Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Tuesday, 28 July 2009
Monday, 27 July 2009
Monday, 20 July 2009
Happy 40th Anniversary, Moon Landing!
1972 was the last time Man planted his great space-wellington on the lunar surface, and since that time the Moon's been waiting for us to call back. Seriously, it's like we went on a few dates with the Moon (6 in all), told it we were going to call it back soon and then never did. In effect, we dumped the Moon.
Amid the celebrations of Man's Greatest Achievement, the question of when, or if at all, Man will go back to the Moon has rumbled around, provoking the same old arguments that it always does when 'space exploration' is mentioned. People claim its too expensive, too environmentally damaging, and that the billions it would cost could be better spent on education and fighting poverty. Well those people can shut up and sit back down. You see, we need to go back there and then we need to go further, to Mars and beyond, regardless of the cost, because it's what the Human race does. We explore. We went from the cave and saw the horizon and wondered what was beyond it, and we've been wondering what's over the next horizon ever since. As Sam Seaborn says in 'The West Wing', "The history of Humanity is hung on a timeline of exploration". Take that away and we just begin to stagnate. I think we've been stagnating for too long. We've come a long way for a bunch of monkeys and we need to keep going. Money is not an excuse to stop. Planet Earth needs an ego boost - a reminder that the human race is not just about a life of bills and beer and swine flu and recycling, and the constant self-flagellationary thinking that every move we make is hurting the planet or wasting time or money. For too long all the wars and climate change and poverty have made us think we're failing and that we should be ashamed of ourselves. Everything on the news makes us feel like we should be ashamed of ourselves. I think we need to be reminded what a brilliant little species we can be when we really put our minds to it, and I think we need to have some hope that Humanity isn't atrophying, but rather progessing and actually working to shape it's own future and doing things it can be proud of. Travelling to the Moon or Mars, not just orbiting Earth in a giant International Tin Can, is the way to remind us of all that we do best. So what if it's expensive? You can't put a price on exploration. Heck, they can have a couple of hundred off me if they really need it that badly. It'd all be worth it just to see that great space-wellington stand on the Martian surface. Or maybe, just maybe, we could use it to have that 7th date with the Moon...
So, this has turned from a funny little cartoon to an article on the boundless exploration of the human race. And if you ever needed a speech that would persuade you to go back to the Moon, this is it. The one that started it all off in the first place. JFK's 'We Choose to Go to the Moon' speech is one of the finest pieces of oratory in all of history and it's well worth a listen. It sends shivers up my back every time I hear it.
Right, now if you'll excuse me I'm off to buy my space-suit and a crate of freeze-dried ice cream.
Friday, 17 July 2009
Operation: Feisty Feline! (or, How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Inspiration of the Pub)
As you can see, it's attacking the early 1950s. Well, it was a simpler time.
Now if only we had several billion dollars and some engineering/ mad-science/ world domination degrees we could stand a chance of building this crazy contraption. Also, if we knew how to send it back in time that might help too. And, as it's ideally made out of solid 24k gold it'd be nice if we could lay our hands on some of that.
Okay, the fact it's completely fictional and nigh-on unbuildable (despite what some may say!) is beside the point. The point is that which I mentioned in the very first sentence: the pub is the place where mad ideas are born and nourished. And the world would be a far far sadder place without the whimsy, hilarity and craziness that a kindly environment and a few drinks provide. Whether you're creating a story, cartoon, play, TV show or enormous waving cat weapon, the company of good friends and some delicious liquor will always provide you with inspiration.
So go, grab some mates, find your nearest pub, and let the crazy ideas commence!
Thursday, 16 July 2009
What's going on this week? Well I want to know your 'DeLorean Moment', contemplate the worst ending in modern fiction, attempt to resurrect a word, talk about the memory of clothing, and of course there's the obligatory hatred of a certain pop 'star' masquerading as a member of the aristocracy. It's all rather interactive this week actually - give me your opinions on random things. Voice your randomness: it's your human right!
1. Your DeLorean Moment: Is there any moment more bittersweet than reaching the end of a book you've really enjoyed? The knowledge that you've finished something you've really enjoyed coupled with the knowledge that you've reached the end of an unrepeatable experience (at least emotionally). For reasons you may be able to work out, I call this the DeLorean Moment: the fact that no matter how many times you go back and read that book and re-read it you will never ever experience it the way you did the first time because it can no longer have that initial impact and surprise and spontaneity. You already know what's coming. It's just like getting in a time machine and going back to your surprise birthday party - it won't be a surprise anymore. And it's not just an effect thats left to books. It happens to us with films and TV and any medium of entertainment that provides us with that unrepeatable first feeling, that DeLorean Moment. And it doesn't have to be the entrie thing - it can just be snapshots or short scenes: the first time you found out Darth Vader was Luke's father, or the moment the shower curtain is ripped back in Psycho, or (and this is one of my favourites) that moment in 'There Will Be Blood' when Daniel Day-Lewis bellows 'DRAAAAAIIINAGE!'. No matter how often you watch them you can only remember that all important initial gut-to-brain-to-gut feeling you had when you first saw/experienced them. The rest is just memory feedback and your brain trying to find something new in it all.
So what's your DeLorean Moment? What book or film or show were you both happy and sad to part with and why?
2. The Worst Ending in Modern Fiction?: Regular readers and people who know/put up with me are all too aware that I've been reading 'Goldfinger', and the only reason I've been banging on about this book is because it keeps confounding my expectations. Firstly it was how different book Bond was to film Bond, then it was how the story features a lot of drinking and not much killing. But that's all fine. I'm fine with that. What I'm not fine with is how Fleming builds up a taught and interesting spy story over 200 pages and then, in the final three chapters, manages to blow all that out the aircraft window. WARNING! BOOK SPOILERS BELOW!
So, Goldfinger plots to kill all 60,000 citizens of Fort Knox with a water-borne poisons so he can steal the gold without fuss. Fiendishly clever and the kind of plot you'd expect from a megalomaniac. However, Bond foils this plan by affixing a message to Felix Leiter on a aeroplane toilet seat (yep, you read that right). As Goldfinger's train rumbles into Fort Knox it seems Bond has failed. Thousands of citizens lay dead - in overturned cars, laying next to crying babies (they drank milk y'see) and spralwed over still-running lawnmowers. All the soldiers at Fort Knox are dead too. Only, wait a minute, they're not! The soldiers spring up and ambush Goldfinger's mob, and it turns out they and all the 60,000 people in the town were just pretending to be dead. 60,000 people. Just pretending. A whole town had been briefed to play dead, as though a bunch of hungry bears were arriving. Now just think about that - organising that many people to play dead and do it effectively. Isn't that just a bit...ohh, what's the phrase...oh yeah, fucking unlikely? Especially after the gritty realism that has preceded it the ending is the biggest cop-out in literary history and completely ruins the book. Completely ruins it. It makes Bond seducing and turning the lesbian Pussy Galore seem positively likely. I mean, what if one of the townspeople had sneezed or farted or got an itch? Or is Fort Knox inhabited by a troupe of improvisational actors? Really, the ending is implausible, lousy, and outrageously unsuited to any book, not just Goldfinger. Mr. Fleming, I want my time and money back. I feel cheated.
So that's a shame, as it was turning into one of my favourite books. Fleming's style isn't for everyone but the story was neat and often featured some really nice description. I'm not the only one who thinks the ending ruins the book - talking to friends and fellow readers they agree. They all felt cheated at the laughably implausible end. It's certainly the worst ending to a book I've ever read. If you've also read it do you agree? Or is there a book out there with an even worse ending?
3. Word resurrection: While reading a book all about language the other day I came across a word that is - according to the author - so rarely used it has practically fallen out of the dictionary: Velleity. Sounds lovely, doesn't it? Like a fairy's name or something. But what's even better is what it means: a mild desire - a wish or urge that's just not quite strong enough to lead to action. Now isn't that just brilliant? I'm going to use that word more often becasue it's pretty and has a great meaning. It deserves to be used more often. After all, how often have we thought about doing something but never done it? That's velleity right there. Now my new favourite word. I want it to be brought back into common usage so go out there and spread it around! Use it in daily conversation, text messages, love letters, Scrabble, everywhere. We can resurrect it!
4. Lady Gaga: Don't you dare ever dirty the word 'velleity' by using it in one of your songs madam.
5. Clothes Horse: Writers out there! Need inspiration? Look to your clothes. Take a look at what you're wearing or rifle through your wardrobe and pick out your favourite/least favourite piece of clothing. Our clothes tell stories, whether it's the shirt you were wearing when you lost the love of your life, the stitched-up tear in your jumper you got from falling over while running for the bus, or the trainers you had on when you went walking and met that crazy old guy who told you a great story about a fish. Me, I have a suit of sorrows, a trilby hat of laughter and a t-shirt of sweet bitterness, because they all have stories attached to them. Our clothes often remind us of times and events we had forgotten about. They can tell stories by the way they smell or by the marks they've incurred or the way they've been worn out, and they remind us of whatever the hell was going on when we were wearing them. And we can use those memories or details in our writing. It's actually a pretty good way to get a bit of inspiration and clean out your closet if necessary. Give it a go sometime. And if you have an item of clothing that has a story to go with it then don't be shy, share it with the group!
Well that's all for this week folks. Tune in same Bat-time, same Bat-channel, for more Bat-shit crazy randomness.
Wednesday, 8 July 2009
In her latest blog post Cass talks about writing spaces. Take a look at it. It's a very nice piece with a lot of photos you can snoop at. In answer to her article, here's where I come up with all my crazy ideas...
Actually there are currently more bottles and graphic novels on it than in this pic, as I'm doing some research for an upcoming cartoon, but usually it's incredibly neat. All the arty cartoony equipment is stored away out o' sight as I'm not a fan of clutter on a desk. I can't work in untidiness. Keep it neat! On the right is my faithful bamboo plant, Bambooey, who I think is coming to the end of his life after six long years of service. That chair I sit on is the oldest, most fall-apart piece of crap ever to have been flung out of the 1960's, and in hot weather it starts to smell powerfully of industrial solvents and glue, but it is so unbelievably comfortable that I can't throw it away. It's comfiness is umparalleled. I've never sat in a more welcoming chair. Underneath the upholstery is a shockingly awful green colour, so I threw a blanket over it and now it doesn't offend the eye. There are actually a lot more pictures and mementos and weird but interesting items around the room than the picture would seem to show. I like having lots of stuff around to play with while I think. Usually though it's a rubber ball that I bounce off the wall. All writers and creators should get a rubber ball to bounce. Really helps you think.
The most important thing in that shot is The Board, just peeking above my monitor. Let's take a closer look...
The Board is where I keep all the best postcards, cards and notes I get given, as well as reminders and the odd new drawing. It's always changing (although I never throw away anything thats been on it) although there are a few postcards and things that never get moved from it. Currently its highlights include a donkey postcard, two highland cow postcards, a postcard I got in Biarritz (you can tell I love postcards) a lovely drawing of a heart, a few 'Too Close For Comfort' scribbles, and a picture of Two-Face I drew that is so scary I love it. Everyone should have a Board like this - it's a great way to keep mementos, helps enliven your desk, and can give you a bit of inspiration when it comes to creating a story or cartoon. Go buy yourself a board now!
So that's my desk. I hope you liked it. I think Ikea still have a few in stock.
Posted by Rob Smedley at 17:14
It's the Kobayashi Maru Test of Sanity and you're in the Captain's chair. Lock photon torpedoes and fire 'cause it's Rob's Random...4?!?
Random thought number 5 is on holiday for a week, so it's just the 4 thoughts: Oliver Reed with a license to kill, the haunting annoyance of humidity, disasters set to 70s music, and I try to be funny. What a week! Oh, and fifty extra Random Points to you if you know what the Kobayashi Maru test is.
1. Humidity: Ma Nature was either drunk or on a dare when she created humidity. Or maybe she was trying to please indecisive people who like heat and damp and just can't pick. Humidity has to be the worst weather. It makes you feel sticky and lethargic, you can't sleep at night, your clothes stick to you, your hair goes crazy, and you begin to think dying of hypothermia would be a treat. And besides the discomfort it causes, humidity is the least interesting weather condition to write about. Look at it this way: almost every weather condition has a literary tether - fog is used to emphasise mystery, thunder and lightning are used to add drama, rain is used as a revealing agent to wash away secrets or to cleanse new, wind signifies change and momentum, while sun reflects happiness and desire. I'm not making this up; these are actual bona fide literary devices. All of them have appeared in books, especially the classics. Think of the fog in 'Bleak House' or the thunderstorm in 'King Lear' and see how they each add to the story. They're vital to the heartbeat and drama of a tale. But humidity is practically never used because it's so painfully dull. The only piece of fiction I can think of it appearing in is 'A Streetcar Named Desire', and all it does there is provoke lots of hot baths and a couple of arguments (the rape doesn't count - that's Stanley's fault. You can't blame sexual assaults on the amount of moisture in the atmosphere) See? Humidity is boring. Sticky and boring, like some kind of poor-quality jam. Or Lady Gaga drowning in a vat of treacle. And believe me, you'll wish she would after seeing this story about her.
2. Stand-up and be counted: A few weeks ago Chris suggested I should try my hand at some stand-up comedy. I have to say it's something I've never considered - making jokes in a conversation and making jokes in cartoons are a world away from telling jokes to a crowd expecting you to be funny - but the fact that someone thinks I'd be good at it made me actually start to think about giving it a go, just to see if I could. And after a bit of thinking I've decided I'm game for a go. I've been on stage and spoken in front of crowds on lots of occasions so that doesn't worry me, and I'm certainly not worried about embarrasing myself (heck, I tend to make a habit of it on a daily basis). It's not as if I'm trying to make a career out of it or anything so I have nothing to lose. Plus, my ability to blabber on about even weird or insignificant things will be put to good use. All I need now are a few good jokes and an open mic night. Watch this space.
3. Disasteriffic!:Had a depressing week? Me too. Let's watch this together to cheer ourselves up.
That was fun. And just a little bit mad. Brilliant.
4. James Bun: I've mentioned Bond's drinking habits before but now I'm starting to get worried. James Bond eats and drinks an awful lot in the novel Goldfinger; to such an extent that where I had an image of a lean Sean Connery type running around firing guns at explosions, driving fast cars into explosions and making love to impossibly beautiful women while stuff is exploding, all I can picture now is a paunchy middle-aged man, waddling drunkenly around the city streets sweating profusely as he contemplates his next meal and the prospect of driving home drunk in a car worth more than his house. And the only thing in danger of exploding in that scenario is his belt buckle. Seriously, the man just polished off a bottle of bourbon while captured by Goldfinger - you can't expect him to do anything vaguely 'Bond' with that much liquor sloshing around in his belly (and frankly I'm surprised Q hasn't packed some antacids in a secret compartment in his shoe or something). In fact, throughout the whole book he just comes across as a real liquored-up bastard who loves a good meal. Would you leave the fate of the world to a man who makes Oliver Reed look sober? I think not.
Sunday, 5 July 2009
Right, some explanation. Earlier, on her blog, Cass talked about the state of Idaho, it's potato-related fame, and resulting 'raunchy potato jokes'. I was intrigued (well, would I be anything else at the mention of rudeness and starchy foods?). When she replied to my interest it was with the longstanding potato-based joke 'Idaho or Youdaho?' (Potato-based prostitution, geddit?). Well, I love to create cartoons for people and I couldn't resist the challenge to make a cartoon based on the aforementioned joke. And within two minutes of thinking I had one, and a few minutes scribbling brought it to life, which makes this the fastest cartoon I've ever created from joke to scribble to blog.
Hope you like it Cass! :)
Some scholars believe Nelson's famous line 'Kiss me Hardy' was misheard, and that the actual line was 'Kismet Hardy', which actually makes a lot of sense but does not prove for a good joke. It's really meant to 'sound' dirty rather than actually be dirty, which is why if you think about it too much it'll begin to unravel and make no sense at all. I'm actually fairly confident that there's a better joke lurking in there somewhere, so this'll probably get updated soon.
Saturday, 4 July 2009
An introduction to this cartoon. I think it's generationally challenged so it needs it.
The Hope & Crosby 'Road To...' films of the 40s are a real favourite of mine. If you have no idea what I'm talking about then you can get a glimpse here in an excellent musical excerpt from 'Road to Morocco' (it'll also help make the cartoon below funnier). And there are plenty more great clips from them on YouTube. They were extremely popular films in their day and quite a few were made (though I can never remember how many exactly). Anyway, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby were a great comic pairing and whenever I need a pick-me up I always watch one of their 'Road To...' films (usually 'Road to Utopia' as that has a talking bear in it and a hilarious bit involving a dog and a stick of TNT). They may be old films but the jokes haven't dated and if you can watch one without a smile being brought to your face then you must be a robot.
Anyway, last week my dad and I were watching the excellent Tom Hanks/Jude Law movie 'Road to Perdition' and I said "Y'know, this my least favourite of the Hope & Crosby movies". He laughed, but then he's over 50 so he was around back when these things were being repeated at the Saturday matinees. And so that is where the joke for this cartoon comes from: a movie title and the collision of the comic with the serious. It's a bit of a flawed premise in that it's a joke based on a not universally known set of films, but I like it, and the fact it made one other person laugh makes it good enough to be put up here.
This is also my first stab at charicatures, so go easy on me. :) Oh, and ten points to anyone who knows what cult 90s TV show the title of this post comes from. (Clue: it's from the not too distant future, somewhere in time and space...)
Posted by Rob Smedley at 21:20
Priests toting AK-47s as they smuggle church donations...it all just popped into my head one night under the punch-line 'Alms Dealers'. And honestly, with a line like that how could I resist drawing this?
The Column that's like the Robert Neville of Sanity fighting the Vampires of Craziness (or maybe its the other way round?)...it's Rob's Random 5!
1. BBQ: I have a secret to admit to you. I don't like barbecues. Well, I like the idea of them, just as I like the idea of a low fat and delicious cheesecake, but as with that cheesecake, when it comes to the execution it just doesn't pay off. Enjoying the company of friends and family in the sunshine as you sip on an icy beer or crisp white wine is fantastic (last 4th of July I was doing just that and it was a truly magnificent day - one of the best I've ever had), and you can do that without all the smoke and hassle of getting food to cook on a grill that has an exponential smoke/heat ratio (wait, was there a BBQ there last year? I think there was... And that was good. Oh no my whole argument has fallen apart!). Y'see I love socialising outdoors, it's just the barbecueing bit I can do without. And even supposing you manage to cook thoroughly, you then have to scrape of its charred and blackened exterior as you sit, squinting in the sun, fending off every insect in the Animal Kingdom as it attempts to feast on your sausage. Of course, by thise time you'd eat anything as it's already taken half a day - and the fuel reserves of a small nation - to heat up the barbie.
Sorry if I sound jaded, it's just I think there are plenty of good reasons to meet up with friends outside - for a kite flight or a game of frisbee or just a simple drink on carefully laid out blankets - and the thrill of burned meat is not one of them. The lure of cake however, is always a good reason.
2. Pencil Toppers: Whatever happened to pencil toppers? Does anyone even own/use them anymore? They used to be all the rage in the early 90s - you couldn't open a box of cereal without finding one. The they all vanished. Now you don't see them anywhere. I'm not sure whether I'm sad about that. I mean, they were one of the top ten most useless things created by Humankind (some of the others being the Soda Stream, those erasers that supposedly erase ink, anything ever featured on the QVC shopping channel, Lady Gaga, and those edible silver balls you can use to decorate cakes). But I suppose they did jazz up a boring old pencil, and they did prevent pencils from getting mixed up - but was that ever a big problem to begin with? If you have a pencil topper, or know of one's existence, then let me know. Right now I'm beginning to think there's a conspiracy to hide them from us all...
3. Lady Gaga: I do not like that woman.
4. Agent Under (Book)Cover: While browsing in my local bookshop the other day I realised I'd never read an Ian Fleming 'James Bond' book, despite being a big Bond fan. I started to rectify this immediately by picking one out at random - 'Goldfinger' - and starting to read it to see if it was something I'd buy. I was engrossed from page one. I'd read five pages before I even realised it. It wasn't the case that I was bowled over by the first line (anyone who's been book shopping with me knows I judge a book first by its title and second by its first line), but the prose was straightforward and gripping. I loved it. Even the description of Bond sitting at a Miami Airport bar sinking double bourbons and thinking about the man he had just killed had me hooked. And the actual description of the killing was brutal yet eerily poetic.
So now I own a copy and am loving every word. It's definitely a read to recommend. I'm not sure if all the Bond books are as strong as 'Goldfinger' (although I've heard 'From Russia With Love', President Kennedy's favourite book, is), but I'm more than willing to give them a try based on 'Goldfinger' Anyone else read a Bond book and got a recommendation? And are there 'classic' or 'well-loved' books out there that you haven't managed to read but want to?
5. Stuck in the Riddle with You: Last week I posted some fiendishly riddlesome riddles and promised not to post the answers, but as I've had quite a few people asking me what the answers are I thought I'd post them. So here they are in order:
-The Letter 'M'
Until next time, take care, and if you find unattended porridge you'd be wise not to eat it. It might belong to a bear.