Marvellous Mug

For Christmas I was given this fabulous mug. (It's actually one of a set of four Beholder-themed mugs, all wonderful).

Fudebakudo mug

Mug: clockwise from top-left: URL and logo, aikido guy, Jiriki (on the bottom) with a black belt, and (inside) one of the midge assassins of Zhao.

Thanks to Kelly and Caroline!


Jo Jo in the Stars

For the journey

Swimming cow seen from Lloyds TSB's train

I love animation, and because of my nerdy background, I've enjoyed watching computer animation develop from the heady days of Tron and Roger Rabbit. I went to Las Vegas to attend SIGGRAPGH in 1991 — that's the conference where the cutting edge computer graphics stuff gets shown off. In 1991 the Teminator 2 special effects were causing all the excitement. Similarly I'm an admirer of Rolf Harris (bear with me on this) because, on his Cartoon Time show years ago, he had the foresight to interview a certain John Lasseter. Back when this happened, Lasseter was known amongst nerds (specifically, computer science nerds like me) for his groundbreaking shorts Luxo Jr and Red's Dream. This was not mainstream, but Rolf put him on prime-time children's TV. Way to go, Rolf! In case you haven't recognised the names, Lasseter went on to form Pixar, and Luxo Jr. was the little lamp that you have seen hopping across the screen at the start of every Pixar movie.

That's all a preamble as to why I'm linking to this film — I love good animated shorts and this is one of my all-time favourites.

Jo Jo

Trapeze artiste Jo Jo in the Stars

Jo Jo in the Stars is an astonishing animated short that has just been featured on YouTube: see it here. It's not new and it's not unknown — it's from 2003, and won a BAFTA — but I think it's only recently been available (legally) online. It's just been released by Futureshorts, who incidentally almost but not quite showed the Fudebakudo animations in Dublin last year.

I saw this film some time ago because I was so impressed by the animation in the Lloyds TSB banking adverts that have been shown in the UK for some while (I didn't say I was impressed by the bank, mind you). There's a lot more going on in those little adverts than was strictly needed to sell banking services — lots of details and neat camera angles. When I see something like that I'm often curious to see what other things the person behind them has done. So a little hunting around revealed that the Lloyds ads were created by Marc Craste. After that it was fairly easy to find other pieces of his work, which obviously includes Jo Jo.

It think it's brilliant because of the way the story is told. It also contrasts with the slick, basically cute commercial work he later did for the bank. Jo Jo is very emotional, despite Craste having restricted himself to such limited facial expression, gesture or even posture. There's so much going on here in lighting, atmospherics, composition, camera angles . . . and even some nerd-impressing floppy draped cloth (that wasn't so easy to do a few years ago!). It's a masterclass in animation, and a provocative rejection of slick, shiny computer art. Brilliant.