Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What's New

I have not written much here for a long time. My apologies. Here are some whiz-bang high production-value elaborations as to why:
Meeting my Lovely Wife, Tricia (and Subsequent Adventures, Wedding planning, Wedding, Honeymoon, Married life, etc.)
Love and I rammed into each other head-first back in late 2008. Since then, most of my writing has ended up on our own blog, Silly Red Robot, and as such my usual thoughts and research about puppetry, corporations, creativity, technology, music had been replaced with "What fun things am I going to do with my wife today?", "How are we going to organize our living room?" and "I need to fire our wedding planner today."

Facebook
Yes, that vacuum-cleaner of attention span, that social etiquette centrifuge has sucked away my travel photos and flung most of my random thoughts and status updates to far-flung acquaintances, in-laws and distant cousins in India.

A Lack of Focus
When I started the blog, I basically used it as a diary, a place to record thoughts and ideas, a repository for random stuff I found online, an excuse to write, and a way to be funny.

Friends who have started blogs around the same time as me have generally converged onto a niche focus. One writes about his splendid toy collection and keeps his focus around character design and movies. Another is entirely devoted to puppetry and covers a lot more than I've been doing. Meanwhile, strangers have started blogs that have morphed into online magazines covering electronic music, the Muppets, Pixar, and other cool stuff.

So I may keep this blog up for the random and difficult to classify stuff, but ultimately it may be time to start up a specific one.

Trouble is, I like too many things. *sigh*

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posted by Brian at 6:20 PM 1 comments links to this post

Friday, August 19, 2011

OC Fair Skyride

Tricia has acrophobia and so it surprised / impressed me greatly when she asked to ride the Orange County Fair Skyride with me. To be honest with you, I was equally nervous, clinging to my hat, glasses, and her very tightly for fear of dropping something out of the minimal metal structure we were sitting on with legs dangling off precariously.

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posted by Brian at 11:31 AM 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Two Video Puppetry Training Classes

So you want to be a Muppeteer? Or you want to be a cast member of Avenue Q on tour, perform on stage for shows like Pee Wee's Playhouse, maybe even do a puppet greeting card for Jib Jab or Puppet Greetings? Or perhaps you want to do your own YouTube puppet series? Maybe you're an actor with mad improvisational skills, but the moment you put on a puppet, your character looks like a wet noodle?

If so, you gotta learn your video puppetry chops.

Resources for learning this specialized skill have increased dramatically recently. Not long ago, your best bet was joining your local Puppeteers of America Guild, gaining techniques and advice from others, watching old episodes of Sesame Street and The Muppet Show over and over again, practicing lip-sync with your hands to songs in front of a camcorder. Another approach (which I used) was working at a Cable Public Access Television station. These are still great ways, but now you have more options!

Why not sign up for a hands-on video puppetry class? Two of note are:

Michael Earl's Puppet School
and
John Tartaglia's Puppetry Classes

I can highly recommend Michael's class, as I was lucky to try it years ago. Michael worked on the original Muppet Movie and played Snuffleupagus on Sesame Street. His teaching approach is similar to a dance instructor -- build up dexterity with specific moves set to music first, repeating them until mastered. Then learn fancier choreography and improvisational techniques. Now he has extended the class into an entire school that features workshops in Seattle, NYC, and Los Angeles.

John Tartaglia was one of the original stars of Avenue Q on Broadway. Now he's offering a class in Los Angeles, with more to follow in NYC presumably. If you happen to take his class, please let me know how it is!

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posted by Brian at 1:23 PM 0 comments links to this post

Getting Married!

Whoosh. Sorry for the long absence from writing here. I've been focusing my attention on my fianceé's and my other blog, Silly Red Robot, as well as spending a lot of time on planning our wedding (ever since we had to fire our wedding planner).

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posted by Brian at 11:58 AM 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Jam with Faraway Musicians Via Your Laptop: Ohm Studio



Music has always been a collaborative art form. The first popular records were made by bringing all musicians into a studio full of microphones, recording them live all at once. With the advent of multitrack audiotape, each instrument could be recorded a track at a time, and thus, you could get a drummer or a pianist in there one day, then bring in a vocalist on another.

This multitrack metaphor still remains today in digital audio workstation software (or DAW). But there's still the problem of finding good musicians to meet up with you and jam. With the Internet and email and file-sharing, that's much easier. Assuming you find people through any number of sites, you can fling the tracks back and forth to each other wherever you might be -- in your garage in Seattle, or on a Wi-Fi accessible beach in Fiji. But that's still annoying.

Now there's Ohm Studio, a DAW with a social network back-end plus an optimized file-sharing engine within the app. Sounds good, but there are already quite a few DAWs out there. Pro Tools, Sonar, Logic Pro, Ableton Live, Acid, Cubase, Record, Reaper to name a few. Would be great if the social media back-end were an open API so that each DAW developer could tap into it. A standard, like the virtual instrument plugin standard "VST". Ah well.

Someday very soon you can be sitting on the beach, acting like you're the hot shot producer in the control room as you type to your artist "More cowbell."

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posted by Brian at 9:10 AM 1 comments links to this post

Monday, April 05, 2010

Moby Video Contest



My friends Holly and Dylan created this excellent entry for Moby's "Wait For Me" music video competition. Please have a look and vote for it if you like it.

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posted by Brian at 6:48 PM 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Piano Improvisor Merton + Random Webcam Chatroom = Viral Hit!



People go onto anonymous webcam chatrooms for a variety of reasons. Loneliness. Boredom. Sexual exploration. But to be serenaded by a hooded improvising piano-player was not one of them, until now.

Merton (not his real name) is now an Internet phenom. His video was seen over 4 million times in less than a week! On his Youtube channel, Merton wrote a note saying he was not Ben Folds, a semi-famous male piano player from Atlanta (of the band Ben Folds Five). As Merton's video became more popular though, some media insisted Merton and Ben Folds were the same guy. Playing up the joke, Ben Folds recorded his own "Ode to Merton" video in front of a 2000 member live audience, complete with hoodie and glasses.



Here is the very first interview with Merton on Mashable.

I love the combination of improvisational music performance and the randomness of the participants, with all of us watching. It's a bit like those old "You're on Candid Camera" TV shows, where a set of actors and a camera crew do things in front of unsuspecting people. Only now, none of the parties has to go anywhere in particular. Both sides of the chat could be anywhere, and the audience could also be anywhere. Imagine if two improv pianists in front of live audiences from random places in the world encountered each other on Chatroullette?

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posted by Brian at 12:13 PM 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

DIY Dumplings? Desire Dim Sum? Get Andrea Nguyen's book "Asian Dumplings"

Tricia and I are passionate Dim Sum-o wrestlers.  Living in Los Angeles, we are fortunate to have many good Dim Sum restaurants near us in Chinatown, Alhambra, and Gardenia.  However, we had been wondering lately -- how difficult would it be to make our own char shiu bao (steamed pork buns)?  Or har gow (steamed shrimp dumplings)?  After doing some research, all we knew was that it supposedly took years (nay, a lifetime) of professional training in the kitchens and/or culinary schools of Hong Kong to be good enough to be worthy of making these morsels.  Our dreams of DIY Dim Sum seemed hopelessly farfetched.

Then one day, while driving and listening to KCRW's Good Food podcast, I found out about Andrea Nguyen's new book entitled Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas and More.  It was as if a steamed dough crescent rainbow had formed over the 405!  Our soy sauce, chili and mustard prayers were answered!  

The book goes into a lot of detail and offers short cuts for making your own doughs.  If illustrations aren't enough for you, she's got instructional videos on the book's companion site asiandumplingtips.com.  Indian, Thai, Japanese, South American, Vietnamese and Fillipino dumpling lovers are not left out -- they too get recipes and techniques.  Seriously, if you want to make any sort of dumpling-esque food item, this book is for you.

So now we are building up our equipment list, taking the advice of Mrs. Nguyen and getting a tortilla press (!), and a wooden dowel to make into small, cheap rolling pins.  We're still tracking down some of the more exotic ingredients, like Shaoxing rice wine.  But hopefully soon I'll have photos up of our creations.

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posted by Brian at 3:44 PM 1 comments links to this post

Friday, February 19, 2010

MIT scientists developing giant, hovering 3-D Animations



Remember the amazing human pixel performances at the Chinese Olympics? I was stunned at the beauty of thousands of people acting as one giant moving picture. Now, scientists at MIT are working on floating displays made up of individual controllable flying robots, each with adjustable colored lights.

I do hope these don't catch on as advertising, however. Can you imagine being accosted by a hovering, glowing face made up of artificial gnats nagging you to shop at Wal Mart or get your oil changed at Jiffy Lube? Greaaat.

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posted by Brian at 4:45 PM 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Discovering Peter Serafinowicz

Peter Serfinowicz is a British voice actor, comedian and actor whom I've been exposed over the last decade, but never put a face to.  Tricia and I were watching Couples Retreat and the paradise island host Sctanley caught our attention because of his relaxing, authoritative, and strangely familiar voice. 

Today I found a Boing Boing interview with him and started connecting the dots.

Turns out he was in Star Wars: Episode I (Darth Maul's voice), Sean of the Dead (roommate of Simon Pegg), Look Around You (narrator), and Black Books (which featured Simon Pegg and Dylan Moran, another favorite comedian).

I can see why he was chosen to play Paul McCartney in the upcoming Zemeckis motion capture freakfest remake of Yellow Submarine:

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posted by Brian at 12:58 PM 0 comments links to this post