Ethereality News & Weblog

December 29, 2006

Changing colors

NEWS:
Autumn colors (part 2):

During the first two weeks of December, Elena and I noticed the colors of the trees in our neighborhood was changing rapidly–every time we go out, they’d look different (and absolutely gorgeous). We made a point to observe the weather condition everyday starting around noon. If by 3:30 PM the sun is still visible (instead of behind clouds), we’d grab our cameras and head out for about an hour and shoot all the beautiful trees in our neighborhood. We did it about five times in the span of two weeks, and managed to capture some great photos of the trees in various stages of changing colors.

I’ve mentioned doing repaints for dolls in the past, and I’m now getting a bit more serious about it. Here’s a recent one I completed (click on picture to see the details):

The heads look like this before the face-up (paint job):
blank head

My buddy Emory runs a great place called Junkyspot for anyone who’s interested in BJD (Ball Jointed Dolls).

Kitty Cat Diary updated:

WEBLOG:
Elena and I watched Children of Men today, and I really liked it. It’s probably one of the best films I’ve seen in a while, and I was just blown away by the sheer talent of the director and the cinematographer. There were some scenes that had me at the edge of my seat, and there were moments that made me think “That was a great camera move!” or “What a great job on the writing for that scene!” I was very impressed by how Alfonso CuarĂ³n was able to establish the history and intimacy between Clive Owen and Julian Moore’s characters with so few scenes, yet the bond he creates by having that ping-pong ball scene in the car was totally effective and sets up the tragedy immediately later to be very powerful. Some of the chaotic combat sequences were just thrilling, without being overly flashy, yet very meticulously worked out in long takes. If you haven’t seen it, definitely check it out.

I participate in quite a few forums, and anyone who spends time on forums know that at one point or another, you’ll get drawn into a flame-war or two. I typically try to be as diplomatic and civilized as I can force myself to be, because heated discussions spin out of control if everyone just lose their tempers. I love participating in forums because it allows me to get to know people from all around the world, in all walks of life–people I would never bump into under normal circumstances in real life, yet, we all share similar passions and have similar dreams; however, I do hate it when real jerks ruin the fun for everyone by being overtly belligerent. People like that will resort to name-calling, personal attacks, and essentially behaving like angry little children–it’s not pretty when it happens. After being involved with numerous forums over the years, I’ve learned to keep an open mind, try to put myself in the shoes of others, and approach discussions by addressing both sides of opposing views. I still find it hard to be totally neutral and unbiased, simply because I am human and have emotions and opinions, but the older I get, the better I’ve learned to control myself.

In a recent thread at cgtalk.com (where I’m a Forum Leader), the topic of photorealism came up again, and it’s something that generates a lot of heated debates in most art communities. I used to waste a lot of breath arguing for the side of painterly works against photorealism, because I just prefer paintings that look like paintings instead of being indistinguishable from a photograph. Now at this point in my life, I’m learning to be more tolerant and try to be more receptive to things that aren’t necessarily my preference. The reply I made in that thread probably sums up my current mentality the best (the background of the thread is that there was a previous thread of the same topic from a long time ago, where heated debate went on for pages and pages regarding photorealism and airbrushed art):

Are we doing this again? Wasn’t the last thread about this long enough?

I’m at a point in my life right now where I see things in a very different light, essentially taking a big step back and looking at the world as the big picture, instead of having my nose so close to something where I lose objectivity.

This is my current stance on the matter (and all related matters):

1) The world is gigantic place, and there’s room for all kinds of people and all kinds of tastes. Even if you feel you have better taste/judgement than others, it’s most likely you’re out numbered anyway, as the majority of the human population have uninformed pedestrian tastes, and they really couldn’t care less about the subtleties, politics, struggles, and achievements in your given industry or chosen craft. Does this mean you’re right and they’re wrong? Not really if you go by popularity as the criteria. What about using authority as the criteria? Well, if you’ve been to a lot of museums, particularly modern art museums, you’ll see that just because someone’s a curator or have a masters degree in fine arts does not necessarily mean this person have talent or taste.

2) With the above established, the only thing I care about is if there are other people like me, with similar tastes, and if the things we collectively love have a lifespan in our industry or chosen craft (because it would be a shame if what we loved can’t survive in our world, while the stuff we detest flourishes and become successful). Fortunately, as obscure as some of my favorite artists, musicians, writers, filmmakers, photographers..etc are, there will always be some that have “made it” and established themselves as successful creative minds in their chosen craft. That, makes me feel reassured that the guys that represent my personal taste is out there, getting exposure, and thus generating more people who might like the same things I do. This makes me happy, because I love sharing my passions with others with similar tastes.

3) We all have the right to make a living with our passions, talents..etc. It doesn’t matter if you think someone is a hack, or a certain style is wack, or a particular medium is worthless..etc, because there will always be an audience out there for all styles and all levels of talent. Live and let live. Different strokes for different folks. Just be grateful that the stuff you like DO exist in this world, and IS reprented somehow. Maybe the stuff you like doesn’t get nearly as much exposure or success, and you feel there’s an injustice, but guess what? It’s been like that since the beginning of human civilization. The mainstream will always dominate, and the “Rubes” will always be the majority.

4) Even people with good taste and talent are often forced to do things they can take no pride in, for the simple fact that we all need to make a living. Cut everyone some slack.

5) Just surround yourself with the things you love, people you care for, and let everybody else live their own life and have their own taste.

And that’s all I have to say about these types of topics at this point in my life.

Peace out.

The original thread can be seen here.

December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Filed under: My Life/Musings — Rob Chang @ 6:19 pm

WEBLOG:
Merry Christmas everyone! Here’s a little Christmas greeting from Kitty Cat:

Kitty cat Christmas Wish

kitty cat 534

kitty cat 535

December 10, 2006

Are you tone-deaf?

Filed under: Audio & Music,Film/TV/Animation,My Life/Musings,Photography — Rob Chang @ 2:26 pm

WEBLOG:
Are you tone-deaf? You can take a test and find out here.

I scored high (91.7, if I remember correctly) (see scores from other composers at the Northern Sound Source forum), and it makes sense since I’m a musician/composer. If the test had allowed replay of each segment during the test, I’d likely have scored 100%, since concentration is probably the hardest part of the test (the segments can be very long and at a fast tempo). Elena scored very low (I’m not even going to say what the number was), and even upon replaying the failed questions at the very end, she still can’t tell whether a segment had the same or different notes. I can’t even imagine how low my mom or my brother Dennis would score, since Elena can at least hum in tune, while mom and Dennis can’t do it to save their lives.

Posted some recent family/friend photos. Yeah, these are boring to the people who don’t know anyone in your life, so if you don’t know the people in my life, skip them and move down to the next section.

My bud Emory’s B-day photos, taken at Gulliver’s in Burlingame, CA.

My brother Dennis had his first kid a couple months ago.

When people think about California, they think about the sunshine and the beaches, but as Elena discovered in the last several days, the autumn leaves are quite beautiful as well. For a few days last week, we’d go for a drive around 4 PM and then snap a ton of photos of all the nearby autumn colors. Why 4 PM you ask? Well, any photographer worth his salt knows that late afternoons and early mornings are two of the best time slots for shooting scenery, since the sun creates a dramatic golden glow at a very distinct angle for beautiful shadows and sunlit spots. Click on the picture to see the whole set:

These autumn leaves inspired Elena to start a blog of her own. Unfortunately, it’s in Chinese only.

Some mini-film reviews from recent viewings:

l’enfant (The Child) – This film is so similar in tone to Rosetta, a previous film that Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne worked on, that I can’t help but feel like they are retreading familiar waters. The moral of the story is quite similar (misfit committing a bad deed, but don’t feel remorse until the very end of the film–it’s all very existentialist a la Crime and Punishment, and frankly, a bit simple for today’s cinematic climate). The film itself isn’t bad at all, but having seen Rosetta years ago, this one just feels too similar.

Millennium Actress – I enjoyed this Japanese animated feature film, although it didn’t blow me away or anything. Breaking down the 4th wall in a film is usually interesting by default because you don’t see it often, and in the case of Millennium Actress, it’s done with a sense of humor, so the feat was both interesting and funny. The message of the film I can relate to (the journey is more rewarding than the destination), since I often feel that way when I’m doing something creative or simply out and about.

Tokyo Godfathers – Another animated feature film from Japan, and it was entertaining and heart-warming, but like the previous film, didn’t blow me away (then again, to be fair, it’s been a long time since I’ve been blown away by any Japanese animation. The last title I loved probably goes all the way back to Cowboy Bebop). The ridiculous number of coincidences in this film is something you have to just accept as a storytelling device that drives the plot, and if you can’t accept it, then you probably won’t enjoy the film.

Thank You For Smoking – Entertaining enough, but lacking the kind of impact I expect from these types of films. Even for a social satire, I expect some kind of emotional or moral resonance, but I never felt the main character was faced with any relevant conflict that would create enough tension for the film to make an impact.

The New World – This is probably highly subjective, but I think Terrence Malick is one of the most pretentious directors in film today, and all the monologues narrated by his characters feel heavy handed, contrived, bland, and annoyingly enigmatic. If he just cut back on all the pretentious narrations, he’d improve his films by ten folds immediately.

The Interpreter – The plot wasn’t anything I’d write home to anyone about, but Sydney Pollack is a good director, and the execution of the film is technically well done. This might sound a bit shallow, but I think the thing I enjoyed the most about the film is probably how beautiful Nicole Kidman looked in it. Although Kidman is the kind of woman that leaves me cold, it’s hard to deny that she’s a stunning beauty physically.

Heartbreakers – I love Sigourney Weaver as an actress, but I think in this role, it’s stretching it a bit. They should’ve gone with someone who’s physically more of a conventional beauty (not that Weaver is hard on the eyes–it’s just hard to sell her as some stunning middle-aged femme fatale). Acting-wise, there’s nothing to complaint about though–I think Weaver is an underrated comedy actor (she’s more than proved herself in Galaxy Quest). Why have I not mentioned Jennifer Love Hewitt? Well, what else can you say about her besides her being a tight little package? She’s never proven herself as a noteworthy actress, and all the roles she played have more to do with her cleavage (not that I’m complaining) than anything else. I always enjoy seeing Ray Liotta on screen, although I think it’s too bad he’s been typecasted ever since Goodfellas.

Last Days – I usually like Gus Van Sant, even when he’s going way out there doing his artsy thing (for example, I liked Elephant), but this one just didn’t work for me. It takes a very similar approach to Elephant, but lacks the genuine sincerity that I feel Elephant has. It’s also a far less coherent film compared to Elephant.

The 6th Day – Some of the film critics I respect gave this film a positive review, so I went for it. I couldn’t believe just how lame some of the dialogues were (for example, the one about the media don’t need more depictions of violence). For me, Arnie has lost all credibility as an actor (not that he was a real “actor” in the first place, and I bet that lame dialogue was his idea), and I guess it’s a good thing he picked up politics instead.

Gotti – Good story (this is the real life story that Goodfellas was based on), but I thought the directing was very vanilla. If this film had been directed by one of the more stylish auteur directors, it would’ve been a much better film.

The Fog (remake) – I only watched it for Maggie Grace, because I think she was really cute in Lost (despite the character’s outward prima donna personality), and I couldn’t even make it through the first third of the film. This is probably one of the worst films I’ve seen in a long time–horrible directing and writing–not in an incompetent way, but in an utterly ineffective and bland way.

Blonde (TV mini-series) – I don’t now just how much artistic license they took with the life of Marilyn Monroe, but the series was average. I think they way they glossed over the whole JFK connection was a cop out–I rather they’d have gone off the deep end Oliver Stone style and just boldly said “Yeah, this is what we think happened–that Monroe was murdered by the government, instead of hinting at it. Face it, if it wasn’t for her mysterious death, Marilyn Monroe probably would’ve been forgotten long ago.

I had posted the first English panel that Olivia had at the PMX before, and I was already very giddy about that. Now, someone has posted the private press conference as well, and it’s got much better video and sound. I find it a little odd that Olivia’s not very articulate, and I don’t think shyness has anything to do with it. She seems to be a lot more articulate with her song lyrics, which I’m sure is how she prefers to express herself.

Olivia private press conference at PMX:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Now I’ll leave you with a little raunchy joke–something that happened today.

Elena gave me a vitamin B pill and told me to swallow it for the sake of combating stress (we’ve both been very stressed out lately). I asked her, “For combating stress, is it a specific type of vitamin B–like B12, B6, or as long as it’s a B, it’ll work?” Elena then proceeds to read off all the types of B complex that the bottle contained. When she was finished, I asked, “Does is also contain your mama’s B?” She just about died. (The joke is that in Chinese slang, B stands for vagina, and one of the most common swearing phrases that people throw around is “Your mama’s B!”)

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