2017-08-17 Eclipse Trip Video   August 29th, 2017

Road trip vacation with friends from San Diego to Oregon and back again, to see the 2017 solar eclipse. Lots of driving and random silliness and shenanigans.

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So back in college and a couple of years after, when I had more time to be silly and creative, I had a group of friends I made really goofy movies with. What started as a project for a film course, turned into a series of spoofs of action/horror movies, all involving killer dustbunnies, which basically amounted to throwing cotton balls at people while they pretended to die horribly.

Our last film was inspired by the genetic engineering in Jurassic Park and a parody of another well-known and reviled dinosaur in the popular media at the time.

We never actually got to finish this magnum opus due to technological problems and diminishing motivation. Editing a feature-length video manually on VCRs is a lot of work!

However, my friend Matt made this excellent trailer which is likely much better than the film actually could’ve been.

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“What’s a virtual experience mean then?”

After watching the live-action film it was based on, I went back and finally watched all of the 1995 Japanese animated movie “Ghost in the Shell.” Both movies follow similar stories, but it’s interesting to see where they diverged.

The identity and motivations of the hacker known as the Puppetmaster is different in the anime, and some of the Major’s decisions in interacting with him are not completely explained.

The Major’s back-story is also less fleshed out. There are still the same musings on what makes a person “human” and she questions her humanity and if the memories she has are real or just implanted. Some of the dialogue around these questions become heavy-handed exposition, but it was nice to see them asked. I would have preferred both films to have delved into those themes more, but the stories at least offer some interesting questions to mull over.

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“They did not save your life. They stole it.”

The live-action film adaptation of the anime movie “Ghost in the Shell” is a visual masterpiece with images that capture and echo the style and visions of the original. I have only seen pieces of the animated movie and television series, but there were many shots and scenes that echoed with the heartbeats of that world and struck vivid chords with my memories of the source material.

The movie deserves credit for capturing the style and feel of the original, but it isn’t perfect. There are complaints of white-washing the cast, and while not a total detractor, it does take away something from the film. Scarlett Johansson portrays Major Killian perfectly, and it’s it is possible to argue that given the stylistic portrayal of anime characters, they could map to Eastern or Western actors. While it was good to see a multi-ethnic supporting cast, it would’ve been nice to see more Asian actors playing major roles.

Major’s boss, the head of Section 9, is the only character who speaks Japanese, and other than some bits of decoration in set pieces, the city felt more European or American than an Asian setting. It would’ve been nice to have a setting which felt more unique to the source material, and for all the diversity of the Section 9 team, all of the scientists and administrators at Hanka Robotics were uniformly white.

Those critiques aside, while the futuristic city does not have any defined place, the design and mood of it was entertaining. Neon signs light the night and the buildings and cityscape are plastered with gigantic animated holographic advertising, electronic images constantly vying for attention. That conjured up the mood of the source material and it was a delight to watch. The design and aesthetics of the robots and human-upgrades technology felt spot on as well.

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The wonderful T1 Second Everyday app added a feature to create freestyle montages that weren’t restricted to 1 clip a day. That made a good tool to capture all the fun clips of friends, family and pets this past year.

This was also very precious as we lost Dad to Alzheimer’s last fall, and this montage has some videos of our last times with him.

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