Friday, October 19, 2007

Bonus: Did I tell you how much I like music?

I have a new favorite band. Welcome to Yeasayer. Fish down the website to find the music, I would have linked to it directly but I make it a point to never link directly to the canker-sore of the internet that is MySpace. Too bad it's a convenient way for bands to advertise, but fight it anyway and listen to the song 2080. Wow.

In addition, if you're any kind of coder, you'll appreciate a song by Jonathan Coulton called Code Monkey. Oddly enough it was linked to the YouTube video I posted last week. Here's the acoustic performance I found. Seriously this song could be an anthem, and it has instantly entered my iTunes rotation.

On Perfectionism

K likes to remind me of how I love to be a perfectionist at certain actions. It's a valid accusation towards the infrequent updates to this blog, and it's my biggest stumbling block to happiness. For being a habit that's supposedly good to have, it has a lot of drawbacks.

You see, perfectionism is one of those things that make a person function and idiosyncratic and at the same time make them shut down. If you've never had the experience of meeting someone afflicted with this disease, let me elaborate. A perfectionist is someone who labors to remove all imperfections from a particular action before showing that action to all. In some endeavors, it makes sense; when you solder a circuitboard, perfectionism can make the difference between a circuit acting "glitchy" and a circuit working perfectly. Polish is extremely evident in writing, for it separates the haphazard writing of Palahniuk and Keruoac from the sublime of Pynchon and the terseness of Hemingway (sometimes it takes a lot of effort to say so little). These obvious exertions of effort make a perfectionist good inside when someone else picks up on it and compliments.

However, the woe of the perfectionist is multifaceted. For starters, perfectionists are avid procrastinators; they don't like to start because of the imperfection of the plan of action. They usually use excuses related to this lack of planning, situation, or energy to delay really important tasks (even mundane ones) and this leads to dysfunction or even despondency. Second, a perfectionist usually dreams big, because of earlier successes that promote the idea that more effort at perfecting a task produces unbounded quality. These big dreams fly in the face of a currently reasonable and sensible plan. In addition, usually these high expectations usually lead to internal rejection of an outcome that isn't as ideal as mentally pictured. Because of the relatively high frequency of this happening, this leads to depression, especially when the perfectionist broods over what "could have been". Perfectionists tend to dislike probabilistic concepts such as luck, fate, serendipity, and calamity because not only are these imperfect but they can spoil an otherwise perfect plan. Finally, procrastinators don't like to finish, putting in excessive effort beyond the point of diminishing returns, wasting so much quality time.

From start to finish, perfectionists set themselves up to hate the things they do except in that rare time when everything goes right, which they then obsess about and use it as confirmation bias for their admittedly illogical actions.

How does one break the habit? Simple. Do things you're no good at. It turns out that a perfectionist will truly enjoy activities where they believe that they have no vested interest to polish, compete, or succeed. It's the reason I got into karaoke, and why I still enjoy it to this day: my voice is nowhere near perfect, I don't look to perfect my singing (except I do want to increase my range, so there's more music available that I'll be able to hit the high notes on :D), and usually the involvement of a little grog makes me forget that I'm getting good at it. Recently I won this contest at a local bar which gave me a slot for a bigger competition. The night of that competition was the least enjoyable night of karaoke I've ever had. Why? Because my perfectionist side reminded me how imperfect my singing was, and I wasn't able to get "in the mood", even after a couple beers. After that I resolved never to take any singing event seriously, and I've had a good time at karaoke since.

Such as last night, which was at the same bar as that competition. There was no competition, only good time had by all. We all joined in singing along, and had a blast past midnight. I needed sleep that next morning, and wasn't quite the perfectionist at work, but I was also reminded how much more vibrant life can be when you're not so worried about how you can make life more vibrant.

And with that, I'm gonna go work on perfecting my Halloween costume. Er... or maybe not. :D

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Been a long time

since I've seen this video: It's wonderfully moving.
Granddaddy - Beautiful Ground
I could also read the code at the end, having coded on an Apple 2 like that one at school, and I know how hard it'd be to get the timing just right. I'm checking out the whole discography right now. :D

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Quick Clarification...

In my review of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, I called it Murakami's Ulysses. I did not mean this as a disrespect. It's not unreadable like I remember Ulysses being when I tried to read it, but it is as reference-filled, just as long, and just as packed with meaning (as my friends who have read it tell me). Just because a book is dense doesn't make it obtuse or pretentious. Just because it's long doesn't mean the writer is overly verbose. Both of these are proved by this novel.

I just may go back and try to read Ulysses again. Well, after I finish The Crying of Lot 49 that is. Pynchon trumps Joyce these days.

Nobody can be truly supressed...

...or so Murakami teaches us in "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" which is a wonderful romp through an "ordinary man's life". As I told my good friend 35 minutes ago, it is a haunted mystery tale on steroids with more than enough philosophy to fill books. This book is Murakami's Ulysses, filled with references every 5 minutes, all objects in place have meaning to the story (which is inconceivable from the first 300 pages), and the story-telling style is so interesting because I've now encountered it multiple times.

Boys and girls, the word for today is Epistolary.

An epistolary is essentially a collection of documents that tell a story. In my review for Pattern Recognition, I had commented on how much of the story is told in email and forum postings. Little did I know that this type of writing has a name. The book chosen for my book club, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, is another epistolary novel. Many books have taken this form, such as Flowers for Algernon, which is told through Charlie's journal entries, and Haunted which is told both through narrator observation and short stories and poems the characters write. In fact, the very first epistolary novel would have to be the Bible (duh... the Epistles of Paul?), or maybe a less controversial choice would be The Canterbury Tales. Wikipedia has a long yet incomplete list of contemporary epistolary novels.

Anyway, back to The Wind Up Bird Chronicle. This is a polylogic epistolary about an ordinary dude in a marriage who leaves his job and then a month later, his wife leaves him. He then spends the rest of the book looking for her and himself. That's all I'll tell you; I really want as many people(well adults; it is a bit X-rated at points, but to good purpose) to read this book as they can, for it really is a work of art. To make this point short, I really connected with the story and went through the emotions with this dude to the very end.

Okay, I promised my friend I'd be brief, so I am. :D