Saturday, June 02, 2007

Switched from iPod to Sansa

For the longest time I resisted owning an mp3 player. But then a former employer gave all the employees an iPod as a Christmas gift. So I returned to the land of Apple albeit only with iPod use, still use a pc at home. I like iTunes ok, but not a big fan of how it's so proprietary. I love the iPod as a product both in industrial and user interface design. The UI is so simply brilliant; Apple is just so damed disciplined at eliminating EVERYTHING that is unnecessary. Subtracting it to the bare essentials. It's a product conceived by a single design team from software to hardware and it shows. It's a single concept of ingenuity, not a hodge-podge of chefs from different kitchens.

Before iTunes I was a Rhapsody user. I really liked the service but would cancel my subscription on and off again since I wasn't using it very much. Then I started having technical difficulty with my iPod and the battery was dying, so I started to think about switching back to Rhapsody and their Sansa player. I got the kind that plays iTunes-purchased music files, e260 I think.

I still love the Rhapsody service. It's so easy to discover new music, or sample a new band or their new album. I really like having their entire database available at my fingertips. Sure the prescription model is pricey but I think for music consumption it makes a lot of sense.

But the Sansa... I really hate the Sansa player. I think it's because I got used to the simplicity of the iPod's interface. The Sansa is just awkward in comparison. And it's so slow, there's significant delay time to all the operations. All in all I think I'm probably happier now, but navigating the sansa is pretty annoying.

Friday, June 01, 2007

"Milo's Train" and the Auction

Our oldest son's preschool had an annual fundraising event where there is a live auction during dinner. The auction items are things parents have volunteered whether it's their summer home in the wine country, a package trip to san diego or box seats at Giants stadium. A parent who knew I was in school to become an animator suggested that I auction off my ability to make a cartoon. I thought, "No way."

But she was persistent and my wife got into the idea, so I figured why not. I said I would make an animatic starring the child as the protagonist of their very own story. In other words, whoever won my auction item, I'd go over their house, get to know their kid, take a few pictures, recordings, sketches and go back and make a story with their child as the hero, a story that would reflect the child's interest, a little snapshot of their mind at age 4.

But some people were still a little confused as to what an animatic was so I decided to make one for my son, Milo, and showcase that at the live auction event. In addition I printed out a color copy of the storyboards and bound it like a small children's book so people could flip through a hard copy.

The parent who was running the auction event asked me what the item price should be so they could estimate a starting bid. I replied I had no idea since I'd never done anything like this before and I didn't even know what story artists make. So we guesstimated the best we could and came up value of $1000 and a starting bid of $600.

When the bidding started, a number of parents raised their numbered paddles immediately. The bid quickly rose to over $1000. When it hit $1500 the number of bidders dwindled down to three. Then it became a bidding war between two families who happened to be sitting at the same table, right next to me. I was too shocked and embarrassed to look, I just kept my head down. The winning bid was $2000. It was the highest selling item of the night.

Below is the animatic I made for Milo called "Milo's Train".

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Media Review

The Namesake

I liked the book and the film stayed pretty faithful to the novel. Ultimately, I was a little disappointed. Still 3 stars but a low 3. I think the movie was a little dry, I was expecting the cinematography to be more stunning, especially when you're shooting India which is such a visually intense place. The actors were all excellent. I liked Kal Penn and his mother played by Tabu was also very good, but the standout performance was the father played by Irfan Khan. He was exceptional. I would recommend seeing the movie just based on his understated performance.

I finally rented this somewhat controversial movie that won Best Picture in 2006. Controversial in that people thought Brokeback Mountain should have won Best Picture. I saw Brokeback first and I thought it was wonderful. People I know either liked or disliked the Crash, so I came in with low expectations. I came away thinking that Crash definitely deserved the Best Picture nod. I liked this movie a lot. Both Brokeback and Crash were Oscar worthy but I don't know which would have deserved it more. I can see why there are Crash-haters out there, but this film really spoke to me. There's a lot of anger in it, and I related to that anger.

Meet the Robinsons
Not horrrible. Not great. Kinda sorta okay, I guess. The visuals were awesome, the animation was also very good. The pace was strange. You could tell that the story was re-worked and patched together. There were some shots that didn't make sense at all. The main villain was very very fun to watch. I'm glad I saw it but I'm not sure I'd recommend it. How's that for a half-assed review.

Spiderman 3
Let me start by saying that I barely liked Spiderman 1, mainly because they totally got the Goblin wrong, missing a grand opportunity with Willem Defoe, and I thought it was a little too violent. I liked Spiderman 2 but thought it could do without a lot of the cheese-factor with Mary Jane, the action sequences were great. Here's what was good about Spiderman 3 - the Sandman visual effects scenes and Venom's visual effects scenes. The rest of this film sucked hard. All the criticism you may have read, I agree with. It was a pretty bad movie all in all.

The Proposition
Great movie. Highly recommend. Australian western. The landscape scenery was stunning. The acting superb. Visually crafted. If you like them brutal westerns I think you'll really like this movie.

The Departed
I saw Infernal Affairs which is the Hong Kong film that Departed is based upon. But they are two very different movies. Which I was glad to see. I thought Departed was great, but I think I would've voted for Babel for best picture instead. Still glad to see Scorsese finally get his oscar nod though.

Very good but I wasn't completely blown away by film as a whole. The performances were great, I really liked Catherine Keener. Obviously Philip Seymour Hoffman is the man, I always like him in whatever he's in, but the breakout performance for me was Clifton Collins Jr. who played one of the killers, Perry Smith. I thought I had seen him before and indeed, he played the gay Mexican hitman in one of my favorite movies, Traffic.