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May « 2009 « Puppet Kaos - where Kelvin Kao plays with puppets and tell random stories
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Puppet Kaos - where Kelvin Kao plays with puppets and tell random stories

School Pageant: Flower

Recently I’ve talked about the voiceover gig, Huell Howser, Spring Sing, 1000 tweets, and Star Trek. But somehow I haven’t talked about puppets that much. Actually I’ve been watching videos and reading about puppets too. (I came across an awesome podcast about puppet making.) Just haven’t written much lately.

Here’s something from Sesame Street that’s sort of a crappily (yep, that’s a word) executed school play, but it’s downright endearing (as always).

I realized what Prairie does in this video is what Kermit does all the time on Muppets: putting on a show while trying (okay, failing) to keep the crazy cast under control. Then again, that’s always fun to watch. Oh, and here’s a spoiler (that’s not quite a spoiler): Cookie Monster ends up eating what’s in front of him.

Star Trek (and btw, two years)

On Thursday night, I went to watch Star Trek. It wasn’t what I expected it to be, but I ended up liking the movie a lot.

Now, I am not a Trekkie (or Trekkie Monster). I haven’t watched any of the series, and I haven’t seen the trailer. I went into the theater without any real expectations. I was guessing that it’s going to be a sci-fi movie with shallow stereotypical characters and a half-hour long battle scene with spaceships shooting lasers at each other causing lots of computer generated explosions.

Well, I was wrong.

The movie turned out to be quite character-driven, with the focus on the two main characters Kirk and Spock. It was all about why the characters are they way they are and how they deal with and overcome all these situations. The computer animations are there, but they are just there to help tell the story instead of steal the whole focus. It was well-written, and the characterizations are good. I guess I was expecting shallow characters and long sequences of fancy animation for the sake of showing off animations because of what I saw in the new Star Wars trilogy. I think this movie is worth watching again even if not on a big screen, because it’s all about the story, and not just about visual and audio bombardment.

Oh, and I heard that there were lots of references to previous Star Trek movies and TV series. I am not a Trekkie, so of course I didn’t catch any of the references. However, I love it when TV or films have these subtle nods and nudge-nudge-wink-winks because it’s rewarding for the loyal fans.

It was not what I expected, but I think I wouldn’t have liked it as much if it was what I expected.

Oh, and by the way, Thursday was also the two year anniversary of this blog. Two years, hmm. Two years ago, this post, though nothing special, marked the first time of me posting on this blog. Maybe this calls for a celebration? But I kinda feel like I would rather celebrate when there’s something that’s more worth celebrating, haha.

Review: Spring Sing 2009

Last Friday I went to Spring Sing, UCLA’s annual student talent show. This is one of the biggest annual UCLA event that started back in 1945 and is usually presented in front of a sold-out crowd of over 7000 people and a panel of celebrity judges (yep, that’s LA for you). The best acts on campus compete in four major categories: Solo/Duet, Band, Production, and A Cappella, and in between performances, the Spring Sing Company performs comedy sketches to entertain the crowd. I enjoyed the event as a student all four years of my college career, and I have also attened it as an alumnus. This is probably my sixth or seventh Spring Sing. It’s a good event that kept me coming back for more.

The Venue: Ever since 1989, the event has taken place in UCLA’s own Los Angeles Tennis Center. This year, however, due to the popularity, the event is moved to a bigger venue, Pauley Pavilion, home of the Bruins basketball team. I think it’s a good move. The lighting and acoustics benefited because now it moved from outdoors to indoors. When the crowd cheers, you feel the roar so much better because now the sound has nowhere to go and just keep echoing across the space. That impact is great. It was fun to watch the event out under the open sky, but watching it indoors certainly help focusing the energy better.

Now, the individual performances:

ACT 1:

1. Yukai Daiko: “Firefly” (Exhibition; Original Composition by Scott Miyako, Arrangement by Ryan Ishikawa)

The Taiko (Japanese drumming) performance warmed up the crowd at the beginning. It was always tough to be the first one to perform in a talent show in front of a crowd that wasn’t warm up, so I like how they put an exhibition event at the beginning to get the crowd going. And what better event is there than drumming?

2. Lily Stern Band: “The Looks” (Band; Original Music and Lyrics by Lily Stern)

I thought this band sounded nice and Lily Stern was a good singer. It was not those band performance where they use heavy drum beats and complicated guitar solos to get you worked up, but instead it’s something easy to listen to. I also think the sound benefited from being indoors, because sometimes the first one or two bands’ sounds weren’t mixed well in past shows, but this time the balance was quite good right away.

3. Alpha Delta Pi and Theta Xi: “Zombies” (Production; Script and Lyrics by Alpha Delta Pi and Theta Xi, Choreography by Melissa Reinertson, Jay Sobel, Luke Campbell and Sara Hanlon)

The productions usually make me roll my eyes, because it’s usually a singing and dancing routine with a lame story performed by a fraternity. It’s usually about a freshman coming to UCLA and learning about the school, or it’s about how stupid USC is and how great UCLA is. It might be fun for the first time but after watching productions and productions doing the same thing year after year, it can make me puke. BUT! This group didn’t do that. Somehow they incorporated a zombie story into the usual UCLA vs. USC theme and I thought that was quite creative. I applaud them for doing something original.

4. Katie Boeck: “Your Part” (Solo; Original Music and Lyrics by Katie Boeck)

My first thought was: again? She already won last year and here’s she is again. And once again, her performance was really really good. I totally think she’ll have a bright future and great career in front of her, just like former two-time Spring Sing winner Sara Bareilles.

5. No Chaser: “What Time Has Done” (Music and Lyrics by Daniyal Ali and James Bunning)

This was a good performance. Good vocal performance from the singer and good guitar solo as well.

6. Bruin Harmony: “I Shall Be Free” (A Cappella; Arrangement by Ross Morey)

I saw them in last year’s Spring Sing as well. They are a young group and are not yet as established and experienced as the older A Cappella groups on campus like Random Voices, Scattertones and Awake Acappella, but I really like how they keep introducing interesting new elements into their songs. Last year they did a song with some hymnody-ish four-part harmony in it, and this year they added some military element. These are by no means safe things to try, but I applaud them for keep pushing and trying new things. They might not win right away, but I am glad to see so much potential in this group. They shall be here to stay and continue to grow.

7. Melissa and Emerson: “So Right” (Duet; Music and Lyrics by Melissa Flavia Constantino)

This was a nice cute song. My friend liked them a lot and wanted them to win. However, while it’s the kind of music that’s easy on the ears and I could listen to them over and over, this is a talent show and you’ve got to show off. It’s like figure skating. Nowadays they just want to see those jumps that’s getting more and more difficult. Sometimes these requirements are so difficult that they even feel out of place in the program, so you’d only those jumps in competitions but not exhibitions. That’s how I felt about these things too. They are the kind of musicians that I would listen to over and over, but they aren’t showing off enough techniques to win a talent show. But still, good job for them.

8. Strathmore Players: “Jerry Maguire: The Musical” (Production; Script by Justin Wedell, Lyrics by Justin Wedell and Evan Tidd, Choreography by Justin Wedell, Michelle Horack, Kara Erickson and Neev Garbi)

Another production that wasn’t done by a frat? I am impressed. Again, I like how it wasn’t the same old stuff. The lead (I don’t know this name, but I suspect it’s this name that kept popping up above: Justin Wedell) was a really good singer. I enjoyed it cuz it was not a typical production story.

9. FDR: “Slot Machine” (Band; Lyrics by Brandon Contreras and Jarell Perry)

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to hear the vocals very well, because the drum was really loud. This is not their fault, but it’s unfortunate that I could not hear the words well, so I don’t have as much to say.

PRESENTATION OF THE 22ND ANNUAL GEORGE AND IRA GERSHWIN AWARD – JULIE ANDREWS

Each year, Spring Sing hands out the George and Ira Gershwin Award for Lifetime Musical Achievement. Recent winners include Frank Sinatra (2000), Clive Davis (2001), Stevie Wonder (2002), k.d. lang (2003), James Taylor (2004), Kenneth “Babyface” Edmounds (2005), Burt Bacharach (2006), Quincy Jones (2007), and Lionel Richie (2008). This year, it was Julie Andrews. (That was actually one major reason that I wanted to come to this year’s Spring Sing… to see Julie Andrews.)

The ceremony, as usual, started out with the Spring Sing director talking about the Gershwin brothers’ achievements in music, and then went to a video montage of the career of current year’s winner. The crowd cheered throughout the video, and the whole stadium shook when they showed Sound of Music footages. And then when Julie Andrews came onto the stage, of course it was followed by a standing ovation.

And then Julie Andrews made her speech. She talked about her career, all these good people that she had got to work with, and interesting stories in her life too. She was so incredibly graceful, and very humble at the same time. And witty too. To sum it up, she was great. Besides, she told us to beat ‘SC. When Julie Andrews tells you to beat ‘SC, you do it. No excuses.

– INTERMISSION –

I think the intermission worked better this time as well due to the venue. There seemed to be more bathrooms in Pauley Pavilion than Los Angeles Tennis Center so the lines didn’t get as long, and there was no re-entry so everything was more orderly. The stairs were wider so that helped too. Yeah, I write such a detailed review that I even reviewed the intermission, huh?

ACT 2

10. NSU Modern: “Madhatter’s Tea Party” (Exhibition; Leadership: Gregory Gee, Amanda Sherman, Jessica Youn and Dorothy Chen)

Like the first half, the second half started out with an exhibition event as well. There are a few modern dance companies on campus, such as Samahang, ACA, etc. This time was NSU Modern. They were good and it was interesting that they had a theme. The program mentioned a Jessica Youn and I know a Jessica Youn. But she did not seem to be the dancing type (though I could be mistaken) and she probably had already graduated by now anyway.

11. Louder than Words: “The Way It Works” (Band; Lyrics by Alexandra Isley, Music by Alex Greve and Mike Greenwood)

This band combined the more frequently seen elements in a band, such as singing, guitar, drum, and bass, with other elements like rapping and trumpet. It was an interesting mix and they did a good job balancing all the elements. I feel like Spring Sing seem to prefer this kind of mixed flavor. At least that’s how I felt after watching, well, many Spring Sings.

12. Christopher Geno: “Does It Matter?” (Solo; Original Music and Lyrics by Christopher Geno)

This is one of those songs that had interesting lyrics. And I am guessing that some girls found his performance really cute (which I don’t respond to that much). Again, this was one of those performances that was good, but not showy enough to actually win a talent show. (Showy gets tiring after a while, but if you only perform one song to compete for an award, showy is good.)

13. Scattertones: “If You’re Out There” (A Cappella; Arranged by Russell Angelico)

Scattertones was a well-established a capella group on campus. The experience really showed. They did everything right. The arragements were layered very well. Everybody seemed to be very seasoned performers. All I can say is, they did everything right. The video montage in the beginning was a nice touch too.

14. Gabrielle Wortman featuring Yen Lam: “Vagabond” (Duet; Original Music and Lyrics by Gabrielle Wortman)

I’ve always thought piano sounds great with violin, so I enjoyed the sound of this performance. Gabrielle had a really powerful voice. There was a lot of energy. It was really good, but wasn’t as polished like Katie Boeck, who just had perfect command of her voice.

15. Delta Gamma and Pi Kappa Phi: “The Bruin Rascals” (Production: Script and Lyrics by Lianna Leal, Choreography by Lianna Leal, Justin Yu, Sam Filliciotto and Becky Padilla)

Wow, this is the one that has all the cliches of a Spring Sing production. It had a guy and a girl in love but their respective groups of guys and girls don’t want them to be together. Ew, girls, cooties. Ew, guys, double ew. And then there’s the part about how USC is stupid (although that’s true) and how UCLA people came and whooped their ass. And then the groups happily danced in harmony afterwards. And then there’s the bad transitions where one song jumped into another just because they could. Chopped up plotline that were segmented just to fit in all the cliches. This was the most uninspired performance tonight.

16. Kevin Royer: “Tide of Time” (Solo; Music and Lyrics by Kevin Royer)

There’s a lot of varieties in his vocal performance and guitar playing. I was really impressed with his singing, and I am not easily impressed with male singers. There’s definitely “wow” factors to his performance.

17. Rapture City Philharmonic: “Press Play” (Band; Original Music by Arkae Tuazon, Lyrics by Arkae Tuazon and Taleior Boykins)

Yet another interesting mix. This group had an 8-piece string section, 5-piece rock section, vocals and an MC. Quite an interesting mix. I liked the string sounds in the beginning, but unfortunately, after the drums started going, it was hard to hear them even though there were eight pieces. I like how they gave each section a segment to shine.

– PRESENTATION OF AWARDS –

Katie Boeck won last year, and she won again this year for best solo/duet. Scattertones won last year, and won again this year for best a cappella. These were no surprises cuz they clearly stood out. The best band went to Rapture City Philharmonic. The best production went to Strathmore Players, which I think was the right choice. The best overall performance went to Katie Boeck, just like last year. I don’t have much to say about that one, because comparing solo/duet, band, production, a cappella all at the same time is like comparing apples to oranges, to bananas, and to grapes. I simply don’t know how to compare them.

The Spring Sing Company

The Spring Sing company is the group of people that perform comedy sketches in between talent performances to entertain the crowd. They are a creative and hilarious bunch. This year’s company included Sasan Ahoraian, Kean Almryde, Shane Billings, Ben Goldsmith, Mark Stewart Iverson, Michelle Lin, Heather Losey, Dylan Matteson, Jackson McNiel, Sydney Pritchett, Jordan Riggs, Regan Riskas, Chrstine Takaichi, and Madison Vanderberg. This year was the first time that I actually knew not one but two people (Shane and Christine) in the Company. Shane was part of the Company last year as well. Traditionally, the Company comes out at the end of the show and sing a song saying basically “see you next year”. I guess he kept his words.

They performed many funny sketches, such as the iPhone song (a parody of the Jai Ho song from Slumdog Millionaire), a sketch about Undie Run, and some kids meeting the real Trader Joe (parody of Willy Wonka). The videos are really good too, such as the mock movie trailer for Rain (making fun of how Los Angeles people don’t know how to respond to rain because it’s always sunny) and Bluegrass Band (a parody for Rock Band games). The judges gave the best sketch award to the iPhone song, but my personal favorite was the Rain trailer, which you can watch here.

It was a fun night. And if I am still in the area next year, I’ll probably attend the event again for the 7th or 8th time.

For more videos, go to YouTube and search for ucla spring sing 2009.

1000 Tweets!

Guess what? I’ve just updated my Twitter for the 1000th time yesterday!

I first joined Twitter on February 9, 2008, so it took more than a year to reach 1000. I noticed that I was approaching 1000 but I wasn’t going to plan out my 1000th tweet. I just wanted to get a little bit past it and then count backwards to figure out which one happened to be the 1000th.

So, which tweet did it turn out to be? Well, it’s…

RT @rubialala: “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.” -Bertrand Russell

A retweet of a quote, huh? I definitely didn’t plan that out. It was quite true though. Sometimes people are too damn sure because they don’t know any better, while the people that know more would question themselves more. Unfortunately, a lot of times a decision is made because someone sounded so sure for no reason at all. (I guess that’s for another day since I am getting off topic here…) But hey, it’s cool that it’s a retweet for something @rubialala tweeted.

In the spirit of Follow Friday (or should I say #followfriday?), here’s a thank you to some people that interact with me on Twitter often and make it fun for me: (Of course, this is an incomplete list)

@rubialala: You used to write so much in your blog, and although many posts are rants, they are very interesting rants. Although you don’t post very often now, I still enjoy our Twitter conversations.

@sarahjbray: Psss… let me share something I haven’t mentioned before. I subscribed to your blog back when it had little content, solely because I really liked how the site looked. Vain? Maybe. But as a web site designer, you should be very proud. And who knew you would become so into Twitter later?

@janechin: I admire the level of introspections you do and enjoy reading your blog especially on topics of leadership and integrity. Wow, that sounded so serious and is totally not how we talk on Twitter.

@dereksemmler: Always fun to have baseball discussions. :-)

@yvonnekao: Okay, I seriously only started following you because I don’t see another Kao every day. I feel like many of our conversations involve food, but hey, food is great (and I am not about to talk about knitting any time soon).

@pupsinmelb: Your website is a wealth of knowledge and that’s why I subscribed initially, but now I enjoy talking to you whether it’s related to puppets or not.

@melissadonovan: Good to have you on Twitter cuz sometimes what I want to say isn’t about writing and would be quite out-of-place on your blog, haha. Of course you’ve probably noticed that my previous sentence wasn’t grammatical.

@maryrobinette: You have the weirdest tweets ever (stuff like a giant block of foam, how to make entrails, being stuck in the elevator, kitty enema, and having a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb that went wherever you went, you went, you went). It’s always been fun to see your updates.

And of course, I also enjoy my Twitter interactions with people that I know in real life, but in my mind, they are more like friends that happen to have this extra mode of communication with me, rather than… just friends on Twitter. Maybe there’s no such distinction for some, but there is for me. Nevertheless it’s been fun interacting with most people. I mean, nobody had been nasty to me or anything, but of course there are marketers that just want to sell their stuff and robots that just want to invite them to their porn sites, but oh well, you can easily ignore those people (if they count as people).

Ah, it’s been fun. Here’s to another 1000 tweets! (Current progress: 2.2% done… or less if Twitter is going to have another glitch now. I also want a Fail Whale plush toy.)

It’s Huell Howser!

Last week, I had lunch with my co-workers at The Apple Pan, a local burger/diner place that’s been here in West Los Angeles since 1947. While we were busy eating burgers and fries, we saw someone with a camera filming the place. I thought, oh, maybe a local show is doing a segment or maybe someone’s making a documentary. Everybody seemed to be focused on eating too, and nobody really paid attention to them.

That’s when one of my co-worker pointed out to us, “Hey, it’s Huell Howser!”

Huell Howser is the host of California’s Gold, a program that shows regularly on several PBS stations in California. In the show, he takes the audience everywhere in California visiting interesting places, cultural events, old markets and diners, etc. I have seen the show before but didn’t watch it enough to recognize the guy, but my co-worker apparently knew a lot more than I did. So I guess they were doing a segment on The Apple Pan. That’s pretty cool.

When we left, Huell was in front of the door interviewing some customers. I think if we had stayed longer, we would probably have seen him in there sitting at the counter, talking to other customers, eating and commenting on how amazing the food is, cuz apparently that’s what he does. Don’t know when the episode is going to show, but we shall check the schedule again in June. Who knows, maybe we’ll spot ourselves way back in the background for a fraction of a second. (Or maybe that’s just going to be on the cutting room floor.) It would be interesting to watch the episode nevertheless.

Speaking of being on TV, a friend of mine, Jessika Van, was on last night’s Without A Trace. Too bad I don’t get CBS here with my lousy antenna. Got to track down that episode somehow.

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