News, Opinions, Reflections

I’m at SAIT!

Hey, everyone! Takahashi-sensei…I mean, gakusei, here. Now, why am I calling myself gakusei? Well, it’s because as of March 11th, 2019, I have begun attending the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, also known as SAIT, so I can obtain a Certificate in Graphic Design.

I’m currently in the process of switching from GiMP to Adobe when it comes to the tools of the trade. It’s getting a little easier, but also a bit tricky at the same time as both programs have their deviations. For example, you can smudge without the erasing effect in GiMP, but in Photoshop you have to use 2 tools, smudge and the mixer brush. Layer Masking might come in handy for editing photos, but for what I do, might not be necessary. Ara Shimoon is my teacher for the Photoshop I course I’m currently taking as part of the Certificate. He has 10 years of experience with type, photography, and illustration. We just might become good friends. You can check out his website right here.

2018 gave me a difficult decision on whether or not I should continue my educational journey. Tuitions are usually rife with debt. But then again, it turns out some social and hands-on experiences are actually healthy for the mind and experience.

I’ll be sure to keep you posted on my adventures at SAIT as I continue my journey!

This is Takahashi-gakusei sigining out for the night.

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Artwork, Commemorations, News, Opinions, Reflections

Oscar Week 2019: Bohemian Rhapsody and Bao, I’m rooting for you!

Hey, everyone! Takahashi-sensei here. You might’ve been asking yourself every year, “How have things been going in Hollywood?”

The answer? It depends. Unless you’re a die-hard comic book or superhero fan looking forward to the next Marvel Cinematic Universe installment, or someone suffering a nostalgia addiction, things have been getting stale in Hollywood(only slightly). The movie industry has had cruel summers since 2014, and for awhile, it had been worsening, originality being overrun with numerous sequels that mostly flopped, and reboots of existing properties that upset a lot of loyal fans, as well. Zootopia, Disney’s 55th film in the primary cannon, was one of the only quality films released in 2016, and that’s just sad. However, because of its allegorical take on a future political environment that would be crafted by the beginning of 2017, it had people talking, and envisioning a life of social change, as much as a painting or essay could early on, giving the film potential to qualify for one of the most prestigious awards in the history of the creative industries: the Academy Awards. Not many films are guaranteed such a prize by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Even films that had Golden Globe or BAFTA success can’t be promised a win. This is because there are only under 6,000 members rather than millions of the population of the United States in control of such a decision-making challenge. You can’t just bribe them with buckets of dollars just to be one of this elite crew. You can only be invited by lottery.

Ok, let’s go back in time a bit, the early 2000s. Ever read of those Sweepstakes in the magazines you read as kids, like, how you could win a motorcycle, MP3 players, or a PlayStation 2, which were really expensive at the time for someone your age, or even a full-fledged vacation to countries like Australia, or the Bahamas, which cost even more? “Many will enter, few will win.” reads such disclaimers at the bottom of the advert. Just as lots of kids send special postcards with hopes of being like their peers(or making them even more envious), just like lots of academics send letters hoping for their approval of being future students of Ivy League schools like Harvard or Stanford(for me, I’d probably never survive even a year at either, even if I tried.), only a select few will make it in. The same goes to Award Organizations, except, you have to be professional, or be nominated for 2 Oscars if a film you made with the potential of Oscar-bait makes it.

Ok, question answered. Twice. 2018 was actually an interesting year for American cinema. Though there were more superheroes and sequels nabbing some spots(though the My Hero Academia side-story arc Two Heroes deserved one for longer than it did; shame on you, Funimation, for not giving it a standard release, even though Sony could cover the costs!), and the #MeToo movement began to thrive within showbiz, many inspirational stories that the few had the courage to share(some of which being BlacKkKlansman, and Roma) began flooding the theaters and streaming services again. Another big favorite of the 2018-2019 movie season has been the biographical music drama, the story of everyone’s favorite British progressive rock band, Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody, which very much deserves an Oscar in any category, even though there’s been some trouble a-brewing with director Bryan Singer recently. Nonetheless, it’s an absolute classic of the decade that we can all appreciate.

Believe me, I had no idea that Bohemian Rhapsody would go on to become the highest grossing biopic yet, despite knowing that it would be popular(everyone’s listened to Queen before!). The first time my family tried to see it, tickets at the Chinook Centre Cineplex were sold out. The second time, we were lucky. The story of Freddie Mercury, Queen’s frontman, was very remarkable. Aside from being one of the greatest singers with a four-octave vocal range that put Michael Jackson’s to shame, he helped the band defy things the way they had been in the music industry in the early ’70s, even ushering the era of progressive rock and pop, bringing crowds from all across Europe and North America together, stomping and clapping in unison. Like MJ, he also became touted the “King of Pop”. After his death from AIDS, he became an icon for the LGBTQ community.

congratulations bohemian rhapsodycongratulations bohemian rhapsody japaneseRami Malek did a great job portraying the rude but amusing frontman, I can’t even tell which one is the real Freddie in the final climactic scene illustrating the events of Live Aid in 1985, which in reality, only made things worse for the crisis in Africa…but that’s another story.

Speaking of Disney, remember the trip I went on to Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure in late August and early September last year? Though I had fun being an uncle-figure to my father’s girlfriend’s kids, even just for 6 days and 5 nights in the Orange County climate, and getting to taste the yucca extract-infused Slurpee recipe that’s not even sold at Canadian 7-Elevens? Well, the Pixar Short Film Festival attraction at California Adventure was where I first saw the latest Pixar short: Bao.(I didn’t bother going to the cinema to see another sequel as I was too busy campaigning for the 2026 Olympic Games bid.) What sets Bao apart from the other short subject films in Pixar’s 30-plus year history, is that…it’s written and directed by a woman…but she’s a Canadian, just like me!

Bao tells the story of a Chinese-Canadian mother who makes a Chinese pork dumpling that comes to life, and raises it as her son. As her life raising the dumpling child goes on, though the child is influenced by Canadian and foreign cultures and engages in social interactions with others, the mother becomes increasingly overprotective of the child, even as he grows into a young adult with a white Canadian girlfriend. The dumpling, which in reality is the mother’s real son(which surprised me joltingly, as the mother literally eats the dumpling boy out of sadness and frustration!), eventually rekindles their relationship with one another, and they make a meal together, which he shares with his Canadian friends. Of course, he will achieve independence one day, as much as I will.

Bao illustrates the relationship of food and family with a Chinese flair to it. In China, people usually prepare certain meals with love and care, just as they would to the same when it comes to pampering children. Eventually, what mothers sometimes forget is that they have to let their children choose the future they want to live in. But it’s not like they won’t be in touch again. In many cultures every time a festive holiday comes(Chinese New Year’s was just several weeks ago BTW), many families can reunite, even if they are living separate lives, though some are dieting! Domee Shii, my hat’s off to you!

And there you have it. If I were a member of the Academy, my votes for the Best would be placed on these 2 films. The industry is surely getting back in shape again for the better. I want it to improve so even my work, should I go beyond later on, has the chance of being nominated! I still understand that ideas creatives explore can still be a bit cringy at times. Paramount, I’ve got my eyes on you with what you’re doing with Sega’s spiny rodent later this year.

This is Takahashi-sensei signing out for the night. Happy Oscar Week, everyone! And you don’t have to be entitled to my opinions exclusively. Think for yourself!

News, Reflections

C for Yourself…but only in your Dreams

Konbanwa. Takahashi-sensei reporting.

I have a heavy heart right now. And what causes this heavy heart to jolt my body with pain? Calgarians have decided not to C for themselves what the 2026 Winter Olympics could do for Calgary. Therefore, we will not be among the final cities in the bidding for the rights to host one of the most celebrated events in human history. It will be either Stockholm or Cortina d’Ampezzo.

Then again, I believe it is fair that Stockholm gets the right to host the games in over 100 years. The Swedes have never won any bid for past Olympiads; the most significant loss for Sweden was that Ostersund, which was bidding for the 1988 Winter Games was defeated by Calgary. We Canadians should learn to be more considerate of our rivals nowadays. The same country can’t hog the spotlight all the time. The United States, particularily, got a little greedy by hosting the Summer Games in Los Angie(1984) and Atlanta(1996), just 12 years apart(It should have been awarded to Athens or Toronto!). Meanwhile, Calgary(1988) and Vancouver’s Winter Games(2010) were held over 22 years apart.

The campaigning I did independently and with YesCalgary2026 beginning this July has only marked the beginning of my career. Though this chapter had a bittersweet ending, I still feel more than sweet enough. I made an impact.

I even went the extra mile; I actually violated the Olympic Charter’s rules regarding mascots. Even if Calgary won, Hick & Hia would be ultimately disqualified for being shown off far too early.

For any future sporting event to take place in Canada, I will be extra careful and keep anything relating to it a secret for the time being. Lesson learned there.

Calgary will still be a nice little city to live in for awhile. At least we’ve got 2030 to look forward to, right? Wait and C, everyone…wait and C.

-Akira Takahashi, November 13th, 2018

News, Reflections

Next Week: A Disneyland Vacation PLUS…a brief salute to Walt Disney himself

Hello! Takahashi-sensei again. Jeez…this sleepy-arm syndrome has been killing me for quite a week. I hope there’s a remedy for it somewhere. Anyway, in spite of it, I’m happy to announce that I will be going to Anaheim, California with my relatives for a week-long getaway at Disneyland Park and Resort.

Yes, I’ve been a fan of the works of Uncle Walt, just like any other child living on Earth. He still remains an important figure in the world of arts and entertainment. Not only did he construct a massive animation team of talent at a young age, he managed to outdo the competition, even during the Great Depression (you could very well say that the Fleischer Brothers were copycats). His team did what no other studio could do before: make a short subject cartoon with sound (Steamboat Willie(1928)), made the first use of Technicolor film (The Silly Symphony, Flowers and Trees(1932)), emulated live-action human movement through rotoscoping, whilst others made rubber-hosed figures, built a camera that could allow for multiple layers of artwork to be used in a single or multiple frames (which is now a staple in many digital graphic art and design applications), and made a full-length feature film (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs(1937)) while others made short subjects out of their work.

Despite the success of the daring entreprenuer, however, his future projects of the early 1940s (namely Pinocchio and the expensive magnum opus concerto Fantasia(both 1940))would financially underperform domestically and abroad. But most of the flops were all thanks to endeavors of America’s enemy at the time, Nazi Germany, since World War II had already begun by that time. Fortunately, Disney’s team was funded by the U.S. Military to make propaganda films for the war effort. And single feature-length stories being adapted to the screen after its fifth film, Bambi(1942) were temporarily replaced by cheaper-to-make anthology films. They subsequently ended up becoming profitable enough for Disney to continue his passion of developing more detailed single-story films, even at the risk of going bankrupt. This led to the release of Cinderella(1950) at the start of the Baby Boom.

The 1950s became a potential era of success for Disney and his ever growing and changing team, thanks to the invention of the affordable television, which Disney’s team embraced thanks to a deal with ABC, which would later be bought by them in the 1990s. And guess where much of his profits went to? You guessed it: the development and construction of the major amusement park and resort in one, Disneyland, which would open in the summer of 1955! Walt, even after Disneyland’s grand opening would become a believer of this innovation that kept creeping up upon the world. He enlisted many engineers in hopes of making his newly envisioned project EPCOT a potential city of the future, but continued enlisting artists and animators for work on more animated projects, the last of which was The Jungle Book(1967), released a year after his untimely death at age 65. 50 years later, many creative minds and workers from sectors of the world to this very day continue to nurture his lifelong dream…of making Earth a place for the dreams of the people to come true. And it took even more than wishing upon a star to make a difference in the world that way.

This concludes my tribute to our friend, Uncle Walt Disney, whose animated works of art and appetite for innovation continue to stay true to the dreamers of today, and pioneers of tomorrow.