Monday 20 February 2012

Strangulation, Stock Checks, and Sleeplessness

It's a funny old world.  I had my first formal job interview back at the beginning of January - all suits and CVs and that - and although it was an interesting and useful experience (not to mention a bit scary), I didn't get the job.  Two weeks ago today, on t'other hand, I began a week's unpaid work experience at the local DIY shop, and word must have gotten out that I'm not too bad with computers.  That, and I obviously didn't annoy too many people.  Because sometime on the Friday, the owner asked if I would come back for a couple of days each week, starting from the next week, and beat their computers into submission, and get paid for it.  I accepted, and handed over my National Insurance number card.

So it was that last Monday, the 13th of February, at the age of 23 years and 359 days, I finally embarked on my first regular paid employment, having got myself the position without showing a CV or wearing a single tie - which is good, because I hate having anything tight around my neck - and I spent the day counting compression fittings for copper pipe, and setting the digital records straight as to which supplier we buy them from, what re-order codes they use, how many of each item we had (the database said we had -120 ish of some things!), how much they cost, and various other facts and figures.

My excuse for having not written a blog post in over two weeks centres around the aforementioned fact that I've spent seven days at the DIY shop.  On top of that, I spent half a Saturday in Kent for Josh's birthday, followed by a Wednesday morning at the church, moving the sound desk across the room with all the rewiring and stuff that entailed, followed immediately by having Tim staying for three-and-a-half days, involving some pretty late nights, and concluding with my own birthday do.  Which didn't leave much time for sitting down here to tell the world what I've been up to.

That's not to say I haven't made any progress on creative output.  I mentioned around the middle of last month that I'd written the pilot script for a new animated series, and I've now got four scripts in the can - the first three written on my own, and the fourth co-written with Tim last week.  The show is called Papercuts, and I'm planning to start dialogue recordings and animation tests in the near future.

That's a beginning, but I've also been getting close to a finish line: I'm nearly at the end of the storyline in my short Cylinder and Miserable spin-off series, which I'm hoping to complete soon and publish at the end of this month and/or the beginning of March.

- The Colclough

Friday 3 February 2012

Welcome to Our Universe

As I said in the post title, welcome to our universe.  "Our" as in "Mine, Tim's and Sarah's", and "Universe" as in "Universe XGT".  We're not entirely sure what the "XGT" bit stands for, but it doesn't really matter that much.  It's a convenient collective handle for our shared fictional space, home to some 30-odd sapient species, and venue for much hitherto-private amusement.  The occasional snippet of UXGT has leaked out into public view, mainly in the form of stopmotion short films such as Alpha One's Laser Cafe and The Probe Has Succeeded, but most of it has stayed under wraps... until now.

Well, we decided lately that perhaps we should share some of the more interesting bits of UXGT with the wider world, and to that end we've set up a new blog over at, where we intend to publish assorted UXGT-related stuff in no particular order and on no particular schedule.  We'll write what we feel like writing when we feel like writing it.

Over the last two or three months I've been drawing a series of pictures, trying to define the look of some of the major races (and a fair few minor ones along the way), and the other day I finally ticked the last major one off my 'do' list and scanned my sheaf of papers.  Tim and I have agreed that the best way to start off the proceedings would be to write a series of posts introducing the most important alien species one at a time, illustrating the point withe my drawings.  I thought I'd start off with someone you might have seen before:

Recognise this chap?

That would be Odom the Grud, from The Probe Has Succeeded (he also stars in Arbitrary Stopframe episodes 1 and 8, but those don't count as part of UXGT canon).  What's a Grud, then, you might be asking?  Now's your chance to find out: the following is a reduced edition (a trailer, if you like) of the species intro...

The Species of Universe XGT: the Gruds

The Gruds are a fairly widespread race, with five eyes, orange to yellow skin, and a very stocky build.  They originated in the Drav galaxy, later spreading across many others including the capital worlds of Vomo and Sardastian.  The species is responsible for some of the universe's largest mining and heavy-industry operations.

Although they are usually lacking in aesthetic taste, and have minimal appreciation for culture, the Gruds are nevertheless a welcome part of intergalactic society, as they are intelligent and industrious, most of them being scientifically minded.  Many of the universe's great technological achievements can be attributed to this unattractive but very productive species.  Out of the small minority of Gruds who do not find a vocation in science or engineering, most tend to work in defence or security positions, for which they are ideally suited due to their imposing physique and no-nonsense mindset.

If you wanted to summarise the entire species in one word, it would have to be 'pragmatists'.  For example, they have no concept of romance, and instead of proposing marriage on their knees using an expensive piece of jewellery, they are more likely to remain standing up, say something along the lines of "I have made many calculations, and I believe it would be mutually advantageous for us to enter a marriage agreement" - and then illustrate the point with a spreadsheet.

Species facts & figures
  • Homeworld: First Dabox, Forrad starsystem, Drav galaxy
  • Other distribution: species controls approx 40 planets and has presence on numerous others
  • Biology: placental but non-mammalian warm-blooded vertebrates
  • Gestation: 10 months
  • Time to maturity: 20 years
  • Natural average lifespan: 100 years
  • Average adult height: 6-8 ft (F), 7-8 ft (M)
  • Language: Ballum
  • Currency: Tesseen

You can read the full version of the introduction on the UXGT blog at

- The Colclough

Those 22 Things That Started With 'B'

It's been a while since I posted "22 Questions, 1 Clue", and I reckon it's about time I told you the answers.

  1. Which primary colour has the least number of cone cells in the human eye?  Blue
  2. What is the second-highest rank in the Anglican clergy?  Bishop
  3. Which is the largest country in South America?  Brazil
  4. What type of temporary skin defect is likely to appear after a burn?  Blister
  5. What Russian group, whose name means ‘the majority’, went on to become the country’s Communist Party?  Bolsheviks
  6. What form of private transport was first developed by various European inventors in the early-mid 19th century?  Bicycles
  7. The Hebrew word for which creature was the basis of the name Deborah?  Bee
  8. Which sport, included in the Olympics since 1992, uses a shuttlecock?  Badminton
  9. Which UK county often has the word ‘Royal’ attached to its name?  Berkshire
  10. Which town in Hampshire contains Festival Place and The Anvil?  Basingstoke
  11. In British usage, what word refers to the hinged panel covering a car’s engine?  Bonnet
  12. What region of Germany is known, among other things, for its motor works?  Bavaria - as in "BMW", i.e. "Bavarian Motor Works"
  13. QUESTION DELETED on grounds of extreme obscurity - the answer was "Banana", but the way we got there was rather convoluted
  14. QUESTION DELETED on grounds of extreme obscurity - the answer was "Bob the Fly"
  15. What notorious incident took place in the Far East between 1898 and 1901?  Boxer Rebellion
  16. Which Sheffield-based confectioners first produced Liquorice Allsorts?  Bassetts
  17. Which classical composer carried on writing music despite going deaf?  Beethoven (Ludwig van)
  18. Which band is famous for, among other things, walking over a zebra crossing?  the Beatles
  19. Which animated film began life with the working title American DogBolt
  20. Natwest, Lloyds and HSBC are all what?  Banks
  21. In the Star Wars trilogy, what is the name of the bounty hunter who takes Han Solo to Jabba the Hutt’s palace?  Boba Fett
  22. What is the other common name of the mythical creature ‘Sasquatch’?  Bigfoot
  23. What city is the capital of Belgium?  Brussels
  24. What name is given to the lowest compartment in a ship, and to the water that collects there?  Bilge

So there you have it.  How well did you do?

- The Colclough

How to Lose a Race

You might have noticed that I lost "First 12 for '12".  As in, lost quite badly.  The first two contenstants finished within three days, Tim claimed third place within two weeks... and it's taken me a month to finish.  All the more embarrassing since I was the one who initiated the contest.  I could try offering another selection box of excuses, but I'm not going to bother.  Suffice to say that I couldn't get enough half-baked blogging ideas to metamorphose into finished posts fast enough.

I did have some posts planned.  Really.  It just took a while (or several whiles) to work out the details.  "Godzilla Versus" was one of them, and I'm hoping you'll get to see another two pretty soon, including the answers to "22 Questions, 1 Clue".  But in the meantime, I thought I should end the race with an illustrated acknowledgement of my defeat.  So I tried to do a quick drawing of the podium... but it all went horribly wrong, so I gave up and decided to settle for verbal acknowledgement instead.

Just you wait.  2013 will happen (the Mayans have nothing to do with it, trust me), and "First 13 for '13" will be a whole different contest!  MWAHAHAHAHAAAAAHH!!!

My final statistics for the end of the race:
  • First 12 for '12 status: 12 down, 0 to go. All finished.
  • Latest book read: still working through 1 Kings in the KJV. Now, Solomon's successor is dead too.
  • Latest film/TV watched: a Ren and Stimpy episode (can't remember which one came last)
  • Latest music listened to: Indaco by Ludovico Einaudi
  • Latest edible item eaten: toasted hot cross bun, and cowjuice
  • Predominant colour of clothes: the old blue and grey, this time with a white t-shirt underneath
  • Programs and web pages currently running: Microsoft Office Outlook 2007, Firefox (tabs: Blogspot Create Post; Blogspot Dashboard; MatNav 6.1), Skype; Windows Media Player 11
  • Webcomics posted today: n/a

- The Colclough

Thursday 2 February 2012

Godzilla Versus

Out of all the presents I was given this last Christmas, certainly the most unexpected and possibly the most educational was the Godzilla DVD I was sent by Sam (thank you again, Sam).  Not Roland Emmerich's ill-received 1998 reboot, or even the American re-edit of the original film, but the actual Japanese Godzilla of 1954, just the way it was seen in the cinemas of Tokyo 58 years ago (except with English subtitles, which were quite useful as I don't speak a word of Japanese).  I'm a big proponent of director's cuts, and getting to see such an iconic film in its unadulterated form was quite exciting.

The thing is, though, in many ways I didn't think it felt like a six-decade-old film.  Okay, so it was made in black-and-white 4:3 at a time when widescreen and colour cinematography were all newfangled and prohibitively expensive, some of the acting does have a theatrical broadness of movement to it (mind you, nowhere near as much so as Metropolis, which I've also seen restored to very nearly its original cut), and some of the VFX shots do show their age, but in many other respects Godzilla held up incredibly well.  All the more impressive, of course, considering that it was made in a country that had nearly been wiped off the face of the earth less than ten years before.  The pacing is much quicker than most contemporary films I've seen, and the score actually sounded like proper music.  So many Hollywood composers of the same period seemed to think that film music was all about making the orchestra sound as loud and overwrought as possible for as long as possible, sort of the musical equivalent of a massive string of exclamation marks without any words in between, which tended to result in a painful tuneless racket.  Godzilla, on the other hand, has music which actually works as music, and uses dynamic markings other than super-mega-fortissimo.

Anyway... long introduction aside: there are 27 sequels, many of them titled Godzilla vs [insert name here], and although I haven't seen the sequels their titles provided the idea for the rest of this post, namely "what if I wrote a series of Godzilla vs [whatever] titles, pitting the King of the Monsters against other sci-fi franchises, and summarised what I thought might happen?"

For those who remain ignorant in spite Sam's ongoing efforts to educate the world about kaiju movies, Godzilla is (according to the films) basically a prehistoric 150(ish)-foot-tall reptilian monster which was disturbed from its sea-floor lair by American nuke tests in the Pacific circa 1954, and has spent the next few decades rampaging around the world - although focussing mostly on Japan - crushing buildings, setting fire to stuff with its nuclear death ray, and battling other enormous beasts.  It's also worth noting that it's impervious to pretty much every weapon known to man.

I'll admit I did start to deviate away from sci-fi as I went along, but for what it's worth, here goes my list of as-yet-nonexistent Godzilla Versus films, with brief summaries of the outcomes:
  • Godzilla vs Doctor Who: Godzilla is a fixed point in time (obviously), so the Doctor can't interfere.  He rescues a handful of people in the TARDIS before it's too late.  The Daleks on the other hand, probably do try and interfere because they can't bear the thought that someone else is better at exterminating than they are, but they don't last long.
  • Godzilla vs Star Wars: Sidious deploys Force lightning, Godzilla deploys atomic death ray.  Both fry, but Sidious probably gets the worst of it.
  • Godzilla vs Star Trek: we have a bit of a problem with geography here.  The Godzilla films (as far as I'm aware) take place mostly in Japan, and Star Trek takes place mostly in outer-space locations that aren't Japan, so I'm not sure how the two would meet.
  • Godzilla vs Avatar: I guess the Na'vi would try and form a symbiotic bond with Godzilla, like they do with every other species on their planet, but something tells me it wouldn't work.  Sooner or later, Hometree Mk II would get rampaged and burnt.
  • Godzilla vs Jurassic Park: no, even Dennis Nedry knows better than to steal that embryo!
  • Godzilla vs The Matrix: the Machines accidentally wake Godzilla, and their empire is destroyed within a few weeks.  Those Sentinels don't stand a chance against the atomic death ray.  The interesting part of the question is, how would the humans' brains deal with the collapse of the Matrix infrastructure?  Mind you, what with them all being disconnected from reality and stuff, they'd probably have a hard time evacuating, so they'd all get bumped off pretty quick amid the rampages.  Which makes the question a bit redundant.
  • Godzilla vs Thunderbirds: Godzilla destroys Tokyo (again), but not before the Tracey brothers evacuate everybody.  Derek Meddings has a field day blowing stuff up for the cameras.  Oh, wait... he did that on most Thunderbirds episodes anyway.  Never mind.
  • Godzilla vs Top Gear: the presenters are told to meet in Tokyo to shoot a Japan special, but Godzilla turns up just when they're supposed to start filming.  Clarkson escapes by modifying the daylights out of his car to make it do 250mph.  Hammond has already got emotionally attached to his motor and is unwilling to modify it to speed it up, so he can't get away quick enough and he gets stomped.  May survives because he can't read maps and he never got to Tokyo in the first place.  He is eventually discovered, five years later, slowly orbiting a roundabout a few miles west of Edinburgh.
  • Godzilla vs Sherlock: Sherlock becomes the only person in the universe ever to talk the King of the Monsters out of doing a rampage.  Godzilla acknowledges Sherlock's intellect as a fellow force of nature.  He eats Moriarty instead.
  • Godzilla vs Tony Blair: Tony is such an amateur.  That Iraq fiasco, and all.  Godzilla shows him how to invade and destroy a country properly - and hopefully he then burns Blair to a crisp for good measure.
  • Godzilla vs Tesco: Godzilla still destroys everything, but this time there are plenty of handy carrier bags he can use to take home some souvenirs from the trip.
  • Godzilla vs Root Hill: don't worry, we've got Sam on our side.  He knows all Godzilla's tricks, so he can tell us all how to survive the attack.  Sorted.
Okay, yeah... that might have got a bit strange towards the end, but it was quite fun to write =]

  • First 12 for '12 status: 11 down, 1 to go
  • Latest book read: still working through 1 Kings in the KJV. Solomon's dead.
  • Latest film/TV watched: Great British Railway Journeys
  • Latest music listened to: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End OST by Hans Zimmer
  • Latest edible item eaten: flapjack and coffee
  • Predominant colour of clothes: will you be surprised, even a tiny little bit, if I say blue and grey?
  • Programs and web pages currently running: Microsoft Office Outlook 2007, Firefox (tabs: Google Image Search; A White Horizon; Blogspot Create Post; MatNav 6.1)
  • Webcomics posted today: n/a

- The Colclough