Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Now I Know Why First Drafts Suck

“The first draft of anything is shit.” - Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway was right, and for me personally, I finally understand why.

As any Writing 101 will probably say, it's one thing to have the inspiration and total image of the story you want to write in your head, and quite another to make the whole thing work on paper. Transferring anything from your mind to the visible and tangible medium of choice—be it the canvas, the page, the camera, the computer, etc.—takes a lot of effort if you want to do it effectively.

For my writing, I've come to see the first draft essentially as a placeholder for every single rough idea I have, while is then surrounded by my feeble attempt at unifying these ideas with “cohensive” storytelling. Working through a first draft involves coming to terms with the fact that the medium, like any other, has its limitations. For example, writing involves the sole usage of words and their arrangement on the page (the latter is most especially important to poets, but occasionally you'll find unconventional sentence and passage structure in prose).

This is another reason first drafts are so scary. It's here that all writers receive the terrifying realization that they don't know entirely what they want to say, nor how to actually say it within the medium. This uncertainty and vulnerability is what probably scares off so many aspiring writers, even—or especially—the most talented ones.

This is a necessary evil that all writers must face. Some writers are better at handling it than others. Once the writer can actually put SOMETHING on the page, then they can shape it and rearrange it and add to it and subtract from it so that the final product fully expresses what they want to say. It's like dumping all the colors of paint that you know you want directly onto the canvas, and then having the supreme luxury of being able to manipulate the colors to the areas you need them to be to having your ultimate painting, your ultimate statement.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

What Irony, or: Love, Sex, and Frank Zappa

How's this for irony:

I've finally finished reading a wonderful article on the psychology of love and sex, and near the end of the article is the following passage and warning:

I’ll be honest here and say that this view is not at all popular in the U.S., and especially not in San Francisco.


Some material on this website may be banned in California schools.For the approved California version,click here.

And what have I been listening to for the past half-hour for the first time in my life? Frank Zappa's We're Only in It for the Money, probably the biggest musical slam on 1960s hippies (especially those in San Francisco) culture ever produced. Surely Zappa had the same views on love and sex as the author of the article did, since it goes as far as to denounce classical romance in it's first few paragraphs.
Now, to be fair, I haven't actually read the California version of the article, but when something's titled "easy way," that's almost always a fair warning for bullshit.
Thanks again, Frank Zappa, for steering us the right way. And with excellent music to boot.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Quote for the Day

"How do you want to die? Driving your car, getting hit by a truck, or fulfilling your dream, doing what you love like a man?" - The Human Bird, 2010

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Out of School, Into Animation/Acting School

Now that I'm officially out of high school (not to mention on my way to college!), I can finally put more direct focus into the things I want to do for a career: drawing, writing, and making movies; everything that goes into animation, of course.

This summer will be one heck of a training course, because I'll be taking lessons from two of the most reliable sources in the field of acting and animation:

I. Richard Boleslavsky's Acting: the First Six Lessons

I've talked about this book a little bit a long while ago, and now that I've finally printed out the entire book (it's free domain, so I won't be sued), I can have the lessons with me at all times. This is probably the quentessential acting book, and certainly the best I've ever read. It's amazing how easily these principles can be translated for character animation. I have to thank animation historian Michael Barrier for referring to it, as it was always a source of inspiration for the late great Disney animator Bill Tytla. Interestingly, I have to thank another animation historian (not by title) and Ren & Stimpy mastermind, Mr. John Kricfalusi, for referring to this next book in his blog:

II. Preston Blair's Advanced Animation

Now this is probably the quentessential animation and drawing book. I'll admit that it's restricted to the solid, constructed drawing style of the best American cartoons (NO ANIME ALLOWED!!!), but since that's what I'm aiming for, it's the best thing to get me started.

With these two wonderful books to refer to for technique and practice, I'll be having a very busy, and very rewarding workout this summer and beyond!

Links for the two books:

Acting: the First Six Lessons by Richard Boleslavsky

Advanced Animation by Preston Blair

Sunday, January 24, 2010

First Animation Done!

I've finally completed and uploaded an animation! Technically, it's the second animation I've ever done, but the first I get to share. It's called "Smile."

It's a basic smile, and I took twenty-four drawings done in one day and processed to make a full two-second clip.

I have actually learned quite a lot just from just brief experience. For example, I've learned to treat my key frames as a guide rather than a rule; get the main frames down, and use the inbetweens to make the flow even more smooth, fleshy, and lively. Just like playing the piano: it's not enough to know the right notes, now you have to make them flow.

I really like this process, and I really can't wait to do more complex and interesting animations.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Character Heads for Manga Project

These are the five protagonists of the punk rock band manga that my friend and I are working on. A bit rudimentary, as expected, but these are the agreed ideas. Actually, four of them are entirely based on real people around me, which I know is a pretty common technique. The dude in the shades has a Donald Fagen-esque appearance because he has a Donald Fagen-esque personality.

I really need to get started on this story again; hopefully my friend and I can finish something before we graduate.

When One Battery Means Two

Immediately after having finished reading The Tao of Pooh for the third, but most complete, time, my stepfather sent me out on a minor errand: go out to the garage and turn the battery charger off by turning the dial to off. I was angry to have to outside in the cold to do something that only interested him, but I went out anyway, ready to put the Taoist practices that Benjamin Hoff and Winnie the Pooh kindly demonstrated to me in motion.

So, upon opening the garage door, I instantly notice a lone, tiny green light. The battery charger, it must be! This will be easy. I turned on the lights and was face-to-face with a smaller battery charger. But no dial for off and on. Only a switch helpfully label "voltage selector." Where was the dial? I turned to the charger round and round, but to no avail. Where is the off switch? Suddenly, I needed to go to the bathroom. I started to panic: WHAT IS GOING ON? I calmed down, remembered what Hoof and Pooh finished telling me, and looked at it again. Same deal. I simply unplugged it and went back inside.

My stepfather asked if I switched off the dial, to which I replied there was none. Equipped with a flashlight, I went back out to the same charger for the same battery, only to find nothing of the kind that he described. Now, having the flashlight, I neglected to turn the garage lights on. Because it was extremely cold and dark, I entertained myself by blowing my breath into the stream of heavy light. It was pretty fun.

After a while, my stepfather came out to see what the hold up was. He instantly went to a second, larger battery charger, partially hidden behind a few cable, I think, and asked what was so hard to understand. He told me that if I had looked carefully, I would have seen that two batteries were being charged, and then common sense would have told me that two battery chargers were at work. He reminded me that once I was out in the real world (I really hate that term, by the way), I would have to use my brain to figure things of this nature out. The pure monotone and logical air of his speech made me furious and sad that I wasn't smart enough to deduct this myself.

Actually, this was a very helpful experience. Not only did it aid me in fully understanding the Empty Mind--not being clouded by Brain and being able to see what's in front of you--but the vagueness of language. I went about achieving my objective on the directive to turn off a battery charger and not the battery chargers. Therefore, I only looked for a battery charger, and upon finding one, I believed that this was the battery charger. However, the description of the on/off switch he gave me didn't fit what I was seeing. Did he make a mistake? Is this a new battery charger than he mistook for the old one? It really did never occur to me that there was another battery charger at work, despite there being two connected batteries on the table. That is precisely when the Empty Mind should have seen two batteries and concluded that two battery chargers were working.

I believe I know what I did wrong. One of the things I am trying to work on is not doing things just to appease others. I believe a part of me still tried too hard--a big no-no according to Taoism--and followed only the core of the instructions: battery charger = turn off. The rest would follow. But it didn't, for this charger had no dial or even an on/off switch. (The back label was not helpful: it told me that before I unplugged the charger, make sure the batteries switches--IF ANY--were turned off.) Immediately, I blamed him and not myself. While technically he did make a mistake (and whether he was testing me or not remains a mystery), two wrongs don't make a right. I failed to see with my own two eyes that two connected batteries meant that two battery chargers were in use.

I still feel a bit like a failure, having realized how I screwed up screwed-up instructions, but this couldn't have happened at a better time. Now I know exactly what I need to work on to get better, and will do what I must to work towards it.

Thank you, stepfather, Benjamin Hoff, and Pooh.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Preparing for Eighteen Years on Earth...

Eleven days from now, I will be eighteen years old. Eighteen years is a long time, and I'm sorry to say I've wasted most of it with my fear of reality and life. I have sources of blames that are highly credible (all of it has to do with childhood, of course), but I am going to put all that behind me and totally start over. Among the bests I must do better are be a better Christian, a harder worker, and a more knowledgeable self.

In preparation for the big one-eight, I will make a list of things I would like to improve in my life, as well as the things I'm most ashamed of. I hope to have this complete (as much as can be) before the big day.

I have a bad habit of breaking my promises, to myself and to others. This needs to stop. I apologize to all those who have given themselves to me and whom I have simultaneously let down. I can't promise that it won't happen again, but I can certainly work to prevent it myself...