06 December 2012

The Angry Birds Teach you French

What is the Secret to Success?

Excellence? Okay, then what is the path to excellence? Most might answer Hard Work. And many stop there.

What's the fuel for hard work? Motivation! Okay, so where can I get some?

How about a mentor? Or a rival? Or even divine conviction?

Actually, I think a readily available source of inspiration, can be found in "Angry Birds".
 Or more precisely, a focus on increasing intrinsic motivation for a task, rather than the task itself or the goal to be achieved.

In his book (and thinly veiled tract for self-determination theory)"Drive", Daniel Pink postulates that the keys to increasing motivation in self and employees is to set up environmental factors that encourage Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose, like some kind of triforce of business-self-help book formulae.

What intrigues me here is "Mastery".

How much money do people get paid for playing "Angry Birds"?  Does your iPhone just spit out redeemable prize tickets once the last big green piggiy is blown up? 
 One of life's lessons learned from "The Mighty Ducks", Is that peak performance comes from enjoying the game instead of  not pursuit of the prize, and some economic theories put forth a big paycheck or trophy doesn't vitiate subjects, and can in fact, discourage.

The raising level of difficulty is such an essential part of gamer culture, it's part of what defines the difference between a lowercase "game" like MS solitaire, and waiting in line for "blown weekend: the expansion pack".Games like these are a mess of increasing speeds, "leveling up", and  increasingly tough "Boss Battles". In short, Angry Birds, like many popular video games, get harder the longer you play it.

By comparison, what's the first level of your favorite video game like?

example only, Super Mario Bros 2 is NOBODY'S favorite video game

Damned Easy!

 As the maxim goes, "The Journey of 10,000 miles begins with the first step", so goes the crack dealer's corollary "The first one's free."

So here's the example. Let's say you're going to Quebec and  want to learn to speak French, but you don't like learning languages. You figure you could do it, if you had the Rocky Balboa-esque drive to get up at 5am, eat raw eggs and train hard at work memorizing grammar, syntax and vocabulary, but you just don't. Not to worry, the principles of Angry Birds can help you out!

1. Get rid of the prizes.

and ignore the external factors that might act as prizes. Remember, nobody gives you prizes for playing Angry birds. So fight the urge to give yourself congratulatory Oreos every half hour of study.

Besides, if you eat that many Oreos, you'll turn into Jabba the Hut and the Quebecois will just laugh at you.

2. Plot your plans on a curve. AND  Make the first one easy.

This is the source of positive addiction to  task mastery (and Angry Birds). For instance, in your quest to learn french, you might have a weekly quota of 42 vocabulary words per week to memorize. Which is six per day. Sure, that's not hard (or maybe it is to retain that information). But that will get boring.

 I know it sounds contrary to the ways of Hard Work, but why not just start with one vocabulary word on the first day, then two on the next, and so forth. There is an endorphin buzz that comes with meeting goals, and the more hits you have early will drive you for the bigger targets that you set for yourself later.

3. The little question.

"Did I do it better than yesterday? Did I do this better than last time? "

 Because, failures along the road are inevitable. It's possible that you might not master speaking French by the time you go to Canada. Sooner or later your own goals from tip #2 will escalate too high to meet when you're attempting to memorize 56 irregular verbs in one day.

So yeah, shit gets tough, and every so often you've gotta step back and remind yourself that the name of the game is to always be  improving at what you do, and to make that your target, is what it means to work hard.

22 November 2012

Some complaing and SPOILERS

 This'll have like spoilers and stuff, so consider ye warned.

So I saw Wreck It Ralph recently, and admired the film very much. Except I felt it lacked a distinct.

King Candy bears a striking aural resemblance to old time Film and Radio Comedian Ed Wynn, and more specifically to another cartoon that Wynn voiced, the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland.


Big deal, you might say. Feature animation characters often rip off other film roles. Either directly, or through homage.  

  For Example,  both 'Tangled' and the Original Broadway production Of "Into the Woods" feature very similar interpretations of Rapunzel's witch-mother, right down to magic age-changing and a love of capes.

And voice actor is a celebrity in their own right, the character often winds up looking like 'em, so Why doesn't King Candy look more like Alan Tudyk?  

Of course, swiping cartoon character designs is a venerated tradition, as many an internet meme will point out. 

But if the Ed Wynn Mad Hatter  was the perfect choice for a character in a movie that takes place in a video game universe, I'd like to know why

 This is subjective, but I feel villains need to be interesting, even entertaining in their own right.

Alfred Hitchcock directed tons of thrillers throughout his lifetime, but honestly, which is the most well remembered? 

After two and a half decades of boilerplate spies and saboteurs, the most well-remembered character in the Hitchcock canon is the villain of Psycho "Mother Bates".

A distinct, entertaining, even  colorful villain can mean the difference between a ponderous, talky, boring movie and an intriguing adventure.

Even in low-key "family fare", the bad guys have to at least be memorable,

But who was the bad guy in Wreck It Ralph? 

The guy from the board game? 
The Mad Hatter? Wait, which one?

 It's a shame, because on the whole, Wreck-It-Ralph is a fantastic movie, crafted with wit and sensitivity, but I find it's dragged down by an antagonist who appears little more than a thin celebrity impersonation.

07 November 2012

Kick'n November with some sketchbook exerpts

  Not much to say with this sketch dump, really.

This is  a variation on Niccolaides' "Daily composition" exercise from "The Natural Way to Draw" (kickass book, by the way), albeit in comic strip form. 
  The Daily composition is a 15 minute sketch from memory of any scene seen during the past 24 hours. Nothing fancy, nothing precious, nothing to be shared: just do it and move on to the next.
  So Why not a daily 3 panel strip, and train that old brain to think visually and sequentially? Unlike autobiographic strips like James Kochalka's American Elf, the daily strip is not really for sharing (not yet, anyway), more of a variation on a theme. *

I can't say I'm really happy with what I'm turning out right now, BUT
 to paraphrase Fredrick Nietzsche: "Art is something to be surpassed".

*For those of you curious as to what the strip is portraying, a co-worker had come in that day in a dirty T-shirt, claiming somebody stole his laundry. Since the Michaels' hit squad comes out of the walls if you aren't to dress code, I hiked over to Macy's and got him an $8 work shirt from the clearance rack. 
   If I ever get hired at Dreamworks I hope I don't have to buy people clothes.

07 October 2012

18 September 2012

Recursive suspension of disbelief: also, robots

Okay, so let's say it's approximately between the years of 1987 and 2010 and you're going to Disney World,  and you're gonna ride "Star Tours".

 Anyway, you, wait through the line get in the impressive but fake spaceship thing and you sit down staring at a large garage door with a TV screen to the right.

Somebody turns a switch, walks out of the vehicle, and this shows up on the tv.

 "Hello, I'm a cute robot who shouts a lot, since you're waiting for this ride to start, I'll go ahead and raise this garage door".

 WHOA, look at that, the robot's not in the TV, he's REAL, and ohmygodwe'reflyingthroughspacewheeeee!!!

Anyway, this ties into something I ran across in Rowland Wilson's Trade Secrets:
...the use of the system within a System.

 Let's say your weird drama friends drag you to watch a High School production of Hamlet, and like most High School productions, it sucks, but your weird drama friends won't stop talking about the significance of the play within the play  and how Shakespeare used similar device in a Midsummer Night's Dream and stuff.

You get bored with them talking about all that and would rather read an article about Batman at overthinkingit.com

 Putting a tiny story that the characters view within the context of a big story is more than a gimmick, it's a useful device, that can help acheive such effects as ...

  Here is a man being chased by a Dinosaur.

   His innner monolog, shortly after "Shit, I'm being chased by a Dinosaur" is most likely "Where did this Dinosaur come from?"
The audience wonders this too. But if the characters just opened their mouths and explained all the sciencey stuff in glorious detail...
    that would be boring.

  So, Jurrasic Park:the movie features Mr DNA:The movie inside the movie,  an educational-style cartoon starring a strand of DNA talking about science-wizards and other hurbelby burbeldies.
  And the audience is sufficiently informed on why there are dinosaurs to chase around Jeff Goldblum, but without being as bored as they'd be by reading Jurassic Park: the book.

   The Powell and Pressburger's  "The Red Shoes" (1948) is a talking, non-musical drama about a ballerina choosing between love and work.

 It features an elaborate ballet sequence presented as a story-within-a-story retelling the titular Hans Christian Anderson story. The sequence featured wild set dressing and crazy colors, stylasitcally different from the rest of the movie.

The movie has a downer ending, and seems to comment on obsession, and tragic side of art, which has several parallels with the Fairy Tale about the little girl who dies because she can't stop dancing. 


 Both Lewis Carrol's "Wonderland"  and J.R.R. Tolkein's "Middle Earth" have proven to be some of the most engrossing worlds in fiction.  Yet the authors seem to be completely different, except both of them love poetry.




  Whether it be the giant Caterpillar or Aragorn son of Arathorn, it seems like almost everybody has a ballad to sing, or a few verses to recite. These poems are complete works unto themselves, and plopped into the story proper, one suspects, because the author bloody well felt like it.
  Little to none of it has anything to do with the plot.

But  the ancient ballads of Gondor and  exploits of Father William enrich the worlds they exist within, through layers of artifice, much like loud robots.

See what I did there?

  Even though motion simulators were a novel idea in 1987, the concept was easy enough to grasp: the images for the ride were a point-of-view film while the small theater was bounced around on hydraulics in synch with the "ride". Even the Scooby Doo  Gang could figure that out.... But there's that damn TV screen on the righthand side of the ride display: the one that first shows off the robot.

The foolish human brain looks at the TV tube and says "that is FAKE", by comparison, everything else, the larger, more sophisticated movie screen and the onboard shouting robot, seem real, which  encourages the suspension of disbelief through showing depth, rather than breadth.

 So to nest stories within stories is more than a gimmick, it's a tool for engrossing the viewer in plot, character, and making them believe, even for a moment, that what they just witnessed is real.

07 September 2012

mouse out of context

As my read through old Mickey Mouse newspaper comics continues, I find myself imbued with a new moral purpose: I will not show out of context images with the notion of corrupting or deconstructing an American institution(besides, "Air Pirates Funnies" did, and they got sued to Hellenbach)
   So if anybody out there has any comments about Minnie and spanking, say them within your own company, for I am obviously too noble to do so.
See, here's a beloved children's character reading a book about guns. Which is ridiculous, because Mickey never uses guns

  Here it may appear that Mickey is torturing a  sickly horse for his own twisted amusement, but the larger context reveals that this is the famous "Tanglefoot' storyline, in which Mickey buys a sickly horse, enters him in a race and nearly destroys all his assets betting on his own race.

...I have no explanation for this whatsoever.

01 September 2012

Craft and Draughtmanship in Mickey Mouse

 the  Fantagraphics' reprints of the "Mickey Mouse" comic strips by Floyd Gottfredson,  are beautifully drawn: wonderfully constructed pieces of innocent whimsy that...
...  Okay, so it's Post-Depression audiences that we're talking about:  rough. After all, these strips were of the same generation of Dick Tracy. But unlike Chester Gould's violent cop, you'd never Mickey Mouse firing a gu--

 Um, never mind. Maybe I'm just picking out an isolated occurrence of
And here Clarabel Cow's gonna bust some ass. But hey, she has a rolling pin, so Comedy, Right?

And Goofy empties about two boxes of ammo in a blind killing rage. This is pretty sobering when I think that these are the comic strips my Grandmother grew up reading.

Dear God! Walt Disney's signature is even on this one! These are the comic strips my Grandmother grew up reading? 

Out of context, this panel makes it seem like Mickey's ultimate triumph is through a combination of arms escalation and damnright sadism...well that's exactly what it is.

27 August 2012

Sketchi Do Daa

So more sketch highlights, here. These come from a 6X9 Moleskine I received as a gift.  (The above image comes from watching TV).

  I've started putting page quotas in my daily calendar again: It's pretty good if you get self conscious about drawing(sometimes I refer to it as "Page Fright". 'Course, it's a SKETCHbook, so if every page looks perfect, you're probably doing something wrong.

A variant on the quota. The Daily Composition: The only chapter of "The Natural Way to Draw" that I re-read obsessively. (And also place on my daily calendar).

 Manifest boredom combined with a "Territory Ahead" Clothing Catalog. If you find one of these strange documents, note that the Women's clothing are all modeled, and the men's clothing is all folded and laid out on tables. Why are there no men wearing Clothing? Does Territory Ahead have a huge closet of Naked Men somewhere? (On the psychological level, don't we all?)

  Like my previous "Totoro" post, I figured I'd show my WORST sketchbook sketch, either for fun or just to make the better ones worth looking at.  Anyway, I found that I'd skipped a couple of pages, which I think counts...
 ... Because even the worst artists get better, but only if they continue.