Thursday, July 29, 2010

White Sands, Part 2

When I looked at my blog today, I noticed that the video I posted of White Sands is pretty crappy. Turns out, Blogger compresses videos. Sigh. I haven't the wherewithal to figure out how to un-compress the video, so ... photos will have to do.

Here's the link to the gallery, as I'm only going to post a few of the pictures on my blog:

White Sands

First off, it was insanely hot the day I went to White Sands. I didn't pick a great time, since it's the middle of the summer, and monsoon season hadn't really swung into gear. (Monsoon season is in full swing now and effectively cools down the weather a good 15 - 20 degrees.)

I am stubborn and I get crazy ideas in my head that I must follow, so I pooh-pooh'ed the weather, packed a cooler full of ice, water, and snacks, and drove off into the sunset. Before I got to White Sands, I did stop to get gas at a tiny town with a big name:
Literally only stopped so I could take a picture of that sign- I had probably a good half-tank of gas left. It's such a fun name, I couldn't resist! And the city of Elephant Butte sounds like a fun time, too.

There are clouds for miles. I know that the Midwest is considered "Big Sky country," because of the flat land and abundance of nature, but the sky here is pretty darn big, too:
With amazing clouds, with insanely fast mood swings. These clouds change so fast it's amazing that they're all in the same sky.
Even without clouds, the sky feels big. I don't even know how to describe it. It feels like there's so much space, a sensation that I never got in LA, even when I was out in nature. Something about the desert, maybe?
Beautifully soft clouds with beautifully soft sand. The sand really is very white. It's very fine, almost like cosmetic powder, which makes it stick to everything. I got home and shook out a good half-cup of sand all over the place.
There were these strange, hard ridges in the valleys between some of the dunes. I looked it up when I got home, and I think these are called alkali flats, or dry lakes. The trail I hiked is called the Alkali Flat Trail, so I consider that proof. I found the patterns to be very pretty, some rigid structure among the constantly changing sand dunes.
A closer look at those ridges. They're definitely made of sand, but somehow clumped together. I don't know how or why, but it's definitely interesting. I picked off a piece of a ridge, and though it looks hard and sharp, it crumbled gently into soft sand. An almost alien landscape.

Fun picnic areas, with these funny little covers over the tables. The shape, the design, the metal- it all reminds of what was considered "space age" in the '60's. Almost retro, but so cute! I love these things.

During my hike along the Alkali Flat Trail, there were a few signs of life- footprints, markers for the trail, and even a few bugs. The bugs didn't come out until the sun started to set, but once the temperature dropped, they were scuttling across the sand dunes quickly.
Yes, I got this close to a bug. It was a little scary- I don't like bugs, I will never be an entomologist- but somehow, the fact that life could exist in such a barren landscape made me appreciate this little guy.
This might be the same species as the previous bug, but they looked different enough to me at the time (with snowblindness and exhaustion) that I look his picture, too.
I quite liked this bug. Maybe he's a scarab? I associate scarabs with deserts, thanks to repeated viewings of "Aladdin" as a small child. This dude ran across the sand, leaving behind slight footprints. He was moving fast, and I had to run after him to take this picture. I don't know where he was in such a rush to run off to, but he provided me with some amusement at the end of my hike, when I was tired and felt like I would never find my car.

It was a lovely visit, albeit hot as Hades and a little scary. The scary part being that I decided to go hiking along a trail that didn't have markers posted very close together. So I would see a marker, trek over to it, then would have to scope out the area to find the next marker. It made the hike interesting, since I kept veering off course to look for the next marker.

By the time I the sun set and I couldn't take any more pictures, it had gotten sufficiently dark enough to worry me. I kept thinking that I would never find the next marker, and that I would never be able to get home. I wondered how long my bottle of water would last, and how cold the sand got at night.

It was all silly speculation, of course. I found my way back (though the trail seemed eight times longer than when I was setting off) and made it home. I have never been so happy to see my car before, that's for sure.

Then, while the relief of finding my car and not having to sleep on sand was still coursing through my veins, I got caught in a giant lightning storm.

There are lightning storms here that do not have thunder. There are thunderstorms here that do not have lightning. Then, there are lightning storms that don't have thunder but have rain. And there are thunderstorms that do not have lightning but have rain. And any combination of the three- lightning, thunder, and rain. I got caught in the epic storm that had all three, which was a first for me. I'm usually caught in one or two of those elements, but not all three.

It was a bit of a scary drive, with the thunder rumbling, the lightning crackling, and the rain pelting down. The rain eased up almost immediately, and then I was just stuck with crazy lightning and thunder for most of my trip back home.

I imagined what it would be like to get struck by lightning, and what I should do if my car was struck by lightning. Since the tires are rubber ... I should be fine, right? What parts of my car are metal that I shouldn't touch? Is the steering wheel grounded? All kinds of random thoughts.

The worry was for naught, but it made me realize how truly insignificant I am in the scheme of things. A lightning bolt, one of hundreds that occurred during that storm, could have killed me. I could have died as easily as a petunia in the desert, but I didn't. And how lucky am I, just for that survival?

Very lucky.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

White Sands, Part 1

A couple weekends ago, I went off to White Sands National Monument. From Albuquerque, it takes about three to fours hours to get there. (Albuquerque's in central New Mexico, White Sands is at the southern end.)

I knew how long the drive would be, and I knew how hot it was going to be (105 degrees!), but I decided to do it anyway. And I decided to go alone. I needed to gather my thoughts, catch my breath, and collect a few photos. White Sands is, as the name plainly describes, an enormous amount of white sand, shaped by the wind into dunes.

One of the most fascinating things about White Sands is how the top layer of sand blows in the wind. I tried to capture it pictures (I'm still going through the hundreds that I took), but I didn't feel like the photos would do justice to the odd magic of this sand.

I have never owned a video camera in my life, but I do have a video camera in my phone. So I whipped it out and took this short video:

video

Not the best quality, of course- it's a video from a phone!- but I think it illustrates the point pretty well. I went hiking on the dunes after ignoring a few signs that said "WARNING: DO NOT HIKE ALONE." After the first half mile or so, there was nobody around. It was silent, except for the sound of the sand blowing in the wind.

The sand causes snowblindness (sandblindness?), but I didn't want to put on sunglasses. The sand is so white. It feels so clean, somehow. I was exhausted after hiking a few miles, but the trip was worth it.

More photos as soon as I can get through all of them and make some selects...

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Talent vs. Effort

What makes someone good at their job?

In some businesses, it's mostly about talent- musicians (not pop stars, real musicians), dancers, fine artists, and the like. In other businesses, it's about the time and money invested into training and education- doctors, programmers, mechanics, lawyers, and so on.

There is always that gray area, though. Some programmers are revered because they have "the gift." Some dancers are known as great technicians, technique being something that can be taught. Some artists are more talented, while others have a better grasp of the concepts, like composition and colors.

I can't think of any single occupation that is entirely right-brained or entirely left-brained. There is an artistry in numbers and a science to art, in my opinion.

All these thoughts occurred to me rather randomly today, while at work, because of a co-worker of mine. Not necessarily bad at the job (we do the same job), but ... somehow ... not great. What makes a coordinator a good coordinator? What makes anyone in production good at their job?

My keys to being in production:

Be aware. 
I am an information junkie. I receive tons of e-mails, IM's, RSS feeds, texts, and phone calls because I am very insistent on staying in the loop. If I know everything, then there's one more person aware of what's going on, and small pieces are less likely to fall through the cracks- or so I think, anyway.

Multi-task.
This is a big one. I am generally having several IM conversations while checking e-mails, taking notes, and making sure everything is up-to-date. I juggle because it's literally the only way that I will get everything on my plate done, or at least done to a point that I can tolerate. Some people are not good at multi-tasking at all. They lose track of things, they forget things- I believe multi-tasking can be learned through sheer will, which is how I figured it out.

Shortcuts.
If I didn't know shortcuts, my long work days would become even longer. Every second counts when there are four thousand and twenty-two things to do, so I take advantage of everything. Ctrl + c to copy, Ctrl + v to paste. Alt + Tab to switch between applications, Ctrl + Tab to switch between tabs, Ctrl + Shift + Tab to switch between tabs backwards. Ctrl + W to close tabs, Windows + D to minimize all applications ... the list goes on and on. These little tiny seconds add up, really!

Anticipate.
I have around 30 people that I interact with daily, with probably another 40 that I occasionally interact with. This is actually not that many people. For most of the people that I speak to upwards of ten times a day, I can anticipate what they want. I know how they like their reports formatted. I know what kinds of information they need. I know what files they're going to ask about. All I have to do is a little preventative research to keep myself from scrambling at the last minute.

Speed.
"The quicker the better" applies to a lot of things in the making of a film. The faster you find answers, lost files, solutions to problems, the better. This is part of the reason that I have a completely Pavlovian reaction to my phone, because those e-mails that are streaming in? I better answer those quickly! Money is everything, and waiting around for some information leads to wasting money.


I think that's pretty much it. I don't know what makes some people "better" at their jobs than others. I think part of it is perception, and part of it is how well one works with co-workers. I don't like being surrounded by a ton of people, because I feel the pressure to ... I don't know ... be nice? Get along with everyone? Have everyone like me? I don't know. Anyways. When I am surrounded by people, I notice that I tend to talk faster, move faster, and have less patience. I'm not super friendly at work. I'm just ... doing my job.

What I perceive to be someone "bad" at their job is a person that yaks a lot, socializes, doesn't do their work in a timely (or complete) manner, and generally just annoys me by making me wait for them to do what they need to do so that I can do what I need to do.

I'm sure this is not just true of the VFX or film industries- this has to be a universal thing. I would think. But what do I know, I've only ever worked in this one business!

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Packed Days

It's rare that I'm actually always consistently busy. My days generally ramp up and ramp down in cycles, with bursts of time during which I'm maddeningly busy.

On this movie, that old way of life is pretty much kaput. My days are packed full, with something to do every single minute. It's nice, in a way, to focus solely on one thing. Of course, it's not nice at the same time because it means that I have less time for things like checking personal e-mails, browsing through my favorite websites, and blogging.

While I buy myself some time with the eternally lame excuse of work, here's a photo!

Where was I? I'm sorting through the photos, slowly but surely, but this one stood out to me in the first batch that I went through. Looks like snow, no? Or piles of cake flour, maybe.

Back to the land of green I go.

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Petroglyph National Monument

Just about 15 minutes away from my apartment here in Albuquerque is the Petroglyph National Monument, basically small cliffs and small valleys in an arid environment where there are lots of petroglyphs.

Last weekend, I decided that I needed some sun, which is very uncharacteristic of me. So I impulsively decided to go to Petroglyph National Monument and hike around the Boca Negra Canyon. I haven't really been taking pictures lately; after my trip to Hawaii (I still have to wade through the thousands of photos from Korea and Hawaii), I haven't been very inspired to. But I took along my camera and, surprisingly, look a couple hundred shots. I guess Albuquerque can be inspiring if I just let it.

Here's the entire photo album- I'm only going to paste a few pictures in this blog entry:

Petroglyph National Monument

(Click on any of the photos below for a bigger version.)


The weather was actually a bit hot for hiking, but I'm stubborn. I threw a cold bottle of water, my camera, wallet, and phone into a backpack and drove across town to the canyon.

The temperatures may have been in the nineties, but it was still gorgeous out. Blue sky, white clouds, and petroglyphs from around 1300- a nice combination, worth the slight sunburn I received.

The petroglyphs here are in the Rio Grande style, speculated to be part of the Pueblo culture. Some of the petroglyphs are very readily recognizable, but others are unidentifiable. The following was one of my favorites, because I thought it looked like a lizard with a lollipop. Yes, I know there were no lollipops in 1300, but still!

One of my favorite things about living in this city is the sky. It's volatile and always beautiful. The clouds are very fickle here- nowhere to be seen during the beginning of the day, lightly and airy and fluffy in the afternoon, and then dark, ominous, and colorful in the evening.

A very distinct collection of petroglyphs. I couldn't figure out what these were, but they're interesting. Most of the petroglyphs were facing south or southeast, probably a side effect of the weather (the sun, the snow).

I loved this incongruous boardwalk at the base of the first trail I hiked (the Mesa Point Trail). The first trail was pretty short, leading up to a flat mesa-type area. After Mesa Point, I walked along this boardwalk to another short trail.

These Petroglyphs looked a little deeper than the ones on Mesa Point, and the rocks were a different color- less red, more slate or gray. Who knows what that means.

I walked back to my car after the second trail and spotted something under a bridge, part of the boardwalk system. I took a picture from afar and tried to figure out what it was. I got as close as I could to take more pictures- this was the last one I took before the critter scampered off.

A bunny! A tiny, cute, white-tailed little bunny! He was just sprawled out in the dirt, relaxing in the shade of the bridge. He was the smallest bunny I've ever seen, probably no more than a pound, and I just wanted to grab him and give him a drink of water (even if rabbits don't like water).

It was a nice day, though I was wiped out by the end. I was only hiking for a couple hours at most, but the ninety-degree heat and the unrelenting sun were exhausting.

The petroglyphs helped me quiet my mind a little, getting me closer to peace. I always have a lot of white noise in my brain, and the quietness, the serenity, the scarcity of people all helped. There's a sort of gravity in the rocks, that feeling of history that I always get when I see petroglyphs or anything else that remains in its natural state from centuries ago. I'll definitely be going back, with and without my camera.

More photos from New Mexico soon!

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

R.I.P. Park Yong-Ha (박용하)

Sigh.

This is so wrong! What is going on in the world?? I don't like to vacate my blog for quite some time, only to return with dour news, yet here I am.

Park Yong-Ha (박용하) passed away on June 30.

What is truly depressing is that when I read about his death, I immediately assumed it was suicide. I don't know why I didn't assume it was a botched burglary or a car-jacking or a crazed stalker, but I didn't. I immediately went to suicide.

And I was right, which is the real bummer.

It seems like there are a very large amount of Korean celebrities committing suicide- at least in proportion to their American counterparts. I rarely read about American celebrities committing suicide. Americans go to rehab, flash their private bits, drunkenly yell racial slurs, and seem to go shopping all the time, but they rarely commit suicide. Why is that?

Well, what I originally ranted about a year and a half ago seems to hold true. Depression is still not taken seriously enough in Korea, at least from where I sit and watch, half a world away. People are still ashamed to tell others they are depressed and to seek help. This is so, so sad.

I remember Park Yong-Ha from two dramas that he did: "Winter Sonata," which was really about Bae Yong-Joon (배용준) and Choi Ji-Woo (최지우), probably the two biggest and earliest Hallyu behemoths ever, and "On Air," which I recall as being about two of the cattiest, most obnoxious women ever written.

He's a singer, as well, and achieved great popularity in Japan. On his Twitter, the homepage that he's listed is his official Japanese fan site. Here's a song from "On Air":

Admittedly, not the best singer. Not by a long stretch. But he seemed like a sweet guy, charming and self-effacing. It's hard to imagine that this guy, at 32, was so depressed that he hung himself with the cable from his camcorder.

I really hope that depression (and other mental health issues) starts to get treated like a disease rather than a death sentence in Korea. People need to speak out, speak up, and get help. It's better to be mocked and teased but happy than to be admired and loved but depressed, isn't it?

I certainly think so.

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

Bittersweet

I got offered a job today. It was a job that I really, really wanted. A job that I interviewed for, several times, throughout last year and early this year.

I had to turn the job down.

This industry is so annoying sometimes. What other business locks you in for several months, during which you can't do anything?

This is the reason that I take an extended leave from work after most movies. My last day on "Alice in Wonderland" was February 5, though I continued to receive a trickle of e-mails and calls for another couple weeks. I started on "The Green Lantern" on April 19. I had over two months off, during which I went to San Francisco, Korea, and Hawaii. I caught up with my family, I played with my dog, I reacquainted myself with my needy cat, I went out to see my friends, I read books, I watched movies, I played the piano, and I cooked a ton of food.

Such a lifestyle is probably not the most healthy, since we sink into eating solely comforting junk while working insane hours, then swing drastically the other way, eating well, working out, and being healthy when not working.

This lifestyle also means that, for large chunks of time (usually between six and ten months), I cannot even entertain the thought of taking a new job. It's not like working in commercials, which I've done before. Commercials have really short and fast schedules, two months at the longest, which makes job-hunting easy. It's definitely not like working in a "normal" job. I'm not an accountant, that can up and leave whenever I want. Not that I would ever want to be an accountant...

So this job offer. I was elated when I first read the e-mail, and then quickly plunged into despair. This movie currently has a release date of June 17, 2011. At the earliest, I will be done in March. At the latest, I could be hanging on until late May.

Jobs in this business are about timing more than anything else. I've gotten job offers for movies that I really wanted to work on, but only if I was available the next day or the next week. I get calls frantically asking if I'm free to help out. These things are totally typical for this industry, and I've gotten used to it, for the most part.

It still stings when I have to turn down a job that I want, though.

Sigh. Next time...

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

What I Love, #4

Part 1.
Part 2.
Part 3.

Summertime edition:

I love fuzzy white peaches. I love peaches, a lot, but really only white peaches (Yes, I'm peach-racist.) I don't enjoy those yellow peaches, though I find the color of the yellow peaches with the deep red in the center near the pit quite beautiful. Nectarines, apricots, other stone fruits do not illicit such rhapsody from me.

I love cherries. I can eat cherries until they're gone. I have never in my life turned down fresh cherries, because they're just lovely. I enjoy these very, very chilled, with stems and pits intact. I pick up the cherries up by the stems and spit out the pits, which means that I never become stained with cherry juice. (I don't like being dirty.)

I love libraries. Okay, in all honesty, I love libraries all year round. I just especially love libraries in the summer, when it's hot and tiring to be outside. To walk into a cool library that smells like old paper is divine. I also really like to read on a hot day, in the shade (this can only be done in an area with dry heat, where it's actually cooler in the shade. Not applicable in humid areas, like Korea or Hawaii). I like to feel that drowsiness that comes from the heat while immersing myself into a good book.

I love the smell of chlorine. Weird, huh? As a California baby, I grew up swimming. I grew up with swimming pools, at home, at school, in the park. I also grew up, of course, with the balmy side of the Pacific Ocean practically in my backyard. The weather's very conducive for water babies, so that's what most Californians become. Because of that history, the smell of chlorine, combined with the sound of splashing water, makes me nostalgic and happy.

I love summer rains. The rain in summer is so different than the dreary rains of fall or winter, I think. Light, warm, misty, and cleansing. I love the smell of wet concrete and wet grass. I love the sky after it's rained. Everything looks and smells cleaner and brighter.


There are so many things I hate about summer- bugs, heat, the rare times I've experienced humidity- but for today, because I need it, I am choosing to focus on the positive.

I miss my family and my friends terribly lately. The depression's hit pretty hard and fast, as I was fine just a week ago.

Things will look up. I'm a cautious optimist at heart.

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Thursday, July 01, 2010

Kim Chee II, Hawaii

Kim Chee II
3569 Waialae Avenue
Honolulu, HI


Telephone: 808.737.7733

Monday - Sunday:
10:30 am - 9:00 pm

(Here's the UrbanSpoon link- the restaurants don't have a website.)

I've probably mentioned this- I have not one lick of kimchi in my apartment right now. My abode is incompletely Korean. I am upset about this, understandably, but have not had the time to make kimchi. I'm sure that I'll document the process of me, making kimchi by myself for the first time ever. Shudder. I feel that things could be horribly awry.

Anyway, tearing myself away from potential kimchi-tastrophes! I was flipping through photos on my phone when I saw something kimchi-esque in a thumbnail. "What could that be?" I said to myself. I looked at the picture and realized that it was from my Hawaii trip, where we ate Korean food once, in Honolulu.

I remember it well (okay, it was only three months ago, but still) because it was so weird to speak in Korean in Hawaii. I had gotten used to people speaking in island-time English (slow) or rapid-fire Japanese. (We had a theory about why people spoke to me in Japanese- it's because I'm pale. My best friend, who actually is Japanese, is darkly tanned, and wasn't bothered by the tourists asking her things.)

The meal wasn't very good, but it was welcome. I just wanted Korean food, what can I say? I took photos on my phone, so excuse the indecent quality:

The kimchi was totally crappy. I hate this type of kimchi, with cabbage sliced and tossed into a rather flimsy marinade. I still ate a lot of it, because sometimes, bad kimchi is better than no kimchi at all.
This is a type of namul (나물) made of dried moo (무). Moo is similar to daikan radishes, but shorter and fatter. It's the radish that is generally used in making kimchi. Anyway, the moo is dried and then kind of re-hydrated in a marinade. This dish was far too salty, but actually quite good, especially with rice.
Obligatory Korean BBQ. It was fine. Nothing to write home about, but not bad.

There aren't many Koreans in Hawaii; at least, not in the places I visited. We had a tough time finding a Korean restaurant to go to, and while this one had pretty good reviews, it pales in comparison to a lifetime in LA, where we have an entire town devoted to us.

I'm going to make kimchi soon, because if nothing else, these pictures make me want to prove that good Korean food can be even in the midst of non-Koreans. I just have to find the appropriate vegetables, and then I'll be set.

Wish me luck, I'll definitely need it...

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