Category Archives: Uncategorized

“It’s time for a few small repairs,” she said.

I don’t use my blog often, but when I do, it’s usually for a long-winded, emotionally charged rant. This, as you might guess, is a bad place to mingle business. To that end, this blog is moving back to its original URL, at WorldofCrap.wordpress.com. (It really doesn’t need its own domain, does it? I barely ever update it, and honestly I’d rather people didn’t stumble across it.)

My old domain, MediaOCD.com, is turning into something new, a dedicated, real website for my video work, which is becoming more and more of a thing. I’m happily kicking out a handful of Blu-rays every month, in addition to work for streaming and even a new music video every couple of months. Things are good… good enough for me to switch to working for Anime News Network on a part-time basis.

So, that’s the story here. MediaOCD still redirects to the blog for a few more days, but pretty soon it’ll be its own thing. And this is still my blog. And I’ll still probably update it once in a blue moon. Welcome!

Yet Another Steve Jobs RIP post

News of Steve Jobs’ passing, though expected, hit me a lot harder than I could have anticipated. As an Apple user since I was 7, I cannot think of a single other person, other than my parents, who have so dramatically affected virtually every facet of my day-to-day life, my passions, my skills, and the way I communicate. While we all knew it was coming, we were hoping for some sort of deus ex machina, some unexpected event to turn his health around and keep him with us, innovating. On Twitter, I’m seeing a lot of comparisons to Tony Stark. They are apt.

I find myself with surprisingly little to say that has not been said elsewhere. So I’ll only make a correction. For the record, my little adventure with Windows (detailed in this post) lasted less than 3 weeks. Even with every piece of aftermarket software in the world, I found that, for all its enhancements, Windows still blows at 90% of the tasks I threw at it. But every Apple user probably saw that coming.

So, yeah… What now?

Yet another 9/11 memory

It’s officially 10 years later, which is bizarre to think about. 9/11 is easily one of my most vivid memories of my young 20s, and it really feels like it happened yesterday. At the same time, it’s not really a subject I talk about a lot. New Yorkers who were there that day all have a story like mine, all of them mundane and uninteresting compared to the people who were actually downtown and working close by. It’s also such a violently unhappy subject that it’s never really discussed casually. New Yorkers pride themselves on their stoicism and resilience, so it’s de rigueur to be “sick of talking about it.” After all, we did live and breathe it (literally) for months afterwards.

But in the years since, a larger percentage of my friends were not in New York that day, and have been curious to hear about what it was like. Some are young enough to have been in school when it happened. So on today, I might as well add to the piles of remembrances. I can offer no tale of heroism or great tragedy, but rather some small details that might better fill in the blanks of what it was like.

I was on my way to work at Central Park Media, where I had a part-time job as a video editor while going to film school, where I was a sophomore. It was around 9:15. It was a gorgeous September morning after a big storm the day before; the air smelled clean and the sky was blue. But from my above-ground subway platform in Astoria, there was a huge, black plume of smoke coming from Lower Manhattan. A man who had seen the impacts told us what had happened: two planes had hit each tower. It was clearly not an accident. Chills ran down my spine, as they did for all of us on that crowded subway platform. The train in was as silent as I’d ever heard.

I got off the train and ran to work (I worked for Central Park Media at the time, near Columbus Circle). I met John O’Donnell, the colorful boss of the company, who greeted me with a hearty “Good morning!” Ashen faced, I asked if he had been watching the news. He hadn’t. I told him, and he disappeared, presumably to go home (a block away) and be with his wife before returning to the office. I entered the office and joined the large group of co-workers huddled in front of a TV (that was normally never used for actual TV watching and was fashioned with cheap rabbit ears, and getting a fuzzy image from WNBC). There was joking and snarking. After all, planes had flown into buildings in NYC before, and while this was a tragedy, it was more of an event at this point. As we heard about people jumping, things got slightly more serious.

And then the first tower fell. I let out a gasp. My friend Ronnie grabbed my hand. And as soon as that happened, something in me switched to survival mode. Manhattan was under siege. I had no idea if we’d be able to make it home. A co-worker and I immediately went across the street to the grocery store to buy water and ramen. By the time I got back, the second tower was gone. I had no interest in watching TV. The phone lines were jammed, but somehow I got a call through to my mother, who answered with a “Oh THANK GOD.” It was the last phone call I was able to successfully make that day.

There was a strong feeling of, “what happens next?” going through my mind. War of some kind seemed certain, but against who? Scenes from war films and anime played through my head. Would there be a draft? Nobody knew yet who was behind the hijackings, or even the extent of what was going on — we were hearing all sorts of terrifying information, both true and false. One report had the National Mall and the Lincoln Memorial being bombed, another had several more aircraft being hijacked. And then there was the Pentagon. The world seemed to be ending. I went onto an IRC channel I frequented at the time, and let them know that me and my coworkers were fine and unaffected. To those who don’t live in NYC, the World Trade Center is RIGHT THERE, but to a New Yorker, those 2-3 miles mean that it’s on the far side of town.

It was a little bit after noon. After a few weak attempts at getting us to do some work (“we’re not going anywhere, might as well get stuff done!”), John relented and let us all go home. Many of us lived in New Jersey and were facing uncertain commutes, as most mass transit had been shut down by this point. As I lived across the river in Queens, I geared up for a long walk home across the Queensborough Bridge. Car traffic was slowed to a stop as people flooded into the streets on foot. I was joined by my buddy Frank, and we bantered as we crossed, trying to keep ourselves from going crazy. It was hard not to — as we looked down 5th Avenue we could see the street end in a large, all-encompassing dark cloud. From the bridge, we saw bomber planes circling Manhattan. It was nothing I ever could have imagined happening. As we got to the foot of the bridge, the offices in Queens, eager to help, were handing out water from their office water coolers to people. One of many small acts of kindness I saw on that day and the days hence.

I arrived home at my cramped little apartment in Astoria. I’d only moved out of the dorms a few months earlier, and was really grateful to have a place in a comparatively quiet and out-of-the-way neighborhood to which I could retreat. I stopped for some Chinese takeout and switched on the news. The true impact of what had happened didn’t really hit me until a few hours later. The news broadcast an ad-hoc interview with the daughter of a firefighter, who was praying for her dad’s safety. It was at that point that I lost it and started crying, knowing full well how this girl’s story was going to end.

After a while I switched off the news, and after a few attempts, managed to get through to my parents over a land line. I updated them on my situation, and sat down, trying to think of what to do next. I popped in the one movie I could think of that dealt realistically with a large city under siege after a major terrorist attack: Patlabor 2. I needed to get some sense of what was to come. Having that as a reference helped, though it was hardly reassuring.

The next day Mayor Giuliani asked all New Yorkers to stay home if we were at all able. I was. Initially I tried watching the news (there WAS no normal programming at this point), but the news team was so barren of subject matter that just about anybody could get on and say something if they deemed it appropriate. I watched, appalled, as 1st-year film students got to show off their “tribute video” to the whole city, which consisted of a few minutes of terrible amateur footage from around their neighborhood, sloppily slammed together in Final Cut Pro, with text screens rendered in the program’s default font. At that point my friend Ronnie called and asked if I wanted to hang out at a friends’ place in upper Manhattan. Thank god. I don’t remember much of that afternoon, other than the feeling of relief.

The next day I went back into work. Depending on which way the wind shifted, you could occasionally smell Ground Zero, a noxious and unusual odor that combined jet exhaust, musty old-building smell, and spray-on building insulation. It made your eyes water. Nobody could concentrate at all. I still hadn’t established contact with several friends. None of us really had grasped the enormity of the situation yet, but work seemed futile and pointless. By 3 or 4 pm we called it a day and headed over to the bar we frequented.

I wasn’t feeling much like drinking either, so I left the bar and went for a walk. I wandered down Broadway towards Times Square, which was more or less completely deserted. Every single glowing display and monitor in the entire intersection had been stripped of its usual advertisements, and were now displaying the EXACT SAME animated graphic of a waving American flag. It was one of the most unsettling moments of my life.

At first, nobody could go below 14th Street, and the next day nobody was allowed below Canal Street. Finally, on Friday the 14th they allowed pedestrian access to the rest of Lower Manhattan, albeit in a very controlled manner. I took my camcorder and, after stopping in Brooklyn Heights at my old college dorm to check on a few friends, made my way from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade (where, with its spectacular view of Lower Manhattan, some friends of mine endured the trauma of directly witnessing the impact), then into the subway.

Here is the video I took. Ground Zero was still smoldering. All of Lower Manhattan was covered in thick grey dust, which stuck to windows and awnings. Hastily made Missing Persons signs were stuck to every street post and public space. The air stank so strongly of Ground Zero smell that it was hard to breathe. Eventually I made my way through the controlled walkways to Canal Street, where the merchants of the cheap and tacky had already brought out enough American Flag crap to sink a battleship. They’d also already made WTC memorial T-shirts (some of which bore the incredibly tacky slogan, “I can’t believe I made it out!”). Vendors with photos of the twin towers were doing the most brisk business. As Chinatown had been dealt a huge blow by the closing of Lower Manhattan, I was somewhat understanding of their ceaseless opportunism.

I was going to college at the same time, but school was called off for the next two weeks, and some friends of mine refused to even go into the city. However, my job at the time was to help put on the first Big Apple Anime Fest, which was less than two months away. Guests were canceling (“Manhattan isn’t safe,” they said, which kind of pissed us off). Our big premiere feature film, Metropolis, featured a scene at the end with a skyscraper collapsing. One of our autograph venues, J&R Music World, was two blocks away from Ground Zero. The task before us was daunting, but that meant I had work to lose myself in. I was pretty grateful for that.

The next few months are something of a blur for me. There was a heavy, surreal feeling that one gets from large events that are hard to process. The songs I was listening to (mostly K-pop) became etched into my memory as all being a part of that one big shell-shocked mood. The resulting political spin didn’t surprise or offend me — I was simply numb to it.

By the time Big Apple Anime Fest rolled around, the rationale for the convention had been turned into an act of respite for fellow New Yorkers as well as an act of patriotism. It all seemed a little tacky to me, but I didn’t question it (much). We got a picture somehow of Rudy Giuliani holding up a BAAF T-shirt, and the bizarre jingoism that John espoused became the mood of the event. J&R Music World re-opened just in time for our autograph signings there (which were sparsely attended, and indeed you couldn’t stand outside the store without your eyes still watering from the smell).

9/11 became a way of life for us. NY1, the local all-news cable channel, was basically the 9/11 channel. Sob stories became part of the fabric of the day-to-day. Slowly, the event receded into our subconscious. We stopped thinking about it so much. By the time many of us went home for Christmas, relatives that were still shell-shocked about it asked us, “Are you all right?! What’s going on in New York!?” to which we replied, “HUH? What happened?!” (One relative of mine said, “Well, at least this proved to me that New Yorkers aren’t all jerks,” after which I barely resisted the urge to punch him in the face.)

I should mention here that, of everyone in NYC, I got off incredibly lucky. I was at least two degrees removed from knowing anyone that lost their lives, and the Financial District was not an area I frequented (although I did shop and wander around the mall under the World Trade Center on a few occasions, and once wandered into the hotel area by accident). My entire experience of 9/11 was as a part of the damaged city itself. Though I heard about a few acts of racism against Arab and Indian Americans, I never saw any. To me the whole city had just proven itself as having the highest quality human beings on the planet. It filled me with pride to be a New Yorker, and to be able to have a day to day life that, in a forced, juvenile way, could be thought of as a middle finger to the terrorists by simply continuing as normal.

And yet, things couldn’t really be called “normal.” American flags sprung up prominently everywhere (after president GW Bush suggested we all display it), each one an uneasy reminder of what had transpired. And every once in a while, during a quiet moment, maybe tipped off by an old photo of New York that still featured the towers, the memory of the day, pushed down deep, would spring right back into vivid reality. Just for a split second. It happens to me, still.

Sex: The Annabel Chong Story

When I was in film school, a provocative new documentary was taking Sundance by storm. Entitled “Sex: The Annabel Chong Story”, the film followed porn star Annabel Chong (neé, Grace Quek) around the time she was trying to break the world’s record for “biggest gang-bang”. (Her goal, for the record, was 300, but after things started getting (ahem) painful, she finished at 251 — still a world’s record.)

I had previously been loaned the DVD of “World’s Biggest Gang Bang”. I found it to be an interesting trainwreck, though not at all sexy. Annabel appeared to be pretty vacuous, and did not appear to be enjoying herself, though she insisted that she was. The guys they found to participate appeared to be borderline homeless weirdos off the street.) However, both Annabel (and her successor Jasmin St. Clair, who got to 300) had appeared on the Howard Stern Show, and there appeared to be a little more under the surface than I thought. So when this documentary came out on DVD, I checked it out.

Apparently director Gough Lewis (who has not directed anything else before or since) visited my film school and showed the film to a class of 1st years. It doesn’t show anything hardcore, but it was still enough to send most of the female students fleeing the room. But while it had earned the admiration of many at Sundance, most of my classmates were unimpressed with it. Upon my initial viewing my curiosity made the film more interesting, but revisiting it these years later, I can understand immediately why they weren’t so enamored.

Lewis is actually a terrible documentarian. It turns out he was Annabel’s boyfriend at the time, so most of the footage we see comes from the immediate access one gets from just hanging out with the girl you’re dating. Though not shown, they break up before the story ends, and so suddenly, for the ending, we get a few shots of her going “back to work” and that’s it — it’s a complete deus ex machina, completely unearned and forced. There are a few poignant scenes (such as when her mother finds out she’s doing porn), but most of the drama is clearly manufactured in the editing room.

Sex: The Annabel Chong Story is worthwhile viewing only if you have an intellectual curiosity to fill. If you’ve ever wondered why an intelligent woman would willingly treat herself like a piece of meat, and wanted a little bit of insight into the psychology of porn, it’s marginally worthwhile. But if you’ve read a few interviews and listen to Howard Stern, there’s simply nothing here. And if you’re curious about Annabel, she was killed off by the real Grace Quek, who got bored with the porn life and is now a software engineer.

Life is strange.

What I’ve been doing all this time…

Wow, did I really go 2 months without updating this blog? Guess that’s what happens to everybody sooner or later.

Anyway, in case you’ve been wondering what I’ve been up to, life ended up getting really really busy. In addition to a huge amount of new work at AnimeNewsNetwork.com (involving streaming to the UK and Australia), I’ve been doing more and more side projects. I have several new anime BDs in the kiln (yay, freelance!), been doing a little video filtering and processing, and just had a short work trip to San Francisco, the Delicious City™.

But the most interesting side project I’ve worked on lately has been with this indie band from Inland Empire called The New Division. They’re incredibly talented, their music is great (especially if you’re into the sort of 80s-influenced hipster electro-pop that’s been popping up the last few years), and incredibly, they’re unsigned and mostly undiscovered. More importantly, they’re just some of the nicest people ever. I even shot and edited a short documentary about them.

Introducing: The New Division from The New Division on Vimeo.

I’ve been around to see other talented friends getting their foot in the door of the entertainment business, but somehow this feels a little different. They’re way younger than I am, and the difference is stark enough that I feel it crop up time and again in both the circumstances they deal with, as well as their inexperience. They’re all at that point in their post-college lives where they’re working menial day jobs, are perpetually broke, and struggle to maintain enough spare time to chase their dream. This stage is a hard one, and it’s one where many bands simply stall out. (It’s also amusing to compare their parochial, suburban college years to my urban, hipster coming of age. It’s such a stark difference in life experience that I sometimes feel like I’ve been living on the streets for decades when I talk to them.)

It’s always odd and a little unsettling to see people that you KNOW are destined for better things instead stuck in a stasis, facing an uncertain future. The natural inclination is to help. They’re too talented, too smart, and too damn nice not to. And in doing so, it’s taking me back to a place where I’m dreaming again, for myself this time.

Home Theater PCs

I love my home theater PC. After a rocky start, the software has finally matured to the point where it’s an easy to throw one together out of a stock Windows box. If you can get a tiny one with a built-in Blu-ray player and a remote control (like, say, this one here), all you need to add is a USB TV tuner and a few pieces of mostly-free software.

Here is what I recommend for anyone wanting to use their PC with their TV.

  • Latest video card drivers and latest version of Flash. They make a huge difference.
  • Windows 7 x64 Home Premium. Comes with the amazing Windows Media Center, which is so good it’s shocking that it’s free. Netflix is now baked-in.
  • Arcsoft TotalMedia Theatre. Unfortunately it’s $100, but it’s by far the best blu-ray software out there, and it integrates nicely with Media Center.
  • Hulu Desktop. Free, authorized software with which you can watch pretty much everything on Hulu with a remote control. Doesn’t always play smoothly, but the latest Flash upgrades fixed that for me. Integrates with Windows Media Center with the freeware Hulu Desktop Integration.
  • Shark007 Codec Packs for WIndows 7 (with x64 components). It’s a pain in the butt to keep this updated, but it’s the best way of maintaining compatibility with every wacky video format under the sun.
  • Media Control x64. This extension for Media Center allows you to switch audio and subtitle tracks when playing back files. Doesn’t always work properly, but still nice to have.
  • Amazon Unbox Video Player. Automatically downloads your new Amazon VOD purchases and puts them in a place accessible by Media Center. Unfortunately, there’s no good remote control interface for their new Amazon Prime subscription streaming service.
  • iTunes. I’m sure you’ll need it at some point. There is a program that will integrate it with Media Center, but it looks like it hasn’t been updated for Windows 7 and it costs money, so I haven’t tried it.
  • Boxee software. For a bunch of other websites that don’t have remote control interfaces, and a few stray video formats that Shark007 doesn’t support, most of them will work with Boxee. You can launch it from Media Center with Boxee Media Center Integration.
  • Mobile Mouse client. Most of the time you won’t need to use a mouse or keyboard from your couch. I do it rarely enough that it’s not worth fussing with the limited range of a Bluetooth keyboard/mouse unit. Instead, with this installed and an iPhone app, you can VERY comfortably just use your iPhone/iPod Touch over WiFi.
  • DVDFab Passkey Lite. A free solution to break region codes for both DVD and Blu-ray. (It also breaks copy protection, but you won’t take advantage of that, will you? 😉
  • This should be all most people need. There are a few other add-ons I haven’t yet tried out (most notably MCE Buddy, which converts your recorded TV into useful formats and removes commercials), and quite a few I tried and couldn’t get to work. But after 3 years I think I finally have a pretty solid setup. Hope someone found this useful.

    Microsoft has apparently stopped development on Media Center for Windows 7 because few people use it. That’s a real shame. Even after all this time and all the set-top boxes that have been developed, my Home Theater PC is still the only machine that can play literally everything. I spent a lot of money on it, and I don’t regret it for a second.

    A new start

    It’s been a couple of years since I maintained the blog, so I figured it was time to dust it off and give it another go. While my last blog was really personal ruminations on life and everything, Twitter has kind of taken the wind out of that sail. So instead, I will use this forum to talk about my absurdly obscure media collection, and all that goes into it. Oh, and I have a new domain name! You like? 😀