Elena and I watched the 4-hour opening ceremony for 2008 Summer Olympics held in Beijing. We were unsure if something bad was going to happen–some kind of politically related violence, fatal accident from weak structural integrity of the the ‘Bird’s Nest” stadium, or some kind of technical glitch. When the ceremony ended without incident, we both breathed a sigh of relief. The ceremony itself was essentially a celebration and display of Chinese cultural and its contribution to the rest of the world in inventing paper, printing, gun powder, the compass, movable type…etc. The show also emphasized cutting-edge technology and merged high-tech media with human performances. Of course, everything was symbolic and signified China’s wish to advance forward on the global stage. The performances were tightly orchestrated and the scale was impressive (it was all directed by Zhang Yimou, so if you know his films, you could make the connection easily), but ultimately felt contrived and lacking in sincerity. After all, how can you sincerely say you want harmony when you place human rights and freedom at such a low place in your country’s priorities? And make no mistake, beneath the surface of all the glitter, is a firm message from China’s government, and it is simply this: “Don’t Fuck with us. We are willing to spend as much money and manpower as we need to in order to get something done, and we will outdo all of you by sheer size and force. We are the culture that built the Great Wall, and don’t you ever forget it.”
Steven Spielberg was initially an artistic advisor for the ceremony, but eventually quit in protest to China’s lack of action against Sudan’s act of genocide in Darfur. Ai Weiwei, the co-designer of the “Bird’s Nest,” had distanced himself from the Beijing Olympics due to disappointment with the Chinese government and has since been very vocal in his criticism of the Chinese government in his blog. He describes China’s Olympics as a “pretend smile,” and his blog entry about the opening ceremony is particularly scathing (in Chinese only, but maybe you can use Babel Fish to translate the gist of the entry). Then of course, there are the Tibet-related protests that’s plagued the torch passing since day one.
Political elements in the Olympics are nothing new, and has always been part of Olympics history. I commented to Elena that sports is usually the one human endeavor that could bring all races and nations and religions together since it’s all about the physical abilities of human beings, whereas art, entertainment, science…etc all are closely tied with politics, culture, religion, and so on. Obviously, the 2008 Beijing Olympics has been one enshrouded in political issues since the very beginning, as most of the world sees China’s motives as hypocritical. On one hand China wants the world to think it is ready to become a modern country that believes in peace, harmony, brotherhood, and so on, but on the other hand, its track record for human rights has always been a point of severe criticism for the rest of the world, and its citizens for the most part are typically racist, to the point where they had to be instructed to not make jeering gestures at the Japanese during the games.
I personally have mixed feelings about everything I see in China. On one hand I’m known for being very critical about China, but on the other hand, I am Chinese and I’m only critical because I think China can be so much more than what it currently is. I believe in the deep and beautiful cultural heritage, but I despise the modern politics, corruption, lack of human rights, censorship, hubris, and the resulting social climate that birthed generations of people where the majority are apathetic, dishonest, selfish, materialistic, and have terrible work ethic. I write about them because I want to see change, and in my daily life in China I try to help foster change in ways that are not condescending or condemning, but appealing to reason and a sense of moral obligation. Some people will see this as typical American elitist attitude, with me thinking that an American upbringing makes me superior somehow, but I don’t see it that way. I can be just as critical of U.S. foreign policies, it’s puritanical insanity when dealing with the media and news, and other embarrassing aspects of American culture. It is as I wrote in the “About Me” section of this site–”We are only human, fragile and flawed, but in our moments of radiance we are capable of such profound beauty. It is those moments of radiance that makes this life worth living.” I don’t think a person should be labeled as an elitist or “holier than thou” for speaking out. I’m the first one to admit my own faults and in my daily life I strive to become a better human being. We are all in this together and we should help each other grow and become the best version of ourselves. If no one speaks out, what kind of a world would we be living in?
The construction on our new home and my new home recording studio is about to kick into high gear, as we’re pretty much done with all the material shopping and picking out of tiles, cabinets, sinks, bathtub…etc. At this point, all the plumbing, electrical wiring, and interior walls are done, and they have started to lay down some of the tiles already.
It’s been a real struggle trying to figure out the best sound isolation design for the studio, and often the more research you do, the more confused you get, since there are conflicting opinions, false information, obscure resources…etc when using the internet. You also have to be very patient because asking for help in forums can sometimes take a while to get a response that’s actually the kind of answer you could base decisions on. I mentioned before that I have a few books on the subject, and the luckily the author of one of them, Rod Gervais, is a moderator at recording.org, and he’s been quite helpful in answer questions and offering suggestions.
Apparently, high-rise apartments aren’t the best thing for building a home studio, since your concrete floor can only take so much weight, and to properly isolate from air-borne and structural noise, you need a lot of mass, and you need to decouple the isolation floor from the existing concrete one. I’ve been researching and designing for months and months now, and I think I’m getting close to a final design that’ll be approved by the experts that frequent the internet forums.
In the last entry I mentioned the possibility of maybe joining some friends in getting a plot of land to grow our own food, but after some inquiries, it’s simply impractical and too expensive, even if we rent the plot of land. I guess we just have to be extra careful when we navigate the often dangerous world of locally produced food products. My digestive system has always been bad whenever I lived in China. It was bad when I last lived here from 2001 to 2005, and now after almost three months of being here again, all the problems are now back. The last time I had gone to see medical specialists numerous times, but nothing really helped, and I’m wary of what the road ahead would bring.
I’ve always been on the lookout for a good data backup system and efficient yet powerful music librarian over the years, and I think by now I’ve finally settled on two products. In the past I went through numerous commercial and free software, and now I’ve settled on:
Usov Lab Allway Sync (free) (data sync and backup) – I used to use Ghost, but I hated the fact the backing up had to be done offline, and often when dealing with removable drives it was problematic. Also, I hated having to write the entire disk image over every time, so I looked into a software that did online file synchronization and allowed customization for deletion prompt, bi-directional sync, file and folder filters, and so on. I found it in Allway Sync, and I’m really happy with it right now. I’ve been using Allway Sync for about a year now, and it’s actually a free product, until you use it beyond the allowed amount for free usage. I finally decided that I had tested the software enough to have full confidence in it, and ended up paying for a professional license. Now I have over a dozen customized sync jobs setup, and I can sync any folder, file, or directory with a single click (provided you setup the details of the sync). Highly recommended!
J. River Media Jukebox (free) (music librarian) – This is also a free software, but has no limited to usage and completely free. The Media Jukebox is essentially the “lite” version of J. River’s Media Center, which does all media types like video and images and internet TV…etc. The Jukebox is just the music portion of Media Center, and for me, that’s really all I need since I don’t have too much use for a video and image librarian. I use ACDSee Pro in conjunction with XnView (freeware) for my image librarian and I haven’t really felt the need for a video librarian just yet, but I may, since I keep downloading youtube videos of musical performances and it starts to get confusing when there are too many of them. I think I’d at least want a star-rating system for my video collection. If you know a nice freeware that can do it, please contact me.
Oh yeah, back to why I love Media Jukebox. First of all, it’s free, and that’s amazing considering how freaking powerful and efficient and fast it is. I have gone through all the main music librarians that techie geeks rave about–foobar, Winamp, Jet Audio, Deliplayer, itunes, Quintessential Player, Windows Media Player, Creative Play Center, Real One, dBpowerAMP–you name it, I probably have tested it. My main criteria for a good music librarian are the following:
-Number of file formats recognized
-Most flexible sorting methods and search options (by filepath, genre, artist, album, duration, bitrate, file type, rating, replay gain, custom field…etc)
-Advance features (volume match, track information display, tag editing, BPM analyzation, smart playlists, customization of view and color scheme…etc)
-Fast response when searching, navigating various screens, sorting huge collections, operating playback controls…etc.
-Reliable. No crashes and no glitches.
-Intuitive. Does not require digging into the help files to learn about its features.
Over the years, the only software that contained most of the features and qualities I’m after was J. River’s Media Center, and when they released the free version, Media Jukebox, I jumped on it, since I never went as far as to buy Media Center as I didn’t need all its other features outside of music. Media Jukebox is very flexible, powerful, and reliable depending on what’s on your machine (I have it installed on two machines, and on one of them it’s rock solid, and on the other it’s flaky and crashes often, but I’m pretty sure it’s because of the machine). J. river’s products contain all the features and qualities I listed above, and I just can’t stand using anything else now that I’ve gotten so used to the speed, power, and all those features. If you are serious about your music collection, you owe it to yourself to give J. River Media Jukebox or Media Center a spin–they’ll most likely convert you into a loyal user.
Quickie movie review:
Mission to Mars – I actually have seen this film years ago when it first came out, but for the life of me could not remember the majority of the plot, and ended up watching it again to refresh my memory. To me, Brian De Palma is one of those directors who makes films that are either hit or miss, never in the middle. After watching Mission to Mars again, I’m in disbelief that I could have forgotten such a story, since it’s quite idealistic and beautiful in its message, and actually very different from what you’d think of as a De Palma film. I’d recommend it to anyone that is a fan of similar films like 2001: A Space Odessey and Contact.