Movies and stuff and stuff

Been really loving my new Piccadilly notebooks (cheaper but just as good versions of moleskines)… if you want write or sketch or keep track of all your brilliant ideas that will never come to fruition, I recommend them. I mean, you could use ordinary paper just as well, it’s not like the notebooks will replace any talent you don’t have (though I’m sure you probably have some)… they’re just so aesthetically pleasing that they encourage you to use them. So I’ve found myself starting to plan out another fantasy story that I’ll probably never write…

Um… what else? It’s the start of a 3-day weekend, though I spent most of the day today sleeping, so my sleep schedule is completely off now. I’ll have to try staying up all night tonight to try to correct it.

I just went through one of my bookshelves and made sure all my books had my property stamp in it. It reminded me of all the books I bought but haven’t read yet. Meanwhile, I have all these books out from the library… and I keep getting half or a third way through a book and then moving on to another interesting looking one. So I’m going to purge my checked out library items and return some and see if I can read some of the books I actually own this summer. Then again, maybe not; I read out of interest, not ownership guilt.

Oh, I also started watching those old mystery movies I got, from the Mystery Classics 50 Movie Pack Collection. Watched the first one, so I’m 2% done! The quality is pretty terrible; these movies haven’t been restored or anything. But the first one, Bulldog Drummond’s Revenge, was actually pretty funny; I suppose it’s equivalent to one of the comedy detective shows that might come on nowadays like Monk. But it was made in 1937, when TV series weren’t really an option, obviously. Anyway, I think it will be fun to watch the other 49 of these…

Oh, I also watched The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus last night. My next few sentences might contain SPOILERS so look away if you haven’t seen the movie yet and don’t want to be spoiled…

The imagery and the uniqueness of the story and its world were pretty awesome. Some of the effects were a bit cheap, as in you could tell they were using blue screen sometimes with those fuzzy edges you get on cheap blue screen effects, but it’s amazing what they were able to do on such a limited budget. The thing that really annoyed me though was the ending. The ending was visually appealing, but story-wise, I just didn’t get it. The motivations and actions of the characters just became unclear and chaotic. It was just weird and unsatisfying.

Remember, writers, the two most important parts of your story (in my opinion) are the beginning and the end. (By “the end” I mean the story from the climax to the absolute end, not just the last scene.) The beginning should hook people (Doctor Parnassus definitely had a fun beginning), and the ending should satisfy them, revealing all mysteries and making *everything* clear. (I know some audiences don’t mind some ambiguity here and there, but I don’t prefer it.)

OK, that’s my blather for now…

Some junk I bought today (to help the economy)

Today I bought me some Piccadilly notebooks, so life can finally begin! I was looking for some notes on a story I wanted to write in my few spiral notebooks, but I seem to lose them easily, and their metal spirals get all caught in each other, and tangled, and they don’t sit on a bookshelf very well. Their big advantage, though, is that they’re cheap cheap cheap. But I decided, hey, I’m a billionaire (in the making), so why don’t I buy some nicer notebooks? Hmmm?? Why??? HMMMMM???!??!? Then I punched myself in the face and had a nervous breakdown. After that mess (which has now come to be known as my morning routine) I picked up the dagger, ran down the hall, and stabbed the cook.

OK, sorry, I’m just tired. Of being bullied around.

OK, sorry, serious blogging time…

So I went to Borders and looked at their moleskines. I know some people who just love their moleskines. But, geez, they were expensive! Fortunately someone on Twitter told me about Piccadilly notebooks. They look just about the same, but cost less than half as much. So I bought some of those. Yeah!

I Googled around “Piccadilly vs moleskine” and there seem to be a lot people quite happy with their Piccadilly notebooks. But I think you can only find them at Borders, where as moleskines are available all over the place (I think). I wonder if moleskine lovers are kinda like Apple lovers… nice quality, but expensive… although after you buy something expensive, I think you’re more likely to at least try to convince yourself that it was worth it, since you just spent a lot on it… know wad I’m sayin’ yo?

Oh, they also ended up having a hardback Anathem by Neal Stephenson on sale for $6 (cheaper than the paperback) so, though I already read it, I done went bought it. Awesome book. And hardback for $6? Great deal. (Actually, it looks like the paperback Anathem is only $3.20 on Amazon, ha! Did they print too many?)

And then I also bought Mystery Classics 50 Movie Pack Collection. Not that I have any time to be watching movies. They’re old and not the greatest of quality, but for the price, I couldn’t resist. They also had some other genres, like science fiction and horror, and though those were also tempting, I think the mystery genre of old films is probably the least crappy. (Old sci-fi films I can hardly stand. They’re usually so corny. But it’s still tempting to give them a chance…)

Um… I guess that’s it. Just me blathering about junk I bought today. I just bought it all to, you know, help the economy.

I can only let myself buy one more thing, and that’s a new pair of glasses. I looked at a few places in the mall, but looking at myself in the mirror, I just didn’t like anything, not even the glasses I have now. Maybe it’s my face, but I can’t do anything about that. So I’ll look at Walmart selection tomorrow, or some time this week…

Well, maybe two more things, because I also need a haircut. But that’s it. Although… some computer games on Amazon are lookin’ cheap… Mass Effect 2 especially… mmmmmm… but I must resist… I won’t have any time to play it anyway…

Google TV looks good

Here’s Google TV:

Looks good to me. Basically, to me, it looks like it tries to put your Internet video watching on your TV. There’s already software out there that does this (or at least something like this; I don’t know the extent of features GoogleTV is ultimately planning), but I don’t think it’s become widely used enough. And I can hook my laptop up to the HDTV whenever I want, but it’s not very practical. So if Google TV can give the nation a cheap and easy-to-use solution, as this looks like it could be, it could finally put the on-demandness of Internet video on your TV.

A few years ago I was arguing (well, more discussing) with someone at college about this stuff. His concern was bandwidth… he said that more on-demandish video isn’t here yet because it would cost too much bandwidth to be providing so many different TVs so much different content. My argument was that the technology was already here and it was all possible… but the cable and satellite companies and ISPs don’t have the supporting business models yet, so they’re still trying to figure out the business model side of it before changing things around for the consumers too abruptly.

So… if Google TV does become really popular (as I hope it does, because on-demand is better), it will be interesting to see how cable and satellite and ISP companies react. Will they want to create new restrictions? Will they charge more? Will they somehow seek to regain the content control they hold now?

Speaking of content, how will Google TV affect the content people watch? If you are able to load up a YouTube video as quick as you can turn the channel during a commercial, won’t that even up the playing field for content creators? Would that allow us creative dreamers to create our Internet TV channels and shows and have them actually compete with the big networks?

Guess we’ll find out … it will be interesting.

And here’s how to get GoogleTV now!

Anyway, got my eye exam tomorrow, woohoo!

Eye exam, Sleeping Beauty, blah blah blah

I finally made an appointment to see an optometrist this Friday. Need to get me a new prescription so I can get some new glasses. My eyes have gotten worse. Though I read somewhere that glasses help make your eyes get lazier and help make them worser. Oh well, I still need some. Right now the distance is a bit blurry even with my glasses on.

I also watched Sleeping Beauty on blu-ray today. Reading The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation makes me want to watch animations. And I’ve actually never seen Sleeping Beauty before. I must say, it looks wonderful on blu-ray, the way all films should be watched. What strikes me, probably because I’m watching it for the first time as a 24 year old, is how short it is. Only 75 minutes. If I had watched it as I kid, I’m sure it would’ve seemed longer, like all 75-85 minute movies did. Anyway, I ended up watching it twice, once just normally, and then again with the audio commentary (featuring a group of people who didn’t actually work on the movie). There are a bunch of special features on the bonus disc that I haven’t looked at yet, but hope to. (The best part of the movie: “This dress looks awful!” “That’s because it’s on you, dear.”)

Also had my first little Animation Mentor experience tonight: just a little Q&A session about what’s coming. So I got some more info on how the program will work, and got some questions answered. I listened for about an hour and twenty minutes, really excited, and then my connection started having problems. I’m not sure how long it went on afterwards, but I think every question I was curious about got answered. Can’t wait until it actually begins! Probably annoying for me to keep saying that…

This animation study, starting next month, might mean I don’t compose much, if any, music over the next year and a half, as my free time will go way down… but we’ll see. I’m sure I’ll still write a bunch of melodies though. I can’t stop doing that.

Guess that’s it for today…

One education system to rule them all

In my continued Googling for stuff about Animation Mentor (even though I’m already set to begin the first course this June), I found this interesting blog post: The Downfall of traditional education.

The blogger writes:

The UK animation industry is being taken over by Animation Mentor. I don’t have exact figures but I have the feeling that 3 out of 5 animation graduates hired in UK come from Animation Mentor. In few years, 50% of the animator in the industry will probably come from the online animation school.

Why is that?

Animation Mentor has been offering the industry, the exact kind of profile it was looking for. In 18 month, they create more job opportunities to graduates than what traditional education would provide in 4/5 years.

Of course, this mostly further excites me about doing Animation Mentor.

But I guess I also found this post interesting because of a very long and detailed discussion I’m having on Facebook about the college education system. I think I posted this opinion before, but I kinda wish most professions were taught like animation is taught at Animation Mentor: get working professionals to give personal attention to a group of students’ work, and stop teaching other stuff (general education requirements and required electives). Animation Mentor makes it quite clear that they don’t teach character rigging or special effects animation or lighting or rendering, etc. You get 1.5 years of just character animation. I think that’s awesome. (And from what I’ve heard, that’s what the big studios look for anyway: people who are great in just one area, not jacks-of-all-trades.) But I also think you could have an AM-like program for any of those other areas as well. You’re not working for grades or a degree, you’re working for a skill. You’ll never be a valedictorian, but you won’t care, because that never meant anything to you anyway.

That said, I haven’t even started Animation Mentor yet, so maybe I shouldn’t be talking.

I also thought the comments were interesting. One guy says:

at my university we’re told that after graduating we should go to AnimationMentor, Bournemouth or EscapeStudios.

Ha! “After graduating”? Why not… instead of graduating? (Really, if I’d known about Animation Mentor while I was still in college, I probably would’ve done my best to get my parents to let me drop out. (I still need their support!))

Another guy says:

My tutor told me to rate a short which had very limited animation technique but had a very anti Disney/Bluth agenda, and was thus seen as artistically superior over the Lion King and the Nightmare before Xmas(wow, I’m old!). I rated Disney last and I got the interview, which came to a real bad end when I was asked where I would like to be in a 5 years time. I said ‘well I would be happy if I was working for a big studio, working in commercials’….the interviewer pretty much convulsed and replied ‘Happy? Working for a big studio? You’re evidently not interested in making important artistic films. You’d be best having a rethink at the next university you interview at’.

This is why you have working professionals teaching. I think it tends to be hard to lure them into teaching positions (and some pros may not be very good at teaching anyway) because of the time and dedication it takes, maybe for not so much pay. But the Internet may help to change that. Having professors who are professors for a living teaching students who do not plan to be professors for a living just doesn’t seem quite right does it? (At George Mason, they did have some working professionals teach some of my night classes, and I think they were better, since they could impart some knowledge on what working in the industry is actually like. Unfortunately they were from professions I was not really interested in, like requirements analysis for military contractors.)

Anyway, I also find this academic artistic snobbery to be somewhat typical, annoying, and yet funny. I hear it in the music area a lot. You want to orchestrate like John Williams? Tonal melody stuff? Ugh! Write crappy atonal minimalist music like this instead! And then when we both stink at writing music, we can both be professors who compliment each other all the time! Good work! Fortunately it’s not like that everywhere, but it’s there. Mostly in the art categories. Writing, drawing, music, theater, etc. Professors who couldn’t make it professionally decide they have what it takes to teach.

Really: teaching should not be something you do because you can’t do anything else. Which is too often what it is. And I’m not sure adults should be doing it full-time anyway, at least not on the high school and college level. (Though a lot of college professors are also involved in research.)

OK, enough rambling about that.

I usually find that my deep interests in things last about 2 weeks, and then get taken over by something else, and may or may not come back. But with Animation Mentor looming on the horizon, I’m as excited as I’ve ever been about anything, and it hasn’t faded, so I’m really hoping that I my interest stays this high and that I do actually become good enough to animate professionally. Woohoo! Woooooo! Wooowaaaawoooowaaaaahh! Etc. etc.

Oh, someone I know also said that he concluded that Animation Mentor was a scam. A bias I can sort of understand, because most online schools are pretty scammish, and, as someone else pointed out, I’m not sure the name “Animation Mentor” sounds very prestigious.

But enough about me, what about you?

Stuff I done gone and did terday

Hey, it’s my 300th blog post to this blog! In celebration, I will do nothing, because I do not want to seem arrogant towards those who don’t blog as much.

I finally finished reading Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination, a biography of Walt Disney. ‘Twas quite educational, since I really didn’t know very much about him or the history of his company. I might dedicate a future blog post to some thoughts on his life and work, but not tonight. I will say he must be a goldmine for biographers. He had a lot of influence, there are a lot of different opinions about him, and he got his hands into a lot of things. There’s a lot to write about.

I also bought The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation from Amazon earlier this week, and have started reading through that. I read bits and pieces of it in college from the library, and I know I browsed through it at some other point in my youth. I am wondering if we have an older family copy somewhere (though I don’t think so) or if one of our grandparents or relatives had a copy. But I just know I browsed through it years ago before college. Anyway, it’s full of wonderful pictures and art. I really wish it came with a DVD or something so I could watch the examples, but I guess that would only double the price. Anyway, as I’m trying to learn computer animation, this book seems like one of the must-reads.

And speakin’ of animation, next Wednesday night I’ve got my first Animation Mentor thing. Classes don’t officially start until near the end of June, but the thing on Wednesday is I guess a bit like an orientation. It will allow someone to give an overview of the structure of the course and the site, and will allow us future students to ask questions. Not sure I’ll have any questions, but I do want to test out the technology and the experience of doing one of these Animation Mentor meetings. So I’m looking forward to that.

Music wise, I’m almost finished writing the music for a documentary. I’ve got one cut left, and it will be a fun one to write. I’ll share more info (and maybe some music clips) from that when the project is actually finished.

I’m participating in a long Facebook conversation about the problems of college and high school education. I was going to post the conversation here, but it is still going on, and it is very long. Our plan now is to, at some point, organize our points and disagreements and write a book on the topic. Probably won’t get professionally published or anything, but I think would make an interesting book.

Finally, movie wise, I just finished watching The Men Who Stare At Goats. It was … uh … interesting I guess. Had some funny parts, but by the end I didn’t really get the point of any of it. It was like a very long joke. If there had been just a bit more humor, it might’ve been OK.

I also watched Where the Wild Things Are a couple night ago, which was actually better than I thought it would be (I had low expectations), but it was weird (and I imagine one could really psycho-analyze the heck out of it if they wanted). The director’s soundtrack choices did kinda make me think the Wild Things were a bit like hippies at some points, which made it weirder. But there some other very hilarious parts (Bob and Terry are my favorite). Overall, though, it was a bit soap-opera like, because all the Wild Things want to talk about their emotions and feelings rather than do anything particularly adventurous. Which isn’t necessarily bad, I still found it engaging, but I can understand why some mind find it boring. (What I don’t get is all the debate about whether it’s too scary or adultish for kids, which perhaps was played out for publicity. Or perhaps because it was based on such a famous picture book. But the movie itself didn’t push any thematic boundaries.)

And that’s what I’ve been up to lately.