Tuesday, July 31, 2012

1904 St Louis Olympics - an entertaining shambles

I have just been reading about the 1904 Olympics, which were hardly Olympics at all. (Either were the 1900 version actually). It was supposed to happen in Chicago, while St Louis was holding the World's Fair. Then the World's Fair organisers announced their intention to hold their own sporting tournament that would blow Chicago's off the map. They had the IOC over a barrel and the Baron himself, Pierre de Courbetin, officially awarded them the games.

Some fun facts from St Louis quoted from Wikipedia;
  • Various indigenous men from around the world, who were at the World's Fair as part of the Department of Ethnology exhibits, competed in various events for anthropologists to see how they compared to the white man.
  • One of the most remarkable athletes was the American gymnast George Eyser, who won six medals even though his left leg was made of wood.
  • A Cuban postman named Felix Carbajal joined the marathon, arriving at the last minute. He had to run in street clothes that he cut around the legs to make them look like shorts. He stopped off in an orchard en route to have a snack on some apples, which turned out to be rotten. The rotten apples caused him to have to lie down and take a nap. Despite falling ill to apples he finished in fourth place.

Showreel time

I am making a showreel. I've never had one before. I have done lots of different kinds of moving pictures over the years, and now its time to wrap them up in a pacy greatest-hits combo with some kind of upbeat dance track - that seems to be what people do.

Then again - I would like to hold it down to around 80 seconds, and when I did a quick spin through iTunes looking for briefer tracks I came across Trio Bulgarka. They were a bit of a World Music sensation in the early 90s, and appeared on a Kate Bush album The Sensual World. They hail from Bulgaria and sound a bit like they are singing backwards - lots of "Veep vooooop vvvit vvvvap" sounds, in very strange time signatures. They often stop singing, then in unison squeal "Yip!". It's quite strange but endearing and might be just the thing.

Of course I have no right to use their music and that is a bit of a concern. I would quite like to cook up my own soundtrack but that will take ages and stop me getting the thing just done - perhaps I will aim to replace the music ASAP.

I have quite enjoyed opening up old files from 2006 or 2008 and seeing again the Photoshop layers that never made it to the finished piece, and the animation versions that I preferred but the client did not. I have just rebuilt a build-the-Sydney-Harbour-Bridge interactive I made, to make it more impressive in this new era of High Definition and massive screens. I can do that, you know.

I have been doing special effects for a documentary, this last week. I probably shouldn't blab about it, as the director is presenting my augmentations as reality. I did sign something at some point, which probably said "You will never reveal that the stuff that looks like night was filmed during the daytime". So - you didn't hear it from me. And I probably shouldn't put before 'n' after pics in my showreel.

Working from home

I have been working from home for a month now, and I really love it. If I could have my job back I would really love that too, but that isn't going to happen, so I am embracing the new life.

On clear days Elf walks the boys down the rivulet track to school and continues into town to work. If it's wet or just freezing I drop them all off, then come back to base to start work. Just before my job at Roar ended, Elf's workplace moved from New Town into the centre of the city, which has enabled me to have the car at home each day.

I am still doing quite a bit of work for Roar, and I am driving down there most days to pick up and drop off big movie files. I have just increased our home upload/download quota, so I will probably just send the files that way more often now. But it's nice to see the people you are working with, and it's good for communication to actually get five minutes face to face now and then as you work through a project.

My office is set up in the front room downstairs. Winston has a big cushion to sit on beside me, but he prefers the sunnier space upstairs, where he has a choice of his ridiculously large doggie futon, or the front deck. The sun warms upstairs so effectively that on most days I can actually afford to leave the front and back deck doors open. Winston loves to survey the neighbourhood from the front, and can take himself out the back into the yard when he wants to.

It has taken me a few weeks to relax, and not try to do everything at once. I have a year planner on the wall, and a spreadsheet of work invoiced and jobs in the pipeline. All that is very reassuring - helps me feel that I do not have to squeeze billable work into every waking hour. I have been pretty disciplined about making a list for each day and working through it.

Things are quiet enough this week that I have had a chance to drop my main work computer in for overdue repairs and also get a start on my showreel. I know from experience at Roar that important things like those are carried on the Work In Progress list for months waiting for some "quiet time". When quiet time arrives everyone feels they have earned the right to just put their feet up and have a few beers. While I hope to be busy, and I have to maintain my gear and spend time on self-promotion whether I like it or not, I am looking forward to the time in spring or summer when I can just join Winston on the front deck with a foaming ale in the sun. Maybe on a Tuesday morning - why not?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Flames leaping in the living room

Today our new woodstove arrived, and I am now sitting in front of it, with dog, cat and glass of cheap muscat. 

About the muscat - I recently inherited a beautiful decanter that was my grandmother's. Obviously needing something to decant, I went looking in the fortified wine section, and came out with a 2-litre glass flagon of muscat. This cost all of ten bucks, and I declined a paper bag in case the bottleshop attendant thought I was a hopeless case heading straight for the nearest park bench - which he did anyway. It's a bit like sweet grapey metho, but it's a beautiful colour in the decanter.

The woodstove has long been a dream of Elf's, ever since we were designing the house. Ideally we would have had a built-in fireplace with a mantelpiece and crossed blunderbusses (blunderbi, sorry) hanging on the wall - but we have a standalone unit with a flue going up to the slopey cathedral ceiling. Looks quite nice, and its doing a great job. It's probably 1/3 about (A) giving the room a focus and 2/3 about (B) keeping us warm. A 100 watt column heater doesn't have quite the same welcoming ambience.

So - if you are in the neighbourhood, come by and burn some wood with us.


I'm blogging from the dentist's carpark in Moonah, home of all-you-can-eat food, ten pin bowling and ... dentists. Most of the dentists in the metropolitan area are either here or in one street in Kingston. Odd.

This tiny blog-from-the-car is just to say I am still alive, working hard at establishing myself as a freelance designer, and generally pretty pleased with my progress on that front.

I have a Work In Progress list of projects, the phone is ringing fairly frequently, and my first set of invoices from the start of July ought to paid over the next couple of weeks. Ought.

If you have anything you'd like me to do in the wide gamut of work between motion graphics, graphic design, laying out publications, illustration, (video clean-ups are currently a speciality) etc and so forth - please drop me an email.

And now, time to go for some drill and fill.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Knackered 4 d Abstract 2, Indoor Soccer Grand Final

We surprised ourselves by getting to the Grand Final and winning it on Friday night. Three weeks ago we were out of the top four, then we beat the top team Wilkins in our last roster game to sneak in.

Last week in the semi final we came from behind to beat Eskimo Pie. Ed and Paul won it for us with outstanding goalkeeping. Meanwhile Wilkins unexpectedly lost their semi to Abstract.

The final was incredibly tight - we were down 1-0 at halftime. Brett equalised just after halftime, then I found Ed twice in about 3 minutes for 2 more goals. One pass was a square ball across the goal circle, and the other was actually a backheel. Cam is dismayed at the thought it going to encourage more backheel attempts in future. Ed's finishing was perfect each time.

Abstract got a goal back, and I was feeling pretty tense (and wondering about it going to penalties if they scored again). Then Paul wriggled free to score and made it 4-2, and that was it. Everyone played well and Josh (our recent Balinese recruit) had his best game ever, and really worked hard defensively.

Going into a shared weekend away with Ed and his family, it felt great to have combined to pull off this win that looked out of the question a few weeks back.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

RIP Bill Fullagar 1928 – 2012

My friend and father-in-law Bill passed away peacefully early yesterday morning, at home. He had done everything that he wanted to do, and once he was ready the end came quickly. His heart had been beating irregularly for a few weeks, and there were a few other things wrong, but what took him in the end was cancer which spread from his lungs (he wasn't interested in chemotherapy). He was listening to Beethoven's ninth.

I met Bill not long after I met his daughter Elf, who I married. We stayed with Bill and Felicity in Canberra over Christmas, and we were all required to play a handbell in a team rendition of Joy to the World. Felicity had written out the music for us so we could all see when it was our turn to play. Bill may have had his wrong glasses on - every time his bell was required Felicity had to say "Bill … BILL!!".

As time went by I heard from Elf more and more impressive stories about Bill's exploits as a merchant seaman, diplomat and intelligence analyst. (Bill would expand on the stories if pressed but he was modest to a fault). In his days as first mate on British India company ships, he had travelled the world. He could tell you about the tricky navigation hazards of Valparaiso, Vancouver or Valetta, Malta.

Bill came from a thoroughly lawyerly family, but he turned his back on that life to go to sea. His father Sir Wilfred was Chief Justice of Victoria, and took a dim view of his middle of son of five, declining to continue the family trade.

Bill was 2nd-in-command of a merchant vessel for a long time, and one day re
alised the shipping company was slowly going bust. He was ashore in Singapore at the time. He posted his resignation, made his own way back to Australia, and resumed studying classics. Like most educated people of his generation, Bill spoke and read Ancient Greek and Latin, and his love of the classics lasted until the end of his life.

At some point in his studies he was talent-scouted by the Department of Foreign Affairs. When Elf was eight (with three younger siblings) he was posted to the Australian High Commission in Delhi. Later he held a similar post in Seoul. I believe it is customary to have officers with titles such as Third Assistant Secretary who are simply there to keep their eyes and ears open.

I don't know a lot about Bill's work, but he often served us drinks out of engraved Australian Secret Intelligence Service whisky glasses, and later gave us our own set. They all mysteriously broke within a couple of years. Cheap workmanship – or cunningly planned self-destruction to avoid leaving behind clues?

When I met Bill he was in his seventies, and still required at the Department two days a week to analyse intelligence, as he had irreplaceable knowledge. As his health declined, and eye and knee operations slowed him down, he finally retired fully.

He is survived by Felicity; his children Elf, Fred, Imp, and Chonk; and grandchildren Karri, Marcus, Miah, Michael, Beatrice and Eric.