Ranting and raving and carrying on

Just a few random thoughts about random stuff. Warning - may contain profanity

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Location: Toronto-ish, Ontario, Canada

Just a guy... Bit of a geek, but who isn't these days?

Friday, October 08, 2004

I'm still standing...

I suppose I'm lucky - I actually like my job (mostly), and others insist that I'm good at it. I'm just glad I didn't end up working 40 hours a week in a factory. I know that people do it, and I respect them for it - it's just not something I can do, standing in one place for 40 hours a week putting a grappelgrommet into a widget or whatever. Probably the ADD has something to do with that, but whatever job I've worked in I've always tended to mould the job to myself, rather than adapting to the job (where possible, anyway).

I've been further fortunate in that most of my bosses have recognized "something" in me and pretty much let me do my own thing. I'm sure that they wonder why they're paying me to play solitaire sometimes, but when I develop a new application overnight that saves us a lot of time, effort, and/or money they see the payback pretty quickly.

This, in turn, brings me to creativity and intelligence. I don't think these two things are necessarily mutually exclusive, but at the same time they definitely aren't closely linked. I've met some very smart people who weren't creative enough to pass kindergarten art class, and I've met some wildly creative people who unfortunately weren't smart enough to understand why everyone else thought their stuff was crap.

I go in stages about my own creativity and intelligence. I've always scored well on IQ tests, aptitude tests, math competitions, etc. I got A's (sometimes) in school with little or no effort on my part. But I got as many D's as A's, and sometimes I frustrate myself with my own inability to see the obvious. Most of the time, I just don't think I'm that smart. I read once that a hallmark of the truly intelligent is that they don't think they're any smarter than anyone else. I tend to haul that out, both when I'm feeling too smart for myself and when I'm feeling pretty dumb.

As for creativity, back in school the arts courses were just something I had to take. But in recent years I've been exploring the arts. I've dabbled a bit in writing and photography, and I'm experimenting in machinima and film-making ideas. I have lots of stories in my head, I just never seem to get them down in a way I'm satisfied with. My main outlet for my creativity, until recently, has been my job.

It's an unofficial resolution of mine to try to embrace my artistic side more. I've come to believe that everyone should have a firm grasp on both the scientific/rational and the artistic/emotional sides of their life. Too many people tend to say "I can't do math" (or whatever). If you say you can't do something, it tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Hence Yoda's words in The Empire Strikes Back, "Do, or do not. There is no try."

I already have a pretty firm grasp on the logical side of my life - two degrees in the sciences, four technical certifications, and a job which requires me to analyse and categorize threats in realtime. But how does someone, at the age of 35, start to nourish their artistic side? It's an interesting question. There are as many fields of arts as there are in science, and nobody would ever claim to be an expert (or even conversant) in all fields of science, so I guess a logical first step would be to choose an area. Or two, or three.

I'd have to guess that the first place to start is writing. I'm looking at film and machinima, but in order to do that you have to tell a story, which is logically the domain of writing, first and foremost. I suppose I could learn to draw, or play a musical instrument (actually, I can play the didgeridoo, sort of, and I used to play the trombone in high school), but there's a pretty long learning curve for both of those unless you want to use a "gimmick". Singing and physical arts (such as dancing) seem to require at least a bit of talent to start with, so I think I'll pass on those.

By now, you're probably saying "Yeah, yeah, shut up already. What's machinima?" Good question. If you're a video game player, you'll be aware that some games allow you to replace the characters, sounds and scenery in the game with your own stuff. You can also record "demos" for later playback. Some people have taken this a step further, and actually produced movies - machine-generated cinema, or machinema. Someone mis-spelled it as "machinima" in an e-mail, and the name stuck. So machinima is using a video game (such as Quake 3 or Unreal Tournament 2004) to create films. You don't need to do any coding, so you don't have to be a complete computer geek to do it (although I am). I have some ideas for this, and I just bought a new book about it yesterday (oops, now my wife knows I spent money on a book!). If I go any further with it I'll let you know how it turns out. I actually have an idea for a "film" done this way (or maybe even a series), but I don't want to give anything away just yet. Besides, I have to make sure I'm not infringing on anyone's copyright. (Which reminds me - Quake 3 and Unreal Tournament 2004 are copyright (c) their respective owners!)

Okay, that's enough for now. If anyone reads this, and you're from Canada, Happy Thanksgiving, eh! :-)