Hold on tight to your imagination

This post has been sparked off from watching the trailer for the upcoming movie by Satoshi Kon called Paprika set to open in the USA this week. During it, there’s a quote from the New York Times praising the film, saying:

“Evidence that Japanese animators are reaching for the moon, while most of their American counterparts remain stuck in the kiddie sandbox.” – Manohla Dargis

I think she has a strong point in that quote. American animation still caters predominantly for the kid market, even if there’s a nod to the parents who’ll be watching them. Recent outings like Flushed Away, Meet the Robinsons, Over The Hedge, and classics like Toy Story, The Incredibles etc all have their adult appeal, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a formula even to these. Want evidence? Watch a few anime titles and see real tangential fantasy ideas pour out of the page.

Since the early 90s when I stumbled over the Anime section at HMV in Birmingham and joined the UK Manga Club I’ve been a big fan of the animation style of the Japanese. From early classics like Akira (of which I’m a very proud owner of an original cel from the movie) to the fun Tank Police series, I’ve recently been captivated by two releases by Studio Ghibli – the Academy Award® winning ‘ Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi) [Hayao Miyazaki] (2001) and the captivating ‘Whisper of the Heart (Mimi wo sumaseba) [Yoshifumi Kondo] (1995).

In an unofficial translation of an article Hayao Miyazaki describes his justification for producing ‘Whisper of the Heart’, which also demonstrates his approach favouring an adult audience despite being animation.

“The movie will neither cater to the tastes of the younger audience, nor deliberately raise questions or highlight the problems in their present situation.

To the middle-aged people who have unspeakable regrets and remorse towards their salad days, the movie should be able to deliver an inciting feeling to today’s youngsters. Deep in the minds of these young people, they are assuming in great faith that they can never play the main roles in the stage of life. Indeed, they are the reflections of the old selves of the middle-aged people like us. Therefore, we hope to revive the wishes in their hearts, and reveal to them the importance of embracing their dreams.”

He goes on to describe more about how shoujo manga usually doesn’t have inconsiderate parents and pretty much concentrates on the central character’s hopes and dreams. And the dream sequences are usually utterly fantastical and shows what I think Dargis was referring to by animations ‘reaching for the moon’.

Go on, treat yourself, find one of these films and let your imagination run riot. It deserves being unleashed and stretched further.
Spirited Away

Eurovision: A reason to celebrate

Where else in the world do you get a staged event full of so many different cultures? It’s a blast. Sure, the voting is beyond farcicle these days, where it feels more like ‘which country needs the injection of cash from tourism and media spotlight this time?’. Sure, neighbouring countries vote for each other as if Eurovision meant the making and breaking of trade agreements. But in a time where there’s no current series of EuroTrash to celebrate the odd corners of our strange neighbours, Eurovision does it in one swoop.

Personally, I think ‘Scootch’ (Real Player) did us proud given the shoddy entries we’ve put forward in the past few years. They were slick in their routine, used more props than anyone else, and provided the proper slab of camp pop that Eurovision is all about! (Obviously the rehearsals by performing at G.A.Y. payed off.. heh). Hadn’t spotted the ‘Bucks Fizz’ reference until he offers the passenger a drink, nice touch Scooch.
I think that all the European Broadcast Union countries that get in by default (from the amount of money and expertise we throw at staging the event) means that we’re never going to win again. Maybe when we’ve got through all the new countries to join the EU we might get a shot at holding it again.

It’s a shame the Swiss entry “Vampires Are Alive” (Real Player) didn’t make it past the Semi-final stage.

But I think the performance of the night, which captured the EuroTrash mood which makes me smile so much, had to be Verka Serduchka’s performance for the Ukraine. Fantastically funny from start to finish. Hope someone gets the Eurovision performance up on YouTube soon but I’ll leave you with a version of the video which still makes me chuckle.

We might be odd bedfellows but I think it makes us unique and not at all stuffy.

Enjoy and DANZ!

[Edit : I’ve found the proper Eurovision performance now on YouTube and have changed the video below to that one. The star of the night was definitely that Barco projection screen behind them. From a lighting point of view, the fact that it consists of relatively thin bars of LEDs means they can shine lights from behind. And this song of Verka’s was the best example of this. Watch closely for the beams of light co-inciding with the graphics of moving lights on the screen. Very, very clever stuff guys.]

A year in the grid

Just a quick post to celebrate a mini-milestone. I’ve just realised that my World Community Grid clients have clocked up over a year of run time towards helping research projects in areas such as muscular dystrophy and looking for potential AIDS cures.
I started running the software on my Windows Server box two years ago, but that sat dormant while I was on my placement. Now, thanks to the fact I’ve installed it on my more powerful main PC too, yesterday’s statistics say I’ve contributed 1 year, 8 days, 4 hours, 41 minutes and 30 seconds of computing power. For this large effort (or so I thought), I’m currently sat in 17,044th place on their leaderboard. This means that a minimum of 17,000 years of computing power has been freely given by those in the grid. A fantastic achievement in anyone’s book.
I know that the PS3 is trying to help a folding project now, so grid computing has become newsworthy again. But I urge you, if you have machines that sit on all day, get them to do something useful with their spare cycles. You can set the software to run only when the screensaver is on if you don’t want it in the background all the time. But any non-critical hardware you have just keeping the room warm, stick the client software on and give researchers the largest supercomputer ever assembled.
As a side note, I prefer this project to the SETI effort. All very well listening out for aliens, but if we can help suffering on Earth first, that gets my vote.