Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Here's looking at ewe, kid! -- rotting sheep's heads at Durban Docks

On our way to Wilson's Warf on the Durban Docks, the road narrows. You look down onto a mossy stretch of sand and water.

We looked down.

And looking back up at us were five or six decapitated sheep's heads, all resting on the sand.

I leapt out of the car with Jennifer's camera, and made my way down to the sand.

I can't even begin to describe the stench. But I had to brave the smell to get a photo or two.

I was okay for the first click or two. But I looked up and saw Jennifer crouching near the car. I thought she was gagging. And that stirred my own gag reflex.

The vomit streamed out of me. I averaged one minor hurl and one major hurl per photo taken. Suffice to say it was a short session. But I think I got at least two decent pics.

But it's a haunting scene for me. What the heck were those heads DOING there? Who threw them out? Why? Why doesn't someone clear them away?

Monday, December 22, 2008

E coli! The joy of swallowing other people's crap in the sea!

So Jennifer and I decided to live a little. On the wild side. To take some chances in our ever-more-padded and sanitized world.

Our method of splashing out? To head for the South Coast of Durban for a swim, instead of the more affluent North Coast.

Where before, we went to the wealthy shores of Umhlanga Rocks for our beach fun, on Friday we decided to try the less affluent Amanzimtoti Beach.

It's probably more accurate to talk of 'effluence' rather than 'affluence'.

It was only after a good two hours of swimming, once we headed off to find a shower to hose the sea water off us that we spotted the info board.

'Beach cleanliness: A+,' it said.

'E coli: HIGH,' it said.

Jennifer and I looked at each other. Decoded the legend at the bottom. I said, 'If we get it, we get it.'

Jen said, 'Let's get some food.'

That evening, I was the first to succumb. 2.30am, and my stomach was sounding like a sewerage pipe spewing tons of shredded all-bran flakes into the sea. Jennifer's tummy followed the next morning.

Saturday morning.

Saturday morning in Durban.

Taking turns contributing e coli to the sewerage system.

Each flush thrusting swarms of little e coli soldiers right back where they came from... Amanzimtoti.

Thanks very much to Dr DN Naidoo, a Durban-based GP we lucked on by walking into the first non-clinic we could find. Turns out he's not only a patient, kind, caring doctor with an excellent bedside manner... But he's ALSO a doctor to the stars. The underworld stars. The effluent of society... The dudes in prison. He mentioned Shabir Shaik. And unnamed others. And then prescribed Kantrexil.

Monday, December 01, 2008

HOW TO LIVE DANGEROUSLY by Warwick Cairns -- a multimedia animated summary

HOW TO LIVE DANGEROUSLY is Warwick Cairns's second book. It's all about how the arbitrary 'safety' and 'health' laws imposed on us by 'the people who run things' are actually really bad for us. The book details strategies for taking back our power, and living better lives as a result.

This video is a multimedia summary of the book.

I contacted Warwick with the idea. And he wrote a first draft script. I edited that, and sent it back to him for further revision. When he was happy that the script accurately represented the contents of his book, he made several voice recordings of the material.

I chose the best version, and started my sound design. I believe that the audio component of a movie supplies more than 70% of the power of a piece. As I do the sound design, ideas flow for the visuals. I wanted the soundtrack to be able to stand alone as an adio-only podcast, if Warwick wants to use it as such.
My starting point was to search for Creative Commons 'Attribution' or 'Attribution, Share-Alike' tracks. I specifically remove any track that specifies 'non-commercial' as one of the preconditions for using it. The two licenses I zone in on allow me to mold the music to my needs. With a hat tip to the musicians. In essence, I take their solid tracks, and sculpt them into what I need for the piece I have in mind.
For this type of work, I always search for heavy metal or hard rock first. I find that these genres offer the most energy and diversity of tracks. They almost always have killer bridges, with amazing musicianship. Really good raw material to work with.
I sourced several tracks from Jamendo. And brought them into Audacity, along with Warwick's vocal track. And I built the audio from there.
In this piece, I sketched several pictures in my little Moleskine. All of these sketches were done in bed, with a copy of the script to hand. I did them in a sort of order, following the logic that Warwick and I created in the script.
My next task was to scan the pics, and work them in PhotoShop CS3. I coloured and textured the pics, squashed and squished them. And generally made them realllllly vivid. A few of those sketches didn't make it into the final film. But most of them did.
Next up was throwing the pics and sound design onto my timeline in Adobe Premiere Pro on my Toshiba Tecra M4 tablet pc.
While I was messing around in Premiere, editing, I took a break. I opened ArtRage on my Asus R1E tablet pc, started my video capture program, and made my caricature of Warwick in one short sitting. It took about ten minutes for me to get it to my satisfaction.
I then opened CrazyTalk 5.0 on my Toshiba Tecra M4, popped the caricature in, dropped the voice-only track in, and got Warwick's pic talking nicely. When I was happy with the 'acting' of the avatar, I exported as a high res AV. That turned into a 5 gig file!
I slapped the animation movie into Premiere. And then followed tons of fanatical detail work. I originally intended painting speech bubbles for Warwick. But early on in the sound design, I decided to rather go for illustrative pics.
So I sourced suitable photos, using the Flickr Creative Commons search tool. I use the same criteria for pics as I do for music. The pieces HAVE TO be under 'Attribution', or 'Attribution, Share-Alike' licenses.
I found about twenty or so pics, and when trying them, found that most weren't reallllly what I wanted. Everything looks very different when the audio and video come together.
All of the picture and music credits are listed at the end of the movie, and here in the metadata...
  • "Drowned Devoured"
    by Outselling of Lies
    (Album: THE BEGINNING)
  • "Marchand de Bonheur" (nouvelle version)
    by Contreband
    (Album: À CONTRE PIED)
  • "Comercial de Verdade Verdadeira"
    by Jailson Brito Jr
    (Album: MATA BARATA)
  • "Dream Zero"
    by Marc Reeves
All available from
All distributed under Creative Commons licenses.

This little vid took me about a week of solid work to crack. Deeply enjoyable for me. Warwick's publishers on both sides of the Atlantic (Britain and the US) are very keen to make use of the vid to promote the book.

If you need any animated summaries made of any of your talks, get in touch with me. I work internationally, and I'm keen to see what I can produce for you. My email address is My website is at