Hello there! It is already July, what means is time to review the second quarter of – this lightning fast and very busy – 2019. The second quarter has been one of change. After coming back from Japan Aneesha moved in and we had to adjust to our new life (easy adaptation tbh).
Even though normal people usually has enough with one wedding – even more if it’s an Indian 3-day wedding – we had another wedding to prepare, celebrate, etc. We did all that without dying, what is an accomplishment.
When it comes to the goals that I have set for myself for those 3 months there is a little bit of everything: success, failure and epic failure. On one side we have Chai&Churro. I’m doing quite well with our comic strip and people seem to be liking it. On the other side of the spectrum we can find my attempts at studying that didn’t go as I would’ve liked. Anyway, let’s have a look at the list:
Write but different: I wrote a short story (wiii) and I’ve been working on something else. Would’ve liked to write more though. Partial success
Chai & Churro: We’ve published on the Instagram account (and here at the blog) every two weeks without fault. It’s been good, people seem to be liking the comic strip and I’m relatively happy with my work. Success.
Improve my drawing skills: I have improved my drawing skills during this time but I have failed miserably at being consistent with my practice and work on repetitive tasks like drawing hands, feet, etc multiple times to understand shapes better. Failure
Study: I learned some ReactJS but haven’t done enough. A week or two of studying over a period of three months it’s nothing. Epic fail
Be there for my people: I think I’ve done pretty well in this regard. I’ve managed to do most of the things I wanted to without compromising in the time I spend with my family. Success
As I said before I have done quite well. But I can’t avoid to feel that I lose track of my goals easily and I tend to always forget something that ends up being an absolute failure. Maybe by setting shorter term goals I can make it work. But that’s a story for another post. Peace
Get married: Yuuuuuuup!! And not once but twice (and one more coming xD). Aneesha and I got married on 3rd January at the Indian Consulate in Dubai and between February 14 and 16 we had our hindu wedding in Mumbai. It all went really well and it was an amazing experience for various reasons (like getting together people from all over the world).
Make and publish 3 Chai & Churro: done. Here, here and here. I’m really happy with how C&C is going. Still struggling with consistency in the art but I have a pretty streamlined process now with my iPad. I will talk more about this on the goals for the next 3 months.
Lose some weight: I somehow managed to lose 3 kg (91 to 88). And last week I even got down to 86.9, TEN KILOS less than when I started making changes in my diet (September 2018). Food happened over the weekend and I’m back to 88 but I’m happy with the progress.
Very happy with how things have gone. I’m also very happy that I got the chance to visit Japan, something that I thought I would never do and now I feel in the position to confirm it: yes, it’s paradise.
For the next quarter I don’t have much in my mind. It’s an extension of what I’ve done in the first quarter with some tweaks. Let’s check the list:
Write but different: I might write something for the blog (I have a couple of ideas) but I would like to work on creative writing. I have a little something prepared that I will post soon and I want to keep exploring this path. We’ll see.
Chai & Churro: Well, C&C is now a bi-weekly comic strip and it has a Facebook page and an Instagram account. I have found the workflow that makes it work for me. I could be more ambitious and do it weekly but it wouldn’t leave me with enough time for things like the next point.
Improve my drawing skills: This is a work in progress and it will never end but I want to take it seriously. I want to improve in key areas for creating expressive characters (hands, eyes, faces…) and improve the art as a whole. The consistency of my drawings it’s a problem (each Chai & Churro looks fricking different) but I hope to improve on that too.
Study: I hate studying. I’m lazy and I get easily distracted buy in my line of work is indispensable. I will focus on front-end web coding and UX as that is what appeals to me the most and where I think my – immediate professional – future lays.
Be there for my people: All these goals are very cool but they don’t matter if I’m not a good husband, brother, son and brother. I want to improve as a person as much as I want to improve on the things I like to do. This is always priority number one but is good to remind it to oneself from time to time.
Well, that’s it… not much more to say. I guess we’ll talk in July, until then peace, love & Periphery IV.
Have you ever heard of Inktober? No? Well, Inktober is a challenge that has gained some traction over the years. It was started in 2009 by illustrator Jake Parker and it consists in making an ink drawing every day of the month of October. Participants share their work with the community – Twitter, Instagram, etc. – and interact with each other. Not only you can see amazing art, you can also see people encouraging their peers in what seems to be a pretty healthy environment.
The event has grown over time and it is now quite popular. And that has given birth to parallel challenges like Wordtober, in which I participated last year. In Wordtober the objective is to write a tweet-long story using the daily prompt as a starting point. It was a really fun and positive experience. The time, topic and length limitations boost your creativity. There’s no time for second guessing, you have to use your instincts. No place for unnecessary words either, you have to get to the point. Aneesha – who also participated – defined the process as word vomit. Writing without thinking it twice once. Maybe it is like that but I surely was doing a lot of thinking before everything “clicked”.
Based on my experience last year, I think anyone with some interest in any art form should find the Xtober that fits their interest. It’s not only a great training tool, it’s also a ton of fun.
Hi there! As I explained on my previous post I’ve decided to set quarterly goals for myself. If you’ve been following my you’ll know that I did it in 2017 and even though I failed to accomplish all I wanted I found it to be a good practice. I have a very active mind, always thinking about new project. And that can be quite distracting. Having public goals helps me focus and keep working on what I want to accomplish instead of jumping constantly between new things without finishing anything.
I have a couple of things I want to accomplish this year. This first quarter I’m going to be quite busy so my goals are not too ambitious:
Write: I’m not going to be ambitious here. Publish 2 posts a month for the next three months. I prefer to post less and things that matter to me the most than just randomly write about anything. Let’s see how it goes next month because…
Get married: Aneesha and I are legally married already but we still have two more weddings to go. The first one will be in India in around 20 days. I have to survive to 3 days of events. Wish me luck 😂
Make and publish 3 Chai&Churro: recently I bought and iPad pro and I’m starting to get used to it. It’s an amazing tool and I hope it will help me be more productive. My goal is for Chai&Churro to become a bi-weekly thing but that is not going to happen now. I aim for 1 comic strip a month.
Lose some weight: I’ve changed my eating habits quite a bit over the last 4 or 5 months. It has worked out well and I’ve lost 6-7 kilos but my weight has been going up and down around the same number for the last couple of months. I want to make some progress, even if it is only a couple of kilos (down).
I’m going to be between India and Japan for a full month. I’m not sure of how much free time I will have. I’ll do my best to be on track and fulfil my goals. I’ll be doing the quarterly review at the beginning of April. Until then, peace, love & death metal ✌
I’m back. Last year was a complicated one. I had a crazy busy second half of the year, with lots of grown up things happening (remember? I’m a child with a grey-ish beard), and this had kept me from writing as I would liked to.
And yes, I also went through some kind of crisis regarding my blog. I had to “look myself in the mirror” and ask why am I doing this. What’s the purpose of my blog? Does it make sense? I was writing about a bunch of stuff, things that I like: games, movies, music… But in the end I realized I wasn’t getting anything back from it on any level and my time was better spent somewhere else.
As a result of this I’ve decided 2 things:
I won’t write anything for weeks (or months) if I don’t have anything to say. It doesn’t mean I don’t have a goal for this blog. It just means I won’t write about whatever just because I made myself a promise to write.
I don’t want to write anything review-like. There are professionals that do that and they do it way better than I do. If I write I want it to be related to what I do in my life, things that matter to me the most, like Chai&Churro, my drawings, coding or writing.
To start this new stage I’ll be looking at something I did in the past: set quarterly goals for myself. I did it throughout 2017 and I found it useful to keep an agenda and remind myself of what are my short term priorities.
I’ll be writing a post for my Q1 goals soon. Stay tuned 🙂
Imagine a game in which you have super powers and you fight crime alla Spiderman, Flash, etc. while freely exploring a big open-world. That’s exactly what Infamous does. The game let’s you fight for the fate of Empire City, combining elements that we’ve seen in the superhero comics for decades. But Infamous doesn’t adapt any known superhero, instead creates its own universe that, at the same time, works as an homage to the 9th art.
If there is a single thing I would highlight about Infamous is how it makes you feel. Cole MacGrath, our protagonist, wakes up at the epicenter of an explosion in the middle of Empire City. He doesn’t remember much, but he can now manipulate electricity. This give Cole a series of powers that expand as you progress in the game. Since the first minutes of the game you will feel a sense of superiority over the rest of in-game characters.
When you fight your enemies you can unleashed lots of chaos and destruction. Combining different powers during your fights feels completely natural and organic and it is really fun. It’s important to clarify that the combat is shooting based, and most of the complementary powers are also long distance attacks. There is some physical combat involved but it doesn’t have much weight on the gameplay. I have no doubt that this is the biggest strength of the game. It translates perfectly the sensation of being a force of nature that is superior to his enemies.
Something that I would like to highlight is that your actions will give you points of light or darkness, like we’ve seen in many Star Wars games. This adds weight to your actions and can affect the way you fight. Will you fight your enemies without caring for the civilians in the area or will you move the fight away? What will you do with fallen (but alive) enemies and civilians? Cure them? Extract any remaining energy from them (causing death)? Or simply capture them? This morality system affects the way civilians perceive and react to you, as well as the powers and secondary missions that you have available.
Infamous is fun but is not perfect
Though I like the game, it is true that there are some flaws in Infamous design and presentation that area worth noting.
First of all, both story and narrative are far from great. The story is full of cliches and Cole is not the most charismatic guy around. The story is narrated mostly through conversations over the phone, with noise on the line and the noise of the city around. On top of that, most of this conversations happen while you do something else, so t is fairly easy to miss some parts. They top this with some cutscenes made with really cool comic artwork. Is a nice touch, but it felt somehow disconnected from the rest of the game. The story presents a final twist that creates an interesting starting point for the sequel.
In terms of gameplay, I have a couple of issues with Infamous. The biggest problem is that there is no real reason for Infamous to be open-world beyond the fact that is really cool to move around. There is nothing interesting to do besides the missions, so it becomes a huge hub to select levels while you collect some random, irrelevant stuff. My second biggest problem is that this open-world is overpopulated by enemies, making moving around very frustrating at times. Sure, I like the combat, but after 10 hours of game I don’t want to stop and fight random guys while I try to reach the next mission (on the other side of the frickinig city).
A minor issue that I’ve found a bit annoying is the climbing system. Instead of working like an Assassin’s Creed game where you just press a button, Infamous forces you to jump and jump and jump and jump… Gets tiring after a while.
Looking good, sounding weird
Being from 2009 and having in mind the size of the city, Infamous looks pretty good. Textures and models are a bit simple but they do the job. It’s worth noting that the overall design of the game and the palette used is a bit too dull. I think a more colorful approach would have worked much better. On the other hand, FX – specially the electricity ones – and animations are very good and they give place to some spectacular images.
When it comes to the sound Infamous is a weird game. Music is fine, though it doesn’t have much presence. Sounds effects are ok, but there area some weird ones, specially the one made by Cole while running. Is some kind of nya nya that doesn’t make sense and can be pretty annoying.
I think if you like superheros and open world games is almost impossible to get disappointed with Infamous. I think there are some design decisions that prevent the game from reaching its full potential but, at the same time, Infamous has some strengths that are difficult to ignore. Recommended if you like superheros and enjoy open-world games.
Have you watch Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom already? Well, I wish I had to tell you to run to your closest cinema but that’s not the case. It is, no doubt, an enjoyable film with some really good moments. I think J.A. Bayona has done a great job and his visual style and narrative works great with a production of this caliber. But in the end, we are watching a pseudo-remake of The Lost World, as it happened with Jurassic World and the first entry of the saga. There is absolutely nothing in the script that makes up for seeing a repetition of situations and overall plot. It’s on the script where we can find all the big issues of the movie, and this is becoming a (bad) habit for the series.
My problem with the current state of the franchise
You see, I’m a huge Jurassic Park fan. The first and second movies are amongst my all time favorite. This new movies are very entertaining but they don’t bring anything new to the franchise. We are seeing a repetition of themes and situations.
It’s very clear to the public that playing “to be God” with genetics is very dangerous. And yes, we know that velociraptors are very smart and lethal. Now, by the fifth movie I would expect to have seen some consequences to playing this game, but the truth is we haven’t seen anything. The main problem is that the premise of the series can’t go much further. You can destroy a park by an accident or by the characters arrogance once (ok, twice…). And same applies about going back to the island to save dinosaurs from an external menace.
The future of Jurassic World
[Minor spoilers of Fallen Kingdom]
The original book sets a much more interesting option, as we discover that some small dinosaurs have been getting out of the island hidden in the boats that go to the mainland. In Fallen Kingdom we get to the same point by the end of the movie, but in a disappointing way. Yes, dinosaurs are now on the mainland but the most dangerous and interesting species (Raptor, T-rex) are alone with no possibility of reproduction. In my opinion that leaves a very limited setting to work with, and I’m not sure of what we will see in the next sequel. It looks like we will be following some of the characters trying to collect the lost dinosaurs and bringing them to a new sanctuary. So basically we would go back to the end of The Lost World.
To be honest, after this long and the clear exhaustion of the original premise, I would take everything one (or 10) steps further. I would make everything go out of control, with dinosaurs spreading over the mainland and humans fighting for survival in a changed, dangerous world. Of course a setting like this can easily give birth to an absolute pile of crap, but at least it would be different.
I’ve owned a PSP for probably more than a decade. I have around 80 titles for the platform (I know, madness) and I’m still playing games that I haven’t touched before. What I consider the 2 best action games in the platform have been in my collection for quite a while, but is now when I’ve played them back-to-back. I already talked about (and praised) The 3rd Birthday. Now, it’s the time for Resistance Retribution. Maybe is not as good as the former on gameplay, but overall has nothing to envy of the Square-Enix title.
Resistance Retribution, the Chimera invasion in 3rd person
Resistance Retribution is a spin-off of the main series for PS3. While those games are first person shooters, the responsible studio decided to move on to a third person perspective. The game is still a pure shooter, but it puts some emphasis on the use of covers. Somewhat similar to what we’ve seen in Gears of War or Uncharted. The cover system is automatic, meaning that we don’t need to press any buttons, the character will automatically hide when we approach a cover.
The decision to move the game from a FPS to a TPS made sense due to BEND Studio’s experience in the platform. They developed both Syphon Filter games for PSP, 2 of the best TPS’s in the platform. In fact, this game feels like a natural evolution of what we saw in those games.
Europe is under siege
The game makes an effort to tell an interesting story. We will visit Rotterdam, Luxenburg and a couple of places in France, including a devastated Paris that has become the central base for the Chimera. The plot is interesting and the main story line is well narrated. It’s important to note that Retribution’s story is placed between Resistance Fall of Men (first game) and Resistance 2, and it works as a nexus between them.
My problem with the game is that characters and dialog are quite poor. The main character – Lt. James Grayson – is a maniac (and an ***hole). He is not likable at all and that affects the game negatively. The other characters are a bunch of walking cliches and they’re not likable either. Obviously, if the characters are like that, the dialogs can’t work.
Shooting our way to Paris
The game is quite good when it comes to gameplay. It’s obvious that BEND had a lot of experience creating third person shooters, as the control it’s really solid and takes PSP’s weaknesses into consideration.
The best example is with the aiming. The game makes use of a semi-automatic aiming. There is a big rectangle (about 3/5ths of the screen space) that works as aim. When an enemy gets inside that aiming area, the auto-aiming will take effect. We can change to manual aim by pressing the up arrow, but why would we do that? The PSP lacks a second analog joystic, making aiming difficult. Well, the game forces you to use it. There is an specific type of enemy that walks to you and explodes and it can be killed only by headshots. Is not easy to accomplish that with the autoaim, so we will change to manual. But wait, this enemies are usually not alone and you’ll have to change between aiming modes fast and be efficient in order to survive.
Voilà, the lack of second joystic is not a weakness anymore, it is part of a game mechanic.
The game has a diverse cast of enemies, each of them with different mechanics that will make us use different strategies. This combines really well with the different weapons that Grayson can use. There are 8 weapons in total, one of them pretty original. The way we use and combine this weapons is key to be successful in combat. We can’t just enter a room shooting without thinking, we need to plan and react quickly to what happens on the screen or we’ll get stuck easily. In the bosses it’s specially easy to die, and using the right weapons is a must to kill them.
I have the feel that the game starts a bit slow but starts to really shine throughout the second chapter. Level design is great, and there is a fair variety of situations for a TPS game. With that said, the game is quite long (and difficult) and I think it can take between 10-12 hours to finish.
A portable blockbuster
Resistance Retribution not only plays great, it also looks fantastic. The game makes great use of PSP’s hardware, and it’s no doubt one of the best looking games in the platform. It could have shined even more with a different art direction and color palette, but I understand is part of the series’ identity.
There is something strange about soundtrack. Melodies and orchestration are great, but the influences of cinema is so obvious that it creates a constant feel of deja vu. It specially takes a lot from John Williams’ music, and you can hear some of his trademark sounds all over the place. It’s not a bad thing, but it is there.
A PSP must have
Overall, I think Resistance Retribution is a must have for Playstation Portable but we can’t forget that nowadays there are better TPS in other platforms. This game can’t play the card of originality and personality that other games can (like the mentioned The 3rd Birthday). That makes it difficult to recommend but it is undoubtedly one of the best games in PSP’s catalog.
Knowledge is key. Knowledge helps us have an understanding of the world and everything that surrounds us. That very same rule applies to art. If we have an understanding of how rhythm and melody works we will be able to appreciate music better. If we understand the fundamentals of light and color and composition, we will be able to go to a museum and enjoy it more.
I can’t presume of being versed in any art in particular, but I am a cinema lover. And over the years, my knowledge of the medium has growth allowing me to enjoy movies (and TV) on a whole different level. Something I would like to do this year is explore some filmmaking concepts and techniques that I find interesting, starting today with the long take.
The Long Take
First of all, let’s check the definition in wikipedia:
In filmmaking, a long take is a shot lasting much longer than the conventional editing pace either of the film itself or of films in general. Significant camera movement and elaborate blocking are often elements in long takes, but not necessarily so.
So, basically It’s a take longer than usual. In spanish we refer to it as ‘plano-sequencia’, what basically means that the whole scene is taken in only one shot, with no camera cuts. This takes are usually very expressive, and can be used for multiple purposes. Sometimes, the director wants to show us a particular moment in the life of a person. The long take can change our perspective as viewers and help us connect with the character, bringing us closer to him/her. Another common use is in action scenes, like in the famous Oldboy scene.
The first time I remember identifying it while watching a movie was on Inglorious Bastards. It’s a take that starts with Shosanna at the cinema hall. The camera ‘walks’ with her down the stairs and shows us how she engages on a conversation with Daniel Bruhl’s character. After that the camera follows a waiter. This walk is used to give us a a feel of the place, showing us the cinema hall and the people that is there. After that, another change, this time to follow Col. Landa (magnificently portrayed by Christoph Waltz).
It’s not the most complex long take, but is a good one and it’s greatly enjoyable to see. This scene in particular helps us understand the environment. It gets the viewer in the middle of the pre-movie cocktail giving a glimpse of what’s going and who is there. It also builds a narrative where for the first time all the main characters (alive at that point of the movie) are on the same room.
A couple of examples
Obviously spoilers ahead
This technique is more commonly used that you would think. There are a series of directors that have a taste for it and they use it often in their productions. I’m going to start with Cary Fukunaga, famous for his role as the sole director of season 1 of True Detective. It’s on this series where I first got to see displayed his ability for the long take:
I recently watch his movie Beasts of No Nation (Netflix), where Fukunaga also uses the technique with great (and devastating) results.
Alfonso Cuarón is another director that has been famous for using the long take in his films. The use of the long take in Children of the Men is exceptional, and it gets the viewer into the chaotic England seen in the movie.
The scene is sensational. It has a little bit of everything: conversations, tension, action… The camera is in continuous movement inside the car to show us what is relevant. The ending with the camera seeing the car go at the end is genius and reinforces the ending of the scene and the situation itself.
On the previous two scenes we’ve seen lots of action, but there are other uses for long takes. For example to make the viewer feel a place and a situation. Joe Wright and his team did an amazing job in the scene from the movie Atonement:
This is scene is not only beautiful, it’s also incredibly inmersive.
I can guess that planning is a very important, if not the most, when recording a long take, as It involves a great deal of coordination. Everyone needs to know their roles perfectly: actors, camera, special effects… Everything needs to be in place and move in time, otherwise the scene might not work. If you want to see what I’m talking about, have a look to this behind the scene footage of the movie Hugo. I personally find this fascinating:
The Unexpected Virtue of Trickery
Have you watched Birdman by Alejandro G. Iñárritu? The movie plays like a single shot. The whole fricking movie. But is it recorded in one single shot? No it’s not. The movie is a collection of long takes connected through different tricks to make it look like one shot. The movie looks amazing, and it’s difficult to identify where are the cuts. It’s, no doubt, a very interesting exercise and something quite unique. The movie won 4 Oscars including direction and cinematography.
Believe it or not, there are films that have actually done what Birdman makes us thing it does. There are not many of these, but they exist and you can see a list here.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing and researching for it. Cinema is a beautiful art and long takes is just one of the many topics I’d to explore in the future. If you know of any movies with epic long takes, let me know in the comments or through any social media channel 🙂
Jamie Lenman has become over years one of my favorite artists. He started a band named Reuben in the early 2000s that was an underground hit. During the 7 years they spent together, Reuben released 3 fantastic albums, each of them evolving their sound. They always characterized for being able to go from a truly hardcore metal to the most sweet and pop-y sound, sometimes even in the same song. After the split, Lenman spent 5 years dedicated to illustration before coming back to music in 2013 with the double album Muscle Memory. One day I’ll talk about that weird but extraordinary album, but today is time for Devolver.
Carrying the flag for variety
At it’s core, I think Devolver is a rock album. It has a series of metal tunes but I think it would be misleading to put it on that genre. The album moves constantly between different genres, making it difficult to classify. In a way, it goes back to that Reuben sound but taking it to the extreme. That could make for an inconsistent experience, but Lenman is able to make it work.
I think an excellent example of this is the song I Don’t Know Anything. The song starts with an 80s punk sound, it evolves to a melodic rock song and then it changes again and again. We have what it sounds like a string quartet, a very melodic part and finally something similar to a military march. It is crazy but it works and is pretty unique. We also have tunes like Waterloo Teeth and Mississippi that are fairly conventional metal songs, or songs like All of England is a City that could easily be part of a Foo Fighters album.
Jamie Lenman’s Devolver
Lenman voice’s range allows him to dive into different sounds and genres and perform well in all of them. It is not that usual to find artists with the ability to pull out an album like this, as is not only musical skills what are required, but also a taste for other genres and the willingness to push those boundaries. In a world where music fells constantly in common grounds, we need more people that tries to offer something different and refreshing.
Favorite track: difficult, but I’ll go with the title track – Devolver (Mississipi, I Don’t Know Anything and Bones are also really good)
Listen to Jamie’s album here:
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