Well, given how infrequently I update this ol' personal blog, I think it's about time I moved things over to JKRiki.com permanently. It's updated every Monday, after all! Plus I'm going to be upgrading it in the next few months to include links to other spots I hang out online, such as my new digs at Instagram. If you're looking for me in the meantime, check over here!
Please note: Posts here older than June 24th, 2015 should be considered officially archived. I am not removing them, but in the ten years that I have been writing on this blog I have changed a great deal. Things beyond this point should be considered outdated at best, and may contain many errors or opinions I no longer hold. These things tend to happen as you grow and live life. Or at least, they hopefully happen as you try to become a better person as you age! I just want readers to be aware of that, so that if you decide to go poking through history you will know that it doesn't necessarily reflect my current or future views.
If you'd like current thoughts and posts, please visit JKRiki.com for regular scheduled updates that provide better insights and information. Thanks!
*WARNING, I AM NOT A DOCTOR. THE TITLE AND CONTENT OF THIS POST IS BASED ON THAT FLAGRANT LIE.*
Hello there, Dr. JK here. How are you feeling? Okay, but perhaps not fantastic? Well, in my doctorly opinion it may be your constant ingestion of chemicals.
*SERIOUSLY, NOT A DOCTOR. ALSO DOCTORLY ISN'T EVEN A LEGITIMATE WORD.*
Go get a box of something from your kitchen. Take a look at the ingredient list. Does it contain a bunch of things that you can't pronounce and end in "-erides" or "-amate" or "-genated?"
*I JUST PULLED THOSE THINGS FROM RANDOM BOXES AND KNOW NOTHING ABOUT THESE CHEMICAL ADDITIVES*
A ridiculous number of what we consider "food" today is actually engineered chemicals jammed in to replace actual food because it's cheaper or to preserve shelf life.
*THAT IS ACCURATE, BUT STILL NOT A DOCTOR DON'T FORGET*
If you aren't feeling great physically, there's a 95% chance it's because you're ingesting a bunch of garbage everyday instead of actual food.
*STATISTIC IS COMPLETELY FABRICATED.*
You can believe me, I'm a licensed physician.
*OH MY GOSH NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT.*
In all seriousness, I've recently been privileged to read a lot of information on the history of what we call "nutrition." The science behind food, including everything from carbs and transfats to the calorie and supplements. I was originally going to warn against unnatural inclusions in food, but that post was deleted for being too "soap boxy." I'm not here to tell you what to do. Instead, I'm only going to share what I've come to consider in the past few months.
Nutritionism has been wrong over and over and over (and over!) since its birth. This isn't some conspiracy theory, this is factual history. When it comes to nutrition, we consistently have no idea what we're talking about. But we DO pretend to know what we're talking about, and boy do we pretend well. We have grown exceptionally good at pretending we know what we're talking about. Mastery level, even. You certainly don't have to take my word for this, go look it up if you'd like. Take special note of how the people who are talking about how wrong previous nutritional information was are they themselves nutritionists. I find this infinitely amusing. Clearly NOW we've got it right, right? Surely it was just the people 50, 30, or 10 years ago who were wrong! That same thing couldn't happen to us, we have NEW data. And this new data says (*rolls dice, checks chart*) coffee will cause blindness in people age 33 that have blonde hair.
It's science, and that means it's right.
Anyway, re-centering and continuing with less sarcasm, the truth is there's so, so much we don't know about food. While I'm not going to advise we cease from studying it going forward, it's frankly rather dangerous to believe we know more than we do. So then what do we do?
Starve to death. All food is bad.
Eat real food.
I'm not going to say I buy organic everything and hug chickens for emotional support before tossing them into the Slaughter Chute, but I have made it a habit to flip over anything I purchase and see how many ingredients a scientist decided would be a great idea to inject into the stuff I'm going to have for dinner later. Lots of chemicals? Back on the shelf you go unless you also contain the word "Doritos" or "Double Stuffed Oreo." (Then you get a free pass straight to my mouth. Come on, I'm still going to die one day. It's stupid not to enjoy life SOME.)
The funny thing about eating real food is... real food actually tastes a crazy amount better. Oh we've been trained to like processed corn syrup squashed into everything we consume, but once you get used to natural stuff as opposed to the chemically enhanced, you realize there's a depth of flavor you never knew about.
I'm not going to tell you what to do about your eating habits, or even suggest you change. What I will always be a proponent of is "awareness." Being actually aware of what you do and believe and not just doing things because it's either "always been done that way" or "scientists (often via the media) say I should." Humans are fallible, and humans who claim to know more than they do are often the most fallible. Know what you're making part of the only body you'll ever have, and be personally knowledgeable about it. You don't need a degree in chemical engineering, you just need to read the back of several boxes of fruit snacks and possibly pick the one that contains "fruit" instead of "acetylated monoglycerides."
And you can trust me on that, I'm a doctor.
I've been posting a lot about animation as of late, and it dawned on me that I didn't share my plans for 2014's Lent season. For those who don't know what Lent is, fear not. I don't know what it is either. As far as I can tell, it is a time between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday when people give up something and eat fish on Fridays. As someone who enjoys fish, this sounds like a good deal to me.
I admit, though, despite attending church for most of my life (and being awake and alert and actually caring in church for going on three years now!) I never quite grasped Lent. I could go research it, but I don't really want to. Or I guess I should say, I don't really feel the need to.
But I probably should. Hang on.
Ah okay. So as my inklings assumed, Lent is a holiday made up by the church and has no real Biblical backing outside of the command to be spiritual and have times of reflection. Which is probably why I've never felt a very strong desire to adhere to it. One shouldn't be forced into communion with God, it should be a choice, in my opinion.
At any rate! The concept is a good one, much like our invention of New Years Resolutions (which of course we have the power to take part in ANY day of the year, not just when the calendar rolls over!) so in the past I have taken on something during Lent rather than give something up. Usually an attempt to help others or form a new, better habit. This year I'm casting my lot with the masses, though, and doing the "give up" thing. I've decided to give up buying myself anything.
I take joy in the fact that I'm not particularly a material-focused person. Where a lot of folks long for new (or several) fancy cars or expensive jewelry or clothes, I've never found a lot of meaning in such things. (Not boasting about any righteousness here, I'm just telling you how I've felt.) One thing I've noticed recently, though, is my disregard for small, "insignificant" purchases. Great Mouse Detective on Blu-ray is on sale for $12? Sweet, that's a deal, I'll pick it up for my library. Ooo, that color of paint in the "oops" section is pretty nice and it's only $5 what a steal. Also my propensity to buy Oreos. I may have a problem. I go through a pack of Oreos in just a few days. I love me some Oreos.
So this Lent I've decided I'm going to be more conscious of this habit of "small spending" and do my best to not buy myself anything at all. I'm hopefully doing this in the right spirit, too. My goal here is to take a better look at where my resources are going so I can be a better steward of them. I'm happy that I am a decent steward of what I've been given in many regards, but some, like this, are seriously lacking. So we'll see how it goes! Already I've found myself having to walk away from the used bookshelf at the library and go through the grocery store with blinders on so I can stave off the siren song of chocolate and cream cookies.
Anyone else doing anything for Lent?
This week I suppose I don't exactly have "off" per say, but it is a much lighter load than the past month and a half for me. We've got a Christmas party for our bible study group and I'm cooking for it, so normal work schedule is a bit on hold while I do some holiday stuff. Which makes sense because the holidays should be enjoyed, not spent 24/7 in the office.
I'm looking forward to cooking, since I haven't done any heavy chef-ing in a while, and planning to do Steak Fajitas, Lettuce Wraps, Bacon wrapped Asparagus, and Sausage stuffed mushrooms. I also bought a giant jar of pickles, which seems like a very strange thing but I figured how many Christmas parties have you gone to where they've had pickles? Might be an awesome new thing to invent as a tradition! (Or maybe I'll just have a giant jar of pickles to eat by myself over the next five months.)
And now here is a picture of a bunny, which I don't believe I ever posted to the blog.
My mother tends to go all out for Halloween. Full size candy bars, chips, rock candy, sometimes glowing necklaces and stuff... She spend more on the trick-or-treaters than me on my birthday. (Okay, exaggeration, but still.) This year I helped her pick out the candy to get, and got a box of Mr. Goodbar to hand out.
Like two kids out of 130 picked it! What the what? So clearly the next generation is a bunch of dimtwits and needs me to fill them in: Here's the scoop. Mr. Goodbar is AMAZING. It's like a normal Hershey bar but infinitely better. And if you put it in the fridge overnight it gets another +infinity bonus added on. That's TWICE INFINITY. Next time someone offers you a Mr. Goodbar, don't be an idiot. Take it. It's great.
On the plus side, I now have a nearly full box of Mr. Goodbar to eat myself. So maybe kids not knowing what's delicious is a good(bar) thing! Har har.
For those of you who might not have known, I spent the last several weeks in China. We visited family there, and took in some of the sights while we were at it. All in all, it was a fun trip, and much better than my previous first trip to the other side of the world.
We rode the high speed railway they've got all over the country, and I have to say, it was amazing. I wish the US had high speed rail. I'd take it over flying any day of the week. It's fast, it's smooth, and the entire time we didn't have a single delay (unlike the miserable air service where delays are expected). If I had an extra 700 million dollars laying around, I'd make a high speed rail across the country.
Their subway system is also fantastic. The stations are clean, bright, and open. A far cry from the New York Subway I am used to frequenting. I'd like a subway like Shanghai, thank you very much. Not to mention trains come every 5 minutes or so (which is needed, since there are a gajillion people there.
Speaking of a gajillion people, we happened to visit the country during "Golden Week" which is their week long celebration of independence. Sort of like a 7 day Fourth of July. Or, I imagine, Canada Day. Maybe. Anyway, it was nice because the family was all off work and could spend time with us. It was not as nice because everyone else also had off from work so it was a new definition of the word "crowded." Here, for example, it a picture I took from the stairs of the Great Wall of China:
Also the beds there are really hard. As in, they are a piece of wood with a blanket on top. It was rough, the days we spent on those beds... Thankfully at my family's house the beds were softer. Aka actually mattresses.
The food was, as always, terrific. If you've never been to China, imagine the best Chinese food you've ever had and then consider what it would be like if that Chinese food was the worst and there was only better than that. American (and I imagine most other countries versions) Chinese food is not even Chinese food at all. It's some horrible offspring of real Chinese food. We found the most amazing dumplings I've ever had down a random alley in Bejing. I marked in on a map. If you ever go to Bejing, this is where you need to head:
The wrapper-dough was homemade, and the greatest noodle-like substance I've ever tasted. It was so, so good. And it was after we had already had lunch so I wasn't even hungry at the time. Sometimes food tastes that much better because you're starving. I wasn't at all, they were just that good.
I'm very happy to be home, though, for as much fun as it was. It was a long time away, and I missed work. I drew a lot, and did some silly little animation in Flipnote Studio on the DS before getting frustrated with the lack of options and giving up on it. Today I'm looking forward to getting some stuff done. Jetlag is making me extremely tired (it's 12 hours difference there, so right now it's almost midnight for my body despite being noon outside) but I'll push through it.
Oh. Also I got a very interesting souvenir while I was over there. Maybe tomorrow I'll post about it.
Yesterday, if you missed it, I decided to open up the blog to whatever everyone wanted to talk about. So today we're going to have a long, hopefully entertaining entry about... well a lot of things.
mrcontesty says "Write about this: What is Cloeâ€™s natural hair color?"
Her natural hair color is purple. You've never seen someone with naturally purple hair who hangs out with space chickens and talking monkeys before? Well, first time for everything, I suppose.
Cloe really isn't much for faking things. She doesn't wear makeup (minus the occasional lipstick for fancy dinner parties) and generally she is who she is. The only thing I'd say she changes about herself is that she keeps a lid on her temper. She can get pretty fired up sometimes, and so she does her best to control that.
JBA says "how about writing about frame rates or recording voices, just the whole process that goes into making a Fred cartoon.
also I finished animating my solar man with lyrics video and will post it this coming week (Iâ€™m waiting for a second recording from the person Iâ€™m collaborating with)"
How did you finish animating without the audio?! Well, looking forward to seeing it, good luck finishing things up.
As for the FtM process, it usually starts with an odd joke or idea that I have in the car, shower, or just talking with someone about non-Fred related stuff. It "seems like something Fred (or Sceb, SC, etc) would say" and I quickly begin adapting it for a cartoon. Usually that leads to more ideas, and before long they're scribbled down into a script of sorts. Next up is recording the lines (via Shure mic and Garageband software these days) and importing them into Flash. I say it nonchalantly, but truthfully all of this is very time-consuming and a ton of work. Especially if I have to drag in other people to record voices. Anyway, the lines are timed out over top very rough storyboards (example here)Â which gives me the comedic timing. Often this is the most important part of a cartoon! You MUST get the timing right. Sometimes I will sit listening to two lines 10 times over and over, moving them one or two frames forward or back. I can't stress enough how important it is to learn that, if you're an animator. After that it's on to inserting the characters, moving them around where they need to go, and the long, tedious process of lip syncing. It sounds pretty simple, it just takes a very long time.
The cartoons currently run at 30 frames per second. I will likely be moving that to 24 FPS this coming year. Or I might leave FtM at 30 and just do all my Studio shorts at 24 fps. I'm not sure.
Triangle says: "You should write about your favorite genre of music.
â€¦And your least favorite, too. =P "
I tend to like music I like, and music I like is generally well composed with memorable melodies. If it's rock, rap, jazz, big band, or whatever, it isn't so much about the genre for me as the notes they're playing.
One thing, though, is that I will automatically dislike a song based on lyrics I don't agree with. There have been plenty of songs that I adore the melody and music of, but completely disagree with what the artist is saying, so I remove it from my list. Often times we don't listen to what's going into our brains, and that's a problem. You may say "It's just a song" but the truth is the mind is subconsciously absorbing everything around you, so it's important to put in things that will make you who you want to be. (As such, I listen to a lot of Christian Rock because I tend to feel good about the lyrics I'm singing along to while driving down the street. Not exclusively, but often.)
I also listen to sports radio, because I live near Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh is a super Sports City. Even with our 19-year-failing baseball team.
In terms of my least favorite genres, I find that really HARD versions of anything aren't generally my cup of tea. The rock and rap where they're mostly screaming and you can't understand any words is mostly useless to me, since I want to hear the words. Also I grew up with a family that didn't favor Country music, so I automatically took that same opinion. These days I don't hate it like I used to, but I admit I don't really listen to it, so I don't know if I'd like it. I will say about Country: often the songs are SO HEAVY in terms of what they're singing about that it kind of drags me through an emotional wringer. It's tough to listen to when I just want to be carefree, if that makes sense.
How about you? What are your favorites and least favorites? Any particular songs you're partial to? I know I go through a "favorite song ever" about once a month.
Papytendo says: "You never talk about cooking on the blog anymore, why is that? Have you stopped caring about the wonderful world of food? What about Alton Brown? DONâ€™T TELL ME YOU FORGOT ABOUT ALTON."
Triangle adds: "Good call, Papytendo! Super true.
Also, itâ€™s kinda sad, Good Eats is over.
Then again, now this means I can probably spend a bajillion dollars and get all of the episodesâ€¦"
I don't discuss food as often because I still have no working kitchen. So my food is mostly pre-prepared stuff I buy. Which pains me, and I look forward to getting back to cooking... Also since we don't have cable anymore, I don't get to watch the Food Network so much. We DVR Restaurant Impossible at my mother's house, though. That Robert Irvine is awesome. (I liked Dinner Impossible better, but it had a good run and I'm happy they've moved along to something new.)
I'm glad Good Eats had the run it did. It was (and is) a great show, and it lasted a LONG while. There are so many useful things in all the episodes they made it will be tough to ever get through all that information. Alton Brown continues to be the best chef on TV, even in reruns.
Paperboy says: "The forum"
Set to launch for the anniversary update October 1st. The icons in yesterday's blog post are the icons from the new boards! It's been going slowly and not very easily, but we're getting things running and in place. It's going to be a work in progress, though, like most stuff around FtM. We'll continue to tweak stuff past the launch date.
annoamous says: "you need to put a animators wanted thing so the cartoons wonâ€™t take too long."
Once upon a time I had other people helping with the Fred cartoons. And by the end we had a great little group of people there (a lot of folks quit). The problem was schedules varied. Sometimes someone would be available to help, sometimes not. It was very random, and with something like cartoon production you need more structure and security. I am extremely appreciative of the time those guys put in, though. I just need to make sure the next time there will be a bit more consistent reliability. A "Help Wanted" sign probably won't help right now. I'd likely get a lot of folks who would love to help, but quickly discover how much work it is and have other lives to take care of. Instead I'll conduct the search privately and find that right person for the job who can devote a real part-time job position to it.
Then hopefully the cartoons won't take as long to make, with two people dedicated to their ongoing production.
rainbowmathDJG says: "Boxers or briefs?
â€¦â€¦no, just kidding, how about what goes on with the website besides animation, such as uploading a cartoon, changing the â€œNewest Updateâ€ image on the front page, how you handle links, etc. Not anything fancy, just the Laymanâ€™s terms version."
Well you talked about most of it, like changing the homepage with a new update image and text, and uploading the cartoon and making sure stuff works properly. Beyond that, most of the NEW website stuff is handled by Q or JW (who are both much more versed in programming) and I'm at their mercy when it comes to updating things or fixing stuff. Since they have full time jobs, it's tough to find time to help me out. One day I'll have a dedicated webmaster who I will say to "Good sir (or madam), here is the new cartoon, please put it up and make sure everything is in order" and I can move right to the next cartoon.
Oh man that will be sweeeeeeeet...
Also, briefs. Boxers don't provide any support and make me feel uncomfortable... It does sadden me that boxers come in all sorts of awesome designs, but you hardly ever find cool looking briefs except in the kids department where they're covered with Batman logos... What, just because I'm almost 30 means I don't want the Bat Signal on my butt? Come on, Hanes/Fruit of the Loom! Help an animator out here.
Jay says: "have childrenâ€™s cartoon series decreased in quality over the years?"
I almost want to dedicate an entire post (or three, or 12) to this topic, because I could. But I'll try to hold myself back from rambling too much.
As we get older, our tastes change. When I was younger, I loved Lois and Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman (not a cartoon, but bear with me for a minute). I recently got the series on DVD, very excited, and found the show was pretty terrible really. Some great characters and stuff, but man... So much was so lame. The point is, it's going to be tough for anyone to compare cartoons from their childhood to cartoons now, because the cartoons then were made for you then and now they're made for someone else, not you.
What we CAN do is take a look at it strictly from an animation/production standpoint. Taking out the idea of "enjoyment" (which is tricky, because that's what cartoons are FOR) you can start to consider if the quality is higher or lower. And the answer, though it sounds like a cop out, is both.
In terms of production values there's no doubt that quality has increased. Lines are cleaner, thanks to technology, and they can do so much more with color and texture than the animators of the past.
When we talk about things like "appeal" and "movement" and "character" though, well, then in my opinion they've plummeted to new lows. When you look at the sheer genius of the old Looney Tunes cartoons, there's just no comparison. Put the current Looney Tunes show next to the old and watch them side by side and it seems like the new show is done by students who never even watched the old one.
I don't want to take away from their hard work though! Please know, I have the utmost respect for today's animators. They don't work any less hard than the generation that came before them. Animation is DIFFICULT. The difference is in terms of what they're allowed to do. Cost cutting these days in TV cartoons is rampant, so even if today's animators are as skilled as yesterday's, they're not allowed to show it. They're asked to cut corners, and NOT do incredible movements, timing, and posing like this:
If you look at that clip, notice the secondary actions on Bugs. His carrot greens bounce with weight, his tail fluffs back ever so slightly, and even the fur on his CHEEKS moves with the impact! Today you simply wouldn't see that level of care and detail, and it's not because animators don't want to do it, it's because they aren't allowed by guys in suits who only care about money.
Today's characters are designed to look cool. They're not designed to animate well. (I'm speaking in broad terms here. There are exceptions. Spongebob, for example, is a brilliantly designed and animated cartoon by incredible animators.) Most of the time, though, designers aren't concerned about structure, dimension, and character weight these days. Instead we have things like Phineas and Ferb, which are CLEARLY meant to exist in two dimensions more than three. They are comic characters adapted to animation. Yet P&F is a great show despite that! That's because writing and character personalities are so important.
So have kid's cartoons decreased in quality over the years? In some ways they have, and in some ways they're better than ever. From an animation standpoint, they've gone down the crapper, but that's not the fault of the artists out there who are just as talented as anyone, it's a product of big business. Heck, Fred cartoons aren't what they could be because of a similar issue. I just don't have the time to do it all myself or the funds to hire a team. Hopefully at some point that will change, and when it does my goal will be to live up to the greatness of the past and maybe, if I can be a good leader, surpass it.
What do you think? Cartoons gone downhill these days? I didn't even touch on things like Family Guy and non-children's cartoons. In the old days, there were no children's cartoons. Cartoons were just CARTOONS. Entertainment for all. Anyway, I'd be interested to hear what you think on the subject as well.
For Easter I got about five big bags of jelly beans. Sweet, right? One can never have too many jelly beans!
Apparently one can.
I've been eating them for weeks and I just don't want anymore. But there's still like a bag and a half to go! Uhg, just looking at them makes me feel sick. It started with Jolly Rancher jelly beans. Those were delightful. Though at this point I don't know if they were my favorite because they were first, so I wanted them more, or if they were really that good. Anyway, following that was Sour Lifesaver jelly beans (the worst of the bunch), Starburst jelly beans (okay, I guess), generic Easter jelly beans (they didn't even have a label), and now I'm eating some that I can't remember what bag they came out of because I dumped them in a plastic bowl so I could weed out the yellow ones. The yellow ones of whatever this kind is aren't very good.
I'm sure you're thrilled that today's blog topic is about jelly beans. Been waiting and waiting, trudging through all the topics of updates and animation, until FINALLY the day when I devoted an entire blog post to nothing but jelly beans. Now's your moment to shine, then. I want to hear what type of jelly beans everyone out there enjoys. Let's see if we can't make this the best jelly-bean-discussion-in-a-blog-comment-section ever.
Recently an unnamed commenter on the blog made note that I don't talk about food much anymore. Well, that's for very good reason. I still have no kitchen. So I don't eat.
Alright, I guess I DO eat, but not things prepared by myself which is what I normally talked about when discussing food. Still, that mysterious commenter is right and so I'm dedicating this post to FOOD!
I decided to commandeer my mother's kitchen and make some chili. I think I may have made chili once before, but it's been a while. My favorite chili is from Wendys. Delightful! What I like best is how it's almost soup, because it's not very thick. I suppose a lot of people would consider that a negative, but not I. I like to get an order of chicken nuggets and throw them in the chili too. Mmm. At any rate, I went to the grocery store to pick up ingredients. Except, as I mentioned, it's been a while since the single time I've ever made chili before and I didn't feel like looking it up.
Yes, I have a phone that could easily do so, but where's the fun in that?
So I bought random things that I thought would go well in chili. The staples like ground meat (turkey this time) and chili beans. Plus a red pepper, stewed tomatoes, some celery, garlic salt, tomato sauce, another kind of beans, and paprika. I also tossed in a bunch of things that were already at the house, most of which I don't even remember at this point. It turned out well. No Wendy's, but I'm working on it. Of course, the downside to this method of cooking is I can never reproduce this same chili again. I have no idea what the amount of particular ingredients was.
So there you are, anonymous stranger! Food discussed on the blog again!
In non-edible news, here's my drawing for today.
I happened upon this drawing while working on the new Cloe design, and I must say, I really like it. I feel like my practicing is really starting to pay off. This quick sketch makes me feel an emotion. That's not something I'm used to in my drawings. They're usually goofy or weird or cute or something, but there's such FEELING in this drawing, and that's exciting for me. It makes you CARE. Or at least, it makes me care. Here are lines on a piece of paper, but looking at the expression and those eyes, I care.
And to answer the question now itching to be asked, no, this isn't the final Cloe model. For one thing, she wouldn't make that face. That's not Cloe's character. She doesn't pout. That said, I feel like every drawing I do is getting closer and closer to "the one" which will be Cloe's new character model. Woo!