Friday, November 14, 2008

... but not a drop to drink...

Despite getting in very late last night I managed to drag myself out of bed at an early hour and go food shopping, a task which I've come to dislike. Now, I've heard you should never go food shopping when you're hungry. Well, here's another tip... never do it when you're thirsty.

Since moving to Jersey City (I refuse to call it JC cause when someone said that to me I had no idea what they were talking about so I don't trust everyone else to know) I've realized Jersey doesn't just smell bad... it tastes bad. I mostly say this in reference to the water... mostly. My roommates even have one of those Brita Water Filters and it still tastes like I'm drinking water heavily laced with artificial sweeteners. So, I gave up and bought a giant pack of bottled water. I don't hate bottled water. I just hate buying it to when there's free water at home.

That all aside, I popped into the Asian Food Market down the street from me and was pleasantly surprised to find a store reminiscent of the Chinese Underground Market I use to shop at in Philly. See, after moving I realized the last cooking I had done on my own had required ingredients that I wasn't going to find at most local supermarkets in America. So it's nice to know I can go pick up a bag of Japanese long grain rice, some Golden curry, bamboo and bean sprouts, firm tofu, a Ramune and some daifuku right down the street.

As for the concert, it was a blast. I'll post pictures later after I sort through them all (I was handed the job of photographer for the evening). And despite my mom's concerns, I didn't get mugged... all in all, good evening!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I made this! *

* Well, I helped make this along with a bunch of other extremely talented folks, but I couldn't help quoting a favorite television show of mine...

Skool House Rock - Pull My Lever

And if that didn't convince you to go out and do your civic duty here's another one got to work on...

Skool House Rock - You Get A Sticker

Thankfully one of the projects I'm working on now is also based around a song or else I might still have that one stuck in my head.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Going for two...

I was almost tempted to wait till November 1st to post my next rambling entry just so I could keep up with my 'Post-Per-Month' quota, but ye olde Apple Pickin' waits for no one.

I decided to take a break from work and stroll (or in my case drive) on down to the local apple orchard. The closest one to my house, being gas-conscious and all, was Pennings Farm.

Here you can find everything and anything your imagination can drum up (well, almost everything... although maybe that's what the Petting Zoo is for). I'm better at pictures than blogs so I'll just go ahead and let the photographs lead the way for this entry.

First off...

Pumpkins! Lots...

And lots...

Of 'em. Oh, yeah... and corn stalks.

For all those things you need to do that require... corn stalks. Seriously, who buys these? The more interesting part of the wasted hour between Flash and After Effects work for me was this...

So, long ago the Pennings Orchard was run by... you guessed it! The Pennings family. And they use to live on the premises. About five or six years ago they moved out of the house and boarded it up. Then someone had the brilliant idea to use it during the fall as the orchard's very own Haunted House.

And yes... I have been in it. Many years ago and to be honest... it doesn't look any different (although I don't remember the knights). Unfortunately, it was closed up today, laying in wait for the weekend and the hordes of people that trek out here from NYC and NJ. However, I did venture as far as the front patio... or should I say I was lured there by a cute, fluffy (possibly ghostly) kitten that vanished into thin air as I rounded the corner and came upon this gruesome scene.

Yes... those are Boy Scouts. And yes... they did apparently eat one of their own (probably a counselor).

And yes... they are drinking hard liquor.

And what Haunted House would be complete without a graveyard filled with clever epitaphs? So, back to the Teddy Bear... He, apparently, was one of several creatures that didn't make it to this year's Haunted House. He and his buddies lay strewn out on the table in a more-or-less defunct greenhouse in the back amid the house plants and marigolds.

Soon to join the ranks will be good ol' Grandpa. For now, he hangs out in front with a sign warning folks to 'not touch' and muttering nearly inaudible ramblings about 'ladies' and 'doors'.

But here's something you can touch (although I guess most parents would be horrified at the idea). Turkeys! Goats (they like eating leaves)!

They use to have a cow but I guess it was moved after eating one to many articles of clothing.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Didn't see this coming...

So back in Sophmore Animation I, our teacher, Dana Gullo, went around the room asking each of us the same set of questions:

What's your name?
What got you into animation?
Where would you love to see yourself working in six years time?

Personally, my favorite is 'What's your name?' Little did I know she was preparing me for the necessary schmoozing I would do in the coming years at various festivals and parties. Anyway, back to college...

Most people answered with the usual: Watching cartoons as a kid and any notable animation studio out there at the time. One guy even had the guts to say he wanted to work for Disney. Gullo quickly crushed his dreams which is what any college professor can only hope to do, right? Another student (and I believe this was even after the Disney comment) said his dream was to work for a Japanese studio like Miyazaki's. Her response to that was something along the lines of "Do you speak Japanese?"* I was one of the only people who said I wanted to just make short films (which didn't sound at all stupid to me at the time). Gullo offered up the term 'freelance animator' which I had never even considered before. I guess most little animators grow up thinking the only option is to work at some big corporation like Disney.

Well, here I am and while it kind of sucks to not have health insurance (a 'con' I am working on fixing at the moment) and spend most of the day alone at home glued to the computer or light box it has it's better moments...

Thank you, Titus... the fluffiest paperweight ever.

*By the way, that student can not only speak Japanese now, but is living and working there so I guess some dreams do come true... Personally, my childhood dream of becoming a pirate completely flopped (I could have said 'died at sea' but I'm not one for puns).

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Giving gaming a shot...

So, I'm terrible at this whole 'blog' thing. I think that's pretty undeniable at this point so I'll just leave it at that and move on...

About a year and a half ago I was living abroad, teaching for money and doing freelance work on the side. A friend of mine, the incredibly intelligent and ridiculously hyper game designer Eric Robinson, had been toying with an idea for a game all his own but lacking the artistic abilities to actually do anything aside from coding. Seeing some of my work and knowing we had free time to spare, he asked if I'd help him make a play-able demo of his game.

Thus 'Kanji Kami' was born. The game is practically useless to the Madden Football video game crowd unless one of those gamers happens to be studying Japanese in between virtual touchdowns. Who knows? You may be out there... It's basically a game that helps students of Japanese strengthen their kanji skills by 'absorbing' the correct roots to a specific kanji and 'repelling' the incorrect ones.

Eric created the concept and coded the whole game while giving me artistic direction. He had a specific look in mind for the game, mimicking old sumi paintings. To get that look, I inked all the animation and background elements on paper with a caligraphy brush I picked up at the Hyaku en Shop (Japanese equivalent to our $1.00 Stores). Then I scanned them into Photoshop and used the brush setting to recreate and color the gradient wash, trying to give it a watercolor look without actually having to break out my set of paints. I also created a simple 3D scroll in Maya to create the borders to the left and right of the game play area.

We finished the demo just in time for the annual Sendai Art Gallery's Foreign Exhibition and got a chance to reveal the play-able demo there. Since then, Eric and I have returned state-side and 'Kanji Kami' has been recognized on the web, featured as one of several games built using Torque:

If anyone is curious about taking a look at it or downloading the demo, it might be easier to just head over to Eric's site (as oppose to scrolling through the list of games featured on Garage Games till you get to the 'K's). You can do that here:

Enjoy! More blogs will follow like lemmings, with any luck...