Steady as she goes

Last year, after a shootI was on in the city, I forgot to zip up my backpack camera bag.  When you do that things tend to find their way out, not in a cute “kitten stuck in a box” sort of way but rather in a horrifying clash of electronic on a concrete sidewalk kinda way.  Prior to this incident the worst case of this I had personally experienced was when Jeff had done the same thing and his brand new Nikon self focusing lens had come crashing to the cobblestones outside the entrace of the gift shop at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  I still remember diving for the falling camera from the bench where I had been perched (it felt like slow motion) and not reaching it in time.  The sound it made haunted my dreams for years.

This time last year it was my turn, only I fared much worse. My GH4, ROXY (all of my cameras are named after showgirls from the 1930s) has a hardened/sealed case made out of solid magnesium so she is a tough old bird, not so for the lens.  That lens was the NIKON 18mm-35mm zoom lens I had inherited from Jeff.  It was my favorite general duty lens and also the lens I used on all of my stabilizers and jibs and such.  This second fall had two mournful sounds attached to it.  The first was the sound of the lens glass and the electronics shattering on the stones and the second was the mournful howl that came unbidden from my lips when I saw the carnage.  At that point I knew I had not the resources to replace that lens and that it’s demise put an end to a lot of projects until it could be replaced.

Fats forward to today and the joy that comes from a beautiful summer’s day is accompanied by the invoice from KEH camera telling me the replacement for my lens is packed and on its way to me.

Panasonic Lumix G H-H020 20mm f/1.7 Aspherical Pancake Lens

The new (used) lens I bought is a 20mm prime, which translates into a 35mm-40mm lens when you consider the M 4/3 clip of the camera body.  Additionally it is a relatively fast lens at 1.7 when means I can not only use it on my Steadicam but also as a general “carry around” lens on the camera as well.

The final benefit is that it is not a manual NIKON lens but a Native Lumix lens which means I can use all the electronic of the camera including auto focus.  The latter I will no doubt have shut off most of the time but when shooting in low light at shows and stuff is sure comes in handy.

So it has taken me 16 months to do it but I have finally replace the other lens, which I keep on a shelf behind my desk to remind me to CLOSE THE GODDAM CASE.  Now to start tracking the package in a manic fashion until it arrives…

Good Bye to Flower Power, So What Next?

The last two days have been a bit of a blur as I have been finishing up the web commercial for Uriel Tones.  It’s been a lot of work, for less than stellar pay I will admit, but it has gotten me deeply and firmly into PRODUCTION MODE.  Anyone who has worked on an intense project with a lot of demands and time constraints understands from where I speak. It’s the steady humm in the back of you head of gears in your mind, always working to solve the problem at hand while fat forwarding to the next task in the stairway to completion. When you go into PRODUCTION MODE it does not matter where you are or what you are doing those gears never stop turning.  You can be at dinner with your family, surfing the net or walking your dog, the gears are always turning.

For some this can be maddening, the crackle of the gears as they mesh can drive them over the edge into dark places where it is actually best we don’t go.  Those are the people who change careers and speak in hushed tones about “burnout” and “Death Marches”. I wish them well and I wish them peace.  The rest of us either simply endure or they thrive on PRODUCTION MODE.

…I am one of the latter.

Just now I am working on about 10 hours sleep spread over three days and have only a few things left to do.  During this production cycle I was tested and I was not found wanting.  At the same time I was reminded of a lot of tools in my toolbox that I have not used in a long time, tools that could help me get out of working in the art store and back into the real world.

The question now is, what do I do next?

So how was YOUR week…

…like so many of the denizens of my echo chamber mine was not as positive as it might have been.  It was so disturbing in fact that for a brief time I thought about dropping all of my work on Sky Pirates and doing some Political cartoons.  You know the kind, satyrical and fighting…ink with TEETH that would bring about real, Positive CHANGE! A real digital Thomas Nast!

Yeah, I know, knee-jerk artistic bloviating at its finest.  There are lots of political cartoonists out there doing a FINE job on both sides of the aisle.  Best I stick to my strange Fantasy world and try and entertain people who find very little entertaining just now. The nation has it’s course and it will go there no matter what pontificating I throw at the helmsman.  At the same time I have my own course to steer and turning the helm hard-over will only lead to a rail in the water, spilled drinks and a petulant crew.

Right to Left: Lola, Roxanne and Laverne
Right to Left: Lola, Roxanne and Laverne

This is not the first strange thing that I have thought of late.  Just last week, as my work schedule at the shop expanded, I started thinking that now might be the time to start selling my camera gear and stabilizers and tripods and booms so I can get the bill collectors off my ass. You know, all that digital gear that I have spent the last 4 years slowly but surely accumulating .  The stuff that brought about the somewhat spotty, but well paying, gigs that I lived on before I got the part time gig at the shop.

Gads I thinks some stoopid crap at times! My pal Wade told me something a long time ago that has stuck with me always…DO NOT SELL YOUR TOOLS. Long ago I started out as a car mechanic and in that time I gathered together several large toolboxes full of all the ephemera needed to not only fix street cars but to restore older cars or even build racecars. After that I did wood working, building furniture, cabinets and boats.  Same story, a gathering of saws and chisels, files and planers.  In the last 16 years I have done little or no woodworking.  The last car I worked on was changing the main drive shaft support on my Touareg.  I still have all those tool though, all around me at this very moment.

So why was I thinking I should sell the tools that I used regularly only a few months ago?  Tools that had made me money.  Tools that I selected lovingly.  Tools that take me someplace other, someplace I have loved since before I was in high school.  Why sell those?  I suddenly smelled the dank musty livery of that Siren, Depression. All the negative crap on the airwaves, and thus in my ears had fertilized the soil of cerebellum and she was trying to gather me back into her comforting, clammy embrace. Luckily though  I recognized her spoor and the events this week made me realize that if I did not take action, and quickly, I would be plummeting down the half-pipe of a slippery slope back to Depression’s embrace.

That is why on Wednesday after work I started compiling a spreadsheet of the assets I need to construct for the first two issues of SKY PIRATES.  Along with that I started gathering all of Bob’s writings and my notes into one Shrivener document (Patrons over at Patreon will soon get a look at this bit). That led to me looking at the long list of software I used regularly to do interactive design, special effects, web work etc to see what needed updating.  Basically all of it needed attention because, surprise, surprise, Adobe had just released the 2017 versions of all their software. I pushed the “UPDATE ALL” button.

While that was ticking away I gathered up my cameras, my girls, to see what they needed.  I call them “My Girls” because as the son of an old Bomber mechanic I know it is easier to retain knowledge of a name than a number. “Lola” is my Canon T5i, “Roxanne” (Roxy) is my GH4 and “Laverne” is the NIKON D700 I inherited for dear ole’ Jeff.  I had to order a new charger for Laverne (will be here tomorrow, thanks Amazon) and charge the batteries on the other two.  After that I updated the firmware on Roxy, which had previously been a trial but this time worked like a charm.

Quick Test using Substance Designer/Painter to see how assets will work Sky Pirate Shaders.
Quick Test using Substance Designer/Painter to see how assets will work Sky Pirate Shaders.

There was little work to do on a couple of nascent web projects (Hi Amber) and some phone call to be made to clients to reconnect. From the outside I must have looked like those films of the inside of the time traveler’s house as seen from the Time Machine.

Still, I did not want lose total contact with SKY PIRATES, and updating After Effects set my mind to wandering about how I can use it for the project. Additionally I also wanted to see what effect using Substance Designer/Painter on the model when I threw the stand Sky Pirates shader into the mix.  This thought led to a quickie project to blow the dust off of that part of my brainbox (How DO YOU get the Mesh into this damn thing again?). When I use it Substance Painter is one of the bestest toys I have, and I have a lot of cool toys. It took about two hours to get back up to speed but it was fun to do and I have a first test object to work with, next will come some actual Steamy/Punky sorta stuff.

While all of this is going on, the world sails on and the people in it will do and say what they will.  It became obvious to me some months ago that I get a helluva lot more done when I stay away from Social Media (except to post tidbits about my work and maybe “like” something my son posted).  Air-Gapping myself from the news media serves well to maintain my peace of mind as well, which is perhaps harder at times me then someone else.  Someone who hasn’t been a information junkie his entire adult life.

The one thing that I will say about the events of the last few months, the events that climaxed on Tuesday, is that the current state of media is horrific.  This goes for “Main Stream” and “Alternative” as well as all aspects of “Social Media” as well. All of it is woven through with the same sort of odiferous poison as the Siren of Depression brings to the table.  Some will say it is because there is so much MONEY involved in it, but it is more than that.  There is a huge helping of neurosis stirred in as well, seasoned with fear and anxiety.  People who are afraid are easier to influence.  Whether that influence is intended to control their opinions or sway the use of their disposable income the tools are all the same.

There can be conferences about “what do we do now with the media” filling every conference room of every Double Tree in the nation and it will not help. There can be dissertations on “The influence of mass media on the lizard brains of Bonobo Apes” until we run out of printer paper and that will change very little (except maybe get some Bonobos addicted to JUSTIFIED). I’ve thought about it a lot, while I was cleaning, and for myself I have come up with my own solution.

So I am unplugging, not completely but enough to maintain my own sanity. The platforms developed for Social Media were intended to be complements to our lives, not take them over.  The news was originally intended to help form the people into an “Informed Electorate”, not whip them into an angry mob. Too much of anything is bad, too much of other peoples opinions and analysis, especially when said same analysis has been proven to be so much horseshit (are you listening Nate Silver?), is much worse. So I am going to go to work, talk to real people and smile more than is necessary (below the creepy stage I mean). The people I love will hear from me and the invisible friends…not so much.

Jimmy Buffett said it best

If the Phone doesn’t ring, it’s me

If you want catch up with me though, stop by here, or over at Patreon, I will be glad to see you (excuse the creepy smile).