Monday, September 24, 2012

Oktoberfest in Addison

Since 1810, the original Oktoberfest has been held in Munich, Germany, and it’s the world’s largest fair, which lasts seventeen days from late September to October. Visitors of the event can indulge in traditional German staples including food, dancing, and of course, beer. Across the world, German communities conduct their own festivals near the first of October to celebrate their heritage. And let’s be honest, people like an occasion to drink. This past weekend, I visited Addison, Texas for its twenty fifth annual Oktoberfest, and it’s slightly amazing how well the festival integrated alcohol, traditions, and carnival rides into a family event that was fun and suitable for all ages.

Mustache man says, 'Recycle.'

There are very few celebrations more associated with beer than Oktoberfest. According to Wikipedia, there was almost seven million liters of beer served at the 2007 Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. At the Addison festival there was at least a three to one person to beer cup ratio with a large portion of them holding beer mugs in various shapes and sizes. There were two main stage venues, one outside and inside, and both regularly conducted the traditional German toast. And you might not be German or understand the language, but when there was a toast, everyone with a cup raised it, chanted, and chugged.

On the lawn of the Addison Circle Park, the outside performance grounds rested in the back of a crevasse surrounded by shaded trees. Unfortunately, the event started at noon, and visitors were reluctant to sit on the stadium like ridges of the grassy grounds because it was sunny without a cloud in sight. But from the comforts of shade, we distantly watched children and adults dressed in traditional German costumes perform several customary dances. And at the end of one of the performances, they invited all the children from the crowd to form a large circle, and they performed the German (ibid Americanized) chicken dance. My dad was really excited about the chicken dance because it’s the only German song and dance that he knows, and he was slightly disappointed that we only heard it once.

Snoopy was on break so we couldn't get a picture.

After a while we wondered through the grounds past several booths to take a picture of an Addison ambulance truck because my sister’s a paramedic and she’s into that sort of thing. Across from the ambulance sat a bright red triplane behind a small rope and plaque. And even though the festival celebrated traditions predating the Nazis and World War II, it was interesting to note that the only remnant from that era was almost hidden in the corner of the grounds.

A small infinity of tables.

We were slightly hungry so we ventured through the massive tent-like dining hall, and we were greeted with ribbons and several Oktoberfest banners hanging over rows and rows of benches. On the side, there were lines and counters to order food and drinks, and the columns of benches were divided by a stage and dance floor. Since we arrived a little early, the lines were clear and most of the benches were empty so for a few minutes we sat and enjoyed our frankfurters while a German instrument band played traditional songs and children sporadically danced on the dance floor. The dancing was sporadic, not the children. It’s interesting how the instrument band composed primarily of senior citizens catered to the whims of numinous children flailing around. Also, my dad mentioned his frankfurter was dry, but I thought it was fine, and there was a wide variety of other German foods. While I was randomly looking through the Oktoberfest banners from previous years, I was reminded of how long the annual festival has occurred in Addison, Texas. Sure, it hasn’t been there since 1810, but the first banner on the far end of the tent was from 1988, the year that I was born. And just by looking through the faces of eclectic visitors, it’s not hard to believe that some of the attendees were there at the first event, and the festival was as much a part of their history as their German heritage itself.

I added ketchup, mustard, and mayo on my frankfurter.
And I know somewhere that would make someone cringe.

For a while we walked throughout the grounds, and as the day progressed more and more people filed through the fair. Behind the rows of portal potties, there was a sports building with two large screens projecting NCAA football games with several tables and a wine booth. And there were actual toilets; if you’re at an outdoor event, you should always look for buildings with actual toilets. Outside there were craft booths and festival foods, and the park had several fountain sprays where kids played in the water and canals where teens soaked their legs. Across the road there were standard carnival rides such as the zipper, Starship 3000, and the Ferris wheel. Unfortunately, each ride was four coupons, which wouldn’t mean much until you recall that each ticket costs a dollar. To put things into perspective, a bottled water cost three coupons, and a cup of beer cost five. On a lighter note, the organizers of the event found a way to prevent drunk college kids from riding a bunch of rides.

A couple watches children in inflatable bubbles play in a small pool of water. 
I thought of typing something sarcastic, but sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.

Throughout the day we occasionally visited the dining hall, and it progressively became packed as the early autumn’s heat continued. We watched customary courting dances with benches and knee smacking and traditional bell ringing solos from young musicians; all performed in traditional German costumes in a humid tent full of hundreds of spectators with brimming cups of beer. After several performances from local German clubs, there was a young band composed for four siblings, 3rd Generation. Like their name implied, the siblings were third generation Germans living in Texas and performed traditional German songs with a bass, drums, accordion, and fiddle. Admittedly, I don’t know where else a band with an accordion and fiddle would find a gig outside of the Oktoberfest circuit, but even with their rooted Texan accents, their German sounded fluent and jubilant in front of the crowd. And with their upbeat tempo and pleasant banter with themselves and their parents, you can tell they embraced their heritage, and they were proud to represent their culture through their music to both Germans and newcomers alike.

Personally, I would be the first person to tell you that I’m culturally detached from my native heritage. Although my grandparents emigrated from the Philippines, I don’t speak the regional language or know of their customary traditions. And despite the fact that there are several local events celebrating a town or city’s history, there aren’t a lot of festivals devoted to a minorities’ homeland. Sure, St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo are associated with their respective countries, but neither event attempts to inform and embrace it’s traditions with their participants. You just drink. And even though Oktoberfest is associated with drinking, it’s also connected with its culture through food, music, and dancing. It’s a place where native Germans can feel at home and novices can feel welcomed.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Pupdate: Where's Dharma?

No, Dharma, you're supposed to hide.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Cars and mostly other things

This past weekend, I visited my dad in Denton, Texas, where we spent an hour walking around the Denton car show in the downtown square. We walked downtown since it’s roughly a few blocks away from where my dad lives, and even though there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky, the weather was pleasant, warm, and sunny with a cool breeze. On the way, my dad mentioned that it was hotter last year, which further exacerbated his dehydration after a few alcoholic beverages, and he couldn’t remember who accompanied him.


It was an outside event with sparkling cars lining the parameter of the old downtown courthouse. There were a variety of restored hotrods, vintage corvettes, and modern sports cars with flamboyant chrome and paintjobs. There were senior citizens reminiscing, adults and teenagers taking different snapshots, and kids sitting in the driver’s seat pretending. There were even a handful of dogs trotting about the event without a care in the world.


In between marveling at all of the shimmering spectacles, I thought about different themes for this blog post. I considered themes ranging from rescuing pieces of history and restoring them into something new to consciously being aware of our hobbies and how they shape our sense of self identity and the communities around us. And I wondered if the event was even worth writing about at all. After all, we only spent an hour in the downtown square, and afterwards, we went about our usual weekend routine of walking around a mall and watching a movie.

Car. It's American.

Sometimes it’s interesting to view time through memories. Unlike the conventional view of time through clocks and calendars, time can be distorted and prolonged through memories. Clips and events that only last a few hours or days can be more vivid and detailed than weeks or months of monotony. And whether we’re conscious of it or not, memories can have different weight and importance; in our minds, some events will be discarded within a day and others will stay with us for a lifetime.

Believe it or not, Mator's much bigger in person.

I think it’s like living vicariously through someone’s picture file on their computer. At the Denton car show, there were dozens of people touting different cameras from ones with high-end detachable lenses to small meager camera phones, and I wondered how many of those pictures were taken of random cars. We’ve accumulated all of these pictures and memories, and I don’t know how many of them we truly value, and which moments we regret not having a camera at all. And if my brain only has a finite amount of memory, I don’t know if I’ll remember this past weekend or what I’ll take away from its experiences.

But if I do remember the event, I’d want to remember the pleasant weather, the happy families, and spending a little time with my dad.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Response to video: Intentions

 Look, she got older, and taller, and... in widescreen.

This video is nearly identical to the one that I created three or four years ago; it uses the same music, transition cues, and story verbatim. I distinctly remember making the original video. It was near Thanksgiving, and I rushed the final third of the video before my sister arrived so that we could visit our extended family for dinner. It took roughly a week to make, and I spent majority of my time editing a random picture of a girl sitting on the floor from google images. Most of the story was written within a few hours, and the most notable part was the twist at the end.

 Admittedly, the original scene was easier because I just copied 
and pasted background pictures for desktops.

Looking back on it, it's hard not to see distinctive themes scattered throughout the video from the girl desperately escaping her life through fixating on a fictional character to the fabled narrator who's more real and rounded than the actual protagonist. And in hindsight, I don't know if a lot of it was intentional. I don't remember if I consciously paralleled the girl by creating the video’s fictional characters or if the hero was meant to be fictional at all, it could have just been a vapid and interesting way to end the video.

And in a way, it's disappointing because I'm really proud of this video; it’s part of a hand full of videos that I would consider to be the greatest achievements of my life so far. I know that probably sounds overly dramatic; throughout my life, I've won several medals in high school sports, written hundred page (admittedly terrible) documentaries, graduated college with two bachelor's degrees, and managed to find and maintain a stable career. But throughout all of those endeavors, I've never been alone; I always had the support of my teammates, peers, or family. Making videos has been my way of carving a self-identity. Throughout my experiences, I've honed every aspect of my editing skills from writing micro short stories to discovering new transition effects. In those early videos, every second was a painstaking process of overlaying frame by frame typography created in microsoft paint, edited in adobe elements, and rendered in microsoft movie maker. And with the most basic editing software that's included with almost every personal computer, I was able to share stories and convey emotions with viewers across the world.

It's also worth noting how miserable I felt while making these videos. It takes a certain level of depression to empathize with such flawed and isolated characters, and it's a very daunting to maintain that emotion throughout most of my videos. In some regards, it’s helped me let go of the past, but if I wanted to be true to certain themes and emotions, I'd need to tap into that guilt and anxiety that has inspired them. I’ve wanted these characters and emotions to be real to their viewers, and if I was completely honest with myself, I wouldn't want anyone to dwell on such pain and misdirected sorrow for years to produce simple five minute music videos.

And like the protagonist at the end of the video, I don't know where that leaves me. I don't know the value of someone relating to my videos or making someone cry. Maybe it's comforting to know that you're not alone at being alone or it's okay to be emotional over seemingly insignificant things. In the end, I've just wanted these videos to be meaningful to someone. Maybe it's left for the viewers to interpret that meaning, even if it's different from my own intentions.

Hope, the cyborg

In terms of actually making the video, I reused a lot of images and loops from the princess video since I knew that I had a limited amount of time before I had to go back to work. And it goes without saying, but I used the exact same story from the video I made three or four years ago. It can be difficult to synchronize the video's transitions with the music using Anime Studio Pro since there’s a delay in the preview screen, but I just lined up the timing according to the previously made video … and it more or less worked.

Well she does look more blue in the original video.

I think the interesting part about remaking the video is that it’s not necessarily better, it’s just different. Even though Anime Studio Pro provided a much cleaner look, there’s a lot more control on the transition effects on Microsoft Movie Maker from music synchronization to something as simple (and necessary) as fading in/out sentences and backgrounds.

Throughout my older videos, I’ve always tried to make them seem intentionally simple and elegant due to Microsoft Movie Maker’s limitations. And to that extent, the older video has a lot more subtle effects and transitions from the simple black background of the girl to the faint blue hue on her skin when she’s supposed to feel vulnerable and transparent.

I spent a few hours trying to make proportional legs for this guy
until I realized that he never actually gets off the horse.
...So he doesn't have body past his torso.

Again, I like the new video; the backgrounds seem vivid and the loops and animation feel a lot more natural and smoother than my previous videos. And ever since I made that test animation of the girl riding her horse through the trees and village several months ago, I’ve been racking my mind on ways to include that unused clip in a video. I don’t know if the video’s necessarily better than the original, but it’s different.

And I like it. I hope you do too.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Pupdate: Superdog!

He's like Underdog without the drugs.