Too Many Ideas - the impworks Blog
December 4th, 2013
November 27th, 2013
November 25th, 2013
I’ve posted a new tutorial for Vue – Working with the Camera Settings.
November 24th, 2013
So the 50th Anniversary is over how did it go?
Let’s quickly get the bad out-of-the-way. And by bad I mean atrocious. Doctor Who Live: The After Party. Get lots of people to do with the show in a room and make something embarrassing. Similarly with pointless appearances on other shows to hype the 50th Anniversary. Graham Norton being his usual pointless self promotional self (can someone find a Frost or a Parkinson and give them a chat show that just involves interviewing). Saturday Kitchen should have used the omelette challenge jokes and not tried to do the pointless reference at the end. The fluff that binds together modern TV in some idea that saturation with your brand is the best form of marketing when you don’t have a clue how to do it properly. Personally (if you can’t guess) this whole strand gets a straight U (Unclassified).
Now on to the indifferent – I’m looking at The Ultimate Guide to Doctor Who and the Culture Show. I call them indifferent because they didn’t seem to have worked out that they were going to cover the same ground. A bit of demarcation would have worked leaving two better shows. The Ultimate Guide should have focused on the history of the show. The Culture Show could then have taken a different approach and focused squarely on the shows cultural importance and impact. Instead the Culture Show drifted into telling the show’s history. I’d rather have seen some big names, not known for Doctor Who, sitting around for 30 minutes and talking about how it impacted their work and life. I’m going to give them both a C (Try harder for the 75th Anniversary)
The Science of Doctor Who: now we’re starting to get into the better quality stuff. The main problem here was the same problem that the Christmas lectures suffer from – celebrities instead of kids doing the experiments and the experiments just weren’t good enough. Had it been a series with a bit more variety than is time travel possible it might have been better. I’ll give it a B.
Who is The Doctor? from BBC Radio 4 Extra manages to be a better stab at a documentary about Doctor Who. Still falls into being a talking head show. At least there were signs of higher intelligence and more interesting selection of heads to talk to. I’ll give it a B+.
Now onto the happy stuff – where I don’t have to be a grumpy (not so old yet thanks) man
The Doctor Who Prom 2013. Got the mix of music from the first run and the modern series right. A bit of showmanship and a lot of good orchestral music. The Doctor Who prom Intermission. A 20 minute discussion / documentary of the music of Doctor Who. What the other two documentaries should have been – fun mixed with interesting facts. I’ll give this an A.
The Night of the Doctor: this web short was snuck out with no fanfare. 10 minutes to do a great job of linking the 1996 TV Movie with The Day of the Doctor. Another A here.
An Adventure in Space and Time. A far better and more interesting take on giving us a slice of Doctor Who history than either documentary. Lovingly done as when the BBC turns its hand costume drama. A+.
The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot: another one that snuck out. Brilliant fun – the perfect pin to pop the balloon of the awful after party. Another A+. If you’ve not seen it watch it after Day of the Doctor as it has (tiny) spoilers.
Finally the main event – Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor. I don’t want to give away any spoilers. Personally I think they had just the right number of Doctors included, any more and they have had to split the show up into too many competing performances. A nicely done plot with a good mix of pulp, science fiction, big ethical questions, character moments and nods to the past. Definitely an A+.
November 20th, 2013
November 16th, 2013
This post includes spoilers for Die Hard, The Man Who Never Was and The Fourth Protocol. All of these are hardly new films but I thought it only fair to warn you just in case.
I first came across pocket litter a long time ago watching The Man Who Never Was (1956) based on the British World War 2 deception of 1943 Operation Mincemeat. If you’ve not seen it a small team of military intelligence personnel create Major William Martin, R.M. then allow a body dressed as the Major with all the stuff to prove who he is wash ashore is Spain carrying authentic documents (with false information) that make the Germans think the Allies will land in Greece and not Sicily. Part of the way they do this is by creating his pocket litter including letters, receipts, a photograph of his girlfriend, money and a theatre ticket stub.
Some characters are at times defined by a key item of pocket junk:
- McGyver – Swiss army knife
- The Doctor – Sonic Screwdriver
- Frodo and Bilbo – The One Ring
- Bond – Walther PPK
- Mary Poppins – Umbrella
- Harry Palmer – NHS Glasses
Different litter can help answer questions about a character. Who they are including identity (litter such as identity documents, letters, business cards and dog tags), associates (letters, photographs and business cards), wealth (cash, cards, cash and jewellery), health (medicines, contact lenses, glasses and medical bracelets), beliefs (religious items, charms or lack of either), habits (gum, tobacco and hip flask of booze). When and where they were somewhere (tickets, library books, diaries, mobile phones with GPS and receipts). Why things are happening or going to happen (letters, instructions and directions). How they do things (tools, weapons and cash).
Items or lack of items can be specifically about a character such as a passport or drivers licence. Many of the items in a character’s pockets may be fake especially identity documents and money. Others could be too – a photograph of a girlfriend or a wedding ring could be carried to cover up being single.
Some items may be concealed. This can be as simple as a small object hidden in a tin of tobacco, a box of washing powder, a bottle of talc or a bag of salt or as complex as hidden compartments, things sown into clothing or made to look like something else.
Pocket litter plays a vital part in The Fourth Protocol. This time John Preston, who has been shunted out of the way to Airports and Ports, is searching the effects of a Russian trawler man killed walking out of port by a lorry. He’s suspicious because the sailor’s hands are too soft. Amongst his pocket litter he finds the first vital clue to the deadly plot – a polonium disc hidden in his things.
It can tell us about what they do. A doctor may have rubber gloves, a thermometer and a stethoscope. An executive woman who travels for work might have business cards, a passport, a makeup compact and tickets for a flight. A thief might be exposed by a set of lock picks.
In Die Hard after John McClane has killed Tony he searches his pockets – along with gaining a lighter, C4, radio and a machine gun he can tell his driving licence is a very good forgery. The forgery is expensive and so he works out the bad guys are well financed. From his cigarettes and clothing labels he works out their mostly European.
Of course it’s not just the bad guys who have pocket litter. Plenty of cops do too. Murtaugh and Riggs in the Lethal Weapon films both carry a badge but their gun choice is used to differentiate old cop (Murtaugh with a revolver) and young cop (Riggs with an automatic). Mulder and Scully had the badge and the gun but also the mobile phone – which at times threatened to derail plots but conveniently broke, ran out of power, got lost or didn’t have signal. Nathan Spring (Star Cops) has Box a personal pocket AI and ID but really didn’t want a gun.
In a setting where forensics is around pocket litter may carry more clues than just what it is. It may have fingerprints, DNA, hair, blood, residues, dirt or all sorts of other evidence contaminating it. This has been a staple of detective fiction since Conan Doyle but CSI and its many imitators have taken it to new (and sometimes ludicrous) levels.
It can tell us about their wealth. Do they have credit, debit or bank cards? Do they carry a roll of bank notes, a bit of cash or scraps of change? Are there gold coins hidden in their belt? Tourists may have travellers cheques. Foreign coins may suggest they’ve just arrived back from abroad. A bad of uncut diamonds may be the start of a mystery or a reason to run from their legitimate owners.
They can tell us about their habits. As an example of a habit that would define something about many character’s habits let’s look at their smoking paraphernalia. Do they have:
- loose tobacco and rolling papers
- loose tobacco and a pipe
- loose tobacco, cannabis and rolling papers
- foreign cigarettes
- cigarettes and a cigarette holder
- expensive cigars
- none of these but a few bits of loose tobacco
- an electronic cigarette
- nicotine gum
- a Nicotine patch
- no tobacco at all
Do they have a disposable lighter, matches in a match box, matches in a matchbook from a nightclub, a refillable but otherwise simple lighter or an expensive lighter with a monogram? What about a non smoker with a lighter or matches – why do they have them? During rationing or embargos do they have hard to obtain brands that suggest they use the black market? How about a non smoker who carries round a Cuban cigar given to them by Kennedy from his personal purchase of 1200 just before he imposed sanctions on them?
Items can carry information from simple letters and documents to high tech items like mobile phones and memory sticks. The information may be in plain text, encoded, encrypted or hidden using steganography. Robert Baden-Powell travelled disguised as a butterfly collector, incorporating plans of military installations into drawings of butterfly wings. Microdots and secret ink have long been the stuff of spy thrillers.
Lot of different sorts of pocket litter can be included and I’ve put together a big selection below to help you come up with ideas.
Pocket Litter for Writers and Gamers
So how can we use pocket litter in writing and gaming?
It can be used as part of character creation to get ideas about a character. If they were hit by a bus and the police had to go through it to learn about them? This isn’t a list of stuff to share with other players or readers its just an aid to getting an idea about a character.
- Does it identify them or not?
- Does it tell us about what they do?
- Do they carry a lot with them or very little – will it fit in a pocket or do they need a bags for all those miscellaneous items they carry with them?
- Is it discreet or indiscreet – do they carry passwords and other confidential things in their pockets?
- Is any of it concealed?
- Are they tidy or is their junk and rubbish?
Pocket litter can be used to give clues about a character who is captured and being interrogated. It can confirm their stories or reveal their lies – if they say they went to the theatre last night and they have a ticket that helps confirm their story.
It can be used to provide clues in a mystery – the characters have a mystery character or body to investigate who is dead, poisoned, comatose, unconscious or who doesn’t know who they are. All the clues to the mystery could be in amongst their pocket junk and going a bit wider on their person, what they’re wearing , carrying and their body.
For gaming a few bits of pocket junk can make a captured or killed monster in a game more interesting. It can be found by a thief character when pick pocketing instead of valuables. Pocket litter can make easy to assemble and transport props for a game.
November 13th, 2013
November 6th, 2013
October 30th, 2013
October 23rd, 2013