Motorcycle Zen of Reddit Philosophy

Reddit is my current hangout on the internet. It is one of those websites where you submit things and all of the other users on the site vote on it and make comments. Standard enough. For a few particular reasons, Reddit seems to be simply the best of those sites currently.

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.


The babble Notes

What follows is a section of the babble of notes that I jot down in my Ipod when I am brainstorming. Sometimes I do this by going for a walk outside.

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.


Variety of Sketching

I get the sense that my sketching is a bit different than before. It is tending towards extremely light and loose, which is related to how I have been animating this year. It is just pencils on paper. Once I get into some more serious art centric projects later this year, I will have to turn back to other materials.

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.


The Golden Rule

Treat others as you would like to be treated.

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.


Technical Director

I went to a panel discussion about working in the video game industry yesterday, and at one point in the discussion, it sounded like they were talking about me, in a room full of computer science students. One of the speakers explained the role of the technical director: the intermediate between the technical aspects of production and the artistic aspects. The person who brings those two things together and translates for them.

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


A Very Interesting Animation Project

I thought of a different model doing animation projects in our school environment. It would completely change how everyone thinks and produce extremely different results from what we are currently doing.

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.



I've been nearing my stress limit here in Montreal for the last few weeks. Not overwhelmed, but nearing it. For anyone who is concerned by what I just wrote: don't be. I put myself into all of these classes. I intend to do all of the work. It is a test of myself and it is only going to help me in the future.

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.


The Car Matador

For my puppet animation class I built the character of the Car Matador. He will use his matador skills and cape to cross the street.

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.


A Delicate Touch

As the prior post said, I went to a Halloween party last weekend. From the party a video was posted to Facebook. If you are a friend of mine on Facebook you can find that I have one video associated with my profile. In that video I come to the rescue by opening a wine bottle that had two corkscrews broken in it.

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.