Monday, April 30, 2007

Poème électronique

A multimedia display called Poême électronique was hosted in Philips Pavilion at the1958 Brussels World's Fair. It was a strangely beautiful synthesis of film, music and architecture.

Music from Edgard Varèse, Father of Electronic Music Pavilion designed by Iannis Xenakis, a Greek composer and architect Images by Le Corbusier

Poème électronique is the first, electronic-spatial environment to combine architecture, film, light and music to a total experience made to functions in time and space. Under the direction of Le Corbusier, Iannis Xenakis' concept and geometry designed the World's Fair exhibition space adhering to mathematical functions. Edgard Varèse composed both concrete and vocal music which enhanced dynamic, light and image projections conceived by Le Corbusier. Varèse's work had always sought the abstract and, in part, visually inspired concepts of form and spatial movements. Among other elements for «Poème électronique» he used machine noises, transported piano chords, filtered choir and solo voices, and synthetic tone colorings. (Source: Media Art Net)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Headstand Stool

Saw this fun design by qed at MoCo Loco. Here is a movie showing how this stool works. So you can play chess with your body :)

Earthlike Planet Found!

The extremely exciting news for the day!!
The new planet is about 50 percent bigger than Earth and about five times more massive. The new “super-Earth” is called Gliese 581 C, after its star, Gliese 581, a diminutive red dwarf star located 20.5 light-years away that is about one-third as massive as the sun.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

798 Art Factory

Cissy came back from Beijing and brought a magazine about 798 Art District in Beijing. I like the design of the cover. Will definitely check out this cool place when I go back!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

GREEN, the new Red White & Blue

I watched a 90-min show last night on Discovery channel, Thomas Friedman (the author of The Wolrd is Flat)'s version of An Inconvenient Truth. He uses "Green, the new red white & blue" as the metaphor to make Americans realize the climate crisis and responsibility to stop it from today. Gore's documentary presents comprehensive scientific discoveries on global warming; Friedman's version is focused on big corporations (such as Google, Walmart, the military)' responses to glocal warming and research on new possible green powers. A new knowledge for me is that low-cost grasses esp. sugarcane can actually generate power. In Brazil, 40% of gasoline need is met by sugarcane-based ethanol. Isn't that amazing?! It also compares to the energy issue in China where the government officials have a stronger crisis mentality than the Americans. A Red China will and will have to become a Green China. Click here to watch a video of Friedman titled The Power of Green, also the name of his essay on The New York Times.
P.S. Today is Earth Day, my contribution would be studying hard for the LEED exam :)

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Who To Blame for Virginia Tech Shooting?

This past week has been very depressing since the horrible shooting at Virginia Tech happened Monday. I lost words after seeing Cho's videos again and again, and hearing the endless reports everywhere, on TV, on radio, on internet, on newspaper...Then I saw this post "The Blame Game" from Cynical-C Blog - a who-to-blame-list which satirically reveals many political, social and cultural prejudice existing in American society. There are some great ones such as "It’s the first victim’s fault", "it's the fault of the Chinese", "it's Bill Gates' fault" etc. I think we should also add "It's Marilyn Manson's fault" :P Someone should make a documentary based on this list, something like Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine !

It’s the fault of violent video games.
It’s the fault
of movies.
It’s that no other
students were armed.
It’s the cowardly students who
didn’t rush the shooter.
It’s the
first victim’s fault.
secularism’s fault.
It’s the
Muslims’ and/or foreigners’ fault.
It’s the
Atheists’ fault.
It’s the fault
of the colleges and how they coddle their students.
society’s fault.
It’s the
Second Amendment’s fault.
It’s the
bureaucracy’s fault.
It’s the fault of
Roanoke Firearms, where he bought the gun.
It’s the
authorities’ fault.
It’s the
Liberals’ fault.
pedophilia, homosexual couplings and adulterous behavior’s fault. (Not sure if he means all at the same time or separately.
capitalism’s fault.
It’s the fault of
psychiatric drugs.
It’s the
Devil’s fault.
South Korea’s fault.
It’s the
hippies’ fault. (Nobody’s blaming the Yippies yet)
It’s the
media and culture’s fault.
It’s the
murderer’s fault.
It’s the
legal system’s fault.
It’s the fault of the
Virginia Tech officials.
It’s the fault
of the Chinese.
It’s the fault of
this blogger who happens to be asian, likes guns and who recently broke up with his girlfriend.
Simon Cowell’s fault.
Bill Gates’ fault.
It’s the fault of trauma induced
mind control by a military industrial complex.
It’s the
killer’s parents’ and/or gun makers’ fault.
It’s the fault that
colleges have co-ed dorms and/or students who major in English.
It’s a
lack of funding for mental health services’ fault.
It’s the
GOP’s fault.
It’s the
Democrats’ fault.
NBC’s fault.
Autism’s fault.
al Jazeera or Palestinian TV’s fault.
It’s the fault of
pro-choice doctors.
Collective Soul’s fault.
It’s the fault of
professors who survived the Holocaust and are not armed to the teeth.
It’s Markos from the
Daily Kos’ fault.
It’s the
bullies’ fault.
It’s the
Nanjing Anti-African riots’ fault and/or the fault of those in interracial relationships. It’s the fault of our culture’s all-consuming desire for celebrity.
It’s fault of the
Europeanization or nannyization of American behavior.
Charlton Heston’s fault.
It’s the
fault of immigration and/or asians.
evil’s fault.
W’s fault.
It’s the
fault of vaccines.
It’s the fault that schools
teach that the theory of evolution is fact.
It’s the fault of the CIA for
training the killer as a mind-controlled assassin.
It’s the fault of
stage weapons used in school plays.

8 1/2

Before seeing Fellini's best-known movie 8 1/2, I always thought he was overrated. Now I have to admit that 8 1/2 is one of the best films EVER made. The film tells the story about Guido, a film director's struggles and frustrations in making a film as well as in his personal life. It seems Fellini had an obssession with movie/celebrity related themes, as seen in his White Sheik and La Dolce Vita. In 8 1/2, Fellini materfully and naturally blurred the boudaries between reality, dream, memory, fantasy and imagination as a truthful portrait of Guido's subjective world. Two other similar masterpieces came cross my mind are Bergman's Wild Strawberries and Tarkovsky's The Mirror. Compared to 8 1/2, they tell the story more "seriously". Perhaps due to Fellini's background as a cartoonist, he always kept a child's vision to re-interpret life in a playful way.

The absurdity of life makes reality more unreal, makes dream and fantasy more real. The realistic scenes are often displayed in a chaotic and carnivalesque gesture, almost close to fantasy; however dream sequences speak of the truth - the most noticeable one is the opening dream sequence which palpably sums up all Guido's suffocating feelings (see the clip below). At the end of film, all the characters (the living, the dead) are brought together in a carnival circular dance, somehow reminding me of the "merry-go-round" scene at the end of Tati's Playtime, as a surreal but festive solution to all the problems, stress and despair inside Guido.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Pervert's Guide to Cinema

Learned about this documentary from someone's blog - Slavoj Zizek's movie list!! Just can't wait to see it! With my advisor's recommendation, I started reading Zizek 6 years ago and became so fascinated with his works. He is a Slovenian Lacanian-Marxist philosopher. His unique background and perspective offers a critical view on the capitalist ideology. What I appreciate is that he tries to demystify philosophy by explaining difficult ideas (mostly from Lacan) thru. popular culture esp. movies. Just watched an interesting documentary on him called Zizek!, and was surprised to find his eccentric and nearly neurotic personality, but at the same time charismatic :) No wonder he said that "I'm not human, I'm a MONSTER".

Most movies he talked about are American, esp. Hitchcock's, perhaps due to the connection to psychoanalysis. I'm curious to see what's new on his list. Now I'm waiting for Wexner Center to show this new documentary The Pervert's Guide to Cinema!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Vodka Lemon

I watched this movie a couple of days ago. It just blew me away! It is about the harsh life in a post-Soviet Armenian village. It shows a good example that a great movie can be so simple: simple setting, simple story, simple dialogues. This simplicity is achieved through the director’s artistic sensitivity and complex thinking: thoughtful repeated themes, well-designed camera angles, and good amount of sense of humor. What is more interesting to me, the film provides some insights on how people use space.

Outside In

The movie presents to us a sketch of Kurdish life: the nomadic lifestyle and the closeness to nature are rooted in their culture. In spite of the harsh weather condition, people don’t seem to be bothered, rather act as being inside. Exterior space gets internalized. They take their furniture with them, just liking moving inside the house.

At the beginning of the movie, we see an old lying in bed sliding down the snow

People often bring their chairs to sit in front of the house, as their "backyard"

Wedding is also held outdoor

The bitterest moment of moving furniture is seen in the following: this old man carrying a huge wardrobe from home to town fair in order to get money.

Frontal Image

A sense of flatness is prominent in the filmic space. With either the vast and empty snowy landscape, or the blank and deteriorated interior, there is only foreground (people) and background (environment), nothing in between. The camera takes advantage of this intrinsic flatness by showing us front elevations.

For instance, in one of the “waiting for the bus” scenes, we observe a couple sitting back to back by the wardrobe they bought, almost like an everyday episode inside a house, or a Chinese witty skit (小品) put on the road rather than a stage.

My favorite scene, also a poetic one is the following: daughter playing piano (in her back elevation) while mother appreciating the performance in the other room (in her side elevation) - Isn’t the framing of space in this image reminiscent of Edward Hopper’s paintings? Although the characters are framed and isolated within the space, music flows beyond all the boundaries, bridging the distance in between, touching the souls with warmth.

The Living and the Death

In the film, the old man and women go to the cemetery everyday to visit their lost partner. Different from most cultures, the portrait of the dead is printed on each gravestone. A powerful repetitive scene is: wiping off the snow from the gravestone and gradually seeing the face of the beloved one. Such a touch on the portrait has an incredible symbolic meaning to the living person.

The lonely and somber feeling portrayed in the film reminds me of two other great movies: Smell of Camphor, Fragrance of Jasmine and Distant.

No Tears, only Laughter!

It is not a tear-jerking movie, rather from time to time it makes you LAUGH. It blends bitterness with gentleness, hope, and optimism – the true flavors of life. The ending scene is witty and heartwarming in a surrealist way: after deciding not to sell the piano anymore, the old couple start playing and singing cheerfully together. As the camera rotates, we finally see them moving towards the end of the road…

P.S. I saw some other great movies from the “forgotten” places in the world, such as Maria Full of Grace (Colombia), Paradise Now (Palestine) and Tsotsi (South Africa). Exploring world cinema is like experiencing the world through the third eye, the camera. It does change my views upon the world, upon the people, upon my own life.

Friday, April 13, 2007


Today I went to Half Price Books, a great low-price chain bookstore recommended by friends. When I got home, I found this bookmark inside one of the books I bought. On the back it says -

Devices that are "on" even when off waste energy and account for 10% of your electric bill. Put chargers together on a power strip and turn it off while you're away. Unplug unused refrigerators, toasters, coffee pots, blenders and cell phone chargers.

COST BENEFIT: Most people use their chargers only 5% of the time they have them plugged in, wasting both energy and money. Unplugging unused appliances can reduce the phantom energy use in your home and save up to $170 a year. Kitchen countertop appliances alone, when unplugged, can save the average family more than $80 a year.

Learn more at

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Spaceways Incorporated

Love this album cover - Thirteen Cosmic Standards by Sun Ra & Funkadelic by Spaceways Incorporated. Will check out the music later!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Frank Gehry in the Simpsons

I found this episode from, SO hilarious!! Click here and enjoy :)

Monday, April 9, 2007

Linked Hybrid on YuTube

I found this show on YuTube about Steven Holl's Linked Hybrid mixed-use complex in Beijing. It is actually from a Chinese TV show :)

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Ukrainian Easter Egg

Enjoy the lovely Ukrainian Easter eggs made by artist Sofia Zielyk :)

Endless House

We see surrealism in painting, photography, film, scuplture...What about in architecture? I found this fascinating design by Frederick Kiesler called Endless House. Isn't the form reminiscent of NOX? But he started in the early 1920s.

Frederick Kiesler, architect, set designer, artist, and philosopher, began to explore a new kind of "endless" architectural space in 1922 and continued to develop this theme throughout the rest of his life. The biomorphic Endless House was Kiesler's vision of a free-form, continuous, human-centered living space synthesizing painting, sculpture, architecture, and the environment. Designed in direct opposition to the static, rectilinear rooms of the sterile glass boxes that were beginning to dominate modern architecture in the 1950s, his house was to be "endless like the human body—there is no beginning and no end.” For him this womblike form was akin to the female body; others have seen an egg or even the human heart, with the rooms as aortic chambers.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

3 Images

Observatory Time - The Lovers, painting by Man Ray, 1934

Women playing chess on the beach, from Maya Deren's At Land, 1944

Knight and Death playing chess on the beach, from Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal

I found myself very interested in Surrealism recently and happened to notice the similar theme, chess board on the beach, existed in Man Ray's painting Observatory Time - The Lovers even 10 years before Maya's film. This painting might bear some influence from Dali's famous The Persistence of Memory. Although best known for his avant-garde photography, Man Ray was an artist in many other media such as painting, film, sculpture and collage.

Beyond the Clouds

Although Beyond the Clouds is not a very successful film for either Michelangelo Antonioni or Wim Wenders, the cinematography is superb. It catches some inexpressible moments in life - those complex and ambiguous moods, thoughts and relationships, just like the human bodies fading into the landscape/streetscape in the following images...

Friday, April 6, 2007

Maya Deren

The cinema of Maya Deren delivers us from the studios: it presents our eyes with physical facts which contain profound psychological meaning; it beats out within our hearts a time which alternates, continues, revolves, pounds, or flies away... Poetry, after all, is the feast which life offers those who know how to receive with their eyes and hearts, and understand. - Le Corbusier

Maya Deren was not only an American avant garde filmmaker, but also a choreographer, dancer, poet, writer and photographer. Her films explore the psychological dimension in imagery, body movement, time and space. She also acted in most of her films; her highly expressive face and body added to another layer of personal and touching feel to the films.

My favorite is Meshes of the Afternoon which portrays a dream at its best. The dream rewrites itself each time we follow Maya through the same path - meaning and logic gets interrupted, reconnected, implied, obscured...ultimately the attempt of interpretation is lost in the palpable atmosphere of the surreal, dreamy and uncanny. In her silent film At Lant the scene of two ladies playing chess on the beach influenced Bergman's famous opening scene in The Seventh Seal 13 years later. In the Mirror of Maya Deren is a very good documentary on Maya's life.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Rosemary's Baby

Rosemary's Baby (1968) is one of the best horror movies I've ever seen. Actually I would rather use psychological drama than horror movie to describe this film. It is not graphically scary with bloody scenes, but creepy and spooky in a sense it keeps the horror hidden and the same time next to you. Click to watch a retrospective interview of the director, producer and production designer.

The clip starts with film's opening la-la-la song performed by Mia Farrow (who played Rosemary), which also appears at the end of the film. This seemingly innocent la-la-la has an intrinsically chilling and haunting dimension in it, perhaps Rosemary's painful enjoyment after discovering the dark truth. It somehow reminds me of Terry Gilliam's Brazil where the stupid song "Brazil" gets repeated to a painful noisy degree. At the end the protagonist starts to whistle the song after all the tortures. In Zizek's words, this "idiotic enjoyment" serves as a means to sustain our "sense of reality"..."reality always requires a certain superego command, a certain 'So be it!' The status of the voice uttering this command is neither imaginary nor symbolic, it is real." (- from Looking Awry)

The apartment building filmed in Rosemary's Baby is the Dakota, located on the northwest corner of 72nd Street and Central Park West in New York City. It was built in 1884, designed by Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, one of the first apartment buildings in Manhattan. In the movie, Rosemary redecorates the interior with bright wallpaper, white paint and Scandinavian furniture. The original old-fashioned interior is replaced with a delightful contemporary style. The outside of the building appears to have outlived time, while the inside keeps transforming through different occupants and filled with stories.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Cries & Whispers

The red interior of UN Studio’s theatre reminds me of Ingmar Bergman’s masterpiece Cries & Whispers. I have to say I finally became a “Bergmania” after seeing this movie. Like Persona, this is also a film about women, both visually and psychologically stunning. The plot is simple: three isolated sisters get together in the manor where they grow up to take care of Agnes who suffers from womb cancer. Before the death of Agnes, neither Karin or Maria can bring her comfort. The only person who keeps Agnes company is her faithful maid Anna.

As we know, Bergman is obsessed with black-and-white picture. While in Cries & Whispers, the unique color scheme has a symbolic meaning. There are three colors: red, white and black. Red is the color of the manor’s interior which serves as a strong visual background throughout the film. As explained by Bergman, red is perceived as the color of soul. Red is also the color of desire (Maria wearing a red pajama flirting with David, the family doctor one night) and blood (Karin’s self mutilation). White is the dominant color of women’s pajamas and dresses, associated with purity, virginity, the fleeting and empty. Black is the color of death, religion, starkness and sophistication.

Implied by the title, cries and whispers make up the theme of the film. The early part of the film portrays an overwhelming agony suffered by Agnes, perhaps the most painful scene on disease I’ve ever seen. As the story unfolds, we experience a subjective flashback of Maria, and later Karin, only to get a deeper understanding of their inner world. We are shocked at each person’s distorted psyche and crying pain, since such mental pain is no less than Agnes’ physical pain. Later on, a flashback from Anna reveals the resurrection of Agnes which brings the torturing dimension to its climax. It is hard to tell the trueness of these flashbacks: they could be part of the unconsciousness, dream or illusion, and ultimately does not matter.

Cries are occasionally interrupted and dissolved by tender whispers as an attempt to bridge the gap of misunderstanding and isolation. The scene of Karin and Maria’s temporary intimate whispers and touches exhibits a similar quality seen in Persona. However, Bergman doesn’t try to satisfy us with a happy ending – it seems Karin and Maria are back to their previous conditions. What Bergman presents to us are those perfect moments, as revealed at the very end the film through Anna’s reading of Agnes’ diary, a diary that records the three sisters taking a walk together on a beautiful autumn day -

All my aches and pains were gone. The people I am most fond of in all the world were with me. I could hear their chatting around me. I could feel the presence of their bodies, the warmth of their hands. I want to hold the moments fast and thought: Come what way, this is happiness. I cannot wish for anything better. Now, for a few minutes…I can experience perfection.

Another women-themed movie I really want to watch is called 3 Women (also from Criterion Collection). It is considered having a kinship with Persona. It would be interesting to compare them together.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Google's TiSP launched today

Google annouced the launch of Google TiSP (BETA)™, a free in-home wireless broadband service that delivers online connectivity via users' plumbing systems.
learn more about TiSP at :P

Kaleidoscopic Theatre

The new Agora Theatre in Lelystad, Amsterdam designed by UN Studio just opened.


I'm saving money to get a Toyota Prius, the best hybrid car in my mind. I've seen more and more on the road, on my firm's parking lot recently. After test driving it and comparing with Honda Civic hybrid, I knew for sure that's The One. Needless to say its attractive exterior look, it's fun to drive! Instead of using a key, you push a button to start your car. The front screen shows an animated diagram of the realtime energy flow inside the car. It is the first car I've seen with all touch-screen display. If you install Coastal Tech iPod interface, you can fully control your iPod on your touch-screen. When you back up your car, the camera shows the back view on the screen. 2007 Prius has an estimated 60 mpg in city driving and 51 mpg on highway. It is a really smart and GREEN car!

A common misconception on hybrid car is the safety concern due to its lighter weight. However, you can not compare a Toyota Prius to a Ford Crown Victoria. You can only compare a hybrid car to a non-hybrid of the same model. The safety tests show that hybrid models are at least as safe as non-hybrid models, if not more safer. SUV, on the opposite, has a notorious rollover rate as well as mpg.