28 March 2010


When you were a kid, did you ever wonder why Barney Rubble and Fred Flintstone drove past the same grouping of trees, same pile of rocks and the same houses en route to the bowling alley... or anywhere else for that matter?

Were they going in circles? No.

Were they lost? No.

Were the animators trying to save time? Yes.

In the animation industry, this effect, or lack-of, is called a Wraparound Background and was used quite a bit by Hanna-Barbera to simulate travel. Because a background is secondary to the characters, less emphasis is placed on it as a focal point and wrapping a set background can give the illusion of traveling a great distance without having to illustrate a long detailed scene.

I call it Flintstoning.

Flintstoning can apply to just about everything we do. Be careful not to mistake what I'm referring to as a short-cut, because it's much more than that - real Flintstoning requires inventiveness, resourcefulness and creativity.

Flintstoning is not fueled by laziness, but rather an understanding where added effort is necessary or unnecessary and appreciated or not even noticed. This is also the challenge - understanding and knowing where and when to Flintstone.

Why is Flintstoning necessary? Well, sometimes time and money factor into certain projects... alright, not sometimes, money and time are always factors. So, finding ways to get elaborate work done in short a short period of time is necessary and expected. It's easy to spend hundreds of hours in designing something, even something as simple as a business card - is it really needed though?

So, the question then becomes, when is it necessary? Knowing this comes with experience, lot's and lot's of experience. The art of Flintstoning is finding quick and efficient ways to do things without compromising the integrity or value of the project and that's something that can't really be taught. Only with time do you really learn true Flintstoning and how it differs from taking short-cuts.

To pull Flintstoning off properly, you need to understand the project you are working on fully and know the impacts of said Flintstoning on the overall functionality and expectations of your client. And, if Hanna-Barbera taught us anything, Flintstoning should be relegated to the background and secondary pieces - not the focal point.

When Flintstoning, you need to ensure that it does not impair the operation or functionality of your project.
Flintstoning should be seamless and for the most part, fairly invisible.

A change in the background that does not effect the foreground in an effort to save time and money is really what Flintstoning comes down to. Here is a great example of this:
Henry Ford implemented the assembly line, prior to that all cars were made by hand - using this different manufacturing approach to what was being done, he was able to save time, which resulted in a substantial saving for his customers.
Would you call this manufacturing change Flintstoning or taking a short-cut? Customers didn't know that their cars were not hand made and quite frankly, it didn't matter - they were getting the same product for less, maybe even with fewer errors.

I hate this term, but 'Out of the Box' thinking in solving problems is what it comes down to with Flintstoning, and the common underlying problem being solved is always time.

True Flintstoning is the result of experience and creativity and the ability to pull it off can make you a hero to your customers. It can also be a huge competitive advantage.

I encourage you to have a look at the projects you're working on and ask yourself if there are opportunities for Flintstoning - if you're spending a lot of time on one thing, chances are there may be. Just be sure that you're making the choice to change things for all the right reasons, ensure it's Flintstoning and not just a short-cut.

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07 March 2010

Music, is there anything it can't do?

I don't think I'm that well versed in music to be a snob or to lecture others on their taste in music let alone get past the first interview at Championship Vinyl.

But, I think I got a pretty good handle on what I like, and after a few years of listening, I even have a favourite genre: I call it Garapunkolkativetal.

There are only two real categories of music that I'm not overly fond of: Rap and New Country. There are a few songs that cross over into the rap genre that I don't mind, likewise with new country, but overall, I would rather listen to the vacuum cleaner choke on a sock.

My favourite song? Well, it changes daily, hourly. Sometimes I like songs for their words, sometimes it's the music, sometimes it's both. Although I am just an amateur guitar player, I have enough understanding of the instrument to know and respect good musicianship - and sometimes that's why I like a song. Other times, it's just a frame of mind that I'm in that a particular song will speak to, then it becomes my favourite for that moment.

I do have a list of 10 desert island albums though, they are as follows, in no particular order (and this list morphs and changes over time too):

Land of Salvation and Sin - Georgia Satellites
A Ghost is Born - Wilco
Squeezing Out Sparks - Graham Parker
Exile on Main Street - Rolling Stones
Odds and Sodds - The Who
The Missing Years - John Prine
Shades of the Worlds - Allman Brothers Band
Midnight Stroll - Robert Cray Band
Greatest Hits - Wilson Pickett
Faithlift - Spirit of the West

The best part about a desert island list is I don't have to defend or explain them. I could easily create a desert island selection of 100 albums. In fact, I wouldn't want to be stranded with any less than 100... can I get iTunes on a dessert island?

While I have been writing blogs today, I have been listenting to the Herman's Hermits, Rancid, Thorn of Crowns, Ray Davies, Billy Talent, Delbert McClinton, Gypsy Kings, Warren Zevon, The Pigeon Detectives, the Ceasars, Tom Petty and Judas Priest. All of which I highly recommend.

For a guy that likes such a variety of music you'd think I'd change the discs in my car once in a while? I've had the same CD's in my car for at least 8 months... Red Hot Chile Peppers, Wilco, 2 mix CD's, George Carlin and Flogging Molly. The reason for this is satellite radio. In particular, Little Steven's Underground Garage (LSUG Channel 25) - this station is amazing and plays a diverse playlist like no other station I've ever heard. There's 100+ channels on the satellite radio and I rarely move it from channel 25.

The jocks on LSUG know their stuff and bring a lot to the table. Hearing Andrew Loog Oldham tell about his first hand experiences dealing with various bands and being a part of the music scene is worth the monthly subscription price on it's own. Andrew hosts the morning show and is amazing to listen to... most days the morning commute isn't long enough.

Next up is Little Steven himself. Wow, his introductions to the songs are in many cases better written than the songs themselves (TV Dinners by ZZ Top for instance, the intro was amazing and made hearing that song even more enjoyable) and remind us of the power that radio once held with skilled jocks behind the mics. Little Steven weaves intricate facts, backstage talk and popular culture in mini-stories that introduce the songs like I've never heard. In many cases, I've rewinded his introductions on several occasions to listen to them again and again. Yes, with the right Satellite receiver it records up to an hour of live music, like a PVR. His insights into music and popular culture are interesting, well thought out and mucho appreciated.

After Little Steven leaves the air we have a host of other great jocks such as Kid Leo and Handsome Dick Manitoba... there's just too much awesome to pack into one blog - you'll have to listen to it yourself to see what I mean.

So, is there anything music can't do? Yeah, ...probably lots, but it provides us the inspiration to do anything. And, on that note, I'm going to go out and fix my daughter's bicycle while humming Desperados Under the Eaves...

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