Thursday, October 18, 2018

The True Frontier - Cordwainer Smith

The following is a transcription of Extra Sci-fi’s episode “The True Frontier - Cordwainer Smith”

What if I told you that one of the greatest scifi authors of the Golden Age wrote the book on Psychological Warfare? Like, literally, he wrote the book “Psychological Warfare.” What if I told you, that the same guy was called upon to advise JFK, and his godfather was Sun Yat-Sen. What if I told you, he is also a professor who was rumored to sometimes bring his cats to class, and simply address his lectures to his cats? You’d probably agree with me that this is a guy we should talk about.

We couldn’t leave the golden age without touching some of the writes active at the time who were bucking all of the trends we associate with golden age science fiction. And none could be weirder or trend bucky than Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger. Better known, as Cordwainer Smith. Paul Linebarger grew up the son of an American judge, who’d been active in helping the Chinese overthrow their emperor and usher in the Republic of China. He was seeped in Chinese culture, and when, at age six, an accident left him blind in one eye, he received a letter from his godfather, Sun Yat-Sen telling him to stay strong. But soon, the fortunes of the Chinese revolutionaries began to decline. And as China became a fractured and dangerous place, his family packed up and left, spending a few years in countries all over the globe.

Fluent in six languages before he entered college, and getting his PhD by the time he was twenty-three, Paul looked destined for a successful and comfortable academic life, and he would have one. Serving as professor for most of his days. He’d just also be a spy who’d once warned his daughter about dodging the KGB, because you see, World War Two broke out, and like almost all of America, he got swept into it.

So what’s a half-blind academic to do with World War Two, you ask? Well, apparently, helped found the US Office of War Information, and set up the United States first psychological warfare units and when it came time for the office to find an operative to serve in China, he found himself writing the job description, which he proceeded to immediately write in such a way that the job requirements were so completely ludicrous, that only one person the very godson of Sun Yat-Sen could possibly fill them.

Soon he was piling around with Chiang Kai-Shek and kicking around China doing things that are still redacted. But when the war ended, he returned to civilian life, and penned his first truly major work, and perhaps the most important work to bear his own name, the book Psychological Warfare. It’s one of the foundational texts in the now all too active field of messing with other people’s minds, but it’s his other work we care about. The work he did under other names. In a burst of energy following the war, he published a spy novel under the name Felix C. Forrest, but they didn’t really go anywhere. It was almost by accident that he found his calling, he had an incredible story called “Scanners Live in Vain” about this disturbed vision of space travel, what he called, the great up and out.

In his future, space is an incredibly oppressive place. Traveling through it is physically painful. It destroys people mentally and physically. So humans of the future have found a solution. Most people travel between planets in a sort of cryogenic sleep. Shuttled around on ships crewed by humans who have had all their nerve endings severed so they can’t feel the pain of space.

Most of the crew are convicts sentenced to this life, but a small portion of them are Scanners. People who have voluntarily chosen to have all their nerve endings burnt out, except those connected to their eyes which have metal shields surgically implanted behind them. These people function as captains and more importantly watch the dials on boxes implanted into their crew’s chests that monitor and adjust all of the body’s functions since the crew can’t feel pain or even sense things like their heart beating too fast.

But once per month, these scanners can come home and cranch, or basically become a normal human being. The story follows a character who is cranched when an emergency occurs and all of the scanners are called together. Someone has found a way to travel through space without the pain. The Scanners know this will make them obsolete, and feeling nothing, they vote to murder the person who discovered this rather than let humanity have this gift. But the protagonist currently having normal sensation realizes this would be monstrous.

Which is super weird for a Golden Age sci-fi story, so it was rejected everywhere.

Finally after basically giving up on it under the name Cordwainer Smith, he sent it on a whim to a little-known magazine who offered to publish if they didn’t pay him for it. But it was stuck in the mind of one reader, Frederik Pohl, a man we’re going to be talking about some twenty years down the line.

Frederik Pohl did work publishing and editing sci-fi. One of the things he loved to do was put out anthologies because basically they were no work for relatively decent pay so he wanted to stick this odd story in his collection. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find who the heck Cordwainer Smith was. Finally, after many convoluted steps, he tracked down Paul Lineberger who was delighted to have his work published. Shortly thereafter Frederik Pohl became the editor of Galaxy magazine, and it was off to the races for one Cordwainer Smith.

After this, Cordwainer Smith created one of the most expansive and intriguing Sci-Fi mythos of all time, it spans fifteen thousand years and the extremities of space, but the reader only gets to see small parts at a time. It’s about the human instrumentality. It’s where that term enters Sci-Fi and it’s filled with things no one was talking about in the Golden Age.

Smith envisions a society of humans and under-people where human beings live in absolute comfort, while under-people take on the tasks that humanity has long since abandoned, all managed by a group of powerful psionics known as the Instrumentality which guide and shape humanity’s destiny. But what makes it interesting is the strange twist he gives all these concepts. The Under-people are basically animals that have been engineered to look just like people but retain some of their animal traits. So a dog person might be incredibly loyal while a bull person would have some of the slow plotting strength of a bull.

To humanity, they serve as second-class citizens, while true humans often loathe to even be touched by them. But in the end, it’s they who retain the capacity for empathy and emotion while humanity itself is trapped in a stifling bubble of perfect safety and comfort. And unlike many of the Golden Age works about humanity being too comfortable, Smith’s stuff isn’t about how humanity needs to toughen up or how everyone is getting too weak and soft these days. His work is about the joy we experience in overcoming and the hope that can only exist alongside uncertainty. It’s about how struggle makes us more human, better able to relate and understand each other, and lets us experience empathy in ways that total comfort may cut us off from. And what’s really surprising in a golden age work, the Instrumentality eventually realizes they were wrong all along, they return to humanity all of the culture and the struggles they’d long protected it from in the rediscovery of mankind, which makes it this bizarre, but beautiful reflection from an old cold warrior on the world he lived through and the things his bosses espouse.


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Work Stories (sooubway)

The following is a transcription of theOdd1sOut video "Work Stories (sooubway)"

I think that everyone at some point in their live should work in a fast food or retail job. Not to work their work ethic or anything, but so that everyone knows what it's like to have that kind of job. They wouldn't work fast food their whole lives, maybe just, like for six months, just so they get a feel for it. So with that, let's talk about the time when I worked in fast food.

I used to work at a very small, local, sandwich shop. I don't know if you guys heard of it, it's called Sooubway? Our spokesperson was in the news recently. I don't know if you guys look at the news. Did you hear he got beat up in jail? I kinda want to meet the person who beat up Jared, more than Jared. Not in person, we wouldn't meet in person, obviously. But like, he would be behind bars, and I would just look at the guy who beat up my spokesperson. How many people get to say they beat up a fast-food icon, who was also a pedophile? Only one, and it's that guy.

Okay, but seriously guys, working at Subway was probably the most easiest jobs out there. I don't know what I'm about to complain about it to you guys. We got free cookies! And you know the comic with the Subways in hell? I was actually working at Subway when I made that comic. I just think it had sort of a little bit of value to it. You see, the owners, who were husband and wife, (can you believe it?) of the Subway I worked at, owned two stores. One of the Subway stores was in a Walmart, on an Indian Reservation, 'cause we have those in Arizona, and the other Subway, was the Subway I worked at. And since the Walmart store was always busy, the owners would spend 99% of their time at that store.

So I don't really have a boss, most of the time. On the off-chance that the owners did show up, they would just pick up some food and they would make sure I was making sandwiches the right way. And every time I made a sandwich in front of them, they would always find something wrong with it, without fail. You put on too many olives. Do you know according to the Subway formula, you're only supposed to put 6 olives on a footlong? Six! One for every other bite. That's just ridiculous! Can you imagine someone just counting out 6 olives? Nobody does that!

I usually worked the closing shift, and at the end of the night we would turn the alarm, and we would have 60 seconds to get out of the store. But one time, I had the opening shift, so I unlocked the door to get in with my key, and the alarm went *beep* *beep* meaning I had 60 seconds to turn if off. No big deal, right? I turned the alarm on all the time when I was closing. So I go to the little control panel, and I type in the code, and nothing happens. The beeping is still there and the clock is still ticking down. So I go, "Okay, I'm going to press each button very carefully. I"m going to make sure each button makes a beep when I press it." *beep* *beep* *beeeeep* Nothing still happens. So, I go, "Okay! I'm going to make sure to press each button, very carefully." and I start thinking, did they change the pass code without telling me? Was the only passcode I know, so we're just gonna try it again. And I press each button, very carefullly. *beep* *beep* *beeeeep* and it goes quiet, AND THEN THE ALARM GOES OFF! I still had, like, 20 seconds left, but I guess when you get it wrong 3 times, it automatically assumes that you're a burglar.

So while the alarm is going off, I look on the contact sheet for the owner's cell phone number, I step outside, I call him, and he doesn't pick up. So I go back inside, find the number for the other Subway store, they open an hour before we do, someone picks up with their stupid voice, "Oh thank you for calling Subway, I'm (gibberish) how may I help you?" and I go, "Hey, is Mike there?" That's not his real name guys, don't worry. And they go, "Um, just a minute."

Yeah sure I have all the time in the world. The cops might be on their way, but take your time.

So, Mike picks up.

"Y-hello"
"Hey, Mike, this is James. Uh, what's the passcode for the alarm?"
"Who is this?"
"It's James. What's the passcode?"
"What are you doing there James?"
"WHY AREN'T YOU ANSWERING THE QUESTION" (I didn't say that.)
"I have the opening shift."
"Is the alarm going off?"
"Yeah, no one told me the new code."
"Yeah, we changed it. It's the last 4 digits of your social security number." (it's different for everyone.)
"Oh, oh. Okay, thanks Mike."

I DON'T KNOW MY SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER!

So I finally get the alarm off, no one showed up, thankfully. Which I don't know if that's a good thing or not, now that I say it out loud.

We did have a store manager who would, like, make the schedule and sometimes tell us, "hey can you guys do a better job at... your job?" But other than that, she was cool! She watches my videos, and so do her little brothers, they're big fans. Shout out to Ivan and Andy. Those are her brothers.

So, get this, at Subway, you only work with one other person. Just you and them in an empty subway for 5 hours. I mean, we weren't, like, empty all the time. Okay? And when you're not making sandwiches, you have other stuff to do like, stocking the chips or ... we had stuff to do. But okay, we did watch a lot of Netflix and do homework, so I mean (gibberish).

That other person you work with, would make or break your entire shift. It wasn't the annoying customers. I kinda got used to annoying customers. So I worked with a lot of crappy people. And I also worked with a lot of people who I would probably never become friends with except in a work setting.

You see, you gotta understand the type of people who got jobs at Subway. Potheads. Most of them are potheads. And some of them are really cool! I'm just gonna go over a couple of the characters that I worked with. There was Tyler, I freakin love this guy. He smoked a lot of weed. He actually told me what vaping was, and he got me into Clash of Clans. I actually mentioned him and his girlfriend in my riddles video. I don't know if I ever told him that. And of course I have to mention Corey, he was cool. We watched "How to get away with murder" on Netflix, I've also hung outside with him outside of work.

What him and Tyler had in commons is that they would actually do their job, which you gotta appreciate.

Then there was this guy, get this, who was also named Jared. And he was fat! I know, right. He's like... Jared, but before! He loved Marvel, and that's like, the only thing he would talk about. I can say these things. He doesn't watch my videos. There's Sarah. She was cool. She make me a bread bowl, and her boyfriend Jay. He talked about Chakras and third eyes, he was, ... interesting.

And also, there's Anthonee, he's cool. What's up Anthonee!

For the one hundred thousand sprinkles video, I actually went back to Subway to use their scale because I knew they had one, and we counted five hundred sprinkles again just to be more accurate for the hundred thousand, and Anthonee halepd me count. Instead of working. I mean, at least he got paid... minimum wage for it. So, two more stories before I go.

One time, Jared asked me to take out this pile of trash, and I was like, "Oh, okay, I'll just put this pile of trash in the dumpster." And as I was taking it out, I saw that there was a chip poster in the pile. And I thought, "This is too cool to throw away. I'm going to keep it." So I took it home with me, and then the next day, when I went in, people were saying, "oh, where's the chip poster? We can't find the chip poster! We ha- we haven't seen it anywhere!" And I'm thinking, "I have the poster." I decided not to tell anyone that I had the poster, and it's still hanging up in my room. Sorry boss if you're finding out about this now.

Okay, then the other story, I was working with the manager and we were just making sandwiches like usual, and I noticed that when we toasted a sandwich, it would burn the paper a little on the edges. "That probably shouldn't be happening." So, then a customer asks for just bacon toasted. And the boss lady put some bacon on paper, and then puts it in the toaster. And we don't have a setting for just bacon. So then when she opens the toaster, there was a fire, on the bacon. So then she starts to whack it with the little, metal, tray thing, but all she ended up doing was fanning the flames, making the fire bigger.

"You got this right?"

Then I went in the back and got the fire extinguisher and I actually used it! I singlehandedly saved that Subway. Wait. What have I done?

"Is it okay if the bacon's a little crispy? and has nitrogen and carbondioxide stuff on it?"

Wow, I didn't even mention a single bad customer experience. Well I don't want the video to be too long, I should make a part 2. I'm gonna make a part 2 and it's just gonna be stories about annoying customers that I had to deal with. And if anyone I used to work with is watching, and I didn't mention  you, it's because I hate you.


Buster Keaton - The Art of the Gag

The following is a transcription of Tony Zhou's Every Frame a Painting episode "Buster Keaton - the Art of the Gag."

Hi. My name is Tony, and this is Every Frame a Painting.

There are some filmmakers who are so influential, that no matter where you look, you see traces of them everywhere. I see this filmmaker's framing in the works of Wes Anderson. His acrobatics and stunts in Jackie Chan. And his deadpan posture in Bill Murray. He, of course, is Buster Keaton, one of the three great silent comedians.
"He was, as we're now beginning to realize, the greatest of all the clowns in the history of the cinema." said Orson Welles.
In nearly a hundred years later, I think he still has plenty to teach us about visual comedy. So today, let's take a look at how the master builds a gag. Ready? Let's go.

The first thing you need to know about visual comedy is that you have to tell your story through action. Keaton was a visual storyteller and he never liked it when other directors told their story through the title cards.
"The average picture used 240 titles, that was about the average."
"240 was the average?"
"Yes, and the most I ever used was 56." said Buster.
He avoided title cards by focusing on gesture and pantomime. In this shot, you never find out what these two are talking about. Everything you need to know is conveyed through the table and their body language.
"But what you had to say... you had to communicate to the audience in only one way. Through action."
"That's right, we eliminated subtitles just as fast as we could if we could possibly tell it in action." added Keaton.
Keaton believed that each gesture you did should be unique. Never do the same thing twice. Every single fall is an opportunity for creativity. But once you know the action, we come to the second problem. Where do you put the camera?

Visual gags generally works best from one particular angle. And if  you change the angle, then you're changing the gag, and it might not work as well. Finding the right angle is a matter of trial and error. So let's take a look at two possible camera placements for the same joke. Here's the first one, and here's the second. You'll notice in the first angle, the car takes up most of the frame, and we don't get a clear look at Buster until he turns around. But in the second angle, the car's placed in the background, and we always have a clear view of his face. This split second, where he doesn't know what's happening but we do, that's much better from over here. And in the first angle, the framing splits our attention. Our eyes want to look at his face and the sign at the same time. But after reframing the scene, our eyes naturally look at him, then the sign, then back to him. Much better.

Now we come to the third question. What are the rules of this particular world? Buster's world is flat and governed by one law. If the camera can't see it, then the characters can't see it either. In Buster's world, the characters are limited by the sides of the frame, and by what's visible to us, the audience. And this allows him to do jokes that make sense visually but not logically. A lot of his gags are about human movement in the flat world. He can go to the right, to the left, up, down, away from the lens, or towards it. Look familiar?
"She's been murdered, and you think I did it."
"HEY!"
Like Wes Anderson, Buster Keaton found humor in geometry. He often placed the camera further back so you could see the shape of a joke. There are circles, triangles, parallel lines, and of course, the shape of the frame itself: The rectangle. I think staging like this is great because it encourages t he audience too look around the frame and see the humor for themselves. In this shot, think about where your eyes are looking.
Now where is he? Some of these gags have their roots in vaudeville, and are designed to work like magic tricks. And like all great magic tricks, part of the fun is trying to guess how it was done. Keaton had a name for gags like these. He called them "Impossible gags." They're some of his most inventive and surreal jokes. But as a storyteller, he found them tricky because they broke the rules of his world.
"We had to stop doing impossible gags, what we call cartoon gags. We lost all of that when we started making feature pictures. They had to be believable or your story wouldn't hold up."
So instead, he focused on what he called the natural gag. The jokes that emerges organically from the character and the situation. Consider what he does with this door.
Keaton claimed that for visual comedy you had to keep yourself open to improvisation.
"How much of it was planned and how much came out in the actual doing? How much was improvised, you know."
"Well, as a rule, about 50 percent you have in your mind before you start the picture, and the rest develop as you're making it."
Sometimes he would find a joke he liked so much that he would do a callback to it later. But other times, jokes that he'd planned beforehand wouldn't work on the day. So he would just get rid of them.
"Because they don't stand up and they don't work well. And then the accidental ones come."
He was supposed to make this jump, but since he missed, he decided to keep the mistake and build on it.
"So you seldom got a scene like that good the second time. You generally got em that first one."
"Maybe that's one of the reasons there was so much laughter in the house the other night. I mean the younger people and I had this feeling that what we were seeing was happening now. That it happened only once it was not something that was pre-done and done and done."
And that brings us to the last thing about Buster Keaton and his most famous rule:

Never fake a gag.

For Keaton, there was only one way to convince the audience that what they were seeing was real. He had to actually do it, without cutting. He was so strict about this that he once said, "Either we get this in one shot, or we throw out the gag." And it's why he remained vital nearly 100 years later. Not just for his skill but for his integrity. That's really him. And no advancement in technology can mimic this. Even now, we're amazed when filmmakers actually do it for real. But I think he did it better 95 years ago. So no matter how many times you've seen someone else pay homage to him, nothing beats the real thing.


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

F for Fake (1973) - How to Structure a Video Essay

The following is a transcription of Tony Zhou's F for Fake (1973) - How to Structure a Video Essay for Every Frame a Painting.

Hi, my name is Tony, and this is Every Frame a Painting. So this channel's been going well, which means it's about time.
Time for a confession?
Yeah, time for a confession. I've stolen more ideas from this film than from any other.

F for fake.

Ladies and gentlemen, by way of introduction, this is a film about trickery, and frou,d about lies.

Wait, sorry I'm doing this wrong. Can we start over?

This is an essay film by Orson Welles. It's called F for Fake, and it's one of my personal bibles. Everything I know about editing, I learned from this film. But today I want to talk about one basic thing: Structure.
We found out this one really simple rule that maybe you guys have all heard before, but it took us a long time to learn it.
When you're structuring a video essay, there's one thing you really want to avoid.
I think that's about it.
And then?
No, that's it.
And then?
Then nothing else 'cuz I'm done ordering.
And then?
If you tell a story that's "and then they, and then they, and then" you're in big trouble.
This is the number one mistake I make in my own work. Like here, watch how repetitive this is.
Choosing to take the money, choosing not to fight back, choosing to hide their emotions, choosing not to trust someone, choosing to wait out the discomfort, choosing to get-
This is a list you can put in any order. That's why it's so boring.
What should happen between every beat that you've written down, is either the word therefore or but. Right? So what I'm saying is you come up with an idea that's like, this happens:
  • What are those?
  • My pubes. I got them from Scott Tenorman.
And therefore this happens.
  • Cartman you don't buy pubes, you grow them yourself.
  • You telling me these pubes are worth nothing? 
  • Yeah
But this happens 
  • And I'll give you the pubes
  • Sweet
Therefore this happens
  • Aww goddammit
So, throughout this movie, Orson Welles does the exact same thing. Except he doesn't connect scenes, he connects thoughts.
You're a painter, why do you want people to do fakes?
Because fakes are as good as the real ones, and there's a market and there's a demand.
If you didn't have an art market, then fakers could not exist.
Even though this movie is an essay, each moment has the connective logic of a South Park episode.

The second rule in this movie is to have more than one story, moving in parallel.
I'll quote Hitchcock again. He said the name of making movies is "meanwhile, back at the ranch." He's absolutely right. You want to have two things going. You reach the peak of one, you go to the other.
  • "I hope you know what you're doing"
You pick the other up just where you want it. When it loses interest, drop it. "meanwhile, back at the ranch.
How does this work in an essay film? Well, let's say you have two stories. Let one of them build up. When it reaches peak interest, switch to the other. Let this one build. And when this gets to the top, go back to the first. Simple, right? Except F for Fake doesn't just have two things. There's also stories about Orson Welles, Howard Hughes, a woman named Oja, and even the making of this movie. And by building each story carefully, Welles can jump between all six of these without ever losing the audience.

So when I'm making a video essay, this is what's going through my head.
  • And then?
  • No "and then!"
  • And then?
  • No "and then!"
  • And then?
  • No "and then!"
And I got all of that from watching this film, which more than anything has taught me: It's not about what you get. It's how you cut it and what comes out the other end.

Remember, video essays aren't essays. They're films. So you want to structure and pace them like a filmmaker would. Therefore and but, meanwhile back at the ranch. If you don't believe me, you should at least trust Orson Welles. Who somehow figured this out over 40 years ago.
"Why not? I'm a charlatan." said Orson.
But whatever. Let's wrap up this essay.
"Now it's time for an introduction."
Hi, my name is Tony, and this concludes year one of Every Frame a Painting. I'd like to thank you all for watching,
"And wish you all, a very pleasant good evening."

Jackie Chan - How to Do Action Comedy

The following is a transcription of Tony Zhou's Every Frame a Painting episode "Jackie Chan - How to do Action Comedy"
"Yes"
"Hallo, yes, this is Jackie speaking." said Jackie Chan.
Hi, my name is Tony, and this is Every Frame a Painting. Some filmmakers can do action, others can do comedy. But for 40 years, the master of combining them has been Jackie Chan. These days, there's a lot of movies that combine funny scenes ... with fight scenes. But even when the movie's good, the comedy and action seems to be two different directors and two different styles. And that's why Jackie's so interesting. In his style, action is comedy. And his work shows that the same filmmaking principles apply whether you're trying to be funny or kick ass. So let's dive in. Ready? Let's go.

So, how does Jackie create action that is also funny? First off, he gives himself a disadvantage. No matter what film, Jackie always starts beneath his opponents. He has no shoes. He's handcuffed. He has a bomb in his mouth. From this point, he has to fight his way back to the top. Each action creates a logical reaction. And by following the logic, we get a joke. In movies, this comedic style goes back to the silent clowns like Chaplin, Lloyd, and Keaton. But I think Jackie has distilled it down to one line of dialogue: "Please! I said I don't want trouble!" said Jackie.

Because he's the underdog, Jackie has to get creative, which brings us to point number Two: he uses anything around him. This is the most famous aspect of his style. Take something familiar, do something unfamiliar. I've seen him fight with chairs, dresses, chopsticks, keyboards, legos, refrigerators, and of  course: ladders. Not only does this make each fight organic and grounded, it also gives us jokes that couldn't happen anywhere else.

Number Three: Jackie likes clarity. He doesn't do dark scenes where everything is color corrected blue. If his opponent wears black, he wears white. And if his opponent's in white, then he's stylin'. His framing is so clear, that in each shot he's setting up the next bit of action. Here, even though we're watching the stuntman, two thirds of the frame, is the staircase. A few seconds later, we see why. He keeps things clear by rarely using handheld or dolly moves.
"Like American movies, there's a lotta movement. When the camera angle moves, that means the actors, they don't know how to fight." said Jackie.
In slow-motion, you can see how the camera operator swings around to make the hits seem more violent. But since Jackie can fight,...
"I never move my camera. Always steady. Wide-angle. Let him see I jumping down, I do the flip, I do the fall." adds Jackie.
When you shoot this way, everything looks more impressive because action and reaction are in the same frame. Notice how you can always see Jackie, the car, and the wall at the same time. But a similar stunt, from Rush Hour 3 never includes all the elements in the same shot, and it doesn't work. The same principle applies to comedy. This shot directed by Sammo Hung, shows us the punch, the bad guy's face, and Jackie's face all in one. Now check out the same gag in Shanghai Noon. Here, action and reaction are separate shots. It kinda works, but not nearly as well. Why don't more directors do this?

Because of number Five: they don't have enough time. Jackie is a perfectionist willing to do as many takes as necessary to get it right. And in Hong Kong, he's supported by the studio, which gives him months to shoot a fight.
"And the most difficult thing is when I throw the fan and it comes back. More than 120 takes. Those kind of scenes, you say "Oh, Jackie's good. It's not 'good.' You can do it. Except do you have the patience or not?" said Jackie.
When I rewatch his work, these little things are the ones I'm most impressed by. He doesn't need to do them, and they eat into his budget. But he still does them because he wants to. And it's that "going above and beyond" that I respect and admire.
"But in America, they don't allow you to do that. You know, because money." adds Jackie
And his American work is missing something else:
"And there's a rhythm also, to the way that the shots are performed and also the way they're edited, and Jackie said something very interesting that, you know, that the audience don't know the rhythm's there until it's not there."
Jackie's fight scenes have a distinct musical rhythm. A timing he works out on set with the performers.
"Ready? Action! Stay where you are. Stay where you are! Don't chase me. Boom boom, Boom! See? Everybody looks good." said Jackie
Even experienced martial artists have trouble with it. In his earliest films, you see him learning the timing from Yuan He Ping and it's very much like Chinese opera. By the mid 80s, working with his own stunt team he had something totally unique. In America, many directors and editors don't understand this timing, and they ruin it by cutting on every single hit. But in Hong Kong, directors hold their shot long enough for the audience to feel the rhythm.
"The most important part is the editing. Most directors, they don't know how to edit. Even the stunt coordinators, they don't know how to edit." said Jackie.
Hong Kong directors like Jackie and Sammo cut a particular way. In the first shot, you hit your opponent in the wide. In the second shot, you get a nice close up. But when you cut the shots together, you don't  match continuity. At the end of shot one, the elbow is here. At the beginning of shot two, it's all the way back here. These 3 frames, are for the audience's eyes to register the new shot. And they make all the difference.
"I start from here, then here, but two shots combined. That's power." said Jackie
 In other words, show it twice and the audience's mind will make it one hit that's stronger. By contrast, modern American editing doesn't show the hit at all. At the end of shot 1 the leg is here, at the beginning of shot two, it's in the same place, going backwards. But because they cut at the exact frame of the hit, it doesn't feel like a hit. A lot of people think this is because of the PG13 rating, but even R rated films do this now. It looks like a bunch of people flailing around instead of a bunch of people getting hurt.

Which brings us to number Eight: Pain. Unlike a lot of action stars, who try to look invincible, Jackie gets hurt. A lot. Half the fun of his work is that not only are the stunts impressive, there's always room for a joke. Pain humanizes him. Because no matter how skilled he is, he still gets smacked in the face. In fact, Jackie's face may actually be his greatest asset. Many times, the look he gives is all it takes to sell a joke. Like when he does an entire fight holding a chicken, or dressed as Chun-Li.

And last, Jackie's style always ends with a real payoff for the audience. By fighting his way from the bottom, he earns the right to a spectacular finish. He doesn't win because he's a better fighter. He wins because he doesn't give up. This relentlessness makes his finales really impressive and really funny. And it's in direct contrast to a lot of his American work where bad guys are defeated because someone shoots them. Come on.

But most of all, I think Jackie's style proves something: action and comedy aren't that different. In both genres, we want to see our best performers, and I think a lot of modern action directors are failing completely. These actors are skilled artists, some of the best in the world. Why are the directors so unskilled? Why am I paying money to not see the action?
"Whatever you do, do the best you can because the film lives forever. No, because that day it was raining and the actor don't have time. I said, would you go to every theater to tell the audience? No.  The audience sits in the theater: good movie, bad movie that's all."said Jackie
Exactly. This work will last. And on that note, I leave you with the greatest death scene in film history.


Thursday, October 11, 2018

Citizen of No Country

A friend of mine forwarded me this, it's an interesting tale someone told him of their late father-in-law.
My late father in law. Age 13 the Russians came into his village of ethnic Germans in what is now Bosnia. Shot his father ( one of the largest landowners in the area) in the front parlor.
They Raped his mother and older sisters in front of him. Dragged the whole family off and put them in death camps where they were worked to death but by bit. His older brother was sent to the mines in Siberia.
He escaped from the camp three times with his two older brothers, and got their mother and sisters out of the women’s camp.
Recaptured and beaten almost to death, they kept them alive because they could repair electric circuits. Finally escaped, and smuggled the whole family of 7 out of there, walked across the Alps into Austria. Wove baskets from reeds and traded them for food. Finally ended up in a US run displaced persons camp.
Worked for five years doing construction, delivering milk, and any job they could find until they were able to immigrate to the US.
Worked as a welder and ran a cleaning business. Bought a house. Raised two children and sent them to college. Never became a citizen because he never learned to read or write English ( and hid it from everyone but his wife).
Dying of Emphysema, he got a notice that ICE was thinking of deporting him because he had let his green card lapse. I drove him up to the Federal building and wheeled him in his wheelchair.
The officious clerk said “so we may have to deport you”. I laughed and said “To Where ? Read his green card.”
Citizen of No Country. 
“Oh !”
He laughed and told jokes, the ICE lady started laughing, and she got his green card renewed in record time.
Surviving that kind of childhood and then living a good life ? Total badass.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

What do you do when a C++ Actor Component won't tick and you've tried everything?

Sometimes C++ component won't run the tick. You can google it out, and everyone would have very different solution. Tried them all, and it still won't tick.

Only one thing left to do. Recreate the code. So that's what I did. Recreate a new Actor Component, and copy pasted all the custom codes as-is so everything pretty much matches the old one. Recompile. And it works.

Two Actor component in the map, running, one of them ticks, the other doesn't. Go figure.

I wonder if this is a bug in Unreal Engine 4.21 preview 1? Doesn't seem to be, a lot of people seem to have the same issue dating back to 2014

Updating C++ Project to Unreal Engine 4.21p1

So, the Unreal Engine 4.21 Preview 1 came out earlier today, so of course I immediately installed it and updated all my projects to 4.21p1, and all the blueprint projects upgrades perfectly without a hitch except the flappy bird one.

However, the C++ projects are having some issues moving over to the new version. For whatever reason, I keep getting this error:
ERROR: Couldn't find target rules file for target 'UE4Editor' in rules assembly 'UEProject, Version=0.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=null'.
Here's the full error  log:
 UnrealBuildTool.GuardedMain: Command line: "c:/Program Files/Epic Games/UE_4.21/Engine/Binaries/DotNET/UnrealBuildTool.exe" Development Win64 -Project="D:/UEProject 4.21 - 2/UEDevCourse.uproject" -TargetType=Editor -Progress -NoHotReloadFromIDE
 GitSourceFileWorkingSet..ctor: Using 'git status' to determine working set for adaptive non-unity build (D:\UEProject 4.21 - 2).
 UnrealBuildTool.RunUBT: Creating makefile for UEDevCourseEditor (no existing makefile)
 Log.WriteException: ==============================================================================
 Log.WriteException: ERROR: Couldn't find target rules file for target 'UE4Editor' in rules assembly 'UEDevCourseModuleRules, Version=0.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=null'.
 Log.WriteException:        Location: D:\UEProject 4.21 - 2\Intermediate\Build\BuildRules\UEDevCourseModuleRules.dll
 Log.WriteException:        Target rules found:
 Log.WriteException:            UEDevCourse - D:\UEProject 4.21 - 2\Source\UEDevCourse.Target.cs
 Log.WriteException:            UEDevCourseEditor - D:\UEProject 4.21 - 2\Source\UEDevCourseEditor.Target.cs
 Log.WriteException:       
 Log.WriteException:        (see ../Programs/UnrealBuildTool/Log.txt for full exception trace)
 Log.WriteException:
 Log.WriteException: BuildException: Couldn't find target rules file for target 'UE4Editor' in rules assembly 'UEDevCourseModuleRules, Version=0.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=null'.
 Log.WriteException: Location: D:\UEProject 4.21 - 2\Intermediate\Build\BuildRules\UEDevCourseModuleRules.dll
 Log.WriteException: Target rules found:
 Log.WriteException:     UEDevCourse - D:\UEProject 4.21 - 2\Source\UEDevCourse.Target.cs
 Log.WriteException:     UEDevCourseEditor - D:\UEProject 4.21 - 2\Source\UEDevCourseEditor.Target.cs
 Log.WriteException:
 Log.WriteException:    at UnrealBuildTool.RulesAssembly.CreateTargetRules(String TargetName, UnrealTargetPlatform Platform, UnrealTargetConfiguration Configuration, String Architecture, FileReference ProjectFile, ReadOnlyBuildVersion Version, String[] Arguments, FileReference& TargetFileName) in D:\Build\++UE4\Sync\Engine\Saved\CsTools\Engine\Source\Programs\UnrealBuildTool\System\RulesAssembly.cs:line 583
 Log.WriteException:    at UnrealBuildTool.RulesAssembly.CreateTargetRules(String TargetName, UnrealTargetPlatform Platform, UnrealTargetConfiguration Configuration, String Architecture, FileReference ProjectFile, ReadOnlyBuildVersion Version, String[] Arguments) in D:\Build\++UE4\Sync\Engine\Saved\CsTools\Engine\Source\Programs\UnrealBuildTool\System\RulesAssembly.cs:line 543
 Log.WriteException:    at UnrealBuildTool.UEBuildTarget.ValidateSharedEnvironment(RulesAssembly RulesAssembly, String ThisTargetName, TargetRules ThisRules) in D:\Build\++UE4\Sync\Engine\Saved\CsTools\Engine\Source\Programs\UnrealBuildTool\Configuration\UEBuildTarget.cs:line 547
 Log.WriteException:    at UnrealBuildTool.UEBuildTarget.CreateTarget(TargetDescriptor Desc, String[] Arguments, Boolean bSkipRulesCompile, Boolean bCompilingSingleFile, Boolean bUsePrecompiled, ReadOnlyBuildVersion Version) in D:\Build\++UE4\Sync\Engine\Saved\CsTools\Engine\Source\Programs\UnrealBuildTool\Configuration\UEBuildTarget.cs:line 406
 Log.WriteException:    at UnrealBuildTool.UnrealBuildTool.RunUBT(BuildConfiguration BuildConfiguration, String[] Arguments, FileReference ProjectFile, Boolean bCatchExceptions) in D:\Build\++UE4\Sync\Engine\Saved\CsTools\Engine\Source\Programs\UnrealBuildTool\UnrealBuildTool.cs:line 1415
 Log.WriteException: ==============================================================================
 After hours of trying to figure out how to fix this damn thing, I ended up creating a new project and re-importing the whole thing. Steps:


  1. Create a new project with same name. This is key. The project must have the same name.
  2. Copy everything that is not C++ into the new project. 
  3. Open the project, close it. I needed to do this step because UE4 needed recompile 4000 shaders for some reason.
  4. Create new C++ classes with the same name corresponding to all the C++ classes from the previous project.
  5. Copy everything that is C++ into the new project.
  6. Open the project, compile.


Everything works perfectly as before.

The True Frontier - Cordwainer Smith

The following is a transcription of Extra Sci-fi’s episode “The True Frontier - Cordwainer Smith” What if I told you that one of the great...