Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Review : Martha Marcy May Marlene

The film Martha Marcy May Marlene is set to have a theatrical release October 21st, 2011. I would recommend it. It is a story about a young woman who has been with a cult but escapes into the care of her sister.

Due to Adam's sweet SF Film Society membership we got to see a sneak peak of the film this Wednesday night. The director Sean Durkin and the lead actress Elizabeth Olsen were both there.

The Film : Tense. Very very tense. Multiple people in the theater used that word. But not so much with the slasher style tension. It's just a gripping story. Well acted, well paced, great story telling, and an interesting subject matter. I'm normally an escapist kinda' film fan that enjoys CG monsters and... well.. awesome CG in general. This is the completely opposite of such films (not a spec of CG in sight-- apparently made on a budget less then $1 mil) although it doesn't go so far as to be based on a specific real life event. Which is good.

I don't want to say too much about the story because knowing nothing allows it to unfurl wonderfully. I want to recommend it but it's both tense and intense in an emotional way. I would say if you like "movies" that can be "complicated", you should see it. Not a whole lot really happens in thriller-ish way... It's all about the characters. But that's good. The film doesn't really need to be seen on the big screen, but I would recommend seeing it in the theater anyway. Give Mr. Durkin money so he can continue to make excellent films like this. I would say that I walked away from the film contemplating things. Some things about the story and some things about the complications of life.

In the end, let me use comparisons to describe it rather then a direct potentially spoiler-y description. Character interaction like Rachel Getting Married (Jonathan Demme) with tension flavored like Funny Games (Michael Haneke). I felt an anxiousness similar to what I feel in a Tarantino film, but Adam disagreed.

The Talk : Hosted by the irritating fellow whose name escapes both Adam and I at the moment, but who've suffered through before. Thankfully he asked few questions and the ones he did weren't that painful. Highlight of his flubbing : "Next question... the gentleman in the back.... I mean lady.... ... ... I mean man" when addressing a single individual whose gender was in no way ambiguous in my opinion (other then some shoulder length blond hair).

The director was awesome. He wasn't hilarious like some directors we've seen, or overly insightful or deep-- despite attempted prodding from the audience (a you-had-to-be-there joke). But he was very coherent, gave lengthy and valuable answers, and overall seemed like he had a very good head on his shoulders. The film had been made with less then a million in budget, stemming from six investors. Very start-up-y, which is cute. This is his first feature length film (two shorts previous). He wrote the script himself and said he was loosely inspired/helped by a friend (of a friend?) who had gone through a cult experience. The cult no so much, but the emotional reactions and confusion afterwards. Also he appears rather shy and nervous in his posture and mannerisms, but it in no way reached his words or voice.

The actress was also awesome. This is surprising since often at the events we've attended the actors tend not to... contribute that much. To be fair, they are often given shittier questions. Elizabeth Olsen (yes, of *those* Olsens... she's a younger sister... which they mentioned not once- only realized it via imdb) seems just as practical and level headed as the director. She made it clear she enjoyed the roll but in no way associated with "method" acting. It was also interesting to hear that the script she was given was so precise and complete that she never really improvised or need help figuring out the character. It was all right there, in the script. As a fellow audience member mentioned, I too would be very interested in reading a copy of said script. A great speaker who took initiative and control of the conversation at points, in a good way. The talk of how well the grew got along during filming and what a great "family" they were was hilarious in my opinion given what we just saw.

Friday, August 26, 2011

I enjoy pretty things

I am a fan of sushi. I have become more and more of a fan over the years. My memory is poor, but I'm rather certain that before college I had limited Japanese food, and none of the roll or nigiri variety. It wasn't until after college that I really began to enjoy nigiri... perhaps some day I'll just be gulping down straight raw fish sans rice? (Sashimi?) Anyway, am not there yet... But am loving them rolls and nigiri. Tasty, "light", and often the most visually appealing food option out there.

Just wanted to mention the delight that is Blowfish Sushi. I'm not really recommending it for the sushi, mind you. I mean, the food is all right, the rolls are fine. I'd say I enjoy the nigiri at Sushi Bistro better, but between the two I'd prefer Blowfish every time. Why?

The desserts.

I'm a *huge* dessert fan and I've yet to see any place provide as stunning results as Blowfish. Forgive the poor cellphone photography, but the dessert from our last visit?

Crazy. It was like a child's cartoon. Pink cotton candy, vibrant purple ice-cream that tasted of grapes, and ricotta cheesecake that was neon yellow and super fluffy. Also, flower petals. I've never actually tasted "flowers" on the few occasions they've been part of a dish but hot-damn, I'm a sucker for them. The dish tasted nice too. But really... looking like that? I don't think the taste was all that important. I definitely recommend. I think it was the Moko Moko?

If you *do* actually care about taste, let me recommend the Zen Garden. I don't have a photo of it... though it certainly warrants one. Green tea ice cream, green tea cheese cake, and matcha sause. It is heaven. Both novel and tasty. Worth a visit alone. I might almost go so far as to say my most favorite dessert in all the city.

If you want something *other* then sweets, the rolls really are fine. The soft/fresh tofu was also really tasty and Adam's favorite dish. We had to wait a bit longer then expected last time, 20 minutes- even with a reservation, so they offered us the most delicious Ritus Roll on the house. I'd happily say that was my favorite savory dish. Such a pleasant mixture of textures and flavors!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

This will be awesome

There is now a legal version of Photoshop CS5 on my laptop. I even paid some money for it. I am very excited to be able to resume/increase frequency of computer sketching-- this being the first graphics software on the laptop. So far I've only been using my "chairtop"/iMac. My first (brief) test of it:

This is also the first time ever I've used Photoshop in the presence of someone who knows the software better then I. It's so enlightening! Exhilarating! Bewildering! Is this what it was like when I explained The Google to my sisters back in High School?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The background processes

I would just like to publicly state that I am still working on the quilt. Yay persistance! Boo lack of new content. It's hard to spiral out and do fantastical new projects when I've got the constant grind of hand sewing holding me down. Which isn't a *bad* thing-- stable "creative" work. It just means I'm limited in some acceptable ways.

(you can see the backing fabric to the left, the black binding on the hex tiles, and the blue binding for the quilt)

Have 10 of 19 hexes sewn up, though none of snaps on them yet. I've just now finished tying each quilt top hex to it's stuffing/backing with some basic floss. This means I can at least throw it around like a retarded (pin free) blanket. Need to either machine quilt it or hand sew the binding to the back now... am... not clear on which one to do... will I ever machine quilt it? Can I do it after the binding? I continue to learn a number of things from this... Have I mentioned that the next time I will be THROWING MONEY AT THE PROBLEM and hiring someone else to quilt the damn thing? (making the top is fun! this part... not so much... there's a place in Fremont I randomly stumbled into which I might use...)

Also, the plants are still sort of growing. I'm realizing that I have not yet found the balance of when/how much to water them yet. Many of my dear sweet green babies have yellowing/sad/dead lower leaves/branches. I think that means I'm wantering them too much... but they get so wilty so fast! I can't help but give them more water! It makes me think of a small child who throws a temper tantrum to get candy, always gets what they want, and is slowly becoming obese. I need to be more strict!

That hasn't stopped some of them from thriving though! Cucumber progress!

Also a number of smaller jars/experiments are... continouing to not die. The middle jar here is carrots. Hee hee! (on the left young mint and on the right older parsley)

Am enjoying myself. Already have ideas of how to do it better next year...

Monday, August 15, 2011


One of my New Year resolutions for 2011 was to read at least one book a month. Not "read 12 books in a year" but to ensure that my reading was/is continuos throughout the year. Unfortunately I haven't been keeping an exact eye on the matter, but I do believe I've maintained it.

Having a Kindle really helps with this. I'm still very pro-physical book, and have bought several new hard covers... but to be honest, have not read them through entirely... so bulky! This is a sad fact because I really wish to financially support some bookstores (like Borderlands!) but no longer actually want their product... I wish they had a tip jar or... something. An Amazon affiliate program? An in-store download station? I would happily pay more for a book download if I knew part of it went to a physical bookstore (especially if I used browsing in that bookstore to find the "book" I wanted).

But alas, the future continues to approach us and it turns out some things in the future are just better. Like reading on the Kindle. I continue to consume material via the Kindle at a slow but steady rate. This is a very good thing. Also, traveling with the Kindle is heaven. A major highlight of my last two trips (Japan & Belize) was the moments where I was simply hanging out and reading... It's not just easier to physically carry a large number of books with the Kindle, it turns out that I actually enjoy the reading experience with it more.

Yet another fantastic aspect of the Kindle-

While the Kindle (and devices in general) may potentially be "buggy" they do not literally have bugs in them. Like this book did, that Adam found on his shelf while we were rearranging the front room last weekend.

But back to the resolution- Earlier in the year I remembered exactly which book counted for each month, but I failed to write that down... now I just have the listing of my Amazon receipts... lets see what I can extract from them...
  • January : The Blade Itself: The First Law: Book One (First Law 1) (purchased 12/25/10)
  • multi-month/in-progress : Before They Are Hanged: The First Law: Book Two (First Law 2) (purchased 2/23/11)
  • February : The Name of the Wind (borrowed from Elise)
  • March : The Hunger Games (3/28/11)
  • April : Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games) (4/20/11)
  • also April : The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (4/20/11)
  • mult-month/in-progress : The Girl Who Played with Fire (4/20/11)
  • May : Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games) (4/30/11)
  • June : My Blood Approves (6/24/11)
  • July : Hollowland (The Hollows, #1) (6/24/11)
That might be stretching it a bit... a couple of those late-month purchases may have actually spanned the month boundary. Haven't started anything new yet for August (finishing up the in-progress ones) but hopefully it'll be A Wise Man's Fear (also borrowed from Elise). While I may not agree with a good number of the rankings on NPR's listeners' top 100 sci-fi/fantasy books, it at least is a guide-line I may refer to as the year progresses. Any suggestions?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Them arts

I used to draw all the time. Always. Non stop. I'd call myself average most the time, and for a brief period maybe kinda' good. But then I went back to just being very average.

Practice makes better, so I've been practicing. It helps to have a vivid subject matter and since Mel and I haven't settled on the MidWinter characters look like I've been... stumped there. Luckily my imagination has been propped up with off-and-on vivid dreams. They're... odd...

It helps to have such a clear image, but I miss drawing things that aren't me.

Also, sadly, I'd say the first sketch was the best and they've been getting worse since...

I do mean to keep sketching... I hope to pick up Photoshop for my laptop which will make sketching easier...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Knowing the words

One of the things I'm worst at is words. Terrible. I always like to say I'm good at talking to people. Silly contradiction. I believe both statements true, but I'm not really clear on how that works out. I think the "talking" I'm good at is actually called "making a connection"... not the kind of talking that conveys in real, solid data.

Anyway, it's hard to be good at something in a technical/work sense when you can't speak the jargon. So I've known of "closures" for a while. And I'm pretty sure I knew what a closure was even though if you had pressed me for a definition I'd have waved my hands about and said something about functions and private data and scope. Hacker news and some spare time at work resulted in me running through this:

What's a Closure?

Absolutely love it. Love it. It starts off slow (almost painfully so) but builds ever so nicely! I had a hiccup at #9 due to some typos/sloppy code and in #10 I forgot a return statement and failed to "see" that I had missed it for, like, 10 min.

Our... "PM"? McCool (yes, that's actually his real name) went through it as well. He has some minor programming experience from college but not much and he was stumped on a couple, but he worked through them. Which is awesome. Interesting how he actually read some things closer then I did. He raised (what I think is) a valid point about #7 which I didn't even see/consider. Relating to the fact that there's no guarantee the return value of f() is constant. Also, when he questioned me about a block of example code, my mind skipped around and was almost unable to process the code during the conversation. Very interesting.

Also, there's talk about doing an HTML5/JavaScript customer facing project at work, getting away from the sucking hole of hell that is Flex 4. Woot!

I still love Java the most :P

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Portal 2 : turret side-tracking...

I posted video footage of this a while ago... and the next day it was a broke-a-did by a friend while I was showing it off. Oops.

Finally got around to [hot] gluing it back together this weekend. 's kinda' cute... Unfortunately one of the sides is a bit thick and that's the side connected to the tip of the nail (I use nails for my straight lines in this) which all just means that the connection to the "arm" is too thick and it can't close completely. As demonstrated below.

In case you need some helper music while watching this... Don't forget the Portal 2 soundtrack is an EXCELLENT free download!

Clearly I need to work on my .gif making...

(in other news : worken on the quilt... worken' worken'. The garden is growing- I have not one but TWO pea pods now! The pole beans are really, any day now, about to flower... any day now... )