?  Is it supposed to be an optical illusion?  I don't know myself; I just painted it, and I'm happy for people to make of it what they will.

Open to Interpretation (24" x 24", completed this morning - 15th November)

And finally, a couple of things that I've made a start on in the last couple of weeks, but not got very far with.  I've also sanded down the second of my four ex-cupboard-door boards ready for sketching or painting on, but I haven't decided yet what to do with it, and I didn't think it was worth showing you a bare board with some scuff marks on it, hence the lack of photo.

untitled variations no. II (A2, work in progress, begun 1st November)

Stained Glass IV (18" x 24", work in progress, begun 7th November)

I'll try not to let such a big backlog build up next time 8p

- The Colclough

Monday 14 November 2011

Pyrography Tips for Fallible People

Here's a free bit of life advice for you: before sticking that screaming-hot metal poker into the wood and gouging and burning the letters "VI" into the surface, always make sure you really do want to write "VI", not "IV".  Cause, y'know, if you're trying to make a new Binary Advent Candle, for example, then you might find that the correct marking for the middle hole is "IV" after all.

Not "VI".

I especially recommend that you check your Latin number-spelling before you spend ages doing all the elaborate designs around the candle holes.  Not after, which I did, and which made it all that much worse.

And that's how my productive deed for this evening ended: very badly, with the sickening realisation that "VI" doesn't spell "4".  Accompanied by a little wisp of pine smoke.

- The Colclough

Friday 11 November 2011

Mostly Serkis

Went to see The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn with the family last night.  Mostly enjoyed it.

We used to go to the Odeon in Bracknell until three years ago, when a new Vue opened in Camberley, much closer to home.  My last 15 cinema trips (I keep notes, odd as that may seem) have all been to Camberley, but last night we broke the streak and went back to Bracknell, because Camberley were only showing Secret of the Unicorn at awkward times of day, and only in 3D, which none of us are that keen on.

Bracknell had changed a little bit, but not all that much.  Still more or less how I remembered it.  Seats less comfortable than the ones we've got used to in Camberley, but not enough to detract from the experience.

What did detract from the experience was the stuff in front of the film.  I don't know if all cinemas are the same, but both of ours tend to show ads for non-film-related stuff, then film trailers, then the actual movie that you paid to see.  Well, last night, all of the non-film ads were a load of utter dreck apart from one for McCain's chips, which avoided the usual food-ad cliche of focussing on a nauseously-grinning family eating the product for the whole runtime, and instead showed the chips being made and tested by little machines, designed mainly in the Heath Robinson tradition but with a bit of influence from WALL-E (which, coincidentally, was the last thing we saw at Bracknell before Camberley Vue opened).  The trailers were, if anything, even worse.  I'd already seen at least two different ones for Puss in Boots, which weren't that bad, but the one shown last night was terrible.  There was one for Happy Feet 2: I don't know how the original won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature - 2006 must have been a REALLY bad year for animated films - and the sequel looks awful.  There was one for Twilight six-and-a-half or whatever number they're up to now (I'm not sure, and I don't care, exactly how many have been released): it took me a few moments to realise what the trailer was for, but once I'd cottoned on I couldn't bring myself to keep looking at the screen.  The risk of catching sight of Robert Pattinson's gormless undead mug again was too horrific.  The only trailer that I liked was the one for Arthur Christmas - it's Aardman (see Chicken Run, Wallace & Gromit), and despite having never believed in Santa Claus, I was rather taken with the premise that his gift-delivery routine is actually achieved through an uber-high-tech pseudo-military organisation.

But eventually, the rubbish was out of the way, and they rolled the Spielberg.  I must say it didn't make the best first impression - I thought the silhouette-cartoon opening-credits sequence, although decent enough in its own right, should have been kept until the end, and the film should have just got on with the story up front.  The beginning just felt too slow to me, and the mini-plotline in the credits was a bit of a red herring relative to the main story that followed it.

Said main story, however, was very enjoyable.  Steve Moffat was working on the first draft of the screenplay before being offered a job as head writer of Doctor Who, which shows, as the film had its fair share of wit and eccentricity, while Ben (who knows the comic books much better than I do) says they were pretty much faithful to the source material, albeit combining 2 or 3 of the 23 comic books into one film.  Ben reckoned the ending counted as a cliffhanger, but I would disagree - yes, it leaves the door open for sequels (it was always the plan that they'd make a trilogy, with Spielberg helming the first film and Peter Jackson, of The Lord of the Rings, taking over for the second), but the film is a sufficiently self-contained story that you leave the cinema feeling like you've seen a whole film - unlike, for example, Matrix Reloaded or Pirates of the Caribbean 2.  Which is quite a relief after Moffat's torturous obsession with cliffhangers in this year's series of Doctor Who.

The film's reviews were an interesting mix - mostly positive, but with one or two no-holds-barred savagings which mostly seemed to come from a luddite brigade who have never forgiven Computer-Generated Imagery for existing at all, let alone for being applied to feature films.  Well, I'm not an anti-CGI luddite, and while I did think the motion-captured performances weren't always 100%, they scored a respectable enough 95.  The show was stolen by Andy Serkis (better known for portraying Gollum through a similar mo-cap performance in the Rings trilogy) as Captain Haddock: easily the second-most-important character after the eponymous Tintin, if not the outright leading man in all but name; sober for approximately one minute of screentime; prone to impulsive, misjudged actions, and the source of a good two-thirds of the film's funniest and generally-best moments.

I feel I should mention the big action scene in the late second act which is executed in one, long, insanely complicated shot.  Technically impressive, if nothing else, and interspersed with a fair bit of Haddock.

The score was serviceable, but I didn't leave the cinema humming the theme.  It was definitely John Williams, but not John Williams on top form.  Still - no pop songs in sight (or in sound), which I always see as a good thing in a film.

Overall, I'd probably give it 7/ or 8/10.  See it for Haddock, if nothing else.

- The Colclough

P.S.: photo gallery of some recently-completed paintings coming soon!

Wednesday 9 November 2011

My Hundred Days

I've been racking my brains a bit trying to think of something special to do for my 100th post on A White HorizonHannah's done some interesting things for landmark posts, and I initially thought about offering my own take on one of those, but then I decided that the 'centenary' is too big a moment to settle for plagiarism.

On Monday night, I had an idea: a list of 100 of the most important/formative/memorable days of my existence.  I've done some maths and worked out that I've been on this planet for 8664 days (plus however long I was in development pre-birth), so on average I need to pick just one day in every 87 to feature on this list.  Here I go...

In chronological order:

  1. Sometime in the second half of May 1987: conception.  Psalm 51:5b, and all that.
  2. 18 February 1988: started being born.
  3. 19 February 1988: arrived at a hospital in Portsmouth, still inside Mum, and after 24 very unpleasant hours (I don't remember them, but Mum and Dad say they were terrible and I'm willing to bet I didn't enjoy them much either), I finished being born at about 22:45.
  4. Early-mid March 1988: at the age of only 3 weeks, I moved house for the first of several times, from Havant to Bristol.
  5. 13 June 1990: lost my only-child status as Catherine was born, at about 23:15.
  6. Probably circa 1992: that incident with the stuffed E.T. toy.
  7. December 1992: that school Christmas party.  I served my first two terms of school (yes, the use of prison-esque terminology is deliberate) at a little primary in Bristol, which I hated.  I had numerous disagreements with my teachers, despised several aspects of the place which I thought were illogical (why did I start off in Class 5, for example?  I thought you should begin at the beginning, and start in Class 1?), and never made a single friend.  And then there was some sort of party, I think a pre-Christmas one, and there was a misunderstanding as to whether the party food was instead of or in addition to the usual packed-lunch requirements, and after wandering around the building being confused for half of lunchtime, I ended up having to eat some sort of sandwich things that really didn't appeal.
  8. Somewhere from September 1992 to March 1993: on the subject of that school, there was also the incident where my teacher carried me kicking and screaming (quite literally, I'm afraid) to a different classroom to see how well-behaved the children were there.  I fell compelled to point out that I really thought I had a genuine grievance to throw that strop about - I wasn't just being difficult because I felt like it.
  9. Circa 1992 / 1993: I vaguely remember being shown Snow White and the Seven Dwarves sometime in my early days.  In retrospect, it was probably just after the film's digitally-remastered re-release.  It might have been my first cinema trip, and it's definitely the first film or TV material that I specifically remember seeing.  The bit that stuck in my head was this rather charming moment in the dungeon - I hope that doesn't say anything too bad about the state of my head?
  10. Early March 1993: we moved from Bristol to Cardiff.
  11. Sometime in 1993: cottoned on to the fact that each day and each year had its own number - I understanding the calendar, basically.  No idea what date this was, but I definitely remember it was in '93.
  12. Probably 1993 or 1994: my school class (I liked the school in Cardiff much better than the one in Bristol, by the way) was taken up to the staff room and fed small pieces of cooked turnip.  I really don't know what they were trying to prove, I just remember the veg.
  13. Probably late 1994 or early 1995: was allowed to make a cardboard model house at school (can't remember what academic context it might have had).  It only had a ground floor, and my ambitious lighting scheme was curtailed by the fact that they only let me have one bulb, but otherwise the project ranks as one of the high points of my three years in school.
  14. September 1995: began home education.
  15. Second half of 1995: on a visit to someone else's house (I can't remember whose) I came across a Buzz Lightyear toy.  Didn't think anything of it at the time, but that inconspicuous moment was the first time I crossed paths with Pixar Animation Studios.
  16. Tuesday 26 September 1995: started keeping my oldest surviving diary/journal thing.  The first entry was about some sunflowers I'd been growing in the back garden, and the book has some of the petals (remarkably well-preserved) laid out on its front cover under some sticky-backed plastic film.
  17. Wednesday 4 October 1995: the second entry in the sunflower journal records the fact that "we saw lots of snails on dead twigs" - I still remember the incident: the 'twigs' weren't technically twigs, but the dead stems of some annual hedgerow plant, two or three feet high, and the shiny little yellow- and brown-shelled snails which caught my attention, sitting on the dead twigs in large numbers, were almost certainly Cepaea hortensis.  This might not have been the very beginning of my fondness for the species, but it was certainly very close to the beginning, and an important formative moment.
  18. 6 January 1996: we left the UK for a two-year stay in Hong Kong, where Dad had got a contract to set up a test lab for a government agency.
  19. Later January 1996: found a two- or three-inch-long shell in a gutter, white with dark-brown spots.  Kept it (and, I'm sure you'll be glad to know, cleaned it).  It turned out to be the first of several of its species that I would acquire in Hong Kong, and it kicked my recently-formed interest in shells into a whole new gear.
  20. Late January / early February 1996: moved into our new flat at 17G Orchid Court, Sha Tin, which we would call home for nearly two years.  The block of flats, along with four others, is on the roof of a shopping centre, whose McDonalds' and Pizza Hut outlets would be a lifeline, and there was also a musical fountain in the middle of the main atrium, which I found endlessly fascinating.
  21. Saturday 22 June 1996: one of the occasional Saturday mornings on which I went with Dad to his lab.  I don't know whether it was the first, but I saw fit to record this one in my journal.
  22. Summer 1996: my conversion to Christianity.
  23. Can't remember if it was the autumn of 1996 or 1997: was told I would be taking part in the Sunday School musical production for Christmas, and was duly packed off to the upstairs classroom where the first rehearsal was taking place.  I hated it with every fibre of my being - I can't and won't sing on a stage, and nobody has any right to tell me otherwise - so I stood at the back of the group in ferocious silence, with my arms folded and (I'm told) a glare like a thundercloud.  Once the adults concerned had realised I really wasn't going to sing, they decided to let me be the narrator instead, which suited much better.
  24. Saturday 28 September 1996: went for a walk in the local park, and picked up a load of leftover wax from the candles used in the Moon Festival lanterns the previous night.  Made a candle of our own from the leftovers.
  25. Sunday 27 October 1996: my baptism.
  26. Wednesday 27 November 1996: went round the local park to see the giant lanterns that had been set up for the Zigong Lantern Festival.
  27. Sometime in 1997, I think, but it could have been late 1996: our train stopped at a station which happened to offer a view of the road where our bus route to church, the Kowloon Motor Bus 85, went - and on the road below I spotted an 85.  But not just any old 85.  Instead of the dull-yellow colours which 85s usually sported, this one was white - which probably won't mean much to you unless I explain that the white livery was reserved for air-conditioned buses.  After several months of suffering our way to and from church in non-air-conditioned buses, KMB had finally seen fit to put air-con vehicles on the route.  That made me enormously happy.
  28. Saturday 4 January 1997: drew the first in a series of pictures (each comprising four A4 sheets end-to-end) showing various villages in a fictional country of my own creation.
  29. Tuesday 11 February 1997: went down to Hong Kong Harbour to see the Chinese New Year fireworks show.
  30. Early 1997: went to the cinema to see Star Wars 20th-anniversary Special Edition.  It mostly went over my head, but repeat viewings on rented VHS tapes over the next few years were better appreciated.
  31. Wednesday 28 May 1997: Ben born, 20:53.
  32. September 1997: left Hong Kong for a 3-week trip to Australia, via Manila Airport in the Philippines.
  33. Later September 1997: discovered a shell shop in Townsville, North Queensland, and was struck by several specimens of the Venus Comb Murex.  Couldn't afford one at the time, and had to wait years and years to get hold of one.
  34. Friday 9 January 1998: touched down at Heathrow 4 in the early morning, back on native soil for the first time in two years and three days.  My diary says Auntie Tina met us at the airport, but nobody else seems to remember that point.  We immediately head back to the old lair in Cardiff, and on the way make our first crossing of the New Severn Bridge, which was opened in our absence.
  35. Friday 23 January 1998: we acquired our purple Ford Galaxy, which we gradually ran into the ground over the next 13-and-a-half years.
  36. Saturday 13 June 1998: we went to a Christian home educators' meeting, and meet a family called the Johnstons for the first time.  I certainly didn't appreciate the gravity of this moment at the time, but it turns out to have been very, very important day.
  37. Sometime in 1998: completed the loft conversion which we'd done to create a new play room.  Began building a new incarnation of my lego-and-cardboard city.
  38. Sunday 28 March 1999: first visit to Yateley Baptist Church.  I've been there so long now that it almost seems weird to think that there was a first visit.
  39. Monday 2 August 1999: I woke up late for a Monday, realised that Dad didn't come in to say goodbye before setting off to Hampshire for the working week, and started getting a bit upset, before it turned out he didn't go to Hampshire at all that morning, because Sophie had been born at 05:01.
  40. Friday 22 October 1999: we moved out of our house in Cardiff, spent part of the day with friends at their enormous, half-decorated pile (which I found a fascinating place) and then went down to Devon to stay with Mum's parents in Plymouth for a few weeks.
  41. Early December 1999: we moved into our current house in Hampshire, and started going to YBC regularly.
  42. Sometime in 2001: Universe XGT had its beginnings in a Lego-based game while Tim was on a visit to Hampshire.
  43. Last week of October 2001: joined our church's annual Youth Hostelling holiday, which was in Hastings that year.
  44. Thursday 20 December 2001: Mum, Dad, Cat and me went to the Odeon Cinema, Guildford, to see The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring the day after it opened.  My interest in filmmaking began during these 3 hours.
  45. 15 June 2002: started work on my first-ever animation - a tiny little clip of a plant sprouting, with the frames created pixel-by-pixel in Microsoft Paint.  It was so bad that I don't plan on showing it to you, but it sowed the seed of better things to come...
  46. September 2002: began GCSE studies with an online school called NorthStar.
  47. 5 February 2003: began work on what would become my first completed CGI animated short, Martian Ballet, in collaboration with Dave Allwright.
  48. Not really sure when, but possibly circa 2003: the night Dad and I helped Grandma and Grandad move out of their old house.
  49. June / July 2004: completed GCSEs.
  50. 28 August 2004: completed my first successful attempt at stopmotion, White-tack.
  51. September 2004: began A-level studies at Farnborough Sixth Form College.
  52. 5 January 2006: began work on Arthur & the Punk, the first in a trio of plasticene-stopmotion shorts which would take a total of almost four years to complete.
  53. Sunday 19 February 2006: turned 18.  Now legally allowed to buy pointy objects, tobacco, booze and Quentin Tarantino films on DVD.  Didn't make use of any of these new-found rights.
  54. Friday 9 June 2006: on the spur of the moment, wrote the first eleven episodes of a little webcomic called Cylinder and Miserable.  I put 4-digit numbers in the filenames (e.g. "Cyl_and_Mis_0001.gif" - now reduced to "CM-0001.gif"), but never really expected that I'd need all those zeros.  Time would tell...
  55. July 2006: completed A-level studies at Farnborough Sixth.
  56. Last week of August 2006: attended Root Hill Camp for the first time.
  57. Last week of October 2006: went on my sixth and last YBC Youth Hostelling holiday.
  58. Friday 27 October 2006: Tim and I filmed X-Battles GT1: Attacking, mainly as an exercise to let Tim have a go at stopmotion.  It turned out to be the first of several instalments in an increasingly technically complex series.
  59. Monday 27 November 2006: published the first episode of Cylinder and Miserable.
  60. Sunday 17 December 2006: I drew and published the first episode of an untitled Christian comic strip series, which I would later name Grace and Caffeine.
  61. April 2007: went to India for two weeks.  Got sick.  Nearly died.  Never going back.
  62. 28 May 2007 (or thereabouts): after a very long time with no animals in the house, we acquired the first of what would prove to be at least half a dozen hamsters.  Hammy the hamster was Ben's main present for his 10th birthday, and would stay with us for about two-and-a-half years.
  63. Mid-late June 2007: after 8 months' work, I completed my giant mosaic project I See the Light at the End, in the knowledge that it will soon have to be taken down and put into storage as the building housing it is going to be demolished.
  64. Monday 2 July 2007: got my email working properly after several months of downtime.  May seem trivial in retrospect, but it meant a lot to me at the time.
  65. Wednesday 4 July 2007: as an offhand remark in an email, I suggest the formation of a group called "the Fellowship of the Unsubtle Lead Bricks", to comprise (initially) myself, Tim and Sarah.
  66. Friday 20 July 2007: took, and failed, my first driving test.  Everybody then told me that all the best drivers fail at least once, and the experience spurs them on to become better drivers.
  67. Saturday 4 August 2007: while at a barbecue at Tim and Sarah's, I came up with the beginnings of an idea which I called Alpha One's Laser CafeThe resulting stopmotion film has become the first instalment of a quadrilogy, with the third film half-way through shooting, and the fourth in the scripting stages.
  68. Thursday 13 September 2007: passed my driving test on the second attempt.
  69. Later September 2007: began my BSc course at Farnborough College of Technology.
  70. December 2007: discovered the existence of Farnborough Tech's very small Christian Union.
  71. Monday 31 December 2007:  completed Day-Glo! (the second of my three plasticene short films) with just hours to go before the end of the year, after a final push by Tim to complete the score - the first of several he has composed for my films.
  72. Some time in early 2008: met one Lewis Connolly for the first time.  Apparently he'd already 'met' Cat over Facebook, but this was the first time any of us saw him in person.
  73. Sunday 6 July 2008: had problems, and ended up rather depressed by the evening.  Mum then decided it was time to tell me her thoughts re: me and the autistic spectrum - which explained a lot.
  74. Monday 7 July 2008: I drew the first of what would prove to be an ongoing series of pictures documenting my feelings on the Aspergers diagnosis.
  75. Monday 14 July 2008: visited a small war museum in Northumberland.  The enormity of what had happened got to me somewhat.
  76. Last week of August 2008: my third year at Root Hill.  Met Sam Arthur for the first time.  Can't remember if this was also the year I first met Josh Hall or if that was 2007 (a little help here, Josh?).  Also took over as official videographer for the week from camp organiser Dave Hollands.
  77. May / June 2009: directed live-action film for the first time, on the college project One in a Million.
  78. Tuesday 9 June 2009: wrote the 1000th episode of Cylinder and Miserable, finally making use of all those zeros I gave myself three years earlier.
  79. Saturday 1 August 2009: Cat & Lewis married at YBC.  I was one of the ushers, along with Lewis' brother, and Cat asked me to sign the register as one of the witnesses.
  80. Friday 4 September 2009: the beginning of a long and productive relationship between myself and Sony Creative Software's Vegas Movie Studio.  Proves that despite what some Mac fans claim, you can edit HD video perfectly well on the Windows platform.
  81. Saturday 5 December 2009: completed The Probe Has Succeeded, the last film in my claymation triptych.
  82. Tuesday 27 April 2010: having previously written the script for Megastropulodon Attacks! and been tasked with supervising the visual effects, I was now given the director's chair after Esam sacked the previous director for not engaging properly with the project.
  83. Early June 2010: completed the final module of my BSc at Farnborough Tech.
  84. Friday 23 July 2010: during a sugar-fuelled bout of creative zaniness in the small hours of the morning, Tim, Sarah and I created the first few episodes of our new cross-continuity comic strip Fort Paradox.
  85. Thursday 22 July 2010: completed X-Battles GT4: Deflecting (made by Tim, Sarah and myself), reviving the long-running tech-experimentation series and moving it into the HD age.
  86. Saturday 31 July 2010: drew the 178th and last episode of Grace and Caffeine, ending a creative undertaking which had been part of my life for more than three-and-a-half years.
  87. Last week of August 2010: my fifth year at Root Hill, and my second time doing the camp video - this time in widescreen!  Lots of major highs and lows.  High points included meeting a certain sheep- and Doctor Who-obsessed ginger person for the first time.
  88. Wednesday 1 September 2010: started blogging at A White Horizon.
  89. Tuesday 26 October 2010: found Coco the hamster dead in his cage, and as everyone else except Mum was away on various trips all week, it fell to me to carry out the funeral.
  90. Thursday 28 October 2010: graduated from Farnborough Tech with first-class honours.
  91. Tuesday 2 November 2010: published the first episode of Fort Paradox.
  92. Saturday 27 November 2010: went to the Root Hill reunion in London.  Got a scenic tour of several major rail stations and discovered that I don't like Harrods.
  93. Late November / early December 2010: quit Facebook, because I could.
  94. Friday 3 December 2010: invented the Binary Advent Candle.
  95. Thursday 30 December 2010: did my first acrylic painting since finishing A-level Fine Art six-and-a-half years previously.
  96. Saturday 1 January 2011: completed the 720p HD remastered version of Martian Medicine - likely the final iteration of the Martian Ballet Trilogy, after seven years (on-and-off) in the making.
  97. Saturday 22 January 2011: Hannah's 18th-birthday party - in Kent.  Getting there involved what is, to date, my longest-ever solo road trip.  There was a point half-way back to Hampshire in the small hours of the next morning when I sat in the car in a motorway services car park and seriously considered sleeping there until the morning, but I decided this wasn't a great plan.
  98. Thursday 27 January 2011: set myself a weekly-animation challenge under the title Arbitrary Stopframe.
  99. Thursday 19 May 2011: saw a kingfisher on the River Blackwater, which inspired me to begin work on my most ambitious painting ever.
  100. Monday 7 November 2011: completed my kingfisher painting circa 23:40, after five-and-a-half months in progress.

So there you go.  Me to date.

- The Colclough

Monday 31 October 2011

Time of Year

As of yesterday, we're back on Proper Time.  For another five months, we'll say it's noon when it's actually solar noon, instead of this summer-time nonsense of calling it noon when it's still really only 11am.  Don't get me started on the ludicrous notion some people have of introducing 'double summer time' and pushing the clocks another hour out of synch with reality.  I'm a stickler for logic, and that sort of stupid idea makes my blood boil.

Did you lot enjoy your extra hour of sleep (the one they stole off you back in April and only just gave back)?  I didn't get one.  Let me explain...

I have this problem where I go to bed at night, and even if I was really tired just before hitting the pillow, my brain always wakes up and starts talking at me.  And it won't... shut... up... for hours.  I can't remember the last time I was asleep before midnight - at least not without cheating the system by skipping sleep altogether the previous night.  And then the morning comes around, and I suddenly start feeling all tired.  My brain shuts up at last, my limbs decide they don't want to move.  So my sleep pattern is pretty messed up anyway, and if I don't corral it with an alarm clock then it tends to drift later and later relative to the clock.

So this year, for the second time running, I pulled a devious little stunt: I deliberately forewent my extra hour (although you could argue that I'd already had it, spread out in 120 half-minute chunks over the course of the summer), so instead of getting up at half 9 on Sunday morning, as I'd been doing before, I got up at half 8 - the same time relative to the sun, but an hour earlier relative to the clock.  First time in a while that I'd been up that early and not felt really naff about it.

The thing now will be to see if the correction sticks.

That wasn't a blog post worth waiting a month for, was it?

- The Colclough

Wednesday 28 September 2011

Stuff I Made: September 2011

Been a while since I did one of those several-different-paragraphs-on-unrelated-subjects blogs...

1) Arbitrary Stopframe: I mentioned the other week that I was working on an idea for Episode 11.  Here it is.

2) Painting: did a little painting the other day, experimenting with paint surface effects and trying to make it look like running water, but I forgot to photograph it yet.  Also did more to the kingfisher - new photo follows.

Untitled Kingfisher Painting - now with some paint on the kingfisher!

3) Root Hill on Camera 2011: pretty much finished editing the Concert reel (runtime circa 70 minutes).  Might go back in and add some video filters on one little segment, but otherwise I think the Concert's all done and dusted.

4) Writing Megastropulodon: now nearly 2/3 of the way through the third draft for the opening episode.  Haven't decided yet whether my next move will be the third draft for Episode 5, or starting work on a first draft for Episode 2.

- The Colclough

Tuesday 20 September 2011

Into Double Figures

For the first time ever, one of my film/animation projects has reached its 10th instalment (well, there was a very small thing that I made as a bad in-joke, that got to 30, but most of you don't want to know about that) - as of this afternon, Arbitrary Stopframe has gone into double figures!

I brought back Doctor Murkum, partly because everybody seemed to like his previous appearance (Episode 4), and this time I pitted him against my magnetic-sculpture set.  Originally, I was planning to use the magnet sculpture in Episode 9, along with Forkley, but I discovered that they didn't make a particularly interesting combination, hence the fact that Forkley got the pencil jar instead in a last-minute rewrite.

I would have done this episode last Monday, but I cracked the storyline literally ten minutes after my parents had driven off for a few day's holiday for their wedding anniversary - and taken the Nikon D80 with them, which left me with an idea, but no DSLR to shoot it on.  Which is why you've had to wait for today instead.  But anyway, enough of that.  The point is, Episode 10 is now online.  Enjoy.

And I'm working on an idea for Episode 11 already...

- The Colclough

Wednesday 14 September 2011

The Whole Neurological Disorder Thing

Yeah, that thing in the 'About Me' box where I mentioned having some sort of autistic-spectrum condition... it's been a little over three years since the idea was first put to me that I might have Asperger's Syndrome, and what with the 'anniversary' having just gone past, I've been doodling again.

That was how I decided to deal with the idea back in July 2008 - I started drawing a picture for each day which summarised how I'd felt about it.  It lasted two weeks, dropped off as my feelings on the subject started to stabilise, then a couple more drawings snuck in a week later.  And then July 2009 came around, and when other things combined with the one-year mark, it gave rise to a new clutch of drawings.  And so on, re: July 2010 and July 2011.

As a project, I'm not really sure how to categorise it.  Does it come under 'diary-keeping'?  Does it come under 'comic strips', in the sense that it's serialised graphical storytelling (sorta)?  Does it come under 'self-imposed therapy'?  I don't really know.  The funny thing is that despite the heavy stylisation and the extensive use of strange metaphors, it's more truthful, or more documentary in nature, if you like, than pretty much any other creative undertaking I've ever done.

I had previously posted the first 3 years' drawings on Tailcast, but as Tailcast had lost its soul by the end of last year, I gave up and terminated my account, which meant the drawings went offline.  But I have now re-uploaded them all to a new DeviantArt account, along with the latest additions to the series.  You can see all 36 pictures here.  Some of you may have seen some of the pictures before.  Some of you won't.  And none of you will have seen the last 8 yet.

Something a bit more serious, to contrast Cylinder and Miserable, I suppose...

- The Colclough

Monday 29 August 2011

Arbitrary Again

So, I'm back from Root Hill (might blog about that later), and Doctor Who is back on the air (I'm still confused, but my gut reaction is that I liked Let's Kill Hitler better than A Good Man Goes to War, even though there wasn't as much bashing of the Fuhrer as the title might lead you to expect).  However, it's gone half ten at night, and unlike certain other people, that's a bit late for me to be starting to write an ambitious blog post.  So I'll just leave you with a couple of little videos.

I forgot to embed Arbitrary Stopframe 8 when I uploaded it a few weeks ago.  I've just uploaded episode 9, so I may as well take the opportunity to rectify my mistake, and embed both at once:

Now that I've finished my big crazy glut of travellings, I might try and get back to doing these things on a weekly basis.  Ooh, how ambitious.

- The Colclough

Friday 19 August 2011

Signing off (for now)

So, the Twenty Questions challenge is over.  Pretty much.  It has resulted in my most bloggingest month ever (sorry, I couldn't be bothered to work out how to say that in real grammar) with 18 posts in August, and it's prompted me to think through some questions and come up with some answers which had never occurred to me before.  I'd probably have gone my whole life without attempting a scientific comparison of the relative merits of sheep and cows, for example, if Hannah hadn't included that on her question list.

It's also made me pretty tired of staring at ye olde Blogger Create Post screen.

Anywho, I'm off to Root Hill tomorrow, so I'll be internetless for a week.  No more Blogger Create Post screens.  No wordsmithing races or challenges.  No animation, probably (don't panic though, I'm working on an idea for Arbitrary Stopframe Episode 9 for when I get back).  No webcomic updates (well, Tim's going to look after Fort Paradox as it's his turn this week anyway, and Cylinder and Miserable will get some bonus strips online tomorrow).  Goodness knows what else will happen though!  After all, it was thanks to meeting H and one or two other things that happened at Root Hill 2010 that I started this blog in the first place.  Who knows what RH 2011 might precipitate?

But before I head off, I've got one little loose end to wrap up from Twenty Questions: Sam gave me 5 extra questions, and I only answered 3 of them so far.  Here are the rest.

Sam's questions, #4: "Which do you prefer: Motorhead or Metallica?"

I really don't know.  I've never really listened to either.

Sam's questions, #5: "Who is your favourite Stand Up Comedian?"

Another case of "I don't have a particular favourite".  But if I had to choose one, then maybe Jeff Dunham. For Achmed.

For those of you who are going to Root Hill, I'll see you there.  For the rest, see you afterwards.

- The Colclough

Thursday 18 August 2011

The Halls of Infamy

The finale!  After weeks of plotting, scheming, and desperate clattering of the QWERTY board, I finally come to the last of Hannah 'LikesSheepBaa' Newcombe's twenty questions.  I've saved this one for last because in some ways, it's the hardest.  It's Question 8: "What is your favourite character that you’ve created so far?"

Shouldn't that be, "Who is your favourite character that you’ve created so far?"

Grammatical nit-picking aside, this is going to be tricky.  I've never had any children, so I can't really draw a comparison to "having to choose between my children", but I'm pretty sure this is what it would feel like if I did have any children and someone was forcing me to choose between them.

In fact, never mind mere 'tricky': picking a single favourite is going to be impossible.  There are too many of them that I'm too fond of.  The best I can do would be to present an alphabetically-ordered shortlist, with various facts, figures and claims to fame, and maybe illustrations.  And I'm going to put something cool on the speakers.  Bear with me while I fire up WinMP...

Not quite my all-time favourites, but Honourable Mentions:
  • The 18th Everything Shopkeeper (from Cylinder and Miserable) - because he can say the most outlandish things and be absolutely accurate about it.
  • Brother Threadmoose (from Cylinder and Miserable) - an itinerant monk affiliated with no known religion, prone to speaking with a mediaeval dialect, and in possession of a 'Parakamellama' - whatever the heck of of those is.
  • Forkley (from Universe XGT, also appears in Fort Paradox) - encapsulates all the most amusing aspects of UXGT, and would probably be very, very bad for a lot of other people's heads if they knew all there is to know about him.
  • Lulu the Ship's Cactus (from A Salesman Beneath) - because it amuses me to have a spaceship controlled by a prickly plant instead of a computer.
  • Tom Thomason (from Grace and Caffeine and Goin' Teapotty) - old friend.  Probably been in my head longer than anyone else mentioned here except Forkley.

And now, the Front-Runners:

Cylinder the Cylinder (from Cylinder and Miserable, also appears in Fort Paradox and other media)
  • Entered my brain: 2006
  • First published appearance: 2006
  • Official age: unknown (depends whether he had existed before the events of C&M Episode 0001, which is a question I've never bothered to work out an answer for)
  • Race/Species: Geometrant
  • Claim(s) to Fame: breaks the fourth wall; owns a Metaphysical Violation Drive ship and a 50-foot Norwegian custard jacuzzi; has a sentient sprig of broccoli as a butler; revels in the title of "the World's Most Notorious Travel Writer" and likes to hang out and eat pizza with his self-confessedly rabid fan club; claims to have sold the Sistine Chapel; also managed to parachute a lawnmower into a tree in Vietnam and get it stuck there while being chased by some very angry communists.
Edwin Hall (best known for his part in Grace and Caffeine, also appears in Fort Paradox and other media)
  • Entered my brain: 2003
  • First published appearance: 2006
  • Official age: late 70s
  • Race/Species: Human
  • Claim(s) to Fame: has white hair and uber gardening skills; inherited my pragmatic/grumpy streak.
  • Other remarks: I think I like Edwin because he reflects the part of me that gets upset when things don't make sense.  On that level, he balances out the other front-runners, who are all pretty much unfazed by pretty much anything.
Meebrick the Misnomer (from A Salesman Beneath)
  • Entered my brain: 2010
  • First published appearance: 2011
  • Official age: late 50s, approximately
  • Race/Species: Human
  • Claim(s) to Fame: manages to be impossibly happy even when freefalling into a near-infinite void, almost getting eaten by giant bats, being put to work washing hundreds of sticky eggs, battling mechanical spacefaring turtles, or voyaging inside a miniature planet made of jelly.
Ron Haggard (from Megastropulodon)
  • Entered my brain: 2009
  • First published appearance: 2010
  • Official age: 33
  • Race/Species: Human
  • Claim(s) to Fame: breaks the fourth wall (Cylinder isn't alone); sees the whole world through a filter of cartoon logic; laughs in the face of laser vision; is un-puffed-up enough to settle for being the Sidekick even though he's got more of a clue than anyone else; saves the universe from a gigantic hairy rampaging mutant monster using a bomb built from someone else's briefcase and a bottle of cold tea.
I'm curious - which characters have made the best impression on the audience?  To find out, I've opened a poll over in the sidebar.  Will be interested to see how the voting goes...

The Final Stats:
  • Twenty Questions status: 20 down, none to go - I think, just for once, I might have won.
  • Days until Root Hill: 2
  • Latest book read: Jennings Follows a Clue
  • Latest film/TV watched: Red Dwarf 1.6
  • Latest music listened to: Doctor Who Series 5 OST by Murray Gold
  • Latest edible item eaten: chocolate cookie
  • Predominant colour of clothes: blue/grey
  • Programs and web pages currently running: Microsoft Office Outlook and Word 2007, Firefox (tabs: MatNav 6.1; Blogspot Create Post), Windows Media Player 11
  • Webcomics posted today: Cylinder and Miserable #1339

- The Colclough


...and just maybe some braincrunching too, as I tackle Question 20: "If the answer is 42, what is the question?"



Did you see what I did there?  I answered a question about another question in such a way that the question was in fact the other question too, and therefore arguably the answer to itself.  Confused?  Me too.  Let me break it down for you (and more to the point, for me):
  • Q: "If the answer is 42, what is the question?"
  • A: "42."
  • So the answer is "42", which fulfils the criterion stipulated in the original question.  Therefore, we can now proceed to work out what other question would fit the answer.
  • But wait a minute - to get the answer "42", we started out from the question "If the answer is 42, what is the question?" - therefore, the other question that the first question was asking about, must also be "If the answer is 42, what is the question?"
  • Therefore, the question is asking about itself.
Alternatively, you could save yourself a migraine like so: the other question could just be "What's 6x7?"

Mind you, that's a bit boring by comparison, isn't it?

  • Twenty Questions status: 19 down, just one more to go!
  • Days until Root Hill: 2
  • Latest book read: Jennings Follows a Clue
  • Latest film/TV watched: Red Dwarf 1.6
  • Latest music listened to: How to Train Your Dragon OST by John Powell
  • Latest edible item eaten: chocolate cookie
  • Predominant colour of clothes: blue/grey
  • Programs and web pages currently running: Microsoft Office Outlook 2007, Firefox (tabs: MatNav 6.1, twice; Blogspot Create Post)
  • Webcomics posted today: Cylinder and Miserable #1339

- The Colclough

Sparkly or Undead?

A bit like Question 15: "Sheep or cows?", but odder and more fictional... and maybe trickier - Question 16: "Zombies or unicorns?"

Wow.  What a choice to have to make.  Sparkly white horses with magical horns on their foreheads versus the creeping, oozing, rotting, brainsss-coveting undead.

Sorry to keep doing this, but once again I must resort to summarising various points for and against in the tried and trusted bulleted-list format:
  • It would probably be more manly to say Zombies.  Just because they don't sparkle.  If I'd asked Hannah the same question, she wouldn't have this problem.  But then again, how much do I care?
  • Unicorns probably won't eat you.  Definitely a point to Team Sparkly.
  • You might be able to use a unicorn as a lawnmower.  Zombies probably not.
  • It's usually a given that zombies want your guts, but is the unicorn also out to get you?  If so, then I'd vote Zombie, because it's much easier to outrun a shuffling corpse than a galloping equid.
  • But the flipside to that is that if I had to pick one or other as a mode of transport, then I'd have to vote Unicorn for exactly the same reason.
  • If I was going to have a conversation with one or other, I'd talk to the unicorn.  Because they're supposed to be able to speak (I'm told), or at least understand speech, while the undead would rather kill you than listen to you.
  • At the other extreme, if I had to eat one or other, I'd eat the unicorn.  It'd taste millions better - assuming some sort of unicorn protection magic didn't kill you as soon as you stuck your fork in - and zombies almost certainly carry multi-resistant salmonella or something.
  • Both critters are equally damaging to metaphysics.
  • If I had a girlfriend to worry about, then I suspect she'd want me to say Unicorn - "My boyfriend's got a unicorn!" sounds a bit less repulsive than "My boyfriend's got a pet zombie!"  But I don't, so that doesn't count.
Net result: on balance, probably unicorns.

Them statistics:
  • Twenty Questions status: 18 down, 2 to go (so close now...)
  • Days until Root Hill: 2
  • Latest book read: Jennings Follows a Clue
  • Latest film/TV watched: Red Dwarf 1.6
  • Latest music listened to: How to Train Your Dragon OST by John Powell
  • Latest edible item eaten: croissants and cowjuice
  • Predominant colour of clothes: back to blue
  • Programs and web pages currently running: Microsoft Office Outlook 2007, Firefox (tabs: MatNav 6.1; Blogspot Create Post)
  • Webcomics posted today: Cylinder and Miserable #1339

- The Colclough

Wednesday 17 August 2011

One Forgets

Question 11: "What is your earliest memory?"

I've got a few early ones, but I can't remember what order they happened in.  What I think might have been the first involved waking up in the middle of the night in my bedroom in Bristol, at the tender age of two or thereabouts, and wondering why the lamp on the far side of the room wasn't on.  Or it might have been another night, in the same room, where I had a dream that questioned what would happen if the shade fell off my ceiling light.  Yes, I've always had a bit of a thing with light and dark.  No wonder I ended up as an artist.

There were some other memories from the smaller bedroom, but I'm pretty sure those came later, as I only got moved in there after I stopped being an only child at two-and-nearly-a-half.  They included a certain level of paranoia about those little chinks of light coming through the gaps around the curtains (I think I was under the mistaken impression that they were spying on me), an equal if not greater level of paranoia about the cartoon drawing of an x-ray on my alphabet wall chart (I hated that x-ray with a vengeance, or more to the point I was scared stiff of it, and I was enormously pleased with myself one day when I worked up the courage to face the offending drawing and rip it out of the poster.  Mum was less pleased with the mess)... and then there was the incident with E.T.

I usually like to gloss over the one under the dining table with the felt-tip pens and little sister's t-shirt.  (How was I meant to know that wasn't an appropriate choice of canvas, anyway?)  That one aside, my most anecdotable early memory was the one where I woke up one morning to find my room had suffered an overnight alien invasion.  I came to, and may or may not have had time to note the disappearance of the aforementioned possibly-conspiratorial chinks of light from behind the curtains before I realised I was being stared at from across the very small room (I maintain that it was about 7 foot by 5) by the most hideous and obviously-malevolent entity I had ever seen.

In retrospect, it turns out to have been a small, stuffed version of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, but as far as my three- or four-year-old self was concerned it was the miniature embodiment of evil come to kill me or something.  The situation probably wasn't helped by its unexpectedness - the fact that this thing had arrived in my room without a single word of warning or explanation.  The big problem was how to escape the room and find someone to help get rid of it, because my head was at the pillow end of the bed (see, I did have some residual scraps of normality!), and that was at the opposite end of the room to the door, with the beast strategically perched on a shelf in between.  I dared not get any closer without some sort of protection, as I would probably pay for it with my life.

Thank goodness for the miracle of duvets.  In a flash of inspiration, I retreated beneath the cover, and crawled down to the foot of the bed in its shadow.  The door handle was now just a few inches away, and if I could move quickly enough, I might outrun the monster.  There was probably one of those tense pauses like you get in Westerns, where everybody stares meaningfully at each other's gun holsters and the art department sends a well-placed piece of dry tumbleweed blowing across the street.

I ran.  I grabbed my door handle, yanked it open, hurled myself off the foot of the bed and into the relative safety of the landing, saw salvation in the bathroom in the shape of a parent or two, and ran towards it for dear life, as fast as I could possibly manage, shrieking hysterically.  I may have invented a new adjective to describe the indescribable horror that I'd just escaped.

The unwelcome alien was duly removed, and peace restored.

Only for him to turn up again in a very strange movie I saw several years later... except that time he didn't scare the living daylights out of me.

Grown-up me's statistics:
  • Twenty Questions status: 17 down, 3 to go
  • Days until Root Hill: 3
  • Latest book read: Operation Mincemeat
  • Latest film/TV watched: Red Dwarf 1.5
  • Latest music listened to: How to Train Your Dragon OST by John Powell
  • Latest edible item eaten: coffee
  • Predominant colour of clothes: black
  • Programs and web pages currently running: Microsoft Office Word and Outlook 2007, Firefox (tabs: Fort Paradox offline archive; A White Horizon; Blogspot Create Post;, Windows Media Player 11
  • Webcomics posted today: Cylinder and Miserable #1338

- The Colclough

Time And Relative Dimensions In Space

Question 10: "You now have a type 40 TARDIS.  Where and when would your top destinations be?"

Ooh, all of time and space... where do I want to start?  A few of my destinations, in some semblance of chronological order:
  • ~4000 BC to watch the beginning of the universe.  No need to skip ahead and watch the end, because one way or another I'll get to see that anyway.  Spoilers...
  • ~2400 BC to see what the Ark looked like.
  • AD 1011, to see what my local area looked like a millennium ago.
  • It's tempting to go to 1605 and give the Gunpowder Plotters a helping hand, just to see what would happen to history if they'd succeeded, but I don't think I'd go through with that one.
  • I'd go to Skywalker Ranch circa 1994, pick up George Lucas, bring him to the present and show him how the world has reacted to the Star Wars prequels, and then take him back to 1994 so he could fix the scripts accordingly.
  • There was this huge lantern exhibition in the local park when I was living in Hong Kong, and one of my lasting regrets is that I didn't take the time to try and appreciate the quieter, less OTT parts.  I'd take my TARDIS back to Sha Tin Park in autumn 1997 and look at all the bits I missed last time.
  • I'd go to 2005 and bribe Russell T Davies to not write Love and Monsters.
  • Saturn, just because.
...and that's just if I stick to real-world chronology.  If I was including fictional destinations, then I'd go and see Coruscant, visit Gallifrey in its heyday, and just to really confuse myself I might try and materialise on board Fort Paradox.

My stats, at present:
  • Twenty Questions status: 16 down, 4 to go
  • Days until Root Hill: 3
  • Latest book read: Operation Mincemeat
  • Latest film/TV watched: The Simpsons Movie
  • Latest music listened to: Doctor Who Series 1 & 2 OST by Murray Gold - I scared myself when I hit 'play' because I'd turned the speakers up way too loud by mistake 8p
  • Latest edible item eaten: beef burger
  • Predominant colour of clothes: black
  • Programs and web pages currently running: Microsoft Office Word and Outlook 2007, Firefox (tabs: Fort Paradox offline archive; A White Horizon; Blogspot Create Post), Windows Media Player 11
  • Webcomics posted today: Cylinder and Miserable #1338

- The Colclough

Tuesday 16 August 2011

The Shape of Things to Come

Another hard one... Question 7: "If you were a shape, what shape would you be?"

Hrmmm... good one.  I've never really thought about this one before Hannah asked it, and the following answer is only a spur-of-the-moment hunch thing.

I think I'd probably be a square, because it suits my obsessive sense of logic and orderliness.  Part of me wants to say a circle, but the whole pi thing would probably annoy me too much, whereas squares don't have that problem, so I'll go with one of those.  Also, squares are tileable, which would have all sorts of implications for productivity and so on.

The phrase 'being square' might have connotations of social deficiency, but that's not going to put me off from choosing my shape because I'm socially deficient anyway.  So there!

Not much change in these stats:
  • Twenty Questions status: 15 down, 5 to go - three-quarters done...
  • Days until Root Hill: 4
  • Latest book read: Operation Mincemeat (nearly finished!)
  • Latest film/TV watched: Red Dwarf 1.3 and 1.4
  • Latest music listened to: Goin' Teapotty OST by Tim Johnston
  • Latest edible item eaten: Cadbury's Dairy Milk
  • Predominant colour of clothes: Grey
  • Programs and web pages currently running: Windows Media Player, Microsoft Office Word and Outlook 2007, Firefox (tabs: MatNav 6.1; A White Horizon; Blogspot Create Post)
  • Webcomics posted today: Cylinder and Miserable #1337; Fort Paradox bonus material

- The Colclough

The Waveform of Awesome

Time grows short, with Root Hill just four days away and 7 questions still unanswered.  And at this moment in time, I shall pick up on a question about time-based media, Question 3: "How would you describe your taste in music?"

The simplest way to summarise would be to say I like classical and neo-classical music, but that's a bit reductionist.  It ignores the fact that some classical music can be a bit boring even for those who generally enjoy classical, and there are some things I'd listen to quite happily even though they really stretch the bounds of neoclassical if not outright overstep them.  And then there are the things I'd call neoclassical but others wouldn't - e.g. Yanni apparently prefers to call his music 'contemporary instrumental', while others would classify it as 'new age', and although it has some classical traits, it's equally non-classical at the same time.

I enjoy music which has a meaningful melody and/or texture, emotional connotation, etc.  I have no time for the hyper-abstract arty-farty noises some people pass off as music, e.g. serialism (yes, techically very clever perhaps, but utterly meaningless to listen to), and at the other extreme I equally dislike the inexplicably popular genre of rubbish that seems to consist of a drumbeat, maybe two bars of melody on an endless loop, and some hollow, repetitive lyrics about a soured relationship (in other words, all pop music, and several other things too).

My approach to lyrical work may seem, at first glance, to be a bit self-contradictory, but there's some method in my madness.  Ideally, if there are going to be lyrics, then they should make sense.  This explains why the huge majority of lyrical work which I like is of Christian origin - so much easier to enjoy a song if you agree with what it's saying.  If you have to be familiar with something else to appreciate the song, that's fine - so long as I'm familiar with the other thing, of course - for example, Still Alive and Want You Gone would probably have lost me, except I already knew enough about Portal to get what they were on about.  Ditto the entire Trock subgenre, re: Doctor Who.  But then, there are other things I like where the lyrics most definitely don't make the blindest bit of sense at all, e.g. Adiemus.  The difference is that in Adiemus, the 'words' aren't real words at all, and they're only there for textural effect, so their non-grammatic nature doesn't bother me.  What bothers me is all that stuff in between, where there are real words strung together in some semblance of real grammar, and they seem to be 'about' something, but they're inaudible under the drums, badly-written, or both.  E.g. all pop music... again.

A lot of my music collection has some connection to the screen, partly because screen music is very often the type that I like anyway, and partly because listening to the score often brings on the same mood as watching the film / TV show, hence why I've got the soundtracks of the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy, and several CDs of Doctor Who.  (By the way, Hannah, I hope you're appreciating all these favourable mentions of your favourite show!)  I have a special soft spot for the scores Tim's written for my films.

And then there are the other ones.  The pieces which don't follow any of my usual criteria, but which I like anyway for various strange and obscure reasons.  Case in point: Safety Dance.  Basically, it's a pop song.  It doesn't make much sense at all.  Its obsession with dancing is completely at odds with my preference for not dancing.  But I like it anyway, because of the fact that I heard it for the first several times during Root Hill 2010, which means that I always associate it with, well, Root Hill.  And it's a happy song, even if it is somewhat deranged.

Sam's questions, #3: "If you could buy any car (money No Object) what would it be?"

Something British and sophisticated with a big engine and a leather interior.  Probably a Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Jaguar or Aston Martin.  Maybe one of each.

Time for stats:
  • Twenty Questions status: 14 down, 6 to go
  • Days until Root Hill: 4
  • Latest book read: Operation Mincemeat (nearly finished!)
  • Latest film/TV watched: Red Dwarf 1.3 and 1.4
  • Latest music listened to: Martian Medicine OST by Tim Johnston
  • Latest edible item eaten: Cadbury's Dairy Milk
  • Predominant colour of clothes: Grey
  • Programs and web pages currently running: Windows Media Player, Microsoft Office Word and Outlook 2007, Firefox (tabs: MatNav 6.1; Blogspot Dashboard; Blogspot Create Post)
  • Webcomics posted today: Cylinder and Miserable #1337; Fort Paradox bonus material

- The Colclough

Saturday 13 August 2011

Done Differently

Question 19: "If you were prime minister, what would you do differently?"

All sorts of things.  I can never remember all of my planned policies at any one time, but here's a cross-section of The Colclough's Manifesto, in no particular order: if I become Prime Minister, then...
  • I will implement a massive state subsidy on Lego.
  • Green beans will be outlawed because they're horrible.
  • It will be legal to do 80mph in the second lane on the motorway, 90mph in the third, etc.  If you're going to build 'fast lanes', then they should be fast.
  • All children and pets will have the right to a sensible name.
  • Children under the age of 15 will be banned from using games consoles - cereal packets and sellotape are a much better way to spend your formative years.  That's how I did mine, and it was good.
  • Inheritance tax will be abolished, because the government have no moral right to profit from the death of their citizens or to exacerbate the grief of the bereaved by turning up and demanding money.
  • The national energy crisis will be resolved by fitting devices to the Palace of Westminster to capture all the hot air made by the politicians, and use it to drive a colossal power station.
  • To reduce red tape and bureaucracy, MPs and civil servants will lose pay every time they create paperwork.
  • The internet will be reformed so that idiots are unable to use it.  Nobody will be allowed to connect until they've passed tests in basic spelling, grammar and numeracy.  Also, Facebook and all other variants on the theme will be outlawed because they rot the brain.
  • The death penalty will be reintroduced for murderers, rapists, the criminally insane etc - much cheaper and more efficient than prison sentences, and prevents re-offending.  I would also have snipers in the big cities right now, shooting the odd looter.  That'd make the crowds think twice about what they're doing, I think.
  • The BBC will have to produce a full run of Doctor Who every year (i.e. 13 episodes broadcast on 13 consecutive Saturdays in spring/summer - no more of these delays, hiatuses or split series).  If necessary, EastEnders will be killed off in order to free up resources for DW.
  • Simon Cowell will be declared an enemy of the state, because of his heinous crimes against music.
  • The tax system will be restructured so that cool people pay less tax than uncool ones.  Basically, I'd implement a tax on stupidity.
  • Shops would be forbidden to put up any decorations, have mince pies on the shelves, or do anything else related to Christmas before the first of December.  Well, apart from selling Advent calendars, because they'd be a bit pointless if you didn't get them by the end of November.
Of course, like most manifestos, it's subject to revision.  But that's what it looks like for now.

  • Twenty Questions status: 13 down, 7 to go
  • Days until Root Hill: 7
  • Latest book read: still Dianetics
  • Latest film/TV watched: Monsters vs Aliens
  • Latest music listened to: Requiem by Karl Jenkins
  • Latest edible item eaten: Haribo
  • Predominant colour of clothes: Grey
  • Programs and web pages currently running: Windows Explorer, Windows Task Manager, Windows Media Player, Microsoft Office Word 2007, Incredimail, JPEGCrops, Sony Vegas, Firefox (tabs: Blogspot Dashboard; Blogspot Create Post)
  • Webcomics posted today: Cylinder and Miserable #1335

- The Colclough

That Pongs

Question 17: "What is your favourite smell?"

Time to tackle another hard one. One of the questions in this challenge has already dealt with the fact that a lot of people value one sense more highly than another, with H saying she'd prefer to keep her hearing at the expense of her sight if needs must, while I'd opt to have it the other way round.  To be honest, I don't think about smell the way I do sight or hearing, and if I was going to have to lose one of the three, I'd ditch the olfactory nerves without hesitation.  Which does make it awkward to pick a favourite smell... fact, totally impossible.  I simply don't have one favourite smell.  Maybe I could compile a top ten though, in no particular order:
  • Nearly-cooked pizza
  • Hot bacon
  • Cake
  • Chocolate (solid or liquid forms)
  • Tea/Coffee
  • Month-old carpet (so it still smells like a carpet shop, but not too overwhelming)
  • Freshly cut grass (used to have implications of progress, back in the days when I did the lawn mowing)
  • Wood smoke
  • Roses
  • Ink (in small quantities)
What's yours?

  • Twenty Questions status: 12 down, 8 to go
  • Days until Root Hill: 7
  • Latest book read: don't remember anything since Dianetics
  • Latest film/TV watched: Monsters vs Aliens
  • Latest music listened to: Cylinder and Miserable Official Webcomic Soundtrack: Series 1 Suite
  • Latest edible item eaten: some sort of cranberry breakfast cereal
  • Predominant colour of clothes: grey & blue
  • Programs and web pages currently running: Incredimail, Sibelius 5, Neuratron PhotoScore Lite, Firefox (tabs: Blogspot Dashboard; Blogspot Create Post)
  • Webcomics posted today: Cylinder and Miserable #1335

- The Colclough

On Vegetation

Sarah and Tim are walking the dog, and I'm once again seizing the opportunity to blog.

As of the small hours of this morning, Hannah and I are both half-way to completing the Twenty Questions blogging challenge, and I've decided to mark the occasion with a brief recap of the question list.  Answered questions are denoted in grey like this, while the unanswered questions are denoted in italics like so:

My questions for H:
  1. Where did the sheep obsession come from?
  2. If you ruled the universe, what’s the first law you would pass?
  3. What’s wrong with Doritos, anyway?
  4. Who is your anti-role model?
  5. How big are your feet?
  6. Do you like mornings?
  7. Beethoven or Bieber?
  8. Ink or acrylics?
  9. What’s the most overrated book out there?
  10. Would you prefer an alien invasion or a zombie apocalypse?
  11. What’s the strangest activity/project/group you’ve been involved with?
  12. If you had to choose between your eyes and your ears…?
  13. If you wrote a comic strip, what would it be about?
  14. What’s your most recently formed life ambition?
  15. So… what to do when life gives you lemons?
  16. Which is the best chocolate bar, and why?
  17. What would your dream house be like?
  18. Has Steven Moffat dropped the ball?
  19. Why is your car called that?
  20. Is this the last question?

...and her questions for me:
  1. We’ve reached the end of the Harry Potter era.  Thoughts?
  2. If you were an animal, how on earth did you become an animal?
  3. How would you describe your taste in music?
  4. If you were a character in Doctor Who, who would you be?
  5. Do you have a favourite medium to use when doing artwork?
  6. How tall are you?
  7. If you were a shape, what shape would you be?
  8. What is your favourite character that you’ve created so far?
  9. Do you have a favourite novel?
  10. You now have a type 40 TARDIS.  Where and when would your top destinations be?
  11. What is your earliest memory?
  12. What is your suitcase packing method?
  13. Please can I have your bank details?
  14. Do you like broccoli when it isn’t named Albert?
  15. Sheep or cows?
  16. Zombies or unicorns?
  17. What is your favourite smell?
  18. Would you ever go bungee jumping?
  19. If you were prime minister, what would you do differently?
  20. If the answer is 42, what is the question?

To kick off the second half, I will answer Question 14: "Do you like broccoli when it isn’t named Albert?"

I do like broccoli, and so long as it isn't either gone off, or a particular pixelated sprig called Albert, then I'll eat it with no fuss and bother at all.  I've been accused of not liking anything green, but that's not a fair claim.  I'll eat lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, and peas (among others) quite happily.  And I like plenty of vegetables in other colours.  It's just that the ones I don't like all happen to be green ones: cucumber, courgette, marrow, and most variants on the theme of green beans.

I digress.  Most of the times I've had this particular vegetable, it's been washed and lightly microwaved so it no longer counts as raw, but still pretty close to its in-the-field state, with all the nutrimental goodnesses still intact, and then served up in a little pile of its own on one side of the plate.

Some of you may be wondering why Hannah made that cryptic reference to a broccoli called Albert - since when does anyone name broccoli Albert?  For the benefit of those who don't know, she's making a reference to my webcomic, Cylinder and Miserable, in which Cylinder has an artificially-sentient vegetable called Albert S. Broccoli (the S. stands for Sentient) as his butler/chauffeur/manager/accomplice/whatever.  He was named after the former James Bond film producer Albert R. Broccoli, as a joke, and now it's stuck.

Some fresh, juicy stats for you to chew on:
  • Twenty Questions status: 11 down, 9 to go
  • Days until Root Hill: 7
  • Latest book read: don't remember anything since Dianetics
  • Latest film/TV watched: Monsters vs Aliens
  • Latest music listened to: Cylinder and Miserable Official Webcomic Soundtrack: Series 1 Suite
  • Latest edible item eaten: some sort of cranberry breakfast cereal
  • Predominant colour of clothes: grey
  • Programs and web pages currently running: Incredimail, Firefox (tabs: Hannah's blog; Blogspot Dashboard; A White Horizon; Blogspot Create Post; Webs)
  • Webcomics posted today: Cylinder and Miserable #1335

- The Colclough