Saturday, 29 August 2009


Don't you hate it when you're writing a story and suddenly you just get a bit... well, stuck. The story might suddenly seem to drag and you can't write a way out, or maybe you've hit an unexpected dramatic dead-end in the plot and don't know where to go from there, or maybe you've lost the inspiration to keep writing a particular section. Well fear not. Some of these suggestions will put the 'oomph' back into any story. Just insert one of these sentences at the point where you've got stuck and then write from there using the sentence as a cue! Simples!

-Just then, a dinosaur entered.

-"So, how 'bout that Internet, eh?" (insert character name) asked.

-Suddenly the face of Gary Busey appeared on every television screen around the world.

-"Ahh..." said (insert character name), "remember the time we were trapped in the canyon and facing that buffalo stampede with just a soup spoon and an inflatable mattress?"

-And then the milkman spontaneously combusted.

-At that moment a clown entered and proceeded to drop his trousers.

-The next day, the Moon Men invaded. They brought ice cream with them.

-Without warning, random gunfire rang out from the nearby Special Effects warehouse.

-There was a sound of glass shattering. He/she/they turned and looked. Standing in window was Steven Seagal, dressed as a cockerel and breathing heavily.

-Suddenly (insert character name) burst in. "Someone's stolen all the toasters!" he/she/they shouted.

-"Don't look now," (insert character name) said quietly, "but a weasel has just crawled up your trouser leg."

-In the morning a lawyer called at the house to tell (insert character's name) that their rich uncle had died and left them his 'former-abbatoir-turned-mansion' to them, so long as they spend one whole night in it.

-And then he/she/ woke up, only to find a badger had gained entry to their bedroom and was eating the alarm clock.

-Too late I/he/she/they realised that the brush salesman I/he/she/they had invited in was actually a ravenous bear.

-Suddenly everyone burst into song, belting out the lyrics to the Lemon Tree song until their voices were hoarse.

-That night, at the Wood-Choppers' Ball, fisticuffs broke out.

-Twenty four hours went by before anything of interest happened. And then...

-The phone rang. It was The President of the Federated States of Micronesia calling. And he was pissed as hell.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

"Of all the bars in all the towns in all the's Rob's Random 5!"

It's been a busy old week and true randomness abounds, ranging from musical form and the undead, to weird lunar activity and my favourite modern day author. Oh, and this week's 'Rob's Random 5' is sponsored by Johnson's Asbestos - 'If you can find a more lethal asbestos, it's just not Johnson's!'.

1. If Rob gives you Lemons...: Here's some music to enjoy while reading the rest of this blog post. I've had this song stuck in my head all week. Hopefully it's jaunty tune will also put you in a good mood for the rest of your day.

Incidentally, and still on the musical theme, I was reminded of the 'ghetto blaster' the other day and wondered why such a great product name had all but disappeared. Perhaps it's because it sounds less like a music player and more like some kind of concussive sonic projector that the military might use to destroy vast tracts of inner city housing...

2. Brains, Mr. Bennet, Brains!: I picked up a copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies the other day. I'd heard much about it and read much about it and always assumed I'd hate such blatant literary pandering to the horror market. Man was I wrong. As ever, I read the first page in the bookstore, and I was hooked, what with talk of polishing muskets with which to slay the undead. My mate Charlie, who works in Waterstone's also recommended it to me and then told me it has ninjas in. Well, there was a Rob-shaped hole in all the walls and bookcases between me and the till. I started to read the book on the train home and really enjoyed it. More than that, I started to get engrossed in it. Now I'm not here to write a review - you can find them all over the web - but I would like to admit that it's a book I'm really enjoying. There is one caveat to this, which is that in the back of my mind it feels like an author's work has been used to generate success for someone else and in a fairly easy fashion: just taking a text and adding in passages about zombies. It's a nagging feeling but on the plus side it does mean that even in the most boring sections of the book you are urged to keep reading, knowing that some fun zombie action will take place in a few pages.

I tell you what I would like to see zombies in though: Around the World in 80 Days. I'm also currently reading that and it's a great book. The only thing that could better such a ripping yarn is seeing Phileas Fogg undertaking a bet to try to circumnavigate a zombie-blighted globe, attempting to travel across zombie-infested nations in an attempt to get back to London and the zombie-free confines of the Reform Club, now a Gentlemen's bastion against the undead hordes: ("I say Charleston, I got one of the blighters with my blunderbuss!" "Jolly good shot Carmichael! Care for some more port...?" "Indeed I do! Where's that butler? Don't say the undead hordes have got him!" And so on and so forth...) That idea's my baby though - anyone who tries to steal that idea will have Passepartout to deal with...

3. Mooning: (I should probably point out that there aren't really any spoilers here, but if you want to watch the film without knowing anything at all about it then skip this) Chris and I went to seen Moon and by God it was good. I mean really good. It was sad and uplifting and bleak and hopeful all rolled into one giant lunar ball. And like There Will Be Blood and others, it's one of those movies that the more you think about the more it gives back to you and the deeper and better it becomes. It's a film that, if you let it, will stick in you mind well after you've seen it, posing you moral questions about the worth of a human life, even when that life is one of thousands of identical biological copies. It's not giving anything away to reveal that Sam Rockwell's character Sam is a clone and one of many - you learn that early on and in a surprisingly twist free fashion. In fact, one of the things I really liked was how low-key the discovery of the clone's clone was and the quiet, almost bemused way that Sam deals with finding a man who looks exactly like him. No, Moon forsakes the cheap drama of a twist and instead goes for the deeper drama and complications of what happens after that discovery. And while it contains cliched motifs (the HAL-like computer, the creepy isolation of space, clones) the film never resorts to cliche. It takes those well-worn ideas and makes completely something new out of them. Sam Rockwell does such a good job of acting 'with himself' that I actually forgot it was just one man acting as two different people, save for one brilliant, seamless scene where he plays ping-pong against his clone. Technical genius. The Sam clones fight and talk and one looks after the other and when you think that it's all one actor doing that - and doing that so damn well - it's just mind blowing. What makes Sam Rockwell's performance all the more remarkable is that it's really just him carrying the entire movie. He's the only human being we see who isn't on a computer screen or talking through a speaker. He's the only real person and yet is he even a real person? The company certainly doesn't think so. It builds up an incredible feeling of isolation while at the same time challenging you to think about the big questions: is a clone a proper human being? Do they have the same rights as a human? What is it that makes us human and individuals? And the fantastically ambiguous ending will leave you wondering just what will happen to Sam and the larger moral issues of the world that made him. For a small film it leaves a big impression on you. And then there's the little personal touches that add to the depth and charm and reality of it all - the Chesney Hawks song that plays when the alarm goes off, the post-it notes on Gerty, the failed Helium 3 collector renamed 'Judas', the food containers marked 'Soylent', the painstakingly made model village, and the 50's pin-up pictures in Sam's room. It all adds up to something deeply moving in the context of the film: personal touches that aren't really personal - they're just extra deceptions in a life that is already one giant lie.

It's such a shame that Moon had a limited release. It's thoughtful sci-fi in the vein of 2001 and Blade Runner and it deserves to be seen by more people. Catch it on DVD when it comes out. You won't be disappointed. Now, if you'll excuse me, my 3 years is up... time to head back to Earth Gerty.

4. Twitter Quitter/Facebook Off: I gave up Twitter this week. Deleted my account. It just wasn't something I got into. Hardly anyone I knew was on it (and those who were I keep in touch with via the phone and Facebook anyway) and anyone famous I was following Tweeted far too infrequently (Charlie Brooker being the exception - his live Tweeting of the X-Factor on Sunday was hilarious and the only reason to watch the damn show). And then there was the problem that I soon found I had nothing to Tweet about. I realised life is really rather mundane, and I didnt want to be one of those people who tells others every little thing about their lives like 'Third cup of coffee today - now I'm off to the toilet!'. And when I can text people or email them or put status updates on Facebook Twitter just seemed superfluous to my life.

Facebook also came under my scrutiny this week as I realised I was getting tired of it. I didn't want to quit it - I need it to stay in touch with people in far and not so far flung places - but it just seemed that Facebook was getting a little...crowded with irrelevant stuff: nonsense quizzes like 'What kind of car are you?' 'Which Metro station are you?' (WTF?!?!) or 'What does the colour of my pee tell me about my future?', hundreds of unedited photo albums made by people out on their weekly piss-up, friend recommendations for people I've never met, and way too many adverts for pointless things that do not interest me. The whole thing has become one great mass of mostly useless information and now it's like looking at the aftermath of a high-speed collision between a lorry of junk mail and a manure truck. I just want a simple Facebook - a Facebook that tells me if someone's sent me a message or tagged me in a photo. And there really should be an 'update filter', to filter out all the status updates I would like from the ones that would just annoy me, for instance people who constantly do nothing but complain in their updates about how they're 'going to the gym but hate going to the gym but also hate being fat'. I don't know how that filter would work exactly - a dictionary and a sieve, I imagine. Get working on it Facebook!

5. Looking Fforward to New Ffiction: I vividly remember the exact moment I became a Jasper Fforde fan. It was at the very first line of his very first book 'The Eyre Affair'. If you haven't read it I won't spoil it for you, but it really is one of the most memorable lines in modern fiction. Since then I've awaited every one of his books with the feverish anticipation of a feverish child on his first trip to Disneyland. So it's very exciting to see that Jasper Fforde has some tentative teasers for his new book series 'Shades of Grey' on his excellent site (seriously, if there's an author out there with a more comprehensive, fun and fan-friendly site then I want to know!), including some nifty black and white and read pics and a Chromatic Spoon Test. The premise of the book - colour perception and the social standing it gives you - sounds great, quirky, and the stuff of classic Fforde. Although I must admit I'm rather peeved that it comes out in the US before the UK... Still, never mind. As a massive Fforde ffan (yes I even went to the very first Fforde Ffiesta in Swindon - it was ffantastic ffun), the prospect of an entirely new series of books set in an entirely new world is something very much to look forward to, particularly as 2009 has been bereft of any new books from Jasper. After what he did with books, vampires, time travel, and the world of nursery rhymes, I'm really eager to see what inventive things he does with the colour spectrum. Until then, I'm loading up on boojum bullets and heading back into 'The Eyre Affair'...

Presenting 'Rob's Sci-Fi Phrase Randomizer'!

Sci-fi is full of incomprehensible but arguably impressive-sounding jargon. And if you're writing a sci-fi story and need some technology, or just want to impress your fellow geeks, then simply use 'Rob's Sci-Fi Phrase Randomizer' for meaningless science fun. Simply pick one word from column 1 and one word from column 2 (and then one word from column 3 if you're feeling particularly daring) to produce your very own phrase. You can even leave out column 2 if you want and just use 1 and 3 - the choices are almost limitless!

So give it a go and see what you come up with! It's a little bit too little to see so click on it to make it bigger or right click and save for a better view.

Friday, 21 August 2009

(insert clever Stephen King pun here)

Stephen King's Breakfast...
Chances are that, at some stage in your life, you've a made a 'face' with a meal. Whether you were a kid, or you've cooked a meal for a kid and tried to make it look 'fun', or even if you're like me and you have the brain of a six year old, you might have re-arranged the sausages to make a smile, moved the beans to make hair, shifted the tomatoes or eggs to make eyes, or used the bacon slices to make a moustache or mutton chops for Mr Plate Face. I can imagine (perhaps incorrectly) Stephen King going downstairs in the morning to have his breakfast, making a face out of his meal, and then coming up with a terrifying story based on it. Maybe it would be called 'Mr. Plate Face' and would be about a monster that turns children's faces into plates if they don't eat up their dinner, I don't know. Anyway, that rather odd trail of food faces and Stephen King's knack for making normal things uncanny and supernatural brought me to this cartoon. An evil cloud of frying pan smoke with a breakfast face? Heck, it's no less improbable than a giant spider clown...

Thursday, 20 August 2009

'Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack got a tumour from a candle stick...'

Science has taught us this week that if zombies were real, you would likely be killed by them. And now we've found out that if the zombies didn't get you, then candles would. That's right. Candles. What next, 'Glade Plug-ins cause diabetes'? According to research at the clearly underlit University of South Carolina our humble waxy friend has become the newest member of the League of Extraordinary Cancer Causers (along with just about anything you like and a few of the things you don't). Which explains why everyone died so young in the age before lightbulbs. Well, that and all the horse joyriders. It's also a sign that I should probably give up my ten a day candle habit (I've been meaning to quit for years, honest). Because suddenly aromatherapists have become fragrant deathmongers, birthday cakes are ticking timebombs, romantic dinners are death traps - that may as well be a stick of dynamite in the top of that wine bottle! Lighting a candle in church? What, do you want to meet God so soon? Put down that match! These are the new cancer sticks people, and it's time we took our lawsuit to Big Candle, because our children's lives are at stake! There are youngsters out there lighting up and enjoying the mellow yellow flames that these death-cylinders produce as a side-effect of their lethal cancer rays! Candles - the Flickering Killer!!!

Except no, they're not.

Patently, any 'merit' this research has is immediately rendered moot because it's fuelled by scaremongering of the highest order. And in an age where newspapers seem to scream that apparently 'everything can give you cancer!', our attitude as a society has become so nonchalant to threats that adding another thing to the list really doesn't matter. Besides, the risk of getting cancer from a candle is so galactically low that it's still debateable. I mean, this was one piece of research done by one university - you need many more independent studies and a whole lot of data sampling to even start to determine whether candles might be a threat to health. But what really pisses me off is that once again Science is seen by the general public to be wasting time and funds on subjects and areas that are of no concern or help to society. It's not really the Scientific community's fault - I mean, yes, zombie and candle research are a waste of time, but it is only a small part of a much bigger endeavour. The problem lies with the Media cherrypicking these stories for want of a cheap public health scare and to sell more papers to an already worried public. For instance, did you know that this week scientists in Maryland came one step closer to generating synthetic life? Or that a new flood-resistant rice plant that could feed millions has been developed? Or that strains of life-generating amino acids have been found on a comet out in deep space? That's all real, impressive, boundary-breaking science and if you haven't heard about it it's not your fault, they're just not stories that a newspaper can practically apply to terrify you and your kids.
Candles aren't going to give you cancer, but if they did then I'm just glad there are proper scientists out there working on cures. So, South Carolina researchers, get the wax out of your ears, give your matches back to mummy, and go help them.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

"That's no's Rob's Random 5!"

1. Parker: In the last Random 5 I mentioned Darwyn Cooke (who's my favourite comic-book artist/storyteller and who I really can't praise enough) and his graphic adaptation of the first book in Richard Stark's 'Parker' series. Well, I was delighted to see today that the first print run has sold out and the publisher IDW is running a second print. This comes after Cooke's adaptation was rightfully praised by everyone reviewing it - from the New York Times to Entertainment Weekly. It's astonishingly good and I can't wait for the next three he's adapting over the coming few years. Even if you're not a fan of comic books or graphic novels I'd urge you to buy/read it because frankly it's the best piece of fiction published this year, and I don't say that with hyperbole.

2. Twitter: I joined Twitter last week and I have to admit I'm not really getting it. Maybe it's because I'm still getting used to the whole thing or because I find myself with nothing to Tweet about, but I just don't find it very interesting. It's me, I know. I don't lead a terrifically interesting life and when I do have something I want to say the chances are that 140 characters isn't quite enough room for my insane and pointless ramblings. I use Facebook for my craziness. And I find that a lot of the people I want to hear from aren't actually on Twitter or don't Tweet very often (Darwyn Cooke, where are you? Jasper Fforde, Tweet more often!). To be honest, if it weren't for Stephen Colbert's hilarious Tweets, and Wil Wheaton's geek-centric updates I might have given the whole thing up several days back. For me Twitter is still very much on a probationary period. Impress me Twitter!

3. Science: Did Cancer get cured without my knowledge? Or did someone invent anti-gravity while I wasn't looking? No? Well then get back to f**king work Science and start coming up with my anti-Cancer jab and my hover-bed, because right now some of your research is a little, shall we say, 'Pub-talk based'. This week there was a widely-published report from a Canadian University about the possible effects of an outbreak (or should that be 'ootbreak'?) of zombies. Apparently if zombies were real we'd all be screwed. However, as they are not real, I find myself wondering what the point of the whole thing was and wondering if I should have become a PhD scientist so I could study, oh I don't know, the mating rituals of dragons, or the effect of Wi-Fi on unicorns. Please, if you are a scientist doing reasearch on a stupid/pointless subject then put down your test tubes and titration sets and go help out the scientists working on worthwhile endeavours. That way we can all have our cancer-curing hover-bots when we're living on the Moon.

4. Shooting Stars: I am extremely excited to see that Shooting Stars is returning to TV. In honour of this good news, let's summon down the Dove from Above

5. Trunk-nology: This article on io9 caught my eye, partly because it's the Best Article Title Ever, and also it's a story that will warm your heart. Awww... Also, it features cool technology. Lazy/pointless scientists mentioned in '3', this is what you should be doing!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Rob Noah's Best #2

Noah learns about low-cost competitors...

Rob Noah's Best

Sunday, 16 August 2009

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream cartoons...

The all Ice-Cream production of 'The Wizard of Oz'...

You may have seen this before as it was included in the 'Scribble Section' of the first volume of 'Too Close For Comfort'. However it was only a pen and pencil drawing and a rather scruffy one at that. I found it languishing in the deep recesses of my cartoon folder and decided to give it a spruce up along with all the others. I know you're not wondering, but the flavours of the participants are (left to right): Neopolitan, Raspberry, Blue*, Orange, and Pistachio.

*Incidentally, does anyone remember those freezer pops that tasted of 'blue'? I don't think you can get them these days, what with parents and companies wanting to feed children 'all natural' ingredients and colourants. Honestly, I was raised on a diet that included manufactured colours and flavours and E-numbers, and look at me - ...on second thoughts, best let the kids stick to natural ingredients...

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the 8th Wonder of the World... KONG!"

"So, do I get a second date...?"

Isn't Peter Jackson's King Kong very long?
Too long, in fact. There's a lot of unnecessary boat action. I much prefer the original, mostly because I love old films, and the King Kong in that one is very cute. You could imagine him and Fay Wray settling down in a suburban neighbourhood and having lots of little Konglets. That's the Kong in this cartoon. It's also why it's all in black and white, to reflect the original movie. You won't find any boats or CGI in this picture, just biplanes. Lots of cool biplanes.
I like to think that the finale of King Kong is just a first date gone horribly wrong, and that's part of the reason why we feel so sorry for the big ol' monkey. Well, that and he is awfully cute.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Shiny Happy Cartoons...

I'm still going back over my archive of cartoons and re-colouring them and cleaning them up as a lot of the early stuff looks like this:

Grainy, discoloured and rather anaemic in the colour strength. Frankly I don't like it. This is because when I first started out I had an old and wheezing scanner, unlike the Star Trek touch-screen one I now have which comes with so much fancy wireless technology that I think can actually scan and beam the cartoons directly into your head. But as I still haven't figured that feature out yet I suppose looking at cartoons will have to do.

I don't want to re-draw them because I'm happy with the way they're drawn, so I'm going back over pretty much the whole lot and giving them bright and shiny new colours and removing all the graininess so that the above cartoon now looks like this:

Exactly the same, except more crisp, vivid and 'HD ready'. It's sort of like when George Lucas went back and polished Star Wars back in '97 - y'know, before he got all crazy with the CGI. It was still the same film - it just looked better.

It's also in keeping with my new style of colouring where I give things more shadow and depth. Some people have said I shouldn't re-colour them and that I should keep them the way they are so that I and others can see how my cartooning style has changed over the years. I can see that they have a point, but I'm a bit of a perfectionist and like all the cartoons to have the same look to them. It just neatens the whole lot up and means that when presented together they look better and like part of a collection. It's a bit like a writer coming back to a half finished novel and writing the last half in a slightly different style to the first otherwise.

Rob Smedley continues to Twitter on...

Yes, I've finally given in and am now on Twitter, under the name comicmotion, so now there's another outlet for my crazy ramblings. Huzzah!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Post-It #1

Post-It Note Art. These'll keep appearing more and more as I learn how to live my life off Post-Its when I'm at work... Well, they can't all be boring messages and reminders...

Friday, 7 August 2009

The Best Version of 'Life on Mars' Ever...

Thursday, 6 August 2009

'...and featuring Rex Hamilton as Abraham Lincoln, it's Rob's Random 5!'

Paper weapons of Mass Destruction, where I got my moral compass, and as ever, there's 100 points and much respect if you know which TV show has been quoted in the blog title (big clue: it spawned 33 and 1/3 films)

1. Fat Daddy: Last week I learned how to make origami water bombs. Cue much wet fun. But as ever, I soon got bored and decided to test the boundaries of paper construction by building incresingly bigger ones, resulting first in the 'Harlequin' (named after its jaunty colour scheme), and then in the Oppenheimer of origami water bombs. I present to you: 'Fat Daddy'...

Magnificent, isn't he?

Actually, this is 'Fat Daddy Mk II'. The first 'Fat Daddy' broke apart in my hands as I was transporting it to the test ground, releasing 2 pints of water onto the hallway carpet. Ooops! Still, 'Fat Daddy Mk II' has been reinforced with sturdier paper to prevent such a mishap occuring. Oh, and you heard right - this bad boy holds 2 whole English pints in his mighty belly. Testing occurred successfully today, and the whole of my village was washed away as a result. Good work, Fat Daddy! (salutes). I'd make an even bigger one, but I think I'd be straying into 'Paper Lantern' territory...

2. The Moral of the Story: Did anyone else who grew up in the UK ever watch/see Tales of Aesop? This was my favourite show when I was just a gurgling little infant. It's just a shame they only made 13 episodes of it. Tales of Aesop was narrated and voiced entirely by the legend that is Tom 'The Doctor' Baker, which makes this all the better. It had characters with great names like Mrs. Bite the wolf, Geraldine Donkey, and Boris the Lion, and there's something so home-spun and hand-crafted about it all that you'd have to have a heart of stone not to love it. Honestly, this is classic TV. I'm going to make my kids watch this. How else will they learn what's right and wrong in this world unless a talking lion helps tell them? My entire moral compass was gained from watching this show... plus, it's hilarious to hear Tom Baker voicing a cockney lady wolf.

So I hope you all know what to do the next time you're involved in a dispute over sausages or any other item of charcuterie.

3. Parker: Normally graphic novel adaptations of books are terrible, but I've been reading an adaptation of Richard Stark's gritty crime novel 'Parker: The Hunter', drawn by my favourite comic book artist/author Darwyn Cooke. It's a fantastic piece of work that combines a cool 60s 'Mad Men' look with a grim noir storyline and some shockingly brutal (but not gratuitous) violence. Even though it's done in just pen and blue ink it looks fantastic, which pages I would happily put in a frame and hang on my wall. The novel has been translated really well to a visial form in both action and story. Parker is a really great anti-hero and while you never really like him, you definitely find yourself rooting for him as he hits New York looking for revenge. The publishers IDW have a great 20-something page preview which is worth looking at just for the first page and its first line. Take a look HERE

4. Twitter: Apparently Twitter went down for a few hours today (Facebook did too. Grrr!) due to some kind of cyber-attack. I just loved the irony of thousands of really ardent hard-core Twitterers wanting to tell each other and complain to each other that Twitter wasn't working, only for them to have no Twitter platform to be able to do it on. D'oh!

5. Paper Titanic: I just learned how to make an origami sampan (a flat bottomed boat). Will this lead to me making a paper sampan large enough for me to sit in? A Fat Boaty, perhaps? Almost certainly. I'll keep you updated on how it goes. Invites to the ship's christening for its maiden voyage will be in the post.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

"What's that coming over the hill, is it a Monster, is it a Monster?"

I always imagined Godzilla to have marital problems. He has a lot of aggression. But even city destroying monsters need to take a coffee break too, whether they're tearing down buildings or battling other giant radioactive reptiles. It's just common sense.

Justice League...Assemble!

Green Lantern, The Flash & Batman

I've been practicing drawing people lately as it's not one of my strong points. Sure, if you need a talking beer bottle or an anthropomorphic book I'm your man, but I'm rarely satisfied with the people I've drawn, and there are a couple of people-featuring 'Too Close For Comfort' cartoons I've wanted to draw for a while now but haven't been able to because the humans I've drawn have looked rubbish. However drawing normal people is boring - far better to practice by drawing super-heroes, which are much more fun and mean I can test our different face and body shapes (wait 'til you see Superman - he's super-buff!).