Monday, June 20, 2011

Meets and Treats with Seb and Terri

"The Internet is like alcohol in some sense. It accentuates what you would do anyway. If you want to be a loner, you can be more alone. If you want to connect, it makes it easier to connect."

Esther Dyson

Last Thursday, I drove up to Putrajaya to register myself with the Malaysian Medical Council, and seeing that Cyberjaya is practically next door, I decided to pay someone I've never met before a visit.

Seb and I
Sebastian and I.

Sebastian (alias McGarmott from the Cinematic Concerns blog) had graciously offered to give me a guided tour of the visual effects studio he works for and I, being a self-described film buff, find that offer oh-so-impossible to resist. The company is called the Rhythm and Hues Studios, a renowned Academy Award-winning international outfit behind films such as Babe, the first (and best) Narnia film, and The Golden Compass. They have a branch in Malaysia which was recently involved in the making of X-Men: First Class, among other Hollywood projects such as the 2nd and 3rd Alvin and the Chipmunks movies and Hop.

This is where the magic happens.

 As someone who haven't the faintest idea how computer-generated special effects are created, the hour-long private lecture that Seb gave me was a real eye-opener indeed. Being a child of the CG-age of cinema, I've allowed myself to take it all for granted but some of the things he told me really defibrillated my sense of wonder and appreciation. Take for example the scene in X-Men: First Class where Charles and Erik played chess on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with the Washington Monument towering before them - I had assumed that it was shot on site but it turns out that the only thing that's actually present in the set is the staircase. Someone once told me that if the audience is able to tell that there's CGI in a given scene, the visual effect artists have already failed.

Another example that Seb gave me was that scene where Emma Frost walked to the glass window in her CIA holding cell and cut out a perfectly circular hole with her diamond finger, and what was done there was a cool piece of CG sleight of hand. The reason the actress, January Jones, was capable of tracing such a perfect circle was because the circle was already there, and the visual effect artists' job was to remove it from every frame until it's suppose to appear. It supposedly took six weeks to achieve due to the camera's and the actress' movements.

One of the current projects Rhythm and Hues is working on at the mo is Ang Lee's cinematic adaptation of Yann Martel's Life of Pi. I haven't read the book, but now I'm going to.

This is where they watch as the magic is happening.

Seb and I have been in correspondence for several months now and I always welcome conversations with erudite, well-spoken and intelligent individuals (so few are available these days, s'pity). I was a bit bummed out that we couldn't hang out longer after lunch, him having to tend to his job and all, but I suppose there's still the future and all its promising possibilities?

If anyone wants to pop into the Rhythm & Hues studio in Cyberjaya, you'd be happy to know that they do official tours (guidelines and contact info through that link). To reserve a tour, you'd have to give a minimum of two weeks notice but since I already know someone on the inside, I got away with simply sending Seb a Facebook message in the evening before.

Sigh, why is everyone's jobs much more fun and cooler than mine?


After parting ways with Sebastian, I drove to KLCC for another date I had lined up that day with another friend - someone who I have also interacted with on the web only before now.

Terri and I
Terri and I.

Terri is a friend of Beve, and I don't believe we were ever properly introduced. She's an English Lit major at the University of Edinburgh and she's currently interning back here in balmy ol' Malaysia in the office of a DAP Member of Parliament whose name I have forgotten at least three times by now.

And she brought me a treat she baked herself! I have no idea what it was but I can tell you it's very, very edible.

Terri's Mochicake
If I have to try, I'd say it's a moist, chewy, matcha-flavoured cupcake.

I was struck by how much her behaviour and speech pattern resembled Beve, except that she's a lot more hyper and animated compared to her. I, on the other, hand had rather run-down batteries by the time she turned up at 6:30 PM. It had been an exceptionally long day for me. The drive up to Putrajaya, my business with the Council, my tour of Sebastian's studio, my getting a wee bit lost between Cyberjaya and the Kuala Lumpur City Centre, and my two-hour long book-hunt at Kinokuniya - it all took a lot of wind out of my sails. When I eventually caught up with my rendezvous with Terri, I brain was already hankering for a long, hot shower and a good night's sleep.

Note to self: remember never to meet more than one new person in a day. I had to struggle to even maintain eye-contact when I was talking to her (I don't know about the lot of you, but making eye-contact had always been a deliberate, energy-consuming action for me). And the expectation of having to drive back to Malacca on the dark, hypnotic highway afterwards was a rather daunting and intrusive companion.

We were suppose to have dinner at Hajime, my favourite Japanese restaurant which was nearby but it had apparently folded (I later found out that it had moved to Jalan Delima under the new name of Cocotei). So, I drove us back to KLCC and supped at this Belgian café which she recommended.

Terri was entertaining company. The same can't be said for myself since I made her tear up twice and throw up once (don't ask). She confessed that she was a little disappointed meeting me in real life, and the last time anyone said something like that to me was the Long-Suffering Girlfriend™. I'm not sure what she expected of me though. Another feet of height? Better hair? A Christopher Lee baritone and a professorial English accent?

On the brighter side of things, I guess her impression of me can only go uphill from here.


So, at which point does a friend of a friend or an acquaintance becomes a friend? I guess it's when you decide they are. There's a nostalgic piece of prose popularly attributed to the current Dalai Lama and George Carlin called The Paradox of Our Age about how much better the past is compared to these brave new times, but it was in fact written by a Bob Moorehead. You've probably gotten it in a chain letter before from your mother when you accidentally let her find out your e-mail address. A line from it reads,

"We build more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever, but have less communication."

It's all sappy, rose-coloured poppycock, of course. There's this pervasive sentiment that humanity have become so enamoured with technology like cellphones and the internet that they have forgotten to connect with other human beings is frankly absurd. If anything, we are communicating more robustly than ever before and often with people we would never otherwise meet if the world wide web never existed. When I went on a month-long backpacking trip to India, a Tibetan reader of my blog introduced me to her friend living in one of the towns I was visiting. When I was looking for other atheists in Malaysia, I found a whole community of people much like me on Facebook.

Seriously, how did people live before the Internet went online? How impoverished, how provincial their lives must have been!

Drunk on the soma of the age,
k0k s3n w4i


Terri said...

you're alive after eating the cupcake!!! bwahahaha

lovealynna said...

Haha, Terri's confession was very amusing. Reminds me of the time when I went to a talk by this renowned economist (Stiglitz) whose works I had been reading for months. I was so excited about it for weeks. And whilst he was very knowledgeable, I almost fell asleep during his speech! Somehow I had imagined that he would be someone who was extremely assertive and authoritative, but he didn't seem that way at all. I wonder what she imagined who you would've been like.

I do wanna ask about the tearing up and throwing up. There, I said it! But it's not a question, merely an expression of curiosity. :P

Phoebs said...

terri has nice skin :3

Liz said...

I guess technology only inhibits communication when you're at home, and your whole family's home, but you're glued to the screen. Technology can be addictive, and possessive >.< Other than that, YAY for technology! :D

btw, I've read "Life of Pi" and I think it is a very thought-provoking novel indeed. Do read it and write a review! I would like to know what you think of the book :)

c3rs3i said...

k0k s3n w4i said...

Terri: it's a miracle!!!

lovealynna: we tend to let people with admire grow to such gigantic proportions in our minds that it's hard for the poor dears to live up to it. you can remedy that by watching videos of them in action, of course. that should mitigate any unrealistic expectations. as terri weeping and puking - it's all quite funny actually but stories like these simply sound better mentioned than told ;)

Phoebs: go lick it.

Liz: you're the 3rd person to ask me to read that book. is it really that good? i feel like i'm being set up for a huge disappointment.

c3rs3i: i don't use headphones T^T

Terri said...

Po: damn, i forgot to ask how i compared with your expectations of me :P

Phoebe: i'm pretty sure it's photoshopped xD

Phoebs said...

po: is that a challenge??! T^T

terri: it looks flawless T___T i wish i had flawless skin

nicoletta said...

Terri, you look awful familiar. Were you ever in SKBD or WMS?

k0k s3n w4i said...

Terri: what makes you think i have any expectations of you, haha. you are ditzier than i expected, i guess (not that that's a bad thing), but meeting you didn't lower or raise my impression of you at all. by the way, i didn't photoshop the picture to any significant degree - and i certainly wouldn't bother removing blemishes from your skin. it's just blurry because you wouldn't stay still.


nicoletta: she's from WMS.

Terri said...

just coz i sound all serious in my emo posts. bwahahaha. i do have lots of ditzy ones too though (probably much older too).

nicoletta: i went to both SKBD and WMS :P i'm a 1989 kid, what year were you??

nicoletta said...

Terri: I'm a 1988 kid =) though I knew several other 89s in both schools