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Midday Insomniac's Cure-All Tonic

Sunday, August 2, 2009

4:35PM - Le cafe

Cafes are great places for people to go and be alone together.

I should know.  I've spent a fair amount of time in these human hives of antisociality for a fair amount of time lately.  In fact, as I sit in one now, I see four other people nose-deep in their laptops, and one nose-deep in a book. 

I am no exception myself; I cocoon myself in my headphones, eyes focused on the glow of the screen, not wishing to break the small bubbles each of us has wrought around ourselves.  In all fairness, I am certain that each of us are lost in our own little mental realm, removed from the immediate surroundings that have been carefully crafted to appear as though they could *potentially* be dens of rapid-fire exchange of ideas, conversations that last well into the evening about any and all manner of topics. 

Of course, were these conversations to actually happen, we would immediately react with disdain, because we are indubitably working on our important final thesis paper, or our GIS soundscape studies, or posting to our long-defunct blogs.

It's not just a cafe thing; this fragmentation of life can be seen very clearly in many places.  Social-ness has become very much disconnected from place; instead, "place" becomes nearly synonymous with "a container to engage in some kind of activity".  Our streets are containers for transport, our malls containers for consumption, our parks containers for exercise.  There's very little cultural impetus to merely exist in a moment, to loiter; loitering is actively discouraged.  Strangers rarely interact spontaneously; usually, the ones who do want something from you, or want to sell you something. 

Of course, I doubt it has been much different for most of our society's existence.  As Americans, we tend to be very purpose-driven; perhaps this past nation of loafers never did quite exist.  However, we do tend to idealize experiences such as the cafe with the heated conversations, and often I feel torn as to whether I should seek out such experiences or leave their essential ideal pure and untouched in my fantasies.

In the meantime, there's the final thesis soundscape blog to get to.

Current mood: flirty

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

11:16PM - Videos!

YouTube is breaking the Internet.

Now, don't get me wrong, I do like to watch the videos every now and again.  Sometimes, it is important to have a video to show things in action.  However, there are some times that video is not appropriate. 

A classic example is a review of some kind of hardware or game, or an explanation of some kind of hack.  At first glance, it seems that video would be very helpful to this medium; after all, it could be important to have some kind of video to show how the product actually works.  However, I do not necessarily want to sit through three minutes of a talking head explaining what metrics were used.  This is the sort of thing writing is best suited for; why do I need a picture of someone's face to go with the words?  It's not like the face adds to the credulity of what is being said; sometimes, the picture of the person talking actually makes it less credulous, e.g.  "Do I really want to take hardware advice from that guy?  The rims of his glasses are not nearly thick enough to qualify him as a true nerd."  The reverse also works as well; an attractive presenter may add a level of interest in the product that has nothing whatosever to do with the product itself.  The only result of such trickery is disappointment; the product can never live up to the face that presents it.

News sites are an equal abuser of this sort of inappropriateness. Oftentimes, while reading an article, I will see another interesting article on something related and click it, only to have to deal with a video.  This is an unpleasant surprise, as not only do I have to wait longer for the video to load, but now noise comes out.  The first rule of websites is that they should not make noise unless I ask them to (this means you, seventy percent of MySpace!).  On top of this, sometimes this video-news does not show real action; only the talking head is present!  Why use a video in the first place?  It is not as though I am incapable of reading, as I have clearly read far enough into your site to reach your video.   Call me old-fashioned, but when I am reading the news, I do not want to click through to watch some kind of video.  If I did, I would watch the video-news, originally designed for the inferior medium of television.

It all stems from appropriateness of medium.  When I was working in an architecture firm, we would make computer renderings to show to clients.  Sometimes we would make computer renderings that were very realistic, and we were proud of it.  However, as a rule, we avoided using our realistic-rendering power to make very convincing pictures of spaces in buildings that had not yet been fully designed.  We did this because the client would look at the picture and say 'can you change the color of the walls?', and we would say 'we don't actually know where the walls are yet.'  Because of the inappropriateness of lifelike renderings for showing early-state concepts, the client then moved on to more final-stage decisions like 'should the walls be eggshell or cream?' instead of important early stage questions like 'should we build a door so that you can enter the building?'  Internet videos are the same way; while it's neat that I can put your face to this thing I want information about, is this necessarily the most effective way to convey that information?  A judicious approach is absolutely necessary.

I'm off to the YouTube now, to post a video of myself reading what I just wrote.  Cheers all!

Current mood: annoyed

Sunday, November 4, 2007

1:15AM - Obscure musical instruments!

Living in a college town is very odd, because for at least half of the population, the town is not so much a place as it is four years of their life.  Because of the transient nature of this place, most of my friends have come and gone over the years; as a result, I have very few people left whom I hang out with, mainly because I am boring and don't do anything, but also because a lot of people have moved on.

As a result, there are often times when those few people I do spend time with are all either preoccupied elsewhere or out of town entirely.  On these nights, I appreciate the fact that I live in an interesting neighborhood, because I can go to bars with live music shows and, even though I am alone, I can feel less isolated in the mass of strangers around me.  It's enjoyable; besides, sometimes one learns new, interesting things.

After seeing this band, I want to learn how to play the electric mandolin, an instrument I had no idea even existed before!

Friday, October 19, 2007

10:06AM - The president's hobbies, excluding puppy-eating

I think this guy should be president.

(Note that this isn't necessarily an endorsement of what he said :-P )

Current mood: sardonic

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

6:09PM - Don't spay me, bro!

My razor ran out of batteries today, so I have a moustache and mutton-chops by complete accident.  I suppose there are more embarrassing places for hair, but that's bad enough for me.

I'm a big fan of stray cats.  They are the closest thing in my state to blackberries in the Northwest - as Washington and Oregon have free food growing on the side of the road from what are essentially considered weeds, so we have free food in the form of unwanted animals.  It's God's way of saying that yes, He does provide.  Yet, in my mailbox, I find a flier for something called "Operation Catnip" (ha ha), an organization intending to spay this plentiful bounty of cats, reducing this cornucopia to a mere pittance.  While this sort of mail would normally not merit more than a sidelong glance, the unusually blatant attempt to make the mail seem "local" was absolutely hilarious.  The "cats of our neighborhood, 32601" (what, we don't get names for our neighborhoods, just the downtown post office?) may or may not pester the director of this organization, who "lives in the neighborhood, 32601".  This director may also coincidentally also live in the neighborhood 32611, or 32801, or 10001, or 98101 for all I know.  I suppose the organization may be some kind of omnipotent, omnipresent to cats everywhere in America's faceless zip-code-dominated neighborhoods, and I am surprised that Felix domesticus is not yet extinct.

Somewhere around here, I made a generic political cartoon of that whole tasing incident.  In this cartoon, a cop (whose name tag is a blank) tases a small anthropomorphic Gator (whose T-shirt logo is blank); the Gator says "Don't <blank>, bro!"  Really, this could be used for any occasion; the intent is to put copies of the cartoon next to copy machines in copy centers, allowing anyone with a bit of money to make any statement they wish, generically.  If interest ever revives, I'll put it up and go through with it.

Current mood: spay-ey

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

3:48PM - Potographs!

Finally, I have placed a few photographs from my last vacation online.  They are not a complete or even very thorough record - everything from DC to San Francisco to The Dalles, Oregon is missing.  However, I thought these were particularly nice.


Current mood: Procrastinative

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

3:31AM - Emotive architecture? But it's practical!

As referenced below, I am enamored of the poetry that happens everywhere!  This is particularly ironic, in a wedding-day rain sort of way, when referencing where I am in architecture education now.

An explanation. Generally, the architectural pedagogy at UF follows a progression designed to break down the neophyte's sense of what "architecture" is and rebuild it in a way that will allow one to practice it professionally.  First, they teach you what "space" and "quality of space" are; then, how to diagram these things; and finally how to apply these principles progressively more complicated sites through design.  Graduate school, in theory, is about researching and adding depth to these principles.

When I was in the earlier stages of my education, and even fairly far into the later stages, I always felt that something was missing.  The assigned projects tended to veer away from any sort of grounding in the "why" of the architecture and towards "making a cool-looking thing," said thing then being justified by whatever its creator could make up.  It was akin to building bridges from vapor trails; pretty, but insubstantial, and ultimately irrelevant.  The precedent buildings frequently referenced in classes often fell into this vein of what "architecture" is; mostly, museums, which look cool but essentially function as dusty reliquaries for their no-longer socially relevant cultural artifacts (and their no-longer socially relevant architects?).  Leaky Peter Eisenman buildings, particularly from the 1960s and 70s, are one example, largely not being museums yet having a similar disregard for effective program. 

However, when you liberate yourself from any sort of ethical obligations to your client and society (as academia largely allows you to do), the ability to express yourself poetically makes you more of a sculptor.  When this happens, the architect becomes something of a sculptor who works on an enormous scale, patterning space to evoke particular moods and feelings and - when sequenced correctly - poetry.  The early part of architectural education tends to make the student's work more representative of a particular professor's overall goal for the class than a student's inner emotions about the project and program (if present), but the potential for that angle of creative expression is there.

The irony is that here, at the end of my academic career and (effectively) a couple of years into my working career, I find my projects suddenly taking on a completely pragmatic base. In a way, I suppose that this is the "meat" to the projects that I have wanted all along.  I feel more of a relevant member of society and less of a self-referential egoist.  At the same time, I feel an intensifying need to express emotion and poetry, hopefully through the medium my career takes me through.  Earlier in college would have been a perfect time for this had I the control and understanding of where everything was going, but for the near future I suppose I will contend myself with side projects and interests.

Part of being an architectural professional is grasping the nuances of what the client wants and what the program is; they seek out the poetry of the core "nugget" of the project, and express it into built form to meet and exceed those needs.  Sometimes, I wonder if artists think it akin to prostitution; occasionally, even architects whine about compromising the integrity of their project for practical concerns.  Architects, though, are something of meta-artists; they seek out the central nuggets of poetry in things that are normally not that personally close to them.  They are enablers for those that wish to find that nugget.

However, I still want something of my own.  I'll take up painting, and the tango, and writing, and if I ever find that keyboard I can bang out notes on there.  Keeping active is the key.  Also, I spent the better part of a year learning about acoustics and designing an auditorium hall for my last project; I should post it somewhere here.  I suppose I'll still have that, and eventually I may find it in my job too.

Current mood: verbose

3:15AM - Update again

Disclaimer:  Ignore what I said last time.  Poetry is great.  Not even just the written word kind, but the sort that occurs everywhere in every place.  Eventually, it just sort of bursts forth, and makes life richer.

Another disclaimer:  I'm horrible at updating these.  I'll never be able to look back and recall what I was thinking.  Further disclaimer: All my posts seem to be at 3AM.

At one time, I thought I had more friends on LiveJournal. However, it seems my old MUD companions are here, and everyone else scatters on blogspot and Xanga and what-have-you.  There's also something of an outlet on Facebook, but it's not nearly as expressive.  Besides, Facebook is at serious risk of becoming a MySpace-esque spamfest.

A whole season of stuff happened. I worked down in Orlando, took a long trip at the end of the summer (interestingly, ending by having breakfast with my girlfriend and sendao).  I'm sure I thought of some stuff I wanted to relegate to this dusty corner of the Internet, but currently it will have to remain contented with resting in a dusty corner of my last sketchbook.  If it's that important, it will pop up here, along with photos from that trip.

I'd had other things on my mind, but this post is disjointed enough.  In the interest of my own ability to follow the things that are written, I will post them shortly.

Current mood: procrastinative

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

2:54AM - WTF poetry?

WTF poetry?  As the subject says.

I've never really enjoyed reading it a lot.  I surmise that this is because reading these kind of things involves a certain level of emotional involvement, and I never quite feel willing to expend that level of energy for little black squiggles on a page that I interpret with my mind.  (That one poem by what's-his-face about the end of World War I is an exception...I'm horrible with names.)  Music, pictures, stories, movies...all fine, but not poetry.  As a result, I don't have much of an appreciation for it.

However, I just now had a particular, very strong memory of a particular feeling, and so cracked open my sketchbook (as I have recently, all so often...I'm almost done with my second one this semester, a frantic pace considering I've been through one a year in the past).  However, out came words!  Like a schizophrenic thing-that-pours, they poured out in all different directions, each capturing a different facet of the feeling.  In the end, it looked sort of like a free-verse poem that I drew a bunch of arrows on (to mark the flow of which order I wrote things) and annotated with numbers (to say in which order the parts best fit).  It was a mind-blowing experience, because I usually use words to build up layers upon layers of understanding things within me (the "misery bubble", because you never really see what it is that is beautiful in the world, but only your repeated layers of interpretations of it).  I've learned that I don't so much feel so often as I think about what I feel, perhaps because I'm more comfortable with it.  (I'm reserved by nature, ne?)  The flowchart is usually [feeling] -> [interpretation] -> [word forming] -> [word]; to go [feeling] -> [interpretive word] is different, and strangely liberating.

However, then it occurred to me; aren't there people who actually do this for a living?  It's strange, because it's incredibly personal; maybe this is why I rank it lower on the things I enjoy?  Music conveys sentiment through particular harmonics and rhythms and tonal progressions, while visual arts use senses of space to convey sentiments - in both cases, it may be somewhat necessary to attune oneself to the medium before actually understanding the feeling (art education?), but the sentiment can be readily felt through non-verbal means.  Poetry is not this way; it must be read, and interpreted, and then felt.  This is why it takes so much energy to 'get inside the head' of the author in such wild expressions of wordsmithing.  (Stories, while verbal, use logical progressions to encourage a sense of feeling through empathy, or at least allow one to access the words logically before emotion is introduced.)  It's a right-brain/left-brain thing - conquer both, and you're golden.

At any rate, to return to the professional practice of poetry...poetry wtf?  I could see it, for myself personally, being a process to produce something else (in my architecture school, everyone's all about 'process'), but the fact that there are people who professionally produce these things is all weird to me.  How does that happen?  It seems like you just have a sentiment, and then your practice level with the language and the devices used determines your quality (as well as, to a certain degree, your 'in touchedness' with yourself).  It's random.

On the upside, I do like expressing my feelings with words.  Not that I've emasculated myself by admitting to expressing feelings or anything because, as you'll note, I haven't done so in this passage - just my thoughts about feelings.

I had more to write, but I've forgotten it - it must not've been important.  Back to using words for what they were meant for - to weave logical webs around arguments, to entrap and ensnare, and to debate and express ideas.  (Feelings can be ideas, but these are logical ideas.)  At least for now - yes, I have like four papers due in a few hours.
In the meantime, I'll leave the feelings to the images and sounds.

Current mood: Frantic!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

11:07PM - Core dump

"Flash City".  In case I lose that in my mess of a sketchbook somewhere, I wanted to write it down.

Global warming wreaks havoc here!  I've had to drag out a jacket twice in the past week or so, which is odd because my "jacket season" wear hasn't seen the light of day since February (except for a brief excursion it took in the Northwest in March).  In the interim, normal Gainesville weather (hot, humid) happens.

Maybe Al Gore was right!  I saw his movie one day for a  "sustainability class" I took this semester, where we read about what "sustainability" is and why it's good.  I must say, I was disappointed, because I was expecting him to don a cape and fly around and beat up polluters, a la Captain Planet.  It was part of some webcast teleconference seminar where people talked about global warming and why it's bad, an event that will forever live in my memory as the class period with the highest trendy buzzword index ever.  ("Web conference", "sustainability", "global warming", "carbon emissions", I think "Web 2.0" was worked in there somewhere...the list goes on.)  Business classes not included, of course.

It's an important concept and I'm glad it's getting press, but the buzz almost seems at the level of a fad, and that's concerning.  Later, I'll write something that expresses the crux of the issue more clearly, but I'm still in the middle of projects, so it will wait.

Monday, April 9, 2007


My architecture project is too complicated at the moment, and I dug myself into a hole.  Therefore, I'm making a web journal.  It's not a total non-sequitur!

I'm at a strange place in life now.  I suppose I always feel that way when in the town where I grew up, hunched over on the floor typing away on the desktop I hauled down from school for the weekend (darn that broken laptop!  At least I get ripped).  I think it's something deeper, though; I've always felt this way about here, ever since moving home after graduating the first time.  Maybe it's the inherent ennui in moving back to a place where you grew up, never feeling quite like you've grown beyond what was before; maybe it's the place itself.  Orlando is large, sprawling, and with its own peculiar beauty; the sun-dappled highways stretching through neat rows of houses sprawled across the hills and lakes makes a moderately nice scene, especially when a whiff of the old, bygone orange groves is caught.  However, something about the scale of it all never really feels comfortable; the highways are too wide, the houses all cold, bland facades hiding behind large walls, the orange groves only the barest ruins of their former glory.  Despite all the sunshine and flowers and subtle scenery, the place is depressing.  It's not noticeable at first, but slowly creeps in as one starts to realize the vacancy behind the surfaces; at its climax, the whole suburban mechanism is disheartening, like a creepy but indifferent robot monster with a beaming, smiling mask.  I'm sure the analogies can be wrought a bit better, but at 4:30AM, it will suffice.

Also, my back is uncomfortable from hunching on the floor.  I suppose this puts me in a grumpy mood ;-)

At any rate, here's to actually finishing my project.  Perhaps I'll rant later, if I recollect that it's important to actually update this!

Rock on!

Current mood: pensive