Saturday, 29 December 2012

A New Blog About Plywood Sex

Just an update to say that there’s a new blog in town and today it's dealing with the very interesting matter of plywood fetishes. That's right: my very close friend and chief plywood fetishist, Mr. Stan Madeley, has just emailed me to say that he has returned to the blogging stage with his brand new, never before seen, morally questionable, highly enlightening blog called ‘Stan Madeley’s Dead Letter Box’.


The blog contains a collection of letters that Stan has written over the years which never made it into book form, primarily because he never received a reply. However, as with most spoof letters, you read them for the original letters, not the dull replies which usually amount to a ‘no thank you’ or worse. So, please head on over and follow Stan daily. He reckons he has enough letters to print one a day for well over a year, so the blog should be around for a while providing he can find readers and get that arts grant funding he’s been after all these years…

As for me, I'm just busy rehashing old ideas until I come up with something new.

Friday, 30 November 2012


I’ll be on Radio 4’s ‘Saturday Live’ tomorrow morning, sometime between 9 and 10AM, talking about Richard Madeley, Stan Madeley, comedy and spoofing. I did the interview yesterday afternoon with the wonderfully funny JP Devlin in the familiar surroundings of Nero, Warrington, so although it’s my first radio interview, I was probably more relaxed than I would have been sitting in a studio in Manchester or Liverpool. That much said, I’ll be hiding throughout the show, mainly because I'll probably come across as a babbling idiot but also because Richard Madeley will also be in the studio and responding to my last few years pretending to be him. After the show, I’ll be changing my name, my sex, my fingerprints, and my shoe size, and moving to Paris where I’ll be Mrs. Gloriana Sparburst dancing nightly in an erotic revue. Regular punters here just ask at the door for Lulu and I’ll give you a free dance.

Monday, 24 September 2012

The Art of Dressage with Mitt Romney

By posting this today I hope I’ll stop tinkering with it and move on to something better. As you’ll see, it’s hardly well directed satire and is really nothing more than a prolonged test bed for my first attempts at using dynamically generated cloth. Those experiments began with the reigns to the horse and then the form of a flag. The old man’s coat came last and was a nightmare to figure out. Word to the wise: pre-cache your dynamic materials and turn them off completely when animating. Needless to say, I’m probably doing everything wrong but these two rules seemed to work for me.

The ending isn't quite what I wanted but I haven't yet figured out how to make liquids create a reasonable spurt of blood. On reflection, it's probably best without it.

Parts of this were rendered in software, others on the graphics card. iRay (the renderer I’ve grown to love in the past due to it using my CUDA card) doesn't allow you to tile textures. Seems like one the dumbest features to leave out of a rendering engine but what do I know? The whole thing just doesn't work (or doesn't work for me). Hence, I had to render all the city scenes in software, making the whole job more laborious than it should really have been and making for a noticeable difference in the look of the two parts.

As for the film itself, it’s a rambling mess poking fun at a target which is now probably beyond satire. Saying that, he’ll probably win the Presidency and throw us into a new Ice Age where fundamentalist types force us all to wear nylon pantaloons and quote randomly from the Bible.

Next up, I’m thinking of spending some time improving the quality of my models and texturing by rendering a still image. I can only render low detail animations on my machine but might be able to do something of more quality if I restrict myself to a single image. I really want to figure out subsurface scattering and realistic human skin.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Mitt Romney Puppet

After my previous attempt at doing David Cameron's voice (see below), I wanted a break from the voice acting. Besides, this was just meant to be a simple test of some rigging techniques that I had hoped would speed up my workflow. The main problem I have is with rigging a puppet once it’s been modeled and painted. One of the shortcuts I’m trying is to reuse hands – always the trickiest part to rebuild. I’ve now created some hands with controls that I can easily manipulate to move individual fingers. I’ve used them on about three animations with increasing success. The only problem is that I had no idea how to connect them to the rest of the model when, in this instance, the character has his sleeves rolled up. I tried hand with attached forearms but that didn’t work despite numerous attempts over the weekend. In the end, I’ve created separate forearms and stuck the hands on the end of the arm, leaving an unsightly join. I think I’ll have to think of a better way – perhaps making the whole arm separate putting the join at the shoulder where it’s less noticeable.

I’m also getting to the point where I think I should try something a little more ambitious and make a proper short animation. The only problem is that I’m completely at a loss as to what I should try. My main interest is satire but anything I make with a satirical edge will probably be out of date by the time it’s made…

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Door to Door...

One 25 hour render later and the result is in. Fewer mistakes this time, though the voice acting still hasn’t improved. I also need to start spending more time on the script rather than recording the first words I scribble down. The main motivation for this cartoon was to see if I could get frosted glass to work in an animation. The rest sort of just followed on, using whatever models and textures I had lying around.

The next animation I intend to make about George Osbourne, though I haven’t done a jot of work towards that other than a rough caricature of the men and his nose in my notebook.

Monday, 10 September 2012

I Predict A Riot... A Pussy Riot

I have an hour before a render finishes so I thought I’d struggle to update this blog on a machine that’s crying out in agony as it tries to render keyframes and keep up with my keystrokes.

I’ve been quiet but busy. Perhaps too busy. Here is my latest effort from the teach-myself computer animation course I’ve been struggling with for the past few months. All I can say is that it doesn’t look like the product of three week’s work. There are still countless mistakes and problems with it – a hand passing through a microphone at one point, some spelling mistakes, the poor quality voice acting, the writing… However, this was another exercise in making mistakes and learning new tricks. Plus I got to mock Putin and his cronies for their criminal attitude towards dissent and their treatment of Pussy Riot.

I’ve nearly solved the problem I had with animated clothing layers. The simpler way might have been to actually use a simulated cloth but that’s far too advanced and I doubt if my computer could handle it. As it stands, Putin is wearing a very thick jacket and trousers and there are few problems with his body protruding through his clothes. I am however making improvements as I go along and I’m learning short cuts to make the whole process less elaborate. In fact, time permitting, my next effort might make it to this blog within the week.

It’s beginning to feel like many of the technical aspects of animating are solved. I know how to model a mesh, retopologise it, texture it, rig it, produce decent lip sync, and get it all rendered. My next task is to get to grips with the techniques of animating. I need to learn how to use f-curves to make movements feel more realistic, perhaps try some of the techniques outlined in animation manuals such as ‘squeeze and stretch’ method which is probably only half as less filthy as it sounds.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Robin van Persie... The Animated Tale

A new week and what better way than starting it than with the product of the old... In the end, the render time was probably closer to 40 hours than it was to 20 for the two shots in this oh-so-short animation. I’d already made many mistakes along the way before I felt the finished film could do with an opening shot to establish… well, not sure what I thought it needed to establish other than something to lead into the ‘action’.

I really need to rethink the way I’m going about this. Not just the rushed animation (I wanted this finished ahead of United's first match of the season) but also the quality of the render. The problem with these so called ‘unbiased’ renderers is that they don’t take any shortcuts when creating the image. They throw light around the scene in all directions and map the results. Eventually, after the light has finished pinging around, a few of these virtual photons hit the virtual lens of the camera you set up and a pixel is recorded. After enough time, enough pixels are recorded to form an image. However, you need an unreasonably long time to completely fill in the black holes. It’s the reason why the above animation has a slightly speckled quality.

The solution is to move to one of the less accurate but speedy rendering systems out there but, for those, I need a new graphics card. I hear the GTX580 with 3GB of memory is ideal but they're astronomically pricey. Perhaps I might get away with something more reasonably cheap. The way it’s going at the moment, I’m struggling to learn the basics of how to animate characters because the actual process of testing the finished renders make it impossible to learn from my mistakes and the longer animation I’ve been working on for about a week now has not moved forward since the PC has been taken up with rendering this.

Anyway, it's done and I can move on, though I really don't feel too inspired to do much work. This morning's sad news of Tony Scott's death is utterly shocking, especially given the manner of it. Of course, the papers will be full of the usual blather about Ridley being the more acclaimed director but if Tony made fewer films loved by the critics, he definitely made more films loved by audiences and contributed more to my everyday happiness. 'Enemy of the State', 'Spy Game', 'Crimson Tide', 'Deja Vu'... It's strange but, looking back, I suppose there was a time, somewhere around 2001, when I started to look forward to Tony Scott films more than I did Ridley Scott films. Tony Scott's work improved as he got older, which made his death at such a relatively young age for a director so shocking and makes us feel like we've been robbed of something vital and important.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012


It’s hell sitting by a hot PC in this weather, especially now there’s no Olympic beach volleyball coverage to distract my attention. My trusty old six core Phenom II is only two hours away from finishing a mammoth 18 hour render to produce eleven seconds of animation. That will be 279 frames, which rendered at low quality (allowing myself only four minutes per frame) works out at 1116 minutes or 18.6 hours.

Those are crazy numbers – though old hands at CG will say it's nothing compared to the many hours some of them devote to a single image – and I’m not sure how I’m going to progress now I’m seriously trying to animate a CG short film. It might have helped if I hadn’t included physically accurate grass in my first shot (never again!) but if you’d told me two months ago that I’d be waiting 18 hours to see the results of my efforts at computer animation, I’d have thought you suffering from the heat stroke, had there been any heat around to stroke you. As it is, the summer has finally arrived and my PC is adding to the temperatures. I’ve also discovered a cruel fact about 3D animation and that is to produce seriously good renders, you need CPUs and lots of them.

At the beginning, when I began, I was fascinated by the Blender Cycles engine and the results it can produce on a good CUDA graphics card. Since then I’ve moved on, tried other rendering engines, but finally coming back to the fact that I think that I really need to invest in a CUDA card. 18 hours waiting for renders to finish is crippling my workflow.

I’m also beginning to wish that I’d stuck with the computer programming I did professionally a few years back. I never fully got into programming in C++ but I wish I had since Pixar have just released their source code for their new Open subdivision technology. There’s a long presentation here worth watching but, it you’re only interested in the results, check the ending where they animate a mesh inside Maya that has a subdivided geometry that contains more polygons than pixels on the screen. I think I’m just regressing to my earlier truer geekself.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Friday Night Fergie

My previous lip-syncing technique was proving useless so after a bit of research I've changed my workflow. I think this works better, or, at least, I think I've found a suitable trade-off between result and effort. The more I learn, the longer and slightly less amateur I hope these animations will become, though this one is suffering from more than a few problems, such as the label of the whiskey bottle being reversed and some ugly patches on the model, which is itself not the best. They say that a bad workman blames his tools so I won't blame a slow PC. I'll instead just confess that I'm still struggling to master the basics...

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

The First Short...

Well, okay. It wasn’t exactly designed to be 'a short' and it hardly amounts to much. I just fiddled with the footage from an exercise in using normal maps.

The footage is the first animation I’ve done with the new Miliband body after I ditched the previous effort yesterday afternoon. It’s been another hard lesson learned: you can’t simply design a character and expect it to rig well without careful planning. I begin to see why animations often have such stylised characters with thin arms and legs, far bodies... This time, I created a body whose arms and legs aren't going to get tangled and are separated from the main body by a good amount. It’s probably a good thing. I should start to think about the style of these animated characters and stop giving them typical human proportions. I’ve also gone back to using a single mesh for the body. I read on the web that other people have trouble with clothes overlapping and there’s no simple solution except to try to make everything a single mesh where possible. So bang goes my hope to have one body I could keep reusing, simply layering clothes over it.

Now the Miliband is finished, I really want to get back to work on the longer animation I’ve been working on for weeks. My second big lesson is to get animations right before I render them. The above has too many little problems caused because I didn’t do a quick test before I rendered. I’m beginning to learn that there’s a limit to how much stuff you can fix with video editing software. I just wish my PC wasn’t struggling so much…

Monday, 30 July 2012

The Silly Walk

I’m still finding the technical side of animating in Blender a very steep slope to climb for the first time. This weekend saw very few successes. I’m having real difficultly taking the figures I’m modeling outside Blender and importing them in a way that makes it an easy process to then connect them to the armature (the bones) that will give them character movement.

I’ve also changed my approach. Here, I’ve modeled separate the clothes – jacket, trousers, shirt, tie – from the body. It’s probably the way I need to work but, as you can see, I’m struggling to stop the underlying meshes from poking through when the figure is walking. I’ve made the jacket red so I can see problems with the surface mesh, particular on the right where I’ve not distributed the influence (or weight) that each bone has as it deforms the overlying surface. It’s precisely the sort of problem that keeps cropping up and are making it hard for me to produce anything of particular merit.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Ed's 'Ed

Just a quick preview render of a mesh I'm currently working on. Not sure about the topology on this one -- the polygons follow the mouth but the rest of the head isn't particular economical. It's packed with far too much detail. However, I really don't want to spend too much time on the modelling whilst I'm trying to learn Blender. I'll just have to see if it's workable when I attach it to a body and try to animate the face.

Now He Waves... And There Is A Point To All This...

Only after I'd rendered this brief walk cycle did I realise that there's a problem with his left arm not returning to the walk pattern after the wave. It's a small thing but exactly the kind of detail that annoys me. I'll probably be stuck the rest of the afternoon trying to fix this.

However, I'm beginning to get to the point where I can begin to animate the second scene for the animation. The first is done but I won't post it until it's part of the completed 'thing'. It sounds pretentious to call it a 'film' and equally arrogant to assume it's an 'animated short'. I think of it as just the thing I'm doing as a way of learning these new skills. My ultimate goal is to have the facilities to drop skins onto animated skeletons which I can then quickly turn into finished films... Oops. I said 'films'. I mean 'things'.

I also said quickly though I would expect each one to take at least a week but, again, perhaps I'm being naive in my estimations. At the moment, it's hard to know how long any of this will take. The above animation took this morning to make, including about an hour of rendering time. However, the time it took me to create the rig (the skin, the bones that move the skin) runs into hundred of hours. I just hope it won't be wasted hours and that I can realise the finished script I see in my mind's eye.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Banana Test

Too much specularity and there's a seam showing on the banana. However, it is my first walk cycle and I'm moderately pleased that an IK rig is beginning to show what it can do.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

A Blender Newbie’s Guide to 42 Things about Blender 2.63 A Blender Newbie Wishes He'd Known Three Weeks Ago

I now have no idea how many weeks I’ve been teaching myself 3D animation. The days are merging together and I seem to be obsessing about the strangest things, such as UV maps and sub-surface scattering. I’ve also nothing new to show for my efforts, though the first scene for my next ‘short’ is rendering as I type. It will take about two hours before it’s done and then it won’t be any way finished since I’m not rendering it with ray tracing enabled. That's not work for daylight hours. My PC will be working through the night.

Anyway, I’m writing this blog post for the Google Bots. I want to add my knowledge to everything that Google knows about Blender in the hope that something here might help somebody out there if they happen to be learning to use Blender and making all the mistakes I’ve been making regularly. Very very regularly. It’s been a strange satisfying hell for two weeks, just learning how to the basics, and the results will be neither spectacular nor pretty. However, I think I have facial animation worked out. I can get expressions on a face, linked to controls that work the face, all sitting on a body that can move in vaguely human ways. My next stage is to work on the second scene in the short which involves walking. I haven’t even explored the problems of getting my rig to walk…

All that said, Blender is an amazing pierce of software. It’s possibly the most impressive piece of software I’ve ever attempted to use, made even more impressive when you consider that it’s completely free. However, it does have some quirks and these are my tips for Blender newbies like myself. Some of these tips are the result of my spending many hours fixing the hundreds (if not thousands) of mistakes I’ve made in my rendering adventures thus far…

  1. First of all: use the web to answer your questions. Make use of online resources. Youtube is excellent but nothing really beats

  2. Speaking of tutorials... In my experience, there are three guarantees of a great Youtube Blender tutorial. One is if it’s hosted by an English guy, usually called Nigel. The second is if it’s hosted by a smart West Coast American who you imagine has thick but trendy glasses and all year round wears a woolen hat around and has a great job in San Francisco and spends most of his day in a coffee shop. The third is if it’s hosted by a guy chewing on chewing tobacco, who is probably called ‘Gater’ or ‘Tripwire’ and sounds like he’s only helping you because it’s too cold to go out and wrestle with his hogs. Never listen to pubescent teenagers who claim to know everything.

  3. Learn the basic skills early: how to merge vertices, cut loops...

  4. Learn to switch between Vertices, Edges, and Face modes using ‘Alt Tab’ in Edit mode.

  5. Learn to distinguish your axes. Easy way to remember them is that they follow the colour mnemonic for ‘RGB’. Red is the X axis. Green is the Y axis. And Blue is the Z axis. Scaling and rotating becomes far easier if you can spot which axis you’re dealing with.

  6. Learn to move the screens around. Slide from edges to split viewports. Right click on the join and select Join Area’ to merge together to windows (an arrow appears, click on the screen you want closing).

  7. Blender works great with two (or, I suppose, three or more) monitors. Hold Shift and left click and drag on the textured trianglar area in the top right of the viewport to open a new window you can carry to your second screen. Great for having a view dedicated to the camera view.

  8. The numpad ‘.’ is the most used key on the keyboard once you realize that it will center your view on the selected object. (Took me two weeks to discover this because I don’t have a numpad on my keyboard.) In fact, learn the key shortcuts. Mirroring an object is far easier when you can just hit ‘S X -1 Enter’…

  9. Get a four button mouse. Don’t be arsing around with holding the mouse wheel down to rotate the view. (Also remember to charge it when you go to sleep at 3AM.)

  10. Don’t fanny around trying to export a video file of your animation. Export a directory of .TIFF files. Open the first file (it will end with 001) in VirtualDub and it loads the lot. Then ‘Save as AVI’. This allows you to resume a render if it fails part way since frames rendered prior to the stoppage will have been saved.

  11. One great shortcut is ‘Alt+RMB’. It can select a whole edge loop. (Also learn the phrases such as ‘edge-loop’).

  12. If you’re struggling with weight painting, it’s probably because you have poor mesh topology.

  13. If you’re struggling to texture a model, it’s probably because you have poor mesh topology.

  14. If you’re struggling to pose a model or face, it’s probably because you have poor mesh topology. You can construct your model with huge polygons over the body, legs, and arms, but remember to pack them in densely around the face and also around elbows and knees.

  15. Learn about ‘pivot points’. Blender isn’t like other 3D packages and you will find yourself trying to rotate something that won’t rotate (and I say this as somebody who still doesn’t fully understand bloody pivot points).

  16. Learn to use the Layers early. They’re MUCH easier to use than you probably think they are. I ignored them for a week before I realized my mistake. ('M' to move objects to other layers. Shift+LMB on the layers buttons, two groups of 10 squares on your lower bar, to enable or disable them.)

  17. Don't be ashamed to press numpad 5 to turn the view from perspective to orthographic. Then do your rotating. It might not seem like a big thing but you can get much closer to individual vertices and also rotate your view so you’re looking from within the model. This allows you to work on parts of the model that probably cause you the most trouble.

  18. Modifiers are amazing. Learn how to use them.

  19. Whilst modifiers are amazing, don’t add 'subdivision surface' to everything in your scene, unless you want long long LONG render times.

  20. Constraints are probably even more powerful than Modifiers. Learn to use them but not to overuse them. ‘Limit roation’ is great for stopping fingers bending the wrong way when you’re rigging a model in pose mode.

  21. Don’t get too excited by Blender’s hair system. It looks great, if fun to play with, but do you really want to spend hours combing the bloody stuff?

  22. One of the most useful shortcuts is ‘Shift S’ which allows you to center the axis on the object you’re working on.

  23. Learn the difference between materials and textures and how one material can contain many textures…

  24. Disable ‘ray tracing’ in your render options until your final render. It will, at the very least, cut down your render times by half.

  25. Low poly models with displacement maps are the way to go. You model at very high resolutions so the detail can be picked up and put in the displacement map. The actual model you use in Blender, will be in the thousands and tens of the thousands of polys, not hundreds of thousands or even millions.

  26. Speaking of low poly models, learn to bring in a displacement map. It’s not at all intuitive since you do it using the ‘Displace’ modifier.

  27. X-Mirroring does work in every situation in 2.63.

  28. Don’t worry too much about triangles. Yes, they’re bad but every model has then and the newest Blender allows them. Just try to work with polygons 99% of the time.

  29. To select all the vertices in part of your model, use the box select (press B) and drag out the box. However, to ensure you catch the hidden vertices, go into wireframe mode first.

  30. Always turn down your speculatity. It generally looks awful. In fact, makes me wonder why it doesn’t default to something lower.

  31. Don’t spend hours building your own armature. Use Rigify (defaulted to off in plugin options). Enable it and it builds the basic rig. Don’t think you’re cheating. This is just saving you for the very hard work.

  32. You really have to learn to UV map properly. Go into edit mode, select everything by pressing ‘a’ a few times. Then press ‘U’ and Smart Unwrap. Split the screen, open the UV editor, export your UV which you can then paint in Photoshop. Easiest way to texture non-critical objects. For important objects use a sculpting package.

  33. Don’t be too quick to bind your mesh to your armature. Before you do so, go into your mesh in edit mode and select ‘Recalculate’.

  34. When modeling, put a natural bend in your model’s knees and arms. This will help later on when you add bones. The IK will naturally bend it in the right direction.

  35. The best way to work is to model your basic shape in Blender, using good topology around the mouth and eyes, and only then using a more comprehensive sculpting package. This ensures that you probably won’t have to retopologise your mesh since the polys will already flow the right way around the mouth and eyes.

  36. Adding constraints to bones is very useful but make sure you learn about your local and world axes.

  37. Try to let Blender do the weight painting for you. It will make mistakes but it’s easier than doing everything by hand.

  38. The Boolean operations (under modifiers) is really handy when you want to sculpt shapes using other shapes or merging two primitives.

  39. If your textures disappear in Texture mode but still appear in your renders, make sure you’re in GLSL mode, not Multitexture. In 3D view, press N and scroll down to display. Check the Shader option. (I wasted two whole days figuring this out…)

  40. Make use of the little (+) button the save dialog box. It will keep incremental copies of your work. You will make big mistake sand need to go back. Very very often.

  41. Don’t get distracted by the Cycles Renderer. It’s amazing but don’t bother with it unless you have a great graphics card with 100s of GPU shader units. Stick with the Blenders render unless you really want something photorealistic and still or you are happy to leave you PC working for a week as it takes half an hour to render each frame.

  42. Linking resources really screws up a scene… Or I think it does. For example, you can’t access Shape Keys from a linked rig unless you’ve connected those shape keys to drivers. (Even then, I’m not sure linking works… This morning, I got up to open my scene from last night to find the armature had become disconnected from my mesh and was standing on the other side of the room I’d previously had it lying in.)

And, finally, two Blender tips I’ll probably wish I knew I week from today...

A render farm probably isn’t work setting up for just one laptop.

Getting a realistic walk cycle is harder than it looks but if you do X, Y and Z it’s really easy.

Okay, I’m off to figure out that X, Y, and Z as well as to model a dancing banana with human legs…


Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Fifty Shades of Funk

Yes, a dancing David Cameron. The result of all this work is a dancing David Cameron... What can I say? It's hardly the heights of satire but in my defence, I only put the dance together to see how the rig is working. So far, it’s not bad, though I'm suffering from the slow render times. I haven't time today to fix the obvious glitches in the above video. However, some things are working well. The various constraints I've set on how joints move seem to be doing what they need to be doing but there are still a few problems, mainly to do with ‘weight painting’, which is the process by which you literally paint onto model some colours that represent how much influence the underlying bones should have on the mesh.

Not that I suppose anybody is interested in this stuff. Perhaps I should talk about ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ instead. Actually, I won’t, though the audiobook read by Gilbert Goffried remains my internet pick of the year thus far.

What I was going to talk about was fifty shades of brown. Or a light creamy brown, to be precise.

I was shopping this morning for paint. Not much paint but just enough to fix some marks where some woodwork had got damaged due to my clumsiness with a stepladder and a claw hammer. I’d previous sent for a Dulux colour card, which arrived with the morning most. I used it per instructions, photographed it next to the wall, uploaded the image and was told the exact shade of paint I needed. ‘Jungle Fever 2’ is the name. It’s basically an off green.

So off I peddled, up town, to see if I could find it among the variety of test pots stocked at the local DIY store. Naturally, they didn’t have it. In fact, they had very few shades of green, which confirmed my suspicions that shops have things too well organized. They know which colours sell and sell only the colours that sell. For instance, judging from the shelves this morning, creamy shades of brown are popular. But, their popularity means than everybody tends to buy the same creamy shades of brown on offer, which causes the shops to stock more creamy shades of brown and limit the availability of every other colour that isn’t a creamy shade of brown.  The process continues, stock levels are refined, and in time, we find ourselves living in a world dominated by creamy shades of brown, patio decking, solar lamps in the garden, and wind chimes all tuned to exactly the same note of annoying.

The same processes are at work in the bookshops, where we’re now going to be fed a constant diet of greyness. TV is dominated by grotesquely pink talent shows and the mantra ‘give them what they want’ has never been so slavishly adhered to. The world becomes increasingly homogenious and diversity and personal individuality frowned upon. I go into a shop and ask for anything out of the ordinary and I’m looked upon as a freak. And I don’t mean that I’ve walked in and asked for hats to suit a troupe of nanuses bound for the orient. I mean things as ridiculously mundane as lead for a propelling pencil, a handle for a dip pen, or even, as happened a month or so ago, a length of wood to make a birdbox.

Diversity in anything is important but tastes are so heavily fashioned by a dominant media that, really, it feels like our options are narrowing all the time. The more choice we are told that we have, the more in truth we are limited in what we can or cannot do. Or perhaps it was ever thus. As Henry Ford once said of the Model T: any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.

Monday, 16 July 2012

The Sound of One Hand Clapping

Absent from the blog this weekend but back to work bright and early this morning to find over 100 emails waiting to be trashed. Most were eager to tell me that there are now ways to make me ‘smell from fragrant below the belt’, though what’s wrong with my habit of keeping a car freshener shaped like a pine tree down there, I really don’t know. The rest were the usual admonitions about the dangers of not giving a woman satisfaction, which doesn’t so much take the romance out of sex as make it sound like an Asda price promise. Hidden among the SPAM, there was one invitation for Richard & Judy to attend at TV-themed quiz night in a Cornish pub. Naturally, I must reply with my list of demands before we attend, including a barrel of ale for Judy and an ermine lined throne for Richard.

I will spare you the boring details of my animation work, except to say that I’ve hit a ceiling where my PC specifications run out. I quickly made this David
Cameron animation to test a hand rig I’d set up overnight. It took about an hour to render on my PC which is suffering from having a very old graphics card. I really need one of those lovely Nvidia cards with CUDA which add 300+ processing threads and produce almost real time rendering for this level of detail. However, after the expense of my new hard drive, I think I’m going to have to work around this problem, perhaps only rendering the finished animations overnight. Though, if it takes an hour to render a few seconds of a simple scene, I hate to think how long it will need for what I have planned.

Other than that: this animation has convinced me that I need to take more time on my modeling. The body looks horrible and the head doesn’t work (though I haven’t yet rigged the eyes). When I move beyond these tests, I might adopt a simplified cartoon style, rather than a more photorealistic effect I’ve taken here.

Friday, 13 July 2012

This Is Probably How Disney Started...

Okay, it’s not the new ‘Monsters Inc.’ or even the new ‘Up’, unless the new up is ‘Down’, in which case I might it might be able to help them. Whatever it is, it’s my first animated face in 3D and it took many hours for every second it’s on screen, especially since I cheated here and play the same clip twice, once backwards.

Most of yesterday was wiped out because of a problem with my PC. A new firewall had effectively crippled my machine. Now that problem’s resolved, I’m hoping to make more progress today. The problem I’m facing is learning a technique to animate lips which I can then lip sync to dialogue. The method I’ve used here of animating between morph maps might not be the answer. It feels too unwieldy. I’m beginning to think I might have to create a rig, an easy to deform model which I can pose in the 3D animation software… I don’t know. I might not have the software to do this. It might not be the right method.

On a totally different subject, I had an email this morning from ‘a fan’. It really cheered me up. ‘I laughed so hard at your book… Please write more’ she wrote. She then started to complement me for having my mother’s eyes. I thought it strange but touching. How could she know what I look like? I have never had my photo taken for a book. I don’t put my photo online. Did she know my mother? Then she told me I had to stick with my brother because he’ll always look out for me. I don’t have a brother. I then realized she was responding to the small ebook I’d stuck on Amazon called ‘Prince Harry’s Guide to the Royal Wedding’. She thought I was Prince Harry. It’s so depressing. I’ve written one moderately successful blog for which Richard Madeley gets all the credit, Twittered once quite successfully for which Richard Madeley gets all the credit, had a book published under the name of Stan Madeley, for which Richard Madeley probably gets all the credit (if there was any credit to be had), and stuck a book on eBay ostensibly written by the Red Tuft, for which Prince Harry now gets all the credit. I know it’s my own stupid fault but I can’t help but feeling a little aggrieved. I’m just glad that it’s Smooch Papandreas who gets most of the vitriol directed towards him for my ‘Damn United: 101 Reasons Not To Support Manchester United’.

Okay. Back to the coal face, though I have no idea what I’m going to do next except I have to give my poor animated old bugger a body and some clothes.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

The Other Side of Retopology

Two days later and I think I’ve cracked it. I created the model on the left, not quite sure what I was doing but, now it’s retopologised into the monstrosity on the right, I have an idea I’d like to try should I figure out the animation stage. However, the big achievement for me is that I’ve successful retopologised a mesh. I struggled because of a combination of trying to make life too easy (wasting an afternoon on automatic retopology tools) and too difficult (making the polygons I was drawing too small). In the end, I did it all by hand and made slightly larger polygons. The result is okay, I figure, but I won’t be showing it to any professionals.

The next stage is to extract the different maps – basically the texture, colour, bumpiness of the original model – and then take the whole lot into something like Blender to see if I can start animating the retopologised mesh. My big challenge is to get the lips moving. I have an idea how it’s done but when I tried previously, the PC threw a fit. With a much smaller mesh, I hope to have more success.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Retopology Hell

Since the blog is slowly turning into my diary of successes and failures of learning to animate in 3D, I might as well write an update so I can look back on this at some later date when I can feel superior to this current version of me who is utterly lost…

At the moment, I see triangles when I sleep. I’ve come to hate triangles. I despite their three-sided nature, their pointedness, and the fact that they’ve almost impossible to transform into one of those nice calming shapes with four sides.

The animation self-learner course continues with my making some major mistakes along the way. Yesterday, I modelled and textured a head and it looked pretty good. I then tried to animate the mouth and hit all kinds of trouble, which is pretty much where I’m now stuck. I’d ignored the advice of the professionals and hadn’t ‘retopologized’ my model.

Basically (if I have this right), when you model a character, it can have any number of polygons inside it. Some get up into the multiple millions, which look impressive in the modelling software but are completely impractical when it comes to trying to animate them on a home PC. So what you do is draw a very low resolution net of squares all over your original model, trying to avoid triangles when you can (though this is more difficult than it sounds) and following the general contours of your model.

Then using some magic (black cats, vole eardrums, a bottle of distilled spirit), you combine this low density model with your previous high density mesh and the result is something with polygons in the mere thousands, rather than the millions, you should be able to animate.

The reason I’m stuck is finding an easy way to do the retoplogy work. It isn’t helped by a PC which keeps crashing, losing my topology work…

It’s hell. Just hell. And if the version of me in the future could only get in touch and tell me where I’m going wrong, I (I say I but I suppose I mean we) will and would be very grateful.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

More Finger

It’s never a good start to the day waking up singing ‘choo choo choo doo doo doo The Trainline choo choo choo etc…’ However, I’ve managed to cut through the nauseating feeling of chipperness that this jingle induces to upload the results of yesterday’s work. It’s nothing impressive and anybody with experience of this sort of thing will recognize its sheer amateurishness, but I’m happy to have finally figured out a workflow that can take me from idea, to model creation, rigging, animation and then video editing. Now the hard work start trying to create some 3D models of humans I might be able to use…

Monday, 9 July 2012

The Finger

Three days work and I've finally invented the finger. This isn't impressive but trying to teach myself 3D animation is really testing my abilities learning different software packages to model, texture, and then render objects. Next will be animate...

The Reason For My Madness

The newly reformatted PC and big hard drive have opened up to possibilities. I just wish I could expand the capacity of my brain to help me make those possibilities a reality. I mean, does anybody out there know any good ways of learning to model and animate in 3D that doesn't end up with my barking at the moon? My mind is spinning with information overload: facts about how to sculpt a 3D mesh, then (apparently) I have to do some ‘retopology’, which involves drawing a new mesh over the old mesh and then doing something mystical (waves fingers vaguely) before I import that mesh into a package from which I can then rig the mesh and animate it. And who knew that everything had to be made from ‘quads’ not ‘tris’? I'm used to thinking about shapes with ten or fewer sides. Not 1.4 million. Even the simple action of adding a fourth side to a triangle is driving me crazy. I watch the videos on Youtube it looks so easy yet it feels like, everywhere I turn, there isn’t enough information to help me. I’m beginning to think that simply walking through the door will be too much for me. My capacity to understand things seems to be regressing with every new detail I learn about 3D animation.

In theory is all sounds so easy. The reality is that I can’t ever model my own finger… Yes, that’s what I’ve been doing this weekend. Trying to model my finger. I thought about doing a head, realized how difficult it was and gradually reduced my ambitions to animating a single joint in a single finger.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

On The Other Side of a Reformat

Testing. Testing. One. Two. Three. [Blows into microphone]

I’m back. Or I think I’m back. I have a word-processor installed and I can access the internet with sound. I know… With sound! Send the lad to the butcher’s shop with thruppence. We’re eating best snout tonight! By that time, I might even have some graphics software installed so I can starting working again. I quiver with excitement at the possibilities...

Long story abbreviated: I had to reformat my PC and buy a new hard drive, which I did via my new favourite online store, (thanks Zebra!). Wish I’d been paid for that ad but I snagged a huge hard drive for not much more than price I'd been quoted locally for one much much smaller. I now have a vast desert of empty disc space ahead of me, more than a man could ever imagine filling. Though I’m sure I said that back when I bought my first 100Mb hard drive.

This experience has taught me a few things but my main realisation was that I don’t like the direction that computing is heading. I’ve spent so many wasted hours trying to remember passwords for online accounts that Windows 8 frightened me by the extent to which we’re all meant to be connected 24/7. Frankly, I find social networking boring, can live without the trivial rubbish that’s sold in the various App stores, and can really do without knowing the latest celebrity news. Being connected isn’t something that I aspire towards and, in fact, as I’ve grown older, I find myself increasingly disconnecting myself from the media.

That said: one movie recommendation. ‘Get the Gringo’ is Mel Gibson’s best film in years and possibly – just possibly – the best of his career, if you don’t go in for the anti-English rhetoric of ‘Braveheart’. He's old, craggy, and simply brilliant in a film set inside a Mexican prison.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Dear Microsoft

If I had any shares in Microsoft, I think I'd sell them now. One hour into trying the preview build of Windows 8 and it's a nightmare *JUST DOING THE SIMPLE THINGS*. Such as finding out how to restart the machine. Such as trying to get things to work that worked so well under Windows 7. And it's very annoying having to pretend that my monitors are sitting on my lap because I have to physically swipe at/throw windows with the mouse to close them. I'm on a PC not a bloody tablet so stop making me get trendy with my mouse, swiping things hither and sodding thither.

I like the colours, though but not sure if I can live in this new environment.

[UPDATE: I'm back on Windows 7. Is that a record for a person taking an instant dislike to an operating system? I once tried to work under Linux and lasted about a month before frustration kicked in. It's actually quite sad to see what Microsoft have done. They have no reason to feel ashamed of Windows 7. I've found it, bar the odd quirk, just about the perfect operating system. I'm ran my PC off an install of it for longer than any other. Yet here they come, feeling somehow that they need to follow Apple and make the foolish decision to make a version of Windows that operates across all devices. Perhaps I'm a dinosaur in wanting to use a desktop PC but, for me, I don't want, need, or appreciate the touch screen refinements, the 'I'm not a PC' makeover. Windows 8 is set up for people who don't want to use PCs. It's for people who probably shouldn't be let anywhere near a PC. Windows 8 is to operating systems what 'Fifty Shades of Grey' is to well written books. Windows 8 is definitely not for me in its current state, and. judging from what I'm reading, I doubt if I'll ever make the migration. It's a flashy, ever-so-trendy colour-coordinated monstrosity.]

Doom, Gloom, Dead Drives and Dogging

If I hadn’t been woken at 4AM this morning, I might have posted a cartoon today.

I was already having a fitful sleep. Late last night, I’d been trying to teach myself how to create a 3D model of a minor celebrity (for the quite innocent purpose of voodoo) and failing miserably. I went to bed and dreamt about polygons until I was woken by a tick tick tick whrrrr sound coming from my office/work den/the Well of Lost Souls. I followed the sound until I discovered my PC, which had woken itself in the night. One of the hard drives was having a fit: drive heads banging their way destructively through my files and motors wheezing their last. The bloody thing had failed, leaving me wide awake and wondering what the hell I could do. What was on the drive? Was it work? Was it my huge collection of Richard Madeley pictures I’ve amassed for the purposes of satire?

Thankfully, it wasn’t work, though it’s nearly every bit of software I need to do my work. I really need to buy a new drive but that will have to wait until I get that dreamed-of-job working in telesales, perhaps in some Manchester shithole where I can contemplate leaping from tall buildings every hour of the day. Until then, I’ll have to tighten my belt and try to work on with 400Gbs missing from my system.

Better news is that my animation is now up at the Film 4 Scenestealers website. I’m also now ranked Number 4 on Google for the phrase ‘Burtonwood dogging’, so all of you people arriving here looking for details of ‘Burtonwood dogging’ (and, yes, I’m looking at you in Kidlington, Oxfordshire), let me take this opportunity to tell you how much you disgust me. Oh, I could never say this to your face but isn’t the world bad enough without the likes of you going off down secluded country lanes to watch some puny window cleaner banging away at some elephantine play group assistant? Get a hobby! Man up!

On a more serious note, I’m really sad to see the passing of one of our few comedy greats. I have one of Eric Sykes’ novels sitting on my desk (next to the dead hard drive) as I type, as if to remind me of what a comedy machine he was. His eponymous TV series was probably his most mainstream but I think his greatest achievement was in bringing silent comedy back to the masses, making the word ‘rhubarb’ into byword for laughs. And so, another of the few people I would have liked to have met has gone but Lenny Henry, Graham Norton, David Williams, Matt Lucas, and Miranda Hart continue to get jobs at the BBC. My hard drive is dead. Doggers prevail. Dark days, my friends. Dark days…

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Diamond Geeza

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Before the story broke, I barely knew the meaning of Liber Rates. Now, deep into resignation country, where the titans of British banking are falling like… Well, I’d say dominoes but that doesn’t seem apt, unless they’re diamond encrusted dominoes, made from the rarest ivory taken from the last tusk of the hairy mammoth. Yet in whatever manner the fall, the most shocking aspect of this Libor fixing scandal is the extent to which people are shocked that the banks have been playing unfairly.

That’s the problem with thinking about banks. We retain the last vestiges of the Victorian sense of banking, where thickly bossed doors open onto marbled shrines to commerce, industry, and Empire. I think of old men with large chin whiskers, pulling at their fobs and checking their watches against the great golden clock in a lobby, populated by dozens of bank tellers, each one an identical copy of T.S. Eliot. Yet perhaps The City was already changing when he wrote his poetry from a bank. In The Waste Land, he writes of:
Unreal City,
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.

Such is London but such is The City, unreal and now always in fog. The problem of banking and bankers, is that it attracts too many men who fix their eyes only at their own feet.  The fronts of the buildings are now made entirely of glass but the business has become far less transparent. These are the bastards who arbitrarily impose fines on their customers on a whim and who are entirely without shame should the error occur on their side of the bullet proof glass. I wonder how Nat West and RBS would have responded had a customer explained that they couldn’t pay their bill because of a computer glitch. Would they perhaps waive bank charges during the delay? Or would they be rubbing their hands together and booking another holiday in the Seychelles?

Bob Diamond was apparently one of the greats of modern banking. I’m not sure what this means, though it reminds me of that excellent film ‘Margin Call’. Bob Diamond, I would assume, would be in the Jeremy Irons role. It means that somebody, somewhere, Kevin Spacey is burying a dog this morning and weeping about the sorry state of a once great profession.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

In Bruges: An Animated Scenesteal

This is my entry for Film 4’s Scenestealers competition. The aim of the competition is to remake two minutes of a Film 4 movie, though based on the judging criteria, I realise I now have no chance of winning. They want a film that matches Film 4’s ethos, which probably means that they don’t want a broad comic take on ‘In Bruges’, transposing two of the characters for those that the leads played in Harry Potter. Some sombrely lit neo-realism piece is probably going to win. However, here it is my entry in its glory...

Humour is always a difficult thing to sell. It looks easy to the point that everybody might claim to be, at the very least, an amateur of the art. Everybody can be funny and, unless you have the context of a live audience and the reality of laughter or silence, there’s very little to differentiate one person’s attempts at humour from the rest. Then, of course, there are so many types of humour, that you can always be sure that if you play something broad, they wanted witty. If you give them dry and witty, they want you falling on your arse with a bucket of manure over your head.

I think I'm going to go do some cartoons. I've done so many drawings recently, too many of them rushed, meant to hide in the shadows, that I might as well post the one decent drawing I think I've done in the past two weeks. It took me an absolute eternity to get anything like a likeness, but knowing my luck recently, you're not thinking Colin Farrell...

So here it is. My caricature of Graham Norton/Ed Norton/Aung San Suu Kyi, or whoever you wish. I'm knackered...

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Monday, 2 July 2012


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I have an hour before my video finishes rendering, so I look up at the world after days of constant drawing (the above was another rushed doodle for this blog, so apologises for the quality). I also see that nothing has changed. Spain are still European Champions, rain is disrupting Wimbledon, and the banks are after our money with a sharp knife clamped between the salivating lips.

I’m beginning to have serious reservations about the amount of time I’m putting into learning the software required to create my opening scene. I’m hoping it will be a fly-through of a small town rendered in 3D I've created, a bit Tim Burtonesque if I pull it off right, though without the right music and artwork, that’s looking increasingly unlikely. The idea was a good one and the early renderings have looked quite good. Only, to get the town looking how I want it to look, I have to decorate the place. Hence the reason I spent Sunday drawing houses, fountains, statues, walls, bushes, trees, streetlamps, pedestrians, bikes, old men... The list goes on and I still find myself with gaps that need filling and require something more than yet another shrub or badly drawn house.

So, that’s what I’m about to do: go search the web for interesting pictures of things to stick in the centre of a town. Suggests that don’t include vomiting teenagers and urinating tramps are most welcome… Actually, the urinating tramp actually sounds quite good. I’ll go and start with that.


Sunday, 1 July 2012

One of Those Techno-Junkie Intermissions...

I am two fools, I know, for loving technology, and for saying so, in whining poetry…

So, okay, I also love the poetry of John Donne but not so much that I won’t butcher it for cheap effect this rainy Sunday at the beginning of July.

I finished my new animation yesterday. It’s been a labour of love but also I’ve put extra effort into finishing it because I want to enter it into a completion. I have no chance of winning – I don’t think I’ve won a bloody thing in my life and that includes three numbers of the national lottery* – but I like to give these things a shot.

So, animation finished, I looked at it yesterday and began to think about the opening. And at this point you might notice that there’s no animation accompanying this blog post… Well, as much as I looked at the opening, I thought to myself: it’s good and technically not bad but surely I can do better. So, I looked into ways of improving the opening 10 seconds (yes, just 10 seconds!) and I’m now up to my ears in technical PDFs explaining how to use 3D software, light scenes, create models from drawings, so I might create some staggering intro.

I probably won’t manage to pull it off and, in a day or two, I’ll sheepishly post the animation I finished a couple of days ago, with a small note: the 3D idea didn’t work because I don’t have a team of 50 animators and the budget of James Cameron.

However, for the rainy Sunday, at the beginning of July, I do love technology. And this explains why I’ve not posted anything deeply meaningful today and I don't have a cartoon. But, just wait for this intro... I'm telling you... It will knock your socks off.

* Just to show how unlucky in competitions I am: our family had a sweepstake and I picked out Italy for the Euros. Only, I then swapped it for Croatia…


Saturday, 30 June 2012

Tom Cruise Rejoins Dating Scene


Tom Cruise is one of those entities that could only exist at this point in time and space. He is, for want of a better word: perfect. The marketing people love him and he, being a product of their dark arts, does everything he can to help them. On TV, he shines in interview. He seems lively, interested, self-deprecating, and, unless you look too closely, he hasn’t aged a day since he wiped the spittle from Dustin Hoffman’s chin in ‘Rainman’. At film premieres, he takes more time signing autographs for fans than any other star, and though his films tend to stick to the generic conventions (boom, bang, kick a chair, snog, bang), they aren’t woeful. When he appeared on ‘Top Gear’, he posted the fastest time in the ‘Star in the Reasonably Priced Car’ and for recreation he rides motorbikes and pulls loops in his plane. In addition to all of that, he has great teeth and more money than Jesus’s sandal salesman. I would even go so far as to say that, except for the aforementioned ‘perfection’, it’s hard to really dislike Tom Cruise.

Unless, of course, you mention the bit about Scientology…

I don’t go in for much religion but I think if there is a God or Gods out there, up there, or in our sock drawer, then that God or Gods gave the game away and revealed himself, herself, themselves, in the delightful arrangement they made by which they gave Tom Cruise everything that a man might desire for in life, on the proviso that he has to become the mouthpiece for the biggest pile of half-baked theological shite ever written down by a mortal hand. It was surely a deal that would make Adrian Messenger think twice and Doctor Faust ring his publicist to see if he should prick his finger and sign.

Of course, the divorce of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes is a personal tragedy and all that. But perhaps it is a sign that at least one person in Hollywood has the sense to see a few of the flaws in Scientology, such as the fact that it reads like a not particularly good episode of ‘Star Trek’. And not even the original ‘Star Trek’ or ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’. I mean ‘Star Trek: Deep Space One’ or one of those spin-off novelisations written by William Shatner.

Besides, I saw Katie (I’m firmly on her side, I think, should they need me in court) in that underrated chiller, ‘Don't Be Afraid of the Dark’, and she seemed far too rational in that. If she couldn’t believe a young girl’s tales of the creatures living beneath the floorboards, I thought it highly unlikely that she could believe in the concept of our Thetan overlords. Unless, of course, it was the perfect teeth and the speedboats that confused her. Thetans are known for their perfect teeth and speedboats. They'd probably so well as the 'Star in the Reasonably Priced Car’ too... But look at me! I've already said too much. To learn more, send me a cheque for £1000 pounds and/or 10% of your gross income for the next year, whichever is largest.I can't promise you answers but I can promise to set you on the right path to the truth...

Friday, 29 June 2012

Bend The Rules For Beckham

I’m not a David Beckham fan. Put me in a room full of people who aren’t Beckham fans and I’d quickly make plenty of enemies among the majority who think my opinions too extreme. In many respects, Beckham represents the turn towards self-indulgence this country has seen over twenty years, where the body has become the place where consumer products battle for prominence. From the prevalence of tattoos to the feminisation of male culture, from a world in which style wins over substance, to the worshipping of the shallowest celebrities: all roads seem to lead to Beckham. Even at what he does best, he embodies the showy but not particularly effective side of football.

Yet to leave him out of the Olympic squad seems morally wrong, especially when that place is given to a player who allegedly refused to be on the stand-by list for the England squad. Beckham never ruled himself out of playing for England, flying ridiculous distances to appear. As captain, one sensed that it meant something to him beyond the increased marketing possibilities. He worked so tirelessly for the country to win the Olympics (though, here again, I’m pretty indifferent to the whole bloody spectacle that it seems strange to be arguing that winning it was a virtue) that do deny him the chance to play for his country, one last time, seems ridiculously petty.

Yet this country has become so obsessed by winning that we seem to have forgotten greater qualities, such a loyalty, friendship, common human decency. Robert Preston was just on the news saying that the failure at Barclays is down to customers not realising that there had been a change in corporate culture: that the banks started to screw us over in the name of profit because they’d forgotten that they were actually meant to serve the interests of the customer.

Who really gives a stuff if we win a gold for football at the Olympics? Let Beckham play and show that we cherish something greater than winning, greater the Mammon… That itself would be a victory, though a victory that in a way stands in the way of everything that Beckham has cherished, promoted and exemplified over the last two decades.

No cartoon, as yet, today. I’ve been busy animating and drawing a cartoon which might actually earn me a couple of bob. But then again, it might not.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

On Dogging, Cruising And Other Outdoor Pursuits


Another cartoon from my notebook, scribbled in a Warrington coffee house the other day. For once, it’s inspired by real life.

Because they're trendy, enlightened, and possibly part Scandinavian, Warrington Council tries to encourage cycling. Go to their website and download the cycle routes. They have plenty. The council encourage people to travel to the town along other cycle routes that pass through the local nature reserves. Those nature reserves follow the paths of the old canals built by cold eyed industrialists but now in the hands of an even stricter group of people: fishermen, who block the paths with forty foot rods that wouldn't have looked out of place strapped to Ernest Hemingway. It's one of these canals I occasionally ride whenever I need new art supplies.

The only problem is that once you’re beyond a very well-tended part of Warrington’s cycle routes, towards the edges of the county, the council don’t really take as much care about the quality of the cycle routes or where their routes pass. And like the geniuses that can only emerge in the public sector, Warrington Council have put their ever-so-family-friendly cycle route right down a lane whose only other occupants are cruising homosexuals, dogging couples, and prostitutes servicing their clients into the shallow woodland. Apparently, the place is well known for genital pleasures and it's advertised quite widely on the internet. What makes it worse, however, is that the Council, in their wisdom, have stuck a turnstyle at the entrance to this lane and it’s at this turnstyle that all the cruisers, doggers, and prozzers park, chat, and prepare to do business. It’s also where all cyclists have to climb off their bikes and navigate the parked cars and people with strange looks in their eyes. Families ride the route but the council don’t seem to care. They must consider it part of the ‘educational’ element of the route. I know I've learned a few things since I started to ride that lane. One is never to look left nor right or stop to tell somebody the time.

I recently tried to avoid the lane, taking the nearby main A-road, but had an accident that ended with my being gently nudged off the road by a low loader carrying two JDB diggers. I think the low loader didn't come away unscathed and I only suffered severe lacerations to my knees. I now try to travel the cycle route early in the morning but it’s still strange to be cycling along to suddenly see some thin, emancipated woman, prematurely aged from drug use, emerge from the shrubbery followed by some lank haired taxi driver with a moustache straight from 1970s casting checking that his fly is up and giving you a hateful look because you’re there to see his indiscretion. Alternatively, you might see a strange couple, dressed in unsuitable attire for rambling (high heels, short skirt heavy make-up... and his wife's dressed no better), standing with a camera pretending to be photographing a dandelion until you’ve passed. Or you find yourself propositioned by a man standing with his hands deep in his trenchcoat lurking in the shadow of the copse...

Which brings me to the point of today’s post. Even if I was that way inclinded: a cruising homosexual, a dogger, or a man who uses prostitutes, what on earth would possess me to get intimate with a stranger in such a miserable spot of woodland? I wouldn’t even eat my packed lunch surrounded by insects, rotting vegetation, and the fly tipped rubbish of various housing estates. Why would I want to drop my trousers in that place? What on earth attracts these people to such a miserable stretch of lane, used by cyclists and the occasional rambler? Perhaps it’s another dimension to human sexuality that I don’t understand: like women who want to read ‘50 Shades of Grey’ or the middle-aged mothers who lust after Peter Dinklage.

I do know that it’s a weird world and it’s only getting weirder.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The Alan Partridge Conundrum: Or How Alan Partridge Lost His Edge


Just had my first tattoo but it was a complete accident. I managed to stab myself with a croquill when it was heavy with ink from the above cartoon. I now have a black spot on my thumb that won’t wash off. It's not too bad, I guess, unless I ever find myself in the company of pirates.

However, whist drawing, I gave more thought as to why the Alan Partridge special on Sky Atlantic, ‘Welcome to the Places of My Life’, was so spectacularly poor. I think the issue has much to do with the reason why the third series didn’t match up to the second. Alan Partridge’s greatest comedic virtue is that we enjoy his failures but only when set against the background of his greater successes. The fact that he’s a third rate Terry Wogan has always been the best joke but the fact that he uses this 'success' to settle old scores is where the comedy genius lies. His natural nemesis is the BBC and this lends his adventures a sharp satirical edge that’s missing when he’s reduced to a mere radio presenter. In Series One, the comedy was broader because the Partridge character was working within the context of his own show on the BBC. The character hadn’t quite developed but there was so much potential in what was meant to be his last chance to succeed inside the Beeb. Series Two achieved the perfect balance between the aspiring TV celebrity and the nobody, but, by the third series, the satire had become a little more shallow as Alan’s stature had been reduced.

The forty minute special continued that decline, showing Alan who is by now simply too ordinary. Though the writing was a little weak, the main issue was that there was too little of Alan doing what Alan does best. Conversely, the best parts were those moments when he again had (and demonstrated) power: the parody of BBC documentary about council business where Alan had his old cocky swagger; Alan looking at sheep which remind him of the enemies he made inside the BBC; the walk with the vicar who Alan bullies into speeding up for the cameras; Alan mocking the greengrocer simply for being ordinary. This is Alan Partridge at his best: displaying that familiar power relationship that exists between minor celebrities and their audience. It’s a vainglorious arrogance that is just a short walk from fascism, a celebrity where power corrupts quickly and absolutely. The moment that exemplifies it best was when Alan was fantasising about Hitler taking over Norwich Town Hall. So much more could have been done with this. Partridge’s comedy has always come from the fact that inside this bland TV presenter beats the heart of a tyrant.

If there is ever another series of Partridge, they need to get back to what he does best. They need to give him more power and situations to dominate. Perhaps they should make him run for political office, like a latter day Esther Rantzen. That would be a show I would happily to pay to see.

Things I Discovered Yesterday

  • Hedgehogs, though slow moving, can be known to leap suicidally into the path of cyclists who must veer dangerously of the way to avoid them.

  • Veering dangerously out of the way of suicidal hedgehogs has a tendency to make cyclists fall of their bikes.

  • The ground is hard when hit wrist first from the back of a moving bicycle.

  • Drawing is difficult when you’ve sprained your wrist.

  • Mentholated ‘cooling’ balm provides excellent relief on said wrist, less good when you fail to wash your hands adequately and accidentally deposit aforementioned balm on your foreskin.

  • Alan Partridge isn’t always funny, especially when dragged out into a 40 minute pseudo-documentary which even the most ardent fan of the Partridge found himself willing it to be over.

  • It’s hard not to prejudge a sharply dressed bald meathead in the bank with the name Giselle tattooed vertically down the side of his bestial neck and loudly depositing £4000 into his account. He might not be a gangster. He might be a hairdresser.

  • I hate tennis and I don’t give a stuff if Andy Murray wins.

  • We are governed by a privileged elite who wouldn’t know the common touch if it was the size of a badly sprained wrist applied anally and smeared with a mentholated ‘cooling’ balm.

Today, I am going to attempt to draw but my wrist bloody hurts… The animation is coming along, though I was to put some effort in to tidying up some of the weaker drawings. This animation is for a competition, so I really don't want it to have any noticeable weaknesses, other than my horrible voice acting.


Tuesday, 26 June 2012



Not a great cartoon but I'm unbelievably busy with the animation. Also, I have so many grumbles this morning, it’s impossible to believe that I got up in a good mood.

First of all, I’m annoyed with myself for missing the Alan Partridge special last night. If the reviews are to believed, I missed something special. Secondly, I’ve got to do some voice work this morning, voicing two parts for the new animation, which means twice as much hell to get through, trying to make my voice fit the parts and try not to sound like I’m reading the Biggleswade telephone directory. Is it true of all people that you never think you have an accent until you hear your voice played back to yourself. I sound like I’m an extra direct from the new episode of Wallace and Gromit. Johnny Vegas and Peter Kay are both from these parts and I sound like a slightly nasal version of their less confident brother.

However, before all that, I have to get to an art shop… I've almost run out of ink.




Monday, 25 June 2012

That Old Hodgson Magic

I’m down with a miserable cold, so no cartoons today and I really don’t feel much like typing. I am, however, working on a new animation which is a little different this time and my most complicated to date. I might even have it finished in less than a week...

I must say, however, that England’s exit from Euro 2012 came as something of a relief. I might now begin to enjoy the tournament. The thought of having to endure another 90 minutes of Hodgson’s anti-football nearly had me demanding a young priest and an old priest to perform an exorcism on the TV. I’m only disappointed that we managed to survive the group stages, where hard fought success over two teams we should be bullying in the playground every day of the week seemed to have filled many with the usual deluded faith tinged with xenophobia that we have the right English manager setting up the team to play the good old English way. Instead, I stick with what I said in my Euro 2012 animation: hoofing the ball is not a tactic we should be proud to embrace and to play 4-4-2 revealed a lack of tactical nous and an unwillingness to accept that the game has moved on in the last 30 years. Last night only made me thankful that Liverpool appointed Brendan Rodgers so I won’t have to watch that kind of football played every week next season.

4-4-2 against Italy was madness. Gerrard and Parker were run ragged in midfield, as evidenced by the fact that it was probably the first time I’ve seen Gerrard suffer cramp after 60 minutes. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was a particularly mobile midfield but Pirlo was directing play from his bathchair. As for Hodgson’s team selection, Ashley Young must have some photos of Hodgson naked with a burlesque dancer. He’s been so dire against Sweden I’d wondered if he was applying for dual nationality and had ownership of a fjord. He was even worse last night. The only surprise about the missed penalty was that he didn’t go down inside the box.

Rooney also had no running after 60 minutes and Carroll caused them more trouble in 30 minutes of normal time and 30 of extra than either Young or Rooney caused them in the whole 120. I can’t actually remember what Wellbeck did except make a couple of clearances from defence. The biggest surprise to come out of the Euros is my admiration for John Terry. Did I really type that? Well, it’s there so I guess I must have. Terry has been my player of the tournament. As great as I think Gerrard has been (and he was in the first three matches), Terry has been fantastic in all four. I’ve never been a fan of the man (and I still dislike him in that respect) but as a full back, I concede that there are few better.

I suppose it’s too much to expect England fans who don’t support Liverpool (and therefore saw what he did to relatively good players) to recognise that Hodgson will never bring success to the team. He’s a manager who thrives on sustaining the equilibrium. He’s achieved with England exactly what he achieved with Liverpool: he expertly downplayed expectations; distracted us with talk of new team spirit and unity in the camp; and then he took credit when he managed the most mediocre success. The only difference is that unlike the Kop, England fans don’t see through his sleight of hand and I fear he’s going to be in his job for a number of years.

Urgh. That’s a horrible thought and I’m feeling too grim to dwell on this. I’m going to get to work. I have clouds to animate… I know. Doesn’t that sound like some real edge-of-your seat entertainment? In fact, it’s a bit like watching England hoof the ball…

Afterthought: since when did Joe Hart start to hoof the ball so much? What happened to calm distribution from the back to retain the ball, take a little pressure off, and build an attack? Am I simply naive about the basics of football to think it's stupidity of the highest order to keep giving the ball away?

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Munro: The Angry Baby

Even if my animations aren’t getting better (though I hope they are), I’m definitely speeding up. This one is the product of about a day’s work. It’s also pretty heavy on the profanities, so an advanced warning/apology is probably needed. I simply wanted to try something a little more ‘ranty’.

Oddly, I think I’m most proud of the opening, which I cobbled together in After Effects. For once, I didn’t spent my hours following tutorials but worked it out for myself. I took some null objects, which were parented with the letters and lines, animated them around the Y axis by various amounts. The only problem I had was getting the letters to all line up at the end, a problem I solved by animating the whole thing in reverse (meaning I had to make the dust drift up by reversing the gravity). Then I played it backwards at the video editing stage. I think I remembered a Buster Keaton movie (it might even be Chaplin) where they had to make a train stop on a mark, so they filmed the whole scene backwards. Why am I telling you all this? No reason other than I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out.

I’ve been back blogging full time here for a few weeks and I know there are people visiting. So, please, tell me what you think about the swearing. Too much? Not enough? I’m tempted to make a second Munro film, not least because so much of the hard work is done. The advantage of animating using these so-called ‘cut outs’ is that I can reuse them again. Well, that’s one reason for doing another. The other reason is that I enjoy a good rant, which perhaps makes Munro the closest I’ve ever come to animating a version of myself. It’s a very frightening thought…

Friday, 22 June 2012

Knitting Air

I thought I’d be animating vulgarities today but, due to circumstances outside my control, I’m forced to go back to my novel earlier than I’d hoped. I wanted to leave a few months before looking at it again but life does this to me sometimes: it’s a matter of get a publisher/agent or get a job, so I’m sitting here trying to hammer some sense into 95,000 words (and about 30 illustrations) that still don’t fill me with confidence. Fixing a novel is about as easy as knitting air.

The problem with comedy writing – indeed the same can be said of cartooning – is that you’re far too close to the work to be able to laugh. Familiar with every joke, one-liner, or groaning pun, you no longer see the finished article as a sustained piece of comedy. You see it as the unstructured outpourings of your mind. Of course, I’ve asked people to read it but you can’t believe your family’s judgement. In fact, the age-old ‘my mother loved it’ is the worst thing you can tell a prospective agent, even if, as in this case, my mother loved it. The feedback I’ve received from friends has been next to minimal. One person could only manage half the book, hated chapter two, and didn’t like the name of my protagonist. That has been the sum of meaningful feedback. I don’t blame them for not reading it, not least because they have busy lives and there’s nothing worse than being obliged to read a book when you don’t normally read books. The problem with writing something as long as 90,000 is that you pity the poor buggers who you ask to help. Writing a book is as much an organic process as it is sequential. The finished article has to make sense when you read it from front to back, but discovering that sequence involves making mistakes, taking the wrong path, backtracking, and countless rewrites.

So now I sit here trying to rewrite Chapter Two, with very little sense of there being anything wrong with it, compared with the rest of the book which I wrote too recently to approach with a fresh eye.

Even if I wrote about 400,000 words for my book of spoof letters (only 60,000 made the finished book), writing that was so much easier than working on a novel, not least because feedback came 1000 words at a time.

So what am I doing writing this? I’m avoiding looking at Chapter Two. I worry about what I might find. Incidentally, if anybody comes across this blog post and does want to read my book to provide feedback, then please email me at If you sound serious, I’ll send you an epub of the book. I need all the help I can get.

On Colin Hunt and Clive James...


Drawing this, I thought 'too misogynistic', which it is, I suppose, when I was only hoping to be misanthropic.

Speaking of my being misanthropic, it was strange this morning. I received a message via Twitter from a self-publishing author I slightly know who asked me to tweet all my followers with an ad for his book. I should ignore the fact that, except for my @richardmadeley account, I don’t have any followers, except to say that doesn’t it say much about celebrity that people loved my @richardmadeley account but are completely indifferent to the real me? Yet even if I had followers, I won’t retweet his message. If I don’t pester people to buy my books, I’m not going to pester them to buy the books of somebody who tells me that he's selling them by the van load. And, frankly, I can’t bring myself to be that much of an arsehole, even if being an arsehole is what it takes to be a successful author these days. It’s all about getting your name out there: inundating people with your banal tweets, your self-serving message, your big gormless grinning face, your cheerful inane banter, your ceaseless self-promotion. I love the work of writing, drawing, and now animating my work. I hate the idea of sitting here all day telling people how great that work is or that I’m always happy and cheerful. It’s the side of Twitter that I despise: the constant stream of effluent coming from would-be comedians trying to be witty. The Fast Show used to feature a character, Colin Hunt, who thought himself funny and could never switch off. Twitter was made for him. Twitter is full of Colin Hunts and I don't intend to be one of them.

As you can see from the quality of today’s cartoon, I’m running low on my very best cartoons on account of a new animation I’m working on. So far, I’ve drawn and rigged the main character and I’ve animated the opening shot, which has pleased me enormously. I’m now down to the tricky business of getting a script written so I can record it. The big question is whether I should swear or not.

I have a complex attitude towards swearing in comedy. I've always told myself that I wouldn’t do it and, generally, I haven’t. It was a restriction I set myself because I find that swearing usually gets in the way of the business of being funny. Like Jimmy Carr’s edgy jokes, I find it too easy a route to take. However, that said, some of my favourite comedy is very sweary. Armando Ianucci's ‘The Thick Of It’ and 'Veep' are the obvious examples but I also love Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s experiments in profanity in the guise of Derek & Clive. So, at the back of my mind, I’m wondering if to push my next cartoon out into those same murky waters. If I do it, I want it to be creative swearing and to be making a point. And since my next cartoon might be something of a rant, the swearing would be apt. We'll see...

On a final, sad note, I was really upset to read Clive James’ interview with Radio 4. In fact, I read part of it but could read no more. By the same token that I despise Twitter for the superficiality of the content, the glib attitudes that turn friendship into a mere follow, I like to think that a nobody can occasionally blog something meaningful about a stranger and mean every word. I recently wrote a review of James’ latest book and concluded with the line that he’s ‘a trickster who makes us laugh before fooling us into thinking seriously’. I can think of no better way of explaining what he’s always meant to me and why my thoughts are now with him.


Thursday, 21 June 2012

Misremembered Nursery Rhymes


My eyes feel bleary this morning; as bleary, in fact, as the needle in Jimmy Carr’s moral compass after its rapid 180. So he now admits to having been in the wrong over his financial affairs. All is right with the world and he’ll soon have new material for his next show. He’ll mention taxes, give a coquettish look to crowd and people will applaud. As Arthur Smith (a true comedian and a man always worth listening to) said just 18 hours ago: ‘Jimmy Carr's tax avoidance cannot be morally wrong since he does it in an ironic way.’ And as they always say about good jokes: it’s good because it’s funny but good because it’s also true.

What I find strange is the number of people still defending Carr. I understand, of course, that no laws were broken and that nobody likes paying taxes. However, I also understand that in some people’s eyes, celebrities can do no wrong. It’s one of the things I discovered when pretending to be a celebrity: that people will always stand by you, no matter how dumb you act, how ignorant the comments you make, how rudely you treat them. I often wonder if future historians will give a name for this period in our history which reflects the morally vacuous celebrity culture that has taken over all our lives. The Dark Ages, The Enlightenment, and Restoration all seem perfectly applicable to their times. Postmodern doesn’t do this moment of history justice. We’re living in The Great Decline or the Celebocracy. Would I even be talking about this if it had been some bank manager caught fiddling his taxes? I doubt if I would. I’m as bad as anybody.

Okay, enough rambling nonsense. I have my own reasons for second thoughts this AM. I worked late last night on this blog’s makeover and wake up thinking that it’s still not quite right. I felt I wanted this place to look a little different after the rather understated previous design. I’ve always liked strange fonts (Kliban did a wonderful ‘barf bold’ which is something to see) and I wanted to try one of my own. They don’t usually work out but I’m quite pleased with my efforts. I might add to it. I might not. We’ll see. I’m intending to start work on an animation this morning, which shouldn’t take as long as others. I want to try a few different techniques I’ve been reading about. For that reason, not one of my better cartoons today.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The Bus Seat


Woke up monumentally uninspired to write anything this morning. I blame Roy Hodgson. He has to be the luckiest football manager ever to take the England job. He sets out to play a dull but compact football, gets on the right end of a few bad decisions by officials and a few lucky breaks, and he ends up winning the bloody group. All of which makes my Euro 2012 animation seem out of date. Needless to say, I think we'll get thumped by the Italians but, then, what do I know?

If that’s not bad enough, I wake up to read that Jimmy Carr thinks that he’s done nothing wrong and that he is now being victimised by the Murdochs. Christ riding a moped! As Frankie Boyle has correctly pointed out: it makes it hard for a comedian to criticise the conditions of the country he lives in when it’s partly his fault.

Urgh... Now I hear that Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis have separated. I've always liked Depp. He likes the things I like and this just makes me sad.

That's the final straw. I'm heading into Manchester to buy myself a new sketch book, my current one now down to the last page...

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Jimmy Carr Cartoon


I said I might stick my caricature up here so here it is in it's inept glory.

It doesn’t surprise me that Jimmy Carr’s been avoiding paying tax and in many ways I don’t blame him. I tend to think that governments always find more imaginative ways of wasting money. Yet what astonishes me about wealth is that few people seem to reach a point at which they no longer think it necessary to dodge the taxman. Would I be any different had I earned £3.3 million in a year? Until it happens, I suppose I don’t have the right to judge. I would hope, however, that I would only be too pleased to pay tax, realising that to earn even a hundredth of that would make me deliriously happy.

Yet if I can’t judge the man’s actions according to my own moral compass, I can judge the man and his material. To say he’s one of my least favourite comedians is to over simplify my attitude towards Carr, a gifted comedian with a sharp wit who seems genuinely interested in the theory of comedy if we are to judge from the book he co-authored a year or so ago. However, there is also a deeply repellent side to his humour which values jokes at the expense of the weak and vulnerable. Comedy is a powerful force when directed at the rich and powerful. Directed towards others, it has a blunt force that does nothing but harm. It’s a point that Steve Coogan has previously made in reference to 'Top Gear' but I’d say that it equally applies to Carr. And Carr does certainly hurt, even if he does it with a certain lopsided smirk as if to highlight that his postmodern irony is irony at its most ironic.

Bad taste jokes are usually funny and, for that reason, they are an easy crowd pleaser. To tell them on stage, prefacing the jokes with warnings, doesn’t make the telling of them any less cheap, snide, or immoral. And by the same score: cheating the taxman in legal ways does not make it easy to condone. He cheats the taxman and though his lopsided grin reminds us that it’s all done legally, it shouldn’t be a surprise. His comedy has always been at our expense and we have paid him handsomely to now mock us with his off shore bank accounts. None of this surprises me and all of it reminds me why I watch so little British comedy.

Tonight, I'm going to give 'Wilfred' a try. It's am American comedy based on an Australian show, about a man's relationship with a neighbour's dog, who only he sees as a man in a dog suit. How I missed this when it was shown on the BBC, I don't know but I have high hopes for it. It's a grown mad in a dog suit! How can it not be funny? Right?

Microsoft's Surfaces And Why I Always Fall For the Hype


What better way to start than with a cartoon about my own stupid belief in marketing spin? I don't honestly think I've ever noticed that a razor gives me the 'closest shave ever' yet I still refuse to stick with the old fashioned single blade razor.

I'm even worse when it comes to technology. I've just spent half an hour being wowed by some of the best sales people in the business. I've been watching Microsoft's launch for their newest product.

‘Microsoft Surface’. So, okay, I'm very gullible. I don't hate the title for their new tablet as much as I expected I would. Frankly, anything that doesn’t contain the word ‘iPad’ sounds like a cheaper alternative. However, having watched their presentation, I’m not so sure that it’s a bad name or a bad product. The ability to run Windows software (at least, in the costlier version of the Surface) really does attract me and I quite like the integrated kickstand. (After all, they say it has the same mechanism as the door on luxury car...) Having spent an eternity trying to find a good stand for my old iPad and then even more trouble to find a keyboard that works with it, I actually like the fact that Microsoft are aiming their product at somebody like me.

Of course, a downside of this is that one of the Surfaces seemed to crash or stop working during the presentation, which suggests that it might well have a few of the characteristic ‘undocumented features’ familiar to anybody who works with Windows. However, being an ex-convert to Apple machines, who enjoyed using one of those domed iMacs for a while and then grew tired of its very closed and limited ecosystem, I’m now a fully-fledged convert back to Windows. I love Windows 7 and look forward though have a few doubts about Windows 8 (I think it might be too radical). Most of all, I am happiest when hardware allows me to do what I want with it, rather than what it thinks is most appropriate to me.

All of which makes it sound like I’ll be first in the queue for a Surface. I won’t. They’ll cost an arm and a leg, and, financially speaking, I have neither. However, a man can dream, can't he? Or in my case, salivate over his keyboard whilst licking the screen…

Okay, back to work now. I want to finish a caricature I was working on last night. It might appear here later on. It might not. The problem with caricatures is that I usually finish them, proud at capturing a likeness, of Tom Cruise perhaps, hand it to somebody and they’ll say: ‘you’ve really captured the essence of Charlie Sheen’. Later today, I might post my picture of Charlie Sheen. Then again, I might not. We will just have to see…

Monday, 18 June 2012



I love drawing this style of cartoon, blatantly nicked from B. Kliban, but I hate trying to explain them. The inexplicable is half the pleasure. It’s about ramping up the degree of absurdity over the course of four panels. The only logic is that there shouldn’t be any logic.

Speaking of logic, I’d naively assumed that because the pro-austerity party had won (albeit marginally) the Greek elections, the markets would have been singing cheerful ditties this morning. As it is, I wake up to find that the world is still going to hell in a handcart bought on high interest terms from the Chinese. Perhaps somebody can explain to me why over the last few years, talk of war in the Middle East, Japan facing nuclear meltdown, and the continued existence of Jedward have never had the same effect on the world markets as the debt problems of a nation whose main industry seems to be tourism and hairy Lotharios in tight speedos.

Okay, I have jobs to do, the first of which is to decide which job to do. I’m tempted to start work on an animation but I’ve had a long enough break from writing that I should really knuckle down and work on the book.