I should probably mention that in the next couple of months, the online workshop I’ll be teaching will start to accept applications. The course title is “Creating Compelling Images: Critical knowledge and techniques for today’s artists.” Essentially, the workshop is the distillation of the most important things I’ve ever learned as an artist to date, and if I could travel back in time to teach my younger self for only two months, this is the stuff I’d teach him/me.
The very last bit of work has been finished for our new home, and it is finally complete! The up’s and down’s we went through during the last six months could only be described as dramatic, and just when you think you had it figured out, something explodes or breaks or leaks or falls apart. This is just how things are in China–every person that deals with contractors goes through what we went through–the lies, the empty promises, the lack of standard for quality, the substandard materials, the complete lack of acceptable workmanship…etc. But we stuck to our guns and demanded nothing less than what we paid for and deserves, and we mostly got what we wanted, with a few minor compromises we had to make.
Last time I posted photos of the new studio, and now it’s time for photos of the rest of the new home. If you just want to look at a some photos, then the ones shown below will do. If you want to look at all the photos (including ones during the construction phase, and also the the insanely epic Century Gate) along with commentary, then look here.
Living room and study:
How the studio looks with normal lighting (last time I posted colored LED lighting):
I still cannot get Mass Effect to run on my PC, and I’m going to stop trying for now, and will wait and see if EA ever releases another patch that addresses the problem. At this point, this is the straw that broke the camel’s back–I’m going to abandon the PC as a gaming platform because I just don’t have the patience to deal with buggy game releases anymore at this point in my life.
I just got over a cold a few weeks ago and now I’m sick again. Very annoying. I looked around online for sore throat/cough remedies, and it seems that chili pepper powder is very popular these days as a remedy. I decided to give it a try (since the typical menthol lozenges don’t work all that well), and I was surprised that it really worked. I felt so much better, and the pain went away fast. Here’s my mixture:
I don’t even bother measuring–I just dump a small mound of the chili pepper into a mug, add about half a mug of warm water, and if I want extra strength, I add vinegar and lemon juice and honey as well. The effect it has on me is similar to boiling ginger root with brown sugar. It numbs the pain, improves circulation, and makes me feel all fuzzy inside. I prefer the taste of the ginger stuff though, but it’s a bit more of a hassle to make.
One afternoon I was in the rest room, and a funny thing happened–something that demonstrated to me just how much some musicians crave to work together. I was in the rest room, and I heard someone playing jazz piano from the window, and this person was really, really good. The playing would go on for a bit then stop, and then later pick up again. I was so surprised because the likelihood of finding such an advanced jazz pianist in a city like Fuzhou is pretty slim, and I started to think of ways I could track this person down so I could make friends. I also started thinking about what type of projects I’d like to collaborate with the person. Then I got out of the rest room and went back into my studio–and I burst out laughing. Apparently, I had clicked on a website before going into the restroom, and it was streaming a track from a legendary jazz pianist. The streaming wasn’t fast enough, so it would play a bit, and then buffer a bit, and then play a bit more. It was a live recording, so the ambiance was different from a studio recording, and the music traveled from the windows of the studio, around the building, and into the bathroom on the other side. I guess I was right–no way a jazz pianist that good would be in a city like Fuzhou, unless he was just passing through visiting someone.
I mentioned before that our In-Ear-Monitors were destroyed by faulty airline headhphone adapters, so it was only a matter of time before we purchased replacements. This time around, we did not go with the same models/brands as previous choices because I’m always on the look out for better bang for the buck. For Elena, we replaced her destroyed Denon AH-C351 with JVC HA-FX34 “Marshmallows” (Red). Since the Denon’s are destroyed, I really can’t make direct comparisons between them, but overall I’d say the JVC’s are quite good for the price range. The fit is comfortable, and the sound quality is good enough if you’re not after audiophile quality. Elena is really not that much into music at all, so she’ll only be using the JVC’s for when we are flying and watching movies on the plane. For myself, I’ve decided to get the recently released Westone 3 after doing a ton of research (especially reading user reviews at head-fi.org). I have no doubt it’ll be a significant improvement over my now destroyed Shure E4C.
I’ve been brainstorming ideas about a post apocalyptic zombie story, and I’m now finally starting to write it. I’ve always been a fan of the genre since I first watched Night of the Living Dead as a kid, and I think there’s still room for exploration, especially taking a more literary angle instead of following typical genre fiction conventions. I always felt that no premise is inherently unfit for serious literary efforts–the difference is in whether the author wants to dive that deep.
I might post finished chapters as I finish them, and once I have enough I’d start sending it out to publishers to get a feel for its marketability. If no one wants it, I’ll just post the whole thing for free.
I’ve mentioned my plan to built a custom computer isolation box before, and after getting used to this new studio space, I realized there isn’t enough room for the kind of design I want, so I went ahead and simplified the idea down to the bare minimum, which as you see, is no longer a box. They are now iso panels with 4″ glassfiber wrapped in burlap and fixed onto wooden boards, and I simply slide them out of the way when I need to access the computer. They cut the noise down significantly, but not completely. Since it’s not a full enclosure, the computers don’t heat up that much, and even if they do heat up, I only need to make the gaps bigger to get more air in and out. Overall I’m quite happy with this solution. Best part is, it’s very cheap and simple to make!
The front/left side:
The back/right side:
Simply slide them out of the way to access the computers:
Low tech solution to secure the panels together:
Quickie film reviews:
Lion For Lambs – I don’t think I’ve ever disliked a film with Robert Redford in it (and it has nothing to do with the fact that my mother named me after him), and this one’s no exception. The screenplay was good, but the main problem with the film is that it is too preachy, and ultimately felt like a college course about social duties in cinematic form. The actors did what they could to make the screenplay sound natural, but there were moments that were just too neat, too clean, and fits too well into bite-sized chunks of infotainment.
Night Skies – This one ended up being better than I expected, although it was definitely shoestring budget production. The dialogues were pretty believable, and the pacing was effective, although the cheap production took its toll. The girl that played the lead female (A.J. Cook) was pretty darn cute in the film, and when I looked her up online, her photos didn’t look as attractive (though to be fair, real life lighting situations rarely competes with cinematic lighting).
This is something I’ve noticed a lot–actresses in their real lives don’t necessarily have the taste to style themselves in ways that make them look as attractive as some of the roles they played. I’m not even talking about impeccable makeup or fancy dresses–sometimes the roles are just simple casual clothes and basic hair styles, with minimum makeup. The problem is, often an actresses was absolutely adorable and elegant in a role, and then you see the actress in real life dressed like a tramp with caked on makeup that just destroys all the things that were beautiful about her face, and the way she carries herself simply just lack any of the elegance and grace that the characters she played had. I remember being very disappointed by Madeleine Stowe and Andy McDowell years ago when I saw them on talk shows–they were kind of coarse, tacky, and graceful is not the word I’d use to describe their demeanor.
Undead – I tried watching this one years ago and I hated it so much that I turned it off before getting too far. I have since then read some glowing reviews of the film from zombie fans, and I thought I’d give it another shot. No go. I still hate it, and I still can’t make it past the first half of the film. I’m generally not a fan of horror + comedy + camp mixtures, and it would take a really special writer/director to change my mind (such as Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead). Undead just was simply bordering on idiotic, and the humor just wasn’t my cup of tea.
In A Dark Place – I have low tolerance for crappy horror films because it’s really not that hard to scare the living daylights out of someone. In my opinion, if a writer or director can’t even make an effective horror film, then he’s really got not business making any films at all. Needless to say, this film was really bad. It’s actually a rare occurrence for me to see the lack of talent in a director when I watch a film, but in this case, it was just blatantly obvious.
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor – This one was actually OK as a mindless popcorn flick. It’s not going to be on anyone’s favorite films of all time lists, but for an hour and half of entertainment it was worth the time spent watching it. I read some online comments at imdb.com from people who complained about Isabella Leong’s bad English and I wonder what the hell they’re talking about. Her English was perfectly fine–far better than any American actor I’ve ever seen trying to speak Chinese on camera.
Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior – I’m not even going to bother. I have no idea why I watched it. Maybe because I didn’t have to pay for it?