Notes on Russia

  • Free Wifi everywhere
  • No smoking indoors
  • Blue eyeshadow
  • Mongolians
  • Cubans
  • Georgian food
  • Smaller portions
  • Less obesity
  • Awesome metro
  • Gorky Park
  • Kremlin Armory
  • Dodgy, expensive Taxis
  • Overly vigilant security guards
  • Hair combed forward
  • Cool young people
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Kids TV Pig Battle: Olivia vs Peppa Pig vs Jakers



The Olivia vs Peppa dynamic is the main reason I’m writing this review as it best embodies the differences between most American and English kids shows. Both shows feature a family of pigs with the daughter as the main character, but they are worlds apart in terms of style, tone and sense of humour.

Olvia’s adventures are rendered in passable 3D, which is fine, but the anatomically correct character designs (stemming from the source material) are a bit creepy. The characters walk about on backwards bent, hoven pig legs with large, crinkled pig ears. I would have preferred if they looked a bit more human.

Olivia is all about optimism and narcissism. Olivia is never discouraged. Olivia never runs out of ideas. Olivia loves to fantasise about being famous. In Olvia’s world nothing bad ever happens, all adults are magnanimous and there’s not a problem in the world that can’t be solved with a little spunk [which Olivia has flowing out of every orifice]. Basically it’s as boring as batshit.

Olivia gets 2 Big Birds for being boring but inoffensive.


Peppa Pig

Peppa Pig

When I first caught a glimpse of Peppa Pig I hated it. Mostly I hated the dodgy character designs with their seemingly blatant disregard for aesthetics and the 3rd dimension. After watching for 5 minutes I didn’t care any more.

This show has charm in spades, mostly stemming from scripts which are light on plot (so the kids can follow) but heavy on characterisation. Whereas Olivia’s Mum and Dad are the usual cardboard cutout, Leave it to Beaver, imagined representation of American parents from the 50s, Peppa’s parents and supporting cast are fully fleshed out characters. Daddy Pig thinks he is an expert at everything, Grandpa Pig and Grandad Dog have an enjoyable competitive friendship and Miss Rabbit is a workaholic.

With great characters and the odd subtle joke to the parents watching, Peppa gets 5 whole Big Birds. Other people might think me sad, but I actually look forward to seeing this show.


Jakes the etc etc etc

Jakers! The Adventures of Piggley Winks

Much like Guess How Much I Love You, JTAOPW feels like it was written and conceived by a baby boomer. In each episode two American piglets crowd eagerly around their Irish Grandfather to hear amazing stories from his childhood in Ireland. The plotlines are the usual sentimental drivel pining for ‘simpler times’, and are for some reason randomly punctuated by appearances of a sheep voiced by Mel Brooks, usually involving some parellel, sheep centric storyline.

The character designs and 3D are passable if unremarkable, but the animation is terrible. Watching Dannan the duck run makes me wince every time.

Jakers gets 1.5 Big Birds for being sentimental and unremarkable.

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Kids TV Review: Guess How Much I Love You

GHMILY is based on a children’s book from 1994 by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram. I’ve never read it so I’m going to focus on the show.

This thinly veiled Peter Rabbit knockoff tells the story of ‘Little Nutbrown Hare’ & his father, the surprisingly named ‘Big Nutbrown Hare’ and their insipid adventures in the forest.

The show’s title should give you ample indication of it’s tone. The characters in GHMILY are interchangeable cardboard cutouts of peace and virtue. There is never any conflict or character development. Most episodes revolve around Little Nutbrown Hare’s quest to splash in the stream, pick berries or frolic in the autumn leaves. The show seems to have been written by a bunch of misty eyed baby boomers, pining for simpler times. LNH and his friends dutifully respect their elders and hang off their every word.

In this show, kids don’t behave like kids, they behave the way baby boomers wish kids would behave. It’s just not realistic, or interesting.

While the show can be pretty to look at, the cheap animation clashes with the way the characters and backgrounds are painstakingly rendered via watercolour. I often find myself noticing how many layers are involved with the movement of an arm. Also, when you have talking animals as the stars of your show, making them anatomically correct rather than stylised seems a bit of a strange choice but that’s the least of this show’s problems.

With chronically boring characters and vomit inducing storylines, I can only give this 1.5 big birds.

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Kids TV Review: Mouk

Produced by French company Millimages and adapted from the work of Marc Boutavant, Mouk tells the story of Mouk and his friend Chavapa, who cycle around the world and visit a new country in each episode.

The art style follows the current ‘hand made’ trend, attempting to appear painted and avoiding any obvious digital stylings. While the characters heads can sometimes seem comically large, the character design draws from classic 60s golden book school of illustration, which is both charming and sufficiently unique.

While Mouk and Chavapar’s travels take them around the world, thankfully the writers steer clear of racial stereotypes and cliches. While each character is represented as an animal, the species is never really mentioned, there are little or no accents and Mouk and Chavapar are more likely to be invited to someone’s house for desert than to visit any cliched landmarks.

All this contributes to the show’s overarching humanist message that people are the same the world over. Rather than saying ‘everyone in India is a tiger and lives in the Taj Mahal’ (I’m looking at you, Wiggles). While the plot lines can sometimes be a bit trite, this is more than made up for in other areas.

4 out of 5 Big birds.

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Nokia Lumia 920 / Windows Phone 8 Megareview

ZOMG A BLOG POST. What is this? 2003?

Anyways, after four years of living comfortably in Steve Jobs iOS bosom, I’ve spent a week navigating the uncharted seas of Windows phone 8 on the Lumia 920 and thought it warranted a write up.


The first thing you notice about this phone upon picking it up is that it’s a tank. It’s longer, thicker and heavier than my last phone [iPhone 4] and is practically a tablet when compared to the iPhone5. The extra heft does prevent it from feeling cheap however and after a few days you hardly notice.

One minor annoyance is that the volume, power and dedicated camera button are all down one side, which means you have to slide you finger along to find the right button when you’re groping the phone inside your pocket/handbag.

The micro USB charge port is something I didn’t think I’d enjoy so much. Now I can use the same cable to charge my Kindle and my phone, and every time I plug it in I feel like I’m giving Apple the middle-finger salute.

Battery life is pretty brutal. I’ve so far had to charge every day. although this will be less painful when the sexy wireless charge mats are made available.


After living with Windows Phone 8 for a week I can’t imagine going back to the Fisher-Price simplicity of iOS. The customisable homescreen alone makes WP8 the superior choice for those who use their phone for non-phone related activities most of the time. To the right you can see the top 3/4 of my homescreen.

When you start up the phone for the first time it asked for your MSN/Google/Facebook/Twitter/Linkedin account details and before you know it, all your contacts are consolidated in one place. Awesome. You can even choose to filter certain accounts [like Twitter] to keep Lady Gaga from showing up in your contacts.

Whereas iOS feels like it has had bits strapped on since it’s launch, WP8 feels like it has been designed from scratch for modern times. One of the best examples of this is the date picker:

On the left is iOS, WP8 is on the right. Now, pretty much anyone could look at the iOS version and figure it out. The Windows version on the other hand assumes that you know that you’re holding a touch-screen device and only reveals the other dates/months when you swipe. It doesn’t even indicate that the dates are swipeable!

It may be that I find this so refreshing because I spend my days putting ugly arrows on my designs to serve small pockets of idiot users but there’s a certain joy in having an interface not talk down you like you were born before WWII. It feels like digital has finally matured to the point where you don’t need to have your hand held.


Setting foot in a new mobile OS, I expected to take a hit in the app department but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. All my most frequently used apps are available and most of them work better than their iOS counterparts. Many of the best ones follow the WP8 design guidelines with simple, spartan interfaces backed up by powerful options that are hidden away.

Plugging it into my Windows 8 PC, an app installed automatically allowing me to sync items to the phone. It’s pretty basic for now but hopefully it will become more useful over time. Top on my wishlist for features is the ability to transfer playlists from iTunes [I know you can supposedly do this from the desktop app but it doesn't work for me].

The phone automatically syncs everything with your Xbox and PC as you’d like it to, which is nice, although I can’t help but wish it would sync wirelessly [not that wireless syncing for iOS ever worked for me].

Xbox music is awesome if you’re a radio sort of person but their library is too restrictive for my tastes.


The camera is ok I guess. I think with all the hype my expectations were a bit high. It does it’s job but photos tend to be blurry at the edges. Being able to use different lenses is a nice and well implemented gimmick.

Buy this phone if

  • You are bored with iOS
  • Use your phone a lot
  • Use your phone’s camera a lot
  • Are reasonably tech savvy

Don’t buy this phone if

  • You have small hands
  • You always wear tight pants and don’t carry a handbag
  • This is your first smartphone
  • You can’t live without Instagrammed photos of your friends meals
  • You just want a phone with Facebook
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Lisbeth Salander

Another quick Monday night sketch. It felt good to ink something IRL for the first time in a while.

Fincher did a great job with the American version, it’s a tough book to translate, go see it if you haven’t yet.

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