Saturday, June 27, 2009


As I went up to Oporto to get my lunch today, I walked through the street market they have in Newtown every Saturday. As always, there are people just selling random stuff, like belts made from recycled materials, old albums and CDs, books of all sorts, and the inevitable t-shirt printers. Now, most of the people at markets who do t-shirts are screen printers, with a few tie-dyers and tailors/seamstresses thrown in. Nobody seems to do shirts they way I do. Admittedly, the method I use (cutting the stenicls, then painting with brushes) is not the most efficient, easiest or most practical way of doing things, but it does give me a level of control that I enjoy.

However, lately I've been thinking hard about my printing. My first thinkings were in the vein of more artisitic and impressive (read: difficult) designs to really how what I can do. That line of thinking has been difficult to develop, seeing as the majority of the shirts I do are demand-focused (ie I do what people ask me to do), so these new shirts would pretty much be for me. Also, Stencil Revolution, which was my main source of inspiration, was shut down about a year ago, and has not really gotten back on its feet since. I've come up with a few sort of meta-design examples (my Irgendwas Auf Deutsch one, or a few based on the cartoons of Phil Somerville such as "Tragically Born Without A Logo" (overlaid on a collage of logos I've done for other people, such as the Firetrybe logo, the Carbon Cowboy Design I did for Phil, a Triforce with wings and others) and "Due to computer error, this t-shirt is completely free of advertising," (directly above my logo, heh), but I'm not getting the oomph I wantedto. Most people just assume I got them at JayJays or something and don't give my shirts a second look.

As for my process, it's actually cost me a few jobs. It's fairly difficult to accurately mass-produce shirts, as they never quite turn out identical, and paint builds up on the stencils, make each use afterward less accurate. Large areas of solid colour are also a problem, as it's tough to get a smooth, even shape with clean edges. I made some shirts for a local band that turned out not-so-great because their logo was a large yellow oval (large area of solid colour) with the band name on it and they wanted a dozen shirts, but couldn't afford good ones, so had cheap $3 shirts, which were so thin they barely held still under my brush. The results were less than stellar, and I've never heard from them again.

Recently, the mother of one of my workmates called me to ask if I could print some shirts for a singer she is doing promotion work for. She sent me a design which was very easy, but said that design was from the last tour and they wanted a newer one. We talked for a bit and after I dissuaded her from putting words on the back of jeans, she said she'd get back to me. A few weeks pass. I suddenly get a call, and after a few confused moment, relise who it is, and that yes, she's still interested. After debating every tiny detail of what she wants (to a ridiculous degree, taken two further calls, each spaced about 5 minutes apart while I'm at work), we agree to two prototype shirts using the new design and then many more to come later. I buy two blanks and wait on the email. She calls again to make sure the shirts I got are the right type, and casually asks me to photoshop the logo onto the promo picture, since I'm "good at those sorts of things." The email comes and the design is, in a word, impossible. It's a spanish-style cross with so many criss-crossing loops and whorls and patterns that even if I could cut a stencil, it would be impossible to use more than once and would probably break apart. I photoshop the image though, even throwing together a few cool effects and a couple different versions and send them back, with my worries about the design. I mention that maybe they could come up with a simple design for the shirt for me to do. I get a short email back saying they would run it by the artist and get back to me.

I've heard nothing back. It's been 3 weeks. I even did the plaintive email of "Are we still doing the prototypes?" and got nothing.

So anyway.

The reason I brought up the markets is that the designs I see at markets are always awesome and original and different. They're huge, sprawling, detailed (whereas my designs are usually limited to A4 or A3 size due to my printer). Also, they're mostly selling the shirts for $10 or $15 dollars. I sell mine for $20, and though Tanja keeps saying I should raise my prices for the amount of work I put in, I feel bad asking more (possibly due to being afraid that someone will tell me my work isn't worth more).

So even if I pony up the dough to get a large stock of blanks, find some designs that can compete, I'm still going to be two stalls away from people who are better at it, can mass-produce, and are selling for less.

Basically, it makes me wonder if this is ever going to be more than a hobby for me.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Transformers 2: Electric Boogaloo (warning: long & nerdy)

Went to see TF: RotF (which I still read as "Transformers: Rolling On The Floor"). Some impressions (slight spoilers):

  • Though he was only there for about 10 seconds, I really liked the inclusion of Sideswipe. He was one of my favourite G1 characters when I was young. I also like that his movie alt-form (a new Corvette Stingray concept) was similar to his old school alt-form (a red Lamborghini Countach) in that they are both bedroom poster fodder. Who cares if they're illogical? They look badass.

  • Speaking to the robot forms for a moment, it was nice to see a little bit of variation (Demolishor, the 2-wheeled gyroscope-style robot from the trailers, though again, he got 4 minutes of smashing stuff before being put down, Doctor Scalpel, Wheelie, as well as Jetfire and Soundwave, but more on them later) but the majority of the Decepticons just looked like generic robots out of the model kit. They even recycled the CG models of Blackout and Bonecrusher from the first movie! Teletraan-1 said the Blackout lookalike was another character called Grindor, who merely had the same alt-mode. The piles and piles of Decepticons that show up near the end of the film for the big battle? We have no idea who they are. They don't get names. For most of the movie, I was thinking that I couldn't wait to get home and look these characters up on Teletraan-1 to see who the hell they were meant to be and why I should care. Let me paint the picture: over-designed vaguely humanoid shaped silver/gun-metal grey robot with slight defining bits on the shoulders (car doors, wings, bulldozer treads, backhoe tires). Yeah. I can totally tell one of those from another. Yeah. Even Megatron was hard to differentiate towards the end. Oh, was that Megatron that just got hit really bad and lost an arm? I don't know.

  • Speaking of Megatron, was it me, or did he get a major power-down for this film? I mean, he was essential the second-in-command to The Fallen, so he took a level drop in Badass. He got his cool new tank form (gained by having some minions ripping apart one of their own in a creepy moment, also foreshadowing Prime's upgrade) that could somehow fly. Then he is tough for the whole film until the last 30 minutes when he become just another Decepticon getting beat back by the army (see my gripes about the army below) and ends up getting a cowardice lesson from STARSCREAM of all people.

  • Good designs that caught my attention:
  • Jetfire. An SR-71 Blackbird. Completely fits with the character (who was the baddest thing on the block back in the day, but is now falling apart and prone to mechanical failure). And I got to be a smart guy when I reminded Adrian that G1 Jetfire was a Decepticon scientist who later defected. Plus he gets to kick a large level of backside and, according to Teletraan-1 is made of "100% pure concetrated ownage".

  • Skids & Mudflap: Though their robot modes were beaten with several ugly sticks and their behaviour was borderline offensive, here's what was interesting about them. The original G1 Skids was a Honda City Turbo (seen here) but was always mistaken for a minivan, as described here: "Though Skids' toy turned into a Honda City Turbo, his car mode was often misinterpreted in Transformers fiction as one of the then-new minivans, despite the fact that a Honda City Turbo is a subcompact car, and as such, could theoretically be stowed in the back seat of an actual minivan. This is likely because most Americans in 1985 wouldn't know what a subcompact car is." So when they design Skids and Mudflap for the Movie, they were a Chevy Beat and a Chevy Trax, both members of the newly made compact-pseudo SUV-marketed-as-cars like the Toyota Matrix and the Pontiac Vibe.

  • Soundwave: HE MADE IT! After getting cut from the first movie, Soundwave shows up. Soundwave as communications satellite was awesome, though I would have liked to see him take a more active role. Plus, Frank freakin' Welker's voice (though without the flanger/digitisation he sounded like Dr. Claw).

  • Ravage: Killer design, looks way dangerous, and a bit similar to his steampunk Hearts of Steel design. However, he did this thing while infiltrating the base where he spews up a bunch of what look like iron filings, but are actually nanobots that form into a skeletal, nearly-2d robot. What hit me later was the question of this 2d bot's existance. Was he a drone, controlled by Ravage? Was he a form of Ravage himself? Was he a seperate entity that separates from Ravage like Ravage himself did from Soundwave or Scoponok from Blackout? Once again, Teletraan-1 to the rescue. It seems those were Insecticons that Ravage can launch and cotrol at will, and similar to the one Sam sees later. But none of that was apparent.

  • Bad Designs that caught my attention:
  • Alice: okay, I get that she was meant to be a Pretender (though, again, i had to be the know-it-all-jerk and explain it to Craig and Adrian), but jeez louise, if you're meant to be an attractive female, don't pick a body that looks like a former-size-zero-supermodel dunked in pork grease and then expect the audience to go "Phoar, isn't she hot." The only reason she exists is to play out a tired just-caught-with-another-woman cliched storyline to make us think that the Power Couple of Sam & Mikaela would break up. Yawn. Also, am I the only one sick of TV and movies where the following scenario is acted out: the Hero With A Girlfriend (or HWAG) is macked upon by Random Obvious Slut Girl (or ROSG). She'll pin him against the wall, or sit on his lap, or basically physically intimidate him against his will. The HWAG will stammer and squirm, look uncomfortable, and maybe have his eyes dart around looking for a way out for comedic effect. Dude. Strange girl sits on your lap? Shove her. Stand up. Push past her. Drop her like yesterday's newspaper. I mean, this may be me getting amped up about this, but I was near to yelling at the screen. Think I'm overreacting? Picture a guy doing that to a female character. Yeah. It's pretty much an "I like a girl with spirit"-leading-up-to-date-rape situation.

  • Devastator. Really? That's your pitch? He's essentially an inflated plastic bag with legs, made of metal, and stealing Unicron's main attack, which is to suck everything into his mouth. Yes, you heard it here first, he sucks hard. He sucked an Autobot so hard his face nearly got blown off. I am not making this up. Also, since he's the token fat guy, want to know what challenge he gets? Climbing a pyramid. He even has long hooks and lines to help him climb, but he just keeps sliding down. I began to internally cheer for him. You can do it, biggie! Climb! And then he gets to the top, only to have his head blown off by an unemployed former-government agent-current-deli-worker with a radio-controlled railgun. Let that be a lesson to people who struggle with their weight: never climb anything.

  • It was WAY WAY too long. Like 45 minutes to an hour too long. The film is 3 hours. This puts it into Anthony Hopkins' Nixon and Lord of the Rings territory. Hey, Michael Bay! I could tell you exactly what to cut. You know when there's the big setup for the battle near the end, and Starscream is attacking, and he send off an EMP which cooks the radios of the troops, and then buggers off? That's where you start, because the next long while is a bunch of military-looking guys sitting in front of computers, barking generic military dialogue led by Glenn Morshower (who I always see as the Ensign from Under Seige that Steven Seagal puts down by saying it's sad that he won't get to see him go through puberty). Then we have planes being redirected, tanks landing, and lots and lots of other unnecessary shots to, I'm assuming, please the military suits who gave Michael Bay a dump truck full of money and wanted their dump-truck's worth. Yawn again. On a side-note, they should ask for some of their money back for this reason. Bay's military don't learn! In the first film, Lennox and his squaddies figured out that conventional weaponry, even tanks, are useless against Transformers larger than a breadbox (the little ones can be whacked with axed, cut with saws, whatever). It took magnesium Sabot rounds burning at 6000 degrees to hurt the smallish Scorponok. So then later in the film, Lennox is able to kill Blackout on his own, using a grenade launcher retrofitted to fire Sabot rounds. In this movie? They're shooting with assault rifles, tanks, and what have you, and, depending on the scene, it's completely useless, or useful. What the?

  • Anyway, I could talk about the story, such as it was, but this entry is long enough. I gotta wrap it up somewhere. Yeah, it was an okay Transformers movie with some fun action and explosion, but I don't think it's a good movie.