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

New Taiwanese Puppet Series

There’s a new Taiwanese puppet series just released this month. Here’s the opening theme:

This new series is called 黑白龍狼傳, which translates literally to The Chronicles of Black-White, Dragon, and Wolf. (The literal translation sounds weird and somewhat meaningless but let me assure you that it sounded much better and more meaningful before translation. :-D) The series is produced by Li-Gang Huang (黃立綱), the youngest son of Chuan-Hsiung Huang (黃俊雄). To give a little bit of background information, Chuan-Hsiung Huang is the puppet master whose series dominate the TV screen decades ago, and Pili, a series created by his two oldest sons still dominate the TV puppetry DVD rental market to this day. So now, the old puppet master is helping his youngest son with the new series to get a portion of the market share.

Objectively speaking, this video combined puppetry, computer animation, and special effects, so maybe I should have been more impressed by it. However, quite a few of the shots from the opening theme imitate what Pili has already done (and done better) so I wasn’t particularly impressed with it. (You can see the videos on Youtube here and here, and I’ve already blogged about them a few months ago here and here.) It wasn’t bad. I’ve just seen better, that’s all. I will write another post comparing the videos later.

But you know they say not to judge a book by its cover. I don’t think you should judge a series by its opening theme either. I watched the first six episodes and I like it so far. The story line is a lot simpler than Pili’s, which is actually quite chaotic and not very good at this point because they did not coordinate the stories between different writers very well. This new series, on the other hand, has a simple story line, while the characters’ own stories are woven into it. I like it this way, but also, they need to make the story more complicated soon, or it will go stale in a few more episodes. As you can see, it’s a fine balance.

But I am also not going to judge it by the first six episodes. They actually had problems (funding, distribution, etc.), so these six episodes were actually filmed a while ago. And then the production was halted and finall resumed this year. Between then and this year, the voiceover person went through a lot more training (rumor says) and they hired a new writer. They also fixed up the puppets and sets so I really don’t know what episode seven would be like. I am interested in finding out.

So far, I like it.

Why Old People Take Cruises (Blame Hemingway)

Yesterday was my birthday. And you know how they say that you get wiser as you get older? Yep, I got wiser. (A wise guy, eh? Nyuk nyuk nyuk!) And I know I got wiser because I just got this insight about how books affect people in subconscious ways. In fact, book titles affect people’s behaviors even more. After all, many people pretend that they read while they really don’t, but they hear book titles thrown around (sometimes by Oprah) nevertheless.

Once we have those book titles ingrained in our head, we can’t help but be subconsciously influenced by them. A very good example is the huge number of senior citizens that go on cruise trips every year. What makes them do this? Why do people, many of who didn’t even like cruises before, suddenly have an urge to go on a cruise when they are old? You might blame advertising and media portrayal; I blame Hemingway.

Yep, you heard that right. I am blaming the guy that wrote The Old Man and The Sea. You might not remember what went on in the book (or what you learned from Cliff’s Notes) but most people have heard of the book title. Subconsciously, they start to associate being old with being at sea. And that is why so many old people want to take cruises. They think it’s their choice, but they are simply victims of these word association games.

Since I am so much wiser now and I gained such insights, here’s more example of how book titles affect our society:

1. War and Peace: This made people associate the words “war” and “peace”. People waged wars in order to obtain peace because of this book title.

2. Pride and Prejudice: This book title made people associate the two words together and be really proud of their views even when they are being incredibly prejudiced.

3. Hamlet: Made people put ham in their omelets. Um… omelets. Yum.

4. Invisible Cities: Made city dwellers feel invisible and lonely. A famous poet once wrote “Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a partner/ Sometimes I feel like my only friend/ Is the city I live in/ The city of Angels/ Lonely as I am/ Together we cry”.

5. Great Expectations: This made people raise their expectations to be really great and produced lots of disappointed people.

6. Crime and Punishment: This reduced crime rate.

7. Light in August: This had no averse effects on most of the world, but confused the hell out of people in Antarctica.

8. The Scarlet Letter: Inspired teachers everywhere to grade papers using red ink.

9. Catch-22: Made many baseball catchers subconsciously want to choose 22 as their jersey number.

10. The Catcher in the Rye: Provided a hint for what to grow when the aforementioned catchers retire and decide to become farmers.

11. The Grapes of Wrath: Caused the most recent uprising of a herd of grapes. Feel the rage!

My Day Job: iPhone App Development

Haven’t posted in almost two weeks. So what have I been up to?

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time on the iPhone SDK Dev forum. I’ve found the information on that forum to be useful when I ran into problems, and now I am giving back by answering people’s questions. Oh yeah, I never mentioned that I am an iPhone app developer here, huh?

During the day, I work as a computer programmer. Originally, we worked on this platform for mobile phones called BREW (Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless), a technology developed by Qualcomm that’s primarily used by Verizon. We have done work for a wide range of phones from the very old Kyocera kx1, to the thin flip phones like Motorola RAZR, to the ones that emphasizes MP3 player functionalities like LG vx8500 (Chocolate), and the ones that have full QWERTY keyboards like LG vx9900 (EnV) and LG vx10000 (Voyager).

That was good for a few years but now the focus is on smart phones like Blackberry and the iPhone. There’s still BREW stuff to be done, but since they are launching new handsets slower and slower now (partly due to the bad economy), we are not getting as many projects now. So what do we do? We start learning the new stuff. That’s how I started learning the iPhone SDK.

And it helped. What I’ve been working on lately are all iPhone apps. I am not going to discuss what they are, since they are for clients and they are not out on the market yet. But at least it’s skill that’s not entirely worthless in this economy.

So yeah, been focusing more on that side, and haven’t blogged here as much. As for the puppetry stuff, I’ve still been watching the Taiwanese puppet shows. A new series has come out recently. It’s not bad, but I won’t judge until I see more than the current two episodes. Will write about that one later. Also, I signed up for a TV puppetry workshop that will take place in September. It’s taught by muppeteer Michael Earl and I am definitely looking forward to that. This hack is going to get some real training at last. Yay.

And speaking of Taiwan, I’ve been watching news about the Typhoon Morakot. (For those of you not familiar with typhoons, they are exactly the same thing as hurricanes. They just have a different name in south / east asia.) The typhoon brought record amount of rain and caused mud slides in the mountain areas. The typhoon has already caused a few hundred deaths. There has been touching stories of fire fighters, police officers, and soldiers doing all they can to rescue people. And there are many sad stories of lives lost and many beautiful stories of survivors helping each other out. But the news about the ignorance and ineptitude of high government officials are quite frustrating to hear. Many of them lack real skills and experiences, and are in way over their head and many lives could’ve been saved if these official responded better. It’s sad, but that’s who people elected.

I talk in tangents, don’t I?

Anyway, back to iPhone apps. For my readers that are iPhone users, if there’s an idea for an app that you’ve been dreaming about and it doesn’t exist in the app store yet, feel free to contact me via email or DM me on Twitter. Who knows, we just might be able to make it happen!

Friendster Messages from Quintuplets!

Once upon a time, there was no Facebook. Yep, you heard me right. I was there.

Back then, the only way to connect to each other (as in, having a public page listing all your friends) is to create a Xanga or LiveJournal. Yep, that’s right. People had to create blogs for that. If you wanted to know what the others are doing, you subscribe to their blogs, and you read them.

Everything changed when Friendster came around.

Friendster was amazing. All you had to do was create a profile. You would fill out all these information about yourself. You could add your friends and stay connected wherever you were. And you could post pictures too! Amazing! I signed up for one too.

I no longer use it though, not since Facebook… but today, I got an email saying there was a message for me. I logged in, and holy cow, there were so many messages for me! Man, think about it… all these strangers wanted to be friends with me! I found something bizarre when I looked at the first page though: they all looked the same!


Yep, I got messages from Cecilia, Grace, Shelia, Pansy, and Ofelia. They all looked the same! They had the same face, and they all had the same facial expression and pose when they had their profile pictures taken from the same angle. I did not know quintuplets could be so similar! I read their profiles some more, and apparently they all had the same qualities. All five of them were kind, warm, nonjudgmental, fun, attractive, free spirited woman lol. They all loved to be outdoors, enjoying the sun, listening to the birds and smelling the fresh air. And apparently, all five of them were always open to new experiences and adventure, whether it’s as quiet as a sunset or as wild as I please. Can you believe it?

Oh, and they all wanted me to visit this website. I loved it when people shared interesting links with me.

And then I looked at their pictures. They were all beautiful (but not in their own ways) and they all had huge boobs (so that’s ten boobs, for you mathematically challenged). I thought about it. Yeah, I guess I could handle twins, or triplets, but quintuplets? That’s simply too many! I am going to get so confused and I don’t like confusion!

I hit delete.