Friday, August 28, 2009

No quero...

In Japanese, the word for octopus is tako, pronounced the same as that Mexican delicacy enjoyed by so many chihuahuas.

This was and still is kinda funny to me, but it was especially amusing to my students when I tried to explain what a taco was. One thing I learned in Japan is that they love puns there.

Oh, and tako, not to be confused with taco, is also really disgusting.

Monday, August 24, 2009

No CGI here!

About a month ago, I was doing this to books.

It looks like I'm killing them, when, in fact, I was giving them life! Proof? You want proof? Well, unfortunately, due to a looming deadline and lack of sleep, I neglected to take any pictures after this point. Oops...

But I do have this to show for it!

If I remember correctly, 5-6 books were rigged with fishing line to 'jump off the shelves'. One of those books had a 'flying double' who was rigged with a rod and 'marionette strings' to give it's 'wings' the flapping motion. About 4-5 other books were also rigged for flying, but these were 'stiff' (no strings), the 'wings' locked with metal struts stuck through the pages.

Hence the knife, which more then once, ended up nailing the book to the floor. However, I can't take any credit for the amazing work in post; Alex de Campi is the wizard responsible for that magic.

Friday, August 21, 2009

There are places...

Last Saturday marked the first time I've seen a Miyazaki film since returning home from a two year stint in Japan. The result? An unexpected nostalgia.

The quality of animation, character design, layout, scoring, etc. has been discussed at length already and by folks who are far better at articulating these points than I. So, I'm simply going to comment on the nostalgic charm I've found in Miyazaki's films, namely Ponyo and another favorite of mine, My Neighbor Totorro.

One thing Miyazaki is a master of, which many Americans may or may not fully appreciate, is capturing rural Japan in his layouts and backgrounds.

Kannari-cho, my 'hometown' in Miyagi-ken, is a spitting image of the small town in which Totorro takes place, complete with rice fields, moss-drenched forests, rickety buses, half-hidden stone statues, a single-car red train and cat-bus.

Okay, well, I wish the last one was true but you get the idea.

About an hour west of Kannari was the coastal town of Matsushima known for it's wind-worn islands and shrinking pines. Having ventured out to the islands several times, I'd be tempted to say this is where Ponyo's story plays out (although I'm certain it takes place somewhere further south).

Many people describe Miyazaki's films as 'magical', further mentioning Japanese folktales and mythology as heavy influences. I guess as 'Westerners', it's only natural that we find ourselves so intrigued by the East. Why is anime so popular? Because it's foreign to us. And this only heightens the sense of mysticism.

Yes, there is something VERY magical about this setting.

But there's also something VERY real about it. Japan actually looks like this. It's Elementary Schools, Senior Centers and bus stops actually look like that.

But to most Americans, these settings are foreign, yet welcoming and therefore, 'magical'. When I first saw Spirited Away, I was in love with the 'magic' of it. Watching it now, I'm still 'in love'. But there's a fondness mixed in now, a longing to be back there surrounded by that 'magic'.

I worked in 'that' Elementary School, I visited 'that' Senior Center, I lived near that house. The foreign became familiar and now I miss it. It's a strange feeling and one that I honestly don't know how best to describe.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Corner of York & Washington Ave.

On my way to work yesterday morning, I came across this-

Overcautious bridge work? Or cleverly disguised government cover-up of a virus quarantine? You decide...

I will warn you, though, I have been watching a lot of X-Files.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Beachtown - the beach = Nyack!

Headed out of town this weekend to see what was what at one of my former spots of employment: the Renaissance Faire.

I never made it. Always one for an impromptu adventure, I took a slight detour to Nyack to check out the Hopper House.

I had only been in 'downtown' Nyack once before, to drop off a DVD to the They Might Be Giants folks. It's 'quaint and cute'. I only have a problem with 'quaint and cute' when there's no beach attached to the town.

But on to the main attraction!

When visiting the Florida Keys one year, my mom and I took a tour of Hemingway's house. In a way, this was even nicer than that, being so 'off the beaten path'. There are guided tours of Hemingway's estate; Hopper has a girl sitting in a side room selling postcards. It was more personal.

Inside also housed a gallery for local artists. The outside caters to them as well, mostly in the form of outdoor concerts. Unfortunately, as far as the fine arts are concerned-

This sign was tacked up out in front. Apparently Nyack has problems with cat-burglars.

A few blocks down was this sign. Coincidence?

Now for those of you still upset by my negative view of the folksy downtown area, I'll confess it wasn't that bad. This book store (and it's non-human employees) saw to that.

Such unoriginal reading material.

Keeping an eye on everything; the store's muscle.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tooting the horn...

Like most other XX-ers out there, I enjoy buying clothes. Unlike most other XX-ers, though, I can't stand Sex & the City (so much so that I just had to Google whether the title was Sex & the City or Sex In the City). I digress...

I like buying clothes. However, to buy clothes, I need money. To get money, I need work. And thus, I have come to the point of today's blog.

It's been a while but I just finished up a new episode for the folks over at You should check it out. This week brings a nice little song (I can't seem to get away from music videos these days) about following God's guidance and celebrating the benefits. While I'm not religious in the slightest, it's a sweet song and (hopefully) the visuals echo that.

And FYI, my awesome roommate Chrissy Fellmeth lended a hand with the verses. It was such a relief to work with someone (that I also live with) and have it go so smoothly.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Our Town

I like to think my little town of Kannari was the best in all of Kurihara-shi, perhaps all of Miyagi. Now, even I know that isn't true (how can you beat karaoke and kaiten sushi in Tsukidate?), but we did have this great little park on the edge of town...

In the distance, you can make out the bridge that lead out of town and to the 'secret' back-route I'd take out-of-town.

Every spring, the park wouldbecome home ot thousands of fireflies, thus establishing one of my town's claims to fame - the Firefly Festival. Although I did see LOTS of Firflies around that time, I never actually attended the official festival at the park.

I did got there quite often to just sit, relax and sometimes even sunbath which amused the locals to no end.

They could tell I was around by my signature 'Cherry Red' bike, passed on to me by the previous ALT. Lately, I've been day-dreaming about getting myself a bike here in Brooklyn. I think I'll try for one with working breaks and gears this time.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Been searching for the dolphins...

Somewhere in between sorting out click tags and trying to figure out how to script three different sets of time-sensitive 'Premiere' messaging (I didn't understand any of that and I don't expect any of you to), I decided to do a random Google Image search for 'Amazon River Dolphins'.

Well, not all that random; we're in the middle of designing a particular web ad that calls for a collection of exotic animals.

Aside from finding some really beautiful images (especially considering the murky waters of the Amazon)...

... I came across this website. Immediately imagining my apartment covered with a menagerie of these delicate paper sculptures, I frantically started downloading PDFs. I was almost afraid someone would suddenly realize they could make money off of these things and stop the 'FREE DOWNLOADS'.

Unfortunately, I always loose in the end. Each image seems to be password protected and with no mention of said encryption on the website, I can only hope it's my home computer's copy of Photoshop and that I'll be able to open it tomorrow at work.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

My Little Ponies

While flipping through an old sketchbook in search of some blank pages, I came across something I doodled a few years back.

Now, I'm not sure what it is and I'm fairly certain I didn't even know then. Either way, figured this would be the place for it.

Enjoy! It's back to animating more Jewish tales for me.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Journey to the Center of Japan

Looking back, I realize I neglected to post any pictures from Japan last week. As penance, I shall post a whole slew, taking you on a tour of one park I'm almost certain you have never been to.

Uguisuzawa's Mine Park!

Arriving in the parking lot. Out in the inaka, folks are big fans of scarecrows. If you've ever seen a Japanese crow, you'd understand why.

The Mine Park has it's own little mascot. This Astro Boy look-alike greets you as you enter. His mouth is suppose to move to the audio, announcing the beginning of your journey to the center of the Earth, it's jammed over the years.

It's hard to tell (low light and all), but this long, surprisingly scary tunnel is decorated by tin lanterns hammered out by little kids which just seems to make it even more creepy.

This somewhat unsettling scene is the first thing to greet your eyes as they adjust to the darkness.

Yes, those are Japanese animatronics.

And yes, they were just as creepy then as they are now.

At this point, the temperature dropped an ominous 10 degrees, signaling what in my mind was the 'Point of No Return'. We were about to delve deep into the Japanese interpretation of how the Earth was formed.

In this version, God is replaced by Lava Baby.

My poor memory mixed with poor image quality leads me to guess this was a picture of said Lava Baby's effects on the Earth.

This part I didn't get. All the lava stuff disappeared and turned into a 'Pan For Gold' station. The weirdest part about this section was that it was manned by two employees of the park who's day is apparently comprised of sitting by themselves some 1000ft below the Earth's surface waiting for folks to come by and hopefully pay the 500YEN to sift through a pan of mud.

After that, it was back to the history lesson with murals further depicting Earth's past.

That's right all you logic-impaired people, the Japanese 'believe' in dinosaurs. Than again, it could just be some 'mech' deposited there by an elite group of teenagers chosen to save the world.

Not really sure about this part but at least it was getting warmer by now.

Really not sure about this part- I'm guessing the plants are suppose to signal that we're heading towards the surface-world.

Oh, now it makes sense. This must be where those teens get the power to run their 'mechs'.

And finally, the end. I was somewhat relieved to see they hadn't locked in; we arrived 20mins before closing.