All posts by Mata

The boss.

Delusion or persuasion?

I wonder exactly what President Bush is being told in the White House about events in Iraq, which are by all measures getting worse by the day, because he said this yesterday:

My attitude is, don’t do what you’re doing if it’s not working — change. Stay the course also means, don’t leave before the job is done. We’re going to get the job done in Iraq.

Let’s break that down because the (lack of) structure is a bit confusing:

My attitude is, don’t do what you’re doing if it’s not working — change. If what you’re doing doesn’t work, try something else.

Stay the course also means, don’t leave before the job is done. Don’t stop until you achieve your goals.

We’re going to get the job done in Iraq. Ah… Now here’s the tricky bit. What he’s doing in Iraq clearly isn’t working, but he’s against any change of tactics. This bit contradicts the first thing he said.

There’s a technique in hypnosis and persuasion techniques where you use deliberately confusing sentence structures to occupy the rational mind, and then give it a clear and easy direction immediately afterwards. The conscious mind latches onto the clear instruction and accepts it because it resolves the uncertainty that it was facing before, even if that instruction would usually be rejected. Could it be that this technique is being employed by Bush, either deliberately or subconsciously? Either he’s immensely deluded about the situation in Iraq or there is some very sneaky stuff going on in his language.

EDIT: Or he could simply be an idiot with no clue and a lucky linguistic quirk. I really shouldn’t jump to paranoid conclusions!

How to draw lips: some good tips

Over in my webcomic I’ve introduced a female character called Kitsune. One of the things that I discovered when I was drawing her is that I didn’t have a systematic approach to drawing lips. This was a pretty odd experience for me, because I’ve been drawing and painting all my life, but suddenly I’m working in the static cartoon style and my old approaches just don’t work for the medium.

I had a look around for some inspiration on the net and found three really nice pages:

for creative style and inspiration, I love Funny Cute’s lips. Katie Rice, who’s worked on for people like Spumco (best known for Ren & Stimpy), did a really good post showing lots of close ups of different lip styles. She has some really nice tips in there for how to achieve a similar exaggerated look to her own. The images don’t all work as well as each other, but the number of them gives you the chance to compare and decide what you think is best.

if you’re looking for something more realistic or manga styled then try this tutorial from PolyKarbon. The images are pretty clear, but there are some nice tips in the text as well so it’s worth taking a few minutes to read.

finally, there’s this one from SheezyArt. It’s not the best bit of drawing in the world, and it’s very light on technical details, but it was actually a big help in thinking about the process of drawing in the cartoon style. I come from a background where I mix a load of paint then create the lips with a sculpted stroke of the brush, so it was useful to see the cartoon style broken down into simple steps like this.

‘Hope some of you find these useful!

In other news: jumping off cliffs frequently results in injury…

Who would have thought it?

A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Yes indeed, invading Iraq, showing a militaristic and insensitive face of American politics, demonstrating a sense of global imperialism, cultural ignorance, denial of flaws, and absolute lack of self-questioning has made the threat of terrorism worse rather than better for the American public. That’s the conclusion of the largest survey of global terrorism by the American intelligence agencies since 11th September 2001.

For an example of the lack of self-questioning, let’s look at a nice quote from a recent White House report entitled ‘9/11 Five Years Later: Success and Challenges’:

We have done much to degrade Al Qaeda and its affiliates and to undercut the perceived legitimacy of terrorism.

The Bush administration continues to assert that they are winning ‘the war against terror’ while their own agencies are saying the exact opposite. We’ve all been saying the opposite for a long time now: attacking a country in the middle-east without provocation or legitimate evidence of planned attacks, and without a plan for how to improve the conditions for people in the country after the invasion (by direct order of Donald Rumsfeld) was always going to solidify and justify extremist arguments against America and its allies.

So, invading Iraq has made America and its allies more, rather than less, at risk from terrorism. In other news: jumping off cliffs frequently results in injury. Some might consider that to simply be logic, rather than a revelation, but it appears that sometimes it really is needed that the obvious has to be driven home with a hammer.

Source.

Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters

Did you know that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are comming back to the cinema? Amazingly, the trailer looks pretty cool.

In the meantime though, why not have some fun and read through some of the old Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters comics?

Designed as a parody of the TMNT, which were already a parody of Frank Miller’s comics to begin with, the ARBBH were a short-lived bit of fun. They even released 3D comics, and you don’t get much more retro than that.

Our voting machines are perfect!*

*except if someone wants to misuse them.

http://itpolicy.princeton.edu/voting/

an attacker who gets physical access to a machine or its removable memory card for as little as one minute could install malicious code; malicious code on a machine could steal votes undetectably, modifying all records, logs, and counters to be consistent with the fraudulent vote count it creates. An attacker could also create malicious code that spreads automatically and silently from machine to machine during normal election activities — a voting-machine virus.

Suddenly pencils and paper look even better, don’t they?

I’m running a web-comic!

For those who aren’t on my mailing list, I’ve started running a web-comic, Trouble Down Pit.

The reason for this is simple: I just haven’t got enough time at the moment to produce animations on anything like the regular basis that I would like, so this way I can do a few panels in an hour or three and put something online that relieves the pressure of ideas-build-up in my head. Seriously, it can get quite painful if I don’t do anything about it. The doctor says I might explode. There’d be bits of Mata spread over a radius of precisely 1.4 miles, and you wouldn’t want that would you?

The comic will be updated every Monday and Friday, including a little bit of bloggy stuff beneath it. I’ll be keeping this blog running for ‘general cool stuff’ and the comic blog will often be more related to the comics or media.

Yeehaw etc.

So, there was a US soldier in Iraq who was annoyed that Hewlett Packard’s customer support didn’t extend to telling him how to fix his scanner/printer (probably because it was beyond warranty, and most likely because it wasn’t designed to function in deserts).

What does a solider with time on his hands do while he’s busy ‘defending freedom’? He makes a video of himself complaining about the printer, then using some very heavy artillery to shoot it.

I’m not really interested in the HP printer side of this video, what makes me link to it is just how damn awful the guy’s aim is. He’s standing from around 5 metres away from the printer and doesn’t manage to hit it for the first twenty shots. Fortunately for him, one of the bullets hits the barrel that the printer is sitting on, knocking it over, which makes it look slightly more like he can shoot straight, but his pattern is clearly leaning to the right of the target. In the next shot he fires another 20-or-so rounds at the printer and it looks like he hits with one or two bullets.

If there was ever a video to give confidence to Iraqi insurgents then it’s this. Not only is the US army allowing their soldiers to use high-calibre weaponry in an enitrely pointless, and moderately dangerous way (no eye protection when firing into a non-organic target five metres away?), but the guy couldn’t hit the side of a barn from arm’s reach. He might as well be handing out pamphlets for all the good his use of military hardware is doing… Oh… Maybe that’s what the printer was for?

See the video here.

Burning Man on Google Earth

Those of you with the marvellously fun Google Earth software might want to check out the map of the site this year.

Click this link to download and open a Google Earth link to the site. It’s actually slightly to the north-east of where that link lands you. People will be adding on the shapes of their camps over the next week-or-so, making for a 3D virtual version of the Burning Man ‘Black Rock City’. Aren’t computers cool?

(You’ll need the Google Earth software to make that link work. If you don’t already have it then you can download it for free here.)

Burning Man TV

So, if you’re still here and reading this then the chances are that you won’t be going to the Burning Man this year. I’m really missing it, it’s been four years since I last went and I was hoping to keep to a ‘every three years’ pattern. Nonetheless, the joys of broadband, the miracle of decent streaming video (brought to us by the superb new suite of video tools in Macromedia’s Flash 8) mean that we can see updates from the Burning Man all through the next week.

The videos will be going online here over at TV Free Burning Man. I can’t wait to see what people are getting up to, but it’ll be will a little sadness that I’m going to be sitting around in offices and working when I could be out in the glorious desert.

Do you know what the Burning Man is? If not, there’s also a nice little 5 minute documentary on that site about the event… Although, with over 35k citizens of Black Rock City every year, you will tend to find that there are 35k different answers to just what the Burning Man is, and what the Man means.

I really miss it.

What did we do before Google?

I’m working through my footnotes for my Phd at the moment, and I’ve suddenly discovered that I have references to a work by Edmund Burke from the wrong edition: my footnotes refer to the 1967 print, but by bibliography lists the 1889 edition that I’ve got sitting on my shelf (it’s great what you can find in Oxfam bookshops).

So there we have a problem: I’ve got a few page references from one edition but no idea where they appear in the edition that I have in my bibliography. The solution? Google, of course.

So, I wanted to find a couple of quotes:

I am satisfied the ideas of pain are much more powerful than those which enter on the part of pleasure.

When danger or pain press too nearly, they are incapable of giving any delight, and are simply terrible; but at certain distances, and with certain modifications, they may be, and they are, delightful, as we every day experience.

Copy and paste part of the phrase into Google, then use the ‘cached’ link to highlight where the phase appears on the page, like this, and there’s my answer: the phrase appears in section VII, so I just need to find that in my bibliographic copy of the book and I’ve got my new page number.

This still leaves the question ‘What did we do before Google?’. Today, ladies and gentlemen, I present the answer: we worked a lot harder for the same or less results.

The next question would have to be whether we’re now capable of creating better ideas and writing in more knowledgable ways because of Google, and that one is far harder to answer. I suspect the answer might be they we are not; there is only so much knowledge that we can convey and appreciate, and the ‘soundbite’ culture of academia, once an indicator of broad reading, is too easily entered into now without proper understanding of subjects. Google is the cure and the curse for academics, but at times like today I can’t help but marvel at how useful it is.