Yo Ho Ho In The Little World

It’s a little hard to ignore a pirate ship when it literally towers over you. That’s the main working model ship for the Aardman pirate movie seen at the recent exhibition. No half-made device – not a rough adaptation of a Revell kit. That is solid shipbuilding…I think when it has done with the world travels of the art galleries that it should have a place in Greenwich Maritime Museum in London. It might be a parody, but it is more authentic than most display vessels.

The exhibition was glorious in that it led the viewer through the entire working procedure that Aardman use for ideas – from rough pencil sketchs through story boards to rather large scene drawings made with as much care as any artist’s finished canvas. Then on to the benches and the model makers. Surprisingly, some characters and concepts carry through perfectly from the initial pencil sketches – and some are trimmed ruthlessly…but not until they have been worked up a long way. I can only imagine that their creators fight each other in staff meetings to have their creations live and breathe.

The main actors in any of these productions need to be made and remade to change position thousands of times – changed and distorted would be more accurate. The armature upon which clay, plastic, and fabric is posed seems to be modifications of standard devices available in the industry with flexible but lockable joints places pretty much where real creatures also bend. ” Standard ” hardly applies to the were-rabbit, but nothing fazes Aardman. I should think they are the darlings and saviours of small engineering supply houses in their town.

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The Little World – Aardman

N0te: last week was grim here on HAW. This week is not  – this week is fun.

This post and several others will be springboarding on the back of real artists – the Aardman animation studios. I’ve been to see an exhibition devoted to their work and methods and I cannot praise them too much.

The exhibition was going on in the ACMI section of the Federation Square Gallery  connected to the NGV in Melbourne. It may venture to your country or your city, and if it does, it is well worth the price of a ticket. I spent a good two hours going back and forth seeing the exhibits.

Aardman are the authors of the Wallace And Gromit series of clay animations as well a numerous advertisements in Great Britain and the Creature Comfort series. As well, they have done Chicken Run, The Pirates, and Shaun The Sheep. All well worth seeing again and again.

The amazing part of this is the scale of the planning, artistry, and props needed to do this sort of animation. It is not tabletop stuff by any means, unless you consider the sets as individual scenes. The scale of most of the models seems to be about 1:6 to 1:4 and the artistic vision and attention to detail is staggering. I don’t think there is a true Little Worlder who would not be delighted to kick over the traces and build Aardman sets for a living.

Bless them, in addition to getting a look at their artistry, the exhibition had a working animation table and lighting setup that showed me clearly how to solve one of my lighting dilemmas in the Little Studio! I could not have been more pleased.

But here is a taster for the week. All Aardman, all the time.

Fire Alarm!

We were visiting the Federation Square gallery in Melbourne for a tour of modern art. It was fine and apart from the vague feeling that someone had gotten rich on the public purse, a nourishing experience.

Until the fire alarm went off. It was a gentle, mellifluous sound and would not have been out-of-place rising from the pit of an opera house. Not like a fire alarm or diving klaxon at all. There seemed to be no sense of urgency about it, nor did the patrons of the place worry about it. It took the arrival of an appliance and a team of fireys to cause the staff to round us all up and ask us politely to go downstairs. No-one was crushed in the rush, though a few were miffed that they had to stop browsing in the bookshop.

The most entertaining sight was the last of the firemen heading up the stairs. A young man …fit, as he would be, and clattered out in the yellow reflective protection suit and helmet of the modern emergency services… with a look of intense anticipation on his face. And clutching an axe with the obvious desire to chop something. For his sake I hope they allowed him to make a hole in a door. Or a wall.

From the look of some of the art, I am also hoping they smelled smoke behind the frames of the paintings…he’d have enjoyed himself and done the art world a vast favour.

The Untouchable List – Part Four – Good Health!

Delicate readers of this column may have been shocked by the three previous posts – though I know that old BGA members will not have been – and are starting to wonder whether I should be avoided in public places. Well, you may do so if you wish, and there are many reasons why I would, but the Untouchable Lists is not one of them. You see – it is a good and a healthy thing.

Bottling something up is not the same as repressing it. Bottling can be as innocent as preserving cherries for pie or peaches for cobbler. And who doesn’t like dessert? It is only if the Untouchable List is used as a tool to make sure that just desserts are dished out that a problem arises.

Revenge is one thing that all major religions frown on…or at least try to reserve for themselves. They sometimes share it with whatever deity they claim as a partner – modern ones mostly refer the sinner to higher authority and stand clear – in earlier times they acted as more active agents. No sense bothering God if you could just strangle and burn the heretics yourself right away…

I am against revenge. It takes up far too much of the thinking time of anyone who contemplates it – costs far too much – and can be a source of distress if it is delayed or ineffective. Why put in all the effort to dig a deadfall trap full of punji stakes if no-one is ever going to fall into it. For this reason, I refuse to take personal revenge. I just put my enemies on the list and forget them…leaving that small link in case there is ever any result down the track. I’ll take no credit for any disease, famine, war, or death that may occur to them, but I am prepared to hold the horses and provide sugar lumps. And I do not think you can be legally charged for applauding or high fives…

The best revenge, it has been said, is to live well. This is certainly true – one of the long-time residents of my Untouchable List demonstrated this four decades ago when we all protested at his profligacy and demanded our money back. He got a bankruptcy court to excuse him and then went on to eat, drink, and be merry for years afterwards. He may still be doing so, for all I know, unless blood-borne viral disease has cut him down.

The List, in the end, is one way to make an end to the frustrations of victimhood – to climb out of the hole and to carry on. I need not go back and endure or see those who are on the list. All I need to do is realise who they are and steer round them in the future. The List is like a sign on a mine field, and it is up to me to heed that warning.

A Thank You Goes Out To…

a. The people who subscribe their time to read this column. I do read yours as well, but I am so confused about replying that I wonder if anything I send back ever gets to you. Some of you are quite the writers and photographers.

b. My research assistant Warren. He finds things on the internet and in the newsagencies that I miss.  It is invaluable to have a pair of eyes that know what they are looking for and light up when they see it.

c. The local hobby shop for shifting closer to my home. When I am out of Tamiya XF37 it means I do not have to go over half the city to get a bottle of it.

d. The WordPress organisation for making a device that lets me publish daily with so little trouble. I do not make as much use of the features that they provide as I might, but there are little advances all the time. Just today I learned how to edit spam followers from the email list – a recent problem for many WordPressists.

The format of this column is one of the free ones – I initially set out to do this as an experiment. I am slowly filling the storage cache for images – up to 42% of capacity in the years I’ve been writing. I’ll eventually fill the basket and then consider taking up a paid theme that will allow more storage capacity.

If you are used to seeing this column with the current settings, do not fear. It will be years before I need to change the appearance. And when it does go over, it will be as simple as possible – there is enough other confusion in graphic design.

e. The people who do things. The model makers, hot rod builders, re-enactors, dancers and all the rest that I follow and report. And a thank you in anticipation for all those who will capture my imagination in the future.

I value your enthusiasms and skills. You are the people who operate the levers and wheels of the world. You do not sit and watch petrol explosions and murders on television and imagine it to be real life – you go out there and actually live something.

f. The people who serve me in their jobs. The girls at the post office and chemist. The workers at the local hardware store. The hobby shop owners. The checkout people at the supermarket – I always use the human checkout procedure because those humans need a job and a wage.

g. The people who assist me in extraordinary ways – the bookshop owner who finds a lost book. The camera shop expert who helps me with my computer. The bank assistant who clears up a worrisome situation.

h. My family and friends, who indulge me in my little enthusiasms and occasionally applaud them.

i. People who write me letters – either on paper or the screen. A letter is a real effort at connection that the social media page can never be.

The Manangatang International Festival Of Comedy

Manangatang in Victoria occupies a fond place in my heart. On a motor trip east from Adelaide in 1996 its arrival on the horizon during a thunderstorm reassured me that the world had not ended. The road takes a jog in Manangatang, and you get to slow down. It is good for the soul.

I was reminded of Manangatang when I saw a recent YouTube clip taken at a comedy festival in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Now Winnipeg is larger than Manangatang and has fewer kangaroos, but apart from being halfway between Thunder Bay, Ontario, and Regina Saskatchewan* I can see no essential difference in the two municipalities. And if Winnipeg can laugh, so can Manangatang. Possibly at each other.

Most comedy festivals are held to allow people to see entertainers who cannot get exposure on television or in the movies. This is not because they are bad comics – indeed many of them are genuinely funny – but the conventions of the entertainment industry make it very difficult to advance yourself via a casting couch if you are wearing a red nose and a bow tie that twirls round. Funny business is harder to sell than funny business – so the journeymen and journeywomen of the trade do their work in the off-time off-city festivals.

There is no place I have seen in Australia that suggests off-time or place better than Managatang. Oh, granted, Caiguna has its roadhouses, and the staff of these can be right comedians – and there is nothing on earth to match the restaurants of Bridgetown…but for downright rural spunkiness, Manangatang takes the biscuit.

There is nothing to stop the place from becoming the Las Vegas of the Swan Hill Shire. Top acts, showgirls, the pokies…nothing is wanting. All they need to do is book the comedians and the world will beat a path to their door. The Victorian Roads Board has pre-empted them to some extent, but not so much that it could not be improved. They might have to wait a little on an 8-lane freeway from Shepparton but it could only be a matter of time.

I wonder if Winnipeg is looking for a twin-town…?

*  Which must have the effect of evening up the distress…

The Internal Passport

I am going to go visit a friend who lives in another part of our city. The distance that will be travelled is about 20 Km and by the time I get home it will be after dark. I shall drive carefully and expect to make the visit uneventfully.

In doing so I fly in the face of history, law, and human experience:

a. I need seek no permission from the Seigneur of the place where I live to travel inside or outside of his fiefdom. I have no Seigneur. I am a citizen of a free state in a free country.

b. I need no similar permission from the lord of another piece of land to cross into his territory. I need pay no fee for crossing a border. No-one will search me.

c. I need fear no banditti. They may exist, but they do not infest the roads of Perth, and I am very unlikely to be asked to stand and deliver. There are no hijack gangs operating at crossroads.

d. I do not need permission from the WA Police Service to make the journey. All they ask of me is that I be sober and moderate in my speed.

e. When I park my car at my friend’s house or at a hamburger place, I do not have to pay money to a street gang or a militiaman to prevent it being ransacked.

f. I do not need an expert driver to operate the motor car. It is within the capability of a person of moderate strength.

If you are reading this column from parts of the world where this happy set of circumstances do not apply, you have my sympathy. Is it time to make changes in your own country to better it?