Category: Rant

I’m, like, so angry.

The adventures of “the adventures of”…

Caution: first world problems ahead.

For what it’s worth I am aware that YouTube has a slew of problems far more severe than what I go into here. I exaggerate my annoyance anyhow. That’s kind of what you do on a blog, though, right?

 

So, as it happens, a lot of people play, or at least have played through one time, The Adventures of Square. It’s really cool to see new videos and reviews continuing to go up on the youtubes even if it’s more of a person playing through just the first level. It’s enjoyable for the most part, or at the very least interesting to watch different people’s commentary and play styles.

I have to keep up with this sort of thing, so naturally I’m typing “adventures of square” into YouTube virtually once a fortnight.

So pray tell, YouTube…

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Sleep is for the weak

Sorry for the memes.
Sorry for the memes.

Apparently my Scumbag Brain is ensuring I get the least amount of sleep possible. Probably because it’s aware that I have shit to be doing and after 30in30-4 happened, I’ve been at a dramatic creative low, meaning that throughout the recent days, I’ve done very little stuff of any real meaning.

Last night was an ordeal, let’s put it that way. Not just thanks to the shenanigans of my brain, but extrinsic factors were also being a bag of dicks. Today was 42ºC during the afternoon, and by night it was still at 26ºC. Now, that sort of heat is uncomfortable for most Australians I reckon, but also bear in mind that I’m originally British. The melting point of your average Briton is 30ºC.

I was relatively lucky throughout the day in that I didn’t need to leave the house, and was able to stay inside with the air-conditioning going full pelt – but that still did not really help me sleep.

Boy oh boy that was a saga in itself.

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Rejection

In an effort to keep myself busy, I recently signed up to audition for two separate local projects, hoping to be accepted for either or both.

The title of this post may well give away the outcome of those decisions, but let me tell you about how each one went. Things are made doubly interesting by the fact that the auditions happened within the same weekend, so I was in fact kept busy to say the least.

A friend of mine had recently posted on Facebook about the Western Australian Charity Orchestra. They were looking for applicants, and spots were open for pianists like myself. I signed up, and about a month and a half was spent after that point learning two pieces to perform at the audition. It was a bit nerve-wracking for a while, but towards the end I managed to get confident in my playing ability for the two pieces. I picked some fairly difficult pieces just to test myself a little bit moreso than usual – a piece of my own entitled “Midwinter”, difficult due to the fact that it was quite a complex quaver-based melody in 7/4 time, and the main chords to Dream Theater’s “Octavarium” (which are played on a piano as well as guitar about five minutes in), a rather crazy and unpredictable chord progression.

Simultaneously, I had another thing going on – a local girl, Holly Denton, had posted an ad on Gumtree saying that she was looking for new band members. My dad had pointed me to her ad, and it seemed an awfully good gig – she and her old band had just performed at Telethon 2013 and the video they’d posted of the performance was damn good. With the promise of being part of a talented young lady’s musical troop, learning new songs, meeting new people, and perhaps even earning a little money from the experience, it didn’t take me very long to decide that this was an opportunity to jump right on. I learnt about half of her setlist as best I could, then once I phoned her she informed me I only had to learn two songs – Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and one of her own songs, “With You Goes” (the first one performed in the video). With that clarified, I did my darnedest to learn those two songs as well, although most of my time up to the eventful weekend was spent rehearsing my two pieces for the orchestra first of all, since that audition was to take place on the Saturday, and my audition at Holly’s was to be on the Sunday immediately after.

The following weekend was pretty frantic. It of course started with the audition for the orchestra, was a fairly short drive to the college at which the auditions were being held. I was directed to a rehearsal room which had… erm, everybody else who was auditioning in it. Apparently it was the only room they had? Needless to say, with a bunch of brassists, percussionists and woodwindists all rehearsing different pieces in the same room, now with a pianist (as in me – I was apparently the only one there) it was quite the cacophony. I got onto the piano and started rehearsing, doing my best to concentrate, and thinking I’d only need to go over the songs a few times before I got called.

I was kept waiting for about an hour. I got pretty sick of those pieces after the dozenth time of going over them both the whole way through. I was, if anything, overrehearsed by that point – I was ready to make absolutely no mistakes.

A woman came into the rehearsal room to apologize for the inconvenience – apparently there’d been a balls-up regarding the availability of the performance hall the auditions were to take place in – it had already been booked out and no auditions could be held for an hour, hence why they were so behind schedule. But I was eventually called out. When I got into the hall, I felt more than ready. I was told to remain silent for the judges, and that was no problem as I naturally just clam up and let my music do the talking anyway. The judges were behind a panel, remaining invisible and anonymous to me, as I was to them, so I didn’t feel impaired by nerves at all. I got down at the piano aaaand… hang on, it’s shut. Can I lift this lid? Nnngh, bit heavy. Am I out of shape or is it… hnnngh… no. It’s locked. Umm, I know I’m not allowed to speak, but… can someone please get the key for this piano?

I had to wait another few minutes while someone retrieved the key and unlocked the piano for me, during which time a few more people went in to have their auditions, and all I could do was sit on a chair just outside and try not to make the conversation with the guy standing beside the door too awkward. I believe it was there that I was told that because they were so far behind schedule, I was only allotted a few seconds to play my pieces.

Unfortunately, the wait and the uncertainty of the whole situation had thrown off my groove – I sat down at the piano, fumbling hopelessly with my sheet music, and unable to call upon the routine I’d just spent the last hour or so trying to hammer into my muscle memory. I messed up pretty badly on the Dream Theater piece, which was pretty evident even within the ten second or so window I actually had to play it. They let me go on for a bit longer with my own piece, but since the sheet music for that is mainly all quavers and doesn’t introduce chords until about a minute into the piece, I don’t think it did a particularly tremendous job of showcasing the full extent of my ability with the instrument.

I left the audition and went home feeling vastly underwhelmed, and still rather tense from not having actually gone through with the whole procedure. I’d rehearsed for yonks for that audition and the fact that I hadn’t even performed the entirety of my two pieces left me feeling almightily unfulfilled. I wasn’t going to be too crestfallen if I didn’t get the gig with that orchestra – I didn’t particularly feel like being part of an organization which was so… well, ill-organized.

I didn’t have much time to mope about all that, though – I had another audition the very next day, with Holly.

The drive to her house was very short – 13 minutes at best – and the actual audition took place in her living room. She was mighty friendly and informal – as the whole event felt, really. There wasn’t much waiting at all, and in fact she’d clearly planned a lot of this out in advance very carefully, as we arrived in time for her to let the first set of auditionees go. I admit I made a few mistakes, but hey, at least I got to play the full songs this time around. I also felt I was in a controlled and well-planned working environment – again in contrast to my WACO audition – so while it was a bit embarrassing when I played a bum chord, I didn’t feel like I was wasting valuable time. We played her two songs, talked a bit about ourselves, and that was it, done. It probably took longer to set everything up and pack away than to play the songs. It was fun, though, and she was really nice.

That same day, hours later, I got a text informing me, very politely, that she’d made a decision and that I was unfortunately not selected to be in her band. (The likelihood is she chose a keyboardist who used more than just a rompler, heh.) This actually brought a big smile to my face. What a well-mannered, organized and respectful girl – having the decency to let me know so soon. She’s someone who clearly has the organization and the people skills necessary to hold an audition and treat her entrants with respect.

Inversely, it wasn’t until a couple of weeks on that I got a letter from WACO saying I had… not been selected. I think perhaps only one word went through my mind when I read that – “typical”. I’m pretty certain I was the only pianist who turned up for that audition, so it did come as kind of a surprise that they didn’t want me, though not a terribly disheartening one. Maybe they found it a little hard to judge my playing ability reliably with only a thirty-second sample of my playing that was riddled with mistakes brought on by how badly the event turned out.

So while both auditions ended in me being politely rejected, I feel much better about one rejection than the other. It’s not so bad when the person rejecting you seems like an honest and well-meaning human being who genuinely considers your emotions and addresses you face to face. Less so when it’s a less-than-stellar-organized group of people who reject by written letter a fortnight on.

Genuinely think I’ve learned something from these experiences.

New pee see

Today I exchanged money for a large rectangle comprised of plastic and metal. It’s a substantially better rectangle than my previous. It has about twice the space of my last one (despite being roughly the same physical size), is more powerful (despite being equally useful as a blunt instrument), and is just as fast – though I haven’t tested out either’s aerodynamics in the garden yet.

Okay, to forgo the deliberate jocular vagueness, I’ve bought a new computer. It’s an Acer V3-571G.

As far as plastic rectangles go, it’s no doubt one of the more aesthetically pleasing.

I leave behind a Dell Studio 1535 laptop. Over the last three years it has served me very well, but in that time I’ve been unable to stand the dumb little problems it has accrued:

  • Sometimes it won’t shut down properly. Or start up properly. It can take 10-20 minutes just to figure out that I pressed the power button and that means it should do one of two things – turn on, or turn off. Other times when I want to shut down or restart, it hangs on the logging off screen.
  • Sleep mode basically doesn’t even exist. It doesn’t power down, it just reboots back to the login screen when I close the lid.
  • When I’m playing Doom, I frequently have to hit two movement keys at the same time. This is all too much for my lappy’s fragile comprehension, and it doesn’t register when both keys have been released. I end up careening into pits and backwards into walls far too often as a result. This doesn’t happen in any other program, funnily enough, but no, the problem is definitely with my lappy. Even odder, I can go months at a time without noticing or even being able to deliberately trigger this problem at all. Then it suddenly comes back and makes my gaming life a misery.
  • The top keyboard buttons don’t work – the eject button and volume controls in particular.
  • The touchpad is a nightmare to use – it’s undersensitive and placed awkwardly. Multiple times now, I’ve accidentally brushed a finger against it and found that the text I’ve been typing has promptly emmigrated to another country. I’ve never gotten used to it.
  • It takes 20 minutes or upwards to perform some tasks. Cakewalk Express, Windows Media Player, Winamp, and Reason notoriously don’t even load for that amount of time.
  • It goes through horrendously long periods of total unresponsiveness, during which the mouse and keyboard and all presently open windows work, but nothing else does. I can’t even load the “Open” dialog in Notepad.
  • Only one of the speaker input ports actually works – and that one only works if my speakers/headphones are plugged in at a funny angle.

The issue with being unable to load or even do anything for minutes at a time was particularly prevalent at the Battle of the Bands. It completely hung just as we were going on-stage. This “technical difficulty” ate up about five minutes of time that could’ve been spent blasting some rockin’ tunes, but instead was spent staring at a screen waiting for it load – in front of about 200 people. Needless to affirm, I’m not going to be taking this thing to any future live gigs.

Then there was the débâcle involving Windows Effing Update. I mistakenly shut the machine off at the wall in the middle of a rather substantial update, permanently screwing up a good portion of my hard drive. It wouldn’t load Windows at all at that point. I had to get a new hard drive. Luckily I did manage to procure a device for connecting the messed-up hard drive to the “new” computer, recovering the files I needed. In the end I didn’t lose much, but I would’ve much preferred it hadn’t happened at all. Atrociously annoying.

No amount of periodic cleaning or registry fixing has addressed any of these niggles, though I suspect a full rebuild (a process I’m terrified of) might do the trick. Will get to that once the transfer of files to the new station (or at least a backup drive) is finished.

So yeah, I’m a little bit happy to be working on a slightly more reliable computer for the moment. The AU keyboard layout is definitely going to take some getting used to, though. Need to give it a road test regarding its handling of Reason and its performance within a live set. I should be capable of everything my old lappy was, and then some. That’s the theory, anyway. 😛

Screw you, YouTube

Broadcast Yourself – or never do, and act like a knobhead in the comments.

YouTube, there are so many things wrong with you. I will list them here. Please fix them.

1. The rating system.

It was fine when it was a five-star thing. Why would you constrict the rating options?

Sure, you’ll get more people voting because of the narrowed choice (after all, it’s a well-documented fact that people’s brains explode when exposed to a choice of three or more), but let’s look at this for a second: how much do those votes actually count?

Star-based rating systems are fairly neutral – they don’t imply a personal attachment from the viewing public to the video. They feel more trustworthy than a system based on various people’s “likes” and “dislikes”. Honestly, who cares what most of these people like or dislike? Giving a video stars makes it seem less like they’re voting based on partiality, and more from a critical standpoint.

Granted, there seems to be an unwritten consensus we all abide by when we examine the star ratings on videos, but that’s a matter of opinion. There’s a far more fundamental flaw with the “like/”dislike” system, and it’s using the terms “like” and “dislike”. What do the terms “like” and “dislike” actually mean? Quoting Wiktionary, to like is to enjoy and derive pleasure from something. To dislike is to have a feeling of aversion or antipathy towards something.

Now, multiple meanings can be applied to pleasure. Liking something can mean anything.

“Oh, yeah, I really like Pink Floyd! Their music speaks to me.”
“I like mashed potato, but I prefer chips.”
“I can’t stand Russell Brand’s comedy, but I like his hair.”

See how each of those sentences carries a different degree of personal preference? If you like a band, typically you listen to their albums, buy their merchanise and overall enjoy the experience that they provide. You can also like something more platonically, like how you would like a food. You might even use the word “like” if you’re completely indifferent to something. (This is something I’ve done in the past to impress people. “Oh yeah, I like Take That.”)

However, the definition of dislike is far more concrete; when have you ever said that you dislike something/someone and not meant for there to be any sort of ambiguity? If you say you dislike something, there’s no two ways about it – you hate that thing. Whatever it is, it’s causing you extreme discomfort and perhaps even anger. (And believe me, YouTubers get very angry over certain collections of moving pixels.)

So when you give the average YouTuber the choice between “like” and “dislike”, they’re going to be far more sure about clicking “dislike” than they are “like”. In fact, many people probably click “like” out of habit more than out of any actual preference. Here’s basically what the two options look like to them:

Like: I can tolerate this video.
Dislike: ASDFASGFHFHATEHATEHATE

Why offer one ambiguous option of personal preference, and one far more extreme option? A system like this is completely unbalanced. Remove the ambiguity and reinstate the five-star voting system, please. Alright, it might still be prone to abuse, but it’s still better than the current Facebook-imitation like/dislike joke of a system. People don’t just “like” or “dislike” everything about certain videos (alright, there are both people and videos that serve as exceptions to the latter). They might “like” the majority of the video overall, but maybe a tree in the background looked weird or something, and they would be forced to subtract a star. See? A little extra choice doesn’t hurt anyone.

Oh, and one more thing.

I’m pretty sure at least everyone on the planet Earth is at some point going to accidentally click the wrong button when they’re arranged in a stupid goddamn layout like that. What is the deal with that?

2. The comment threads.

As alluded to previously, YouTubers get indescribably incensed over the littlest of matters. Taking merely a few seconds to read through the average comment thread on YouTube is like peering into the mind of someone who literally has shit for brains.

“Oh, man – there’s a minor thing in this video that I don’t like! I’ll call the uploader a piece of shit from hell!”
“Oh, man – this video looks like it was shot with a potato! I’ll let the uploader know that him and his stupid camera can burn in hell!”
“Oh, man – this person in the comments section mentioned something vaguely related to religion! Time to go FULL RETARD.”

Imgur handles comments thread beautifully. First of all, they’re called “captions”, not “comments”, and there’s an important distinction between a caption and a comment. “Caption” implies that it has a direct relevance to the video. “Comment” implies somebody going on about how their dog is clearly better than the dog in this stupid video.

It also arranges the captions in order of “upvotes” – that is, the highest-voted caption appears at the top, just below the image/video, so there’s more incentive to make a fitting or insightful comment on a video if it’s at all possible to have it appear just below the video as the “top caption” – it satiates the human being’s primaeval desire for attention. The other upside is that the least impressive comments are consigned to the bottom of page, and those voted into the negative aren’t even visible.

At current, only two of the highest voted comments actually appear at the top. Only two? Really? And have you seen them? There’s no incentive to act intelligent, because holding the “top comment” seems to be left to chance – or rather, the arbitrary and unreliable preference of the video’s viewers – not many of which can be trusted with the power to give karma to comments. Half the time it’s a user exposing the idiocy of another fellow commenter, along the same lines as “this video is gay” / “no u”. That should be the point at which this fruitless exchange is done with, of course, but unfortunately the rest of the viewers then take it upon themselves to declare this counter-comment the absolute pinnacle of human wittiness and upthumb until it shows at the very top of the thread, the newly-crowned king of the comments. Users visiting the video from that point on will suddenly want to find exactly what sparked off such a witty retort – and this converts the thread into a battleground as the new visitors decide to contribute their own say to the argument.

Hello? Guys? Did you not notice the video going on just above all this?

Imagine how much cleaner the comment threads would be with these small changes. People would actually try to be witty or relevant. The fight for the “First!” comment would cease to exist. Political debates, spoilers and spam links would be buried beneath the commenters who actually have something to say. I daresay it would actually raise the average intelligence of the website.

Oh also it’d be great if you could address the shambles that is the current comment reply system. Why not make replies to a comment a collapsible list in descending order so we don’t have to go on a freakin’ treasure hunt (past reams of vitriolic comments) when we want to find a certain comment/reply?

3. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The video player must have changed about 1,327 times since I started using YouTube (in about 2007). If it plays the video, it serves its purpose. Surely the design of the option bar and the look of the buttons/icons and the presentation of the video page matters not one iota.

What’s with your obsession with completely reorganizing everything? The front page, the video page, the browse page – it has all been completely reworked multiple times and has really done nothing to improve their overall look or ease of use. I don’t really complain about how they’re different, but I’m baffled by how more time seems to go into improving the look of the website than fixing the myriad problems that plague it. Speaking of which…

4. A bunch of stupid annoying things.

What’s with the “more videos by this user” window having four pages, and starting me at the end of page 4 so I can’t scroll forward, only backward?

Why can’t I organize my videos in the Video Manager in any order I like? I was able to at one point, but you decided arbitrarily that that was too much freedom.

Why can’t I tell the lengths of the videos in a playlist?

Why did you give me an extra (empty) Watch Later playlist, leading me to believe that somehow my old one had been erased?

Why is the playlist editor so difficult to use? There is an unnecessary number of steps to deleting a video.

Why does the player sometimes not move the video forward to the point at which I click it?

Those are my gripes. Now get to fixing them.

Adrenaline effin’ Mob

Watch this video and tell me this band isn’t made of awesome.

There are several reasons why you’ll probably have a hard time:

(1) Adrenaline Mob is a heavy metal supergroup consisting of Symphony X vocalist Russell Allen and Dream Theater ex-drummer Mike Portnoy. These guys are pretty much icons within the world of metal, and are just excellent at what they do.

(2) Their guitarist is “one of the best kept secrets in the guitar/rock world” Mike Orlando. I mean, watch him take that guitar to the cleaner’s, during the solo.

(3) The song is just plain cool. Come on, guys.

I featured these guys under Epic Song of the Week a while ago with their live cover of Black Sabbath‘s “The Mob Rules”. They’ve just put out a new single which, I’ll be honest, rocks my metaphorical socks. The song “Indifferent” is in equal parts pounding heavy metal with ridiculous guitar licks, and a more melodic contemporary rock sound, particularly during the chorus. It’s a brilliant single, and I hope it’s not the only one that the band release in promotion for their recently-released album, Omertà. I’m looking forward to hearing what exactly they have to offer. (Until then, of course, YouTube will provide me with a selectable offering.)

Certified badasses, right here.

The critics have received it less than enthusiastically, though. Orlando’s guitar solos are deemed to be too aggressive or not melodic enough; Portnoy’s playing isn’t complex enough; Allen doesn’t use enough of his vocal range… all these complaints run along the same lines, as though the reviewers were expecting everything that these musicians are capable of, rather than what they actually wanted to do.

Adrenaline Mob simply went with a pretty standard “heavy metal” album, adding their own little touches, of course. Unfortunately in the eyes of the nay-sayers, Allen and Portnoy both come from the more progressive brand of metal and rock, a genre that often features strange meters, 10-minute-plus songs, and incredibly technical playing styles. But you won’t find any of that on this album, with the possible exception of how ludicrous Orlando’s shredding is.

So, to me, it seems rather immature and downright lazy of the critics to be whining about what isn’t on the album.

Waaaahhh. This supergroup has a guy from Symphony X and a guy from Dream Theater but it doesn’t sound anything like those bands.”

Well, that’s your problem. I personally don’t give two halves of a fuck what these guys do – hell, Adrenaline Mob could have formed a Morris-dancing troop for all I care. I respect them for their collective ability and their attitudes towards the production of music that a lot of people can enjoy.

Genre should merely be a means of categorizing music, and shouldn’t matter a jot in the world of music composition, and yet somehow it manages to instigate flamewars faster than a Spitfire over an Australian bush. It’s almost like if a band or artist tries to combine genres, or do something even slightly different to what’s expected, the average critic’s frail, robotic mind just breaks, what with them having over-sensitized themselves to the separate genres and the limitations that come with them to such an extent that they don’t even seem to want to review that band or artist.

“Oh, it’s not what I expected, therefore I was disappointed. You will be, too.”

That’s not a review. That’s a whine.

You’re like a kid who won’t eat his veggies just because they’re green.

Musicians really shouldn’t be constricted by expectations of genre or style. Why don’t critics just forego the technicalities and just talk about the music? The songwriting. The tones set. The lyrics. The imagery.

So what if the boys in Adrenaline Mob have simply decided to take a slightly different approach to rocking people’s socks off? Deviation and difference should be applauded in the world of music – that’s what gives the art its freedom.

Oh, and while I’m on the subject, for God’s sake leave Portnoy alone about Dream Theater. It’s been nearly two years now since he left them, but everyone seems to want to get him to say that they kicked him out or something and now he hates them and thinks he’s wasted the last 25 years with that band. You’re like a bunch of heckling tabloid journalists trying to get a politician or celebrity to say something vaguely racist so you can run with it in your snivelling little column. Grow up and move on.

I am terrible

So you guys are probably wanting to know what crazy crud I’ve been up to. To be honest, I wish I could say that I’ve been really dynamic and awesome and I’ve been having a gay old time in the land down under enjoying endless success and self-satisfaction.

It’s kinda my fault. I’m just not exactly the outgoing type. I never have been.

Nevertheless, my time in Australia (which has, as of this posting, amounted to just over six months) has been fairly enjoyable, if not quite the thrill ride you may have expected it to be for me.

Lately I’ve decided to expand upon my love of acting and join my family in signing up to an amateur theater. We’ve been hard at work on the musical “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas“. It is, to understate it slightly, a tad raunchier than a lot of the stuff I did in Drama at A-level. In fact, most if not all of the stuff I did at A-level was focused on little kids. Good old Bertolt Brecht and his “epic theatre” motif – his teachings still carry on to this day. And they basically boil down to “make the actors do really silly things because theatre isn’t real life and real life is serious”. I kinda wish I’d done something serious at A-level, but I’m not complaining. It was a really fun two years and I honestly wish it would’ve lasted longer.

I’ve never been too inclined towards watching musicals, let alone performing them, although I must admit it’s been pretty fun so far. Most musicals just seem downright cheesy to me, but the cheesiness is their selling point, really – the fact that all the actors burst into song every five minutes is what makes a musical. And the songs all have to be major earworms – once they’re in your head, not even repeated blasting of Metallica into the earholes can dislodge them. I still have no idea how it’s possible to make songs that “catchy”. In fact, they transcend “catchiness” – they’re “sticky”. Once you catch them, they stick. Like an unpleasantly persistent rash.

Talking of the songs, there has been a lot of dancing throughout this musical. I’ve only been called upon to learn one routine so far, and quite honestly, that’s enough for me. It’s not a case of me having two left feet. It’s a case of me having no legs at all – or at least, that’s what my brain is convinced of. For some reason, the connections between brain and leg all but cease whenever I command it to move in a way that synchronizes with the routine. It’s pretty simple stuff, too – stomp the feet, jog to the right, stomp again, jog to the left, spin, skip on the spot, etc. I can barely even manage that without beginning to look like a paraplegic penguin. And I haven’t even mentioned the part where my legs sort of just give up after a good while, anyway – at that point, using them just to stay upright feels like I have a couple of Slinkies for legs. I am completely out of shape. Or, if you like, I’m just in the shape of a morbidly overweight walrus with no sense of rhythm.

The singing is coming along nicely. Thanks entirely to our teacher’s methods and advice, there is definite improvement in my and my brother’s ability to control our voice. Although I probably still have a ways to go before I can confidently sing as loud and as high as Russell Allen. (Well, I can at the moment, but it would no doubt have all the musicality of a cat coughing up a hairball into a trumpet.)

Getting to that stage of vocal ability is probably going to take a bit of commitment. I’m rubbish at commitment, though. The truth is that I have numerous lists of all sorts of things that I should be doing, but I can never stay with them for too long before I distract myself with something else. Important stuff, too – like rehearsing properly for the singing lessons, and reading through the road safety manual I need to read cover-to-cover (and internalize!) so I can get my learner’s permit. I dare not think about how terrible I’d be in a relationship.

I mean, look at this blog. It went from one update a day (possibly more), to three months with only a handful of updates. Very quickly.

My brother and I have had a ginormous fiction/cartoon project in the works for the last 9 months and we still have yet to get the plotline sorted out. The most painful part of this affair is how I (and also my brother) have so many ideas just waiting to be realized, but bringing them into the world nearly always proves to be impossible, or more work than we’re capable of doing within a reasonable timelimit.

Having noticed that something was wrong with my motivation (for my musical output had also been suffering as a result of this lapse), I listened to the first episode of Ill Gates’ “Ill Methodology” workshop, in which he went on at length about workflow and motivation. There was a lot of really insightful stuff which made me think about the way I do… well, everything. He talked about extrinsic motivation (doing things for material reward or recognition) and intrinsic motivation (doing things for the love of doing them), and presented quite a lot of evidence for why being extrinsically motivated sabotages the quality of your output. I agree with him wholeheartedly.

I think it’s safe to say that pretty much everything outside of school that I’ve done throughout my life has been intrinsically motivated – in other words, I’ve hardly earnt a penny through my own labour (with the exception of a school project that culminated in 14 sales of an album CD I threw together). I haven’t really seen as that much of a problem, though – heck, often I hardly mind if I don’t receive a word of praise. I’ve just always felt compelled to do things like music, and modding for Doom, purely for the love of doing them, and not asking for anything in return. That makes me a good person, I think. (Alright, not entirely good. I still have my flaws, like being an overweight walrus-penguin.)

But if everything I do has been motivated by my own love of doing it, why do I still go through these horrendous spells of inactivity?

Mr. Ill (am I allowed to call him that?) said a lot of good things about keeping a schedule and a journal. Well, I haven’t been able to make a schedule yet, on account how just how much crap I have to get through, and I kept a journal of my days before coming to realize that every day was exactly the same. I talked about my dreams a bit, and I had a couple of really wacko ones when I started, but then they got hazy and I remembered only tiny worthless scraps of them in the morning. “There was a plane and it crashed.” That’s it. (Honestly, I dream way too much about planes crashing. I’ve only flown about half a dozen times in my life and I never felt nervous throughout the trip.)

Of course, the whole point of keeping a journal is to do it every day, and write pretty much the same amount. I honestly struggled to fill a page most of the time. I like to think of myself as a creative person, but unfortunately it seems I can’t tap into my creativity at any time. It just… happens when it does. This is why I’m frightened to condense my various to-do lists for my endless array of personal projects into a single schedule. What if I get caught in another spell of creative decay while I’m in the middle of it? If I try and force the energy out I’ll come up with something terrible and lackluster.

I.G. also said something about ensuring to wake up early to maximize your creative flow throughout the day. If you’re unimpeded by mental (and/or physical) tiredness, you simply work a lot more efficiently. Unfortunately I’ve recently fallen into a slump regarding my sleep discipline – I’m once again waking up around noon. You’d think that if I kept going to sleep earlier and therefore waking up earlier, I’d eventually get to the point where I wouldn’t be able to stay up ludicrously late because my body would simply be unable to. But it seems that that part of the deal doesn’t come with the effort I make to wake up earlier, so I end up back where I started.

As well as having no sense of rhythm, I apparently don’t have proper circadian rhythms, either.

So, I need to figure a way out of this awful circle.

I need to get my brother in on devising a solution as well, since he seems to be suffering much the same thing. We need to find a way of managing our motivation, and controlling our creative flow, so we can get shit done when it needs to get done.

Bad hair year

So, as of landing in Australia (30th November 2011), I decided to grow my hair long.

Boo.

It is a nightmare.

Hair actually takes a long time to grow. Like, long. I was half-expecting to be sporting the Jesus look by now. Instead, I’m starting to look like the 2006 version of Mike Portnoy.

Not that this is a bad thing. Mike rocks, after all.

With the advent of the excess of curls clustering around my cranium, I have unfortunately developed a strange compulsion.

Every now and then, I have to… twiddle it.

There’s no other verb for it. I just take hold of a lock of hair, and… just twiddle it. Roll it around itself. Tie it into knots. Weave it into elaborate tufts.

I don’t know why I do it – it’s not like a perverse pleasure, or anything. I do it automatically while sitting at my desk, and while my right hand has no duties to perform with the mouse (like, while I’m listening to music or something).

Stupid inexplicable compulsive habits.

It doesn’t help me concentrate. It doesn’t help me accomplish anything. My right hand, once it gets into a rhythm, will not be interrupted. It has to tie the captive strand of hair into a tight clump with an elaborate knot, then attempt to undo and flatten it to put everything back as it was before. This process is not always successful… or entirely free of pain. However, it always wastes several seconds… sometimes even minutes, of my own time. And since it often puts unnecessary strain on my arm reaching up like that anyway, it always turns out as a lose-lose situation.

If you look at me carefully, the left side of my head seems to have an unsightly mass of hair dangling over my neck where I appear to have stretched the strands past a reasonable length, or at least weakened them enough so that they just fall limp instead of spreading in a neat outward fashion like hair like mine should.

So yeah I think I need to see a psychologist about this.

…Yes I’ve tried wearing a hat. It does not quash the urge.

EDIT 28/04: I have discovered that it is a psychological condition. A mild form of a little something called trichotillomania. So, that’s awesome.

Apparently it can be severe enough that the sufferer will pull their own hair out voluntarily. I don’t think I’m quite as bad as that yet, but we’ll see if a collection of curls starts to accrue on the floor beneath my chair. Then something will probably need to be done.