dal niente

Month: January, 2014

“Can You Start Tomorrow ?”

“Sure.”

It is not a graduate lawyer job– its more of a casual paralegal deal. Which means the pay is not as good and there is less stability– but it is a start, and given the terrible market for law graduates and legal work in general, I’m grateful for the break.

It is rather sudden, but tomorrow I start work as an employment law paralegal at a small specialty firm owned by one of my previous professors.

This might be the start of something!

Education by Entertainment

I’m not sure why I still watch a lot of anime and read a lot of manga that I do.  I got into this stuff when I was in my teens– and back then, it was all revolutionary, because on average, there were a lot more adult themes to anime/manga that you couldn’t find in American comics of the same era.  French comics were way ahead of American comics in this respect: they often dealt with taboo content such as sex, violence, and real depravity of the human psyche that American comics dealt with superficially, but I hadn’t yet discovered these at the time so I’ll make the comparison to manga/anime exclusively for now.

Maybe I’m outgrowing it.  There are few animes now that I think are trying to do anything intellectual.  The last interesting ones that bothered my brain a bit were Psycho-Pass, a story about the struggles of law enforcers in a Minority Report-esque legal system that crosses a bit with Gattica themes of social determinism; and Guilty Crown, to a lesser extent, a story about a young teenager’s rise to power in an Animal Farm setting because he arbitrarily come upon a power superior to those around him (hence, the “guilty crown”).  I found those interesting because of the general themes to the animes– in executation however, looking too closely at any bits of it in isolation from the theme revealed how disintegrated animes and managas really are.

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I think there’s a big difference between the way that an anime is executed and the way a live action series is executed. I think it has something to do with the serialised nature of the typical television anime– it’s episodal, and there are usually shitloads of characters.  However, at the end of the day, anime characters are all scripted by the same person, and art direction is done by usually one person whose job is to keep things in sync.  The big difference between anime and live-action is that with live action, the director inevitably creates the screen production by linking together a handful of actors’ interpretations of script– and if you have good actors, you have a lot more space for some really interesting stuff with all of their acting– their acting is a mess of vector quantities trying to push different interpretations of the whole theme in different directions simulatensouly.  In animes, the tug is limited to voice.

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I’ll give you an example.  One of my favourite characters of all time is Louis Litt from Suits.  Sure, he gets some great dialouge– but I’m certain that a lot of my image of this character whenever I close my eyes is due to everything the individual actor (Rick Hoffman) put on top of the written idea. The character has a particular posture, a particular smile, a particular rhythm of speaking  and body language that I do not think could be planned on paper.

Despite the writers’ of Suits final draft of a script, ultimately it is only a foundation– I think that the tugs of the individual characters are what add the dynamism that keep any series going.

I am not saying that a live action series cannot get boring– what I am saying is that if I were looking at the two mediums, characterisation is something that is, in my opinion, almost always done better in live action than in animes.  There are, of course, exceptions, but I’m speaking generally.

 

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In contrast, I feel that the process of creating an anime is a much more “controlled” environment, and that’s exactly the problem.  Plot lines and character interactions tend to be streamlined in such a way that if you actually acted out anime scenes with live action actors, it would feel surreally unnatural.  A lot of the way that an anime is arranged is all about timing– fitting a few objectives into a 22-minute episode.  Sometimes, stalling to fill out 22 minutes.

Anime isn’t the only medium that suffers like this– if you watch any American cartoons of the Nickelodeon variety, it’s the same thing.

WIthout actors to interpret the individual characters and add a certain je ne sais quoi to them, what happens is that the direction maintains such streamlined control over all the characters that, if you’re looking out for it, you see how very formulaic animations really are– especially the ones that reuse frames.

A side effect of the strict control on characters is the need to artifically add characterisation to the characters — and that’s how you end up with anime characters who are exaggerated trophes.

 

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I grew up reading things like Ranma 1/2, Sailor Moon, and City Hunter.  Later, in the golden age of my anime watching, I got to grow up watching the early seasons of things like Bleach, Naruto, and Hajime no Ippo.  I’ve literally read and watched hundreds of more obscure titles, but I’m just using these as examples because they’re more likely to be common ground with a lot of people.

 

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Nowadays, when I watch Bleach, Naruto, and Hajime no Ippo, I do so out of an attempt at nostalgia more than anything else.  I grew up with them in a way that used to make me feel like I was their friends– when I was younger, I had a much more simplistic view of the world.

 

Nowadays? If I met people like Ichigo, Naruto, or Ippo, or any of their friends for that matter, I would not want to know them– because they’re infuriatingly stupid people.  They used to grow– but somewhere, the writers for those characters ran out of ways to make them feel any more real and sympathisable as characters.  Indeed, if they became any more real, they might lose the exaggerated qualities that made the trope formulas work in the first place– so the characters remain emotional intelligence idiots.  They learn new techniques, they get more powerful, but their ability to interact with other people in meaningful ways? None of that ever changes.

 

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I guess what I’m getting at is that when we’re young, we’re looking for heroes.  Heroes are something that we get to look forward to.  We want to become them.  I wanted to be a Jedi when I was a kid, for example.  It wasn’t just because of what they could do– it was because of who they were on the inside that heroes were heroes to us.

But as we grow older, the downfall of stories that continue with us is that if they don’t grow to stay ahead, we feel an emptiness when we surpass them.  That is not to say that I am a more powerful ninja, soul reaper or boxer than a fictional character– but as human beings, I feel that I’ve grown in intelligence and emotional capcity.  In comparison, these characters are so broken that I sometimes feel betrayed to have ever believed in them– they are so narrowly focused on excellence in a particular thing that they completely ignore growth of any spiritual or emotional sort.

 

What is the lesson that a typical shonen hero teaches us?

Fight, fight, FIGHT. In real life, that kind of obstinancy makes you a grown adult who is embarassing to be around because you’d essentially be trying out-preach people with tantrums rather than reason.  Fighting is a child’s method of argument.  When does a character who we aspire to put away childish things? Or at least, learn to use it as a tool as part of some greater thing?  Nobody trusts someone with perfect resolve– because that sort of lack of fear or contextual sensitivity is the stuff of sociopaths and psychopaths.  Their beliefs are arbitrary, and their orientation towards their personal goals draws a line: you’re either on their side or you’re not.

What kinds of examples do these characters set?

Don’t you feel that oftentimes, the villains have actually thought about social interaction a bit more than the main characters?

 

 

Am I the only one who sympathises with Ozymandius and Madara? Why should characters who have actually suffered real loss be marginalised to trophic heroes who are nothing more than indocrtinated partisans who have never really thought about how people in society interact?

 

 

 

Perseverance, perfectionism, and the impossible

Cristian Mihai

impossibleIn a way, I believe that all artists are possessed by this silly ambition: they want to do something no one else has done before. They want to create something that’s perfect. And they try, again and again, and they always fail. It seems to me that this is what truly motivates us.

We keep on writing because nothing we write is good enough, or at least, as good as we think it should be. Or as good as we think it deserves to be.

No story is ever “finished.” There’s always something to change, to add, to remove.

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I wonder if my neighbours have been murdered

I can’t actually tell which apartment unit it is, because I hear it from my window so it could be almost anyone with the way sound bounces off the next building, but every morning I get to wake up at 7:30 am because their alarm clock rings unchecked for about an hour.

And if they are not dead , then we must kill them.

好妻子 – perfect Chinese and Polish wives

My Hong Kong Husband

Few days ago on SpeakingOfChina facebook page posted a link to a book by Susan Blumberg-Kason: Good Chinese Wife: A Cross-Cultural Memoir. image (4)I started to wonder what is a ‘good wife’ in Chinese men’s eyes and how ‘perfect woman’ is seen in the eyes of ‘my people’. Do I qualify as a good wife? How similar and how different guys raised in two different cultures can be?
We did some research, checked questionnaires and summed it with a picture of a good partner!

What’s the most important for Chinese men?

  • She needs to take care of my parents
  • Very elegant, virtuous, modest
  • Comes from a good family
  • Has a temper
  • Can think of her own, has her own taste and thoughts – can make up her mind what she wants to eat or when she wants to go, doesn’t say ‘I can eat whatever’ and then reject all your propositions

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After school

[CM] was translating a term for me from Japanese which I came across a few months ago.  The word is “nakama,” and it sums up what I miss about Montreal.

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Lately, I feel like I’ve been living things healthier than I had been in the past few months.  There’s more of a balance to things.  This probably has to do with the fact that my degree is almost over, so there is significantly less paper-writing drama going on.

CM has also been out of town for a about a month now doing her electives in Canada.

When she first left, I was in a pretty depressing situation.  Having just returned to our Sydney apartment from a month of madness in Hong Kong doing  the internship, I was suddenly left with a week of vacation before staring summer school.

I lived like a recluse.  I was depressed about not having CM to rely on for many simple things– someone to eat with, someone to chat with, someone to sleep with.  I spent the entire week with my eyes glued to a screen, playing and finishing video games.  I did very little aside from eat, game, and sleep– I even ordered learned how to order my groceries online and have them delivered, so I wouldn’t need to expose myself to the world outside.

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Now things have significantly improved.  My brain has been recalibrated.  I’ve finished one of the summer classes (except for the writing of the final paper).  I’ve lost about 6 kilograms of fat and am now as lean as I’ve ever been, cranking out about 60 km of cycling per week and 8 to  10 hours of judo per week.

I feel fit.  I think a lot of the stress of hong kong was because I could feel my body getting fat.   I didn’t do any exercise while I was there, it was a planned physical vacation to give my injuries time to heal uninterrupted.  But at the same time– just putting away calories?  I think my mind was used to me eating food in certain quantities.  It didnt take into account that I wasn’t burning even a quarter of the energy that I did when I was training.

Anyway, so I’m back in shape.  No recent injuries.  The old injuries are healing, very slowly, but gradually.

Perhaps the big difference though is that I’ve been hanging out with the judo people outside of judo.  I’ve been to a coupe of dinners now, and it’ss been really good to just sit down and talk with people.

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It might sound ridiculous to you.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that I had become a recluse.  It was easy, actually: even when CM and I were in Sydney up until November, I interacted very little with anyone aside from CM.  I was always focused on work and school.  I might get to socialise a bit with [DilligentB], but otherwise, that’s it.

My other studymate, [TheCaptain], has gone completely AWOL.  He’s the type of guy who is as “nice” as they come, but he’s totally unreliable and not particularly loyal.

I know there are a lot of people in my cohort who are interesting and amazing people in many ways– but I never had time for friends.  I spent very little time in the past 3 years making or maintaining close friends because I got here for business– it was a conscious decision to put studies ahead of everything else.  It paid off– I’m more or less lined up for First Class Honours upon graduation.  I have no regrets about trying to be serious about work and studies, even if it meant missing out on almost all the parties, drinks, and bonding time.

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Things have changed a bit now though– and my life is becoming more similar to when I got back to Montreal 2.0 when finishing the sting in South Korea.

I’m in a position now where my responsibilities are starting to diminish.  With school almost out of the way, it’s just a matter of maintaining the dilligence for job applications, which is relatively easier than going to class every day.  I have a lot more flex time and a lot more control over my day to day affairs.

It also means that I’ve had more time for people.  I’ve spent it on people, too.  I’ve been hosting weekly dinner parties at the apartment in an effort not just to make some memories, but also to get better at cooking.  I’ve been hanging out with the judo folks.  I’ve been talking to people I haven’t talked to in years– just the other night, I sat down with a couple of colleagues who I haven’t really worked with in over  a year.

Where does the time all go?

It’s so easy to be focused and effective and to gun after what we want in life– it’s also easy to forget that at the end of the day, we don’t want to lose sight of the opportunities for human connection and happiness that those sorts of professional endeavours were originally supposed to get us.

“Nice guys”

I don’t care when people are “nice guys” or “nice girls,” because they’re a dime a dozen.  What matters to me is the passion and/or substance.

I lost my cool on thursday at judo, and I don’t even feel that bad about it in retrospect. I was paired with [Will] for some tachiwaza  (standing throws) practice, as well as randori (sparring) for both standup and ground work.

I’ve spoken about Will before, and my main description of him revolves around the fact that he’s about as meek and non-commital as they come.  I think I’ve gone as far as calling him a coward.  He’s either afraid of hurting people or is afraid of making mistakes– perhaps all of the above– and the end result is that he is a terrible training partner who never really wants to engage in any experimentation and exerts little effort.

When it comes to technical practice drills, his throws are still extremely jagged and mechanical.  This is a bad thing, because the more mechanical you make a throw, it actually makes it significantly more difficult for your training partner because it’s difficult for them to break their fall.  In reality, he knows how to do the throws, but he suffers from such crippling lack of confidence that his strength and weight is not taken advantage of.

When it comes to randori, his energy is 99% spent fighting you to a stalemate.  He only attemptsto use the same couple of techniques head on once in a while, but for the rest of the match, he uses a strategy of “stiff arming” to basically push the opponent away and prevent the opponent from coming in and throwing.  It’s a stalling tactic that is normally penalised in competition, because it gets nowhere.  It’s recognised at even the Olympic level that if two players of roughly the same overal training and size fight, and one of them is allowed to put all his energy into not being thrown, it’s really difficult for an opponent to deal with.  It’d be like watching a boxing match where one of the boxers just basically spent the rounds running a marathon in circles around the ring to avoid getting hit.

While we were doing the technical drills, I was doing 90% of the throwing because he simply didn’t want to.  He kept telling me to do the throws.  I told him, “Will, you need to start somewhere.  It’s your turn, just try one.”

“It’s just that, if we don’t know how to do it, it’s meaningless to try.”

Excuse me? Well fuck you, man.  Yes it’s true that to a certain extent, not knowing the basics of a technique makes it such that it’s less useful, and perhaps even dangerous to a certain degree to attempt it.  But we’re no longer white belts.  Even if we don’t know the finer points of throws we’ve never seen before, we know enough throwing technique to experiment and build a technique up from experimentation just by watching others.  It’s not the job of the sensei to give us private lessons about every last thing– we need to move and experiment.  It is a martial art, and we are not here to be coddled.

Meaningless?  You mean to say that you’re just watching me throw you around and you think that what I’m doing is meaningless? What about everyone else in the room who is also working hard to figure out their way? Fuck you, man.

Well, I kept my mouth shut about that for a while, because I wasn’t sure if perhaps he wasn’t feeling well, or perhaps that he’d been injured and was just embarassed about it or something. So I let it slide and just continued to do all the work…

When we moved on to stand up sparring, I ended up doing a round against him and as usual, he was working to basically prevent himself from being thrown the entire time. I suppose it’s a legitimate tactic, but what really are we learning by playing to stalemates?  If I didn’t attack, the round would literally have gone 5 minutes without anything happening.  I guess I have to fight more and more aggressively to break it down, but does he really feel like he’s doing anybody favours by not attacking?

WHen it came to ground work, that’s when I got really pissed off.  I had him in my guard at some point (a neutral-ish position, considering that he’s significantly heavier than me).  And all he did? He stayed perfectly still.  That’s all he did.  I tried a few position changes and he just retreated and retreated.  At some point, I gave him guard, and all he did was lie on his back, waiting for me to act.

Okay, sure– I suppose you could say it’s an opportunity for me to work on whatever I want to work on.  But to have an opponent who is basically playing the sandbag in a part of my day when I’m supposed to be working on tactics and experimenting, not just on attacking a brick wall mentality but also on how to train my own defenses?

Before the sparring round on the ground ended, I said it flatly to the face: “Forget it.  I”ve had enough.  You’re not trying, you’re wasting my fucking time.  What the fuck are you doing here? If you don’t want to work, stay home.”

Now, those of you who know me in person know that I’m a pretty friendly guy.  I swear here and there, but it’s almost always in a joking context or a descrptive sort of way to add emphasis.  “That was fucking hilarious!” or “I had no idea what the fuck was going on.”

As an English major, and as someone who has spent time teaching, coaching, and workign professionally, I make no apologies for swearing– like other techniques such as timing, rhythm, body language and delivery, swearing has it’s place in effective delivery of ideas.

 

But it is seldom that I will swear at someone.  In fact, I don’t remember the last time I swore at someone.  For me to use swear words in anger, and to blame my anger directly on someone at the same time: “What the fuck are you doing here?” is a usage that is different for me.

 

 

I’ve spent almost two decades in martial arts and sport taking on people who wanted to beat me, or beat me up.  Oftentimes they succeeded.  But I was seldom ever angry at people for them going after me– what has consistently angered me about people is not when they direct their energy at me, but when they have no energy at all.

 

I often end up training with Will because he’s roughly the same weight as me (although by roughly, he’s actually almost 10kilograms heavier than me).  I have been doing judo for a bit over a year now– we started at the same time.  I have always been kind to him.  I”ve been very patient and very understanding of his personality.  So it’s not that I’ve not given him a chance– I’ve been working with him for over a year now.

 

But, nice guy as he is, he’s useless to me in judo.  I’m fed up of him and, from now on, I’ll avoid training with him whenever I can.

 

It came up in discussion at dinner with some classmates how much I hate the expression “he’s a nice guy” or “she’s a nice girl,” because to me, it’s a waste of breath.  If you want to put it cynically, I only make friends with people who are useful to me.  That means that I have to enjoy the time I spend with them for some reason or another.  There has to be some sort of benefit.   I’m not saying necessarily that it has to be a material benefit– it could also be psychological or spiritual. I might just enjoy your company, I might enjoy the conversations we have.  But if you’re just nice?

 

I’m not someone who has infinite time and patience for people who are simply harmless.  There are billions of people on the planet who are actually interesting– why waste time with the ones who aren’t?

 

WIthout any passion or substance, and that could include history, people are fundamentally worthless to me.

“multicultural”

“Multicultural”

I often hear people in Sydney make comments that this place is very “multicultural.”

I suppose everything is relative.  As a Montrealer however, and considering the term on a sliding scale from “not multicultural” to “very multicultural,” I don’t agree with the statement at all.

Sydney proper perhaps has more ethnicities present than the more rural areas of Sydney, but compared to other international cities…?

I guess it just reflects particular sheltered views.

Who Am I

It just took me about 2 hours to update my CV and LinkedIn profile.

 

Time to start job hunting again…

Sydney Heat

In spite of my last post, I’ve been pretty productive today.

It’s been difficult so far to keep up with my summer class because the school bookstore didn’t order enough books.  For a class of 40, the bookstore had purchased 7 copies, which is simply retarded– more than half of the class doesn’t have books yet, and it’s an intensive class which will be over in a little over a week.  So waiting a few days for a book to arrive is just a painful option.

My university doesn’t seem to have the book in the library either, so that’s out the window.  Thankfully, there is at least a copy of the textbook at [CM]’s library in the 2-hour short loan section.  I’ve been here for the whole morning reading the textbook.

I can’t say it’s convenient for me to come to a library to read something in person, but this uni is only about 10 minutes away on bike.  And unlike the apartment, the library is air conditioned, which is a definite plus given that it’s almost 40 degrees Celsius in Sydney right now.

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As a Montreal Canadian, the heat in Sydney is really killing me.  I think it has a very direct effect on my mood and productivity.

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Just revised my CV.  It’s rather annoying, but it feels like I have to do this like once a month. I do have to change things because new things come up that should be added in, but I wonder if the CV as a whole is actually getting better in some quantifyable way.

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I’m a bit annoyed that WiFi on my linux running netbook doesn’t seem to like the university connections.  I have no problems anywhere else when on home networks, but something about the way that UNSW and USyd do things with VPNs just makes my wifi connections go batshit insane, and they don’t work.  Partly it’s probably because the university doesn’t have great support for linux OSes, but that shouldn’t affect much– the main problem is probably on my OS side.  Too many options for protocols and whatnots that the university doesn’t really tell you what to chose from, because they just assume it should just work with automatic settings on everything.

I think that this is probably the big reason why even as friendly a distro as Mint (which I’m using) isn’t going to take as much market share as Windows or Apple; they can’t get the simple shit like a wifi connection working with a few clicks.

I don’t think that’s the way things should be nowadays– with my smartphone, username and password are all I need and things just work.  That’s the way it should be.

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Going to be submitting an application to a tenancy law job later today.  Wish me luck.