Friday, October 21, 2005


"Why?" I screamed, pushing the blade into the soft flesh of his throat.

"Why did you take something so beautiful and turn it into . . . into this pile of . . ." I was apoplectic with rage, unable to find a suitable description for what this . . . creature . . . had proudly given birth to.

"You had it all - you could take any one of those components and put them in a room by themselves - they'd be fantastic, but you . . . you still manage to ruin everything.

"I spent years learning my craft - I know I was never going to reach the top, but damnit, I was better than most. When I got the chance to contribute to this, I was overjoyed. At last, people would be able to see what I was truly capable of.

"Thanks to what you have done, all I feel is shame, where I should be feeling pride." I eased my knee off his chest, cruelly hinting at respite, only to push it back with a sickening crack. He deserved no better.

"Did you know that people laugh at me when I tell them I was part of this? It's worse than pity or disgust. They try and cover it up by telling me that I couldn't possibly have seen how it would turn out, but it's of no comfort to me.

"Through the months of hard work, you kept telling me how it'd all be worthwhile in the end. Did you really believe that, or was it just another lie to keep the drones producing? Well? I WANT AN ANSWER!"

"I . . . I . . . " he rasped, " . . . it still seems OK to . . ." I cut him off with a quick flash of steel.

"Not much for an epitaph," I thought. I'm no killer, but I felt no remorse for what I'd done. I've atoned for his sins, do what you want with me now - the weight has been lifted.

Excerpt from confession of Animator 17 (real name suppressed), who murdered the producer of a well-known movie (real title suppressed). After seeing the film, the judge handed down a suspended sentence.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Pure energy II

Spirited Away I had been quite hotly anticipating, having seen Howl's Moving Castle at the Film Festival and loved it in spite of its terrible ending.

I also saw the earlier Miyazaki film (wankity-wank) Princess Mononoke recently, and I loved it, particularly for the odd and inventive creatures it featured. SA has a rich cast of strange, frightening, and humorous creatures too, in addition to the standard Anime kids in unfamiliar surroundings succeeding against all odds (despite or perhaps because of their naivete) to become PURE ENERGY.

That makes it sound like I didn't like it - far from it, it's stupendously great. No matter how much of an anime nut you are though, I think you'd agree that not a huge amount of horsepower is used up in plot creation.

As I may have said before, the animation is often not very nice either (it's like there's a code of practice in the anime industry or something) except for the occasional wickedly computer-animated scene or two.

No, the majority of the creative power is used to create a believable fantasy world (in the ones I've seen, at least). Very little explanation is given for why and how this world exists, but it's so well done I find that I don't question it. The creatures are so intriguing and odd, the things they do so unfamiliar that it seems almost like a slice-of-life documentary.

Until, that is, the young hero kills (or in this case befriends) the monster, saves their love, and turns their parents back into humans again.

This is great escapism, please don't try to turn it into some kind of a metaphor (unless it's a pisstake, then please do).

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The best $ I've ever spent

(all prices in NZ dollars; some items may no longer be available)

The best $25 I ever spent:
The Modern Day 3000. Not only does this have a massively cool name, but it is incredibly useful and as can be seen, was very cheap.

What is it? It's a hand-held rechargeable vacuum cleaner. Wicked handy when you have a small person eating in your house. It picks up rice and other bits of crap, but most importantly, it picks up liquids too!

Not only that, but the crud container is transparent, so you can see all the stuff whirling around as it goes in.

The instruction manual refers to a mystical Modern Day 5000, with more features - one day, one day.

Also, I got it from a shop that only sells vacuum cleaners, with the most incredibly aggressive salesmen. I'm sure their temperament isn't helped by having at least three display cleaners permanently, noisily operational. This shop (well, half of it) also has the plushest carpet I have ever seen anywhere - again, useful for demos.

The best $41 I ever spent:
My no-name FM transmitter, bought from the ubiquitous TradeMe. For those that don't know, it has a mini-jack plug, which you connect to your mp3player/laptop/old-skool cassette player. Once you turn it on, you use the buttons to set it to broadcast on an FM frequency.

This particular one goes from 88.0 to about 108.0 I think, in 0.1 increments. Anyway, once you've selected the frequency you want to transmit on, you simply turn on any FM radio (house stereo, car stereo, even nana's tranny) and tune in.

This thing scores on several counts:
  • It has 4 memories for storing frequencies
  • The LCD screen is backlit, in blue!
  • I have seen one advertised that is exactly the same, except for two things: the word "Belkin" printed on it; the $89.95 price.
Now we can have the massive indecison of not knowing which one of the 2000 tracks on my mp3 player to listen to in the car, as well as when walking! I can also watch those downloaded movies on a laptop, sitting at the kitchen table, without a massive cord running to the stereo, and still get 5.1 sound!

The broadcast range is about 10-15 metres I think. My plan is to spot a car with a "GT ON 2 IT!" sticker on the back, tune the transmitter to whatever The Edge frequency is, and beam Einsturzende Neubauten into their car stereo.

This is part of my Strategies Against Arsitecture program.

The best $1000 I ever spent:
Bit of a jump there, but this isn't an exhaustive list, more will come to me some other time.

In 1999, I decided to buy a crap van, throw in a mattress, sellotape a barbecue to the side, and go to Gisborne for the end of the world. Naturally, I ended up buying an actual campervan. This was a 1979 Bedford CF (still the most recent vehicle I've owned), with a wood/fibreglass parallelogram-style pop-top, a wardrobe with mirror, a sink with a pump-tap and weird-tasting reservoir, many many cupboards, a table that converted to a bed, and most importantly, curtains.

It would do about 90 km/h, and was always incredibly hot to travel in, but it didn't matter, you were on holiday, it was part of the fun! I am now completely ruined for tents - you cannot beat pulling up to your campsite in the pissing down rain, popping the top and boiling the jug, while your fellow campers steam up the windows of their cars waiting for the deluge to end, or wrestle with soaking canvas (OK, nylon).

We took it to the Big Day Out one year (admittedly, it did the usual thing of running on three cylinders, meaning we left on the day, rather than the night before), and the same cup o' tea trick was pulled at midnight, at the side of the road in front of someone's house in Mt. Smart.

It was also very good for driving to parties, parking on the back lawn or driveway, and being able to sleep, drunk, pretty much at home, but not have to go back and get your car the next day. There were only strange naked men in it once or twice.

Obviously, this was when parties that didn't necessarily involve fairy bread or pass-the-parcel were still part of our social vocabulary.

For extra bonus points (not that it ever needed any), the ancient Dymo labels on the engine cover were later deciphered as call-signs from when it was a Kinleith Fire Service vehicle. The Tok was strong with this one.

I really really miss the old bugger, but it had to go, it would've been stupid to have more than one old-vehicle-project-that-I-never-start, and there was already one of those with major seniority.

Must go now, I'm getting all teary. Please tell me about your favourite purchases.

Monday, October 10, 2005

13-foot Hasselhof

Don't dismiss The Spongebob Squarepants Movie as "just a kids' movie", although that's exactly what it is.

I imagine there are probably people about the place who haven't been into the Spongebob world - follow the link if not, it gives you an excellent grounding in the basics. OK, I lied, that link is pretty much Nickelodeon hideosity.

It is the usual kid cartoon world of wacky, lovable creatures - OR IS IT? Watch more than a couple of episodes and you'll see some real weirdness creep in. Witness Spongebob's pet snail, called Gary, who meows, and his friend Sandy, a squirrel who must live in a diving-suit in order to breathe underwater. These are just the regular characters.

So, this movie has the titular 13-foot Hasselhof (watch the DVD extras to find out about that one), Scarlett Johanssonsensonsun, a massive rock'n'roll finale with crossdressing, and a proper moral. What more could one want?

Watch out for this though.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Sharalaxy

I always meant to go and see this one at the cinema, but as usual, I never quite got there.

Having read the posthumously-published collection of Douglas Adams' essays and so on, I was prepared for this. HHGTTG has been through radio play, book, TV show and now movie forms, and there are differences in each one. As the man himself was at pains to point out, they're not meant to be slavishly adherent to whatever you believe the original version is.

Obviously this upsets the fanboys, pedants and trainspotters, but if it's how the author intended things to be, sweet as.

Overall, I thought it was great, with plenty of Adamsisms and the vast majority of plot elements and characters being recognisable from previous incarnations of the story.

Ford Prefect was an inspired piece of casting, and naturally upset some people. Actually, I thought all the cast were pretty great, with the exception of Zooey Deschanel. She was OK, but seemed a bit vacant some of the time. Her character was not quite what I remember from the books (yes, I remember what I said about them not having to be the same), to me her part of the storyline got a bit hollywoodised.

Still, D.A. may well have intended this as some kind of giant joke on the rest of us, and it's nowhere near enough to ruin the movie.

So, give it a go, it's better than bad, worse than excellent, and if you haven't read any of D.A.'s books, give one a go too.