Writing Only Leads to More Writing

My goal at the moment is to write a sellable essay every day. Initially I was worried about whether I’d have enough material, but then I quickly discovered that essays are like bacteria: they multiply and divide exponentially!

So, I was working on a piece about Jimmy Stewart for CatholicMatch. While making my point, a phrase came to mind: “the gifts of manhood.” That naturally raised the question “well, what are those? Mightn’t people be interested in reading about that?” So, I marked that down as another essay. Before that I did a piece on the need to respect all art forms, which led to an idea about the difference between ‘higher and lower’ and ‘better and worse,’ which then led to an idea about equality and inequality. So, two possible essays right there!

I don’t buy the canard “war only breeds more war” (that would explain the endless Civil Wars that have rocked the US and the repeated wars with Japan and Germany after WWII), but it seems writing only breeds more writing.

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Saturday Sundry

  • Publishing of my new book, The Wisdom of Walt Disney is planned for sometime next week. I originally planned to publish it this week, but needed more time for editing and such.
  • I’ve had a notion that I’ve been trying to make into a suitable essay: this increasing insanity we see in public discourse is partly a manifestation of the style of thinking that we’ve been taught in our school system. You see, our schools, by and large, don’t teach us to actually think or reason logically. Instead, we’re told (in essence), “this is the right answer. This is the wrong answer. Good people pick the right answer, bad people pick the wrong one.” Tell me that the vast majority of issues presented to the public aren’t presented in this kind of ‘right-answer-wrong-answer” pattern: Global Warming, same-sex marriage, ‘Transgender’ rights, racism, ‘Islamophobia,’ and on and on.
  • Planning to do the videos about every two weeks. Hopefully the next one will go a little easier, since Land Before Time was a lot of work. And I’ve discovered that years as a bitter recluse have left my voice a little…off. Maybe it’s just me, but recording’s kinda difficult, and I think I sound strange. Anyway, I’ll announce what the next film to be reviewed will be early this week.
  • I finished reading The Count of Monte Cristo this week. It was about mid-way through that I realized “Wait a second: this a book where the hero is a Bond villain!” Think about it; he’s got his secret island lair, unfathomable riches, a beautiful mistress/henchwoman, exotic henchmen, untraceable poisons, and he’s an urbane, sophisticated man enacting an elaborate scheme of vengeance. Absolute Bond villain!
  • And a little beauty to finish up:
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-Polittico Baroncelli, by Giotto

Noble Snake Announcement

And the first Noble Snake Reviews video will be…

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This film holds a special place in my heart. It was my favorite movie when I was little, and watching it now it holds up surprisingly well. There are a lot of rich ideas to sink my teeth into buried beneath the awesome animation and great characters, and come Friday I’ll be talking all about them.

See you then!

 

 

Friday Flotsam

 

  1. Been hard at work on the Project, so this week’s Flotsam is going be all about updating on that.
  2. The plan, at the moment, is that the video series Noble Snake Reviews will launch a week from today (that will be Friday, August 11). I’ll announce the film to be reviewed beforehand, but suffice to say, it’s one I have a special bond with.
  3. The idea for the videos is to have a semi-animated serpentine avatar to serve as my ‘face,’ while I narrate my thoughts, with footage from the film projected into a theater screen behind him. So, there will be a visual component to the reviews as well as a vocal one, allowing me to incorporate some visual humor. Keeping with the ‘Noble’ part of the title, there will be no swearing or crude language, though I’m trying to include a lot of deadpan humor. Here’s a preview of what it’ll look like: Screen Shot 2017-08-04 at 8.45.04 PM.png
  4. Meanwhile, I’m tentatively planning to launch the book, The Wisdom of Walt Disney, a week later on August 18.
  5. Status update on the book: thus far, I’m more or less satisfied with the essays on Pinocchio, Fantasia, Song of the South, Treasure Island, Cinderella, and 20,000 Leagues Under the SeaSnow White, Bambi, Old Yeller, and Sleeping Beauty still need work, and Swiss Family Robinson and Mary Poppins I haven’t started. This was not just an excuse to list the films that will be discussed in the book.
  6. By the way, the ending of Old Yeller? Yeah, it still made me choke up. I know exactly what’s going to happen, but it’s so well done that it still gets me, dang it! I was even choking up writing about it.
  7. So, the logo question is almost settled; right now I’m deciding between these two, possibly with some slight modifications.

    That’s all for now; keep an eye for further updates as we get closer to launch!

Ponies and Introverts

Being an introvert mostly involves having people force you into uncomfortable situations and then blame you for not enjoying them. Our society doesn’t approve of those who prefer solitude or working alone: we want team players! Socially-well-adjusted youngsters! Collaboration! Synergy! Whatever other terms for ‘forcing people to act according to plan’ you care to name.

Reason number I-lost-count to love My Little Pony: it not only avoids this approach, but directly criticizes it. Yes, the show literally called ‘Friendship is Magic’ teaches it’s okay to enjoy solitude and unsocial pursuits, and that the more outgoing need to understand and accept that.

True, in the first episode Twilight is forced out of her comfort zone and becomes more sociable. But she doesn’t stop being an introvert. She still likes spending time alone reading or organizing her library (she does that a lot), and she’s not portrayed as being at all wrong for doing this. The show distinguishes between ‘enjoys spending time alone’ and ‘reclusive shut-in,’ with the latter being portrayed as an unhealthy exaggeration of the former. The point isn’t that spending time alone is bad, but that there needs to be a healthy balance between solitude and socializing, and that this balance will look different for different types of people.

It’s not just Twilight either: Fluttershy and Rarity are played as more introverted characters as well. The show even makes the point that Fluttershy choosing to opt out of some group activities and just stay home alone is perfectly okay if she doesn’t enjoy those activities. Likewise, when Rarity sometimes becomes too focused on her work to be polite it’s presented as a forgivable lapse rather than a fundamental problem in her personality. That she sometimes has to seclude herself to get her work done, that she draws energy from solitary creative effort, and that she has precise, high-class tastes that the others don’t really share are all portrayed as being a good thing: just part of her unique personality, to be accepted and appreciated rather than resented as ‘unsocial.’

Meanwhile, super-extrovert Pinkie has a couple episodes where she learns that some ponies simply don’t enjoy the kind of exuberant fun and socializing that she loves so much. Pinkie doesn’t mean any harm, of course, but it’s shown that she can be annoying to people who either don’t know her or who don’t share her taste in fun. In such cases, the lesson isn’t that they need to lighten up and be more outgoing, but that Pinkie needs to accept them as they are and befriend them based on their personality rather than hers.

Then there’s Maud. Oh, Lord, I love Maud! Maud is Pinkie’s older sister, who is pretty much her complete opposite. She’s extremely reserved, speaks in terse, laconic sentences, almost never shows emotion, and is completely and utterly wrapped up in the study of rocks. She’s so odd and so socially awkward that the others at first don’t know what to make of her, until they discover that Maud’s bland exterior hides very deep feelings, particularly when it comes to her little sister.

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The Introvert and the Extrovert

In other words, Maud is a non-specific, but very sympathetic portrait of someone with Aspergers, or some related condition. She’s not presented as being ‘broken’ or tragic; just as another person with her own unique personality. She’s difficult to get to know and not good with people, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with her.

One episode reveals that, much as she enjoys spending time alone with her rocks, she actually is lonely for a friend. She notes that “it’s not hard to find somepony I like. It’s finding somepony who gets me.” That’s a sentiment I can definitely relate to, and I love that this show is mature and thoughtful enough to understand it. When Maud does make a friend, it’s with fellow introvert Starlight, and they bond over quiet, thoughtful activities like kite flying and geology.

The overall message is that there are some people who are very outgoing, expressive, and sociable, and some people who aren’t, and that’s just how the world works. Both types have their strengths and weaknesses, and both need to be allowed to be themselves.

I wish more shows, and more people, understood that.

California Impressions

As a lifelong film buff, California has, to my mind, a rather mythical air. Not because that’s where films are made, but because, by and large, that’s where they’re set. Walking around California, therefore, feels rather like walking around in a movie, if you know what I mean. Arriving amid the palm trees, Spanish-style buildings, and mountains, I feel like John McClaine; “****ing California…”

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Thus, though I go in with a prejudiced opinion of blue states (overtaxed and undercivilized), I also went in with a keen interest to actually see the place, or at least as much as a three day trip with no car would allow. My impressions thus far are:

-It’s very beautiful. The weather is more overcast than I expected, but the landscapes are lovely, and it’s nice to see real (though modest) mountains. I am also rather partial to Spanish-style construction. I should definitely like to come back to visit more thoroughly.

-It’s expensive. I checked out some apartment listings; the cheapest one was $900/month, and I’m told that’s very cheap for this part of the country. Plastic bags cost an extra ten cents. Again, “****ing California…”

-There seems to be a lot more effort put into the design of the place, which I appreciate. For instance, on the way out of San Diego, there are just these kind of towers on the off-ramps. Pretty cool.

-The San Diego train/bus station is a converted Church, which is a little sad, though certainly preferable to just having a bland box of building. The ‘SAN DIEGO’ sign on the roof is kinda tacky, though.

-There’s definitely a sense of “We’re CALIFORNIA!” A self-conscious desire on the part of the location to live up to its image. California could not be any more California, if you know what I mean, and it’s well aware of the fact. There’s a whole style and tone to the place that is definitely its own, though in something of the self-conscious manner of a theme park (though nowhere near to the extent of, say, Las Vegas). In any case, the sensation is much more of being in a different country than in just being in a different part of the same country.

My overall impression is that Southern California is basically a giant movie set, complete with hyper-leftist directors and stars. Certainly a cool place to visit, but I doubt I’d care to live there.

On The Memory Problem

I am not very computer literate. I can do a little coding and navigate my way around my Mac, but the more I learn about computer issues, the more tangled and incomprehensible it seems to me.

But this article, by the insightful Tom Simon of Bondwine Books is less about computer issues than it is about human nature, which is a subject I find much more interesting. For, though it is infinitely more complicated than computer design, there aren’t as many over-complicated words and acronyms associated with it.

The article is a retrospective on the early days of home computers, when 16 kilobytes of RAM was a heady dream believed only by a few. I recommend reading the whole thing, but the key point is here, presented without further comment, because it really says everything that needs to be said.

Ted Nelson wrote a column for ROM, called ‘Missionary Position’: a mildly daring thing to do in 1977. In one of those columns, he addressed himself to the ‘Memory Problem’. The early microcomputer hobbyists had to work on machines with painfully tiny amounts of RAM – usually 4 or 8 kilobytes; 16K was a dream of sybaritic luxury. Of course they imagined that all their programming difficulties would be solved if only they had enough memory. Nelson, who had been working on mainframe computers for decades, rudely disabused them of this notion. As he put it, the Memory Problem is fundamentally like the Time Problem, and the Money, Sex, and Quiche Problems: there is never any such thing as enough.

Memory, bandwidth, and processor speed, like time, money, bureaucracy, and labour (and possibly also sex and quiche), are subject to Parkinson’s Law. C. Northcote Parkinson originally observed, ‘Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.’ In fact, work expands so as to consume all the available X, for almost any value of X. This knowledge is a vaccine against a wide range of disappointments in life; but there are always unvaccinated souls (in technical language, ‘suckers’) who are ready to be taken in.