Sunday, December 14, 2008

おれ、未来からきたって言ったら、笑う?

In October of 2007, I attended a special reception for the Chicago Film Festival, which was following a "Japanese animation" theme. The main thing they were celebrating was the release of the Japanese film "The Girl who Leapt Through Time" I went with my classmates Michael Eurek and David Jacobs, as well as met with my professor, Matsugu-sensei, who at the time I didn't really know that well.

Anyways, this movie has had a kind of special meaning with me since before this reception. The previous summer, I was studying abroad in Hakodate, Japan, I believe it was a Saturday night, and this movie aired on television. My host family spent most of their time watching television, so all of us crowding around the glowing box on a Saturday night was not in any way unusual, but watching this movie together began to turn into something really special. My host mother, sister, and creepy yakuza host dad were all completely engrossed by the movie, and none of us could take our eyes off until the very end. Even I, who didn't really understand much of the Japanese, was completely sucked into the story and at the end of it, somehow felt a little closer to the people I was sitting there watching with.

This is why, back in Chicago, attending the reception, meeting the director, Hosoda Mamoru, was such a huge honor for me. I got the pleasure to chat with him in Japanese, and he also gave me advice on my animated short, Track and Failed, which I was just starting at the time. I remember him saying that putting yourself, your feelings, your experiences, emotions, etc into your stories is one of the most important things you can do when making a story. This is something I had been told numerous times in various classes, but it was still great to hear it from someone who has actually directed some fantastic animated films, and also to hear it in Japanese...and understand it.

Anyways, it was just released recently on DVD, so I picked it up and watched it again last night, this time with subtitles to make sure I got everything...and yeah. It's still wonderful. Brought back a lot of memories for me too. Just thought I'd like to share some of them here! Check out the movie if you haven't seen it, I think it's great.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Why I hate (or love?) the Japanese language

And the reason for this, can be summed up one, simple, first-year's student kanji:



Yes. Ki. As of yet, even though there are other terrible kanji such as 鬱 out there, no Japanese character has given me more trouble than the one printed just right up there. And I will explain.

Lets see, one dictionary defines Ki as "目には見えないが、場所を満たしている何ものか。空気・ガスや人知を超えた霊妙なものなど。

Or, in more English terms "something you can't see, but is present in a certain place. Air, gas, or a strange thing that is beyond human understanding"

So, kinda like energy, but not really. It's like that force in the air, whether existing or not, that binds us all and keeps up going as livings beings. I'll just keep referring to it as "ki".

This is one of the first kanji we learn as first year students, and for good reason. Ki seems to be a character which it seeming to be the basis of all Japanese thoughts and ideas. As learners of Japanese, ki becomes a central component of some very key beginners phrases. Such as:

気をつける to be careful, or to watch out.
Literally translated as "to attach a Ki".

Very useful phrase! As you might say this to a friend who is leaving to go back home, when someone is trying to do something new, any time, this is a very polite request to tell someone as ”気をつけてください”

So us first year students learn this phrase, and we're thinking 気 is a pretty cool little idea that the Japanese have come up with. Then, we get some more little "useful" phrases that involve 気.

気が付く to realize
or, literally, "A 気 has been attached"
Very similar to our previous phrase, only the difference between the transitive and intransitive verb. But it's still really useful, and used all the time, so we are happy to learn it. But, as learners of Japanese, we're not done with 気 just yet:

気になる To be concerned
Literally "to become 気".

This isn't bad, I'm still keeping up with this whole 気 thing. Then we get these two little bombshells:

気がする to have a feeling
気にする to become concerned
Both can be literally translated as "to do a 気”.
気にする and 気になる have very similar meanings, the difference being with the former, you are making an active choice to become concerned about something, where as with the latter, it's more out of your control.

So, now we have 6 phrases, involving 気、all of which are extremely popular in everyday usage. It's a little tough to keep them straight at first, but with practice, you get used to them, and become able to actively use them. And that's a good feeling. But, to think that you have mastered the Japanese notion of 気 would be a grave mistake. Lets take a look at some other 気 words:

気が合う to get along with someone

気がある To have in interest, or inclining in someone (something)

気が多い Constantly switching interests or concerns, fickle.

気が急ぐ Hasty, make a quick judgement

気が置けない easy to get along with, not needing reserve

気が重い depressed, bummed out, things didn't go how you planned and you're sad :(

気が勝つ strong willed or determined!!

気が利く to be sensible, or thoughtful

気が腐る things didn't go your way, and you're whiny and upset

気が差す to feel uneasy, worry about something (is this different from 気になる??)

気が沈む Something bad happens, and you become depressed

気が知れない Someone does something, and you can't understand why!

気が済む to be satisfied

気が進まない To be reluctant, or not inclined to

気が遠くなる To become overwhelmed, exhausted

気が咎める Feel guilty, suffer from a guilty conscience

気が抜ける To be let down, saddened

気が散る To get distracted, jump off track

気が早い To be hasty, impatient

気が張る To feel nervous

気が引ける You feel inferior and can't act straight

気がふれる They way an elderly person would say 気が狂う

気が狂う To become crazy

気が回る To be very attentive to small details

気が短い To be impatient, quickly to lose your temper

気が長い To be patient, keep your temper

気がもめる Wanted to quickly solve the issue, not being able to act calmly

気が若い Young at heart :)

気で気を痛む Worrying about everything out of anxiety

気で持つ Holding out, especially during rough or extreme times

気に入る To take a liking to something

気にかかる to be worried about

気に食わない Unable to stomach, to hate something

気に障る (さわる) In an uncontrollable uneasiness, and hiding it away

気に染まない Your ideas or actions don't match up well to the one you're interacting with

気に止める taking something and committing it to memory 

気に痛む to be really worried or anxious about something

気の良い人 A good person

気の毒 poor, pitiful

気のせい An act of your imagination

気は心 "it's the thought that counts"

気まぐれ fickle, moody, uneven tempered

気もそぞろ Something has been snatched away from your heart, and you can't concentrate on other things

気を入れる To be earnest, apply one's self

気を失う To lose consciousness

気を落とす to be discouraged or disheartened

気を変える To change one's mind

気を兼ねる To use reservation, and, say, not do something you want to do

気を静める To compose one's self, calm yourself

気を持たせる To encourage someone, or raise someone's hopes

気を確かに持つ To stand up to fear or uneasiness, and do your best!

気を強くする To support yourself on something, and strengthen your drive 

気を取られる to have one's attention caught, be preoccupied

気を使う To think ahead and act accordingly

気をのまれる To be overcome with someone's influence, and submit to it

気を晴らす To become cheered up

気を張る to be nervous about something you're doing

気を引く To attract someone's attention

気を紛らす Trying to escape something you are doing

気を回す read too much into things, let the imagination run wild

気をもむ To think about many kinda of bad situations, and become worried

気を許す To let one's guard down

気をよくする To think everything's going your way :)

気を楽にする To get rid of nervousness, and calm down

So, did you memorize all those? All phrases that are used, I'm not sure how commonly, but they all have various meanings. I think it's really interesting how such a big part of the language is influenced by the idea of manipulating this "Ki" that runs through each of our bodies, but any way you look at it, it makes the language a little tougher to keep straight.

And actually, I've been wanting to compile a list like this for a long time now, so I'm glad i finally got the chance. Oh, and if any of my little "translations" seem off, please let me know! It was tough getting concrete definitions for some of these phrases....And if anyone can think of more Ki words, I would love to add them to this list and try to make it as long as possible!

Until then,

気をつけてくださいね!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hi everyone!

So its been about 3 months since I have written anything that can be even thought upon as substantial in this blog, which I really regret, but really nothing completely amazing has been happening recently, so any blog updates that I would post here would probably consist of "today I decided to have turkey on my bagel sandwich. Tomorrow might be roast beef" which in it's own right might be interesting, but having a sandwich blog isn't exactly where I want to see this blog headed.

But that's not to say that things won't get more interesting in the coming weeks and months. Since September I've been working a great internship at the Japan America Society of Minnesota as the membership coordinator, which has been a great experience. I had no idea that Minnesota even had a Japanese Community, and I have come to learn that, yes, indeed, we really don't. Well I guess they're there, but the number is so very very small, so my responsibilities don't extend to much farther than 150 members, but it's still fun. I don't want to ramble on about exactly what the organization does, so I think I'd just like to talk about the activities we're doing little by little.

This Saturday we will be holding the 11th Annual Mondale Award and Scholarship Dinner. It's a big fancy dinner event at a big grand hotel ballroom to honor someone who has made great achievements in US-Japan relations. It's also named for former Vice-President under the Carter administration, former Minnesota Senator, unsuccessful Democratic nominee for president in 1984, and former US Ambassador to Japan: Walter Mondale, who will also be presiding. I'll discuss more about that event after it happens, with pictures! Look forward to that!

Starting in January, I will be starting the online animation school Animation Mentor, where you are paired up with a professional animator in the industry and basically learn how to be a better animator. So I also look forward to posting my progress on that too. It's not film school program like, say, the Vancouver Film School (in which by the way my good buddy Michael Eurek is currently enrolled, and is currently doing a great a great job, check him out, this guy's going places!) That program seems to give you a well rounded background on all the aspects of creating an animated film which finally culminates the the student creating just that, but Animation Mentor focuses just on animation.

So anyways, that's been Alex the past couple months. I've also been drawing a lot trying to get better at that, and also studying for a Japanese Proficiency Exam in December. Talk to you all later!! I leave you with battleship Yamato:

Monday, November 3, 2008

Hi everyone

It's beautiful day today. I think I'll go for a bike ride.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Paint!

I'm finally getting around to teaching myself Corel Painter, which is something I've been meaning to do for a while now. In the next couple days, I should have something to show from it. We'll see how it goes, I don't think I'm that great at painting, but it's still fun to learn!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

On the Internet

Track and Failed was put up on the Animation World Network Website! Check it out:

http://www.awntv.com/videos/track-and-failed

It's a website that's dedicated to showing animation, so hopefully more people will be able to see it this way.

Monday, August 11, 2008

ブラックユーモアとは?

何これ?



赤塚不二夫は成人の漫画まで沢山描いたみたい。まるで凄い方。これは初めて見た赤塚の漫画だから、もっと子供っぽい物語を期待していて少しでも驚いた。日本で毎週の日曜日に「サザエさん」と「ちびまる子ちゃん」を欠かさず見ていたが、赤塚さんがそのような家族にあたたかい物語しか描かなかったと僕は思った。これから赤塚さんの作品をもっと調べようと思っている。

Friday, August 8, 2008

Fujio Akatsuka

I was wandering around youTube today and I came across the following video:



I wanted to watch it because I remember seeing Tamori on television a lot in Japan, and I always enjoyed listening to him. I never had any idea what he was saying, but he seemed pretty funny. So, I started watching this video, which is him giving a memorial address for the recently deceased Manga artist Fujio Akatsuka. After watching this only once, I only understood around half of what he was saying, but the more I listened the more I wanted to know about Fujio Akatsuka. He was apparently the pioneer of comic manga in Japan during the late 50's and 60's, but until now I have never heard of him.

Anyways, the three works he is best knows for would be Tensai Bakabon, Osomatsu-kun, and Himitsu no Akko-chan, all of which I have also not heard of. I wonder if there is a way I can somehow get these books because I would very much like to read them. And finding Japanese books here in Minnesota is almost impossible, but I guess I will search around online. I also want to read through Tamori-san's speech and understand it more, so lets try and do that.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

AHHHH!!!!



Seriously, what is going on with technology???

...and where are we heading with these androids? I mean every year we see something new coming out with them, something new and even more realistic that they are able to do. I think I would like to meet one some day.

But as of now, they are still creepy.

Also, it towards the end of the commercial that "This woman is an android" on the bottom, but isn't the definition of an android someone who is made up of both human and robot parts? In other words, a half human, half robot thing? wouldn't it be more accurate to say "this woman is a robot" instead?

Or maybe...she is actually half human. Uh oh.

Tomorrow!!

So, the Olympics start tomorrow. Opening Ceremonies on NBC at 6:30pm central standard time. I'm excited. I'll be watching with a bowl of popcorn and a bottle of root beer. It's the first time I've ever been excited about the Olympics before.

Can't think of much else to say then that. Hm...I think blogs are generally better when you can post something no one's really seen before...

Here we go! This movie looks terrible, but I would still like to see it:



I guess it was filmed in 2006 but never released (which is a bad sign). BUT it looks like it might be released soon, straight to DVD (this is another bad sign). Who else is excited??

Saturday, August 2, 2008

1st draft

This is the first run through of the script for the next animation we're working on. It's not very good, so I'm embarrassed posting it, but here it is anyways. If you have any comments or suggestions that would be great. Just like with Track and Failed, the part I'm least confident with is the ending. I just can't decide on a good way to end things. If anyone wants to help with this project, help me re-write parts or even the whole thing!

Anyways, here's the first of possibly many drafts. Lets try to make it much better:

Also I just noticed that the main character's name changes to "Billy" at least one time. Would it be funny if his name kept changing? Jimmy, Billy, Timmy...?

The Rules of Dodge ball

Title Card: “The Rules of Dodge ball” And in sub-captions “(lolTownhouse6) Informational Films”
Really cheesy old orchestra music is playing. It fades out.

Fade into a gym. A small boy stands in the dead center of the frame. He’s a middle schooler, slightly heavy-set, the kind of kid you can tell at a glance is no stranger to wedgies and swirlys. He’s staring at the camera. He clearly has little idea what is going on.

Narrator: This is Jimmy. Jimmy is about to play a game. Isn’t that right, Jimmy?

Jimmy nods his head. He looks like he’s getting a little more excited.

Narrator: But not just any game. This game is played with nothing more than a ball.

Cut to a shot of a red rubber ball.

Narrator: That’s right, a big red rubber ball. You see, Jimmy is going to play the classic school yard game, dodgeball. Isn’t that right Jimmy?

Cut back to Jimmy. He nods more enthusiastically.

Narrator: Are you ready, Jimmy?

Jimmy takes a ready to take on the world pose.

Narrator: Good. Well then, lets all learn the game of dodgeball.

Camera fades to black and then fades back into a long shot of the whole gym. Groups of students can be seen playing gym games.

Narrator: Dodgeball is generally played in a gym. This allows proper traction with your shoes, as well as a fair, even playing field for everyone to do their best. But, like any sport, dodgeball cannot be played with only one person. You need a team, with five players on each.

Cut back to Jimmy, who is still staring at the camera, smiling.

Narrator: Are you ready to meet your opponents, Jimmy?

Jimmy enthusiastically nods his head. He’s ready to go.

Cut to a group of 5 guys. It’s not clear as to why these guys are here playing dodgeball and not on a football field killing people, as they are each massive and are apparently sadists to boot.

Narrator: Ah, here we are. Our neighboring Wright County Dodgeball Team, the Tigers. They look ready to go. Are you ready, Billy?

One if the bigger guys in the center makes the familiar gesture of punching the palm of his hand and grins.

Cute back to Jimmy who’s face has become a little more doubting. He’s staring at the 5 behemoths and then stares back into the camera, he suddenly looks pretty hesitant.

Narrator: Haha, no need to look so scared, Billy. Your team is right over here.

Camera turns and points to a nearby door. However there is no one there and the door is swinging open and closed and there is a slight woosh of debris flaying around, as though whoever was just at the door just took of running in a blink of the eye. Camera turns back to Jimmy, much slower this time.

Narrator: Well, um…perhaps we’ll learn more going this alone. Do your best, Jimmy!

Jimmy looks as though he’s about to cry. He glances back at his opponents. The big leader guy holds a dodgeball in one hand, points at Jimmy with the other. He punches the ball in his hand, bursting it and lets it drop to the ground. His team laughs. Cut back to Jimmy, who is now apparently desperately looking at the cameraman for help. Fade to black.

Fade back into a long shot of the gym. 5 tough players on one side, Jimmy on the other. There is a line of 6 balls evenly spaced on the center line.

Narrator: The field is divided into two halves. 6 balls are placed down the center line. When the whistle is blown, players are free to claim their balls.

The whistle is blown. In the blink of an eye, five of the balls disappear. Jimmy hobbles and hobs over and picks up the 6th. He looks at it, glances at his opponents and then hobbles back to a safer position in his part of the court.

Narrator: Now then, Jimmy, lets play dodgeball! The object of the game is to eliminate all of the opposing players by getting them out. There are two ways to do this. The first, is through the ball and hit one of your opponents. Give it a shot, Jimmy.

Jimmy looks at his ball and at the 5 in front of him. He gives the ball a half hearted toss towards of the big guys on the left. He steps to the right, effectively dodging the ball. Jimmy looks empathetically back at the camera.

Narrator: The second way is—

Before he can finish, a ball comes zooming from off screen, hits jimmy, and continues to exit the other side of the frame, along with Jimmy. The camera frantically finds Jimmy, who has been launched into the wall, clutching the ball loosely in his hands. He appears to be hanging onto life by a thread.

Narrator: Very good, Jimmy! The second way to get your opponent out is to catch a ball they throw at you!

The guy who threw the ball gets really angry and punches a hole in the wall. He storms off to where the out people go.

Narrator: And not only that, but when you catch a ball, you also get to call one of your own teammates back into the game! Well, at least you would, but you don’t seem to have any other teammates right now. Well at least you’ve got a ball now!

Jimmy falls out of the crater in the wall and onto his face and he starts to get up. The 5 giants see this as an opportunity and they all throw their remaining balls. They zoom towards him and Jimmy, rather panicked, holds the ball he is holding up to his face. The five balls all hit that ball causing Jimmy to fly backwards again; he’s once again on the ground.

Narrator: Very good, Jimmy! Looks like you already knew that you can use your own ball to block oncoming balls. This is not against the rules. Furthermore, now you have all the balls!

Jimmy looks around at all 6 balls he has laying around him now. He clearly has no idea what to do next.

Narrator: But be careful Jimmy, if you don’t throw a ball within 5 seconds, you will have violated the rules.

Jimmy panics again and quickly starts grabbing balls and tossing them over the line. They all barely go over the center line and the four big guys are laughing a lot.

Narrator: Oh no, Jimmy! Now you’ve lost all your balls again.

Jimmy glares at the camera.

The four goliaths are now clutching all the balls in their hands and look ready to go. They begin throwing. Jimmy at this point is frantically dodging and jumping around all around the gym, and he successfully manages to dodge all six balls, although he does not appear to be enjoying himself.

Narrator: Dodgeball is fun, isn’t it Jimmy?

Jimmy glares at the camera again.

The four big guys are all pointing and laughing at Jimmy. Jimmy looks like he’s had enough of this and stands up. He grabs two of the balls near his feet, picks them up and forms a plan.

Over on the opponents side, they continue to point and laugh. One of the balls is loosely thrown near the big guy on the right. He points at it and roars with laughter. As he’s busy doing this, another ball comes much quicker and hits him square in the chest. He, along with his 3 teammates, are frozen with shock. Three balls come from off-screen and respectively hits the three. The game is over, Jimmy has one.

Cut back to Jimmy who is standing there, proud of what he just did. He gets looks at the camera as the narrator begins talking.

Narrator: Very good, Jimmy! Looks like you’ve done a good job learning the fine game of—

Jimmy picks up his last remaining ball and throws it at the camera. The camera falls back and lands on the ground. You can still see Jimmy as he walks out of the gym.

Credits roll, much in the cheesy way they end in real public service announcements.

THE END.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

....lol

Ever since I got back home to Minnesota, I've been hearing this song ALL THE TIME. I have no idea why, maybe it's because while I was gone, this was officially declared the Minnesota Anthem. I mean I heard it on the car ride home, then I heard it on the radio a couple times, then over the span of about a week I heard it 3 times in the health club I go to.

Then I looked up the music video and it's hilarious:



Look at that badass go. I still laugh out loud when he actually knocks down that one person.

yo

It's really dark outside today, I think it might rain. Yesterday and the day before I went to the Twins games. That was fun.

Baseball is fun.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

It's Delicious

If anyone likes ice cream, my sister discovered this pretty amazing topping:

Smucker's Magic Shell

It's like regular chocolate syrup, except after you pour it on the ice cream, it hardens!! So, when you dig your spoon into the smooth ice cream, it breaks apart the now solid chocolate. And then you eat it! I think science has truely come a very long way and as a human race, we are making incredible advances in the world of culinary desserts. I approve.

press release: part II

Me and my friend and former roommate, Tim, have begun talking about what we want to make for our next animated short. It looks like this time Tim will be more in charge of the story aspects, although I think we'll have another situation where we can all through in ideas and hopefully take the best of them. We hope to have a script in the next couple weeks and then start storyboarding from there. But we all want to do much better than before.

We're calling this Project: DBall.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Our Civic Duty

This past week I had jury duty. I thought that I would like to take a few moments to look back and reflect on this week of my life which I was forced to dedicate to these United States.

I first got the call a little over a year ago. I think when I went in to apply for my passport my name was thrown into the pool and then randomly selected a bit later for jury duty. The problem was that I was in Japan at the time, so I had to delay it until December, but I was taking a class then, so I managed to delay it again until now. I had to go downtown and sit in this huge room along with the other 60-70 poor souls who were called in. When it was time to start, we were shown a video entitled "ALL RISE: Jury Service in Minnesota" which I thought might make a better name for the action shoot-em up courtroom drama sequel to Fargo, but oh well. After that began the waiting.

It was 10am at this point. They call groups of us upstairs to courts based on whether or not we are needed. I guess 80% of cases never get to the point of needing a jury since most are settled before that, but we all need to be there waiting just in case. It eventually became about 3:00pm and I had almost finished an entire book. Then I, along with 23 of my newfound peers were called in upstairs.

We walked into the courtroom and met the two attorneys, judge, defendant, bailiffs, and all those other guys you see on TV. We sat down and the judge explained that this case was about a guy who was accused of stealing a car. Then the lawyers got their chance to ask us a bunch of questions. They went really in depth with some people, especially those who had relatives who were cops, etc, trying to make sure that we could all judge the case unbiased-ly. I told them that I was a recent college graduate and currently unemployed, and when he asked what my major was I gave him the long winded asnwer of "Digital Cinema with a concentration in Animation and a minor in Japanese Language." He flinched a little bit and then responded "Oh. No wonder you're having trouble finding a job."

So I got selected as one of the 14 finalists who had to report back the next morning to hear the case. So I got to get up early and do the whole thing over again on Tuesday. The case was actually not very interesting at all. The car was found stolen, but it had the GPS OnStar system so it was tracked right away, pulled over, and this guy was driving it. He was wearing weird clothes, like a sweater and rain jacket (on a hot sunny day) and black socks pulled over his shoes. That was the testimony of the prosecution's 4 witnesses. The prosecution was then done and when the judge asked the defense to give their argument, the defense just goes "defense rests." and that was it. We were thrown into deliberations which really didn't last to long.

The case was to prove that the car was stolen, this guy was driving it, and he knew that it was stolen. When we began talking about it in the jury room, we decided right away that weird clothing is not evidence or proof of anything, which then left us with nothing to work with. So, we had no choice but to all vote "not guilty."

After that, I got to go home and I didn't need to go in for the rest of the week. I guess I lucked out on that one. And, reflecting on the whole experience, I can say that the trial process is interesting, but I can definitely see why people dread getting called in for Jury Duty. Most of it is waiting in a big waiting room with nothing to do, and then listening to a boring case.

I will write about something more interesting next time. I promise.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Something very dear to us all, I'm sure.

Hello everyone.

I would like to take a brief break from the current world surrounding us, made up of stress coming from our lives, school, future plans or the trouble we are having making them, or anything at all that might be troubling you. And instead of focusing on all these things that really, when really given a necessary degree of thought are really superficial in the grand scheme of things, I think we could all benefit sitting back and appreciating one of the finer arts in life.

Of course, I'm talking about grilling.

When was is told the word "grilling" a broad range of mental pictures may come up. But probably not. The first thing you think is most likely the very topic I would like to briefly discuss today. And that is, of course, the grilling of meats.

Before I begin, I think that it would be beneficial to provide a little bit of background, as always. For the last couple of years, cooking has become quite the interest of mine. I think it started Sophomore year at college when I would occasionally get together with some of my friends from around the floor of our dormitory and I would bake a batch of cookies with a recipe given from my mother, who received most of them from her mother. Baking has since that time become my favorite form of food preparation. Whenever I have a friends birthday or similar occasion come up, I've long since accepted that I'm terrible at selecting gifts to give them, so I will typically bake them cookies, or a cake, or another likely sweet snack. Ive dabbled into cooking things like dinners and the like, but I really haven't practiced it much so it's tough to talk about. I had also never even attempting the long-time-thought-of manliest form of cooking: grilling.

This weekend, that all changed.

Yes, my sister has recently graduated from high school and in honor of this occasion, we needed enough roasted chicken and sausages to feed upwards of 100 people who were willing to come to the graduation party. I volunteered to be in charge of the grill for the dual purpose of both (1) learning the craft and (2) seeing what all this grilling business is really about. So, after a brief tutorial by my father on how to ignite the flames and commence the controlled burning of these massive amounts of meat, I was out on the deck and on my own (except for my mother who was sure to yell out her own pieces of advice from inside the kitchen, and for the purposes of making me look like more awesome shall no longer be discussed in this entry).

First up was the chicken. Now, the chicken had been marinating in Italian salad dressing for well over a day and as such was slimy, gooey, and smelled just like one unfamiliar with Italy would imagine it to. I through them onto the grill and created a little composition that looked a little something like this:





So the fires were roaring and the meat was heating up at a very rapid pace. This first batch of chicken was the first of another roughly 6 groups of 8 that were to follow it, totaling no less than 56 chicken breasts, which is a number that even the most humble can be proud of. As with any duty requiring these kind of numbers, I managed to form a system. Roast the chicken for 10 minutes, turn them over. Roast another 10. Turn down the heat. Then continue to turn them until they are done. They began to look as follows:



Looks pretty tasty, right? Well after all this chicken came the sausages. We had something like 60 Italian sausage links which were entrusted to me to heat until hitting prime deliciousness. Here we have the links in the state before they were cooked:


(Blogger has begun posting all of my pictures sideways. I'm not sure why this is)

And I have apparently mistakenly forgot to take a picture of them upon completion and for that offer my sincerest apologies. But people seemed to enjoy eating them, so I consider it a job well done.

And more than that, I would also like to express my newfound appreciation for these kind of slow moving activities such as mass-grilling. I was sitting out on the deck for a good 5 hours and in that time read a lot of stuff. It was the first time I've had the chance to sit down and read in a very long time and since I've finished grilling I've been reading more and more, even during times there is no grilling to be done. I also think that there is something almost meditative about the act, where you just lose your mind to it. It's the same sensation I get while drawing, exercising, or doing the dishes. Everyone out there, particularly those of you reading this should learn how to grill. It's quick, easy, and food prepared yourself always tastes much better than anything you ever buy in a store. And even for you vegetarians out there, there is little I can think of better than a potato or eggplant roasted on the fires of an open grill. Ready your appetites!

Next time: Alex's Adventures through Jury Duty!

Friday, July 11, 2008

崖の上のポニョ

This is already all over the internet and has been for a while, but I'm posting it because I think it's going to be pretty popular. Hayao Miyazaki's next movie "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea" seems to have hit levels of cuteness not yet matched thus far in Japan. More news as it develops:

G8 Summit

So I guess around yesterday the 34th G8 summit concluded in Touyako, Hokkaido, Japan. This is something that's been particularly interesting to me since when I did my study abroad in Hokkaido last year, I got to visit the Hotel in which the summit is being held. I stayed with a family in Touyouro-cho which was a couple hours away from Hakodate, and about 20 minutes away from this hotel. The family I stayed with was very rich. The man of the household was the president of a lumber company his father created, who was also living the the house. So they were very rich indeed. Here are some pictures of the hotel in question:


Yes, here we are, the Windsor Hotel. This was by far the richest, ritzy-est, most dazzling hotel which I've ever had the pleasure to visit.


And here we have me and the two other students I was visiting with, our host-moms and a couple of our tour guides (Notice how much more massive I am when compared to people native to Japan).

So, to give you an idea of how rich my host family was, I ended up going to this hotel about 2 or 3 times during my 1 and a half week stay in Touyouro-cho, and I went there for only the purpose of buying bread. Within this amazingly expensive hotel is an amazingly expensive little bread shop which sells amazing bread. By host family bought all of their bread exclusively from this little shop. I guess that really has nothing to do with anything, but just something that was pretty interesting about them. Anyways, this hotel has one of the most amazing views I've ever seen in my life and I'm not sure why I didn't take a picture of that.

I guess it's just a weird thought that all those 8 leader-people were standing around in the same place that I was standing. Funny thing is there is a lot of hilarity going on about the G8 summit in Japan. One such example I like is how the French president apparently doesn't care about Japan. Plus I see a lot of news reports almost daily about the crazy antics Mrs. Canadian First Lady also gets into, such as not soaking her feet in the hot springs foot spring thing despite everyone else doing it. She's dumb, I stuck my feet into one of those things while in Japan and it was super relaxing.

I guess there is also a lot of protesting doing on around Japan right now. I never encountered and protests while in Japan and it's tough for me to imagine active protesting in that country. They seem so easy going normally.

I miss Hakodate. :D

Thursday, July 10, 2008

UP!

I succeeded in putting up my website, and everything looks like it's running smoothly. I hope.

http://alexharms.com/

This website's purpose is acting as an online portfolio...which should help in applying for jobs.

Also there is a Japanese section, but it's probably really poorly translated since it's really hard to translate all these computer graphic technical terms. I pretty much just made them all into katakana............

If anybody actually reads my blog and any of you are Japanese and something stands out as being "Whoah! This Japanese is terrible!!" Please let me know!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

July

I like it when a new month comes because it kind of feels like a fresh start. I can forget about all that crap I did or didn't do last month and start again.

Having that said, I still wish I was in Hokkaido learning Japanese as I was a year ago, but I'm in Minnesota right now and am trying to keep myself busy. I'm testing out a bunch of different methods to both keep myself busy and also improve myself. Self improvement is becoming a pretty big interest of mine recently. So, here's what I'm doing now:

1) reconnecting with friends here. I have a pretty good number of old high school friends here in Minnesota who I try to keep in contact with. Because I love them. I've always loved being around them and enjoy every moment I get to spend with them. Many of them are working multiple jobs and/or spending extra time with the family now in the summer, so seeing them is seeming to be a maybe once a week thing, but it's still awesome.

2)Exercise! I got a student membership at my family's health club and have taken up swimming. I hope to go and exercise for a couple hours every morning. Starting tomorrow. And also I like to go on bike rides in the evening, since there's a really pretty pond to bike close to my house! :)

3)Animation. I'm going to enter this months 11 second club competition. I don't know how this is going to pan out, but I'm pretty excited about this month's sound clip. I just have to animate a character to that bit of dialog.

4) Drawing. More detail on this later...but I want to start sketching more and more.

5) Japanese. I'm continuing to plug through my goal to study all 1945 common use kanji by the end of the summer. And also, one of my biggest regrets about last year is deciding to not take the JLPT exam even though it was offered at my school and I had nothing going on that weekend. So I'd like to make up for it by working really hard and taking it this year. I know I would be able to pass level 2, but I'm wondering how close I could get to passing level 1 which is the highest level. I just ordered last years tests to practice from and see where I stand.

So yeah that's what I'm doing here in Minnesota. If anyone knows any ways for me to get out of this state and do something better...let me know! :D

Monday, June 30, 2008

Website!!

I think that having a website would be a good idea...so right now I'm looking through some tutorials on how to build and code different web sites. Hopefully I can put one up in a few weeks. I want a good idea for a name thought. http://alexharms.com is just kind of boring, but then again it might work.

www.townhouse6.com how about that? That could be cool, and it would all be Pete's idea, too! But then again just using my name would be better for companies who might want to hire me...maybe I could set up something where alexharms.com would redirect to townhouse6.com. We'll see. Does anyone have any good ideas for a good name for a website??

Also it's the last day of June today. Where is the summer going?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Leaving Chicago

I'm packing all of my things now. My room in my apartment looks so plain and boring and white. Tomorrow at this time I will probably be back in Minnesota starting a new version of life. Lets hope this pans out.

I was in Hokkaido one year ago. That was more fun :(

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Kanji!

I've resumed studying kanji again! I think I'll make a brief post now about how I've been studying kanji for the past 6 months. First of all, I purchased this book from amazon:



According to this book, there are 1945 Kanji which are used regularly in everyday Japanese texts, so I guess the idea is that if you learn them all you can read pretty much anything. And on the subject of reading, one of the biggest things that has been bugging me about Japanese is that even if you've been studying it for a few years you still probably will have a lot of trouble reading anything because you don't know a lot of the characters that you see. So, I bought this book and told myself that I would study all the Kanji at least to the point that I really got down the readings of them so that I would be able to pick up a book and actually be able to make sense of it.

The book takes each individual kanji and gives the meaning, all the readings, sample vocabulary and even a lengthy paragraph about the origin and history of the character. The first half is the 996 characters which are learned in grades 1-6 and the second half is the remaining 949 characters grouped alphabetically. So I started to go through and write every single kanji over and over again. Grades 1-4 went pretty fast since I studied most of those characters in the first 2 years I took in school. Then things began to get more difficult as I hit more and more characters I've never seen before.

Right now, I'm currently studying numbers 1121-1223 which means that after I'm done with this set I'll have 722 kanji left to study...which just scared me just now. That's a quite big number...but I hope to at least study the rest by August or so...then the trick will be to remember them. Since I already feel like I forgot a lot of the kanji I learned in the past few months. After I look at them all...I'm not sure what the best thing to do is. Maybe just start reading books? Reading Japanese novels is something I've really wanted to be able to do since I was in Tokyo for the first time and saw people reading on the train. I think it would be really cool to read a book in a different language...and understand it. When the time comes I might need to ask for help in recommending me some good authors...maybe stuff that's normal for younger teenagers to read...

This post was a little dull I'm sorry about that. I do like kanji though. it's interesting the way this was adopted as the main writing system since there seems like there's so many issues with it. I mean, I always hear Japanese people complaining about kanji and not being able to remember kanji and how today's newest generation can't remember how to write them anymore because of computers, etc...I wonder if another revamp of the writing system is coming anywhere on the horizon...

うどんぐつ

My Japanese teacher, Matusgu-sensei is thinking of creating a picture book and is currently brainstorming ideas. I offered to help out in any way I can so she asked me about the following idea...

The Japanese word for "sports shoes" or "sneakers" is 運動靴(うんどうぐつ)((undou gutsu)) and apparently her daughter, who is quite the fan of the delicious Japanese delicacy Udon, often makes the mistake of saying "うどんぐつ" or in english...Udon shoes. This might indeed make a very interesting idea for a picture book...but anyways here are some quick sketches that came from the top of my head:






Any ideas, feedback, whatever is greatly appreciated!

Also, I'm glad that I did this again since it's the first time I've actually drawn anything in months. It reminded me again about how much I love drawing and anything where you have to try and be creative. It's also incredibly meditative and soothing to just sit and draw for a while. I used to do it all the time as a kid but really began to stop, especially when I entered college.

Anyways, I want to keep drawing from now on so I've recently decided to start on a new project. It's one that will require a lot of work, even more drawing, and even more time. But I think that's ok since I've got my whole life ahead of me...It's an idea that I got not long after I came back from Japan last fall. I've been thinking a bit about it everything I get some free time, but I think now is a good time to really start fleshing it out and making actual tangible things come from it. I'll update again on that one when I have something to actually show about it.

Until then, have a great day!

Wall*E?

My roommate Tim is often times much more enthusiastic about Pixar than I am, and the upcoming release of their newest film Wall*E is no exception. He found an ad on Craigslist for a guy selling tickets to an advanced screening of the show! I don't know how this guy got tickets and I was a little suspicious, but Tim payed the $20 and received the following pass:



So now we are going to head to the theater a few hours early tomorrow. There should be a lot of interesting people there so...I'm pretty excited!!! :D

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Track and Failed

Oh yeah, I completely forgot to post this up here. Sorry about that. Here is the official blogger grand opening of Track and Failed, please enjoy:



And with this, I officially declare the Hurdles Production Project closed. I'll update with new developments on what I'm doing with this short, like film festivals, companies I send it to, etc.

If you have critiques and/or comments, I would love to hear them!

Ouch

In the past day I've received two emails from two of the students who were studying here from Osaka, both telling me that they made it to their destinations safely. Then it hit me that these kind of emails and maybe instant messaging online will be the only way I will be able to interact with these awesome people for a period of time that has not yet been determined. Though it will probably be pretty long. Darnit.

THE FUTURE!!

I'm starting to feel like the things that we want most in life and where we want to go and what we want to make of ourselves isn't based on our experiences, dreams, or any of the other stuff that I've believed it to be for almost my whole life now. It seems like it's instead based on context or what's happening in life right now.... Like, when I finished 'Track and Failed' and everyone was nice enough to want to compliment it, I wanted nothing more than to go from there and continue my studies of animation and get started right away on a new short film and start working my way up and begin a life of storytelling, always making people feel better through the stories that I give them.

Then I had this past weekend fall on me in which I had to say goodbye to all of the friends from Japan with whom I've worked so hard to build and maintain deep and meaningful friendships with since the beginning of the year. And crap, bidding them farewell is not easy. It also rocketed my mind into thinking that what I really want to focus on is my study of Japanese. I was reminded again of all the fantastic feelings I got when I was in the country, speaking the language, and generally adding to a society and culture which was very much not my own. I totally wanted to feel that again. On top of that I also went through the graduation ceremony this weekend and got all kinds of encouragement from my family. So now my mind is a big mish-mushed tornado of what's important to me, what I want to pursue, and what I want out of life. I think in the coming days I'd like to post a bit of information as to why both animation/storytelling and the study of Japanese are so important to me. Maybe it will also help me sort out which one I want to focus on.

But yeah the context thing. So when i got back from Hokkaido I wanted nothing more than to continue studying Japanese and make my abilities awesome. I wanted to strive for fluency and focus almost all my energy into studying the language so I could improve greatly by the end of the year, and then maybe get some kind of opportunity to go back to the country. Then I started work on my short. The entire year has been me flip flopping between animation and Japanese and here I am at the end. And as of right now, they are in a dead tie.

Either way, I need to get this all figured out because I'm getting sick of posting things on this blog that aren't very funny or interesting. I don't think that's who I am...at least it's not who I want to become.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday

I am completely done with finals. I graduate on Sunday. Then I will stay at my apartment for about another week, then return to Minnesota. I'm still unsure as to how long I will be in Minnesota, but I'm really hoping it's not longer than the summer. I'm going to have to begin really searching for jobs, maybe try to submit "Track and Failed" to film festivals, and just enjoy being me. I don't really like to concretely plan out exactly what I'm going to do in the future, because it seems like I usually have more success in taking things as they come.

Tonight my parents and grandparents will be in Chicago. We will go get pizza or something. Then I might see The Incredible Hulk with some friends:



Oh yeah, I saw the Blue Man Group last night with some other friends of mine. It was so awesome, I couldn't have imagined anything like it. And we also got pictures, it was cool. But before the show, me and two of my friends from Japan went to Itto Sushi which is fairly close to my apartment. It was interesting because all the employees there were native Japanese speakers.

Which means that naturally, the waitress looks at my two Japanese friends as says "お飲み物は?” then she looks at me and says "What do you want to drink?" It reminded me of the feeling I got in Japan that because of my hair, eyes, and to a lesser extent height and skin, I am immediately assumed to not know a word of Japanese. I thought it was kind of funny though. It's completely understandable being that this is America and, when you compare the whole population, there are very very few people who study Japanese, but it was still interesting to hear. Also made me want to someday become a grandmaster sushi chef. Perhaps its time to start a new lifelong dream.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Saturday

So this morning, the first of the four Osaka people returned to Japan. I just got back from seeing him off at the airport. I also realized yet again how bad I am at saying goodbye to people. It's basically to the point that I don't even do it. I think I said "see you soon" or something like that. It's gonna suck having to say goodbye to the rest of them, but I guess there in lies the folly of exchange students.

Anyway, my roommates pete and tim having been showing Track and Failed to a lot of people and so far everyone is saying that they like it. And not just a "oh, good job" kind of run of the mill response, but it's usually appended with something like "no, seriously, I actually enjoyed that unlike most college animations," so I'm really hoping I made something people can enjoy. I also hope it got selected to be shown in the student film festival tonight and if it did, they have the final version of it and not the old one with a mediocre sound pass.

And then soon I'm gong to have to figure out what I'm doing next. Like, in life...and stuff. Everyone is asking me what my plans are for graduation, and I just have to tell them all "absolutely nothing" it would be nice if I had even something of like a prospect or like...I dunno anything.

Gonna study Japanese though. Lots and lots of the Nihongo study. Enough to learn all them kanji and crap.

Oh well, for this weekend, I think it's worth it to just take some time to relax. And do a little light cleaning around the apartment....and laundry :-/

Thursday, June 5, 2008

One week out

I finished my capstone and my translation for my Japanese class! All that's left now is a paper which I will finish in the next 3 hours, a presentation, 2 tests, and a short essay in Japanese.

Capstone turned out better than I thought it would, and it sounds like it's getting a lot of praise, so I can't wait to show it this weekend.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Wow look at me

I hope me getting busy with all my projects doesn't always prevent me from updating here regularly. I'll try to be better about this in the future....I hope. Oh well.

So, my capstone is so close to being finished. Pete, the acting sound guy, just has a couple things to add and then a final 'professional' pass over everything and I'll be done. I'm hoping I can see it all tonight. But from what I've seen so far, I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. There's about a hundred things that I see that I would like to go back and fix up, but there's not much I can do that since it so close to being done and that might be the best feeling of all.

And also on that note, I'm nervous as hell to show this to people. The only people who have watched it so far have watched it literally hundreds of times so it's very difficult for any of us to offer any objective viewpoints on it. I'm apparently showing it to my Japanese class tomorrow, which is comprised of almost entirely very god friends of mine, so I'm already shaking. And I'm going to have to explain it in Japanese on top of that. It's going to be a very interesting hour and a half....lol.

Also I have a friend who was a fellow animation classmate, she always worked herself to death every quarter so she could graduate early so she graduated last quarter and she's now gone. I kinda miss her though. She was nice to talk to...oh well.

Speaking of my Japanese class, my other final is also due tomorrow. It's a subtitled episode of The Simpsons and I also offered my other friend who's also doing a movie to help her burn hers onto a DVD. So I'm currently figuring out how to combine a movie file and a subtitle file onto one movie. It's really complicated. Ayayayya.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Sigh

I want to be able to write and update here more often, but I just can't pull myself away from this silly project. The good news is it looks like it's actually going to get done this weekend. Can't wait to have this all over with.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Memorial Day

I had a pretty fun weekend. Friday I was witness to performer Takao Kawaguchi's one man show "A Perfect Life." It was very different than things they usually show down in the atrium of the student center.



http://aperfectlife.kawaguchitakao.com/

Everyone did a great job putting it together, and a lot of people showed up, so I would say that the night was a big success! On Saturday I had my entire Japanese class over to my apartment, save for one person, and we all made a ton of Japanese food, ate, and enjoyed each other's company for the night. It was a lot of fun.

Well Sunday and Monday were devoted to getting back into reality and back into Track and Failed. Tonight is Tuesday and I'm standing at two shots left to be completed, a dream sequence to be rendered, and putting it all together is all that stands in my way to finishing. Tomorrow I have a final animation critique with my adviser then the following 5 days will be non stop work and finishing. I would like it to be done on Monday, since Tuesday it must be submitted for the film festival. I'm just looking forward to being able to start something new.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

To the finish line.

I have 3 shots left to complete, and then I have to pretty up the dream sequence. It's all so close to getting done, and I just know we're gonna run into a huge snag on the way here. I'll be sure to let everyone know when happens.

Yup, 3 of the most difficult shots are lest. 20 second long shot, being flung back on stilts and planting face first into the ground after a pair of malfunctioning rocket boots. I really hope the animation lab in the student center is open tomorrow, I really need to just get this done.

Because I'm at the point now where it just needs to be done. Need to move forward! :)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sneak Peak

Check it out! The final render of the environment for my first animated short, "Track and Failed":



12 days left until it needs to be done. This will be a busy weekend.

Rays of hope

I got my stupid essay done! It turned out pretty bad, but better than I was expecting, so that's one small weight off of me. Only 3 more papers, two tests, two movies, and a translation now stand between me and graduation. I think I can do it.

Also I got some good ideas for revamping the dream sequence in "Track and Failed," so hopefully soon I will be able to put those into motion.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

いつも頑張ってる僕

I have a hard trouble understanding sometimes. As much as I love learning Japanese, and as happy as all the friends I've made in Japan makes me, and how much I love speaking the language, I just can't understand why I can't force myself to speak it anymore. Maybe it's shame that I feel my abilities have decreased since coming back from Hokkaido. But I think they've actually gotten better. It's irritating at times, since so often I just want to speak Japanese, but I just can't bring myself to do it.

It would help to go back again. I love being in situations where I don't have a choice and have to do my best in. I always do top performance at those times.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Teusdays

I'm having a weird day.

Everything started normally enough, though I slept in a little longer than I wanted which meant that I had less time to go jogging by the lake, which in turn made me both late for class and forced me to skip breakfast. So, I spent the better part of class nodding off and taking really bad notes, but this is still nothing new. I sleep in that class all the time. After it was out, I decided I wanted to take a couple block walk to go get a pita, which is really rare for me. I almost always decide just to go to my apartment and eat there for lunch.

So, I walked to the Pita Pit, walked inside and there were a bunch of people on laptops and stuff, and it seemed like they were being taught how to do something. Anyways, I was planning on eating there in the restaurant, but right after I order, about 20 people walk in, backing up the line to the front door and totally filling the place to capacity, with me thinking, wow I got here right in time. But then it also made me decide to just take it back to my apartment and eat there. So I walk to the exit door, which is now being blocked my two DePaul college girls who seemed to think they had no obligation to move a little out of the way of the door. So, I had to mega-ly awkwardly, yet as politely as possible, nudge my way through, which of course still managed to garnish some very dirty looks from them.

No sooner did I more or less burst and collapse through the front door did I run into my Japanese teacher, who was passing by, apparently from picking up her own lunch from somewhere else. She looks at me, we exchange a rather awkward "konnichiwa" and she keeps walking forward with me lagging an uncomfortable 6-8 feet behind, not knowing what to say or what language to say it in. I have a whole 'nother discussion about this topic for a later time. Now, her office and my apartment are on the same street, so I decided I didn't want to continue this following any longer than I had to, so I took the first separating right I could which leads back to campus, and decided to eat at the student center instead. So I take the turn, and my Sensei continues walking straight.

Again, upon completing my 90 degree turn into a new direction, do I see another familiar face. A total self-absorbed douchebag from my animation classes is walking right towards me, about 50 or so feet away. I think to myself "ughh...oh well I guess I'll just say hi" and continue on. We walk until we're into greeting range and I crack a small fake smile and begin to raise my hand and open my mouth when he says, rather loudly yet inaudibly, something I could only perceive to be "STILL PACKING THE SALT THERE, GREG?" To which, with the exception of my feet which kept walking, my body froze, thinking about what the hell it was he just said to me, and if it was even directed to me, since I couldn't be sure because he was wearing sunglasses. We passed, me still in too much in a state of awkward shock after this what I can only describe as a verbal attack to my blue collar alter-alias Greg, and he slightly turned his head to me and mine to his. I mustered a weak and barely audible "...what?" before we both had walked far enough away from each other and that was that.

So there you have it, crowds led me to leave the restaurant which led me to run into jp teacher which led me to change directions, which led me to a very awkward greeting. Ate my pita at the student center as planned. While exiting there were some of those "Hey, can I talk to you for a second?" activist people outside as always, which I avoided but they flagged down some girls by going "Excuse me miss, you dropped something!" Then when they turn around he went "Can I ask you a question?" Lolz, jerk.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Why can't I have more time to do it!!?!

Again, I want to be a better drawer. I had a similar feeling to this when I took a pre-production art class in the winter quarter of 2007. We were assignment to create blogs for that class and one of my posts were about the importance of drawing in any kind of creative medium, but ESPECIALLY animation. My teacher actually saw that post and emailed me some awesome suggestions as to how to improve my drawing skills. From then on I went out and bought a bunch of books on the art of human anatomy, drawing for comics, perspective, etc and did a pretty decent job of following them for the most part. Then spring hit and I got super busy with animation then summer his and I got super busy with being in Hokkaido, and then fall hit and I got super busy with senior year. Taking this classes that don't matter to me.

Yeah upon graduating and finally losing all these required classes, I want to concentrate on drawing and continuing to advance my studies of Japanese. Even when I think about what I want to go on to study for grad school, I would much rather do either Japanese or something more related to drawing or story creating. I just don't have the passion for animation to continue to want to study it. And I hope it doesn't sound narcissistic, but I think I can continue animation by my self. I really just wanna study Japanese and practice drawing.

This is going to be a very interesting summer. I hope I can find some cool Japanese classes or something. I have countless books on learning Japanese too, I can definitely get some use out of those.

to put off until another day or time.

Or Procrastination. It's an interesting thing. Right now I'm sitting in the school library and I'm supposed to be writing a paper on a man named Jose Guadalupe Posada, who was a Mexican engraver and artist in the 19th century. I need to fill 5 to 6 pages with information on analyzing the assigned article on him, and then explaining the influence he carried into the 20th century. Here's a small example of the kind of work he does:



I kinda like his style. It seems almost all his work is skeletons which he made to satirize the government at the time. The problem is I really have no interest in how he influenced upcoming artists into the next century. Based on all the art classes I've taken and even a few of the animation ones, it seems like the academic art world is obsessed with how artists influenced the up and coming artists. Like for a medium that pretty much defines creativity they seem to like to try to dissect it and reveal just how unoriginal the art world really is. Or it's also entirely possible that I'm totally missing the point of people who are art scholars.

Also, paper writing is something that always gives me worlds of trouble. When I entered college, I considered myself a fairly capable writer when it came to essays. There's no way I'd even try to say that now. I've fallen into the normal college student loop where I procrastinate until the night before it's due, and just through any of the first things that come to mind on the page.

I've also been thinking a lot today about procrastination on a longer time line, withing the context of my own life. It seems like for college students, writing papers is what we're kinda supposed to do. Research a wide range of topics and write papers about them. Papers, papers, papers. I don't do any of this research, so all these papers don't really get done either. I think this is part of the reason (a very small part, I hope) that I stick with animation and Japanese so hard. We are rarely if ever required to write papers, and it rocks. But I'm wondering if this is just an extended method of procrastination on my part. Like maybe the issue is, I'm telling myself that "I want to do research in Japanese, but wait! I don't know Japanese" so now I'm procrastinating doing this research necessary for growing into the next step in life, by studying Japanese. Once I learn Japanese to a native level, will I then grow to desire to go to Japan and research there? Who knows. I hope not.

I got a new camera for my birthday. And tomorrow is a rehearsal/lunch thing for a visual artist coming to DePaul this week through the Japanese department, so I should have some good opportunities this week to take some interesting photos. I can tell that my Japanese teacher, who has been organizing this entire event, has been working very hard and this is very important to her, so I will do my best. I hope it turns out to be interesting. I've been needing to do something. Life has been starting to hit routine as of late.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Dreaming of June

Last night immediately after class, I went to CTI and animated until 10pm. Then I went back to my apartment and pretty much went right to bed. Woke up, ran to class which ended at noon, then came straight back to CTI, ready to animate again. All day. Tonight and tomorrow will probably be the same. I have absolutely no plans this weekend other than animating.

I do like animation, but I don't love it this much. I enjoy drawing and making stories much more.

Keep with it Keep with it Keep with it.



Edit: Copyright 1968? Hmm, determined or not, that cat must be long dead. That's kind of a downer...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

3 important things I need to improve in animation.

So I've been told recently that my main weakness in animation is the following 3 things, all of which also happen to be incredible important principles of good animation:

1. TRACKING
2. movement change-1 frame transition
3. I'm too slow

The easiest of these for me to go through quick and fix up is the speed one. It won't be too bad for me to go through a few key points and just speed it up a bit. There is especially one shot where I try to make the character jump and it just look terrible. It's really all about timing.

As for tracking, this is really all about watching the hips and make sure the motion, as a whole, look not only smooth and fluid, but also pleasing to the eye. It's another issue related to speed, in a small part. For example, I have many parts in my movie where the character is moving from point A to point B. If he is accelerating to point B, then he needs to move towards it faster and faster. But my character will occasionally move at a constant rate, which is boring or he will vary his speed, which ends up looking weird. The same with the reverse if he is decelerating. On top of that, it's very important to have this movement look nice. The easiest way to do this is have him move in nice smooth arcs, so I'm trying to use a LOT of circular movements out of him. And indeed, it does look better.

Finally number 2, this one frame transition business. When the character changes a movement, does something different, or make any kind of change at all, the very first movement is the absolutely most important. It's the one split second the audience is given to be aware that something new is happening, and even though they will never see this one frame, they will feel it. The clearest example I can give of this is that I have a scene where the runner is attached to a pair of stilts which fall to the ground, causing the stilts to bend kind of like a catapult. The runner reaches towards the ground but in the end is only rocketed backwards into the sky. So in that one shot, there are two main movements: Reaching for the ground and being rocketed back. He's off in the horizon in about 6 frames so I don't have a lot of time to give a great impression of what's happening. So, I'm going to test out one frame in between the two movement where his body is rocketed backwards, but his head and arms remain in their same position, causing a mighty painful stretch. After one or two frames of this, I'll have his head and arms leave as well. It should make things a little more impactfull and hopefully even get a laugh.

I'm not sure if this stuff is advanced animation or still basic, but there are about a million things you have to keep in mind while animating. It's tough. Really tough. Even if you see the perfect animation in your head, translating that to a piece of paper or your computer screen is one of the most difficult things out there.

Well, not that I've reviewed these 3 things in my head, I shall return to animating!

I got music!

The guy I got to do music for my short, Malarkey-san, has sent it to me yesterday! And the best part is, it doesn't suck!! For the most part, it captures all the feelings and stuff that I wanted very well, so it's gonna be really fun to see the finished movie. It's really starting to feel like it's all coming together now, my adviser also said yesterday when I met with him that we're finally starting to see a film here. So yeah I look forward to it's release date. Which, by the way, as now absolutely set in stone:

June 3rd.

This is the last date to submit things for the DePaul Digital Cinema Premiere film festival, which is on Saturday June 8th. Also, this is going to be the first animated short film to ever have been showed or come out of DePaul, so I really hope that we can set a pretty decent standard for future starry eyed students to want to achieve. Also, I think I've decided on a new title "Track and Failed." I was thinking before that having the word 'fail' in the title of something might have subconscious psychological reasons to not do that, but now I'm thinking that it is both funny and fits better as to what's going on in the story, so lets go with Track and Failed. We're gonna start doing the final renders this weekend, we have hopes to have an entire scene finished, but at the very least we need a few shots. That June 3rd deadline is creeping up quickly, and I still have a lot of shots that need major animation tweaks!!

I wish I was a better animator, but that's one of the many projects that I intend to work on this summer. 11 second club, bay-bee!!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

laaaame

I have a quiz tomorrow on Mahayana Buddhism. I have no idea what Mahayana Buddhism is. It's a shame I didn't take this class like in a different year because I think if I did I would find it much more interesting. Buddhism is a pretty cool "religion," it seems pretty in line with most of my personal beliefs.

History of Latin American Art might just be the dullest class I've ever taken, ever. That class is really tough to sit through for a full hour and half twice a week. She rambles on and on about how something like this:

Is such a wonderful and expressively luscious piece of art and blah blah blah no it's not. I can't believe there are people who dedicate their lives to studying art. Hats off to them, I guess. There is no way I could live through life looking at these kind of paintings, then writing long and drawn out papers about them. Yeesh.

Then there's dramatic theory of comedy. This might very well be the best class I've ever taken at DePaul, in no small part because of the fascinating subject matter and a wonderful professor. He's so rolly polly and greets us everyday with a smile and a "hello everybody! good to see you again." It's just amazing how little 'I'm a human too and your friend so lets have some fun' things like this will add SOOO much to looking forward to and paying attention in class. And then we just both listen to his lectures on and discuss anything and everything related to funny. And it was the first time in my life where I actually enjoyed taking the midterm exam (and I got a 99 on it!!) We watched a bunch of Chris Rock last week, and this week we watched I Love Lucy. I found out today that when Lucille Ball got pregnant with Desi Jr., they weren't allowed to say 'pregnant' on the show because of it's sexual connotations so they always called her 'expecting' or 'future mother Lucy.' And also there was a huge national special the night the aired the episode where she gave birth to Little Ricky. On top of that, Lucille Ball scheduled a caesarean section the that very same night. That strikes me as both kinda cool and really really creepy.

So yeah, those are the classes I'm taking that aren't animation or Japanese. About 80% of my effort goes into those two classes, with about 80% of that going into animation. I hope that works out in the end. I'm really looking forward to being done with college and free to do whatever the hell I want.

It's been a while

Sorry I haven't updated in a while! Busy weekend I guess. Friday I went to a Cubs game with a bunch of friends at is was a lot of fun. It's amazing how incredibly popular Fukudome is. There were headbands and T-shirts everywhere. It was quite amazing. Afterwards I saw Speed Racer which was about as good as I thought it would be. It was fun to watch, I did get bored on more than a few occasions, but overall it wasn't terrible. It barely made $20 million this weekend, so the WB is pretty screwed. I guess the CEO might even get fired.

So, right now, my contact is rolling around in my left eyeball so looking at things is a little awkward but I will do my best to continue typing.

I'm back in the animation lab tonight. I promised my adviser I'd have all animation done on my short by tomorrow, and I'm not quite gonna make that, but it's gonna be close. It's coming along nicely though, here's a video of about what the final rendered character will look like:

video

The hair will be fixed, but if that's what the final render (background included) will look like, I'm pretty excited to see the finished movie. Hopefully within a week we'll have at least one completed shot rendered out. It sucks that this weekend is my birthday and I'm going to need the whole time to perfect animation as best I can. Oh well. I should have better final character renders tonight, so lets upload those then.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

I just wanna graduate!!

I talked to my adviser today to make sure everything is ok and ready to go for me to graduate, but apparently there is a technicality where, even though they tell us that a year of a language can be substituted for ANY liberal arts class, the ethics requirement is off limits. My adviser was much more upset about this than I was since not even he knew about it, but at least he assured my that we're gonna solve the problem and I won't have to go to school an extra quarter for one stupid ethics class. But now I gotta write a really professional email to the guy in charge of credits and, super politely and rhetorically, let him know that I'm screwed and that DePaul sucks at advertising this "modern language" option. I hate writing big-boy emails. Ugh.

Oh well, at least this song is still kinda fun:



Also, it's kinda funny that I really didn't appreciate Black Sabbath's Iron Man until I saw the movie involving the super hero with the same name. But man, this music rocks. Ozzy used to be such a badass. I don't care what any one else thinks, the greatest music ever made happened in the 60's and 70's. Actually there's probably a lot of people who would agree with me there. It's the one reason I would have loved growing up during that time. It would be so awesome to be wastedly stoned so hard, listen to this song, and then freak-the-hell-out:

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

lol speed racer

This movie has a 33% on rotten tomatoes with a 0% for top critics. When I first saw the trailer a few months ago I remember thinking, "wow, this looks really really stupid," then over the coming weeks I got a little more excited about because my roommates were so excited about it, but now after seeing all these reviews I think I'm back to thinking that it's going to suck like wow. Like it seems like it's not even awesome bad, it's just 2 hours 15 minutes of super bright colors, motion lines, and a bunch of other crap that no one save for anime geeks and children will understand. I'll probably still wind up seeing it on Friday, but I'd just like to go on record saying my expectations are back to like...nothing. Originality has never seemed to be the Wachowski Brother's forte, they really seem to be fond of "borrowing" almost everything they're known to be cool for from anime.

I'll bet they're really nerdy to hang out with. And not in the good way.

Also, I don't think this movie has been advertised nearly they way it should have. It cost over $100 million to make...I'm very interested to see how much it makes this weekend. I don't think there are any non anime dork adults interested in seeing this movie. I'll bet Iron Man beats it.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

What's next!

Man this job in the animation lab is terrible. Especially when I'm in the labs that can't run Maya on Tuesday nights. Arghh. So, I've been doing some translating. Maybe I should make this blog all about animation and japanese. It could be like my Japanese Animation blog! Nyaaar!!!

Anyways, come last week in May, Hurdles (or "Track and Fail") will be completed and I'm already starting to think about what I wanna do next. I've learned a ton about making stories and I know that if I were to give it another shot, I could make something a whole lot better. Maybe I'll start posting some ideas up hear for stories. When I try to do another short, I would want it to have a good story this time.

But yeah, next time, lets have more characters, more places to go, and maybe even...dialog??

Pete, as the current only person who is reading this blog, you are welcome to throw out ideas. Right now I'm thinking we do the age old tale of an old-timer fisherman having his final battle with the legendary fish he swore to one day catch!!

And then there was graduation. Crap!

Hmm...I've been thinking today that in about 6 weeks, I will have graduated and will be forever done with DePaul University. But this is kinda different then what I was close to finishing up high school since when that was happening, I knew that I was doing to be going to DePaul. I've known that for like 8 months before I started going here. But now, once I graduate I have no plan, no prospects, nothing! I've been thinking about what would be good to do about this; I've thought about grad school, finding a job to pass the time until I find a better one, or even just spending some time back at home until I figure things out. But then I thought, why the hell would I want to do any of those things? I'll be 22 years old, still young, and freed upon the world, able to do whatever I want to. Those kind of opportunities don't happen often in life, if ever. There are so many things I would love to go do, and they all will slowly start to disappear once I start getting older and older, so I'm feeling that wasting these kind of chances would be a huge tragedy.

I have a friend who is going to Japan for a year next year to teach English to middle and high schoolers for at least a year (but surely more) and I was wondering if I could get into that. I think being a teacher and growing close to a class of students would be awesome, but then again I know too many people who decide to do these "teach English in Asia" programs after graduation and then get stuck in them until their late 20's. I wouldn't want to do it for any longer then a year. I also think it would be awesome to eventually look into getting a masters degree in Japan somewhere. Anyways, the moral of the story is: I wanna go to Japan again! If anyone has some extra money, let me know and I will take it.

I also still might have the option of going to San Francisco. That would be fun too, it would be a good place to both continue my study of Japanese, continue my study of animation, and be totally totally gay. And snobby.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Nice!



WHY?!?!

Also,

http://syriana.ytmnd.com/

Part Time Jobz

I have a 'job' at the animation lab in the computer building of my school. The idea is that I sit up here and help out people with their assignments and stuff. Like I think I'm supposed to periodically get up and walk around, asking if anyone needs any assistance or anything like that. I totally don't though. I usually spend this time working on my short animation. That short is a whole another story in itself though. Maybe I'll make another post about that tonight.

ANYWAYS, the animation lab here just got a new Wacom Cintiq tablet monitor and man is it ever sexy. Every time I work here I quickly go to hog it. I don't ever use the tablet feature, I only use it as a double monitor, but it's still awesome. He look, here it is now!



This picture is courtesy of the DePaul gaming development website.

Anyways, I really should be working on my project. There is a total of 39 shots to animate and I have a crap pass done on all but about 3 or 4, which I intend to do tonight. Right when I finish writing this blog post, which I'm currently using as a form of procrastination. Here's a screen shot of the character. That background's not done yet. If it was I'd be in trouble:



Tim, my roommate and guy in charge of lighting/texturing/rendering is working on getting me a rendered shot now, he told me he'd have by Wednesday, so I'm expecting it around next winter. I am actually quite excited to see how it turns out.

Also, Iron Man made over 100 million dollars opening weekend. 84% of people who saw this movie gave it an A. 96% gave it an A or B. Wow, this thing is gonna be huge. Wait, it already is. I wonder if it'll hit a billion...it did rock. Hard. Short sentences.

EDIT: Of course, they're already talking Iron Man sequels. There are apparently now actually 4 in talks. That's right, a total of 5 Iron Man movies. lol.