Monday, August 10, 2009

Eugene sent me a memory in the mail

Traces of Gorm

By Eugene Tong


Thank you for your service these past eight years. Time and again, you held your load and offer uplift to baby pictures, bric-a-back, stuffed toys, a sword, cookbooks and photo albums and DVDs; offered shelter to Buddha and my shoes and stood firm against the wall through earthquakes and other rumblings.

I brought you, feverish rantings and all, to my Koreatown apartment from Reportergirl's Exposition Park bedroom when said reporter moved back home. You were sorely needed then to bring order to the piles of papers and videotapes leaning against the wall on the floor in my one-bedroom abode.

You were there for about six to eight months, until a new job led us to
North Hollywood, a large one-bedroom with a formal dining room in a 1950s vintage 2nd floor walk-up.



It was there that I decided to once and for all correct your structural deficiency and complete you. For you see, reportergirl neglected to install metal crossbars on your back -- a pair of aluminum rods -- so you won't tip over.

You stood tall and firm (with metal reinforcement) on the corner with the Buddha altar on your top shelf watching over the living room, next the an Ikea floor lamp rescued from another friend departing L.A.

I lasted all of six months there. Though apparently aesthetically pleasing with the right crowd and located in an up-and-coming artsy neighborhood in the shadow of Universial Studios, the apartment had one fatal flaw -- it gets HOT AS HELL.

I'm talking 90 degrees plus (32 C) INSIDE, when the temperature outside is in the low-80s (27 C). I would spend at least two hours each night after getting home trying to cool the place with an aging window air conditioner and two large box fans.

Screw vintage. I want a place built in the last 20 years with central air con and heating, and well-insulated so it's cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

I found it in
Pasadena -- a three bedroom townhouse with a little patch of backyard between the 210 Freeway and an alley.

I lived there for seven years, and quite happily for at least six of those. But alas, with a career change and relocating back to the San Francisco Bay Area, I must put said home on the market (and in this market!).

And I can't take you with me.

I hope the
Salvation Army of Pasadena can find you a good home, or return you to the earth from whence you came.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Eugene goes to see Miyazaki

By Eugene Tong

Hayao Miyazaki Live

Anime and manga legend Hayao Miyazaki in conversation. July 25, 2009.
Location: Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley.

The legendary animator takes the stage -- to a standing ovation, of course.

To the left: Roland Kelts (Tokyo University lecturer and author of
Japanamerica) asking the questions. To his right, the translator, Beth something...

Topics discussed:

-- Apocalypse as a theme in his films (he once thought the end of the world would happen in his lifetime, but at his age (68), that's not likely now...laughs).

-- With our interactions increasingly virtual, is that a bad thing? (It's all relative...)

-- Where does he go to find inspiration? (Walks near his house...)

-- He's told his wife as far back as
Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind (1984) that it would be his last film, due to the amount of work involved. Twenty-five years and eight more films later, he doesn't say that much, at least at home.

-- Making an animated film becomes so involving that when it's complete, he doesn't want to watch them again.

-- Which is his favorite among his films? Well, each film is like his child, and if you have eight children, you can't say you love one more than the others!

-- How do you think audiences will view his films 50 years from now? (He makes films grandmothers want to show their grand kids, rather than films mothers would take their kids.)

-- Why the tendency for strong girls as protagonists in your films? (Well, of the current crop of 20 or so animators he's hired and is training for his Studio Ghibli, only one is a man. Maybe I have to start making films with strong boy characters.)

-- There are rarely any truly evil bad guys in his films...(He doesn't want to have to draw that; and reality is never as simple as all good or all bad.)

-- On expressive eyes: In
My Neighbor Totoro, he wanted his artists to draw Totoro's eyes so that you can't tell whether it's intelligent or not. As for the insect Ohmu from Nausicaa, you really have no clue with so many eyes.

-- His advice to young animators and artists: Draw everything around you for inspiration.

-- Some animators he considers contemporaries: Pixar's
John Lasseter and Nick Park of Aardman Animation.

-- On true love in his films: It has to be earned after the overcoming obstacles (and he speculates things will be tough for Sosuke and Ponyo after the movie's (
Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea)over...).

-- On overcoming writer's block: When he gets stuck he would concentrate so hard that his nose bleed...

-- On the Japanese government viewing Anime and Manga as "soft-power": Well, the government won't be around much longer (laughs)! But his films are mostly intended for Japanese audiences. The fact that they've found an audience outside of Japan is just a bonus.

(ED: Japanese PM
Taro Aso called for new Diet elections due to low approval ratings.)

-- What lies ahead? He doesn't think about the future...

As with any chat that relies on a translator, there's an unpleasant lag between his answer in Japanese and the English translation for us non-speakers.

The questions from Kelts were thoughtful, despite early on focusing too much on Miyazaki's latest film Ponyo, which I haven't seen. Some tough questions drew a few good humor groans from the filmmaker.

Still, Kelts sometimes made the mistake of asking questions with long prefaces, which may have elicited some off-topic answers from Miyazaki. Always keep it short and tight, then shut up and let the subject talk.

Miyazaki often answer questions indirectly -- maybe it's a cultural thing, or he's trying to be diplomatic. And I'm sure some of his answers got lost in translation too. In the end, he revealed himself a thoughtful, tough-but-fair minded visionary artist who can have a sense of humor about his work.

After the event, a group of autograph hounds (myself included) gathered by the stage entrance waiting for the man the emerge. He did about a half hour later and posed for a few photos, but declined to sign anything.