12 January, 2017

Today is my 41st birthday, and I swear the sun here in Whangamata is trying to make sure it’ll be my last. I still don’t fully understand why the New Zealand sun is so much more “intense” than in other places – why half an hour outside here will burn you more than a day in other countries where summer temperatures are regularly 10 degrees higher. And I definitely don’t understand what it is about this East coast town that’s amplifying the effect even further – all I know is that I step outside and the sunlight feels like knives.

No, I know what it feels like: There’s a period of Egyptian art that includes depictions of the sun-worshiping Pharaoh Ahkenaten and his family having life bestowed upon them by the disc of the sun – this is depicted as rays of light extending down towards the royal family, each ray terminating in a hand holding an ankh.

Imagine that picture, only with me instead of the Pharaoh, and instead of ankhs, each hand is holding a syringe full of skin cancer. That’s what it feels like.

I have a theory that the reason why sun block works is nothing to do with filtering out ultraviolet radiation; the act of applying it is just a ritual designed to debase ourselves until the hateful Sun is sufficiently entertained to let us go about our business unsinged.

“Yes, smear it on. All over yourself, you little piggie. You love it, don’t you piggie? And soon you’ll start sweating and it’s all going to run into your eyes and sting and you’ll love that too, won’t you? SAY YOU LOVE IT, PIGGIE!”

I’m just saying, do we have proof that sun block isn’t just bottles of the Sun’s jizz?

Still, it’s my birthday today, which means I can refuse to leave the shade of the house and no-one can tell me different. I’ve received presents – stuff I needed, stuff I wanted, stuff I don’t know I wanted until I got it – so that’s nice. And with little else to occupy me, I’ve been doing a lot of reading, of whatever crappy crime novels have been left lying around down here and also the book of Neil Gaiman essays I was just given.

Writers always say that in order to write you have to read a lot, which is something I’ve always rolled my eyes at a bit. That would imply that, having made my way through more books in a few days than I normally read in a year, I’d then feel the need to put up a blog post on a site that I haven’t touched in almost as long. Piffle.

I see the Lazy Town post is getting more traffic than ever, and it seems like at least some of it hasn’t come from Google searches for underage pornography. So that’s nice.


Meanwhile, at Lucasarts

“OK, Mr. Lucas, I’ve almost finished the random Star Wars character name generator you asked for – all that’s left is to filter the output to avoid anything that sounds like an ethnic slur-”

“Hell with that – I need it now! Just gimme what you’ve got.”




“OK, what’ve we come up with for this jedi’s name?”

“It’s…. ah… Klo Poon.”

“We can’t use that – ‘poon’ sound like a rude word! Wait a minute… I’ve got an idea…”

“Whatever it is, I’m sure it will be fine. Next?”


“Oh for fuck’s sake, George.”

This post was prompted by me playing the new Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes casual game, which required a username and suggested a typically loopy Star Wars-ish one as a default. I feel my choice kept in the spirit of the genre while staying true to me:


My avatar is the jedi Kit Fisto. I have not made up anything in this post.

I May be Overthinking

Last night I realised that I have no idea how to stab someone to death. That seems like a skill that person in this day and age should have. Doesn’t it? I was prompted to this realisation by a dream:

I was somewhere up high watching the end of the world from a window. First the ground buckled up and down, pushed from below by thousands of hands and when it settled, I could see below me ranks of naked men with knives. A figure walked up and down between the ranks and at some point gave some sort of signal, and the men broke up and started heading for the nearby houses. It turned out that each man was accompanied by a small child, also armed with a knife. At each house, the child would gain entry by wriggling through a small-child-sized gap – an open window or a vent or something – let the man in and they would, presumably, get to work on the sleeping inhabitants with their knives.

I knew it’d be the turn of the house I was watching from, and soon enough heard the sound of what I assumed to be a small knife-wielding child running through the bottom floor of the house. I don’t know if there were people on the lower floor, but presumably they were getting their allotted stabbings. Moments later, her accompanying naked man ran up the stairs to the floor I was on and suddenly I was fighting for my life. I had a knife as well – a big, thin carving knife – and after I managed to disarm the man and knock him down, I then found myself in a position to stab him to death and it occurred to me I had no idea how. Isn’t that the sort of thing a father should be expected to know?

It seems easy in the movies – one quick thrust anywhere and the person goes down (unless they’re the hero, in which case they’ll have forgotten the wound existed 15 minutes later). But when I actually think about it, where do you actually stab someone to kill them on the spot? Sure, puncture a lung and they’ll probably cop it if they don’t get it looked at, but assuming you don’t have the time to wait for them to bleed to death, it has to be the heart, right? But then there’d have to be all sorts of complications with ribs and breastbones and shoulder blades getting in the way.

I don’t know, it’s starting to seem like I should leave fatal stabbings to the professionals.

Director’s Commentary 2015

OK, this is new. I’ve started making more short films for fun, instead of the incentive of a film contest trophy, and I’ve put all of my short films (well, all the short short ones) up on a new site devoted entirely to them. I’m adding links back to here for the “director’s commentary” posts I’ve done in 2013 and 2014, so I guess I should continue the trend…

Zombies Are Dicks

Wow, that top is not flattering. I realised at the last minute that if I was going to have a fake hand stump, I’d probably need to be wearing long sleeves, and that was the long-sleeved top I had with me (for a different short – watch this space).

Still, at least it showed that my piece of crap camera is at least able to function nicely outside in direct sunlight. I don’t really have much else to say about this one. Zombies are dicks. Fucking zombies.

Knock Knock

At the last minute, the film fest deadline got extended from Friday night to Monday morning – “what the hell,” I thought, “just one more,” and spent 30 seconds messing about with a velociraptor hand puppet and the shitty selfie camera on my mobile phone. Add a few left over sound effects from the Jurassic World one, and there’s a 10-second film. I actually like this one the best out of this year’s competition entries – I guess I admire its simplicity.

(I didn’t win anything this year, either – success now seems to depend on appealing to the exact senses of humour of a panel of management types in another country, which I don’t appear able to do. I even had another entry that I haven’t included here because it was just pure pandering. Not pandering enough, I guess.)

Jurassic World (to the best of my recollection)

An entry into this year’s company short film fest. I didn’t stick to the theme last year, and my entries (some of the best I’ve done, I thought) were disqualified. (Even though plenty of the winning entries had bugger all do to with the theme. It’s hard not to feel singled out, seeing as I’d won the previous two years in a row. Bah – it’s all politics, but it was a year ago and I’m not bitter. I’M NOT FUCKING BITTER.) Anyway, this year the theme was “fun”, so I figured I better not give them an excuse. You want fun? I’ll give you fun? Cute children? My children are so cute you’ll shit.

Actually, this one started as me messing around with the boys in their sandpit, and morphed into a parody territory afterwards when I was trying to think what I could do with the footage. It feels like I could start a series of these, but I don’t know – this one came from a bit of unrehearsed messing around, and I can’t imagine how I could recreate it.


A string of ideas for shots I could do (Under the bed! In a fridge!) that I slapped together before realising I didn’t have a decent punchline. I considered having the Post-It just say “DRE”, but going for a pop culture reference felt a bit cheap. Instead I went for the option that let me try out another shot (Walking down a hallway and disappearing!) Probably should have gone with “DRE”.

Like most of these movies, I shot this all by myself, which was probably a mistake – it really needs to be a single shot of me closing the cupboard door and then zooming in to the Post-It, but I had no-one to work the camera. Also, my tripod is so wobbly that the zoom would’ve been shaking all over the place anyway.

Think Fast

This came from seeing a guy at work actually do the “think fast” thing to someone else, which got me thinking “Heh, what if you just held up the ball, all like ‘that fast enough?’ Yeah, and then you could hold up something he was wearing, all like ‘is THAT fast enough?’ Yeah, and then you could hold up his bloody heart – wow, that went somewhere dark. I like it.”

Looking back, I should have gone with more fake blood running up my arm, but there you go. I particularly like the camera wobble when RSJS goes down, although I acknowledge that’s not so much camera work as the laws of physics.


“Ideas for short movies,” I thought. “Hmm, I’ve written funny tweets, and tweets are short – maybe some of them would work as a movie. That’d save me having to think up a new idea.” So I had a trawl through my Twitter archive and found this one:

And now it’s a movie. Magic.

The decision of when to cut the final shot basically boiled down to “find the point at which it becomes obvious he’s not swinging directly at my head; cut one frame before that.”

New Glasses

And RSJS actually gets to appear in front of the camera at last. Not much to say about this, really – I got new glasses and I thought of a gag to do with having new glasses.


My ego is too fragile to actually look online and find out precisely how many people have made this exact same observation, but fuck it, it filled 15 seconds.

Today’s Horoscope

Largely an excuse to experiment with lighting, this one. What I learned: more light makes things lighter. Also, red light just goes pink unless there’s a lot of it – way more than I could produce. Ah well. In my mind, the shot of my face would have had a sharp line of red light spreading across to show red light spilling in as I opened the door – turns out you can’t do that with one halogen lamp and a bit of red cellophane.

Also, why the fuck does Google have a home page with a search box in the middle of the screen if, as soon as you try to type something into it, it disappears and goes to the screen with a box in the top left? Makes for a much crappier “typing search terms into Google” shot than you used to be able to get.

Not This Time

Another idea I thought of ages ago, but never got around to using. Once I found the music track to go behind it, it all came together. It’s a bit of a mess – 80s action movie music, Matrix aesthetic and a Jurassic Park gag for the punchline – but fuck it, it was fun.

Again, RSJS was drafted in, this time not as a costumer, but as a person who actually knows how to work a camera. He generally managed to come up with better shots and angles than I was thinking of – the only time I went with my first thought was for the “not this time” shot; his ideas for the shot of me drawing the gun were much cooler-looking than my idea (I used one of them for the thumbnail image), but I figured from a story-telling perspective it made more sense to draw the gun in front of my face to make it clear I was pointing the gun at the thing I had been looking at in the previous shot. It also meant that I could record the line later and not have to worry about lip-syncing. Not sure if that makes me more or less lazy.

Hmm. and Hmm. (Extended Remix)

Another one not suitable for company contests, for two reasons. Obviously, wanking gags probably wouldn’t be considered appropriate, but also because this one is pretty much a word-for-word recreation of a conversation I had about the company Christmas do one year, whose theme was, indeed, “Come as something you love”.

I turned once again to RSJS for a bit of costuming and we spent an hour or so trying on different outfits in front of my bathroom mirror. My original idea was to just have the three outfits (actually, I was thinking of Cthulhu instead of an evil clown, but Cthulhu costumes are harder to put together), but RSJS had a bunch more ideas, so once I’d edited together the version I had in mind, I figured it was only fair to make the “extended remix” to show off everything. I think the Jason costume was my favourite.


Just a dumb joke that’s been stuck in my head for years, but one that wasn’t suitable for a company film contest, for obvious reasons. Seriously, though, they really lean on the last two syllables of “happiness” – based on this 1994 hit and the success of Cece Peniston a couple of years earlier, I have to assume we were pretending that penises didn’t exit in the early 90s, although I don’t remember ever getting that memo.

Why Demolition Man is the Best Batman Film

The number and variety of Batman films in existence mean that there’s something for everyone to favour: you can like the Tim Burton ones if you prefer it gothy; you can like the Christopher Nolan ones if you go in for things gritty and slightly overblown; and you can like the Joel Schumacher ones if you’ve recently suffered a severely traumatic head injury. For my money, though, the best Batman film of all time is none of these – it’s the 1993 classic Demolition Man, starring Sylvester Stallone as Batman and Wesley Snipes as the Joker. OK, they actually have different names (I assume there were licensing issues), but this film is not only clearly a Batman film; it is clearly the best Batman film. Let’s review.

The Joker
My problem with the Joker has always been that he’s never come across to me as a credible threat. His superpower is… he’s crazy? That’s it? Yeah, it means he’s unpredictable and unencumbered by conscience, but seriously, that’s more of a liability than an advantage. He’s only able to succeed at anything because of the army of hired goons who are inexplicably willing to work for him, despite the certainty that their employment will end with Batman beating the shit out of them or the Joker killing them on a whim. His most remarkable trait is his uncanny knack for completely renovating locations in his trademark “twisted fairground” style in no time at all – that seems to be his real superpower: interior decoration.

Heath Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight was the first time I saw a version of the Joker who I thought was a genuine threat to Batman – he was cunning and ruthless, he planned ahead, and it was clear that his only goal was to fuck shit up for the sake of it. Only of course it wasn’t the first time, because 25 years before Ledger’s Joker, there was Simon Phoenix.

Do I even have to establish that Simon Phoenix is the Joker? He’s got the look – discoloured hair and outlandish costumes (even by the standards of the mid-90s).

He has 100% of the attitude – playful psychosis, manic laughter, casual violence, non-stop quipping and on top of all of that he says “motherfucker” and can kick the shit out of anyone.

Remember the bit in The Dark Knight when the Joker stabs a guy in the eye with a pencil? Phoenix was stabbing out guys’ eyes with stationery before it was cool. Best Joker Ever.

If Simon Phoenix is the Joker, then John Spartan has to be Batman. He’s fearless, single-minded in pursuit of justice and doesn’t let little things like property destruction get between him and his quarry. He’s also a much less interesting character than the villain – another clear sign this is a Batman film. And he runs around with a shotgun and freeze-kicks the Joker’s head entirely the fuck off. Best Batman Ever.

(OK, first of all, if you’re enough of a pedant to get in a huff over Batman shooting people, you’re enough of a pedant to know that in his original comic book incarnation he did use guns and shoot mobsters, so there’s precedent. And if you’re talking about more recent continuity, you still can’t pull that “Batman never kills” bullshit – even assuming that his martial arts proficiency is such that he never accidentally inflicts fatal injuries when he’s pounding people’s organs and kicking them unconscious, with the sheer number of criminals he’s put in hospital, statistically at least some of them must have contracted a secondary infection and died there thanks to him.)

Supporting Cast
So far my children have been of the penised variety, which means I’ve never been in a position to make good on my documented threat to name any daughter I have Lenina Huxley:

Lenina Huxley, apart from being Sandra Bullock’s first and finest major role, is clearly Robin to John Spartan’s Batman. She’s a devoted follower of Spartan’s ethos, kicks bad guys in the face, looks great in tight pants and for once the sexual tension between her and Batman is explicitly followed up on. If they truly had the courage of their convictions, every Batman film would end with the Dynamic Duo transferring fluids.

(Minor digression: I have to admit that my biggest problem with Demolition Man is Spartan’s coupling with Lenina. He comes out of deep freeze asking for his wife, gets told she’s dead by Huxley and by the end of the film – which takes place over a few days at most – he’s hooking up with her. Call me a prude, but that’s not much of a mourning period.)

Dr Cocteau’s utopian tendencies and ends-justifies-the-means morality basically make him Ra’s al Ghul minus the immortality (Phoenix calls him “an evil Mr. Rogers” – same difference). I’m not well-versed enough in Batman lore to know if Ra’s ever tried to get the Joker to work for him – I do recall times when other big villains tried to manipulate the Joker, and it never worked out that well for them either.

And Denis Leary’s Edgar Friendly is… Anarky? Sort of? Look it doesn’t fucking matter who every single cast member maps on to – the point is that we’ve got a Batman, a Joker and a Robin and that’s all we need. The old black cop is probably Alfred.

The Defence Rests
I don’t think there can be any argument that Demolition Man is a Batman film – you could no more deny that than you could deny that White House Down is a Die Hard sequel (and a better one than 2, 4 or 5). More than that, it’s a Batman film with gunplay, swearing, crotch kicking and eyeball trauma, clearly making it the Best Batman Movie Ever. Possibly the Best Movie Ever, purely because of this shot:

Aspect Ratios

It’s short film competition time at work again. This year, in an attempt to prove how social-media-savvy and cloud-friendly we are, the decision was made to have the entire competition on Instagram, which meant a 15-second limit across the board. This was fine by me, although I’d never used Instagram before. I made a few films, downloaded the app onto my tablet, then immediately began cursing the name of Instagram and anyone who had anything to do with it.

In a holdover from its hipsteriffic origins, Instagram seems to think it’s too good for the rest of the Internet – it wants you to do everything via its mobile app, which makes editing and uploading anything other than a few seconds of shaky crap shot on your cellphone a chore. And it’s square. Fucking SQUARE. Who the fuck shoots square movies? After making a few, I copied them to my tablet and went to upload them, only to realise that I was going to have to go back and reformat them all.

You can see the original entries here, but I’ve put them all up on YouTube in HD widescreen format as God intended. Below are the “real” versions of each film, with a bit of director’s commentary.

How to Tie a Tie

Not a lot to say about this one – just a couple of sight gags finishing on a sweet, sweet 80s reference.

The music at the start is the delightfully-named “Moondots and Polkabeams” by Podington Bear.

Bobble Cats

The bobble cats were a gift brought back from Japan by a friend. They are fairly maddening to watch and I’d had the idea to do a short just alternating between zooming in on them and zooming in on my reaction for a while. Then I was browsing through the Free Music Archive and came across “Caliente! Caliente!” by Mam Patxanga and knew I need to find an excuse to use it for something. It seemed a good fit here. (I used Audacity for the distortion at the end.)

This was the only one I couldn’t crop to a square for Instagram, so it had to get letterboxed, with the exception of the final shot of the diabolical cats. I’m not sure if it works better or worse like that.

Sad Phone

Every year, the competition results state that you can’t use anything that would violate copyright, and I try to be a good boy and comply. (Yes, the How to Tie a Tie one uses “Oh Yeah” by Yello, but fuck it, it’s only three seconds.) The submitted version of this one used another track from the Free Music Archive (“There’s Probably No Time” by Chris Zabriskie), but we all know that when it comes to a shot of someone staring wistfully at rain on a window, Sarah McLachlan is the only real choice.

The “rain” was actually me spraying a hose on the window, or, for the shot taken inside the house looking out, my five-year-old son spraying a hose on the window. He had fun. The rain sound effect was added later – do you like how I used different sounds for the outside and inside shots? And made it quieter for the sad face close up? Little details amuse me.

(More than one person mentioned that they didn’t realise the image on the phone in the last shot is a sad face with a tear – guess I didn’t make it distinct enough.)


Sticking with tradition here – every year has featured a film that involved me writing at my dining table, so I figured I should do it again for this one. The banana puppetry was supplied by me and my wife (for the shots where you can see me as well as them). Every one who sees this lot seems to have a different favourite. I think I like Bobble Cats the best, myself – I think this one is the weakest.

Segue: Internal Dialogue to Book Review

“I honestly can’t tell if you’re sick or just really, really, really tired. As your doctor, I prescribe a day in bed reading, playing videogames and eating chocolate biscuits.”

“You’re not my doctor.”

“I’m A doctor.”

“You’re not a doctor.”

“Look, do you want the handjob or not?”

I don’t know why I keep talking to that guy. Yes, I’m off sick today, but not so sick that I can’t operate a keyboard, so here we are.

In other news, Apathy and Other Small Victories by Paul Neilan is the novel I would write if I had the discipline, perseverance and talent to write a novel. And since he’s already written it, there’s no need for me to, which I guess means I win at apathy. Your move, Neilan.

Wot I Reckon: Jimmy Savile

I see in the paper today that The Independent has re-published an old interview with Jimmy Savile, which takes on a bleaker tone in the light of present-day revelations. The key quote would seem to be:

There has been a persistent rumour about him for years, and journalists have often told me as a fact: “Jimmy Savile? Of course, you know he’s into little girls.” But if they know it, why haven’t they published it? The Sun or the News of the World would hardly refuse the chance of featuring a Jimmy Savile sex scandal. It is very, very hard to prove a negative, but the fact that the tabloids have never come up with a scintilla of evidence against Jimmy Savile is as near proof as you can ever get.

And this has been the constant refrain: everybody knew, but nobody ever did anything about it; everybody “knew”, but nobody actually knew. (Except, obviously, his victims, who were either not believed or silent, knowing that they wouldn’t be believed.)

And that strikes me as a fair amount of bullshit – watch that Have I Got News For You clip and count the number of times Ian Hislop says “no-one actually knew“. Maybe not – if only there was an entire industry of journalists whose job it was to investigate rumours and find out if they were true or not – “investigative journalists”, you could call them… Everyone “knew” the rumours about Savile, including people who were in a position to investigate and prove the rumours true, but as that interview says, no-one did – or if they did, no-one published. What, seriously, the fuck?

Well, I don’t know, obviously. Jimmy Savile had little presence in New Zealand – at the time he was around, I knew his name and had heard of Jim’ll Fix It, but that’s about it. I know little of Jimmy Savile and his co-accused, I know nothing of his victims or what they must have been through, I know nothing of the enabling culture in that time and place. But here’s one thing I do know:

When I was eleven years old, I took a bus to the nearest intermediate school. Kids being kids, every day, at every stop, there’d be a rush to see who could be the first to ring the bell signalling the driver to stop at the next stop – usually there’d be a “ding!” as soon as the doors closed after letting off each load of pupils. One day, after one stop, the bell didn’t ring straight away for some reason – everyone thought everyone else was going to do it or something, I don’t know – and suddenly everything changed. No-one was ringing the bell. Anyone could have; normally it would have been prestigious to have done so; it would have been to the advantage of everyone who was getting off at the next stop to have done so; but no-one did it. The stop coming up wasn’t mine, so I had no stake in it, but I asked a friend who was due to get off there why he didn’t ring the bell. “Ah, the driver will know to stop,” he said. I couldn’t quite understand what I was seeing; the collective mentality had changed completely – now nobody wanted to ring the bell because nobody else wanted to ring the bell.

I have to wonder if that’s the sort of groupthink that applied in the case of Savile and his ilk – nobody wanted to point the finger at him, at least in part, because nobody else wanted to point the finger at him. No-one did it, not in spite of the fact that anyone could have done it, but because anyone could have done it. Anyone else.

In the end, the bus driver drove straight past the next stop without slowing. All the kids who were due to get off at that stop yelled, everyone made damn sure to hit the button for the next stop, and things went back to normal. I could have rung the bell, for the benefit of the others, but as I say, I had no stake in it – it wasn’t my stop. I can’t say how I’d have acted if it was.

More Internal Dialogue

BRAIN: “OK, here’s a fairly well-formulated thought – you can say it out loud now!”

MOUTH: *starts to say something*

BRAIN: “No wait, this thing makes more sense – say this thing!”

MOUTH: *stops saying the original thing halfway through, stutters for a second, then starts saying the new thing*

BRAIN: “Actually, that thing’s not 100% accurate – it’d be better to say this thing instead.”

MOUTH: *stops saying the new thing halfway through, uncomfortable pause as eyes glaze over then refocus, then starts saying the even newer thing*

BRAIN: “Um, actually, that’s getting a bit far from my original point, better bend that thing back towards the first thing – not the thing you were just saying, the thing before that. Remember that?”

MOUTH: *gibbers unintelligibly for several seconds to cover up the sound of gears grinding, then says a messy Frankensteinian combination of all three things*

BRAIN: “… good? OK, Matthew’s talking now. Ears, listen to what he’s saying – not so closely that you distract me while I’m thinking of what to say next, but closely enough that I can tailor what I’m thinking so that it vaguely relates to what he’s saying. Ooh, and if he makes a joke, just ignore that completely so that I end up totally standing on his punchline and sounding like a dick.”

EARS: “Oh, fuck you.”

And that’s what it’s like recording a podcast.