Tag Archives: Community

February Fun Roundup Post

January was an odd month in terms of our brand spanking new blog schedule (which you’ll notice, has already morphed into Saturdays instead of Fridays). On the other side of the words, I’ve been working on a project I’m really excited about and I’ve started work full time. Those two things haven’t quite figured out how to play nice yet but the hour long lunches are helping.

There’s a hint about my project a little further down the post, but if you’re interested in helping me out I’m looking for some testers. Anyway, much more on that later – lets get on with the tasty goodness for this month.

SIGGRAPH is Returning to Vancouver!

In a couple of years. Before I start gushing about just how happy this makes me and why, here’s a quick summary of what Siggraph is about for the uninitiated:

SIGGRAPH (short for Special Interest Group on GRAPHics and Interactive Techniques) is the name of the annual conference on computer graphics (CG) convened by the ACM SIGGRAPH organization. The first SIGGRAPH conference was in 1974. The conference is attended by tens of thousands of computer professionals. Past SIGGRAPH conferences have been held in Los Angeles, Dallas, New Orleans, Boston and elsewhere across the United States.

It’s basically one of the biggest graphics conferences in the world. Last time it was held in Vancouver and broke its prior conference attendance records. I love Vancouver and its close to a lot of my friends; if I’d known about it a little earlier last time I’d have saved and gone.

I couldn’t be happier that they’re returning in 2013 – saving as we speak. Is anyone else planning to attend?

Get a head start with this month’s Online Event

Escape Studios are holding a webinar on the 15th February called ‘The Industry’s Best Kept Secret: Houdini‘. If you were around for my take on skills needed by a VFX Artist then little bells should be ringing all around your brain right now.

Here’s what they have to say about it:

Houdini has been on VFX the scene for quite some time, but over the last few years it has benefitted from somewhat of a revival. The product is renowned for combining superior performance and ease-of-use to deliver a powerful and accessible 3D animation experience for CG professionals around the world. In this webinar, Mark Spevick, our VFX tutor, will explain why it’s become a piece of software which is near impossible to live without and will dispel some myths about it being difficult to use. Mark will walk you through some definitive steps to help you get to grips with the software so you can start integrating it successfully into your workflow. As an integral piece of industry standard software, which all artists need to be in the know about, this is a webinar you don’t want to miss.

I think that pretty much speaks for itself!  The webinar is free, if you have the time I’d recommend signing up and attending.

Best 3D Student Tweets of the month

Project: Creative Author Team’s Writing Club (Meow) | RocketHub http://www.rockethub.com/projects/5243-creative-author-team-s-writing-club-meow Finally updated the image! Have a look at our new logo

This may or may not be the project I referred to briefly in the introduction.

The results of yesterday’s animated GIF about SOPA – The Oatmeal http://j.mp/yY47wz And this is exactly what we love about the news. =)

Unless you’ve been happily living under a rock, you’ll have heard of SOPA over the last few months. This tweet is referring to The Oatmeal’s recent news coverage thanks to his efforts campaigning against it.

Are You Afraid to Pitch Editors? This Is the Reason You Shouldn’t Be | The Renegade Writer http://t.co/EvmfU6R0

Quick look at letters of intent from the editors point of view – useful and insightful.

How to Photograph Your Own Textures | Vandelay Design Blog http://t.co/nEk8R4Ix

A skill we should probably all have as graphics professionals, especially important for texture artists.

I Am Not a Web Designer http://j.mp/wRnQHw

Deceptively simple as far as tweets go. FreelanceSwitch talks about how we’re not really our job titles in the eyes of our customers and how we can take advantage of this.

Posts of last month

The Future of 3D; Mixing CGI with Auditory Illusions

Guest post granting insight into the use of auditory illusions and computer graphics with some speculation on how those techniques could be used in the future.

Alpha Mapping to Create Realistic Leaves

Mehdi Shay shows us how to use alpha maps to create realistic foliage without spending hours modelling.

Continuous Learning and Deliberate Practice for VFX Artists  and Recommended Deliberate Practice for VFX Artists

Theory posts on (you guessed it) Deliberate Practice for VFX artists written by yours truly. They show off a bunch of research I did on job postings interpreted into something we can work with.

So You Want to Become a 3D Animator? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Guest post overview of what it takes to become a 3D animator. Not sure I’d call it exhaustive but its a good starting point.

Happy New Year; World Domination Just Round the Corner…

Plans, purpose, and all that fun stuff for the blog in 2012. Worth a read if for no other reason than to see the good intentions before they get altered. 😉

What to expect this month

Not quite so many posts planned for this month (though no promises on that count). Here are my plans such as they are:

Theory: Building Change into Your Workflow.

What do you do when you’re almost finished a scene, and suddenly you need to change something? Does it throw off your entire workflow or have you prepared for such eventualities?

Tutorial: Modelling or Unwrapping Small Accessories.

I haven’t decided which yet, if you’ve a preference let me know (and I’m happy to do both).

Review: Android 3.0 Animations.

I received a copy not long ago in a Giveaway and since mobile seems to be increasingly relevant for everybody – Why not?

Next Steps

Leave a comment to let me know what you thought of this style of post, and which ONE part you found most interesting.

3D Image of a doorway in a dirty alley at night.

So you want to become an Animator? Here’s Everything you Need to Know

School is back-in-session which means high school seniors applying for college and even current undeclared college freshmen and sophomores will soon need to select a major-of-choice. If you have a passion for the arts but are not sure which specific niche to delve into, you may consider pursuing one of the more popular areas that is predicted to provide an adequate number of employment opportunities in the coming years—animation. If you are unfamiliar with this career choice, continue reading below to discover what this job entails, including working environment, the skills you need to possess to be successful and starting salary.

What does an Animator Do?

In a nutshell, an animator creates original 2-D or 3-D visual images or special effects for a variety of industries including film, television, gaming, publications and the web. While traditional methods such as hand drawings are still mildly used, the industry is more or less dominated by the use of digital tools to create animation. That said, it’s important that those who choose to pursue this career are not only naturally gifted artists, but are also a wiz with computers so they can easily learn how to use all of the digital-creating software. Some other skills a successful animator needs to possess include the following: an eye for details, excellent time management skills, strong image-editing skills, and the ability to create and read storyboards.

What are the Educational Requirements and Classes you Will Take?

Typically, you need a Visual Arts or Fine Arts bachelor’s degree with a concentration in animation to get hired as an animator. While animation is usually a concentration within a broader field, students may just very well be able to tailor their skills even further and select a specialization within their concentration, such as 3-D imaging or visual effects for example. Regardless, some sample classes you will be required to take are the following: Computer Animation and Graphic Design,  Composition and Design, Illustration, 2-D Animation, 3-D Animation and Film Making just to name a few.

What is the Career Outlook and Working Environment?

Unlike other laborious careers, animators typically work in a cool and well ventilated, lighted area such as in a studio, loft or other type of office space. They may need to do some light traveling to sister studios or visit exotic places for inspiration, but other than that they tend to stay in a centralized location. Working hours are sporadic (generally not a typical 9 to 5 job) and on a daily basis animators work with animation directors, photographers, graphic designers, and other clients.

While many careers are unstable, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics those pursuing a career in animation should see many employment opportunities within the next decade. In fact, the Bureau predicts that employment opportunities should increase about 14%, creating about 11,200 new jobs by 2018— especially in the movie, gaming and television fields. This is because these areas will demand more “realistic” imagery in the coming years, the Bureau states. Other trending popular areas include design agencies and scientific/medical research facilities (medical experts for example need animators to illustrate procedures etc.)

That’s not to say that competition won’t be fierce because it will be. But to make sure you increase your chances of employment and to beef up your resume, focus on obtaining a lot of experience via internships while pursuing your undergraduate degree or consider become a “specialist” and earning a master’s degree in the subject. While salary will depend on various factors, including place of employment, degree level and previous experience, according to the Bureau animators typically earn anywhere from $41,710 to $77,010.

Weekend Wanderings Diablo and some Typography

This week’s been a little weird on the blogging front.  On Friday I accepted a full time position with a local fundraising company (excited!) – I start on Tuesday.  Therefore I’m back to juggling time a little more with writing and so on, definitely not complaining but you’ve all been warned.

I also discovered some really interesting industry news (Twitter followers will be nodding along at this point, I’ve actually been using my account this week), I’ll be talking about two of the best pieces today.

Weekly Recap

Keen eyed observers may have noticed that there wasn’t a feature post this week.  Rather than making things awkward between us and mumbling for a few minutes with some excuses (which are good) and an apology (implied, sorry folks) let’s just skip to what I’m going to do to get things back on track.  Tomorrow (the next Monday) I’ll be posting last Monday’s feature post on the Two Types of Purpose.  Then on Friday I’ll be posting the one that should have been posted tomorrow; you’re getting two this week to compensate.  My bad.

On Wednesday we also had our first video tutorial (How to Animate a Dodgeball Throw) by Prantic, and the continuation of Jonathan’s 3D 101 series (3D 101 Rendering Fundamentals).

Typography

Skyrill, a creative company run by the Almossawi brothers (Ali and Hussain), recently released a font set.

This particular font set was created by modelling basic 3D letters in 3D studio Max, then using Realflow to give each the consistency of paint.  They were then released from their shape constraints and left to explode; each frame was rendered and the most distressed, best looking, and easily recognisable images were chosen to represent the letter.

When I first saw how the letters were constructed and destroyed I was split neatly in two with both halves suitably impressed.  The first half was quietly in awe (that happens to be the same half that gets distracted by shiny, pretty things.  Also destruction and explosions) while the second simply wished I’d thought of it first.

Either way I’ll probably spend the next year looking for an excuse to do something similar.

Diablo III

If you’re a gamer you’ve heard, if you’re a fan you’re drooling, and if neither you should go and watch the cinematic trailer for Diablo 3 right now.  I’ll wait.

Back?  Excited?  Excellent, I’m there with you.

No concrete release date as yet but I did find something on Blizzard’s site that made it incredibly hard to sit still.  As you might know there are 5 character classes in this installment; barbarian, witch doctor, wizard, monk, and demon hunter.  Perhaps predictably I was drawn to the hunter.

Click on that beautiful image below and watch the class trailer to see why.

Wrapping up for the week

Next week you’ll be treated to two heavy-duty concept posts as well as the Clipping Frames in Photoshop tutorial with James and the next installment of Jonathan’s 3D 101 series.

As always I can’t vouch for next weekend’s post; after my first week at a new day job I may be a little loopy (as if I’m not already) so there’s no telling what I’ll come up with.  We’ll have to see.

In the meantime though comment and let me know what you think of this week’s highlights!

Weekend Wanderings; 2 Short Animations you Must see

This is the part of the week where I take a look at the things I saw that connected with me, made me laugh, or were just interesting in general and report back. This particular week that means I’m talking about two animations; lets get to it.

Alight

Alight is a short animation less than three minutes long about a fire boy (Sparker) and a water girl (Aquanna). It was made by over 20 people; Jason Keyser was the one that posted it online. Before I get into any more detail, watch the animation.

Alight from Jason Keyser on Vimeo.

When I watched Alight there was an instant connection with the two main characters; you understood who they were and what they were about straight away and even though the animation was short you really felt sad when things didn’t quite work out for them.

The style was beautiful, the animation well executed and seemed to breathe, and I’d recommend it to anyone.

Dream Maker

Dream Maker took four years to complete, and once featured in Siggraph (among other film festivals) winning the jury honours award. The creator, Leszek Plichta, is a short film director and CG Artist to this day and you should definitely follow him on LinkedIn after you’ve checked out this short.

DREAMMAKER from Leszek on Vimeo.

Dream Maker’s story is touching. There’s no other way to describe it really; you really want things to turn out well with the characters, the plot makes sense (both marks of good writing), and it has a happy ending. The visuals are gorgeous and you can see a lot of work and thought has gone into the whole thing.

Very well done Leszek!

If you haven’t already seen them, remember to take a quick look at this weeks posts. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday!

Guest Post: How will 3D Entertainment evolve next?

Today’s post is brought to you by Anna from Online Degree; she contacted me a week or so ago with some topic ideas, I loved this one so much that I asked her to go ahead and take it wherever she wanted.  Over to Anna!

The Ongoing Evolution of 3D Entertainment

When it comes to 3D entertainment, you could certainly say we’ve come a long way, baby. The
first big wave of 3D films arrived in theatres back in the 1950s accompanied by flimsy paper
glasses with blue and red plastic lenses. It was a gimmick that actually caught on, unlike other
hare-brained ideas like the ill-advised Smell-o-Vision. Today, ideas are already in development
that would allow people to access 3D entertainment with no glasses whatsoever!

Blue & Red Paper Glasses

The original 3D experience with the paper glasses was achieved by filming using two slightly
separated cameras, one camera using a red filter and the other using a blue filter. When layered
on top of one another, the two shots created an anaglyph image, capable of tricking the brain into
seeing a 2D film in 3D. The 3D effect from such images could only be seen when a filmgoer
wore the red-blue paper glasses. The idea is to recreate how you see in real life. One of your eyes
sees one angle and your other eye sees another angle and when their powers combine (try not to
think of Captain Planet), you have everyday human depth perception. The red-blue glasses are
designed to allow the blue shot to enter one eye and the red shot to enter the other eye while the
brain takes it upon itself to see what’s in front of it in 3D, according to American Paper Optics.

Polarized Glasses

Next came the slightly cooler polarized 3D glasses that looked a lot less like a cereal box toy and
a lot more like Wayfarers. The polarized glasses work by limiting the type of light that enter the
viewers’ eyes. The movie is filmed using two synchronized projectors that place two different
images on a movie screen with two different polarizations. Like the red-blue paper glasses, the
polarized glasses only allow one of your eyes to see one view and the other to see the other view.
This produced a much better image than was seen using the paper glasses.

Avatar and 3D TVs Bring 3D Back to the Spotlight

From its humble beginnings, 3D entertainment has advanced to a whole new level along with
modern technology. The next notable step forward was the advent of IMAX in the 1970s, and its
expansion into entertainment in the late 1990s. More recently, 3D entertainment has made a big
splash again with the wildly popular Avatar experience where James Cameron used stereoscopic
filmmaking, reviving interest in all things 3D.

This January marked the onset of sophisticated flat screen 3D televisions. Naysayers have said
that 3D televisions aren’t practical enough to catch on. After all, if you’re hosting a Super Bowl
party, are you also going to shell out the cash to buy expensive 3D glasses for all of your guests?
Keep in mind that some of the best 3D glasses easily cost more than $100. Forget the Super
Bowl party, even. What about having to buy enough glasses for all of your family to enjoy their
favorite sitcoms? The average family won’t be able to afford all the glasses it would take to make
the idea of the 3D television really pick up speed.

The Future: Glasses-Free 3D

But what if we could have a 3D experience without using glasses? The development,
improvement and expansion of this type of technology could really get 3D TVs flying off the
shelves. Toshiba is expected to start selling a glasses-free 3D TV this month in Japan. Toshiba

uses “auto-stereoscopy 3D technology,” according to the Christian Science Monitor. An article in
PC World discussed how glasses-free 3D TVs are cost-prohibitive, have too small of screens and
will also require you to sit in a certain spot to watch in optimal 3D, but none of this is the point.
The point is that the technology is available and improving. Now even tech giant Apple, Inc. has
secured a patent for a glasses-free 3D display system. The possibilities are endless. Now, if only
more people would focus on getting the ball rolling for holographic TVs.

This guest post is contributed by Anna Miller, who writes on the topics of online degree. She
welcomes your comments at her email Id: anna22.miller@gmail.com.

Month in Review; Wishlist Edition

funny pictures-I'M HIT!  OTTER DOWN!
My picture of the month!  See more Lolcats and funny pictures.

November was tricky on multiple levels.

When I returned it didn’t take long to discover that I was starting with a virtually clean slate and could, therefore, do whatever I wanted.  The problem with that was I initially wasn’t sure of what that was any more.

Added to my new desire to be a social person (you can stop giggling now Dad), and the impact of college projects on my sleeping patterns…  ‘Interesting’ times.  That said, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Progress has been made, subjects have been changed up, and overall we’re leaving the month with the satisfied sort of smile you can only get after pulling a room apart, throwing out one or two things, then rearranging it to your requirements (leaving a huge mess in your wake).

Five Minute Film Review

While there were probably lots more films I watched this month, these three stand out.  Two because I actually went to a cinema to see them (ok technically that was on Halloween, but I’m counting it here) and the last because I went out of my way to find it for class.

3D Saw

I expected it to be far worse than it was.  3D adds a little bit of gore, though the film could have served perfectly well without it and if a 2D option had been available I would have watched that.  The story was typical Saw.  Nice little gore-fest but the elements of suspense that were so well done in the first few films lacked a bit in this installment.  Still worth seeing, but not worth rushing off to cinemas for.

Paranormal Activity 2

First, I never saw the first one so I can’t really compare the two.  Watched this the same night as Saw 3D, largely because I had a few hours to kill before the Edinburgh Ghost Tours I’d booked on.  Late at night, scared people in the cinema, and supreme boredom for the first part of the movie…  followed by some pretty creepy stuff.

Ok, I admit it, the film got to me.  I blame the fact that I was there alone and had to walk about in the dark afterwards.  Wouldn’t watch it again, the ending is pretty anti-climactic and now that I’ve seen it the fear won’t play in again in quite the same way.  I don’t want to spoil the film so I’ll leave it there, but I had one major complaint about the ‘enemy’ character.  Fire me an email if you’ve seen it and we’ll discuss.

12 Angry Men

This film came out in 1957, is shot completely in black and white, and has a very simple premise.  I loved it.  Narrative was well-written and considered, the story had an actual point (oh horrors), and it was also engaging in spite of its age.  I don’t normally watch court dramas but this was well worth the deviation from the norm.

Jump start your wishlist with these 5 goodies

Buying nice new shiny things make me happy.  It’s coming up to Christmas, my relatives want to know what I’d really like (except my Grandparents; they have specific instructions <3) and I want a good excuse to buy these things if I don’t get them as presents.

I’m just kidding.  The main reason for posting this selection is to help my fellow 3D people (students and pros alike) answer the dreaded ‘What do you want for Christmas’ question.  At the time of writing I have well over 200 products in my wishlists (plural).  These are my current top 5 – anyone else lusting after them?

Coming up in December:

    Workflow Foundations
    Review: Risk Assessment
    Inspiration: James Turrell

Tutorials:

    Converting your flash program for mobile
    UVW Mapping the easy way
    Mystery Tutorial (possibly something to do with monkeys)
    Create an ice texture in 3Ds Max

Relaxation Guide; Make Your Weekends Count


In the past we’ve talked about ‘Sudden Lull Syndrome‘ and taking a break in the middle of a project.  Which is great, and we should definitely do more of that (me included, it’s a constant battle).  This post isn’t about relaxing after something big.  Today, ladies, gentlemen, and frogs we’re going to talk about weekends.

Behaviour One – What are weekends?

When Saturday rolls round do you look at the calendar, shrug, and go back to work?  Or (worse) do you say ‘Yay, Saturday!  Now I can catch up on…’?  Does this happen on Sunday as well?

If so, for the duration of this post, we’re going to classify you as an ‘Intentional Workaholic’.  Do not be alarmed (whatever a ‘larmed’ is) I know lots of people in the same boat, and for the purposes of this post that’s my current label too.  Score one for the team.

Behaviour Two – Sweet! It’s the weekend!  I can do something fun, just after I check on…

Do you play Facebook games?  Are you forever losing hours and hours to simple things like msn and gmail?  Do you check stats and messages constantly throughout the day?

Then proudly attach ‘Attention Wanderer’ to your list of labels.  This is my typical Sunday behaviour, because I make it a rule not to work on anything in particular.  Time likes disappearing in this mode, and usually I wind up feeling bored after the first hour – too bored to do anything more fun!  Horrible isn’t it?

Behaviour Three – Screw you guys, I’m not doing it any more!

Do you get to the weekend and want to go into hiding?  Does the hermit lifestyle sound appealing so long as you have all the necessary comforts and distractions?  Have your weekend gaming sessions exceeded 3 hours at a time?

Congratulations, you have the ‘I’ve had it’ label.  After a particularly stressful week this is what I turn to; completely ignoring everyone around me, I retreat into something fun and solitary for the better part of the day.  Then feel guilty that nothing got done.  Aside from the guilt, this is probably the least damaging behaviour.

You can now throw away your labels

Or burn them and dance round the fire should you wish.  If you’ve read this far you’ve already found something to relate to in one of the situations above, and that means this post is for you.  Hi there.

For the especially observant among you, you may have noticed that I ascribe to all three behaviours.  Who am I to tell you how to do things differently?

I’ve made the wrong choice often enough to know its the wrong choice

Somewhere, you know it too.  Inside there’s something you’d rather be doing when you’re working on a Saturday, chatting for hours on msn, or hiding with a game.  I don’t know what it is, it’s different for everyone.  What I do know is that so long as we keep on as we are we’re missing out.  Big time.

Possible Actions for Possible Results

  1. Get up at the same time as you would during the week
  2. Work for at most two hours on a Saturday morning to prepare for Monday
  3. After the work go and play for a few hours (whatever this means for you)
  4. Check your websites etc in the evening
  5. Then go and unwind with a film or book
  6. Instead of work on Sunday, do something that makes you truly happy for a couple of hours
  7. Rinse and repeat

Between us, let’s run a test.

From a whole boatload of reading and paying attention to my own emotions and energy levels I came up with the short list above.  I think it may save our sanity and our weekends.  I’ll follow it myself, and you can choose to do the same if you like.   Feel free to suggest more points, or strategies in the comments; we could even make a case study together at some point.

Until then, let’s just keep this between us.  One weekend waster to another.

Call for Entries – Tutorial Style

Next week I’ll start to populate this slot with tutorials from other people and from around the web (if you haven’t already, check out my new schedule).  This week, we’re going over some ground rules and introducing a competition!

Two Winners – Multiple prizes

Since I know my audience is pretty diverse at the moment I’m offering two chances to win from this weeks post; one for 3D people, and one for everyone else.  We’ll get to that in a moment.  First lets go over some guidelines for the Tutorial Slot on The 3D Student.

About the Guidelines

Rather than be too constricting I’m limiting the number of ‘rules’ to three golden ones that I won’t back down from.  If you can meet all of these and want to post on my site, you’re more than welcome to!  Send me your ideas and we’ll develop them together.  Otherwise, if you can’t or are unwilling to meet these guidelines; I’m afraid I’ll have to reject your offer at that point in time (though you can obviously try again some other time if you really wanted).

The Golden Rules

  1. The content must be your own, and must be true and accurate to the best of your knowledge.
  2. They should be on a subject suitable for aspiring VFX/Film/Games professionals and students.
  3. They should be fun.  And interesting.  But mostly fun.

This is to make sure that we get the best quality, and have as much fun, as possible.  Sound good?

Benefits

If the joy of creating wasn’t enough to stir your motivation each person submitting will also have the following; links back to their own site or blog, a short biography, and the opportunity to post again whenever they want.

I’m going to promote each of these posts at least as much as the rest of the site (if not more) so through time you should see some good traffic.  Or, if you don’t have a site of your own (why?), I’d be happy to provide references after we’ve worked together on a few tutorials.

Tutorial Submission

Contact me first with an idea.  This is critical; no one wants to spend hours working on something to have it turned down or have tweaks made!  And I don’t want to be in the position where I feel guilty for asking for them.  A quick email talking about what you want to say and how you’re thinking of doing it (video? images? slides? and so on) will allow us both to start talking and bouncing ideas off each other before the hard graft.

I may not be a very picky person overall however it’s better for all concerned to take those few minutes before starting.

The plan is to get back to anyone requesting a spot within 24 hours (usually sooner) but it may occasionally be slightly longer than that.  Rest assured that I won’t ignore you; though if weeks go by without a message back you may want to double check the email got through.

Other than that…  it’s all up to you!

Re-Launch Competition

And now for the part the majority of you have been waiting for – What can you win and how?

The prizes are 2 months of on-call 3D coaching for beginners (either for yourself, or for someone you know), an exclusive wall-paper edition of one of my portfolio pieces (reworked and cleaned up) that no one else will ever receive or be able to purchase, and a review of your website or product.  Two people have a chance to win here; one from each of the following categories.

Entry Route 3D

Submit an idea for a tutorial.  It’s as easy as that.  It can be on any subject you wish so long as it complies to the above guidelines, and in any medium you desire.  Everyone that submits will get the chance to post on this blog, and the best idea will receive the prize.

Entry Route Basic

Craft an entertaining or insightful comment to this post stating what you think of the new and improved tutorial section, and re-tweet this post.  ‘Best’ comment wins, but if I can’t decide I’ll use a randomisor (or pick a name from a hat).  Yes, you can enter this part as well as the 3D part if you wish – the more the merrier!

Competition closes two weeks from now on Wednesday 10th November 2010 at midnight (GMT).  Winners will be notified by email, and results will be posted the week after.  Good luck everyone!

Children’s Literature Lesson: Are you Sparky?

Welcome to a brand new week everyone 🙂 Eleanor from Give A Brick and Writing Smiles here again with the Shades of a Dream Literary adventure. We have one last life lesson from Roald Dahl’s Danny, The Champion of the World before visiting The BFG together next week. As an aside, I know Heather is looking forward to that one. She tells me it’s a book she knows 😉

But I digress. If you’ve only just joined us and have missed our previous three adventures with Danny and his dad, shame on you! Where have you been? Really? Ah, OK 🙂 Seeing as it’s you, here is the link to the very first post in the series. They should be linked forward to the next one from there.

Today we are reading a message that RD wrote very specifically with children in mind. It’s on the very last page of the book in special big letters. Look:

If you hold your computer up to a mirror, you might be able to read it!

OK, so I took that with a web cam and as such, it’s gone all back to front and impossible to read! Here’s what it says:

‘A MESSAGE to Children Who Have Read This Book. When you grow up and have children of your own, do please remember something important. A stodgy parent is no fun at all! What a child wants and deserves is a parent who is SPARKY!”

It wasn’t until I typed that out that I realised RD was not advocating Sparkly parents (as I had always read!) but instead, Sparky parents. Amounts to much and the same though I’m sure.

If you’re a little lost and wondering where I’m going with this, fear not. We’re about to have our grand ‘Ta Da!’ moment. I personally feel that this message for children is something we would all do well to remember on a daily basis.

It matters not a jot if you don’t have children. You might not have the slightest desire to produce little mini grown-ups (oooh, that actually made me shudder. As an aside, how much more shiny and smiley would this world be if it were populated with maxi children instead of grown-ups?) You deserve to be sparky (and sparkly!) The people who you interact with on a daily basis deserve to get to know the sparky you too. I’m sure the sparky you is a lot of fun 😉

So what’s stopping you? Maybe I’m preaching to the converted. Maybe you’re already like some caffeine infused, Ever-ready bunny who lives each day to the max. If so, can I have a shot? 😉 I love to have fun. Heather will tell you, I’ve written whole blog posts about the stuff. But there are times when I must confess I am in danger of being a little stodgy.

Prior to writing this post I was procrastinating. By the time you read this I’ll have been to France but it was written well in advance (OK, three days!) of my departure. It is the penultimate post I wrote before rushing around packing but instead of sitting down to write with a sense of excitement and anticipation, I could feel the sludge creeping up. Why do we do that? Or is that just me? 🙄 Why? I have no idea!

But you and I are not destined to a life of sludge and stodge. There is a solution. Just recognising that we’re being a little dull can help. Do you want to know what I did to eradicate the sludge? (No? Just skip this next sentence, I won’t tell anyone.) I took a photo on my web cam of me looking dull and boring. It’s not a pretty picture (and no, I’m not going to share it) but it gave me the virtual kick up the bottom I needed!

What about you though? Are you ever aware that you’re slipping into stodge mode? What do you do about it? Let’s talk …

Children’s Literature Lesson: Giants and Snozzcumbers

Hello again 🙂 Welcome to another Friday Shades of a Dream Literary adventure with me, Eleanor from Give A Brick. If you’ve been around these parts before, you’ll know that we finished reading Danny the Champion of the World last week. As promised elsewhere, we’re now reading The BFG (The Big Friendly Giant), a personal favourite of Heather I’m told.

Personally speaking, his rich palette of is one of the delights of the genius that is Roald Dahl. Have you read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? That was my daughter and my first shared reading experience and it was refreshing to see the rules of good writing being bent and twisted. I’ve heard it said that you need to know the rules in order to break them. If that is true, Roald Dahl clearly had a good grasp of what should and shouldn’t be done 😉 I’m sure there’s a lesson in there for the bloggers amongst us but I digress.

First, a little scene setting. Sophie is a small orphan girl who has been taken by the BFG to his cave in giant land. The other giants with whom he is in residence take it upon themselves to fill their tummies with humans (affectionately called human beans) but our friend prefers to dine on a diet of foul tasting greens known as snozzcumbers. I’m told they taste like fish skins and have been known to make full grown giants lose the contents of their rather large mouths. Sophie however, is unimpressed with talk of snozzcumbers. She says there is no such thing. The BFG has something to say about that!

The BFG looked at Sophie and smiled, showing about twenty of his square white teeth. “Yesterday,” he said, “we was not believing in giants, was we? Today we is not believing in snozzcumbers. Just because we happen not to have actually seen something with our own two little winkles, we think it is not existing. What about for instance the giant squizzly scotch-hopper?”

“I beg your pardon?” Sophie said.

“And the humplecrimp?”

“What’s that?” Sophie said.

“And the wraprascal?”

“The what?” Sophie said.

“And the crumpscoddle?”

“Are they animals?” Sophie asked.

“They is common animals” said the BFG.

Literary life lessons aside, you’ve got to just love the language! Fabulous 😀

But aside from the glorious language, what do you think? Reading this with my seven year old, we entered into a conversation about how sometimes we don’t have to see a thing to know that it is there. Love was our agreed example. When was the last time someone presented you with a gift wrapped parcel of love? I gave her a more scientific and concrete example too, electricity. Like love, we can only see the effects of electricity’s presence. It’s absence is very obvious too, especially on a dark, cold night 😉

Having just read a wonderful post that discusses the power of the human mind and something called our Reticular Activating System, I’ve been thinking a lot about how unseen, and often unacknowledged, things can effect our day to day activity. Seeing really shouldn’t be believing. I could fill a small book with examples of occasions where unbelievable circumstances have prevailed and I’m sure that if you were to start thinking about it, you’d be forced to concur. I’d love to hear about it. Let’s talk 😉