Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Seasons Greetings: A Blank Card inspired by Taylor Swift

Yes, I love Taylor Swift and her catchy tunes and her amazing music videos! And no, I don't know when it all happened. But I am glad it did. Here is a little video card from me to you:

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Video Light Painting

Light painting photography and videography invoke a sense wonder in me, because they capture what my eyes cannot. Everything is no longer fleeting, maybe just undetected. And the darkened backdrop and built-in anticipation conveniently add to the alchemy.

This is my entry to a video contest held by an induction lighting company to highlight the properties of their products, or just a good opportunity to wave some light bulbs around and practice this magic.

So, I did end up coming in 2nd place, but was denied the prize money, because the company effectively declared that I was not a citizen. Well, that is certainly news to me. Anyway, this was a poorly conceptualized, managed, and executed event. An utter debacle. First, they postponed the submission deadline for two months without any notice or explanation to the people (me) who worked very hard to meet the original deadline, giving unfair advantage to late submissions. Then, they altered their contest “rules” several times throughout to fit their own agenda and mistakes. Mistakes that were a direct consequence of the inherent flaws within the contest set-up, just to show how clueless they are about social media. The only things I learned about this company, other than the fact that their light bulbs are extremely fragile and can (and will) break/explode if you so much as lay it down on the table at the wrong angle, are that they have NO INTEGRITY and NO COMMON SENSE whatsoever. Never again. 

Rant over. Sorry. 

Watch me "paint" your screen with light:

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Panda-fy your Paper Lantern / Bubble

Obsessively watching baby panda videos on Youtube turned out not to be a complete waste of time after all. For one, it deepened my love for white fluffy things, like the "It's so fluffy, I'm gonna die" unicorn, samoyeds, and this extreme samoyed. Did I mention samoyeds? And that is always a wonderful thing. Then, there's the inspiration that a white Bubble is almost a panda face, without the black blobs.
And there's the recognition that adding black blobs to a white Bubble is certainly one of the very few ways I'll ever have a panda. 
I proceeded to make two ~3" black pompoms (how-to video here) and strung them together with twine. Tying and hanging them from the vertical ribbon created those Mickey-Mouse ears, and I adjusted their locations by lengthening or shortening the connecting twine. 
Then I cut out three black blobs to be the eye patches and nose, which were attached to the Bubble with glue dots. You can probably also use poster tacks. 
Download the eye patches and nose template here and make your own paper pandas! 
You can use any paper lantern like the ones shown below. The template and pompom size work with lanterns ~10" in diameter. To fit a smaller or bigger lantern, simply scale up or down accordingly. Have fun! 
Left / Right

Sunday, 2 November 2014

5-second stories about Halloween

Baby Mike Wazowski swore that he did not just wreak havoc at the studio, but it certainly wasn't me. P.S. Does anyone still remember and love this movie?
Minions will always be minions. And I have one. 
"Halloween dress-up games aren't just for humans," a Bubble lamp declared.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

The Last Great Adventure - Nostalgia, Technology, and Death

It began in April when a message came to me with a peculiar request, and this disclaimer: I'm not pulling your leg. Not that such phrase typically instilled confidence, but I read on. A group of aerospace engineers in Kentucky started a business to provide a unique way to commemorate your departed loved ones - by taking their cremated remains to the edge of outer space and then dispersing it - amongst the magnificent vastness, the peaceful quietness, and likely the farthest place they've ever been. I've obviously come to think of this as quite poetic, but I can't deny that my initial reaction included visceral feelings of aversion or avoidance (probably because it is about death). And I wondered if my leg was being pulled. Their company name is Mesoloft.

Anyway, back to the request. They'd been struggling with the aesthetics of their device, so they wondered if I could design an origami paper enclosure to make it look more refined. Months passed by and emails exchanged. I experimented with different shapes and materials while the group at Mesoloft launched several test flights. Finally, they were ready for the public. And I got their permission to edit and make a video with their footages.

I like to use each video as an opportunity to learn something new about Adobe After Effects. So, while I was randomly animating vintage photographs with the parallax technique (public domain is awesome!), I decided that these definitely belonged with Mesoloft. And when my brother advised that I shorten the opening clips, because you can never underestimate people's attention spans nowadays, I stubbornly refused and defended my "artistic" vision. I mean, there must be some ingenious, romantic resonance between bringing old photos to life and this celebration of dreams and memories with flying balloon, right? I was just unable to articulate the reasons why, but I declared while trying to sound deep, "This video is about nostalgia. The fear of death and being forgotten is universal!"

Yup, I also could not believe the pretentious words that were coming out of my mouth (keyboard). But there is underlying truth, as it turns out. 

Even though, I soon realized that I was probably trying to mimic the hauntingly beautiful opening sequence of the movie Melancholia, in which Earth is on an inevitable collision course with a much larger planet. The end of everything was made clear right at the beginning of the film, yet we the audience proceeded to witness the now pointless, many struggles of human interactions. (It made such an impression on me that I was subsequently, majorly disappointed to check out that director's other films. Apparently, I just stumbled on to a Von Trier "lite".) We were not allowed to take comfort in ambiguity.

Nostalgia. In recent years, some have been critical of things that invoke nostalgia, from Instagram filters, hipsters, and indulgence in the "good old days", especially if you weren't even alive back then. In SALON, Amanda Petrusich warns us about the dangers of not being present:
But it’s troubling to think we could get stuck there — that we could lose our ability to forge new and significant relationships with art, and that we might no longer be able to use those connections to understand each other. Because that sounds counterproductive and, above all, lonely.
And not so surprisingly, K. Mike Merrill, being the the world's only publicly traded person, expressed his eagerness to only look forward in A Love Letter to Living in the Future:
To withdraw from society is to surrender to pessimism and accept that the best world we will ever have is behind us. I don’t buy it. I’m impatient for domestic robots, brain wave interfaces, crypto-currencies, bionic limbs, and video games as spectator sports to be commonplace. The future is coming true before our very eyes and if we are looking backward we’re not just ignoring what is ahead, we’re also going to miss out on what is happening right now.
But, should a techie not be able to appreciate the critical role any outdated piece of technology it once played? And like author John Green said, "Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia." Rather, Merrill offered more of a critique on the Kinfolk-esque lifestyle, where so much effort is put into living "simply" in this fast changing world that it inherently cannot be uncomplicated. I do not believe that nostalgia is defeatist. A BBC Future article explains why nostalgia is actually good for you:
Constantine Sedikides suggest nostalgia may act as a resource that we can draw on to connect to other people and events, so that we can move forward with less fear and greater purpose. Sedikides was inspired by something called Terror Management Theory(TMT), which is approximately 8,000 times sexier than most theories in psychology, and posits that a primary psychological need for humans is to deal with the inevitability of our own deaths. 
To face mortality, people gain strength through nostalgia, art, culture, and society - an intricate system to help us achieve ersatz immortality. Maybe that's why I needed those clips at the beginning of this video.

In Slaughterhouse Five, Vonnegut describes an alien race Tralfamadore as having the ability to experience reality in four dimensions; meaning that they have total access to past, present, and future. They are able to perceive any point in time at will, and see their stories sideways - like being able to flip to any page in a book about their life:
There is no beginning, no middle, no end, no suspense, no moral, no causes, no effects. What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at one time.
In addition to seeing all the "marvelous moments", they know the exact time and place of their own annihilation. Yet they are powerless or reluctant to prevent it, as they believe that when a being dies, it continues to live in other times and places. Their famous response to death is, "So it goes."

Perhaps we also need a better relationship with the past, the present, the future, and all simultaneously, the end.