Recently there’s been two new additions to our household.
A friend’s of Elena’s cousin wanted to give away her cats and dog because she just went through a divorce and is about to do some traveling to see her son abroad. She had a male American Shorthair that Elena had met before and took photos of, and she asked if we wanted to take him. But in the last couple of months, there’s been a new female cat in her house that really bonded with him and she didn’t want to tear them apart, so we took both cats. She had given them really generic and dorky Chinese names that had no meaning and reflected nothing about their personalities or appearance, so we renamed them Prowler (because he’s muscular and alert) and Muriel (after the 19th Century ethereal beauty that was the favorite model of Neoclassist painter J.W. Waterhouse, because she’s such a striking beauty). The previous owner told us that Muriel is Persian, but I suspect she doesn’t know much about cats and have never done any research about how to care for cats and the idiosyncrasies of each breed. Muriel looks nothing like a Persian to me because she doesn’t have the flat face of the Persian breed. If anything, I think she’s probably a Turkish Angora, Ragdoll, or Ragamuffin. She is quite docile and very relaxed when you pick her up, so that fits the Ragdoll and Ragamuffin profile, but I think her odd colored eyes is probably more common in Ragamuffins.
As much as I love being around cats and dogs, there’s just one problem–I’m allergic to them. I get really itchy rashes and my nose stuffs up. If I accidentally rub my eyes after petting them, my eyes would itch and water as well. I have lived with six cats and a dog in the same house before (during my first year as a comic book artist, working on Avenue-X and Robotech: Invid Wars), and after a while I got used to it (although the fleas drove me insane). I later also lived with a cat for a while when I was living at my buddy Michael “Ken” Wang’s house and working on the first issue of Enchanted. I got used to the allergy then too, so I’m thinking with some time, I can get used to Prowler and Muriel as well.
The previous owner was right about not tearing them apart, since they really are quite close. They don’t stick together all the time since they often are in different corners of the house, but they always find time to snuggle together and play together:
You can see more photos of the kitties here.
There was another cat in the previous owner’s house, and that cat wasn’t very social at all. I wonder what makes cats bond if they are total strangers and not raised together. Is it that the smell of the other cat is very agreeable? Prowler is fixed so it’s not like he wants to mount Muriel. We still have to get Muriel spaded since she’s roughly ten months old (Prowler is 1.5-yrs old). The previous owner said she’s never notice any behavior that could be identified as Muriel being in heat, but since in some breeds the signs can be quite subtle, I think Muriel probably has been in heat already and the previous owner just couldn’t tell, especially since she’s rarely home with the cats anyway. We’re going to give Muriel a couple of weeks to really get comfortable in her new home before we spade her, since we don’t want her to associate physical discomfort with her new home. She’s very vocal and likes to rub herself on things, but she doesn’t roll around on the floor, stick her butt up, or yowl in that typical cat-in-heat manner, so it’s hard to tell if she’s actually in heat. The heat cycle is suppose to wind down around end of October, so that makes it even harder to determine if she’s in heat. Either way, in a couple of weeks it won’t be an issue anymore.
It’s been almost fifteen years since I last had lived with cats, so this is a nice change. Maybe we’ll add a dog to the mix next? I’ve always wanted a Samoyed, Husky, or Malamute, but as adorable as dogs are, they are so much more hassle to take care of compared to cats. We’ll see.
I’ve been researching mixed media narratives lately, and while my idea for my next long-term project is similar to what’s referred to as “visual novels,” “kinetic novels,” “digital graphic novels,” or just plain ol’ animatics, none of the examples I’ve seen seem to really match what I intend to produce. It wouldn’t involve gameplay elements like branching dialogue trees and storylines, so it’s not a visual novel. It’s not exactly a kinetic novel since the standard format is to have a set of standard character poses placed in front of backgrounds, which still feels too much like some kind of game graphics. It’s not really an animatic since there won’t be as much detailed depiction of movement within each shot. It will have music, ambient sound effects, subtitled dialogues and narration, and the visuals will have limited changes within each shot, unless absolutely necessary (such as a physical action and reaction that cannot be conveyed otherwise). I’m still trying to decide if I want to allow the viewer to be able to control the progression with a “next” and “previous” button, or I’ll just edit everything together like a video and the viewer only has to sit back. My only real concern is that some people read very fast and some read very slow, so it’ll be hard for me to gauge the speed at which to move the sequences. But I guess that’s how it was back in the silent film days–where they would leave the dialogue text on screen for whatever amount of time they predict it’ll take the slowest reader to read (within reason, of course, using the average literate person who is fluent in the language as the standard, and then probably extend the time by about 25%).
So the question remains–what would I call such a project? If I’m to do any kind of publicity for it, I must know how to categorize the project. I’m contemplating terms like “multimedia novel” and “mixed-media novel” at the moment, and I suppose “digital graphic novel” could work in a pinch, but what I envision is not very comic book-like at all–there will be no word balloons and no visual sound effects.
If any of you have some ideas, definitely let me know.
Elena and I often have these little philosophical discussions about happiness, and while we agree that material wealth is not the answer, we also believe that it depends on how you utilize the material wealthy you have. The wealthy people who are unhappy would likely be unhappy regardless of their financial status, and the people who believe wealthy will bring them happiness probably won’t be happy when they’re rich, unless they already have found meaning in their lives before they attained wealth. We know plenty of wealthy people in China who are bored out of their minds and fill their empty lives with trivial and meaningless things that only serve one purpose–to demonstrate to others how wealthy they are. We also know plenty of bored poor people who envy the wealthof others but never tried to find meaning in their own lives.
I think the ability to find meaning in one’s life corresponds to one’s ability to enjoy one’s wealth. The bored rich people would see life with very different eyes if they found something that’s meaningful to them that they can dedicate time and energy to. Take the same wealth from those bored folks and give them to people with passions in life, and we’ll immediately see how wealth can be used to increase one’s happiness when you use it the right way. A starving writer with that wealthy could use it to travel around the world and gather material for his novels. An animal lover can use that wealth to build animal shelters and hospitals. A musician/composer with that wealth can build his dream recording studio. A scientist can use that wealth to fund his research. An aspiring writer/director can use that wealth to fund his own film productions. An environmental activist can use that wealthy to create environmental awareness campaigns. But without any passions in life, wealth becomes just a string of numbers and a list of assets.
I finished Gears of War 2 recently. It was much better than the first game, with far better writing (although it sometimes felt tacked on, like that whole thing about Dom’s wife), level designs, and just general pacing and feel. The level inside the giant worm felt hacked together though, since the interior looked way too structured and nothing like the inside of a creature. It should have been way more fleshy and squishy, with organs tightly packed against one another and the entire environment constantly contracting and expanding. I did enjoy myself, but it’s not the kind of game I’d ever play a second time.
Quickie movie reviews:
Hide and Seek – A waste of talented actors on a bad screenplay that should never have made it past the gate keepers at the studio that financed the film.
The International - It was a fairly good action/thriller, but there was one scene of the main characters in the back of a car that was lit so badly that I was actually dumbfounded, because I would never have expected to see such bad lighting on a big Hollywood film. In the scene, the two main characters were lit with perfectly soft, constant lighting, and they were riding in a car driving through busy streets at night. How could any DP or director forget that a car driving through busy streets at night could never, ever, have constant, soft lighting illuminating the interior of the car? There must be a reason why such a ridiculous blunder happened, but I can’t fathom what the circumstances could’ve been to have caused it to happen.
I Love You, Man - A pretty good “bromance” movie, although it sometimes veered into the crass and cringe-worthy realm.
Parasomnia - One of the rare cases where the director’s lack of talent was the most obvious weakness. Usually, a film fails in the most obvious ways because of the writing or acting, and the direction would at least be good enough to not bring negative attention to itself, but in Parasomnia, the director really fumbled in some scenes, failing to get the most effective body language and facial expressions out of the actors (and I’m blaming the director because what could’ve been done to improve things weren’t things that would be difficult for any actor–even bad ones). The director also got on my nerves with the way he tried to put two girls who were obviously not musicians into the film and have them playing a cello and a violin–with extensive shots showing them playing along to classical music. Anyone who plays an instrument can tell it was so obviously fake because they girls couldn’t even finger the notes on time or correctly, or even bowed their instruments to the timing of the music. And of course, there’s a whole fucking orchestra playing in the background when there’s only supposed to be a cello and a violin. That kind of crap is one of my big pet peeves–that lack of attention to authenticity and detail, just bullshitting audience and thinking it’s good enough. It’s little things like that that separates a good director from wannabe hacks.
Vacancy - We were about twenty minutes into the movie when Elena wanted to stop. She said she’s had it with these slasher films and refuses to watch any more of them from now on. The funny thing is, she’s a huge fan of horror films, and whenever we come home with a stack of DVD’s to watch, she always wants to watch the horror films first. Her reason is that the slasher genre have become too unbearably tense to sit through–with excessive violence, gore, and cruel torturing of victims that makes her physically very uncomfortable. Her love for horror films actually lies in the paranormal genre, dealing with ghosts, poltergeists, demons, possessions, haunting, black magic…etc. I personally don’t mind slasher films at all, especially ones where the victims are actually intelligent instead of moronic walking bags of blood ready to be stabbed, slashed, chopped, crushed…etc. And I’m happy to say that Vacancy is one of the better slasher films because the characters are not mind-boggling stupid (like the idiots in The Strangers).
During most of the film, Kate Beckinsale’s character was pretty much the stereotypical female who gets hysterical and loses her head as soon as the shit hits the fan, but she finally snaps out of it late in the film–and than God she did, because I really hate seeing weak and sniveling female characters in films. I know women who lose their cool easily do exist in real life (and some men are pretty fragile too), but because I’m married to a woman who stays cool under pressure and would never allow herself to become hysterical during times when common sense is the most precious, I cannot stand it when slasher films depict female victims who do nothing but scream their heads off while the killer is butchering her friends, boyfriend, husband…etc.
Anyway, Vacancy has some interesting ideas and is one of the better slasher films I’ve seen lately.
The Soloist - I was so glad that the film didn’t veer into a corny sentimental mess that many movies of this type are (August Rush comes to mind. I hate that movie with a passion because it is an insult to anyone who is a musician or composer). It’s actually quite restrained and although the ending was anti-climatic, I was glad it was because the potential crass ending it could’ve had under a different writer or director would be far worse.
Fast & Furious - Personally, I have very little interest in car modification and racing, but I liked all the movies in this franchise for their entertainment value and the often cutting-edge hybrid scores. As far as mainstream action films go, the F&F series is one of the better ones.
The Haunting In Connecticut - Average horror film. Not particularly scary or entertaining.