Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year, Old Traditions

Today is the last day of the year 2009.

It's been a mixed bag this year, hasn't it? All that craziness with the Iranian election, not to mention all the celebrities that passed away this year... I myself have struggled with many things, including my art, my beliefs, where I stand with others, and who I am as a person.

For me, 2009 feels like the beginning of a change. I'm in my 4th year of college, but in no way am I graduating just yet. I'm on the cusp of adulthood and I'm slowly gaining more freedom and responsibilities than I had when I first started attending university. I'm starting to think about where I'm going, and to be honest, I can't see the end of it. It's a little scary.

2010 is approaching, and it only reminds me of the passing of time and what we must all do to keep up in terms of environmental, political, social, personal and interpersonal issues. I don't say this to scare you all, but more as a reminder, a motivation. We're marching toward the future, we are here and we are now; the future belongs with us.

All right, I didn't really intend to give that ramble, but there it is! XD
Onto more light-hearted things, like my underwear.

It's covered in polka-dots.
My shirt is bright red.
I'm changing my sheets,
and there are 12 different types of round fruit within my household.
You can bet that at 12 midnight, I'll be wishing a Happy New Year with my family.

These are all rather superstitious traditions upheld by my mother, who has insisted on following them since we were kids. Polka-dots and red are good luck, and the 12 fruits thing is, too (I think it's for prosperity). These are all Chinese traditions that I really should had grown out of, but as I put on my clothes for the day, I can't help but adhere to these traditions. When I was a kid I thought it was fun, and truly believed that good luck would come. But now I do it out of... habit? Tradition? Maybe it's still fun for me.

My mother also believes that whatever happens on the New Year's Day will repeat itself throughout the year. That, I'm not entirely sure I believe, because I know there a lot of things I want to do this year that wouldn't fit in one day!

As of about 3 years ago, I stopped believing in New Year's Resolutions. Every time I made them, they failed. It seemed like just another tradition, one that I wasn't able to keep. After all, shouldn't one set goals regardless of what day it is?

However, right now I feel inspired to create a list of goals for 2010, thanks to my friend Jenny here who did the same thing. There are many things I want to do, as I've said before, and perhaps lining them out here will help me focus on each of them. Let's give it a shot!

So, in 2010, I want to...

1. Art more.
Much like Jenny's "write more," this relates directly to my talent, passion, and career field of choice. I've got many many interests, but above those I am an artist, this is what I've chosen to do. And what good is an artist who doesn't draw, sketch, paint, and experiment on a regular basis? I'll fade into obsolescence! To promote this, I'll be joining NaBloPoMo for January 2010, and instead of merely writing an entry every day, I'm going to post a drawing or some form of art every day. Somehow, needing to keep up with NaBloPoMo motivates me, the pressure of delivering something every day keeps me going, even if it's nothing too significant.

2. Continue to be more proactive.
This is a skill that gained more points this year, but I want it to keep going in the following year. 2009 saw my very first paid design commission, and 2010 is bound to see more (seriously, I've already got two more gigs lined up!). I need to get it together and really learn how to deliver on time. Aside from things like these, I need to cut down on the procrastination and silly forgetfulness when it comes to really important things. I'll write things down constantly. I need to so I can remember. That's what sketchbooks are (partially) for, right?

3. Build a personal website by the end of the year.
That's right. Even though I'm basically HTML-retarded, I will learn, my website will rock, and it will contain my portfolio and resume, to be updated frequently. Of course, I'd have to have artwork in order to create a portfolio site, which ties into #1 and leads me to...

4. Create more finished artwork
This is a huge thing for me. I can sketch as much as I want, but what good am I if I don't crank out some serious personal artwork? I only ever seem to get things done in class, and that's not going to help me. My winter break is all of January, so throughout all that I'm going to create at least ONE finished piece in any medium. And it will be on the portfolio.

The previous four are all related somehow, and have everything to do with advancing my art both personally and career-wise. This is all well and good, but let's see if I can inject some more personal goals...

5. Learn to accept when things don't go my way.
I don't know what happened, but somehow, I developed a short temper in 2009 for when things wouldn't go my way. If something didn't go my way I'd take it very personally and everybody knew it. It's not healthy for me, it's not healthy for others, it's got to go. I need to meditate, to need to breathe deeply and count to 10, I need to find something else to do.

6. Exercise.
Around 100% of my anxiety could be at least lessened by exercising! This is such a common "resolution" that I almost didn't want to put it because I might jinx it. But hey, there it is. What can I do? Exercise is so broad. I can bike, I like biking better than running because running makes my legs itch (as in really painful itching). I could do yoga. Continue training with José. There.

7. Learn to cook.
How could I not, seriously? Cooking is fun, as I found from our recent shindig with my friends :D I can make tempura now, and watch out later! Burgers, pizza, delicious things! Man that is so broad, but somehow I'll make it happen. With a little help from my friends.

This is all I could think to put in here right now.
I'm gonna hit the ground running (or skipping, since running makes my legs itche)—tomorrow you'll see the first of 31 sketches I'll be posting hopefully every day throughout the month. And hopefully I'll have learned something.

Adios, 2009!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

What happens in Vegas...

...gets posted to the blog!

Hey guys!
It's been nearly a year since I last shook my fist at Las Vegas casinos, hounding "one more year!" And here I am, 21 and fresh-faced (if a bit pink) and fresh out of the shower after about an hour of slots.

The family and I arrived here at noon and promptly went to our old family friend's house. We knew them from Germany, and some other Germany-era families were there as well. We did this last year. This is becoming a tradition that I like. We hung out there, watched Step Brothers, played Egyptian War/Ratscrew, messed around and generally had a good time. We were there for a good while before coming back to the hotel. We're actually not staying at our regular Mandalay Bay this time, but instead the brand new M Hotel, Spa & Casino. It's actually way far away from the strip, but whatevs.

So earlier (midnight, to be precise) my dad and I went down to the casino and he showed me how to play slots. He provided the money out of an envelope, explaining the need for a budget when playing at Vegas lest you spend way more than you intended. That made me think that you had to go in with the idea that you could lose everything you set aside, which I found to be true when I started playing. We stuck to the penny and quarter slots, putting in $10-20 at a time and making small wins enough to keep us going. The first time I touched my first slot machine (Wheel of Fortune), my finger was met with a loud crack of static shock, and I drew my hand back: I remember I used to hate Vegas because of the combination of carpeted floors, dry air and metal, which made for frequent static shocks. I hated static shocks.

I brought my hand back and pushed the button, and got a SPIN on my first try and won a small amount of credits. Nothing significant happened there, so we moved to some quarter slots and kept playing.

I won $50! It added to the $10 my dad had put into the machine, so I got a $60 voucher that I could either cash in or play with. I put it away so my mom could take a picture of me with it later (I'll post it later). My dad bought me a strawberry daiquiri for my win, and said that if we waited around at the slots for a waitress, we could get it for free. When we went to another set of slots, that's what we did.

As I blew bubbles in my second strawberry daiquiri that night, I started to assign different levels of "luck" to my methods of playing. For example, if I wasn't getting anything by pushing the SPIN button, I'd alternate to pulling the lever on the side, old-school style, hoping that that would make a difference. Sometimes it did, sometimes it didn't, but near the bottom of the drink I was positive that it made a difference. I noticed that the specific slot machine I was playing at was made by KONAMI, and I idly wondered if I can enter the famous code somewhere and win thousands of dollars. Hee hee.

After I got bored I took out another voucher ($16) and went to play Video BlackJack. That ate away all my money FAST. I don't think I was paying very much attention, oops. That's when I decided to go back up to the room (shortly after my dad said I was getting pink and should go anyway). As I made my way back up to the room, I started to think about slots more.

The slots were fun, and I can see how they can become addicting. Just one more time, one more time and I can get a win like that! But how much money will it take until you play enough to get that win? And unless it's a Jackpot far above what you spent on it, would it be worth it? I got lucky because I played with my dad's money and he let me keep my win, but would I be willing to shell out so much of my own money? As of right now, as an unemployed student, hell no. I would also rather play something like BlackJack or Poker, where I feel I would have a little more control over my chances, unlike alternating between pushing a button and pulling a lever. The card games, dealers and players intimidated me somewhat though, so I'll save that for another day.

Which will probably be, once again, in one more year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Being a Kid

I recently came across this article, Childhood: Then and Now by the fantastic blogger who calls herself V. Like V for Vendetta. Are you getting chills yet?

Anyway, she basically illustrates the differences between the carefree childhood she had back then to the joyless childhood most chilren experience now, mostly due to overprotection and fear mongering. Through her many stories, V lets readers know that as a child she fell down, she got lost, she got hurt, made friends with kids, and got humiliated, and to this day she is neither dead or too socially messed up to matter. Over the years I think parents have lost that trust that their kids are smart enough to take care of themselves—smart enough to not need them hovering over their shoulders 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

As a kid I definitely got to experience the same joys V did.
When we lived in Germany, our family would often go on trips to neighboring countries with other U.S. military families we were friends with. While our parents shopped and looked in awe at historical landmarks, us kids would run around until we saw the nearest gelato shop, only to run back and ask for a few francs or lire (no Euros back then) to buy a scoop. Let me repeat for effect: my parents allowed my sister and I to run around a foreign country with our friends. Why? Because she knew that we weren't stupid enough to get lost.

And what if we did? What about all those creepers in the world?
I remember being confronted by a sort of creeper in Italy. He was an older man selling this little light-up yoyos. At first I was interested, but said no because I didn't have money and I already had a yoyo. I left with my friends to find my parents, but the peddler kept following me, lowering his price until I said yes. I kept saying no and moved faster to our tour bus, which he followed me on until my dad angrily drove him off.

My younger sister was once lost at a water park in Belgium, and we found her holding the hand of a Belgian security guard who was desperately trying to speak to her in French. She couldn't have been more than 6 years old at the time, and she knew who to trust when she was lost.

We never fell into the hands of a rapist in a white van.
We used our inherent kid's-instinct to gauge which adults could and could not be trusted if ever we needed help.

My mom let me walk to the Shoppette (sort of a military version of a 7-11) by myself, with my I.D. proudly slung around my neck, to buy a pack of Skittles with allowance I had earned from helping her with chores. She also started leaving me home alone at 8 years old. I didn't answer the door, I didn't answer the phone until the answering machine came on and I heard my mom or dad's voice. I stayed at home, watched cartoons, didn't go outside and made simple treats for myself, like Pop-Tarts. One time I actually set the toaster on fire while toasting Pop-Tarts, and I was home alone! The first thing I did was call my mom and ask her what to do. Actually the first thing I thought was to throw water on it, but it's a good thing I knew enough to ask my mom what to do first.

As V points out in her article, kids today just don't know how to do anything without adults, even play sometimes. Adults today are so afraid of every little thing that could possibly happen and they shelter their kids from doing anything without their permission. They don't trust them. They don't trust that they'll know right from wrong, good from bad, unless mommy's there to hold their hands. And like V points out again, the same parents become so surprised when they grow up to find out that their kids are too socially retarded to do anything on their own.

We need to bring some of that back. Are there really a lot more creeps in the world, or is there just more spotlight being shed on them? With the internet, TV and radio flooding us with horrific events happening in some city or county, each little event added up leads us to believe that these things can happen every single day in every single place. While that's true, it doesn't mean we should hole ourselves up and never come out again. Just stick to some simple rules: don't let your kids out alone in the dark, make sure they know your phone numbers, how to get home, and how not to talk to strangers. If you still can't bring yourself to let your kid off its leash, then you've got some trust issues.

When I grow up and have kids, I want to model my parenting after my cousin, Kuya X (yes, we actually call him that). He, his wife and 3 kids live together in our neighborhood. Their kids play outside every day with the other neighborhood kids: skateboarding, biking, roller blading, squealing at something or another, making lines in the dirt, the things that kids are supposed to do and have fun doing. I remember when his kids were toddlers and they'd hit their heads on the coffee table, they'd get up crying and all he'd do is give their heads a once-over and go, "Ehhh, you're all right." And they'd get up and walk away, no longer crying.

They're always playing with other kids. My cousin and his wife taught them how to be social because they themselves are social, they know everybody in the neighborhood! Just the fact that they are social like that in this day and age impresses me. Oh and by the way, his twin girls, both in the 4th grade, hate Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers. They think, and I quote, that they are "lame."

Kids like these give me much hope for our future.

Again, you MUST read V's article, Childhood: Then and Now.
And then read the rest of her other articles, like I'm doing.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sochi 2014 Olympic Logo

I know, I know, it's only 2009 and I want to talk about the 2014 Olympic logo?
What spurred me to want to discuss it was this article hi-lighting the two choices for the logo. It's new and fine, unlike Vancouver 2010 which is just around the corner, or the London 2012 logo, which... man, I don't even wanna talk about it.

But anyway, here were the two logo choices for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia:

The logo chosen was the second one:

Since this blog is not exclusively a "design blog" and most of my readers do not partake in graphic design, your initial reaction as a viewer and consumer were probably the same as mine: what the hell were they thinking?!

The article I linked to up there (and will link to again at the end of this post) provides explanations of each logo and the stories behind them, as well as the 100+ comments from designers waxing poetic on the virtues and flaws of each design from a designer's standpoint.

So since all that's been done, I'll devote this post to looking at it from an everyman's standpoint. Of course I'll throw in my own views from a design perspective, but I'm watering it down so I don't end up rewriting the whole article.

First Reactions
When I first look at these, I'm instantly attracted to the first: it's colorful, circular, and dynamic. What's not to love about it? It screams "Olympics!" And any person with the most basic knowledge of the Olympics would recognize the symbolic laureate wreath within the logo.

Then when I found out that they picked, my jaw dropped. It's... it's largely typographic. It's cold. It's dull. What happened there?

The Breakdown
After looking at them more and thinking about what the logo is supposed to call for (as a designer, I'm supposed to do that!), I realized that the actually works for this event, and there are several reasons why.

First of all, the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia is a transitory event. It happens once, and it won't happen again. It's temporary, and the argument there is that the logo doesn't need to be flashy as all get-out. The laureate wreath logo is beautiful and it has history behind it (involving a traditional Russian circle dance and a firebird from Slavic folklore), but all that comes across to most viewers is "laureate wreath! Olympic colors!" It's basically doing the original Olympic logo's job all over again. Nobody is going to know about the circle dance or the firebird from that logo; besides, we have plenty of time to understand Russia's culture and history during the Opening Ceremonies and such., while not as flashy and pretty as the laureate wreath logo, is very functional on all levels: it includes the website, so that in itself is a call to action. There is a slight mirror in the "sochi" and "2014" that is attractive and apparently representative of Sochi's location—it sits right on the Black Sea, where the mountains meet the water. While it's esoteric like the dance and firebird represented in the first logo, the connection becomes more apparent with the location.

The typeface is terrific! It instantly reminded me of Russian cyrillic letterforms, easily associated with Russia. I can (and have) also make the joke that the logo is cold and unfriendly, just like Russia! It's stereotypical, but hey, we're all thinking it.

There is also a second part to the identity:

These little ice crystal things. It's cute and it works. Not the most impressive thing, but at least they aren't snowflakes. It's also very light-hearted, which balances out the heaviness of the logo itself. Every time I type that I'm really saying "sochi-dot-ru" to myself.

The logo doesn't scream "Olympics" to start. It takes a while for you to process it... it's a new logo, then you see this little Olympic rings logo at the bottom. This is the Olympics? What? And to answer your question, is right there to guide you to the website.

Oh yeah, and when it's blown up to a huge size it looks really powerful and impressive... kind of like Russia.

So after all this, it's easy to see why they picked it.
It represents the host city and country well, serves as a call to action, and isn't redundant like the first one. Even though the first one is pretty.

I highly encourage you to read the original article in full, to get the whole gist of both logos and read what other designers have to say about it.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Past one-hundred thousand miles

This is a present from a small, distant world, a token of our sounds, our science, our images, our music, our thoughts and our feelings. We are attempting to survive our time so we may live into yours.
-Jimmy Carter

Ever since I was little I've been fascinated by outer space. This went beyond squealing "Astronaut!" whenever someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I borrowed books from the library and studied each planet and its moons, I drew pictures of them, of astronauts; hell, I have an old drawing that made a huge nerdy joke about how to make a star with an E-Z Bake Oven that involved the sentence, "Set the timer to 50 million years!"

Needless to say (or needful, if you're a new reader or just don't know me that well), that obsession hasn't faded. Though the feverish research has slowed, my fascination with space has not decreased from that which I held as a wee lass. On the rare chance I get to look up at a clear, star-filled night sky, I still swell with emotions ranging from hope, love, sadness, yearning, and wanderlust. I still let my eyes linger just a few moments longer when I pass anything space-related, and you can bet that all the cheesiest romantic depictions of space and space travel still sends my heart soaring.

Not a lot of people I know share this emotion with me, at least not with the level of intensity I feel. I did meet a girl in my painting class last week who seemed to, so I'll talk to her more and gush about space :D

But today I StumbledUpon this random image and was, of course, fascinated. If you look at the bottom, you'll see a scale of the solar system and beyond. At the very end of that scale, just a little over 10 billion miles (or ~110 AU) from Earth, is the Voyager 1, a spacecraft launched in 1977 first intended to do flyby missions of Jupiter and Saturn. It survived much longer than that and penetrated the termination shock, successfully entering the heliosheath—in layman's terms, this is where the power of the Sun and its solar winds start to lose influence. It's a grey area between the sphere of the Sun's influence and the medium of cold, empty interstellar space. In this area, conditions are extremely turbulent, making it a huge success that the Voyager 1 was able to survive. As of right now, it is the farthest from Earth any man-made object has ever been. And guess what? We're still in contact with it. This thing was launched in 1977, it's 2009 now and we can still gather data from it.


Through the years its mission has changed—first it was just a flyby to Jupiter and Saturn, then it visited the rest of the gas giants Uranus and Neptune, and now its mission is to gather data on the conditions past our solar system.

But here's the part I really wanted to hilight (not that any of the above information is supposed to be just useless introduction! I hope you found it very interesting!!): Aboard the Voyager 1 is something called the Voyager Golden Record. It is a gold-plated copper record filled with the sounds of earth, including sound clips of volcanoes, rain, surf, various animals, heartbeats, laughters, greetings in various human languages, songs from various genres of music from all over the world, and many more. On the cover are pictographic instructions of how the record is to be played, as well as the location of our Sun.

What the heck is this thing doing on the Voyager 1?

Well... isn't it obvious? It's for any intelligent life-form that comes across it.
If you're not native to Earth, or are but just really far in the future, then this recorded is for you. At the time of the Record's conception and realization, all astronomers and parties on the committee were aware that the odds of any intelligent lifeform actually finding it and getting to play it are highly unlikely. By the time any life form finds it, it will probably have been beaten up by random space debris and radiation, too. Knowing this, the idea of ever having made it is ludicrous at best.

But the Record's intention is not to make contact. It serves as a symbol of our culture and how far we've gotten up to that point, a little bit of evidence of us to exist long after our race and our planet has died.

It's like a kid building a sand castle close to the shore, knowing it will only wash away but continuing to build anyway because that's where the sand is richest for castle-building. Space is where the human capacity for imagination, fantasy, and hope is richest. Why do you think the search for planets outside the solar system pinpoints its search to "Earthlike planets?" Why do we want to know if it can support life? Aside from future colonization, deep down, we're all just hoping there's someone else out there, that we aren't alone. So like that child building the castle, we're going to continue searching for life forms—dreaming, praying, and hoping that we aren't really so alone in this vast Universe; hoping that one day our castles will stand and our legacy will be known.

When even the most childish fantasy can exist within the thoughts of today's greatest scientific minds, my hope in humanity is restored and my lifelong obsessions justified.

Learn more about the Voyager campaign.
Learn more about the Voyager Golden Record.
See that amazing picture again.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Sanctity of Marriage

From the passing of Prop 8 in California to the strikingly similar ordeal in Maine, voters everywhere are helping to pass the law that denies same-sex couples the right to a marriage union, and all the legal perks that come along with it.

Excuses everywhere are the same:

They still get civil unions.

So 'separate but equal.' Where have I heard that before?
It will corrupt the minds of children when we have to teach them that men can marry men and women to women.
Even if you tell them they're doing it out of love?

And by far the most ludicrous of them all,
"We must protect the sanctity of marriage."

Let's define "sanctity:"
-noun, plural -ties
  1. holiness, saintliness or godliness.
  2. sacred or hallowed in character: the violable sanctity of the temple.
  3. a sacred thing.
From this we can agree that that means we must protect the inherently holy qualities of marriage by not allowing couples of the same sex to wed. For in the Christian Bible and other religious texts, marriage is reserved as a union between a man and woman alone. It says nothing about homosexuals and marriage.

But marriage is also about love, don't you agree?
If we roll with Christianity, let's see what the Bible has to say about love:

"Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it."
—Song of Solomon 8:7

"Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud. It is not rude. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrong doing. It does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres."
—1 Corinthians 13

"He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love."
—John 4:8

"Love never fails....And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
1 Corinthians 13:13
Love sounds pretty sacred, doesn't it?

Well, my interpretation is that the "sanctity of marriage" lies in its traits of pure love and committment. It is a promise to stay by your partner for the rest of your life, no matter what happens, a promise to keep loving them as you did the day you married him or her. This is a romantic view of marriage, and one that many people in America take when it comes to that.

If that's what the sanctity of marriage is, then I've got news for you:
the sanctity of marriage is already gone,
and it didn't have the help of same-sex couples to blame.

Look around you: people aren't always getting hitched out of love. They do it out of obligation, like a shotgun wedding; they do it out of foolishness like a forgotten night in Las Vegas; they do it to get into countries and jobs, for money and for everything else but love. Divorce exists, and that destroys marriages. Shouldn't we make that illegal, too?

To say that same-sex marriage alone would defile the "sanctity of marriage" is to turn a blind eye to all the instances heterosexual couples used marriage to their advantage and not for their love. It's turning a blind eye to the increasing rate of divorce in America. With half of the married population dissatisfied enough with their marriage to actually end it, should we really consider ourselves such an authority on love and marriage?

The people who fight for same-sex marriage and equal rights do it out of love. They recognize the importance of marriage, and want to take their relationships to the next level. Who are we, who have already slandered marriage, to stop them?

Make it legal.
If there are religious concerns, then let each church and temple reserve its right to refuse hosting such a union. Let the couples find a place where they're accepted, and let the churches who don't alone. Just make it legal already. What harm could it do to marriage that hasn't already been done?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Thin is In

Ever since Pepsi's (terrible) logo change, I've been noticing logo and brand changes everywhere and the one trend that I notice is the popularity of thin, grotesk fonts.

Pepsi went from this:

To this:

The circle and swish does not feel right any more, and the new logotype seems so out of place alongside it. I don't even feel excited by it at all. What was wrong with the old logo? It was exciting, visually spelled "SODA POP," and allowed the logotype to sit in with the logo, which I personally thought was pretty cool.

A lot of critics have said that Pepsi basically sold out by making their logo similar to Obama's logo, and yeah, it sure seems like it. Whatever went down there, I don't really like it.

Here's another example of a logotype liposuction:

If you were a high school student at any time within the past 5 or so years, you know full well what SparkNotes is.

This is SparkNotes' logotype today. I guess I don't have too much to say about either one, aside from my idea that the new one is buying into the new "thin grotesk type" trend.

Nickelodeon also went through a few logo facelifts.

This is the Nick logo I know and love from back in the day! I liked the thick typeface within the splat. The splat was huge because it related to an event that Nickelodeon always held that involved sliming people. Sure, the slime was green and not orange, but this logo served well.

Somewhere down the line it turned into this, and I liked it too: the splat was less cartoony but it still got the point across, and I liked how the ends of "Nickelodeon" bled off the graphic into the negative space. It was subtle, but updated the logo from its old days.

Here's the newest logo.
All right, it's not thin, but the typeface is definitely reaching for the more modern, streamlined look, and it deviates so far from its original that I don't really like it. The iconic splat has been reduced to a mere clean droplet above the "i." Slime is not clean.

I know I'm only a student, but I recognize that a good logotype doesn't always have to be super-clean and streamlined. Above all, it has to tell us what the company it represents is all about. And not every company is going to be the same, they all have characters and motives and goals different from one another.

And if I saw every single company with a skinny-ass logotype, I would kill myself upon realizing that I live in a sci-fi utopia world and that Big Brother is probably watching.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Muse's Mad Maestro: A Process

So after three weeks of mentally treading through the tar and mud of my discombobulated flow of mismatched ideas, I finally got my graphic design project finished.

Seeing as I haven't written here in a while, let me elaborate:
The second project of my graphic design class was to design a spread for a feature article of a music magazine. I knew in a heartbeat that I'd choose to do an article spread on my favorite band Muse, and since I loved and knew them so well, I thought the project would be cake.

Man, was I in for a wake-up call.

We started out with three base sketches, each based from one concept about our band or music-topic of choice. My initial concepts included:
  1. Distrust and the 'Us vs. Them' theme that reoccur in their lyrics
  2. Their live performances and how they're such larger-than-life spectacles
  3. The effortless fusion of the rock and classical genres in their music
I ended up going with the last one because it seemed more conceptually compelling, and I thought I could pull a good image from that. Unfortunately, my first sketch was of Matthew Bellamy playing a mix between a guitar, violin and piano, shooting little cloud images of all his musical inspirations: Queen, Jimi Hendrix, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, etc. Not exactly the most elegant of images.

So I worked at it and thought of what I could do.
Should I draw them in a classical, black and white style? Nah, not BIG enough. I also wanted to make the picture epic, to echo their epicness. That's not a word.
Should I make Matt jump with his guitar into an orchestra? There aren't any good pictures of an orchestra I could use for that...
Should I put cheesy music notes everywhere?
Should I draw the cheesy music notes in a ROCK FASHION?
Should I superimpose their heads onto the bodies of the Greek Muses?*

Nothing seemed to be working out!
I spoke to nearly every single one of my friends and let them push ideas into me and I tried everything, but nothing worked. I was beginning to think that I couldn't do it anymore, that it was just too hard to visually combine rock and classical in the big, bombastic way that Muse does. I felt like I was wading through tar and sinking.

Then, after reading a few good recent articles on Muse, I decided to bang out some new concepts:
  1. They've gone crazy since they produced The Resistance themselves, and pulled out all the stops
  2. There is an air of ~romance~ that permeates through The Resistance, underneath all the resisting and evil governments and random flashes of classical music
  3. Matt the mad maestro.
I loved the third one. The title "Mad Maestro" stayed in my head for a while, because it described Matt perfectly. What else could I say to elaborate on that? He's the Mad Maestro of Muse!

But because I was desperate for something to do, I ran with concept number 2 and produced this.

It was fun, especially painting over Matt's face to make him look more like a Romantic painting, but in the end I still wasn't feeling it.

I came back to "Mad Maestro" and thought, what if I just made him a conductor?
I've played with trying to fuse pictures of him playing his guitar and his piano and being with an orchestra, but I thought that above all those, the conductor of an orchestra would be more widely recognized as a symbol of classical music.
So I superimposed his head onto the body of a conductor.

And then I thought, what about the rock aspect?
Surprisingly simple: Just add a guitar slung over his back!
I liked it a lot. I thought I was going to just title it and get it done, let the image do all the talking. That was the simplest way I could come up with their fusion of rock and classical.

But wait!

It's not exciting enough, not the way Muse actually is! What was wrong with me? I needed something really attention-grabbing and bombastic, just like them, I needed a spectacle and possibly something that relates to space.

Thanks to this fantastic Star Brushset, I was able to very easily produce a nice space background.

After looking through some articles on Smashing Magazine (absolutely great and useful website for all you interested in computer artwork), I utilized some new skills I learned and finished up.

Critique was today.
I noticed a lot of people stopping to look at mine, and that felt really good. A lot of them seemed to like it :) The professor commended my solution to the "rock+classical" problem in the form of maestro-Matt with his guitar (yea, it's his guitar, I even looked up what sort of guitars Matt uses and picked the one that fit best, ha).

I thank everybody for all their help, I know I've been a bit of a whiner and pain for the duration of this project, but eventually I got out of the tar pit and came out with a project I'm truly proud of.

Click image for full view!

Oh, by the way, don't mind the cheesy text. I'm an artist, not a writer :P

*Points to whoever can guess which Muses Matt and Dom are!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

As of Late

Whoo, school's a doozy.
I don't know if the classes are harder or I'm just not into them as much as I was in the Spring. Yea, that's it, I'm totally not into them as much. My art classes are fine, but everything else...? Not so much. I'm starting to wonder if the minor in Marketing was the best thing. If anything, at least I'll learn.

I've got a bunch of projects lined up, and I'm wondering if that's the best thing for me. I'm always wondering, always second-guessing. It's what I do, it keeps me on my toes. I'm rambling. On top of my graphic design and painting class assignments, I've got a comic project I'm working on, a business card to design, a logo and potential identity gig, screenprinting with a friend for kicks and Disney's ImagiNations Design Contest.

The Disney Design Contest seems pretty boss, though. And totally legit. All participants, regardless of the placement, have a chance at an internship at Disney Imagineering! That'd be so sweet if I could land that. I'm trying to get a team together, with the help of some random emails sent to me by the Society of Student Illustrators at school. Hopefully it works out.

Man, I need to earn money.
My boss at my old job decided that he can't afford to pay me any more, but he's still letting me do volunteer work in exchange for art supplies and studio time. Sweet deal.
I still need money.
I should really set up a portfolio website where I can post my stuff and tell people that I'm totally for hire. And then hope they hire me. I should also actually make more things I can put in a portfolio. I guess all these projects will do, right?

I've started to employ a new just freakin' do it philosophy. A step above Nike's, it's very throw-caution-to-the-wind, very get-your-ass-on-it, very why-the-hell-not. Essentially, I'm trying to get out of my phase of wondering if I'm capable enough to do something. I'm going to just freakin' do it. It's what made me take on all these projects.

Now let's just hope I haven't bitten off more than I can chew.

Oh! I've also picked up playing the piano again.
I haven't really seriously done it in about four years. I don't know what came over me to make me want to play. Someone donated an upright piano to the studio I paint at the other week. When David (boss) asked me if I could play anything, I said sure! Because I did, I did play piano! But damn, I don't remember anything. I felt dumb. I felt like I wasted a talent that I had spent years cultivating. So it was probably that incident... and Matthew Bellamy's beautiful piano playing. I want that man to serenade me to sleep every night.

Not only am I getting back into piano, I'm going to do some "serious" pieces, starting with Chopin. Right now I'm learning his Nocturne in C-sharp Minor (opus posthumous), which is a good piece for me to learn. Hard enough, but not unattainably hard.

I do miss doing music, and hopefully the re-introduction of playing music in my life will ease the overflow of art.
Some people can work with being flooded by their products own specialty at all hours of the day and all days of the week, but I can't. I grew up having my interests spread out, and that's how I am now. I know I'm a graphic design student, but I don't get to learn some music or some physics theory or read a good piece of literature now and again, I'll go insane. I need horizontal exposure, or I'll die.

Well, my creativity will.

Anyway, I've think I've rambled on long enough.
Hopefully I'll post more here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

THE RESISTANCE - First Impressions

All right folks, so I finally got my paws on Muse's new album, The Resistance! Because I can't contain my excitement, I'm going to post a running review as I listen to it for the first time, song by song. Here we go! It's below the cut, you know what to do!
Update: Upon listening to it some more, I have more thoughts to add. So I just put them under the category "On Second Thought" after each song.


My first impression of the song was that the beat sounds a little like the one behind Britney Spears' Womanizer. Ever since then, I've had a hard time taking this song seriously! I like it though, it's right catchy to be sure, and so far I'd consider it this album's Supermassive Black Hole though admittedly, I liked Supermassive better.
On second thought: I do like this one a lot. After listening to it some more, I realized that I love the stomping beat and Matt's uncharacteristically low voice, combined with some of the best and most moving lyrics I've ever heard from them. "Another packaged lie to keep us trapped in greed / And all the green belts wrapped around our minds / And endless red tape to keep the truth confined," and "If you could flick the switch and open your third eye / You'd see that we should never be afraid to die." This is an anthem, folks. You can riot to this song, and I love that. I thought his voice was sexy with conviction here, and I thought the same about Supermassive Black Hole... except he falsettos all the way through Supermassive and stays low on Uprising. I just find him sexy, I guess.

Ooooh, this is nice so far: a simple piano melody with a running beat, sounds very Muse-y. All right, at the chorus, and I think this is a love song? A little bit like Black Holes & Revelations' Invincible. It sounds a little more mainstream in the guitar riffs, but the running tom beats on the drum and a few falling tones from the vocals are very much reminiscent of Muse.

Undisclosed Desires
I'm not feelin' this one as much. I cheated a little and read The Union's (my school newpaper) review of the album that hailed this song as the "poppiest song Muse has created to date, and it sounds like something that should be played in a club rather than on this album." I probably wouldn't even put it there, I'd much rather dance to Uprising.

United States of Eurasia (+Collateral Damage)
Now THIS is the kind of Muse song I get excited over! When I first heard it on a morning drive to school over the radio, I went nuts. There have long been comparisons to Queen when it came to Muse, and this song takes those whispered comparisons and blows them out of the water! (Why split these states, when there can BE OOOOONNNLY OOOONNE?) The Middle Eastern influence is gorgeous and lends itself well to the music, and Matthew Bellamy's piercing voice paints a strange picture of the future with a hopeful tone, underlined with an almost militaristic feel. Did I say that right? Does it make sense? I could see Russian Supremacist styled posters being made about Eurasia, to this song. Oh, and the ending is simply gorgeous. The Chopin Nocturne and the barely-audible children playing the background closes the song out nicely. I'm not normally one for long endings and I usually skip over them, but I can't help but stick around for this over and over again.
On second thought: Yea, still my favorite song off the album.

Guiding Light
Oh wow, so the zooming jet from the last track zooms right into the beginning of this song! Very nice :D So far, very different from what I've heard from them, but I like it. There's a LOT of synth, and the beat is nice, but minimal. Bellamy's voice is just floating over this river of synthesizers, it's a nice effect, and the bigness of the sound matches his soaring vocals well.
On second thought: This sounds a bit hymnal, don't you think? It's a nice effect.

Unnatural Selection
Organ chords. Matt's voice through a... megaphone? It wouldn't be the first (ahem, Feeling Good). Oh holy crap, a stomping beat that reminds me a little of Newborn right here. Now THIS sounds like Muse's older sound, but less unrefined to be sure, like they've been there done that, and now they're back to do it again, but cleaner. It's around the 4 minute mark, and it's slowing down a little, in the way Citizen Erased does a bit. This is classic Muse sound right here, and I totally love it.
On second thought: I've deemed this my second favorite off the album. I can't get enough of it, and I totally love when Matt's like, "Ooooocean! OOoooOoooceeaaann!"

MK Ultra
I like this one too :D Heh, admittedly, writing while listening is a little distracting, but that's okay, this baby's going in my car tomorrow so I can listen to it on the drive to school and back. As much as I love the way Muse experiments with new sounds, they really know how to rock in their own way, and whenever they bring that back (like in the last track, and this track) it gets a good fist-pumping from me. Really fast drums! 3:40 mark! Crunchy guitars! Wwwhhooooaaa!

I Belong to You (+Mon Coeur S'ouvre a ta Voix)
Whoa whoa, different sound. The jaunty piano beat reminds me a little of Scissor Sisters, or MIKA. Oh wait, there we go, it gets different. I really like this one. That's right Matt, let those vocals soar over those chimes. The instrumentation for this is beautiful, just what I'd expect from Muse when they're feeling rather experimental. Oh my God, he's singing in French. Somebody pick my jaw up from the floor, it dropped and I can't get it back up. This almost sounds like some kind of rock mix of an oldie French film, with the classical violins and pianos going at full blast. He's still singing in French. Where is my jaw? Oh, it's not over yet, it just can't stop being beautiful. Back to the beat, and—is that a clarinet?—yes, Muse, you do belong to me, and as a fan, I to you.
On second thought: Third favorite. Or fourth. Or maybe tied with Uprising. The song has a very dreamlike quality.

Exogenesis: Symphony Part 1 (Overture)
I wonder if this song, and its next 2 parts, have words. So far it sounds very dramatic and symphonic, like it should be a part of a play, specifically the part where a lover is about to die in a grandiose, heroic way. Did Matt really compose this? Oh wait, some heavy steady tom beats coming in. And... there's his voice! He's like some kind of ghost-angel when he sings, I swear. I love his falsetto to no end. I love the distorted guitar over the arpeggiating orchestra. Is "arpeggiating" even a word? Whatever, they're doing arpeggios.

Exogenesis: Symphony Part 2 (Cross-Pollination)
Lol, "cross-pollination" Muse, really? Some beautiful piano work to start, with... violins, and a chorus? Do mine ears betray me? I think it's a chorus, but I can't be sure. It goes into a waltz, and Matt's voice stands out more because the background is softer. It's like a ballade. Oh, I spoke too soon, here comes the beat! The just got more devastating. "Spread our codes to the stars / You must rescue us all!" Their music is made for all epic-journey movies. Every time I listen to songs like these, I just feel like going on some kind of epic quest. I must go! I HAVE to go! IT'S MY DESTINY!

Exogenesis: Symphony Part 3 (Redemption)
And finally, our journey comes to an end. This plays like a lullaby. The beginning piano bit reminds me a little of Joe Hisaishi, actually. And the drums and his voice comes in again, I really can't get enough of the way they come in like that, just like I can't get enough of how some disco songs start like slow ballads before bringin' on the dance beat. Well, there it is, it ended rather nicely.
On second thought: Upon reading the lyrics, the song just got more haunting. "Let's start over again / Just let us start it over again / Why can't we start it over again / And we'll be good / This time we'll get it right / Last chance to forgive ourselves." Ooooh. A new beginning. "Exogenesis" indeed.

All in all, it's a solid album. It started out kind of weak, but when it got to United States of Eurasia onward, it started sounding more like the Muse I know and love. That isn't to say it's too familiar, it's just familiar enough to give a smile and a nod, like when Trekkies spotted references to the old series in the new Star Trek movie. I kind of wish it ended with more of a bang, like Knights of Cydonia of the last album, but the Symphony was such a great ending, it really shows off all of Matt's compositional skills. I've definitely got my favorites, and a few not-favorites, and I'm rather proud of my own judgement. I don't believe I'm "too hardcore" of a fan to completely diss them when they put out a song I don't like, or defend them no matter what, but I think I'm able to distinguish what I love, like, and don't like without having it effect my "fan-ness."

I also very much like the presentation of the album. The art is colorful, different from their somewhat mono- or dichromatic palette in past albums, and it reflects how they've grown and branched out in this album. The way they list their lyrics reads a little like a sermon or an accusation (sometimes they're even interchangeable!) out of context, and packs a punch because the running theme of saving our devastated world, conspiracies, lies, and space has grown exponentially in Muse's work.

So there it is, a review of Muse's The Resistance from a semi-seasoned fan (became a fan between Absolution and BH&R).

Favorites: United States of Eurasia (+Collateral Damage), Unnatural Selection, Uprising, I Belong to You (+Mon Coeur S'ouvre a ta Voix)

When it comes to Muse, I tend to let certain songs grow on me over time, even if I initially didn't like them. That happened with last album's Map of the Problematique, Hoodoo and Take a Bow, as well as some older ones like Citizen Erased and Sing for Absolution. Likewise, some songs I enjoyed immensely to begin with grew old for me over time, like Space Dementia. A lot of it has not to do with Muse themselves, but rather who I am and how I feel at that particular point in time.

For more great The Resistance reviews, check out the sites below!
MusicRadar: Muse's The Resistance reviewed
LBUnion: Muse's New Album Fails to Inspire
(note: the review is actually good, even though the title suggests otherwise)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Into District 9

I recently watched the movie District 9 and loved it. I went in only knowing that it was about aliens that are stuck on Earth for some reason or another, and loved every last bit of it.

Some friends I've talked to about it have a some problems with the movie, so instead of telling them all my opinions one by one, I decided to write one of my 'reviews' on it.

You know the drill, click below the cut, spoilers included, aaaaand enjoy!


First of all, I'm glad for District 9.
In a sea of half-baked sci-fi movies, this one came out extremely well done, with just enough science, fiction, reality, fantasy, thrills, and action to make a good and balanced film.

With how little I knew about the movie, the plot was intense and surprised me quite a bit. I totally didn't expect Wikus to become infected, but from then on, it was fairly predictable: he sought refuge amongst the "Prawns" in District 9 and was helped by another Prawn—the same one he was threatening just a day before. They end up working and rebelling together, and then good ol' Christopher goes free!

Of course, to the expense of Wikus' humanity.

Which leaves me wondering: is Christopher really going to come back for him? For the rest of the Prawns? I assume he meant three years meaning, it'd take 1.5 years to get to his home planet and back.

Like I said, there were a lot of things I loved about this movie. For one, I love how it didn't fit into the cookie-cutter alien movie genre. There was no invasion, no "take me to your leader," none of that crap. They didn't spend any time explaining how the Prawns functioned or why they were there, no time was shown dissecting them and whatnot. I just assumed that they got through all that within the past 20 years they'd been there. Some people I know didn't like the lack of explanations, but I was just glad that the focus of the story wasn't on that, but rather their current situation. I loved the way they interacted with the humans, it seemed so real and integrated, like that's what would really happen. The gangsters dealing with Prawns was a nice little touch.

I'll admit, there were a few plot holes though. For example, if the fuel was a part of their own technology, why did they have to scrounge so much for it? They had their technology! I also distinctly remember some black fluid being poured out of the robot Wikus used at the end, was that their fuel? Because that was a lot of fuel.

They also never mentioned why the prawns were there in the first place. Then again, I just kind of accepted that it was an emergency landing of some sort. After all, the humans did find them in terrible conditions.

Oh my goodness, I loved Christopher Johnson. I loved how he has the most average-joe English human name. Did the other Prawns have it? I'm sure they did or something. He showed a lot more humanity than most of the humans in the movie did. I loved his little son, too. He was smart, and made the mothership WORK.

I kind of liked how passive a lot of the Prawns were. For example, a lot of my friends questioned why the Prawns didn't just bust down the gang hut and take their weapons and shoot up the place. Well, I guess they weren't aggressive enough. Say you were stranded on an alien planet, and an alien gang took all your weapons. Would you try? I guess they could've also bought it, but they were busy buying cat food cans. Man, that was hilarious, I mean, cat food? This is totally the alien apartheid. I also liked how not all the aliens were the same, like they had different personalities. My friends and I were talking about how Christopher must be a leader or an engineer, or just some kind of nerd in their group, to be able to plan out an escape like that.

I also have to praise Sharlto Copely, the actor for Wikus van de Merwe, aka The Guy Who Got Infected. I loved how dopey he was in the beginning, and I especially loved the way he emoted everything his character demanded: the despair of becoming a Prawn, the pain of firing Prawn weapons (such a sad, SAD scene), becoming addicted to cat food, everything. He was wonderful, and I hope he is nominated for Best Actor at some movie awards show like the Golden Globes or the Oscars.

Oh, and that one military guy was such a dick.
I'm glad he got ripped apart.

For a low-budget film, District 9 had brilliant graphics. The Prawns were great, I especially loved Wikus' transformation, especially that eye. And that robot at the end? It could beat the shit out of all of Michael Bay's Transformers.

I didn't actually mind the blood splattering here. It made my sister and my friend laugh every time it happened. Alien technology was so cool. My favorite part was when the robot was activated, and gathered all the bullets from the gangsters into a little ball, then FIRED IT IN ALL DIRECTIONS. That was amazing. Also, PIG CANNON! Did he really just launch a pig? Greatness, all.

District 9 is thrilling and action-packed, and shot realistically while still honoring the fantastic fiction part of its sci-fi genre. I highly recommend it :D

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

One of those nights

It all started with me flipping through my oldest high school yearbook (freshman) so I can see my freshman class, so I know what freshmen look like because I have to draw a freshman for a comic project. I kept either making him look too old or too young. I think I've got it now. Whatever, these are just sketches, God knows that anything I've worked on for longer than about 2 minutes is a damn breakthrough nowadays.

I started reading what people wrote in my yearbook. Is it weird that I don't even remember who some of these people are? My memory sucks. Then again, it was like, one or two people only. I started flipping through more and more of my yearbooks, reading what people wrote, looking for my picture and my friends' pictures and José's pictures. Then I started reading old blogs. My blogs, your blogs, mostly yours though, because I find you so interesting all day, err'day.

Then I started to think about this blog again. You and I used our old blogs essentially as online journals, and for a while I endeavoured to have this blog, this very blog, reach top ranks of internet popularity. Why? Because I am an insufferable attention whore. It started out as a sketch blog and evolved (devolved?) to just being another one of my online journals. I journal so damn much. To be one of those bloggers all these random people visit, you have to keep some sort of pattern, be it a topic you write about, a comic you update, a voice that people find humorous, or your art. Your art. My art. And I wanted this to be just that, and I wasn't damn determined enough to keep up with it. And I'm not obsessed or knowledgeable about anything enough to make an entire blog about it, nor am I some sort of super unique writer that spews magic and metaphors every paragraph.

I get most of my comments via facebook.
Maybe I'll take the feed off facebook, when I start talking about more personal things like these ramblings.
And then who will read it?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Five Truths

Anyone that's heard me ramble about philosophy knows that the idea of truth-being-perception (or, the lack of absolute/universal truth) is rather close to my heart. One event that's good for me could be bad for you, and this also goes for people, ideas, things, etc. While surfing around the good ol' net I came across a book called Five Things We Cannot Change: And the Happiness We Find By Embracing Them by David Richio.

I'm not planning on getting the book, but the summary does list these five things:
1. Everything changes and ends
2. Things do not always go as planned
3. Life is not always fair
4. Pain is a part of life
5. People are not loyal and loving all the time

Unfortunately, the summary did not list the Happiness We Find By Embracing Them.
Fortunately, that leaves us more room to speculate upon it and come up with our own ideas.

So if you'd like to see my thoughts on each of these Five Things, simply click below the cut and read on!


1. Everything changes and ends
This is probably the very first everybody will have to accept. Knowing this helps us through our hard times and humbles us through our good times by reminding us that things will get better when you're down, but they can also fall apart when you're up. The latter may be more depressing than the former, but like I said, it humbles us. If we're not aware of risks and consequences, how ever will we learn how to bounce back from them?
I think it also teaches us to live in the moment, but plan for the future. You don't have to be super anal about everything you do from now on, but you would have to remember that not everything is permanent. Not your job, your interests, your relationships, even your ideals. So live it up, every day, because while we're all changing, it's good to at least make the moment memorable.

2. Things do not always go as planned
I feel like this one was written just for me :P I tend to get really flustered when things don't exactly go my way, and lately I've been working on staying flexible when it happens. Because if they don't go your way, what're you gonna do about it? You can either sit and sulk, or go with the flow and make the best of it. And since you can't do anything about the past, might as well put your energies into what you CAN change: the present.

3. Life is not always fair
"Life isn't fair—it's how you deal with it that counts."
I will never forget these words so famously (well, to me) uttered in my 8th grade history class by my teacher, Mr. Rosenthal. Up to that point I was busy being an angsty teenager whose life was, like, so totally unfair and stuff. This phrase opened my eyes, and has a lot to do with what I mentioned in point #2. Things which you have no control over can and will happen (remember point #1!), but the one thing you can control is how you handle it—and how you handle it will shape your entire personality, character, and life.

4. Pain is a part of life
This is probably the one we all wish weren't true, but know it is. However you decide to look at it—you caused the pain, someone else caused it, your god is testing you, the world is against you—pain is a part of life, and when we accept that, we stop making all the excuses I just rattled off. And once we accept that, we can get over it and get focused on dealing with it. I'm really big on dealing with it.

5. People are not loyal and loving all the time
This one is the hardest to swallow, at least for me, and I guess it still relates to point #1 about things changing and whatnot. Humans are naturally selfish, and everybody's lookin' out for Number One. So when it comes down to it, your friends, teachers, relatives, brothers, sisters, fathers, and mothers aren't always going to be your pillars of support. That isn't to say that you should lose trust in them completely, but rather you should not expect the world from them, because they cannot give the world to you—after all, they're trying to do that for themselves, too.

The basic gist of it all boils down to one important lesson: learn how to be self-sufficient. Learn to recognize problems and deal with them on your own. Learn not to use others as crutches. And most of all, learn. I don't care if you're 15 or 25 or 65, you do not know everything there is to know. Take a word from Jolls: everybody has a lot of learning to do, so you best keep your mind and senses open!

Feel free to leave a comment with your own thoughts on these Five Truths! :)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I never thought I'd want an XBOX

But I sure do now.

I never really wanted one before because I never considered myself a "hardcore gamer," and only the hardcore gamers owned XBoxes. Or just played games on their PC's. The reason why I want one now is because I'm becoming increasingly interested in games that are really only for the XBox, PC, or PS3 (like hell I'm getting a PS3, pfft). And I don't currently own a PC, so PC games are pretty much out. I can play Portal and Half-Life 2 on the Windows partition of my Mac, but it's pretttty slow-goin'. I've also always always always preferred console gaming to computer gaming.

Thing is, is it gonna be worth it? I find that I go through little gaming stages in which I'll play games a lot, for many hours, more than I'll spend online. This'll go on for a few months, and then suddenly I'll stop. As of right now, I've stopped. See, once you have the console, you have to buy more games. I kind of don't like spending $50 a pop on games, because I am cheap. Maybe one day I'll get over this frugality. One day.

I also really want to play Team Fortress 2, and it will not play on my Windows partition because the Mac simply cannot handle it. Sorry, Mac.

Jolls out, like a light. Just like a light.
Other things I want: a new tablet, a recycled-paper (or just tan/brown paper) sketchbook, the scanner right on my desk where I can reach it easier, inspiration.

Friday, July 31, 2009

MUSE's new Resistance

I cannot stop listening to this song.

Until I found out about MUSE, I never awarded any one band the title of "my favorite band" (well, aside from Queen). There was no band I ever felt the need to see live in concert, aside from Queen, and without Freddie Mercury it just ain't worth it, y'know? But I digress.

The song above is a part of their upcoming album, The Resistance, scheduled to be released in September of this year. The song, "United States of Eurasia," was released 6 parts through their website until the song was complete on July 21, where they played up on the nation of Eurasia being "recognised." But I didn't hear it that way, I actually heard it on the radio one morning and freaked the hell out.

Judging by the song and the name of the album alone, I'd say that MUSE is continuing to head down the path that their last album, Black Holes and Revelations, started. Wars, conspiracy theories, and existentialism abound! I really don't mind it. I'm also so very happy with the music, it's just as good as ever and I have a REALLY good feeling about the rest of the album. Matthew Bellamy's voice actually sounds a little deeper, a little more doom-is-afoot than earlier works, where he sounded more raw, frantic, and a little whiney.

So, as I've said many many MANY times before, I'm freaking excited! I'm so buying that when it drops. As soon as it drops, mark my words!

The only thing I'm upset about is that on their site, they don't list a tour date for anywhere California, let alone Los Angeles or surrounding areas. The UK dates in November are already sold out, can you believe it? And I can't believe there are no California dates! I seriously hope they add some, I just, I can't imagine them not coming to California, we have a lot of venues. They are playing in two places in Texas, though. Am I that desperate? XD

Anyway, expect a review as soon as I get my hands on that album!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mixed Feelings

Within a week's time, I'll be back in Southern California.

I have really mixed feelings about this, but to begin, let me just say that I'm glad we're not flying back.

My dad, sister and I are driving, from Fort Worth, back to L.A., and stopping in Phoenix on the way! The fact that we're roadtrippin' it instead of flying back makes it seem like an easier transition, like going back is an adventure itself, and my dad will still be with us!

It suddenly hit me that my dad will be here all alone when my sister and I leave. I've always known this, but for the first time, it's REALLY hitting me, and I'm getting really sad about it. Now I want to buy my dad a dog or something, some kind of pet to keep him company! :( I'll call him every night when I'm home, yup.

At the same time, I'm really excited to be going home and getting to hang out with my relatives, friends, and do all sorts of fun stuff with them. Being in Texas has made me love both Texas AND California more. Can you believe that I actually want to go to the beach now? Simply unheard of before! XD

This week, and certainly when I get back, is already fully booked:

Monday my sister and I might try to go walk the dogs at the adoption center one last time, and do some last minute shopping.
Tuesday we're gonna take a campus tour of University of North Texas, and then do some shopping probably lol. And start cleaning the house and packing. My dad is flying off for business.
Wednesday my dad isn't here still, and we have to be packing and cleaning and last-minuting...
Thursday is when we set off. Last minute things, my dad gets back and naps for a bit, and then we leave at midnight.
Friday we arrive in Phoenix, AZ, where we meet up with my mom so we can visit our friends in the city :d Sleepoverrrr!
Saturday we spend the day there, and probably leave at night or something. Either way,
Sunday we arrive back home at around noon time.

I'll start work again that week, probably Wednesday and Friday.
The following weekend is my beignet/swimming party, then the next weekend is Chelsea's birthday party, then the weekend AFTER the Seven is trying to get together for Disneyland, and then... okay, free weekend, but probably not for long... then after that is Sammy's birthday party! HOOOOO CRAZY

Thinking of the summer in terms of weekends makes me afraid, school is coming up much too quickly! Gah! The summer is just speeding by!

Let's make it last, folks!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

I tumbled.

I have added yet another site to theJollity Empire.

I'm not sure why I was so averse to joining in the first place,
but I think I know why.
I'm afraid I'll like it too much.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Unlike a good number of Harry Potter fans, I did not read the sixth book before watching this movie. I did, however, watch the fifth movie, which I think got me more on track than I would have had I read the book.

I saw the movie today with my sister, and I remembered the parts of the book as they came up on screen: what part was different from the book, what was left out, etc. although some parts from other books had a tendency to run together for me. I was getting mad at some part I thought they left out, only to find out later (through Wikipedia) that it's actually a part of the seventh book. Heee.

Anyway, like I've been doing, I'm going to detail my thoughts on the movie below the cut!


The Plot
First, let me get out of the way my thoughts of the movie plot as it stands alone, with no reference to the book.

I thought it was pretty good, I like how it didn't start off with Harry at Privet Drive like always. That little bit with the cute girl at the café was a nice detail, sort of reminding us all of his 'teenage-ness'.

Altogether it was a bit slow-moving, like someone creeping through a hallway and peeking through every door. I liked how they put some emphasis on the 'they're just normal teenagers, too' aspect, while still managing to plug in all the dangerous and mysterious stuff that went on (most of which ended up being Draco's doing).

The transitioning was smooth, so Harry's accompanying Dumbledore to the cave of the climax seemed natural, if not totally like a climax. The scene seemed to go by rather quickly, and I did feel disheartened when Harry found out that the Horcrux wasn't even the real one.

I'm gonna say this a lot more, but it seemed just like one big buildup.

In reference to the book...
The Harry/Ginny parts were sort of lame! I mean, they kiss in the Room of Requirement? I liked the big deal they made of it in the book, when they just spontaneously kiss after a Quidditch match right in front of Ron, who's just like, "WhatEVER man, go ahead!" I mean, they spent such a long time building it up, and they don't even acknowledge it after they kiss. They do at the end, which is when Harry is actually supposed to break up with Ginny. Details details, I suppose.

Speaking of lack of climaxes, no epic wizard battle.
And Bellatrix stomping around Hogwarts like a crazy bitch does not make up for it.

I suppose it could just be because they didn't want it to get repetitive, after the climactic wizard battle at the end of the fifth movie and the many wizard battles to come in the next movies. So without that sort of climax, we just walked down this long corridor, peeking into every door only to come to the final one, which just leads to open air. I suppose the cave scene could be considered the climax, but it didn't feel like it, especially since the Horcrux was revealed to be fake.

I also didn't like how they just let Harry simply obey Dumbledore as he stood below them and watched everything happen. In the book, Dumbledore immobilized him while he had the invisibility cloak on, so he was physically unable to do anything. I felt like that could have been done, and that it would have been much better.

They also left out a LOT of memories that Harry and Dumbledore were supposed to look through, memories that hinted at what the Horcruxes were supposed to be. But again, I can understand that, they probably wanted to save that kind of action for the 7th movies.

This movie, like the book, was clearly made to build straight up to the seventh.
I got that feeling from the book, and now from the movie, too.

Oh, I did like the inclusion of the Sectum Sempra curse, though.
Don't ask me why. Hee.

The Characters
Last night I watched Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, just to get myself nice and updated for today's film, and I've got to say, I'm (for the most part) loving the difference in performance. Snape was, for one, more understandable (despite the mumbling), and Dumbledore was better than ever. I recall people saying that in the fourth movie Dumbledore sort of overacts, but he's totally boss here. You know, the movie where he dies.

Harry is a little boring, I'll admit to that. He had a lot more going for him in the fifth movie, where he seemed to be PMSing at every turn. Is The Boy Who Lived getting tired? Hopefully not, because the fun's just beginning.

I don't know if I could love Ron and Ginny more!
Ginny plays a strong character, one certainly worthy of Harry's affections. She's so badass as Quidditch, and pretty assertive everywhere else. I loved Ron acting all dopey and stupid when he was under Romilda's spell. Just excellent.

The Art Design & Cinematography

I have to say, this was beautifully filmed. The camera angles make sense to the movie and really give a strong sense of magic and reality to the wizarding world in which the story is set. One of my favorite scenes was right after the Quidditch match, when Ron and Lavender are shown, through the windows of the tower, climbing up and kissing—and then the camera swoops over to reveal Draco brooding at the balcony. That was fantastic.

The chase-and-battle scene just outside the Weasley's home in the field was very well filmed, too. It felt very handheld-camera, but it was only for that part, and it actually fit. Many filmers tend to abuse this effect (lik in Transformers 2), turning it into a horrible cliché, but it was used properly here: it conveyed a sense of danger close by, a sense of urgency and terror. I'm not sure if it was made clear, but Fenrir Greyback is a werewolf who likes to eat children. Eep.

Other Stuff
I don't have much to say about most of the other parts of the movie, such as the acting or the soundtrack—they were fine, they carried the story just fine (although Draco's body language could have been as good as his facial expressions as he faced down Dumbledore). There was one thing that I remember José telling me, though, after he saw the movie, and it was that a lot of parts (if you're gutter-minded) were unintentionally funny, if you remember the fact that J.K. Rowling intended for Dumbledore to be gay.

"I''ll show it to you, if you'd like."

In Conclusion

Despite missing parts, I think the movie did well to convey just what the book did: suspense. An ominous atmosphere. A sense of doom. They're just teenagers, hormones a-rage and everything, and yet all these things are falling upon them, and the whole world has to deal with it along with them. A storm's a-comin', and it'll be split into two movies.

I never really like to call these reviews because I don't think I'm very consistent. They're just thoughts on the movie is all, and especially with a movie like this where I've read the book, a lot of it is going to be me comparing it to the book. And unless things like the soundtrack SERIOUSLY blew me away, I'm not going to say much about it.

I've never been one to reread books, but I think I'll reread the seventh one just for kicks before the movie comes out. Probably not right before it, as I might get too blinded by what they cut out (they're going to cut out a lot, to be sure), but we'll see.

Roger Ebert's Review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Rotten Tomatoes: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince