Poagao's Journal
Thursday, January 02, 2003
Today we had the kind of weather we should have had on New Year's Day. Fresh, clear, bright, not too cold, not too warm...the kind of day that feels like the start of something. I would have liked to take a trip up into the mountains or up to Danshui, but I had to go to work instead.

My supervisor, however, was surprised to see me walk in. "What are you doing here? Weren't you told?"

It turns out that they've decided to hide me at another office while they wait for the contract to be approved, so I caught a ride with my boss Dr. Lin in a brand-new Lexus, complete with driver, down to their office in the Technology Building. There I was shown where I would be sitting this month, in a cubicle in a smallish room facing Heping East Road. The chair is the kind that leans back until you fall over backwards, and the Internet connection was so slow I couldn't even download Trillian after almost an hour of trying. "Just take it easy here for a while," Dr. Lin told me. "We'll call you if there's any need for you to come back to the regular office." The Technology Building offices are where most of the bigwigs have their offices, so I should watch my step and avoid losing my job because I wear the wrong hat to work or something.

After work, since I was in the vicinity, I walked over to my old neighborhood for a turkey sub at Subzone. I've been anxious to start another film project since I washed my hands of Alphadogha, which, shocking though it may seem, has yet to reach the top ten at Triggerstreet. "Film what you know," some people say. What do I know? What do I have? I have a facinating urban environment, especially at night, the friendship of a few good actors, an impressive collection of hats and a basic knowledge of swords. I talked to Azuma about a girl he knows who writes scripts, but all he knew was that they involved the relationship between a guy and his bar of soap. Ah, maybe...not. We get enough of that on TV these days.

Two more Mirror Project photos up, coincidentally right next to three of the BWG's submissions. Talk about yuan-fen.

Happy New Year. The only celebrating I did was going over to Dean's to watch TV and rented movies with him, Kay, Mindcrime and Janice. There was absolutely nothing left at the rental store, so we got Kung Pow, fully expecting it to be awful. Boy, we couldn't have been more wrong. This is the funniest movie I've seen in a long, long time. The guy who did it was also the comedic genius behind the second Ace Ventura movie, and this is far funnier than that. It was like MST3K, but better. Basically he digitally inserted himself into an old Kung-fu flick and redid all the voices and sound. The result was so funny it hurt. We're talking the-first-time-you-saw-Airplane! kind of funny here. I have to wonder what the original actors of that film think of it, though, assuming they've seen it.

I finally managed to get Alphadogha more or less done, or, at least, I've learned all I can from it and am ready to discard it, so I added it to my films page and uploaded it to Triggerstreet (Bad reviews are already pouring in. Rah.) In any case, it's over. Next!

Today being New Year's Day, a national holiday, everyone was out and about. The subways were crowded when I took the train up to the Yuanshan Station for sword class, but I must have missed something during last week's class (on Christmas Day), because nobody was there. I was all ready to practice, though, so I just went through what I knew of the form on my own, over and over again. I had been looking forward to learning some more of it, but it looks like that will have to wait until next week.

Work tomorrow, but I don't know where I'll be sitting since the 2003 budget hasn't been approved yet, and I'm not officially employed until it is. I suppose I'll find out when I get there.

Tuesday, December 31, 2002
My publisher sent me the rough draft of the edited copy of my book this morning. It's tiny! Of course, the Chinese is single-space and much denser than the double-space English version, but still...it's so thin! To be fair, Chinese books do tend to be thinner in general than English books; it's just the nature of the market here: Taiwanese consumers just aren't willing to buy thick books to read for pleasure. Perhaps large books remind people here of textbooks, and any other reading should be "light reading". Or maybe they won't fit in purses or pockets. In any case, I looked through it and didn't find too many mistakes, at least nothing that couldn't be fixed easily. Hopefully it will be out sooner instead of later, but they're busy with one of their bigger authors, Jimmy the Cartoonist, and so everything else must take a back seat it seems. I'm not going to worry about it, though. I've done my bit by writing it, and now it's up to the publishers to sell it.

From an article in the "Jesus, Look What the Fucktards are Up to Now" section of SFGate: "Mill Valley resident Penny Wright-Mulligan bought her first Hummer in October. She loves the macho frame and 316 horsepower V8 engine. And she doesn't seem to mind that, on average, her vehicle gets 10 miles to the gallon -- particularly when she has to shuttle four children between the ages of 11 and 16, and three dogs."

"Large SUVs are the worst option, not just for society but for many buyers as well. Big SUVs are allowed to emit up to 5.5 times as much smog-causing nitrogen oxides per mile as a car, are allowed to get much worse gas mileage, are three times as likely as a car to kill the other motorist in a crash and provide no better protection for their occupants than a large car or minivan."

"'No nonmilitary vehicle can do what this does,' said Tiburon resident Scott Tuck. 'Things like self-inflating tires that keep going when you take a bullet are probably not necessary in Tiburon. But it has safety elements that, as a father of three, I do think about.'"

So these people have needs which require a station wagon or minivan, either of which would be just as safe or safer than a Hummer at a fraction of the cost, both retail and in gasoline/maintenance, but they still buy Hummers? Just what is this asshole, "as a father of three," thinking about? If he's that likely to be targeted in an assassination attempt, maybe he should, "as a father of three," reconsider his profession.

And isn't just having the name "Penny Wright-Mulligan" ludicrous enough? Do you really need to buy a Hummer for Soccer-mom duties to prove that you're an idiot?

I've driven Hummers before (when I was in the army), and I don't get it. Driving one of those things feels exactly like driving the 1969 Buick Electra 225 we had when I was growing up. The Buick probably even had more luggage space, as the Hummer is small and awkward inside, the machinery sticking up into the cabin. I don't really care too much about people performing these acts of idiocy in the states, much less California, however. My biggest concern is that this lunacy will infect Taiwanese people, who love to follow to stupid foreign trends, and before long we'll start seeing people driving and trying to park Mack Trucks on the narrow, twisty, already crowded roads here. Why am I worried about this? Well, let me put it this way: There's a lot of new money in this town, a lot of insecure people out to prove, via their new-found wealth, that they're better than everyone else. The most popular way of doing this at the moment is with a large, black Mercedes, and anyone who has driven or even walked in this city can tell you that those driving the ubiquitous Big Black Benzes are by far the worst, most inconsiderate, most dangerous drivers on the road. But according to the article, "The auto industry's marketers say that SUV buyers tend to be people who are especially 'self-oriented,' meaning they are especially conscious of other people's opinions of them and of fads in vehicle taste, but are less concerned about the effects on others." Well, that pretty much sums up half of Taipei. Ironically, you may have to move out of the city to the poorer countryside, where an SUV might actually come in handy, just to get away from the pretentious boors who will probably end up buying them.

So it's New Year's Eve. I have no plans, really. I haven't gotten much done this year. I got my eyes lasered, finished a book and got a Chinese publisher, got a DV camera, made one short film, helped other people make films, moved twice -into and out of the Chungking Mansions Taipei-, found a new sword teacher, a nice new job...so I guess I did do some stuff. 2002 just felt uneventful and slow, though. I've forgotten any resolutions I made last year. I doubt I've fulfilled them in any case, and I am loathe to make any more. Life is too unpredictable anyway.

Monday, December 30, 2002
We watched the extended version of Da Fellowship of Da Ring at Dean's last night, and even though the crap DVD player left us staring at something more like a long succession of stills than a movie, I can honestly say this edit blows the theatrical version out of the water. Just about everything missing from the original version is there, and it works so much better, I can only wonder at the reason the studios decided to go with the theatrical release. The story works better because more is explained, and the new edit actually feels tighter than the shorter version. I didn't like the theatrical release because it felt rushed and clumsy, but this one is altogether another story. I highly recommend it, but with a real DVD player. It seems to work just fine in my DVD-ROM as well.

I think I've just about done all that I can do with Alphadogah, so I'm going to put it in the can and start thinking about my next thing. Problem is, I don't rightly know what my next thing's going to be, though I have a few ideas. I suppose I'll have to settle on one and do it, though. The new camera is a real incentive to get things done simply in order to avoid guilt for having spent so much on it. This time, however, I will need a real boom mic, and hopefully I can coax an even better picture out of the camera now that I'm a bit more familiar with it. I've found after much consultation over the phone with Paul AKA Norman that I have a very different editing style than he does. He works with clips spread throughout various tracks in the timeline, whereas I see the desktop as a virtual Steenbeck and cut my clips individually, inserting them and then working with what I have after it's all put together.

Recently I found that I wasn't even in the running for a certain well-paying government job, even though I got the highest score on the editing/translation test and am obviously a native English speaker, simply because I don't hold a foreign passport. I find it truly ironic, though in a fucked-up Alanis Morrissette way, that I can't work for my own government, no matter how qualified I am, simply because I am not a citizen of another country. It's gotten me to wondering whether it would be easier to regain US citizenship or just apply for a passport of a country where it's easy to obtain citizenship. Seems a bit excessive that I should have to do this just to improve my prospects here. It also irks me when I see various foreign-passport holders whinging about any restriction the government places on them. I realize that I do my fair share of complaining, but at least they can whinge all the way to the bank.

I know, I should either just shut up or start driving a taxi.

Sunday, December 29, 2002
I spent most of yesterday trying to finish the editing and sound work for Alphadogah. It's not that big or difficult a project, but I wasted a lot of time just getting familiar with the workings of Adobe Premiere as well as Cool Edit Pro as I tried to clean up the sound and add music and titles. I think it's pretty much done, however. It's silly but fun. At one point my landlord came over to collect this month's rent. There was, of course, yet another loud activity going on downstairs, and when he entered my room he said "Jeez, that's loud. I never knew it was that loud here!" He went on to apologize for not warning me about the more-or-less constant cacophony and even told me that if I wanted to move out sometime after Chinese New Year he wouldn't withold my deposit. His reasoning fpr the timing is that it's considered bad luck to move house before or during Chinese New Year, and there would be a lot more places available then. In any case, it's nice of him to make the offer. I don't know what I'm going to do about the noise just yet, but it's good to know that I could theoretically become known as "Poagao, Man of 1,000 Recent Apartments".

The weather yesterday was cold and drizzly, good for staying home if your home isn't being bombarded by aboriginal dance music interspersed by the haranging of vendors. It was so loud I had to turn my stereo up to 3/4 full volume, which is way too loud. The activity wrapped up in the evening and I went to rent a movie after dinner. I was just getting into it when Kirk called. He wanted to go out, and gave me a choice of The Source, Fresh, or the Taiwan Bear Club. I choose the latter even though I didn't feel like going out (Kirk can be very persuasive, and he also wanted to make up for not joining us for the Christmas party). The Source is mostly empty these days, and I am usually not in the mood for the kind of crowd that hangs out at Fresh. Funky's another alternative, it's been around forever but remains relevant, but Kirk doesn't like it there.

He was late, of course, so I was left milling awkwardly about outside the entrance, a one-man shiftless crowd. When he did show up he gave me a small red plastic bear for my birthday. "Not to seem unappreciative," I said as I examined the gift, "but it has no eyes, or mouth even."

"That's what makes it so cute," he explained.


We then proceeded down into the basement-level bar. It was crowded and we had to take a table underneath one of the massive Karaoke speakers. This made conversation difficult and relegated us to sitting, drinking and watching the other parties, most of which consisted of at least five guys sitting around yelling at each other and playing drinking games. The greeters generally avoided us, coming over and sharing a hesitant beer now and then, but never engaging either of us in conversation. Kirk told me about school (he is graduating night school in May even though he's only a year or so younger than I) and a possible new romance, and I told him that I should have dragged Dean and Mindcrime along in revenge for their inflicting the Hooters Stick-figure Experience on me, not once but several times. Oh well, I thought, there's always next time. But when it came time to leave, we found to our dismay that the prices had gone up by a third, to almost NT$500 a person, so I doubt I'll be going back there any time soon. I'll just drag them to Funky instead. I prefer the Taiwan Bear Club mainly because it's more purely Taiwanese than any of the other places, and also because you tend to get just normal guys hanging out there. But $500 is just ridiculous.

The noise downstairs continues even as I write this; I'm countering it with a surprisingly good Russian radio station that is doing a splendid job of reminding me exactly how much of that language I've forgotten. Right now I'm busy trying to digest a massive amount of Cream of Wheat. I haven't eaten the real kind, the kind you actually cook instead of just pour hot water into, since I was a kid. Thus I misjudged the amount you're supposed to put into the boiling water, producing roughly enough to feed a small government agency. I didn't want to waste it, though; I forced myself to eat it all, so you'll have to excuse me while I go lie down for a bit. It is verily a nice day, however, and I might take my recently purchased Fellowship of the Ring Extended Version DVD over to Dean's to watch later.

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