What does an unbridgeable gap look like?

I was raised to believe “Anything is possible if you put your mind to it”. I was also raised to believe that “Everyone is equal”. This explicit declaration of a lack of any sort of class(ification) system and that everything in reality bends with enough will paints the world in extremely hopeful tones. Add on top NCLB-era participation trophies, and the world becomes “You want it? You can have it”. It’s something that anyone will agree couldn’t possibly be true, but feelings aren’t changed so easily.

Yesterday I read an article by one of my favorite writers and instantly concluded creating such a piece was forever beyond my reach.

It’s not that long, it’s his usual finesse with words and flow, but this time he talked about a topic which I thought I knew something about. Something which at least in recent times he hasn’t directly talked about. And yet in 1 article and ~1600 words he manages to cut to the heart of the matter. It’s something which he basically does every single post, and upon retrospect he really does talk about a lot of different topics, but I only noticed it this time because it’s a topic I thought I knew something about.

While he writes

Because individuals run rampant, it becomes impossible to do anything without cars. Even public transportation doesn’t work well when the distances are too great and even urban areas too diffuse for any coherent collective activity. Every single house stands alone with its own lawn.  At the same time all the houses are nearly identical.  In a glimpse, we see the banality and horror of individualism without duty to others.

the best I can formulate on the matter in about the same length is

Commuting fucking sucks. I’d rather spend 30 minutes a day crammed into a box with everyone else than 2 hours a day in my own little box. Everyone has to prefer that; they also only have 24 hours a day. What’s the point in cars anyways? We all use the same roads which are planned out and the big three things to travel for are working, buying, and sleeping. What’s the big deal about “freedom”? So why are cities built around cars rather than trains? This is obviously evil. Also cars are why people are fat.

It felt like the story my dad told me about visiting my brother at university. Brother had been there for three months and there was some problem with his screen window, and dad asked him why it hadn’t been fixed when the problem was so simple. Brother said he’d been there for three months, he would’ve figured it out by now if there was a solution. My dad walked over and, without any tools or YouTube videos, fixed it in about three seconds. Dad happens to have been an engineer for a decent chunk of his life, but I think there’s more to it. The easy and given solution of “hard work and time” clearly isn’t it. If anything it fits the definition of poison: looks great, replaces the actual stuff so you stop searching, and harmful.

Whatever those solutions are, the more important question is whether or not they exist. How does one identify them? Which unbridgeable gaps are actually bridgeable?

At some point in time I couldn’t draw faces at all, at some later point drawing 5 heads took me 10 hours, now 5 heads take about 10 minutes – whatever the improvement of the former, the latter step was obviously an improvement of at least one and a half orders of magnitude. There was definitely a lot of time and work inbetween, but the reason why they improved so drastically wasn’t because of the time and work. After the 10 hours one, I went to bed, woke up, and thought “There’s no way in hell just this much should take that long. Professionals should be able to do this in, I don’t know, but it couldn’t possibly be more than 10 minutes a face. Something is fundamentally wrong about what I’m doing“. For the first step it was even more unrelated: “I need to do something with my life that doesn’t require large amounts of capital. What can I do with just the things on my desk? …Drawing? Let’s try to actually seriously learn drawing.

It’s been 2+ years since then and I’ve been able to, adjusting for the “anything is possible” nonsense, do things I never thought I’d be able to do. There’s lots of other people who’ve done a lot less in 2 years, and a lot of other people who’ve done more, but in any case it turned out to not be impossible for me. If you told me five years ago I wouldn’t care or spend time on online competitive videogames at all I wouldn’t believe it.

Could I have done something else instead? Can I still do other things?

What exactly is out of bounds?

Anything I’m not interested in spending time in is obviously impossible; regardless of the lack of value in hard work and time spent it’s not zero. “Passion” is required at some level to spend time, which is required to discover new and interesting things, which is required to explore those to expand horizons – or in other words, improve. Things which I’m not “passionate” about I guess aren’t relevant because I wouldn’t want to do them. But even with things I do “want” there are things I can’t discover, right? By nature of how I was raised, or what language I think in, or what ideology and friends I have? Spending time without being able to discover and implement anything new is just a 9-5 without getting paid and maybe without the 9-5. Which areas are things I, for whatever reason, can’t ever learn anything significant or improve in any meaningful way?

That writer clearly has more experience in writing and in the subject matter. I’m interested both in his way of communicating and what a better city would look like. Are either of these two things impossible for me to do? How would I determine that?

Is it a field I can only grind, or is it one where I can get orders of magnitude better?

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Why don’t I just kill myself?

There’s two material conditions which need to exist before this can occur. Something I set a while back, probably sometime in the first half of 2015.

  1. I need to have made something of value.
  2. I need to have written out why I believe there’s no hope.

The first basically translates to “getting good at drawing/painting”, which seems like it’s a couple years off. It doesn’t have to be drawing, but since it’s what I’m doing and it’s the only thing I can do where I make something, it’s probably going to be drawing. Due to some recent ideas of story being significantly more important than visuals, there’s an increasing probability, though still very unlikely, that I will stop thinking of drawing as worth anything and pick up writing instead. But it won’t be anything else because 1) I don’t think anything else I can do is worth anything, and 2) anything else that is worth something is on the scale of changing society, or otherwise costs a lot of money to even practice, let alone execute, money I don’t have.

The second would be trivial to execute in relation to the first and could theoretically be done any time. Would take maybe a week. I just haven’t done it because it feels like it’d be a drag to write and wouldn’t serve any purpose other than it’s one of the conditions I have to meet.

I wonder why I set these conditions. It’s not like anyone else is holding me to them. There’s no point in them anyways. Most peoples’ taste in art is garbage, they can’t tell what’s good and what’s not. And no one’s going to read what I wrote because they want to find out why. It’s nothing more than a bit of pride, some characteristic of my way of thinking I can’t change. If I have to go, then I have to leave something behind that people in general can appreciate, and something else which explains why. Just how it has to be.

If I could be so unquestioning in that it’s possible that there’s hope for a brighter future then that’d be great. But I doubt that solution. Everywhere I see doubt and where there’s hope I almost only see lies.

The Enemy of Good

I never learned to accept “okay” quality.

Everything always had to be excellent, or else it was trash, start over and do it again, do it again forever until it’s right. It’s right or it’s not. There’s no such thing as partial credit, designing a bridge 99% right kills 100’s of people. Even if it didn’t, why would you settle for less than perfect? Do you want to lose points? If you can be perfect, you should be.

It’s not like you have anything better to do anyways.

You can’t do the next lesson until next week, and if you do anything from any other class, or worse, something not educational, you’re a smart enough kid to guess what’ll happen.

Dreaming too is a skill

In school I chased ever higher grades. In piano I chased ever fast complicated chords. In writing it was ever longer essays. In projects, tighter schedules; in managing, tighter rules.

Or in short in all fields throughout life what I sought was technical competence.

Drawing is the only thing so far where I’ve attempted to teach myself. It’s also the only thing where I’ve had a fairly clear idea from the beginning of what I like and why I like it, and for reasons other than technical competence: line drawings of women in sexual manners because muh dick. Simple, but conscious. While I liked songs I played on the piano I didn’t know why, and never fathomed to begin thinking about why they were appealing. It never occurred to me to think about drawing either, but by chance or other means the reason did exist.

It’s been a little over two years since I took drawing as a serious endeavor, and I’m now reaching basic technical competence in a majority of the things I originally wanted: I can draw all basic body parts of a woman, and know which proportions and camera angles to adjust to emphasize sexuality. There’s still some work to be done on reliably and accurately drawing certain positions and camera angles, but the problem’s approach is known, and estimates on how long it’ll take to solve are fairly accurate. All of this is a far cry from not knowing what to draw, how to draw, or even being able to copy anything at all. I know what I can and can’t do, and what I can do I can do well.

What I can’t do is anything worth doing.

Drawing female bodies is the only thing I’ve ever actually learned on my own, I’m certain I have competencies in it even if several areas need improvement, and yet I’m also completely unsatisfied with it. At some point in the past though I was satisfied with revisiting the same things over and over again, getting better day by day. Technical competence in a number of component skills is always required to open more doors in its superset skill: Not knowing clothing or hair or how to digitally color skin believably weren’t concerning to me because I knew I’d get to it eventually, and get better at it just the same as torso forms with pencil lines. It’s somewhat daunting to have to step into new territory soon; it’s even more to have to relearn how to take steps altogether.

l9wnqyoI can tell you there are some problems in this image. Some things are too large, some things are too small, a few things should be lighted differently, and some forms interfere if thought out a bit more. It’s fully within my abilities to redraw and fix those problems.

But I wouldn’t be able to create bottom up something that gives its feeling. I can draw female figures from this angle, but I wouldn’t know to use this one in particular. I can draw the stairs, but I wouldn’t know where to stop. I wouldn’t know to have the characters only take up that amount of space in the frame. I’d know how to make the females attractive. I wouldn’t know how to arrange everything so that the final product felt both sad yet comforting. At some point in the past I wouldn’t consider to make something sad yet comforting.

But now I do consider it. I think conveying feelings is what’s worth doing.

And I don’t know how to get there because my only meanings in life have been chasing technical competence and whetting my genitals . I’ve written a number of words in my life, but since I’ve never tried to do anything with it other than record my thoughts as-is with only myself in mind as the audience, that’s the limits of my writing. If I wrote a story, my strongest characters would be those singlemindedly improving on one skill and those running around satisfying carnal desires. There’d be other characters too, they’d just all be flat and unreadable. There wouldn’t be a story. They wouldn’t be characters. They’d be words.

The moment I stop thinking pornographically, my drawings become pencil lines. I can’t see characters. I can’t see motivations. If I see anything at all other than lines and shapes, it’s just a pretty face and a pretty body.

Which is what I wanted. So I guess it’s what I got.

j5honeb

If you want to see something, and over time you’ve only ever trained yourself to see that particular something, you’re not about to see anything else. If I want to see and draw “pretty faces”, I’m not about to see why she’s making that face, or what pose her body is in, in what kind of scene or including what other characters and their overall story. I still want pretty faces, to be sure. But it’s not the only thing I want anymore.

I want to tell stories now. I’ve no idea where to begin.

But technical competence in a number of component skills guarantees more open doors in its superset skill, and at some point component skills are effortlessly interchangeable.

When I started drawing it was difficult to keep returning to it. I sucked, I wasn’t making progress, nothing looked good, I didn’t know what to do or where to go. I only stuck with it because after a lifetime of believing in school I failed to get any job, and was hammering into my head that I needed to have something to show for in my life. Even then I only returned to it for a few hours a month. But it grew to a few hours every few weeks. Then a few hours a week, and now, I can’t imagine not doing it. The competency of the final result improving was only the cherry on top; what was important was learning how to approach the idea being encoded and becoming familiar with the kinds of mental landscapes that help cultivate these actions. Like water and food in an endless desert, when I just started drawing it was important for me to be able to produce good drawings at a certain rate. Now the land is bountiful, or at the very least there’s a decent sized patch of it which isn’t desert. I know how to get back to that patch, I know how to expand it, I even have a decent idea how to recreate that patch somewhere else entirely if for whatever reason that need arises. Good drawings hold a different meaning now, a man used to having his belly full at the end of every day isn’t going to find the same things acceptable as a man perpetually starving.

Among all the other things, dreaming holds a different meaning too.

This time it’s not like two plus years ago when all I had to reference was the pedagogy of the public school system and an online sea of low quality amateur artists who only pick up their craft twice a year and spend the rest of the time talking about personal style, imagination, passion, big names, and other undefined unactionable buzzwords. This time I have some experience learning, some idea of where to look and how to inspect things for the purposes of reverse engineering. In drawing the workflow is familiar enough to me that I can document it. But even elsewhere I have an idea how it works, what to do to expand my foothold, and the confidence that certain actions will produce the things needed to in turn produce and improve results: the first step is to believe the problem is solvable, the second step is to try out different imitations of examples until the structure of the whole can be identified. The other steps are depend more on the subject matter and are more complex, but are relatively trivial in importance. The first step is the most important one of all. And it’s one I can now take reliably.

Learning how to tell stories in drawings shouldn’t be too hard.

Learning how to tell stories in writing should be doable too, if only a few years further away.


[0] The original intended title for this post was “The End”. The second title was “Desire too is a skill”. It was changed to the final title due to connotations of the replaced words.

“Checking” Facebook

Not using facebook is pretty great. It’s like getting a good night’s sleep; everything’s magically grown more detail.

Probably because as many friends as I can get and as many news “stories” there are, it’s all basically about the same voices saying about the same thoughts and about the same things. It’s not like it’s a calendar of deadlines; the vast majority of items are unactionable, so they all blend into each other like so many fetch quests.

Or perhaps more simply, fb “stories” average ten to a hundred words, and outside I find and read “stories” from two thousand words to tens of hours.

They too are generally unactionable, but unlike stuff I see on fb, which pretends the actions are liking, sharing, and commenting, there’s no pretense, so I’m left with thinking about what to do with what I’ve learned instead. Write a couple thousand words to review the morals and materials? Read up other things the author has done?

Or maybe close the tab/game/video and get back to work?

Hit Detection

I stopped drawing to masturbate. I opened up Honey Select cause that’s what I wanted.

I proceeded to spend the next half a day in HS… not masturbating.

The “half day” part isn’t particularly important, even if I had paid closer attention to the time I probably still would’ve spent 30~60 minutes in HS before realizing I wasn’t doing what I stopped drawing for. Or to put it another way, I could’ve continued drawing for 30~60 more minutes, stopped, go instead to my porn folder, masturbated, then have the rest of the day to do whatever and it would’ve been more productive. I did learn some things in HS, but it’s not how I intended to spend my day[1].

What’s important is that I intended to do one thing and did something else instead. Today it was HS and masturbation. Past couple of months it’s been WOT and having fun. Past two decades it’s been school and happiness in life. In several memorable instances, it’s been humiliating acts and social acceptance.

If the effects of something couldn’t have been predicted it’s one thing, but I think this applies quite frequently to stuff that could have been known too.

I wanted to see what a certain gym was like once, and they did this hour-long spiel-plus-tour and revealed the rates and the existence of both a safety and an advance deposit almost after-the-fact, buried in a sea of text. And I signed it! Even if I couldn’t predict what sales tactics they’d use, I’d been to a different gym before which, within 10 seconds of me walking in the door and asking the front desk what the rates were, was shown a laminated single sheet with big numbers how much it’d cost if paid per 1mo, 3mo, 6mo, 1yr. No fancy ~lifestyle~ names about what this plan is called or that plan’s benefits are; this is the table of costs for a membership, if you want yoga classes it’s a separate charge. Unfortunately that gym is also basically bankrupt, even though it’s cheaper and in a better location. I don’t doubt the addition of predatory sales tactics and red-orange-green marketing strategies would up their numbers; in any case this sample size of 2 tells me that the majority of people go to a gym for reasons other than actually getting fit[2].

How can these occurrences be countered?

The more I revisit this the more things seem to come down to awareness and reactivity.

“Reactivity” is a word I made up which happens to exist; what I mean is to have decided on things beforehand and not budging from it after the decision. There is never a time where there is something to be gained from pondering new material in the moment – there’s no shame in losing, but if it happens, you are “at a loss”, and you should strive to avoid it in the future. An expectation should be set concretely, and results checked within a matter of minutes or seconds. If things have deviated from expectations, react strongly and reject any “alternatives”. Your expectation should have included them if they were reasonable, and if you were wrong, then better you learn later than be taken advantage of in the moment.

I walked into that gym thinking “it’d be nice” if they had a simple sheet like the other gym. I did ask what the prices were, but they asked me to sit down until they could have some [associate?] “walk me through” “the process”. Different companies have different naming conventions and slightly different ways of doing things… which is fine, so long as that “different” is still within the range of “stuff I’m okay with”, which should’ve stopped when the first thing the [associate?] gave me wasn’t a price table. At that point I should’ve interrupted him, stood up, literally why should I give a fuck about what they think of me it’s not like they’ll call my mother, they fail for one reason or another to present me the thing I want so the relationship is over. But no, because “I didn’t want to be a dick”[3], so I let him go on his spiel… wasting an hour of my life.

Opened HS thinking I’d get my dick wet then get back to work; didn’t have a day left when I was done. In this instance no one was there to exploit the weak point, so it probably could’ve gone a whole lot worse[4], but it still could’ve gone a whole lot better.

“Awareness”, other than the usual meaning, can primarily be augmented with some amount of other priorities. If you only have one thing to do and you’re actively trying to do something else that’s “temporary”, something not a major task and therefore lacks an “importance” value to it, “temporary” can become dangerously long. It’s clearer how important one thing is when there’s a handful (but not an overwhelming amount) of other things to serve as contrast. More rigidly, this means a schedule. Nothing is truly “scheduled” if there’s only one thing to do, but if multiple things have to be done within a certain timeframe then any “break” from one of them affects all of them.

In terms of training these two things videogames are probably terrible. Videogames will always automatically and without fail tell you whether something has or hasn’t happened. If you fire a bullet at an enemy you know if you did damage within a fraction of a second; if you fire a resume at an application you won’t know when you’ll know if it’s ever seen by human eyeballs again. Physics has instant hit detection but with people and ideas it exists sporadically. People even actively attempt to make it disappear by training themselves with ritual magic they call “politeness” and “professionalism”. Their actions generally reveal their intentions, but it can be difficult to see them if their words are marching the other way. In the end you have to decide where the cutoffs are, then follow your own instructions “blindly” until the event has passed. “Can’t bluff someone who isn’t paying attention”.

Upon browsing my old posts, it looks like I’ve written about this before on multiple occasions. At least the “decide for yourself beforehand” part. As for the other part, I have an ancient draft with a bunch of different ideas titled “What’s In A Name?”. Recently and unrelatedly, I’ve also collected in a txt a bunch of ideas under “what’s in a word”.

 

The mechanics of verbal deception is evidently my enduring topic.

 


[4] This “weak point” is probably how a lot of Free To Play games make their money.

[3] Read a bunch of ‘horror stories’ about commissioning amateur artists recently; this phrase was surprisingly common on a lot of them. One of them had an expected turnaround of about three months and let the thing go on for five years. This wasn’t some ten-dollar throwaway sketch either, it was a deposit of two grand USD.

I ended up getting my shit refunded from the gym the next morning. The internet has thankfully trained me to be pretty nitpicky stringent, but there are some really simple tricks I’ve noticed which completely undo my tendencies. Things which can be trained against but probably will always retain some power. Having to interact with people face-to-face is one. Lots of paperwork is another…

[2] I don’t have the numbers, but assuming what’s said about gyms right after New Year’s is true, I think it’s safe to say most people don’t actually get fitter after starting to go to the gym. Which is what you’d expect from people who aren’t going to the gym to get fit.

[1] For the curious, HS is a game which allows you to pose characters into sex positions.

Experience is Relative

I went over to help a relative with their garage door today.

It was an old wooden type, and the connection to the opener had splintered. After drilling new holes and adjusting the chain position to attach properly, I found that positions 1,2,5,6, and 8 out of 8 possible positions did not work, as the chain track would bend. I supposed it was necessary to move the car to get to adjusting the position of the box itself. So I detached the arm again, and lo and behold, the garage door itself would not move. One person should be enough, but two weren’t, and a third arrived with a crowbar and still it would barely move. A wooden door, a concrete floor, and a rubber flap of sorts on the door which never posed any problems before. But at that point it was noticed that one of the structures attaching the door to the door frame had splintered the frame, and the structure was sticking out somewhat.

I had replaced springs of that type before and advised against touching it. A single garage door spring took both me and my dad to replace when the garage door is open, trying to lose the tension on two of them while the door is closed spelled to me “suicide”. I am also by education an engineer, so perhaps that contributed to my basic understanding of what state the spring was in and the force potentials in the overall situation, rather than simply noticing “this thing is broken, it should be removed”.

But what do I know and what can I say to two people three times my age in Chinese culture? So they went ahead and did it, and the third guy got whacked with about 10 pounds of steel. Maybe a concussion, I wasn’t looking at the time, but he had to spend a minute to regain his bearings. Then he said no problem.

And then he went to work trying to figure out how to remove the other structure.

So I called my dad because I wasn’t about to be an accessory to manslaughter.

Thankfully that halted all movement. Rather than talk specifics about the situation he talked about how it sounded like the situation’s problems just kept getting larger and it was better to just call in professional help instead. Probably also helps that when he grew up it appeared he didn’t follow the Confucian way and was basically top dog without being the eldest, and maybe used some rhetorical tricks I didn’t catch. The relative attempted to get my dad to research contractors on replacing garage door openers for him, then attempted to get me to do it, at which point the third guy conveniently pulled out a really thick Chinese yellowpages and I took my leave. I had come intending to do ~1hr labor helping the elderly, but spent about 4, and wasn’t interested in doing 20~30 more where I wasn’t particularly needed. I had assumed that it was just squeezing me for more young-people help, and that they must have done these sorts of things before. Even if they don’t understand physics they should understand people and data comparison from other things. I haven’t replaced garage doors before, but I have built a computer, researched videogames, and read anime reviews to be more sure I’m getting quality beforehand. Surely at three times my age there’d be plenty of things to draw from?

In review my dad said the curious line that even though they definitely had language problems they’d still have difficulties even if they were in China, I asked him what he meant. He had talked about calling up different numbers, comparing prices, materials, services, and how they wouldn’t consider as much as we would, but not just because we were trained as engineers and they weren’t, and distilled it into one line:

If you can’t plan or make decisions, you will have trouble with everything you touch.

People can get this old without figuring out basic things? I mean, especially the third guy. Not understanding statics is one thing, but getting whacked then going for round two is another.

People can live their whole lives without learning anything.