PHUQUE ANTI-SOCIAL MEDIA

Yeah, you heard me. It’s not “social” media anymore so much as it’s “anti-social” media. I used to joke about making an antisocial media service, but reality zoomed right past me and said, “Fuck that, already there!”

Having said that, there are good aspects. It lets me keep in touch with the people I like and love, and it’s connected me with other creative and inspirational folks in a way that would have been impossible 20 years ago. The problem is there’s so much other shit that gets in the way, and sometimes even the folks you like and love fill your timeline and feed with stuff that you’re just not into. Too much noise, not enough signal.

So I decided to slowly wean myself off of Facebook. It hasn’t been easy, and I still find myself checking it from time to time. Facebook is a shite company (as the UK folks might say), with dubious monopolistic practices and intentions. They practically own everything, from Instagram to WhatsApp to Oculus (and quite a few lesser-known acquisitions) and that just doesn’t sit well with me. I remain on Twitter because that’s a more tightly constrained feed of mostly creative people and there’s way more signal than noise there. Plus I wouldn’t be a game developer without Twitter, so there’s that.

What that means is I need to find another way of putting my own signal out there, as well as encouraging everyone else to do the same, to take away Facebook’s power and influence. So I’m reviving my blog. I actually have two – this one and my sabbatical blog, but the latter is being migrated and may take some time to fix. But the same stuff I’d say or link to on Facebook will now be posted on this blog, and simultaneously cross-posted to my Twitter feed (@mediajolt001). I’ve added the ability to subscribe to this blog (look at the widget to the right), so you’ll get emailed notifications when I’ve added new posts or pages, and you’ll have the ability to comment and offer feedback (if you’re so inclined) – just like Facebook. And I’ll probably talk about some ways for you to do the same in relatively painless, free, and moderately-tech ways.

So I’m still the same old angry cuss you know and love, but now I’m doing it my way, on my terms. Welcome to you all!

Voxel VR

@gabriel_d_L did some interesting work in Magica Voxel of movie scenes that got me thinking about doing something similar, but with TV shows. But I also want to explore how these might work in VR. A good way to start some skill building anyway. I think less and less about photorealism and more and more about an interpretative, illustrative approach to my work. After all, I started out as an illustrator. Makes sense that would still permeate my thinking.

Below is an example of his work; this one is a scene from “Gremlins.”

hitting the ceiling in slow motion

<this was written may 2014, but i thought it was worth sharing>

i’m beginning to feel my age. not that i’m feeling old, but i’m feeling the impact aging is having on my career. i knew this would come, but given my current career and area of interest (game development, filmmaking) i thought i’d be, if not immune, at least able to stave off the inevitable. apparently not.

for nearly all of my adult life, i have been fortunate enough to get any job i wanted. most of my career has come from creating positions that didn’t exist at the employers i approached. i prided myself on that accomplishment, and i had the privilege of making the position what i wanted it to be, taking approaches and practices in the direction i felt worked best – both for myself and for my employer. it was an amazing amount of control and i never took it for granted or abused it. as a teacher, it has been the best experience, because i could design and refine my teaching methods and curriculum as much as i needed to – and i still do that. it keeps things interesting, it gives me the opportunity to challenge myself, and the learning gets better and more refined.

so what happened to make me feel like the roof was caving in? two things. first, i was an adjunct professor at a private art college for five years. again, i was able to define a completely new curriculum for a new class, and i jumped in with both feet. eventually i was asked to teach a class in mobile app design, which i did, and which i thought was immensely successful. my virtual environments and advanced virtual environments courses were very busy and resulted in some very fun experiences and compelling projects. so when a full-time faculty position opened up, i thought i’d be a shoo-in. five years of teaching there, ten years teaching at a private high school at the same time, extensive professional experience in television, film, and interactive media prior to that. plus lots of hints from the department chair that such an opportunity would eventually open up to me. I had even done work with my students that went far beyond that of most adjuncts there. i was told i was valued. i felt confident.

i didn’t even get past the first skype interview. that was a real kick in the nuts. what happened to “valued?” what happened to going above and beyond? what happened to all that experience i had, plus the time i had already put in to the college? didn’t matter. they had a young guy (actually a former student) apply, in addition to a few others. he had just gotten his masters. he got the job. i was told by my chair that i was too old.

letting aside the fact that it’s against the law to deny someone employment because of age (and i don’t care to engage in a lawsuit since the college isn’t worth it), that had nothing to do with anything, but in their minds it did. doesn’t matter they had a teacher there in his 70’s who had just retired, doesn’t matter that my years of teaching and refining my teaching skills and curriculum made me a good educator. i was too old. what the fuck?

so that’s why i say “was an adjunct professor.”

then i applied to a game development software company to produce online screencasts for their training divisions. this time i was turned down for legitimate reasons – my delivery style and a lack of screencasts featuring their software. that was fair – my delivery was improvised and frankly, the reason i didn’t have screencasts featuring their software was because, where my courses were concerned, they had already produced an excellent series for my students to use. kinda ironic, but there it is. now i have a series of lessons i teach that i will be turning into screencasts for my students next year, and maybe i can re-approach them with those if something opens up.

but that’s two jobs i applied for and didn’t get. i realize i speak from a privileged position – very very few people have had this kind of experience when looking for work. as i say, i never take it for granted. i also currently hold a position at the aforementioned high school that, so far, is secure, if only part-time. my wife and i have made it work, so i don’t push too hard for more time, although it would be nice. but i’m happy there. the screencast job would have been a second job, and the college thing was just to see. but not going any further with these came as a surprise, and it’s something that resonates more with me as i see my peers at my same age losing their jobs and being completely unsure of their futures. some have to become self-starters, entrepreneurs, even if they’re not ready to. and watching that tends to make me feel a little less secure, like my background may not come to mean much anymore.

i remain happy at my high school and i will teach there as long as they will have me – i love the people i work with and i love my students. they give me more gratification at their successes than any client ever will. but i realize that i’m not much of a practicing artist anymore, and that needs to change. maybe it will lead to income, maybe it won’t, but all this has made me see the necessity of putting away my ipad and start creating again. it will benefit my students, it will benefit my psyche, and who knows? i might make some pocket change from it. but it will keep me current. it will keep me fresh. and it will keep me sane.

`and if you read this and see this as the whining of a privileged cunt… you’re probably right. but it’s how it feel and it’s my blog, so there.

Retconning Religion

I have this imaginary debate going on in my head with a born-again Christian I was once forced to work next to for a summer when I was in college. This guy, Tim, wouldn’t let up with trying to convert me – especially once he found out I was Jewish. I suppose to him I was one for the “win” column, which was offensive enough. The fact that he showed absolutely no respect for my own convictions or upbringing, while constantly proclaiming the virtues of his own, revealed the true conceitedness and selfishness of his own personality wrapped in the falsehood of “saving” me.

Recently, while having one of these mental debates, I wandered into an area of thought where I found myself musing about the retconning of religion. For the un-geeky:

Retcon
(shortened form of RETroactive CONtinuity; first made popular in the comic book world)

1. (original meaning) Adding information to the back story of a fictional character or world, without invalidating that which had gone before.

2. (more common usage) Adding or altering information regarding the back story of a fictional character or world, regardless of whether the change contradicts what was said before.
1. Although they had previously been shown to have two other sets of parents, the retcon of making Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch the children of Magneto only altered the meaning of past events, not what had happened.

2. Retconning Dawn Summers into “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in the fifth season was one of the rare instances where the fact that history has been altered for our characters was recognized in the story, even though the characters all still remembered the “new” versions of events.
(Source: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=retcon&defid=175866)

I’m taking a bit more license with the term here, and if there’s a better one, I’ll be happy to adopt it. But what I mean by retconning religion is the very human-motivated act of proclaiming a later religion as superior or more “true” than a previous religion. Hence, early Christianity is superior to Judaism. Catholicism is superior to early Christianity. Protestantism and Islam are superior to Catholicism. Baptism and Evanglicism are superior to Protestantism, Catholicism, Islam, and Judaism. And so forth.

Cementing this opinion was this video recently posted online, which only confirmed what I’ve believed for years:

This is from a retired bishop, no less.

This leads me to the deeper question of humanity: why is it so important to be right?

In the end, having power is meaningless. It’s a selfish pursuit with passing gratification, and it’s wasteful because those in power will always wind up as dead as those they oppress. So what is broken in the human psyche that perpetuates this mindset across generations until we burn ourselves from the world? I’ve always believed humanity was an aberration of nature that, through dumb luck, somehow made it to the top of the food chain. The dinosaurs were around for far longer than humans and apes have ever been, and yet they never needed to evolve to the extent we have. Life’s purpose is to perpetuate itself, and yet everything we’ve done as human beings, over the long term, seems to be counter to that purpose. Is it possible that consciousness and self-awareness are counter-productive to long-term survival?

I wonder…

parallelogram is now a fugue

But I’m also refactoring my code. The deal is that I want to introduce more elements of different types into these compositions, and I’m looking for a way to make it easier and more flexible. Presently, the way the code is written, the shearing effect (which is what makes the rectangles look like they’re traveling at an isometric angle) is applied to each iteration or instance of the rectangle. If I want to try doing that to triangles or ellipses, yeah, I could do the same thing, but if I want to change the isometric angle or even have everything moving on a straight x-axis, it would be a pain in the tuchus to do it. So I’m playing around with the idea of letting the shearing happen in a single function that acts on the entire sketch at once.

Below is my first pass at it. So far, so good, but we’ll have to see what happens once I add motion to it. Because I need the direction of travel to match the shear angle. My hope is that as long as I have the motion happening in the function that draws all of the elements BEFORE the shear function gets to it, I should be okay. We shall see…

Satellite

I decided to play along with my students and do a satellite design. So I started with a basic sketch:

I designed this with the scale at 50px per grid space, so it came out to 600×550. Then I brought it into Pixelmator (a Mac-only app similar to Photoshop) and cropped/resized the scan so it was 600×550. Then I added some grid lines to the key points so I could get pixel coordinates for each of the elements to enable the basic drawing.

(The ruler is in pixels, which is hard to see here, but you can see the guides I brought in; I look at the intersections of each set of vertical and horizontal lines, and I use those values in the Processing sketch)

Now that I have my coordinates, I begin the sketch in Processing. Since several of the sections of the satellite repeat themselves, I have a function that draws one sample section, and uses a pushMatrix()/popMatrix() operation to allow it to translate. Then I use a for() loop to control the number of copies of the section and the spacing between them. The result is in the embed below:

Here’s what the code looks like (and you can see it on the OpenProcessing site as well):

[code language=”javascript”]
void setup()
{
size(600, 550);
smooth(4);
}

void draw()
{
rect(269,45,63,22);
for (int i = 67; i < 266; i=i+41)
{
Columns(250, i+i*0.125);
}
}
void Columns(int x, float y)
{
pushMatrix();
translate(x,y);
rect(0,0,100,41);
popMatrix();
}[/code]

It’s efficient because it breaks down the operation into two discrete sets – one to make the single section, and the other to repeat it. Less is more.

Processing… again!

I really need to migrate my process diary from another site…

Anyhoo… I’m dabbling in it again because I’m teaching it, and I need to be “doing,” not just “teaching.” So I’m starting from this concept sketch:

Not much, but it’s been in my head off and on for a while. I doodle parallelograms all the time.

So I open up Processing and a reference and suddenly realize I need to work something out on graph paper first. I’m not good at moving numbers around in my head. So now this sketch:

So I can kind of ballpark the arrangements of my vectors. So I write some code and I get this:

But I need some orange. So I fire up ColorSchemer (my favorite color palette app) and pick a nice orange:

And then I drop the RGB values into the code, and…

And I have a nice parallelogram. And now I’m going to bed, but there’s more to come!

Dabbling a Bit More…

So, based on my previous work, I thought I’d try mixing the photo and the watercolor together to see what I could make happen. For this, I used Pixelmator. It’s got a lot of the feature set of Photoshop, but much more accessible, with better Mac OS integration. For the purposes of this experiment, it did the job.

So I started by adding the photo as the base layer, then a layer with the color watercolor. That seemed to make it pop a bit too much, even with the watercolor layer set to “Lighten.” So then I duplicated the watercolor layer and desaturated it. That started to look interesting.

Enlight WC 1

I made some small tweaks to the transparency of both of the watercolor layers – subtle, but enough for me.

Enlight WC 2

What I was liking about this was the texture of the watercolor and the fuzziness coming through, while the water droplets remained prominent on the branches – these droplets were lost with the full watercolor image, and I really wanted them back. They were the single best thing about the original image, so I felt.

Now I needed the saturated colors back, so I merged all the layers so I could work on all of the layers as one. Then I applied some saturation and got this:

Enlight WC 3

Got my colors back without getting too garish. Parts of the image began to get crumbly and odd colors started appearing, so I had to be really careful about how much saturation I wanted to add back in. But I think this worked. Last step was to add a border – if you look at the images, you’ll see that the watercolor border was smaller than the photo’s edges, so you can see this overlap. I wasn’t a fan, so I added a mask and so…

Enlight WC 3a

I’m not sure how I feel about this effect. It works, but I almost feel like the photo and watercolor versions are best as stand-alone images. But maybe some people might feel otherwise…

what this is, where it's going… remains to be seen.