Saturday 29 January 2011

The Animator and the Animated

I am an animator.  I have recently remembered this facet of my life, after more or less neglecting it for a few months, and I've decided to do something about it.

And this right here is that something:

On a not-so-distantly-related note, last night I finally got round to seeing Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away.  It won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2003, making it the only cel-animated film and the only Japanese film ever to have done so.  And until last night, it was the only Best Animated Feature Oscar winner which I hadn't seen.  So now I can claim my viewing to be complete, unless you want to get really nit-picky and claim that the English dub doesn't count and I have to go and watch it again in the original Japanese.  Please don't get nit-picky; I don't speak any Japanese.

I must admit it was quite a bizarre experience, and not something for the easily confused (a film set in a bath-house for the spirits?  Not something you're likely to find in any western-made movie), but enjoyable nonetheless.  It was the second Miyazaki film I've seen, following his 1979 feature debut The Castle of Cagliostro, which was a bit easier to get one's head around by dint of it being set in Europe.

I'm not sure how much longer I'll be able to maintain my claim to have seen all of the Oscar-winning animated films, what with the next round of awards due in just a few weeks, but chances are the next winner will be either Toy Story 3 (which would be the first sequel to win the award), or just-maybe How to Train Your Dragon (which would be the first win for DreamWorks Animation since Shrek, nine years ago) - and I've already seen both of them.  So I might be safe for a bit.

And in the meanwhile, I've got a couple more ideas up my sleeve for Arbitrary Stopframe 2 and beyond...

Keep watching this space!

- The Colclough

Thursday 27 January 2011

A New Incentive

For the benefit of anyone who hasn't already seen it on my YT channel, here's a vlog I did today about my recent lack of animated output, and what I intend to do about it:

Check back tomorrow or Saturday for the first instalment of Arbitrary Stopmotion!

- The Colclough

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Building Worlds

I've just been re-reading some of the posts from my old Tailcast blog (no longer online; I've got them backed up in a Word document), in particular a three-part ramble about fictional worlds of my own making, which I posted in mid-2009.

The basic gist of the thing was about how I've moved, and am still moving, through a series of different fictional worlds, and generally heading along an upward spiral in terms of their self-integrity and publishability.  There was commentary on some of my earliest and least coherent efforts, and on the relative merits of the Geometriverse, and it all wrapped up with some vague remarks about hopefully going on to build new and better worlds which might actually be fit for release on, say, TV.

It made quite interesting re-reading, and it's inspired me to have another ramble on the topic, covering the developments of the last year or two.

The Geometriverse, for starters, is still going strong.  It's been half a year since I last wrote any Cylinder and Miserable strips, and it'll be a few months yet before I restart, but it's a deliberate and controlled hiatus, and I'm still hoping to start work on Series 3 sometime, maybe as early as this year.  While the webcomic is mostly an exercise in arcane humour, the narrative glue holding the plot arcs together is getting stronger and stronger with each new series - my plans for Series 3 are already shaping up to be the project's most tightly-written run yet.

But that's an extension of a world which I already knew about when I penned my earlier treatise.  What's more talkable-about is the fact that, as predicted back in mid-2009, I've got new fictions in development, and they look likely to become my best yet.

Megastropulodon, for example.  The existing short film, conceived in the first months of 2010, is just a precursor to the bigger narrative, a tiny little sample of the monster-fuelled weirdness of my planned TV series.  The basic plan is that the story in the 15-minute film will be stretched out to become the overall narrative framework for a 6 x 30 minute series, with numerous other subplots and side stories being built into it.  I've recently gone back to work on writing the series scripts, and I've now finished the first drafts for Episodes 1, 5 and 6, so I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel in terms of getting the bones of the story out on paper for the first 'block' of episodes.  Sure, there'll be a load of rewrites to do before the stories are ready for the cameras, but the important first step has been taken.

Now you might ask "Why have you written Episodes 1, 5 and 6 first?  What happened to Episodes 2, 3 and 4?"

And that leads me on to what I think is one of the most interesting developments in my fictional-world-building of late: the strange and fascinating process of co-creation.

I've left the middle three episodes of Megastropulodon unwritten for now, for one thing because I've got a clearer idea of what should be happening in the three framing episodes (due in part to their re-use of scenes and plot threads from the short film), but also because I'd like to keep some room open for other writers.  Yes, the show is my brainchild, but in the world of television there are relatively few series creators who then go on to write every single episode on their lonesome.  Gerry & Sylvia Anderson wrote only the pilot episode of Thunderbirds, leaving others to scribe the next 31 instalments.  Doctor Who has had seven different writers per season for the last few years (I counted, I'm a geek).  Thus far, I've got someone pencilled in for Megastropulodon Episode 4, but the other two episodes are at a bit of a loose end - but it's early days, so I'm not too worried about the gap at the moment.

What it comes down to is that two heads are often better than one.  I don't need to explain the principle, do I.  Suffice to say that it holds true for TV writing, and sometimes for comic strips as well.  They're probably right when they say that "too many cooks spoil the broth", but with TV writing you can assign each writer their own episode(s) to work on, and then each cook contributes their own semi-independant broth to a big, exciting multi-soup smorgasbord.  I'm not sure if that mixing of metaphors (or mixing of broths) made any sense to you, but I think it more or less says what I wanted it to say.

Looking back over my previous fiction-making career, I seem to have come full circle, from worlds shared with Cat back in the long-gone days when we used to play with snail shells and cuddly toys, via a period of more solipsistic work (e.g. the aforementioned Geometriverse), and now back to co-developed universes, albeit in a slightly more sophisticated form e.g. Megastropulodon, and the oft-harped-on-about Fort Paradox.

Speaking, or harping, of which: sorry to have to mention my pet subject again, but it happens to be the prime example of what I'm on about here.

The project was my idea in the first place.  As in, I was the one who first said to Tim and Sarah, "why don't we get a load of our characters together and write a big, confusing cross-continuity comic?", and I was the one who came up with the name.  But I never wanted it to be a solo thing.  Right from the outset, I wanted it to have not just a plurality of characters representing different species from unrelated universes, but also a plurality of writers and viewpoints, illustrators and art styles.  And that's what we've got.  There are some places where we can't even remember which bit was whose idea, because we've built so many layers on top of each other's initial concepts.  Three brains have definitely made a better broth than one.  And even now, it isn't intended as a closed-membership club.  So far it's remained an exclusive circle in practice, but that's simply because nobody else has expressed any interest in joining in, not because we're intentionally keeping it that way.  I intend to address the issue in a bit more detail on the Fort Paradox blog next week, next time it's my turn to post an episode and do the Weekly FAQ feature.

So... I think I've said my piece.  I shall leave you to chew over its implications.  Or to ignore it and get a cup of tea instead, if that's what takes your fancy.

- The Colclough

Saturday 22 January 2011

Some You Win, Some You Lose

Okay, so I lost the "First 11 for '11" race.  I was on 10, and then I ran out of things to write about, and left Hannah to steam ahead and win.  I also got a bit sidetracked with the illustrations for Fort Paradox 33 to 38, which I was trying to get done as part of another geeky race against Tim.  Which I'm pleased to be able to say I won.  Still, 11 For 11 was pretty close at 11-10, so I'm not too distraught.

Now here's a little philosophical question that's just occurred to me: is it better to play a race or other game against an enemy and win, or to play it (presumably much more enjoyably) against a friend and lose?  Not saying Tim's an enemy - far from it - it's a hypothetical question.

And that in turn leads on to the bigger philosophical question of what constitutes a friend and how one comes by them in the first place.

In case you hadn't noticed, this post seems to be drifting into deep and angsty territory.  If this is worrying you, Tim, don't panic - I'll write something less depressing you-know-where afterwards B]

So, back to the subject: I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm not the most gregarious type, I very quickly get lost in a crowd, and it usually takes me years to build up any sort of meaningful friendship with anyone - meaningful as in knowing someone better than just to say hi to.  I know there was a time, pre-1998, when I didn't know Tim or Sarah Johnston existed, whereas now I know they exist and I'm absolutely convinced that they're awesome, but in all honesty I can't remember how I got from one point to the other.  It was quite a long process, I think.  Once in several blue moons I meet someone new and would consider them a friend almost straight away, but for me that event is nearly as rare as hen's teeth.

Must... not... get sidetracked... into a pointless discussion of chicken dentistry...

But then again, having said that, my circle of friends might be smallish but it contains some brilliant specimens.  Okay, maybe 'specimens' isn't the right word to use, but you know what I meant.  I hope.  The point is, I like to think I have good taste in people.  Too much normality gets boring, but there's not much chance of that happening in my vicinity, as I seem to be slowly accumulating a collection of rather wonderful eccentrics.

And I like it that way.  I'd rather have a handful of fellow geeks around me than a huge contact list of 'normal' people any day.

To the few (you probably know who you are): thanks for being there.  I'm really glad to know you, even if you do sometimes confuse me, or occasionally wipe the floor with me in some race that I challenged you to.  I should learn my lesson and stop challenging people to races, maybe...

Ooh, look, I managed to end my deep and angsty ramble on a high note.  Am pleased with that.

And on that bombshell, it's time to give you my latest bundle of stats (I wonder if I'll miss putting stats on the end of my posts?), and wrap up "First 11 for '11":
  • 11 For 11 status: 11 down, nil to go - race over
  • Latest book read: The Dark Tower, and other unpublished fiction by C. S. Lewis
  • Latest film/TV watched: deleted scenes from X-Men III: The Last Stand (dir. Brett Ratner, 2006)
  • Latest music listened to: Adiemus: Songs of Sanctuary by Karl Jenkins (1995) currently on speakers
  • Latest food/sweets/whatever eaten: lunch = leek and potato soup with bacon and courgette muffins, followed by coffee
  • Programs and web pages currently running: Outlook 2007, Word 2007, Windows Media Player, Skype, Firefox (tabs: Blogspot Create Post; A White Horizon,, MatNav)
  • Webcomics posted today: Cylinder and Miserable #1135

- The Colclough

Monday 17 January 2011

The Better Side

No, nothing to do with ITV1's current tagline.  That's "The Brigher Side", anyway, not "Better".  And I'm more of a BBC watcher.

More to do with the fact that Saturday had some really bad bits, and some really good bits.  (Hannah's blog post in the small hours of the morning about good and bad experiences was rather timely, as it turns out.)  I won't depress you with the bad bits of my weekend - I'd prefer to ramble about the good bits instead.

The big news: I've finished making those blasted DVDs at last!  After waging an epic war against my DVD burning software, ranging across three different computers, I finally nailed it down on a little old laptop and compelled it to do my will.  So now I've got a nice neat row of finished RH DVDs sitting in a cardboard box by my desk and waiting to be put in the post.

I also decided that I was finished with my latest painting.  It involved six different layers of colour (each allowed to dry before the next was applied), and although I actually put the last one down on Friday, I thought at the time there would be more to do.  But on Saturday morning, I went back and looked at it again, and I said to myself "nope, that's enough.  I'm going to call it a day."  And then, for lack of a better title, that's exactly what I did.

#004: A Day

Yes, I  do realise that I have committed a truly atrocious pun right there.  My sincerest apologies to those of you with delicate linguistic sensibilities.

I also made more use of my new webcam.  It's rapidly turning out to be better value for money than anything else I've ever bought (not difficult, considering how little I had to pay for it).  Skype is much fun.

And I've done the illustrations for Fort Paradox Episodes 33 and 34, which feature a new experimental art style which I've never used for any other cartoon before.  It involves biros, I'm quite pleased with how it's come out.

And now for something completely different (and altogether nerdier): on Saturday, I used Linux for the first time.  My Grandad was asking if there was a free operating system he could use to recondition an ancient PC of his, so I made him a Ubuntu installer disc.  But before handing it over, I thought I'd try it out myself in demo mode on our family laptop.  It more or less worked, except that the laptop's optical disc drive is basically shot so it took ages to read the disc and load the software.  It took me all of two minutes to find my way around the OS though, and I already like it almost as much as Windows, and much better than Mac OSX.

Since I've already got a perfectly good Windows installation on each of the machines I use regularly at the moment, I'll probably stick with dear old Microsoft for the time being.  But I got a very good first impression of Ubuntu, so you never know - I might end up going the whole open-source hog someday!

My stats, for the next-to-last post of the 11 For 11 race...
  • 11 For 11 status: 10 down, only 1 more to go... who will be the winner?
  • Latest book read: *still* that commentary on Ephesians...
  • Latest film/TV watched: haven't seen anything in a few days, and I've actually forgotten what the last one was...
  • Latest music listened to: How to Train Your Dragon OST by John Powell (2010) currently on speakers
  • Latest food/sweets/whatever eaten: crossaint and cowjuice for breakfast, unless you count the bit of jelly sweet I'm currently chewing on
  • Programs and web pages currently running: Outlook 2007, Word 2007, Windows Explorer, Skype, Firefox (tabs: Blogspot Create Post; YouTube; Blogspot Dashboard)
  • Webcomics posted today: Cylinder and Miserable #1130; Alien President #9

- The Colclough

Thursday 13 January 2011

Free Sample Time!

You know those little nanoscopic jars or packets of food or cosmetic products you get handed gratis sometimes, in an effort by the manufacturers to get you hooked and make you spend loads of money buying their stuff?

This is a little bit like that, except that I don't have any financial incentive whatsoever, and this particular free sample might addle your brains a bit: I've decided to share with you the newly-penned 12th chapter of a rather odd short story which I've been writing on and off since mid-November (provisionally entitled A Salesman Beneath), just because I feel like it.

I have no idea how much sense this might make to you reading it in isolation, and I'm equally unsure how much sense it might make even in the context of the previous 11 chapters, but here goes anyway...


A few minutes later, Pone found himself being handed one end of a long length of flexible piping, whose other end was attached to the top of the stove.  Meebrick and Nodroz each had one too.
  “What’s this for?” he asked.
  “To breathe,” said Nodroz, sounding terribly matter-of-fact.
  “What, the stove’s exhaust fumes?  Aren’t they usually poisonous?”
  “It’s a connective stove,” Nodroz said, with a withering stare as if it should have been plain and obvious.
  “Oh, I see: so they’re connective exhaust fumes!” Pone drawled.  “But of course.  That makes me feel so much better about gassing myself to death, if I can do it connectively.”
  “Was that sarcasm?” asked Meebrick.
  “Take an educated guess,” snapped Pone.
  Nodroz gave them both an even witheringer glare, and stuck the end of his own pipe in his mouth.  There followed several minutes of pointedly heavy breathing, as the old man sucked the stove fumes deep inside his system, clearly eager to demonstrate that it would have no ill effects.  After the first few breaths, Meebrick chowed down on his pipe, and started tentatively puffing.  Neither of them shrivelled up or went purple or turned into a guinea pig, so eventually Pone decided to risk it.
  The result was terribly disappointing: the fumes smelled and tasted of absolutely nothing whatsoever.  In fact, the gases coming off the stove were cool and fresh and impossibly clear, like what you would expect to be breathing on the top of a huge mountain in the middle of a vast unspoilt wilderness.  Pone gave himself another headache on top of the one he already had, trying to work out how it was possible for exhaust fumes to smell so un-exhaust-like.  But it didn’t last long, due to the healthful influence of the fumes.
  “Are you yet satisfied with your breathing?” asked Nodroz.
  Pone nodded very reluctantly, and clung to the railing for dear life as his host turned back to face the wall of bold red jelly overlapping the prow of the boat.
  “Come then,” Nodroz mumbled through a mouthful of breathing tube, “Let us go henceforth into the core of Wobble!”  He raised his arms in a dramatic gesture, and as if in response the inert front-left engine glimmered back into life.  Then he intoned a loud and forceful “HUMNNN!” and flung his arms forwards to signal the intended direction of movement – and the Contradictorium slowly but surely started to push its way deeper into the gelatinous micro-planet.
  “By the way,” Pone queried, “why does this asteroid or planet or whatever it is have such a dumb-sounding name?”
  “It’s made of jelly, and jelly wobbles,” remarked Nodroz with his usual, irksome serenity, “so they called it ‘Wobble’.”
  Pone groaned inwardly beneath the burdensome weight of this new knowledge.
  “Bish ishho exhitig!” Meebrick giggled through his breathing tube.  And as if that wasn’t undignified enough, he clapped his hands like a little child.

A moment later, Pone found the jelly approaching just inches from his nose.
  “What is it with me and jelly lately?” Pone wondered.  His hair was still full of blobs of goo from his recent encounter with the invertebrate shoal.  But the blobs were soon lost to sight as they amalgamated into the greater mass of the micro-planet Wobble.
  The stuff was more yielding than he might have expected, and once it had got itself on the move the Contradictorium seemed to have little trouble forging a path through it.  The jelly flowed back into place behind the boat, leaving only a negligible wake of tiny bubbles to show where they had been.  Pone became profoundly grateful for the stove hose.

  The journey into Wobble seemed to go on for quite a long time, and there weren’t any landmarks on the inside.  Pone started to despair of ever escaping.  He attempted to distract his suffering brain with thoughts of financial outlays, profit margins, sales commissions and tax bands, and when that failed he turned his thoughts to his paternal aunt and her frankly terrifying collection of tea-cosies.  She had thousands upon thousands of them, and was always after more.  The surest way of making her happy was to give her another one, and the next surest was to give her a teapot to put inside one so she could display it properly.

Many centuries passed, and what with the lack of landmarks and the impossibly clear air he was breathing, Pone started to feel that he was drifting outside of the space-time continuum altogether.  He started to doubt the existence of the outside world, and to wonder if maybe this surreal jelly was all there was, and all there ever had been.

Those centuries were actually two and three-quarter hours.

And then he was rudely pulled back to reality by the sound of Meebrick squealing a few feet away, muffled a bit (but nowhere near enough, Pone thought) by the surrounding semi-solid dessert.
  “What’s wrong with the blighter now?” Pone asked himself.
  He turned to look, and saw that Meebrick was pointing and staring straight ahead.
  Ahead of the ship, deep inside the jelly, he could faintly see the outlines of some sort of transparent structure.  There were rooms, and doorways, and what looked like stairs – and he even thought he could glimpse a pot plant or two.

Minutes later, the boat glooped its way out of the wall of a large room inside the jelly, and drifted to a stop in the middle of the floor.
  The space was filled with all sorts of scientific equipment – microscopes, telescopes, orreries, burners, test tubes and flasks, rulers and tape measures and callipers, vices and tweezers, and books upon books upon books.  It was hard to tell whether everything in the room really was made of copper and bronze, or if it just looked that way because of the red jelly which comprised the walls, floor and ceiling surrounding them.  And Pone had been right – in another room at the top of a short, broad staircase, he could see a real, live pot plant.  He wondered (with good reason) whether it had a funny name and whether it was going to be rude to him.
  And in the middle of it all, not looking remotely pleased about having visitors, stood a very small girl in a long pink dressing gown, with a glowing magenta ponytail and a ferocious scowl.  And a monocle, which didn’t really go with the rest of her look.
  Meebrick gave an enthusiastic greeting, but sadly forgot to remove the breathing pipe from his mouth first, so it didn’t come out very well.  He was glared at like something the cat dragged in.  But being Meebrick the misnomer, he wasn’t much bothered by this and just kept on grinning and waving.
  “GRANDMOTHER!” bellowed the little girl.
  “I am so sorry to intrude,” began Nodroz the Third, “but might I take this opportunity to introduce…”
  “GRANDMOTHER!  I need you in here RIGHT NOW!”
  There was one of those difficult silences.
  And then a couple of minutes later, a tiny, hunched old lady oozed out of the ceiling and dropped onto the gelatinous floor just in front of the Contradictorium.
  “How many times must I tell you, Grandmother – USE THE STAIRS!” shrieked the little girl.
  “Sorry, dearie,” croaked Grandmother.  “I did remember, but I’d already sunk my legs into the floor and it was too late.”  She looked around, and realised how close she had been to impaling herself on the prow of the visiting boat.  “Ooh, my word!” she chirped.  “We’ve got some company!”
  Meebrick grinned and waved again, and Grandmother waved back.
  “I’ll go and put the kettle on,” she said.
  “Thank you, Grandmother,” said the little girl.
  Grandmother recovered her cane from where it had stuck in the jelly floor next to her, and wobbled off towards the kitchen.
  The little girl glared at the intruders again.
  “So who are you, and what are you doing in my laboratory?”
  “I am Nodroz the Third,” began Nodroz the Third.  Pone rolled his eyes again – he was getting tired of hearing him introduce himself.  Nodroz pointed to the plant pot up front, “this is my faithful vegetable companion Yaseez, this…” he pointed at Pone, but then Pone decided to interrupt.
  “My name is Pone Crustley,” announced Pone Crustley, “and if anyone tells you I’m called Woshling…” he paused for a second to give Nodroz a warning with one eyebrow, “… they’re telling you lies.”
  “You look more like a Woshling to me,” announced the little girl.  Pone slumped back against the stove and lost interest in the conversation, while she pointed at Meebrick and demanded to know who he was, and got the usual “it’s a real delight to see you!” greeting (thank goodness he’d taken his breathing tube out now).
  “We are seeking to decipher the secrets of Wobble,” intoned Nodroz.  “Humnnn.”
  “Don’t you swear at me!” snapped the little girl.
  “Basically,” chirruped Meebrick, “we don’t have a clue what we’re looking for, if anything, and we’re going for a road trip inside this jelly asteroid thing just for the fun of it.  And then we spotted your place – can I just say, I absolutely love what you’ve done with the decor – so we thought we’d drop in and say hi!”
  “I see… very well, then.  Fortunately you haven’t collided with any of my extremely important scientific equipment.  I am Professor-Emeritus Poppy Darlingsby,” announced the small girl.  She adjusted her monocle and squinted at Meebrick.  He gave a good-natured squint back.
  “Um… what are you researching?” Pone asked, as he felt her gaze move over to him.
  “Never mind that yet,” said the Professor.
  Another very long silence.

This time, it was broken by the sound of shuffling feet and clinking chinaware.
  “Here’s the tea!” chimed Grandmother from somewhere nearby.
  “Excellent,” said the Professor.  She started heading for the short staircase.  “If you would all please follow me to the living room?”


I don't plan on posting the whole story on my blog, but if you want to read more then I'm sure I could arrange to send you the back issues and keep you up to date with new chapters as and when they get written =]

(Random aside: for those who read Fort Paradox, we're still waiting for some questions for the new Weekly FAQ feature!  Come on, ask questions, darn it!)

  • 11 For 11 status: 9 down, 2 to go - I reclaim the lead in the race again!  Won't be surprised if this is the last time I'm ahead...
  • Latest book read: no change since the last post
  • Latest film/TV watched: How Do They Do It?
  • Latest music listened to: no change since the last post
  • Latest food/sweets/whatever eaten: lunch = chicken sandwich, crisps and half an orange
  • Programs and web pages currently running: Outlook 2007, Word 2007, Windows Explorer, Skype, Firefox (tabs: MatNav; Blogspot Create Post; Blogspot Dashboard; my last post)
  • Webcomics posted today: no change since the last post

- The Colclough

From Yesterday

Yesterday (Wednesday 12 January 2011), I did something I hadn't done for about six-and-a-half years: I went for a repeat viewing of a film at the cinema.  There had previously been exactly four films I saw on the big screen twice each: the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Shrek 2.  As of yesterday, this exclusive list has expanded to include Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

As so often happens with films based on books, I spent a lot of the first screening worrying about how much it had changed from the source novel.  That, and being distracted by popcorn management issues.  This time round, it was more a case of sitting back and enjoying the ride.  I suspect the projector might have been ever-so-slightly better focussed this time as well - or my glasses were cleaner.  The rest of the family all seem to be in agreement that Dawn Treader is better than its immediate predecessor Prince Caspian, but I'm not so sure - not that I think VotDT has gone downhill, more that I didn't dislike Caspian as much as a lot of other people seemed to do.  Both have their flaws, but both did pretty well on the whole, IMHO.

Also while in town, I acquired a webcam.  I went into WHSmiths with £40's worth of gift cards to use, and after pootling around the whole place two or three times I decided that the webcam for £39.99 seemed like the best option.  The book section was mostly full of GCSE revision guides (I've got a first-class BSc, so those were a bit beneath my level), travel handbooks (I have no travelling ambitions), and vampire novels (I avoid vampire novels on principle, and I fail to see why so many other people are rabidly obsessed with the blighted things).  So webcam it was - and according to the price marked on the shelf, it would conveniently use up both gift cards.

Then I got to the till, and the computer only wanted to charge me £8.74.  So I've still got over thirty quid's worth of Smiths vouchers to use, and no idea what to use them on - you can only have so many pens in your collection before it starts getting a bit silly - but then again, a new webcam for less than nine quid isn't to be sneezed at.

Which leads me to Skype.  Yes, guilty... after all my ramblings about how much I dislike social networks and will refuse to join any, blah blah blah, you might think I've gone and betrayed the cause by having got a Skype account.  But I don't think it counts, really.  After all, it's not about posting banal, vapid nothings to be read by the public en masse (I'm looking at you, Facebook), it's about one-to-one realtime conversations - with added video-ness so you can see who you're talking to.

And finally, talking of seeing stuff, here's a photo of my latest acrylic painting, completed yesterday afternoon:

#003: Hamster Hamster

The idea is very simple: a blissfully happy hamster sitting on his own little planet made of solid cheese and supporting an ecosystem of broccoli.  It's got a bit of a The Little Prince vibe going on - I read the book once, years and years ago, and even though I've long since forgotten most of it, this bizarre image has stuck in the back of my mind ever since.

I've now started work on another, abstract painting.  Photo to follow in due course.

As for today... I've got a 'do' list as long as your arm, and writing this post is just one of many, many things to get done.  So I'll wrap up now and get on with some of the others.

  • 11 For 11 status: 8 down, 3 to go
  • Latest book read: still Stuart Olyott's commentary on Ephesians
  • Latest film/TV watched: Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  • Latest music listened to: Cylinder and Miserable: Official Webcomic Soundtrack (WIP), written by Timothy Johnston with some interference from yours truly
  • Latest food/sweets/whatever eaten: bagel and cowjuice for breakfast
  • Programs and web pages currently running: Outlook 2007, Windows Explorer, Skype, Firefox (tabs: Blogspot Dashboard; Blogspot Create Post; MatNav x2)
  • Webcomics posted today: Cylinder and Miserable #1127; Alien President #8

- The Colclough

Tuesday 11 January 2011

Going Green

Not in the sense of 'becoming more environmentally friendly', you understand.  Nor in the sense of 'bearing an increasing resemblance to a martian' (not that the ones in the Martian Ballet trilogy were actually green - funny, that).  More in the sense of 'digitally repainting my blog'.

I've done 40 posts on A White Horizon (this will be my 41st), using the original blue-grey colour scheme with a stock background, and I've decided that the time has now come to change this, and give my ramblings a more personal look.  The new background is based on a photo of a largeish (approx 22 by 34 inch) drawing I did last year (or was it the year before?  I forget) using only a piece of old wallpaper, and two black sharpie markers.  I've altered it quite heavily in The GIMP, which is one of my favourite bits of software ever, but in case you wanted to see the full and original version here's the raw photo:

The drawing currently remains untitled.  It also lacks an official orientation - I originally displayed it on my wall the way up that it appears above, but these days I've got it sideways, as it appears in the new blog background.

I have no idea how long it took to draw that (it was several weeks, but obviously not working on it continuously), but I think it used almost a whole pen's worth of ink.

While I was in the template editor just now, I've also changed the whole colour scheme of the blog to something in the orange-yellow-green area of the spectrum.  You probably already spotted this fact.  I've noticed that this seems to be a recurring design motif in a lot of my websites: the Cylinder and Miserable site started out grey, then went blue for a bit, and finally settled on the orangey-yellow look which it has carried with only minimal alteration for the last two or three years.  Throughout its lifetime Grace and Caffeine was housed on various greyscale sites, but then when I came to redesign the 'Complete Series' site in summer 2010 I went for a coffee-esque brownish theme.  "Wait a minute, brown isn't orange-yellow-green!" I hear you cry.  Well actually it is.  In RGB or HSL colour space, browns are actually orange in terms of their hue, but darker (i.e. lower luminance, and sometimes also lower saturation).  My George Darlan fansite is green too.

Although, having said that, the Fort Paradox site is mostly bluish-purple and black.  So the 'trend' in question isn't a hard and fast rule.

I do like yellow, though.  Probably because it's a warm colour, and I really don't get on with the cold.  My bedroom walls are pale yellow.  The pot called it 'creme fraiche' or something, but it's basically pale yellow.

I think if I had to pick a single favourite colour, though, it'd be white.  That might have had something to do with the choice of 'A White Horizon' as the title of my blog.  Some of my favourite verses in the Bible are ones in the book of Revelation, talking about what Heaven will be like, and the colour white seems to get mentioned rather a lot.  And someday, eventually, I might get round to redesigning thishere thing again and actually having a background which shows a horizon, in white.  But I don't have a suitable photo to work from at the moment, so for the time being we'll go with the untitled abstract drawing in pastel orangey-green.

What's your favourite colour?

Stats time:
  • 11 For 11 status: I've equalised again: both got 7 down, 4 to go
  • Latest book read: Stuart Olyott's commentary on Ephesians
  • Latest film/TV watched: Eddie Stobart: Trucks and Trailers
  • Latest music listened to: Chameleon Circuit by Chameleon Circuit (on YouTube)
  • Latest food/sweets/whatever eaten: a big sticky toffee pudding with cream.  followed by coffee
  • Programs and web pages currently running: Outlook 2007, Windows Explorer, The GNU Image Manipulation Program (alias 'The GIMP'), Firefox (tabs: MatNav;; A White Horizon; Blogspot Create Post)
  • Webcomics posted today: Cylinder and Miserable #1125

- The Colclough

Ruminations on Fifty-Seven

As I type this sentence, I am losing the "First 11 for '11" blogging race against Hannah 'LikesSheepBaa' Newcombe by 2 posts.  I hope to goodness she doesn't post another one before I finish this, or my catching up might become completely impossible.

Anyway, the current score stands at 5-7, which provides yet another piece of evidence to support the already-more-or-less-proven conjecture that the number fifty-seven is in fact stalking me (and certain friends of mine) around the universe.  Therefore, I shall take this opportunity to write a blog about the number 57, and explain some of the reasons why I'm so paranoid about it, and why it keeps cropping up in my creative output.  Yes, seriously.  Read on...

The first two pieces of evidence were supplied by a smallish shunting locomotive and a bottle of tomato sauce, and subsequent sources of corroboration have included video editing software, a games console, and my great-aunt's address.

Back in the days when I used to have a model railway (that's another story), I was mainly interested in collecting locomotives and rolling stock representing the Great Western Railway between the late 19th century and the 1930s.  Mainly for aesthetic reasons: the GWR had, in my opinion, the best-looking trains.  Some of the Gresley LNER locomotives were quite nice too, but if you take account of the carriages, goods wagons and so on, the GWR won out on the whole.  Anyway, anyone who knows about the GWR will know that their most numerous (and arguably most iconic) locomotive type was the '5700' or '57xx' class, a group of compact but disproportionately strong six-wheeled machines mostly used for shunting and branch-line work.  There were over 800 of the things in service at one point, and even today they remain one of the most numerous British locomotive classes ever built.  No GWR-based model railway is complete without one, and therefore, I had one.  Its running number is 5768, and I've still got it.

(As an aside, two other notes of interest about the 57xx pannier tank: those of you whose railway knowledge is derived mostly or entirely from Thomas the Tank Engine will actually already be familiar with the class even if you're not aware of it - Duck is a 57xx.  And closer to home, a 57xx (specifically number 5768 - yes, named after my model engine) occupies the background of the first panel in the debut episode of my very short-lived, unpublished, railway-centric comic-strip project Gentlemen of Tarberford, which is where Grace and Caffeine regulars Tom, Edwin, Fred, Ike (alias Jake) and James all made their very first appearances.)

At the same time, I couldn't help noticing (what with the amount of tomato sauce we get through) that Heinz's bottles all had '57 varieties' written on them, for reasons I never really got my head around.  There were a few other 57-related things at the time, I think, although I can't remember what they were.

And so the theory was born that the number might have some metaphysical significance.  I shared the theory with Tim and Sarah, and then it developed in a slightly more paranoid direction: what if the number was actually following us around on purpose?  Well, we've been spotting more and more evidence ever since:
  • A year or two ago, I played a couple of idle rounds of darts against myself, and happened to score 57 with one set of darts, and 85 with the other (the number 85 is also important, but not as much as 57).
  • Whenever I load Ulead MediaStudio on my current PC (which I still do occasionally, despite having switched most of my film and video production over to Sony Vegas), the progress bar always jumps to 57%, and then to 85% (see?  85 again as well), and then to 100%.  The same numbers, every single time.
  • I recently discovered that one of my great-aunts lives at house number 57.
  • The other day, I happened to walk through the lounge just as someone finished a game on the Wii - with a score of 57 points.
  • One of my Christmas presents this year was a WHSmith giftcard whose serial number features the digit pair '57' not once, but twice.

And that's just a tiny little sample of the many, many occasions where that number has popped up in my vicinity.  It isn't always straightforward - sometimes it's the numbers 5 and 7 appearing suspiciously close together (like the example I mentioned in my second paragraph here), or other permutations - but that just increases the deviousness of the way the number is doing its stalking.

The funny thing is, though, I don't resent the number 57, even though you might think I would after all this stalking.  Our relationship has almost developed into a bizarre, skewed pseudo-friendship (not quite, but almost), and I have deliberately acknowledged the 57 phenomenon on many occasions, including many references to it in my creative output, especially my comic strips.

  • I've lost count of the 57 references in Cylinder and Miserable.  Among others, the protagonists' house is number 57 (as revealed in a mid-Series-1 episode).
  • Grace and Caffeine contains about four occurrences - the ones I can remember are in Strip 061 (where it appears as a statistic in an opinion poll), Strip 112 (as the number of the last song in an out-of-date hymn supplement), Strip 171 (as a statistical fact about a church photocopier) and Strip 178 (where it appears on a hymn board).
  • Fort Paradox, bizarrely, has managed not to include a single 57 reference yet, after 32 strips completed and several more scripted.  But I expect it'll turn up sooner or later.
  • I wrote a reference into the background dialogue in Alpha One's Quantum Shampoo - French is listening to 'Radio 57 FM'.
  • It's not my work, but since Tim's in on the theory I'll throw in a mention for his webcomic Brothers in Shells, which has featured at least two or three 57 references in its first 100 strips.
  • There have been others, but it's getting late, and I can't be bothered to remember them all and type them all up.

One or two facts about the number itself:
  • It has two digits (5 and 7, obviously), both of which are prime numbers.
  • It has two factors, apart from itself and 1 (3 and 19), both of which are also prime numbers.
  • Its reciprocal 1/57 looks like this in decimal notation: 0.017543859649122807 recurring.  Interesting to note that the repeating 18-digit pattern includes the digits 5 and 7 twice each, and in one case right next to each other, albeit reversed (as '75' instead of '57').
  • If you convert it to Binary you get 111001.  Its Octal form is 71, and its Hexadecimal form is 39, which for some reason makes me want to mention Steps.

Right, I think that's probably enough weirdness for one day.  And the scary thing is, I've been telling the truth!

And to round off, here's another nice juicy blob of up-to-date stats:
  • 11 For 11 status: 6 down, 5 to go - half-way there, and 1 post behind Hannah
  • Latest book read: The Runaway Train (first draft) by Hannah Newcombe
  • Latest film/TV watched: Top Gear: Middle East Special and ITV's 'Family Film of the Decade'
  • Latest music listened to: um... not sure, but I think it was Doctor Who: Original Television Soundtrack Series 4 by Murray Gold (yes, him again - I like me some Doctor Who score on the old hi-fi)
  • Latest food/sweets/whatever eaten: I think it was fruit pastilles again.  Hannah's not the only one with recurring confectionary stats!
  • Programs and web pages currently running: Outlook 2007, Firefox (tabs: Blogspot Create Post;, MatNav)
  • Webcomics posted today: Cylinder and Miserable #1124; Alien President #7 (anyone else think it's a bit ironic that one of those numbers is so huge, and the other is tiny?)

- The Colclough

Saturday 8 January 2011

Basking in the Sound of Gold

I'm in the middle of drawing some new Alien President strips at the moment, but I'm taking a break for a few minutes, because it's not the easiest work in the world.  The combination of historic US architecture and semi-relistic humans is very taxing on my pencil-weilding skills, especially when the two things have to share panel space, as they do in Episode 13, which I just finished drawing.  It came out alright - the White House is more or less recognisable as such, I think (although once I've scanned and coloured the drawing, it won't be so white any more), and the humans are pulling the faces I wanted them to pull, so I think I can chalk that one up as a success.  Mind you, it turns out that the name of Darlan's presidential aide Cindy Payne was very well chosen: she's been a real pain in the art department.  She's a lot nicer to look at than her brick-shaped colleague Watson when I get the illustrations right, but it takes several times as long to draw her as it does him.

So I decided to put down the pencil and do something else for a bit before trying to tackle the limousine that I need to sketch for Episode 14.  And while I'm not drawing, I'll write some stuff.  I.e. this stuff that you're reading right here and now.

While doodling for the last... not sure exactly how long, but getting on for an hour... I've been listening to Murray Gold's Doctor Who soundtrack.  I had the Series 3 and Series 4 CDs ages ago, but somehow ended up missing out his original album from Series 1 & 2.  However, I was given a copy of the missing disc as a Christmas present, and I've got it on speakers right now.  As I type I'm on track 21, The Lone Dalek.

The interesting thing about going backwards like this is that some things (e.g. The Doctor's Theme, The Face of Boe and UNIT) are familiar, being variations on some of the same themes that appear in later albums, while there are other things that I'd completely forgotten about.  Cassandra's Waltz, for example, came as an out-of-the-blue surprise when I first listened to the disc a week or two ago.  I'd seen the episode involved, but completely forgotten the music.  I only remembered the Madame du Pompadour melody by virtue of having rewatched The Girl in the Fireplace not that long ago.

Cue next track on the hi-fi...

The nice thing about having the music on its own, in isolation from the episodes it comes from, is that sometimes you like the score better than the script.  For example, I never really liked The Impossible Planet as an episode (or two, as the case may be), but the corresponding track on the CD is a really nice one.

Now, here's the important bit: *insert metaphysical glitch here*  I'm sure I was going to say something all profound and meaningful about this album.  However, in keeping with a long-standing personal tradition of mine, I've totally forgotten what I was going to say.  Isn't that clever?

So instead I'll have a little ramble about my musical tastes in general.

Anyone familiar with my CD collection will know that nearly all of it consists of film music, and what wasn't written for the screen is in a neo-classical vein.  I'm not a fan of pop 'music' (note deliberate use of quote marks around the word there).  And one of the things that irks me most about film score CDs, apart from the way some engineers manage to get all the ID3 metadata wrong, is this infuriating habit so many album producers seem to have of releasing a disc which is 90% perfectly good film score, and then throw a nice rancid dead fly into the ointment in the form of a pop song that has little or no bearing on the film's narrative, and clashes horribly with the style of the rest of the CD.  How to Train Your Dragon is a case in point: tracks 1-23 and 25 are all orchestral score by John Powell (who is a bit inconsistent sometimes, but Dragon finds him at his best) - and then track 24 is a really naff song where I can't even make out what they're on about.  Bolt is another one: again, Powell does some nice things with the score, but the album is let down by multiple horrible vocal pieces.  Why do they keep doing that?  For goodness' sake, if you've hired a composer, then let them score the end credits.  Don't rope in some ghastly pop band to ruin the soundtrack.  Look at Spielberg and Williams: no pop songs.  Just score.  Imagine how much worse Jurassic Park might have been, for example, if Spielberg had brought in a pop singer for the end credits.  Scary thought.

Thank goodness Doctor Who has a proper instrumental theme tune and not an end-credits pop song, eh?

Stats time:
  • 11 For 11 status: 5 down, 6 to go - I'm ahead again and I'm nearly half-way there!
  • Latest book read: Stuart Olyott's commentary on Ephesians
  • Latest film/TV watched: Murder on the Orient Express
  • Latest music listened to: re-read this blog post and take an educated guess!
  • Latest food/sweets/whatever eaten: one of the home-made chocolates Sophie gave me for christmas
  • Programs and web pages currently running: Outlook 2007, Word 2007, Windows Explorer, Firefox (tabs: Google Image Search "the white house"; Blogspot Create Post;
  • Webcomics posted today: Cylinder and Miserable #1123

- The Colclough

Friday 7 January 2011

Technology for the mind's eye

It's a funny thing how you can undertake a creative project, be perfectly happy with the results, and then look back on it a few years later and realise that it's actually full of holes and leaves acres of room for improvement.  Or in other cases not be happy with the results at all, but simply not have access to the tools (which often translates these days as 'technology') to make the thing the way you wanted.

I already mentioned this in passing in an email to Tim about the new remastered version of Martian Medicine a few days ago, but I thought I'd make my ramblings on the topic public for you all to peruse.  And show off a render of my latest CGI work while I'm at it.

The textbook example, as most sci-fi geeks will know, is the Star Wars Special Editions of 1997 (and to a lesser degree, the DVD re-edits of 2004).  For those who don't already know it, the story in a nutshell goes something like this: George Lucas released the Star Wars trilogy in 1977, 1980 and 1983 respectively, but he was never satisfied with the films, mainly because the VFX technology available at the time just wasn't up to his creative vision.  So in 1997, on the twentieth anniversary of the original release, he gave the world the Special Editions, in which he applied two decades' worth of new VFX tech to expand the visual scope of his trilogy, and make a closer match to his original plans.

The fans hated him for it.

On a subjective and emotive level, I can understand that they were put off by changes to a film (or rather, three films) that they'd been familiar with for 20 years.  But on an objective level, the oft-repeated claim that "The new CGI stuff all looks fake" is ridiculous - yes, sometimes it's obvious that the CGI is in fact CGI.  But at the same time, it's often equally obvious that the old puppets are puppets, the cel rotoscoping is cel rotoscoping, etc.  I think the CGI became a convenient scapegoat for people's emotive upsets.  As a relative newcomer to the franchise, with my first Star Wars experience being a screening of Episode IV Special Edition around the age of 9, I don't have any problems with the newer re-edits of the old trilogy, and even if I didn't like the changes in practice, I would still support Lucas' right as the originating artist to make alterations to his own output, as a matter of principle.

And now to a more obscure case, a bit closer to home: Vs. Doorwarden.  It was pretty much the first thing I started work on after downloading Anim8or for the first time at the beginning of 2003, and it took almost a year to finish.  Within months, I had discovered how to do new stuff with the software, and how to edit in widescreen, so I recut the film - the version you can see on YouTube is the 2004 widescreen version.  And then I made a sequel (the middle part of a planned trilogy, but Part III has been stuck in limbo since early 2006).  At the time, I was quite pleased with it - which was reasonable enough, as it was something of an achievement for me at the time.  But looking back now?  Oh dear, does it look ropey...

Now, before the countless millions of bona-fide, t-shirt-wearing rabid Doorwarden fans start throwing a massive fit over the horrific prospect of a Special Edition: don't worry, I'm not planning any Special Editions.  I really can't be bothered.  I don't feel enough emotional investment in those two old shorts to bother going over them again, and I certainly don't have any financial incentive to do it.  Which, it may be suspected, Lucas did.

But what I have been doing on and off lately is a project to create improved models not just of the Doorwardens seen in the two original films - officially called the TW-C75 type - but also various predecessors and successors.  I have ulterior motives for modelling more Doorwardens.  Those of you who know what these motives are will know what these motives are (duh), and the rest of you might find out sooner or later.  So far I've finished the upgraded C75 and a model of one of its supposed ancestors, the TW-A42, and I've half-built a model of the C75's relatively recent precursor the TW-U69.

The strange thing about this exercise has been trying to make the new C75 model faithful to the essential design of the ropier original, but similtaneously get it to look more like a real machine.  So the basic geometry has remained unchanged, but a lot of the details have been reworked (or just added from scratch, where I felt the original was too basic), and I've given the whole thing a new set of textures - it's amazing how much better a CG model looks just by having a properly-mapped texture applied to it.

The acid test will be whether people buy it as being the same robot that was in the film - it isn't meant to be a model of a different-but-improved robot version, it's meant to be a better model of exactly the same robot.  In short, this photo is what the TW-C75 would have looked like in the first place, if I was as good at modelling and texturing in early-mid 2003 as I am now.

So there you go.  That's what the machine 'really' looks like, gubbins and all.  Does it hold up?  Can you see it as the same robot that was in the films?  I'd be very interested to hear whether you can.

BTW, if you either haven't seen or just can't remember the animation where the C75 made its debut, here's the YouTube link:

My stats:
  • 11 For 11 status: 4 down, 7 to go - currently neck-and-neck
  • Latest book read: still The Runaway Train (first draft) by Hannah Newcombe
  • Latest film/TV watched: Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, 3/3
  • Latest music listened to: Intergalactic Hamsters OST by Timothy Johnston (2010)
  • Latest food/sweets/whatever eaten: some breakfast cereal with chocolate bits in
  • Programs and web pages currently running: Outlook 2007, Windows Explorer, Windows Media Player 11, Firefox (tabs: Fort Paradox;; Blogspot Create Post; MatNav)
  • Webcomics posted today: Cylinder and Miserable #1122

- The Colclough

Tuesday 4 January 2011

Ready to Burn

More good news for the Root Hill crowd: I've just finished engineering the DVD and designing the packaging.  All that remains now is to burn the the data onto the discs, print the paper bits, and assemble the cases.

And of course, do battle with Royal Mail in a gallant effort to get the things into your letterboxes.

For those of you who bothered to order a copy (all 16 of you), here's a couple of sneak-preview pictures of what you can expect to receive soon so long as RM don't mess up and lose all my packages like they did last time I sent DVDs by post.  For those who didn't, here's a tantalising glimpse of what you're missing out on this year (mind you, it's not too late to place an order)...

The front cover of the box...

...and the main menu

By the time I've got everything in the post, it'll be about 4-and-a-half months since RH 2010, although production time has been closer to 3-and-a-half, as I didn't even start editing until the beginning of October.  Which all means I've done the job a lot faster than I did last time (the RH 2008 DVD took me 6 months).  And the really nice bit is that I'm pretty sure I've done it better this time round.  More / better achievement in less time.  That feels good.

If / when your discs arrive, I'd be very interested to hear what you think of them - anything I should have done differently?  Any bits that go on too long?  Anything you wanted to see more of?  (Apart from the Yorkshire Pizza of Death - that was censored for health-and-safety reasons.  I didn't want to be running up psychiatrists' bills.)


And finally, my stats...

  • 11 For 11 status: 3 down, 8 to go - which means I'm currently winning by 1 post.  *deranged cackle*
  • Latest book read: The Runaway Train (first draft) by Hannah Newcombe
  • Latest film/TV watched: Pixar: 25 Magic Moments
  • Latest music listened to: The NeverEnding Story OST by Klaus Doldinger & Giorgio Moroder (1984)
  • Latest food/sweets/whatever eaten: a yellow fruit pastille - preceded by other fruit pastilles!
  • Programs and web pages currently running: Word 2007, Outlook 2007, Windows Explorer, Firefox (tabs: MatNav x2, Blogspot Create Post;
  • Webcomics posted today: Cylinder and Miserable #1119

- The Colclough

Monday 3 January 2011

Martian Medicine returns

As promised on Saturday: here's the newly-remastered 720p High Definition version of Martian Medicine, with new score.  For those of you who've seen the original, you might like to play spot-the-difference and see how many changes you can find.  For those who haven't, here's your belated chance to catch up on the third chapter of the Martian Ballet saga.  Enjoy...

I've had this film hanging around unfinished since December 2006 (yes, really!) except for the few months in late 2008 when the old version was online, so after four years in the making and remaking, it's going to be very strange not to have it on my 'to do' list any more.  But it's not as if I'm shutting down the business - I've got some new projects in the works...

My "First 11 for '11" status: 2 down, 9 to go.  We're neck-and-neck for the first time since the race started.

  • Latest book read: Professor Stewart's Hoard of Mathematical Treasures
  • Latest film/TV watched: The NeverEnding Story (dir. Wolfgang Petersen, 1984)
  • Latest music listened to: Doctor Who: Original Television Soundtrack Series 1 & 2 by Murray Gold (2006).  Currently got Avatar OST by James Horner (2009) on speakers.
  • Latest food/sweets/whatever eaten: breakfast today = fruit loaf and cowjuice
  • Programs and web pages currently running: Outlook 2007, Anim8or, Firefox (tabs: A White Horizon, Blogspot Create Post; MatNav)
  • Webcomics posted today: Cylinder and Miserable #1118; Alien President #5.

- The Colclough

Saturday 1 January 2011

Off to a good start...

So, first blog of the new year.  Hmm.  Popular culture will no doubt regard 2011 as the second year of 'the 2010s', but strictly speaking today is the first day of a new decade - the 202nd Decade AD, specifically.  Just thought I'd point that one out, as I'm the sort of geek who knows that sort of thing.

Anyway, pedantry aside - I've challenged Hannah 'LikesSheepBaa' to a race, to see who would be the first to write their first 11 blog posts for 2011.  I'm starting to wonder if this was a mistake, as she's published 2 already and I'm still sitting here writing the first one.  So, obviously, things are going pretty well!

In my last post, I promised a photo of my painting.  In fact, I have now finished two - I started the second one yesterday, and finished it this morning.  Its mad-science theme was inspired by the fact that while I've been sloshing my acrylics around, my little sister has been busy making soap things at the far end of the room, and making the air a lot less breathable than usual.  Here are the pictures:

#001: First Morning

#002: Chemical Archrivals

Yes, those are project numbers in CSS-esque hexadecimal notation in the bottom-right corners.  Just because I can.

Meanwhile back in the computer world, I've been making progress with the long-awaited remastering of Martian Medicine.  The third (and the way things are going, probably last) chapter of the Martian Ballet saga has been offline for a couple of years now, following its takedown from YouTube after WMG got stroppy about the fact that I'd borrowed a few seconds of score from The Lord of the Rings.  I've now remastered the film in 720p HD in Sony Vegas, using the original 576p raw renders where they still exist, and new 720p raw renders where the old ones were lost.  I've also de-hissed the dialogue recordings (the hiss levels on the original version were terrible), replaced a couple of ropy-sounding audio effect clips, and of course ditched the LOTR score in favour of a new one custom-written for Medicine by Tim Johnston.  You can probably expect to see the film back online sometime in the next 48 hours, looking and sounding better than it has ever done before.

Watch this space!

Some facts and figures (required as part of the 11 For 11 challenge)...
  • Latest book read: Professor Stewart's Hoard of Mathematical Treasures (still in progress)
  • Latest film/TV watched: BBC's New Year live coverage from London (unless you count Martian Medicine?)
  • Latest music listened to: Tim's new score for Martian Medicine
  • Latest food/sweets/whatever eaten: a white chocolate and strawberry muffin after lunch.  Currently working on a mug of tea
  • Programs and web pages currently running: Microsoft Office Word and Outlook 2007, Sony Vegas Platinum 9, Firefox (tabs: Blogspot Create Post;; a spare tab with MatNav 6 ready to go)
  • Webcomics posted today: n/a - I resume posting Cylinder and Miserable and Alien President on Monday the 3rd.

- The Colclough