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Friday, October 27th, 2006 - 10:43 PM

"Anthony De Longis: Rapier, Wit and Whip"

Anthony De Longis and Phil
I asked Anthony De Longis for a picture - very nice, approachable and personable guy. When I suggested for him to choose his favorite weapon, he picked out this sabre. I was so thrilled to be there, I probably sounded like an admiring and nervous grade school kid. Oh well, verbal communication aint my gift!

I keep joking that some day soon, Jet Li is going to visit Beaverton. First I found out that Shaowen Yu, a local master and instructor of martial arts I met with some months ago, trained in the same school as Jet in their childhood years. Just a week ago I learned through reading an article in the Oregonian that Anthony De Longis would be presenting a Film Combat Seminar and Lecture here in Beaverton. What caught my attention was the stunning image of Jet Li and Anthony facing off as Huo Yuan Jia (Jet) against "Spanish Fighter" (De Longis) from the recent movie Fearless. I vividly remember the scene where the two engage in a masterful swordplay extravaganza and knew this lecture was something I couldn't pass up. It turns out that the scene as it appears in the film was virtually an improvisation, a "dance" of sorts between Anthony and Jet - amazing talent!

I arrived at Thomas Edison High School this evening with much excitement and anticipation, accompanied by my great friend, Jim. From the get-go it was apparent that Anthony De Longis is an avant-garde in his field, and his lecture revealed an exquisite passion for the martial arts. With 35 years' experience in a variety of fighting styles and applications, his favorite disciplines include mastery of the bull whip and most bladed weaponry. He is also an accomplished hand-to-hand martial artist, proficient in a number of styles. He was eager to give his presentation this evening and started off by showing his demo reel, an incredible portfolio. He trained Michelle Pfeiffer to be Catwoman in Batman Returns, has worked with Jet Li, Tom Cruise, Charlton Heston, Yuen Woo Ping, Patrick Swayze, and choreographed or starred in an almost ridiculous number of movies, TV series and theatre productions.

De Longis communicates an uncanny zealousness for martial arts that I personally find rare in westerners. For some odd reason it seems a pattern that Americans just "don't get it", and their movements and posture often don't reflect that same Wu Shu beauty and cultural verve. Perhaps it is part of an artist's growing up in China or other countries where martial arts is virtually a religion that gives them this advantage or impression. Anthony is an unmistakable exception to this stereotypical sway. There was an admirable precision and method to each of his movements. None of them seemed haphazard.

As Anthony De Longis put it, "Style without substance is just eye candy." There were several key principles presented in this evening's lecture that agree with my own approach to martial arts. First was the tug-of-war between stylistic beauty and combat plausibility. As Anthony demonstrated his martial expertise, he often said, "you would buy this", referring to a sequence of techniques that tell a story. It is an insult to both the artists and the audience to assume flashy movements will be credible and to represent martial arts as a series of flips and extravagant spinning kicks in predictable slow motion. There will always be a certain amount of garish performance for the camera, but it must be balanced with techniques that make sense and that are a reflection of the character's developed personality and style. Poor choreography and cinematography choices cater to the success of satires like Kung Pao and Kung Fu Hustle. An intelligent and critical audience will know authenticity when they see it.

Anthony De Longis' Arsenal
Anthony's arsenal, many of which he used during the impressive 2 hour demonstration, along with also talented training partner, actor and artist, Kendall Wells.

Another of Anthony's communicated principles relates to physics. He emphasized creating a guard that cannot be penetrated. This can be done by aligning a chained bone structure: the elbow behind the hand, and the body in line as well. Stability and strength are achieved by aligning the body as much as possible into a single unit, with mostly undivided intent. My favorite martial art, Taiji, emphasizes such regard for calculated and stable posture, though in a distinctly flowing and elegant fashion. I have been thinking a lot lately about the physics of the human body and how forces such as momentum and motion can be harnessed. I haven't yet honed any specific techniques or theories, but it is hard-pressed on the forefront of my mind. Perhaps some day I'll document my thoughts and develop a series of resulting techniques that reflect my findings. Interestingly enough, I have developed a simple, flowing figure eight hand motion that I might call "Dragon Whip". I am interested to see if it has any martial application because it feels somehow significant. De Longis told us of his aspiration to develop a new form of martial arts based on a single incredibly versatile weapon, the bull-whip. He is perhaps the most well-known whip artist alive today, as it's use is becoming less common. His demonstration of the whip's multi-range potential amazed all who looked on.

The final principle Anthony touched on that I relate to is the passing of knowledge, skill and trades. For these to survive the test of time, they must be taught with a committed eye for detail and with much discipline. The details left out are lost, accepted imperfections have their influence, and the original art gradually morphs into something else entirely. I see t'ai chi as a classic example of this unfortunate truth. I have read that there is (or was) an elite family in China who solely know the highest taiji secrets. These secrets are not taught to anyone outside the family. Therefore, as time passes, the art is lost or weakened - unless the new generations continue to have equal passion and aptitude. Eventually what is labeled "T'ai Chi" will have little or no resemblance to the powerful, internal martial art of years past. In fact, this is already happening. Though it is one of the most widely practiced exercises in the world, it is simply that: an exercise. Many have realized the health benefits of regularly practicing the graceful yet rigorous forms, but few even realize the martial applications. Those that do know may choose to hide this knowledge and take it to their graves. When I asked my first (and only, presently) taiji instructor what the meaning of the movements were, he was unable to answer aside from vague guesses - and I think he had practiced for over 20 years! I am somewhat disappointed by carelessness of those who have the sole ability to pass on knowledge and choose not to, perhaps in their pride. On the other hand, I respect teachers like Anthony De Longis, who pass on their knowledge and techniques accurately to new generations. This is the only way these unique styles can be preserved and appreciated.

Perhaps Anthony's most striking trait, aside from his stupendous skill and knowledge is his striking sense of humor. He was continually cracking laughable jokes and slapstick humor throughout his two hour demonstration and lecture - which was also astoundingly well presented and vastly informative. None of his material or humor seemed packaged or systematically rehearsed or regurgitated. He presented a wealth of intriguing and directly applicable concepts and theories. De Longis' diversified skill reminds me of Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do, a unique conglomeration of pared down, effective and adaptable fighting methods of his own rendering. A truly great fighter knows more than manuals full of techniques and their counters. Being able to adapt to an opponent and expose their weaknesses requires not only versatile skill, but an instinct that few possess. Whether Anthony De Longis is a great fighter is of little consequence to me. Rarely is it someone's goal nowadays to be victorious in violence. To be a masterful warrior who contains himself is more admirable to me than a mighty and undefeated champion.

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Tuesday, October 24th, 2006 - 3:12 PM

"Connoisseur Redesign"

New 3D Connoisseur Logo
I created this 3D version of the Connoisseur logo using a variety of 3D tools, including Ray Dream Studio, Blender 3D, and Bryce 5. The background image is a photo I took at Drake Park in Bend, Oregon.

A large part of my responsibilities at C2F include maintaining and designing their various web sites. A few of them are sites for the special lines of art supplies associated with or owned by the company. Connoisseur is one of these sites - good quality brushes, by the way. It was my first professional web design project. After some years of experience and learning, I have added quite a bit of trickery to my portfolio, especially when it comes to CSS implementation and interface design. The Connoisseur site was originally designed using mostly tables to set things in place. Though this is still acceptable (it was never "correct", since tables were originally created for a different purpose), using Cascading Style Sheets is now the mainstream, modern way to construct the visual presentation of a web site. In addition, CSS is far superior in most ways and produces code that is easier to read and maintain. The only down side to CSS is the turtlespeed/2,000,000 that most web browser companies take to implement the most recent recommendations. Microsoft is largely responsible for the web's current stone age and nonconformity, as they took a four year vacation from developing the number one browser, namely Internet Explorer.

It came to my attention (by myself informing myself) that I needed to update the pricing on the Connoisseur site, so I began doing that. In the process, I made a few changes to the html source that spawned an entire redesign. It is still driven by Dreamweaver templates instead of my preferred method of server side includes. I decided to keep it that way just to brush up on my Dreamweaver skills. Even so, the source code and the CSS are written almost from scratch. Sure, there are still tables to be found, but only when their use is sensible. There are certain situations where tabular data will always and should always appear on the web. Tables are not taboo: they should be used to present information that appears in a grid format. There is no way around it, unless you create more CSS/XHTML elements. And those elements would pretty much be the <table>, <tr>, and <td> with different names anyway.

I added a short EsoShow to highlight some of the graphical changes to the Connoisseur site.

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Monday, October 23rd, 2006 - 2:34 AM

"Zoo Trip October 2006 and Contemplation Ad Infinitum"

Okay, so I was intending to put online a slideshow showing my most recent trip to the zoo. It took way too long because monkeys make me think. Rather than organizing it into seventeen blog entries, I'll point you to the EsoShow. You can come back here and post your responses, since I haven't added commenting ability to EsoShow yet. Technically I need to write a book about the thoughts that surfaced, but maybe you guys can instead finish or decimate my thoughts by commenting :D Besides, it's stupid late, and I need to go to work in a few hours! If you do write a comment, start each reaction with a reference to a specific slide number if your thought is spawned by something written there. This will help others follow yours and my trains of thought, be they ever so off-track (sorry for the lousy pun).

The EsoShow

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Wednesday, October 18th, 2006 - 12:12 AM

"Jonah Gets EsoSkipped Before I Do"

Jonah Ministries, a web design project I recently took on, gets my best work. Of course I put my best efforts into all my work, but as I learn more and develop new tools and scripts, each subsequent site gains the benefits of my work. I guess I should start releasing versions of my scripts, like EsoGallery 1.1.0.7 or something. I have no idea how developers decide which decimals to use in version numbers! At any rate, Camp Jonah has a higher EsoGallery version than Esotropiart at the moment :) Due to the large size of some of their albums (over 700 photos in one!), I modified my gallery script to break the thumbnails into manageable blocks that can be navigated through by way of link controls. I am randomly calling this feature "EsoSkip". These links also provide a way to quickly jump forward or backward in a large album/gallery (like chapters on a DVD). The number of members in the range/skip can be set easily. 50 seems to be a reasonable number of thumbnails to load, and a good divisor for breaking down large galleries into chunks. I also added slide number labels to each thumbnail. This creates a visual reference for the user to remember where they left off in browsing, and is generally a sensible addition in my opinion. I suppose I could go even further and have a checkbox for show/hide slide numbers, but for now I'll leave them be. Now I just need to port my changes back to Esotropiart so my own site isn't behind the times! Visit the new Camp Jonah Photo Albums.

Camp Jonah gets latest EsoGallery modifications

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Sunday, October 15th, 2006 - 3:52 PM

"ArroWorst: Beaverton's Finest?"

ArroWorst

It seems Portland and the surrounding area go through spells of constant road construction. How can something be a spell and ongoing? Well, it is always happening, but there are certain times when it seems the entire city has an impediment. Now is one of those times, especially for the west side and Beaverton. Ever since we moved to this area over three years ago, there has been nonstop construction. It's craziness.

Of course all this roadwork has the awful drawback of increased traffic. Well, as annoying as this is, at least I can say this town has one thing to gain: Horrible Arrows. I think the idea is to make such ludicrous shaped directional symbols on the ground as to cause anyone to laugh hysterically. So people forget about the junk traffic they are locked up in. So you can appreciate the arrows in all their glorious detail and splendor, I created an EsoShow dedicated to ArroWorst. My question is: Are these permanent? It looks like that thick, durable, reflective traffic striping. I don't know why they would lay something down just to tear it up later, so this must be the new style.

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Monday, October 9th, 2006 - 10:40 PM

"Jim Guys: Can't Stop This"

Jim Guys Reunion 2006

Here is something unique - a group of 4 friends who have much in common, most notably an unstoppable friendship. Our gatherings are more seldom as life tugs this way and that, but it seems nothing will separate us forever. A few weeks ago my mom all-of-a-sudden invited the four of us and our families together for a traditional taco night (thanks, Mom!). Our friendship through the years has been profound to the point that I have always considered any one of my friends' parents my second parents. So when the Jim Guys (our formal title) get together, it's not strange or uncommon for our parents to be involved. Fortunately just about everyone came last Friday. It was a wonderful evening, and it seemed everyone enjoyed themselves.

Jim, Dave, Marcus and Phil reunited: it had been about 3 years since the four of us had been together in one place. I see Dave pretty often, and Jim a bit less. I had not seen Marcus in a couple years, and I wasn't sure if I would see him again. It was a great privilege to see him acting like the same ole guy we always knew. After a few moments of surface conversation, it felt just like the old days: laughing together, sharing stories and ideas, and dispensing our unique, senseless type of humor. Surely God brought us together. Who could doubt it? I challenge each one of you, Jim Guys, to look at the last 14 years or so and to recount how God has used each other now and/or then to bless and strengthen one another. It has been an extraordinary friendship, one of legend. We have "such a rich history" together, as Dave put it. We have created so many ideas, new words and expressions and... I can't even begin to describe or list what creativity our minds have spawned. I truly believe that together, we are an unstoppable force. Our dreams (more vivid for some than others) of making a video game, movie or some sort of business were never realized, but mostly due to our somewhat common lack of ambition and specific vision. Perhaps our most common quotes are "that shoul be in our movie", "We should write that down!", and "Some day we'll have to make a list of all this". Several books or documentaries couldn't really express it all. My life would have been so much less without these three. I tend to believe I would not have survived certain periods of my life without the provision of God through Jim Guys. What an amazing legacy, and what a joy to have this special evening with [almost] all our families together - something that's only happened a couple times (certainly never with all the "new" members included).

Who knows, maybe it will be another 3 or 25 years before we all get together again. Perhaps I will never see any of them again. God alone knows the number of our days. Regardless of separations of time and distance, I will always feel a special bond with Dave, Jim and Marcus: can't stop it.

Here are more pictures from last Friday (and a couple surprise extras).

Also check out Dave's thoughts about this event. He included some interesting and important factoids that I left out. He's right, we really, truly do have our own subculture. The word "folklore" is quite accurate. I can't believe how many ideas we have created. The problem is that we have little proof. We have some in the form of letters and drawings, but most of it has just been mulled over in our minds or talked about, but not recorded. I think we should resolve to write as much of it down as possible. Hey guys, let's start doing it. Put it in any form possible, written down on 3x5's would be cool ;) Any Jim Guys expressions (and their general meaning/translation/context/creation scenario, if any), habits, worlds, ideas, creatures, memories of specific or general events, interests, you name it, write it down, be it a general impression or very specific detail. I'd love to compile such a collection into a book form, even if it's just re-printing the 3x5s exactly as we write them, full of illustrations and scribbled words. That would be treasurous.

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Monday, October 9th, 2006 - 9:52 PM

"New Camp Jonah Web Site Alpha"

The new Camp Jonah Photo Album page

Here is the first picture of the new layout/design for Camp Jonah, a site I have been working on. This page uses an adaptation of the scripts I wrote for Esotropiart's EsoGalleries and EsoShow. The Camp Jonah site as a whole has been transferred to a cheap yet robust host, and I now have the ability to code everything I need in XHTML/CSS/Javascript/PHP/MySQL. Click here to see the page in action.

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Monday, October 9th, 2006 - 9:46 PM

"Tea Leaf Pearl Moon EsoLogo"

Tea Leaf Pearl Moon EsoLogo

As I was fooling around with various background gradients and images, I randomly adapted the EsoLogo into the Tea Leaf Pearl Moon.

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