Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Of Pokeballs, Nostalgia and Mood Superpositions

My most recent work in Blender 3D is a Pokeball (Pikachu's Pokeball from the very first episode for all the Pokemon fans out there.) which in the final rendering turned out a lot better than I expected it to. It is the best thing I've created in Blender so far and in my opinion, my first work that does not seem too amateurish. I posted it on my deviantArt profile. (Or you can go over to the "Blender Projects" section of this blog and check it out there.)

Well it definitely taught me that nostalgia can be a very powerful motivator for art. That first episode I is not particularly complex or entertaining when compared objectively to many of the more recent masterpieces of Japanese anime but it represents something very special to me. Tied to this episode are precious memories of old friendships quarrels that shaped my personality. In fact when I look back on my early childhood, I find that all my memories are inevitably tied with the many cartoons that I watched at the time. They provided a release from the harsh realities of a conservative school. I used to spend hours immersed in imaginary worlds, dreaming of all the amazing, crazy things I could do.

I also noticed something about how moods work. I think that at any one time, people don't feel any single mood in isolation but a mixture of several different moods. The "dominant" mood may vary from time to time but it's always a mixture. So the mood we are feeling is actually a superposition of many moods. I started observing this effect when I did international travel for the first time. When I first visited Malaysia for a period of two months something felt subtly different.  I was under the impression that it was a smell but that description didn't seem to describe it satisfactorily. In retrospect I think that the travel to a new country introduced new moods or intensified some moods that had lain dormant for many years. I observed a similar effect when I travelled within the country but to a lesser extent. Sometimes I walk into a house or some other building and I think: "There is something oddly familiar about this place." This could be because that place had a mood signature similar to that of a place I'm very familiar with.

The mood signature of a specific place also seems to change over time, especially during emotionally significant events such as going up from Year 5 to Year 6 at school or a transition from Junior School to High School.

Coming back to the subject of cartoons, I discovered that by just watching cartoons that I'd watched during a specific period of my childhood life I could temporarily produce inside my brain a close approximation of the mood superposition of that period. It is like being mentally transported back in time to relive that part of my childhood. All the troubles, mishaps, worries, joys and triumphs I had at the time come rushing back to meet me. And perhaps this is what is happens inside the brain when we experience the state of mind called "nostalgia".

I think it's exciting that despite "owning" my mind for over 17 years I still have a lot to learn about it.

Monday, 16 January 2012

The Lost Symbol and My Thoughts on Fiction

It's been a long time since its release but I finally got an opportunity to read The Lost Symbol. Now that I read it I don't think i missed out on much at all.

I was thoroughly unimpressed by the book. After "Angels and Demons" and "The Da Vinci" code this book was completely underwhelming. The plot was a bit weak and I felt none of the unexpected bursts of excitement that had made his previous books so difficult to put down.

About halfway through the book (at which point I was reading simply because I hate to leave a book unfinished) I realized something about why some novels seem so enjoyable while others make us cringe.

It's how believable the story is in its own "universe". The term fiction does not give a writer the freedom to put in whatever captures their fancy. For an example take Harry Potter. It is a story about magic. But in the very fist book the "scene" is set. So the reader gets an idea of the laws of nature (or magic) in the Harry Potter universe. The rest of the books follow the laws of the new reality very strictly. The same goes for  most of the good novels I can think of. The protagonist does not pull through whatever difficulty is presented due to string of coincidences bordering on unbelievable. But this is exactly what happens in The Lost Symbol.

Another mark of a good story is how it draws you in. Many books (like Eragon and Harry Potter) talk about worlds in which, deep inside, everyone wishes to live in. Reading them makes me want to live the book so badly that sometimes I can't help laying awake at night thinking of all the cool, amazing things I would do if I were in the place of the protagonist.

Dan Brown's take on Noetic Science also spoils the book somewhat. The book is supposed to be set in the real world but the book shamelessly represents this repackaged pseudoscience as the real thing. Noetic science tries tie in quantum phenomena with the problem of consciousness but with experiments that mainly involve trying to prove that low probability fluctuations in Random Number Generators are somehow related to focused intention of many people to produce this result which to me just sounds like Deepak Chopra 2.0.