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Over the years I’ve made a lot of stuff online in lots of different places. From abandoned blogs to defunct YouTube channels, incomplete web pages, half-finished projects, the odd flickr account I’ve lost my password for (up to five now). However, there are some things online I have stuck with and I have continued to update and remember how to log into. But they’re spread far and wide all over the internet and it would take even me weeks to figure out where everything is. Well, fear not, for I have condensed everything into yet another blog!

Seriously I must own 80% of calum-related domains at this point.

Seriously I must own 80% of calum-related domains at this point.

Yes, you can now pop over to CalumGillies.tumblr.com and see a nicely presented run-down of all my websites and projects with a wee description about each of them. I’ve got my old YouTube Channels, this lovely blog right here, my new Art Store, Facebook Page and the RaasayHistory website I’ve started (I’ll maybe do a blog post about that sometimes down the line).

Anyway, hopefully that’ll be more helpful in letting people know all the different things I do all over the place! Probably not though. I know I’m pretty lost.

Fixin’ a van

Have I told you guys I got a sweet new van?! Well, I say new… for about 3 months now I’ve been in possession of my childhood dream vehicle. It’s called Bamse, and oh man is it awesome.

 

BAM!(se)

BAM!(se)

This is Bamse, my bloody wonderful adventuremobile. It’s a 1988 Suzuki Super Carry, a ‘microbus’ more commonly found and popularised in Asia. It’s an absolutely minuscule little 970cc van that I’ve been obsessed with since I was a wee boy. Also yes it;’s the van Richard Hammond flipped over in that van challenge on Top Gear.

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Broadchurch- All Go in Final Minutes

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One of my favourite series of the past few years has been Broadchurch, a captivating and incredibly well acted television drama which in the first season centered around the murder of an 11 year old boy, Danny Latimer, in the fictional Dorset town of Broadchurch and the efforts of David Tennant (Detective Alec Hardy) and Olivia Coleman’s (Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller) characters in catching the killer as well as the wider impact of the families involved and people of the community, each a suspect themselves. The second season has just finished up last night, this one focusing on the conviction of Danny’s murderer and the resolution of the infamous unsolved case that ruined Alec’s career and brough him to the town of Broadchurch in the first place and turned him into such the moody, destitute and pretty unwell person we met in the first ever episode (though how much of those traits can be attributed to him just being Scottish is unclear). It was a great ride, but did anyone feel it slightly rushed in that final episode?

(some spoilers ahead!)

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Life is Strange, Its Mechanics Stranger

Life is Strange Episode 1 Spoilers Ahead.

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A lot has been said about Life is Strange, the new point-and-click episodic adventure game by not Telltale Games, who currently run what is probably the largest game-genre monopoly in history, but rather by Dontnod Entertainment, makers of 2013’s Remember Me. As many have pointed out, some aspects of the writing leaves a lot to be desired. Many of the characters are walking clichés, there is some god awful “down with the kids” conversations that just do not work. It also has some very… odd lip-syncing issues. Despite this however, it does do a lot right: interfaces, presentation, a good value for money episode that doesn’t make you feel slightly cheated (cough cough The Wolf Among Us) or drags on too much. And I’ve enjoyed it too- I’m doing a Let’s Play of it on my channel, and as a big fan of both Point and click-style adventure games to more artistic works like Gone Home and Dear Esther, it’s a very welcome breath of fresh air in a market that was starting feeling slightly stale from an overload of Telltale products (I love you guys, really, but I’m beginning to feel a very definite air of derivativeness recently).

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“If only there was some law enforcement agency I could inform! Drat!”

The problem I have with Life is Strange, however, is a pretty big one. A pretty big, glaring gameplay mechanic that I feel simply doesn’t fit within the context of the story or game: time travel. Yes, our main character Max discovers during a pretty out-of-place school shooting (seriously, our main character should have maybe put more thought or worry into the fact that someone in her school is carrying about a loaded gun other than just maybe giving the headteacher a quick tip-off), that she has the ability to turn back time. This is essentially the main mechanic of LiS. You explore the environment, interact with people and make decisions like any other point and click. The difference, however, is that you can immediately undo each option with a  quick rewind. It makes for some novel puzzles here and there, but it leaves me with two big gripes. Continue reading

How I Stopped Worrying and Learned I Could Care Less about Couldn’t Caring Less

I’m a big David Mitchell fan, he’s a great actor, speaker, has an amazing a sense of humor and his writing is bloomin’ brilliant. I also loved his video podcast series David Mitchell’s Soapbox, which started all the way back in the forgotten mists of 2009. Now David has dozens of brilliant episodes of Soapbox, but arguably his most famous episode is one you’ve probably seen trotted out across the internet in one form or another- Dear America…, in which he discusses in classic Mitchell style, among other things, the nonsensical phrase “I could care less”.

Fine, right? Great! Funny. A nice side-line two-minute video to make you laugh. Not as good as some of his other episodes, but a classic nonetheless. Maybe, however, could we stop talking about this possibly incorrect use of a phrase as if it’s some kind of deadly virus that needs to be knocked out before we all succumb to the horrors of using idioms that are factually inaccurate? “What do you mean ‘why am I feeling blue’?! That’s a colour not a feeling, get him! Burn the witch!”

"Ugh okay okay, I get it fewer then not less than!"

“Ugh I get it- fewer than, not less than!”

This is nothing against David Mitchell, who merely pointed out this interesting development of a phrase for comic effect. No, the problem I have is with the hordes of internet and grammar aficionados/know-it-alls that use this video as some irrefutable logic bomb, and insist that this injustice in speech needs to be pointed out at every available opportunity as an example of either the English language going to the dogs (see: Eats, shoots and Leaves), or America being a bunch of dummies who say stuff they don’t understand (see: edgy teenagers). I think this also falls into the larger category of people co-opting someone’s opinion as fact, and that will point to something like Louis CK’s or Chris Rock’s stand-up-routines as a reason or justification that we should all be allowed to use gay slurs or the n-word because “It’s just language! I don’t mean it to be offensive! It’s your fault if you’re offended!”.

So where does “I could care less” actually come from anyway? Well, we don’t know for sure. It’s impossible, really, to pin down the first usage of the phrase and there are various theories. Dictionary.com rightfully points out that the phrase is an idiom, and guess what? Idioms don’t have to make logical sense:

“In English, along with other languages, idioms are not required to follow logic, and to point out the lack of logic in one idiom and not all idioms is…illogical.”

Similarly, the first recorded usage of “I couldn’t care less” only precedes “I could care less” by around 10 years. Although the Dictionary.com article refutes it, the best theory I’ve heard of the phrases etymology is that it originated from Yiddish adoption of the term. Yiddish speakers dropped the negative couldn’t as part of pattern of self-deprecating/sarcastic phrasing that is common in Yiddish heritage and New York Jewish speech. Just as how Yiddish communities popularized the phrase “I should be so lucky!” (which actually tends to mean “I have no hope of being so lucky!”), “I could care less!” sort of follows that sort of delivery and speech pattern when presented that way.
Another phrase that is more generally American is “Tell me about it!” which really means “Don’t tell me about it, because I know all about it already” but follows this sarcastic style.

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Again, There’s no actual documented evidence of this, but I always liked that explanation as it felt like the most believable and understandable to me, (mainly because when you say it in the voice of a plucky sarcastic rabbi from New York, it doesn’t sound nearly as out-of-place).

So maybe let’s just accept I could care less for what it is: an idiom that doesn’t really have to make sense in any way, and just another example of how cool and evolutionary the use of English is without having to point it out as wrong at every available opportunity. Maybe, in fact, we should look at what is probably the best episode of Soapbox, in which David’s friend and co-writer Robert Webb comes on to quite rightfully point out the hypocrisy and generally nit-picky nature in many of Mitchell’s arguments. At the end of the day, David’s arguments are funny. They’re well presented, well-research and most of the time technically correct, but that doesn’t make it undeniably right, and it certainly doesn’t make it a crutch for you to then go and beat every person with who wants to use a phrase of speech differently than you online or in real life. In the end, can’t we all just get along?

 

 

 

Personalities In Space

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I’m calling it- probably the most exciting news this year was that of the Rosetta mission, which after 10 years of traveling managed to get the European Space Agencies Philae lander onto the surface of a comet hurtling through space at 84000 mile an hour. It’s really hard for me to actually conceptualize that happening, that somewhere millions of miles away, after billions of miles of traveling, a tiny wee metal box a bunch of shirt-wearing humans made is lying slightly precariously on cliff on a rock that is about the same size as a LEGO Deathstar if it was made to scale with the minifigs (now THERE’S a statistic I can get behind!).

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NickjGraves? More like NickJaGoodGuy!

So the last time someone drew some artwork that featured lil’ ol me I of course posted it here because I was so gosh darn excited and privileged that someone had taken them out of their day to draw something for me. So you can imagine my excitement when today one of my favourite artists not only gave me a shout out but also a beautiful depiction of my 10/10 movie star face.

It truly is beauty and the beastly handsome (also me).

It truly is beauty and the beast-ly handsome (also me).

 

If you follow the link to his post, you can also see the amazing depictions he did of his favourite arty pals. I’m not exaggerating when I say Nick is one of my favourite artists around. His stuff is vibrant and unique, and he pumps out so much consistently good artwork that it’s a regular delight to see a new piece of his pop up on my twitter or tumblr feed. Thankfully, he’s not gone unnoticed as he’s celebrating a fantastic 600 followers over on his tumblr art blog (still not enough though- go follow him! Now!) and I hope his next milestone arrives as soon as possible. His idea to highlight other artists (I don’t think I really count but I’ll take the label “Proficient doodler”) was inspired by my 300 follower post, and it reminded me I really should refresh you guys with some of my favourite arty types and all round cool folks here, in case anyone missed them the first time…

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Notebooks Are So Hot Right Now

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No, really notebooks are so hot right now. As you guys may know, I’m a big fan of diaries, sketchbooks, notebooks and all things handwritten and vaguely journal-y. Last week I posted a wee photo album of my current notebook setup, and I often post pictures of my sketches and various doodles on my Tumblr and Instagram accounts. Unsurprisingly both these platforms are where the majority of attention for my work comes from due to the large artistic and image-sharing base of these websites. Sites like Penaddict, Tumblr blogs and online communities dedicated to discussing the art of diary and notebook keeping are becoming ever more popular. It all ties in to the hipster, thrifty new-age alternate lifestyle subculture that sort of rejects modern products and fetishizes the outdated and less efficient but nonetheless nostalgic & capable technology such as film cameras, typewriters, record players, paper notebooks & diaries, single gear bikes and other outdated items (obviously only to a point- we still need those fancy iPhones to update our Instagram and Twitter feeds to tell you all about the old stuff we use!). Basically, the kind of still that you might pick up in a thrift shop, see propped up in trendy bars or coffee shops, blogged about on new-age news sites, or in the skip behind an Artisanal Portland Kale Garden & Free Range Hemp Chickpea Commune. As much as I’m not a fan of a lot of the arrogance and pretentiousness that goes hand in hand with hipster subculture (though I think I probably despise the ‘cool-to-hate-hipster’ sub-subculture even more, if that makes sense), I am a bit crazy for all things old-fashioned and vintage. Growing up with a grandfather who has literally sheds of old tools, equipment and hoarded pieces of technology from the past 80 years that he still uses day-to-day, I have a bit of a fascination with ‘old stuff’ and trying to adapt or use it in everyday life. This entire movement is very heavily rooted in steampunk and dieselpunk too, of post-war technology and historically anachronistic designs that also appear in a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction, something that I’ve always been very interested in. We’re focusing on notebooks today though, more particularly a style of notebooks people seem to love. Describing it is hard, but the consistent ideas and forms people seem to like most in my own notebooks are:

Pages that are overflowing with content– streams of consciousness and entire pages filled it up with drawings and tightly packed words, with no spaces left empty. This idea that paper is at a premium and that each space must be filled gives your pages a historical, valuable feel- as traditionally often paper was at a premium, and those with an expensive diary or notebook would not waste space or paper, or that on their travels it was the only book they had with them, and were forced to fill each square inch with as many observations as they could.

Excessively random or Obsessively neat and academic– both of these approaches emulate an academic look to your notebook. The first presents it as a constant stream of consciousness, an artistic approach in which all your ideas are spilling onto the page. It has an eccentric, artistic approach that you might expect to see from a traveller or explorer, filling up each page with observations and ideas coming in faster than there is time to writer. On the other hand, an academic, super neat approach speaks to the scientific- it’s sometime you’d expect to see in a maybe Mary Ward‘s journals, or the sketches of an inventor in the industrial age.

Annotations, Annotations, Annotations – notes, subnotes, references, margins, bibliographies, notes and observations, corrections and hastily pasted in notes from other journals- these are the hallmarks of observation and study. Old journals are stuffed with these, with hand drawn illustrations and diagrams then carefully annotated and explained. Not only does it make your journal appear like a work that can be studied and instructed, but it shows that it’s a constantly evolving work that isn’t a work of art but rather something used to learn and teach. Check out How to Train your Dragon 2– does he care if his notebook looks neat? Hell no! It’s stuffed full of notes and extensions and crudely pasted on maps- it’s a journal being used! Which leads me to…

Well TraveledWell Worn, Well UsedThis is something best described as “What Indiana Jones would carry in his satchel“, is something that applies not just to notebooks, but also to satchels and clothing. People like the idea of stuff getting used, worn out, hastily fixed and flecked with rust and grit. They want things not simply sitting on a coffee table waiting to be looked at but not touched, but things that have a history, that can make them feel like they got their hands dirty and worked at something. It’s all a part of the distressed, recycled and well-worn fashion that spreads from everything to clothing, automobiles or interior design. Your notebook should not be handled like a religious text, but shoved in bags and stuffed in your pocket, torn and ripped when the time suits it, and treated like apiece of equipment. You want your notebook to tell the story of where you traveled just by looking at it. Indiana Jones didn’t have time to worry if his notebook wasn’t getting scratched, he was busy fighting nazis! When he got wet, burnt or covered in grime & old mummies, he just dusted himself and his notebook off and got back to work!

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My first Polandball Comic!

Today is a proud day for me, for litzippo can into /r/polandball! Okay I know that made zero sense whatsoever. Let me explain. Polandball Comics are a form of online comics, and a sizeable community of artists and fans have grown around the internet sharing and making these cool little comic strips, artworks and niche, nerdy in-jokes for a few years now. “The comic represent countries and are drawn as balls. The balls interact in broken English and poke fun at national stereotypes and international relations.” (via the Simple English Wikia). The Polandball Subreddit, one of the largest communities and creators of Polandball Comics describes them as:

“Wiggly mouse-drawn comics where balls represent different countries. They poke fun at national stereotypes and the “international drama” of their diplomatic relations. Polandball combines history, geography, Engrish, and an inferiority complex. The comic series first became popular on a well known German image board int ze internetz.”

There are very strict rules and in-jokes built around the comics that the community enforces, as well as a lot of dos and don’t. As such, making and posting comics in the polandball subreddit requires a knowledge of how they work and an understanding of the humour & drawing rules. Only then can you submit your comic to the moderators, who will decide if it’s worthy of posting and letting you post other comics in the future. Here’s some of my favourite examples, such as a comic strip depicting a meeting of all the world’s “unhated nations“, a funny personification of some British-Australian history, poking fun at the sensitive national tensions of Germany or this American-North Korean comic. There’s also more complex and historical ones such as this comic about the Boxer Rebellion.

Anyway. after being a fan for many years, my first /r/Polandball comic “One Upmanship” last week was submitted, and what’s more- approved! I’m pretty proud of it, and I spent a whole day coming up with the idea and drawing it. It was well received on the subreddit too, ranking at number 53 of the top comics of the entire month, which made my day!

The comic is below, but here’s some historical back story that might clear up what the comic’s about-

“This comic depicts the Scottish Navy’s Michael, the largest ship of her time when she was launched in 1512. In direct response to her construction, The English King Henry VIII ordered the construction of the Henry Grace à Dieu, which surpassed the Michael in size and armament.

Meanwhile, across the seas the great and fabled Treasure Fleets of Ming Dynasty China sat and rotted in their harbours and moorings, the new emperor uninterested in the massive fleet built decades before for exploration and trade. They were eventually destroyed or burnt.”

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