Here’s how I created an app—without knowing a single line of code

I used to think that designing apps was a job that was both difficult and long, requiring lots of skill and dedication.

And for the most part, it’s true.

However, in the course of my internet surfing, I discovered—serendipitously—a way to make apps without even knowing the word “JavaScript”. Or “C#”. Or “Swift”.

Well, to be clear, it’s not a full blown app. I discovered how to make sticker packs: an app that works within the iMessage framework to add images to chats. And so I made one: Birds of Play—Animated Stickers!

Birds of Play—Animated Stickers! Logo

The relative ease with which I managed to make it got me thinking. Why doesn’t Apple broadcast more about the fact that you don’t need to know any code to make a sticker pack? There are tons of artists and animators out there far better than I am who would certainly be able to make cooler sticker packs than I have.

And anyway, as I will detail, the process was really fun.Continue reading “Here’s how I created an app—without knowing a single line of code”

The Electric Sheepdog

The Electric Sheepdog PosterMy favourite thing about writing my own stories and animations is the freedom to be wacky.

The wackiness in my most current short film to date, The Electric Sheepdog, comes from two aspects: quirky characters, and the set design.

From having a plastic bottle cap as a soup bowl and using toys (why else do people do stop motion?) for characters, to our strange sets, we literally turned our basement into a full studio, with three different sets sitting around the basement at any one time, and the space between devoted to set construction or film editing. (Great thing to do during school exams.)Continue reading “The Electric Sheepdog”

Why don’t animated films receive as much recognition as live action films?

Recently, IMDb compiled their “Top Ten” films of 2017, based on user ratings.

Can you guess what was number one?

Pixar’s Coco. It led the pack at with an 8.8/10, a full 0.4 ahead of the runner-up, Blade Runner 2049.

And yet, no animated film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture this year.

Why is that?

Why is it no matter how good the animation, critics continue to sideline them in favour of more traditional live action films?Continue reading “Why don’t animated films receive as much recognition as live action films?”

Elkhart Express: The Glenn Cunningham Story

Elkhart Express PosterI find that I learn best when I’m thrown headfirst into a project.

To be honest, I figured that piece of advice out after I decided to produce a digitally animated short film about Glenn Cunningham.

And what did I learn from doing the film? Well, here’s a list:

  1. My drawing is not the best.
  2. Troubleshooting at two a.m. will not give the best results.
  3. Juggling two film productions (this being one, and The Electric Sheepdog being the other), along with school finals is not a good idea.

Yes, it was a lot of pain and a lot of work.

But after several months of working through weekends, I finally managed to finish producing Elkhart Express: The Glenn Cunningham Story.Continue reading “Elkhart Express: The Glenn Cunningham Story”

Harry Potter vs SpongeBob: the great gulf between children’s books and shows

I’ve noticed a world of difference between what children read and what they watch.

I’m going to ask you a question and you don’t even need to google it for the answer. What’s most popular children’s book series of all time?

Yep, Harry Potter.

Bonus question: What’s the most popular children’s TV show?

Doesn’t matter what you answered. Chances are, it’s probably as dumb as SpongeBob SquarePants.

SpongeBob Characters

Harry Potter vs SpongeBob SquarePants. Just comparing the two, one could draw the conclusion that while children’s books are thoughtful and deep, children’s television is… shallower than Bikini Bottom. (If you chuckled at that lame joke, you should be ashamed of yourself! How many seasons did you watch?)

But this phenomenon is larger than just a boy wizard and a talking sea sponge in pants. On one hand, you have books like Charlotte’s WebThe Chronicles of Narnia, any book by Dr. Seuss or Roald Dahl, and on the other, you have TV shows like Phineas and FerbPower RangersPaw Patrol and Pokémon. (I’ve excluded specifically educational shows like Sesame Street to make a fair comparison.)

Are these examples oddities, or is there an actual “gulf of meaning”, with children’s books having far more depth than children’s shows?

I think there is a major disparity in the profundity between children’s books and children’s shows. This is a problem. On screen, when we feed our young ones with inanity, we starve them of thoughtful entertainment. We are doing them a disservice.

But what can we do about it?Continue reading “Harry Potter vs SpongeBob: the great gulf between children’s books and shows”

Advertising: the great justifier for all that’s stupid on the Internet

By now you’ve probably heard about the incident with Logan Paul, the YouTube star who posted a video about his visit to Aokigahara, the so-called “suicide forest” near Mt. Fuji where he discovered the body of a suicide victim.

You’ve probably also heard about the backlash. He’s received widespread criticism for his insensitivity.

Embed from Getty Images

However, he’s not the first to post such an insensitive video on the Internet. Nor will he be the last. Just a cursory glance through YouTube or Facebook shows that more than ever, people are doing stupid, insensitive and sometimes dangerous stunts just to gain Internet popularity.

But this problem isn’t confined to the realm of reckless antics and entertainment. I think most of us can agree that watching videos of people pranking each other or just horsing around is relatively harmless. Relatively dumb and relatively mindless, too, but harmless overall.

The problem, then, is that this recklessness has found its way into news media.

You know what I’m talking about: fake news. It seems that more and more, fake information is being peddled around, and sadly, the biggest purveyor of this dubious information has been the Internet.

Now, both dumb videos and fake news are clear problems. Sometimes reckless antics become fatal. Sometimes fake news can change the course of democracy. (I’m not saying that it did, but in the case of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, it could have been a factor.)

And the Internet giants have reacted. Facebook has been working on systems that allow people to flag fake news. Google has started donating money in order to support companies that fact-check fake news.

But neither of these solutions actual solve one of the root problems, which is this: why do people even write/share fake news? And why do people keep trying to get attention via doing outrageous things on the Internet?

I think that the root problem is advertising.

Continue reading “Advertising: the great justifier for all that’s stupid on the Internet”

How school helped us get to a post-truth world

For several months, nearly every day, the BBC headlined either outrageous or idiotic statements made by Donald Trump. Thankfully, more recently, the BBC stopped headlining these statements lies. Mostly.

Since Trump’s election, I’ve heard repeatedly that we now live in a post-truth world. A world where news isn’t based on fact. A world where people can say whatever they want without being fact-checked.

But that doesn’t change because of one election. You don’t go from a society that values truth one day (not that society ever did, really) to a post-truth society overnight. So the question is, how did we get here?

I believe that part of the reason we now live in a post-truth world is due to the education system. Don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of other factors to consider. Some with probably larger impacts than education. Like social media. Or the Internet.

But, seeing that I’m a high school student, I find the education system is an easier target.

Specifically, the humanities.Continue reading “How school helped us get to a post-truth world”

Does the Nobel Peace Prize even mean anything anymore? (Hint: it doesn’t.)

Just a couple of days ago, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, ICAN, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

ican-regular-logo

The Nobel committee gave ICAN the award for its work in highlighting the consequences of deploying of nuclear weapons and getting treaties signed to prevent their creation. Thanks to their lobbying, the UN adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The Treaty prevents states (who signed the treaty) from building nuclear weapons. Existing ones have to be dismantled.

 

Pity no nuclear power signed it.

No U.S., no Russia, no China, no NATO. And of course, no North Korea.

In other words, we’ve got a piece of paper signed by the good kids promising not to be bad. No matter how “landmark”, the deal is, if no nuclear powers sign it, it’s just a landmark. It looks nice until you realise tax money paid for it.

And, in the light of the increased rhetoric between Washington and Pyongyang, it seems that there’s no hope of the nuclear powers signing the treaty in the near future. Or ever.

So, considering all these problems, why did the Nobel committee give ICAN a Peace Prize?Continue reading “Does the Nobel Peace Prize even mean anything anymore? (Hint: it doesn’t.)”

The real reason we have school

Every time I walk out of a particularly gruelling or boring class, my classmates ask this question: “Why do we need to know this? It’s so useless.”

The short answer? You don’t need it, and yes, it’s probably useless.

Wait, you argue, what you learn in school does apply. Sure. Engineers use physics. Doctors use biology. Business people use math. Politicians use whatever class is taught in the principal’s office.

But for the rest of us, we won’t use many of the subjects we learnt in school.

So if school doesn’t teach us how to do our jobs, then what’s it for?Continue reading “The real reason we have school”

The invented language more popular than Klingon

In the 1880s, in an attempt to create a universal language that would ease international communication and encourage global peace, a medical doctor, L. L. Zamenhof, published Unua Libro. In it, he provided an introduction to his invented language, dubbed “Lingvo internacia”.

For his work, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize twelve times. And while he never won, his invented language has had a lasting effect.

Today, “Lingvo internacia”, now called Esperanto, has an estimated 2 million speakers. It has its own Wikipedia with 241,000 articles. Google Translate offers Esperanto as one of its languages. And you can learn it on Duolingo.

But while Esperanto enjoys growing usage today, its beginnings were far from glamorous.

The birth of an ideaLudwik L. Zamenhof, um 1900

Since young, Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof, or L.L. Zamenhof, as he became known, dreamt of peace. His hometown of Białystok, in modern-day Poland, was composed of a diverse mix, and there was constant strife between groups.

Zamenhof could have labelled many things as the root of this strife. Culture, race, class. However, to him, the biggest culprit was language. The lack of communication, he believed, promoted misunderstanding, which led to quarrelling.

For Zamenhof, there was only one solution for this: a universal language. It is from this dream that his lifelong work began.Continue reading “The invented language more popular than Klingon”