I’ve been surprised to find that many people do not know this simple trick, and it is a useful enough part of my life that I’ve thought before of making a quick second-channel video about it. But as always, I’d rather be working on unique Vi-ish works of art than doing pure instructional/informational videos, so I didn’t consider it strongly.
My thoughts strayed back to it occasionally as they do to all my potential video ideas, adding details: like, since I’m going to have to demonstrate squeezing toothpaste until tubes are almost finished anyway, I could have fun with it, squeeze it all out over the counter. Still not interesting enough, though. Another time I thought back to it, well, maybe I could squeeze it out into patterns or art or something. Meh, maybe, if I’m bored some weekend with nothing else to work on.
And then I woke up in the middle of the night last weekend and realized: of course! Just add existentialism to it!
By sunrise I’d written a draft and ordered supplies, and then I fell back asleep. It ended up being a solid two-weekend project, extra time because I am not a very strong painter. Part of me wanted to practice more, do more takes, to get the art how I envision it, but the video—however flawed—serves its purpose: one more step along my path to creating weirder things.
Oh, also, before you start squeezing toothpaste all over your tile, the part about toothpaste being good for cleaning grout is a total lie made for pacing reasons.
Once upon a time I made most of my living speaking. I got tired of the travel, repetition, egocentric way every event thinks it is special and expects me to feel the same. TED has made this medium mediumer than ever (as in ultra average) with pseudo-fame glamorization: many venues expect that as long as they shove a camera in your face they can expect you to deliver feel-good inspiration where the only action required of the audience is agreement and applause, without compensation, and that you should be glad of the opportunity to do free work at their very prestigious and very special event, because their exclusive copyrighted recording of your unpaid work could lead to even more unpaid work.
I’m super jaded to the utmost maximum level. I don’t accept speaking invitations anymore. Yet somehow, I ended up at XOXO a couple weeks ago scheduled to give a talk. This is what happened:
It’s weird to see it all fancily filmed and edited, because it makes it seem almost professional and prepared, rather than the quickly-thrown-together unrehearsed improvisation that it was. This is in contrast to my videos, which I spend huge amounts of time scripting, producing, and editing, yet sometimes people still get the impression that I’m actually rambling in real time.
The talk could have gone horribly wrong, which would still have been more fun for me than giving a stellar performance of some static well-rehearsed speech that would be better off as a video anyway. If I ever find myself accidentally giving a talk in the future, I will make sure it DOES in fact go horribly wrong, just for the novelty, because the XOXO talk may have been slightly non-standard, but I could do better.
Ok, back to the conference. It was a pretty good event as far as events go, and though I did not feel the specialness of it as keenly as other attendees seemed to, I had a good time overall, and the audience was more than up to the challenge of following along with me as I entertained myself. Mostly, though, I want to report on one of the novelties of this conference in Portland: the sheer number, variety, and availability of photo booths.
You know what? I like photo booths. Photo booths legitimize vanity in a way “selfies” can’t. When expensive machinery and valuable real estate are dedicated to serving my need to document my own face in its various states of inebriation, it broadcasts clearly to me that taking pictures of myself pretending to have friends is, if not OK, at least normal. I am willing to pay $4 to support this fantasy.
To be fair, $4 gets you the vanity-is-OK fantasy PLUS a single hard-copy of the photos themselves, immediately to be replaced by digitized versions sent via email and twitter, replicated innumerable times via blog post.
Those are just your every-day Portland photo booth, not the sort of cutting-edge innovations in photo booth technology I trust you are anticipating at the edge of your seats– or on your toes, if you are at a standing desk, as I’m sure many of you in-the-know health-conscious individuals have chosen to be! No, all that was but a warm-up to my vanity.
One photo booth featured at the conference was a Lensley Automatic, complete with touch-screen options for receiving your event-branded photo via email, twitter, or facebook, at a party where in each section of the balcony everything from seating to hors d’oeuvres was some particular color, though that’s unrelated to the photo booth thing.
But the result was just a regular semi-flattering photo! The boundaries have not been pushed, and boundary-pushing has not been encouraged, perhaps because traditional photo booths already have cultural expectations as to how one behaves in them. At that point, I was not yet convinced that having machines take pictures of me was a good use of my time.
And then the Smilebooth auto-GIF-erizer-with-branding-options thingy, complete with two iPad-equipped attendants, came into my life, and I welcomed it with open arms.
This thing not only encouraged me to look-at-my-own-face-under-the-guise-of-pretending-to-have-friends in all new animated ways…
…but in addition, the booth attendants showered me with real-life human validation. I felt encouraged to push the boundaries of my new-found art form, especially as the boundary was covered in floppies!!!! :D
But if you don’t like the results, blame the machine. The photo booth, that selfie-by-proxy, allows me as much control as I want, without having to take responsibility for the results, good or bad. Ah, technology, scapegoat for all occasions! Don’t you hate when you’re on a customer service call or something and they’re all like “Sorry, the system did a thing as if it were its own independent entity, I can’t do anything about fixing the problem we wouldn’t’ve had if we’d had competent programmers, and there’s no way to fix it because it is on a computer, so you’re out of luck and our company is definitely not to blame”? That happens all the time to me!
I am glad to be done with this series. I wrote the first draft of what had been a video on L-systems sometime around February, and when after finishing the monster project Twelve Tones I decided a quick easy doodle video from a script I had a draft of would be a fun thing to do before moving on to another more ambitious project. Instead, it’s October and I’m finally posting the last in a three part series on fractals, with another independent video on mathy-logarithm stuff in the pipeline.
I’ve been making Doodling in Math Class videos for three years now, long enough that I get tired of repeating the old form, but not so long that I don’t keep coming up with new ideas for them, thinking “oh but this would make such a good doodling video! It would be so quick and easy.” Work never goes as quick as anticipated. I think that’s the the technical definition of work.
When I find myself not wanting to work on a thing, usually because unexpected delays make it drag on, I ask: “What can I do to make this fun for myself?”
Sometimes the answer is simple as adding snakes, puns, and existentialism. The weirder a thing gets the more motivated I am to finish it, because I no longer know just what the finished effect will be. When I’ve had enough experience with a thing that I truly know how it will turn out, and the finished form looks just as it did in my head, I feel no motivation to actually do the thing. When it could all go wrong, life is fun!
Other times the answer is in how I do it, things that don’t noticeably affect the finished video: challenging myself to keep really good posture while I film and to grab sharpies super gracefully, or to edit my script in an unusual setting, or as I did today, to order my favourite takeout and see how much video I can edit before it arrives. Part of the creative challenge of my work is to keep coming up with things like this, because “see how fast I can edit this video” doesn’t work very many times before I need to start adding new layers. Being your own boss is great! My boss is nuts.
I’ve promised myself that the next thing I do will be different enough to keep my attention without any trickery. In the mean time, I hope you like the new video! I worked hard on it, and ate all the food!
You can tell I worked on it for a long time over many interruptions (travelling and other stuff), because in order to keep myself from hating what was supposed to be a quick easy part 2, I had to amuse myself with snakes. Part of working on part 2 was working on part 3 and other related material, so the next one should go faster. Also I have no conferences scheduled for the rest of the year and I’m keeping it that way!
And of course there’s always youtube (vihart) and twitter (@vihartvihart) if you want to find me.
The plan is to move most of that stuff back over here, and also actually post stuff on here regularly again. Maybe you want to subscribe to this rss feed rather than spend one more moment staring into the yellowy void, and then you’ll know when stuff happens.