Thursday, 28 August 2008


I made muffins today for the first time. Oatmeal with white and dark chocolate... and a pecan half on top for decoration. Not bad for a first try, they actually taste quite good.

SeXXXy Doll (2000)

It is hard to believe it was way back in 2000 that I created my Flash animated short, SeXXXy Doll. I had to prepare a DVD ready version SeXXXy Doll for a screening at this year's Ottawa International Animation Festival, so since I finally had a video version, I went ahead and put it on YouTube. But why the heck would they be showing SeXXXy Doll at the OIAF eight years later? Well, they are presenting a 4-part series to compliment the release of Chris Robinson's new book, entitled "Canadian Animation: Looking for a Place to Happen", and they want to screen SeXXXy Doll as part of the Calgary/Halifax program. The Festival runs Sept 17-21st this year.

More about Chris Robinson and his book

"In 2007, writer Chris Robinson traveled across Canada to meet with some of the country’s leading independent animation filmmakers. Along the way, Robinson muses about the animation art form in Canada and his own relationship to the scene and personalities, many of whom are friends and colleagues. As he travels from place to place he carries along his own private (and sometimes not-so private) struggles with insomnia, depression, identity, cab drivers, hobos and nobos and the shocking murder of animator Helen Hill, who‚s life and work embody many of the themes that colour these conversations.

"With the intimate detail of a diary, Canadian Animation: Looking for a Place to Happen weaves together history, memoir and dream into a mesmerizing and candid portrait of Canadian animation, art, doing, drifting and dying.

"Lavishly illustrated, the book’s cast includes award-winning animators Marv Newland (Bambi Meets Godzilla), Chris Landreth (Ryan), Chris Hinton (Nibbles), David Fine (Bob and Margaret, Ricky Sprocket), Wendy Tilby (When the Day Breaks), Anne-Marie Fleming, Torill Kove (The Danish Poet), Claude Cloutier (Sleeping Betty), Janet Perlman (Why Me?) and many more.

"Chris Robinson is an Ottawa-based author and the Artistic Director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF). A noted animation commentator, curator, and historian, Robinson is a leading expert on Canadian and international independent animation. He is also a frequent contributor to The Ottawa Citizen and The Ottawa Xpress.

His other books include: Estonian Animation: Between Genius and Utter Illiteracy (2006), Unsung Heroes of Animation (2005), Stole This From a Hockey Card: A Philosophy of Hockey, Doug Harvey, Identity & Booze (2005), and The Animation Pimp (2007).

Robinson lives in Ottawa with his wife Kelly and their sons Jarvis and Harrison. His dog is Molly.

Canadian Animation: Looking for a Place to Happen will be published by John Libbey Publishing and available through Indiana University Press in the Fall of 2008.

The book will be launched at the Ottawa 2008 International Animation Festival in conjunction with a retrospective screening of Canadian independent animators.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Uncle Baby 1: This is my Show

Uncle Baby came to life one day while the Bulaja kids and I were playing with their toys at the kitchen table. There was a maker and a little plastic baby doll and I just couldn't resist. I think it was one of the twins that came up with the name "Uncle Baby" a few days later. We would just goof around and make him talk in this gruff grown-up voice. The kids and I thought it was hilarious. I decided right from the start that there should be some Uncle Baby movies. Ivor took Uncle Baby on holiday and took a series of funny photos and even made them into a comic book. The Uncle Baby legend was growing! Just before I left Zagreb to return to Canada, the kids presented me with my own Uncle Baby. So now there are two Uncle Babies. I made a little test movie that very night and that movie is now available on YouTube.

Uncle Baby 2: The Nature has been shot but it might be a couple of weeks before I find the time to edit it. So there will be more to come.

Monday, 18 August 2008


I just made gnocchi from scratch for the first time. I first ate it in Italy, but I really learned to love it while living in Croatia. It's really not hard to make; it's just a potato dough made from mashed potatoes, flour and an egg, but it took me awhile to get the hang of rolling the dough on a fork to make the little grooved shapes. After making nearly 200 of those little buggers I think I got the hang of it! You can use pretty much any sauce you would use on pasta, but in Zagreb I learned how to make a sauce using Gorgonzola cheese, mileram (sour cream), and smoked ham. It's delicious! You just boil them like pasta, but it only takes about three minutes. Normally they would be white, but I didn't have enough white flour, and had to use half white and half whole wheat flour... I hope that won't make much of a difference. So that's what we are having for dinner tonight. I hope you are hungry, Nell.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008


I made it back to Canada. I think I have been without sleep for about 36 hours now.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Croatia Farewell

My ten month stay in Croatia is coming to an end. I am booked to fly home to Canada on Monday, Aug. 4. The only snag is my flight is with Lufthansa, and they currently have ground crews that are on strike. I've been trying to find out if my flight is canceled or not, but under the circumstances nothing is certain. I pretty much have to wait until the day, show up really early, and see what they can do for me.

When play is work, and work is play

Airline adventures aside, I am very glad I came to Zagreb to work on this "Tesla Project". The opportunity came at a time when I really needed to get away and get some new perspective on life. I got to do a lot of traveling and work with some really great people like Helena and Zvonimir Bulaja, photographer Al Keddie and musician/composer Christian Biegai. There were many other creative people who worked on this project long before I got involved, and still others who are joining the crew as I prepare to leave. Collectively we have produced a huge amount of material that has to be shaped and molded into a film, website, books, and even performances. Helena has grand visions, but somehow she makes them happen.

It's all about the Food

I am very excited about heading back to Canada, but there are things I will miss about Croatia. The coast here is simply stunning. I love spending time in Split, even in the middle of winter. I will miss sipping cappuccino in Britanski Square and eating pastry with salty cheese. Zagreb has the best pizzas I've had anywhere, including Italy. I developed a passion for octopus here (thanks Josh! --and is there something in octopus that makes you a bit goofy? I seem to feel intoxicated whenever I have it... or was I just happy after a good meal?). I will miss the ice cream, which is generally very good everywhere, but Vincek on Ilica St.-- oh my! The cakes and other deserts there are works of art as well. In the winter there are street vendors selling roasted chestnuts, and little stands offering sausages --the spicy ones were excellent! We just called them "spicy street sausage" (which Al's friend, Sarah mistook as a euphemism for something else entirely!).
Oh and of course the "Toplo Hladno" sandwiches from the Pingvin Sandwich Bar on Teslina St. are delicious. I will miss the outdoor fruit and vegetable markets that operate all year long, and the Sunday flea market at Britanski Square with it's mix of treasures and trash.

Higher ground

I won't miss the grey clouds that can hang over Zagreb for weeks in the winter. They blanket the city and just seem to get stuck there, getting thicker and thicker, leaving you to wonder if the sun will ever return. But just one afternoon up on Medvednica, just above the clouds, improved my outlook immensely. I should have gone up there more often. Speaking of the mountain, it features an extensive trail system. I made a few hikes up to Medvedgrad and to a cave for a tour.


I wish I had learned more of the language while I was here, but the truth is it is very easy to be lazy about learning Croatian because most people here speak English very well and as soon as I say dobra dan in what I think is a passable accent, they immediately switch to English. I learned only the basics, like pivo (you always learn the local word of beer right away!), and basic greetings like bok, dobra dan, dobra vecer and dovidjenja or just jenja. For some reason I learned the numbers pet and deset right away (and so pedeset came easily), and eventually I learned osam, and dvadeset... but really, I should have learned more numbers by now! Thanks to my friend's children I quickly learned doci, idemo, and ne. I learned the names of a few types of stores and businesses like frizerski, pekara, and obuća (I challenge anyone to take one walk down Ilica Street and not figure out what obuća means).

You will learn "ulaz" and "izlaz" pretty quickly if you don't want to keep running into people. Waiters here seemed to be endlessly entertained by my pronunciation of "Ozujsko". I eventually figured out that I was putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable. Oh yes, another of my favourite things to say, also food related, is "kikiriki."

I picked up a few other words here and there, of course, but every word seems to have several forms and the grammar completely eluded me. There is an old lady who lives in the same apartment building as me. She's pretty slow moving and I've held the door open for her a few times. She chatters away to me in Croatian, and I have told her that "I only speak English", to which she replies "Ahhh, English..." and then she just continues chattering away to me. I guess it really doesn't matter to her if I understand or not. She's likely talking about the weather, or telling me that she's slow because her back is sore or that she's off to visit her grandchildren. I just smile and say "dobra" and "da". She is likely thinking, "what a nice retarded fellow".