The Day-to-Day Record of Everything Interconnecting

Preface:

I believe myself to be fortunate to have found a cultivated understanding of learning at a relatively young age. At the time, I was in high school and the scenario played itself out like any other routine day of classes. It had finally hit me that the classes the typical student familiarizes as educational content segregated into one hour long portions with one temporal sanctuary known as “lunch break”, they weren’t quite interchangeable morsels of wisdom, but, they were all ultimately interconnected. The immediate, almost default thought that first arose in my mind questioned the whole educational curriculum. Why did we have to choose amongst classes every year, prioritizing some over others? Don’t people think people would be much more enamored with learning if they saw the infrastructure behind it all, how everything co-exists and relates with one another? Why wasn’t there a class that educated candidly about, just life? Naturally, logic intervened and swiftly explained to me that classes would be much more comprehensible as split subjects in lieu of one ubiquitous, all-enclosing course. Such is the meaning of apportionment after all; and who can expect someone to essentially achieve intellectual and spiritual enlightenment within one’s high school career, or even within one’s entire life-time? So, the epiphany was a double-edged sword in that there was an immediate cutback that ever-so-slightly grazed me for being overly-philosophical, almost hipster-ly so; but at the same time, it did cut open a path for a new way of thinking for me.  It’s been a damn shame for my academic standing, but since then, I have prioritized learning for intrigue over learning for ensured future success. Unfortunate in one respect, yes, but stimulating in ways completely unimaginable. Today, I begin this post as an outright, horrible student but also as an irrepressible scholar. To live is to learn and this is one of my day-to-day proofs of existence, or rather, The Day-to-Day Record of Everything Interconnecting. In conceptual symmetry to this concept, I will also establish this page with the complementary objective of having the most tags out of all any post on this domain. Each new tag will signify an entity noticed, observed and appreciated throughout the span of my own time of living. And so, we begin walking down the path of all walks of life.

 

April 8th, 2014

After reading Toriko #273. 「The Harbor of Evil Spirits!!」, I admired Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro’s efforts to accentuate the romanticism of adventure with natural elements, well beyond the halfway point in his story. It seems seldom that long-running shōnen series consistently and continually embrace the motifs and themes that they established themselves upon, especially after the narrative has been up-scaled to worldly proportions. However this creative chapter saw the rise of this tribute, in the form of monumental, looming waves, for our characters had entered the exciting Gourmet World by way of the treacherous Thorn Sea. This Thorn Sea, an exquisite terrain of nature’s design, screams signature shōnen setting, and it has a complimentary moustachioed and backpacked frog nonchalantly wave-surfing and tea-sipping boot. Whether agreed upon by readers as necessary or not, this incident signified the true essence of nature, an entity that does not grow stronger as characters do through time and experience, but rather, something that started as a fearsome force in chapter 1 and has since remained such in chapter 273. In any case, a splendid example of contemporary, pop cultural Japanese fine art featuring base Japanese aesthetics deeply rooted with the acknowledgement and appreciation of nature. The very same day, in my intermediate Japanese course, our class continues covering the thirteenth chapter of the textbook 上級へのとびら (TOBIRA: Gateway to Advanced Japanese). This chapter covers the topic 日本人と自然, or “The Japanese and Nature,” drawing upon examples as old as haiku poems by historical literary figures Matsuo Bashō and Kobayashi Issa to modern mangaka such as Ishinomori Shōtarō.

 

June 29th, 2014

After having my miniature film review for Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing, a documentary that entails the journey of one Anwar Congo in re-creating his personal experience of the 1965-66 Indonesian killings for the big picture,  in my cluster of draft-posts for more than two weeks, something finally compels me to proof-read my retrospective writing and finalize it for publication. Immediately after doing so, I prepare the post to also be published on my Tumblr blog. Upon reblogging the review from the becauseofdreams Tumblr blog to my very own, I add a hearty comment in the tags about how coincidental it is for me to finally be sharing this review on the same weekend that Transformers: Age of Extinction is released in theaters, seeing as how a good percentage of its content draws from the observation that one of the persons cast in The Act of Killing can be seen wearing a Transformers t-shirt. The linkage between the two instances is duly noticed, though I don’t see it quite fit enough yet to appear on this record. That is not until hours later, at four in the morning, when I see a post on the shonenjump.com worldwide Facebook portal quoting Bleach manga-ka Tite Kubo as such, “I really wanted to see the documentary The Act of Killing, but I suddenly realized it’s not playing in theaters anymore!” It has been unmanageable to find any attention directed to this documentary to say the least, so that a transnational person, of a further-isolating, niche industry, would be the first and only mutual viewer is wholly amazing. Of course, after the immediate surprise of his theater-going selection came the question of how that taste might influence his own work (which I have a respective amount of issues with as of late). But in the end, what it boils down to is just that initial response: “Holy shit, of all people to even have heard of the film, failing-Bleach creator Tite Kubo?” This is the kind of shit you would never expect to discover and that’s exactly why it’s the kind of shit that goes on this mind-opening record of day-to-day things interconnecting, yo.

 

August 18th, 2014

Two days ago, I happened across a familiar sight in the bathroom; it wasn’t the result of compulsory bowel movements, but rather, the result of what I consider unimaginable devotion, diligence, and handiwork:  the Records of the Three Kingdoms, a Chinese historical text by Chen Shou that is widely regarded as the official and authoritative historical text for the period of the late Eastern Han dynasty to the Three Kingdoms period. The copy of Chen Shou’s work is one of (I assume) many Vietnamese translations, Tam Quốc Chí, and it is a text that I have noticed as the primary (and possibly only besides at most three others) text in my father’s reading collection (though I suppose that since he’s chosen toilet-time as the predominant time of study with this text, he doesn’t get too many merits as a scholar), but have never had the consideration to delve into its transnational identity. Yesterday was also the day that changed, because a simple Google search of the Vietnamese title  quickly led me to the English Wikipedia page for the Records of the Three Kingdoms. (Thank you once more, internet.) Now I’ve been enamored with the quadrumvirate known as the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature ever since I read not them but about them (again, on Wikipedia, and again, thank you internet) and learned how masterful a text written by an individual can be in its story-line, characters, themes, and more; (The fact that what is known as Redology, the academic study of Cao Xueqin’s Dream of the Red Chamber, is itself divided into four general groups of occupational scholars is enough of a statement of the extensive nature of these works, I believe.) but it wasn’t until this day that I actually went beyond perusing and spoiled myself by reading the entire Wikipedia article (though I do acknowledge and must punctuate a fraction of what Wikipedia articles are to their respective source content, both literally and figuratively, for the most part). A more thorough than usual read has me of course even more captivated with the enriched history and the exquisitely romantic tropes, and in turn leads me to supplementary readings about the Peach Garden Oath, a list of the Battle of Red Cliffs adaptations, Chinese proverbs derived from the novel, and more. A good hour or so is spent enjoying history and live-tweeting the cultural enlightenment. (Internet, 3-0.) The day is proven to be a good one for history, but I don’t fully devote the rest of it to just that and quickly revert to everyday internet living. (I had even paused reading the Romance of the Three Kingdoms article mid-way to watch a twenty-seven minute interview of musical artist Childish Gambino being interviewed about an array of arguably equally insightful topics.) That summer night, I go to sleep the earliest I have in weeks at around midnight, just to wake up four hours later from a dream and unable to re-suspend my consciousness. The frustration of consciously idling in bed unsurprisingly has me shifting to my desk and turning on my computer. I’m going to accredit it as the differentiation of time zones, but at that time, my Tumblr dashboard was prominent with the posts of the Japanese blogger whom I follow. One such post is a photoset of the Edo period Japanese artist Sawaki Suushi, Hyakkai Zukkan. At this point, I’m already keenly aware the Hyakki Yagyō, or the Night Parade of One Hundred Demons, after witnessing numerous references to it in numerous anime, and even from such works (again, seen on Tumblr) as Kawanabe Kyōsai. Needless to say, its Wikipedia page has been visited by me on equally numerous occasions. It’s not until I’m reblogging the post myself and adding tags of the artwork’s title and author that I notice while the word “hundred” is there, the rest is different. Revisiting the topic on Wikipedia, I’m refreshed by the depictions of the Nurarihyon and more impactful this time around, the Umibozu, which, after showing some respectfully respectful nods to the anime Mononoke, Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex, and the personal favorite One Piece; in turn leads me to reading the synopsis of the 1962 Japanese film Ningen, which in turn leads to the article for and an interest in watching the 2005 Japanese fantasy children’s film The Great Yokai War directed by Takashi Miike (another personal favorite artist). The “See also” section of this article has an uncannily unignorable reference to Teito Monogatari, the famously epic historical dark fantasy and science fiction novel written by fantasy literature scholar and natural history specialist Hiroshi Aramata that pioneered a new movement of occult fiction in its native land of publication. Glimpsing at the quick overview of the novel gives impressions of the cult character Yasunori Katō, his status as a former lieutenant of the Imperial Japanese Army and vengeful oni, but it’s not until the reveal of his status as a descendant of the indigenous tribes that inhabited the Japanese islands before the coming of the Yamato people (key word: Yamato) that we really come full circle. For the sake of intellectual surety and clarifying under what context does the word Yamato refer to Japan, I finally diverge from the pattern of continuing this web-surfing journey by means of provided references and hyperlinks and start a new instance of netting and webbery, by initializing means of another Google search. Indeed, we confirm that the title was in fact used as an ancient name of Japan and was semantically extended to mean “Japan” and or “Japanese” in general, but also leads to the Wikipedia article entitled Names of Japan. And it is in the “History” section of this article that we also read of a time when the nationa was known as “Wa” or “Wakoku”.And the perhaps predictable pretext (or perhaps not so predictable; given how long and drawn-out this anecdote has become, it’s hard to see it finally making its complete connection) for this naming is the derivation of a name early China used to refer to an ethnic group living in Japan around the time of the Three Kingdoms age.

 

August 29th, 2014

Despite the fact that I’m typing this entry out at one in the morning, I will be using the word “today” to refer to events that technically transpired starting yesterday; just to make it easier for me, I’d like to consider the chain of events that make-up this story all a part of the same day. Besides, it’s just one hour.  Today was the last first day of school for me, hopefully. This fourth year of college is chock-full of course units more so than any year before it, because as the standard allotted time for my education comes to a close, I frantically race towards the finish line in time so I can be considered at the very least an at-average academic by the end of it all. Needless to say, that merits a lot of sacrifice on the individual’s behalf. Sacrifice of a social life. Sacrifice of health. Sacrifice of pursuing one’s real hopes and dreams. Et cetera. But in a concurrently arguably for-the-better good and arguably detrimental institution, the withstanding unadulterated element is the knowledge taught. That students can still fall in love with learning despite incurring financial debt, despite their apprehensiveness towards lucrative careers, and despite simultaneously indulging in the most social time of their life thus far is the thing to be most thankful during this phase in one’s life, I think. So, while this first day of course syllabus-discussing one after another didn’t quite mark the most romantic encounter I’ve had with the world of instructed wisdom, it does warrant an annal in this record, because the topics of one class did happen to branch out enough to interconnect with the events of my recreational, after-school life, within the span of twenty-four hours. Twelve hours even. Enter Stuart Jonathan Russell, leading professor of the Artificial Intelligence sub-department of the Computer Science department at University of California, Berkeley. A mouthful of a title, but his reputation precedes him, as apparent by just the existence of his Wikipedia article, not to mention the many more titles and awards achieved that you can read on that respective article. A distinguished professor, and a swell person in general, I can tell you from my first-hand first impression of him at the very least. In his introduction to the study of artificial intelligence, Russell does great in citing major cultural works, such as Alien (1979), 2001: A Space Odyssey (2001), WALL·E (2008), and much more cinematic creations, the most emphasized being the latest in artificial intelligence-exploring cinema, Transcendence (2014) (which stars actor Johnny Depp and is the directional debut of Wally Pfister, best known as cinematographer to Christopher Nolan and winner of the Academy Award for Best Cinematography for the 2010 movie Inception).  He makes sure to mention an article he wrote for The Huffington Post specifically about the film, as its plot centers upon Depp’s character, who is a Berkeley professor who gets shot to death. The presentation is received well by me, no surprise, really (in case you haven’t noticed how centered upon the cultural arts this website is, you might want to check out the front page again, I suppose); though as an aside, I wonder why he doesn’t mention the most obvious film of all, I, Robot (2004), given that the subject of the current slide in his Powerpoint presentation is, paraphrased, “Will robots take over the world?”  But it’s okay, it’s not like I tremendously loved that film anyway. So skipping into the relevancy and we get well into the one hour and thirty minutes lecture (with me nearly falling asleep, but ultimately not – something I am quite proud of in retrospect); and it’s here that Professor Russell strikes an even stronger connect with me. For the past half hour, he had been discussing how in its history, the development of artificial intelligence had persisted through a very flawed modus operandi, with optimistic researchers back in the day spending one summer thinking they made enormous breakthroughs when they did not, with certain institution(s) claiming to have solved the biggest problem in the field through major news publications when they did not, and the like. But it’s not a pity story. Far from it. It’s the kind of story that arches on the same optimism that it playfully jabs at. And when it finally clicks with me personally is with his example of how hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of new discoveries founded and proved everyday on a research protocol are neglected to be shared in high fashion every day. Every day these scholarships sit on the desk or in the computer of an institution, never to be disseminated on a grander scale. (I guess schools really can be analogous to prisons, with both potent-minded students and ideas as the prisoners.) Of course what this clicks to relative to me is that perceivable cliché existential epiphany that university students would have once they learn the origins of fields of study they’ve been studying their whole re-memorable life but on an undeniably superficial level. For a good eighteen years of my life, I had asked myself questions about the ways the world works and I had asked myself perhaps an equal amount of times, in frustration to its difficulty mostly, “Why am I learning the shit I’m being forced to take in high school? How is it going to apply to my life? What the fuck.” I wish someone had told me just how interconnected the two types of questions were back then. Or actually, my dumb-ass probably wouldn’t have kept it in mind with a simple explanation regardless. Rather, I wish someone had made me understand just how interconnected the two types of questions were back then. So, people make astonishingly commendable efforts to share and stimulate others with the ideas, ideals, and information that make up the experience of life in this world every day, that is what Professor Russell conveyed. But what was his solution to this? Well, there wasn’t one. No, while he didn’t enlighten us with the all-mending answer, he did mention the instances in which those ideas could see the light of day: commodification, something that shines with blinding relevancy particularly in this day and age. Commodification. The transformation of goods and services, as well as ideas and other such entities, into a commodity. Google’s self-driving cars. Siri and Cortana’s speech recognition software. Boston Dynamic’s robot locomotion. The KUKA Robot Group’s ping pong-playing robot. These are the type of entrepreneurial advances that can make a quite literally priceless stack of papers on a desk read by fewer than a dozen people to a billion-dollars commodity utilized by billions of people. This subject of discussion clearly now transcends the realm of artificial intelligence, because you can obviously capitalize on things other than inventions of artificial intelligence, especially in this internet age of YouTube go-getters, sponsored Vine celebrities, big-league Instagram-ers, and Twitch-earners. And in speaking of Twitch, this is where our story comes to its denouement, while failing to satisfy on its dreadfully prolonged exposition. I overlooked the shared article on my Facebook timeline about a 2009 biomedical-engineering Duke University graduate who left his job at a trading firm to make a career out of playing DoTA at the eSports level, no, that wasn’t enough of a riches-to-rags (that turned out be even better riches) story to compel me into typing this entry. It wasn’t until my friend sent me a, albeit much less compelling and publicized, much more relevant occurrence going on that triggered this very publication. Twitch user Newbzoors with his channel entitled, “Level One Jigglypuff fight on Hyrule Temple – 99 Stocks Damage Ratio – 0.5 Items – Food only on high” broadcasts an unyielding game of Super Smash Bros. Brawl that is 100% playing itself out with absolutely no human interaction whatsoever. Now, in accordance to that aforementioned very first artificial intelligence lecture that I attended today, I suspect my professor would slap me right across the face for referring to two “AI” computers in a video game as actual artificial intelligence. In lecture, the example he used was that computers that could score more than 230 on an IQ test had no right to be considered artificially intelligent because they were constructed purely to pass those tests; and if given any other task, they would fail utterly. Similarly, here, a Level One CPU Jigglypuff in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, it’ll never be anything but a Level One CPU Jigglypuff in Super Smash Bros. Brawl; but in America, it can… actually, it’ll still just be a Level One CPU Jigglypuff in Super Smash Bros. Brawl regardless of where the game is played, because that’s what it was solely programmed for. But perhaps the lesson we’re learning here is one we all already know fine and well. This scenario doesn’t even need to qualify as genuine artificial intelligence, because at this very moment that I am typing this, Newbzoors’s Twitch channel has 502 (and steadily increasing) live viewers. And in analysis, what we can consider the mechanics at work here is: absolutely nothing. Reading an excerpt from the All About Twitch page itself, “We want to connect gamers around the world by allowing them to broadcast, watch, and chat from everywhere they play,” we can quickly grasp just how unorthodox an approach Newbzoors is taking on this platform. There is no player at hand here, literally, and what 500+ people are tuning into is essentially a computer simulation playing itself out. I had my personal attachment to the original Super Smash Bros. game when I was younger, and I had my fare amount of experimental matches with myself against CPU opponents with the 99 stock setting, just like any fan of the game did I’m sure; but even then, as an adolescent, I had the awareness to manually and prematurely end the match  upon realizing its potential as a giant waste of time. Relative to this same situation in the present day, as much as I would like to write this off as plain stupid, I just have to submit that it’s also equal amounts ingenious, on the creator’s behalf of course. The devoted viewers themselves are complete idiots, I ‘d say. And as much as I can have the subject of this entry go through a paradigm shift to cover just how the term “mass hysteria” can be applied a new age definition concerning the virtual world, that’s not the point I’d like to make this time around. As this arguable genius lets his computer amass a profitable following for him while he heedlessly eats, shits and sleeps and while you read this post thinking to yourself whatever about, another spec(k) of genius, one that would have my bias most likely, lies forlorn on a desk, unflourished and inaccessible in the life and times of a world of commercialization.

 

July 7th, 2015

Today was an interesting series of musical-related interconnections. Usually, I wouldn’t qualify any particular experience for this article if it failed to branch out to a number of distinct areas of interest, but even after the first few correlations this time around (in which I actually did think to myself, “Wow, what are the chances, should I add this to The Day-to-Day Record of Everything Interconnecting article…? …Nah, it’s not quite good enough…”), my attempts to pass it off and move on to another activity seemingly fatefully kept leading on to more and more intertwining. So on account of that and the fact that it has been a good eleven months since the last entry in this online journal (I just can’t let it overclock to a whole year), here’s a series of fortunate musical events I experienced today. Early this morning I caught news of Japanese rock band ONE OK ROCK special guest-staring on All Time Low and Sleeping With Sirens’s Back to the Future Hearts Tour at the City National Civic in none other than my hometown of San Jose, California. Curiosity piqued, I consider eventually purchasing tickets. Fast-forward to around afternoon time, Simple Plan’s “Loser of the Year” from the album Get Your Heart On! (2011) plays on shuffle, and I notice for the first time the reference to Lil Wayne (“And I’m hanging out with Lil Wayne“). Listening to Simple Plan almost always invokes a nostalgia factor for me (has war flashbacks of making an anime music video to “Me Against The World”), but there’s a special kind of nostalgia in those rare instances wherein you realize new things about old memories you’ve subconsciously held dear for so long. As an individual, I didn’t start listening to rap music seriously until my late undergraduate years, so this long overdue realization of cross-genre reference is a testament to the phenomena of hip hop musical culture being alive and well before I even graduated high school (of course, arguably more so than today, or so the saying “hip hop is dead” attests). Coincidentally enough, I read an article published the very same day about musical artist Towkio (notably, a musical act immersed in the hip hop musical industry himself but not completely defined as such in his own work), an interview in which he alludes to none other than Lil Wayne’s influence on the rap game (and his youthful, aspiring fanatics) in the 2000s by means of his mixtapes (more than ten total).  Fast-forward to the latter half of the day, Lupe Fiasco’s song “Dots & Lines” from his album Tetsuo & Youth (2015) plays on shuffle ; he uses the word ‘viscosity,’ a word I may or may not have known the definition to before but definitely need to look up in the dictionary now to fully understand. “Noun. 1. the state or property of being viscous 2. the extent to which a fluid resists a tendency to flow.” Fast-forward a few more hours and we get another heavily hip-hop-influenced production, this time from the other side of the globe, “Bonds Don’t Break” by GROWN KIDS, featured on the original motion picture soundtrack to TOKYO TRIBE, a rap opera movie that is perhaps the most outspoken filmic representation of hip hop music. Interested in finding more of the musical group’s discography, I take to YouTube to come across the official music video for their single “BOTTLE ROCKET feat. Taka and Megan Joy.” Taka is the lead vocalist for the band ONE OK ROCK.  Taka is also featured on the song and music video of the version of Simple Plan’s “Summer Paradise” featuring, well, Taka. Taka is also featured on American rock pop band Against the Current’s song and music video “Dreaming Alone.” (All of these songs are compiled in the same playlist, courtesy of Warner Music Japan.) Now, the majority of this entire experience has been on the hip hop end of the musical spectrum, and in the end that’s where it’ll remain; but at this point in time, my mind is still open to the nostalgia of being that angsty pre-teen boy listening to what is for the most part, relatively speaking, less conscious lyrics about base emotional urges. And as there is a trend in most emo, pop, powerpop, punk, rock (take your mix-and-match pick) songs, there is also usually a trend in the naming sense of the bands that write those songs. Sure enough, I coincidentally but immediately notice the rebellious vibe that a band name like “Against the Current” dishes out. What I don’t realize immediately (but still soon enough) is that “against the current” is a fully plausible and proper definition to the word ‘viscosity,’ the word I did not have any recollection of, nostalgic nor denotative, and had to look up. So, in the end, if we want to go thematic full circle with this, I guess the moral of the story is that no matter how much expertise you may think you have of something because of what seemed like a very, very long period of attachment, there’s always value in backtracking, retracing, and re-assessing the associated elements of it in which you now have more expanded knowledge about. So, I guess what I’m trying to say is: who’s down for that ONE OK ROCK concert!?!?

 

September 9th, 2015

A couple weeks back, I started following the Meimeiwawa Multimedia 妹妹娃娃多媒體 YouTube channel,  a multimedia and lifestyle entertainment label formed by  Russian-Taiwanese-American sisters Lara and Esther Veronin (surname also referred to as Liang), after seeing this video in particular on my Facebook news-feed one day and developing a sort of celebrity crush for Lara. Also, for probably a considerable amount more than a couple weeks, I’ve had the 2002 Hong Kong internationally-acclaimed, crime-thriller film Infernal Affairs, as well as the 2006 American remake of it by Martin Scorsese, The Departed, on my watch-list. After reading some Wikipedia trivia about how the original film had failed to be nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 76th Academy Awards and how the Hollywood remake ended up winning the Academy Award for Best Picture (and three other Oscars) at the 79th Academy Awards, I was interested in seeing for myself how the two films measure up to one another. And so, two days ago, on the evening of Labor Day, I began that very endeavor in chronological fashion, starting with the original Hong Kong production. About two hours later, on a cinematic high of sorts, I subsequently jumped right into the two-and-a-half-hour long The Departed. As for the verdict in the end, quite unexpectedly, I found myself much more approving of the American remake overall, after all. Though, I did still feel the need to at least read the summaries for the two sequel films in the original Infernal Affairs trilogy series, since I wasn’t quite impressed enough to want to watch them in full-length. After being lead astray be a series of Wikipedia hyperlinks and finding myself once again reading about the Edison Chen sex scandal for the fourth time or so (Hong Kong films’ Wikipedia articles always have a yellow-brick road that leads to that topic somehow, I tell ya’), I caught myself up to the convoluted narrative that is the three Infernal Affairs films. And with that, I was rather satisfied with just being a witness to the narrative by means of written text; the ending of third installment seemed like it wove together the cultural-religious themes in the story quite well (the fact that the series protagonist conclusively lies crippled and catatonic in his own continuous hell and the film cuts to a flashback to one of the very first scenes in the very first movie sounds so conceptually satisfying that I may just check out the rest of the franchise sometime in the future yet), which was one of things that attracted me so much to the work in the first place (I was a sucker for that “Infernal Affairs” pun).  At the time, with that Wikipedia article tab open, I was also making use of the next tab over, on Twitter, live-tweeting my thoughts—particularly,  how similar the story-telling structure is to the two anime and manga series Death Note and One Piece (the most recent episode of the anime adaptation at the time marked the demise to a character that was especially resemblant of one of the film’s leading character, and this very fact was in turn the other catalyst that brought me to finally checking the film off my watch-list). Specifically with Death Note, the film shares a setting of metropolitan crime in which the good guy ultimately loses to the bad guy, pays for his loss in death, and is later redeemed by two other characters who were meaningfully impacted by him before his untimely demise. In the realm of all three series, they deal with a race against time and a two-way relationship of deception with strong motifs of heaven and hell. For Infernal Affairs, it is a not so uncommon overtone of Buddhist mythology, about Avīci, the lowest level of hell, in which those sentenced suffer for all eternity without any hope of being reborn. For Death Note, it is the supernatural inclusion of the very plot device that is the Death Note, an item native to the realm of the gods of death that is bestowed upon the mortal protagonist, who ironically interprets it as the gift bestowed upon him to designate him the God of a new human world. As for One Piece, the villain of the arc in relevance is of extremely highborn birth, is deemed a “Celestial Being,” and even goes on to attain the separate moniker of the “Heavenly Beast.” However, his adverse personality and actions all throughout his life instead suggest him to be of none other than pure evil, a truth that his own blood-brother recognizes, which drives him to a covert betrayal. In this similarly ironic dynamic, this reigning “Celestial Being” is to be defeated by the heroic and altruistic series protagonist, whose own birth-initial is interpreted to mean “devil.” And so, having been forced into the middle of the night by a nearly four-hour block of imagination-enriching film and with some run-of-the-mill comparative analysis done in the form of one-hundred and forty-character Tweets, one cannot help but feel a little pensive. Re-enter, Lara Liang. As well as having a watch-list for movies that have piqued my interested, I also have a queue of music albums to be listened to for the first time in order to filter out which tracks I wouldn’t like to add to my general library of music. At the time, for a time, I had been avoiding the number of folders of Lara Liang albums I had available, because—well, Eastern pop and folk rock isn’t exactly a genre of musical styling you can jam out to at any given time. It requires a certain ambiance, like, say, a wistful four in the morning, brimming with creative thoughts from having already witnessed a couple of fine productions of art. And so, some good listening occurs (I especially recommend the track “Goodnight” from the album Free Spirit—if, you know,you’re in that kind of somber mood). But of course, in this day and age, nothing can really be done without some aspect of social interaction via the internet to it. So, on a certain social platform, I eventually go about perusing a chart of recommended musical artists similar to Lara Liang’s sound and wind up with discography from one Fiona Fung. Quite literally halfway (curse that odd song count) through the album A Little Love comes a track that in the context of this piece of writing can only be described as utterly distinct, a melodramatic requiem (that one wouldn’t really expect to find on a seemingly pop-centric album entitled A Little Love) called “Goodbye… Policeman (from the film Infernal Affairs)“. (Check it out by clicking the link provided that hopefully still directs to a working source, if you will. The ending of the song actually fits pretty well with the ending of this excerpt, if you can get the timing right, that is.)The moment I heard the aria, it didn’t quite register with me that I had literally just clicked for the next track on the album to play, resulting in—well, other than this new track playing. Sometimes, something stays fresh in the mind even long after it was actually witnessed. In a daze, I was wondering to myself if I had left the Infernal Affairs movie playing in the background. What? You mean the Infernal Affairs movie that you finished watching more than forty-eight hours ago?

 

October 12th, 2015

Today I went to catch The Martian (2015), a movie that I highly recommend, in theaters with a friend. Having purchased our tickets and on our way to the inner-complex of the movie theater, we passed by a promotional cardboard cut-out for Black Mass, starring actor Johnny Depp as historical and infamous Irish-American gangster Whitey Bulger. I proceeded to tell my partner-in–movie-viewing how much I wanted to see the flick but couldn’t seem to remember the name of the aforementioned Bulger upon being pressed for an explanation on what the film is about. Quite luckily, I was still fresh off my recent viewing of The Departed (see previous entry in this very article) and retained the knowledge that the character actor Jack Nicholson plays in the movie was loosely based off Bulger. Quite unluckily, today was probably the one day I couldn’t clear-cut remember Jack Nicholson’s own name, having it on the tip of my tongue. “Have you seen The Departed? What’s the name of guy who was in The Shining and plays the bad guy? …Jack Nicholson! So yeah, it’s about the guy who Jack Nicholson played in The Departed; he’s basically one of America’s most notorious mobsters who was an informant for the FBI,” I said. Or something alone those lines. Probably far less eloquent. Though that paraphrasing itself could hardly be considered eloquent at all. So, we establish that connection, The Martian and The Departed, first and foremost. We arrive in the actual theater screening the movie and time passes. We go through some movie trailers, most of which I’ve already witnessed for myself due to of the burgeoning internet age. “When are we suppose to put these on?” my friend asks, in reference to the 3D glasses that are in his hands and that accounted for the atrocious fifteen dollar movie ticket price we paid for moments earlier. “When the movie starts,” I reply. And then another movie trailer appears on screen, not one that I haven’t seen before, but nevertheless one that is still able to fill me with excitement: The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as historical American frontiersman Hugh Glass. Leonardo DiCaprio, co-star to Matt Damon in The Departed. Or, not just Leonardo DiCaprio, but, a very beardy Leonardo DiCaprio. Skip forward about two hours, to the near end of The Martian‘s duration. Not only does a time-skip happen in this post but also within the movie itself, and the exact moment of that time-skip is where we ourselves skip time to. As the words “7 months later” appear on the theater screen, alongside a panning aerial shot of the crusty Mars landscape, I tilt my head towards my friend and whisper, “I wonder if he learned Haki,” a reference to the manga series One Piece and how its protagonist masters an ability named “haki” after being alone on an island for an extended amount of time. When the scenic shot ends and cuts to Matt Damon’s character, the reveal of an emaciated figure (after months and months of eating only one potato every three days) and a gristly beard packs a dramatic punch. Again, I tilt my head towards my friend, this time whispering, “He looks like Leonardo in The Revenant.” “Dude, I was just thinking that,” my friend whispers back. (He totally does, by the way.) As the story’s developments continue on, Matt Damon’s character delivers a droll and poignant dialogue about how his manning of a craft in “international waters” without necessary permission, by maritime law, will officially make him a space pirate.

“LOG ENTRY: SOL 381 I’ve been thinking about laws on Mars.
Yeah, I know, it’s a stupid thing to think about, but I have a lot of free time.
There’s an international treaty saying no country can lay claim to anything that’s not on Earth. And by another treaty, if you’re not in any country’s territory, maritime law applies.
So Mars is “international waters.”
NASA is an American nonmilitary organization, and it owns the Hab. So while I’m in the Hab, American law applies. As soon as I step outside, I’m in international waters. Then when I get in the rover, I’m back to American law.
Here’s the cool part: I will eventually go to Schiaparelli and commandeer the Ares 4 lander. Nobody explicitly gave me permission to do this, and they can’t until I’m aboard Ares 4 and operating the comm system. After I board Ares 4, before talking to NASA, I will take control of a craft in international waters without permission.
That makes me a pirate!
A space pirate!”

And so, not only is the pirate motif timely reinforced but it extends to another franchise, as I’m left in wonderment about whether or not another popular manga series, Space Pirate Captain Harlock, is entitled as such with intentional reference to that tidbit of romanticism based upon a political technicality (or did series creator Leiji Matsumoto just want to stick a bunch of pirate ships in space)—not to mention the beautiful and thematic juxtaposition of history (American frontiersmen, pirates, mobsters) side-by-side with the elements representing the future and its final frontier.

 

February 29th, 2015

I begin writing this addition the morning after an eventful evening. Approximately twelve hours ago, my love for film-making was faintly reignited as I tuned into the latter half of the 88th Academy Awards, as well as stayed up-to-date with the Sunday line-up of more normal, serialized television programming: The Walking Dead, Togetherness, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and the one of most relevance, Vinyl. This story of relativity begins with the victories earned at the Oscars award ceremony yesterday, particularly the achievements of actor Leonardo DiCaprio and the Western he appeared in, The Revenant, as well as the award for Best Score presented to composer Ennio Morricone and his original score for Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight (another and arguably the other biggest Western of the year). In any case, what proceeded an hour or two after that was my weekly viewing of Vinyl, an HBO period drama about the rock-and-roll music industry in 1970s New York, which happened to feature this week around a small scene that encapsulates the birth of hip hop music. An actor who presumably plays Clive Campbell, otherwise known as DJ Kool Herc, is shown as he experiments with what would eventually become known as breakbeat DJing. At this point, the connection among these three factors, Ennio Morricone, Vinyl about 1970s rock-and-roll, and the conception of hip hop, is still very subtle, only really being linked as forms of music. Waking up this morning from a very, very surreal dream (perhaps sparked by the previous evening of excitement about visual story-telling), I decided to feed that post-dream liminal state and digest some thoughtful material. I settled for reading a review of last night’s episode of Vinyl. And it’s in the comments section of the article chosen where I see a mention about DJ Kool Herc’s cameo (the historical figure, not the actual person)  and decide to check out his Wikipedia page for a more educated background in hip hop (’cause there’s always time for that). In its section that breaks down his innovation of the breakbeat method, the article lists the three earliest known songs that Kool Herc used for his “Merry-Go-Round” partying technique and reads:

James Brown’s “Give It Up or Turnit a Loose” (with its refrain, “Now clap your hands! Stomp your feet!”), then switching from that record’s break into the break from a second record, “Bongo Rock” by The Incredible Bongo Band. From the “Bongo Rock”‘s break, Herc used a third record to switch to the break on “The Mexican” by the English rock band Babe Ruth

Now, Babe Ruth is a 1970s English rock band that experienced more widespread acclaim success in North America than they did in their native country, but I didn’t need help with an extra conceptual connect this time around because the song “The Mexican” (quite possibly where the name of the character in The Hateful Eight derives, or at the very least is partially inspired creatively) by its own name alone is already an infamous b-boy and hip hop song. B-boys competing on the floor is metaphoric to two or more individuals participating in a battle against each other, and the history of “The Mexican” itself has its own roots in “battle.” Original song-writer Alan Shacklock penned the lyrics of “The Mexican” as a retort to the historical inaccuracies of the 1960 John Wayne film The Alamo (another Western), that Shacklock felt did not show the human side of the Mexican troops who won over the Texian forces in the Battle of the Alamo (not another Western, something that actually happened in real life in the West). Adjourned in historical fascination at this point, I was already all but convinced this experience was a necessary entry in this article, when I continued to skim to the immediately succeeding paragraph that mentions that the song composition of “The Mexican” samples “Per qualche dollaro in più,” a composition featured in the musical score for the film (and last Western mention in our series of Western mentions to top it all off) For a Few Dollars More and a composition by none other than the historical, the influential, the accolade-worthy Ennio Morricone. And so, that’s real life influenced by film and television, influenced by music, influenced by other music, influenced by film and music, influenced by real life (and that’s the shortened version of it all), all continuing into the living, breathing today. The extra conceptually symmetrical icing on this wild, wild Western cake was that the moment I decided my Wikipedia browsing was over at that point and closed the browser tab, I somehow ended up on my Facebook feed and what presented itself was an article about how Leonardo DiCaprio had once almost quit acting to become none other than a professional break-dancer. And so, beyond a story of interconnecting experiences, it’s a story that comes full circle, with Morricone and DiCaprio claiming the spotlight in the beginning and in the end (and yet in an even grander sense, the two have respectfully been long overdue for particular honors). In a brief and tangential pondering last night, I wondered if there should even be an Oscar for Best Original Song more so than there should be Oscars for other certain contributions to the film-making process when the individuals responsible for given original song may actually have nothing to do with the film honored other than hopping into a recording studio thousands of miles away from the rest of the movie-making process (and then I realized the same could apply for most of the other categories and was like, “ughh, I guess“). But the chain of events that transpired in less than half a day (with me being unconscious for more than half of that half of a day) beckon me to appreciate the worldly art of both film and music above the technicalities of their regulated distinctions.

*Here’s me raising a glass just like Leonardo does in his portrayal of Gatsby in The Great Gatsby to all the artistic participants of this post.*

And yes, I was typing this all out while replaying “The Mexican” and listening to The Hateful Eight soundtrack! Now I need to go spend an equal amount of time to adequately record that insane dream I woke up from (and, in the spirit of dreams, one day I will be making some reflective post of this sort after having gone to the Academy Awards in person as opposed to viewing it from home)!

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