Monthly Archives: March 2010

Strong Opinions from In Touch Weekly

Our bathroom reminds me of a doctors’ office. Not in any full-of-toys kinky way, but because there are stacks of long since out of date — many over a year old — celebrity gossip magazines like Us and In Touch Weekly. The latter is what this image (perhaps blogged by others in 2008) comes from, and all I have to say to this author is that yes, I whole-heartedly agree — Broadway shows are shit.


Supergun Animation

Yet another addition for my Pencil animation demo reel. This is my fourth animation so far, and each time so far I’ve tried to include a new technique, idea, or method. In this video I split the action up into layers so that I only had to redraw elements that were actively changing. This meant there was no “jittering” of parts of the cartoon that should stay still, and that there was less work for me. In this animation there were four layers; the gun barrel (which is animated — the “bulge” — only for the first handful of frames), the nozzles and background (this stays the same throughout the animation), the flame (the most active of course), and a final overlay frame that I sketched motion paths and other reference lines onto as I needed this. This last frame was not included in the final output.

Have I mentioned how much fun this is?

Caitlin says it’s actually the “super hose, with a tube of toothpaste.”

On my screen/browser the animation is cropped very slightly (the left part of the border — no big deal and irrelevant other than aesthetically), so if that bothers you and you’d rather see it full-screen, or if the embedded animation doesn’t work for you, here’s a direct link.

Blood and Wheeeeeeeee!

[Prescript: Check out the crazy paintings Caitlin found].

Today’s bloodwork — just two vials today — was to confirm or rule our Becker’s Muscular Dystrophy, one of the forms that they think I could have (and there are many more possibilities; this one is just a common one so it’s high in the testing queue) — and they seem quite certain that the diagnosis is going to be some form of dystrophy, but they’re not sure yet what sort. It’s also unusual I think for someone to have significant pain issues from MD like I do, but I’m thinking that could be because of the overlap of the CRPS that was caused by the nerve damage after my bone growth surgery. One “interesting” side effect of the nerve damage is that scattered across my leg are “Dim Mak” pressure points, that if they’re touched in a specific way send disturbing electrical shocks through treelike pathways in the leg — presumably the damaged nerve bundle lights up its entire sensor grid — and that sensation sustains for as long as pressure is kept on the point (and then it instantly, like a switch, disappears when the pressure is released — and can be turned back on just as quickly, ad infinitum).


Today I also got the results back from my CT scan — if you recall the photos, you’re probably as surprised as I am to find out that they could see meaningful information in them given what seems to me to be a limited amount of detail. The doctor tells me that in the specific muscles that I’m complaining about he can see that the muscle is breaking down and not rebuilding, but instead being replaced with fatty tissue. I suppose this may explain why when I fall over, it doesn’t really feel like my legs are weak — it feels more like they’re just not there, like they’re replaced with jello… The fall comes as a complete surprise to me, so I think my brain believes that it’s doing everything right, sending the “flex” command just like it should, but because it’s sending the signal to a bunch of zero-strength non-muscle cells, nothing ends up happening and this comes as a surprise to the brain which doesn’t understand why there’s a malfunction. I don’t know though if that relates to reality any more than a witch-doctor’s explanation, but that’s a glimpse into the experience anyway.

Here — below on the swing — is the happy face that gets me through the day, along with Caitlin — and without those two, I would have checked out some time ago. Together they make me treasure the time I have, and give me the desire to gather any waning strength into bundles that I can give them, that we can share. Talking to Saira and talking to my father, do the same, and my family and my extended family of friends, online and off, help a lot as well. I don’t think it’s that everyone helps me through the dark and difficult times (not that help in these times isn’t massively appreciated), no, it’s that they make the good moments even more good, and I think that’s the way I need to look at my life — the many good moments that I have had, and continue to have. Anyway, enough of what I don’t mean to sound whiny especially when I’m saying that I don’t want to dwell on the negative — as I’ve said over and over I love my life, the people in it, and am very grateful to fate for all its gifts.


I was going to do some editing of book text today, but I’m just way too tired (writing this entry was exhausting!) so I think I’ll do some drawing instead… The funny thing is that the reason I’m tired is that I stayed up late drawing, so I worry that I will now go and start a drawing project, and it will again coerce me into staying up late to finish it, and then… well, the whole thing starts over again and the book editing falls further and further behind as my stack of animation test reels grows. Sneaky. I will do my best to shut off my computer, curl up on the couch with Caitlin for Survivor, and then crawl up the stairs to the loft for bed.

Wish me luck!


Nefarious and I made a new Pencil video that I think turned out well and as always, I had a ton of fun creating it. The headless effect was super easy to create. I did it by filming the whole thing on a tripod, so the background was steady, and then making sure that I had at least one shot at the end that she wasn’t in. Then when I created the animation, as well as having layers for the sparks and text, I created two layers from the camera, one of the motion image, and one of the empty background right behind it. Then I just used the eraser tool as needed — so yeah, ultra simple, but really fun. Unfortunately it was a cloudy day, so the lighting changed very slightly (over the roughly ten second length… I wasn’t expecting that!) and you can see a slight difference in the light levels which manifests as the cut-out being visible. Oops! It could be manually fixed or re-shot on a clear-skied day (or indoors), but by the time I noticed I was half done and didn’t feel like doing any more work.

But this was maybe the most fun one yet to do. I really cut elements fairly short and would have loved to spend more frames — and more time — to the themes explored, especially the opening scene before the head disappears and it’s glowing blue, and the end when the green death ray is firing. Totally fun.

And oops! Caitlin just pointed out that I forget to deal with the shadow, which has a head! So with that and the halo problem, maybe I shouldn’t boast that it turned out well, but I stand by how fun it was.

A couple stories and a new video

I recently watched a great documentary on philosophy called Examined Life in which Peter Singer tells a sort of a koan that I thought was very much worth thinking about. He asks you to imagine that you’re crossing a bridge over a small pond, and that as you do so, you see that a small child has fallen in and appears to be drowning. You look around and you don’t see his parents or anyone else to save him, but the water isn’t very deep so you could save the child without any risk to yourself. However, you are wearing very expensive shoes and they will almost certainly be ruined (and isn’t time to take them off).

Most people, Singer says, would choose to save the child rather than the shoes when faced with this immediate and first-hand problem. But then he asks, if you’re willing to do that, why buy the shoes in the first place when an equivalent donation to numerous organizations would save the lives of multiple children? I don’t have a good answer.

I also watched a documentary recently called Why Do Dogs Smile and Chimpanzees Cry (a 1999 classic that won an Emmy so you may have seen it) that was very emotionally moving — although I have to admit that there’s any debate over whether animals are emotional creatures… It just seems so obvious to me that they are. That said, there’s strong evidence for emotion in octopi and other animals where I was in the past assuming a more “mechanical” brain.

Anyway, they were discussing emotional problems in animals, and had a segment about the rescue dogs dealing with the Oklahoma bombing. After a while it became clear that they were not going to be finding any more survivors, and it was just dead bodies. The dogs were trained for this, and when they found the corpses they got their rewards and congratulations, but it was taking a toll on them — they were becoming very depressed, “clinically depressed”, and started not wanting to do the job any more. To help the dogs cope, at the end of the day, the teams would stage a successful find, where one of the humans would hide in the rubble pretending to be a victim, and give the dogs a turn finding someone that was actually alive. This seemed to cheer them up and give them hope that what they were doing was worthwhile, and they perked up and were willing to continue the difficult job.

Anyway, I did another quick animation test, as you can see above, this time at 30fps. I figured out a much faster and more effective way of importing and exporting video from Pencil, and did this super quick and dirty rotoscoping test — my third animation so far. All of this playing with the software is giving me a lot of ideas and some time I really want to tackle a music video. That said, I really should put the drawing tablet aside for a while and do some real work on the keyboard instead!