Saturday, December 09, 2017

我家最舒服的一角

The present is unsavory, the future is unfathomable and most people aren't Karl Lagerfeld.  We can all use some magical nostalgia where terror, real or imaginary, was in a distant past and exists in the confine of the screen and we are safe in the comfort of our own place having a good scare without all the nasty consequences.

A Legacy of Spies is the latest addition to John Le Carré oeuvre.  The term legacy takes on a negative connotation just like the word classic, iPod Classic, legacy software, anyone?  It becomes an euphemism for anything that is dated, past its prime but for some pathetic reason still hanging around.  The protagonist Peter Guillam is one of those legacies.  The past has come back to haunt him, his mentor George Smiley and the Circuit as a whole: they face legal challenges from the offspring of the deceased whose deaths were a direct or indirect consequence of his botched operation.  Legacy revisits that past with immaculate details, mainly in the form of memos and letters, and low key suave just like Smiley.  Legacy can be seen as part of a series as the characters appear in Le Carré previous works.  With Legacy, Le Carré may really retire Smiley as his spook exemplary for good.  It's a loss but all good things must end.

I am always suspect of movies or shows that make children as their main characters.  I think it's just an easy way to gain sympathy and is borderline exploitative.  Spielberg's E.T.:  the Extra Terrestrial is the pinnacle of this kind of success or exploitation.  There is no doubt in my mind, Netflix's Stranger Things is in the same vein as E.T.   You have a suburban setting in yesteryear with a bunch of adorable kids running around riding bikes.  The similarity is uncanny and is as much as a homage as it's formulaic.  That being said I like the series.  Above anything else, it's about unconditional and unwavering friendship we yearn for but almost forgot.  What's not to like?  And of course Eggo too.  The show has catapulted some young actors into early stardom: the star Millie Bobby Brown graces the cover of Interview magazine, and resuscitated the fading career of Winona Ryder whom I think is just being herself in the show.  With great success comes more seasons and episodes and the danger of overstaying its welcome with sub par material.  Super natural sci-fi sometimes is just a polite way of saying male bovine excrement.

Mindhunter is one long movie in episodes.  Since The Silence of the Lambs, serial killers have gone mainstream and it's a dime a dozen.  What sets Mindhunter apart and above is the stunning visual and the nuanced multilayered audio.  The opening sequence really set things up and foretells what it is to come visually and aurally.  Mindhunter is the story of the nascent Behavioral Science Department of the FBI in the 70s.  The production is charming and the dialogue is smart.  Wendy Carr, the psychology professor played by Anna Torv has such an inflection that I imagine is what East Coast intelligentsia sounds like.  One thing I don't quite understand is why agent Holden Ford wears a double vented suit jacket.  I think it's too showy and European a sartorial choice for an FBI agent unless Ford is someone who likes to play against type, which I don't think is the intent of the show.

Back in the 70s and early 80s there was no pervasive computing but pervasive smoking.  Both shows are like fifty minute cigarette commercials without the actual commercials.  I certainly prefer any Russian intrigue limited to a page in the novel and sociopaths in the big house than in the White House.  The reality is just too much to bear.  Ignorance is bliss and then you die.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Coffee or tea

"Coffee or tea?"

I put the cup on the tray and the air attendant poured the tea into the cup.  Not a drop was spilled.

I dunked the cookies into the tea to soften their blow to my rotten teeth.  It was a madeleine moment.  It was tea from a thermal flask, very proletariat, very matter of fact, just like breathing.  You finished your dinner you poured yourself a glassful of tea whose name remained unknown whose quality unquestioned.  It was just tea brewed in a thermal flask.  It wasn't until much later that I found out there were different names to different teas.  During an overnight camping trip, two of my friends were sophisticated and urbane beyond my imagination.  They brewed tea at night.  Not just any nameless tea in a dreary thermal flask but tea that has a name, an English name no less.  The Lipton tea, in its gauze little bags of glory, ever so sophisticated, together with milk and sugar, soothingly and warmly transitioned me from a child to a bona fide young adult that night.

"Coffee or tea?"

I put the cup on the tray and he deftly poured coffee into the cup.  He was a professional.  I skipped the granular sugar and just added the single serving milk to complete the beverage.  Sugar is like poison in today's ever quest for healthier diet.  A coffee is a coffee is a coffee so long as it's hot but not scorching hot.  The baby behind me started to cry again.  It didn't bother me, not more so than air travel or people who seemed very bothered by baby crying.

"Ladies and gentlemen, as we start our descent, please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position. Make sure your seat belt is securely fastened and all carry-on luggage is stowed underneath the seat in front of you or in the overhead bins. Thank you."

At my age, I only come home for either a good reason or a bad reason.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

PhotoPlus Expo 2017


I can't remember when I started to go to Photo expo.  There used to be a PC Expo but it's long gone.  When I do something long enough it takes on some extra meaning.  Look at the pictures I took years ago, I could really see the changes over time, not just the industry but myself.  Kodak used to give out free film and then they stopped and then they didn't even bother to show up because they bankrupted or something.  Fuji used to give away film as well.  But they don't bother anymore.  Now they shift their products more on cameras and lenses at least at the expo.  Nikon, Canon and now Sony are the big three in the expo.  Sony is like making some big move in the expo, the space got bigger or at least as big as Canon and Nikon.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Blade Runner and some random thoughts

With the passage of time and the filtration of memory, Blade Runner(1982) has acquired certain mythical sheen in the annals of sci-fi film making.  Blade Runner 2049(2017) further cements and reaffirms the original Blade Runner's inimitable status.

I saw Blade Runner in a theatre when it was first released in 1982.  I was a child (and a pathological liar).  Then many years later in the late 80s I sort of saw it again in the City of Light.  Unbeknownst to me, Deckard became French speaking, a language so foreign to me it might as well be Martian.  I am not sure if I sat through the entire movie listening to Deckard speak French, if I did I wouldn't understand a word uttered from his throat.

I didn't seek out to watch it again until recently when I found out there is a sequel in the offing, I am very susceptible to marketing.  I sought out some pieces of the 1982 Blade Runner on YouTube and then finally in one piece on on-demand what they call the director's or is it the final cut?

Here are some random thoughts.

The cinematic universe of Blade Runner is as futuristic as it's familiar--there are flying vehicles, pay phones with video screens, people continue to hate their job and yearn for retirement; smoking and drinking are common though the former is much restricted in public space than it's depicted on screen.  The cinematic visuals set high water mark for future neo-noirs.  Much ink has been spilled on K's coat in BR 2049.  It's a nice coat apparently.  But Deckard's trench coat just makes more sense evidently as the dystopia that is called LA is perpetually drizzling or pouring.  A trench coat is functional in addition to being detective like.  (As an aside, I think Brad Pitt's Se7en is as much about serial killer as it's about his neck tie, white shirt and trench coat.)  Notice Deckard wears neck ties, a glorified leash in any hierarchical work place, including the LAPD.  The mysterious Gaff and the independently well-off Tyrell prefer bow tie only.  Not only Deckard wears neck ties but they match his print shirts which also echo his apartment's wall tiles, themselves inspired by the Ennis House which in turn was inspired by Mayan architecture.  Deckard's wardrobe is understatedly wild.  K's sartorial choice: a great coat and a monochromatic black pull over.  They are basic like Gap nothing wrong yet nothing to write home about either.

The future can be off or unreal but humanity can't be, even for replicants.  Tyrell says and I paraphrase, the goal is to make replicants more human than human.  He has succeeded beyond his wildest dream. In the final showdown between Deckard and nexus 6 Roy Batty, instead of letting gravity kill Deckard, Batty grabs his arm and pulls him back to the roof top saving Deckard's life: simultaneously and demonstratively showing forgiveness and compassion, two human traits make human human though at times in short supply when it comes to Tyrell or Deckard to the replicants.

When inspector Bryant cajoled and coerced Deckard out of his retirement he says "... He's not good enough, not good as you. I need you, Deck ...  I need the old Blade Runner, I need your magic."  I concur.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Blade Runner 2049

In the New York Times' anatomy of a scene, director Denis Villeneuve painstakingly narrates the scene where Ryan Gosling's K or Joe is about to find and meet his screen forbear, the original Blade Runner Deckard, played by Harrison Ford.  Villeneuve informs us that he reminds Gosling to walk slower, how the garden of giant naked statures of boobs or whatever is designed by some guy, and the sound effect of the buzzing bees and how very careful he selects the music and hence the significance of it for that scene so on and so forth.  Without his explanations, me philistine wouldn't be able to enjoy his movie.

None of this really matters to me except Gosling sure keeps walking slower and slower the entire movie, which is quite an effective way of putting me to sleep.  Thanks to caffeine and the upright cheap seat, I was able to stay half awake through out this 3-hour plus long snooze fest disaster that is called Blade Runner 2049.

In general I am OK or even like Gosling's phlegmatic puppy faced performance.  I imagine it is even an apt for his character, a meek replicant, android, a non human who can't say no to an order.  Ford plays a caricature of his own character whom he played some thirty five years ago.  Ford nowadays just plays any characters he used to play with some mirthless smirks and call it a performance or a day.  I can't wait to see him play Han Solo in the never ending upcoming Star War Episode XXX.

Blade Runner 2049 is pretty much over when it kills off its most potentially interesting character Sapper played by Dave Baustista in the first fifteen minutes of the film.  Me waited thirty five years for this.  Thanks to Denis Villeneuve, the same director who brought us Arrival (2016)-duh!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Stan Ray

I always like a double front or double knee.  So I finally got myself one.  Wow, it's going to be twice as durable.

When you buy online for apparels, you are still pretty much live in the dark ages.  Most, I say most retailers won't give out the actual measurements.  They figure they rather process more returns I guess.  It would give you the size like 34x32.  You know, I know, and everybody knows the 34 is not the garment measurement.  So it's a guess.

It's YKK, my friend, sign of good quality.  The pull is not extra large or anything, so don't pull with your gloved hand.  Not supposed to anyway.  Unlike a jacket's or outergarment's.

The hickory is more expensive but the loop in the back is missing.  No loop there.  Both designs don't have back yoke above the back pockets.  But I do appreciate the the number of belt loops, not just one in the center but one above the pocket on each side.  So you feel properly belted.  I personally think that's the way it's supposed to be.  The loop is long enough to accommodate wider belt which is a good thing.  Some work pants have narrow belt loops for narrow belts, what's that about?


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Nikon SB-800


My first outing using the newly acquired SB-800.  It was 100% AA battery powered so it had a hard time keeping up with the action.  You use what you have, that's about it.  (I bought a Godox PB-960 just so I can shoot my finger off without the wait or the change of AA batteries)  This wasn't done with the high speed sync I bought the flash for.  I think I was shooting more like 1/30 and panned with the action.



This one was done with high speed sync probably 1/1000s.

When you have a flash you end up shooting everything with flash.

EDIT 8/21/2017:
subsequently, I shot the SB-800 with power pack PB-960 hoping that there's virtually no wait to recycle.  Alas, there is.  Between shots the flash ready light was blinking so the flash was capable to go off but whether the exposure was "correct" was entirely a different story.  I tried to use Manual and turned it down to 1/2 and 1/4 but still the recycle is more than instantaneous.  If memories and anecdotes serve me well then I really think the 120J cycle faster whenever it's not at 1/1 power on power pack.  I love my 120J except when it comes to packing and transporting from A to B.  The freaking bare tube and the reflector are just too cumbersome.  Otherwise I think the light is pretty nice, sure it's all subjective, but I think what you believe is important.