Friday, 21 July 2017

Animated Discussions: Bitz by James Pollitt

Some of us like a dog.
Some of us would like to animate a dog.
Animator James Pollitt is already doing so with his creation, the whippet Bitz.

I favour the buzz of creating only from what is to hand, which is the challenge which James set himself in creating a critter from a selection of random bits and pieces. Voila - Bitz exists.

James has a kickstarter project going for creating more Bitz.
But meanwhile, for dog - and in particular whippet - lovers everywhere ... just click the arrow and behold the wonders and setbacks of animating Bitz.

BITZ- The whippet made from random stuff... from James Pollitt on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Criminal Reading: Norway, 1969 - Satellite People by Hans Olav Lahlum

Satellite People (K2, #2)Satellite People by Hans Olav Lahlum
Beginning with an enigmatic phone call from a wealthy tycoon wishing to discuss an imminent threat to his life with Oslo homicide detective Inspector Kristiansen (known as K2), Lahlum's crime novel is both tribute to and dedicated to the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie.

Potential victim and detective never keep their Monday appointment as the tycoon is killed during a regular Sunday gathering of family and friends. His killer's identity provides the core conundrum for detecting partners K2 and his young, precociously bright, wheelchair-bound, friend - Patricia. But more people will die before they unearth the killer from amongst the dinner guests.

I try, but have to admit to rarely finding the "constructed" style of detective novel, full of chronological interviews, witness accounts and deductive discussion, a gripping read. So, much as I admire Lahlum's writing from reading his third in the "K2" series The Catalyst Killing a while ago, for this reason alone it took me some time to finish "Satellite People", his second novel in the series.

Lahlum is an excellent writer and this English translation by Kari Dickson works well. I like the way he sets his books retrospectively in the late 1960s and 1970s, a period which can still touch both pre- and postwar Europe (the dead tycoon in this story had been a member of the Norwegian Resistance) and in this way is able to bring a flavour of contemporary Nordic Noir social psychology to his plotting whilst constructing his books as classic, constrained, detective-mysteries.
In his end note, Lahlum pays tribute not only to Christie but to Conan Doyle. I can't help wondering if, given Lahlum's underlying sense of humour, he relishes the fact that Inspector Kristiansen is very much the Dr. Watson to Patricia's "Sherlock".

Believe it or not, despite causing me a slight reading struggle, I really recommend Lahlum's K2 series to fans of classic detective stories.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Opera Nights At The Cinema: Verdi's Otello with Kaufmann

I love Verdi's "Otello" and was not going to miss this week's live broadcast with German tenor Jonas Kaufmann in the lead role. I enjoy both Kaufmann's singing and acting. He has emerged as one of the greats. Although doubtless somebody will disagree.

Verdi's opera is based on Shakespeare's tragedy "Othello" in which a Moorish general (Otello), who serves the Venetians, is maliciously played upon by his aide (Iago) and led to believe that his new, young, Venetian wife (Desdemona) is unfaithful.
Iago is the driver - his jealousy, envy and pathological psychology moving him to ruin and warp everything around him. Othello is the subject, the man played upon, whose passions are worked and driven so that all that follows is tragedy. And Desdemona's constant good faith pushes her relentlessly towards her fate. This drama has always summed up tragedy to me - a collision of people's psychology and the turns of fate which explode into a terrible outcome - and we the audience can see it coming.

Verdi's opera has the drama and psychology of the original play together with beautiful music and a vocally challenging lead role in Otello. Domingo has been one of the great Otellos. I never managed to see him singing it live. But this week I got to see the broadcast of Kaufmann's debut in the role. Of course it seals him into it. I was relieved that he was not "blacked up". (School age trauma caused by my class being taken to see the film of Sir Laurence Olivier's awful performance as Shakespeare's Othello, whom I expected to drop on one knee and sing a rousing chorus of "Mammy" by way of encore.)

This production's sets involve partial walls (they appear as towering, dark, wooden walls or screens) which move around to change the space. As such the set has been described as minimalist. But I don't think it is. I can cope with minimalist. If a production and music is wonderful who needs a box of tricks?  But here it seems as if movements are made sometimes because they can. For instance why does Desdemona appear to rise up from the ground in one scene? As does the Herald announcing the arrival of the Venetian delegation? Throughout, performers have been walking on and off as usual, so why are these two entrances singled out as "magical"? No good dramatic reason that I could see.
And there are glaring additions to the design's "minimalism". A huge statue of the Venetian Lion is hauled on by the visiting delegation and in the final scene it re-appears, "broken". OK, I'm not a fan of heavy symbolism if it is not handled well but poke it into a relatively severe set and it's impact is disproportionate.

Never mind, I bicker ... because I can. The singing and acting of all the main roles is wonderful: Kaufmann (Otello); Maria Agresta (his wife Desdemona) and Marco Vratogna (Iago). It's a moving opera and a moving evening which we both did enjoy very much. And as usual The Old Man particularly looked forward to his interval ice cream.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Animated Goings On - Mrs D's Work In Progress

Mrs D is still sat, for hours a day, drawing her animation...

This is all still part of a work in progress, Mrs D assures me. As is her knowledge of TVPaint. But here's a clip.

I seem to remember those red shoes, flamenco ones from Barcelona. At least they are getting an airing ... and what an airing.

Blown Away from Mrs D on Vimeo.
"Wind" sound effect - by Mark diAngelo.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

A Political Propapagandist's View Of My Childhood

Well. The UK Election is done with.
The Conservatives have slipped up and Labour have got their voters in. Onward and upward.

One thing I have noticed ... one thing that has been puzzling me ... is when, exactly, did the word "socialist" become a term of deep abuse in the UK? It may not be your flavour of politics but to some so-called pundits it seems to have become a politics "beyond the pale". Link it to the term Marxist and apparently we should all be running around in circles and checking under the bed for bugaboos.

The recent Labour Party Manifesto kicked this off, talk of getting rid of student loans, perhaps re-nationalising part of the transport grid.. government energy companies and so forth. This... they have been saying... is Marxism.

Did my conservative father realise he was living in a Marxist state during my 1950s childhood, I wonder? As he duly voted for Churchill, Eden, Macmillan? Under whose Conservative governments we continued to enjoy in the main Labour's free schooling, free healthcare, public transport, government owned utility companies? The post-war consensus?

We obviously did not see that these apparent pillars of Conservative Government were being manipulated by Uncle Joe from behind Winnie's "Iron Curtain".

I wonder ... how did my family escape the gulags? What with all those Ladies Nights down at the Lodge? Surely that was punishable under a Marxist regime?
Perhaps I was too traumatised and mistook the gulags for the leafy suburbs of Kent.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Mrs D's Current Obsession ... with Animating

Night and day Mrs D sits at her desk: monitor on; pc on; graphics tablet all lit up and nibs for the stylus worn down to stumps and strewn about the place.

What is she animating? Your guess is as good as mine ... or hers. You can see her Mood Board over at Pinterest. There certainly seems to be a lot of stuff flying about.

Will she succeed in making a short cartoon? Alors! Me and Chunky the dog don't know. But here are a few frames for you to wonder about.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Grey Doll Will Be Watching ... The Handmaid's Tale

Without a doubt  I shall sit myself down for the new TV serial based on Canadian writer, Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" -  Episode 1 of which is due to be aired UK telly on Sunday evening (28th May 2017) - Channel 4 at 9pm.

Margaret Atwood  is a great writer, I genuinely think so. I read The Handmaid's Tale and think it is one of the most chilling pieces of speculative fiction, alternative histories whatever you like to call it - since Orwell's 1984. Was that a lazy comparison? Possibly. But I am old, hot, tired and want to get back to drawing. Incidentally, this also means that I am old enough to remember the mindset of things before late twentieth-century feminism reared it's "nasty", "castrating" Medusa head ... and I am referencing just such a mindset here.
Finally and a propos watching the new serial, I just plain want to see what they have made of the book.

I give you a link to Atwood's own article (published in the New York Times earlier this year) on her writing of the novel and her thoughts about it.

Read Atwood, Yeah!

Friday, 12 May 2017

Current State Of Obsessions

We are a household filled with obsessions. Aren't you? For me, Bike Girl, it's fantasising a life on the road with my bike and my dog. Have you met my dog?
 Mrs D "arranged" him for me. I'd thought I'd like one of those rangy Lurcher guys. But I think some Chow Chow got in to Dog's mix by the look of him. Whatever, he is a good-natured old boy.

So what are these current obsessions? Grey Doll still reads crime novels and has just reviewed "Fatal Crossing", a crime debut by Danish journalist turned crime writer Lone Theils for Euro Crime. You can read The Doll's review in this post on the Euro Crime blog.

The Doll's eyes are tired and rectangular from her evening TV-viewing as well. She and The Old Man did give up on multinational crime thriller The Team ... and she is beginning to think that the third series of French dirty-politics and PR-villainies series, Spin, has ... spun. But she is happy to see Hinterland back on the screen. It's a Welsh crime series set in almost total darkness and packed with monosyllabic conversations... except for the Welsh bits. Loves the photography though, does the Doll.
Other viewing she has recently enjoyed includes globe-trotting situation comedy Gap Year. And, Oh, how she misses the weekly slot filled with pillage and war, tattooed Danes, prissy Saxons and the muscular, jaw-clenched Uhtred (nee Osbert) of Bebbenburg in The Last Kingdom.

You may ask about The Old Man's obsessions too. But why ask? Didn't you know that in the UK we have a General Election coming up? Shouting at the telly and radio has gone to maximum decibels in this household. Grey Doll joins in and then Dog starts barking.  Then I have to rev up the bike and dream of faraway hills and open roads.