Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Decorations around the House

I've started taking video around some of our family events, both for sake of preserving memories, as well as for practicing shooting and post-production. Here's a very short video of the decorations in our home in PA. The star lanterns in the windows are a traditional Filippino decoration. We usually just have electric candles in the windows; my Nanay (Tagalog for mom) and Dad got creative and put the electric candles into these lanterns in order to light them.



In terms of video technical aspects:

Camera: Canon HF200
NLE: Final Cut Pro
Grading: Magic Bullet Looks

In closeups of the tree, it appears to be wobbling. This is a side effect of me using the SmoothCam filter in FCP to try and get rid of the effect of my shaking hands holding the camera. As good as it may look in the viewfinder, it seems like this will inevitably be a problem unless I use a tripod. Shaky tree seemed preferable to completely shaky image, so I kept the SmoothCam filter on.

This is also one of the first videos I've done using Magic Bullet Looks. It's tricky, because there isn't a terribly specific look that I was going for, and I also want to avoid MBL's more aggressive stylizations. So this used just a light film stock emulation filter, with some added vignetting.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Mike and Rob Discuss the Impending Zombie Apocalypse

A short video I shot while Mike and I were driving home to PA for Thanksgiving.

Central Park and Rockefeller Center in December

Last Sunday I took the afternoon to get out to the park and take some pictures. I would have rather gotten shots of the park with snow on the ground, but I wasn't sure if I'd have another free afternoon to get out there. Then, conveniently enough, later in the week I was walking up Fifth Avenue and had the chance to stop by Rockefeller Center. Not an all encompassing "Holidays in New York" set by any means, but I'm glad to have been able to at least catch these bits.

Hope all are enjoying the holidays, and best wishes for a happy new year.

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101220_Rockefeller_Center

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Ode to 30 Rock

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If you look close at these, there's something almost TIm Burton-esque about them.

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Soldiers staring each other down across the skating rink.

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The Mall in Winter

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This is right by the spot where we filmed Second Glance.

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Reminds me of this planet in Battlestar Galactica.

There are a few more photos from these days; I've posted all of them up on Flickr.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Five Photos (IV)

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Worker in the Window

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Overlooking Morningside Park

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Zero Film Festival, closing night party

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Down the Steps

Speakeasy Theatre 10/19/10 - Ukelele
Ukelele at Speakeasy Theatre


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The Flickr set containing all of my most recently uploaded photos can be found here.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Towards a Poor Television

In his book Towards a Poor Theatre, Jerzy Grotowski posits the unique value of theatre- what theatre can possibly hold for people that cannot be substituted for by movies or television. Specifically, he states:
"[Theater] cannot exist without the actor-spectator relationship of perceptual, direct, "live" communion."

That relationship is something that is absent from movies, television, and the rehearsal room. It's not theatre if there is no one physically present to see it.

Similarly, when people talk about "great television" I think that in most cases they are describing singular moments, broadcast live, that millions of people witness at the same time. It doesn't mean that it is the highest quality programming that the medium offers (after all, think of Mad Men, Battlestar Galactica, The Sopranos, et al). However it's the one thing that, at least for the present, television can offer that no other medium can. A live thing that millions of people are watching at the same time.

As YouTube, and likely other video sites, increase their amount of live coverage, this value will become less and less unique to television. But for the moment, I think that there are a few episodes in television history (during my lifetime, at least) that equate with the term "great television" in this manner.

4 examples:


This happened while I was in gradeschool.
Never before or since have we stared at a car moving so slowly, for such a long period of time.

In politics:


Bentsen loses the election, but cements his place in history and pop culture.

As noted in Wikipedia, Ronald Reagan later riffs on Bentsen's quip during the '92 Republican National Convention:
...Ronald Reagan answered claims by Bill Clinton's campaign, while poking fun at his own age, by saying,

"This fellow they've nominated claims he's the new Thomas Jefferson. Well, let me tell you something. I knew Thomas Jefferson. He was a friend of mine. And governor, you're no Thomas Jefferson."

In the late night talk show arena, two examples spring to mind:


Best summed up by YouTube user metr0man's comments:
I am in awe of Dave's skill here. People still think he wasn't trying to get laughs. Folks... Dave knows what he's doing. He was going for laughs because he knew people will forgive you much much easier if you entertain them. He knew exactly what he was doing. Tiger Woods could learn a thing or two.

Months later and one network over, with a bit less showmanship and a bit more heart-on-sleeve, Conan closes his 7 months on the Tonight Show with class.



UPDATE 11/22/10:
- My friend Mike noted that the late night shows are pre-recorded, not live
- Our conversation also got me to thinking that moments like the above get just as much, if not more mileage, online. So there's a fallacy here in that these moments really are not the purely unique aspect of TV in the same way that the presence of a live audience is for theatre. I'd still say that the scope of simultaneous participation at single moments in time is significant, but it matters less than it did before.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

4 Photos from NY Comic Con

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Rorschach

This photo is only somewhat posed. I was on my way to the bathroom, and saw someone dressed as Rorschach leaning on the railing and looking over the balcony at the convention-goers below. This struck me as a very in-character posture for Rorschach.

I asked him if I could take his picture. He agreed, turned to face me, and struck an upright superhero pose.

I took that picture, and then asked him if I could take another with him leaning on the railing just as he was.



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Boba Fett playing an accordion in front of the Javitz Center.

It's not every day that you can write a caption like that, and it describe something that really happened.



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My brother Mike, as a Starfleet officer preparing to cross Eleventh Avenue.

I have to hand it to my brother Mike for organizing the whole outing. It's quite surprising that I haven't gone to it before, and I'll certainly be back next year.

It would be a little too geek-in-the-closet for me to post these photos without including one of myself-

so here is a photo of me, dressed as a Starfleet officer, eating a hot dog.



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photo by Mike Nguyen


I didn't take nearly as many photos as I should have, so best place to check out other photos from the convention, including some pretty impressive costumes, is New York Comic Con's public flickr group.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

'Second Glance' plays at NewFilmmakers New York

Last Wednesday, we had the pleasure of seeing our short film Second Glance play as part of the NewFilmmakers New York fall program at the Anthology Film Archives.

Second Glance had originated as one of a series of short plays and monologues that Joe had written, some of which Laura had been performing at monologue nights in New York and New Jersey. In the fall of last year, Ethan, Tod, Laura and I got together a small crew of friends and family, and filmed a number of these pieces in Central Park. We found that one in particular, about a chance encounter between a man and a woman, stood very well on its own, and we developed it as a short film and submitted it to various festivals.

This was the first time that we got to see Second Glance on the big screen. I was crossing my fingers, because while I knew Laura and Tod's performances were great all on their own, my brain was preoccupied thinking that any tiny technical picture or sound aberration would be magnified a thousand fold in the larger environment (I could only assume that the improvised editing bay of my living room, pictured below, had been much more forgiving):



Fortunately, it held up very well. On the visual end, we had gotten some very rich color and sharp picture out of our Canon HF200 camera. In terms of sound, the dialogue portions had been recorded off-set in a professional environment, and the background park sounds had been recorded separately as well (albeit on my iPhone). Put together, we were very happy with the results, and also enjoyed the chance to watch the other independent shorts that had been included in the evening's program.

In addition to last week's screening, Second Glance will also play at the Zero Film Festival in November (dates and times TBD). For more info about Second Glance, including the trailer and a behind the scenes video, visit www.secondglancethefilm.com.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Five Photos (III)

Well-dressed-persons-looking-out-over-the-steps

If you look past the hot dog cart and into the street, you'll notice someone taking a picture of the museum. I just now realized that I'm probably in his picture, too.

North-of-Times-Square

From North of Times Square

Julian-in-the-Cathedral

My friend Julian Rozzell, Jr. performed in a production of T.S. Eliot's 'Murder in the Cathedral' at St. Joseph's Church in Brooklyn.

This is from after the show had come down. Julian is heading back up the aisle to grab something that he had left.

Sam-Adams-in-black-and-white

I'm not usually a Sam Adams fan, but have found myself liking Octoberfest this year.

Museum-guide-directing-man-and-woman

I was at the museum to check out an exhibit featuring photos by Leon Levinstein. He had done a great deal of street photography in New York from 1950 - 1980, and seeing some of that work has gotten me more interested in taking pictures of people.

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These five photos are pulled from a larger batch of photos that I just recently uploaded to Flickr. The above are the ones that I thought fit the blog format best, but if you'd like to check out the rest, you can do so by clicking here.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Five Photos (II)

I'd hoped to keep weekly pace on this, but things have been busy of late. At any rate, here are some photos from around town:

Single Use Metro-Card

Single Use Metro-Card


Beads on Tree from below

Could not tell if this was some manner of memorial, or just a whimsical choice in outdoor decor.

Just about all of my pictures have been post-processed somehow (I'll shoot in RAW, and then adjust basic contrast, saturation, etc). I pushed the color on this a little more than usual, but I think it held up well and made for a better image.


Columbus Circle Fountain in full force

Fountain at Columbus Circle.


Modell Basketball Player

Modell's Sporting Goods, by Grand Central Terminal.


Flowers Under Athena Statue (3 of 4)

Flowers under an Astoria statue of Athena (Greek, not Cylon).

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Comments on the Restoring Honor Rally

Throughout history America has seen many great leaders and noteworthy citizens change her course. It is through their personal virtues and by their example that we are able to live as a free people. On August 28, come celebrate America by honoring our heroes, our heritage and our future.

Join the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and many more for this non-political event that pays tribute to America’s service personnel and other upstanding citizens who embody our nation’s founding principles of integrity, truth and honor.

Our freedom is possible only if we remain virtuous. Help us restore the values that founded this great nation. On August, 28th, come join us in our pledge to restore honor at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.

- glennbeck.com, description of the Restoring Honor Rally


I had heard about this rally early today, and got curious about it, so I started reading glennbeck.com to understand what the fuss was about.

There is some colorful language at work here. It sounds nearly as terrible to critique something called the ‘Restoring Honor Rally' as it would be to critique something called the ‘Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act' (Formal title of the Patriot Act).

I disagree with the suggestion that it will be a non-political event. I believe that this claim is at odds with the description's later claim that it will help restore honor and the values that founded America. The interpretation of heroism, honor and virtue are extremely variable. One's perception of whether these values are alive and well in America are inevitably political, and more so are the questions of what actions or policies America should adopt in order to restore those values, were they to have fallen.

This cannot not be a political event, even more so due to the presence of such polarizing figures as Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. I disagree with the event description's assumption that these individuals or the movements that they represent are the arbiters of what constitutes American virtue, honor and heroism.

Let's see what happens on Saturday.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Five Photos

Chandelier at Grand Central
This is the view from below one of the chandeliers in Grand Central Terminal. This particular chandelier is above the bridge that connects Vanderbilt Hall to the Main Concourse. There are a few lights in the chandelier directed toward the floor itself; those are the ones that are flaring in the photo. Also see the Grand Central Terminal Flickr group. There are more shots from this angle by other contributors, as well as some classic New York style photos of commuters at rush hour.

Above a Taxi
This is in response to the www.dailyshoot.com prompt #279: "Make a photograph from a high point of view. Get on top of a building, use a ladder, or just look down at a small object." The photos from everyone who responded to this prompt can be found at http://dailyshoot.com/assignments/279.

New York Public Library, Hallway
One of the hallways of the New York Public Library. I didn't take a picture of the main reading room, in observance of their 'no photos' sign. The main reading room is, however, one of my favorite places in New York City.

Mike at the Neptune Diner
My brother Mike, at the Neptune Diner in Astoria. We ate here twice this weekend. This is not healthy.

Bicycle Horn
I resisted the temptation to honk this.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Alleged Nuclear Weapons Programs: Iran and Israel

"The Obama administration, citing evidence of continued troubles inside Iran’s nuclear program, has persuaded Israel that it would take roughly a year — and perhaps longer — for Iran to complete what one senior official called a “dash” for a nuclear weapon, according to American officials.

Administration officials said they believe the assessment has dimmed the prospect that Israel would pre-emptively strike against the country’s nuclear facilities within the next year, as Israeli officials have suggested in thinly veiled threats."

New York Times
U.S. Assures Israel That Iran Threat Is Not Imminent
August 19, 2010


Iran and Israel have at least one thing in common: they are Middle Eastern countries with alleged nuclear weapons programs.

According to the Times article quoted above, the United States expects that Iran will not have a nuclear bomb for at least a year. As a participant in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty, Iran’s nuclear facilities are subject to review by international weapons inspectors. The administration believes that were Iran to approach the point of having sufficient weapons-grade Uranium for a bomb, such would come to light within weeks, and at that point, military strikes could be made. The article claims that this has given Israel sufficient assurance so as to not attempt a pre-emptive strike.

Israel has maintained a policy of ‘opacity’ regarding its possession of nuclear weapons, and has never publicly stated whether they have them or not. Like India and Pakistan, Israel never signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and is not subject to UN inspections of its nuclear facilities. Nonetheless, as evidence regarding Israel's alleged nuclear program and arsenal has leaked over the years, its existence has become something of an open secret, acknowledged in the press and at least one study by the U.S. Air Force Counterproliferation Center.

As Israel itself does not acknowledge existence of the program, a number of Arab nations have recently pushed for inspections of Israel’s nuclear weapons program. The implication is clear: If Iran claims that their nuclear program is for civilian purposes only, and is already subject to international inspection, then why should not Israel’s nuclear facilities suspected be subject to inspections as well? The black and white answer would be that Israel has not signed a treaty mandating such inspections, however, in light of the information already public about Israel’s program, the question is not wholly unreasonable.

From a U.S. security perspective, the answer is self-serving but clear. Better that a predictable ally be in possession of nuclear weapons than an unpredictable potential adversary, and public acknowledgement of an Israeli nuclear program could add instability to the region, and distract from efforts to keep Iran from gaining their own nuclear bomb.

Nonetheless, it cannot be ignored that the presence of Israel as an assumedly nuclear state may well have been a catalyst for surrounding Arab nations to desire a bomb of their own, in order to both have greater power in the region, as well as have an effective deterrent against an Israeli nuclear attack. It may not solve anything for the United States to attempt to address Israel’s nuclear program. However, I am extremely curious as to whether Israel’s program will come under greater scrutiny as the prospect of a nuclear Iran grows in the coming year.

__________
Sources:


While my college Political Science education was limited to a six course minor, I’ve always been at least somewhat interested in foreign policy, particularly in regards to nuclear weapons and nuclear proliferation. All the same, I qualify myself by saying that my reading and background on this is that of an interested layman, and I’d welcome any feedback, comments or corrections.

- Rob

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Philadelphia Visit

Here are photos from a recent trip home to Philadelphia. These are a few of the highlights; if you'd like to peruse the rest of them, click on any image and you'll be taken over to my Flickr photostream (thanks to the blog Confessions of a Travel Junkie for the idea on formatting things this way).

Ok, first stop:

Geno's Steaks

There’s an eternal debate as to whether Pat’s or Geno’s cheesesteaks are better. I have no preference between the two. The first place I ate a cheesesteak at is on Henry Avenue, and is named Fiesta. It has to this day remained my favorite.

Watching the game
Wes and Kim watching the Phillies game

I’m not by nature a sports fan, but Citizens Bank Park was really fun. Most of the stadiums that I'd been to in the past (albeit few) had the aesthetics of a parking garage. Citizens Bank Park, however, has a very open and spacious feel to it. We watched the game from the standing room area up by the scoreboard. You could see what was happening on the field perfectly well, and there was also room to spread out and relax, rather than being stuck in seats for the night. Were I to be living in Philadelphia right now, I’d be down for going to a Phillies game even just to hang out.

Little Blue Car

My parents and I went to a diner called ‘Jem Restaurant’ one afternoon. It's in a shopping center whose storefronts, among others, include a Panera Bread and an LA Fitness. I found myself trying to tell my mother that restaurant’s deliberately put-on 1950s - 1970s decor was some sort of post-modern/Baudrillardian simulation. I was put in my place when, upon exiting, I saw photos on the wall evidencing that this diner had actually been around for a really long time. This is like the Times Square Howard Johnson's. While perhaps there may have been some attempt at a design evoking nostalgia for classic Americana, it may be just as well be the case that a lot of this stuff was hung on the walls a long time ago, and have since become pieces of classic Americana nostalgia.

Ceiling Furnishings

That aside, there was little explanation for this waittress uniform hanging from the drop ceiling.

Jamie and Airport sculpture

With family members coming and going, our family made two trips to Philadelphia International Airport while I was home. This is my sister, Jamie. She, as well as my brother Mike and I, found this structure pretty strange. There's a bench on the inside of the loop, and vines growing on the outside.

American flags in Chinatown

I’m working on a documentary short film about Chinese human smuggling and child trafficking. We had dim sum in Chinatown one afternoon, and then I walked around for a while with a video camera to grab some additional footage. The film discusses to some degree the promise of America as perceived by immigrants, so the American flags strung up all over were perfect.

Looking Up in 30th Street Station

This is inside 30th Street Station. I use Septa and New Jersey Transit to get back and forth, so I pass through here whenever I go home.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Thrift Store Visit

While visiting home this weekend, I went with my parents to a thrift store in Norristown, PA. Here are a few photos of the odds and ends found there.


Mary Lynn Gullette's diploma from Penn State's Continuing Education program.


Wall of TVs.


From the book section.


I'm pretty sure it's been cleaned, but I was hesitant to get comfortable.


Like the diploma for sale, this initially struck me as a little sad. But on the other hand, this a thrift store, not a pawn shop, and these could well be donated out of well meaning generosity.

On the buyer's end of things, according to Good Morning America, with a trip to the cleaners and a custom fitting, this can be a great way to get an affordable wedding dress.


Bottoms are in the next cabinet over.


Dominance is fleeting.


Page from the store's bidding book for its silent auction items.

The last person started to write in a bid, and then apparently reconsidered their interest in smurf belts.


'Poultry Tribune' magazine ran through 2006, and lives on at poultrytribune.com.

There were about three bids for this collection thus far, the highest being $11.00.



It wasn't particularly comfortable, and I was not up for bothering with putting it in the car and getting it up to NYC.

If, however, I were 13 years old and still living at home, I would have been all over this.

It looks like a Star Trek chair.


A hundred years from now, '16 Hits from the Gay Nineties' will yet again mean something completely different.


These guys are fierce.


Only purchase of the day.

Per Cameriapedia.org, the camera is from 1982 and used a disk film format made by Kodak. The back pops open, with room to insert a sealed thin cartridge with 15 exposures.

It's not likely that I'll go to the extra lengths to buy film, shoot and develop it, but it was too unique looking to pass up.