DIARY 2012














Wed, Dec 26

<17:07 EEST> The holidays have been surprisingly quiet and relaxing, even taking the few obvious reasons into account. First of all, I managed to avoid the usual family socializing due to the others' far-reaching plans, and I cannot say I miss any of it. Further pressures at this point of the year would usually include the planning of upcoming courses and grading the past ones; it is a little sad, though, that the only way for me to have a proper break from work is to quit.

At the moment there is plenty of time to be filled with more or less mindless entertainment, before I set foot towards the university campus. As a true geek elitist, I tend to avoid the most mainstream of works, but on occasion it is interesting to take a peek at the muggle world, and a while ago this took the form of watching Avatar.

One of my doubts about the movie is the way it was marketed as a vehicle for 3D technology. Nevertheless, even on a puny 2D screen, the visuals were pretty overwhelming. It was a beautiful cinematic experience overall, and the story turned out surprisingly solid. Obviously, the basic plot was something like Princess Mononoke, with a bunch of other SF and fantasy references, but it was all brought together and presented in an honest, straightforward way.

Personally, I found the SF aspects seriously downplayed. There was so much potential to explore further, for example in the multiple levels of connecting and controlling bodies. How does it feel to walk again with new legs? How about jacking into another body that, in turn, is similarly connected to an animal? Or how does it feel to have a secondary body exhausted or damaged? Of course, a lot of this has already been covered in more serious SF, for example Stanislaw Lem's Peace on Earth, and there are plenty of others in more recent, mainstream media. Avatar has another story to tell, and I understand the choice of focus away from the nitty gritty. Nevertheless, it seems like a waste of good tech, to have it all there and not go all the way.

Sun, Dec 9

<18:22 EEST> The last post seems to have gone a full circle, albeit via somewhat interesting detours. It seemed like a verbally apt ending, but I feel a little clarification is in order, if only to myself. There were basically two premises I need to clear out, even if they stand out obvious to most people with healthy social lives. First, that I actually look for a social life, and second, that not all social life is worthwhile.

Introverted geeks are not much into socializing — or are they? What else is the global movement of opensource hackers and tinkerers, if not their way of having social fun? Isn't one of the fundamental ideas of being a geek the preference of doing your own thing, rather than seeking social approval?

To me, the practical answer is that often it takes other people to do your own thing. I must have referred to this idea already when talking about theatre and music; then again, I have also come to appreciate the value of hanging out, a kind of low intensity socializing, but even that is somewhat dependent on existing relationships, forged on the fire of your collective own thing.

Surprisingly, a lot of my classroom time actually counts as doing my own thing. Whether that is doing experiments, discussing natural philosophy, or focusing on deep math, it is an experience of collective, relaxed concentration, and hence naturally enjoyable. Even when most of the ideas are old to me, I take great pleasure in being able to share the sense of wonder.

There is a somewhat established idea that we are hardwired to enjoy concentration; the problem is that you first need to find something interesting enough to enable that state of focus. Which is where the ideals of a science geek meet teenage reality, but even so, things usually go better than expected.

The problem is that a lot of school time is wasted on practical trifles. When each of your hundred or so students have a question they eagerly need answered, before being able to focus on work, you quickly become overloaded with the pestering. Non-classroom time is all about pestering, whether by colleagues or students, even if most of that is nominally positive. Too much fun can be overwhelming, and having hundreds of "fans" around constantly seeking attention is not my idea of social fulfilment.

This is all obvious, but as an INTP geek I find here a more subtle issue. For starters, the idea of a friend is something I can only have a handful of, but those few are very close and important ones. In other words, social interactions are rather special, and not something to be spent lightly. Selling something like this for a montly wage is, well, prostitution. Of course, people say the same thing of a plethora of things they find important, for example different forms of art. It would be interesting to experience this as a professional musician, but so far I have enjoyed every moment of making music for money.

Sat, Dec 8

<18:05 EEST> This afternoon, I finally went to see Paljaat, the JYT anthology of short plays where I had been peripherally involved, as the sound designer and technician for the trailer that toured around Jyväskylä in the summer and autumn.

On my way there, the weather was oddly light grey and immobile, and there was mostly just a single thought in my mind. The constant one from the past two years or so, about having a miserable life due to work. By now, you should all know the basic story — all of my social energy is expended on workdays, and then there is plenty of paperwork for evenings, meaning zilch left for any "life" of my own. There is actually a good amount of real, free time, but it is mostly spent recharging the social battery with some quiet geeking out. Plus, for the times I actually feel like going out for a party, I am acutely aware of early mornings, and not just their immediate threat, but their overall effect on sleeping patterns. (I might also add another general fact, that working at an office at 8 am with a nice mug of $beverage is rather different from directing a platoon of pissed-off teenagers at the same time; in one of these situations, you need to be awake already.)

On the other hand, recent school festivities lingered fresh on my mind; I'd had yet another day of organizing and performing theatre sound and lights, as well as band music, to an eager audience of hundreds, as a part of my day job. Of course, these events only take place a few times a year, and they are by no means a part of my official job description as a math and science teacher. Nevertheless, they serve as a reminder that life is not all bad, and some social experiences are positive.

As I entered Ilokivi, I felt immediately at home. It remains one of the epicentres of my creative life, and this summer's trailer production showed that the magic is still there, I can still be a part of JYT just like the old times. But admiring at the slender bodies onstage brings to mind the unfortunate realization of getting old. Of course, it is not a fundamental issue, and indeed some of the old hands of my age are still active there, but it is harder to identify with the younger student generation. This probably means taking on more of a mentor/teacher role, which is not all bad in itself, and should happen naturally anyway after all the experience, but... it would be fun to be a student again.

Of course, this is still not a question of age — in fact, my current post-work plans are to study a little math. At least that will work as an official excuse to my current colleagues, as to why leave a nice job or somesuch bland congeniality. Often, I keep appending the actual excuse of wanting to focus more on music and theatre, but even that facades the true problem, the ruins of a social life. Incidentally, I believe getting back to studies will help me on this front too, as I do not see a simple and easy future of just going back to the good old JYT (for one thing, it does not really exist any more).

Now, back to the perks of teaching and what it has to do with student life. The grossly simplified ideal of higher education, at least in Finland, seems to include as much student life and general enjoyment as possible, for the grim middle age of working life awaits soon after graduation. Student theatres, obviously, are mostly full of students, a majority of which will end up on a career not involving theatre or other arts. A few lucky ones may turn out professional actors. So I should consider myself lucky in having a job of a performer and a presenter, who occasionally gets to do really nice things behind a keyboard for living. Once you do something nice for a living, it is natural not to want to do the same thing on your "own" time. In a sense, I cannot really complain, but my problem (highlighted by an introverted personality) is that I also socialize for living, so I cannot live to socialize.

Risto A. Paju