Monday, May 30, 2011

it's a post

i'd hoped to get a post up today, since i have nearly a dozen i want to publish, but that didn't happen.
so, as i've been getting ready for the start of the summer course tomorrow and thinking about why i was glad i wasn't home last week, i came across this on during one of my very rare times of actually looking at a person's facebook page.
as i'm not likely to post anything else in the next seven minutes of today, i thought i'd pass this along.

"to love at all is to be vulnerable. love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. if you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. but in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. it will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. the alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. the only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell." ~c.s. lewis

Monday, May 23, 2011

two wuv

alyssa recently wrote about "breaking up with your favorite bands," comparing liking a band to a romantic relationship and looking at how those relationships change over the years.  i've been tossing around ideas for some music posts lately, and this seemed like a good format for some of those thoughts.  so, alyssa, the idea that you borrowed from someone else, i'm now using.

in talking with a few friends, i've noted that i'm one who doesn't easily fall in love, but when i do, i'm in for the long haul, not giving up easily or without a fight.  my listeners inevitably praise this quality, telling me that it's one of my best traits, although considering my life history, i can't help but wonder.  at times, it feels akin to owning a fully-equipt mechanic's garage but not having a car.
whatever the case, in light of alyssa's analogy, i think i'm the same with my musical relationships.  behold:

my exes

weird al
my goofy, junior high romance: dated the class clown, felt silly for a while, and now respect him for what he is.  we still go out of milkshakes occasionally, just to reminisce (musical metaphorically speaking, that is.)

the barenaked ladies
they're that date that you're friends think you'd be great with, and you go out and yeah, they're pleasant and nice and all, but there's just not really any connection there.  they were one of the funnest concerts i've ever been to and i subsequently bought a few of their cds.  "brian wilson" is one of my favorite songs (from anyone), but there's nothing special between us.

ben folds [five]
we connect on some great levels but it just can't work out.  he broke up with his band and i kind of broke up with him.  i didn't realized how different things were until i saw him in concert a few years ago; his solo stuff still sounds like the bf5 songs, yet i noticed that all of the best songs, the ones that i really loved, were from the ben folds five era.  recently, his albums have had more and more words i don't like, so we're essentially over. i still listen to (and rock out and emote to) the old songs and remember how good things were.  no one has a way with words and emotions quite like him.  
we'll always have "best imitation of myself."

friends with benefits

radiohead
like every other artistic male in college, i dated radiohead.  they were so artistic and passionate, enigmatic yet they understood how i felt.  or something like that, anyway.
their concert was a good life lesson for me, but i soon noticed that their moodiness and broodiness was starting to drag me down and i cooled things off, keeping them on the shelf for several years.  with the release of their newest album this year, i decided that maybe that enough time had passed that we could be friends now.

coldplay
the girl you're attracted to and she likes you, she's beautiful and inspiring and i have every cd and love them all, but we just didn't really click on a deep level like i did with some others.  we're better as friends than dating.

the beastie boys
i guess even i wanted to date the bad boys, just to feel cool.  but i'm not that kind of person and couldn't really go through with it.
then, about a year ago, popped in the one cd of theirs i did have (hello nasty, which i bought when it came out ten years ago because it didn't have "parental advisory" sticker on it) and really liked it.  a lot.  and when i found out that i could buy "clean" versions of their cds, we were dating and my roommates got to hear all about it: "you mean i get all the excitement of dating the rebel and can still carry my for the strength of youth pamphlet without shame?  yeah, i'm free friday night!"
like the proverbial trouble-makers at school, there's really a lot more to them than their loud, obnoxious songs (in fact, i can hardly listen to their greatest hits cds, because it's only those loud songs; the rest of their albums have a much broader range.)  i still have no idea why guys who are known for their rebellious attitudes keep releasing "clean" versions, but their latest album still has me very much attracted to them.

my true loves

they might be giants
i had a crush on the johns in junior high, when i felt embarrassed for going steady with them and tried to hide it for fear of being outcast (i still have and wear (sorry, mom) my apollo 18 t-shirt that i bought in eighth grade.)  i embraced our relationship in high school, doing whatever i could to see their concerts and get ahold of their music.  they're smart, too clever for their own good, brilliant and eclectic musicians: the kind of people i want to be with.
in college we grew apart some, as relationships sometimes do, although i'd see them here and there (experimental film, anyone?) and remember why i was in love.
then, in the fall of 2009, i drove to montana for a commercial and listened to them shuffled on my ipod for five hours straight.  this was our second honeymoon, and i was reminded once again that we were soul mates.  it was love all over again and i'm never leaving them.

r.e.m.
as i was trying to find someone more musically popular to date than two nerdy guys from brooklyn, r.e.m. was becoming the most popular band in the world (circa 1993).  i thought we might make a good couple and, with the help of the bmg music club (the musical dating site of the mid-90s, so to speak), i soon had all of their cds for one or two pennies.
like i said, when i fall in love, i'm committed.  i learned everything about them and collected every rare bootleg and import cd i could find (including their ultra-rare Christmas singles....)
they were my first concert and you always remember your first time.  it was as magical as any high school romance: i got a call to go to the office on one of the last days of school my freshman year, where the lady in the office told me that my mom had gotten me tickets to the show in minneapolis and that my dad would be there to pick me and my best friend up after school.
yeah.
awesome.
it was incredible, a massive show that was everything i wanted it to be.  i still have the shirt from that show, too....
we've grown old together.  they faded from popularity through the latter half of the 90s and continued to dwindle in the 2000s, but i've stood by them, buying and listening to every release, long after their hot and popular prime.  i saw them in concert in 2004, when they played to an audience a quarter of the size they commanded ten years earlier and it was just as good then as it was in high school.
today they're a dinosaur band.  kids know them only from picking up their classic releases, like i do with the clash.
but true love endures.  their release this year, collapse into now, is amazing, the best thing they've done since before i could speak japanese, and i'll be listening to it for a long time.  it's a reminder that there is still life and vigor in the latter years of a relationship.

tally hall
my eternal companions.  it was love at first sight and over the years the things about you that i first didn't think much of are now what i love most about you.  always and forever i will be with you.  you are mine. (well, and hers.)
and if anyone wants to date me, you need to appreciate the hall, too.  for thus saith the spice girls, "if you wannabe my lover, you gotta get with my friends.  making love's forever; tally hall never ends."


sharing advice from his brother, michel gondry said, "you can't be in love with your girlfriend everyday. it come and goes and it's normal.  but it always comes back.  in general."

i suppose the same could be said for romantic relationships, too.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

just try it

so this one time, i was having lunch with a friend.  i had an awesome pastrami sandwich and a small bowl of some of the best italian pasta salad i'd had in a long time (the sandwich came with a pickle, too).  she was telling me about this guy she'd been dating.
things weren't going well and never really had in the five or so weeks that they'd been trying it out.  he had pursued her for a while and finally she decided to give it a shot.  their schedules were crazy busy but she'd started making changes to spend more time with him.  he had, too, but she still felt very neglected and often felt like she was an afterthought.  they had started dating at a hectic time and, she noted, they never really had a good chance.

she was hurt.  he felt terrible that it wasn't working out at all even thought he thought he was trying so hard.  "and that's the sad thing, jeff," she'd said a few days earlier.  "he is trying so hard and it's still not working at all!"  in trying to acknowledge the reality of the situation and his deficiency, he asked her if she could remember two days in a row where he hadn't disappointed her or hurt her feelings.
she couldn't remember a time.

i felt terrible.  i didn't like seeing a friend so sad and frustrated.  and i thought it was interesting that, after he working so hard to win her affection, how much she was now sacrificing in her life to make it work.

the day that we were having lunch, they had earlier held their nth d.t.r. (and, as one of my roommates had once noted, d.t.r.s are almost never good...)

but this one had been.

they both really wanted to make it work and so they did.  they took turns talking honestly, explaining how they each communicated, why they said the things they did, what they were trying to express, and what they needed from the other, since both were willing to give, they just didn't know what to give.
they left the seemingly-doomed meeting with hope on the horizon.

when my friend politely asked if she could check her phone during our lunch, i couldn't help but feel warm and fuzzy as she smiled at the text she'd received. "he misses me," she shared.

master yoda once taught me, "do or do not.  there is no try."
i used to think he meant, "don't say you'll 'try.'  either you decide to do it or you decide not to."  as i heard in church last sunday, whether you say you can or you can't, you're right.
but maybe it's that trying leads to doing.
that, sometimes, trying is doing.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

people

i finally got around to watching 127 hours.
i liked it.
more emotionally than artistically, although i think it deserved its best picture nomination.

barely a year ago, i was on the production for just a few days shy of half the shoot.  like watching anything that i've worked on, it's always a bit jarring, seeing the finished product, since one shot of james/aron running across the canyon land is cut with the next shot, one that that we filmed a week later and two hundred miles away.  i found myself trying to guess which of the two canyon sets was used for the different shots, or which were the rare ones that were done on location (at least, i think so; i was only there for the last day of that location.  although i did ride the helicopter home that night sitting next to danny, thank you.)

i remembered the day that i slept only an hour the night before, the 100-mile drive from the hotel to set so that we could be there in time to have breakfast before the sun started to rise on the desert, the extremely heavy backpack i carried a mile into the location, so that i would have all the gear i would need in case danny needed to see any previously shot footage.  i recognize the shots from the day that we didn't get lunch, because the caterer put the food out early and, in the hot sun, it was all ruined by lunch time.  i remembered days of shooting, even some very complicated, expensive, and dangerous shots that weren't in the final cut of the movie.  or the grueling ordeal of filming the rescue helicopter landing, over and over, all of us being blasted with sand and dust repeatedly, and how it got into every part of my electronic equipment (and how happy i was when i got it working again a week later.)  i remember feeling lucky that i got to be there for actual "arm cutting off" scene, and that i spent two days watching the monitors as james agonizingly cut through seven prosthetic arms, and that even though i knew they were fake, i couldn't help but cringe when he cut the nerve.

i remembered my very first day, being so nervous about getting tossed into a job i knew nothing about (this was one of the two movies i did that i wasn't on the camera crew--and i was actually grateful for that this time....) and how yelena came in three hours ahead of her call time to help me get set up and make sure everything was working properly.  i remembered the shots we were setting up when word reached the set that dave had passed away the night before, and how everything was quiet and somber for the rest of the day (and i was grateful that i the week i had off was the week of his funeral.)
i remembered the blueberries the craft services lady put out and how i would load up a cup full of them, and my irritation when the guy with the lizard wouldn't leave me alone when i was trying to talk with that pretty girl.

it was my last feature film that i really worked on (my name might be on john carter next summer, but that was only two days) and i went through the credits with the pause button, stopping to remember so many different names.

when the film was coming out last fall, i read an interview where danny (boyle, the director) was talking about the theme of the movie.  it was about humanity, he said, and the need for connection.  that while we talk about the joy of leaving cities and society and getting away to the wilderness, he said that ultimately we need each other.  that is what keeps us going, keeps us strong, keeps us alive: people.

i don't think i would have made that clear of an association without his description, but with that in mind,  the opening title sequences of the crowds and masses of people definitely reinforced that.
what i did think about was how much fun aron was having, biking and hiking through southern utah all by himself.

i couldn't really relate.
no, not because i'm not really an outdoors guy.  i've got plenty of pictures of me in southern utah having fun.  but i'm having fun because there are other people in those pictures with me.
so, maybe i'm not an outdoors guy.  maybe i'm a people guy.
which is funny, because when i hear that term, i think of those friends of mine who love meeting new people and seem to know a dozen people wherever they are (you know who you are.)

i don't see myself like that.  
on the plane, i've usually got my book out before the person next to me has even sat down.  but i do see myself as someone who loves the people in my life.  i like having someone around who really knows me.  i love it.
heck, i thrive on it.
we all do, probably.
i think danny would be very happy, then, that i have so many memories from his film shoot because of the people that were with me.

i care less about what i'm doing and more about who i'm with.
that's what it's all about: having a companion.

Friday, May 20, 2011

spring and a storm

this evening me and a friend successfully made a chocolate souffle then watched harry potter #2.  there was nothing about harry or ron making sounds like animals or trains, but i still enjoyed it.

during the movie, a terrific thunderstorm started outside.

after my friend left, i stood outside and watched the lightning for about the space of half an hour.
the moist air was cool.  my bare feet got a little wet as i stood there and thought and watched and thought.

it was beautiful.
and peaceful.
and seriously dang.

wish [you] were here.

Monday, May 16, 2011

how to make a face like this

i had the notion that the facial animation class was a tough, second-year kind of course.  not really sure why, and when i looked around the room one day in the latter half of the semester, i noticed that everyone was a first year like me, with one exception.  and there were also three underclassmen, too.

am i in love with animation and learning to sync speech?  no, not really.
was the class pretty interesting?  yeah, i'd say so.

part of what made it so cool was that my teacher was a pioneer in computer graphics and facial animation and was the guy who made the first computer animated face, a handful of years before i was born.  so it was fun to  just ask him questions and listen to the ensuing stories.

the class was set up for us to make two faces, which was a good method, since we'd discover what was wrong with our first design and could improve it for the second one.  my initial plan was to model chloe o'brien from 24, for not particular reason than i thought it'd be fun.
i found some nice reference images and started modeling my favorite computer analyst.


it was probably around 11:30 the night before this was due when i joked that she kind of looked like lord voldemort.
then i realized that, if i chose to make the dark lord, i wouldn't have to both with modeling a nose.
bonus!
and at this point, chloe o'brien began to evolve into tom riddle.


you don't see you-know-who making a quizical expression often, but i think i did a decent job with him.
he's very blocky because that shows the geometric design of him, which is important for understanding if he'll be able to move and talk correctly.  in computer graphics, the geometric design is kind of like the muscle structure: you want things in the right place according to what it's going to do.
press one button in the computer and he comes out smoothed:


he had some problems, but i was able to make him say "happy" with moderate success.
(one of my friends make a really scary zombie clown and it didn't occur to him until too late that, without lips, it would be very hard for him to talk.  admirably, though, he did his best with that and it looked pretty good!)

at spring break we started into our second face, which would become our final project: animating full speech. i tossed around some ideas and decided to do "destro", the villain with the metal face from g.i. joe.
trying to find references for a fictional comic/cartoon character is kind of tricky when you want to make him in three physical and realistic dimensions.


this was kind of helpful, but hardly ideal references from which to sculpt.  eventually, i found this, a replica mask from some comic nerd website.


incidentally, these masks were never actually produced, due to low pre-order numbers.  still, i thought it looked seriously awesome; strong, powerful, imposing, definitely a mask but also very human.
now, our first model was due the day after we got back from spring break, and since i spent the whole time out snowboarding in colorado (never did get around to posting about that, did i?), this was my initial model:


mask: awesome.
this thing: goofy and dumb-looking.
but it was a nice exercise not only in matching to a model but also looking and see what was right and what needed to be improved upon: much bigger lips, a matching broader chin, shift the jawline, and, well, the list went on.
eventually, i got to this:


i would continue to make adjustments until the last possible moment, but he's certainly looking a lot more bad-awesome.  i adjusted the "collar" at the base of the mask and added a seam around the longitude of his head, where the mask would split into halves, just to add some realism while ignoring the question of how a metal mask deforms for speech or any sort of comfort issues.

i really would have liked to give him some cool textures for his face, some scratches on the metal, some spots duller and some spots shinier, etc.  but like i said before, textures are not my thing and we weren't too heavily graded on that, anyway.  so i just cranked the shininess levels and called it good (more or less....)

now, there are several different ways to do just about anything in computer animation, and we used a few methods in animating our faces.  one of the main ways is what's called "blend shapes."  basically, you make a lot of copies of your face and then sculpt each one into different expressions and poses.  this ranges from "right mouth corner up" to "left eyebrow down" and anything else you might want, as well as different speech postures: "oo", "ah", b/p/m" (all the same lip positioning) and so one.
soon, it looks like this:


then you press a few buttons in the computer and you magically have a row of buttons that controls those expressions on your face.
after that, you move through your vocal track and start matching up the mouth positions with the spoken syllables.  once that's done(ish), start working on the upper half of the face, adding eye blinks, brow movements, and whatever else to add expression.  one key thing is that the eyes should almost always be moving; motionless eye pretty much equals deadness.

since all of our faces will be shown together, we tried to have a common thread linking what they were saying.  in past years, they've answered the question, "what happened to your body?"
in maintaining the acknowledgement that we were working with floating heads, we asked "what were your last words?"
while i couldn't think of anything particularly creative, i decided to play against the stereotype and have my big tough guy's last words be him begging for his life.  meh.

a few weeks before the end of the semester i took a week and really focused, really pushed myself, and was super dang happy (and surprised!) when my teacher only a had a few--and very specific--suggestions for me the next day in class.  i added some lighting and a backdrop and also put a few objects off-screen to be reflected in his shiny metal face to make it more interesting to look at.  then, for funsies, i animated the camera to move like a documentary camera, adjusting the framing as he was talking (tried to do some focus work, but that was more hassle than i felt like dealing with.)  a few more touches and he was done.

EDITOR'S NOTE: THERE'S SOUND HERE NOW.

video

and i finished without having to do any terrible all-nighters.
which was nice, because i inexplicably needed a lot of time to work on my compositing final....

Sunday, May 15, 2011

let's play hungry hungry hippos instead

five or six weeks ago i planned a trip to utah for the break time between semesters.  as the trip was getting closer i began to wonder i was overzealous in staying for eight days, if that would leave me sitting around bored for a lot of the time.  but so far it's been a good balance between having plenty to do and also having enough down time to relax, unwind, think, ponder, and work on some pre-visualization for our summer course.

it's strange driving around provo.  i moved away nearly nine months ago and yet it feels so natural to be home, almost as if i hadn't left at all.

i'm also not as good of a dancer as i thought, but i did learn a few new moves tonight.  still need plenty of practice, though.










like i'd never left.

(i tried some new cologne while browsing at bath and bodyworks tonight and sitting here now all i can think is dang, i smell good.)

Friday, May 13, 2011

2-D meets 3-D

here begins the chronicling of my work and classes from this semester.
i think it would be safe to suggest that my favorite class was my digital compositing class, although a more accurate answer is probably whatever class's deadline wasn't looming over my head like the sword of damocles at any given moment (which effectively rules out my undergrad 271: programming for dummies class, but more on that later.)

digital compositing, which i signed up for at the very last minute because i didn't know it existed, was really interesting nonetheless.  the class revolved around inserting ("compositing") images/objects into a 2-D image.  this is essentially beginning off that path that culminates in computer-generated monsters and alien invasions in every movie coming out between now and the end of october (after which time the remainder of the year is filled with so-called "oscar fare", movies that involved no apparent c.g. and instead have to rely on things like being "critically acclaimed.")  in january, i had no clue at all how to do anything like that.  now i have a bit of a clue, but don't expect to see my name in the credits of the next michael bay movie anytime soon (or at all, for at least two reasons.)

much of the first half of the semester was taken up with lectures consisting of our turkish professor explaining  how computers read color information and writing equations that soon left me a little baffled.  but i miraculously drew in photoshop a box on a pile of other boxes.  i was so seriously dang proud of myself.
the rest of the assignments just got cooler.

there were four variations on assignments for our second and third project.  mine was to take this picture


and have an object fly through it.  it had to cast shadows correctly and the lighting had to match.
ok...... so, where do you start?
ima tell you.

along with this picture we were given a few more helpful things.  we were given measurements, such as the dimensions of the box, the various distances of the camera from the box, how high off the ground it was, it's angle of declination, and this other photograph:

'k.... great.
well, yeah that is pretty great, actually.  that little peg is a pretty good indicator of how the light is, based on the shadows it casts.  well come back to this in a bit.
so, if we're going to have an object fly through here, we need to build a 3-dimensional scene to put over this.
after an hour or two of frustrations and discovering, it looks kind of like this:


there are the basic objects that will need to receive the shadows: a plane for the ground, another for the wall, and a simple cube for the box.  and i've set up some distance locators to ensure that my camera is the same height as the real camera was, so that the perspective will be the same, too.
since the real wooden box has many different sides and faces that will all receive shadows differently, i needed to model a box that looked just the same.  and so i did.  you can see the wire frame of my box against the background image of the real deal.


if you were able to move around and look at it, you'd see that it's not a perfect shape.  i got it looking pretty close but after a point just had to start grabbing edges and corners and pulling them to where the looked right.  as my professor at byu said, "in computer graphics, if it looks right, it is right."  and if you could change your viewing angle a bit here, you'd see some definite skewing going on.  but you can't, so we're good.

i should note here that this was not the method my teacher intended for us to use on this.  he expected to do it in a way that didn't involved modeling the whole complex box, which he felt was much simpler.  i didn't realize this until later on in the semester; i was just doing what seemed the easiest to me.
meh, anyway....

so, we've got a big fake box.  great.  here's where it gets kind of sneaky.  in cg, the look/texture of an object is called its "shader."  and you can apply a seemingly limitless variety of shaders using all manner of voodoo that i really don't understand very well yet (hopefully that will change in the coming summer months.)  but one of the sneakiest is the "use background" shader.  i'll let you figure out what that does.

maya signifies an object with "use background" as bright green.  so it soon looked like i had made a leprechaun casket.

"ideally", and that's a very unpredictable term around these parts, the box will render essentially invisible, since it looks like whatever is behind.  but you can still tell it to receive shadows (as well as a myriad of other options, the joys of which i will expound upon in coming posts.)

at any rate, i'm off to a good start here.

next up is getting the lighting right.
remember that picture of the little pink peg casting a nice shadow on the white matte?  well, now that i know kind of how to place objects in the scene, it's time to make my own peg and try to get it to cast an identical shadow.


ok.... let's look at the positive here: my peg's shadow is similar-ish to the real shadow.  definitely needs some fill light so that the shadow isn't pure black.  but we're getting there.
the problem with this scene, in case you didn't notice, is that half it is a jagged black mess.
i spent a few hours pouring over every setting, trying to find what 0 had been changed to a 1.
i tried using a different renderer and got this:


i guess that's better.....?  now it just looks like a beam of dark matter from some super villain cut through my scene.
eventually i found the (embarrassingly blatant) problem and everything was peachy.


good. great.  i got an image that looks like i stuck something into a real scene.  never mind the still-very-too-dark shadows.  i'm celebrating my accomplishments, not my faults.
i think it's time for a dress rehearsal, to see how it all looks together, magic green box and object and all.


heh.  whoops. yeah, i need to take out my peg and, more importantly, turn off "reflections" on all of my crafted green objects.  this is very encouraging, even if it does look like it just rained out here.


dang.
it works.
: D
whomever was closest to me got a high five.
i mean, that's pretty cool.

now, part of compositing is compositing: putting things together in layers so that it can all be controlled individually.  which means that i rendered out an "object pass" that had the object flying through by itself (actually, since i didn't know quite what i was doing i had the background included in that, but this scene was simple enough that that wasn't an issue.)
then i rendered out another pass of just the shadow; no object, no background, just a mysterious dark spot against white.  i didn't worry about the shadow's intensity earlier because now that i have just the shadow layer, i can lighten this to however i want it to be.
yeah, pretty slick.




and, at my professor's suggestion, added an occlusion pass.  occlusion is the shading that occurs based on proximity between two objects: place two cereal boxes next to each other and the shadowyness that happens between them is occlusion.  it takes a long time to render because there's a lot of calculations that have to happen, but it really makes it look nice.




put it all together with its simple animation and it looks like this:

video

excitedly grab your nearest friend, pull them over to see your little slice of awesomeness, and catch the next bus home, telling yourself that you've done enough good work for today that programming can wait until tomorrow.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

red card

i don't mind fighting a losing fight.
just because i'm losing doesn't mean i've lost.

but i can't stand this feeling like i've been thrown off the field, that i'm sitting on the bench or, worse, pacing in the locker room, having to watch the final from a tv monitor rather than being out there.
i'm not competitive in a lot of things, but the times when i want to fight and am no longer allowed, i hate it.
sitting here. doing nothing.

so close.
2000 light years away.
fair.

editor's note: we are fully aware of the two previous posts.  we're fine with the contrast.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

the crowd

i remember seeing a movie in my film history part one class many years ago (saying that i remember seeing "a movie" is actually pretty accurate; the class was at 10 a.m. and while my passion for antiquated movies wasn't as strong as it is today, i was still interested in it, yet managed to sleep through just about every movie in there) that had a moment that stuck out to me. i think the movie was "the crowd", a relatively famous silent film by king vidor. the family in the story had decided to take a trip to the beach and everything was spread out on a picnic blanket. the kids were playing and in some way ruined the cake that the mother had made. i remember her getting upset with the children and it kind of ending their fun day.

something about that stood out to me: how the mother had wanted the day to be perfect and happy, but when the kids accidentally ruined the cake that was a part of that plan, that effectively ended the day, when really that was an inconsequential part of it and they could have brushed it off and enjoyed each other.

on the shuttle to the airport this morning, a family boarded with two small girls. the mother apologized to the rest of the shuttle for their slowness in boarding and getting all of their luggage on. i don't think any of us minded, but she was clearly irritated with her sitauation. i saw her sifting through her bag, making sure she had everything to make their week-long trip in mexico go like she wanted, yet i couldn't help but suspect that she'd likely be that exasperated for her whole trip.  i wanted to tell her to relax and just enjoy things, but that probably wouldn't've been very effective.

still, it's left me thinking.  yes, it is easier said than done, but i'm going to try and not get as bothered by little things, especially if they're insignificant towards the bigger goals, particularly if getting bothered by them takes me exactly opposite of where i'm trying to go.  it's just a cake.

dang, i was hoping this would come to a less cliched conclusion.....
meh, i won't sweat it.

Monday, May 09, 2011

the silence

i don't own many children's books, and the few that i do have are mostly gifts (for which i am appreciative.)  but there's one (only one?) that i've bought for myself.  it's called zen shorts, a story of panda who moves in next to a couple of children and within the story tells them three short zen parables.  with all credit to author jon j. muth, here is "the farmer's luck."


there was once an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years.

one day, his horse ran away.  upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit.
"such bad luck," they said sympathetically.
"maybe," the farmer replied.
the next morning the horse returned, bringing with it two other wild horses.
"such good luck!" the neighbors exclaimed.
"maybe," replied the farmer.

the following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown off, and broke his leg.
again, the neighbors came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.
"such bad luck," they said.
"maybe," answered the farmer.

the day after that, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army to fight in a war. seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by.
"such good luck!" cried the neighbors.
"maybe," said the farmer.


now, the zen idea of being so tranquil that one is never bothered by anything doesn't fully appeal to me, as it seems that, without lows, you don't feel the highs, either.  a few years ago i saw a sign somewhere that said to the effect, "if you don't try too hard then losing isn't too disappointing and winning isn't very exciting."
also, i don't know where the line is between things "just happening" and it all being a part of God's plan for us personally, but i do believe that He is actively an interested part of our lives, even on a daily level.

that all being said, i think this is a very good story that i can do well to remember.

Friday, May 06, 2011

an audience

i've been thinking about the theatre some lately.
the bohemian romance of it all, the devotion, the passion, the madness that surrounds it; the thrill and rush and surge of a live performance.
sometimes i find myself wondering if i took the safe and boring road, trading things like that for job security, insurance benefits, and more time with my elusive future family.

tonight was "viza-go-go", the a&m viz department's version of "final cut" for all you byu alumnuses out there (hmmm, the computer didn't get mad at me for saying "alumnuses."  interesting....)  i wasn't sure what to expect, since at final cut we were at least watching (attempts at) movies with stories; i wondered how much of this would just be technical achievements of texturing or effects.  and there was some, but overall it was pretty interesting, even for my non-industry date.

my "how to float" video was selected to play.  as i've said before, i never gave much thought to it once i moved on to the next project, and so i was surprised when so many people told me they liked it at our fall show.  and i was a little pleased to see that it played at tonight's show near the end (which is kind of sort of reserved for the better works, although they may have put it there so that it could be the dud surrounded by plenty of good stuff....)
for what it is, it's something i'm happy with.

more than that, though, it was fun to sit in that audience, surrounded by the unknown general public and to see them laugh at the little video that i made last fall.

for a moment, i got to perform again.