The period of ecstasy I described in the last post is over. I don’t mind though. I could hardly eat or sleep. I’ve calmed down. I look forward to starting classes next week. I’ll be taking Spanish, French, and Polish language classes and a German culture class, instructed in the respective languages. I’m looking to stretch my mind. Each class only meets once a week, which I dislike, but I’ve accumulated many resources for studying. I have books in German, Spanish, and Polish, hours and hours of audiobooks in all the languages, and plenty of writing in English to translate.
The classes are all in the city center, so I’ll be getting my ass up and out and about during the day. I’ve become well-acquainted with the area, from the roads and stores to parks and people. Next to the largest square is a man who plays chess. He has a big cardboard box set up with two boards and stools for passers-by to use. He enjoys playing two games at once. He usually wins. I’ve played him a few times, and have only lost. I don’t mind. Despite having been a nervous wreck for a while, I can keep a level head in front of crowds, when I’m concentrating on something.
In middle school I could solve a Rubik’s cube the fastest, and then a four-by-four, five-by-five, and a spectrum of various twisty puzzles. I became used to being observed. When I felt like being slick, I could look away from the puzzle while continuing to solve it, impressing those watching. But those in the know knew I was just in the middle of an algorithm I had learned, not actually doing anything extraordinary. I never thought it was difficult, just that it required lots of practice, which it did. I quickly grew sick of people saying “oh Will you’re so smart, I could never do that.” Of course, I basked in the compliment at first, but then wondered why people, especially adults, automatically doubted themselves. My mother’s convinced she’s incapable of anything technical, a thought which, when expressed, I put down. Anyone can solve a Rubik’s cube. I could teach anyone. Some would take longer to learn algorithms and execute them fluidly, but nonetheless they could learn.
In my junior year of high school, I juggled for a performance team. I learned to juggle, practicing alone at least an hour every day for two months before the first show, with intermittent rehearsals lasting eight hours. I was determined and self-disciplined. I also dropped many, many times, and learned to let go of embarrassment during practice. I did drop a couple times during shows, but then I just practiced more. I mastered having a level head. We performed once or twice before a thousand people, and I nearly froze from juggling, but through a wonder of life and the universe I managed to throw the first ball and get started. I’ll never forget having a thousand people cheer for my team.
During the eight-hour rehearsals I’d usually plug in to my Ipod and practice for a while, jamming with Weezer’s Blue Album, Stone Temple Pilots’ Core, Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs, and Dave Matthews Band’s Crash. I’ve listened to Crash at least a hundred times so far, and will probably a couple hundred times more. I love it. It’s filled with layers and high energy. I’m unsure how to really describe it, since it’s fundamental in my conception of music. I like the layers because I can listen to a different instrument each time and hear another story, like in Lie in our Graves and Proudest Monkey. The series of six-minute jams can drive me to work on anything.
I’ve also looked at many videos of their live performances, many songs of which differ greatly from the album versions, some including ten-minute jam sessions, shifting the spotlight through the musicians. I’ve watched one particular performance of Two Step many times, never able to get enough of Stefan Lessard’s tickling of the bass or Carter Beauford’s intricate rhythms. I ought to see them live sometime.
A few years ago I came up with a drawing style that looks a bit like circuitry, and today I’ve finally finish a program that can generate it. I’d tried a couple times over the last year, failing because of faulty methods, but this time I got it right. It uses repeated addition of random-length branches. As usual, I enjoyed writing the program, and also I enjoy watching my forms, which I’ve come to call trees, develop. Playing with the color I can make them look like PCBs, mazes, or cracking glass. I’ve set the input up such that I can easily control little details that largely affect the outcome. My original style, when I draw by hand, excludes four-way intersections and loops, while including bends. I can control each of those though, and tailor the settings to create a more natural- or synthetic- appearing output.
The program is more versatile than shown, but the details get more technical and are beyond the point of this blog. I should really learn Java or something easily shared.
The main success I see in this program is that I’ve taken a seemingly intuitive process and reduced it to generating a random number many times. This makes me think about how much of my thinking about drawing I could simplify and stick in a computer. I guess this is starting to ruin drawing for me, as I abandon the option of drawing by hand with mistakes when I could write a program to do it perfectly for me. But I still have a long way to go before I write something that can produce a complete drawing. Thanks for reading.