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Strip Search!

Ok, you.

Stand still.

Brace yourself.

Get ready to bare all and…


Draw? Yes, draw. For Strip Search is the name of a brilliant Apprentice-style talent contest (not a phrase I thought I’d ever, ever utter) from the awesome guys at Penny Arcade: the world’s most popular web comic.

The prize? To work at Penny Arcade for a year, and $15,000.

The contestants? A whole load of AMAZINGLY TALENTED artists / cartoonists.

The challenges? Lots and lots of varied tasks.

The consequence of failure? Well, I’ll come to that.

Here’s the first episode, just to give you a tease:

And yes, you’re right: the theme tune is pretty awesome.

A new episode is unveiled on Tuesdays and Fridays online at the Strip Search web site, and I sat and watched all of them up to today’s over the weekend. It’s really addictive, very very funny in places AND – unlike most talent shows of this nature – the contestants and the judges are all really lovely.

The best part of the show has to be the elimination, which comes once every three episodes (don’t ask) and features the two bottom candidates of a day’s tasks battling against each other to create a comic based on two randomly selected words – in 90 minutes.

It’s damn hard, and it’s made harder because a) they’re on a stage in front of judges Mike and Jerry, the PA creators and b) said judges deliberately try to put them off with probing questions, fake time announcements and… well, I’ll not spoil the fun.

Today, I decided to play along, so following the show set myself 90 minutes to create a comic based on two words:




So… here it is:

Be gentle. I only had 90 minutes. 🙂

Next time, Pauly G’s promised me he’ll ask me lots of distracting questions over Twitter. I just hope he doesn’t drink my comic…


Posted on Tue 23 Apr in Cartoons,Creative,Fun,Review with Comments (2)

Font EError?

Howdy howdy!

If you live in the UK, you’ve probably heard the rumblings about “4G” mobile coverage. It’s going to be fast and modern. Very fast and super modern, in fact.

Initially, a company called Everything Everywhere (a.k.a. “EE”; a joint venture between France Telecom (Orange) and Deutsche Telekom (T-Mobile)) will be the only ones providing this service.

They’re ahead of the pack, super modern and offering something that’s very fast.

Super modern, it’ll be.
And very fast.

So, we’ve got these things clear, right?

Super modern?
Very fast?

Ok, good.

Now, next question:

Would you reflect this with a font for your brand that screams “OH MY GOD I’VE GOT MEASLES”?


Oh dear.

EE Web Site



P.S. I could provide a slightly more sensible critique of the font choice (the issues regarding readability of sans-serif, bobbly, ALL CAPS text with tight kerning between words, for example), but I’m feeling a little ill so instead I’m going to have some Lemsip. It’s very fast.

P.P.S. For the record, I would use blinking pink italic Comic Sans. Did I mention I’m feeling a little ill?

Posted on Tue 09 Oct in Fun,Review,Technology,Thoughts with Comments (3)

The Living Wall

Again and again the question “Is it graffiti or is it art?” is uttered by those observing walls covered in tags, crude characters and occasionally rather stunning illustrations (I’m looking at you, Kensington Street, Brighton).

Russian street artist Nikita Nomerz has, in my opinion, set his spray can-filled tent firmly in the “Art” camp with his brilliant range of pieces in his “The Living Wall” collection.

Nomerz uses the existing shape of the building (which often include a particular feature which is integrated into the “face”) to direct the style of face/facial expression drawn, which assists in the creation of the character.

For example, a building with wide, round windows is accompanied with an excited, shouting expression and a tall, imposing building is given a face, which has an expression of one calmly surveying their kingdom.

Example from The Living Wall

Oddly, upon viewing his work it is hard to imagine the buildings without their “faces”. I imagine this could be due my mind being fooled into seeing these as “people” – after all, it’s hard to look at a friend and imagine them without a single facial feature. I’d be interested to know if you find this too!

Finally, on a more practical level I do wonder how the hell he managed to get up there and spray them. 🙂

View The Living Wall here.

Tarrah for now,


Posted on Wed 29 Feb in Review with Comment (1)

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Last week I decided to go for a 6 mile walk to stretch my legs and try to work off some of the Christmas excesses. Unfortunately, the healthy gesture was somewhat scuppered by the mid-walk break involving eating a metric tonne of popcorn.

The fact I live only 3 miles from Cineworld is both a very handy and potentially dangerous (for my waistline, at least) thing.

Whilst re-consuming the calories burned, I was enjoying watching Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.

That’s right, I’ll admit it: I’m a 32 year old man and I found MI:GP thoroughly enjoyable.

Before I talk about why I did, I’ll get one thing straight: it’s not going to win any oscars. The acting is… fine, the characters are… yeah, also fine. The plot… silly, ludicrous, but enough going on in it to keep you watching. In other words: fine.

What makes it so enjoyable?

For me, it was a mixture of (surprisingly) amusing dialogue, fast pace (it really didn’t feel like 133 minutes!) and some utterly, utterly breathtaking set pieces. Explosions galore, buildings crumbling, screens that can create “virtual corridors” in front of your eyes…

Yes, it’s turn-your-brain-off-and-crunch-on-popcorn fodder at its best.

Without spoiling too much about the plot (haaa!), there’s a particular section involving Tom Cruise having to climb up the outside of the Burj Khalifa (the somewhat-on-the-large-side (a.k.a. world’s tallest) building in Dubai), some 100 floors up.

If you aren’t scared of heights, you’ll be impressed at the sheer scale of the tower and the clearly massive distance between Tom and the floor. You’ll be in awe at the real feeling of suspense as things don’t quite go to plan.

If, like me, you are scared of heights then you’re going to spend the entire scene almost wetting yourself.

It. Is. Scary.

You’re totally sucked into the scene and for me at least it made me feel as though I was there with him. Put it this way, it brought back the very same feelings I had when standing over a “mere” 42 metre drop about to throw myself off a bridge in New Zealand. Only this time I didn’t have a saftey rope (Although you did have a floor under your ass, in fairness – Ed). Terrifying, brilliant, and worth the entry price alone in my opinion.

So, in summary, it’s well worth going to see if you just fancy being entertained for a couple of hours without having to think much. You can always rent Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy afterwards to make up for it 🙂

See ya,


Posted on Sun 22 Jan in Review with No Comments

Review: The Thing (Remake)


I come to welcome this new year in with a review of a film. This is another one of my “For Uni” blogs, so apologies in advance for the use of terms such as “semiotics”, “metaphor” and “evokes”.

This is a review of the remake of The Thing.

20 years after John Carpenter’s classic work, one might feel that a remake at this stage is a little late, however after watching I would argue that it is in fact long overdue!

Without spoiling the plot, The Thing is based at a remote scientific base in the Antarctic where a group of scientists are entered into a whole world of fear, distrust and panic upon the arrival of a unexpected “visitor”.

The film itself runs at a whopping 2:19 (compared to John Carpenter’s version at 1 hour 49 minutes) although due to its snappy pace never outstays its welcome.

This is helped by a dialogue that doesn’t bombard with monologues, in fact quite the opposite: a deliberately limited range of vocabulary is used, which not only increases the tension but also acts as a metaphor to highlight how body language and actions take precedence within a crisis situation, with words a secondary concern.

As mentioned, despite the film’s length, it felt like barely a minute had gone by before the first of the incredible effects sequences arrives.

All too often modern films look to CGI when creating special effects, but – perhaps in a nod to Carpenter’s 1982 classic – this new version exclusively uses stop motion animation. Although perhaps dated at first, these effects soon blend perfectly with other scenes to the point that the they feel exactly as real as the other scenes.

Thematically, there is repeated use of imagery of of flightless birds, which is a clear use of semiotics to reflect the limitations one inadvertently places on oneself in a time of panic. This is strongly evident throughout the film, and helps evoke a sense of panic as the action intensifies.

I struggle to find an issue with a film that so effectively shocks, impresses and causes one to think. Other reviewers are commenting that this film has in some way ruined memories of their childhood, but I disagree – perhaps those people are letting nostalgia blind them to the qualities of modern works? Who knows.

All I know is that I used to enjoy doing impressions of the lead character when I was a bit younger.

Incredibly the entire film is available to watch for free on YouTube – at least, at the moment, before the studios notice. So, check it out while you still can!

Before I go, I must mention the soundtrack: on a par with Hans Zimmer’s epic Inception score, or Howard Shore’s grand score to Lord of the Rings, the music – particularly over the end credits – is the icing on the cake for me, an aurally evoked semiotic metaphor that informs the viewer of that which they are experiencing.

10 trumpet-bill-honks out of 10.

Tarrah for now,


Posted on Fri 06 Jan in Review,Uni with Comment (1)

Black Mirror

Well hello there festive friend!

Hope you’re enjoying the week prior to the big, happy, cheery event we call Christmas! To mark the occasion, I though I’d write a blog about a set of very dark, satirical dramas from Charlie Brooker.

Each of the Black Mirror “episodes” are unique stories; written by different writers and featuring entirely different plots and scenarios. What they have in common is that they – as the name might suggest – hold a mirror (yep, a dark one) at our modern world – life, culture and our interaction with technology.

Black Mirror: The National Anthem involves the kidnapping of an important figure and leaving the Prime Minister responsible for their saftey. It focuses on the impact of social media on the spread of information, and also the disconnection we have when it comes to viewing public figures as human beings.

Black Mirror: 15 Million Merits is set in a futuristic society, in a compound where each person is surrounded by TV screens, advertising and virtual environments, and performs physical exercise to gain “credit” in order to trade for things – be they real or virtual. If one earns enough, one could even get on the futuristic equivalent of The X Factor! This is a somewhat mocking look at modern society obsessions with material things and celebrity, whilst using the metaphor of staring at a screen whilst on a literal exercise bike to gain virtual money to reflect the “rat race” most of our society exist in. It also has a nod to Network towards the end.

One thing I haven’t mentioned above, which I must, is that the episodes feature excellent scripts, great acting and are all-round really damn good (I believe that’s the technical term). This is very much also the case for the third and final episode:

Black Mirror: The Entire History Of You

This is based in a near-future world, which to all intents and purposes is the same as ours, except that we each have an implant in our minds, which allows us to “review” our memories as and when we want. Not only that, but we can review them on any TV or projector in any house, for other folks’ enjoyment.

The story focuses on a man who believes his wife may be cheating on him. I won’t go into the details, but the show asks a fundamental question: if we could, would we choose to relive every memory in crystal clear detail?

It asks us whether the ability to review everything that’s ever happened would be a positive thing for our lives, or whether we would become utterly obsessed with discovering things. It addresses both the good and bad aspects of a perfect (and sharable) memory in detail, with a great plot and fast pace.

I’d recommend you watch this episode in particular if you’re using Facebook’s currently-being-rolled-out “Timeline” feature – which essentially provides a complete history of your time on the site. Fortunately, the difference between The Entire History Of You and The Entire History Of You On Facebook is that the latter records only what you want it to.

I just wish it would have a breathaliser feature.

You can watch all three episodes of Black Mirror until mid January on 4oD, which I recommend you do, because they are excellent.



Posted on Fri 23 Dec in Review with No Comments

Film Review: Westworld

“Have We Got The Holiday For YOU!” beams the advert for the fictional theme park Westworld.

The introduction to the 1973 film of the same name is a promotion explaining what Westworld is and why it’s worth the staggering (in 1973) $1,000 per night fee:

It’s a utopia where you can fulfil your desires with no consequences: sheriff a town, start bar brawls, be treated like a roman emperor by swathes of servant girls, even have a gunfight to the death. You can do all of those, and never fear repercussions – or any danger. Why? Because all those around you are robots: near-perfect human replicas (the only way to tell is a lack of fingerprints on their hands).

They’re programmed to never harm a human.

After the intro, we focus on our two lead protagonists: a couple of gents heading to Westworld, one having been before and the other not. We are taken through a number of scenes, where the “newbie” is given a chance to build his confidence by standing up to the “bar bully” (and subsequently shooting him in the chest).

There are moments of doubt from the new guy – “how can I be sure he’s a robot?”, but these aren’t really dwelled upon as the film’s focus lies elsewhere.

I’ll probably not be spoiling the plot too much to say that the main focus of the film is on the robots and, how can I put this, their programming. Put it this way, I felt that Michael Crichton (of Jurassic Park author fame) may have borrowed one of the ideas: a theme park where the attractions turn on the guests.

There’s a strong tension throughout the first half of the film, it builds it up very well long before the inevitable Bad Things happen, and when it all goes “A Bit Jurassic Park” the tension is retained with a long chase between our newbie and the aforementioned bar bully.

In addition, a sense of fear is retained throughout the film as it wisely does not explain what is wrong exactly with the robots, how they work, what they want, or even how one escapes the Westworld park. Too often films feel the need for exposition after exposition, and the lack of explanation here is refreshing and works well.

Despite its age, the film has some impressive subtle effects (the eyes of the robots are brilliant, and I’m only half-certain how they did it), plus some large, detailed sets that really draw you into the film.

On the downside, I felt that some potential wasn’t realised in it: primarily the effect on people upon returning to society after this consequence-free, yet realistic environment. Would their sense of morals have changed? For better? For worse? It would have been an interesting reflection of the ultra-real computer-game influenced world we live in today.

Perhaps this could be the focus of a sequel, although given Westworld was released 38 years ago it seems a touch unlikely. Still, decades on we now have a prequel to The Thing, so you never know…

Well worth a watch!


P.S. Westworld was on telly the other night, hence this somewhat dated review 🙂

Posted on Mon 19 Dec in Review with No Comments

Indian Summer I & II


Well, the Digital Media Design course I’m doing is now under way. Part of the course is to look at and comment on various pieces of art work within the many galleries that Brighton has to offer.

To start, here’s some work by Phillipe, found within the Art At Five Gallery in the midst of The Lanes in Brighton:

Indian Summer I & II - Philippe (from the ArtAtFive Gallery, Brighton)
(Click to enlarge. Apologies for the photo quality, please thank HTC for that…)

For me, this work immediately conjured images of a bright bhangra dance scene:

  • The mix of gold and blues evoking the memories of the splendid Indian dresses worn by talented bhangra dancers
  • In the streaks of paint connecting the two pieces lay connotations of tassles flowing through the air mid-dance

It was no surprise to find this piece is titled Indian Summer I & II.

Upon reading that I noticed that each of the parts of the work denoted an open flower, with gold and blue petals combined… further enhancing the feeling of brighness into that of “summer”.

It appears Phillipe has a rather distinct – perhaps narrow – style, as a cursory glance at his page on the Art At Five web site shows.

For me that doesn’t take away the impressive ability to create so vividly the feeling intended with only colour and the suggestion of shape and form. Basically, I really like it.

But what do you think?


Posted on Sun 16 Oct in Painting,Review,Thoughts with No Comments