Sunday, January 31, 2010

State of the Passions: Art

Today this blog turns 150 days old. I began this blog with a goal of bettering myself incrementally each day:
This blog will document my passions, progress, and random musings so at the end of the day I can look back and see that, while I have not reached everything I have hoped for, I am further than when I started. And tomorrow is always another day on the road to a new Jay.
I then laid out My Passions in my second post. So where I am 150 days later, specifically Art?

Animation: I have completed my first official reel and received invaluable feedback on it. I've moved ahead on two more shots: filming reference, getting feedback, etc. I'm currently debating which one to focus on as they each show completely different strengths tailored towards the video game and film industries respectively. Updates on theses shots will appear on this site soon. I have two other shots on the backburner, plus updates to my short, which I hope to do eventually but currently don't improve my real in the direction I wish to go. I'm also setting my next goals in relation to the field and doing research nearly every day on where to go next. My biggest goal (that can be announced here) is to have a new reel by this time next year, meaning I created work so good that it completely replaces all my current work (which I really enjoy). In the not too distant future I will need to solidify my final career direction and pour all my focus into it, but for now I learning and enjoying the different options available to me. As long as my reel improves incrementally each week, I learn new concepts in animation often, and I am an active part of the industry (well, socially) then I feel complete in this goal.

Photography: This passion got a lot of attention on this blog, more than I originally planned. Unlike animation, which takes weeks of work for a few seconds of content for the blog, I can generate 5 posts of photography content with just 3 hours of exploration of the local terrain. Most of my posts have been of my family, which is when I use my camera the most often, but I am also beginning a collection of artistic shots which I will post on this site.

Videos: While I've taken many videos, I have not edited them together into a music video in a while. Although I will have one for Elliot's 6 month birthday (which is a tradition for my kids) my artistic focus has been on the previous 2 categories. Although, a few videos have slipped through the past few months, including Elliot's first video. By day 300, the new Elliot video will be posted as will a selection related archived videos.

Overall, I am seeing progress in my art. Only time, consistency, and perseverance will take me to the next level, and this blog will be a great documentation of that journey!

Jay's Playlist: Explosions in the Sky

Welcome to my playlist, where I discuss the music which is currently entertaining me. Below you will find a video, press play to begin the song and then read my feelings on the album.

Today's playlist is music by "Explosions in the Sky"

I first heard the music of "Explosions in the Sky", a Texan band, in the soundtrack of the movie "Friday Night Lights", a movie about the effect of football in a small town in Texas (the movie is based on a book written by a Texan). A few years later a phenomenal TV show based on the movie (based on the book) debuted and once again Explosions in the Sky was used to great effect in the series. Although, surprisingly, the theme song to the TV series was not written by Explosions in the Sky; instead the theme was written in their style by a famous TV theme writer.

If you are listening to the music and wondering when the guitar intro will stop and the actual chorus begins, well, it won't. That is the chorus. Explosions in the Sky rests in the niche of "lengthy, solemn, vocal-less guitar solos and ambiance". And I love it. Their album "The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place" is 45 minutes of solemn guitars reverberating various riffs into night sky. The album only contains 5 tracks (roughly 9 minutes each) and at present I still can't tell the difference between one track or another even though they all have different themes. I consider the album to be one beautiful, 45 minute track (the tracks don't have and ending, the end of one is the beginning of the next). Also, the titles of the pieces are pretty esoteric: "Six Days At The Bottom Of The Ocean", "First Breathe after Coma", and "The Only Moment We Were Alone" which makes it even harder to remember a track's title.

I love this music for the nostalgia it creates. Thanks to its association to Texas created by its use with Friday Night Lights (which plays the music during scenes of beautiful Texas landscapes and sunsets) I am reminded of my own childhood in that state. Whenever I hear this music I am reminded of my youth exploits: climbing to the base of the water tower on the large hill to watch the sunset in the west and seeing the rolling hills of prairie to the east slowly disappear in the purple shadow before being lit by the faint glow of the lively metropolis 25 miles away.

Would I still love this music if it wasn't used on a nostalgic show, or if I had never lived in the state it represents? I don't know. But I can't help listening to this music and picturing a beautiful sunset over the prairie...

...and that positive emotion means this music earns its place in my playlist.

Bonus song
The aforementioned TV show theme that is not by EitS but is a TV songwriter's interpretation of their style:

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Fruit Blend Mornings

Earlier this month I named the Rocket Blender as one of my favorite new household devices. The Rocket Blender consists of a small base (with no buttons), four regular-sized cups with twist lids, and two blades which can also twist-attach to the cups. The idea is you fill a cup with all the ingredients you want (and can fit), attach the blade, pop it into the base which auto-spins and blends the contents, pop it off the base, remove blade and drink the cup. The process is very simple, easy to clean, and leaves a lot of room for experimentation and variety. Each morning I enjoy creating a different blend combination and am slowly refining the process to make the most flavorful, and healthy, morning blend.

Once I began, I discovered that my favorite blends involved a delicate balance of 3 primary components: the solid fruit (for texture and fresh fruit quota), the tart liquid (for concentration of flavor which supplements fresh fruit and overrides base's flavor), and the healthy base (for the blend thickness and supplemental vitamins). The biggest challenge my blends face is balancing the flavor of the first two components with the flavor of the base, which in most cases is a scoop of protein powder and some vanilla yogurt. In my earliest blends, all I could taste was the protein powder and yogurt no matter how much fruit I added. Soon I added a tart liquid, such as orange juice, lemonade, grape juice, etc (all fresh squeezed, no concentrate), because I realized the amount of flavor that a cup full of grapes or a single orange did not equal the flavor of a single ounce of their respective fruit juice. (On a side note, removing the protein powder also removes the necessity of a tart liquid and still makes a great tasting all-fruit blend, but I include the powder as a part of my dietary needs).

So what DO I put in my blends? Well here is my current selection of ingredients, and thanks to having "Northern California's largest selection of fresh produce" a few blocks from my house this selection changes each time I go to the store:

Fresh Fruits: Pineapple, Red Raspberries, Strawberries, Lime, Blackberries, White Raspberries, Blueberries, Green Grapes, Cherries, and Bananas hidden in the back.
Tart Liquids: Orange Juice, Grape Juice, Raspberry Lemonade
Healthy Bases: Protein Powder, Hemp seed, Milk, Vanilla Yogurt

Today's mix consisted of:

Pineapple, Cherries, 1 Lime (instead of a Tart Liquid), Yogurt, Milk, Protein Powder

The Blending:

Ready to drink!

Today's Blend Conclusion:
Not quite successful. This was my first time to try each of those fruits. The ingredients were a good combination, but none were powerful enough to counter the base taste. Next time I will substitute pineapple juice for extra flavor and add more cherries to fill the space previously held by the large pineapple piece. Also, the lime was good but may need a little more of it (or lime juice). While I can't taste the lime in the mix, the sour does come through and adds a nice tart to the blend. Plus including the actual lime instead of using concentrated lime juice adds more nutrition.

The last part of this process I really enjoy is cleaning: it takes 15 seconds! Put the cup in the sink, a quick wash with water and soap from handy sponge, dip blade attachment in water, dry with towel, and done!

Finally, I supplement my blend with a single Clif Bar for more vitamins and a solid "full from breakfast" feeling. What a great way to start the day!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Photos with AM: Exploring Bay Area

After the Winter AM graduation a few of the graduates and I explored the San Francisco area. We visited Muir Woods, Muir Overlook (with a great sunset), and finally Fort Baker where we looked at the San Francisco skyline from across the bay:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Christmas Photos: pt 4

Christmas morning we made pancakes and everyone had fun. Almost...
We also learned what happens "if you give a pig a pancake".

Monday, January 25, 2010

Raeleigh and Mia (Guaraldi-style)

One of my many pleasures of visiting home and seeing my children is the opportunity to play the piano (an instrument which is rather difficult to obtain when you are constantly moving from house to apartment in Cali). The girls watch classic Peanuts cartoons (this began when the Halloween special appeared last fall) and enjoy the music to it. When I first heard this I decided it was time to bust out my old Guaraldi chops and play some familiar tunes for them:

The cutest part is Mia wanted to play with daddy on the piano, and after this video she and I created some "experimental" musical duets by banging the keys. I miss the days of being able to practice the piano at any time, but I definitely look forward to the days of playing duets with my children with their favorite themes!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Jay's playlist: Cinema Paradiso

Welcome to my playlist, where I discuss the music which is currently entertaining me. Below you will find a video, press play to begin the song and then read my feelings on the album.

Today's Playlist is "Cinema Paradiso":

Cinema Paradiso is a phenomenal Italian film than any film lover should see. Figuratively speaking, this movie is great for "lovers of film" not only because it is superb film, but because its topic is about a child's love of film (as seen at the movie theater "Cinema Paradiso") and his successful-director-adult-self reminiscing on the many key life moments that happened at the local theater as the theater is scheduled to be torn down in the present.

The music in the film is touching, sometimes sad, and a beautiful reminder of life and love. The actual movie theme does not have a lyrics as heard above (although I enjoy this recently released arrangement) but numerous famous artists over the years created new versions of the piece and added their own touches to the piece. The original can be found here:

I love this theme for all the reasons listed above, and anytime a new version is released I devour it as fast as I can.

The music reminds me of the movie which reminds me of the love of film and it's respective music.

Foiled again by Google

Welcome to the land of niche geek.

I don't care about website hits (currently). Even in my first post I said :
"And if outside people read this and are entertained, so be it. At this point in time my intentions are more selfish: I just want a place I can freely post... Plus, it is not like I have to advertise this website's existence. For now, it will be my little secret.

Beyond the occasional mention in my Facebook status, I have refrained from announcing this blog publicly. Well, I recently checked my stats and was surprised at how many random international visitors I was getting. Most would visit a single page of the site and leave never to return (oh well). It wasn't until I ran a referring report (as in, what website sent them here) that I found out what was going on: Google indexes this blog completely (and all other blogs), and my tastes tend to fall in the niche of the niche. So while a small blog that posts about a popular topic like the Dallas Cowboys may never get a hit from Google due to the over saturation of resources, when I write a post on "1997 Japanese arcade plush chickens", or "stop motion cut-scenes from a cult mid-90's game", or "piano arrangements of Disney and Japanese video game themes" then Google will refer the people who search for those terms here since I am one of the few blogs that mentions them. Granted, that is not a lot of people (hence "niche") but it is enough to surprise me with extra hits each day when I am not even advertising this site's existence.

Oh well, guess you can't hide forever. In conclusion, I am reminded of this comic which explores the exploitation of this trend. Don't worry, I won't ever go that niche.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Christmas Photos: pt 3

Before Christmas we took the kids to a local playland for them to wear themselves out. Then we dressed them up in the pajamas and took happy photos. :)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Animation Weekend!

This past weekend was amazing! Animation Mentor held its graduation ceremony so over 100 students flew into town to visit. I spent each day with some great animation friends (and mentors) and overall had an amazing time. Picture to follow at a future date, for now it is time to recuperate!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Demo Up!

My first Demo Reel is now ready! This is the short version (30 sec), I have more shots (and am creating more) for the long version but recruiters like the reels short and sweet:

I'm really excited about this reel! It is my first official reel and signals a beginning, and I can't wait to continue to update it throughout this year. One of my goals is to have a demo reel in 2011 that contains none of the above shots (meaning I have even better work that takes up 30 sec)! Here's to a new beginning! Woohoo!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I saw Avatar for a second time last night and am still speechless. I saw it a month ago and afterwords I couldn't describe it. I've never walked out a film with that feeling. The movie was an event. Sure, it may not have the most original story in the world, it is very much like Dances with Wolves and Pocahontas, but the story is good (Dances with Wolves won the Best Picture Academy Award for a reason) and is accented by the visual effects. And yes, the effects accent the story and not the other way around as some have speculated. There have been many movies where the effects are the picture and the story just gets you to the next action shot. And matter how good the effects are you still see them as being an "visual effect shot" (Transformers comes to mind). But in this movie, it is very easy to forget that 95% of what you see is was created by a computer. The real word and CG world blend so seamlessly, and story pulls you in so deep, that you believe Pandora exists.

Then you read all the making-of story by Weta and suddenly you realize how massive this movie was. Remember that single fern in the top right of the screen at 55 minutes into the movie? The one next to the 400 other plants in that scene? Well someone had to create that and animate it. And that set was only used once. The film is 2 hours and 45 minutes and every shot has hundred of plants, rocks, and forest items, not to mention the numerous creatures running around.

Seeing this movie in 3D is an experience. I have no doubt that when 3D TVs are launched at the end of this year (yay?) they will align with the blu-ray release of this movie. This movie will be "The Matrix" of the 3D format (ie the movie you have to own to show off its powers, much like "The Matrix" and DVDs 11 years ago).

More to discuss in the future.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Christmas Photos: pt 2

As happens every Christmas break, I celebrated my birthday a week before Christmas. The kids and I shared an homemade Oreo cake (a staple for my birthday) and later created "Silver Bells' for the tree by covering cups with foil. We had an amazing time, Raeleigh took control of the foil while Mia was on cup duty: