Archive for the 'Living Life' Category

Avatar: Throwing the Towel on 2D (and Perhaps Reality)

Utterly boring. That’s what I saw in the woods and the sky along the expressway when I was driving back after seeing James Cameron’s new 3D movie. Because if there’s one thing about perceiving color in real life, it’s immediately recognizing post-production values that set new records for my eye’s dynamic range. Things initially jostled back and forth: good visuals, or good plot? Strong lead protagonists and flat antagonists, or level-headed characters everywhere? Do I really need 3D, or will normal cinema suffice? Hint: I didn’t prefer the new tech.

But Avatar, a ~161-minute movie with costs higher than the smart-as-wood Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, at least managed to get some of the things I longed for in an adventure-action film correct. Not the majority of points like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but more than enough to pass a year-end science fiction movie quality test. Want to spoil yourself? Jump, and don’t miss…it’s a long fall from here!
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District 9, a Sentient and Smart Sci-Fi Movie

Call me silly after viewing the horror that was Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, but when I heard there was well-paced and intense mecha combat in District 9, it quickly ramped my interest up again. Way up. Because I already heard that the film was pulling in a healthy number of great reviews, but now it has robots! After seeing it tonight, though, it’s one of the good things that I can jot down about what makes a strong science fiction movie. With great lead characters, fluid and very realistic CGI, a smattering of original ideas, and good pacing, it held the plot in without many major leaks. But here’s the kicker: with a mere budget of $30 million, Peter Jackson and Neill Blomkamp have done a marvelous job at producing what was easily the best mature sci-fi film all year long. Take that, RotF and your $200 million black hole!

Don’t leave it to me to spoil the plot for you – go watch it yourself, or at least read what follows alongside the Wikipedia entry. I’ll give a quick rundown of what made the movie great in my eyes, what faltered, comments that fit neither, and overall what I think of this as a Christian film watcher.
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Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen…Semi-Rant List!

I suppose this is worth a post, because as a mecha gearhead, I saw the movie coming. And oh, did it strut in bombastically…and immediately fall on its face.

Honestly, I thought that the 2007 live-action Transformers movie was pretty good. As in, it had a decent plot, many good characters, amazing computer-generated mechs, and a somewhat-smooth action-to-story pacing. Even despite some bumpy shortcomings (unbalanced favor in humans compared to the robots, some overdone battles at the end, underdeveloped antagonist leads, etc.), it primed my mind, no pun intended, with fun, over-the-top action, and some great nostalgia of what my childhood could’ve been. It got me excited about a potentially-better sequel. It urged me to buy Transformers figurines and to relive the animated cartoon era. Then again, that was a busy summer with an extra class and Otakon, haha.

The eye candy only works once or twice, though. Here, only once. Because the real sequel, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, didn’t meet any of my expectations for a great 2.5-hour movie. Or even a good summer blockbuster half-a-plot over-edited 2.5-hour movie. After seeing it last night under a free Regal Cinemas movie ticket, part of me wanted to undo it all and view a thrilling family film like UP instead. Why? I’ll let all the official negative reviews of RotF do the talking – because they were right. Though I knew the plot and the involved characters beforehand, and even despite spoiling myself completely a week ago (I do that on occasion), it really didn’t flip my skeptical mindset, but reinforced it instead.

Here’s the fun aftermath: I had a nice surge of ideas post-viewing about how to “appropriately” craft a working title for Revenge of the Fallen. Many spoilers abound, so please don’t read unless you’re up to a non-existent revelation of sorts. Comments are in [brackets]. So let’s see…
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The Best Final Project of This Semester…

…isn’t even related to my major, which again begs the question of why so many of us have split interests between multiple passions. For the past two weeks, myself and the rest of ART 220 have been working feverishly on our last and biggest assignment, a multi-figural composition on any mediums and methods of choice. So…I chose to do a 40″ x 30″ drawing of giant robots and a pilot in a cavernous underground base, titled “Hangar A-1.” Much more technical information and a short fictional description are on the related deviantART post here.

Hangar A-1

With the piece due yesterday, my in-class critique went off without a hitch. Slightly surprising, though, was that almost no one gave me open advice about what to revise (compared to almost every other student before me, who on average received 3-5 strings of improvement commentary); sure, the technical parts have their presence, but there’s still a lot I see that isn’t quite right. Joe Sherman, who isn’t even in the class (yet?), suggested that I should add in more features and textures to exemplify the dilapidated, dark environment the ‘bots are searching through, but it was already obvious that time wasn’t enough. Honestly, I still need a lot of practice drawing human anatomy, environments, and internal mecha parts, and I ought to rework this project some day so it truly reflects the gritty mood it was originally meant to show.

Making (Slow) Progress. With Updates!

Well, when I can, that is. It seems that ever since DreamHost e-mailed me about moving my server data to a new machine, the old image gallery GridLine.PlasmaFire.org has been on the fritz with 404/database errors and is having issues with my logon information. Oh well, that’s what I get for not updating absolute paths in time; it’ll be coming down very soon anyway. The Tesla Coil Graduation Project photos need to be re-posted at a slightly-higher resolution, since many modern laptops have a standard 1280×800 resolution. No changes to Abuse.PlasmaFire.org or PSAOM.org yet due to finals week coming soon, as much as I’d want to.

Time for a non-engineering talk: there’s a lot of new artwork currently backlogged for posting, especially traditional studies, in light of a figure drawing class that myself and Catherine Lu have been taking this semester. The course has been a wonderful experience, save for a couple of assignments (collages and chalk pastel, grr), and definitely helped a lot with my mecha drawing. Looking back on how my engineering-influenced art has changed since switching from 2D schematic-style designs two years ago, it’s actually pretty reassuring: more curves, organic features, expressive lines, and a greater understanding of perspective, while depending less on tools in lieu of simpler things; I still find it far easier to generate ideas with a sketchbook, mechanical pencil, and eraser than having to pull out the drawing board or laptop and tablet. True, in reality it’s a matter of practicing, interest, trust (in the Lord, of course), and simply putting the tools to the media. This is the gist about any kind of original art, whether it’s creating from observation or delineating with no active references.

And back to reality: 4 credits of figure drawing only counts as a General Education arts course, and that’s all I can take ’till graduation! There’s a looming cloud of challenging core electrical engineering courses about to descend upon me come Fall 2009. I can feel it…the sufferings of previous EE students under Fourier Transforms, partial differential equations, and advanced electromagnetics. If this were a work of B-grade sci-fi, I’d probably write about it: “One Student In His Puny Mecha Versus Legions Of Gigantic EE Automatons Bent On Utterly Destroying Him. Year #4.” -_-‘

In other news, Tekkoshocon 2009 was fantastic (far better than last year…except for the Game Room, unfortunately), Pandora Radio is awesome (especially since Tim Westergren spoke to PSU’s Audio Engineering Society last week), and Folding for Penn State is superb (join team #1805!). What’s with me and abusing the English language using a passive voice, anyway?

On a final note: if you can, please pray for my parents, as they are currently in Taiwan for the next couple of weeks visiting friends and relatives. Returning to their home country might not be awkward even after spending several decades in the States, but in light of this my immediate family is now scattered all over the world (yes, even my sister living in NYC counts as “scattered”). Do pray that my mom and dad may enjoy their time off there and will have a safe trip home.

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