Ethereality News & Weblog

March 20, 2009

Choices, choices

Filed under: Film/TV/Animation,My Life/Musings,Video Games — Rob Chang @ 10:12 pm

I’ve been thinking long and hard about what long-term personal project to commit my time to next, and it’s really hard to decide. I have so many unfinished novels, screenplays, short films, paintings, graphic novels, music…etc and only one lifetime. I try not to judge the personal projects according to their commercial appeal, as my past experience have taught me that unless you enjoy it and do it for the love, you’ll never truly feel fulfilled. But the problem is that each project appeals to different sides of me, and when I enjoy them all equally, it’s not hard to see how it can be curse as much as it is a blessing. Maybe I need to sit down with the people I trust and pitch all of these different personal projects to them and see if they vote for a particular one more than others, and then dedicate the next few years of my life to complete just that one project.

I personally cannot stand games that don’t allow you to save whenever you need to save–especially when there’s a long stretch of combat and if you die towards the end you’ll have to start the mission all over again. I’m in the middle of such nonsense with Mass Effect right now and it’s driving me nuts, so I took a break and started on Fallout 3. I picked Fallout 3 as the game to tackle after Dead Space because it’s the highest rated Xbox 360 game to date, and remember I had mentioned in the past that sometimes I feel like an alien among humans because my taste just seems so different from everyone else–well, I really wanted to love Fallout 3, but ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! How can a game that has one of the most laughably bad animation, voice acting, and writing I’ve witnessed in a game in years rank so high on the critic’s list of top Xbox 360 games? Talk about cognitive dissonance! The ridiculously high scores in the reviews absolutely did not reflect the game I’ve been playing several hours into–not even close. If I wasn’t the type to believe that game publishers actually have enough power and money to buy off all the game review sites, I’d think that’s exactly what’s happened. I’m going to give the game a little bit more time, but I just don’t see what’s so great about it.

Quickie movie reviews:

Vicky Christina Barcelona – If there’s one thing I can say for sure about Woody Allen films is that they are at the very least entertaining and smarter than the average films out there. This one was OK, but not great. The one thing that I cannot get over while watching the film was that to date, I’ve seen plenty of movies with Scarlett Johanson in them, but the only film I’ve ever liked her acting in was Lost In Translation (which happens to be one of my favorite films). Other than that one film, she seems to behave in that same sterile, slightly wooden manner in all the other films.

March 10, 2009

Crossing the ocean again

Filed under: Audio & Music,Film/TV/Animation,My Life/Musings,Travel,Writing — Rob Chang @ 1:30 am

Elena and I will be flying back to the Bay Area later this month, and we’ll be staying for roughly six months while taking care of her naturalization procedures. I’m going to have to rely on my laptop rig again, and I don’t particularly like doing so since I can’t seem to stream samples off of a USB drive smoothly on the laptop, so I might be limited to working with synths only for the next six months. I’m also going to be without my guitars, basses, and drum kit, so my playing will probably degrade when I can’t practice for such a long time. I’ll also be without my trusty reference grade studio monitors or dual 24″ displays–oh the pain! To make it worse, I can’t just bring whatever the luggage can carry since we’ll be shopping and bringing back a lot of stuff with us when we return, so I can’t use up the space we’ll need. This means for music, I’ll just have the laptop, my Toneport UX2 audio interface, the Novation ReMote SL 25 MIDI controller, headphones, and external USB drive (not for samples since I can’t stream them smoothly on the laptop anyway). When I go on trips I also must bring my photography rig, so my Canon 1D Mark II and a few lenses will have to come as well. See–that already takes up my entire carry-on space, leaving the two luggage, and one will be filled with clothes, while the other will be the only space I have left for buying stuff in the next six months.

Most of the stuff I need to get and bring back are music production related, although I know I could never resist good books, so I’m sure I’ll be bringing back some books as well. I need to get two additional 2TB external hard drives since I’m running out of space again for archiving. I also need to get an 8-track multi-track recorder for when I want to record some quick ideas without turning on the DAW. I’d like to pick up a melodica as well, so I can have a keyboard instrument to play when there’s no access to electricity. I’d also like to bring home a guitar/bass multi-effects unit to use with the 8-track as well, although I need to find out in person just how good the included multi-effects are in the 8-tracks first (today’s 8-tracks all come with a suite of guitar/bass effects included, and sometimes even a basic drum machine). My drum kit also needs a hi-hat drop clutch for locking down the hi-hat during double bass pedal playing, and I still need to replace the missing connecting tube for my double bass pedal (lost it during our move to the new home). If possible, I’d also like to finally get that Zendrum I’ve wanted for years, though it’s certainly the most expensive item on my list and I may not be up for it (again). Oh man, will they even fit in one luggage?

On a kind of related note, something sort of traumatic happened today. I knocked an almost finished bowl of spicy noodle soup off the desk, and the remaining soup spattered all over my guitars, basses, drum kit, mics, stands, the floor…etc. It’s absolutely mind-blowing how far splattered liquid can travel–I was wiping it off the wall and floor roughly fifteen feet away from the impact point, and everything within 180 degree radius was splattered on. I was cleaning pieces of noodle and soup off my drum kit rack, pads, throne, the guitar/bass bodies, necks, frets, straps, strings, tuners, mic and guitar stands–everything. Cleaning off that oily spicy soup took forever, and I’m worried that I might have missed a spot and a giant drop of soup is still inside one of the metal parts in one of the guitars or basses, and by the time I get back in six months, it’ll have turned to rust.

I just finished Dead Space (took about 15+ hours total), and it was such a fun game. In general, I’m not a fan of big final boss fights because they can be very frustrating when you keep dying over and over. The final boss in Dead Space is a pain in the ass because at some point you’re dangled in mid-air and your aim is totally messed up–like your controller has malfunctioned–which is always annoying because all the skills you picked up over the entire course of the game all of a sudden is rendered useless. I tend to like the journey more than the conclusion, and the fact that most games have pretty lame endings makes it all the more true. I can say with certainty that Dead Space is one of the best games I’ve played in a long time, despite its derivative premise and design. Its got some unique innovations that I think will influence future games to come though, such as the GUI and the limb shooting.

I have noticed something really disturbing in the last few months–the quality of writing in online news like Yahoo News or AOL have gotten so bad that the spelling and grammar are now just appalling. To make it worse, some of the irrelevant and shallow crap that they “report” on is about as news worthy as the garbage in tabloids, and the writers are often ignorant of the very subject they write about, basing entire articles on subjective and opinionated rantings that are condescending and insulting. Is this them trying to cater to the lowest common denominator? Does anyone give a shit? And the kind of comments left by readers in those articles–you just have to wonder if the general population was always this stupid and irritating, or the worst ones just like to converge in the comment section of bad online news articles.

Quickie film and TV show reviews:

Dollhouse (first three episodes) – I’m a big fan of Joss Whedon, and for those of us who have been following his career, a new TV series is a very exciting thing. Unfortunately, this new TV series just isn’t very interesting. The unique brand of heart-warming yet hilarious bonding between characters that Whedon is known for are strangely missing, and in fact, there is almost no humor at all. That’s fine if the show is still compelling without the humor, but it isn’t. Once you are fully introduced to the premise, nothing else interesting happens. Eliza Dushku (who I never really cared much for in terms of looks or how she carries herself–she always seemed to me like a really masculine chick pretending to be feminine) gets assigned to a different assignment each episode, and that just doesn’t do it for me, as the individual assignments themselves aren’t all the interesting, and the ongoing story arc moves too slowly. The whole thing somehow felt dated compared to the kind of amazingly exciting TV shows we have been spoiled by in the last few years (Lost, Breaking Bad, Dexter, Battle Star Galactica, Heroes, Prison Break, The Wire, Entourage…etc). Even compared to Whedon’s own past TV shows (Buffy, Angel, Firefly), Dollhouse feels slow and lacks a creative signature that makes it unique. The writing and directing feels generic and lacks a sense of identity, which considering how unique Whedon’s creative voice is, makes it all that much more perplexing and disappointing.

On a side note, I’m not a fan of TV series that have self-contained episodes that have nothing to do with other episodes, except maybe with a little bit of a main story arc thrown in now and then. I think that kind of structure is dated and uninteresting because there is no cliff hanger at the end of each episode. I’m certain one of the reasons why recent TV shows have gotten so good is because TV networks embraced the continuing storyline format, and it has proven to be a great way to keep viewers interested. For those that missed episodes and didn’t want to jump in half-way, there are DVD’s now as well–something we didn’t really have in the past for TV shows. There’s also free viewing of back episodes online as well, so one can get caught up easily. I guess the reason I don’t like self-contained episodes is because they are largely irrelevant–you could miss an episode and you haven’t really missed out on much in the grand scheme of things. This isn’t to say I don’t like any TV show in that format, as some writers really pull it off and each episode is interesting on its own (such as Firefly), but majority of the time, it’s the multi-episode stories that are the most exciting.

Dexter Season 3
– I loved the first two seasons, and I was so disappointed by the first episode of season 3 that I stopped watching. Then Elena went ahead and watched all three seasons in one fell swoop and said that season 3 picks up later and gets really good as well, so I went ahead and picked up where I left off. Season 3 does take a while to get moving in terms of the “main” story arc, but once it did, things got exciting. The character Rita–I like her a lot. I’ve always liked really feminine and kind and sweet women (I mean, look at who I married, right?), and I could never understand why some men will go for the diva bitch. Maybe they mistake personality defects for excitement? Sweet and caring women can be exciting too–when they have a wicked sense of humor.

Righteous Kill – I always wanted to see Robert De Niro and Al Pacino do a film together that had them playing off of each other (instead of only a couple of very short scenes like in Heat–one of my favorite films). To my dismay, Righteous Kill just wasn’t a very good film, and it was a wasted opportunity. The two of them aren’t getting any younger and I suspect we’ll never see them together in the same film again after a disappointing one like this.

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