Graphic Design: One Space or Two After a Period

Recently, I have seen two rather long Facebook discussions on whether one should use two spaces after a period or one. I learned to type on a manual typewriter in seventh grade, where I was taught the two spaces after a period rule. I clearly remember, the teacher and the class repeating, “period, space space, period, space space” when learning how to type. And if you’d asked me just two years ago, I would have said “Two Spaces!” loudly and clearly. But things have changed. I’ve been studying graphic design – learning the Adobe Suite slowly, first In Design, and now Illustrator. But I have also been buying and reading books on graphic design – in an attempt to learn whatever rules there might be to good verses bad web design and graphic design in general. It’s not my very first time trying to learn something about the mysterious world of design. I took a graphic design class in college – well, half of one to be precise – half the class was photography and the other half was design. And it was… well, I liked the graphic design half, but I found it incredibly frustrating as well. I often felt like the class was in a foreign language that I didn’t speak. Part of that may have been the inexperienced teacher, part of my confusion was certainly me – that was my first year at a major university (I started at my local community college). But the result was I had the feeling that I enjoyed graphic design, but I didn’t “get it”, if you know what I mean. I’m doing so much better in my classes now – both learning the programs, and learning design from the books and websites I’ve been reading.

Also, I’ve been writing this blog for nearly a year now, since August of 2014, and I’ve noticed that the “one space after a period” rule really makes a difference. And that difference is because of responsive design and how text flows in a blog post or on a website. I’ve actually cleaned-up some older blog posts to remove extra spaces. And I usually go through a post before I click “publish” to check for extra spaces. I’ve seen some pretty bad results when I’ve slipped back into my “period space space” habit. And it’s worth the clean look to take the time to fix it.

In her section on preparing a manuscript for print, Ellen Lupton has this to say, “Word spaces are created by the space bar. Use just one space between sentences or after a comma, colon, or semicolon. One of the first steps in typesetting a manuscript is to purge it of all double spaces.” Lupton, p. 210.

She also explains, “Design is as much an act of spacing as an act of marking. The Typographer’s art concerns not only the positive grain of letterforms, but the negative gaps between and around them. In letterpress printing, every space is constructed by a physical object, a black piece of metal or wood with no raised image. The faceless slugs of lead and slivers of copper inserted as spaces between words or letters are as physical as the relief characters around them.” Lupton, p. 91.

Lupton, Ellen. Thinking with Type A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, and Students, 2nd Ed., Princeton Architectual Press, New York (2004, 2010).

Another graphic designer, Robin Williams (no not that Robin Williams), simply references other books, “If you haven’t already, I strongly recommend you read The Mac is not a typewriter or The PC is not a typewriter. If you are still typing two spaces after periods, if you are underlining text, if you are not using true apostrophes and quotation marks …, then you seriously need to read one of those books.” p. 86, The Non-Designer’s Design Book (2nd Ed.), Peachpit Press, Berkeley, CA (2004)

Even style manuals recommend a single space. The APA Style Manual has this to say about manuscript spacing:

“Space once after all punctuation as follows:

  • after commas, colons, and semicolons;
  • after punctuation at the ends of sentences;
  • after periods that separate parts of a reference citation; and
  • after the periods of the initials in personal names (e.g., J. R. Zhang).

Exception: Do not space after internal periods in abbreviations (e.g., a.m., i.e., U.S.) or around colons in ratios. – APA Style Manual

Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, pp. 290-291, Section 5.11 Spacing and Punctuation (5th Ed.)  American Psychological Association, Washington, D.C. (2001)

And, surprisingly, the Chicago Manual of Style agrees,  “Word Spacing – one space or two? Like most publishers, Chicago advises leaving a single character space, not two spaces, between sentences and after colons used within a sentence [but see 14.121], and this recommendation applies to both the manuscript and the published book.” Section 2.9, p. 29, Chicago Manual of Style

Note that section 14.121 refers to correct punctuation and spacing in a Bibliography or Works Cited section – and as that section always has special rules, apart from prose and body sections of a work, and those rules are highly detailed – I’m not going to go into them. My advice is that when you are writing a paper for college, university, high school English, or publication – look it up, and look it up in the specific publication manual used for your particular situation – that is, your school, a particular journal, etc. Also, handy tip – have a copy of the publications or style manual handy, and continuously check your formatting. Never trust that your Word Processor will apply APA or CMS styling and formatting correctly.

The Chicago Manual of Style goes on to specifically recommend that all hard returns within a paragraph be eliminated and that one should never use the space bar to indent text – ever!

“Spaces, tabs, and hard returns within paragraphs. A well-structured electronic document will never include more than one consecutive character space. To indent the first line of a paragraph or items in a vertical list, use the Tab key or your software’s paragraph indention features rather than the space bar. (Also eliminate any extra character space or tab after the final punctuation at the end of a paragraph; the hard return should follow the punctuation immediately.) To achieve hanging indentation for runover lines (as in a bibliography or index), use your software’s indent features – not hard returns and tabs or spaces [see 2.22]. A tab or a hard return (i.e., a paragraph break, generally made with the Enter key) should never appear within a paragraph. For prose extracts see 2.18; for poetry, see 2.19. Section 2.11, p. 60, Chicago Manual of Style.

Chicago Manual of Style The Essesntial Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers, The. (16th Ed.) University of Chicago Press, Chicago, (2010).

Why? Why the change? Well, it has to do with two things – proportional fonts verses fixed-width fonts, and responsive design. It also has to do with Kerning, and other design tricks of the final manuscript. Typewriters had fixed-width fonts. They had to, because each key manually struck the ribbon, so it had to move independently. The letter was in the center of the metal key, and a skinny letter, such as an i, took up the same amount of space as a wide letter like a w. Mechanically, the typewriter wouldn’t have worked otherwise. This is also why the qwerty keyboard was developed, it’s an arrangement of keys specifically designed so as a fast typist hits the keyboard, and the metal keys are raised to strike the ribbon and leave an impression of ink on the paper – the keys don’t stick together. If you’ve ever typed on a manual typewriter – you instinctively know this (when you learn to type on one, accidentally hitting two keys at once just happens – you unstick the keys and move on.) If you’ve only used a computer keyboard, or you don’t 10-finger type, it’s probably a bit of a mystery.

However, on a computer – most of the fonts are proportional, especially the most often used fonts (Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, Baskerville Old Face, Garamond, Tahoma, etc.) That is to say, a skinny letter (i) takes up less space and a fat letter ( w ) takes up more. One of the few fixed-width fonts included on most any computer and in most any Word Processing program is Courier New – which is used specifically for times when a fixed-width font is needed, such as samples of software computer code in the midst of a technical report. The report will be set in a standard proportional font (at my job we used either Helvetica or Arial) but the code sections would be set apart and in Courier New.

If you want to test the difference type the sentence: The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs, on a page in Microsoft Word or whatever word processor you like, then try changing the font – look at the spacing of the letters.  (If you want to make it very obvious, tack on “with the cat” after, “dogs” – the difference between the “w” and the “i” will be obvious.) If you want to see the difference, copy and paste the sentence again, and change the second sentence to Courier (or Courier New).

See below:

Proportional_Fixed-width_font_test

You can also see how much more space the fixed-width font takes, even at the same exact point size.

In professionally designed magazines, and books, as well as some websites, a graphic designer can use a program like Adobe InDesign and apply Kerning to adjust any awkward gaps or running together between letters or words due to the specifics of the actual text. Kerning is a mathematical way to adjust spacing (it’s applied by letter, but it can be used between words.) Kerning is often used in headlines, titles, logos that include words or names, or as I did in my InDesign class, when adding drop caps (capitals) to the first word on a page or in a paragraph. A drop cap is a large letter at the beginning of a word – often at the start of a page or chapter.

The second reason is responsive design. Not every screen is the same. You might read this blog post on a 17-inch widescreen monitor, similar to the one attached to my desktop machine right now; or you might read it on a 3 x 5 smartphone screen, or a 4 X 6 one, or a 7-inch tablet, 8-inch tablet, or 10-inch tablet. Apple’s introduced a smart watch. Laptops come in all different sizes – as do smart phones and tablets. Every single one of these devices has a different sized screen. If your initial website is set-up correctly, text should flow evenly and vertically so it can be read on any screen, no matter how big or how small. Other elements of the website should move around the main text. On a physically wider screen, text can stretch wider in horizontal space – but one should never, ever, ever have to scroll horizontally to read the text – but vertical scrolling is OK and expected. If your website is optimized to be responsive – the text will re-flow to fit the screen size. However, double spaces can, and do, mess up responsive design – resulting in messy text with extra indents. It can even give the impression of missing words.

So, change your habits – especially on-line use one space not two.

References

Amazon Link – Thinking with Type

Amazon Link – The Non-Designer’s Design Book (Note – this is the link to the 2nd edition, more recent editions are available)

APA Style Guide

Chicago Manual of Style (Note – website is subscription only)

Paperback and hardcover copies of the APA Style Guide and the Chicago Manual of Style should be available from Amazon.Com as well as any college or university book store.

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How to Design an Engaging Infographic

This Infographic from Buzzfeed is one of the best I’ve seen, and a perfect example of why and how engaging infographics work.

First, it takes information that, if it was presented in a written article, would simply be a list of easily forgotten statistics and turns it into an image that’s interesting and pleasing to look at. Many people, for example, if they read an article comparing characters on Game of Thrones with the most screen time verses characters with the least screen time, would most certainly find their eyes glazing over from all the numbers. I know I would. Yes, pure statistics have their place – but this infographic presents all the statistics in a way that is engaging, fun to look at, and all in one place – and it doesn’t change the nature of the statistical information – which is vitally important.

Second, as noted in the previous paragraph, the infographic presents the statistics in a non-judgmental way. Going by time on-screen only, Tyrion Lannister is the most popular character, followed by Daenerys, followed by a tie between Robb Stark and Jon Snow. However, the information is presented two ways – the actual screen time in minutes and seconds, and the size of the figures – with characters with more screen time physically bigger and characters with less physically smaller. Thus, the graphic is understandable on any size screen. The numbers are also legible, even on a smartphone screen. However, this graphic, importantly, does not  draw any conclusions whatsoever about Game of Thrones from screen time. This is good.

Too often statistics are reported in error to make a point, especially popular research information. There is a difference between causality (this causes that) and correlation (these two facts come up together often but one doesn’t cause the other). There is also a difference between scientific research including double blind studies, and public opinion polls (which can be easily rigged in several ways – such as writing questions in such a way that a certain response is given the most often and then reporting not the question but the response; or limiting responses to two polar opposite choices; or even only polling people in a certain area – where a specific response is expected.) In addition, public opinion polls often fail to include plus/minus accuracy factors, methodology, full wording of questions, etc. (I actually worked for a public opinion telephone survey company one Summer – the wording of questions would shock you, especially if you have any background in science. And I have two master of science degrees as well. I’ve done empirical research.)

Some basics for putting together Infographics

1. Decide what information you want to convey. Make it simple but also useful.

2. When designing your infographic – make it legible. If your audience can’t read it, it doesn’t do any good.

3. Make sure your Infographic says what you meant and it isn’t misleading by graphics or content.

4. Don’t have content that conflicts with images or vice versa.

5. Save your Infographic as a .jpg but make it the centerpiece of an article or blog post with additional information. Think of the graphic as a quick “cheat sheet” but the article as the lesson.

6. Use good pictures or graphics. If you are a company or business, be wary of copyright issues.

7. Have fun! Who said statistics and learning have to be boring?

Upstairs Downstairs Series 4

  • Series Title:  Upstairs Downstairs
  • Season: Series 4 (Season 4)
  • Episodes:  13
  • Discs:  4
  • Cast:  Gordon Jackson, Jean Marsh, Angela Baddeley, David Langton, Simon Williams, Christopher Beeny, Jenny Tomasin, Lesley-Anne Down, Meg Wynn Owen, Jacqueline Tong
  • Network:  ITV (UK) – Granada

Series Four of Upstairs Downstairs covers the First World War – the entire war. The season starts where the previous season at left off, in 1914, as the UK has declared war on Germany. James, who hadn’t adjusted well to leaving the army and working in the city the previous season, has already re-joined the army before war is even declared. Everyone is enthusiastic and happy, waving flags, singing patriotic British songs, and thinking the war will be over in six months. Young men rush to join up so they, “don’t miss it”.

This season of Upstairs Downstairs cleverly covers as many aspects of World War I as they can. Hudson, ever patriotic and distrusting of “foreigners” – becomes even more prejudiced, and subscribes to propaganda magazines. When Hazel, James’s wife, finds out – she’s livid and reads him the riot act. Hudson also attempts to join up several times and is rejected for his age (only 35) and “ill health” (he wears reading glasses). He, then, instead becomes a “special constable”, basically, special police. In a very strong episode, Mrs. Bridges is getting bread from a local bakery she’s used for years. The man who owns the bakery is second-generation German and a British citizen, but speaks with a German accent, as does his wife. While Hudson and the constables are protecting some building that doesn’t need protecting, a gang of “patriotic” British people, attack, vandalize, and burn down the German’s bakery. He shows up at Eaton Place with his family, including young children. The servants try to help, but in the end the baker’s wife is upset (understandably) at what happened, and even the normally happy-go-lucky baker is angry at Hudson, because he felt that the special constables should have protected his store. And remember, he may have German roots – but he’s a loyal British citizen.

Meanwhile, Ruby, the somewhat dim kitchen-maid, quits her job in service and gets a job working in a munitions plant, where she can make more money – and do her own patriotic duty (Ruby explains, “They say any woman who goes out to work is doing the same duty as a man who goes to war because it frees the man to join up instead of work.” She’s quoting a newspaper.) Ruby is absent from several episodes, but finally returns when her plant is blown-up in a zeppelin raid. Ruby gets re-hired as kitchen maid. However, in another episode when a bomb explodes very near Eaton Place, damaging the windows and the drawing room, Ruby becomes quite hysterical – obviously flashing back to being in a building that was bombed.

Daisy and Edward, marry, and then Edward goes off to war. He is injured and invalided home, suffering from severe shell shock (PTSD). He’s sent back again, but survives, and is eventually given an honorable discharge. At the end of the season, they both give notice and decide to make their own way in the world.

Meanwhile, though Daisy had talked of getting a part-time job (in addition to her duties as maid) as a omnibus “conductorette”, it’s Rose who actually does it – even though when Daisy had discussed the idea, Rose pooh-poohed her. Rose continues to work at Eaton Place, and does part-time shifts as “conductorette”. (Similar to Hudson, who works both as butler and as special constable.) She runs into her once-intended Australian, Gregory, again. He’s in the Anzac’s (Australia and New Zealand corps). Running into him again, Rose realises that she made a mistake in giving him up. They get engaged again, with plans to marry after the war. Naturally, he’s killed. However, in the last episode of the season, Rose discovers she’s inherited a large amount of money from Gregory.

Georgina quickly joins up to be a nurse in London, and even though she has a few missteps, the sister in charge sees something in her and asks if she’d be willing to go to France as a nurse. Georgina had always wanted to be a real nurse helping soldiers – not merely changing sheets, and helping women in the local hospital, so she readily agrees. She turns out to be a extremely successful nurse.

James comes home on leave and complains about, well, just about everything. Hazel then uses her influence to get him posted to a safer post in the behind-the-lines officers station. James is not pleased about this. Hazel, trying to please him, then has him transferred back to the front. Eventually, James is reported missing presumed dead. However, he turns up in Georgina’s hospital, severely wounded and in shock. Hazel decides he should recover at home, and hires a private ambulance and nurse to bring him back to England. Both James and MP Richard Bellamy don’t approve, pretty much for the same reason – they don’t want to unfairly use their influence for personal reasons. Hazel gets what she wants. James does recover at home, but becomes increasingly sullen, depressed, and begins to show signs of shell shock, himself.

Richard Bellamy meets a war widow, Virginia Hamilton, and despite the two not liking each other at all at first – they fall in love and marry towards the end of the season. Virginia has two children from her first marriage. She had three, but her oldest son is killed in the war. Richard is also elevated to the Peerage and made a Lord. This is both an honor, and a way of kicking him out of Conservative Politics (as a Lord, he has the right to sit in the House of Lords – therefore he can no longer be an MP). Richard, though elected as a Tory (Conservative Party) through the influence of his wife’s family, had often held more middle-of-the-road and Liberal (as in the British Liberal Party) views, and had “crossed the line” when voting to follow his conscience. Needless to say, in earlier seasons of the show, his wife, her family, and even his lawyer did not approve. (Among Mr. Bellamy’s “liberal” stances – supporting universal free education, and Home Rule for Ireland. The Conservative response was, and I quote the show, “What do the poor need education for? All it will do it teach them what they don’t have.” What stuck-up nonsense.)

Series Four moves through the years of the war – dealing with a number of issues: shortages, hoarding, rationing, women working outside the home (many for the first time; others servants who found a way to make more money), zeppelin raids, bombings in London, men coming home physically disabled, men dying, soldiers with shell shock (which was an old term for what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and even women developing the same (Ruby is also clearly suffering from PTSD after being caught in a factory that was bombed). It also shows the subtle changes in attitude from 1914 when everyone was gung-ho and happy, to 1917 and even early 1918 when people felt like they were losing.

The armistice finally comes in November of 1918, and in the final episode of the season. However, Eaton Place is still not free from tragedy, as Hazel succumbs to Spanish Flu.

Agile Update – Week 20

This week was pretty average, with a lot less getting done than I should have done.  I’m back into the routine of taking a class, this time Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.  I did go to the computer lab every day to work on my class and homework. And I had my night class on Tuesday.  But I only exercised twice this week – one 20-minute Pilates workout and one 20-minute Yoga workout. Since I normally do 30 minutes of Yoga at a time – this was a step backwards.  I also only posted two blog posts. I did spend some more time working with Inkscape and Draw, practicing my skills with graphic design. And one of the two posts was a movie review, so that project is moving along.  I hope this week will be better. I want to at least get back to exercising three times a week and writing three blog posts. The good news on my Movie Project blog, though, is it is definitely moving forward. I might not be getting through the originally planned three or more reviews per week, but I’m getting at least one review per week done, and that’s something. It’s slow and steady progress.

Thunderbird 6

  • Title:  Thunderbird 6
  • Director:  David Lane
  • Date:  1968
  • Studio:  MGM, United Artists
  • Genre:  SF, Action, Children
  • Cast:  Peter Dyneley, Sylvia Anderson, Shane Rimmer, Jeremy Wilkin, Matt Zimmerman, David Graham
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

Thunderbird 6  is based on the Gerry Anderson Supermarionation series, Thunderbirds, and was made at the same time. For more information on the television series, see this post. The film opens with a secret meeting at the New World Aircraft Corporation, where the designer of the Thunderbirds, Mr. X, addresses the group. He suggests New World Aircraft should build an airship. The men at the meeting literally laugh at him, but build the ship anyway.

Once the ship is build, Alan Tracy and Tin Tin fly to England in an antique Tiger Moth Biplane to meet up with Lady Penelope and Parker. The four travel to the air field at New Word Aircraft. FAB 1, Lady Penelope’s pink Rolls Royce is loaded on the airship, and Alan, Tin Tin, Lady Penelope, and Parker, all go aboard the lighter-than-air craft for the around-the-world maiden voyage of Skyship One as it’s called.

However, all is not smooth sailing. Prior to the arrival of the International Rescue crew members, a group of men had gotten into the ship. These men kill the ship’s captain and the entire crew, and take their place. Skyship One is completely automated, and the crew is only there to serve the passengers and in case of emergencies.

With the International Rescue members aboard, and unaware that the crew isn’t the real crew – Skyship One lifts off, and begins it’s around-the-world cruise, stopping at many famous sites, and even making ports of call where the passengers can see the sights. They visit New York, the Grand Canyon, Los Angeles, Niagara Falls, Switzerland, the Pyramids, and other famous tourist locations.

Meanwhile, Jeff Tracy has told his engineer Brains (also the mysterious “Mr. X” who suggested that Skyship One be built in the opening scene of the film) that International Rescue needs a Thunderbird 6. Jeff gives no explanation of what he wants, nor does he explain why he thinks it’s so important. Throughout the film, Brains develops machines for Jeff, showing him various models, and Jeff rejects all of his designs and hard work. This becomes the “B plot” of the film, while the around the world tour on Skyship One is the “A plot”.

During the tour, Lady Penelope discovers she is being bugged. Alan, Parker, and Lady Penelope all investigate – and discover only Lady Penelope is being recorded. Meanwhile, it’s revealed that the substitute crew have written a message from Lady Penelope to Jeff Tracy at International Rescue – they plan on recording Lady Penelope saying all the words of the message, the re-arranging and editing together the words she says, so it sounds like she is sending the message herself. The message will then be sent, so Jeff hears it and thinks Penny sent it. Additionally, the message, which essentially sends Thunderbirds 1 and 2 to a disused airfield south of Casablanca, also tells Jeff to not acknowledge the message.

And that is exactly what happens – Alan, Parker, and Tin Tin discover recording equipment, and realize what is going on, but not before the message is sent. Penny calls Jeff directly using her compact-phone, only to find that Thunderbirds 1 and 2, and their pilots have been sent to the co-ordinates in the message. Lady Penelope warns Jeff it’s a trap. Jeff contacts his sons, and they blow the heck out of the buildings at the airfield, destroying everything with guns.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to round-up the false crew as the ship approachs Dover in the UK, there’s a gunfight in the “Gravity Compensation Room” (an impressive model set full of silver spinning things). The gravity compensaters are damaged, and the airship begins to slowly sink. Tin Tin, however, is taken hostage by one of the false crew and the International Rescue team is also taken hostage.

Meanwhile, Thunderbirds 1 and 2, fly to the location of Skyship One to find out what’s going on, and to rescue Lady Penelope, Tin Tin, and Alan.  As he gets close to where the airship should be, Scott has trouble finding it – then notices it is cruising at a much lower altitude than it should be. Skyship One then hits and becomes entangled in the Interceptor Towers at a missile base on the British coast. The ship is in a dangerous and precarious position. Scott has the missile base evacuated and in the meantime tries to effect a rescue of the people aboard Skyship One, with the help of Virgil in Thunderbird 2.

Unfortunately, because Skyship One is so light, and the tower isn’t steady, Thunderbirds 1 and 2 can’t get close without causing the ship to start tipping or crashing. They use lines to try to stabilize the ship but are unsure how to effect a rescue of the people. They contact Tracy Island Base for ideas.

Brains comes up with a solution – they will use the 2-seater Tiger Moth to rescue people from the Skyship one at a time. This would be difficult enough, but when the small biplane lands on the huge airship, Brains is quickly taken hostage – and Foster, the captain, tries to escape by himself, only.

However, Brains, Parker, Alan, and Tin Tin are able to overcome the false crew and get on the Tiger Moth. It isn’t straight forward though – other members of the substitute crew get on the Tiger Moth, there’s a gunfight, and eventually all of the false members are killed, including Foster who is in the pilot’s seat of the Biplane. Lady Penelope ends up in the forward seat of the Biplane, and Parker in it’s undercarriage – and the plane’s engine is shot and losing fuel. Lady Penelope is the only one of the group who doesn’t know how to fly a plane. Alan carefully moves along the exterior of the plane from where he had been hanging on the wing to the cockpit. He tries to talk Penny through a dead-stick landing but she can’t quite get the plane down. So Alan has her pull-up, roll the plane to get rid of Foster’s body, then gets into the second cockpit himself and eventually lands the plane (without fuel he ends up in a tree – but no one is hurt, not even Parker).

Meanwhile, once everyone has left Skyship One via Biplane, and the missile site is evacuated, Scott and Virgil let go of their lines supporting the doomed airship. It crashes into the missile base and there’s a series of really big explosions.

Later at Tracy Island, Brains introduces to Jeff the completely built and field-tested Thunderbird 6 – the Tiger Moth.

Thunderbird 6 does feel much more like an extended episode of the television series, and the plot holds-up together better than Thunderbirds Are Go. However, it’s still very slow moving. The world-wide cruise of Skyship One just seems to take forever. The film also has two problematic issues with it – first, it’s very violent, especially for Thunderbirds.  The entire crew of the airship (granted, its only four people, but still) is ruthlessly slaughtered. When Jeff tells Scott and Virgil that their rendezvous at the airfield south of Casablanca is a trap, the boys simply annihilate everything in sight. What if the Black Phantom’s cronies had taken people hostage at the airfield? I mean, sure, it was abandoned – but that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no one there. And then, in the midst of the actual rescue, the entire substitute crew, who were, granted, up to no good – are killed. It’s remarkably violent for a kid’s movie. And the second issue is the film is pretty sexist. Of course, it’s Tin Tin who’s taken hostage. Of course, Lady Penelope can’t fly a plane or follow Alan’s instructions for landing it. I mean, yes, that would be difficult – but this is Lady Penelope!

Still, overall, the film is better than Thunderbirds Are Go, simply because the plot holds together better, even if the movie moves very slowly.

Recommendation: Recommended for fans of the original show only
Rating:  3 1/2 Stars out of 5
Next Film:  To Catch a Thief

Agile Update – Week 19

My new class finally started this past week Tuesday. It’s a true night class, 6:00 – 10:00 pm, once a week, so much closer to what I’m used to, and it’s only 7 weeks – so quite compressed. The class is in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Much to my surprise – we started with Illustrator, Adobe’s Vector Graphics program. I’m also finding that I enjoy working with Illustrator – I had a lot of fun in the computer lab just playing with the program, and the various backgrounds, fills, effects, textures, and “symbols” (what Illustrator calls clip art). So, for professional development I attended class on Tuesday, then worked in the lab every afternoon Weds through Friday. Unfortunately, the lab isn’t open on the weekend. On Friday, I did get the main homework assignment completed though.

However, even with class and homework – exercise wasn’t forgotten. I exercised three days this week, two 30-minute Yoga sessions and one 20-minute Pilates session. I probably should have tried to exercise once over the weekend, but it didn’t happen.

What I did do over the weekend was research and download free graphics software. I downloaded Inkscape , an Open Source version of Illustrator with a GNU license. I played with it on both Saturday and Sunday and had a lot of fun. It’s going to take me awhile to get used to it – and it doesn’t have every feature that Adobe Illustrator has, but it’s a good program, and fairly intuitive. I’ve had GIMP for awhile (It’s an Open Source version of Photoshop) and I’ve bought a book for it. Plus, once I actually go through the Photoshop unit of this class, I’m hoping GIMP will make a bit more sense.

Then I discovered a company called Serif. They have their own versions of the entire Adobe suite, and you can download the programs individually. The programs are:  Page Plus (InDesign), Web Plus (Dreamweaver), Draw Plus (Illustrator), Photo Plus (Photoshop) and Movie Plus (movie editing). Unfortunately, the software is not open source, and to do more useful things, you need to purchase the full version of each program. The good news is the price for the full version is reasonable, under $100 each (like $95 – $98 for Page Plus and Draw Plus – each), and because the software is downloaded separately, you can prioritize and pay the upgrade fee over time and only for the programs where you might need the full version. I also had trouble installing both Photo Plus and Movie Plus, and will have to try again at another time. But Page, Draw, and Web Plus installed just fine and those were what I most needed. It does seem like the upgrades are pretty much required. Page Plus has a limit of four pages – so it can’t be used for e-books or even longer magazines (the full version removes this limit), and it only saves in it’s default format – no exporting to .pdf or EPUB (again something the full version has). Draw Plus also has limitations. Still, it’s nice to know there are alternatives out there, and Page Plus was much nicer than Scribus (open source desktop publishing but a major disappointment). If anyone has recommendations for other free or low cost Graphic Design programs, please mention them in the comments – with a .url if possible. One cavaet, for me personally – it must be downloadable software (or something you can buy on DVD/CD) I cannot use Cloud software because of my satellite Internet – it’s literally impossible. Even if I could afford the outrageous amounts of money Adobe wants – their “Creative Cloud” is impossible for me to use on my machine because of my Internet.

My writing and blogging didn’t suffer either. I think having a definite schedule helped. I posted three posts to WordPress this week, including two movie reviews on both Blogger and WordPress, as well as my regular weekly Agile post. My movie project is coming along. It’s interesting, what was originally meant to be a one-year project reviewing 166 movies, is well into Year Five, but the upside is that the entire project will over over 200 movies. I’m also putting together my reviews into an EPUB book for myself at least. That started as a portfolio piece for InDesign, but it’s grown – and it’s why I would really like to find a good InDesign alternative I can afford and use. I also wrote a book review on GoodReads, see the widget on the lower left of this blog to find links to all my book reviews.

So for this week the plan is to exercise 3 – 5 times this week, continue working on my new class, write 3 – 5 blog posts, plus an additional one for Nix Studios, and even try to play with the design software I’ve downloaded. Additionally, I have a STC magazine to read. All and all, things are going very well!

Thunderbirds Are Go

  • Title:  Thunderbirds Are Go
  • Director:  David Lane
  • Date:  1966
  • Studio:  MGM/UA
  • Genre:  SF, Children
  • Cast:  Shane Rimmer, Peter Dyneley, Sylvia Anderson, Jeremy Wilkin, Matt Zimmerman
  • Format:  Technicolor, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“OK, boys, Thunderbirds are go!” – Jeff Tracy

“Well, clearly, there’s life on Mars. But I guess it’s not life as we know it.” – Jeff

Thunderbirds Are Go is based on the Gerry Anderson Supermarionation TV series, Thunderbirds and was made at the same time. The movie is very much like a bigger, more complex and meant to be more exciting episode of the series. And that is where the film falls down, unfortunately. The film opens  with the control center for the Zero X, a manned flight to Mars. A saboteur inside the vessel is able to sabotage it, and the ship crashes into the ocean. The crew, however ejects and is rescued by normal air/sea rescue.

Two years later, there is a discussion of the crash in the wake of a 800-plus page report detailing exactly what happened. The conclusion of the report – sabotage!  However, Earth is again in position to try for Mars. The proposal to do so meets with one negative vote. The captain of the previous mission asks that International Rescue be called in to provide security and be on-hand in case anything goes wrong. The head of the space organization isn’t happy about asking for help, and refuses to do so.

Meanwhile on Tracy Island, the boys are eagerly standing in front of Jeff Tracy’s desk. Though he points out that International Rescue does not normally respond until they receive a request for help, he tells them that rules are meant to be broken and sends Scott in Thunderbird 1 and Virgil in Thunderbird 2 to Glenn Field to monitor and assist. Alan is dispatched in Thunderbird 3 to monitor from space. John is of course, on Thunderbird 5, and will only monitor communications as normal. Gordon is left at home with nothing to do. Once the boys have left, Jeff calls Lady Penelope and asks IR’s London agent to also go to Glenn Field to investigate and route out any saboteurs.

Lady Penelope, undercover as a journalist, asks one of the scientists on the mission a question, then gives him a St. Christopher medal, with a transmitter/homing beacon inside. Later, once everyone is meant to be on the ship for takeoff – she runs a check and realises Dr. Grant is not on the ship. Scott goes to investigate and unmasks a phony and saboteur. Penny locates the real Dr. Grant who is unharmed and returned to the aircraft before it takes off. Penny and Parker also chase the saboteur in FAB 1, Lady Penelope’s pink Rolls Royce. The chase includes the car turning into a hydrofoil and continuing the chase on water, and finally bringing down the saboteur’s helicopter with machine gun fire.

Meanwhile, Zero X takes off as scheduled and without difficulty. Thunderbird 2 escorts it as far as rarefied atmosphere, where Thunderbird 3 takes over and sees that the ship safely leaves Earth’s atmosphere. Alan returns in Thunderbird 3 to Tracy Island. Meanwhile, rather than returning immediately to Tracy Island, Scott and Virgil join Lady Penelope at a new nightclub called the Swinging Star. The Thunderbirds are left under guard at Glenn Field.

Back at Tracy Island, Alan isn’t happy to have heard that Scott and Virgil are going out for a night on the town. He asks Jeff for permission to go to the mainland with Tin Tin, but Jeff refuses.

That night, Alan has a dream – Lady Penelope picks him up and takes him to the Swinging Star nightclub in space. There’s instrumental music and Alan wear’s a medium blue suit, while Lady Penelope wears a stunning blue dress with a white feather boa. After the first musical number, Cliff Richards Jr. and the Shadows come on and play an elaborate number which includes them playing on FAB 1 in space, and on a giant guitar and other effects. After his musical interlude, the dream gradually becomes slightly nightmarish and Alan is woken up by his father, after he falls out of bed.

thunderbirds-are-go-5

Next, the boys, Jeff and Tin Tin are relaxing by the Tracy’s pool. Jeff notes the Zero X is now on Mars.

The film cuts to Mars, which is grey and rocky – like the moon. The Martian Excursion Vehicle rolls along the surface, while the scientists inside talk of collecting samples. The scientists and astronauts notice some unusual rock formations. They then decide to fire on one to break it down for easier collection.  This is a bad move, as the “coiled rocks” are living creatures. These “rock snakes” attack. The group in the MEV call for immediate pick-up and learn it will be a short time before the rest of the ship is in position for rendezvous. The MEV tries evasive maneuvers. Finally, the MEV takes off before the rendezvous check time. However, they safely reconnect with the ship.
On Tracy Island, Jeff and the boys discuss the amazing discovery on Mars and that the ship will return in six weeks.

Six weeks later the Zero X runs into trouble on it’s return journey.  International Rescue is called in. Not only is Zero X crashing, it’s heading for a small city, and access to the escape unit is jammed.

Scott heads to Glenn Field in Thunderbird 1 to oversee the rescue operation in Command and Control. Virgil, with Gordon and Alan, responds in Thunderbird 2. Once Thunberbird 2 gets closer to Zero X, Gordon oversees the rescue winch and Alan attempts to get aboard the Zero X to fix the escape unit system.  Brains, the engineer, reads a circuit diagram to explain to Alan what he needs to do.  Alan adds a transistor to the broken/burned out unit, and starts to re-wire it.  The pilot sends his co-pilot and navigator to the escape unit, but continues to fly the plane – such as it is, since it’s crashing.

Although Alan drops his screwdriver, and the ship is skimming the treetops, Alan’s able to re-wire the machinery. The pilot gets to the escape unit and the unit is safely ejected. Alan also ejects but isn’t able to get directly to Thunderbird 2. He is, however, safely lowered to the ground, where he’s picked-up by a waiting Lady Penelope in her pink Rolls Royce, with Parker acting as chauffeur. Lady Penelope promises to take him to the Swinging Star nightclub.

Meanwhile, the crew of Zero X are safe, including the pilot – who got into the escape unit at the last moment.  The plane itself, however, crashes into the city – presumably without harming anyone on the ground since the area was evacuated.

At the Swinging Star, Alan is wearing a fake mustache disguise. He soon learns that the rest of his family, including Jeff, are at the next table also in disguise. They congratulate Alan and toast him as an hero.

Thunderbirds Are Go has a few problems. First, for a movie that should be about a fantastic rescue – it isn’t really. The first Zero X goes down, but the crew are rescued by conventional means. When the Thunderbirds go to escort the second Zero X, other than routing out a saboteur, there’s no need for them to be there because the launch goes off perfectly. When the Zero X gets into trouble on Mars, they are too far away to call International Rescue – even Thunderbird 3, and they rescue themselves. And finally, the actual rescue at the end seems rushed. Alan does get to be the hero, but he’s also a seasoned professional (if anything Gordon and John get slighted in the story). Also, although the crew is rescued, always the most important thing for International Rescue – rescuing people; one really has to wonder about the wisdom of allowing a very large spaceship to crash into a city. I mean, Did they really think it would be completely evacuated?  And then there’s the fantasy dream sequence. The whole film is slow, clunky, and feels like two or more Thunderbirds TV episodes cobbled together.

The positives are of course the model work, which is really good, even though the models do scream that they are, in fact, models, and not something realistic. It’s worth noting that Derek Meddings, who did the model work for the series, this film, and many of Gerry Anderson’s other series; also worked on Doctor Who, the James Bond feature films, and had a distinguished career in special effects. I have this and Thunderbird 6 to round-out my collection of Thunderbirds DVDs. I also have the entire TV series. But other than as a collectible, it’s not really worth it.

Recommendation:  Skip it
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Thunderbird 6