PrometheusBeing the 'Alien' fan-boy that I am, I've been understandably salivating with anticipation for 'Prometheus' since it was announced in 2010.I was somewhat intrigued when Ridley Scott announced that it was not going to be a prequel, as such, to his 1979 film, Alien. The idea of it just being a story inspired by the same universe seemed a little weak.Tonight though, I finally got to see the finished product. And the fan-boy inside me was delighted at what he saw … mostly.Firstly, it is an exquisitely beautiful film. Grand in scope, with wide vistas of other worldly landscapes and deeply felt impressions of the enormity of space and the comparative insignificance of human existence, with dazzling special effects that left me awestruck more than once.Secondly, despite what Ridley Scott says, the film is clearly a prequel. It follows a distinct story path that aligns it to the end of the 1979 film, with several big questions answered, most importantly 'Who is the space jockey?' and 'Where did the alien ship come from?' From a fan-boy's point of view, seeing these blanks filled in so convincingly was a thrill.Thirdly, the film did very well to put some new mythology into the grand narrative while it posed some very profound questions about the origin of life and what it means to be human. The part of me that loves to dwell on things philosophical was thusly warmed too.But … there were a few things that didn't sit very well.First of these was the acting. On the whole I thought it was just passable. Not anywhere near as engaging as the occasionally improvised dialogue of the 1979 film. The best performances were by Noomi Rapace and David Fassbender, who thankfully had the bulk of the screen time. Every other character seemed to just be walking through their roles.Secondly, the plot was quite muddled at times, and when a character rattled off some bizarre exposition just to move the story forward made me long for another monster to appear.My third gripe was the denouement. It was way too rushed and implausible. I wanted a little bit more than a rehash of an iconic moment from the Alien movie to really round it up convincingly. As it was, I felt a little cheated. But I'll still go see the sequel for which they obviously left a wide gap to fill.Overall, it was a relief to not be disappointed by Prometheus after waiting so long to see what Ridley Scott would do with it. It had enough complexity to bear further viewings, which I'm sure it will get, considering how many times I've watched the others. Who knows what more meaning will be found in it then. For the moment though, I'm glad it was as satisfying a viewing as I'd hoped it would be.This is Brendan Boughen, a.k.a. Jim, last surviving cartoonist of my living room, signing off.
Austerity?Apparently asking prices for property in Auckland hit a new high this week, while the inventory of homes slid to their lowest level in five years.Also this week, the NZ government delivered a budget that clearly shifted more money away from those at the less well-off end of the social spectrum, and made things easier for those at the other end.Putting those two elements together, the above scenario seems inevitable.
I know this news is a little old now, but it got another airing today as a former James Bond actor added to the criticism of the iconic film character ditching his signature drink - the vodka martini - for a beer in the new film. When I read the article, the above idea just hit me. Much like a beer would if it was prepared like the martini!
It's funny how precious people can get about things like that. Why are some people so resistant to change in their pop culture? Why shouldn't George Lucas add new bits to the old Star Wars films? Why shouldn't Metallica record a double album of avante garde art rock with Lou Reed? And why shouldn't a major comic book hero be gay? Well, just because sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, and sometimes it's just the right thing to do.
Cheers Mr Bond!
Tech AddictionTechnology can sometimes be all-consuming. Shiny new gadgets amaze us for all the ways they seem to expand the possibilities of what we can achieve. Every new application or social network interaction seems to increase our engagement with technology while it disengages us from the real world.The capacity of technology to captivate was fully evident today as Facebook launched its IPO, effectively placing a US$104billion value for the company. All eyes were on where it would end up at the close of day trading.To start at $38 a share and end on $38.23 doesn't seem to justify the level of attention the Facebook IPO received, but it was hard to ignore. It's incredible to think that what is effectively an idea, in the form of an online, intangible piece of digital technology, has captured the world's attention this way.I had a wake-up call this week in regard to my own attention levels on technology. As I travelled home from work on the train this , I became so engrossed in the Draw Something app on my iPhone that I got off the train one stop too early, with my eyes glued to the screen the whole time.It was only when the doors had closed and the train started moving away that I looked up and realised that I was in completely the wrong place, and was in fact walking off into the darkness of the gravel embankment at the end of the platform.On the extra long walk home through shadowy streets and back alleys, I had plenty time to think about how my technology addiction had led me astray. And yet, I still turned to the Google map app on the iPhone to plot me the shortest route home.I had warned myself that this would happen when I first got my Apple device. At that time, I was hoping that the tangibility of the physical act of drawing ink on paper would keep me grounded in reality. And I can honestly say that it has, while acknowledging the irony of admitting this fact on a blog!Note to self. Switch off your device. Experience the physicality and beauty of the world around you that exists in the ever-present now. Resist the urge to tweet and listen to the tweeting of the birds in the morning chorus. And of course, put more of that ink onto paper.Then you will have something really worthwhile to blog about! :)
The ScreamIn case you missed it, one of Edvard Munch's four versions of 'The Scream' sold at Sotheby's in New York this week for US$119.9 million. Read about it here.It begs the question. Who the hell pays that much for a painting, and would they like to purchase my cartoon too? I'll give them a 99% discount on what they paid for Edvard's original.
Toilet humourYeah, that's right. I made a poop joke. What of it.One of my son's favourite jokes is this: “Did you hear about the police station that had its toilets stolen? The cops have nothing to go on.” I think that was partly the inspiration behind the above cartoon.This would usually be the part where I launch into a long analysis of the social importance of toilet humour, but instead of that I'll just quote (as I have before) from the most excellent book on humour I have ever read, “The Naked Jape” by Jimmy Carr and Lucy Greeves.“For children, jokes about bodily functions provide a way to say the unsayable. Any sort of mess and dirt – matter out of place – is a potential source of humour for children. As they learn that 'making a mess' is wicked, they also learn to deal with this transgression safely within a world of jokes.” (Chapter 4)So there you go. My poop joke is actually quite profound. But really, I just hope it made you laugh.Now … What's brown and sticky?
With this week being the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking, a reader requested a cartoon about the event, which also coincided with their birthday. I was happy to oblige!
Meanwhile, unlike the sole iceberg that struck the Titanic, two things struck me amidst all the media coverage of the disaster this week.
The first was a statement attributed to an academic that the three most written about subjects in history are Jesus, the American Civil War and the Titanic.
The other was the report about how many young people on Twitter didn't realize Titanic was real, thinking it was just a movie by James Cameron.
Seems a bit counterintuitive. If so much has been written about the Titanic, why aren't the kids finding out about the real story? (Maybe this cartoon will help!)
The Titanic story – be it the real or fictionalized version – is certainly a sobering cautionary tale. A real life, modern day Tower of Babel story. (Be sure to look that up before tweet about not knowing what that is.)
Whatever side of the ship you wish to sail, be it movie or history book, it's worth reflecting on what we can still learn from Titanic 100 years on. Perhaps it's just the simple lesson that too much technology can be bad for you.
I'll try to keep that in mind the next time I tweet!
The Big Picture
This week I unexpectedly found myself in conversation with a global warming skeptic.
Dressed in a fine suit and sipping a wine, and apropos my mention of one of my PR clients, he became immediately evangelical about how the “jury was still out” on whether climate change was in fact a problem.
It was at the end of a long day and I'd already had a couple wines myself, so my brain was not fully engaged to respond. I did ask him if he really thought that pollution produced by human activity had no appreciable impact on the planet.
He pulled up a bit and said that of course that was a bad thing and we shouldn't do it, but that the planet was still naturally coming out of an ice age anyway and that human beings weren't really making a difference. He demonstrated his viewpoint by exhaling a sharp breath and saying, “That was carbon dioxide. That's supposed to be a big problem?”
It is fascinating to me that views like this are still out there. I drew the above cartoon about six years ago, around the time Al Gore's documentary 'An Inconvenient Truth' was released. That film not only stirred a world to think seriously about how climate change was affecting the planet, it also whipped up a debate that is still going on today.
I can totally understand why. The global warming process, as described by scientists, is so slow in comparison to the rest of our lives that its impact is not felt in the same way as an earthquake or other more immediate disaster. Even the floods that have hit this part of the world in recent months don't seem like they are really connected to it, even though research findings like this indicate otherwise.
As this cartoon suggests, there are no easy answers to global warming, but it is still vitally important to pursue them. In our fleetingly short human lives, it can feel like the Big Picture is just too big to gain any real perspective.
Coincidentally, today's feature article on Wikipedia is about one odd perspective on a response to climate change; the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. While the followers of this extreme viewpoint do seem to be quite sane and serious, it comes across to me as being something of an exercise in satire and performance art. That, like cartoons, can – in itself – be instructional.
It will be interesting to look at this little picture again in another five, ten and twenty five years and see how the Big Picture has changed. I'm fully expecting it to be even gloomier, especially if viewpoints like the one of my wine-quaffing interlocutor become more prevalent. I just hope we can keep talking about it, and more importantly, doing something about it.
There's no easy answer to what that is, but I do know that if humanity is smart enough to work out how to create the sort of technology that we have access to today, we can certainly find a way to make sure that it runs better, cleaner and more efficiently.
That's a Big Picture that's worth at least attempting to draw.
It's a notable anniversary for me today. 25 years ago on this day, 11 March 1987, I had my first cartoon strip published in a little newspaper called the Eastern Riverina Observer in the state of New South Wales, Australia.
I've written in greater detail about that strip, The Twangups, in a post last year when I realized that this anniversary was coming up. You can read that here and see some of the original (terrible!) strips.
25 years on, to still be getting the opportunity to draw silly pictures and see them in print and hear how they make people laugh is still perhaps the greatest thrill for me. Although I love the immediacy and interaction that comes around having cartoons online, there's something about the printed page – the smell of the ink, the texture of the paper – that has an earthiness that connects with me at a very deep level.
I am incredibly grateful to any and every editor that has agreed to publish – and sometimes even pay for! – one or more of my cartoons in the pages of their newspaper or magazine. I hope to still be doing this in another 25, 50 and even 75 years!
I don't think it's ever too early to have a bucket list. I crossed off one thing on mine this week. I saw Death Cab for Cutie live in concert.
I thought about waxing lyrical here about the many ways in which I love the music of this band, but I've decided I won't. Google them, or just go out and buy one of their seven (to date) brilliant albums and discover for yourself the unique melodic power and joy that is Death Cab for Cutie. (Dammit, I've started waxing lyrical!)
As I have similarly reflected in a previous post, being a fan of Death Cab for Cutie - in New Zealand at least - has been an exercise in patience. While they have played in Australia before, they hadn't managed to come across the water to Aotearoa ever in their 13 year history. I was beginning to think they may be one of those bands that I would never see live.
When the announcement was made that they were coming to New Zealand for a one-off show, I - as an Aucklander - was crestfallen because their one show would be in Wellington (which for the non-New Zealanders reading this, is at the other end of the North Island of NZ) and I thought it would simply be too much cost and effort to get there. But get there I did, thanks to some nice cheap tickets snaffled through Air NZ's 'Grab-a-Seat' web site.
The concert itself was breath-taking. Two hours of the aforementioned brilliant music I have described. It had such an effect on me that I left the concert hall afterwards feeling quite emotional and incredibly alive inside. Days later and I still feel it. Such is the power of music I guess.
A two hour concert is such an infinitesimally small amount of time in proportion to the years I have lived. And yet, I feel that moment in time will be like a coal burning, keeping me warm inside, reminding me that it's good to pursue good things.
Strangely, that feeling turned into the above cartoon. I trust it makes sense on it's own, but now you have some context.
"Patience is a virtue." I remember writing that in my high school final yearbook as my favourite quote. It's seems a bit bleeding obvious now, and a little pious, but then again I was a pious, fundamentalist prat in my teen years. These days, I prefer the quote "Nothing good ever dies."
I sincerely believe that, and believe it all the more having now seen Death Cab for Cutie in concert. Does that make sense? I hope so.
It's been a tough week for light-heartedness, and the drizzling summer rain hasn't helped. As Lent started this week, most Kiwis were remembering the one year anniversary of the Christchurch earthquake. My reflections on the quake are summarised here. Nothing more needs to be said about that here. I just want to remember, then get back to finding the funny side of life.
Whatever you give up for Lent this year, don't give up on that.
I guess I still have themes from Steve Jobs' biography running through my head this week. That and the fact that I finally got given an iPhone to use for work.
Having used it for about a fortnight now, I can understand how people fall in love with that device. It's so simple, soft and sleek, and relates to you like a close friend. It's hard not to get addicted to the device because of the world of information that opens up so quickly and easily.
The above cartoon is not the first time I've mocked the Apple fanboys for their passion. But now it seems I've become one of them. It hit me when I realsed that for the past two weeks on my morning and afternoon train rides I'd been fiddling with my iPhone instead of reading the book in my bag.
That Jobs created things that so many people would line up for hours, sometimes days, to possess is not what really resonates with me. It's more the fact that the people themselves believed in something so strongly that it compelled them to line up for days to possess it.
For myself, I think I'm going to try and be more careful about how much I use that phone. While I do love the accesibility of that world of information out there in the ether, I don't want to lose touch with the tangilibility of ink on paper. Or the feeling of directing that ink onto it through a pen.
I guess I just realised what I would stand in line for.
Sometimes a bit of pure silliness is all you need to get through the day. Well, I find it works for me at least.
In that spirit, I hope you enjoy this warm, custardy serving of cartoony goodness!
I’ve just finished reading the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaccson. For all his faults (and there were many, as the author relentlessly points out) Steve Jobs was certainly someone who believed in himself. The legacy of his 56 years on this earth was a long list of creative innovations that he intended for the betterment of humanity, which began with a belief that his own ideas had worth.
My favourite anecdote from the book was about the time during the development of the revolutionary Macintosh computer, Steve decided suddenly and unequivocally that the name of the Macintosh computer was now instead going to be called, ‘The Bicycle’.
The reasons behind this idea I’ll leave you to look up for yourself, but apparently for about a month he was totally set on the name, until someone finally managed to convince him to go back to the original. I do wonder whether Apple would be what it is today if he had persisted with it.
I have a bunch of friends that are starting their own businesses. They sometimes refer to it as their ‘baby’, or use similar terms of affection. They nurture it with much the same love one would bestow on their own flesh and blood; they do what they can to help it through tough times, feed it with the best resources they have and worry about it when it is struggling.
It’s understandable then that they feel pain when their business doesn’t seem to be growing. Like poor old bewildered Harold, to have your idea – be it a business, a piece of writing, or yea, even a cartoon – receive little or no response or understanding can be heartbreaking. But the lessons that can be learned from such heart-break can bring break-throughs.
Steve Jobs clearly learned that. Along with his many successes, he had many failures. They are all chronicled in gory detail in the book, but are well summed up in this article.
For my own friends struggling with their own businesses and the ideas to which they have given birth, all I can say is the things which have been said ad infinitum by others going through the same experience; don’t give up trying, and don’t give up learning. Your ideas have worth, so don’t stop believing in them. And as much as is possible, enjoy the journey.
I hope cartoons like the above help with that enjoyment, even just a little.
If you’re back at work after the Christmas / New Year break and feeling a bit blue, this one’s for you.
This is a weird little cartoon that had its germ of an idea many years ago, but crystalised for me this week when I had Korn's version of Pink Floyd's 'Another Brick in the Wall' running through my head during a lonely time.
A bit bleak perhaps to start the New Year, but understandable that this is where my head is at considering the bleak start New Zealand's had to the year. Hopefully things will be looking up next week, and this at least raises a smile in the meantime.
Happy New Year?
Without making any specific predictions, I think it's fair to say that 2012 is going to be a pretty crazy year.
Leaving aside the ridiculous superstitions about Mayan calendars and associated global cataclysm popularized by Hollywood, it seems as if it's going to be one of the most defining years for the world in terms of inequality between rich and poor. The recently released OECD report 'Divided We Stand: Why Inequality Keeps Rising' paints a pretty bleak picture, as this recent article explains.
It's nothing new by any means. The gap between rich and poor has always been widening. Beyond that, technology has reached a point where we can get every bit of news about the world instantaneously and in high definition, but it still fails to bring any real change to the human condition.
Add to the mix that there's going to be the usual nuttiness of a US election in 2012, and my fear is that there will be so much rampant craziness and superstition this year that the real issues of inequality and solving genuine social problems are going to get forgotten.
If nothing else, it's going to be a field day for cartoonists. If any profession can truly cut through the craziness and reveal the truth of an issue, it's those who hunker down over a piece of paper (or computer screen) with a pen (or stylus) and carve away at the crap by cartooning about it. Laughing at our craziness is a sure way of not succumbing to it.
So, my only prediction for 2012 is that it's going to be a year full of powerful, funny cartooning. Hopefully I'll be able to contribute a little to that.
In the meantime, here's hoping that 2012 will truly be a happy New Year for you!
One Christmas tradition I've always liked are the crackers that come with Christmas lunch. They especially bring out the kid in me.
I always loved pulling the end of a cracker with a family member, hearing the satisfying little bang, followed by the faint, acrid smell of gunpowder. Then there was the flimsy paper crown, the tacky nick-nacks and, of course, the little sheet of jokes. There were always lots of lame puns, which neverhteless delighted my boyish brain.
I think that yearly tradition led to my enduring fondness for puns, of which the above cartoon is a direct descendant. I hope it finds you having a very happy Christmas, filled with laughter and whatever traditions - religious or otherwise - give it meaning for you.
For me, it will be popping Christmas crackers with my family over Christmas lunch. Let's hope there are some especially good puns this year!
Have a killer Christmas everyone!