Ethereality News & Weblog

November 26, 2006

The Spoils

It looks like I’ll be doing some work on the card game The Spoils. Tenacious Games had contacted me a few months back about doing the cards, but I was tied up with Spiderman 3 and Surf’s Up for Sony Pictures during those months. Now that my schedule’s opened up, I’ll probably end up doing roughly a dozen cards for them. I’ve done pen & paper RPG illustrations many years ago for R. Talsorian’s Cyberpunk: Pacific Rim, so this is kind of similar territory. A lot of my peers don’t like doing work for game cards and RPG manuals because these markets tend to pay less than others, but you could always negotiate a better rate to make it worth your time and effort (assuming you are worth the higher rate in the eyes of your client).

As a reader and a writer, I’ve always treasured the universal emotional truths that we all share as human beings. I’m not talking about emotions that are easily categorized like joy, pain, anger, boredom..etc, I’m talking about more complex layers of emotions that only arise from some form of dynamic interaction, not merely passive responses to the world around us. For example, the absolution of someone after being vindicated of a crime he did not commit, or the weight that dissolves from one’s back when he learns to let go of a hate that’s been the dark and destructive driving force of his existence, or rediscovering a long lost dream and rekindling the passion for making it come true. These are universal emotional truths unique to humans–ones that are far more dynamic than the simple emotions that even dogs can feel. They are the ingredients for great stories, and I’m drawn to them when I write or when I’m enjoying the works of other writers. I’ve seen so many aspiring writers that don’t understand this simple dynamic, and that’s the difference between a writer that has something to say, or a writer that simply tells a good yarn. Not that there’s anything wrong with a good yarn, but for me personally, if the story can resonate deeper than the basic entertainment appeal, then I become emotionally invested and the payoff is far more powerful. Unfortunately, there’s another category of writers–one that goes through the motion of fabricating these universal emotional truths in a manner that’s almost contemptuous of the reader/viewer’s emotional intelligence (or it puts to question the writer’s own emotional intelligence, or level of talent). Usually, when I’m experiencing the works of this type of writer, I feel either A) manipulated B) lost of emotional immersion due to the writer’s transparent execution shortcomings, or C) lost of interest due to the writer’s lack of emotional common sense. Sometimes I wish I had never learned critical analysis of creative works–be it art, writing, music, photography, or film, because when you’re less picky, you get to enjoy so much more. Even mediocre works can keep you immersed and entertained. Does all this sound very pretentious? It probably does, but that’s just what I’m feeling at the moment. Mind you though, I do enjoy the occasional cheese now and then if it’s done brilliantly (the British TV comedy Spaced comes to mind), so I’m not really as stuffy as my rantings suggest.

I’ve been playing Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, and so far it’s pretty disappointing (I really should have read all the negative reviews online first). The people responsible for the writing of the game belongs to the third group I described above. If the gameplay itself was really fun,then I’d have been less critical, but it isn’t. I’m not even sure if I want to finish the game at this point. Maybe I should just hold out for Half-Life 2: Episode 2, as that’s the only franchise with a reliable pedigree out there these days.

Oh My God. I never knew… (For all you fans of Oingo Boingo)

On a related note, I found out a while ago that Danny Elfman was commissioned by the Carnegie Hall to compose an original work titled “Serenada Schizophrana,” and it premiered in February of 2005. What’s also interesting was that Andy Summers (from The Police) performed on the guitar for another original piece preceeding Serenada Schizophrana. For those of you that haven’t been following Andy Summers’ career since The police broke up, he’s pretty much been immersed in the contemporary jazz scene (something that Sting’s dabbled in as well).

Have you guys noticed that the rockers of that generation tend to veer into the classical or jazz territory as they get older? I wonder what this generation of rockers will get into as they age. It seems that no matter what genre of music you start in, you’ll always gravitate towards the more conventional music styles as you age–probably because more conventional music styles have a richer history and tend to have greater musical complexity (at least according to conventional music theory). I personally have felt this as well, since the older I get, the more I gravitate towards composing orchestral works. This isn’t to say I’ve lost interest in the more edgy styles of music though–it’s just that orchestral works tend to be more challenging to compose and arrange. I’ve always been into jazz an classical even as a teenager though, so this is hardly a new transition. My greatest joy will always be hybridizing different genres though, and it’s something I’ve done for as long as I’ve been making music.

I remember distinctly back in the late 80’s, I wanted to combine orchestral and electronic music, but back then I didn’t have the necessary equipment to pull something like that off (high-end orchestral libraries were not an option back then as their cost was astronomical). When Hans Zimmer started to rise to celebrity status in Hollywood, I observed the hybrid style I had in my head become more and more popular, to the point where it’s the standard style these days for film/game/TV scores. Now that I have the necessary equipment to make that kind of music, it’s no longer something unique. I’ve always felt that being innovative and original isn’t necessarily the most important thing a creative person should strive for though–more than anything, simply expressing what resonates within you is the most important objective, and if you happen to be unique, then your work will be perceived as so. So many people mistake innovation and originality for “better,” and it couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve seen and heard and read plenty of very unique but completely pointless and atrocious creative works that used “being different” as a crutch and a gimmick (a lot of modern art comes to mind). But who knows? Maybe those people were actually “unique” and they did express what resonated within. It could just be that I’m the one that’s too mundane.

I can’t believe it’s time to add more storage space to my rig already (I just ordered a 750GB hard drive from Fry’s, and a SATA 3GB/IDE133 controller card from Between my two machines, I will have almost two terabytes of storage space, plus 600GB of backup storage that’s off-line most of the time (I only hook them up when backing up files). The new hard drive will be taking over the sample libraries duties, but I’m a bit nervous about streaming all of my samples from one drive–it could lead to audio crackles and pops during recording and playback. At least I’ll be installing it internally though, so it’ll still be performing much better than an exterior option (which was what i considered at first).

I was at the Palo Alto branch of Fry’s a few days ago, and it was such an appalling experience. For example, their DVD sections were grossly mislabeled, and their foreign section didn’t even have the DVD’s in alphabetical order! How the hell can anyone find anything in that condition? I talked to one of their employees about it, and he said they’ve badgered the manager about doing something, but the manager kept blowing them off, and upper management won’t listen to the little guys, as they always take the managers’ word for everything. He also told me that many have quit because the managers refused to listen to employees’ suggestions on how to improve the store. I talked to one of the managers, and sure enough, his eyes were glazed over as he fed me some line about “we’re looking into it.” They need to fire a bunch of managers at that store, because it’s probably one of the worst managed stores I’ve ever seen.

November 18, 2006

The Departed

Filed under: Film/TV/Animation,My Life/Musings,Photography — Rob Chang @ 1:01 pm

My bud misterdna suggested we all post our wish lists, so here it is, my Wish List (click on the little picture):

This is brilliant. Payback feels great (I actually worked as a telemarketer before briefly many years ago, and I hated it).

Finally got to see The Departed, and I have mixed feelings about it. It is certainly a good film–one of Scorsese’s most entertaining in years (probably since Goodfellas, although some might say Gangs of New York, which didn’t grab me all that much), but I just have issues with remaking popular films from other countries when the original film really isn’t all that old yet. I never agreed with remaking popular foreign films because in most cases, the remake destroys all that’s great about the original by Americanizing bits that don’t need to be Americanized. So if filmmakers can’t seem to do a better remake (or one that’s simply just as good) and choose to walk all over the virtues of the original, the only motivation left that I can see is greed. This is where I have conflicting feelings; I respect Scorsese, and I have never thought of him as someone who would remake a popular foreign film that’s from just a few years ago. I almost wish I had never seen Inferno Affairs so I could enjoy The Departed even more, but that would be a bit too biased towards Scorsese, since the original film was really excellent.

My Speedlite 580EX flash has been acting up on and off ever since I’ve bought it in June last year. Basically, when I have it facing forward (or the notch below), it’ll blow out the subject even with the flash exposure compensation dialed down to -2. I’ve done plenty of research online, discussed the problem in pro photography forums, talked to Canon’s support..etc, and no one knows why this is happening. I discovered a quick fix though–just flip the 14mm diffusion panel down. I might just keep on using that quick fix instead of sending it in to Canon for service because it’ll cost me at least $150 to fix, and if the quick fix is working, I don’t quite feel like parting with $150 (and possibly more) just for that. You can read about the discussion here.

November 15, 2006

Kitty Cat Diary Update

Filed under: Computers & Gadgets,My Life/Musings,Photography,Site News — Rob Chang @ 1:43 am

Kitty Cat Diary updated (this update contains a quick tip on black & white conversion for digital photography):
Kitty Cat Diary

Elena and I really need to get an exterior antenna for our GPS unit (Magellan Roadmate 860T), because whenever we drive to the city (that’s what we call San Francisco in the Bay Area–“the city”), the GPS gets totally confused since it can’t lock onto enough satellites with all the tall buildings in the way. Our nickname for the GPS unit is “Gou-gou” (“doggy” in Chinese) because it’s like our seeing-eye dog when we need directions, and when Gou-gou gets confused in the city, our positioning on the GPS map starts to “swim” all over the place, going through buildings and doing all kinds of impossible maneuvers. Holding it out the window helps, but that’s a terrible solution since you can’t really read the screen or hear the directions that way. Like all electronic gadgets, accessories for the GPS is expensive, but in this case, it’s probably worth it.

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