Synesthesia and Memory

If you’ve spent any time wandering around my rambling home page, you might know that I have colored-letter synesthesia. For years I’ve been looking for ways to convey to other people what the experience is really like. This is not a simple task, because the colors are kind of dynamic: they change depending on a number of factors.

One of those factors is memory, and another one is attention. If I glance at a word once in passing and try to remember it later, chances are I’ll remember only some basic information about it: the length of the word, and the dominant color (which is usually, but not always, determined by the first letter.) Remembering the whole word will mean trying to remember the specific colors of all the letters, which then, sometimes, allows me to remember the letters themselves.

To help illustrate what this feels like, I built a little Flash applet. As you type words into it, they appear with each letter in its proper color. But as time passes and memory fades, the letters are replaced by blocks of color that approximate what little I might remember. To refresh your memory, you can pay attention to the words by moving your mouse towards them.

I actually wrote this almost two years ago, but somehow forgot to put it up online. (Another case of memory fading as time passes.) I think I had some notion about making it better, or adding punctuation or something. But a random email reminded me of it, and I realized nobody cares about punctuation these days anyway. So here it is. Enjoy!

Radio Lab

This may be the coolest thing I’ve heard on the radio since Joe Frank. It’s a show called Radio Lab. It’s hard to pin down exactly what kind of show it is: is it straight-up science documentary a la “Nova”, or a “My Dinner with Andre” style conversation, or a Negativland-influenced audio collage? I’ve listened to two of the first five shows (Emergence and Time) and I can’t make up my mind. Here’s what they say about themselves:

Radio Lab

To Science!

Eric and Nikki hosted their first Science Salon at Stamen Design. The guests were astrophysicists Jonathan Arons & Claire Max, who told us fascinating stories about black holes, the shape of space, and the life of stars. Great food and great people rounded out the evening. Here’s an instant replay for those who missed it. (The timelapse didn’t come out quite as exciting as I’d hoped… next time I’ll bring a taller tripod, and, I dunno, some lasers or something to spice it up a bit! ;-)

Inspired by ghosts

Michael Barrier continues to carry on a very interesting discussion about greatness in character animation. I’ve blogged previously to play the devil’s advocate against his position on the merits of casting by character. But in a more recent post, he said something that really resonated with me:

What I see in the Disney features I love, like Snow White and Dumbo, is the shadow of animated films that never got made—not just films whose animators were cast by character, but films that tapped the potential of the medium for the mature artistic expression that is almost never found in films of any kind, and only in the greatest work in other mediums. It’s those ghostly films that today’s animated filmmakers should have in their minds, not Peter Pan or Lady and the Tramp.

I’ve never read words that more perfectly summed up my feelings about the golden age Disney films. They were great achievements, but looking back at them decades later, you can tell that there’s something even better out there, just beneath the surface. If you close your eyes you can almost see it. You might catch a glimpse of it as you drift off to sleep one night, only to forget it the next morning. And very occasionally you don’t forget, and you wake up with a bright and shining mystery in your head.

This, and only this, is what keeps me in the business. If I’m diligent enough, and keep honing my skills, then one day, when the right idea finds me, I’ll be ready for it. Until then, I’ll do my best to deliver to the screen the ideas of the people who pay me. Hopefully I won’t scratch them up too badly in the process.

Doppelgangers in Namespace

Being born with a name like mine puts you in a strange position: in most places, at most times, you are unique. I’ve met maybe three other Cassidys in my lifetime. One of them was a woman, which was more than a bit disturbing, because she waited tables at my favorite cafe for a few months. But in general, I go through life pretty sure that if someone says “Cassidy” they probably mean me.

On the intarwebs, though, everything is different. Namespace collapses all us Cassidys and Curtises into one great big hash. Last names, first names, hyphenated names, who cares? It’s all just text.

So I thought you might like to meet some of the people I’m not:

Curtis Cassidy is a Canadian rodeo star. He looks much better in a cowboy hat than I ever will.

Timothy Cassidy-Curtis is an aerospace engineer. He got his sur-surname from his wife, presumably sometime after I was born. However, I was not consulted in this decision.

Lucy Cassidy Curtis may have been the first person on record, born in 1910, to have both of my names. Luckily for me, she didn’t think to park the domain way back then.

Good to Eat Mountain

Good lord of bad translations! I haven’t laughed this hard since I don’t know when. I’ve always been a huge fan of good language turned bad, no matter what the source. I once ate at a restaurant in Brazil that offered “Homelike Candies”, “Soaked Gold in Pieces”, “Half Kilo of Meat of Male Goat Roasted in the Ember”, and my all-time favorite, “Meat Fudge”. That same trip, I made my first and most glorious mistake in Portuguese when I asked the coconut-seller for “three shit waters, please”. Much eye-rolling ensued. But no two languages are more awkwardly matched than English and Chinese.

I dare you to read the whole menu and see if you can finish it without weeping real tears.

If that doesn’t do it, this one may send you over the top.

Thanks to Dado for the link.

Snow in San Francisco?

Sleet on Twin Peaks

Originally uploaded by otherthings.

There were rumors of snow in San Francisco today! Unfortunately those of us with day jobs in the burbs couldn’t be here to witness it in action… but we drove up to the top of Twin Peaks tonight to see if there was anything left. All we found were remnants of a slushy sleety crust. But it was still quite a thing to see our breath and feel real ice crunching beneath our shoes!

even yet still more timelapse fun

The only thing better than brunch on a rainy Sunday is brunch with dear friends, hundred-year-old comics, the Puzzle, and a camera shooting timelapse. Taken at the Rodenbecks’ stylish and newly de-bachelorized pad. (This one is a half-second exposure every ten seconds. I may have to spring for a neutral-density filter so I can get longer exposures by daylight!)

more timelapse fun

Had a little fun with the remote timer at a friend’s birthday dinner last night… we ate at Foreign Cinema, a very nice restaurant where they project movies in the courtyard. The movie this evening was Koyaanisqatsi, so a little timelapse photography just seemed like the natural thing to do. I’m trying out YouTube for the first time to see how well it works. You can click the Play button above to see the movie, or link directly to the video here.

Cassidy Curtis's splendid display of colorful things.