Thursday, January 26, 2012

Required Reading: Moonwalking with Einstein

For many years I have delighted in playing a simple associative memory game with my cousins and my uncle, in which twenty items are randomly picked by someone and myself and my cousins can recite the list backwards and forwards with ease. The last time I was at my uncles house he told me about a book he read called Moonwalking With Einstein by Joshua Foer (Jonathan Safron's brother) which talks about the very same technique that I was so fund of and goes further to truly delve into the creative skill of professional memorization. And to us memorization of inane things such as strings of 100's of numbers 0r pages of random names seems like a super-human task, not to mention a serious waste of time. But there is a lot more to the art of memory than simple games and exercises, and even more still than just being able to do well on your next art history exam or organic chemistry test. Rather the study of memorization and the ability attached there to, is a crucial element in information retention. And I leave Joshua Foer to explicitly tell you all about it, because you really should read it. The lost art is both creative and complex and has a wonderful history.

Now for my personal take on the whole thing. A lot of the book is filled with musings about the state of our current lives and how, recently, as human beings we've transitioned from relying upon memorized tales to transmit our histories to writing down basic texts to now relying on the complex external web of collected human intelligence for most of our memories. Now there is no saying that one is right and one is wrong. There is only what has been and what is. What is, is the slow dependence on machines to tell us the things we once memorized so easily. Just think how a photograph holds a single memory in time for us to look at externally whenever we like, that didn't exist 200 years ago (aside: I had to look up when photography was invented because I didn't remember if it was 1 or 2 hundred years ago). But now we have pruned away much of the skill of memory as a general necessity of life and though the likes of socrates would surely rue our fate, there is no saying what lengths this open expanse of mind can be put to.

I personally hope to dedicate all the waking energy of my mind to new episodes of Mob Wives and Jersey Shore.

Friday, January 13, 2012


So (I think) I may have developed a new technique for stop motion animation.... I mean in some sense there is nothing new about it, because stop motion animation and welding steel have both been around for ages, but the standard technique for stop motion animation is generally clay or puppets, and for my material i've decided to weld together pieces steel. And I don't think it has been tried before with any degree of success.. It may be that it was never invented because of the impracticality of the medium for stop motion.... it really doesn't make much sense to make an unyielding material for motion when we already have things that exist that are drastically more pliable. But there is a character of motion in metal that can not be gotten with the other materials, for it requires it's own techniques and methods of manipulation which create beautiful and strikingly interesting results not just in what was intended, but merely as products of the medium.

For me the whole project was a week long experiment. Understanding the possibilities of the medium and how the characters move and how the world reacts to them. But understanding this world was no easy task, and expounding upon my ideas was even less easy. The first video was completed in around 8 hours start to finish, which really flew by; the second video was created in the following three days, working the night shift (starting at 2:30 pm and going as late as 2 am on the final night). It took almost 30 hours to get a minute and a half of footage which varies from 24 frames per second down to 12. On the final day I was so exhausted I could barely move. It's one thing to simply move pieces of metal around a table, or to have them connected intelligently with ball and socket joints or magnets... but in this case I had neither of those indulgences. Rather, in order to create any movement I had to either break the sculpture and re-weld it in a new position (my last resort), get out the torch and heat up/cut away the joint in order to move the piece, or use the flow of welding wire to create a pool of liquid hot metal at which stateI could move the pieces into their new position. Needless to say it was tiring.

The Aliens!