Saturday, June 28, 2008

if the world ended today, who would you want to see?

Quick one, more of a note to myself to write when I actually get the chance.

  • The new pillows album kicks more ass than their other 2000s albums, but still doesn't come close to their late-90s period. Also, following a band sucks, because the past year of listening to the singles, b-sides and watching PVs on YouTube meant that by time I got the CD in my hands today I had already heard 6 of the 11 songs. A few of those new 5 fucking rock, though.
  • Wall-E is so good it's unfair to other filmmakers. Coming out of Ratatouille, I was f'n estatic, and my cheeks hurt from having laughed so much, but I had a couple nagging issues with it, being the "I am now describing what you are either seeing or are too stupid to figure out yourself" narration that hurt a couple comedic and poignant moments, and the truly cringe-inducing exchange between Remy and Brian Dennehy which unfortunately was a major turning point in the movie's plot. When I really love the hell out of a movie, I usually don't notice things that irk me until the second or third viewing - and I love the hell out of Ratatouille - but those couple things stood out loud and clear when they were surrounded by such staggering quality in every other aspect of the production. Coming out of Wall-E, there was not a single iota of remote criticism in my head. I saw it a second time, and still nothing. I was thinking about it earlier today and there really isn't a single thing I have a problem with in the movie. I think I described Ratatouille as tantalizingly close to perfection, a slam-dunk that makes a little scuff on it's way in, and in that sense Wall-E is a nothing-but-net swish of a slam-fucking-dunkaroo. Ratatouille was the funnier of the two by a pretty good margin (and now stands as my second-favorite animated movie so I obviously still love it), but Wall-E tugged on my heart-strings more than Enchanted and moved me more than Stranger Than Fiction. Pixar has really moved beyond the point where their films are judged as animated movies, they are simply films now and should be judged as such, and I'll personally kick anybody who doesn't agree with me on that one.
  • I need to get NBA Jam for MAME.
  • And some Dunkaroos.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Every year the castle gets a little bit shorter.

I've been to Disney World many times now. It has it's ups and downs. This year, I would have much rather been at home, spending one of my last weeks at the apartment (and one of the last weeks of life as I know it) at, well, the apartment, so needless to say I wasn't quite happy about being here in the first place. I'm not sure how much that has to do with my experience these last few days, but I suppose it's wise to put that out there.

Things seem to be slowly getting frayed about the edges at Disney World. The mini-golf courses, previously pristine, now have visible lines at the edges of the turf, and some of the bigger contraptions are down for the count. The workers here seem to get a little less nice every year, more of them have blank expressions, and not nearly as many are "playing the part" at their specific ride (when I go to Haunted Mansion, I want the hotel person to be dark and creepy, and if female, with a pinch of goth, cause that can just be really hot).

The rides themselves have a fair share of problems. Some of them just get old on you. The Rock 'n Roller Coaster Featuring Aerosuck, one of the most recent attractions at Disney-MGM Studios Disney's Hollywood Studios, about half as long as your average Six Flags coaster, is starting to get rattle-y and the one loop and one corkscrew have become routine. The Great Movie Ride has fewer and fewer good hosts, and the animatronic attractions always seem to gradually lose their charm the farther you get away from that sense of wonder you had as a kid.

Pirates of the Caribbean... that one is hard to even talk about. The last time I was there, two years ago, it was closed for the movie revamping it was getting. Previous to that year, I would ride Pirates no less than three times every time I stepped foot in the Magic Kingdom. If someone were to ask me to attach my early childhood to one single physical thing, it would be that ride. It never got old, it only got better each passing year. I told myself I wasn't going to ride it, now that it's been bastardized, but I honestly couldn't help but walk in those old gates the second I rounded the corner after the entrance to Adventureland. The line part was the same, which made me happy (if the line is fast, I always hang back by the prison "pit," just to see the way kids react when they look down and notice the two skeletons were playing chess, and I get the biggest grin when they notice the game was a stalemate), but when we got to the ride, things went downhill. There was an admittedly cool effect with a face projected onto a column of falling fog, but having Davy Jones talk to me at the beginning of the ride, and the formerly creepy music now replaced with "yay pirates are so happy and awesome" music, the lack of the "dead men tell no tales" skull, the whole ride being about Jones searching for Sparrow (who pops up in every damn scene) and Sparrow searching for treasure... it saddens me quite a bit. I realize that Disney World exists to make money, but this ride was something special, something untouched, something original. If it had come after the movie I'd be perfectly happy with it, but I wish they hadn't gone back and changed the original ride to be an overblown advertisment.

That's another thing - not that you know what I'm speaking of because I didn't directly mention it, but screw it - every year the people in the parks get more and more obnoxious. There were four people on the ride taking flash photos. One of those situations where they specifically tell you not to do so, but that one guy is doing it, so hey he started it I'll just jump in and take some myself. If a ride had an intro, I hardly heard any of them this year because everybody seemed eager to talk back, laugh at their own conversations, and occasionally intentionally ruin the experience for others. The people walking towards me get fatter, and less likely to get out of my path and in fact more likely to walk directly into my path (I guess with that much weight it might be hard to slow themselves so maybe I'll halfheartedly give them the benifit of the doubt). I've had a lot of stuff to bitch about here. It is hard to see something you were so attached to as a kid turn into something that is so damn annoying as you grow older and as society grows more crass and rude.


Through all of that stuff that bothers me fairly constantly through any given day I've been here... things somehow manage to balance themselves out. We had dinner (well, lunch, but when we reserved a table two months ago 1:15pm was all they had) at the nice restaraunt at Japan pavilion in Epcot, and it was the best meal I've ever eaten - great Japanese steak, chicken, other stuff, a few Kirin Ichibans with Dad, awesome sushi... good stuff. At the Magic Kingdom a few days ago, walking up to Splash Mountain, we ran into a British couple who offered us their Fastpasses since they had to leave early, and we got to bypass a huge 1 1/2 hour line in favor of a two minute line.

In line for Space Mountain, the ride broke down, but we decided to sit around and wait it out. There is something about the line for that ride that is brilliantly designed and reaches deep down into my childhood, but I could have waited in that line for three damn hours. I could grab a pillow and just find a corner to curl up into for a day in that line. Star Tours never ceases to be awesome, and makes me pine for the days when practical effects were favored over the computer generated soulless bullshit we're flooded with today. The Tower of Terror is just plain awesome, nothing much to say about that one.

There were two things in particular that got to me about this trip. I'm a bigger Pixar nerd than people actually realize (you could describe Wall-E as my "Star Wars" which is why I'm quite irked I'm missing out on all these advance screenings people back at the apartment found their way in to), and when I saw that there was a Pixar Studios section in Disney/MGM, I geeked the hell out. The line for the Toy Story Midway Mania ride was too long the first day me and Kari were there (three hours), but my Dad and I got there early today to grab Fastpasses, and we went back this afternoon to check it out. I wasn't expecting much going in, since it's described as an arcade type thing. My interested was slightly piqued when I saw we had to take 3D glasses from a bucket at the end of the line, and even more so when I saw that the thing we sat in was a two-car, eight-person cog contraption that spun and whirled around.

I wouldn't dare describe the ride, but I was completely blown away. My Dad and I had the biggest damn smiles on our faces, laughing, and as the cars turned a corner we'd share joyful laughs with the people spinning after us in the next car. It is what made me love this place as a kid, the wonder of something new, something stupid and simple but wonderful and visceral and fun. Pure joy. I stepped out of the car and immediately looked at the girls getting out of the car behind us, and we didn't have to even share a single word because the huge stupid smiles on our faces pretty much spoke for us ("Dude! That was so awesome!" "Oh my god, I know! I want to go again!"), and I walked out with a grin I couldn't get off my face for a good ten minutes.

The other thing is something a lot smaller. The night me and Kari were at Magic Kingdom, we got out of Space Mountain just as the 10pm fireworks show was starting. I have a specific place I like to watch them from - right behind Cinderella's Castle, it isn't the "intended" view but it's right in the middle so the fireworks go off around you like a full-scale assault - and I didn't want to miss out on it like I did the last year I was here, so as the music started playing throughout the park on the speakers, we start running through the crowds, trying to make it to the usual place. It is something I wish I had the writing chops to describe, but I don't, so all I can really say is that running through the park, the lights dimmed down and everybody lit by the dark blue sidewalk lights, the sky lighting up with fireworks, shadows flickering briefly and disappearing, dodging crowds of people all looking up at the sky, the fireworks getting more rapid and the music starting to blare... I kind of wish I had a camera on me or something. It was one of those dumb little moments that was absolutely perfect in every imaginable way.

As they always do, the fireworks stop, the lights come back up, and the park returns to normal. There is a crazy rush to get to the exit, people are shoving, families are screaming at each other, people are throwing trash everywhere, employees get stressed out trying to herd massive groups of sheep out a couple little gates. But every night, if only for five or ten minutes, people stop shoving and fighting and yelling.

All at once, tens of thousands of people simply look up at the sky, maybe even with a tiny spark of that childhood wonder left in those cynical aged eyes. Call me sappy or nostalgic, but that's what life is about, isn't it?

and raise what's left of the flag for me

A 40gb hard drive is now a "feature" in a car? It was a feature of my jeans, oh, six years ago. If you're paying 20k for a car I'd hope they'd at least splurge for an 80gb drive.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

and the auld triangle, went jingle jangle, along the banks of the royal canal

I just got back from what was almost definitely the best concert I've ever been to. It was brilliant beyond words, I don't know if I've ever seen such sheer emotion in a performance (plus Obama was there and the singer mentioned Freaks and Geeks, total geek-out moment for Pete). The show got me thinking about a few things.

This is the end of the "chapter" of life that has been the last four years. I will still be in school for a bit, but as far as people go, it's over, and even the school bit is over - it's just classes now, I don't know if I can consider it college anymore now that I'll be driving or training into the city for class and work, while living at home with the family. I've been thinking a lot about this. One day I'm bummed out about the shift in life and the fact that I'm losing nearly all the remainder of my friends. The next day I'm not too torn up, since I've been losing a steady stream of friends over the last year or two anyway, and this isn't much of a change from the usual flow of things. Some days, I don't know if I actually care at all.

See, I have this funny tendency to disappear. I have my three old school friends at home from grade school, and they're the only ones I kept in touch with. When I say that, I don't mean that I don't talk to the others much, I mean that I have quite literally not seen them once since graduation. I ran into one a year ago, it turned out he lived in the same dorm at my school, and his first reaction was "Where have you been? We all thought you moved away!" I also didn't keep any friends from high school. I've seen a couple guys a handful of times over the last four years, but no more than two or three times.

It might be my way of grappling with loss, just leaving it behind without another thought. It might just be the way I am, since I'm kind of a loner, and I've never really gone out of my way to become attached to people, it just sort of happens with a few of them. Sometimes I really do wonder if I care at all. Leaving grade school and high school had me torn up for a day or two, but I got over it so fast that I felt guilty about it. I don't know what is going to happen this time. A couple friends who moved away last year, people I was sure I would keep in touch with, I have entirely fallen out of contact with, and one of my better friends who left earlier this year I rarely speak to.

A friend one told me that we really just make friends out of necessity to have people close to us, people to interact with, and when we move to another area, for example, they are no longer necessary, since they're over there and we need friends over here. It's a somewhat sterile and heartless way to look at it, but it really is kind of true. People serve their purpose in your life, and someday their purpose is complete. You might wind up with a few people who stick around, but even a few of those is better than what most people have. I would like to think I know people here who I'll keep in touch with, but we're all going to different ends of the country and possibly the globe, and that sort of makes it harder to keep it going than with my friends from home who never even moved away after high school.

The question I sometimes come to is whether or not I have served much of a purpose in other people's lives. It's always a bit of a fear I have had, that everybody else will leave me, that I don't actually impact anybody else. I try my best to not dwell on this one.

One of the songs tonight was about not leaving with sadness or bitterness, but instead leaving with happiness. I guess that is what I try to do. I'm grateful for the times I've had with these people, and I guess I try to not let the fact that I will most likely grow apart from them bother me too much. There was a girl I thought I felt things for a few times over the last few years, and I know I certainly left that with happiness. It sucked up a lot of my time, but I grew and learned a lot about myself. There was another girl I did have feelings for, and I kind of sabotaged it, and I've tried my best to leave that with happiness, too (though most everybody in my life has always been sure to give me endless shit, insults and backhanded passive-aggressive comments on it, which is one of the things I can't say I'll miss).

Freshman year I listened a lot to this album "Signs of Life" by a Finnish band Poets of the Fall. I would listen to it all night, alone in my room, laying on the floor with my old stereo sitting next to me, and it would loop over and over as I slept. It is one of those albums that doesn't just make me nostalgic, but instantly puts me into a mood that I was in while listening to it a few years ago, and it is so strong I can hardly make it through a song without feeling uncomfortable. It is probably the biggest physical tie I have to my freshman year and the experiences I had. They had another album sophomore year I didn't listen to much, but their third just came out, and it has sort of been the soundtrack to the end of this chapter, and that is fitting to me. Things haven't come full circle, but they've gone somewhere. I don't know if it's forward or not.

Where I go from here is another story entirely. Glen had a little thing he said tonight about how we sometimes hit walls in our life. They're too long to go around, too high to get over, too deep to dig under, and we have a way of spending way too much time stressing over it and futilely trying to get past it. Someday, he said, we have to turn around, and walk away from that wall, and just keep walking until one day we've walked around the entire fucking world and find ourselves on the other side. I think it's a good way to put things. I know I'd like to wind up at Pixar someday, but I'm not going to focus on that out of the gate, I'm just going to go where the wind takes me. I don't care if I wind up starting here, or LA, or San Fransisco, or Japan, or fucking Cicero. As long as I know what I really want inside, I'll find my way there eventually. The six degrees of Pete's life.

If I am one thing, it's stubborn. I'm surprisingly confident that I will wind up there someday. It's the path from here to there that will be the interesting part. I'm told that the journey is the important part of life, not the goal. But fuck that, Pixar is sweet.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

dig that groovy mr. droopy

Dear Children's International,

If you want me to give you money, it is best to not make me feel like you are hunting my ass down. The student center today had two people planted at each entrance, and even one more kittycorner near SAC. It might be a good idea to not piss me off with ten people asking me if I have a minute for children if you're trying to pump money from my college-sized wallet.


Sunday, June 8, 2008

She can be a tad hysterical, but never quite the breakthrough

Alex's animation is done, for now at least. It turned out pretty well and got a really great reception at the DC Premier 3 festival. At some point I'm going to go back and make the sound more kickass.

I'm still trying to figure out exactly what it is I want to do. While I had done a good deal of planning, the sound was essentially done for this animation in a week, and I had a lot of fun with it. Hearing the sound for the other projects at Premier often made me cringe, and I kind of wanted to take their movies and make the sound better. At the same time, though, editing is still sort of my thing. But I have a ton of ideas for composition, too. And animation keeps tugging at me.

That is the point I'm at for summer, deciding what I want my summer project to be. I could write and start the planning stages of doing a short, and maybe even start, but I only know a couple people in the area who would be willing to help, I know no actor-types and wouldn't want to have to actually pay somebody (unless I wind up with a badass script I guess). It isn't very practical seeing how I didn't get into one of these DC cliques back when I started here.

I do want to do an animation. It's more practical, and honestly it's the option I want to do more. However... I'm not sure if there is much of a point to it. I would like to be involved in animation one day, but I don't see how making a shitty little hand-drawn thing could help me out much with that. While it's a summer project, I want it to be something that I can actually use for job type stuff. I guess if it's real kickass it could be used for that, but I'd have to nail it on the composition, editing, sound, and, you know, animation fronts. That last one is the real kicker. This will be the second hand-drawn animation I've done ever, and I simply can't draw. I like to think I could animate well, but I know I can't draw.

Is there a point of trying to make a hand-drawn animation if I can't draw well?

I guess I have some thinking to do.

Sunday, June 1, 2008