Poetry, music, and color

March 5, 2008 at 3:08 pm | Posted in artsy, computers, design, literature, music, programming, school | Leave a comment
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[poem visualizer, designed by me]

One in the morning isn’t always the best time to embark on programming projects of indeterminate length and scope. I learned that last night when, after having spent most of the afternoon and evening on a take-home midterm for my visualization class, I was beset with the dilemma of the extra credit problem. “Design your own poetry visualization,” along the lines of Poetry on the Road. This is a series of graphic designs commissioned each year by the Internationales Literaturfestival Bremen, designed by a team of professional graphic artists led by Boris Müller. The two things that immediately struck me about these graphics were 1) their juxtaposition of visual complexity and conceptual simplicity, and 2) their obvious requirement of a vastly greater number of hours — and sheer programming virtuosity — than the 24 hour maximum allotted for my midterm.

I must’ve been struck with temporary amnesia, or just had an acute attack of masochism, because I promptly forgot about the 3 problem sets that I had been saving up my sleep-hours for later in the week, and proceeded to bang away at Processing (coolest programming language ever) for the next 3 hours. The result, humble by the standards of any legitimate computer artist — but hopefully not of my exam grader — is this, a grid of colored squares representing “The Wasteland” by T.S. Eliot. I chose the poem mainly because it was long enough to really show patterns in my algorithm, but not so long as to crash the program. (although I would like to run Paradise Lost or The Iliad through, just for kicks.)
Continue Reading Poetry, music, and color…

The marvelous universality of literature

November 30, 2006 at 8:33 pm | Posted in literature, satire, school | Leave a comment

Or, how I read egocentrically. No matter what I read, a quick glance shows that it is actually about me. No, it’s true. Be it an autobiographical memoir from post-colonial French Africa, or a melodrama set in early 20th century New England, I am sure that whoever wrote it is writing about me. Why wouldn’t they be? As for those themes and narratives that don’t readily apply to my life? The author’s intent, naturally, was for them to recede into the background! Never mind that the main character is a tortured, nihilist homosexual. Or that she (I’m all for breaking down gender identities) suffered the traumatic loss of a parent at an early age. It’s not important to note that my own, personal tragedies culminated in moving to Oregon — not that nice coastal part, mind you, but EASTERN Oregon — in middle school. The real core of any literary work, once we look past the superfluous adornments of setting and plot, resides in a discussion of my personal issues.

French Literature class discussions are no exception. Nostalgia hits the moment I meet the impressionable Arab boy in Le Gone du Châaba, who writes too well and studies too hard to fit in with his peers, who is Algerian and not French enough, then is French and not Algerian enough. He uses his favorite word and emotion, honte (“shame”), to portray his mother, his neighborhood (the Arab Châaba), and everything that he comes from. He overanalyzes, he wallows in the reader’s pity, and he has none of the ignorant strength and willful pride of his peers, those qualities expected of any self-respecting, socially aware minority.

Wow. Azouz Begag must have been living in Vancouver 7 years ago and telepathically took notes on all my thoughts whenever I walked to school in 4th grade. He must have also changed the main character’s country of origin from Chinese to Algerian to protect the innocent — me. Continue Reading The marvelous universality of literature…

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