Friday, October 13, 2006

Blog move

This blog is moving. The same content, the same me, but no blogger. It's becoming a WordPress blog, and is going to be hosted on my own server (kinda -- I paid for it).

The new...Hunting the Elusive


Because of the WordPress themes, the blog will look a little bit different, but altogether it should be an improvement. Bear with me while I figure out how most of these things work.


Welcome to Huntington Eugenics. Engineering for a pure future. :P

Thursday, October 12, 2006

New Artist: Fururi

Just checked out the other items that my source for the Maki Chitose CG CDs was selling, and found another good independent artist, by the name of Fururi.

Wow, I sure am finding a lot of new artists these days.


I was pleasantly surprised by the style of this artist, which incorporates not only the super-moe style girls, but also in other graphical aspects. Taking influence from Jigoku Shoujo, Higurashi no Naku no Koro ni (with the Japanese festival elements), as well as Touhou games, it can be seen right from the redirection page that the artist has managed to incorporate the black and traditional Japanese style.




Of course, the art is not only cute, but it can be dark as well.


Yes, that's the girl-gone-crazy look there. There are (I think) two games out by this artist (who works with CHRONOLOG, the same company/circle as Sakurazawa Itsumi). But no CG sets yet.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

High Dynamic Range photography and Objectivity

"A picture is worth a thousand words", so the ancient cliche goes. "A picture never lies", another short-lived cliched Photoshopped into obscurity. As tempting as it might be for photographers to say that photographs embody the truth, that is never the case. At least, photographs do not embody the truth any more than journalistic words on a page. A degree of subjectivity must remain in any photograph taken by a human. Aside from aesthetics, why the angle, why the saturation, why the colours, why the positioning of the objects, the focus, why the exposure (determining washouts and underexposed shadow areas)? Each picture indeed tells a story. If "normal" (whatever that means) photographs are closer to the truth than "artistic" (think Lomo or long-exposure or camera-toss) photographs, then HDR is even closer to the truth than "normal" photographs. Paradoxically, HDR is FURTHER from the truth than normal photographs once it has been tone-mapped. It is as if our current video display units were incapable of displaying the truth without having a filter of fiction through which we can see it.

HDR takes a few photographs of the same thing (same angle, same object, preferably without shaking hands), each of a different exposure (higher, normal, low exposures), and then takes the data from each of these exposures and melds them together in one picture, which is then said to have a high dynamic range. Details from the dark exposed in the high-exposure photo, and details from the too-bright exposed in the low-exposure photo, are put in one picture. Almost like the combination of a spectrum of truths, of the different ways of seeing things.

"HDR makes photographs flat", so my colleague on IRC said. He further explained that there can be no focus on anything if details were equal in all areas. If the sun-drenched outside were not washed out but had as much detail as the painting in the dark museum hall, or if the shadowy recesses of the cathedral was as elaborately revealed as the stained-glass windows, what is the important element we pay attention to? But then that is true of our world. Our eyes are capable of instantly dispelling shadows in dark areas and reducing light input in bright areas. We see everything in detail, even though we do have very limited tunnel vision. HDR presents the whole truth of the world to us then, without the photographer's choice in what to focus on and what not to focus on. Admittedly, it is still possible for objective choices like angle and focus/blur to affect what is seen even in a HDR photograph, but these things are true of photographs, and by extension, the human condition.

The paradox of course is that (as you can see from the previous photographs in this blog) HDR is not supported by most displays at the current time.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

The above quote is very well suited to what I am talking about. Not only is the glass of our monitors that into which we see the virtual and real-world representations darkly and dimly, the glass is also the half-silvered mirror of our selves, our subjectivity through which we see the world. The processing of HDR images is a fine example of this.

To allow current displays to 'correctly' show HDR, a process known as Tone-Mapping is utilised. The Low Dynamic Range photographs are firstly combined to result in the HDR image, and the tone-mapping is a "correction process" of sorts to "step down" the image to allow normal displays to show its spectacular result. The problem of course is that the user is allowed to play with the various levels in tone mapping. We could make it look highly artificial, super flat, realistic, game-like, etc., depending on how we tweak the settings. Here then, subjectivity must enter the Garden of Objectivity. HDR, supposedly the grail of truth, that which takes the truths from a number of exposures and combines them into one, becomes a new human-interpreted artifice.

Monday, October 09, 2006

New Artist Found

Figures in a bit more depth, paper and Megami

Here we are then. I opened the figure packages and this is what will have to be assembled in some form or other, probably not too soon.


The Haruhi kit was better than I thought, fairly clean, with tabs and flash lines which should be relatively easy to deal with (if you have a dremel of course -- I ain't got one).


The second photo is a bag of the small parts which I didn't bother to delve into (for fear of losing parts), but they look pretty well-made. Comes with the guitar string/wire and the netting for Haruhi's leg -- no black airbrush for this one, though I fear it would be pretty hard to get the fishnet right.


Sasara, as an original cast job, was pretty horrible. I guess it's true "doujin" garage-kit style. People making their own moulds and casting this stuff, resulting in a lot of tabs and little thin pieces in-between which is going to take a lot of hard minute work to get out properly. Big tabs of material left in little nooks and crannies... ;_;


This ain't gonna be fun.


Ignore my crazy-pills, and I swear those packets are facial creams, not condoms.


I was a bit disappointed with Black Box vol.3. For its thin-ness, they should have made it colour. But no, it's a simple monotone collection of art from the three major artists. Of course, I am only interested in YukiUsagi, and so here is the centerfold for that artist.


Scanned in two parts and stitched automatically of course (caution, Big JPEG).


And the two "paper" of Maki Chitose (caution, Big JPEGS)


She wrote a damn ESSAY on those papers. I am gonna have to laminate them A4 pages! At first I thought the second paper was pencil drawings, but they turn out to be well-printed duplicates of pencil drawings. Oh wells.


Today, I got the Megami Nov edition, and we all know Megami is just posters and posters and posters. I wager most of the following would be available in crazy scans on 4ch, so didn't bother taking them to the scanner. A clear overview of the content can be gathered from the photos.

First of all, the big double sided poster for Haruhi.


Swimsuits and tan-lines. Hmmmm...not really my style. And the first side's style is disappointing for Ito Noizi. The face is a bit wrong.


Wide-scene Kanon poster. I know for sure this scan is out already.


Feena and her maid from the Yoake anime (again, a game to anime conversion -- not really interested).


The main characters from HAPPINESS! which IMO looks quite bad in terms of animation quality, but it has a trap. This poster of course FAILS because it doesn't have the Trap.


Not sure where this is from, and ignoring the whole Al Azif (Demonbane) dress thing, it's pretty good art. (Why is she wearing a loli costume when she is clearly not one?)

The Coincidence of 2 Shipments


That's my cat. Pardon the dirty glass through which we see dimly, the most intelligent expression I've seen it summon to date.


2 shipments of merchandise came in today. The flow of random items has of course been stemmed lately due to work being cut and therefore financial shortage, but all that has happened is that I only buy things which are of utmost interest, as opposed to buying a whole lot of stuff and then forgetting I bought them and then when the shipment comes with a postage price of 110AUD (yes, really), I find it stuffed full of things I didn't know I wanted. Not that I am complaining.



And that's the overview of the things. Notice that the Haruhi resin kit (a second shipment from e2046) came in a funky Made in China lunchbox of sorts. Prevents damage I guess. It just cracks me up to think that somewhere in Hong Kong is a store room filled with these lunchboxes ready for packing resin kits into.

The two dolls, which were preordered from the same yahoo auction seller. Domo, itadaki!

Wonderfest-limited chibi versions of Rei and Asuka.



Haruhi figure (e2046 shipment) resin kit. The parts seem pretty ok, but I haven't taken them out of the packaging yet, so we don't know for certain.


Sasara Kusugawa (TH2XR) resin. I suspect customs opened the package because of the smell coming from this one :P. The dogs must have gone bonkers. Unlike Haruhi this is an original cast, but seems to have some resin tabs floating around the package. Hopefully not too damaged.



 Knirps umbrella (X1 Mat Cross). Saw this on my trip to Japan, a compact folding umbrella with a nice hard case by the German company Knirps. It's so small and cute, I haven't tried opening it yet. :)


In the next update I will talk about the two "paper merchandise" I got with this shipment -- namely the BlackBox vol3 art thingy, and the Maki Chitose special paper thingomajig (which seems to come with a typewritten note from the Japanese seller, which I need to scan, OCR and translate). I might also talk about Megami Nov edition, which boasts a big Haruhi poster.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Trails of Clouds

From Makoto Shinkai fanweb, a recent update of Makoto Shinkai.

On the other day, my main machine (Power Mac G5 Quad) has crashed, so I had to send it factory to repair. It was a sudden occurrence without any special warning. I have lost the stored data in 1TB built-in HDD.
Fortunately, I backuped the data the day before (I backup double), so it has totally no bad effect on film making. However, much of my personal data was lost. Though I have thought I did, the backup about it was not perfect. I have been using PC for a long time, but such a big accident was first time for me. I was dazed when I thought about the lost data I had stored through years (I don't open them so commonly though), but I tried to change my mood by thinking what had been damaged was just data, not my body. On the other hand, I felt depressed thinking about "Where did I leave signs of the life somewhere except for the stored data?" (laugh). I needed almost 2 days to collect myself and think "I forget it anyway."
How do you figure that we feel depressed by losing the hundreds of GB through own carelessness still now, although we are surrounded by such a huge storages including online ones. For me, the crush was a salutary lesson.

About the accident, I need to say sorry for the viewers of my works because I lost all e-mails I had received before September 8th of this year. I received thousands of impressions by e-mail during there few years, and I was encouraged or took hints in making from each of them. I guess some of the e-mails took much time to write. It was my bad to have lost them by inadvertence. I'm very sorry for all persons who sent me e-mail.

I'll do my best in making works out so that I'll be able to get as much impressions as in past years. The making of new work Byousoku 5 Centimeters is in crucial stages now. Don't miss it.

-Makoto Shinkai

The question he posed regarding leaving signs of life elsewhere other than online was particularly striking. Not that I spend all my time and effort online, but when I think about the data I have now, all on hand for access at any time (DVD archives), I think "What would I do if the data were lost?"


Even this blog, perhaps, with my extended outpouring of creative energies into it, is hosted on just another service which could be terminated at any time, with no known way (for me) of backing all of it up. What would happen if I were to lose all these?


It might just be a existential worry that all humans have regarding the temporality of such things, their instability and prone-ness to flux and change, but such worries do consume people. Why else would they try to do things to prolong their memories after death? They want to mean something. If no one remembers you after your death, then you are well and truly dead. That's why it kinda sucks to be just an ordinary person. After the second and third generation that proceeds from you, you are truly dead. Such is the futility of life.


But all in all, such a realisation drives us to an understanding of how one should proceed with life. At high school, we might think "we are doing this in preparation for LIFE 1.0", which is somewhere along the way -- perhaps the carefree (we think, I certainly did) life of college.


Now at college/uni, I might very well fall into the trap of thinking "this is in preparation of LIFE 2.1", which is again, along the way, when you start a career. And then when you start working, you might not be too happy with it, and so again, it is preparation for LIFE 5.3b, which is when you get a super job with crazy income and have a house and have wonderful children and have big cars, go on cruises, holidays, etc.


Too bad when you reach that stage, you are again preparing for another version of LIFE. Until you reach LIFE (x), which is death.


Here I am reminded of an anecdote:


The American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, "only a little while."

The American then asked, "Why don't you stay out longer and catch more fish?"

The Mexican replied, "I have enough fish to support my family's immediate needs."

The American then asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

The Mexican fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, and stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life."

The American scoffed, "I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats. Eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA, and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise."

The Mexican fisherman asked, "But, how long will this all take?"

To which the American replied, "fifteen to twenty years."

"But what then?"

The American laughed and said, "That's the best part. When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions."

"Millions . . . then what?"

The American said, "Then you would retire, move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.


This then is the philosophy I picked up particularly from GTO Live Action: at no stage of life is it a "trial" for the "real thing". You are in the Real Thing already. Any other way of thinking is simply escapism. Since you are in the Real Thing already, live! For a cause, for yourself, for the hedonistic equation of pleasure, for something! And when you are finished, die FOR something, not OF something.


That is why even as I chase my dreams and ideals, I am going to be enjoying myself at every moment I can, whether it be in academic life or at work. I am living for myself. This perhaps is the key to optimism. On the darker side of the planet, it is why I am not too good at saving up, or investment. But it is also the reason I am a dreamer, and make choices for ideals rather than practicality (not that I am not a practical person -- I am not so out of touch with the world that I would walk around making dumb choices like I was a retard).


Why should I do engineering (or any other subject I don't like), knowing full well the uni course is going to be torture? When I come out, I might be guaranteed a job, or I might be paid highly after a year or so...but then what? No one is going to quit life after that has been achieved. You are going to keep toiling on at something you might not necessarily have a passion in, even if you have the skills and are raking in money. All for the sake of what? Retirement, when you can enjoy the spoils? Futility.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Photoblog Redux, and Magicu vol 30

I was looking for international flags on poles today (don't ask), and after walking 3 rounds of the city, venturing as far as Star City casino and back, I found it.


But before that, I passed Oxford St, and the quaint little Japanese bar/restaurant there "Uchi Lounge". I am pretty sure I've talked about this before. Lychee sake downstairs, crazy fusion Japanese food upstairs, open only during the evenings.


Here's my HDR photo of that place. I managed to keep my arms pretty steady today, so I got pretty good results without a tripod.


Remember full resolution copies can be requested :P


After my quest, I went to Kinokuniya's (which by the way is having a 15% sale on the 5th, 6th and 7th). Perusing the Japanese section shelves in vain, I at last asked Mr Takahashi at the counter (not his real name, I don't know his real name, so I just call him Mr Takahashi) whether Magicue v30 had come in yet (remember, that's the issue with the Aoi Nanase pencil board).


I had phoned before regarding this and had gotten a quoted arrival time of 10 October or something. To my pleasant surprise, and good fortune, he remembered that indeed Magicue had come in during a shipment today, and was still in a box by the counter, unshelved! The only copy Kino ordered in due to its niche audience (me, and I suspect one other person). And because it was listed as a Japanese book, 10% discount applied and taken, thank you very much.


Back home, scanning the board in at 600dpi yielded a chunky 95MB BMP. Compression via PNG to 16MB. Size reduction and JPEG compression to give us what we have here.


I'll see if I can get the PNG on meidokon, but don't hope for too much. This is plenty big anyway.


I seriously suggest getting Magicu 30 if you are a fan of Aoi Nanase. Not only did it come with this pencil board, but some other outstanding (for me) sections included:


- Feature on "Lovely Idol", a new anime series which looks like a Shuffle clone (possibly by the same artist, actually)

- "March of Puppy", the Magi-cu illustration gallery in this volume featuring the artist of MAKURA. An outstanding collection of art from this artist (I am not really that big a fan, but it's pretty well-done), organised like a few pages of a proper artbook, taking samples of work from many different areas.

- A collection of various minor artists' rendition of scenes from the series "Inukami" (I think?) Allows a great exploration of style. In particular, this artist seems to have almost mastered the Haruhi style. (DAMN, check out his blog! I've seen the Haruhi car everyone has seen, but this Blacknessssssssss)

- Duel Dolls. Seems to be a swimsuit edition this time o_o

- "Heart Mark", a graphic novel section by the artist of Bottle Fairy.

- "Night Wizard", an illustrated novel section, but the art is a bit weird. Some of it is outstanding but most of it is average.

- "Dejie no Bunpo", a digital artistry short-tutorial section. This section seems to have expanded from those of a couple of issues ago -- there are now a few more artists giving out tips in this section.

- "MajiMoe", a section with 7 "cases", exploring different artists' approach to the theme of "Magical Girls". All outstanding artworks displaying each of their styles very vividly.

- "Magi-cu Petit Gallery" featuring the artist of Baldr Bullet Revellion.

- "Aquarian Age Memories": THE section not to miss if you are fan of Aoi Nanase like me. Art, art and more art. Art which we didn't bother getting because they were printed on playing cards. A subsection is the Illustration Gallery. WOW. EVEN MORE ART. Stuff I have never seen before, as well as duplicates from the Aoi Nanase artbook. Illustration art for boxes and cards and posters. Great stuff. There are a few pictures in there which are definitely scanning material -- but I ain't debinding this mag. Someone buy me a book scanner!

- "Otsukai Blade", an illustrated thingomajig by Mikeou


Overall, I must say the Magi-cu is one of the best-value-for-money "magazines" out there. Not as risque as Megami (of course at the same time lacking in the tear-out-poster department, which it makes up for by having a two-sided full-colour pencil board), but comprehensively covers a lot of great artists, and most of it in colour and at decent resolution (there is a big section at the end which is black and white, but the colour stuff is very substantial). If you looked at the links above, you'll probably find that a quick romp through this issue has discovered a few names of artists previously unknown, who actually draw pretty well. If I had the funds, I'd order the issues that I skipped from Amazon. :P

Saturday, September 30, 2006

House, and Alan Wake

House Season 3, episode 4, was an outstanding episode which not only featured House pretending to be a charismatic minister, but also included a parody of Casablanca, and did a very good job of developing his character.


Hope is all those parents have going for them.

No, hope is what's making him miserable. What they should do is get a cocker spaniel. The dog would look them in the eye, wag his tail when he's happy, lick their face, show them love...

Is it so wrong for them to want to have a normal child? It's normal to want to be normal.

Spoken like a true circle queen. See, skinny, socially privileged white people get to draw this neat little circle. Everyone inside the circle is 'normal'. Anyone outside the circle should be beaten, broken, and reset, so they can be brought into the circle. Failing that, they should be institutionalised, or worse, pitied.

So it's wrong to feel sorry for this little boy?

Why would you feel sorry for someone who gets to opt out of the inane courteous formalities which are utterly meaningless, insincere and therefore degrading? This kid doesn't have to pretend to be interested in your back pain or your excretions or your grandma's itchy place. Imagine how liberating it would be to live a life free of all that mind numbing social niceties. I don't pity this kid -- I envy him.

Oooooh block quotes.


Other than that, check out this Alan Wake video. It's a game which is physics heavy and would probably induce me to upgrade to a Core Duo. :P


From the producers of Max Payne and Max Payne 2 (which remain in my mind, the most atmospheric games to hit the market, with the exception of FEAR and Condemned), this is a horror/action genre in which the writer Alan Wake goes and escapes the city life, only to find his nightmares and writings coming to life at this town.

New Blog Design: icie's Paper Cutout Theme - oil pastel style

Yes, I grew out of my "glossy" stage. Upwards and onward I say! Upwards and onward!


This new theme is based heavily on the Mr Brown theme provided by googleit, with only slight modifications. Heck, I only replaced the banner and edited the template to suit that change. That is because I saw no other problems with this template. The yellow/orange words against black/grey fits well with my new banner, and having a standard black against white background for posts is good for reading.


I dub this theme/banner combination "icie's Paper Cutout Theme - oil pastel style".


Of course, the most special part about this redesign is the banner (the only element I spent most time on). With the exception of the font used ( "Beyond Wonderland" ), everything in the banner is original (see last post for more of the philosophy on this). It was of course inspired. Predominantly, the KOI-YAMI site (for the flower/Japanese style), template-like designs in YEN magazine (a woman's magazine which I was researching for uni), and the new TDK "Wa" MiniDisc designs (ignore the first 4 discs).

(Pic credit)


Originally I was thinking of just reproducing the effect on the last minidisc (the moon and yellow theme), but one day as I was walking back to my house I saw the perfect branch of flowers extending out, contrasted against the darkening sky. I immediately took a photo of that, the branch black against the blue sky. So that has now been incorporated into the banner, and the other line (using marker stroke in Adobe Illustrator) signifies the wind or something. The wind bell (fuurin) is the one I got last year. I took it, put it against a background which allowed better contrast, then photographed it. Played around with contrast and threshholds until I had it black against a white background.


The technique for producing this banner is quite simple. The effect is similar to what I used to do as a kid, which was to get normal crayon or colour pencil and colour a piece of paper with many colours, then using a soft black oil pastel crayon, to cover all of that with a layer of black, before using a paperclip or similar instrument to scrape out the desired pattern. The black layer of oil pastel gets scraped off, revealing bright colours against the black. Digitally, we are doing the equivalent.


Before starting, tweak your photographs and other stuff to create the cutouts. These need to be clearly demarcated black and white images.


In Photoshop, have a layer with your gradient as the bottom layer. Over this, have a pure black layer. Make these layers non-visible for now, by clicking the eye icon on the layers.


Take your b&w cutouts, and paste them as a new layer on top of everything else. In this layer, Select -> Colour Range, and select only the black. When this is selected, the black cutout shapes/lines should be selected.


In your layers selection, click the eye on the black layer to make it visible, then make sure you select the black layer. Click back to your main workspace (without affecting the selection), and simply hit delete.


Make your pasted cutout layer invisible, and make your gradient background visible, and you should see the effect.


Remember, if at anytime you don't like the gradient, you can simply change the bottom layer. In my banner, the wind bell has a separate gradient on its own, a patch placed just for it.


If you have problems with aliasing causing jagged edges (a big problem I had with illustrator to photoshop import of the line), a simple way to overcome this is to work with an image 300% the final size you want. That way, you get smoother edges when pasting in the vector.


The 1.2MB rar'd photoshop file is available for download.