This is Junkhead. It started four years ago as some Japanese dude’s obsession.
His name is Takahide Hori. He’s a white collar worker. A salaryman. But every night he went home and built upon this. It has the marks of an obsession. It’s layered and strange and gritty.
It reminds me of the Book of Chairman Don, a 20,000 page sci-fi memoir written by a guy that I used to know. The two of us guarded an abandoned water treatment plant together. He drove a white van with with a fake, seven foot long missile affixed to the roof rack. Once he was a Marine. By the time I met him, he had transformed himself into the typical guy that you don’t want to run into in a dark alley. And although he was always very nice and extremely respectful, I still don’t suggest running into him in a dark alley.
What do Junkhead and Chairman Don have in common? Well, Don wrote just because he was in love with the story. I don’t think he ever intended to get it published. If he did, he might have made an attempt about 19,700 pages ago. I’m not saying that Takahide Hori isn’t afflicted of all of those typical filmmaker ambitions, but ambition alone isn’t enough to make you do something, every night for four years. He had to know that there were no garantees that anyone would ever see, or give a damn about Junkhead. He had to know that there were quicker, easier ways to do it. Did he ever wonder if there were another team out there, working on the same story but doing it more effectively? Maybe that’s just me.
He did it because he was in love with the story and the process. After all, this is stop motion. As you watch it, think about the fact that every single movement was the result of a bunch of micro-adjustments, on a miniature set, with Hori towering above it like a god. I think that inside of Hori, there is more than a little bit of Chariman Don.
I told my cousin that I was going to learn Ruby. At first his response was generically positive. After all, who doesn’t love learning? Weeks later he asked, “Why?” It’s a good question. I wish my answer didn’t keep changing.
I told him about the growing demand for coders. He painted a picture for me of legions of men and women overseas who practice coding for more than eight hours a day, everyday. They were hungry. Desperate. And they were willing to work for a fraction of what coders are paid in the states.
“You can’t compete with that.”
No. I wouldn’t want to.
I countered that, I might not be able to out code them, but I can out write them. And every industry needs writers. Otherwise, the world would be swallowed up in a sea of industrial jargon. “You want to be a technical writer?” His voice had a thin sneer on it. It wasn’t a question. It was a statement. “You don’t want to be a technical writer.”
But I do. I remember managing the audiotour equipment at the High Museum of Art. Their tours were on iPods. It was super slick, with interactive video. Kids loved them; mostly because they looked forward to the challenge of bypassing the tour and watching TwoChains on Youtube. But then we would get in the older patrons. The ones who grew up on rotary phones and drove Packards. No ammount of polished steel could overcome their distrust of those things. They’d use them for a few works of art, and then return them. They said they didn’t work. They said that they were worthless.
I began to wonder exactly what kind of tutorial we could give them. It wasn’t just about explaining it. It seldom is. It was about getting them to trust it. Getting them to suspend disbelief and play around with it. That was the challenge. It didn’t always work. But when it did, they loved it.
The opportunity to help bridge a gap between technology and the user is my humble Junkhead. It’s what all of those hours spent learning Ruby, and Java, and whatever comes next, will one day stack up to. After that, I’ll start working on my science fiction epic. I will pack it into the corners of my life, between the wife, the kids and the paycheck. But until then, this is it.
What’s your Junkhead?