Sunday, February 26, 2012

tapping along

there is the story of two old men.
one is sitting in his chair, listening to the radio and tapping along with his foot.
the second old man comes along. he has lost his hearing and so cannot hear the music, but sees his friend tapping his foot. he sit down and begins also tapping his foot.

both men are tapping their feet, but only one can hear the music.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

short oscar thoughts

why we fall in love 

somehow, the oscars are tomorrow and i haven't had the time to finish my post on that.

but my dear little mac mini seems to have had some sort of computer stroke, in that seemingly minor issues it's having may be signs of more serious trouble. it's ability to load web pages seems to have recently eroded away. thankfully my apple care is still valid. hopefully that'll cover whatever's going on here.

so i'll finish things up briefly here while i'm in the lab, avoiding writing shaders in slim.

i'm hoping terrence mallick will win for best director tomorrow. that's a long shot and i'm really not sure what the general pulse is on that one.

and while we all know that i think the tree of life is the best movie of the year decade, we also all know that it's too esoteric to have a chance at winning. thankfully, not only is the artist an acceptable substitute, it seems to have been building up momentum throughout the awards season.

the only other contender seems to be hugo and ima be quite upset if that wins (still baffled at the amount of praise that one's garnered). but i think people like the artist because it's black and white and silent, so they can feel like they're choosing something "different" or "artistic" yet it's also delightfully accessible to a wide audience (once they give it a chance.)

my wants:
best director: mallick
best picture: the tree of life or the artist

my predictions:
best director: either michel hazanavicius (for the artist) or woody allen
best picture: the artist


Friday, February 24, 2012

it's been a hard day's night


but when i get home to you
and find the things that you do
you know i feel alright

Sunday, February 19, 2012

left hand, right hand


i feel like i'm sparring with my left hand these days.

Friday, February 17, 2012

paradigm drift

i was up all night last night doing homework.
i slept through that class this morning because i wanted to get three hours of sleep instead of an hour and a half.
that's the beauty of submitting classwork on a website, i guess.

i vowed i would leave the lab by 11 tonight, midnight at the latest (never mind that i wanted to simply stay home during my dinner break at 6:30.) i left at 1:20 a.m.

i haven't seen my roommates in a few days, occasionally have to stop and think about what day it is or where i parked my car, and have needed to do laundry for a few days now.

but i'm a rock star at work, this week has brought some happy surprises, and i went to see breakfast at tiffany's on valentine's night.

plus i think i've learned a very valuable life lesson from ferris bueller's day off.
i'll write about some of those things later.

Monday, February 13, 2012

busy

i got stood up last night.
at church she said she had a lot of visits to do and things to take care of and that she'd text me when she was done (and i know it wasn't just something to get rid of me.)
i never heard from her.

i have no free time any more myself. most days i'm at school by 9 or 10 and if i'm home before midnight, it's only to grab some food before heading back. gone are the weeknights of watching movie followed by rock band, of sitting around on a saturday morning, trying to decide what we'll do that day. last weekend was a rare anomaly where i was able to sit on my couch and pick out a movie to watch with my roommates.
and i don't like it.

there are some people who live to work, for whom their job is the purpose of their life and they thrive on that. if that's what brings them happiness, then great, keep working. but i work to live. i am spending all of my time at school in the hopes that, one day, i will be able to have a job that allows me to provide enough that i don't have to be gone on weekends, that i can come home in the evenings. because, if i'm being super busy now just so that i can be super busy later, then what's the point?

for behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward. verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; for the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. and inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.
doctrine and covenants 58:26-28

"i like guys with a lot on their plate," a friend once told me. i agree with her. there's something very attractive about a girl who's out doing things, making something with her life. "intensely attractive," as john bytheway put it. but there's a point where it becomes too much, where i wonder if a busy girl would even have any room in her life for me, or if i would just be another checkbox on her to do list, allotted time in between "double check thursday's presentation notes" and "buy shoes for saturday"; where things are repeatedly being rescheduled because she's trying to fit in as many activities as possible, where it's impossible to sit back and just enjoy time together because the clock is always ticking up to the next scheduled appointment. i sometimes wonder if i've lost a dear friend to the life of being "busy," and i was a little disappointed that i didn't even hear from the girl last night. i have no doubt that she was doing good and worthwhile things with her time, but i was a little sad that they became more worthwhile than me.

last semester i was busy. it almost became a cancer, actually. i was so busy being busy that days would go by without me even getting much done. i was stressed and continually running and not really enjoying it and had very little time to notice the people around me. and i'm trying to change that. i'm working to make sure that if i'm busy doing something, it's going to lead to something better. and that, i've learned, means more time for me to do what i want to do. in the short term, i'd like to have time to work on my own projects--those movies brandon and i are making or that music video i was offered, or even be able to come home at night and enjoy life for the evening. in the long run, i hope it means time at the end of the week or even at the end of the day to be with my future wife, to sit down together and watch our favorite show or play some rock band. because, for me, that's what it's really all about, and i don't want to lose that focus.

future wife, you better like rock band.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

growing up

ei blot til lyst
remember those old milk commercials where the little kid's drinking milk and looking into the mirror and older versions of himself walk on, showing him the benefits from the healthy dairy choices he's making now? i used to imagine that sometimes when i'd stare into the mirror hanging in my bedroom in the basement years ago (i'd also sing into the mirror, giving myself my own personal rock concerts, but that's not what this post is about.) i'd wonder what the older versions of me would look like, what they'd have accomplished, and what they'd say.

in the last few years, i've found myself on the other side of that mirror, i guess. i sometimes think about talking with my younger self, what corrections i'd suggest and the encouragement that i'd offer. unlike the milk commercial, i sometimes don't even envision talking to my teenage self, but to the jeffs from only a few years ago. today as i was sitting the foyer at church, i thought about what i'd tell myself two years ago. and i reflected on how much i've changed since then. it's easy to recognize the growth we've made since we were in high school or freshmen in college, but is there any significant change from, say, 30 to 32? it doesn't feel like it, but when i stop and think, yes, very much.

two of the most significant shifts that i've made are :

  1. i'm less worried about "following the rules" than i think i ever have been in my life.
  2. i'm becoming more opinionated and a little bolder about those things.

at least, i think i am.
maybe it's just that i have my art class tomorrow morning, and so that stuff's on my mind.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

context


"people too often view the work of art as a luxury, something merely pleasant, 
even as a decoration, as something that lies just out life. yet art and life are one...." 
mondrian

Thursday, February 09, 2012

no fear

it's every missionary's dream to teach a whole family. whether it's because they can join the church and be sealed for eternity or the less-noble motive of getting more baptisms at once, it's pretty cool when you've got a family to teach. and so when we went through our english class one by one and to see if anyone had any interest in the church, it was a pleasant surprise when mrs. kasuga said that she had been looking for Christian church for her and her family.

and so we started teaching them. their dad was polite but distant, as was their son. but the mom liked us and their 14-year old daughter erika was one of my favorite people i ever knew in japan. after teaching so many crazy people (sometimes literally), it was thrilling to have a nice, normal family. i tried to be so careful and not say anything wrong, because i didn't want to mess this one up.

as we were riding our bikes home one night, i was worried about them. they weren't progressing and, like a lot of things, if you're not moving forward, you're going backward. and that was when i decided to throw caution into the wind. if trying to be safe and afraid to do anything wrong was losing them, then heck with it, i'd do it my way. i stopped being timid. i started asking them to commit.

boldness works.
erika and her mom joined the church a few weeks after i went home.

Monday, February 06, 2012

so eager to breathe

ei blot til lyst
today was a busy but good day.
and my night was starting out calm and potentially productive.
then i learned a couple of pretty valuable life lessons all in what was left of my evening after a box of layne's chicken.
not what i was expecting but i think it was a good thing.
hopefully, my paradigm has shifted a little.

we also learned how to throw people today in my judo class.
maybe i'll get that oscar post finished tomorrow.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

the oscars post, 2011

i've been a little surprised at the number of people who have pestered me for a post here about my thoughts on the oscars. and that's kind of nice, because i was going to write it whether there was any interest or not.

my initial response when i saw the nominations was that there weren't any real surprises for me. yet as i read commentaries by critics and discussion boards by people who are really into movies, it seemed that the acting nominations in particular perplexed and upset a lot of people. the combined facts of me being busy with school, living 100 miles from any decent art theater, and generally not watching R-rated movies has left with indirect opinions on a lot of nominations, but here's what i think:
(if you want to follow along with a list, here you go.)

editor's note: we didn't intend to cover every category in the awards show, but it ended up that way. as such, this took much longer that we expected. by the time our writer reached the "best director" and "best director" sections it was very late, and he has to be up in the morning to hang a shower curtain with marker writings on it and defend it as "art." so, that part will be coming at a future time, hopefully soon, since that's what most people seem to care about, anyway.

shorts
the shorts categories are the most underrated section of the oscars. very few people have a chance to see them, but most of these films are absolutely wonderful. and unlike having to spend two or more hours to be entertained or enlightened by a feature, these hit you with a great story in a handful of minutes. a few years ago, byu's i.c. showed most of that year's nominated animated shorts--as well as a few live-action--and it was one of the best experiences i've had there.
as with most years, i haven't seen any this year. they sometimes show up on itunes. i strongly encourage you to look for them.

docs
similarly, i have no thoughts on the docs, feature or short. i have great respect for the field and nearly always enjoy the movies that i see, but i don't have enough interest to actively seek them out.

visual effects
i'm never impressed by a movie solely for its visual effects, which is why my vote goes to harry potter 7.2. it was an excellent movie and the visual effects heightened and augmented that world without constantly reminding you that everything was c.g. i did not care at all for hugo (more on that later) and i'm not impressed by robots beating each other up (which could refer to two different movies in the category.)

sound
i once learned the difference between sound mixing and sound editing. one has to do with the sounds that are created/used for the movie, the other has to do with the levels and how they're balanced. i think. but i still can't remember which one's which. and i'm not an audiophile, anyway. as usual, they're pretty much the same movies in both categories, although i'm interested to know what got moneyball in there, since this is usually the other category that lets michael bay say he's directed an oscar-winning movie.

song and music
john williams, up yet again for another spielberg movie. twice, actually. once my friend reminded me, i did like the score from hugo, but i kind of have a thing for the french accordion stuff. since my local movie buddy has been busy having a life, i still haven't seen tinker tailor soldier spy yet, so i can't comment on that, but my vote goes strongly for the artist on this one. why? because it's a silent picture, meaning that the score needs to fill in the aural gap a little more than usual. and, like everything else about the movie, it does so impeccably. it's a perfect silent score, strengthening every emotional hill and valley of the movie. that's my vote.
(note: i hope dean duncan isn't reading this, since he knows so much more about silent movies and film scores than i do, and i'm sure it's heresy to refer to that as a "perfect silent" score, but this is my blog and i can say what i want.)

as for "original song," there are only two nominations this year? and one of them is the "man or muppet" song? (and the other one's from rio?) it was a fun song and all, but is it oscar material? whatever.

makeup
margaret thatcher, glenn close pretending to be a man, and ralph fiennes without a nose (which is actually c.g., so that's an incorrect example in this already gross generalization.) the harry potter world could have been overdone but wasn't, and even though the goblins still look a little funny to me, i'm going with them.

costume design
a few years ago, the head of the wardrobe union (or something) was speaking at byu. i didn't make it to her presentation, but a friend shared something that i really liked. this lady said that in 2006 she felt that little miss sunshine had the best costume design (it wasn't even nominated, by the way), because the clothing was simple yet still told so much about each character.
that sort of sublime simplicity is the sort of art theory i really can get behind (and it's also very difficult.) when i shared this thought with my friend (and favorite wardrobe girl) shantel, she immediately dismissed me, saying that recreating a victorian era is much more demanding and therefore impressive. and that seems to be the way academy usually votes. and so while that gives anonymous and jayne eyre the lead in the category, my vote would go with the artist, because they still recreated an era and i'm in love with the silent era. besides, i've never been more in love with a tuxedo jacket than when peppy miller had her right arm through it. <3

art direction
again, did not like hugo, although i have to admit, it did look really pretty good. spielberg just isn't interesting me (same ol', same ol') and i haven't seen midnight in paris, although i'd really like to. again, the harry potter movies got better and better and 7.2 was nearly flawless all around, so i could go with that. but the artist recreated hollywoodland, and i believed every minute of it. that gets my vote.

editing
editing is one of the most esoteric arts in the oscar race. i'm continually fascinated by how much control it has over the movie (nearly total control...), yet, like directing, i have a very, very hard time identifying "good editing." or, rather, i have a hard time separating the editing from the directing. i have no interest i seeing the girl with the dragon tattoo, but i'm impressed with the work that finches does.

cinematography
oi. robert richardson (hugo) and janusz kaminski (war horse) are both excellent d.p.s re-teaming with great directors. and, like their movies as a whole, they look great and what not, but its the same greatness we've been seeing from them for a long time. i've really liked jeff cronenweth's work ever since fight club and i'm glad he and david fincher have continued to develop their relationship together (i really thought the social network was very nicely shot.) and, once again, the artist perfectly recreated every technical aspect of the silent era, including the cinematography. and black and white is definite art, separate from color.
but, the tree of life IS cinematography. the movie is essentially a silent film, telling so much of the story through visual images. the majority of it is deceptively simple, a family in waco, texas, but every shot contains enough emotion that you always know exactly what is being said.
it is one of the most purely cinematic movies i have ever seen. no contest.

foreign language
sadly, i don't know about any of these. the i.c. was good about getting them when they could, so i'll have to live vicariously through mark and rocio.

animated film
with cars 2 failing with the critics, dreamworks got two films up there. i missed the night our department bought out the theater to see kung fu panda 2, and although puss in boots was better than we were all expecting, neither feels like the "best animated film of the year." i heard good things about rango, too, although i suspect that those two foreign films that no one has heard of are really pretty good.

screenplay- adapted
i guess i'll start my hugo rant here, since this is where a lot of my issues with it originate. from the first few minutes of the movie and on through the next ninety minutes, the majority of the "conflict" in the movie come because when one character demands an explanation of another, the response is repeatedly, "i can't tell you!" again and again this is shouted and with no apparent reason other than, if they actually took a moment to share a bit of their feelings, the problems would be resolved and the movie would be over in 12 minutes.
i haven't seen any of the other nominated movies (brandon, you have one week before i'm going to tinker tailor by myself) but they all look very interesting to me.

screenplay- original
again, the only one i've seen here is the artist. and, in my initial rant, i stated that it would be a noteworthy movie if it were simply a technical success in making a silent film. but, on top of that, the story is wonderful and i fall in love with it. i'll get to that more in the "best picture" section. the screenplay isn't perfect enough to lock my vote (see 1994 and 2001: anderson), but i'd vote for it.

as for the acting nominations, i don't have much to say, and a good amount of my opinions come from agreeing with roger ebert's essay on the matter. if you've made it this far and still want more to read, i suggest checking out what he had to say.

supporting actress
i loved the artist, but i can't say that peppy miller won me over enough to think she deserved an oscar for it. still, the supporting categories are so vague, ranging from the girl in true grit who was essentially the star, to judi dench winning for being on screen a total of eight minutes in shakespeare in love. as for jessica chastain, see my thought on "best actress."
no other thoughts here at this time.

supporting actor
some people were a little surprised at jonah hill getting nominated for moneyball, but, again, that's part of the magic of the "best supporting actor" category: it's the minor leagues, where just about anyone has a shot.
even though i've seen unanimously lukewarm reviews for the movie, i like that max von sydow is nominated, just because he's one of the greatest actors on the world cinematic stage. (he was the knight in the seventh seal for those of you who need a little help, there)
again, no strong preferences.

actress
first, i've liked viola davis ever since i saw her in solaris nearly ten year ago. and she was brief but memorable in doubt a few years ago. so i'm glad to see her getting recognition here, even though i have not see the help. oscar veteran meryl streep is up for playing margaret thatcher in a movie where, reportedly the only notable aspect is her performance. nice, but let someone else have a turn. i've read that glenn close spends pretty much all of albert nobbs looking stone faced and doing nothing.
who's rooney mara? remember that nice-looking girl from the social network who played zuckerberg's lost girlfriend? yeah, that's her. again, no real interest in the movie, but i'm pretty impressed by that sort of transformation.
still, this is all just unfounded opinion.
who do i think should be up here? jessica chastain, although not for the help but for the tree of life. like the cinematography, her performance is genuine cinema. the power comes not through an impassioned speech that looks great in a clip at the oscars, but in truly acting, creating the character of a mother who captures the deep strength of grace through performance, not words.

actor
you know what? george clooney and brad pitt are such hollywood celebrity icons that it's easy to forget that they're both bloody good actors. and they like to do it, evidenced by their choosing smart films about real characters (see also, "babel"). pitt seems good in moneyball but clooney looks stronger in the descendants. jean dujardin nailed the persona of a silent movie star the artist, but it such a different style of acting that it's hard to judge it here. while i haven't seen it (brandon!), i'd really like gary oldman to win for tinker tailor soldier spy, because he's one of the great supporting actors around who rarely gets the recognition he deserves.
back to brad pitt: like jessica chastain, he should have been nominated for the tree of life. his character was such a finely nuanced performance, a father who loved his children and felt he was doing his best to raise them, misguidedly trying to give his kids the advantages he felt he never had. he was brutal and austere but also caring, stuntedly showing it as best he knew. again, that is acting.

my thoughts on best director and best picture will be coming soon.
hopefully tomorrow.

Friday, February 03, 2012

10 weeks

my weight training teacher said something interesting a few weeks ago. in talking about how we gain muscle and strength, he said that you really don't start to see major results until after about ten weeks.
technically speaking, i think this is my fourth time i've taken a weight training class. once, my dad gave me a hug at Christmas and noted that i felt stronger and bigger, and even after just a few days of class this semester i can feel a difference in myself, but i've never noticed myself looking particularly different. and if this ten weeks thing is true, that would make sense, since the classes run just about ten weeks. so, every time, i apparently just barely miss it.

i remember once reading an excerpt from brandon flowers, the frontman of the band the killers (and cool "i'm a mormon" guy). he was saying something to the effect that there were several instances where the band wanted to break for lunch or at the end of the day, but they kept working, writing, rehearsing, and that that would be when their music really went to a new level, and he said he hated to think what it would have been like if they hadn't pushed on, if they had just stopped where they were.

i think that's even a law of physics: a great amount of force is required to get an object moving from its inertial state, but once that has been overcome and the object is in motion, much less force is required for it to continue moving.

how many things in my life are like that? how many times have i put some effort and time into a project, a skill, a relationship, and then decided that nothing was coming was happening, nothing was growing, and decided it wasn't worth my time any more? have i put in all of the hard work only to move on just before the fruits began to show?
probably.

when an h.m.i. movie light is first turned on, it requires an immense amount of electricity to jump the gap between the two electrodes and create the electrical arc that produces the light. but once that initial arc is successful, it operates at a much lower voltage.

and so i'm working to be better about sticking with something and seeing what comes from it. because after those ten weeks is when it really gets good.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

prognostication

when you think about it, groundhog day really is one of the most whimsical things about our culture. amidst all that's going on, you can find what that groundhog said on the main page of any major new outlet today. i like that about us.

over the Christmas break, i made a few predictions about the political field. for the historical heck of it, here they are:

romney wins the republican nomination.
obama wins a second term.
huntsman wins the presidency in 2016.

in other, totally unrelated news, daft punk's alive 2007 album is quite possibly the greatest $5 i've ever spend on an amazon download. i can't get enough of it. just ask my art class.