Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Beta testing over

Our VCR packed it in the other day, so we went on an expedition to find a new one. It was fruitless. It seems that the humble VCR is as dead as the dodo.

None of the stores we visited would sell us a simple video cassette recorder. If we wanted one that came as a combo with a DVD, well that was possible if a trifle expensive. In the end we bought ourselves a DVR, rendering our video library somewhat useless. However, since our video library consisted of a copy of the Phantom Menace and two Marillion concerts it won't be missed too much (especially not by my wife).

So my thoughts turned to the history of the humble video recorder. The idea of recording TV signals onto tape was one that baffled engineers for some time. The tape had to pass over the recording/reading at high speed to accommodate the require amount of information. An early prototype fired a huge reel of tape past the recording head ... 240 inches per second ... for a few seconds of recording time.

The practical solution was simple but revolutionary ... rotate the heads in the opposite direction to the tape. That way the relative speed between them was still high, but the length of tape require was dramatically reduced. The video recorder became a practical device.

The VCR was one of those devices that the marketers were slow to grasp. The recording features of many models were not advertised, as executives could not fathom why anyone would record a TV program. It was assumed the market would be for pre-recorded tapes, which were consequently over-priced and under-marketed ... and under-sold. No-one predicted the rise of the video rental store.

When my parents first owned a Video (we left the CR off ... it was the 80s, we didn't have time to say it all, it was the me generation, not the meh generation.) the only place that rented tapes was the local petrol station. I remember being horribly bummed because they had a copy of Vanishing Point but it was on Betamax. Oh, how I wished we had a Beta recorder.

The whole Beta versus VHS conflict was a lopsided war, because the Beta blank tapes were expensive and too short to record a long movie (with adverts). Who cares which one was better, one was more practical and cheaper. It was the Tiger tank versus the T-34 all over again, but with fewer deaths.

The current file-sharing controversy is very familiar to those who remember the movie industries attempts to outlaw VCRs, through long lawsuits and public statements about the death of movies.

There have been plenty of innovations whose impact was not foreseen clearly by those who created them. The computer, famously.

"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons."
- Popular Mechanics, 1949

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."

- Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

But one everyone forgets that car was also seen in very limited terms by its developers. Cars were seen an expensive luxury items. Basically they were all high-end sports cars. It was assumed cars would only be sold to the few people at the top of the economic pile. The rest of the populace would make do with trucks, buses, trains and so on. Mass transit for the masses. Then the Model T Ford came along and completely changed the market and the world.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Script looking for an artist

Corn Stone has a 'database' of sorts of scripts looking for artists. I submitted this one to him recently.

Hollow Man
The Adventures of Captain Adam Seabourne
Episode ONE: Aurora
Writer: David Tulloch

Synopsis: We introduce the main character, Adam Seabourne, and his quest to get south to something as yet unexplained ... an Edgar Rice Burroughs style of story, with some modern twists.

This is part one of a continuing series. I offer it to prospective artists and anyone else with an interest as an example of the series and my writing in general.

Page ONE
A couple of scientists, who belong to a larger group, are busy setting up a weather station on the edge of the Arctic Circle when they are witness to the arrival of the survivors of a polar expedition.

1/1 [ The Arctic Circle, 1820. ]
Two scientists from some American Society are setting up a weather station, one of those boxes with a thermometer and those cool wind meters that look like little cups that spin around on top. (find web pic). They are in extreme cold weather gear, but it all seems rather basic considering it is 1820. The weather is snowy, but nothing too horrible.
Scientist1: "Hurry up. The weather get's worse."
Scientist2: "Hold your horses. Almost done."

1/2 Scientist1 peers into the distance. The other continues to set up the station.
Scientist1: " Did you hear that?"
Scientist2: "Hear what?"

1/3 Scientist1 points out to his partner something coming toward them in the snow.
Scientist1: "There, look! "

1/4 We see what the scientists are looking at. Three struggling British (you may not be able to show that) men walking out of the white wilderness.
Survivor1: "Oh thank God! We've made it. We've made it."

1/5 The two scientists helping to hold up the survivors.
Scientist2: "Where the hell have you all come from?"
Survivor1: "We're all that's left of Captain Adam Seabourne's expedition to the Pole. He sent us back when things got bad ... went on alone."

1/6 The scientists continue to help the survivors along.
Scientist2: "Let's get you back to base. Get you some food, water and warmth ... and we'll say a prayer for the soul of Adam Seabourne."
Survivor1: "Amen to that."

TITLES: Hollow Man
The Adventures of Captain Adam Seabourne
Episode One: Aurora

Page TWO
Change of scene to a whaling ship in the cold Southern Ocean, they spot a signal fire.

2/1 [ The Southern Ocean, 1903. ]
A whaling ship at sea.

2/2 The steersman at the wheel of the ship, the captain and navigator standing close. The captain and navigator talking.
Captain: "Just how far south did that storm push us?"
Navigator: "A ways ... 30 miles or so. Bit close to the ice for my liking."

2/3 Similar frame as above. From above, the voice of the lookout calls down.
Lookout (off): "Signal fire off to starboard!"
Captain: "What? How can that be? There's no land for a hundred miles?"

2/4 Telescope view of a signal fire on an indistinct island.
(off) "Well, sir. There's always been rumours of islands out here ... the Auroras. "
(off) "But their just a myth, surely.
(off) "You don't usually see a fire on a myth, sir."

2/5 The captain talks to the steersman.
Captain: "Steer us in slow. Get a man forward for soundings. Prepare a launch."

2/6 Close up on Captain and Navigator.
Captain: "Let's see just who and what is out there."

3/1 A launch boat being rowed toward the whaling ship. A voice from the launch is answered from the whaler.

Launch sailor: "One extra soul to bring aboard, Captain. A man calling himself Adam Seabourne. In poor health."
Captain: "Bring him up, Mister Harris."

3/2 The first shot of Adam Seabourne. He is a man in his early thirties, handsome but a little rugged. Good physique, solid but not overweight. Imposing. He is wearing a slightly worse for wear British Infantry Captian's jacket from the 1820s. He also has an old pistol from that era, but some of his other clothing is odd, more modern looking. Even more modern looking than 1903, as it has come from an alien race (oooh!), but don't make it too odd. We see him being helped over the side of the ship, the Captain helping him.
Seabourne: "Thank you for coming to my aid, Captain."
Captain: "'Twas pure chance that blew us this far south, Mister Seabourne."

3/3 The Captain and a crewman helping Seabourne along the deck. In the background they are bringing his belonging, three crates, onboard.
Captain: "We'll soon have you back to land, Mister Seabourne. Set course for Port Stanley, Mister Leeland."

3/4 Similar to the previous panel.
Seabourne: "No! I must get south. Please, Captain ... turn the vessel south."
Captain: " There's nothing south but ice and death, Mister Seabourne. At the Falklands we can repair and refit, and get you seen to."

3/5 Seabourne pushes off the crewman on one side, but is hanging onto the Captain.
Seabourne: "No!"

3/6 Seabourne has his old 1820s style pistol out and pointed at the captain's head. He seems desperate and maybe a little mad.
Seabourne: "Turn this vessel south! I mean it!"

4/1 Seabourne looking weak, like he is fading.
Captain: "Stay calm ... "
Seabourne: "Please, you've got to get me south... "

4/2 Seabourne faints.
Seabourne: " ... you have to ... "

4/3 small black panel.
" ... please ... "

4/4 Blurry vision as Seabourne reopens his eyes. The blurry figure is the captain looking at Seabourne's gun. We are in the Captain's cabin, Adam is in the bed.
Captain: "Welcome back, Mister Seabourne."

4/5 The same panel, but now in focus. The Captain may have moved a little since the last frame.
Captain: "An interesting pistol, sir. An antique. But still, I imagine, very deadly ... "

4/6 Seabourne sitting up in the bed.
Captain: "... assuming it is loaded, of course."
Seabourne: "I didn't want to hurt you, just convince you."

Captain: "And that jacket. Napoleonic era?"
Seabourne: "A few years later than that, actually."

Captain: "Just how long have you been on that island?"
Seabourne: "Not that long, I assure you. But long enough."

A page where the Captain does most of the talking. The panels can be closeups of the Captain, medium shots of the scene, and incidental shots of anything in the cabin.

5/1 Captain: "My grandfather served with an Adam Seabourne. Went exploring with him to the north pole."

5/2 Captain: "Well, halfway to the pole. Bad weather, accidents. They started running out of rations. Seabourne sent my grandfather and the others back to safety, going on alone.

Captain: "He was never seen again."

Captain: "My grandfather gave up his adventuring ways after that. Settled down. Had some children. They had children."

Captain: "I used to sit at my grandfather's knee and listen to his tales of the sea and ice. Guess it rubbed off on me. Now I'm making my fortune at the opposite end of the world to him."

Captain: "But if that Adam Seabourne hadn't sent my grandfather back all those years ago ... well ... I guess I wouldn't be here today wondering why I'm sailing my ship towards the ice for the benefit of a man ... with the same name."

5/7 A frame of the captain and Adam looking at each other, both knowing that this Adam is the same man, but neither saying it.

Seabourne" "Thank you, Captain."

Captain: "You can have anything we can spare. Assuming I can't talk you out of what you are doing?"
Seabourne: "You can't."

Page SIX
6/1 The whaling ship sailing in ice flows near the coast of Antarctica.

6/2 The captain looking out the back using a telescope. The navigator standing next to him.
Navigator: "Just who was he captain? Apart from a madman."

6/3 Telescope view of Seabourne with three crates and some other bits, making some sort of contraption on the ice of Antarctica.
(off): "A ghost."
(off) "I gave all our spare rope and provisions to a ghost?"

Captain: "Aye, you did. Now let's get this vessel out of the ice and back to port."
Navigator: "Yessir."

Next Episode: Into the Black.

There are several more complete scripts in this tale, as well as an overall plot and finishing point.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Bowled over

When I got up this morning I went into the lavatory to perform my regular liquid expulsion and my first thought for the day was that I should haunt an opera theatre.

My daughter had carefully arranged toilet roll tubes on the top of the cistern tank, so it resembled a pipe organ. As I tinkled the ivories I imagined tinkling the ivories. Sustained booming chords ringing out from the depths. I flushed.

It was a great way to start the day. Sometimes even the simplest acts by my children can make the world seem bright.

And yes ... I do look that bad in the morning. At least until the first cup of coffee.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Boob week?

Was it just me, or was it NZ boob week?

-- Boobs on bikes
-- Pamela Anderson turns up for fashion week
-- John Key on Letterman

( . Y . )

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Feeling a bit jaded today.

Why is it that "feeling jaded" is a bad thing? I like jade.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

No one here but us chickens

My daughter is rapidly approaching five-years old, and she often asks when she is going to start school. This has made me cast my own mind back to by first primary school, Fraser Cresent, where I spend a few years before my family moved a few hundred miles away. I only have a few hazy memories of that school.

I remember being shown a sex education film that confused me a bit. It was an explicit film, but only at the microscopic level. Macro details were all rather coy, but under a microscope they showed a sperm fusing with an egg. However, it was chicken sperms and egg, and I was certain for years afterward that sex between humans somehow involved chickens.

Perhaps even more confusing for a young lad was the schools house system, modeled on those great english schools, and now famously used in Hogwarts. I was in Snell House, which meant that sometimes I had to wear something really stupid. So did everyone else. There were sporting events, and a points system. Snell House did not do well. I wasn't sure how I was meant to feel about that.

Walking to and from school had its moments. There were a couple of nesting magpies in the pines of the field that led to the schoolyard. You quickly learnt to avoid having anything shiny on your person.

Playtimes seemed to consist of a large free-for-all brawl where dozens of kids would get together, boys and girls, and wrestle and sucker punch each other until the bell rang. I remember that when one kid discovered the bamboo bushes out the back the whole thing deteriorated into mock sword fights followed by dizzy spells. I'm guessing the teachers weren't worried by their young charges beating each other senseless on a daily basis. Maybe it made for quite, compliant students in the afternoons?

I remember being one of the few boys that was friends with girls. I was often invited to the house of a girl named Gail, where we would play board games such as Which Witch. Then one day I was walking home hand-in-hand with a girl named Robin. We were accosted by some older boys who forced us to kiss. There, in the alley, next to the flowering honeysuckle, I discovered that even bullies can be useful.

Robin and I spent a lot of time together after that. She was my first girlfriend. Robin's father seemed to hate me. He would always keep a close eye on us. I believe he even suggested to my parents that it would be best if the two of us stopped playing together.

He was right to be worried. I may have been young, but I was already trying to figure out where I could get my hands on a live chicken.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Waiting by the virtual phone ...

Sometimes being a writer can be like being the more desperate member of a potential new couple. Especially a comic book writer. The editor or artist is the nice new man in your life.*

You meet, make small chat, talk about people you may both know. Then one of you compliment the other.

"You have really nice, strong lines."

The compliment is returned.

"Thanks. I love the way you do dialogue."

The connection is made. He orders another round of drinks and as the night goes on your brain swirls with small talk, compliments, and promises of the future.

"We really should do something together," he suggests provocatively near the end. You exchange phone numbers.

Then you wait by the phone. Will he call you? Should you have let him have your way with you on the first date (and written a script on a table napkin there and then, not carrying what anyone else in the cafe thought).

The days pass. Did you come across as too needy? Did he not like your words? Is he just busy, like he said he was? Is that him on the phone right now? No. Damn telemarketers.

Then he calls. Your heart goes a flitter-flutter. He wants you to write for him. Something just for him. You start immediately.

You submit your first draft to him ... words poured out directly from your soul.

You wait for his call again. And wait.

You can't sleep. You find yourself staring at the phone, hearing it ring in your head.

He calls.

He loves it.

But ...

There's always a but. I don't like big buts.

He offers a few suggestions. Minor changes. You listen. You agree with him (what else can you do?). You make the changes.

It's not your word you are changing; it's yourself. Maybe he'd like your hair shorter? Longer? Try a different perfume? Should you wear something low-cut? Sometime tighter? You could lose a few pounds (or pages). Perhaps get a push-up bra? Maybe you could get some implants?**

You meet him again, having re-made yourself. He looks you up and down. You wait for his judgement. You wait for his acceptance ... but you expect his rejection.

No wonder so many comic book writers turn to lesbianism (prose writing) or staying home alone (poetry).

*Yes, I know, making the women the more desperate one in the relationship is telling in several ways: it shows that I'm comfortable with my feminine side, but that equality still has a way to go as it is easier and more generic to write the weaker side of a heterosexual relationship as the female.

** I've actually done this to a story ... given it implants. I changed the main character from a man to a woman. I noticed I write rather weak male leads. But, presto, change the lead character to a woman and she's suddenly a strong character. Again, I can't help think this says a lot about the imperfect world we live in.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Song In His Heart script

I woke up with this idea in my head, so I wrote it up and submitted it to Corn Stone's comic script 'database' project. His idea is to try to find artist for short scripts, and maybe vice versa.

Now back to the script I was meant to be working on ...

A Song in His Heart
Script: David Tulloch
Art: Insert your name here?

The artwork can be as straight-forward as you like, or as off-beat as you like. The words tell the basic story in most panels, so the illustrating art can be more artistic than descriptive.

Text inside [ ] represent a single block of text. Most panels have more that one block.

Page ONE

[ He had a song in his heart. ]
[ It almost killed him. ]

[ After some reoccurring dizzy spells and passing out at the office he went to his doctor.]
[ The diagnosis was an irregular heartbeat. ]

[ The doctor had never heard anything like it before. ]
[ She recorded the heartbeat and put it on her iPod. ]

[ She couldn't stop listening to it. ]

Page TWO

[ Her ex-husband heard it and asked for it to be put on his iPod. ]
[ She researched how on the web, and in doing so found some file sharing sites. ]

[ She shared the file with the world. ]
[ At first no-one noticed. ]

[ She forgot about the shared file, but never stopped listening to her version. ]
[ She started dating her ex-husband again. ]

[ About the time they remarried there was a news item on TV about the heartbeat. ]
[ It had become a global internet phenomena. ]


[ Several artists recorded hit songs using it as a melody. ]
[ No-one sued over it. ]

[ The man whose heartbeat had started it all had gone through some tough times. ]
[ Medication had tamed his irregular heart. He had no more dizzy spells, but found it hard to sleep at night. ]

[ He had been fired from his job. They never told him it was because their health insurance company was worried he'd cost them too much money. ]

[ His marriage was on the rocks. ]
[ The weekly counseling sessions weren't helping. ]


[ Then he heard his old heartbeat on the radio. ]

[ There was a song in his heart again. ]

4/3 Large panel to finish
[ And this time it wasn't killing him. ]


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Yet another Popmundo cartoon

For some reason I cannot fathom I have been banned from submitting cartoons to Popmundo. I really have no idea why. As far as I can tell I complied with all of their terms and conditions, the cartoons meet their criteria, and are funnier and better drawn than 90% or more of the ones they do publish (and I'm not just being egotistical here ... remember they actually published a broken link recently as a comic).

So until it gets sorted I'll just have to content myself with publishing a few on this blog.

The Popmundo game uses real world names for its places of musical learning. There really is a basic sex appeal course at Oxford in the game.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Status report: accessing data ...

Been busy with work (the boring kind) and writing, as well as the day job of parenting. I'll get back to blogging just as soon as I bash the script I'm working on into shape.