Archive for December, 2008

Future Busan Cityscape

Posted in Korea on December 31, 2008 by Elephant Talk

I gotta say, this is a beautiful thing, at least the artist rendition anyway. (Click through for a better image.)

World Business Center Busan

World Business Center Busan

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NFL playoff predictions

Posted in Film & TV, Sports, USA on December 29, 2008 by Elephant Talk

Playoff predictions are meaningless. But they’re fun. There’s no research behind this, just gut feelings. You may, however, consider them as unquestionable as the passage of time.

AFC Wildcard
Indianapolis at San Diego: Indianapolis wins 35-24
Baltimore at Miami: Baltimore wins 30-13

AFC Divisionals
Baltimore at Tennessee: Baltimore wins 20-12
Indianapolis at Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh wins 33-20

AFC Championship
Baltimore at Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh wins 9-7

NFC Wildcard
Atlanta at Arizona: Arizona wins 27-24
Philadelphia at Minnesota: Philadelphia wins 40-14

NFC Divisionals
Arizona at Carolina: Carolina wins 38-27
Philadelphia at New York: Philadelphia wins 23-20

NFC Championship
Philadelphia at Carolina: Carolina wins 35-16

Superbowl
Pittsburgh defeats Carolina 30-21

Shifting landscapes

Posted in Academics, Culture, Expat life, Korea, Personal, Travel, USA on December 28, 2008 by Elephant Talk

Something happened a month or two back that was so subtle I wasn’t even aware of it until now. Korea changed from being a strange, foreign place into something familiar. It took one year and nine months, but it finally happened. Korea is now normal. It’s less an experience and more my regular, daily existence. This is significant.

I came to this revelation when I realized that I don’t take many pictures anymore. Those that I do I don’t post online. I don’t blog much about Korea. I also don’t write in my journal very much. September, October, and November only have one entry each. A year ago I was writing about 30 pages a month. It’s not that nothing’s happening or that the place is no longer interesting. It’s that I don’t feel the need to document events. Things become cyclical and the senses numb to them, so there’s less inspiration to preserve them. It’s also, I think, that this aquarium that is Korea has become secondary to my personal life — things more directly relevant like relationships, work, and future plans. Most of the interesting stuff now is unblogable and incapable of capturing in pixels. The interesting stuff these days happens in conversations and interactions with people I know or people I meet.

This revelation was also partly triggered by a Christmas email I received from my cousin, who recently moved to Thailand. The email described his whirlwind of adventures and observations over his first few days in his new world. I read it and it reminded me of me 18 months ago.

I’m not sure what to do with this. But as the new year approaches it’s got me thinking. It probably means it’s time to leave. But the idea of going back to America freaks the crap out of me. A friend and I were talking about the idea of trying to become traveling professors. Spend a year in Osaka, a year in Bangkok, a year in Istanbul. I think that would be incredible, but it would be difficult to pull off and isn’t very sustainable.

Maybe I just need a vacation. I got my tickets for Singapore last week. I’ll be gone almost a month starting in late January. We’re getting the band back together (minus one member) to play some music, lounge around the pool, and do some traveling around Asia. Then it’s back to the real world.

Progress bar

Posted in Expat life, Music, Personal, Technology on December 24, 2008 by Elephant Talk

It’s 6:26 pm on Christmas Eve. I’m sitting at my computer in my office waiting for Final Cut Express to spit out a 54 minute video export. It’s gonna take a good three hours from when I started it, so I’m floating around, reading my book, listening to Stars of the Lid, talking on the phone, surfing the internet a little.

Throughout the day I’ve gotten various “Merry Christmas” messages on my cell phone. It’s a simple little gesture, but for some reason I love every time my stupid mobile dings with a new message. All of them have been from my Korean friends rather than foreigners. It’s not their holiday, not in the same way, but they know it’s mine. That’s sweet.

This is my first Christmas in Korea, and I believe it’s my first ever away from family. Last year I was in Brussles with my cousin and his family. So it’s a little strange, a little lonely. Tomorrow I’ll be with good friends, and that will be nice. But it’s still strange. I don’t care about gifts, in fact I’ve become profoundly apathetic about that aspect of the holiday. What I most enjoy about Christmas is time, simply the passage of time with family. I can’t have that this year, but such is life.

With the big event coming tomorrow, tonight will be a late-night dinner, play some music at the local bar, go to a club that’s having a holiday theme, see various friends and acquaintances, probably drink a lot, get sad, get happy, get sad, go home.

The progress bar reads 64% with 56 minutes remaining. Progress bars are notoriously deceiving, but it should leave enough time for my 8:30 rendezvous.

Speaking of cinema…

Posted in Music on December 23, 2008 by Elephant Talk

The Cinematic Orchestra is slowly becoming one of my favorite bands these days. They’re appropriately named and incorporate a huge variety of styles and sounds into their music. They’re orchestral, they’re electronic, they’re jazz, they’re mellow, they’re bombastic… Here’s a band I would not at all mind playing for.

“Child Song”…

“Everyday”…

“To Build A Home”…

Favorites in film sound

Posted in Academics, Culture, Film & TV, Music, Personal, Sound on December 21, 2008 by Elephant Talk

A student asked me the other day what my favorite movies are for sound design. I named a few off the top of my head (Blade Runner, The New World, and Star Wars came quickly to mind). I told her I’d put a list together for her. So, on this cold and rainy Sunday afternoon, this is what I came up with. It’s a personal list, and not meant to be comprehensive in any way (not that that’s even possible). Anyway…

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Happiness is the road

Posted in Music, Personal, Sound on December 19, 2008 by Elephant Talk

The new Marillion album has been sitting on my desk for the past several days, waiting for me to find the right time to give it a listen. Few bands, very few, in fact probably only this band, needs the perfect moment to strike for a first listen. So it’s not that it’s been waiting for me, but that I’ve been waiting for me. So tonight I gave it the inaugural spin. I lit a candle, plugged in my elf-like Gyongju paper lamp, turned out the lights, poured a Sam Adams, and played Happiness Is The Road (pt. 1). Holy shit, it’s goddamned beautiful.

For those unfamiliar with Marillion, they’ve been around for 30 years. In that time, they’ve put out 15 studio albums. They’ve had two lead different lead singers in that time, but the rest of the band has remained intact since 1984. They have a unique way of surviving, and I don’t use that word lightly. Being a band that struggles to get airplay, press, or any respect in the fashion-oriented entity known as The Music Business, they decided to do it all themselves. They operate completely in house. They have their own recording studio, they manage themselves, run their own website, and they retain all the rights to their music. They have a kind of operations chief in Lucy Jordache, but it’s more like a big family. What fuels this engine is their fans, which are among the most rabid in music. This is a fanbase that pre-orders their albums in order to finance the production costs (in essense, acting as a record label advance). This is a fanbase that once fronted the money so the band could tour in America.

The music has evolved quite a bit, while still retaining the feel of their breakthrough 1985 album, Misplaced Childhood. This was the first album I bought by them. I remember the video on MTV and they kind of reminded me of Genesis (a common observation). But they were way better than Genesis. Over the years they’ve also been compared to Pink Floyd, Radiohead, late-period Talk Talk, and others. But comparisons don’t mean shit. The fact is, they don’t sound like any of those bands.

If I was to choose a word to describe them I would say “cinematic.” Listening to a Marillion album is like starring in your own movie. Put an album on the iPod and go walk around a dark urban neighborhood at 2 am and you’ll swear Ridley Scott’s filming your life. At their best, Marillion doesn’t make songs. They’ve tried on occasion and usually fail. Marillion makes albums that have dramatic changes in mood that kind of shift and pull you in different directions emotionally. This is introspective, bombastic, alcoholic music, dark and wrenching, but also uplifting and spiritual.

Marillion during the “H” era (singer Steve Hogarth) is maddeningly inconsistent. I’ve finally figured out that the pattern is that every other album is a great one. Two albums ago was Marbles, one of their best ever. Last year’s Somewhere Else was a rather pedestrian album of uninspiring but pleasant enough pop songs. So I figured they were due this time around.

I sat down in my cozy couch and hit play. Now granted, this is my first listen. I’ve heard it once and that’s it. But right away I knew it was going to be great. The first song I remember being piano-based and moody with some really nice chord changes and great vocals. Then it blended into the next song and I heard something you don’t normally hear with Marillion — layered vocal harmonies. It was then that I realized how lush this album sounds. It’s gorgeous sounding, at least as good as the engineering on Afraid of Sunlight, and probably better.

All the songs on HITR Pt. 1 run together seamlessly. There were so many changes in dynamics and atmosphere that I don’t know where songs began or ended. The whole thing was sequenced so nicely, and the music is incredible. What’s interesting is that mood seems to be more important than instrumentation here, and that’s a good thing. The band sounds like a band, with little soloing. Guitarist Steve Rothery is usually at his best in his Gilmouresque mode, taking you on a flight through the clouds. But here he’s all texture. All the tiny little keyboard sounds and sound effects gave everything a dreamlike quality. And H’s vocals were crystal clear and cutting through beautifully.

As I type this I know I’m not saying what I want to say because I can’t say it. I don’t know how to describe it. All I know is that the album sounds fantastic. And I’m a tough critic when it comes to these guys. It’s an unbelievable album. I’ve got my soundtrack for the winter season.

Thanks fellas. Now I’m curious to hear what Pt. 2 sounds like.