Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Big little Little big

On March 20, Austin had a tooth removed.

He had bumped into a wall a while ago, and it was loose and it was starting to get a cavity, so the dentist took it out.

Looking at him, I feel like he looked like a big little kid before, but now he looks like a little big kid. If that makes any sense.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Barack's speech

Barack Obama really is the best political orator of my lifetime. His speech today is really powerful, and the story at the very end of it is really touching. If you don't have time to read the whole thing, search down for "Ebenezer Baptist" and read to the end.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Letters, we got letters!

A few years ago, I had the idea that I would follow the path of esteemed writer Jane Smiley and have letters published all over mainstream publications. I had one published in the NY Times Magazine about Bill Frist that I like to think was the first tarnishing of his national reputation and eventually led to his downfall.

I have not been as prolific as Smiley, but I did get a letter published in a news/politics/media critic blog I read daily, Eric Alterman's Altercation. Here's my letter. Now, if Obama gets elected (or if there's a new meme about his being the son of an immigrant) you'll know where it started.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Focus Group, Assemble!

Hello, clever cyber people! I ask of you a question:

What would you do with the material on this site? How would you use it as .... an advertiser? ... a video blogger? ... someone who makes birthday videos for their kid? ... a researcher?

Basically, it's free video material that anyone can manipulate or use. If you wouldn't personally use it, how would you imagine others using it?

What sort of content would make it more appealing for you (or a hypothetical other) to use? More nature footage? More famous people?

Please give me feedback for a project that I'm working on. Anything posted by the week will be very useful, anything posted this month will also help. Thanks!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Best day at the zoo

It was close to freezing with a really strong wind today, but it was one of my best days ever at our local zoo, the Franklin Park Zoo in Dorchester. We saw a baby zebra! And the emu was booking it and lemurs! and... well, here's a short video.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Old Picture

My dad sent me a scanned photo of my grandfather,Jimmy Cheng. The picture is from the early 1970s and was badly faded but I messed around with Photoshop to recolorize it. My grandfather took a lot of self-portraits. I think the photodocumenting gene is fairly strong in our family.

Friday, March 07, 2008


My friend Tom sent me a link to a demo video of a new software program. You sing a melody that it records, and then it automatically generates a piano harmony backing track. Plus, you can set it to be happier or sadder.

Does this make sense? Check out the video of Mysong.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Across the Universe

A movie that compresses 1960s history into two hours based around a love story and told as a musical using Beatles songs. Boy, that sounded like a risky proposition just for us as viewers investing two hours of time.

Still, the director is Julie Taymor, who created the Lion King stage show. She also directed Titus, which is the grossest Shakespeare play you never read, and Frida, which seemed like the Salma Hayek show (she produced and starred) but had a lot of Taymor's signature visual stylings.

So, the idea sounds terrible, the director is terrific. Oh, and she's married to Elliot Goldenthal, a composer, so maybe the music will be thought out.

The movie is called Across the Universe, and I quite liked it. I didn't love it, but it stuck with me, and I enjoyed the musical performances.

The young actor/singers were uniformly good. The cameos, by Joe Cocker, Bono and Eddie Izzard were hit or miss. Cocker was great, singing "Come Together." Izzard was okay, but I prefer the visual effects Taymor gets from puppets and choreography and his song was so CGI heavy that I didn't like it. And Bono was terrible. Worst vocal performance in the film, terrible acting and his whole section almost stalled the movie out, the way that Prince song did to the first Batman movie.

It is cheesy, especially when you meet all the characters: Jude, Max, Lucy, Prudence, Sadie -- the names say it all. But Taymor and Goldenthal are really smart, rearranging the songs so that it's not karaoke. In fact, most of the songs start a capella, like old movie musicals where a line is so emotional it has to be sung, and then the backing track comes in on the verse or chorus. Also, the arrangements are simple, for the most part, letting the viewer/listener supply a lot of the background to the music. And they play with the hooks. You know someone's going to sing "Hey Jude" at some point, but when Max gets to "Jude Jude-a Jude-y Jude-a Jude Jude!" it actually makes theatrical sense in context.

One visual highlight is "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" where a character is inducted into the army by Uncle Sam (I Want You) and asked to bring freedom in the form of the Statue of Liberty to Vietnam (She's So Heavy). Another is "Strawberry Fields" where Jude (an artist) starts pinning fruit to a board. Sounds weird, but it's really great.

The song that was stuck in my head after the movie was "I've Just Seen a Face" but I have to admit that no bowling alley on film--not here or in There Will Be Blood--will ever surpass The Big Lebowski and that's all I could think of when watching.

If you're a "purist" and hate all Beatles covers: avoid! If you appreciate Lennon/McCartney and Harrison songs as songcraft and are interested in how another artist can reconceive and recontextualize them, then I recommend it. I'm actually very curious about the soundtrack album for this film.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Wishful thinking

Apropos of nothing,

if the iPod touch had a camera built in, I would buy one. (That said, I have no interest in buying an iPhone.)