Category Archives: College

A New Beginning

It’s been way too long since I wrote in this blog. My writings have rarely been regular, but recent developments workwise have suppressed the writing impulse to the point where nothing has been appearing for several months. This is clearly unacceptable. So consider this a manifesto for getting back on track.

When I first set up this blog, it was as a receptacle for stray thoughts as I made my way eastwards around the world. (You can go all the way back and check it out if you like.) I also adorned it with some earlier blogging efforts and sprinkled a few of my more favoured attempts at fiction across the top. Further down the line, I began to throw a series of reviews at it, mostly books, cinema and games. Well, I’m still enjoying all of those, but the reviews have dwindled to nothing.

Along the way, there have also been moments of whimsy, political opinions and reflections on the current course of my life. All of this should provide plenty of material to keep the blog mill spinning. Which makes it all the more disappointing that it hasn’t. I still enjoy writing, it’s just that the moments where it previously fitted into my schedule have been shuffled around, and an attempt needs to be made to nail them down again.

There’s plenty to be said for commenting on the state of the world. Politics and the media are in no less surreal a state than they have been for the past few years. The Ferguson affair in the U.S. and the ISIS rearrangement of borders and peoples in the Middle East are raising hackles and some of the weirder excesses of both participants and commentators.

On a more personal level, my reading habit is finally getting back in gear after a few months (hell, call it a year and a bit) where it was hard to find time to fit reading into the rest of my life. Right now I’m rereading Julian May’s “Galactic Milieu” trilogy, having already raced through her “Saga of the Exiles.” May’s one of the best science fiction writers I’ve ever read, and the Saga of the Exiles would make a great TV miniseries in the mode of Game of Thrones. So add that to biweekly cinema excursions courtesy of a Meetup.com group and some PC and iOS game experiments (both good and bad), and there should be plenty of reviews emerging in the near future too.

Lastly, and most excitingly (for me at least), I’m finally planning to head off on a holiday lasting longer than a week. It’s been over two years at this stage, and it’s more than long overdue. The destination is Greece, as longstanding a travel goal as I have, and the itinerary is intended to take in as much beautiful scenery and sites of historical interest as the cradle of western civilisation has to offer.

So look for some brand new travel diaries coming towards the end of September. In the interim, I’ll try and keep the home fires burning by dropping the odd opinion, review and unusual fact into the hopper for general distribution. Possibly not tomorrow’s cinematic outing though. I’m not sure how much I’ll have to say about The Expendables 3.

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Intermission

Gulfoss Falls, Iceland
Some gaps are for jumping into. This one isn’t.

 

A few weeks ago, I went to the cinema with a friend to see one of my favourite films. Specifically, 2001: A Space Odyssey in a 70mm print. Being such an old print, it was scratchy in places, though the glorious visuals more than covered for that. As an old print though, it had another surprise to give: a little over halfway through, the screen went dark and a single word popped up. “Intermission.” Now that was an unfamiliar experience.

Maybe not all that unfamiliar though. Two years ago, a lot of the things that had defined my life had come to an end. The most recent of them was that the company I’d worked for had been bought out and the job I’d been in since college was being made redundant. The first part of my working life was over. Time for an intermission.

My first reaction was the obvious one: start looking for work, start looking for something to fill the yawning gap that had opened up in my life. Obvious, but wrong. I’d been complaining about being in a work rut for years at that point, wondering how I could get out of it. Well, life had delivered a short, sharp answer.

So, I took my severance package, had a quick think about what I really wanted to do, eyed up that yawning gap and jumped. Within a few months, I was travelling around the world, visiting places that I’d wanted to see for years (and, as a direct result, starting up this blog – the earliest posts are all about this trip).

It wasn’t all indulgence though—I was thinking about what sort of working life I wanted on the other side. On my return I secured a few freelance jobs, leveraging my publishing experience, but the two-dimensional nature of my career to date limited my opportunities. Luckily, there was another jump to take.

Not long after my travels, I was at a meeting of publishing folks, where I was told about a course in Trinity (by one of the people taking it), the MSc Interactive Digital Media, which covered a broad array of media forms and the technologies used to manipulate and present them. A pretty good fit for my interests and skills, even if some of them were dusty from years of disuse.

So I applied, to just that one course, and after a certain amount of trepidation on my part, I got in. That was just under 12 months ago. It’s been a year of fascinating education, good company from my new classmates and more pressure to excel and achieve than my job had thrown at me in a decade and more.

This morning, I gave a presentation (together with the rest of my team) on the project that we’ve been working on for the last two-and-a-bit months. You can see our work here, though be aware it’s a hefty download and requires a WebGL-compatible browser (and doesn’t work at all on IE). Tomorrow, we get our results and find out whether we can append that MSc to our names.

So. Intermission over. Time to retake my seat, metaphorically speaking, for the second act. Once again, it has the look of a yawning gap of uncertainty ahead of me. But you know what? Having jumped once, the second time really isn’t all that daunting.

So. Ch-ch-changes…

Trinity Front Gate in the sunshine.
Trinity in the sunshine. Not all that common, sadly.

I’ve noted a tendency in myself to be overly mysterious in this blog. It’s the drama ham side of me, which doesn’t get many chances to emerge into the light. So when I said that I would talk a little about the things making my life busy lately, I did mean to. It’s just that I’ve been, well, busy.

About a month and a week ago, I returned to college for the first time in just over 14 years. The initial experience was somewhat akin to taking a point-blank blast in the face from the shotgun of knowledge. In a good way. Trinity’s MSc in Interactive Digital Media is nothing if not comprehensive. Over the course of one year, students are expected to absorb as many elements of media theory and production as their tiny minds can cope with. From the practicality of programming, web authoring or 3D modelling to the theoretical realms of cultural and critical theory or interactive narratives, it’s all covered here, and the result is a 9-to-5 (or more) immersion in all aspects of the modern media world.

At this early stage, I’m pleased to say that it’s been not only fascinating but even fun at times. I had a grounding in some fields from previous educational forays (cultural and critical theory, in particular) and from general interest and reading (game design and development, for example), and my liking for puzzling out solutions has helped me to scramble through the early weeks of courses where I was going in more or less blind (programming and 3D modelling). Of course, it helped that the rest of the students have proven to be not only impressively able but also a very friendly bunch.

Almost as interesting, at least to me, is how the course is structured. Each module stands alone, and even the individual strands within those modules are clearly delineated. Even so, there are names and references that crop up across strands, and it’s not hard to see that somewhere further down the line, all of this is going to start fitting together. Maybe not in time for our individual research papers (due early next year), but certainly in time for the group projects that take the place of our final dissertations.

If I may be allowed another metaphor (and I am, because metaphors are cool now), we’re in the “wax-on, wax-off” stage of the Karate Kid. Learning all the basic moves that we’ll string together into massively impressive multimedia projects somewhere further down the line. That’s my theory as to what the idea behind the course is anyway, and right at the moment I feel rather optimistic about getting there.

For now though, I have a reading week without classes and a long list of assignments to get back to. Which reminds me that I’ve probably spent way too long writing this…