Friday, November 28, 2014

Filmography, The

While I have a Flickr and a Tumblr photoblog (and a forgotten Blogger photography blog), I never really touched on my minor filmography.

While I was in the Photography program at Algonquin, there was a video component, just as there was a web design component - both in a class called multimedia. The result was several short videos I created due to assignments. They're all on YouTube, but you can't find them because they're all unlisted. Until now.

I created four videos in that class, all of which I'm going to embed here, with a short description. Some are simple and others are intended to be funny or interesting.

"Justin Pushes a Tripod Around (Like Usual)"

I should note right away that all videos were required to have their own music, which didn't appeal to me, so instead of doing what everyone else in class did - using free music that I wasn't going near - I simply added my own simplistic demos as background music. They're not great or perfect, but it was a stupid requirement. The Nikon camera I used had a time-lapse function. I simply just inched the tripod after the camera took an image during class time.

"Missed Call"

Other than the horrible-sounding demo music, this was based off of the simple direction that we had to film someone answering the phone. Creativity was up to us. This was the first time I had my friend Benny help me out. He filmed using a Canon 5D (which was required for all video assignments due to its full-frame sensor).
I should note that I did not actually throw a cell phone at the end. It was actually a black plastic case my clip-on shades came in. I accidentally threw it at a truck parked just off-camera. Driving at speed up the driveway took two takes (no, I did not crash or otherwise miss the driveway the first time. It was Benny's blurry filming).

"How to Make Iced-Tea"

The instructions were a silent instructional video. Benny filmed again, using a video tripod. The requirement was ten scenes at least, so I just multiplied the scenes of my spooning iced-tea powder into the glass ridiculously. I'm missing my facial hair in this video. The colouring is horrible thanks to my incompetence at colour-correction in Adobe Premier.

"Restoring Audio Gear, etc. With a Focus on a Bose 1801 Power Amp"

This was the longest and most intimate video I had to make. It was an interview video. My longest friend, Duncan, fixes and restores audio gear from the 70s and 80s in his basement. I filmed while Benny held a makeshift boom mic. It was quite fun to do. The only drawback is the incessant music. The demo itself isn't too bad but I had to repeat it to finish the video with it. The only other issue is the limited depth of field (difficult to focus perfectly as a result). If you listen carefully you might hear me whispering at Benny not to play with the microphone.

"Soma Commercial"

The last video (that I at least put on YouTube). This wasn't my first idea - originally, I was going to make a spoof of a 1998 Volvo commercial featuring Tony Hale moving to music in a car (shown from the silent exterior view, so you don't realize exactly what he's doing until a friend walks up and opens the door, revealing the music). Benny had helped me out on that one as well, filming me in the car from outside, etc., and entering the car at the end. Unfortunately, I'd handed in the 5D camera without taking any of the footage off of the card, having forgotten, so all of it was wiped out. Overdue by that point, I came up with a fast idea to spoof those Viagra commercials and filmed the whole thing in the ER at the college. The name - 'Soma' - is a direct reference to the psychedelic drug featured in the dystopian novel 'Brave New World.'

Out of all of these videos I like this one the most because of its simplicity and editing. Also, instead of using the normal low-quality boom mics I'd been using in some of the other videos, I used a proper Hn1 Zoom recorder (the highest quality sound recording method available to us) to get the sound in this video. It's hidden behind the stuff sitting on the counter, just out of camera view. The only issues I had were, once again, the unusually limited depth of field focusing. Otherwise it's simple and kind of funny, especially the way Dave just dumps five tripods on the counter at once in the end. Benny didn't take part in this session. It didn't take too long either, other than the students coming in to get equipment (Dave had to deal with them). There weren't too many interruptions, thankfully.

That's the basic filmography. I never really thought of it until I looked back over these videos again tonight. A few are simplistic basic boring things like the time-lapse, others are plain silly like the missed call, and a couple aren't half bad like the interview or the commercial spoof. Maybe I'll make more in the future. Who knows. I've written a few little scripts. I tried filming a pseudo-television episode called 'Bearded Escapade' about me trying to figure out what to send to my father in Jordan, and I approach people in my family as well as friends. Only two scenes ever got filmed though, and with a replacement cousin for my intended cousin (her brother) which screwed up the whole process and just made it look and sound extremely amateur. Then circumstances happened that summer that effectively made me uninterested in continuing.

Anyway, those are there as a start. I really like the Soma one. It's neat to look at them again.

Red Cloud

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Five Best Childhood Films, The

This morning the thought of listing my five best childhood films came to mind, and it didn't take me long to list them. A few others came and went, but they don't retain or create that unique synesthetic picture and feeling that I got from the others that installed me virtually back in to that time.

After a days' ponder about it, I've come up with these five, with one being the 'best.'

5. Mr. Magoo
4. Born to be Wild
3. Matilda
2. Homeward Bound
1. Paulie

The first four I've already reviewed on here (what they're hyperlinked to). As for the fifth, Mr. Magoo, I never came around to reviewing it because I never got the extreme want to look it up again online. I might. As a child, it was something I remember renting from the Parkwood Hills Foodland numerous times, first at my mother's suggestion (she thought I'd like it, and she was right) and subsequently whenever I saw it on the rack again on visits to the store.

Notable mentions that didn't get included on that list are Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, The Lion King, Space Jam, and Ernest Rides Again. Mousehunt almost got on there, but it was more of a fringe movie for me, something I'd watch occasionally at my paternal grandparents. I got more interested in the movie when I was closer to a preteen and still like it now, but it wasn't exactly a childhood movie for me.

I should note that every movie on that list (including the notable mentions) were all released in the 90s. Which makes sense as that was the decade of my real childhood (not including the preteen phase between 10 & 13), though I'm sure there are other children out there who have favourites that were released before they were born. Also, every one of them excluding Matilda has an animal character in them - from the gorilla in Born to be Wild to the parakeet in Paulie. Homeward Bound is about three animals finding their way home. Mr. Magoo's dog has a role.

In each review, I wrote a synopsis of the film and my thoughts and feelings on it, as well as my findings in seeing them again as a grown man. I re-read each of my reviews today; they aren't too badly written, although I had a real fussy reaction in seeing in the Homeward Bound post that I'd written "in the enlightened year of 1993..." I had to delete that phrase because I knew too well that I'd made that remark based on the fact that the girl I was "dating" was born that year, and therefore as a compliment I'd put in "enlightened." Stupid. I vow never to phrase in biases or remarks that indirectly or subliminally speak to positive or negative relationships in the future.

Here I'm going to write a short rationale for why I added a film and where. And I'm going to ensure I stick to 'short.'

5. Mr. Magoo

I really need to re-watch it again and write a proper review. It's included at five because I got a real synesthetic universe exclusive to my childhood world when I watched it at a young age (this 'exclusive universe' is a main factor in all those movies being included). Of what I can remember, I enjoyed the quick pace of the film and the various settings, all in fast shots, and I really enjoyed the adventure. One thing I remember with clarity is a scene that had to do with Magoo's eggplant vehicle pulling out of a driveway while 'I Can See Clearly Now' by Johnny Nash is playing. That was the first time I'd ever heard the song and it meshed with the imagery, giving me a nice synesthetic mesh.
On another note, the film got a lot of negative reaction from the blind or nearly blind due to its humour being derived from the sight problems of the main character.

4. Born to be Wild

It's one of those road trip adventure films, which was probably one reason I liked it when I was young, as the teen, Will, drives, paddles, and hitchhikes a gorilla up the California coast. The opening sequence where the titles, all green, fly through the camera as it pans over wilderness, though, really applied to that childhood universe and perception to me - it looked pre-dawn from my perspective and likely made me think of trips to the cabin with my dad and cousins, but early in the morning. It came out in 1995, which I synesthetically perceive in that light already. The issue I had with the film then, and now, though, was how weepy the main character was, and how overly sentimental a couple of scenes were. And a large reason I went back to watch it again was because I was shocked at how many actors I'd come to know in my teenage and recent years happened to have supporting roles in it, from Cameron from Ferris Bueller's Day Off to Biff Tannen from Back to the Future. It was neat to see them in those roles in that film.

3. Matilda

This is #3 because of the large amount of attention I've paid to it since re-watching it a couple of years ago. The movie gave me some childhood sounds and scenes such as Mara Wilson and Agatha Trunchbull, or that Rusted Root song. It was a colourful vignette of a film that appealed to my young eyes and had a lot of memorable scenes that I still enjoy today; a good reason why it's #3 is actually because I would watch it virtually with no compunction right now. There's some great humour in it still. However, there were a couple of inane plot twists or details that I wondered about, details that either showed the complete stupidity of some of the characters or the holes created by the screenwriters. Particularly Harry Wormwood's eagerness to "beat the speedboat salesmen to the airport" when they're leaving the country at the film's end (though he might have said that in order to soften a blatant admission that he's being chased by the FBI). I wrote a "redux" post on my criticisms which touched on that, as well as Danny DeVito's almost overbearing presence in and through the film, and the unusual back-and-forth manner of the film's focus and creation. I said it best like this: "You have here an American adaption of a British novel with American characters being antagonized by a crazy British woman."

2. Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey

The second-best film out of all five. Why? Because it was something I watched virtually over and over as a kid, all the time, and never got tired or used to the characters, their ethos, and the plot. I can't actually think of many other reasons for why I loved the film other than its journey-based plot. The quality of sound on the VHS tape recording my mother made of it helped, that's for sure. There's a certain dynamic and atmosphere to the sound of an old or aging VHS recording of a movie on TV that I'm attracted to. Otherwise, it's an extremely fulfilling film from that time of my life. I can't really think of any criticisms. You can't really criticize a film aimed at children about anthropomorphic animals other than if the plot is so unbelievable even the child's intelligence is insulted, or the voice acting, and the voice acting was great in this film.

1. Paulie

This comes in at number one because of the effect it had on me after I watched it. It touched my heart even as a kid. It was one of those very few films that caused me to feel different about things overall after watching it, because there was such a huge sense of task finished or journey's end or goal met. I even had dreams where I was having the time of my life playing with and being with someone, a female friend, where everything was perfect and home-like, and then that person disappears and I spend the rest of the dream travelling far to return to her. I never get to her in the end. The parakeet, Paulie, travels far and wide, and for a long time in that film. He's virtually with his soulmate at the beginning, a sweet little girl with a stutter, and by the time he's reunited with her, she's a young woman. While it's beautiful and fulfilling that Paulie reunites with her in the end, I didn't like the big change and removal from the original setting and time, which was part of what caused me to feel differently. The big change was, of course, the California summer setting and Marie's change from a girl to a grown woman - if I were Paulie I would have wanted to return to the original times in the beginning, having endless joy that was taken away. I'm not putting down the film's ending - it does it justice to have them reunited - I just didn't like, as a kid, that she'd transformed into a woman by the end and moved from the original setting of New Jersey. In other words, I didn't like grand changes when I was young, I guess. I liked the original time, the original stuff. But the movie's plot direction and travel itinerary, its characters, were amazing and perfect, and I loved all of it. I loved how Paulie goes through several life phases - from those original, joy-filled times with Marie to being Ivy's companion, to being in a "band" of sorts and eventually having a short-term life of crime. The institute part is the only sad, gloomy part, but Tony Shalhoub's character helps drive it home.

I'd include the honourable mentions, but I need to manage my time, and it's getting late (I've been telling myself to do some homework). All of those films have their positives and their flaws, but all in all, they really bring me back. It's almost like watching an old home movie for me, except in better film-quality. And to give a concrete example of what I mean when I say I got a "synesthetic universe exclusive to my childhood," I mean that, particularly in outdoor scenes, based on the direction the camera is looking (on my own perceived orientation), the setting, and whether it's sunny or overcast, I got a synesthetic meshing between that and an unrelated perspective or perception I saw/had in my life at the time. 

There's a silly scene in Ace Ventura where the camera is focused on a shaking bush in the jungle (the antagonist is apparently being raped by a female gorilla). The overcast light falling on the jungle, plus the perceived direction the camera is looking (to me, southeast) and the suggestion of dampness and feeling before rain made my mind connect the scene to how I viewed going to my paternal grandparents at the time. This connection had absolutely nothing to do with the shaking tree or the context of it and everything to do with the light and direction. It's an unrelated, unusual, mostly unexplainable meshing via synesthesia, but that's the connection I made. My paternal grandparents and cousins, and their house. All I can think of that could be a logical reason for the connection was the fact they were well-travelled and this is a jungle scene...that and a memory of running around with my cousins in their backyard on an overcast day.

I'll leave it there. I have work to do.

Red Cloud

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Categorized & Pigeon-Holed

Generalizing, in my opinion, is the same as being lazy, intentionally dumb, and creating a stereotype.

People seem to love doing that. I think it's something most people who think they're smarter than everyone else likes to do. Just like people who love to hear themselves talk tend to be ignorant and stupid more often than not.

It's kind of scathing of me to start off something like that, but it was something I read yesterday. Normally not much gives me a reaction unless it is specific with me personally. Or if it's someone who thinks they're smarter than everyone else and comes off as condescending and pretentious. That's my biggest pet peeve. I used to know someone like that in high school (though then again, a lot of teens are like that to begin with).

It was an opinion piece that I had to read for one of my classes (we were going to use that as well as a couple others as an example in how go about editing someone's opinion for publishing). It was recent and had to do with the whole Ghomeshi media circus. The article was basically about how the "pain he inflicted" (because that is definitely factual and proven truth) was part of a larger issue in relation to misogyny against women.

I didn't have any issue with that. I don't have a voice on it because I don't think I know enough to comment, other than to think that it probably matters. The ridiculous thing that actually angered me was the author's line that few men do not have anti-feministic rage somewhere in their psyche.

In other words, few men (altogether) do not somehow, some way or another, have a rage against the opposite sex simply for being the opposite sex.

His article had some psychological observations from a real source. Men, particularly men from single-parent families where the father was absent and the environment was not perfectly normal or okay, grew up developing frustration towards their mothers until it eventually evolved towards women altogether. The anti-feministic, paternal rage develops until it is obvious in some form or another within the man's psyche.

Considering that the author said 'few' men, I got the impression that he basically meant 'virtually none.'

It didn't stop there. Anyone who thought different was in hopeless denial.

It's a simple generalization. To bring it home, the author went and used himself as an example, saying that even he has unfortunately expressed this rage against his wife. "I'm no better," basically. I appreciate it when those who preach put themselves at the same level as those to which they preach, removing any self-elevation or perfection, but in this case he's regretfully making himself a part of his generalization, causing the reader to feel like it's no doubt true because even the author admits it. Therefore every man must be like this.

I'm not fully disagreeing with or discrediting the author. There is absolutely no doubt that many men have this 'rage,' and that it is a problem. But it is not an inevitable thing that happens to every male regardless of anything.

I took it pretty personally. I grew up in a single mother household. My father was absent when I was born. He went to Cambodia after deciding he wasn't ready to be a dad, came back briefly, and then went to Africa. I never really spent any time with him until I was five or six, and I didn't really see him as my dad until I was seven. He didn't fully seem to act like one (by which I mean annoying lectures on my health habits) until I was a pre-teen. When I was a child he seemed more like a really cool friend, with his roommates/friends other really cool friends. Yet I think that to base something or find issue with someone based merely on their gender to be the stupidest idea ever.

I don't understand why people take issue with it. Men and women share 99% of the same genes. They are human. The only differences are certain biological ones and certain differences in the way both think. Differences, not weaknesses or strengths. Otherwise, everything is changeable. Women don't have to have long hair and men don't have to have it short, and both are free to dress however they like (although most of the world probably thinks differently of that). There's nothing (or should be nothing) stopping that. They say women have weaker arms? That makes no sense at all. They are perfectly capable of weight training if their arms are weaker to begin with, and weaker compared to what? None of that nonsense is set in stone or absolute.

Gender inequality or issue of any kind is as stupid and nonsensical as racial inequality or discrimination, or sexual orientation issues. We evolved this way, yet we pigeon-hole ourselves into categories and set expectations on one and create allowances for the other. We create differences that might as well move in the opposite direction of our evolution, humanity, and abilities. If I had an issue with a woman, it's because she specifically created that issue, not because "she's a woman and therefore she did it naturally." The majority of us don't seem to understand what 'natural' is I don't think - and I'm not saying everyone. There are no doubt many out there who do.

We need to recognize that humans are simply humans - not men and women and white and black and straight and gay and this and that. We have one life. Might as well do whatever you want to make it fun and interesting. Who should care if you're a man or a woman, if you're black or aboriginal or otherwise, or if you're attracted to guys or both guys and girls. The world shouldn't have any issue with you. You're a natural human being with strengths and flaws and compassion and everything else specific to you, and only you. Everyone has their own differences, so to generalize that into an entire pointless category is just being dumb with effort. I'm a man. I don't have any pointless anti-feministic rage against any female. Am I amazingly unique to my gender? I don't think so.

By the way, until police actually find out in an investigation what evidence points to whatever truth and solves everything together, I'm not interested in listening to or watching a scandal wail about how misogynistic and horrible and repudiating that Ghomeshi character is. Let authorities have the final word, not anger-driving, negative media. If those claims are true, I commend those women who had the strength to use their voices - which they have and deserve to use. If they aren't - some people sure are disgusting. I know what it's like to have my reputation tarnished.

Red Cloud

Friday, November 7, 2014

Deep and Endearing

Last night, after hearing it a couple of times at work, I managed to track down new song I liked. By new of course I mean it's old - came out in 1987 - and I can add yet another British act to that list of mine.

It's yet another song I heard at Wal-Mart - really, don't get me wrong, about 90% of the songs they play are boring or bland or the kind that were really good briefly in their time but only in their time and in a standard kind of way, not very outwardly or differently, just standardly good. The pages interrupting the music never help, and although they never seem to run them in the autumn, winter or spring, the McDonalds advertisements just make it worse.

It's a nice song in a sort of feel-good, feel-like-oneself kind of way. A kind of 'coming home' kind of song to me. It's this:

What originally got me was the descending guitar notes played over the rest of the music, as that's what I heard first and what gave me that 'coming home' feeling. Of course, hearing it properly, it's much more full, deep, and appealing to my ear.

When I looked it up on Wikipedia, I unintentionally found a lot more information on it than I thought in terms of musical structure. I say unintentionally because I like figuring it out myself and then seeing that I'm right or close. It's in A major - the key and chord I relate to the most - and its procession follows simply as A, E, Bmin, and D. All major chords but for the B minor. So a I-V-ii-IV procession. In other words, and this is obvious in the sound of the music as well, the exact same musical progression as the chorus of 'Our House' (though 'Our House' is in D minor and follows the opposite in terms of major/minor chords). The entire song follows on this same progression from beginning to end except for a bit that's (as Wikipedia so helpfully revealed for me) F#min and Gmin.

Apparently, though I haven't looked up the lyrics yet, the song is about the singer's memories of vacationing at a certain notable spot in England with his girlfriend called Beachy Head - which is a huge cliff spot overlooking the sea. It's in general a song about that memory, and good, nostalgic times with someone he loves (the girlfriend became his wife).

I like the song for its progression, the key it's in thanks to that, and the way it plays out. The snare drum has that nice distant reverb that makes it sound intense and like it's trying hard - a good effect to me. The intro is great as it starts with a drum roll, and then the bass, though it starts midway through the first note in the progression rather than at the start (not a bad idea). A beautiful, low-playing guitar joins in to compliment the notes, not playing chords but emulating the bass. It sounds beautiful when it plays B and especially D thanks to the sound effect it's probably using. Then, something I didn't expect, an acoustic guitar starts strumming. That's an instrument that I think doesn't get enough exposure or parts in songs anymore, and its presence here is definitely welcome. The strings-like keyboard starts its predominant notes, and finally the main electric guitar does its descending-order progression. The singer doesn't start until several repeats of this intro, giving the song time to build up nicely.

The music video very nicely augments this with the camera moving from one instrument to another as each band member starts playing them, using a limited depth of field to limit one's attention and focus to only that instrument/person.

In terms of my synesthetic response (and therefore perception of the music) it's largely deep tones for me, mixtures of black with dark green and other similar colours. The only sounds that give me bright reactions are the keyboard synth and the lead guitar, and that's largely a white mix. It does sound romantic, but in a dark, deep, calm kind of way, like it's from my perception or my way of it - the way I would go about in a relationship. It's in A major - that's "my" key and chord. Darker (in a quieter, deeper, lower colour tone kind of way), deep, endearing, calm, to ourselves (my partner and I). And it has some good chords in it - the nice depth and quietness of A major, the sky-high happiness of E major, the forlorn but endearing B minor, and of course the extremely likable, happy, friendly, sunny D major. It sounds very nice in the beginning. It's like, from my point of view, I'm surrounded by a group of people I know that I am close to, friends that I know easily match up with those chords. If I could think of a happy memory with a girl, it would probably be last autumn, but I'm inclined to remember that summer day at McDonalds with those other two. One is definitely a D major while the other always seems to come to mind when I hear a B chord. And that one memory is more nostalgic and sunny than the time with the other one last Fall. The song really sounds nostalgic that way.

I've never heard anything by the Cure before, but this is a good introduction. And it's a simple song that manages to sound refreshing to me. That intro, the guitar joining the bass and playing those notes, the acoustic, the main guitar sound, it's all quite good - in a non-standard, different, great way that speaks to me well thanks to the key it's in.

Music: A-
Lyrics: (I looked them up) - B+

Red Cloud

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Some Statistics

I never do this, but I thought, why not. Let's reveal the viewing statistics for this blog from December 31st, 2013, to October 31st, 2014. I say December 31st because that's when I enabled Analytics to track viewership of this blog. I usually look at location-based statistics over everything else, because I prefer to know where my viewers came from rather than what operating system they use or browser or screen resolution. Those stats I find kind of boring - after all, for network, virtually anything past the 100th meridian uses Shaw. Whatever.

Top ten views location-wise - Canada:

Ottawa: 322 (Not surprising)
Toronto: 116
Calgary: 60 (Geez)
Winnipeg: 57
Vancouver: 40
Montreal: 28
Edmonton: 14
Mississauga: 13
Hamilton: 9
Guelph: 8

After this follows a list of one hundred more cities/towns all over the country, from Halifax to Grand Prairie, Flin Flon to Newmarket, Duncan to Quebec City, and Selkirk to London. It's interesting how this page can get so many diverse views...excusing all of the silly searches for the 100th meridian.

What's extremely more staggering is when I go to international views. An astonishing 71 countries pop up.

Top Ten Views Internationally:

Canada: 862
United States: 456
United Kingdom: 105
Brazil: 30
Australia: 28
Germany: 21
Singapore: 20
Italy: 19
France: 17
Ireland: 15

The other sixty-one have quite a range; North America is entirely covered, but also quite a bit of South America, Central America, and Europe. To my surprise, almost every country in the former Yugoslavia from Bosnia & Herzegovina to Macedonia have stopped by, and virtually every country in central Europe has visited a few times. Russia has four views while Ukraine has three. This includes countries in the Middle East such as Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. It goes as far east as Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia. Even a country or two in Africa has clicked on 'The Red Cloud' or 'The Ottawan.' It's quite astonishing.

In the entire year, only 21.8% of visitors have returned, while 78.2% have been here once. At least I hold some of my audience, and it's probably the audience I have here locally.

Overall views: 1,762.

That's pretty neat for one year. After all, this isn't a big, recognized, nationally popular or viewed blog (well, in one instance it is, but only on a one-time-visit basis). It's just a place for me to write my perception on things from music to everyday observations, maybe a story. It's just me. And I'm glad I've been doing this for six years now. That's a good history right there.

Red Cloud