Ethereality News & Weblog

March 31, 2006

Spectrum 13!

Filed under: Art & CG,My Life/Musings,News — Rob Chang @ 12:05 pm

I just found out I got in Spectrum 13! I’ve wanted to submit works to Spectrum for over ten years now, and this year I finally got around to actually doing it. In the early years of Spectrum, I was too insecure to submit, as I felt my stuff wasn’t strong enough (and I couldn’t afford the entry fee during my starving years). Then, I got into the CG industry and didn’t want to submit because I was afraid if I did get in, I’d have to face freelance commissions I had no time for. It’s always been something nagging in the back of my mind though, as Spectrum is widely considered the most prestigious publication in the field of fantastic art, and many of my heroes are regularly featured in it (Justin Sweet, Phil Hale, Robh Ruppel, Glen Orbik, Adam Hughes, Frank Cho, Donato Giancola..etc). Just to be in the same publication as them would be an honor. I have no idea which pieces of mine got in yet, but my name’s in the accepted list–you can see it here.

I’m excited to see Craig Mullins in there as well, because I’ve secretly wished that he’d submit works for years now. It’s about time the rest of the world (outside of the CG industry) got to witness his talent. My pal Steven Stahlberg got in as well, as did a few other familar names in the digital art community like Jason Chan, Bobby Chiu, and guys who’s already made it in previously like Phil Straub, Ken Wong, Francis Tsai, and Stephan Martiniére (who’s been in many previous Spectrums already).

March 30, 2006

Watch your gag reflex

Filed under: Art & CG,My Life/Musings,News — Rob Chang @ 9:30 pm

I totally forgot to mention it, but the Digital Art Masters book is now out. I have a tutorial in there–a more in-depth version of the Scythe Wolf tutorial than what’s available on my website (it has a lot more text explaining the steps in more detail, but fewer step-by-step pictures–which is fine because you can get the extra pictures from my website). The book is available here.

I’ve been listening to audio books while painting lately, and it’s been great–I feel like I’m accomplishing two things at once. I prefer non-fiction titles on science, philosophy, history..etc, because I haven’t been satisfied with the fictional works I’ve read in the last few years. I mean, I can get into the stories and characters, and some of the talented writers have prose styles so beautiful you’d want to savor every word, but I haven’t read anything that’s truly moved me in a profound manner for a long time now. So, if I can’t get the kind of emotional immersion I crave out of the books, I might as well gain knowledge from them.

Ok, if you have a weak stomach, don’t read the rest of this blog entry because I’m going to get disgustingly syrupy for a bit.

Recently, Elena and I have noticed that more and more people around us are going about it the wrong way when it comes to finding happiness in love. They’d come to us for relationship advice because they see how well we get along, but they don’t listen to our advice because they have different values to begin with. What’s worse, they sometimes accuse us of being too idealistic. Well duh, how can you find real happiness if you are jaded, selfish, and cynical? These people have unrealistic expectations for their mates, but never once questioned if they themselves possessed the qualities their mates expected–in fact most are delusional and think too highly of themselves. On the other end of the spectrum, there are ones who settle for too little–abusive husbands, cheating wives, glaring personality incompatibilities, drastic differences in values and priorities..etc. When we point out the problems, they simply say, “Well, not everyone can be as lucky as you two.”

Technically, they’re probably right. You can watch out for all those things and still never find the right person–he/she could just pass you by on the street one day and neither of you will ever know. Even if you don’t believe in soulmates, it’s still a daunting task to find someone who’s compatible to the point where you could have a lifetime of happiness together. My sister’s almost forty but still single, and she’s a damn good catch. If there’s one thing you can’t force or work hard to get, it’s finding the right mate. You can study hard and get a degree, work hard and get a promotion, practice hard and become good at something, but when it comes to relationships, it’s probably the hardest thing in the world (except for maybe politics)–sometimes, the missing incredient is simply luck. This is why Elena and I feel like we hit the jackpot.

Often, others (particularly older relatives with failed marriages) feel it’s their obligation to warn us that “romance doesn’t last” and that we’ll have to “face reality one day.” Nothing annoys us more because we never really went through that whole “dazzling romantic phase.” As far as we could remember, we’ve always just been honest and sincere with each other, and having started living together since our fourth date then spending pretty much the past five and a half years together almost 24/7, there was never any room for unrealistic and bloated “starry-eyed romance” between us. What we have is simply the desire to be happy together, and the willingness to make it work. We’re not naive though–we know very well we totally lucked out, as it’s been proven that being with someone else wouldn’t yield nearly such a satisfying result. In a way, having had some real clunkers in our individual pasts only makes us appreciate each other more. We never take our frustrations out on each other. We never say horrible things out of anger. We always try to see things from the other person’s perspective. We always try to protect the other person first, asking if somehow one of us had done something to hurt the other. We always ask ourselves how we could make things even better, or prevent potential bad things from getting between us. Most of all, we are always aware of how much we appreciate each other, and how terrible life would be if we were to be torn apart.

Sometimes I just think maybe Elena is a saint and can tolerate my glaring faults like no other. Either way, I’m a lucky bastard and I know it. If you ask her, she’d claim that she’s the lucky one and that God brought me to her because she’s been a good person all her life. Okokokok, I can sense your gag reflex kicking in. I’ll stop. 😀

March 22, 2006

Tearing it up!

Filed under: Film/TV/Animation — Rob Chang @ 11:57 pm

I’ve been behind on BSG for about three episodes, and I finally caught up today. OMG they totally tore it up on the season finale! I had just complained recently that they needed to pick up the pace, and boy they did that and then some! The reversing of having Baltar as Six’s delusion was brilliant, and having Boomer and Six changing the Cylon’s minds, the one year jump in time to after settling on New Caprica, plus the sudden Cylon invasion–bravo! My faith in the BSG writing staff has been fully restored.

I watched some pretty good films recently, plus a bunch of others not really worth mentioning. I’ll talk about the good ones, and mention a couple of the disappointing ones (only because I expected more).

Memoirs of A Geisha – Generally better than I had imagined, despite the niggle I have with the main female leads all played by current popular Chinese actresses instead of Japanese. For a film adapted from a novel written by a white guy, you should never expect authenticity, and if you disregarded that, the film really wasn’t that bad, especially if you aren’t put off by a healthy dose of melodrama (the style of the film lends itself well to melodramatics).

Jarhead – I really looked forward to Jarhead because I loved American Beauty (although Road to Perdition didn’t do much for me), and because I simply love good war films and expected at least an above average one from Mendes. Visually, Jarhead was just gorgeous–particularly the scenes in the desert with the burning oil fields. There were some very powerful scenes in the film, and while it’s nothing like a conventional war film, I feel that it will have a place among the greats as one of the best to have conveyed the sheer psychological toll military life has on a person–how military training transforms you into something you never thought you’d become, and could never go back once you’ve been in that mental state.

King Kong – It was pretty much what I expected–a thrill ride with some heart. It’s not the kind of film I would ever consider as one of my favorites–not because it did anything wrong, but simply because of incompatibility of the director’s style and my personal taste. Sometimes, taste is just a highly personal thing–either you’re on that wavelength or you aren’t. I’m sure some of my favorite films would make Peter Jackson shake his head and snort.

Good Night, and Good Luck – It was a good film, and I expect nothing less from George Clooney as a director. However, as much integrity as the film portrays and possess itself, it’s somewhat sterile and lacked passion. I’m not saying a film has to wear everything on its sleeve, but maybe being a little more emotionally indulgent would’ve taken away the coldness of the tone (unless you cross into the Spielberg zone of sentimentality–then it’s probably more harm than it’s worth).

Pride & Prejudice – I really didn’t mind that it wasn’t authentic, as we’ve seen too many Jane Austin adaptations by now anyway. I only cared if the film was a good one, and IMO, it was, despite some strange acting from Kiera Knightley. Strange, because the way she expressed certain facial emotions was quite different from how most people would, but different certainly does not mean bad–thus I use the word strange. It’s funny that everytime I pop in one of these English period dramas I always expect to be bored at some point, but every time I’ve been pleasantly surprised.

Dark Water – I’m going to be a typical male for a moment and throw my intellect out the window. *Ahem* Please Jen, put back all the pounds you’ve lost. You really were lovelier when you had some meat on them bones. The film itself? I thought it was directed quite well, with good use of cinematic techniques to tense up the audience. Hitchcock would be pleased.

Flightplan / Red Eye – Why am I lumping the two together? Well, I watched them a day apart, and both were so similar in premise that it was inevitable to compare the two. Red Eye is the more mainstream of the two–with all the expected Hollywood styling, humor, and cliches, although I wouldn’t say it’s bad at all–quite entertaining in fact, in a popcorn kind of way (although smarter than your typical popcorn flick). It was interesting to see that Wes Craven can do a mainstream film well, without having to rely on the shock factor of horror material. Flightplan was definitely better directed of the two, as it was more intelligent, more intense, and with less Hollywood glamour. I don’t know if that makes it a decidely better film–I guess it depends on your taste.

Brokeback Mountain – It’s as good a film as you can expect from Ang Lee–who’s certainly an intelligent and sensitive director. Technically, I think Lee’s gotten much better at handling static scenes–he used to be pretty bad with using bland camera angles during talking heads scenes, cutting back and forth between two people during a conversation in such a way that it drove me nuts. Excellent acting from both leads, and a surprising performance from Michelle Williams, who I only really knew from the TV show Dawson’s Creek.

Munich – It’s interesting that the less Spielberg-ish a film he makes, the more I respect and like him as a director. It shows that he’s capable of not leaving his foot prints in a film when it calls for that kind of treatment. He’s been doing more and more films like that the older he gets, and I for one feel it’s the sign of a director who’s getting better instead of becoming a hack or a self-indulgent egomaniac like some of his peers.

I said there were a bunch of other films not even worth mentioning, and unfortunately, Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride is one of them. It felt like Burton had an interesting idea, but couldn’t find ways to make that idea connect with the audience emotionally. I don’t know how many versions of the screenplay they went through, but what they ended up shooting probably was either a couple versions too few or too many (meaning they either didn’t rewrite enough, or rewrote too much)–all the essentially emotional elements were missing. Another disappointing one was the latest Harry Potter film. Not that any of the previous ones were cinematic masterpieces–to me, all films like it are disposable entertainment–popcorn flicks, if you will. However, even on that level, Goblet of Fire disappointed, with emotional threads unconnected, or severed in all the wrong places. I don’t read the books, so I don’t know how faithful the films are, but whoever was responsible (Rowling or Kloves), it was noticeably less involving than the previous films.

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