Thursday, June 29, 2006


How I do what I do*

I get a few emails asking me about how I make the things I make. One came in yesterday and I thought I'd put my response here...

1: Where did you get those eyes and afros and glasses and legs you post onto your characters? Did you make them? Do you take the pictures you use yourself?

I use a lot of my own photos. I take a camera everywhere and am exceedingly snap-happy with it taking anything that might be of use. My current database of source photos is sitting at around 15,000.

Taking photos for editing is different to taking photos for their own sake. You need to think in terms of component parts, as that's how you'll be using them. Make sure the subject is unobscured and that you don't chop bits off.

This current blog page contains numerous pieces from my photos. My eyes and a cork from a bottle of fizz I drank feature down the way. Jeremy (the wee purple guy on the swing) is swinging by the shore in South Queensferry. The sneezing tap comes from my bathroom. The strange horse is trotting past the Tate from a recent trip to London. And I really did meet that caterpillar.

I take a lot of photos.

The car you can see above belongs to a friend who was kind enough to take a whole batch of photos from different angles for me. It will be appearing in a Flash animation sometime soon - it lives in the same world as the hover chair man a couple of posts down.

There are also a few good, free stock photography sites about; Stock Exchange is a particular favourite of mine for when my own collection fails me. I use Morguefile too.

All my characters are patched together from a selection of photos and occasional drawn bits if I can't find them elsewhere. It is very rare that you'll find perfectly matching elements so the key is to find a hint of what you're looking for (such as some nice curly hair) and then edit it to fit your character (feathered cloning is your friend for an afro, for example).

2: What programs do you use?

I use Corel PhotoPaint to create my photobased characters, with occasional dips into The Gimp. All the animation takes place in Macromedia Flash, with optimisation in Fireworks if I'm creating gifs rather than a full animation.

2: Did you get a degree in this?

Heh, no. In a previous life I was a psychologist. I abandoned all that and have been working in the field of online silliness for a few years now though. From the emails I get I think I do more good now than I did then, so that's good.

* Of course, a more intriguing topic is possibly why I do what I do. But don't worry, I have no intention of trying to explain that anytime soon.


Thursday, June 22, 2006


Baked Beats

If you're in London this Saturday I recommend heading along to the midsummer bakedbeats - music we like event, "a veritable feast of music with fantastic live bands, DJs and laptop artists, visuals, food, booze and lovely people".

I can vouch for the loveliness of the people running it and have been listening to music from the contributing bands and DJs the last couple of days. It's quite splendid.

I can't make it myself due to being 400 odd miles away but I have sent a few minutes of animation in my place which will accompany some of the music.

Go, listen, watch, enjoy.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Superficial security

I got annoyed in the bank today.

I was paying my credit card bill from my current account. Both accounts have the same name and address on them and I've handed my bank card over for the payment. Before making the payment the bank insisted I tell them my date of birth (which I did without protest or hesitation) then the details of the direct debits on my current account.

I said I'd rather not have to release any more of my so-called 'security information' in a public space. I offered to enter my PIN for them in the magic box*. But no. They insisted on the direct debit information.

I said I wasn't happy that this meant everyone in the room** would know both my birthday and direct debit details, and it was countered with "but it's only the company name they'll know, not the full details".

I pointed out that this was apparently enough information to withdraw money from my account without knowing my PIN and it went momentarily quiet followed by "I'm sorry, but I need the direct debit details to pay this bill". Grrrr. Pointless.***

I did tell them in the end. I needed to pay the bill. I requested that it be pointed out to whomever was responsible for the procedures that it really wasn't security. She duly wrote "Not happy" on a print out of my details. Pffft! I'm fairly sure that within 30 seconds of me leaving the words "Mad woman with a bee in her bonnet" were added after "Not happy".

In order to make this post more than simply a whinge about my bank can I point you in the direction of Chip and Spin, a site summarising the investigations into the Chip and PIN technology and pointing out, in a far more useful and informative way than I do, that banks aren't always right.

* I suspect this is not what it is formally known as, but you know what I mean... the keypad thing.
** Sorry people-in-the-queue, but it only took a minute longer than it would have anyway.
*** I acknowledge that my pointing out the issue was probably pointless as well. But apparently I was grumpy and particularly intolerant of stupidity today.

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Monday, June 19, 2006


Laugh now

Mr DogHorse has recorded a George Formby-esque ode to the World's Greatest Nutritionist. I can't express how much this made me laugh.

Go listen.

You can read the lyrics here

In other news here's a great piece on Fafblog about the US response to the suicides in Guantanamo and a congressman looking particularly stupid on The Colbert Report.

And I appear to be having a dinosaur moment.


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Saturday, June 17, 2006


I have had caribou...

... running round my head all evening.

Not the animal, I hasten to add, but the track by The Pixies.

It's a splendid song so not a problem but it was a puzzle. I usually know where the songs come from when they get stuck in my head but Caribou?

Then I realised it was the tune, but not the right word. Caribou had been replaced with Dinaroo. This is what I had been drawing.

My brain is embarrassing at times.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Paper creatures bounce and bop

It's The Hump, my new animation for a top tune by Mr and Mrs Swing.

Slightly different to my usual stuff, I tried to give some form to the images floating round my head when I listened to the track.

I think I was slightly alarmed by the lack of words to start with, but I made the characters from paper so they came with their own words.

So that's all right.

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Monday, June 12, 2006


Torture Awareness Month

Yesterday I had my head in my hands over the US response to the suicides at Guantanamo Bay and elendil at Bloggers Against Torture alerted me to Torture Awareness Month.

I've just had an email from a friend that has emphasised the importance of this. A few months ago DogHorse and I made an animation about the current UK policy of deporting people to countries where they know there is danger; my friend informs me that her Iraqi Kurdish pal is being returned tomorrow.

We need to stop our government deporting people to countries abusing human rights. We need to make sure that we are not abusing human rights, and that our associates aren't either. The disgrace of Guantanamo Bay can't be dismissed as an anomaly.

As my friend writes, "it is a sad time".

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Sunday, June 11, 2006


Balanced Links

Two silly things that please me

Spin DJ is a god (short film)

The Extreme Diet Coke & Mentos Experiments

Two serious things that anger me

US response to the Guantanamo suicides
"I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of warfare waged against us" (Rear Adm Harry Harris, Camp commander) and a "good PR move to draw attention" (Colleen Graffy, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy).

UK DNA database is shared overseas
So on top of containing information on 24,000 children never cautioned, charged or convicted of anything and having no real safeguards in place to protect against misuse, the misuse is international.

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Friday, June 09, 2006


A moment of confusion

I've never really been one to follow fashion. I pootle along doing my own thing and every now and then what I'm doing, or wearing, or watching or listening to becomes popular and I temporarily become 'fashionable'.

I don't see this as a problem. I don't mind being unfashionable. I don't mind being fashionable. Both can be fun, and if we were all the same life would be terribly dull.

I am currently lost.

I am noticing myself being increasingly confused by conversations where everyone seems to know what's being referred to except for me. I wondered if senility was making an unreasonably early appearance until I realised....

I don't follow football.
I don't watch Big Brother.

So please excuse my general puzzled responses for the next few weeks, and if you need me I'll be over there, making animals dance. Bear with me.


Thursday, June 08, 2006


Nothing to see here

Something was here but now it's gone.

Sorry about that.

Options are being considered, advice is being sought.

Whilst I contemplate these things, and consider my cork and the difficulties it encounters, I can still point you to Mr DogHorse, who has been extraordinarily prolific recently. He's recorded Captain Birdseye and Cameron Creep.

Both are superb, go and have a listen.

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Sunday, June 04, 2006


I've got my silly hat on...

... hip hip hip hooray!

I've had a pleasant couple of days making some silly pictures, getting the framework of a new Flash animation put together, blethering online and catching up with stuff. Lovely.

One of the things I've caught up on is the last couple of weeks of the Friday Thing, which I recommend subscribing to if you like a slightly cynical view on the news. It's just gone free, which means I no longer need to feel guilty about receiving unexplained copies from them*.

I also stumbled across this disturbing story about an editor banning puns from headlines. Shocking. I do hope it's an isolated incident.

* Obviously not quite guilty enough to tell them to stop sending them, but that would have seemed terribly ungrateful.

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Friday, June 02, 2006


Things that needle me needlessly

1. I got an email from Amnesty about their new campaign, I like Amnesty and I don't mind them emailing me but they should be emailing me from their own domain, not from (registered to leighton management limited, about whom I can find very little). If they email me a link they should include the proper URL, not a tracked link through If they insist on doing that they shouldn't try to hide it behind html, that's what phishing scams do and Amnesty should be better than that. Bah.

2. Whenever I upgrade Firefox* it reinstates all the default engines onto my toolbar and I don't want them. Now, I love Firefox, I just want an 'Edit engines' option below 'Add engines' because I'm lazy, picky and always forget where to go to delete them.

3. People using their blogs to whinge pointlessly about.... oh.... quite....

Right, some good things then.

1. I got my new passport today. No RFID. No entry into the catastrophe-waiting-to-happen National Database. A saving of £40 or so compared to waiting until it ran out and they didn't even penalise me for renewing nearly a year early, so the new one lasts until 2017. And it actually arrived, unlike over half a million others over the last couple of years. Splendid.

2. Something that has been a worry is getting better**.

3. I am going to spend a couple of days playing with pictures for the first time in around 3 weeks. This will be combined with drinking Pimms in the sunshine. Hooray!

* Ha. I've just updated to v1.5.0.4 and it didn't do it. I should definitely stop moaning.
**This is a much bigger thing than that sentence indicates.

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