Friday, 29 January 2016

29/01/16 - A113

Fans of Pixar movies may be aware – albeit subconsciously – of a quirky little trope: the number A113. It’s an inside joke among the alumni of the California Institute of the Arts, and it’s not actually just confined to Pixar; such is the diversity of the Institute’s output that you’ll find the figure A113 hidden throughout all sorts of animated entertainment – The Simpsons, Family Guy, South Park… in fact, it’s not just animation. You’ll also spot it in The Hunger Games, Doctor Who, The Avengers, it’s everywhere. So what is it?

Well, it’s nothing sinister or complex. It’s just a door number. Specifically, it’s the door number of the classroom at CalArts in which many students of graphic design and character animation honed their craft. A fella named Brad Bird is the man who started it all off – after graduating from CalArts he began working at Disney, before moving onto various animated TV shows and then onto Pixar. He treated A113 as his calling card, sneaking it into everything he worked on, taking inspiration from the legendary caricaturist Al Hirschfield (who, after the birth of his daughter, Nina, hid her name somewhere in everything he drew thereafter). And once you start doing something like that, you become a completist by default.

The unimpressive-looking blue door at CalArts, with its tiny A113 plaque, has become the stuff of legend for nerds the world over. Today the room’s a first-year graphic design studio, but Bird’s sneakiness has elevated it exponentially above all the other graphic design studios by virtue of the fact that he drew it on the license plate of a car in the ‘Family Dog’ episode of Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories in 1987, and then got a bit carried away. So, here’s where you can find it. I’ve grouped it into logical clumps so you’ve got something to work with.

Pixar movies
A113 is Andy’s mum’s car’s registration number in the first and third Toy Story films, as well as being a flight number in Toy Story 2. It’s on the diver’s camera in Finding Nemo and on a pillar in Monsters Inc. (actually ‘A13’, but you can take it to be ‘A and one 13’), and it’s the number of Trev Diesel, a freight train in Cars. It’s on a cereal box in A Bug’s Life, and the courtroom door in Up. A113 appears three times in The Incredibles, as Mr Incredible’s prison location (Level A1, cell #13), the room number in Syndrome’s lair, and the location of the rocket at Level A1, Section 13. Git, the lab rat in Ratatouille, has the number A113 on his ear tag, and the number also appears on a train on the TV while Linguini is asleep. There are several appearances in Cars 2 – on Mater’s license plate, the filenames of the photos of the lemon cars, the tail number of Siddeley the spy jet, and the plane that Mater and McMissile escape on. In Brave, the numerals above the door on the witch’s cottage read ‘ACXIII’. A113 is a lecture hall in Monsters University, some graffiti and also a room number in Inside Out, and a formation of sticks in The Good Dinosaur.
WALL-E, however, is the only Pixar movie in which the number A113 actually has any significance in the plot: it’s the code for the directive given to the autopilot to never return to Earth. (And, if you want to be really geeky, fans of l33tspeak will spot it right there in the movie name: WA11-3.)

TV animation
The number has appeared quite a few times in The Simpsons, always in reference to nefarious deeds: it’s Krusty’s prison uniform number in season 1, Sideshow Bob’s mugshot number in season 5 and prison number in season 7, and Bart’s mugshot number in Do The Bartman. It was also Chief Wiggum’s license plate number in the Simpsons/Family Guy crossover episode, as well as appearing on number plates and train carriages in various episodes of American Dad.
A113 was a classroom number in Rugrats, a helicopter identity number in South Park, a license plate in Tiny Toon Adventures, and a plane number in The Powerpuff Girls. Those with eagle eyes will also spot it in The Adventures of McGee and Me, BoJack Horseman, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Harvey Birdman, Whatever Happened to… Robot Jones? and Bobby’s World.

…and elsewhere
The trope appears on a train in series 8 of Doctor Who, and on another train in Firefly. As for non-Pixar movies, there are plenty of those… The Hunger Games: Catching Fire flashes the number up on a monitor screen, it’s on news clips in The Avengers, it’s Ethan Hunt’s extraction code in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, and ALZ-113 is the virus that wipes out humanity in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. You’ll find it in Terminator Salvation, The Brave Little Toaster, The Iron Giant, Lilo & Stitch, Meet The Robinsons, Planet 51, and countless others.
A113 pops up in oodles of video games too – Fallout 4, A Vampyre Story, Beyond: Two Souls, Sunset Overdrive, Outlast, Back to the Future: the Game, Destiny, Prototype, all sorts.

In fact, A113 is probably in more things than it isn’t. Keep an eye out. It’ll give you a giddy little thrill next time you spot it.

Snowboarding in NYC

In England, we moan about the snow. In the USA, they do this:

Soulwax's Bowie hour

From a few years ago. Now stands as a rather lovely tribute.

RSWX presents Dave from Radio Soulwax on Vimeo.

San Diego Shark Attack

This looks like oodles of fun.

Urinal etiquette

Friday, 22 January 2016

22/01/16 - Stuff to do on paternity leave

Paternity leave is a brilliant, brilliant thing. All you need to do is have it off with a lady, wait nine months, and voila – two weeks off work! Ace. And there are all manner of fun things you can do with your fortnight of leisure, thumbing your nose at your colleagues who failed to display sufficient fox-like wiles to carry out such a plan and therefore have to go to work while you lounge about in your dressing gown on full pay. Things like this:

Get covered in wee and poo
Great! Some people pay good money for this sort of degrading treatment (er, apparently), but if you’ve made your own little human then… congratulations! You have full 24/7 access to an unstoppable shitting machine.
Furthermore, if you were hitherto used to the mechanics of changing girls’ nappies, then the arrival of a boy will throw a fresh and exciting new wildcard into the process: those little scamps can piss like you wouldn’t believe! Seriously, the pressure behind it, the angles, it’s incredible. I never thought this would be a piece of advice I’d be dishing out, but you really do need to remember to point the penis downward while you set about wiping up all the weird yellow faeces. Otherwise you’ll both be swapping clothes. (Swapping your respective clothes for clean ones, I mean, not swapping with each other – the situation is traumatic enough without then having to try to squeeze into a shitty babygrow.)

Stay in bed all day listening to Bowie
My son may count himself extraordinarily lucky that he existed on this Earth at the same time as David Bowie, if only for a very short overlap. But then that tragic and awful thing happened to the Starman, and we didn’t have the motivation to move, so we just stayed under the duvet and worked through Bowie’s back catalogue. It was a useful education for the lad.
Of course, you don’t need the tragic passing of a rock ‘n’ roll legend in order to do this – any day can be Staying In Bed And Listening To Bowie Day. In fact, it should be a regular occurrence.

Watch loads of films
…or, at least, plan to. With a yawning chasm of time stretching out fabulously in front of you, paternity leave seems like the ideal time in which to chip away at that pile of DVDs that’s been sitting by the TV for months on end, waiting for you to find the time to watch them. Oh, frabjous day! Carte blanche to laze around watching movies! You haven’t been this lucky since you had flu.
But you won’t actually watch any films at all, of course. Your days will be filled by the minutiae of reality – changing nappies, tidying things up, popping to the shop for biscuits, changing nappies, wiping up sick, having a bit of a kip, changing nappies… it’s amazing how quickly the time goes when you’re thinking ‘OK, I’ll just do that, then I only need to do this before I can do that. Then I’ll have a biscuit.’

Really get to know your washing machine
Strike a light, these little people can generate a lot of laundry. If you’ve already got a three year old, as we have, then you’ll be on conversational terms with the various settings on your washing machine that the kaleidoscope of disparate toddler stains demands, but throwing an additional baby into the mix (but never actually into the machine itself, that’s frowned upon) is a whole new ball game. The damn machine’s running several times a day. Where are you supposed to put all of these clothes to dry before the next load arrives?! You’ll probably need to move to a bigger house to accommodate it all. Think about that.

Finish off all the chocolate and biscuits you’ve got left over from Christmas
n.b. this only works if the baby arrives shortly after Christmas.

Eat loads of cured meats, pâté, prawns, and stinky cheeses
…because one of the really shitty things about pregnancy is that expectant mums aren’t allowed to eat those things. So when the baby finally springs forth down its crimson log flume (as is my understanding), the mother then has an insatiable appetite for salami, Roquefort and chunky, chunky pâté. Helping her to consume all of this is the least you can do, if only to stop her feeling self-conscious. Come on. Don’t be a dick.

Read online lists of ‘what to do on paternity leave’, and completely ignore them
‘Get to know other dads’. Urgh. People I already know who happen to be dads – fine. But I’m not going to seek out strangers and attempt to bond with them on the tenuous premise that we’ve got this thing in common. That would be the behaviour of a crazy person.
‘Take a nap’. Yeah, I’ll decide when I need to sleep, thank you.
‘Change nappies without having to be asked’. Alright, it’s not the 1950s. I am aware that these things need doing.
‘Register the baby’s birth.’ ‘Go for a walk.’ ‘Cook dinner.’ For goodness’ sake, these ‘what to do on paternity leave’ lists are all written by total dickheads, aren’t they?


Bouncy bouncy

There is no greater joy in the world than a brick in a washing machine on a trampoline.

Shrimp launch

A necessary system.

Hazmat Highway to Hell

Some genuinely inspiring incompetence here. It's the explosion that just keeps on exploding.

The Foam Shop

The best advert for foam you’ll see today.

Preserving the Chrysler EVA

A neat little project that starts off very sensibly and descends into brilliant silliness at the end.

Trailer Assist

Volkswagen's latest cheat device.