Friday, January 30, 2009

everything in sync

My brothers got me an iPod for Christmas. It's my first one ever; cute little radiant-purple nano. Since I like to try to be mostly legal with music, I've only got three albums on it so far, all of which I purchased from Amazonmp3. This current lack of variety is but a small issue, though, because walking across campus with music is a million times better than walking across it in silence and thinking only about being late. (I usually am.) Sometimes it makes me feel like I'm living in a movie - the soundrack is playing in my head.

Today (well...fine, yesterday) I was walking on Locust, scheduled day done and already in a pretty good mood. The last part of my scheduled day had been cancelled, it was Thursday so I'd basically reached my weekend, and I had just parted ways with Grace (as she was off to an art class of course) with whom I'd been talking about dance. I started listening to "Rikki" by Mylo. I like to think that some kind of instinctual sense guides humans to move with the rhythm of music they're hearing, but since that's probably not the case, I at least know that I like to walk in sync with the beat of whatever song I'm listening to. Maybe this is a leftover from marching band. For whatever reason, this time, I was walking in sync. I love the song and it fed straight into my good mood. There are certainly some things in my life that are not how I want them to be right now, but while listening to that song, I was immersed in this feeling that everything was in sync, not just myself and the music. So for that little bit, the music freed me from whatever stresses are tying me down and just gave me a happiness.

I'm starting to sound sappy, wow. I'll just say, it was quite a good moment.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

length of post is not in proportion to enjoyment of subject

Today was the first day of this quarter of the social lessons run by PLBD. I think I forgot how much I really like dance. When I go, I'm friendly, I chat with people, smile a lot, joke around... A lot of it's probably because I can't help but be in such a good mood there. And there's almost always a bit of awkwardness mixed in, especially in the earlier weeks when we don't know what we're doing, and we don't know each other, etc. But that helps cuz most of us are in the same boat. And for some reason, people that dance just seem to generally be friendly. I get to move, to music, with someone else. Plus Garincha is just so completely awesome; he is funny and makes it so much fun with his personality. I just love it. It makes life good.

Oh yeah, and today, we danced hustle to What is Love and Pump up the Jam. somuchfunnnn :D

I need to go social dancing moreeeee.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

crazy, again

I've been hooked on the music these days. It's what I want to listen to in the morning when I'm getting ready for the day. And I want it at night too, which is probably not the best idea for concentrating on the work I should be doing. It has moved me into a genre I hadn't tested out much before, but as always I am happy about this musical expansion. And I'm even finding enjoyable variations among the three albums I downloaded.

At first it was just about the music. That's probably how I usually start listening to something a lot, anyway. Now, though, I'm starting to notice the lyrics. Somehow they keep taking me back. They want to offer explanations, they put my emotions into words; they tell me the story I've got in my head. I don't suppose this helps, in any way, the notion of getting this unfinished story out of my head.

People - friends - are telling me this is what I need to do. The story was cut off, a bit harshly, and trying to pick it up is not what I should do. They tell me I'm better off this way. I'm not going to flat-out contradict them, because their logic makes sense. I've also been on the other side of the disconnection process, so I remember the way it finally worked. I guess I could do it; in fact, I was even kind of on the path...

The music's crazy: it's my life, right now. The irony leads to that beautiful, familiar bittersweet emotional taste. That's the problem. The bitter part should make me want to give it up. The sweet part, though, is powerfully there. And - as I've been through before - the bitter part has a strange attraction as well. I think I might know why: as long as I'm living the bitter part together with the sweet, it means I haven't given up totally. I'm going to survive on through it, against the clearer path of letting go, because this path is too special to give up yet.

I lean over close to my window, balancing with a hand on the heater. To the right are the changing-color lights and below's the diner. I breathe onto the cold of the window, obscuring the view. Like the circle of condensation on the window, things aren't clear. I know I hold on. I know I have bad nostalgia sessions. I know of the attraction of the bittersweet situation. These are my tendencies. Even with these factors, my mind is defying my own sensible logic. I didn't know for sure, I jumped in maybe a bit lightly. When I tell others I will summarize by the quintessential moments, but there were probably at least as many times that weren't like those - and just as I'm trying to argue why I shouldn't still be so gripped, the opposite reasons flood into mind. So I try to counter them with further logic. Time is supposed to create distance, right? Thinking relatively, there should easily be enough time now to have created enough distance. That argument, of course, cracks, threatens to explode to pieces, when the distance is removed in a few hours' time.

In this circle of logic I get sometimes get stuck, but probably more often I give in. I don't try to combat the good reasons with the push-away ones. I go down this path and my mind becomes enthralled again. Then I step back, seeing that this level of entanglement might actually be pretty crazy. Here's where arguments of whatever kind fall to the background: on their own, the inputs and outputs just don't make sense with each other. Probably I'm increasing the outputs by my own thoughts. Even this is an example. I don't think I can find an answer, at least not the way things are right now, and so I've gone on putting here what I feel and think, but I doubt I've "gotten" anywhere.

As much as it engulfs me, now and so many times these days, sometimes the want comes to mind for it never to have happened this way.

But how can I deny that path of events?


I would add lyrics... but there are just too many coming at me all at once.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Stepmania + perception/attention is crazy

As is somewhat obvious from the previous post, I play Stepmania. To keep the history short for now, I've played for awhile, and I'd say I'm pretty good at it. I've often noticed a quite interesting phenomenon involving the interaction of two factors - perception and my level of attention - and the resulting score/grade on whatever song I'm playing at the moment. In the case that someday someone reads this and doesn't know what Stepmania is: it's DDR, played with fingers on the keyboard - which means, a stream of arrows (each one is up, down, right or left) moves towards the top of the window, coordinated with a song, and as they hit the outline of arrows, you must press a key on the keyboard. You don't need to use the arrow keys though; I started with that, but typically you'll move to using more comfortable keys: I use e, f, j, i in correspondence with the order of the arrows in the line at the top.

Now, as one gets better at this game, the intuitive thought is that the harder you concentrate, the more you focus your attention on hitting the keys at exactly the right time, the more accurate your key hits will be, and the better your score for the song. Well, I started noticing that this wasn't happening. Actually, if I relaxed just a little, and didn't try quite so hard to read the arrows, but rather let the stream fly by as if I might be just about to let my eyes glaze over, I found that I did better. I could hit a stream of keys more accurately and score better overall. (Quick disclaimer...this discovery did not cause a sudden major improvement in my skills. I don't always get the attention level just right to make it work; it's a little more random.) And someone pointed out the key to me one time: muscle memory. This makes sense and sounds rather obvious, but it's still intensely interesting to me. It might also mean that I play the same songs a very large number of times. hahaha.

The strongest and most interesting example of this occurred over winter break. My younger brother came by while I was playing what I think is a pretty crazy song and stepfile:

(Note that this video makes it look a little harder than it does when I play it. I set it to space out the arrows more, and they move faster to compensate for that.)

So there I was, telling my brother to hang around and listen to this crazy song. And he thinks it's not even a song; he's going on with this analogy, narrating the song as sounds of a computer breaking down... I'm laughing at all of this cuz I love him and it's pretty funny the way he's saying it, so definitely I'm not really able to give full attention to the game. It's even possible my eyes were starting to tear because that happens really easily for me when I laugh, which would mean I couldn't even see the screen totally clearly. Somehow, with these combined reductions in rapt attention, I ended up getting some kind of personal record score (like my second best, or something) on the song. Insane! It means I'm perceiving the arrows, this information is flying through my brain, all the visual system, the recognition stuff, and then my brain's processing which arrow is which and commanding the corresponding finger to hit the key - ALL happening before I can realize the arrow-finger-key combination. Becoming cognizant of what my body is doing is slower than my body doing it. (Actually hmm when I word it like that, it seems to make sense...) It's just that usually, we think of the process as: first we decide we want to make an action, then we do it. Here, the action is done before I know what it is!! Woahhhhh. This is really awesome. And it's my psych class on perception in real life. :D

Friday, January 9, 2009

This is addiction.

i love this song - My Red Hot Car, by Squarepusher on the album Go Plastic:

^ [player courtesy of Fruitunes]

i love the step file someone wrote for it. it may be my absolute favorite out of all songs i have played. i also play too much stepmania...

and i actually do love the little red civic my family has...

ps: a friend's interpretation (thanks David)