If you’re new in town, Unorganized Hancock are my children. One is 20, the other 12. The 12-year-old is currently being homeschooled by my wife. He is interested in computer programming. He has memorized the scripting language for an ancient FPS game called Doom that used to run in MS-DOS, booted from a floppy. If the game sounds stupid to you, you’re not paying attention. It was an amazing piece of programming for the time, and the method the authors used to project 3-dimensional space as you pass through it, using only a few lines of code, is as elegant and clever as Brunelleschi’s version for drawing on paper. I have no idea why he leaned to do that. He just found it interesting.
He gets bored. Playing the drums is just something he does. He’s not all that interested in it. I have maintained publicly that he is the best drummer in the world at his age range for over three years now, but have been mostly misunderstood. People see professionally produced videos of youngsters playing drum solos with no songs attached, or playing along with moronic metal songs from mom’s boyfriend’s Metallica library, but those children are not musicians. They are performing data entry. They hit the drums at a designated time in a designated order. They are not making music with anyone, whether or not the source material is even music at all. When my little boy was nine, he was playing with another person (his brother) for three, one-hour sets, for money, in front of hundreds of people. That’s a musician. He has been the best 9,10,11, and now 12-year-old drummer in the world because he’s been the only one.
As I said, he gets bored. We’re poor and live in an isolated place. He has to amuse himself a lot. He asked his brother to find some free software he could use to make animations. He has been drawing animations in MS Paint, because it came with his computer, but it’s so laborious as to defy description. His brother found a free version of Flash, which is very primitive, but it does allow you to actually animate things. Big brother loaded it on his computer, and he suggested he make an animation to go along with a version of the Beatles It’s Only Love. The boys had recorded it some months ago and didn’t know what to do with it. The recording sounds orchestral, but it’s just singing, an acoustic guitar, and a bass. Those boys can twiddle some knobs, though, can’t they?
No one showed the little guy how to use the software. Homeschooling teaches people that learning is an approach, not a curriculum to be memorized. He just found what he needed on YouTube and then got underway. He worked entirely by himself with no input from any of us. He laid out the sort of little visual story he wanted, drew all the cells with his computer mouse, and aligned the music to the visuals. It only took him a few days to get it all done. When I first saw it, I asked him how he was able to get the mouth shapes to align perfectly with the words being sung. He said he looked up some form of encyclopedia that showed pictures of mouths as they form phonetic sounds, and memorized it.
I asked him how it was possible for him to do all this. He said, “Well, I’ve had the program for almost a week now.”
[Update: Many thanks go out to Saul J. from Warwickshire, UK, for his generous contribution to the boys’ equipment fund via the PayPal button. It is very much appreciated]
[Up-Update: Many thanks to our friend Chasmatic from the Land of Enchantment for his continuing generosity via our PayPal button. It is very much appreciated]