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…


Yoshimi succumbs to the second law of thermodynamics

February 6, 2008 at 1:54 am | Posted in life, music, rambling | 1 Comment
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[via kk+ on flickr]

So it was, the week after finals ended, before the intersession fun kicked in and I was just sitting in my room, ready to decrease entropy with the input of some enthalpy.

I vacuumed, re-attached all my posters to the walls, put all the books and errant pieces of silverware back in their places. Then I attempted the most ambitious and dangerous undertaking of all, so much so, in fact, that I haven’t done it since the 2nd year of high school–I took out all my files and began reorganizing them.

Most people, I imagine, like to keep it simple. There’s a folder for your important documents, some for important receipts or tax forms, and maybe a few tabbed folders for academics and the like. I definitely start the same way, except when it comes to actually using the organizational infrastructure I’ve set up, my habits start to resemble those of a failed African state. Squandering capital doing time-consuming, largely useless things (yes, that was a link to this blog), inventing more complicated bureaucratic hoops so that papers continue to pile up on the floor out of boredom/incompetence, and yes, eventually it takes nothing less than a multinational effort to mop up the mess.

Which is why classes have now started, and there is still a big pile of folders and papers on the floor, slowly starting to accumulate dirt from the bottom of my shoe when I walk over it. Where I used to neatly file away a paper (albeit in a meaninglessly categorized folder, from which I am never able to find anything again), now I just toss it on the ground.

Oh, and I can’t stop listening to the Flaming Lips album.

Worse Than Heroin

January 15, 2008 at 2:19 am | Posted in blogging, design, geeky, internet, music, procrastination | Leave a comment
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My internet addiction has recently gotten much worse, but probably because in the last month or so I’ve discovered more useful and profoundly interesting sites than in the past 10 years of websurfing put together. Some of this may be from having glued my eyes to a screen for 12 hours yesterday working on my Computer Science 50 final, but I can’t help but feel as if I just woke up from a long nap and realized that the Internet isn’t about shitty frames interfaces and 2-page personal sites anymore. Here are some of my favorite new discoveries (which probably aren’t new by any other sense of the word — I just take a while to react to things as trendy as computers):

Hype Machine. Basically a way to sample any song you ever wanted to hear about (and even a lot that you never did). Sooooo good. This is where I first got into dirty electro rock pop, by recommendation from a long-lost friend I found on Facebook (appropriately enough). Now I can’t get enough.

Lolcats. And apparently loldogs too, as of a few days ago. Probably impossible to explain–you’ll just have to see for yourself.

Design blogs (Skelliewag.org, N.Design Studio, kevadamson.com). My desperate procrastination-cum-rediscovery of “art” (i.e. doodling on sketchpads and trying to impress friends with likenesses of trees) earlier this semester has morphed into something horrible and grotesque. It’s worse than a heroin addiction and almost as expensive (okay, so a trip to Utrecht won’t set you back as much as fetching some Blue Magic, but I haven’t even gotten into painting yet…). It’s mutated through a “silly Illustrator drawing” phase, to a “silly real-life drawing” phase, culminating in a “passive amazement at other people’s much more talented drawings on Illustrator” phase. The weird appeal of drawing is easiest to explain to a 4th grader and probably most difficult to anyone who has gotten themselves into any sort of real profession, especially one that involves a lot of following orders and deadlines.

Webcomics, and comic-like ridiculous internet memes. (xkcd, dinosaur comics, gapingvoid) Alright, XKCD has been ruining my GPA for months already, but it was only recently when I looked over a list of participants at ROFLCon this year that I realized I was missing out on so much more. XKCD is still the classic for me, an extremely relatable (to me, which means it won’t be for most of the rest of the human population, unless you enjoy reading this blog) blend of math/science/computer geekdom with the sort of high school sentimentality that you never really manage to purge from your thoughts. Think that’s weird? You probably don’t want to go down the list. None of these comics are conventional, and some verge on the downright Dada (see white ninja for an example of how no amount of nothingness can be made into humor).

Good old personal blogs (a friend, an artist/fellow student, a bunch of funny fellow students, a funny random blogger, another designer). They’re just getting more and more powerful. Yeah, I know, people have been raving about the amazingness of personal publishing, viral blog posts, etc. for years, but I guess it never really struck me how remarkable this was until now. I used to trawl through blogspot or wordpress for ages and not find anything I liked enough to return to…now that I’ve gotten a point of entry to the world of the “serious blogger” (red flag: it’s hosted on <artsyobscurename>.com as opposed to the plain vanilla <user>.wordpress.com accounts), following their blogrolls is taking me places I’ve never gone before in my life, for example to the eye surgeon, to get my poor eyeballs replaced.

I apologize if this post has ruined your productivity for the rest of your life. No but seriously, I do need to rest these eyes. By reading this incredibly interesting article about internet memes, that is!

Why I will never become a professional t-shirt designer

December 3, 2007 at 11:06 pm | Posted in design, geeky, humor, music, silly nonsense | 2 Comments

My designs simply have too much mass appeal.

Actual Size:


What is my design philosophy? If you can understand it without going on Wikipedia, then it’s probably trite and uninteresting.



Girl Talk, Take Two

September 15, 2007 at 12:55 am | Posted in music, rambling | Leave a comment


Saw Girl Talk at the Avalon tonight. I’ll be honest and say I’m not really qualified to write a blog post appraising the music, the ambiance, or any facet of the hipness that surrounds this guy for any of the following reasons: 1) I don’t go to concerts, 2) I don’t go to clubs, 3) I don’t go to concerts at clubs, 4) I bought my ticket about 30 minutes before the show started, off of Craigslist. You know, just like all the hardcore devoted fans.

However, I will damn well post about the experience because 1) I am opinionated, 2) I have been to ONE concert at a club, 3) That concert was ALSO Girltalk, and 4) tonight’s concert was a piece of shit.

It was loud, it was crazy, it was ridiculous, it was ludicrous, it was dangerous, some people liked pushing, some people may have been trampled. All in good fun, and part of any great Girl Talk concert, right? I really have no idea. However, I do know that it was idiotic for the doorman at the Avalon to deny entry to half of my party because they looked drunk, and to let in a bajillion sober-looking-but-actually-trashed black-t-shirted tall oxen-like creatures who clearly belonged in a mosh pit at a Primus concert. Instead, they were at a mosh pit at our concert. Moshing. Or they can claim they were dancing, but that doesn’t explain the waves of people who were periodically pushed down onto the ground and subsequently trampled. Of course, I suppose the fact that they heinously oversold the room may have accounted for this, as well as for the fact that it was impossible to dance. Or to breathe. A great relief one might say, because then you can just relax and let the rhythm of a sea of sweaty bodies permeate you and carry you in dance-like motions. It’s a spiritual experience that’s even better than dancing or breathing. Clear your mind, you know. Meditate a little. Take a deep non-breath. Pray. That your ribcage doesn’t snap shut on itself.

Compare this to Girl Talk at the Middle East last winter. Continue Reading Girl Talk, Take Two…

I’m going to learn german.

April 1, 2007 at 8:48 pm | Posted in books, music, philosophical, rambling, silly nonsense, wistful musing | Leave a comment

Just kidding! Well, it might happen at some point in the unforeseeable future. To be honest, I never got past being mono-lingual. Telling people I’m fluent in Mandarin and French gives a nice warm fuzzy feeling and all, but speaking the two languages occasionally really is not like knowing them. If anything, there is a stage in language acquisition after the initial joy of picking up the alphabet and counting to ten and naming vegetables where formulating any sort of sentence is a dreadful experience. It’s just when that rote procedure of swapping words for concepts begins to become more — a new sort of consciousness, both culturally and probably linguistically as those networks of language synapses starts to coalesce and take on higher-order structures in your brain. That last statement was a metaphor, because I know nothing about the neurobiology of language acquisition or really of anything. See, bullshit like that would have been very hard to formulate convincingly in French. Or god forbid, Mandarin — who knows if the Chinese even admit the existence of metaphors.

I love that. The intractability of language. The fact that no translation is perfect, that it is hopeless to convey a concept (not really; “cultural-historical monument” is more like it) like “Liebestod” (love-death, a Wagner aria with massively Nietzschean connotations) or “C’est la vie” (well you understand that, but imagine if you tried to say it in English) through anything but an understanding of the entire culture that gave rise to it.

The challenge is almost like a sort of sensory-intellectual overload — I try to speak something, approach it with a half-assed English thought-concept that gets squeezed through a translation in my brain and comes out disfigured. I sense something lost in the translation but don’t know how or what. Or, I think in the foreign language, but can’t get the right answers — like there is an itch in the middle of my brain I can’t reach to scratch.

I don’t have any answers. Hopefully some day I will have a chance to be immersed in the language and culture of my interests, but now I’m going to keep being puzzled, as is the pathological wont of one whose extracurricular interests don’t lend themselves to any sort of practical purpose whatsoever. To continue this allusion-filled elitist musing inspired by the manner of, but inferior to, T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, the next paragraph will be a rapid-fire series of references to cultural works that I don’t understand and never will, and which you won’t either. Stay tuned for next time, when I will give a nihilist’s interpretation of The Wasteland, along with select verses by Billy Collins.

Here goes. This bit of underwhelming, overenthusiastic rambling was brought to you by Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, along with Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy and the movie from the last post. I’ll probably be studying (and not understanding) some Schopenhauer next and thinking about stringing together words and capitalizing them to make myself sound more intellectual, not to mention listening to some SongsOnTheDeathOfChildren. Rest assured though, I’ll be avoiding such gems of dubious literary/moral merit as Mein Kampf, as well as stuff that might make my brain explode all over my desk, including long essays mentioning the word “Oedipus” that aren’t written by a playwright or in Greek.

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