Ethereality News & Weblog

October 14, 2011

Video “fly-through” of my studio

Filed under: Audio & Music,My Life/Musings — Rob Chang @ 9:07 am

I shot a ‘fly-through” video of my studio just for fun:

My studio is where I spend all of my time. It was designed as a music production studio, but when I turn off the color LED lights and turn on the “normal” household lights, it becomes a “normal” work space that I also use to do my writings, drawings and painting, and photography in. It also doubles as my entertainment system, with 5.1 surround sound and dual 24″ screens for gaming and movies. I guess you can say it’s both my work space as well as my man-cave.

The video was shot with the Panasonic Lumix LX5 digital camera. Its video capabilities isn’t quite as good as my Canon HF11, but it’s got a much wider lens, which I needed for this video. The video is a bit noisy, since the lighting is so dark. Noise removal can only do much in this instance.

The music is a medley of different tracks I composed in the past.

October 10, 2011

“Becoming A Better Artist” workshop 9th run open for enrollment!

Filed under: Art & CG,News — Rob Chang @ 2:48 pm

Enrollment for the 9th run of my art workshop (Becoming A Better Artist: Critical Knowledge and Techniques For Today’s Artists) is now open. The link below contains all the details regarding the workshop such as the course contents, week-by-week detailed outline, student testimonials, and enrollment details:

The workshop will start on November 21st, 2011.

Typically, it’s a bad idea to have a workshop at the end of the year due to the holiday season, but I know some people don’t celebrate those holidays and prefer to get stuff done with the down time (I’m one of those people), so I’m going to run a workshop anyway, even if it might be a smaller class.

If you’re wondering if the holiday season will be a problem, don’t worry about it. There are no deadlines for the assignments and I have always let students take time off to go on vacation or deal with unexpected things in life. They just come back later and continue, even if it’s after the official end date of the workshop, I’ll still be there. The dates are really just a formality and I don’t abide by them. I continue to teach and help students long after the official ending date of the workshop–even months or years later (past students I taught can attest to this). I’m very open and flexible, and it’s far more important to me that you actually learn and grow, instead of adhering to some kind of arbitrary deadline or schedule. So, if you’re going to be busy during Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Years, don’t worry about spending time with family and friends–just go have fun, and then return to class later–I’ll always be there to help you.

October 6, 2011

Inhumanly sensitive?

Another batch of Kitty Cat Diary entries are up:

There’s this quote by Pearl S. Buck about what it feels like to be a passionately creative person, and I have always liked it very much. It goes:

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive.

To him… a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death.

Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create — so that
without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.”

Some people might read the quote and roll their eyes, thinking it’s just emo hyperbole and glorifies the creative types too much, but unless you are a very serious and passionate creative person–the type the lives and breathes what you perceive to be your mission in life–be it a composer, a writer, a filmmaker, a painter, a dancer, an architect, a designer–you won’t understand how it really feels.

There’s a line that you cross when going from being a hobbyist to someone who has decided to dedicate his whole life to creative endeavors, and it’s when you cross over that threshold that you really understand how it feels, and yes, it often feels just like that quote. I know at least for me, I have felt that way since puberty, when I decided I was going to dedicate my life to multiple creative disciplines and excel in all of them to the best of my abilities.

If you consider yourself a passionately creative person, do you agree with the quote?

The other day, while walking into a bakery in Fuzhou with Elena, this middle-aged guy hocked a humongous wad of loogie and the sucker landed on my leg. I was wearing shorts, so it was absolutely disgusting–the entire front of my calf was covered with his slime. I quickly pulled out a few sheets of paper that bakeries have for you to grab stuff with, and used them to wipe the damn thing off, and then Elena pulled out a few sheets of wet antibacterial napkins for me to disinfect my leg with.

I was furious, not because the guy just walked away, since he might not have known his loogie landed on someone (I didn’t exact get all vocal about it); I was furious because this is so common in China. Despite all the public signs everywhere telling people to not spit, people still spit like llamas just about anywhere. This isn’t to say that every single person does it, since the better behaved people don’t do it, but enough of the population does it that it’s one of the things you’ll notice right away when you spend any amount of time in China.

Anyway, I haven’t ranted about living in China for a long time because I’m mostly over it by now–it is what it is, and we’re not here because we like the country.

I have always found it very interesting the way different segments of the people in the music industry relates to DJ’s. For example, pop stars sing about DJ’s in a way that is very submissive, always asking and begging the DJ’s to “put the music back on,” or “play that song,” as if the DJ’s had all this control over them that they’re powerless against.

Contrast that against the bands and indie artists who tend to have a strong dislike for DJ’s, often mocking them and deriding them in their songs, such as when Morrissey of The Smiths sang in the song “Panic”:

Burn down the disco
Hang the blessed DJ
Because the music that they constantly play

What’s clear is that the pop stars are submissive to the DJ’s because they tend to identify with the average fans of music, as many pop stars aren’t actually serious musicians, while the indie artists and bands are usually serious musicians, thus placing themselves above the Disc jockeys who just play records, yet wield so much power as to make or break other people’s musical careers. (DJ’s with more advanced skills like the impressive hop-hop DJ’s are not what I’m referring to–I’m talking about the “record player players,” as Henry Rollins once called them).

It all makes a lot of sense. Mainstream pop is all about identifying with the average people, while indie and more esoteric genres are more about individual expression and viewpoints apart from the popular mainstream.

But at the same time, some indie artists and bands feel indebted to certain DJ’s, because those DJ’s played their music when no one else did, and in turn, propelled them to greater recognition, and eventually stardom.

Anyway, it’s just something I’ve observed and thought about.

I recently played and finished Homefront. I had forgotten that John Milius wrote it until I finished the game and read the credits, and thought, “Oh yeah, of course. It’s just like Red Dawn.”

The premise was compelling, but unfortunately, the game was short and the narrative too simple, without any compelling plot points that elevate it above simple “point A to point B sequence of firefights” set pieces. But then again, it’s just a straightforward shooter and not a RPG or adventure game, so maybe it’s unfair to ask for more? Other than the premise of the story, the game was just another run-of-the-mill FPS, without much else that makes it unique.

The A.I. was pretty bad in general, but this is the norm in videos still at this point. Good A.I. is something of a rarity and perhaps the only time A.I. should be mentioned at all is if it’s particularly good?

The abrupt ending to the game was a letdown, and in this regard, a lot of video games today are still lagging behind in terms of understanding the importance of a satisfying pacing and a sense of closure. It’s almost as if the moment they run out of budget and development time is when they decide to suddenly end the narrative, instead of having a painstakingly crafted narrative like the games Valve develop. I guess if everyone was good at it, then Valve wouldn’t be the standout developer.

Quickie TV/movie reviews:

1 Litre of Tears / 1リットルの涙 – I watched this mainly for Sawajiri Erika, the very cute actress/singer who’s the lead character. It’s always disappointing when actors in real life are nothing like the charming and lovable characters they play, but despite all the controversy around the actress herself (accused of being arrogant and rude), it’s impossible not to like her character in the TV series–the kind, sunny, courageous, and adorable 15-yr old high school girl with an incurable disease that eventually paralyzes her completely. It’s a tear-jerker, and if you have watched Japanese doramas before, you should already know what to expect (over-the-top acting whenever there are any comedic elements, heavy sentimentality, and tragic endings).

The Man In the Moon – A surprisingly simple and moving coming-of-age drama, and the first starring role for Reese Witherspoon (she was 15 at the time). It has a classic vibe to it, and later when I saw that it was directed by Robert Mulligan, the same director of classic, To Kill A Mocking Bird, I thought, “Of course. Makes perfect sense.” The Man In the Moon was his last film.

I’ve always been kind of indifferent to Reese Witherspoon, but I was impressed with her acting in her first film, perfectly capturing the emotions of a young teenage girl in love for the first time.

Priest – I’ve gotten more strict with the time I spend watching movies, so if a movie displays unforgivable blunders in the first fifteen to thirty minutes, I’ll switch to a different mode where I start to do other things while letting the movie continue to play, only giving it attention here and there to see if anything interesting has happened. If it’s really bad, I’ll just turn it off altogether.

With Priest, it got stupid pretty soon, such as a beginning scene with terrible continuity where a character was totally out of breath, and then the next shot he wasn’t. Shit like that is just unforgivable–that’s filmmaking 101 stuff, and the kind of mistake that no established Hollywood director and editor should be making. Then, there was a scene where the sun went down so fast that there was no twilight at all–just sun setting, and then total darkness. It was like, WTF? Add to that card board characters and a bunch of clichés, I just couldn’t take the movie seriously at all.

I ended up doing photo-editing while letting the movie play in the background, and glancing up every once a while to see if it gets any better. It didn’t.

Devil – Fairly enjoyable supernatural thriller. It’s not particularly clever or compelling, but it was entertaining.

I’m not a M. Night Shyamalan basher since I find his films typically at least as good as the average movie out there, and almost always at least above average. I think people like to bash him because he’s wont he Academy Award before, and that’s the level they expect from him every time.

The Troll Hunter – Another movie that just didn’t hold my attention, and I ended up fastforwarding most of it. It wasn’t nearly as compelling as the other fake-documentary styled action/thrillers I’ve seen, and the whole idea of trolls is just kind of silly to me, because they look so much like cartoon characters. Maybe Europeans feel differently about trolls due to tradition and legends, but for me, I’ve never found them compelling, just like how I never was interested in goblins or dwarfs or elves.

The Dead Outside – One more movie I just couldn’t make it all the way through because it just wasn’t good enough. Like I said, I’m a lot less patient these days with movies–I’ve got a huge pile of literally hundreds of movies I still haven’t watched, and I just don’t want to waste time on movies that are less than good anymore.

While The Dead Outside has its moments, the execution just wasn’t very exciting. Also, right away it bothered me how the main character was looking around in an abandoned, sinister looking house with one hand holding a filtration mask the whole time. Why would anyone do that? The damn mask had elastic bands and he could just wear it normally, so he could have both hands free in case something jumps out at him or he needs to grab things. That kind of bad direction and illogical storytelling details is one of my pet peeves.

Hall Pass I watched this mostly for Jenna Fischer, but I’m finding that my attraction to her is really due to her playing Pam in The Office. When she’s not playing Pam, she’s not nearly as adorable.

I enjoyed the bromance aspects of the movie, but not so much the chick aspects. Bromances are fun because it’s like watching cartoon bears bumbling around and knocking things over, bumping into each other, and making dorky noises. Chicks being chicks is more like watching nervous lap dogs yapping and whining, or cats hissing at each other. That is why I can’t stand Sex In the City or anything similar to it. (Yeah, that’s probably the most “guy” thing I’ll ever say in my life. I’m generally not a “typical guy” at all.)

Adaptation I’m not one of those people who worship the ground Charlie Kaufman walks on. I like some of his stuff, but I found Adaptation a bit pretentious, and the last act sort of jumped the shark for me in terms of tone and plot development.

Limitless – A fun and entertaining thriller with a very intriguing premise–one I can totally identify with. I have often thought about what I’d do if I didn’t need to sleep, or could optimize the usage of my brain, or multiple myself. As someone who tries to master multiple creative disciplines in one lifetime, I would be all over that drug.

Summer Wars – An enjoyable anime with an interesting premise, although the characters weren’t quite developed and the story a bit hard to believe.

X-Men: First Class – With all the hype, I thought it would be even better than any of the previous X-Men movies, but I’m not sure if that’s clearly the case.

I enjoyed some aspects such as the main leads, but I found January Jones quite boring as Emma Frost. It almost seemed she telephoned in her performance, but then again, it’s not as she had a lot to work with in that role. Even then, just the physicality of her performance felt wrong–the way she walked seemed wooden and clumsy. That’s now how I imagined Emma Frost would carry herself at all.

I was quite surprised by Jennifer Lawrence, because her mannerism was so different from the character she played in Winter’s Bone that I barely recognized her. Now, that’s what good acting does.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 – I probably should have waited so I could watch part 1 and part 2 back-to-back, because there’s no real sense of closure from just part 1 alone. I did enjoy the much darker tone, and I look forward to part 2. I’m not exactly a fan of the franchise and I never read the books, but I’ve seen all the movies since they’re all fairly entertaining. Hermoine was always my favorite character, because she was witty, feisty, kind, loyal, and smart as a whip. It’s been a joy to watch Emma Watson’s grow from an adorable little girl into a beautiful young woman.

Precious I’ve been meaning to watch this, but I was wary because I suspected it to be poverty porn, and unfortunately, it was. I found the effort to depict the main lead’s transformation was weak and uninspiring, and the scenes where she was fantasizing was particularly jarring and annoying. Ironically, I avoided this film because of the poverty porn aspect, but that was the aspect the film succeeded at the most.

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