It’s like detecting earthquakes from halfway around the world. Like the Hubble Telescope taking the Deep Field image. It is like detecting dark matter.
It is both exceedingly easy and exceedingly difficult to live with such feelings. My feelings don’t help me, but they don’t hinder me.
I think this analogy is pretty important because it is something I can work on to improve.
It started probably around grade eight 6 or 7 when I read a book called "Bits and Bytes to C and Beyond". It was a book that described in great detail how a computer actually worked at the level of transistor and how that built up into actual programs. When the book got to the C programming part, I lost interest because I didn't have access or the knowledge of how to get a C program to compile on my computer. I didn't have a project to figure out, the whole thing just settle deep in my brain.
Later, my exploration into 3d computer graphics rekindled the prospect of programming. I started with a 3d program called Pov-Ray that is actually quite similar to C programming code, except entirely design to create computer generated images. With Pov-Ray I actually had projects, and objectives and a goal to reach when I was making images. In that time I learned a lot about syntax, debugging, loops, variables, functions and all sorts of other things. It was a great way to learn because I would just fumble around in the documentation and figure things out.
Once I got further into 3d I ended up moving into more complex computer graphic software packages that don't require programming, so again, the programming knowledge crept back into the depths of my brain.
The next time programming came up was when I student taught a videogame making camp. I learned a version of Basic and for the first time actually made some video games. It was a lot of fun, but once I left the camp, I no longer had anything to code in. I didn't know what language to learn, or what software to work in, and other things distracted me.
Last year I decided that I would get back into it in a more official sense and signed up for object oriented programming in university which will start in a few weeks. I have however been learning a lot of programming in the past few months in two very successful ways.
The first is thanks to Reddit. A man name Carl H. has taken it upon himself to create an online programming course entirely within the context of Reddit.
This is the best introduction to programming that I have ever learned from. It is in depth, correctly paced and allows for a lot of interaction. It is probably one of the best learning experiences I have ever had. The focus is on complete understanding of the topic, not some goal of simple passing a test at the end of the term.
The second thing that has been helping me is Project Euler. It is an online programming challenge. They have hundreds of problems which can be solved using programming. I'm online on about the 10th question. This website has provided me with challenges that I couldn't make up for myself. It is very difficult to learn programming when the objective is not clear. It is also a very interesting website as after completing each problem, other solutions are available to view. It offers a lot of insight into how other people work and what other solutions are available.
The last problem I completed was to add up all of the prime numbers under two million. This isn't particularly hard, except the program is supposed to be able to complete the task in under a minute. This restriction force me to learn more and to analyze my solution to a greater depth.
Hopefully by the end of the year I will have a much great grasp on programming as a whole and will be able to really implement it into my work to a greater extent.
I will attempt to list the ingredients of this recognition to make sense of where it comes from.
The post from a few days ago, about why I work so hard leads to this new thought process. I work for the plan. To make sure it happens. But that post didn’t get to the root of the issue, it was just the phenotype. It didn’t tell me why. It only showed what my underlying constituent parts resulted in. A man who does his work perfectly, on time, with good results and never fails. The plan goes perfectly, every time, without fail. Reliably.
I am never late. I never swear. I never get angry. I work hard. I never try to hurt people. I listen to authority. I drive at the speed limit. I have perfect credit. I have great marks. I do all my homework. I’m polite and well spoken. I’m quiet. I answer questions when asked. I take action when required. I follow rules.
I am, for all intensive purposes, perfect in my outwards appearance.
Now we get to what tipped me off. What got me to show my cards to myself? What is the chink in this armor of oddly perfect behavior?
I watch the show Dexter. It is about a character who is a blood analyst for a crime scene investigations unit in Miami. He is however, a serial killer who kills the people who get away from the police and are guilty of heinous crimes. Much of the show deals with him keeping up multiple facades to prevent the truth from ever being revealed.
The show resonates with me. I watch it and see a character who has a similar motivation to myself. Not that I kill people, but that I have a plan that requires perfection. Things have to be done. He has to do all sorts of ridiculous things to make sure that all of the elements of the major plan fall into place. And it isn’t just a small single pronged plan. He has to tend to all aspects of his life to make it all work. And it works because he has gotten very good at it.
And like no other show that I watch, I watch Dexter and feel a kinship for how he moves through life. He is protecting his life from complete and utter destruction of discovery. In his plan he assumes no failures or errors, because any would be disastrous. But now the question is what am I protecting with such ferocity? I am not some sort of serial killer, there is no grand secret which must not be revealed.
Thankfully I already knew the answer. I’ve known the words that describes it for a few years, but I’ve never been able to find it in myself with any conviction. It hid elusively behind layers of importance. I am protecting my ego. I’m protecting my own image of myself. My own conception of who I am. I am protecting the “me” that isn’t actually me. My ego wants to project to the world the image that I am a responsible and reliable person. My ego doesn’t want to be cool or liked. It doesn’t want to have power. It doesn’t simply want to be better than other people. It doesn’t want to be right.
My ego wants to portray itself as reliable and responsible. But the concept of reliability and responsibility is unrelenting to my ego, it requires perfection. My ego believes that to appear reliable and responsible, the facade must never be taken down. By its very definition reliability means consistency. My ego doesn’t allow for exceptions in reliability. It is a 100% game and is always played as such. And that is the reason for the plan. My ego built up over my lifetime a person who could make a plan that was as close to completely fool proof as possible.
I am not reliable or responsible. I appear to be. I appear so reliable and responsible that from all angles of observation, I am. Except of course from the inside. I don’t feel any motivation deeper than my ego for wanting to be responsible and reliable.
And now I am a little bit confused about what this means. I’ve again found myself at a point where I don’t know why I do what I do.
Thankfully I have read enough, thought enough and talked enough about these things that I know that everything will be okay. There is a reason that I say that science is my religion.
The evidence for my hard work generally comes in marks. To brag for a moment, I currently have a 3.92 GPA. All through school I have had good marks. There are very few times that I have ever felt let down by my marks.
One basic reasoning would be that I work so hard for the marks; that I am driven to do well because of the marks at the end. This reasoning doesn’t resonate with me. I don’t feel it when I work. I don’t really think about it when I work. I feel good about good marks when I receive them, and I feel bad about bad marks when I get them.
But I don’t work for the marks.
I think the reason I do things can be explained by a different reason. I have a plan. I always have a plan in mind. There aren’t lots of plans. There is a single, giant plan which exist for my life at many different scales. The overarching part of the plan relating to my career is to become an animator/director/technical director. University is the current step of that plan. And in university there are all of my current courses, and each of those courses contains the projects and lectures. Now the big enormous plan of my career requires me to complete all of the smaller pieces of the plan for it to be accomplished.
Right now, I can see the plan roughly two weeks in front of me. All of my homework, deadlines and projects fit into it. It is doable. A fundamental precept of my plan is that it always remains doable. The moment that it isn’t feasible anymore, the plan will need to reshape itself. And it does. My plan will generally reshape itself to accommodate the most important tasks first, like finishing projects and going to class.
So the plan which I am always following is critical to determining what I do. So now the question is why do I do things well? The simple answer is that the question is wrong. I either do things, or I don’t do things. There isn’t anything in the middle. Either it is part of the plan, or it is not part of the plan. The quality of the outcome is affected by the quality of the plan.
If I want to do something well, and it needs to be done well, the only response is to fit it into the plan in a larger way. For most of my animation projects, I feel they are important, so I plan them in an important way. I start them early. I work on them often and I get them done on time. They push less important things around in the plan.
The good marks that I get are only a result of how I work. I don’t strive for fantastic marks, I am simply following the ever changing plan that I have made for myself. It is both flexible and inevitable. I have rarely had it break down because I am good at keeping it organized and well functioning. The last few weeks have really put a strain on it though. I have reached the point where few other things can be put into the plan before it simply can’t sustain the process anymore, and it could fall apart.
But I doubt that will happen.
Appendix: I wrote this post roughly a week before posting it. Since then I feel that just understanding how I work has made me more relaxed. And the plan has been going pretty much as planned, as it always does.
One reason is that they allow you to simply make a post without a link to anything else. Where as most sites require you to link to somewhere else on the internet, you can simply make a text post that will spark a discussion, and this discussion than becomes the center of interest.
A few weeks ago, I thought it would be a good idea to see what the people of the Philosophy section of Reddit thought about the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. So a made a post and just started waiting for answers. As answers came in I would respond in an attempt to moderate and encourage discussion.
What followed was a few hours of interesting internet discussion.
What does r/philosophy think of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance?
I really felt like I was doing a thorough job of moderating the discussion. Whenever someone said something without any explanation or evidence, I challenged what they said. I was extremely polite, but also quite blunt. I encouraged people to better explain themselves.
This is one of the first times I felt that I had personally done something in the space of the internet. Sure I have this blog, but I never really feel like it is the "Internet". This blog is just an offshoot of the internet where my friends tend to be, and where I like to keep my stuff.
A movie about walking on funny surfaces. Hiking. On uneven ground.
A movie about parking.
A movie about balance. Juggling. Metaphor.
A movie about group dynamics. How the move how they ate different than individuals.
A movie about starting an avalanche. As a metaphor for life. Good or bad.
A boy hunting a squirrel in modern day.
A movie about going somewhere else to cry.
A movie about demolition. About destroying something for something new. About breaking stuff.
An animation of tectonic plates. Of mountains lifting up out of the ground. About the effects those have.
About holding hands.
About my parents running habit.
A movie about your changing body. Sculpting it. Letting it go. Aging disease.
How to carry a baby instructions.
Monkey vs human grooming.
A movie about children crying.
About fire. Campfire. Destruction cooking.
The car matador.
I'm sickened by the obsolescence of the cemetery. Egos living on through the ages. You ate all dead.
Escalators and cameras at the giant basilica in Montreal. People have no idea how weak the church is. It has no power compared to the media. It only has past momentum holding it up. There us little else to sustain it. It is becoming hollow. People are going to start leaving it.
Movie about the loss of a tree.
When I think of ideas like this, as really small sections of text, they are really easy to make up.
The Car Matador idea actually came out of this babble, and that post a while back about cemeteries.
Here is a link to the full album, there are more sketches than I included here and they can be viewed at larger sizes.
It is interesting how the drawing is changing.
This is a rule you could live by. It is actually a fairly good backup rule when you having nothing else to stand upon.
But it shouldn't be considered the Golden Rule because it is so flawed. It assumes that other people are exactly like us, which is simply wrong. Everyone is different.
Treat others as they would like to be treated.
There is no single way to find out how someone likes to be treated. You might be able to observe what they like. You might need to ask them how they would like to be treated.
There is no complete certainty that they are going to tell you how they would like to be treated, so the old Golden Rule is useful as a fall back solutions when no other information is available.
There is a dramatic change that goes along with finding out how other people like to be treated, you will find out more ways of how you would might like to be treated. After many hundreds of interactions with different people, you would find out all sorts of things that might help you help other people treat you correctly.
If this were to occur for everyone, we would improve our ability to express how we would like to be treated.
And now the question falls back to me. How would I like to be treated? Here are some of the things I think I would say are important to me.
- Treat me as though I am someone who can answer your questions. This means I would like you to ask me questions. Questions are a good way to get me interested. Even questions about things I probably don't know. We can think about them together.
- Treat me like someone who is interested in a lot of things. Bring me things of interest quite randomly. I will enjoy it.
-Don't expect me to feign support or to lie. I'm not good at lying or pretending I have faith or interest. I am much better at giving support if I see good reason to.
-Be honest at your own discretion. Be honest with me if it will help me. Be honest if it will keep me out of trouble.
-Treat me like someone who is interested in you, because I probably am.
Those were hard and quite difficult to actually think up. Now the floor is open for everybody else to explain how they would like to be treated.
A technical director needs to know about all of the technology, science and math behind the work, but they don't really need to be great programmers. They need to be able to learn new tools very quickly. They need to be able to think up tools and how to design them for artist to use. They need to be able to help artist use the tools which they are being provided.
A technical director needs to be able to explain to an artist how to make the art work within the framework of the technology. A technical director needs to make the art work with the tech.
They need to have a wide array of knowledge and always looking out for what is new.
They need to be able to solve problems.
Every thing they said just seemed to fit in a check box of the skills I have and the check boxes of the things I like to do.
This could be my direction into the industry. It would be great to get into the industry as a technical director and then use that as a step to simply get to the position of director.
I think the thing that got me most excited was when they explained that such a person, with both a knack for the arts and for tech, was a rare breed.
In the time it took too write this post my whole career direction probably just shifted a few degrees
The idea is simple. Students still need to make a film. Except there is one major rule, they are not allowed to do any work on the film. All the work needs to be done by other students.
I will run through this hypothetical scheme.
On the first day of the project, all of the students arrive in class with scripts and ideas for films. Everyone is given 10 Animation Dollars. Everyone presents their work to the class. Afterward the free market economy opens up. People will start bartering, bidding and trading ideas. They aren't allowed to use their own ideas, so they are required to find something else. But they also want to present the best ideas as they can get more Animation Dollars in return.
So now the idea has to be purchased, and ideas sold. The students then need to hire other students to continue to flesh out the idea. There is strategy in this. Supposed you have 8 animation dollars left. You could pay the best student to do a great job, or you could pay 2 students to both try at it and hedge your bets. In any case, the students will again try and get work, and try to get work done for them.
This process of finding other students to do their work, and finding work from other students will continue for the entire process of the film. The money will have to cycle around many times for all of the films to be completed
Things will need to be laid out, animated, shoot, edited. Music will need to be recorded and sound effects created. Each student will be directing and producing their movie, but they will never get to actually touch the work. They can only make decisions that will hopefully lead the movie somewhere great.
But from a reverse perspective, students will also need to be considerate of those they work for. They need to get work done on time. There needs to be a vast amount of communications between students to get what needs to be done, done correctly.
At the end of the project, all of the movies will hopefully be completed. Credit will be given where credit is due. If a student was able to do a fantastic job on the animation in someone else's project, they get marked well for that. If they were able to really produce a great project, they also can get good marks for that. This means that a hard working student will never get screwed by students who don't give real effort.
This way of working would also mean that we couldn't coddle our work like we tend to. There would be more risks, more happy accidents and just a huge amount of communication between all of the students.
I would love to participate in the above project.
But in this state, a few times I have realized that I was just about having panic attacks. Generally I am known for being stoically cool under pressure. This is of course just an outward appearance, and just like everyone else, I get nervous and tense.
But I noticed these panics attacks. A part in my stop motion puppets armature had broken and I could feel the panic building in my body. It felt nearly physical. I couldn't think straight. Thankfully, part of my mind kept itself separate from the rest and continued to analyze what was going on. It saw that something was going on that needed to be rectified. There was an unnatural lapse in my mind that was causing a loop of negative feelings that was getting disastrously powerful in my brain.
So I managed to do a little research on the topic, and recognized what was occurring. And the recognition has allowed me to feel a lot better.
I was negatively predicting the situations. I was thinking of the broken armature, and then thinking about all the possibilities in the future that were also broken and wrong. I was thinking through all of the results of the single broken part and creating a web of horrible possibilities for myself. And this overwhelmed me.
This web of negative predictions only produced a larger web of negative questions and more negative predictions. It was a self fueling fire that was only getting worse.
But by recognizing the pattern, it is easy to throw a wrench in it. All I had to do was think of the solution to the initial problem and the whole web of failure disintegrated.
Even if I couldn't come up with a solution at the time, simply recognizing the panic as a result of outrageous negative predictions, everything started to feel better.
There is a purpose to being really busy, of getting yourself in over your head: it is one of the only ways you will ever learn what your real limits are.
This has been, undoubtedly one of the most complicated processes which I have ever gone through. There were just so many little steps that needed to be followed to get it finished. But it is also the fact that it was so many small steps that made it possible. Anything big must be done in small steps, and now I have a much larger arsenal.
As I posted earlier the ball and socket metal work was quite interesting. Workshops as some of my favorite places to be.
This is an image of my armature. It broke and had to be fixed. The issue was with the solder. There are a few problems with the solder. The first is that I didn't solder hot enough some of the time. It would melt, but it really needs to liquefy. The next issue with the solder was that I was putting 1/8 inch rod into holes that were 9/64th inch. This small gap made the solders weaker. I would have stronger solders with 1/8 rod in 1/8 holes. My final suspicion is that I used silver solder whose melting point was too low. Mine was 450 degree Fahrenheit melting point, while there do exist silvers solders with 700 degree melting points that might be stronger.
All will also file down all of the corners of all of the joints. They aren't really sharp as I did file them, but they do stick out when the puppet is manipulated in some positions.
I would also spend a lot more time developing a more robust hand system. The one I created will wear out and is not particularly flexible.
I then proceeded to sculpt the puppet. I used high quality plasticine that is quite rigid some compared to other types. I found sculpting on top of a nice armature very enjoyable.
I was particularly happy with the plasticine sculpt of my character. I was concerned that the armature would be obvious inside of him, but through some design choices I think he looks pretty distinctive and organic. The next time I will hopefully have more time. I actually did the whole sculpt inside of eight hours in near a continuous working session.
It was then time for a two part mold. Due to limit supplies, I had to really stretch all of my materials for the mold. While this didn't really hinder my work, it definitely made my mold distinctive to the rest of the class.
After the mold had dried, it was time to take him out. The molding process generally with wreck the plasticine version, which is just fine because I have to get the armature out anyways.
There is always a lot of struggling opening molds and getting things out of them. This is another thing that takes a lot of finesse yet sometimes a good chunk of force as well.
It was then time for the foam latex. This involves mixing chemicals, very quickly putting those chemicals along with the armature into the mold. The whole thing than goes in the oven for a few hours. This was the part of the process that could have failed the worst. I only had a single batch of foam latex so there were no second tries.
The armature needed to be very carefully position in the mold as to not have any of it touch the sides. I sort of just fudged this. There was simply no way the armature could touch any sides. I have extremely thin foam in some areas.
The moment of truth occurred a few hours later. He emerged.
The foam latex didn't work out perfectly, but it was usable. There was some loss of chin and bubbles. But after such a long process, it still managed to work pretty well. Paint is pretty much all that follows.
And that is the creation of the Car Matador. My first foam latex puppet with ball and socket armature. Now it is time to sleep.
Two corkscrews were broken, not just one, in an attempt to open the wine. Now I am not making any attempt to blame anyone, but I think it is a very important to take notice of something. It is unlikely that two defective corkscrews were used one after another. I also don't believe that it was some sort of super strong bottle of wine. I suspect the common factor of broken corkscrews was in fact the person using them.
Again, I am not trying to pick on someone, but am trying to reveal something that was suggested by the "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance". Whoever might have broken the corkscrews was not paying attention to their actions. They were probably distracted and in a hurry. And because of it, they broke their tool. They were probably likely to blame their tool.
I bring this up because in class this week we were to bring in our foam latex puppets for animation. Some people had major problems with their foam latex, others had success. While I can not say for sure, I suspect the root problem of most people who had difficulty with their foam latex were the people themselves. It required a lot of careful examination, patients, thought and determination to make work.
The moral of the story is be patient, thoughtful and caring when you are faced with problem. I struggled with the wine bottle for a moment, tried a tool at hand. I then thought for quite a while. I then opened the draw in front of me. Found some scissors and used the space between the handles and the pivot as a pair of pliers and very carefully persuaded the cork out of the bottle.
That is actually the second time in my life that I have come up with an ingenious way to open a bottle of wine. I think the first used a nail and a hammer, but I can't remember exactly.
So Halloween is always a bit of a conundrum. I like participating in Halloween, and would hate to arrive at a Halloween party without a costume, yet I also don't want to where a costume.
So this year I found a very interesting solution. Instead of actually wearing a physical costume I went the route of Relational Art, and interacted with people in an interesting way. I had been given a set of string magic tricks for my birthday, so for Halloween, I learned magic.
Now with this idea, it was actually important that I didn't wear a costume. At the party I went to people would ask what my costume was, and I had a perfect opening for the magic.
The whole thing went astonishing well. People were really interested by the tricks. Sometimes I did them right, other times I messed up, but every time there was some real attention and interaction between people.
It also changed how I was at the party. I was more attentive because I was remembering what tricks I had shown who, so I could come back with more later. I was also being more attentive to the other people at the party. To do magic you really have to pay attention to your audience.
Also, as the party progresses, the influence of alcohol takes hold and people are more easily fooled, only contributing further to the fun.
I decided to take it first because it is a prerequisite for a computer programming course I am taking next semester. But it is actually the perfect math class for me. It is the basic math that is fundamental to all of computer graphics, and actually most of computer math. It is an incredibly powerful way of doing math that allows it to more easily work with computers.
It is really quite weird to go back into that type of class room environment where everybody sits quietly as the teacher talks about things written down in the textbook. I don't really know anyones name, and I don't have to comment on there work, and there actual test that I have to right and I actually get marks back that mean something.
I have to say, I really like my animation courses. We watch movie, have discussions. Sit around and talk. And then we get to serious work, that we personally care about and show it to everybody else. I sort of wish that type of thing could happen in math. I would feel personally invested in it and would actually make something cool out of it.
Instead we are committed to learning things that are written in a book, it just feels so monotonous.
I suspect that I have some of the more interesting notes in the class. For one I keep them in a giant sketch book, and for the other, I sometimes start sketching. Nothing really good because I do actually have to pay attention.
This is quite delayed from I finished it. I've been a little bit hesitant to put up short pieces of work without polishing them up together into something a little more substantial.
The reason for this is likely quite simple: he is unyielding passionate about the subject. His enthusiasm is so strong that even as a night course, taught between the hours of 6:00 pm and 10:00 pm, no one is ever tired. But it goes further than that. There are consistent obvious examples of his attempting to make the class succeed.
There is also another very important aspect of his class. The fact that is it "his" class. He developed the curriculum, the handouts, the assignments. He is in complete and utter control of the class. And his character come through into the class. Thinking back on prior courses, I suspect that some of my favorites have been my favorites for this same reason. When a course is actually a teacher's course, and not simply the curriculum that has been handed down from a higher level, or passed on from a previous teacher, there is something new, fresh and entirely ire-producible that exists. The examples I can think of of hand are "Theory of Knowledge" with Mr. Kelly in high school, my "3d Modeling for Rapid Prototyping" at ACAD and my "Animation I" course at ACAD. Maybe I will remember more later.
To top it off there was even cake tonight. But moving on to the actual topic of discussion.
I am building a metal ball and socket stop motion animation armature. It is the thing inside the puppets in films such as the Nightmare Before Christmas. It is the gold standard when it comes to what you put inside puppets. It doesn't wear out easily. It is really sturdy. It is smooth.
The main downside is that they are fairly complicated and difficult to build. For that reason I was the only one in the class to actually decide to build one. Once the opportunity arose there would have been simply no deterring me. I was going to go to the metal shop and build that armature.
So here we are are twenty hours of metal shop time later. I have my puppet built, after lots of trials and tribulations. The thing is holding together. Except I have doubts. Some of the solders that I have been doing have been breaking. Not that they are really weak, but they need to be really strong for their job.
All looks good. People are seeing it, and they are excited that I got this thing going.
This is because I had left my doubts about my armature unchecked. I had coddled it through the last few steps so that I wouldn't fail, instead of testing it is harshly as I should have.
It wasn't as though the teacher ripped this thing apart though. First one arm fell off halfway through class when I was messing with it. And then, at the end of class, I went over the armature one-on-one with the teacher. It felt like at that point I had been given permission to really test the armature. It is hard to describe, but once I had opened up about my doubts about the project, and the teacher was completely understanding, I could finally do was needed to be done and really try to tear the thing apart.
And then it really broke.
The thing is, after talking more, we discovered that it is likely a simple error I was making during the soldering process that was leading to all these weak joints. So tomorrow I will be able to fix it.
It is however, very interesting how visually and conceptually well this experience represents the greater world of creation (by which I mean art, design and pretty much anything). You need to have a very strong base structure to build everything else upon. You need to spend lots of time building it, and then actually test it. In this case a teacher provided a great means catalyzing this testing process.
It is incredibly important that I found and accepted the weakness of my armature now, instead of when it was too late, when the whole thing is covered in layers foam latex and it would actually, without exaggeration, ruin everything.
Whatever you are making, don't be scared to test it, because if you are scared to test it, it is all the more likely that it will break.
Some of the following sketches are the result of that warm up. Others are preparation for animation I was working on.