Sunday, 20 December 2009

Reaching into my sack of treats

View from my balcony. Pity I can only go out on it for five seconds at a time.

'Hohoho'.
Right, that's enough yuletide spirit for one year.
Although, I do love giving presents. Especially the self-serving ones that promote my shallow li'l projects - and you're not allowed to be ungrateful because I made them myself and after all, isn't that the true meaning of the season?
Yeah, my family doesn't buy it either.I'm reminded of a Dr. Phil holiday special in which he urged the viewing audience not to buy things we think others should have, but things we know that they actually want.
Dr. Phil, in case there's any ambiguity left on this matter, is a redundant boob. Of course you're supposed to give people stuff you think they need at xmas. It's the one time of year you can force your own personal tastes and homemade crap on others. And if they don't like it, remind them that they got it for free and then backhand them.
Yes, I'm an angry, bitter man who will probably die alone.
But that aside, here are two presents from your close personal friend Ben Mitchell that you definitely didn't ask for, but I think you should have. Ain't I a stinker?Firstly, forget this RATM/X-Factor horseshit and instead check out my xmas single! Well, it has nothing to do with xmas, I just got it done last week and I'm too impatient to wait for the new year to put it up. It's called 'Spy Vs. Spy' and can be either streamed on MySpace or, for the next few weeks, downloaded as a full-quality mp3 right...wait for it...here!
The title is an obvious reference to the Prohias comic, which I love, but has nothing to do with it lyrically. More an analogy type-thingy.I've also put together a free preview sampler for "That Isn't Funny, You Stupid Child", featuring the xmas-themed (it's a rip-off of "It's A Wonderful Life") short story "Vicky, Icky & Sticky" in its entirety! So download away, my adorable little buttered muffins, and drink heartily from the overflowing cup of my altruism!
Download "Vicky, Icky & Sticky" - gratis!
Now I'm off to watch old episodes of "Home Movies", drink some Cup-A-Soup and ever-so-gently weep. To all a good night!

Friday, 18 December 2009

Whoring For The Holidays

Need some inspiration for xmas gifts? Of course you do, you can't be trusted to think for yourselves. Break the annual pattern of disappointing every relative and loved one with your crappy gifts by giving them something they truly deserve for once.
Now that I've made you fall in love with me, let me present you with some fine items that will make the season seem a lot more holly and, I dare say, jolly to boot.
What better present is there than a book? How about three books? 2009 saw the beginning of my love affair with Lulu through the release of the graphic novel adaptation of "House Guest" (a short animation I made that I've possibly mentioned on this blog). There's also two reissues of books originally released in 2006, now with extra content and in full colour!
Buy "House Guest: The Graphic Novel"Buy "The Best of 'Mitchells In England' Volume 1: 1994-1995"Buy "That Isn't Funny, You Stupid Child"
There's also some snazzy apparel you can get your greasy, materialistic mits on. Originally created for the film's crew, two "House Guest" t-shirt designs are now available! All sizes catered for.
I'd have to be some kind of desperate, grasping whore to try and push a product that's nearly four years old, and yet here I go. "Agnosticaust", the third Struwwelpeter album from 2006 is the perfect treat for the impossible-to-buy-for music lover you know. With the fourth album "The Book of Women" just around the corner, it's the perfect introduction to my musically musical music.
(song clips featured on the order page)

Falalalala
Lala

la


...


la.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

...& Other Living Dead Creatures

"House Guest" has been selected for the 2010 edition of the Clermont Ferrand International Short Film Festival & Market as part of their panorama screening 'Zombies, Vampires & Other Living Dead Creatures'. I'd say that's pretty apt.
Interestingly, I submitted the film for the 2009 edition and, while it was featured in the short film market, it wasn't selected for the festival itself. Kind of encouraging that the new niche category gave them an excuse to dust it off and include it in the 2010 edition instead. I'd just assumed the submissions go into the archives and are never seen again.
The festival runs from 29th January to 6th February, and a full list of festival delights is viewable here. As always I'll put up when exactly the screening will happen once I know. In the meantime you can check them out on that glorious celebration of social one-upmanship, Facebook.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

If you know me, it's pretty obvious what you'll be getting for Xmas this year...

Well, I'm officially hellbound now that the reissue of "That Isn't Funny, You Stupid Child" has been released. Just in time for xmas, so if you have any friends who you suspect may be cold-hearted sociopaths then it'd make a perfect gift.
To summarise, the book is a collection of short comics that I worked on between 2003 and 2006 that are all equally distasteful.
"Cuckold"

"Li'l Milly (The Adorable Bigot)"

"Honey The Hungry Hound"

"Vicky, Icky & Sticky"

For all my bewailing the subject matter I'm genuinely chuffed that it's out there and it is, sick or no, just a bit of stupid cartoon fun. You'll like it. Buy it.
As well as the full-colour and new content, I made a couple changes to the second edition's cover. It's a little brighter and the colour palette on the back page now matches that of the comics themselves.It's available to buy now in paperback from Lulu for the measly sum of £14.99, or the even measlier sum of £5.99 if you choose to buy it as a digital download. We are, after all, living in the eco-conscious era of the Kindle.
Stay tuned as in the next few days I will be putting up one of the book's stories in its entirety, the festive tale of "Vicky, Icky & Sticky". Xmas brings out the giver in me.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Kentucky Fried Duck

"House Guest" gets a rare US outing in the new year, included in the second annual Derby City Film Festival in Louisville, Kentucky. It will screen as part of the Animation Short Film Group at 1pm EST on Feb 20th.
To keep up to date, the festival has a Facebook page, a Facebook group, a Twitter account and a MySpace page. Brave new world.
Many thanks to the scary Lynchian horse-director thing in the logo for including me (I'm assuming he calls the shots). I haven't really invested in many non-European festivals yet as they mostly charge for submissions and I'm a cheap sumbitch, so it's always nice to have it shown further afield.

Friday, 27 November 2009

My Dream? You don't wanna know...

More info on the "House Guest" screening as part of Kosovo (or Serbia...I am an ignorant dimwit)'s Skena Up Festival - it will screen as part of the 3pm block on Wednesday, December 9th. The venue is the Kino ABC in Pristina.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

All encountered out. Now back to shunning society.

A few more standout films from Encounters, which finished last night.
'Over & Over (& Over) Again'
- Dir. Andy Glynn
Very effective and thoughtful piece on teenage OCD. Perfect length, well performed and with justified use of motion graphics in relation to the dialogue and subject matter. While I haven't watched the others yet, it looks like a number of other films produced by the same scheme 'Animated Minds' dominated the animation contingent of the festival's Best of British screenings. Will give these a look sometime during the week as it seems like a pretty interesting idea.
Some more:

Friday, 20 November 2009

That's right, there's stuff that I actually like. Who'da thought?

It's Encounters week in Bristol, and as ever the festival has pulled together a bunch of disasters and triumphs in pretty much equal measure. The locality of this particular festival inevitably guarantees the inclusion of people I know, so there's usually a bit of a celebratory vibe in the air. Going back and forth between debilitating throat pain that sees me prone to screaming in old ladies' faces like that thing in 'Come To Daddy' and happy clappy co-analgesics that see me prone to drooling and giggling at cutlery, I've been mainly housebound and a little more selective in terms of which screenings I attend than in prior years. So far however there have been a few standout moments:

El empleo from Hayyam on Vimeo.

A few others of note produced by the Animation Workshop include 'Project: Alpha', 'Trainbombing' and Nicole Gallagher's 'Sheep'. Who doesn't like sheep? The main draw so far was a showing of the new Adam Elliot film 'Mary & Max', a feature-length endeavour with Philip Seymour Hoffman. I've previously banged on about the excellence of Elliot's 'Brother'/'Cousin'/'Uncle' trilogy, as well as the fabulous 'Harvie Krumpet'. What ties each piece together are memories, accounts and stories that are fundamentally about living with mental illness.My absolute favourite, 'Cousin', describes perfectly the frustrations, limitations and awkwardness of cerebral palsy without the merest hint of condescension, and it's apt that his first feature would deal with Asperger's, the psychological disorder du jour*.
Hoffman distinguishes himself from most screen actors who, when voicing a cartoon do little more than provide a name with pulling-power to a movie poster. As Max he's authentic, funny and, at times, disquieting, portraying a social recluse who, when eventually diagnosed as an 'aspie' sees no reason to change. By chance he is randomly contacted by a young Australian girl in search of a pen friend, a relationship that appeals to him by virtue of distance. Over time they become one another's repository and their correspondence is soon associated with all the major events of their lives.I have to confess that I personally tainted this film (almost) with unfairly high expectations and consequently found my mind nitpicking at its small handful of flaws. After a few days though, these issues are pretty inconsequential. Possibly the story could have had better pacing, or the odd voice actor swapped out, or they might have taken it easy with the Penguin Cafe Orchestra. Any other issues were very quickly dwarfed by the strength of the dialogue, subject matter and affectionately crude visuals.
I don't see this film getting major distribution which, along with discovering the existence of a strange, two-headed creature named Jedward, is one of today's contributions to my list of Reasons To Welcome Death.If you can track it down it's very much worth the extra effort.

*I'm pretty certain a lot of successful animators I've met in the last couple years have some form of high-functioning autism - I suppose it goes hand in hand with all the time you need to spend alone in front of a lightbox, computer or set. Watching these creatures in social scenarios, one witnesses a bevy of awkward shuffling, one-word answers, avoidance of eye-contact and general ineptness that hangs in a room like a bad smell. Of course I behave that way a lot of the time too, but that's just 'cause I'm your run-of-the-mill dickhead.

Monday, 16 November 2009

You might wanna skip this one...it gets kinda grim...

NOTE: My medical situation is such that I actually can't speak for very long, if at all. As a consequence it's very likely that I'll be blogging a lot more to compensate and let the poison out, so to speak. Apologies in advance...
2001, A.K.A. "The good ol' days". Stairs were a bitch but by Christ it was nice to have chicken wings whenever I wanted...

I've noticed with some alarm that a female acquaintance of mine has taken to referring to me as 'chum' in text messages and emails. While not factually inaccurate, it's a little undermining - here are a few terms that I'd consider to be mildly less emasculating:
'Sista'
'Girlfriend'
'Gal-pal'
'My gay friend'
'Eunuch'

I'm assuming she's decided to assert the strictly-platonic nature of our friendship in a preemptive move against any potential transference issues. Since getting sick I've been reaching out for coddling and conversational hair-stroking like an attention-seeking, self-pitying adolescent and it's probably knocked any trace elements of legitimate manliness out of me. That and the fact that, after four years of regular weight loss, I'm still a man with tits. Sure, they're smaller and perkier now, but their upright, conical pointiness kinda makes it worse. Statistically speaking, any girl's fat friend (or 'chum') is the person least likely to wind up in the sack with her. I'm generalising of course - had there not been the odd exception I'd have probably suffered some kind of testicular blow-out by now.
Note how I'm not even attempting to deny my intentions here. That's because at the end of the day my mind works exactly the same way every other man's mind does. If you're female and I know you, it's very likely I've contemplated making some kind of move. It's the one thing I have in common with every other straight man you know. In my case it's called 'playing the odds', something one ends up doing automatically when one spent most of one's teens looking like an oddly-shaped potato.
2001, that same summer. In hindsight, maybe an intervention of some kind was in order...

After a fairly substantial decrease in mass earlier this year I'm now officially in the final stretch, but through focusing on exercise of late I now weigh more (through either increased muscle mass or a large, undiscovered tumor) than I did six months ago. Two shirts I bought in August that were too snug at the time now fit very comfortably...so I'm getting thinner...but I'm gaining weight?
It's confusing as all fuck.In frustration I genuinely contemplated the weight loss aid Alli, which is now a legal product in the UK. I quickly recalled a conversation with my GP back in 2006, in which he offered to put my name forward as a candidate for testing the drug. Here's the ensuing exchange as best I recall it:

GP: It has been quite successful in the States, albeit with side effects.
Me: Side effects, eh? Well, gee-whiz, how bad can they be?
GP: Depends. The drug works by stopping the absorption of fat during digestion, so it leaves your body as waste.
Me: So, I poo fat, basically?
GP: Well, it's kind of a fat/poo cocktail. What you evacuate is essentially grease. The side effects mainly involve loss of control over your bowel movements.
Me: Just to get this straight: My options are to either spend less money on fatty foods, or pay for a drug that might see me shitting hot grease on a regular basis, with no control over when or where?
GP: It's advised you carry spare trousers wherever you go.
Exeunt, pursued by a bear

Well, I made the 'bear' bit up. But having lived twenty-two years without ever having any kind of pant-shitting incident (post-diapers), I was fairly certain I didn't want to start then and politely declined by backhanding the GP with his own clipboard and scampering away, fearful tears running down my cheeks.
At the end of the day, it's an issue of continued willpower and, while it's always going to be boring, I've managed so far without surgeries or nightmare incontinence pills.
Endeavouring to actually improve my physique rather than just get smaller, my legs and arms are in pretty good shape while my mid-section still maintains a consistency similar to that of briefly-microwaved cookie dough. So I've abandoned the scales as an accurate record and am instead going by punching holes in a belt. Not that scientific but it's less likely to fluctuate inexplicably.
Here's where I am now. It may be overly-ambitious but I'm hoping to reach my goal...hole by the new year.My next entry will be considerably less fecal, I promise.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Dullardgate

Just found out 'House Guest' was a runner-up in a 4mations competition I don't remember entering. This was announced a few weeks back now, I guess I didn't get any notification because, well, it didn't win. But pretty cool that it got a look-see.
I was fairly certain I actually had an account on 4mations, but finding that there was no way to log-in anymore initially had me assume that I'm now being rejected by skull-flying kittens. A little further investigation led me to this article, explaining that the website was initially shut down a couple months after it began (I guess it was one of many sites I set up an account with and then barely ever returned to) around the time of the Sachsgate nonsense. Essentially it came down to people being offended by sex and drug-related imagery on a website that was always meant to incorporate adult content.
There's nothing gained in pissing and moaning about an incident that occurred over a year ago, but Christ almighty, get a fucking grip.
Anyway, 4mations has now become an animation blog with lots of quite interesting (albeit filtered) shorts and suchlike.
Here's some adorable, inoffensive cartoon nudity from 'A Cautionary Tale' to go out on:

Thursday, 12 November 2009

In Situ

I've just come back from two days in hospital having my throat mercilessly raped by an angry blue whale sporting a prophylactic woven from razor wire. Well, that's what it feels like. Actually it was a procedure that may go a long way toward keeping me alive in the long run so I should probably be feeling more upbeat about it than I am. Well heck, at least they gave me all this lovely codeine.
As a side-effect of my esophageal blues (if that isn't a Tom Waits album title it should be) I had a lot of free time on my hands yesterday and began cleaning up an old, dusty short comic I wrote back in 2005. I was originally going to include it in a collection of similarly distasteful tales called 'That Isn't Funny, You Stupid Child' the following year, but I felt the end result was too inappropriate even by my standards.Looking at it again after several years, it's an odd exercise in catharsis involving my conflicted issues toward the pornographic industry, reality TV and Frank Capra (it's kinda like my version of 'It's A Wonderful Life'). Anyhoo, it's called 'Vicky, Icky & Sticky', it's awful and disgusting but it does have some funny bits. Frankly I feel that I'm afforded my gallows humour after the last couple days. When I finish the clean-up I'll either bung it on here as a free Xmas treat or throw it into the planned full-colour reissue of 'That Isn't Funny...'. Or both. Probably both.On completely the other end of the cartoon spectrum, I'm happy to say that my friend Veronika Broscheid's short children's film 'The Lonely Socks Club' is making it's festival debut at the Falstaff International Film Festival in Stratford-Upon-Avon on the 20th. I wrote the music for it and am happy to have my name attached to such a genuinely pleasant film, especially considering that the stuff I come up with on my own is so abhorrent (yes, Icky and Sticky are aborted foetus angels - is it any wonder I've been blighted by illness?). I need that element of balance.
Anway, her film plays as part of the Closing Strand from 2:30pm at the Civic Hall, along with another great film 'The Legend of Geb & Nut' by her MA coursemate Laura Ratta.Also, 'House Guest' is playing at Estonia's 'Animated Dreams' festival on Wednesday 18th, in the 'Best of International Student Animation' section starting at 8pm EET. The festival screenings take place at the Cinema Sõprus in Tallinn. Hurraahüüe!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Festival Update (Or "I Can't Think of a Clever Title")

Just to confirm the when-and-where of "House Guest"'s previously mentioned inclusion in the Jordan Short Film Festival this week. It will be the second film screened during their Thursday evening showcase which begins at 6:30pm GMT+2. It takes place at Mohtaraf Remaal in Amman. This map should help you get there if you're, well, very nearby. If not then I'd suggest a slightly bigger map.
Of all the festivals my film has been selected for, this one has piqued my interest if for no other reason than it's a cultural event I wouldn't have banked on being involved with (but am very happy to to be included), especially after reading the unusually candid FAQ Section of the festival website. Here's hoping it'll be a good week.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Anyone in Bangkok next week?

Following up on a prior post with some specifics on 'House Guest' being included in the 7th World Film Festival of Bangkok this month, an event I'm sure will render even the most elaborate ping-pong show redundant. The film will be part of the Anima-Shorts section which screens at 7pm on the Thursday 12th and again at 4pm on Saturday 14th. The screenings also include my friend Sara Barbas's film "Wherever You Go There You Are" which makes them double-plus good, so buy that ticket to Thailand and get your ass over there.
The festival takes place at the Paragon Complex in Pathumwan. A wealth of other info is available through the festival's Twitter, Facebook page, YouTube channel and blog. They got it covered, yo.
I really have to stop ending my sentences with the word 'yo'. Whenever I try to be hip and ironic it just hammers home what an aged, out-of-touch tool I'm becoming.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Babbling

Ad to pad out the graphic novel. I guess now that it's actually coming out on DVD it's not as much of a bare-faced lie...

My apartment is a post-birthday mess of empty cans and bottles. This year will be the year that I finally face up to my environmental responsibility and actually recycle. It will take an absolute minimum of effort and I'll feel good about myself contributing to the planet's well-being.
Or, more likely, I'll yet again decide to temporarily believe that the Mayans are correct in predicting we'll all be dead by 2012 anyway, and consequently just lump everything into one big refuse sack that I'll then toss off my fourth storey balcony. Cleanup done.
Detritus notwithstanding, it was a very nice evening and a grand excuse to steal Tom Bower (voice of the Duck in 'House Guest') away from his political duties. In putting together the 'House Guest' DVD I want to justify its release by cramming it with as much unnecessary shit as I can. In a bit of a mad pre-party rush I recorded the second of two commentaries with Tom and Jo Hepworth, who put a lot of her own time into making sure the film got done last year, all the while listening to my three anecdotes repeated ad nauseum for six months and never once stabbing me in the throat.The first commentary I recorded last weekend on my own, and it took a few attempts to actually come up with anything of value to say that wasn't self-important and twatty. Doing the second commentary was a lot easier as we were able to knock it out in one go and I was less prone to prattle on. It was also a nice excuse to be with the two people that did the most in terms of guaranteeing the film's completion and, doubtless in my mind, its warm reception.
Am presently fine-tuning the mix of both commentaries, here's a little preview:
video

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Another Year Balder

It's my birthday today (well, for a few more minutes) and in a nice little cosmic coincidence I received news that a potentially large-scale post-production job I'd been keeping my fingers crossed about has been given the go-ahead, which will help make this xmas substantially more merry. Also there are two new festival appearances for 'House Guest' that I got wind of this morning.In November it's included in the international short film competition as part of the Jordan Short Film Festival. Exact dates and other info haven't been provided yet but it'll be somewhere between the 11th and the 14th.Then in December it will be screened during Kosovo's Skena Up 7. The festival runs from the 4th to the 11th, again will post more specifics when I hear about them.
All in all, I'm feeling a lot more upbeat than I was a few days ago.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Well, aren't we a little sourpuss today?

I am having a spectacularly bad day. Floating in a limbo waiting for two possible jobs to manifest themselves, I find myself canvassing current day-rates within Bristol and contemplating seppuku when I see just how shitty the situation is.
At this point I've finally reconciled myself with the truth that I've been putting off admitting for the last year. Unless things pick up soon I may need to leave this town.
But I really, really like my apartment here.
Bridges when you get to 'em, I guess. I'd use the Saturday evening to go out and take my mind off things, but I'm holed up in the Cotswold countryside recording DVD commentaries and an ill-advised trip to Flavourz yesterday appears to have rendered my colon spasmodic and unresponsive to pleas of mercy.
Well, rant over. I feel mellow now.On an up-note, 'House Guest' is blessing the shores of Estonia next month when it joins the line-up of Animated Dreams, an offshoot of the 13th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. Or, at least I hope it will - the postal strike began at pretty much the exact moment I posted the screening copy.
No exact time/date details yet, but as well as the official site there's also a Facebook page to look through.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

New-welpeter!

Check out this week's preview song from the forthcoming Struwwelpeter album 'The Book Of Women'. The new track is called 'Cut & Run', and it's quite peppy. Bung it on if you need some aural caffeine.
Listen already!