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Gnarly Cranium

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I worked! Sep. 16th, 2007 @ 03:34 pm

This? Was neat.

The store is tiny. The boss referred to it as a Volkswagen bug of a place. The coworker who'll be showing me the ropes is a scruffy, thin, expressionless fellow with glasses, who speaks in a dry, toneless whisper that can barely be heard from more than three feet away. He sits at the desk slumped against the shelves next to him like a fatigued stuffed animal. He's put a CD of mp3s in the DVD player, which fills the store with a constant, fingernails-on-blackboard jazz noise. There's a zillion DVDs tucked into a complex and disorderly arrangement of shelves and drawers behind the desk, all numbered. I alphabetized some of the boxes out on the racks, learned a bit about the somewhat arcane computer system, and started ringing up some customers.

I call up a customer account and suddenly there's a pop-up message. 'The boss says: Only Stephanie can rent on this account!'
"Uhhh..." I stare at the guy handing me a stack of three boxes, and look to the other employee for help. He tells the guy what it says. 
"Oh, okay I'll go get her, she's outside." he says, blinking, and heads out.
She comes in, and we inform her that the account has $93 in late fees. This is apparently the reason her account has this note on it, as she's been trying to prevent friends from misusing it. After the people with her have each chipped in some assorted $1s and change, they get the balance down to $79 and head out laughing about how it's all so dumb because they can actually see the front door of the shop from their apartment window.

"Last name?"
The man smiles, and pulls out his wallet.
"Ohhh, I get it-- it's one of those that's hard to spell?" I say happily as he hands me his credit card.
"You'll understand in a minute." says the other employee from behind me.
I punch up the account, and it pops up with a note: 'This customer can't talk right now. He's had dental surgery of some kind.'
"OH. I gotcha... I'm so sorry!"
The man smiles patiently and makes me put his change into the tip jar, and heads out with his movies.
The other employee explains, "He can't tell me what he's had done, because, well..."

The boss turns up-- only for an hour, as one of the other trainees has infected him with strep throat. He puts me through my paces locating the categories on the shelves. He brings us tea, and sets some hershey's kisses on the desk, telling us he'll be very disappointed and sad if there is any chocolate left by the end of the shift.

"So this is your first night? I guess you haven't had the Adult Rental Experience yet." the other employee remarks presently.
"Um... no. I didn't even realize there was an Adult section upstairs--" they call it the Mezzanine of Smut-- "till I saw the sign just now."
"Well, don't worry, it doesn't come up very often. We don't do much organizing up there. Some people refuse to."
"I'd be more concerned about handling returns."

The other employee decides to introduce me to someone working at the partner store at the other end of town, quite randomly handing me the phone.
"What are you wearing?"
"Uh... a purple sweater and some jeans." (This is an even funnier conversation when your boyfriend is standing two feet away.)
"Okay you win already, because most people just say OH MY GOD." ...Assorted flouncy babble follows, ending with "Okay you know what like five customers just came in so I'm gonna have to go, good luck, goodbye, I LOVE YOU and I hope you last, and that's something because I hate EVERYBODY."
Mind you, "Uhh" is about all I'd managed to say in the course of this conversation.

I pushed Firefly on one couple. I am proud of myself!! I also had one customer come up with The Fountain and got her to rent Pi: Faith in Chaos instead.

At the end of the night, the other employee tells me in his dry, faded sort of way, "It was a delight, you did very well." as he's shutting the door.



Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished

My First Week Sep. 12th, 2007 @ 10:20 pm
So I've survived my first encounter with my classes.

Monday-- Clothed Figure Drawing
6. Solid. Hours of figure drawing. Wow. My first class at AAU ever. Going into this one felt very strange... I had my ID, and so on, and there was a room full of people where I'm supposed to be. The teacher was quite young-- probably my age actually-- and a graduate of the school himself, currently working as a children's book illustrator. He had samples of his work up on the walls. The sheer SPEED and fluency with which this guy works totally freaks me out, it's amazing. I have never, EVER had an art teacher with this sort of sheer illustrative skill before. Holy cow. So, we drew... I was missing some supplies at first, but I collected a pad of paper and the proper charcoal during break. I was stumbling, rusty, not accustomed to drawing clothes, nervous... but to my surprise most of the people in class seem to be about on a level with me. Which is... interesting, because usually I'm so much better than the rest of class that the teacher stops to stare, but here I'm just one of the gang. I was so nervous everyone else would be miles better than me, but so far things seem pretty even.

Tuesday-- Maya 1 -and- Digital Photography For Artists
Maya 1: Waiving Intro to Computer Graphics and so on was such a huge pain. I was terribly anxious as to whether I'd gotten into the correct class or not, if it would be too difficult or too easy. ...After the first hour and a half of Maya 1, my brain felt pummeled. The sheer amount of information was crazy-- I learned more about Maya just that day than I learned about AutoCAD in the entire TERM of that class back home. I have to design a creature by next week, which I'll then be modeling, texturing, and animating by the end of the term. The instructor was fluent and relentless. After class I went up to the computer lab to check over the cheat sheet and make sure I was retaining things-- learning a totally new 3D app is going to be driving me NUTS, I can tell!

Photography... ahhhhhh, THIS one is going to be INTERESTING. The instructor here reminds me of the sky pirate captain in Starudst. He honestly looks and sounds a little bit like DeNiro, same no-nonsense growly attitude, black hair, strong jaw. And when I noticed he hadn't given us any contact information and asked if he had an email... he said "Ah. ....I am an adjunct professor. I work here part time. I am not compensated for office hours or preparation. This means I am here essentially on a volunteer basis. Your ONLY contact with me will be in this class. If you see me outside of class.... don't talk to me. If you have a question, ask during class. Most of the time, if you have a question, it's something the rest of the class needs to hear-- and if it isn't, it's personal stuff that's none of my business and that I don't want to hear anyway. If you're sick or whatever and can't make it to class, I don't want to hear about it. If your house burned down and you can't do your homework, I don't want to hear about it. If you're two weeks pregnant and can't deal with life, I don't want to hear about it. ...Now, I don't want you guys to stress about anything, and we're going to have a lot of fun!!" ....He's one of the honchos in the department, he designed this class and wrote the textbook for it. He'll be taking us on a field trip to his professional studio. He also teaches an Astronomy class that I might just take.. cause honestly, this guy is awesome.

Wednesday-- Photo Storyboarding
So far? Boring. I'm paying $150 per session for... what exactly? Watching a video (La Jettee), riding in the bus, and waiting in line at the equipment center? And for assignments I have to take slides and then make film with all the editing in-camera? You've GOT to be kidding me.


AND finally... A JOB! I just had an interview at the video store next to Washington Park! And they liked me! I go in for my test run Saturday evening!

Admissions is full of DORKS. Sep. 7th, 2007 @ 02:16 pm
Fixing my schedule has been... a saga. Holy cow. You have to WATCH these suckers, watch them like a HAWK, do NOT let anything slip!

In our last episode, I began my emails to the school months ago asking how to make sure I got in the right classes. My admissions advisor, while friendly, was next to no help. I finally get the right info, waive Introduction to Computer Graphics and CA3D on sheer nerve and luck. Days of wandering around asking questions, tracking down wrong phone numbers, leaving messages, hooking up with totally booked academic advisors who aren't even supposed to deal with students that aren't assigned to them, getting signatures from teachers, waiting in the 45-minute Accounting line 3 times and the Registration line once, digging up $600 overnight, forgetting to register for the boat party, waiting for the line again, having to run to an ATM to pay for the boat party only to find the check I put in to cover tuition isn't clearing and I'm staring down the barrel at 4 overdraft fees, so I have to void the deposit, get the check back, cash it at another bank, deposit the cash, take money in to Accounting, etc etc etc back and forth across the city.


So today I go in for my Analysis of Form waiver test-- I get plunked down with a teapot, a book, an apple, and an easel and spend 3 hours drawing. Success!! I am allowed to waive Analysis of Form and Figure Drawing 1. I get the papers and I have to take them in to the admissions department to get them signed and get fixed up with a replacement class. The shuttles aren't running properly and it's 4pm. I had to hike back to the main office, which had me already rather pissed off.

I get to the main office, my admissions advisor is out of the office, so I go up to the main desk. A guy there goes over my papers, takes Analysis of Form out of my schedule. We come up with two possible replacements-- Clothed Figure Drawing or Figure Modeling, depending which one has a schedule that will fit properly. The guy takes me over to the registration desk to get it worked out. I sit down in the waiting area. Then they start muttering and looking puzzled.

Guy: "Are you trying to take 15 credits?"
Me: "What?!" (first term is supposed to be 12)
Guy: "That's what I thought. We need to take care of one of these. What's on here? ....A 431 level course? Well, THAT isn't right."
Me: "Uh..... what are you doing?"
Guy: *looks up, smiles reassuringly* "Oh don't worry, you don't have to do anything, we're fixing it."
Me: "What are you doing?" OH NO YOU DIDN'T. I get up and march over there trying to get a look at the screen, and he gets in my way, still smiling.
Guy: "It's fine, it'll all be taken care of in a minute."
Me: "What are you doing??"
Guy: "What is that? 431.. yeah, get rid of that one."
Me: YOU DID!! "What is going on? Let me see."
Guy: *hands over a printout of my glitched schedule*
Me: "....Okay. No. That 431 is my Maya 1 class, I just spent all week trying to waive a whole sequence, and dealing with the extra $400 lab fee, to get INTO that thing. You are NOT dropping that one."
Guy: "But there's an extra class. Okay, Photography, we can get rid of that one."
Me: "Uh, No."
Guy: "There's still 15 credits."
Me: "Okay, LOOK. You put down BOTH of the classes we were just talking about-- Clothed Figure Drawing and Figure Modeling. We have to pick one of those and take the other off, and then it'll be fine."
Guy: "No, see, there's still one extra."
Me: "Take one of these out, that's one, two, three, four. Four classes times three credits each, that's TWELVE."

*headsmack!* Dorks!! They mean well, but... good gravy. Learn how to count!

They did at least take care of the schedule change in such a way I didn't have to go through the Accounting line AGAIN. That is a BIG plus right there lemme tell ya.

AAU Orientation Sep. 4th, 2007 @ 10:27 pm
So, this is it. I'm really here.


Orientation was this morning. I was a bit late getting up, didn't sleep well last night. Had to get a ride to the masonic center where things were starting. Turns out they were serving breakfast, but I'd already eaten. Checked in... strange to be surrounded by students now when I've only seen a few at a time before. All herded into the big auditorium for a boring speech from the President, and a very odd scene from the leader of the new athletic department and... cheerleaders. Yeah. Geektastic art school has cheerleaders. Go figure.

Then the keynote speaker Randy S. Nelson, dean of Pixar University, came on. I could hug that man. I swear to god. He was amazing, fantastic-- it's really too bad somebody like THAT isn't running this damn school. Broadway director, juggler, actor-- very much the joyous, insane, motivated type of person that Pixar seems full of. I wish I could remember more of what he said, I'll have to see if there's a tape.

I ended up going to lunch with several of the people sitting around me, in a nifty little diner with a real car parked next to our table-- I forgot my headphones there dammit, oh well. Then we caught a shuttle to the main office and set about roaming around to take care of errands.

I had the very great luck of catching an academic advisor at a free moment, and got an Add/Drop form signed to waive Introduction to Computer Graphics for Animation, plus the following class, to be put in Maya 1. The teacher whose signature I needed happened to be down the hall, so the advisor printed out the forms, he took a quick look at some of my work, signed the thing, and off I went. I was told that the Admissions department isn't really very good at figuring out where the students belong and is more geared towards simply dealing with the influx of new students, many of which leave shortly-- they're salespeople basically, handling the big rush until the serious students can be passed to the academic advisors later. Not the best system, but there it is. I still need to go in to the foundations department to deal with Analysis of Form.

Oooone little hitch. I can't actually turn in these Add/Drop slips until I take care of Accounts Receivable. It turns out I missed the damn deadline on the 1st-- I hadn't realized it was so soon. So. I have to come up with about $600 by tomorrow morning. Oooooookay. Gah.


Then we had the department meeting, with the leaders of the Animation department all answering questions and laying things out for us. These people were MUCH more interesting than most of the speakers at the auditorium, people who seriously seemed to know what they were talking about and how things are gonna go down.


Then there was the party, in a bar next to the Metreon. ..........I have never been in this position before. It's very interesting, and terribly surreal. I am not sitting in the back of the room scared and depressed and alone. I am actually out trolling the dance floor, the bar, the crowds-- specifically looking for the people that seem interesting, the outspoken ones, the excited ones, the ones that catch my eye and smile back. I'm looking for the people who are going somewhere. The ones who know what they're doing and what they want. The ones whose talent is burning. At this school there will be two kinds of people-- the ones who just stroll along, doing what they need to pass their classes, and the ones who grab the school with both hands and shake it until they get everything they can out of it. The second kind will be the ones working in the industry, colleagues, compatriots, bosses, friends... competition. They're the ones who can use what I know, and who can help me.

So, hi you guys-- Edward, Alex, Brendan, Katie, Alee, Gitamba, Steve, Dot, Taylor, Chris, Brian, and... the zillion others whose names I didn't manage to catch. Damned fantastic to meet you.

life as a flat tennis ball Aug. 25th, 2007 @ 11:55 pm
it's weird, the ups and downs. how one minute things seem to be looking up, and I take it into my head that I can speak up about things, in the communities and discussions that interest me, like a normal person, where it seems like I might have friends... and I can feel them sortof stop, and look, and wonder why this person thinks they have any business saying anything, and then they look away, and everything just... rolls on, while the posts sit there like slowly fading smiles, for days... trying to hold off the realization that none of it matters and nobody notices. I post in no less than 5 journals and 4 forums, and the only people who can be bothered to even remember who I am or answer are the few I've actually met. ...often not even those.
Current Mood: blankblank

Here I come Aug. 24th, 2007 @ 04:21 pm
I should post in this thing more often-- so. A summary of what's up.


I have just moved to North Beach in San Francisco, in walking distance of most of the buildings at the Academy of Art University, where I'm shaping up to attend this fall. Holy cow. This place is beyond awesome. I'm so terrified and thrilled all at the same time.... looking down the barrel at student loans.

Just got back from siggraph of course, photos here:

Best siggraph ever, for me personally anyway. For once I managed to not stress very much. And the coolest thing is, leaving siggraph I am not returning to a nowhere in a wasteland devoid of any CG goodness-- it's like the trip isn't over... and hell it may not end, this time. I met people who may be my classmates, neighbors, teachers... it's all on my doorstep now. Literally, I step out my front door, and there's downtown San Francisco rolling by.

And have I mentioned that Pixar is cool?
Cause it is.

Went on a tour with Jeremy this afternoon, beheld the shininess-- he kept having to practically drag me away from every little thing, on the second floor the hallways are galleries, they have such a fantastic collection of storyboards, concept sketches, maquettes, script versions, paintings, life-size statues, every little thing you can imagine related to Ratatouille and several other films. There were some great pieces from Finding Nemo, like a sketch of a starfish in an aquarium making silly faces against the glass. I could spend HOURS just staring at everything in that place. Sorry guys, no photos allowed.

We briefly stepped into the main company theater, which was showing a new documentary on the history of Pixar, took a peek in one of the smaller theaters off to the side, full of couches. I had some pasta at the cafeteria, which of course has all sorts of Ratatouille decor (I wonder if the cooks feel pressure?) We took a walk around outside, saw the swimming pool, volleyball court, soccer field-- all full of people. I also got to see the renderfarm, which is full of magnificent little blinking lights-- so many!!-- and makes the most sublime sound, you can feel it through the walls....

I'm not thinking about jobs just yet. I may have a little part time thing at a cafe down the street. My days are going to be PACKED, I've never had a schedule that looked anything like this before-- school, work, dance classes, internships down the road, and something cool to do every single darn weekend-- and who knows where I'll end up.

I keep thinking of Mrs. Madrigal saying "You can't wait to bite into that lotus."

So I got a DeviantArt account Jul. 10th, 2007 @ 11:25 pm
Dunno why. Also dunno why it took me this long. But anyhow, thusly:

http://gnarlycranium.deviantart.com/
Current Mood: curiouscurious

Fantastic blog on the Middle East Jun. 21st, 2007 @ 04:45 pm
Stumbled across this yesterday: http://www.michaeltotten.com/

The photos alone are stunning, and there are dozens of them!! (although he hasn't posted any in about 2 months, the archives are packed ) I haven't read much of it yet, but the entries themselves contain all sorts of fascinating accounts from an independent journalist traveling in the Middle East and talking to people all over-- and there's so MUCH of it.

Not that many people look at my LJ, but I figure I may as well start noting things that are interesting, anyhow.


*edit* Oh. And it turns out he's from where I'm currently living. That figures.
Current Mood: impressedimpressed

We all knew this. Jun. 16th, 2007 @ 11:36 am
Trent is god.

That is all.
Current Music: NIN - Survivalism

So much for that idea. Jun. 4th, 2007 @ 12:26 am
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Current Mood: draineddrained
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