Disney is killing my soul

A new Disney animated blockbuster. Oh joy, oh bliss.

BIG-HERO

Look at this shit. Look at it. I am going to be looking at it for the next four years. I am going to see slight variations of the characters as drawings, referential plot lines, tacky 3D animations (mostly of the big white blobby guy because he’s a bunch of spheres). It’s set in fucking SanFranTokyo or some other animé hell basket. Every little weeaboo student is going to be pumping this crud out for four years as I slowly crawl in a mental corner and die.

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Thankfully just a search for ‘worst anime’.

Because they will come in, and they will say I WANT TO BE A 3D ANIMATOR and MY FAVOURITE FILM IS BY PIXAR and any attempt to wean them off this dream will be met by angry ratemyprofessor feedback and ‘we are not studying enough animation skills’ and ‘why is not every single course at university about how I will work at Pixar someday?’

Because you will never work at Pixar. You will not be listed at the end of a Hollywood animated film any more than you will be president of the fucking united states. And meanwhile the world is a cruel hard place where you might have to get a real job where the fonts on a local government website are the only creative act you get all month. And it is my job to somehow pack you onto the bus and then as soon as the bus is moving tell you that it’s not a choo-choo to dream land.

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likewise

You will have to write essays, you will have to solve problems, you will have to draw people so their heads are in proportion to their bodies. I will give you hell because your story idea is unbelievable, tacky and stupid and no one wants to watch your animé Disney rip off crap. But most of all you are going to have to make somebody believe that you are somehow better than the 90,000 other Arts students that graduate in this tin pot country every damn year. That means you are going to have to become research active dammit – even if it kills you (or me).

I am become Death, destroyer of (animated) worlds.

If I didn’t care it wouldn’t matter. But I actually care about the munchkins, and sometimes when somebody is going the wrong way, well, you just have to take a stand.

And a reminder of places that don’t really care…

Life

I am sorry that the last post caused a few people to write in, as it was just supposed to be an admission of having nothing very interesting to offer. If I have cancer or some shit I will write, ‘I have cancer or some shit’.

There is no mystery. This is a process that everyone knows; of being dragged away from what you should be doing to trivia that others think more important. Let’s have a drinking game; every time I mention something that you’ve experienced, take a swig.

* Your workplace is so pleased that they move you on to some other role in which you have no experience. You now have to find somebody to take over your old role and train them as well as learn the new job.

* It’s a management role. That is, it involves telling people that they can’t have things. Which makes you have to stay ‘on message’ and smile falsely while people get upset at what you are saying. As you place this mask on your face you realise that if you leave it there too long it may never come off.

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* More meetings where people have ‘frank discussions’ that are like a goldfish swimming miserably around a bowl. Actually, just more bloody meetings. They all end up with the power structure of the company being used to break the inevitable deadlock.

* You know what will be expected of you at least 9 months in advance. Like you’re in one of Temple Grandin’s cattle machines.

* You’re required to write professionally about things which you know to be indescribable and intuitive. Like writing 70,000 words about ‘green’ or ‘fun’. This is simultaneously stupid and pretentious. Whenever your blather gets up to speed – you’re interrupted by another meeting.

* Death and Taxes.

* Your addictions, be they heroin or the App Store, become overt. You know that you really don’t need that second chicken for breakfast, that boxed set of Gilligan’s Island DVDs or another red smoking jacket with tassels. Actually it’s not being greedy, but being greedy while being annoyed with yourself for being greedy. The annoyance is the problem. And that you don’t really enjoy these things as much as you thought you would when you were poorer.

* No one is particularly interested to hear about any of this – in fact the closer people are to you, the more likely they just want to tell you about THEIR problems in an endless hysterical tirade. Which makes you realise that no one really wants to hear about YOUR problems and so you just don’t bother.

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That’s enough, let’s turn this into something useful. It requires a lot of luck to do what you want when you want. For every David Byrne touring around the planet making the same minor point for twenty minutes there’s a million others that could swap in without much notice – but they didn’t make it. Wrong room, wrong party. For every Apple or Hewlett Packard there’s a hundred garages in Palo Alto where the inventors ended up sipping from the exhaust pipe. Every break you get you should thank your preferred deity. Or that you weren’t delivered in some era where cupping & leeches were the remedy for everything. Or Angola.

Acknowledging that we’re really not that badly off there’s still some bad deal going down when bright happy and productive youth keep turning into grumpy middle managers. When young you think you’ll never be like that – somehow you’re going to get off the conveyor belt before the bucket at the end. That’s what my students probably think, that I am some kind of caution sign. YOU COULD END UP LIKE THIS.

It was apparently Rev. William Sloane Coffin that said “Even if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.” Coffin was a clergyman that upheld the socialist, tolerant, inclusive credo that ‘Christianity’ is supposed to denote. Champion of the draft dodgers, the gays, the poor. As well as concert pianist, CIA operative, member of the Skull and Bones with Bush Snr. Basically one of those people who could do any damn thing they chose and ended up doing their best by everyone. Coffin excelled at everything and feared no man.

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A few people like that makes up for a lot of what the other hippies have bequeathed our age – the contemporary idea that advertising is a fundamental human relationship.

So what do you do? Quit? Go join a commune and live off turnips? No, political and managerial power will only be held by heartless people if everyone with a heart refuses to engage with it. You will lose some heart but perhaps you will give some to others. And I guess that any prominence earns hatred, so you may as well be go ahead and make the hate worth it. But put a deadline on it, because creativity is just as valuable as politics.

A cut off point. I give this about a year, then I’m scheduling a mid life crisis, complete with motor bike. Sounds fair.

Audio Mouth Breathers

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a new breed of idiot to celebrate.

Recently I become annoyed at people on You Tube that had my music up as soundtracks to a still image. There’s plenty of reasons to despise this:

* If they had made a video to go with the music, they would have added some small thing to the store of art. They didn’t and haven’t.

* They often see themselves as providing something that otherwise would not be heard. 10 seconds with Google would have told them otherwise. Their self promotion allows no such deviation.

* They often describe themselves as some sort of collector. A collector, the way that somebody picks up my garbage. Again they have not actually researched anything, have no idea of what it means and have no inkling that the year 1990 passed some time ago. It’s 2011. You are old and fat and so are The Bangles.

* Like all good Fascists they pretend to speak ‘on my behalf’. Particularly distressing are those academics that promote their redistribution of other people’s work as ‘a gift economy’ – the same that would condemn anyone that spoke on behalf of another person with less power – but then academia and hypocrisy are siblings.

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I could go on. But let’s get to the meat.

I was told by one that he was a connoisseur of vinyl and that he wanted people to hear what the music sounded like on that format. Now, the idea that by streaming audio over the incredibly low bandwidth of YouTube Flash format you were demonstrating the quality of analogue audio is so UTTERLY FUCKING STUPID that I regret my membership of the human race.

Perhaps it’s not clear – let me put it this way – if you said that an original oil painting was better than a print and you prove this by providing a black and white photocopy of the painting then you are as thick as two short planks. No one would for a moment believe a word you said. And yet somehow there are people out there who are commenting on the superior sound they are streaming down from YouTube.

One particular serial retard based an entire critique of my later music on what they had downloaded from YouTube. Well yes, everything I have done recently has a bandwidth of 12KHz. You’re so perceptive.

It’s worth repeating (how many more times?) that everything we recorded since 1985 was recorded digitally. The record labels would make a tape from that and press vinyl and leave me to cry at just how BAD these unnecessary modifications have made the sound. Then when some oaf tells me that the vinyl sounds superior it broadcasts their ignorance. Let alone over YouTube. Ye Gods!

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I have the original recordings. Telling me what it is supposed to sound like makes you a fool. Get it?

Now I am getting some people who complain about how loud CDs can be. It’s on the level of ‘Why is this loud-over-the-top-noise-music loud-and-over-the-top? Why are you making this thumping sound like thumping and this screeching sound like screeching? This is not how it sounds on the vinyl I bought 25 years ago!’ Well no shit Sherlock. When you cut vinyl you have to turn it down. You have remove bass. You have to compress the stereo image. You have to run it through limiters. You end up with something which is called ‘warm’, like a pie that’s been too long on a heating tray. Vinyl sucks and the really loud and crunchy CDs are free of these compromises that I have hated.

Bottom line – if you want to live in the past go ahead. But to try drag it all back to your youth is desperate. Let the rest of us go on ahead, we don’t need you.

BONUS BEATS!

And here it comes … the hate mail!

A depressing number of people of course didn’t actually read what I said and started another chorus of that tired old song about analogue, unicorns and rainbows. Good for you.

One guy decided that I was in no position to call the Bangles (and presumably him) fat. Actually that’s the point dear chap, I’m not the one injecting sonic Botox. The sweet bird of youth is dead on the bottom of the cage, so let’s all be grown ups now. Look in the mirror. I’m near 50 years old, it’s 2011, and 1982 may as well be 1882 for what it matters any more.

I particularly liked an impassioned plea that I respect ‘fans’. You have to ask what a ‘fan’ means? Let’s see:- no idea about what’s been happening for the last 20 years, never buys anything, steals my shit, never contacts me. Oh yeah, right that’s a FAN. With fans like that who needs indifference? Or maybe it’s a case of be kind to these people because they are particular delicate flower who ‘mean well’?

I have a community of people who I DO respect, and they in turn respect me and this is far healthier than the notion of a ‘fan’ – a kind of hostile dependency that should have been taken out back and shot a few decades ago.

The rant is valid, the rant calls out bullshit. I will denounce things that suck.

Whining

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Quite a few people took me to task for that last post. Basically ‘stop being such a big woman’s blouse’. (This puzzled THE WIFE no end. “But you’re not even a woman”. Although she had to admit I was perhaps big.) No – friends and post punk survivors – I spoke on behalf of us all. Is a man not entitled to be photographed in long pants? No, says the man in Washington, the pants belong to the art establishment. Or something like that.

For all of you who said “Fuck You Ellard, I ain’t even got my 15 minutes”, just remember Kandinsky who was a law lecturer until he was 30. You never know you might get your 15  minutes in your 70’s. Just keep on law lecturing and fantasising about the day you are going to quit and be a painter.

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A tort.

In an effort to continue to be a lecturer this week I have been in further training. This basically involves being locked in a dungeon with 20 other lecturers and branded with hot irons for a month. No exaggeration! Well it was kind of like that.

Really we were confined in a room most of the week as if performing jury duty, which I guess was designed to stop us from getting lost or drunk or thinking that we were butterflies dreaming we were lecturers or actually I have no idea why they do that. There were three of us from KUNST KAMP alongside fellows from MILITARY INDUSTRIAL KOMPLEX and various burrows within the DEATH STAR itself. I won’t get too far into the procedures suffice to say it was like a gentler, kinder Scientology meets Stockholm syndrome.

My favourite bit was when I got to sit up the back of a large lecture hall browsing Facebook on a laptop and ignoring the lecturer in a simulation of the average student experience. Damn, I can see why they do that. Except for Facebook. We were asked for our thoughts on engaging the students but my suggestion of a long stock whip was not accepted, so I sulked the rest of the week.

Today I was released and staggered out into the light, clutching my training manual with new scout badge burned into my forehead – a more evolved super lecturer retrofit with bio enhancements – withering disdain for students’ feelings, able to read two PowerPoints through each eye, able to slam rulers at maximum speed on benches – A Living God.

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On the phone about 50 messages from THE WIFE about we’ve run out of toilet paper.

I now have a raging headache. Oh stop your whining!

You people who have worked for large employers are already used to this, you’ve been through performance reviews and retraining and bonding sessions before. Forgive me for being new to it. Think back to the first time your boss shot you with a paint ball and you didn’t know whether it was a good idea to fire back. All I have are old episodes of Bewitched where Larry would invite the boss and wife to dinner and then get turned into a poodle.

Actually earlier this week we had our final year screening of student works. That went well, because I spent the whole night in the projection booth staring at the Blu Ray player daring it it go wrong in some way. My first time at authoring Blu Ray, and that has not been a smooth process so I was anxious. Afterwards the winning students wanted to celebrate and the losing ones to drown their sorrows so we were off to the local for some attitude adjustment. Most of the time I spent with one of my masters who probably can’t remember what he said or even where he was that night. This was really the payoff for the whole damn year, staff and students equally blotto singing the KUNST KAMP anthem and celebrating FINE ARTS in the time honoured tradition. Now THAT isn’t in the training manual – but by god I’ll write it in in biro.

Education: Then and Now.

Then:

  • Teacher: Learn these passages from the Bible by heart.
  • Student: I shall sir, but may I enquire as to the reasoning?
  • Teacher: This is the way it is done by all, and ye shall not quibble upon it.

Now:

  • Teacher: Here is Maya, you’ll be learning that.
  • Student: OK, but why Maya?
  • Teacher: It’s the industry standard.

Don’t be hard on poor teacher, it is the industry standard. But in tonight’s programme we’ll be asking just what makes something the industry standard? Sex? Drugs? Enormous space ships piloted by toads? Or something less obvious?

Industry standard applications are at first glance an ill sorted lot. For every prissy convoluted overly complex video editing tool there’s an almost Neanderthal audio suite. But after some reflection and much alcohol we can start to invent a common thread. As with Shakespeare’s villains we have a noble figure of humanity, troubled by a fatal flaw, which eventually leads to their failure.

Maya.

If you make 3D for a cinema there’s a 90% chance you use Maya. (Unless you’re one of those crazy bastards that uses Houdini because you also like riding your sports bike off a cliff onto a moving trampoline.) Recently Maya was bought by Autodesk because they wanted to lose money on two major applications instead of just Max.Yes, the leading 3D animation tools lose money hand over fist – the ones that actually sell are the ones that professionals would not touch with a stick. Here we can post a rule:

Rule 1: if it’s easy to use and very affordable it can’t be the industry standard.

The quality of Maya can be seen time and time again in the results. A nobleman among programs. But look at the interface:Mayahem

Here we have dynamic menus, pop down menus, pop up menus, radial menus, ‘shelves’, dialogues, and a really really bad case of iconitus. If this was a teenager it’d be ‘edgy’ or just ‘pimply’. Now I have very little experience with Maya so far and I may be yet to understand but either this interface grew over years of tinkering or the person that invented it has florid hebephrenic schizophrenia. Either way it breaks so many usability and educational concepts it needs a specially minted medal.

Pro Tools LE.

It’s been said before – it needs to be said again. There is a moment when you are teaching Pro Tools when you have to explain that if you have an hour long programme to bounce down and it’s due on air in 45 minutes, it’s Game Over. The student looks at you like you are insane, knowing at least 5 other programs that will export that audio in 5 minutes and asks, what is this?

You’ve got two ways you can run this message. Official: Pro Tools HD is hardware based and LE has to fit in with that and besides running the mix through the hardware insures always that what you hear in the mix down is what you get – no surprises. Alternative: That PT needs to pass that signal through that big fat blue dongle called an M box to make damn sure it’s a legit copy of PT. The student looks at you like you’re a tool either way.

When you get to RTAS, they are questioning you again. Yes that’s right, the effects that you use in Pro Tools only work in Pro Tools. Yes, industry standard means no one else in the industry uses them. No I am not a tool, kindly refrain from looking at me like that.

Rule 2: there has to be some convoluted reason why it won’t work with anyone else’s software.

Fortunately, Apple has come up with Audio Units as part of their ‘we are the computing equivalent of North Korea’ strategy. They make Digidesign look good. Speaking of Apple:

Final Cut Pro.

Most common question in any FCP class: why do we use this when every single other application we use is by Adobe? I have Premiere, why can’t I use that? Can I do this at home on Premiere instead? I tried barking at them but recently a stony silence showing lots of teeth seems to work best.

No kids, you have to pretend that the Pr isn’t next to Ae and Ps in the dock. Final Cut is the industry standard, and it’s much to do with a fight between Apple and Adobe over Intel versions that by a process of attrition let Henny Penny reach the top of the coop. Besides Final Cut is fun to use – it comes with games! Adventure game: move your mouse slowly over the interface looking for hidden features! Puzzle game: using the resize bar at the bottom of the timeline, puzzle out which way the timeline is going to zoom. Gambling game: which way will the fields in your PAL video export flip this time? Wish it came with a shoot ’em up.

Rule 3: Overcoming arbitrary behaviour of industry standard tools provides teaching businesses with income.

Actually if you just want to edit video efficiently use Vegas.

Photoshop.

Ps is the good guy. The prince charming. If you ever grumble about photoshop then you need to be forced to use an alternative for a few days. That will learn you. If you are very bad we’ll make it The Gimp.

Quark.

Actually this is a cautionary tale. When I was a layout grunt, there was Quark. That was it. When Adobe first brought out Indesign, there was good natured shaking of heads. Everybody used Quark. The printers used Quark. What would you do with Indesign? There would be nowhere to get the damn thing printed! Just as I was ‘being made redundant’, a job came in from somewhere in Asia. An Indesign file. My job was to remake the whole thing in Quark, but we had to get Indesign to open it. It was a bit like Illustrator so that was alright, but no one more senior was going to touch the filthy thing.

Rule 4: Industry standards can change mighty fast.