So I accidentally broke one of my D2X bodies while I was in Indonesia last week. It was a dumb mistake. I had the camera mounted on the tripod but forgot to tighten the clamp on my ballhead and when I let go of the camera to reach for something else, I heard the most sickening sound. My fisheye lens, which was mounted on the camera, took the brunt of the damage. The built-in hood shattered and the front elements cracked.
The camera body looked okay. It is a "pro" body after all. It's supposed to withstand some abuse (not dropped from nearly 6 feet I'll grant you that). I tested it, it turned out the AF mechanism was busted. Everything else functioned normally. So I ended up focusing manually with that body for the remainder of the trip.
The point of this post is not to tell you how I damaged the camera but how ridiculous Nikon is. I took it in to the service center in Taipei (where I am living at the moment) and was informed that since I did not purchase it from the official distributor in Taipei (I bought it from Nikon USA when I lived in New York), the only way they will even look at it is if I paid them NT$10,000/US$302.39. That is just so they will look at my camera. And then I still will have to pay for the actual parts and labor. Isn't that absurd? That US$300 is essentially Nikon Taiwan telling me "fuck you" for not buying the camera from them.
I understand them not providing warranty service to cameras bought out-of-market to protect their own interests (though in this day and age of the global nomad, that is frankly very anti-consumer), but this is going way too far.
Does Nikon do this in all markets? Does Nikon USA charge you a US$300 penalty if you brought in a gray-market camera to repair? And for that matter, does Canon? If Canon does not do this, or at least has a more reasonable policy regarding gray-market cameras, I am going to switch back (I used to use a 1D). I move around the world (in any given year I might be living in Taiwan, China, Canada or the States for example) and I need to know that I can walk into an authorized service center in any country and have my cameras expertly repaired in a timely manner without paying a hefty penalty.
 Well, technically, it's not "Nikon Taiwan", but Nikon's Taiwanese distributor. But Nikon is equally culpable for allowing its distributor to treat its customers this way.
These photos are from a trip I took to Seoul over two-and-a-half years ago. I've been meaning to put them up but never got around to it. I'm actually at the airport on my way to Jakarta right now; hopefully, I won't sit on my ass for two-plus years before putting the photos from this trip up. I'm planning on going to some rather out of the way places in Indonesia so wish me luck! This is the first time I'm going somewhere where I need to take preventive medication (for malaria). I almost wanted to cancel my ticket after I read about all the horrible diseases I could contract there. Yikes.
- Seoul [Figure-Ground.com]
"We were told there were ghosts in the house. I decided the ghosts were ghosts of cubism." —Frank Gehry
A small update today: a few exterior shots of the Gehry Residence in Santa Monica. I took these after I went to see Eames House in nearby Pacific Palisades.
I finally got around to seeing Sydney Pollack's documentary Sketches of Frank Gehry last night and I remembered I have a few shots of his house which I never posted so here they are.
- Gehry Residence [Figure-Ground.com]
The documentary is okay, nothing too interesting. It's basically a 80-minute love-fest of Gehry and his work. I understand Gehry is a larger-than-life figure, but can the partners in his firm come off as any more in deference of him? Craig Webb, who by the way is a splitting image of Lyle Lovett, acted more like an awe-struck first-year student assisting his famous professor than a partner in a major architecture firm.
Some Gehry Quotes from the Documentary
On starting a new project: "I'm always scared that I'm not going to know what to do. It's a terrifying moment."
On a model he's working on: "That is so stupid looking, it's great."
On Alvar Aalto: "I would say my work is probably closer to him than any of the other previous generations."
On architecture: "What bugs me are these god damn rules that my profession has as to what fits and what doesn't."
I have put up a selection of photos from my trip to Egypt last month:
- Egypt [Figure-Ground.com]
The most memorable part of the trip for me was the night spent in the Western Desert. Some of my favorite shots are from there as well.
There is also a photoset on Flickr with some photos of me being a tourist, plus other miscellaneous photos from the trip.
The National Palace Museum of Taipei holds the world's foremost collection of Chinese art, much of it never exhibited, much less lent to other museums. After a badly needed four year renovation project, the formerly-dowdy museum has reopened with a blockbuster show that displays some of the rarest and most valuable works from its vaults, said to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The crowds are understandably big which is always a challenge for anyone trying to enjoy art but the Taipei show presents an additional obstacle: nose grease. The entire show is presented in darkened rooms and everything is behind glass (owing to the fragile nature of the works). After you fight your way to the front of the throng of people, you discover that every pane of glass protecting the artwork is dotted with nose grease. Yes, Chinese paintings and calligraphy often require closer examinations to see their exquisite details, but still it's not necessary to plaster your greasy face against the glass like so many people were doing. The oily residuals blur the view of the details and all I could do was try to look around them. But there were so many nosey smudges to try to look around that it was distracting, frustrating and kind of disgusting. At one point my eyes just glazed over and all I saw were the nose prints (kind of like when your camera struggles to focus and end up focusing on something in the foreground).
I don't know if the museum wipes down the glass every night (let's hope so), but on the chance that it does, you should plan your visit right as the museum opens in the morning (9am every day).
- Grand View: Painting, Calligraphy and Juu Ware of the Northern Sung Dynasty and Sung Dynasty [National Palace Museum Official Site]
- Rare Glimpses of China’s Long-Hidden Treasures [NYTimes.com]
 Less shabby now, but let's just say it's no Metropolitan Museum of Art. Nevertheless, the works on display are indisputably magnificent.
Over in my Flickr photostream I have posted a set of photos of Yingge Ceramics Museum, located about half an hour outside of Taipei. There's not a lot of great architecture in Taiwan, modern or otherwise. For example, with the exception of a church by I.M. Pei (which I have yet to check out), no notable architect has built here. That said, this is one of the better buildings on this island. It's designed by a local architecture firm 竹間聯合建築師事務所 (Zhujian Architecture Studio). Nevertheless, it's nothing special. That's why it's not being featured on my architecture photography website Figure/Ground; but it's worth seeing what the state of modern architecture is in Taiwan so I've uploaded the set to my Flickr photostream. These are just some quick snaps I took with my dinky pocket digicam when I went to check it out a few months ago.
- Yingge Ceramics Museum 鶯歌陶瓷博物館 [Flickr]
 Well, actually, that's not entirely true. Supposedly some highway rest stop is designed by OMA but from the pictures I've seen of it, it's not close to one of their stronger works.
- Salk Institute - Louis Kahn [Figure-Ground.com]
Another Kahn masterpiece: Kimbell Art Museum.
PS: I'd like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy new year!
I wanted to play around with IDNs (internationalized domain names, see Wikipedia for a primer). All of the individual words in my name—廖/Liao, 雨/Yu and 笙/Sheng—have already been registered (damn you domain squatters!), so I took 雨笙.com (in punycode form: xn--zvzm38c.com).
Most registrars (including my usual registrar GoDaddy) are not set up to handle IDNs, so I ended up using DomainSite. It sucks that I have to deal with all these different registrars for the domains I own: one for my IDN (DomainSite), one for my .ca domain (BareMetal) and one for everything else (GoDaddy).
Right now, 雨笙.com is configured to redirect here to liaoyusheng.com. I wonder how useful this IDN will prove to be. In verbal situations, I could see this being a better way to tell a Taiwanese person how to reach me on the web. The average Taiwanese is far more likely to remember 雨笙.com than the pinyin liaoyusheng.com since Taiwanese people don't know the pinyin system.
- Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels - José Rafael Moneo [Figure-Ground.com]
I have seen my share of Gehry buildings and this is his most refined and beautiful. Of course, Bilbao remains a more powerful work in historical context (and it is in a much more romantic setting), but in terms of pure forms, I think Disney Hall surpasses it.
- Walt Disney Concert Hall - Frank Gehry [Figure-Ground.com]