“北京欢迎你!”: The Opening Ceremonies

9 08 2008

There are moments in every lifetime when an event happens, positive or negative, and those who are lucky enough to be alive and to bear witness to the event realize that they are watching history in the making.

Last night’s opening ceremonies of the 2008 Olympic games was one of those events.

Every Olympic opening ceremony becomes an important part of history. It’s a chance for the host country to have the eyes of the rest of the world upon them, and therefore, a chance to introduce the rest of the world to the host nation. There’s been a lot of talk about China hosting this year’s Games, which I mentioned before. But during last night’s ceremonies, China really showed the world what it could do. And it was history in the making.

China has always been a secluded nation, and there are a lot of Westerners who know almost nothing about the country itself. Oh, sure, they eat Chinese food and say “Nee haow” and can point to China on a map. And yes, they learned about the dynasties in their World History classes in high school. And they know that the people of China don’t share our same first amendment, and they know about the politics surrounding the country that grow increasingly more complicated. But most Westerners don’t know about modern China. Last year, when I was in China, my parents relayed questions to me that had been asked by friends of the family about my experiences living over there, one of which was “Does she have running water? Is there electricity?”

Last night’s Opening Ceremonies showed the world what modern China is like.

You can write the words “breathtaking”, “stunning”, “awe-inspiring”, but the words do not do justice to the spectacular show China put on for the ceremonies. The show was directed by the amazing visionary Zhang Yimou, who, for those of you who think you have no idea who this guy is, directed the movie “Hero”, a fantastic Chinese movie that was as beautiful as it was powerful. His vision was executed beautifully in the stadium last night: from drummers whose drums lit up as a countdown to the beginning of the games, to modern dancers drawing calligraphy with their bodies, to a choreographed series of boxes rising and falling to simulate everything from a drop of water rippling out to the Great Wall, to a perfect circle of men doing Tai Chi, to a great globe in the center of the arena with performers running in air around it.

And, of course, to a piece of artwork that was made by the entire world.

There were a lot of amazing parts of the Opening Ceremonies last night, but this is the one I want to talk about most. As I mentioned earlier, there was a group of dancers who drew calligraphy onto some sort of canvas during the beginning part of the ceremonies. (The canvas was stretched over an LED screen, which unfurled like a scroll around it.) Later, as school children sat on the same canvas, the calligraphy was filled out and colored in, creating a picture from the calligraphy. And even later, as the athletes marched in during the Parade of Nations, as they crossed the center of the arena, their shoes stepped in some kind of coloring, and they walked over the canvas from before, adding color to the picture made earlier in the evening. The result of which was, well…a beautiful piece of artwork that was made by the world.

Does that sound complicated? That was just ONE of the major points of the impressive opening ceremonies last night. And here’s the funny thing: that was probably the one that involved the fewest people.

There are…a lot of people in China. I mean, I’ve tried to get this across to people by telling them some of my favorite facts about China (such as, there are more English as a Second Language speakers in China than there are Americans), but it’s hard to get that across. But I think last night’s event not only gave a demonstration of how many people there are in China, but how a military country of precision and unification can truly create something beautiful.

This year’s Olympic motto is “One World, One Dream”. China is opening its arms to the rest of the world and inviting us in to share their dream of the new China, the modern China, a China that’s fast-paced and technologically hip, a country that is fast becoming a world power. A China that’s no longer secluded, but a true part of our One World. A China that’s ready to show the rest of the world what it can do. Last night’s ceremonies showed this.

And last night’s ceremonies blew the rest of the world away.

I really do urge everyone to try to watch parts of the ceremonies online if you missed them last night. It’s watching history unfold right before your eyes. China is making a stand and entering the world, people, and it’s an exhilarating and exciting thing.

Meanwhile, for those of you who are interested in today’s schedule of events…there’s a lot going on today, of course, and sadly, NBC is only able to cover maybe half of it. Here’s a quick list of the events that are happening in general, followed by the ones you can watch on your local NBC channel.

Events: Archery, Artistic Gymnastics, Badminton, Men’s Basketball, Women’s Basketball, Beach Volleyball, Boxing, Equestrian, Fencing, Field Hockey, Judo, Rowing, Sailing, Shooting, Women’s Soccer, Swimming, Team Handball, Volleyball, Weight Lifting.

NBC: From 10am – 6pm: Women’s Volleyball (US vs. Japan), Beach Volleyball, Men’s Cycling, Women’s Fencing, Rowing. 8pm – midnight: Swimming, Beach Volleyball, Men’s Gymnastics. Midnight – 2am: Men’s volleyball.

USA Network: 2am – 2pm: Women’s soccer, Women’s basketball, Equestrian, Beach Volleyball, Women’s Fencing, Women’s Shooting, Badminton, Women’s Weight Lifting.

Last, a fun fact about the Parade of Nations: instead of having the countries walk in alphabetically, they had them walk in in accordance to the stroke order in the Chinese characters names of their country. Which meant we had things like Denmark, followed by Uganda. I LOVE IT!

Also, “Saint Vincent and the Grenadines” sounds the name of a rock band, not a country.

Zombie Apocalypse: Choose Your Own Final Stand

30 07 2008

On facebook there is a current group titled If 1,000,000 People Join This Group, We Get Heath Ledger Back. Sidestepping the Humor vs. Tasteless argument entirely, I would like to move on to a more pressing problem that this group, ahem, raises.

Zombies. If 1,000,000 people join, and the group succeeds in doing what it promises, it has been pointed out that Heath Ledger could possibly come back as a zombie. Might that be the catalyst for the Zombie Apocalypse?

Begin exciting fantasy: The Zombie Apocalypse is in full swing and you are making your final stand against the zombie hoards. One thing’s for sure – you’re going down. You are going to die and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.. But how’s it going to go?

1. Choose your ideal setting

2. Choose one weapon

3. Choose what song you want playing in the background to make your final stand the most awesome moment ever.

Additional Fantasy Fun:

4. Add any exciting details you want (final words, your last meal, who you would call right before your final moment, etc) just remember when it’s all over, you’re dead!

Fish man, fish man, rolly polly fish man

28 04 2008

Last week, my friend Chris filmed the major scene of his Division III, in which he transforms a man into a horrible Lovecraftian horror! We were expecting it to be cool, but we weren’t expecting it to be this fucking cool.

Fish Man

Mike (the actor) sat in the makeup chair for six hours while we put that mask on him. It looked awesome, and then we put it under the light and it looked even better. We put makeup on and it looked almost real. The acting was superb—I wish I had a clip for you to watch, because Oh My God. He made sounds that were just inhuman. And when we put the monster slime on him… it looked professional.

The mask is foam latex. The same stuff they make HellBoy out of. Last year Chris and I learned how to run batches of it. It’s probably one of the most fun things I’ve ever done—especially because the results are amazing. In the movies, they use foam latex to make just about any facial or body prosthetic that needs to move. If you think of latex Halloween masks, those don’t contort nicely. Foam latex literally beats in a foaming agent (we mix it in an old mixing bowl) and then gets baked. We could make ourselves fake noses and cheek bones, and completely change the shape of our faces, if we wanted.

The whole shoot took twelve hours. First we did the major shot—the fish man. Then we rushed through the rest of the transformation sequences, in which Mike looks progressively sicker and then develops boils that explode in dark green slime, and then he turns into this terrible, horrible thing.

Hopefully later I’ll be able to post some more of Chris’ special effects. There’s one scene we shot in which my dead body is found with gaping holes in the face and neck. Latex and cotton balls. It was pretty gruesome looking though.

If the resolution was better, I’d challenge you to guess what the scales on Mike’s neck are made of. Go send your admiration and love to Chris!