Ethereality News & Weblog

October 24, 2007

Happy Ending

NEWS:
A few of my paintings are featured in a new fantasy art collection titled Fantasy Art Now, written by Martin McKenna, with a foreward by Boris Vallejo.

WEBLOG:
Enchanted was a comic book series I created/wrote/illustrated for a few years in the mid-late 90’s. After all these years, I still get the odd email here and there asking me whether I’ll ever continue the series, and what happens to the characters. I just got an email about Enchanted the other day, and every time I do, I always wonder if I should revisit the Enchanted universe at some point.

Truth is, I stopped enjoying doing comics towards the end of my comic book career. I didn’t enjoy having to draw and paint the same things over and over, or all the stuff that I didn’t have an interest in but must anyway because the script called for it. For example, I enjoy depicting characters the most, but if I write a scene that involved the characters walking around in a busy city, then I’d have to illustrate all those damn buildings, hundreds of windows, various types of cars, traffic lights/signs, storefronts…etc over and over and over throughout the scene. You get the picture? Also at some point I figured out that art for me was a means to an end–the real passion for me lies in storytelling. As soon as I figured that out I no longer enjoyed doing comics, because I could just write and tell the stories I wanted to tell, instead spending all that time illustrating the imagery. Not that I don’t enjoy drawing and painting, just that I’d prefer to pick and choose what I wanted to draw and paint, not simply because the script demanded it.

Will I ever continue the Enchanted saga? I really have no idea.

Portal is one of the best games I’ve played in a very long time. Initially, I thought of Portal as a nifty little extra in the Orange Box lineup, but after playing it, Episode 2, and Team Fortress 2, I have to say that Portal was the one that stole my heart, and it alone was worth the price of admission. I thought it was going to be a challenging brain twister and that’s it, but Portal ended up being one of the funniest, creepiest, and cutest games I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing, not to mention one of the best ending credit songs ever. This game is a testament to the sheer brilliance of Valve’s storytelling. Portal could’ve been just an exercise in clever game mechanics (Valve hired the students who designed the original game, which was a student project), but Valve gave it a soul when they weaved their special brand of storytelling magic into the game. In my book, Portal is an instant classic and a masterpiece.

I was very disappointed by Auralex MoPADs. Based on all the recommendations that recording/musician-related magazines constantly give to their readers regarding the MoPADs, you’d think the damn things were the cat’s meow. Not so. Not by a long shot. If you’re interested in the details, read this thread that I started at recording.org.

So be warned–MoPADs will not necessarily do what Auralex claims. Do some math first before you waste your money like I did.

Some recent films I’ve watched:

Grindhouse – If you’re the type that can enjoy mindless fun every once a while, you’ll probably have a good time watching Grindhouse. I have to say, Rodriguez’s Planet of Terror was a lot more entertaining than Tarantino’s Death Proof, but in general I’ve always felt that Tarantino was by far the more talented one.

Knocked Up – Fun, but overrated IMO. Felt like they sometimes chose to put more jokes on the screen at the expense of more in-depth character development.

Transformers – It’s not really worth writing about, except to bash Michael Bay as a director, and that just gets old. If he had grown more as a storyteller/director, then maybe there’s something to write about, but it’s the same old jackhammering of all your senses during every moment, bombarding you with overly dramatic music even in irrelevant scenes, so that the audience can be lead through every scene by Bay’s iron claws at the nape of the neck. The best way to sum up Michael Bay’s directing is that he’s directing for people who are severely lacking in emotional intelligence, so he cranks everything up to 11–be it unnecessary use of slow-motion, unnecessary emphasis on shots that play no importance whatsoever to the story development or even the scene at hand with close-ups, inappropriately dramatic music, and pointless dramatic lighting.

In the end, it’s all mindless fun anyway I guess–hot chick, robots kicking each other’s ass–maybe we should all stop expecting Michael Bay to one day become a filmmaker with depth and maturity. The man likes to make disposable entertainment, so maybe that’s all we should ever expect from him.

Surf’s Up – When I did work for Surf’s Up, I thought Chicken Joe was the ugliest thing ever. But now that I’ve finally watched it, I think he’s actually my favorite character in the story. My buddy Chris is a lot like Chicken Joe, so it was hard not to like Joe. Overall I enjoyed the film a lot, as it was not the typical pop-culture joke laden fare with talking animals that we’ve all become impatient with by now. The humor felt a lot more genuine, and the pseudo documentary approach was very refreshing. The surfing scenes were just stunningly gorgeous–Sony’s animation department kicked ass on the CG work.

Spiderman 3 – I was never a fan of this franchise, but I watch films like this simply to keep up-to-date with the current CG quality bar. Not much to say except films like this are more or less disposable entertainment (although at a level that’s less insulting to the audience’s emotional intelligence than Michael Bay films).

Ocean’s Thirteen – I didn’t like this one as much as the previous two. It just wasn’t as clever, thrilling, or humorous as the previous films.

A couple of TV shows worthy mentioning:
How I Met Your Mother – My brother Dennis recommended this show to me, and it’s one of my favorite shows now. Really good sitcom writing is hard to find–most sitcoms may get one chuckle out of me in an entire episode–if even that. How I Met Your Mother is far funnier than most sitcoms in rotation currently, and are obviously written by writers that are young, hip, and with the kind of wicked sense of humor I identify with.

Kid Nation – I have a basic dislike for reality shows in general, but I admit that they can be compelling during moments when the people involved forget the camera crew is there, and display something genuinely profound in the way they interact with another human being. I knew this show would have that “Lord of the Flies” appeal in some aspects, so I gave it a shot. Now it’s one of my favorite shows because I find that children are just less pretentious than adults due to lesser control over their emotions, and they are less likely to do what is “expected of them” on camera (even if it’s simply because they don’t really understand what people will expect of them). When children get worked up, they’re a lot less likely to care about the presence of a camera crew, and you really see their true colors come through. The show may be a bit too controlled to be truly interesting, but it’s understandable that the producers couldn’t possibly have allowed a “Lord of the Flies” scenario–that would’ve been too disturbing and too uncontrolled.

And of course, I never miss an episode of The Office. Jim and Pam forever!

I read W. Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge recently. It started out a bit disappointing, but became more compelling as you start to care about Larry’s spiritual journey. The excessive description of high-class society and its parties got a bit tiresome, as the novel could’ve maintained its full impact without all those descriptions of inconsequential characters that are mentioned only as scene dressing, and then never mentioned again. It’s as if Maugham was afraid that the readers will forget what a society snob Elliot was, and has to keep reminding us at every opportunity. In the end, the book’s insight into religion and spirituality was fairly basic, and as a human drama, lacked poignancy to have left a strong impression. I’ve always wanted to read something by Maugham, and now I have. Can’t say it has compelled me to want to read any more of his works though.

Many years ago, I had written about Mary Kay Letourneau’s case in the editorial section of one of the issues of Enchanted, and it caused Enchanted to be banned in one of the states (can’t remember which one, but I think it’s one of the southern states). Essentially, I had expressed sympathy for the couple, as I felt it was not a typical case of child rape, as the circumstances were very different from what we usually think of as child rape criminal cases. I’m not going to discuss the details of the case since you can easily find all the details online. Anyway, I have not kept up with the case for a couple of years, and I’m very happy to find out that after Mary Kay finished her sentence (seven years later), the two were still very much in love and are now married.

I was going to write a lengthy vent on how one-size-fits-all law systems will always cause injustices as there will always be exceptions that defy categorization and generalization, but I think this is something either you agree or don’t agree with, depending on your personal dispositions.

When I try to rationalize all the reasons why I was/am on May Kay and Vili’s side, I can see obvious mirroring in my own life that makes me sympathetic to their case. My first serious girlfriend was nine years older than me, and I was a minor at the time (I was seventeen). At no time during our relationship did the factor of age ever come up, except when early on I asked her if she cared that I was so much younger. Her reply was, “No, I think of you as someone my age–in fact you seem older than me in many ways.” It was a relationship as normal as any other, and the idea that she could’ve gone to jail based on a technicality just doesn’t sit well with me. I’ve also had friends who were certainly precocious and displayed far more maturity and wisdom than some of the adults I knew, and they were treated badly by adults that were inferior human beings in every way. I was a precocious kid myself, and I certainly knew what the hell I wanted and had far more conviction in my life’s goals than most adults around me, so I can understand very well why Mary Kay did not see Vili as a typical thirteen-year old (the fact he was artistically talented resonated with me as well). There was also a point in my life where I was in love with a teacher, and we were very close and shared a deep bond (I was sixteen, and she was thirty-five). I was asked to go live with her and her family in Japan, and I really wanted to, except it didn’t feel right to intrude as she had two daughters and was in an unhappy marriage. Instinctively I knew if I had accepted her offer, it would’ve lead to a lot of drama, and I just couldn’t disrupt her life like that. But other than my own life experiences making me predisposed to taking Mary Kay and Vili’s side, is probably the fact that deep down inside, I’ve always been an idealist and romantic, and I’ve always felt that the legal system for the most part is flawed (thought I understand the need for the law to treat everyone the same, even when we are so different from one another). Whether Mary Kay and Vili’s marriage is a successful one that lasts a lifetime remains to be seen, but at this point, it’s no longer important because how many people’s “normal” marriages are successful anyway? The fact that after all the tears and hardship they still remained together and got married is enough, and for me, the curtain is drawn here, and it’s a happy ending in my book.

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