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Cars 2: cold steel, fleshy tounges

A fleshy tongue.

This isn’t a spoiler, it’s mostly just a weird gag in Cars 2:

At one point Mater runs into a Car with its eyes on the headlights rather than the Cars style windshield as eyes. It’s treated like some kind of freakish, horrific thing, and indeed it is kind of jarring seeing two different designs for anthropomorphizing cars. I guess it was a little jab at some of the criticism put towards the look of Cars. Mater screams and drives off, the French car weakly asking “headlights!, headlights?” as he goes away.

It wasn’t funny, it was just weird.

The movie has a bunch of jokes like that. Another time Mater asks rhetorically “does the Pope-mobile have wheels?”.  And it’s like, hold on a sec, is there Catholicism in the universe of cars? Is there religion? In the first movie another Car says “Thank the Manufacturer!”, is that like god? Are they robots or organic beings? They have teeth and pink fleshy tongues, they eat food and apparently also poop, but they also need gas to survive. There are Planes and Boats, Trains and other sentient vehicles, are they lesser beings? Is there a class system? They all seem to live in service to Cars. There are plows and tractors that look like Cars but are treated like Cows. Do they eat them? Are they slaves?

Then I think, well heck, it’s just for kids right?

But at the showing I went to, none of the kids were really into the movie. Almost all of the jokes fell flat and there never really seemed to be anything at stake in the action scenes.

A seductive smile.

So who is this movie for?

We aren’t meant to think too hard about the universe of Cars, but that flys right in the face of Pixar’s other movies. They’ve always been good about fleshing out a whole world, as improbable as a pocket dimension of Monsters or a secret world of living Toys was. Cars is just a strange…misshapen thing. It’s like that Car with the headlights for eyes. Not funny, not cute, kind of gross and disturbing.

Run away.


what Rocky Balboa said to me

You ain’t gonna believe this, but you used to fit right here.

I’d hold you up to say to your mother, “this kid’s gonna be the best kid in the world. This kid’s gonna be somebody better than anybody I ever knew.” And you grew up good and wonderful. It was great just watching you, every day was like a privilege. Then the time come for you to be your own man and take on the world, and you did.

But somewhere along the line, you changed.

You stopped being you. You let people stick a finger in your face and tell you you’re no good. And when things got hard, you started looking for something to blame, like a big shadow.

Let me tell you something you already know.

The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward.

That’s how winning is done!

Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that! I’m always gonna love you no matter what. No matter what happens. You’re my son and you’re my blood. You’re the best thing in my life.

But until you start believing in yourself, ya ain’t gonna have a life.

Don’t forget to visit your mother.

-Rocky Balboa

You know, people tend to shit on the Rocky movies like they are silly, throw away entertainment. To an extent they’re right, but only to a certain point. These stories, as simple as they may be, are truly about something. I really felt it, when Rocky had these words to share with his son, a young man struggling to define himself – it seemed like he was talking to me. Maybe he was talking to my entire generation. It was terrifying and moving at the same time, to have a movie speak so directly to me, to all the young folks out there who feel directionless and somehow consigned to failure, to just deal with it, and to take control of our lives.

Seeing those words in bold, distanced from Stallone’s often mocked delivery (unjustly so, at least in this case), we can appreciate the heart of the message. I think the acting here was excellent though, and I have included the clip in question below for those of you who want to have Rocky talk to you too.


cheers to you, playstation two

an uncomfortable couch

Over at the Playstation Blog, they have a great article featuring journalists and developers listing their top three games. Sort of a celebration of 10 years of PS2. I love that black box, so below is my own list.

Here are my top 3:

  1. ICO/Shadow of the Colossus: Yes, I know this is a bit of a cheat. Lets just say that thematically both of these games, from Fumito Ueda and friends, act as companion pieces to one another. They aren’t sequels in the conventional sense, and yet there is enough connective tissue here that we can consider them one unit. I really can’t articulate fully, just how much of an impact these games have had on me, as a creative person and in turn as a human being all together. For now it’s enough to say that the name of this blog, Swatting at Shadows, comes from ICO, and that maybe later down the road we can revisit in greater detail this subject.
  2. Persona 3/Persona 4: I’m cheating a lot here, as you can see. I played them in reverse order, and while I’m more a fan of P4 and it’s small town charm, I still hold P3 in high regard. Both games allow the user to get a glimpse at how life is like for the average highschool student in Japan, that is, aside from the alternate dream dimensions and summoning mythical creatures. These games point to an unexplored realm in the RPG space, let alone video games in general, stories that are removed from the Tolkien-esque fantasy settings or Sci-Fi trappings, and rather a scenario that more closely reflects our own day to day life.
  3. Katamari Damacy: I have no clue how to categorize this game. Is it a puzzler? A driving game? A Disaster Simulator? Whatever it is, there was never anything like it before. The gameplay, the music, the whole look of the thing, seemed to just escape designer Keita Takahashi’s mind in brilliant torrent of imagination and creativity. Just look at this and you might understand just a fraction of the insanity contained on that DVD.

About the original post, I find it helpful to read about the games that other designers appreciate. In this way, we can better understand where these creative folks are coming from, what their mindset is. Beyond gaming, it’s just interesting to see what inspires creative people. How much of that is an influence, and how much of that is simply an appreciation for something exceptional? Where do we draw that line, if we should in the first place?

I can’t help but to react and reflect on the things that interest me, the stuff I love. I put it all on the page, or in the words I write, or the comics I draw. Sometimes it’s a little embarrassing, but to work in any other way would be disingenuous.

Oh, and about the drawing above:

I remember seeing the PS2 in person for the first time, and being struck by it’s monolithic shape. It was the first system to popularize the ‘tower’ configuration, which only helped to contribute to it’s 2001:  A Space Odyssey-esque presence. I wouldn’t call the design sexy, or sleek, especially not in our homogeneous “idesigned” world, and yet there was something powerful and intimidating about that box. If the light cycles in TRON had engines, they just might look like a PS2.

For ten years the system would live up to it’s monolithic image, a constant presence in my room, whether I was away at school or back home. One of the first games I played on my own PS2 was Kingdom Hearts, I remember being blown away, seeing Disney characters realized in 3D, and convincingly so.  Years later, when I finally upgraded to a PS3, I actually played the older console more, so sucked into the world of Persona 3 and 4 that I didn’t care if the graphics weren’t up to modern standards.

If you’re wondering why the couch looks that way, it comes from my own personal greatest game (PS2 or otherwise) of all time, ICO. In that game, the player found stone couches scattered throughout a castle, sitting on one of them, along side your companion Yorda, allowed you to save your progress. It’s a small thing, but there is something endearing about seeing Ico and Yorda take a brief break on a couch.

I can’t help but take note of the polarity of that scenario. For the person the holding controller, we sit on couches and play games to relax and escape. For the characters in ICO, they sit on a couch to take a break from all the trails we put them through. Finally when they make it to the couch, that is our turn to get up and take on our own challenges.

a gleebax for all seasons

The Urbanaut pt.26

As some of you may know, I do a comic strip over at This is the latest entry.

The idea for the strip, or series of postcards, or sometimes twitters, is our resident alien, Gleebax, explores Toronto and interprets events in his own sideways kind of way. When I first started, I felt a lot of pressure trying to be clever, or funny, or relevant, but these days I’m much more comfortable just letting the strip take me where it wants.

I don’t even feel like this one is particularly funny, just a nice image that I wanted to draw. Concept shmoncept.

In fact, I got the idea for this entry whilst taking a road trip in the US last week. America is a gorgeous country,and you get to see so many different facets of it, working your way north to south. Long stretches of flat country side, densely populated urban centres, tunnels, bridges, misty mountains in the morning, on and on and on. The only drawback is being packed into a tiny little car and getting lost every few hours.

This time of season always makes me feel more creative, and I love the colours of the fall. On the interstate you can see large forested areas, all taking on the colours of autumn, it’s really beautiful. Even though I was inspired by what I saw in the States, I felt like the same applies to here in Toronto as well. Afterall, autumn visits Virginia and Philadelphia as much as it does Ontario.

the saddest chair in the universe

Homeless Chairy
At least we’ll still have the good old days.

I feel deeply moved by this. Like an image directly from my brain, randomly made real.

via flickr user callalillie.

finding a painting

sketches and notes

Today was a bit of a struggle, trying to realize an image in my head for a painting, and looking further out, a new series of pieces. I had the idea of the thing, some of which you can glean from the notes (depending on your literacy in chicken scratch), but how it would look on paper was a different story.

This series is a ghost story. It has forced me to look inside, which can be a scary experience, to really think about who you are. Does that make sense? At the same time it’s probably also a very healthy thing to do. I always feel really good when I’m painting and drawing. This time around there is a bit of fear, but that is ok too, I think.

This is a larger piece, in fact it’s largest I’ve worked on yet. It just seemed like it was time, you know? I’ve always felt a strong connection to my final pieces and my sketchbook stuff. Like the spirit is the same. I don’t like to overwork the image, instead keeping the spontaneity of the sketch. Somehow, the same thought process doesn’t translate as well when I’m working larger, so I’m trying to address that now. We’ll see how it goes.

kicked out of eden

OK, so I suck at Pixel Junk Eden, I know that, OK?


Would you believe me if I told you I’m much better at Super Street Fighter IV?

The objective of Eden is to take your little bug guy and get him to these seeds. The seeds open up once you collect enough pollen and then turn into more plants, thus enabling bug guy to progress further into the level. Or something like that. I dunno. I kind of suck at it.

This is really me playing, there is a cool function where you can upload your gameplay straight from your PS3 to Youtube. I love this sort of thing but only a few games have it. Sadly the image quality is pretty low, but at least the music and visuals are top notch, both of which were provided by Baiyon (aka Tomohisa Kuramitsu), a rather talented fellow based in Japan.

PS.  I can’t get custom width/height to work when embedding Youtube to WordPress, any help would be great. As it stands now the little clip here looks sad (although it is low res so maybe that’s ok).