Sunday, December 1, 2013

50 SHADES OF GREY

In case you too are dismayed by the grey covering your newly upload photos and artwork, this post might help.
Last Sunday I uploaded several new headers I'd spend several days working on and BAM, they all appeared on a DARK GREY background instead of the pristine white of the original artwork. Cursing and muttering I uploaded the artwork numerous times, even old artwork, without success. 

I've been uploading header artwork the same way for years and never had this problem. The exact same artwork uploaded to TWITTER came out perfectly on a sparkling WHITE background so I knew it had to be a change on Google/ Blogger.

The AVATAR too, had a gray screen although not as dark as the header. Even artwork inserted into the blog post was covered with 5 different shades of GRAY:
On December 3, John Lechner and several people on Google Help Forums suggested unchecking the "Auto Enhance" box on my Google+ account.  I didn't have a Googl+ account so, in desperation, I created one and unchecked "auto enhance".  

Instantly, my header was all fixed so I cancelled my Google+ account and the header went back to being all GREY! WTF? Was Google practicing artistic extortion to get more accounts? More cursing and harsh words ensued.


Then on December 4th, I got a very helpful response from Matti Nescio to my plea for help on Google Help Forums (where there are MANY COMPLAINTS about Google's outrageous auto "enhancing"): "Do you  have Auto Enhance disabled ? Or upload the images in PNG format."

Bingo, this did the trick! The artwork was successfully uloaded without the grey and my Google+ account was cancelled without effecting the artwork.
Google, please rescind your appalling "auto enhance" feature immediately. Tampering with people's art is arrogant and evil. Boo! Hiss!
 BTW, which header/avatar, apart from the greyness, do you prefer?                 
   *

Friday, September 27, 2013

DISNEY ANIMATION 2013

For decades Disney has been trying to get rid of its animation unit but instead it seems to have doubled in size. In the late 1980’s the animation unit (consisting of a few hundred artists) was banished from the main lot to warehouses in Glendale where, contrary to expectations, it blossomed into the second golden age of animation. (Lesson: leave animation to the animators if you want good stuff?)
    After the successes of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, ALADDIN, LION KING etc. a new animation studio was built and management took an interest in animation production. This resulted in THE EMPEROR’S NEW GROOVE and ATLANTIS. Layoffs followed.        
   After the hand-drawn but formulaic PRINCESS AND THE FROG did poorly at the box-office in 2009 and star animator Glen Keane quit in 2012, the pencil animation department was gutted in 2013. Today, it looks as though Eric Goldberg and Mark Henn are the sole pencil-wielding survivors and we wonder what they're working on. If anyone knows please leave a comment here.
    Remember how hopeful we were for the future of hand-drawn animation when John Lasseter took over at Disney? But his comments five years later  seem to indicate consumption of company Kool-aid and no hope of a hand-drawn feature from Disney any time soon.
    It’s sad to see a much-loved art form die, especially as all the arguments that have been made for its discontinuation seem to be specious:
- It requires too many artists and the studio needs to cut back on human resources. But the 2013 digital animation department, which produces safe and derivative content for very young audiences, is even bigger than the old pencil animation unit and produces far fewer hits.
- Hand-drawn animation takes too long to produce. It takes 3 to 4 years to produce a hand-drawn feature and 3 to 4 years to produce a digital feature.
- Hand drawn animation is too expensive. Computer hardware, software and animators cost as much if not more than pencils and paper and artists.
- Nobody wants to see hand-drawn animation. As Lasseter himself said, nobody wants to see BAD hand-drawn animation but they do still want to see hand-drawn animation. The proof is the stunning popularity and box-office successes of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, ALADDIN and THE LION KING, all just as hand-drawn as the less well-made box-office flops BLACK CAULDRON and PRINCESS AND THE FROG.
    Disney is making shiploads of money from hand-drawn animation by merely marketing the hell out of existing animated classics (all hand-drawn, of course) putting them on Broadway and making live-action film versions of them like CINDERELLA and MALEFICENT. But can this go on forever? Won’t the animation unit have to make something memorable to market the hell out of sooner or later? How much merchandise can you wring out of WRECK-IT RALPH and who even remembers CHICKEN LITTLE?
    
    Interesting shorts involving hand-drawn animation like PAPERMAN and GET A HORSE are made from time to time but sadly, despite the interest they generate, they’re never followed up by a feature film.
                                          *

Friday, September 13, 2013

WRITERS WRITING

      When we see pictures of writers writing 
they usually look like this:

All focused and busily scribbling or typing away. 
But they’re just posing for the artist or the camera.

As we all know, a writer who’s really writing 
looks like this:
or this:
or this:
Always like this:
*


Friday, August 16, 2013

WRITERS READ BY ACTORS

Why is it that writers are asked to read their own work? Writers, with some exceptions, are not good readers, they lack the dulcet tones and vocal control of professional actors so their finely-wrought words emerge inelegantly, instead of being smoothly pronounced with the grace and passion they deserve. 
No extra insight into the book can be gained by clumsy, stumbling readings and it’s embarrassing for the writers. I think readers just want to see the author rather than hear them blundering inexpertly through their text. A bit like staring at movie stars in the dark.
    Fortunately, there are groups of professional actors who will read a writer’s text for her and this is a fabulous idea. Everybody’s happy: the writer hears her work read with polish, the appropriate emotional emphasis, even accents and the actor gets to strut his stuff and get noticed by someone who may be a producer and the audience gets to watch the writer, hear her words delivered properly and get her autograph.

LIARS’ LEAGUE - London, NY, Hong Kong, Leeds.

    Unfortunately, these groups are not yet more widely available and we'd love it if they could spread faster to Paris, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Melbourne, Madrid, Mumbai, Sao Paulo, Lisbon, Buenos Aires, Montreal, Vancouver and elsewhere. There are actors in all these places who’d be glad of the chance to show off their talent and grateful writers who be equally happy to hear their work read well.             
             Photo of Charles Laughton by Alfred Eisenstaedt.
                                    *
READINGS,  AUTHORS,  ACTORS, LIARSLEAGUE, SWEET

Friday, August 2, 2013

PIMPING LITERATURE

It seems literature has swept grandly through the ages, illuminating, educating, saving lives with flair and panache only to stumble over digitization and fall into desperate commercialism in the 21st century.
    But, what the hell, we’re constantly being assailed by yelling, flashing pop-up promotions anyway, so why not embrace commercialised literature as well? Publishers and authors are following Hollywood’s example and producing sequels and "prequels" like Joseph Heller’s “CLOSING TIME” and John David California’s “60 YEARS LATER: COMING THROUGH THE RYE”.  They’re making book trailers with music, action sequences and special effects that make you want to see a movie, not read a book. There’s even a writers’ wreality show called WRITERS’ ROOM where actual writers chat about how they wrote famous TV series. 

    So why should literature not go the whole hog? Why not make  movies about editors and publishing houses as well as writers? The process of getting a book from idea to print can surely make a good movie. Book editors are interesting people who do all sorts of things besides read manuscripts.
    There are plenty of movies about writers even though the less the writer writes in them, the more successful the films:
    Michael Chabon’s WONDER BOYS
    Stephen King’s MISERY
    Nabokov’s LOLITA
    Woody Allen’s MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
    Michael Tolkin’s THE PLAYER 

    Joel and Ethan Coen’s BARTON FINK
    Michael Cunningham's THE HOURS  
Publishers try hard to promote young, good-looking writers to stardom by having them do lots of TV interviews, writerly blogs, Twitter accounts and pose for stunning photos but is that enough?
    Why not  have a heavily promoted awards show (The WRITIES, the LITTIES, the AUTHIES?) where nominated writer stars could swan down a red carpet in extravagant tweed and corduroy outfits, with sparkly scarves and toothy interviewers could ask: “What on earth are you wearing?” and “Is that Windsor and Newton ink on your fingers?” and “That bishop’s mitre looks marvelous with your leather elbow-patches, Dan.”
    Inside the theater there’d be witty presenters, a live orchestra and  lavish dance numbers based on scenes from best-sellers. The prizes could be a gold book, a silver quill, a bronze computer keyboard, something that could be brandished for the TV cameras in a dignified, writerly way. Prizes would, of course, presented by Adam Johnson, Annie Proulx, Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, Toni Morrison and Gabriel García Márquez.
   
The speeches would be fabulous - I’d watch it, wouldn't you?
                                      *


Friday, June 21, 2013

SLEEP and WRITING

It has always distressed me that we need to spend half our life unconscious. It's such a waste of good living time. Why could we not simply plug ourselves into a wall socket for ten minutes to recharge? 
For someone as impatient and uneager for sleep as me you’d think insomnia would be welcome, but no. You can't really do anything worthwhile when your brain needs recharging, yet you can't recharge your brain because of excitement, anxiety whatever. There’s nothing as infuriating as being exhausted and unable to sleep. I do a lot of mental writing just before I go to sleep so maybe it's not surprising that I have no trouble evading the arms of Somnus.
    After years of insomnia, I recently agreed to do a sleep study or polysomnography. The idea appalled me: a sleepover in a doctor’s office covered in electrodes? Never in a million years would I be able to sleep that way. Sleeping is so deeply personal and intimate, how could I do it in public while a technician watched? Nobody likes being watched when they’re unconscious and vulnerable.
    But, despite my doubts, I packed a big art supplies carrier bag with my very own pillow, black ninja pyjamas and ear plugs in case there was beeping or buzzing. I also watched a YouTube video thoughtfully provided by a young insomniac.

    Around bed time, I drove over to the dark and deserted medical center, parked and took the elevator feeling a bit like a sleepy burglar. At the doctor’s office I rang a bell on the counter like you would at an hotel. A charming technician hurried out and showed me to my comfortable-looking room, also like an hotel. Who knew all this was right next to the more clinical doctor’s office I’d previously visited? The  sleep study room had a TV and original but horrible art on the walls. The good art was outside in the corridors. A mistake to think sleepers don’t need good art. Good art can sooth and calm, among other things.
    The technician or polysomnolographist was also a soothing conversationalist which was a big help. After hooking me up to a myriad wires (“The electrodes are plated with real gold,” she told me), I got into bed, deployed my pillow, turned on the most boring TV channel I could find (CNN) while she went to another room to check the monitors she would stay up all night watching:

The EEG (electroencephalogram): brain wave activity 
The EMG (electromyogram): face, leg twitches, teeth grinding.  
The EOG (electro-oculogram): eye movements. 
The EKG (electrocardiogram): heart rate and rhythm.
The Nasal Airflow Sensor: breath temperature, airflow, apnea.
The Chest and abdomen belts: breathing depth, apnea, hypopnea.
The Oximeter: blood oxygen saturation through a clip on a finger.
The Snore Microphone.
    The technician returned to say that everything was working fine. “You have beautiful brain waves,” she said. Ugh, I thought, that's
like saying she’d seen my knickers. Which, of course, she metaphorically had, she’d read my mind. An even greater intrusion than the NSA monitoring my phone calls and emails.
    Aware my brain waves were being monitored I felt obliged to think beautiful thoughts which stopped me from sleeping despite the fact that it was way past my bed time and I was very sleepy. Eventually, however, I stopped thinking and fell asleep.
    But, four hours later the technician did something incredibly cruel.
    She woke me up.
    To ask me to sleep on my back.
    I don’t know if the microphone picked up all the cursing after she left the room and the further cursing when she woke me at six am so I could stagger home and stare at my computer screen in a sleep-deprived daze all day.

    The results of all this showed I had no apnea, leg jerking or sleep walking. I just had insomnia. No, really? I subsequently discoverered that these sleep studies are mainly interested in the breathing of the sleeper, not the insomnia.

UPDATE 4/19/15: Here's a book on a programme developed at Harvard that will actually help you sleep well every night if you put in the work: 
SAY GOODNIGHT TO INSOMNIA by Gregg. D. Jacobs PhD
*

Friday, May 31, 2013

THE POWER OF AN OUTLINE GRID

 
Picturing all the details of a whole book in my head is beyond my spatial capacities so I recently made a big new outline grid that I can tape on to the wall in front of me like William Faulkner does here.
Being a visual person, I need to see the book before I can write it. I especially need to see the spots where stuff must happen, according to the experts. Stuff like:
  • the inciting incident, 
  • the trigger,
  • the quest,
  • the surprise,
  • the first plot point,
  • the mid point, 
  • the critical choice, 
  • the second plot point, 
  • the climax, 
  • the dénoument,
  • the resolution. 
  • And all the points of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey 
Seeing the exact placement of plot points makes writing so much easier and quicker. Words don’t just disappear into the dark maw of the hard drive. I don't need to spend hours straining to remember what happens when and wondering if I've repeated myself. Characters' actions can be more easily crafted to justify their goals and ambitions. Obstacles can be timed to show up just when the protagonist is feeling cocky, rewards can be more precisely dangled to keep him or her going.  
A plot laid out on paper lets you construct chapters  more meticulously, accelerate arcs more smoothly, escalate events more gradually, build suspense step by step, make disasters and catastrophes happen more unexpectedly, boom, and make triumph and victory more nuanced.
Like drawing with words.
An outline grid is very empowering.                                     
                                *

Friday, May 3, 2013

LOVABLE LITERARY CHARACTERS

So many literary characters are part of our lives. Some inspire us, some repulse us some make us laugh, all entertain us. How impoverished we’d be if we’d never known Harry Potter, Stephen Dedalus, Philip Marlowe, Hercule Poirot, Lolita, Andy Dufresne, Mr. Wemmick or Magnus Pym, among others.
    If some bold and adventurous publisher hadn’t taken a chance on JK Rowling, James Joyce, Raymond Chandler, Agatha Christie, Vladimir Nabokov, Stephen King, Charles Dickens or John le Carré, they would have continued their lives as teacher, singer, petroleum executive, housewife, entomologist, gas station attendant, law clerk and spy. Their stylish stories and brilliant characters would have rotted away in a drawer or a hard drive, never to come to life on page or screen. An unbold publisher is not unlike a jailer, keeping all those characters prisoner in their pages, unable to entertain and enlighten.
    How many other vivid, inspirational characters and stories have we been deprived of by today’s fearful publishing industry? How many other writers are still driving trucks, selling cars, frying Big Macs, exterminating termites or picking strawberries? We know publishers are legitimately afraid of being obliterated by self-publishing and e-books but is fear good for publishing? Will it cause publishers to produce books with the same bland vanilla characters often found in self-indulgent self-publishing? Or will it make them publish more books with feather-ruffling, mind-stretching characters? Characters who might, incidentally, make more money than the bland vanilla stuff.
    We understand publishers’ promoting and brandifying well-known, best-selling authors and their books to the broadest possible demographic to stay afloat and also to generate cash. This cash gives them the means to publish lesser-known writers, not to mention un-discovered ones still working themselves to the tendons in poorly-paid, soul-destroying jobs and maybe bitterly burning manuscripts containing characters who could possibly illuminate the world.
   So, we buy the books featuring Katniss Everdeen, Bella Swan and Robert Langdon in the hope publishers will eventually be able to publish more books featuring characters like Jonathan Pine, Scarlett O’Hara, Sherlock Holmes, Joe Kavalier, Henry Skimshander, Miss Haversham and Charles Swann.

Pen and ink drawing by H. M. Brock: "’Well, aged parent,' said Wemmick, 'how am you?'"      
      *
LITERARY CHARACTERS, BOOKS, WRITERS, PIP, CHARLES SWANN, BELLA SWAN, HARRY POTTER

Friday, April 19, 2013

AUTHOR PHOTOS

Why is it that many photographers pose writers with their hand(s) awkwardly hovering around their face? 
How often do we do this in real life? Almost never.

•   the chin-on-fist pose (looks like a punch on the chin)
•    the finger-on-chin pose (smart and pensive)
•    the drooping fingers under-chin pose (nonchalant)
•    the chin-almost-on-palm pose (uncomfortably relaxed)
•    the fingers clasped pose (please buy my book, I beg you)

•    the fingers-over-mouth pose (I'm muzzling myself)
*   the Mr. Burns evil steeple (come into my parlour)

As few of us are actors or models, we’re not usually comfortable with cameras so posing can be awkward and unnatural and we tend to do what we’re told by the photographer. 


But few photographers are directors so they don’t really know how to get our quintessential body language right. 

When you feel uncomfortable in a pose, you'll look uncomfortable so, pick your own, the photographer wont mind and you’ll look much better.






Friday, April 12, 2013

REWRITING

The reason I haven’t written about writing for a while is that I’m not really writing, I’m re-writing. This, for me, is a thrill and a pain. A thrill because I get to re-invent a character and look at the story from a different point of view. Like picking up a snow-globe and giving it a turn and a shake. It’s also a pain because my imagination tends to write little novels around each new angle and this is exhausting.
    A character usually pops into my mind fully formed, as did the protagonist I'm changing. But he's now been promoted from a rather bland beauty to a leading man with the same motivations but more time on stage. I had no idea how much trouble this would be. Even though he looks the same and has the same role in the story, he’s got to think, speak and behave more dramatically and this involves massive amounts of re-working.
    And of course, his new importance affects every other character. Some just slightly, other more profoundly. The trick is not to get carried away with the new aspects, not to let them branch out and grow into useless distractions. Ruthlessly managing each is like riding an ostrich: you don’t want to hurt it but you also don’t want it to hurt you by bolting and wasting your time.
                     
 TO FOCUS MY MIND I'VE DONE THE FOLLOWING:
    * Surrounded my desk with many leafy plants so the additional oxygen will  feed the writerly neurons in my brain.
    * Read magnificent books that made me gasp with admiration and feel yes, I could do that even though I knew I couldn't because I’m not those writers.
    * Got up at 3AM and sometimes just sat stupidly staring at my screen until lunch but on magic days, I wrote like a banshee until bed time.
    * Painted trompe-l’oeils on all my walls which allowed me to think and plot while giving my fingers a rest from the keyboard. Painting as meditation.
    * Had other pressing things to do, which never fails to give me a powerful urge to write.
     
AND TO RELIEVE THE PRESSURE OF FOCUSING I'VE:
    *Frittered

    *Cursed
    *Cried
    *Laughed
    *Chocolated

 *  
  VUG9XGE2DK7U  

Saturday, April 6, 2013

LIFE OFFLINE

Yesterday my phone and broadband went out.
Thank goodness it hadn’t happened the day before when I was doing my taxes online or I would have had a heart attack. As it was, I had to drive to the nearest Time/Warner store where, fortunately, there was no line and ask the slovenly, sullen woman behind the counter to get me back online. She yawned and said nastily: “You should have called us so we could have run diagnostics.”
    “My phone is out.”
    This got a suspicious look. What, how dare you not have a cell phone? You must be some kind of pervert. Sulkily, she asked me for my personal data and called someone.
    “A technician will come in five days,” she informed me with a smirk. WTF?
    “Five days without a phone, no way.”
    Her look said You-are-an-ungrateful-wretch as she wrote down a phone number on a scrap of paper.
    “Call customer support at this number and ask for an earlier date.”
    “But aren’t you customer support?”
    “There’s a phone at the end of the counter, under the television. You can call them from there.”
    Seeing this person was not going to communicate with me in any other way than to let me know I was bothering her, I made my way to the end of the counter to a germ-infested, old fashioned dial phone in hideous, spit-smeared gold. This is what Time/Warner offers in the way of service for high tech products.
As the television blared, I dialed the number with my finger in my other ear. An hysterical voice in the earpiece informed me that, Yay! I had won some kind of competition and only had to answer five questions to get something or other.
I hung up and dialed again.
    By this time, the room had filled with a couple of dozen chattering people, one of whom came and stood right next to me to stare at the TV and listen with interest to all the personal information I was required to provide to the second
supporter of customers. After going through my personal data again and placing me on hold while she checked something, she informed me that, yes, my phone and broadband were out of order. While I silently fumed, a security guard came and stood behind me to stare out the door.
    I was passed to a third customer supporter who  went through all my personal data
yet again but seemed to actually grasp what the problem was. He was helpful and speedy and set up an appointment with the obligatory four-hour window for today. But the technician didn’t show up and when I contacted Time/Warner by wi-fi, they said the technician had come but had not been able to contact me by phone. Duh!
    So, here I am using my wi-fi to order a cell phone and looking forward to telling Time/Warner what they can do with their far too-expensive digital phone service and unnecessary broadband.                                         *
PS - It was TimeWarner on TWITTER that finally got the problem solved. Unfortunately too late as I'd already ordered my new phone.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

THE POWER OF A PICTURE

I’ve used Lisa Simpson, the TV cartoon character, as my avatar online for years. I love her cocky yellow grin, her pearls and her spiky hair. I thought she was a perfect avatar, symbolizing cartoons and smarts on a gorgeous lime-green background.
I paid no attention to those who said they heard my tweets and posts in the youthful, high-pitched voice of actress Yeardley Smith. I ignored those who tweeted down to an eight-year-old cartoon who wouldn’t know a paragraph from a Post-it. I assumed most people would know that the person represented by a cartoon was unlikely to actually be a cartoon, let alone a squeaky yellow girl.
    But I underestimated the power of a picture. Worth a thousand words you say? A thousand witless words are apparently conjured up by the image of Lisa Simpson. Which is odd, as she was created by UCLA and Harvard-educated writers who’ve given her a complex and charming character: the talented and smart daughter in a family of dolts.
    Being treated like Lisa Simpson would be rather flattering but many readers, including educated people with PhDs, seem to confuse Lisa with
Homer, her doltish father. Doh! Or, more likely, they don’t know the TV show and just see any cartoon as puerile and gormless and anyone represented by one as a nitwit.
    Worse yet, my book is set in the animation industry (more cartoons!) and I’ve tweeted and blogged quite a bit about animation. So, I'm in double danger of being taken for a feckless nincompoop apparently.
    None of this would matter but, it suddenly struck me that agents and publishers might also be under the impression that animation and cartoons are simpleminded silliness and a book about them by someone represented by a childish cartoon would not be worth bothering with. While my writing and I may have our flaws, we are not dolts.
So, goodbye Lisa. I’ll miss you, a much misunderstood avatar.
Yeardley Smith, actor, writer, artist, voices Lisa Simpson.




Friday, March 8, 2013

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY

 The story that this celebration originated after a protest in the US is apprently apocryphal.
It was probably substituted for the fact that the first celebration of working women was observed in 1909 in the US following a declaration by the Socialist Party of America because the aforementioned Socialist Party of America has fallen out of favour in the US.

    Frankly, I find this a feeble fête, a token gesture. It doesn’t have a fraction of the clout of Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day. We’re not even showered with flowers, cars, chocolates and diamonds on this day like the other “women’s” holidays. Heck, this not even an official public holiday, a day off worldwide as would befit the celebration of such magnificent creatures as us. In France this is called la Journée de la Femme, prompting a writer friend to say wryly: "Quelle femme?"
    But seriously, as sure as I am that we all enjoy being showered with champagne and diamonds, do we really need another soft, flowery celebration of women’s wonderfulness? Wouldn't a solid foundation of respect and human rights, decent pay and freedom from routine beatings and rape be of more use to us?                       
    International Women’s Day should be an occasion to pass laws worldwide that would improve the lives of women who still have to fear being raped on a bus and generally disrespected.
    Respect is a better gift than flowers and chocolates.

*
March 8, 2014: This year's celebration seems a little more muscular than the last one, things like equal pay are being mentioned in a more energetic way, but a hundred years is too long to wait for pay parity. Higher salaries and wages must be demanded and contracts negotiated more fiercely.

*

Monday, March 4, 2013

WHY WE LOVE STORIES

Have you ever wondered why we like to read or listen to stories? Ever since Neanderthals told tales around cave fires, the human race has been fascinated by stories. Oral histories, gossip, books, movies, we just can’t seem to get enough.
My theory is that we need all the ideas we can get about life and survival and how other people do it so we can keep up, surpass or simply marvel at the ingenuity, inventiveness, idiocy or dirty rotten evil of our fellow humans.
    We’re told that a good story needs conflict. Why is this? Maybe because readers want to know how to compete, overcome, surmount, conquer and prevail. We empathise when good or bad things happen to the protagonist and we feel we could do as well in the same circumstances or we store the information away for use the next time those circumstances show up in our lives. Haven’t we all sworn we’d never throw ourselves under a train or steal a loaf of bread or swanned around for a few minutes like Scarlett O’Hara, d’Artagnan or James Bond?
    And we particularly like to hate villains because we think they’re not like us. Villains make us feel virtuous and superior. We recognize similar traits in the people we know and feel better armed to deal with them. But we rarely if ever feel villainous or evil ourselves. We know we have good reasons for our bad behavior and that deep down we’re fine, upstanding people. I’ve never met anyone who says wow, I really see myself in Iago, Javert, or Voldemort.
   Reading makes us feel informed, enriched and better prepared for life because of the characters and events we’ve read about. Better human beings, even.
    I always feel as though I’ve eaten a delicious, colorful and fattening meal when I’ve finished a good book. I’m always sorry it’s finished and I need to take a while to digest it before starting another.                                              *

Friday, February 22, 2013

WOULD YOU READ A NOVEL SET IN THE ANIMATION INDUSTRY?

"Bambi meets Cruella DeVil" is a tag line I thought would appeal to publishers. But the reaction I’m getting from the industry is that the writing is strong, the book is funny but there’s not enough conflict and intrigue in animation to sustain interest and nobody wants to read a book on the subject.  
This surprises me quite a bit because so many people from all professions have expressed interest in animation over the years and I’ve busted my chops creating an opinionated protagonist, twisted villains and colorful characters who are dealing with life’s harsh realities as well as studio dramas while animating at crunch time speed.
     Can this be true? Are people interested in watching animation but not reading about it? “Oh, what fun!” they always say. But do they really secretly think animation is childish and silly and beneath them? This is the impression I get from a few haughty folks, but ANIMATED isn’t a book for intellectuals, it’s a fun look through the eyes of an animator at a wonderful, complex art that most people love.
   
Those of us in the business know how much conflict and drama there is in animation so I’m wondering if this is a biased view based on ignorance or if readers really don’t want to read about animation. If so, there's a lot more disdain for animation than I thought.
    An animation studio is no less compelling than the fashion industry, baseball, love in the mountains, sparkly vampires or the journals of a fat girl. But I know some publishers, afraid to take a chance on an unknown subject, will wait for an author to self-publish so they can see if the book sells or not. If it does, they'll snap it up à la "Fifty Shades of Grey". Understandable, I suppose in these precarious times.   
      So Many people have asked where they can buy ANIMATED I'm wondering how many people haven't asked but might like to read the book.
    Here's the question, dear readers: would you read a novel set in the animation industry? If so, why? And if not, why not? Please post a comment to this effect if you'd be so kind.
                                       *

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

ANIMATION OSCAR NOMINATIONS 2013

FIVE SHORTS:
ADAM and a DOG  (The trailer was hand-drawn, the film made in “digital 2D” with “some work on paper”). Written and directed by Minkyu Lee. Consultant Glen Keane. Remarkably, this is an independent production (budget between $10-20,000) with no studio involvement. This is the way fresh new content is going to get back into animation. I hope it wins.
FRESH GUACOMOLE (Stop-motion) Written and directed by PES,
born Adam Pesapane, who was influenced by the work of Czech surrealist Jan Švankmajer. (PES Productions)
HEAD OVER HEELS (Stop-motion) Written and directed by Timothy Reckart (NFTS, UK)
MAGGIE SIMPSON in “THE LONGEST DAYCARE” (CGI) Directed by David Silverman, written by James Brooks, Matt Groening and 5 others (Gracie Films)
PAPERMAN (2D and CGI combined) Directed by John Kahrs, written by Clio Chiang and Kendelle Hoyer (Walt Disney Animation Studios) If Adam and a Dog doesn't win, this might. Oscar winner 2013
FIVE FEATURES:

BRAVE (CGI) Directed by Brenda Chapman, Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, Written by  Brenda Chapman, Irene Mecchi, Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell (Pixar) Also nominated for a Bafta and winner of a Goden Gobe. I think this flawed but dazzling film will win. Oscar winner 2013
FRANKENWEENIE (3D stop-motion) Directed by Tim Burton. Written by
Tim Burton, Leonard Ripps, John August (Walt Disney Pictures) Also nominated for a Bafta.
PARANORMAN (3D stop-motion, using 3D printing) Directed by Chris Butler, Sam Fell. Written by Chris Butler. (LAIKA) Also nominated for a Bafta.
The PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS (Stop-motion) Directed by Peter Lord, Jeff Newitt. Written by Gideon Defoe. (Aardman Animations)
WRECK-IT RALPH (CGI) Directed by Rich Moore.  Written by Rich Moore, Phil Johnston, Jim Reardon, Jennifer Lee. (Walt Disney Animation Studios)
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Sunday, February 10, 2013

LOVE or RELATIONSHIP?

When did LOVE get replaced by the ghastly soulless word RELATIONSHIP? Surely "the way in which things and people are connected" is not how we feel.
Are we so afraid of the power behind the word LOVE that we feel the need to dilute and distance it? 
Are we so worried about wanting and needing LOVE that we’re even afraid to mention its name?
LOVE, the-thing-that-shall-not-be-named.
According to TV and movies, just saying “I love you” has become a phrase to be avoided like a landmine.
Perhaps we’re afraid of the passion involved in love. When we’re swept off our feet by a force stronger than logic, is it the lack of control that scares us? 

But shouldn’t we welcome being overwhelmed by superior forces of delight and wonder? Shouldn’t we be thrilled to float down the street emiting beams of bliss
Or to feel the quieter, deeper satisfaction of long-term love?
Why not throw caution to the winds when it comes to love?

And why the coy: "I've met someone"?  We don't dare say "I'm in love."
How odd that love should be taboo
How sad to hear: "The person I'm in a relationship with" instead of "My lover."
Why not be happy for the privilege of that rare and wonderful state and celebrate it out loud all over the place?
Valentine’s day is a celebration of LOVE not relationship.
Let’s celebrate the heart-pounding, hand-trembling, throat-constricting breathlessness of something that sounds like a medical emergency but is, by far, the best feeling in the world.

Let’s stop pussyfooting around with clinical words like RELATIONSHIP and say what we really mean.
LOVE.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

WORDPWESS TWUBBLE

Why is Wordpress so difficult to use? Why does it have to be so unintuitive and user-unfriendly? WHY? For the past few months I've spent most of my days wrestling with it and ending up with no website. And I thought Blogger was a pain.
   Nothing on Wordpress is easy or accessible. The simplest things take weeks to figure out. Like deleting a blog, for instance. There’s always a button blinking at you CREATE A NEW BLOG, CREATE A NEW BLOG but there’s nothing to delete one. You have to go to the unlikeliest place: “BULK ACTIONS”, transfer the blog to the Dashboard, hit TOOLS then DELETE BLOG and then they send an email to your mailbox which you have to log in to and there click on a link which finally deletes the damn blog. How hard would it be to put a DELETE button next to the CREATE A NEW BLOG button? Jeez.
     I keep telling myself I’ll get the hang of it soon (that was two years ago). I can’t even set up a simple profile without a uselessly ENORMOUS avatar that can't be reduced without some highly obscure and bizarre maneuvering that I haven’t found yet after weeks of searching. WTF? Who on earth would want an avatar so big it takes up a page? Wordpress, it's illogical. Just give us a set of sizes to click on, please.
    Then there’s the web page. You upload a piece of artwork and it gets cropped all to hell. So you spend hours redoing the artwork to size, select another theme, then the new page won’t accept artwork. Why not mention this up front instead of wasting our time? THIS THEME WILL ACCEPT PERSONAL ARTWORK and THIS THEME WON’T. How hard is that?
    My would-be web page has unwanted words all over it and no way to get rid of them or to preview how it will look. It also has a “category” pending approval for two years! I’ve forgotten what it is by now but I know it wasn’t pornographic or criminal.       
    And how do you get the headings into that bar across the bottom of the picture, like: HOME, ABOUT, BLOG, WRITING, ART etc.? Shouldn’t that be a piece of cake? But no, it’s another bewildering, unfigureoutable task.
    The tutorial says: go to the dashboard and you’ll see these tabs. Well no, actually, you won’t. Why is the dashboard not always available to click on in any window? Or is it? Who knows?
    I’m so befuddled and irritated by all these unnecessary and constant impediments and frustrations that I can’t think straight and just end up making a mess, screaming, cursing wasting my time and staying with Blogger,which also makes me curse on occasion but at least it generally works. BTW, Blogger why is the picture on this post so huge when I selected "SMALL"
(this often happens) and why doesnt the CENTERING tool always work?                       
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Friday, January 4, 2013

2012 - BOOKS READ

These subjective imressions should not be taken for proper reviews. Like Michelin rated restaurants *** is best in my opinion.

The ART OF FIELDING by Chad Harbach ***  Moby Dick-themed names: Harpooners, Skrimshander, Starblind, Pella (as in pelagic perhaps). The rich, meaty characters are still with me. Sporty bits are easily skipped without losing the pedals.

The SHIPPING NEWS by Annie Proulx *** Proulx’s writing is like a graphic novel without the graphics; bright pictures leap from her words, glow in your brain and sometimes make you laugh or break your heart. 
L’ELEGANCE DU HERRISON by Muriel Barbery *** Wonderful study of the unexpectedly intellectual and sensual life of a Parisian concierge.
TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY by John Le Carré *** Intricate plot, brilliantly flawed characters: Smiley, Haydon, Connie Sachs and creative spy terms: moles, joes, lamplighters, mothers etc.. My favorite writer by far, he deserves a Nobel Prize.
A LA RECHERCHE DU TEMPS PERDU de Marcel Proust. Edition française complète, 10 tomes augmentée, illustrée et commentée *** (Commentary based on the first tome and a half.) Immobility imposed by asthma gave Proust the time to study his family and surroundings at great length. His languid writing is a lot funnier than expected and resembles a Persian miniature with its tiny  details of people and places. Long, stately phrases studded with jewel-like images, wit and well-observed pettiness and snobbery. Slow-motion passion.               
A HANDMAID’S TALE – by Margaret Atwood ** Beautifully crafted dystopia, compelling characters, slightly spoiled, for me, by the rather clinical ending.
DEEP DOWN (Jack Reacher) by Lee Child ** Short, sharp action-packed sentences make Jack a bright boy.
THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green ** The un-sentimental voices of young cancer patients Hazel Grace and Augustus are clear,  instantly endearing and inspiring.
The CHEMISTRY OF TEARS by Peter Carey ** Grief and all its ramifications. Not one of Carey’s most colorful but definitely readable.
NEVER MIND, BAD NEWS, SOME HOPE, MOTHER’S MILK by Patrick Melrose ** The mighty struggle to deal with the consequences of casual cruelty, these books are medals and gold stars, tributes to courageous battles that are seldom acknowledged let alone rewarded.
EXTREMEMLY LOUD and INCREDIBLY CLOSE by Jonathan Safran Foer * Yet another Holden Caulfield-inspired voice of a boy in Manhattan struggling to come to terms with his father’s death in the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001.
FROM A BUICK 8 by Stephen King * Stephen King makes you believe that a Buick is the gates of hell spitting out malformed monsters and evil smells. The characters are not quite as interesting as the car.
The CASUAL VACANCY by JK Rowling – I’m a huge fan of what Rowling has accomplished for reading, her fairy tale success, her quirky personality and the inventiveness of the Harry Potter books, but this book bored the pants off me. I didn’t care about any of the characters apart from grotesquely tragic Krystal. Relentless sordidness is as dull as happy endings.
A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES by John Kennedy Toole – This large work was rejected by so many people that the author sadly committed suicide before it was published. I really wanted to like it but found the characters and actions un-compelling. Did not finish.
The HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins – Did not finish.
The CLASSMATE MURDERS by Bob Moats – Did not finish.
BEL CANTO by Anne Patchett – Did not finish.


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BOOKS, READING, PROUST, CHILD, CAREY, LECARRE