Love is a battlefield…

…at least my love of art alwayshas bee one.  A bttlefield between an engineer’s dogged pursuit of perfection and an animator’s love of the elegance a simple single line. Both can tell a story and both are parts of me but if you ever wanted to pick two more disparate disciplines you count not go wrong with these.

This has bubbled to the fore as a result of my continued inability to “Give my art away” with the Steampunk project.  It is taking all of my work and returning absolutely BUBKIS.

So this week I have decided that if the direction I have been going ain’t working I am going to take a left turn and take this puppy off the rails…

An interesting experiment

A Grand Experiment

Not all great experiments are planned, some happen as the result of either a fortuitous or abysmal accident.  Sometimes the actual incident’s association, good or bad, can’t be ascertained until the resultant experiment is complete. In my case it all started when I did something that in the past I had laughed at other people when they did it, letting judgement flow in hails of derisive laughter, namely I dropped my iPhone into the bog/pisseur/toilet. When I swept it out with panicky paws the case wouldn’t come off even though it had let a lot of fluids in.  By the time I got it into a bag full of desiccant rich packing peanuts the damge was apparently done.  When I shut the phone of the screen looked liked a Mondrian reject.  Time for a new phone I decided

What to buy…

Initially I embraced my internal hipster and looked at downgraded flip phones.  I’d show the Mega-Conglomerates and get me a DUMB PHONE.  Yeah, I know, that lasted about 20 minutes. The nerd is strong in this one and the pendulum rapidly swung toward the shiniest of the shiny…an iPhone X. I logged onto my provider’s site and chatted the ears off some dude about what it would cost and so on. My internet acumen made sailing through the ordering process so quickly I didn’t take time to read the delivery date…until I pushed the order button. Then reality struck, my phone was apparently dead and I would be offline and outta touch until the new one got here.

Which would be in two and a half weeks.

Living without my iPhone

When the iPhone first came out a London newspaper did an article about learning to live without a smart phone after you had gotten used to the convenience of it.  The writer tried to to go without for a week, he failed like a gibbering ape and expressed his relief when his iPhone was returned to him. Whereas I am sure there was a level of melodramatic flare inserted into the piece the overall tone was pretty serious.

That article came out about 3 months after the iPhone was introduced. I have be dependent on my iPhone for 10 years. So how long until I am reduced to a gibbering ape?

Moving along…

So there I was! Writing out a stream of effervescent prose about the evils of Social Media and stuff and BOOM the world gets stopped in its track when some lost soul in Las Vegas decides to take a journey to hell and want to take along several hundred strangers. Even with the social rhino hide I have been cultivating crap like this kicks you in the soft bits, even if you don’t want to admit it.  I do have a follow up about Social Media but just don’t have the will to post it just now.

Right now, after a full day of overtime yesterday, it’s time to chill and watch new anime for the Fall Cour.

One show that caught my eye is called TWO CARS and when you wade through the tropes and silliness of a High School network of after School side hack racing clubs, all girl of course, you get down to a lot of cool drawings and animation of Sidecar Racers, or “kneelers”.  The art is nice and the characters on the grid silly so I am in for 12 episodes I think.

At the same time the show drudged up a story from my real life past, believe it or not. Even stranger it is a story I have never told anyone, including my ex wife and son. Still this morning, after the first episode of TWO CARS I felt compelled to sit down and write it out and send it to my Anime Pen Pal Monty. After I was done writing I thought I might paste it in here, but then Monty suggested another use for it, so I will tyr that out for a bit.

If that doesn’t fly then I will post it…later.

Ja ne

Hot Lapping Social Engineering

Just Because it says “Social” doesn’t mean it has anything to do with “Society”

In 1979 Jimmy Carter was President, the country was just coming to its senses about Disco and I was looking for a new path in life.  My attempt at climbing the ladder to success as a racing driver had fizzled out due to the usual shortage of money and sponsorship, Initially I went back to school to finish up my drafting degree but my heart wasn’t in it. I had a new girlfriend who was so much smarter than me I was in awe and that made me sign up to go back to college.  At the same time I had to work so I went looking for a job in the only place I knew, racing. What I found would not only effect the course of my life but also gave me a unique perspective on the world we are living in today.

I go to work

The job I found was through my friend Mac Law with whom I raced Formula Vees. It was working for a company called MORGAN MOTORSPORTS NETWORK which was run by Dave Morgan. Dave was a charming guy and a bit of a savant in the ways marketing and how it related to racing in the future.  The “Network” Dave envisioned had two parts.

Network before Networks

The first revolved around creating a group of professional racing vendors, builders, trainers and promoters who would work together directly towards a common goal of promoting racing as a sport. This would center on a series of Seminars where people would pay (large) sums of money to come hear professionals speak about how they got to where they are.

Demographic Card Tricks

The second part of the network was the part that effected me most, which was developing effective ways to gather and compile demographics about the people who not only raced but ATTENDED races. In 1979 people were still leery of taking “surveys” so we Dave, Mac and I had long meetings about how was the best way to pry information out of people without them either being put off or indeed drive them away. Once we had a card in place we would put on out polo shirts and shades, go to the track, shake hands and hand out postage prepaid cards. Then we would wait.

The pot of information gold

Initially we were lucky for a f5% return. We would then calculate the data that we got into tabular pads (no computers, remember?) and do a postmortem on that card. We would tweak the questions and head out to another venue. After a year we were getting a return rate of around 30% which was pretty good. This was partially attributed to the questions on cards being tweaked and partially because people got used to our smiling faces and shaking our hands.  The former is refining our demographic model, the LATTER though is my first experience with SOCIAL ENGINEERING. As we became familiar faces people relaxed, when they relaxed they were much freer with the info they would pass on to us. It was exhausting but fascinating work, so much so that when I went back to university (right around the time MMN ran out of money) I changed my Major to Communications and media.

School was to give me a much finer focus on demographics and a deeper understanding of the dark path that Social engineering could take society down…

I need to learn Japanese…things will just be easier

So when I am not off peddling pastels to hippies (my day jobbe) the curious will find me most likely find me either scribbling on my Cintiq or twurdling in any number of Visual Effects application.  At the same time, being a modern ‘Merikan man, I have something of a short attention span.  Now I am not talking that of a gnat, if I had that I would turn Republican and vote against my own best interest, but it is still short.  Let’s say a mouse, they’re cute and fuzzy, yeah let’s say a mouse.

Now we are not talking any ordinary mouse here, we are speaking of a full on OTAKU mouse.  A mouse who prefers Manga to Muenster.  This is a mouse who spends as much time as possible laying sprawled on it adorable little tummy munching on cheezie puffs and watch anime of questionable content (my late friend Toren once said “The most dangerous thing to be in Japan is a schoolgirl”).

This isn’t a new addiction in any way, no sir-ree! The animators of Japan have been tweaking my grey matter since I first ASTRO BOY when I was but a tousle headed tyke in the wilds of Rialto. It is a sad fact that for a time I eschewed the genre but recommendations from my son Nick when he was home for Christmas peaked my interest and I discovered CRUNCHYROLL.  Additionally I reconnected with a nameless chum from my Days at NAMCO whose sharing Otaku nature was more than willing to point out what I have been missing while I was away.

Obviously all of this happened as our country was settling in to enjoy the diarrhea de Glase that our politicians were serving up.  Having just recently decided to sit out the next depression two step I quickly came to the conclusion that I needed an escape.

My Anime consumption began to climb.  So much so that currently I can tell you more about what is being pushed in Akihabra then I can what sort of corn besotted effluvia is spewing out of the “One Eyed Monster” (as my Mom used to call the TV).  Before you judge, take a look at your own browser history.

Here is where it gets troublesome…

While I am working I like to have some sort of media running in the background, often video, so I can COMMAN-TAB away from After Effects when it is blowing me a raspberry.  The trouble is that all the Anime I watch is SUBTITLED and I don’t speak Japanese.  So whereas it is comforting to hear the mellifluous tones of some of my Favorite voice actresses/Actors I cannot understand anything…which makes it hard to keep up on what is going on in whatever series I am currently following/obsessed with.

Now I have tried in the past to learn this language.  Afternoons were spent at Kinokuniya , both in LA and in San Francisco, buying tons of books and dictionaries but at the same time I was also working in the early years of the Games Industry and figuring out how to do thing nobody had ever done before took up most of my idle grey matter and slowly my studies slipped away.

Now though all those tasks that were once arcane are canned effects in plug-ins and scripts for After Effect written by 14 year olds.  What was once magic is now available on a chat app. So even though my Grey matter has a lot more road wear on it the time has come to turn the searchlight glare of my attention onto this task. Anyone who has any suggestions about how to make this easy, please feel free to share.

Arigato…

Rethinking

Yesterday ended with a flurry of voices in my brain box telling me that I had “lost it” and “was too old” and so on.  I am used to this greek chorus, every artist I know has it chortling in the background as they work, but this time I didn’t so much listen to it so much as to notice they were back.  The last two weeks I have been wrestling with zBrush stuff and trying to get new characters rigged while Bob works on the second rewrite of the main story.  Until that is done I cannot really work on the illustrations so I am left pretty much to my own devices.

Which leads to me rattling around in my head, which is never a good thing (that is the voice of experience). It is in times like these that I get lost in the technique and lose the joy of creation.  It becomes all rigging and linking and expression as the like.  Working like that for too long is like trying to swim in tapioca, although possible it is taxing and eventually you will take one to the balls (sorry).

As I was laying in bed it was simple to conclude what was going on, I wasn’t enjoying what I was working on, the project that has jump started my artistic genes had turned into a job…and not a very good one. The kind of job where you have to go into darkened stalls and clean out fluids you cannot say for sure where they came from…barefoot. Time to take another road.

The weather remains frigid, which makes working in the studio problematic, so I took a step back.  As distraction I turned on CRUNCHYROLL and did some serious binge watching.

…what is there not to like about anime?

For some reason some years ago I stopped watching ANIME,  which is weird because for a very long time it was a great source of relaxation and inspiration.  It is not uncommon for me to have done this in the past, love something and then cut myself off from it for no apparent reason.  Probably can be written off to the depression monster, I dunno.  What I do know is that Nick has gotten me watching again and it is like reaching into the pocket of long unworn favorite jacket and finding a crisp twenty, especially today.

So if I am not enjoying it stop doing it.  Turn the Supertanker of yer ego around and head back to where the project started.

So I am

Dear Internet, grow up……

Up against the wall Steve Martin…

Every morning, as part of my self imposed schedule of Therapy for being a wanker, I go on the ELECTRONIC-RAGE-INDUCER (you might know it as FACEBOOK). I do this in the same way a truly dedicated lush might buy a bottle of whiskey and freeze it in a block of ice in their freezer (know your enemy). It’s also nice to see what my real world pals are doing etc. On these visits I put a timer, gauging how long it takes for some chump I don’t know to piss me off so much that I close my browser.

The first post I saw was one saying the internet blew up (to a small extent) at Steve Martin for a tweet he post regarding the passing of his real world friend, Carrie Fisher. The liberal trolls called him sexist and said the posting was in bad taste.

Let’s step back for a moment and think about that.  They Called STEVE MARTIN sexist. If you don’t see the insanity in that very idea you have never read a book by Mr. Martin and have certainly avoided his film (except the funny ones, you could probably understand those). If this is your view I would add that you most likely think that the pyramids are ancient grain silo built by Aliens who have snakes in their skull that make their eyes glow.

If this is the “noble opposition to the oncoming storm” I shudder for the world my son and his friends are inheriting.

Grow up people.

 

 

A death in the family…

The net is awash with the news of the passing of Carrie Fisher yesterday following a heart attack.  Her passing has left me a little numb.   Part of it could be that I am still in shock after the past month working in retail.  Another factor could be that in the wake of 2016 I am just a little worn out from grieving, so much loss for the people of my generation. A big part of it though is no doubt part of a personal connection, I never knew Carrie but we both worked in “the family business” namely STAR WARS.

Some of the best years of my creative life so far were spent working on STAR WARS, specifically the X-Wing series of games, and once you work that intensely for that long on something it’ kinda hard to “let it go”.  In my case I fought it off like an actor fighting being type cast as, I dunno, some sort of one legged bartender in a long running TV show.  These days though I am actually allowing myself to be proud of it.  The thought crawl across my cerebellum, did Carrie ever really come to grips with princess Leia?

There is another thing about Carrie that touched me though, he open frankness about he struggles with depression and alcohol.  I wish I had been THAT honest THAT soon in my life (or sooner).  Over the years I watched everything I could when Carrie spoke about these things.  Hel I even still quote her from time to time:

“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for someone else to die”

…that’s my favorite, ’cause you can place “Resentment” with so many other words and it still works.

This post isn’t one where I have something eloquent to sum up about VCarrie, Star Wars, mental illness and life. It is more of a rambling amalgam of thoughts swirled on the page like finger paints on glass.  Make out of it what you will.

Bye Carrie, thanks.  You will be misquoted (and missed)

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).

What is keeping me up at night lately…

So I have been RUMINATING (something they told me NOT to do in the ZOO) about a question. It is a question that I find more important than “What species is Donald Trump” and more confusing than “Why any adult American would think support him”,
 
Want to hear it? It will trouble you too if I share it, but if I don’t I fear that I shall go mad.
 
OK, I’m sharing it…you ready?
 
“Who put the coffee grounds in the sink in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR”?
 
My first thought was Vision, because he is only recently become human, but then since he was a computer before that he would have every entry about plumbing from the internet in his BRAINBOX.
 
Green-phobics will no doubt champion the idea it was Banner, but c’mon he may turn into a giant Rage Monster at times BUT THE REST OF THE TIME HE IS ONE OF THE TWO SMARTEST GUYS ON THE PLANET!
 
This is keeping me up at night, which I find comforting. Prior to that it was thoughts that any of a Trump Presidency. The former causes sleeplessness, the latter, late night incontinency. I would rather toss and turn then change my sheet everyday