Monday, July 25, 2011

Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse (1983 – 2011) died on July 23 of unknown cause (pending for autopsy for sure), though it is most likely drug related.

Personally, I don’t know her songs very well, I remember when I had her songs on my iPhone before, I was impressed by her amazing voice like coming from an old soul given that she was (is) in her twenties. I do also remember her song ‘rehab’, what an ironic title for a singer who has long been associated with substance abuse. Artistically, she is definitely gifted with a great voice which is usually associated with a 40 or 50 years old black singer living in Brooklyn or Chicago all her life. On the contrary, it came from a white Jewish girl from the U.K. That makes her more interesting than just music. I’m not gonna dig too much into her background as it can be found in Wiki and elsewhere. Her death to me is just another example of the worst outcome of a cocktail of youth, fame, wealth, artistic talent, drugs, self-discipline, mal-functioned family, and media, another poor soul following the footstep of Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, and the alike.

It was said that ‘The good dies young’. I’m not sure she fits that 100%. But, who has the right to judge? However, I do have an impression that, it has been a curse or whatnot that ‘the more talented and gifted the one is artistically, the more likely he/she is damned in life in other extents’. I mean death, particularly dying young, is not necessary the outcome, that could also include broken marriage, miscarriage, jail time, health issue, childless, bankruptcy, rehab, etc. These have been linked to many successful artists that I can think of. For those who have been fortunate enough of not being linked to any of the above, they are usually not regarded as talented as those who are. I don’t know if that’s karma or else. Perhaps, it is because artistic talent itself is quite different from let’s say intelligence. Other talents, expertise, or skills can be attained by hard works, rote or repetitive exposure. Even for rocket scientist or brain surgeon, astrophysics or human brain structure are science that rules remain the same until is proved otherwise. With enough studying, hard-works and practice, skills can be obtained. However, artistic talents are different. Van Gogh or Picasso may not have the best skills in painting; other skillful workmen can mimic their works to even undistinguishable level. But their works will never be regarded as high as those from the masters. Similarly for music, you practice really well to become a very good musician, skill wise, but you will never play guitar as soulful as Eric Clapton. I think creativity is the key that distinguish an artist to a craftsman. Creativity is something that you either have or not. How artists create their works is definitely not science. They may rely on muse, something they dreamed of, or even referring thing from their subconscious. They just react to the same environment differently than we do, they create things that seem to be out of nothing in view of most regular Joes on the street. I think the tragic experiences that I mentioned above, though they are horrible to go through in life. They do have a positive side effect to artists that creativity are inspired or induced by walking on those horrific paths.

Anyway, I think only Amy Winehouse would know what she had gone through in her life and know how those had affected her personally deep down inside. To us, as music lovers, just wanna wish her can rest in peace and thanks for leaving behind the great works to us to enjoy and future generations to come.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon and The Tree of Life

It has been a long long time since I was able to see 2 movies on the same day. Over the weekend, I was able to see the captioned movies and these are my thoughts.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon
The third movie of the Transformers franchise is definitely better than the last one (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen). I didn’t blog about that one as I actually watch it few weeks back on my computer. Now, the 3rd one is a 3D one that I quite enjoy on big screen. The first one was certainly a surprise when I first saw it, I was shocked and awed by the fact that the transformation of robots were finally realized marvelously on big screen and I thought the making of Gundam or Macross could finally be possible on big screen! Of course, those were still dreams….Anyway, going back to Transformers…the first one was fresh and new. Being a long time viewer of Michael Bay’s flicks, I don’t expect anything great from him storywise. Also, I wasn’t a follower of the animated original series, so it was definitely fine for me. The second one, well, just too messy and confusing in terms of both story and action scenes. I think he was too ambitious to show as many characters (robots) as possible, so it was just a mess. Anyway, the third one is much better. Let me list out the pluses:

Story – Well, it is not an Oscar material, but it is easy to follow. Jobs is done for brainless viewers like me (respect to this type of movie). Some mindless jokes on Shia, his parents, the Chinese guy are fine.

Characters – John Malkovich is a surprise in the movie, Frances McDormand was fine too.

Actions – much better because slow motions were added, I could see the car-to-robot-to-car transformation finally. Michael Bay obviously listened to what fans had said. Also, the scene of jumpers from plane was just awesome!

The major minus is:
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley – Well, she got a nice body, but that’s about it. When I look at this chick’s acting in this movie, as many critics or viewers had said, we miss Megan Fox badly! This Rosie chick’s acting makes Megan Fox like Meryl Streep! I know what the Rosie’s character is for in this movie, but she is not that pretty comparing with Megan. Rosie reminds me as a younger but uglier version of Cameron Diaz.

Don’t get me wrong this movie has only one minus, I just don’t have much expectation on this flick and surprising get entertained quite much by it. So, I just didn’t pay much attention to other aspects of this movie. So, I gave it a pass. Overall, is that worth viewing? I would say for sure. 3D doesn’t add or take away much to this movie. However, I still have not got any chance to see this on Imax, just can imagine that should be quite an experience.

The Tree of Life
I was so disappointed by the flick. Learned that this movie won the biggest awards in Cannes Festival, also Brad Pitt and Sean Penn are in this flick directed by the mysteric Terrence Malick has only make 5 films through out his decades of career. I thought it must worth seeing it. Critics do love it and viewers do split their views really far apart. Some love it and some hate it. I neither love it nor hate it indeed. I just felt disappointed upon viewing it. Before going to this movie, I was told that I must be very patient for the first half hour or so, as the images in the movies are very confusing and disoriented. Without patience, audiences did walk out of the movie. So, I already prepared my mind to view of such. Basically, I’m fine with those images (Discovery + Nature + National Geographics) and clips with Brad and Sean. My disappointment was mainly due to the end of the movie. I expected the movie should have a tight and explainable ending to tight all the loose ends of various elements over the 2+ hours of images, so that we can ‘realise’ what the movie is all about. At the end, I just saw Sean Penn on the beach with bunch of people including Brad Pitts, his sons and perhaps including his younger self. That’s it. What the Fxxk was that?

I know the movie is about life, how lives related to God? how we are come about and all that? But, what would the movie want us to conclude? At the end, I’ve not freaking idea what the director wants to convey to us. Just want us to think? No thanks!

Brad Pitt did a decent job in the movie. Basically, he is the highlight. Sean Penn was a total waste in it. Only seeing him spoke to his wife once, on the phone once, and just wandering around inside glass buildings, up and down in elevators, and running on the beach/desert. What’s the point? With such script, I think any actor can do that. What a waste! Those young boys that played Brad Pitt’s sons are fine, especially the oldest one. Guess he will have a good career in years to come. The actress who play Brad Pitt’s wife has many scenes in the movie, but her acting is also forgettable. Anyway, I think this movie is certainly a waste of time, especially I’m getting very picky in choosing what to see these days. Just don’t have much time to waste.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Google+ and Quora

Just too busy lately to squeeze time to blog, not with less than 6 hrs of sleep per night. However, I feel better today and get something to blog about.

I was invited by my colleague to join Google+, the latest and most formidable Facebook competitor so far. Listened to Buzz Out Loud podcast last night, there expect 10M people will have join Google+ by end of this week. Having tried that today, I like to clean look of it, but not yet really doing much about it expect playing with the ‘Circle’ feature which allow me to group friends into categories. As I don’t really depends on Google’s address book, rather Facebook and my iPhone contacts are what I used, which are neither linked to Google+. Setting up contacts will be a key issue. Heard that there are 3rd parties programs allow Facebook contacts to be transferred to Google+ out there, but security was cited as a concern. I guess I will stay put for that for the time being. So far, I think the problem for Google+ is to have killer feature that persuade Facebook users to jump ship. For me, I’m not jumping ship, simply taking a brief tour to see what Google+ is all about. However, Google+ has not been able to convince me to jump ship. That’s not good for Google, cuz, unlike other apps, social media is a platform that we all take time to maintain, and nobody has the time to maintain more than one. So, I think Google is though excited to have exponential growth of users signing up Google+, they better work their ass off to add killer features quick to convince Facebookees to jump ship. Otherwise, without measuring the real traffic, i.e. staying time on Google+ and update frequency, simply getting big number of Google+ members is simply a hot air balloon – not a real success.

I also signed up as an user of It is a site getting popular in the States, starting from the Valley, as a more serious and engaging tool that rival or Yahoo! Answers. So far, I like what I see. If they can allow users to trim the extract of items for what they see on the screen, and a better organization of different topics in the UI, that would be perfect. I think it will be a very good tool for people like me who have high curiosity into things. As a good companion of Wikipedia, it is fun!