Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What does Disability look like to you?

Here's another thing gewgaw from the recent catalogues…

Yooralla hosted a design comp asking for design based on the concept "What does disability look like".

My thought was: If you were disabled, who would you look up to as a role model, someone who hasn't been hindered by their disability, but instead has used it to their advantage?

The answer: A pirate. Sure, there are some negative connotations, what with the death and the dismemberment and the cursed Aztec gold, but pirates are still in vogue at the moment, and with Pirates of the Caribbean 4 currently in production, they probably will be for a few years more.

And surely someone who is feeling marginalised by society from being disabled would feel a kinship with someone who skirts around the edges of society with finesse and zeal.

Zeal! There's a word I never get to use enough! Say it with me: "Zzzzzzzzeal!"

Long story short, I didn't win. I got beaten by "Bufferman", amongst others.

Superheroes beat pirates. Who knew?

Disabilities with Attitude: Now available from Redbubble.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Video = Nasty

I think I need to come to the conclusion that my skills only lie in certain areas.

For example, I think I am a pretty good writer, not that I have ever made a living out of it. I have a lot of respect for anyone who can make a living out of something like writing, whether it's fiction or non-fiction, for magazines, newspapers, online or books. It takes a lot of self-belief and commitment to write for a living. Procrastination rears its ugly head in so many weird and wonderful ways when you're trying to disgorge that particular phrase or spark of an idea around which your piece revolves. And the chance of writing waffly shit is also high.
Currently, I am writing two books, and by writing two books, I mean "thinking and rethinking points of conjecture over and over in my head before getting a single line down". One is a complex mystery story, the other is a balls-out kids adventure novel. One is very involved and requires a lot of forward planning, the other just needs to be fully plotted before I get into the actual act of writing.
My biggest dilemma is deciding which one I should work on first. Once I can decide that, I'm sure the writing will just happen...

I can wrestle Photoshop to the ground and give it a nipple cripple.
But I'm not that great at taking photographs. Sure, I can shoot the shit out of a booklet on a white surface for the company portfolio, but when it comes to taken photos of life and real people and events, I always end up with the most candid of candid photos. Not the candid shot that you look at and think, "Gee, I really like how he's captured that moment where she's just let her guard down that little bit, imbuing the image with depth and quality." more like, "Did the subject matter just step out of frame?"

I can write songs, but I can't play instruments. I have basic guitar down, and can play basic bass (which is like basic guitar, only deeper. And with a bigger penis.) and I can tap out a rhythm on drums. But without a group of talented musicians to actually reproduce what's in my head, I'm reduced to mostly Bobby McFerrin-style body percussion and over-dubbing vocal strands. Like this.

But one talent I don't have is video production. It's just not my thing. I do not have the diligence to be anal about little things like lighting and sound, which apparently are the sort of things you need to care about when you're making videos.

Take, for example, the video above. This was an entry in the "Live and Love" Herpes Awareness Competition, where you needed to produce a 30 second "short movie" about herpes. Firstly, my movie was an ad, it wasn't a narrative, so I'd lose points for that. Secondly, the sound is awful, absolutely dreadful. Thirdly, frankly, it looks shite. And no matter what competition says it's all about the idea and not the production values, a shite-looking entry ain't gonna win.

So why did I enter it, looking and sounding and being so half-assed? Well, it took me so long to get to that point, I had just about lost interest in the project, and in the end, I just wanted to get it completed so I had something, anything, to show for the hours I'd spent trying to get a "green screen" setup in my lounge room to work, or drawing out and animating a bunch of figures.

Prior to the Herpes competition, I'd also entered the Doritos Make-An-Ad comp, making two ads that I thought were fun, funny and sellable.

The first was a two-hander called "Love. Doritos.", starring the beautiful Stephanie:

I liked how this turned out, but the production values are still woefully low. The sound recording quality is pitiful, which means that some of the dialogue is almost garbled, and I think most of the shots are slightly out of focus. But all up, I liked the ad, and I'd like to think that, reshot with actors and money, it would be funny on TV.

Once I'd entered that ad, I decided to have another go at something else.

"Serving Suggestions"

OK, maybe not the most original concept ever, but I'd like to think the jokes and execution gave it a bit of a twist, and as a polished ad, I think it would retain the interest of the viewer for longer than the usual 2 second scan that most people give an ad, and would offer repeatability (How many of the suggestions can you remember?) It took two nights to shoot and another two nights to edit and add music (which fortunately was my own, so that was a bonus - another example of simple percussion and vocal layering).

Once again, I liked the final product, and I think the production quality of this beats the other two easily, mainly due to the audio, but I also think the editing plays a part: it's tight, well-timed and fluid.

When it comes down to it, maybe I should stick to getting my concepts down on paper and leave the production side of things to professionals. After all, everybody has their thing, be it writing or lighting or audio or really good make-up (or plumbing or baking or juggling - the list goes on, but I'm trying to stay on-theme here), and they deserve to let their light shine.

So maybe next time, I'll ask for help.
And maybe we'll produce something a lot less crappy looking. Something that dazzles with its wit, power, panache, structure and beautiful cinematography. And great sound recording.
And next time, it will win, because let's face it, everybody wants some recognition for their hard work. And cash. Cash is also nice.

Next time winning will be my thing.

Street Bingo

Riding through the 'burbs on my way to work this morning, I rode past an Elvis impersonator walking down the street.

At least, I think it was an impersonator...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Unless I'm eating a banana,
I don't like the smell of bananas.

That is all.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Muppets 1, Wiggles 0

We've taken to negotiating with our three year old, or possibly she's taken to negotiating with us, it's never clear who's got the upper hand on these deals. It usually has something to do with bedtime. She's generally pretty good with most things, but bedtime must be fought with every fibre of her being, until, through sheer exhaustion, she collapses within close proximity of her bed. We then take off our cricket pads and hockey masks and resume our evening of entertainment. It's like milking a cobra in Wiggles pyjamas.
In the lead-up to her third birthday, our biggest carrot has been Wiggles World. We had a holiday booked to go to the Gold Coast to see relatives and celebrate her birthday, with the idea of taking her to see The Wiggles at Dreamworld. For several months, we bartered her good will in return for a trip to see her childhood stars.
So, finally we get to Queensland and with various family members in tow, we get to Dreamworld, spend an hour waiting outside just to get in the front door, and finally arrive at Wiggles World.


I've seen my fair share of theme parks. A lot of Disney, a few Universal, a couple of others. On the whole, it's been a pleasant experience, and for the most part I've applauded people's efforts. But I gotta say, Wiggles World sucked a little bit of ass.

OK, to be fair, I am not the primary target audience, although for the primary target audience to get to Wiggles World, they're gonna need a couple of us non-primary target audience. But even our very own primary target audient wasn't that impressed by Wiggles World.

Let me break it down: Wiggles World had one dark ride (indoor carriage ride), one teacup ride, two play areas (indoor and outdoor) and a cafe.

So once you'd ridden the dark ride and taken a spin on the teacups, it was up to you to make your own fun.

There was the character greet area as well, but I didn't actually see any characters in the time we were there.

After one aborted start on the teacups, I took/tricked/coerced/forced 3yo to go on the Big Red Car ride, the solitary dark ride in this themed world. It was a 50 minute wait (on a low-average crowd day) in a moderately themed space, a Wiggles video playing on a screen, brightly painted facades and fences. We watched as Big Red Cars crawled out of the ride, disgorged their passengers, picked up more and disappeared back into Wiggle House. We worked out that they had three cars on rotation, which didn't seem that many, considering we were still waiting after 50 minutes, but in retrospect, they probably needed to keep the lines full to soak up some of the visitor's time so they didn't stumble into and out of the ride in five minutes and then realised that there was nothing to do for the next four hours.

Finally, we boarded our Big Red Car and set off on our tour of Wiggle House.


I don't want to spoil the ride for anyone who hasn't ridden it and has not yet had the pleasure, but frankly, there's nothing to spoil.

The ride goes like this: Upon entering the ride, a wiggle on a TV screen (wow, just like at home!) tells you to sing along with the songs as you travel through Wiggle House. OK.
So we enter the Wiggly Kitchen, where a wiggle on a TV screen (just like at home!) tells you to sing "Hot Potato".
Then we enter the Wiggly Lounge room, where a wiggle on a TV screen (just like at home!) tells you to sing "Wake Up Jeff".
Then we enter the Wiggle Somewhere, where a wiggle on a TV screen (EVERYBODY!: "Just like at home!") tells you to sing "Wags the Dog".
Then we enter - I don't know, the bathroom? - and a wiggle on a TV screen (Everybody scull!) tells you to sing a song with Henry.
Then we enter the Wiggly Garden and a wiggle on a TV screen (…. I give up) tells you to sing along with Dorothy. And takes your picture.
Then we get out.

So, to recap, you go all the way to Queensland, then Dreamworld, and line up for another 50 minutes JUST TO SEE A WIGGLE ON A TV SCREEN.

Unless you live in Queensland, then your trip is a little shorter, but with the same crappy destination.

Don't take my word for it: upon exiting the building, my three-year-old's response was a forlorn and somewhat confused, "I want to do something else now…"

Frankly, I was disappointed almost to the point of anger. I mean this is something we had been offering as an ultimate prize for good behaviour, and after that I felt like we'd been leading her on.

A couple of rubbish moving props don't cut it in this day and age, and not even having the Wiggle characters existing in the space is terrible form. They've got authorised cartoon forms that could have been incorporated into the scenes. The humour and wackiness of Wiggle House from televised adventures has been replaced by an empty, sterile third-generation copy. As my 3yo sat stony-faced in the Wiggles Kitchen, I couldn't help but think "Are there props not working? Should something else be happening that we're missing? What 3yo would enjoy this?". I was waiting for characters to make appearance from the fridge or outside a window, but instead all we got was a scene reminiscent of the scene from "The Sixth Sense" where all the kitchen cupboards are abruptly yanked open.

We did finally get her onto the teacups, which she enjoyed, but the fun she got from her day at Dreamworld came from other areas of the park, mainly the Nickelodeon Central section, with its broad range of character-themed rides for smaller children. We finished the day in much higher spirits than we started, because eventually we got to enjoy the kind of thrills and enjoyment that were offered by the promotions for Wiggles World. We just had to leave Wiggles World to get them.

Wiggles World looks like it's been shoe-horned into a small area of unused space between existing lands. I have no idea what proceeded it. If that is the reason for the lacklustre range of attractions, I must say, "Why build it there? Why not use a large plot of land on the outside of the existing park?" They did it for Whitewater World. There's no reason they could have expanded out and allowed Wiggles World to expand in size and quality, with the opportunity for further growth in the future.

Even with the space available, much more could have been done. There was plenty of walking room amongst all the attractions, and space taken up by just a play area or just a cafe could have been used much more extensively. The land itself was on a gradual slope, so there was an opportunity to incorporate multi-storey, multi-use buildings without causing issues with disabled access.

Luckily, we were fortunate enough to get to Seaworld on one of our last days in Queensland, which is the home of Sesame Street Beach, which contains about six rides, a live performance theatre, characters to meet and greet and a water-spray play area for kids on hot days. And probably a food shop. Not sure.

3yo had a fantastic day at Sesame Street Beach. She rode most of the rides, watched a lively show with many of her favourite muppets, and got to meet Elmo, Zoe, Ernie and Bert personally.

Since coming back from Queensland, she still often talks about going back to see Ernie and Bert.
Wiggles World don't even rate a mention.

one - zip to the muppets.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pirates of the Caribbean get shirty.

I had a ridiculously positive response to the Haunted Mansion shirts I loaded to redbubble.

One buyer commented: "I bought this shirt and love it. As a die hard Haunted Mansion fan it was perfect for me and their’s really nothing else like it on the market. You should consider more Disney themed shirts because they will definitely sell. Thanks again and keep up the good work."

Which made me think: he's right. While the Haunted Mansion would have to be one of my favourite ridesof all time, there are others that I enjoy as well: Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye rocks mightily, The Jungle Cruise has a certain classic chic about it, Peter Pan has magical ships and the Tower of Terror has the classiest entrance and queue area.

But in terms of disney classics, there's really only one name: Pirates of the Caribbean.

Before there were the movies, the ride was already legendary, and like the Haunted Mansion,it has a slew of catchphrases and set pieces, some of which turn up in the movies for the eagle-eyed viewer.

So I decided to branch out from the Mansion and try out a little Pirates design.

With earlier version of the design, I had tried to shoe-horn a pirate ship or skull and cross bones motif, but it just wasn't working for me, so instead, I used the lines from the theme song of the ride as points of interest.

I like it so much, I bought one myself.

If you're a Pirates fan, go get it, and for a limited time (possibly up to Christmas 2010?), you can get 15% off by quoting The Code...
The 15% discount code is: actualchad_is_on_sale_8079

And if you're not a fan, well the code works for any other designs I have on redbubble as well. That can't be all bad, can it?

Dead Balloon Lips