An interesting look at Internet plagiary (a look into my animation past)

I was browsing the net reading a friends blog and to their dismay saw their own work being stolen on the Internet or being posted without permission. That's when I decided to take a look down memory lane.

Back in 2004 I had enough stress to focus it into a recreational four month project that started as a whim and turned into a something less of a whim and more of a something? It started when I heard a strangely amusing song called Bunnies by Horse the Band. Next thing I know I'm making a kind of music video for it. The whole thing was completely spontaneous until the last half when I started story boarding it. When I finished I submitted it to a site called albinoblacksheep.com they liked it and posted it on their site. When I emailed it to the band they liked it as well and I got a free t-shirt and a CD and a pat on the back. That's about as far as it went. Here is the original piece.


I noticed though that it showed up on Newgrounds, another animation site


I initially was pretty angry and left some remark as to what I thought of them doing. After that initial anger I realized I wasn't that upset and was just merely surprised that someone had spent the time to take it and re-post it and claim to be the creator. With a little more checking there were several other sites showing it and even a youtube version of it.



Whats interesting to me is all the mindless comments about how one band is better then some other band. The second one is actually authorized and owned by the label company and they have it posted on their site with a flash version of it as well.


You'll notice the sound and the singer is completely different. I was asked to change it from the original audio to a recorded track they were using for their new album. I personally liked the original audio and singer and the youtube view counts might agree with me.

So I didn't write this to talk about plagiarism actually, since I never wrote any copyright onto this work nor really intended to. What really freaks me out is every time I watch it its like seeing a familiar stranger. From the second I submitted it and it went onto some website I began to feel detached from it. As if someone beside myself had made it making it all the more mesmerizing and surreal. As I become less and less in control of its path through cyberspace its like an organism of its own just floating around. I'll read the comments of where it gets posted and I'll see things like "make some more!" or even the surprising "hey this isn't the original its at albinoblacksheep and Charlie Daugherty made it!".

I think also I can finally look back and write about it with some perspective without saying things like "isn't it cool?" or "why on earth did I make such an abomination".

The project started as my second or third test with the program Macromedia Flash (before adobe bought Macromedia) and it was during the end of my third year of high school. I remember that time of my life being like many normal teenagers: miserable, defiant of authority, full of pent up anger, and being dragged through things which you don't want to do but have to. I kind of feel like this video was like a chance for me to filter that energy into something productive and also in essence bottle that teenager into something that would last. Some of the intentional and unintentional inspirations for this were, Looney Tunes, Nintendo, Life in Hell, Rayman, and a childhood filled with watching VH1 and MTV music videos.

The chase or the running conflict is something that I found to be very interesting and seems to be quite popular in the internet animation world. As you animate a character struggling to get away it begins to reflect your own struggle to animate the character. It is for the most part, a mindless ride, but I like to think there are things that convey some sort of meaning. For example the rabbit in a suit standing in a factory that appears to be making chocolate bunnies out of live ones. It represents the corporation and the fear of corruption; that they are only interested in making a profit off of other people. The stairway and the giant carrot can represent our goals, dreams, or a search for truth. There are times when we are so close to reaching it but for some reason a reality, some realization, or something along the lines of fate pushes us back down. In all honesty, I don't think this is something that needs to be talked about too deeply but I find something new in it whenever I return back to it. It was definitely a time when I had a much darker view of the world.

Looking back on all this has made me realize that its time to get my hands dirty again and climb those proverbial stairs and take a bite out of that carrot. What my next project will be I can't really say yet but I've already started the planning. Hopefully I haven't been away from this stuff too long.


北の方から明けましておめでとう A Happy New Years from up North (Part 2)

The lone picture I have from the New Years

So I said that it was going to be before the end of the month when I posted the second half of my new years experiences and well, I made it almost.

As we last left off we were at around New Years Eve. However, I would like to delay the ride and steer back a few days before that to explain a few more things.

One of the big mysteries I was wondering about even when I first visited my host family is how in the world do they keep their house warm in the winter? A better question to answer first would probably be why this thought came in the first place. Having a fairly traditional house, sliding glass doors surrounds the two front sides of the house and the rooms inside are partitioned by more glass and paper sliding doors. Well to answer the first question is you put a portable heater in every room. It was sort of cold but luckily I came prepared.

I had brought a toothbrush and everything but I was at the store with my host mother when she asked me if I wanted a new one. One of their family traditions is to buy new toothbrushes for the New Year, which I though was kind of strange. However I noticed there was a high amount of TV commercial ads for toothbrushes and wondered if it wasn’t a more widely spread custom.

I guess you could say this was part the thing that was talked about with a reluctant anticipation was 大掃除 (oosouji) or roughly “big cleaning”. It takes on the meaning similar to spring-cleaning although instead of taking place in spring it usually takes place on the days before new years. In other words, things that only get cleaned once a year get cleaned. From their explanation it sounded like we were going to be head to toe in dust, washing windows, and polishing old trinkets. Thankfully the cleaning wasn’t nearly as severe as it had been explained. The only really cleaning I had to do was change the paper on the sliding doors (襖、fusuma) to the kids bedroom, which were pretty tattered from what seemed like past fighting or fits of anger. The kids had fun punching out holes in the paper before we ripped it off. It is actually really tempting to poke a hole in one every time I saw those sliding paper doors in the house. As if I needed to test the strength of paper.

So on the rare occasion when the kids got the chance to obliterate their bedroom doors I could only stand back in awe as they completely destroyed the paper on four sliding doors within seconds. What moments before were almost perfectly good functioning doors (almost) turned into wooden frames leaving absolutely no privacy between the room and the hallway. I started thinking how fragile these fusumas are and that they’re design makes for a minimalist approach to privacy. They also come with a sense of openness and versatility in that you can easily move the sliding doors out of their tracks and there’s no way of locking someone out of the rooms. Well after four hours, a lot of flying paper, and some serious scrubbing to get the glue off from the previous paper we finished our cleaning.

Anyways, back on track to new years. On New Years Eve I was told that there would be some events and that lots of people and patrons to the temple would come and visit to literally “ring in the new year”. The night came and the snow started to pile up. I was asked to shovel the walkway to the temple and the house so people could easily access the temple. I noticed that there was a huge pile of wood in the middle of the grounds and around 11:00 a bonfire was started. People walking by proceeded to throw items into the fire and there was a huge container of items next to the temple that people fetched from and threw to the flames. I wasn’t able to figure out if there was a particular name for this fire but apparently it is tradition to burn charms and good look mementos purchased from shrines and temples over the past year. I had a lot of fun throwing things into the fire and threw a few of my own charms and fortunes I had purchased from various adventures. It looked like some one had thrown a computer into the fire which didn’t make sense; then all of sudden I’m helping to throw the giant container into the fire as well (apparently they had made a new container for next year). I stood there basking in the flames watching the snow swirl down not knowing what the exact time was and not really caring.

Soon, as more and more people began to gather the crowd started shifting away from the fire and towards the temple bell where my host father, dressed in his traditional priest robes began to recite Buddhist scriptures and those who knew them joined in. What I think is amazing is these sutra or scripture readings are not done in Japanese but in a completely foreign language. The bell is then rung 108 times. Everyone got a chance to ring the bell at least once. I’ve done a lot of research as to why this is and asked my host family but its somewhat complicated and multi layered in its possible meanings. From what I’ve gathered it is a counting up and renewing or banishing of all the earthly human desires of your past, present, and future life based on the teachings of Buddhism (trust me to come back to this some day and correct/improve this explanation). We then drank sake and I talked with old men about how they believed Hokkaido is a foreign country.

It was a really interesting new years and it was probably the first one I experienced in recent memory where I was not chained to the temporal countdown or the ever-aging Dick Clark. I have to say that the western idea of New Years revolves around a single moment. A calculated event where 12/31/xx 11:59:59 crosses over into a new 1/1/xx+1 12:00 am and Hooray! I won’t say that doesn’t exist here but it seemed that throughout my stay New Years in Japan is much more decentralized by preparing for the new year and then in the days following New Years expressing thanks for the previous year and best wishes for the year to come. It is definitely a holiday for family seeing that everyone I know returned home for New Years (but not necessarily for Christmas).

In addition I saw some familiar faces like Hashimoto Sensei who taught Japanese and Yoshi, the English teacher at the High school I visited two years ago. Yoshi took me out to a shrine, as it is customary to visit shrines in the days proceeding new years as a “first visit of the year” type ceremony. Again shrines are different from temples (shrine=Shinto Temple=Buddhism).

I spent the days after New Years playing with the kids (sledding in a graveyard anyone?) and helping with chores. When it came time to say goodbye I was really unsure of whether I’d see them again but it didn’t matter because the train wasn’t going to allow for elaborate farewells. It was great like always and it felt like home away from home.

Speaking of which, as of this writing I realize I have exactly two months until I will be traveling back home. Guess I could make the best of it.


北のほうから明けましておめでとう A Happy New Years from up north (Part 1)

As I'm slipping out of a nasty cold, I’ve been looking back at all the things I’ve done in the past year and thinking on how I’m going to remember it all in the future. I should mention that I feel like the memories of winter vacation are rolling away like scraps of paper in an updraft as I try to stumble and catch them.

I didn’t do much for Christmas except making dinner with a friend and eating it with out ceremony. I spent a good 9-10 hours making and sending New years cards to fill the hole of tradition and consumer buying.

I was invited by my old host family to come and visit for new years and watch after the kids to whom I happily accepted. This being my third time visiting them I was beginning to wonder what the appropriate way to act was or how exactly a relationship changes after no longer being so much of a guest. Well the difference I noticed seemed to be pretty profound.

The first time I visited the Amao family I was treated like a guest and just as I was about to leave back for home began to feel like a part of the family. The second time was like some kind of reunion. Everything seemed like a party and a celebration. It took a day or two to reconnect with everyone but it was definitely a different experience being able to converse more and interact in ways I couldn’t under the host family program (which essentially means relax). The third time however was just as if I was a part of the family and heard the term once or twice when I was with the kids 三兄妹 or three siblings.

They picked me up at my apartment to drive all the way up north literally from one coastline to the other. They had been visiting the grandparents for Christmas and so they were in the neighborhood.

I was met by my host mother, Masae, and as I got into the back seat with Yurika and Yoshihide they hurriedly pushed a gift into my lap telling me to open it. It was a belated birthday present, an awesome scarf, some cards, and pictures of the kids. The drive there was quiet and relaxed. We finally get to Toyooka and stop at a familiar yakitori (fried chicken) restaurant. My host father or Ryushin is a pretty popular guy being a radio personality and a Buddhist priest so we would often run into people who knew him. There were a few people who asked who I was and before I could say anything Ryushin replied, “Oh, he is my long lost son from America.”

While I was there I spent most of my time playing with the kids and helping around the house. I did learn the word komori (essentially babysitter) and would introduce myself as such to guest and strangers. I also watched more television then I’ve seen in a long time. Watching all the new years specials reminded me how addictive and out there Japanese television tries to be.

There were a ton of cultural and traditional events and foods that I got to experience and trying to remember them all and their meanings was enough to make my head explode. I’ll explain a few here for fun. A shimenawa is a braided rope that is usually used to indicate a sacred space and used for warding off evil spirits. For new years these are hanged from the main entrance of the house to ward off evil spirits. I got to hang this from the entryway basically because they needed someone tall to do it. The decoration itself was made of braided rope some leaves and some type of citric fruit attached at the top. There were similarly decorated pieces that were used for putting in your car possibly for safe travel.

The food we had was traditional in the sense that on New Years Eve we had Soba (soba means buckwheat) noodles or what is called toshi-koshi soba or “year-crossing” soba. After that starting on new years day we had Osechi, which comes in boxes that are stacked on top of each other. I got to help make some of the food for this dish. The tradition is that in the first three days of the new years it was forbidden to use fire for cooking. The food comes in three boxes partitioned off for each dish. Most of the foods have specific meanings everything from longevity to fertility to good health to good harvest. The food is served cold with a hot soup or what is called zoni served with mochi (rice cake). We ate the food for about 3-4 days straight but there was pressure from Ryushin to go out for dinner instead. Apparently its good food but everyone seems to get bored of it after eating it for about three days straight.

The meaning of separate dishes and foods was kind of shocking to me because well I can’t think of a single new years tradition that happens except for the countdown and the banging of pots and pans and that's if I’m at my parents house. Here in Japan with the tradition of food that goes back almost a thousand years and the importance of being with family the whole thing really feels like an event rather then anticipation for some moment to pass. You’d understand what I’m getting at if you saw the seven days of new years specials on TV after new years day. So it’s been half a month and I’ve gotten up to New Years Eve. Any bets it will take me another half a month to finish this? Don’t count on it.