Ethereality News & Weblog

August 23, 2006

Iced that sucker

New concept mood piece for a horror game. Hope you’re not squeamish:

How can you injure your foot to the point of being unable to walk and unable to sleep due to the pain, and not remember how you did it? Well, don’t ask me because I can’t remember how I did it. I’ve had to cancel a lecture at the Art Institute of California (San Francisco) because of this bad foot.

A family friend recommended a Chinese doctor, and I went in to get acupunctured, but it only made my foot worse–the damn thing swelled up and looked like a pig’s foot, but was fine before the acupuncture. The doctor’s attitude didn’t impress us either, with his diatribe about how western medical science is inferior and western doctors don’t know a damn thing about foot injuries (right. Sports stars that make millions a year are all wrong to have western doctors treat their sports injuries), and the fact he made light of the pain I was in, as if he knew better how much pain I was really in and that I was only putting on a show. For who?? What do I have to gain by putting on a show? If I’m in a lot of pain, then I’m in a lot pain–what right did he have to tell me my pain is no big deal?

This doctor also told us not to use ice, and to use Chinese Red Flower Oil on it and heat wrap it. Well, my western medical common sense tells me that you do NOT heat a swollen injury–you ice that sucker until it’s no longer swollen. So, Elena and I decided to go against everything this Chinese doctor said and followed our western medical common sense–we iced my foot for a good half hour, and guess what? The swelling went down, and I actually slept well that night instead of being kept awake by the pain like the previous nights. My foot doesn’t hurt nearly as much now as it did for the past few days after we iced it; so much for the hubris of that Chinese doctor. We promptly cancelled our next appointment with him.

A few days later, we were introduced to another Chinese doctor, who is supposed to be the teacher of the previous doctor. He stuck me with an acupuncture needled on my hip, and worked that sucker hard, trying to find the nerve that connected to my foot. Omigod it hurt like hell the way he twisted and twirled that needle around. Finally he got it and I felt an electric shock in my shin. According to him, what he did was to numb and relax my foot so I can move it more freely and let all the built-up fluids get flushed away and excreted. Well, my hip hurt for two days and my foot didn’t get any better at all. So what did Elena and I do? We decided to ice that sucker some more and ignore what the doctor said. And guess what? It worked. Simply icing my foot for 23~30 minutes every 4 hours or so really worked. A few days later I was able to walk again. Now I’m walking like a normal person again, instead of a wannabe gansta rapper.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that Chinese medicine can be effective for certain things, but it was wrong for that first Chinese doctor to outright belittle western medical science, and it didn’t help either that his teacher’s effort didn’t do a thing for my foot.

I came *this* close to bidding on an old Terratec soundcard that’s got the Waldorf Microwave XT PC extension, which is identical to the normal Microwave XT, except you can’t expand it beyond 10 voices like you could with the normal one, and you don’t get those sexy 40+ knobs to play with. I even have a working old PC I had put together in 1998 that’s still working and has ISA slots for the soundcard, but in the end, I decided I’d rather hold out for the normal hardware unit, as the Waldorf allure to me is not just the sound capabilities, it’s also that funky “oh-so-German” industrial design. Seriously, there’s just no comparison between this:

Terratec EWS64 Microwave XT PC

and this:

Microwave XTK

My dream is to have the lovely bright orange Microwave XT right next the the rare bright yellow Q–they’d make a lovely couple.

I’ve been researching the Dave Smith Poly Evolver recently, and it’s quite a beast. I’m a bit confused as to how few voices it has though–or am I not understanding the concept of that synth? Maybe they way it’s structured doesn’t require more voices for complex sounds? Although it isn’t exactly sexy (it looks a bit like sci-fi B-movie spaceship controls) , it’s still pretty easy on the eyes:

Dave Smith Poly Evolver

Rumors for Sonar 6 has been making the rounds–I can’t wait to see what the Cakewalk boys have cooked up this time. I long for the day when Sonar’s included arsenal can go head-to-head with Logic–it’ll be a beautiful day because I’d stop feeling that intense jealousy towards Logic users (as I’m too practical to ever buy a Mac. No don’t flame me on this–just agree to disagree).

Came across this quote recently, and I thought it was worth repeating here:

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanely sensitive.

To them… a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death.

Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create — so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, their very breath is cut off…

They must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency they are not really alive unless they are creating.

– Pearl Buck”

I finally finished Dreamfall, and unfortunately, my opinion about it didn’t change much from the last time I wrote about the game. It’s really too bad, since I was totally ready to fall in love with it, yet the long-awaited sequel to The Longest Journey just didn’t sweep me off my feet.

On the other hand, I’ve been having a blast with F.E.A.R. Combat, the free multiplayer Sierra just released. It’s a bit strange to start each respawn with only one firearm, since the concept of a sidearm in addition to the main weapon has been a time-honored tradition for FPS games. Hell, that’s how it is in real life too. I guess they figured the sidearm is next to useless for most situations. Since the other CQB type modes are faster-paced in comparison, the CTF mode in outdoor terrain feels like an interesting mix, as the long-range scope gives it a more realistic military feel, and the terrain itself hides players quite well–almost Ghost Recon-ish.

Dark Messiah of Might & Magic’s demo was interesting. I have a soft spot for fantasy FPS, since it’s so rarely done (and almost never done well), and I thought the demo’s FPS melee combat was fun enough to consider purchasing the full game; however, I really hated the first half of it–voice instructions from some invisible mentor is such a tiring cliche, and the dialogue/voice acting was irritating as well–it couldn’t have possibly been any more cliched.

Elena and I finally broke down and got a new cellphone. We were holding out until we’re sure where we’ll be moving to next, but life just became too inconvenient without one, and we’d rather face changing phone number later if we move to a different area code. We researched Cingular and T-Mobile and while I liked Cingular’s rollover minutes, Elena preferred the cheaper price and more minutes of T-Mobile (and they both boasted better coverage–hard to tell who’s the delusional one, so I just pretended they’re both lying). Of course, the wife always wins, so we left the store with a Nokia 6103 that’s got a T-Mobile logo on it.

It’s been years since I’ve needed a cellphone (although Elena always had one), and boy, they’ve gotten quite advanced. The last two cellphones I had were all from five years ago, so the technology definitely moved on. I tried making my own custom mp3 ringtone, but found out I’d have to pay $5.99 a month just to be able to upload custom multimedia stuff to the phone. It’s really not worth it IMO. A data cable for connecting to a computer is also ridiculously expensive, and what can you do with it? Just downloading cellphone photos, uploading to do lists, notes, images..etc. I think I’ll just let the phone be a phone and not cause it any identity crisis. Afterall, we got it for free, so it’s not like we paid for all those fancy features. Besides, the phone’s camera is next to useless in low-light situations, which is one of the most common situations you’d want to use a camera (funny how that works, isn’t it?).

August 4, 2006

Burning down the rose garden

Filed under: Art & CG,My Life/Musings — Rob Chang @ 4:47 pm

Well, I survived my teaching adventure uninjured, intact, and had a really good time. It was really nice that the students from all three nights came up to me afterwards and thanked me–one class even applauded, which I wasn’t expecting at all. I probably scarred some of them for life by painting a depressing but realistic picture of what the industry is like, but I guess that’ll just filter out the ones that didn’t really have the will and the passionate desire in the first place. A lot of them had either no clue or unrealistic expectations of what’s going to happen when they graduate, with only a small minority that had a good idea of the real world out there. Essentially I went out of my way to burn down their fantasy rose garden and plant some seeds of realistic goals and expectations.

One of the things I stressed in class was to be a good artist in general, not just a button-pusher. The truth is, the kind of software stuff they are learning in school can all be learned from software help files, online tutorials, books, and DVD’s, but it’s a lot harder to build a strong foundation of art knowledge and skill–which is what these students lack severely and not getting enough from the school. It is also the difference between typical art schools and top tier art schools like Art Center. Some of the students even expressed a dislike for drawing and art foundation classes–they are what I affectionately refer to as the “CG geeks”–the kids that love cool special effects, video games, and animation, but never thought of themselves as artists or ever wanted to be an artist–they just want to be involved with CG in some way. These student will wake up one day and find that they have wasted tens of thousands of dollars in tuition, but unable to get a job in the industry because while they stubbornly tried to not be artists, their competitors are lightyears ahead of them in terms of artistic skill and knowledge, while still able to operate the same 3D softwares they can. It used to be that if you knew how to use 3D softwares, you could pretty much get a job. Those days are long gone–the bar has been raised so high now that having software knowledge is no longer enough–you have to demonstrate talent and skill as well. Unless the CG geeks change their mentality and start taking the foundation classes seriously and learn about composition, color theory, anatomy, perspective, values, lighting..etc, they will have a rude awakening waiting for them upon graduation. Of course, the exception would be if they applied for a highly technical position that needs no artistic sense whatsoever.

I was surprised at how little the school taught them of the stuff I find extremely important (or it could be they just haven’t gotten that far yet). The advanced texturing & lighting class wasn’t even taught the concept of form and cast shadows, what’s lighting the cast shadows, the most saturated area at the terminator, the fallible theory of warm light = cool shadows, standard kelvin degree temperature as the yardstick for lights, contrasting colors to bring out form, what to watch out for when mixing two different colored lights, why are some lights hard and why are some soft, how to use them effectively to convey mood and emotion..etc. Maybe my priorities are just different from the school’s, maybe I had misplaced expectations from a school that doesn’t have an illustration or painting major, or maybe like I said earlier, they just haven’t gotten that far into the course yet.

Some students expressed that they’d like me to return for more guest-speaking classes, so it looks like I’ll end up teaching more sessions there. Too bad I don’t have the required degree to teach, or I’d give teaching full-time a shot and see how I like it. Truth is, I have so much more to learn myself, and I still have much growing left to be done, so teaching once a while is probably enough for now.

Here are some photos from the three nights I was there. I had forgotten to take photos on the first night, by the time I remembered, most of the students already left. I did remember for the next two nights though:

I lived in San Francisco for about five years from 1995 to 2000, and as much as I like San Francisco as a city, I really don’t care for certain things about big cities in general. For one, big cities never feel safe–you are constantly trying to dodge the mentally ill, the strung out junkies, the demanding pan-handlers, and just really shady looking people in general. The driving in the city is also a lot more aggressive and chaotic–which is something I can only tolerate for a short amount of time. Parking is always a big headache, and I’m not a fan of public transportation in general because there’s no freedom to make detours on a whim as you could while driving a car. There’s also the smell of urine in some parts of the city–not exactly pleasant. And what is up with the chilly weather in the middle of August? Are we really in California, or is San Francisco some kind of alternate universe? I had forgotten about all of these things during my years away from the States, but they all came rushing back for the past three days I taught at the AIC, which is located right on Market Street (and 7th), an area where a lot of the wackos congregate. Now I remember why I prefer suburbs.

Although I’ve really missed watching movies in a good theater and told myself I’d do it when we move back to the states (movie theaters in China are a nightmare–complete lack of movie-watching etiquette from the crowd), I still haven’t watched any yet. The reason is because there are no Chinese subtitles for Elena to read, and it’d be impossible for me to try to watch and translate for her during the whole movie. Of course I could go without her, but I’d feel bad about it. No solution thus far.

We finally broke down and bought a decent chair so that my back isn’t aching all the time (we didn’t bring the one I had in China since it’s so big and heavy). We chose the Raynor Maverick Multifunction Fabric Executive Chair (gray) from Office Depot, which costs $199–not too scary of a price tag, but not cheap either. Finding the right chair is such a pain in the ass, because you’d have to try so many to even find one that’s half-way decent in terms of comfort and functionality. What I picked isn’t perfect, but it’ll have to do for now.

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